Will enterprises buy into the new Windows vision?

Will enterprises buy into the new Windows vision?

Summary: Microsoft's new vision of Windows might make sense to consumers, but for enterprises, is there any draw to using anything other than the desktop?

TOPICS: Windows

Say you are the CTO of a business, and you buy 500 Surface Pros. (For this exercise, this can be any Windows 8 tablet you like.) If you're buying that many, you're going to have volume licensing and you're also likely to have Office 2013 as part of that.

Old Windows v New Windows
Old Windows vs. new Windows. In the enterprise... it's complicated.
(Image: Microsoft; Matt Baxter-Reynolds/ZDNet)

You give your users those laptops, resplendent in their Office-y goodness. What part of "new Windows" do they use?

Which Metro-style, aka Modern UI, aka Windows Store apps do they turn to, day to day?

They've got Outlook, so they're not going to use the (curiously rubbish) built-in mail apps. If they're not using the mail apps, the live tiles won't work, as they don't expose data from Outlook, so the Start screen looks a little limp.

There are zero examples of business apps where the Windows Store app counterpart is better than the old Windows desktop counterpart. So, assuming your user base does not contain a majority of masochists married into the new Windows vision for the sheer joy of it, they're all going to spend their time in the old Windows world.

Some of the problems here come from the fact that what people use the iPad for in business is very limited. The iPad is great for stuff you do outside of work time and space, but in work, they're used for email, managing a calendar, web browsing, document viewing, and not much else. More exotic uses involve connecting to remote systems. Some businesses have private line-of-business (LOB) apps that they roll out to the iPad users.

Once you've got that core set — regardless of platform — you're more or less complete. And because Windows is so mature in the business setting, the old Windows vision hits all the targets.


Circuitously, what got me onto this piece was that I was giving a webcast about technologies for delivering private apps in business, and it occurred to me that if you're targeting Windows tablets, the easiest thing for an enterprise to do is just keep doing as they have been doing, and keep targeting Windows Forms, WPF, Java, Win32, MFC, etc — ie, whatever platform they're used to building in.

A normal Windows 8 tablet doesn't present a weird surface area for developers or operations teams. What I mean by "weird" here is "unfamiliar". The existing development team and/or partners almost certainly have little experience at building Windows Store apps compared to platforms they already deliver on.

The only adjustment that's needed is that some teams will need to swing back from pure web-based delivery, as has been the fashion, and also get some of their UI/UX skills sharpened so that what they're deploying is touch friendly.

This arrangement is part of the beauty of Microsoft — even Windows 3.1 software still works. It's a huge part of why businesses love Microsoft.

And this is important in the enterprise space, because rewards derive from rationality of the business case. No one wants to be fired because they took a team of 10 perfectly good WPF developers and killed a year's budget by trying to re-create a perfectly good WPF app as a Windows Store app. All they have to do is install it directly on any x86-based Windows 8 tablet as a WPF app.

And, you know what, if you don't like Windows 8, that's fine, too. Just buy the new Windows 8 kit and downgrade to Windows 7. That way, nothing has changed, and nothing is weird.

That same argument works for iOS as well, by the way. You can de-risk the work involved with building native LOB iPad apps by not building native iPad apps and building old Windows ones.

And enterprises can likely, at this point, write off Windows RT. In the enterprise space, it looks unlikely that anything other than x86 and full-fat Windows will be used in any sort of estimable timeframe.


My view is that when enterprises take Windows 8 under their wing and start thinking about delivering private LOB apps on tablets, they're more likely to skew toward technology paths that are known. Knowledge in this case encompasses both experience in the enterprise that you can point at, and experience out in the market that you can access.

Or, simply, building private LOB apps as Windows Store apps and buying into the new Windows vision in the enterprise at this point in time seems both risky and pointless.

But what does that do for Microsoft's plan of becoming a consumer devices business? The old Windows way of doing things is not good enough to go toe to toe with iOS and Android — we know that re-imagining Windows was a good thing from that perspective.

Does it matter that enterprises are likely to stay with old Windows for many, many years?

I suspect not. As the total space for compute devices expands into the consumer market, the enterprise is going to be more niche. Whether new Windows takes off depends on the value of the overall proposition to them, and that means good apps, a good content ecosystem, a good brand, keen prices, and great marketing.

Whether a CTO would rather push their users to a new Windows world or keep them comfy in the old Windows world likely doesn't matter.

But it does suggest an interesting two-tier world of Windows, much like today in business, and a different Windows in consumer land.

What do you think? Post a comment or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topic: Windows

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  • If ...

    "They’ve got Outlook so they’re not going to use the (curiously rubbish) built-in mail apps. If they’re not using the mail apps, the live tiles won't work as they don't expose data from Outlook, so the Start screen looks a little limp."

    "There are zero examples of business apps where the Windows Store app counterpart is better than the Old Windows desktop counterpart."

    "And enterprises can likely at this point write off Windows RT."

    "Or, simply, building private LOB apps as Windows Store apps and buying into the New Windows vision in the enterprise at this point in time seems both risky and pointless."

    I'm with you now ...
    "Say you are the CTO of a business and you buy 500 Surface Pro’s.
    ... having wasted the company's money you have your fingers crossed that nobody notices, or else you might get fired.
    What were you thinking?
    • And the question you hope does NOT come up is ...

      ... "These cost MORE than an iPad?"
      • Your forgetting poor IT department that has to make the software.

        "Say you are the CTO of a business and you buy 500 Surface Pro’s." what about the software developers that now have to convert to Windows 8 (it is required for development). They have to take years of tool and try to get them all working while learning Windows 8 (it is only a slight month or so learning curve) all while trying to develop working versions of all the companies software as quickly as possible. Without the software to power them all those machine are pretty useless. Going from Windows 7 program to Windows 8 app is no as simple as press a button. It takes time and effort on top of dealing with Windows 8 yourself.
        • On the gripping hand...

          you can still run the old legacy software on the desktop, whilst the developers work on new versions (just "porting" the software or getting it to "run" as a Windows 8 is a waste of time, you might as well give them old tablets running Windows XP or Windows 7).

          That is something you can't do with iPad and co.

          The question at the end of the day is, do you want to go with apps on any platform, or do you want to make the system more future agnostic and go web based? Then it doesn't matter, in the long term, what they use as tablets; the user experience won't be quite as good as a local app, but you can at least let the employees use BYOD or chop and change tablet makes at will.
        • In case you missed it

          Win 7 apps work on the Win 8 desktop. All Win 7 development tools work on Win 8 desktop. All in-house Win 7 apps currently deployed work in Win 8 desktop. Nothing needs to be converted to Win 8 when the OS in converted to Win 8.

          There will be a little time to learn Win 8, but from the first upgrade, one just needs to learn how to switch between Metro and Desktop. Once in desktop, devs and users will continue on as they always have, and start thinking of how they can actually take advantage of the new features of these handy dandy Surface Pros. The current company apps can be upgraded at their leisure, or they can continue to develop new features as they currently do and run them on the desktop.

          Now, if they bought 10,000 Surface RTs, may God have mercy on their soul.
      • iPad costs more...

        So far, all the RT devices have hit below the cost of similarly setup iPads. Where'd you get your (false) info?
        • Wrong

          He's bringing up the Surface Pro, which costs more than the iPad.

          But that's because it's essentially an ultra book.
          Michael Alan Goff
  • There will be a slow adoption in the enterprise

    As the article points out, there is little motivation for enterprises to use Windows 8 specific development stuff. Custom applications will still run on Win7 for a long time.

    Given that apps are moving, an IT department has to ask if there is justification for moving people. Whether you believe the retraining of users for the changes in the Windows 8 interface is an hour or weeks it is still a cost, and few firms will undertake the cost without clear benefits. The benefits may be there, but Microsoft has not articulated them well, concentrating on things that the enterprise does not care about when selling Win8.
    • Enterprises...

      Have their own sales reps from MS. They do not rely on media reports and press releases like the general public. They also sign NDAs and get to view the products roadmaps to ensure the product will have a long, useful life in the enterprise.
  • It depends on the business scenario.

    There will be lot of scenarios where a Metro Windows app is more suited than a traditional Windows desktop app and vice-versa. So what Windows 8 brings to the enterprise is the flexibility of using computing systems on various devices that is best suited for the scenario.

    In enterprise, Modern UI will co-exist with traditional desktop apps and both has its place.
    • Yup

      We have clients that come in and fill out forms before we process them in our current enterprise apps. Our current plan is to let them fill these out on a Surface while still keeping our current application.
    • Right you are!

      Definitely depends on the scenario. And so many of them will do fantastic in the touch Windows 8 world. It's hard to watch an "older" computer being used in some scenarios today.
  • Look at recent history

    If enterprise was unwilling to move off of XP for so long, and that interface was not radically different from Vista or 7, what experience makes Microsoft think it will embrace Metro?
    D.J. 43
    • Not all computers need to be updated...

      There are a lot of scenarios where XP is, and might even remain just fine for business cases. I have one of those in my business. These machines are single task, unconnected and very simple. But on the desktop we're updating to Windows 8 as fast as we can. So far it's been a fantastic experience for everyone.
  • I'm not using Win 8 in my University's school...

    ...unless v8.1 returns to a more Win 7 like interface.
    • You know you can switch at will, right?

      I'm under the impression that you can easily switch between the 'tablet' and the 'desktop' views; All Win7 ppl will be happy assuming the 'metro' doesn't waste too many resources (or tank like Vista).
  • Will enterprises buy into the New Windows vision?

    Yes they will, they won't have much choice. Adapt to the new Microsoft Windows vision or fade out of existence. Microsoft made this OS for us to get things done quicker. Its the business that needs to adapt to the better way of doing things. It has desktop mode for legacy apps until they can port their code over to the modern UI.
    • Re: or fade out of existence

      This is pretty pathetic and arrogant. If Microsoft kills their golden goose, they will bankrupt and very quickly at that.

      Most likely those who do not like the direction Microsoft are going will either force them to obey what the market wants, or will find another supplier of "OS software". Not that Microsoft are very good at OS software to begin with...

      Any business that thinks they can twist the arms of their customers one day discovers that whoever told them the customer have no other choice... misled them.
      • Microsoft isn't twisting anyone's arm.

        They are reading the market as people are buying the tablets and those tablet style applications. Microsoft is trying to integrate those devices with the PC. The key to the life of the desktop is the software. If vendors release Metro apps then the desktop will be even a smaller part of the next version of Windows.

        The key to business is not which OS they use but the application software they use. I can't believe how much I hear people say that enterprises have to pay for training to learn Windows 8. Employers don't need employees to know Windows 8 except IT staff. They just need them to be able to use a browser, Spreadsheet and WP, Application software and email.

        The problem with enterprises updating OS's is they have to test application compatibility. My organization employees around 5000 people and we are on XP but putting Win 7 on pc's that are replaced. We started a program around 2000 called the forklift program of switching out all our PC's. The plan was to do it every 4 years. Well because of the financial situation that was ceased to only replace when we need to. We've stopped maintenance agreement with certain software which are browser version dependent. No we're purchasing a new ERP system that's in the cloud. Right now we are probably 95% XP and 5% Windows 7. I don't see us going to Windows 8 just because whgen we upgrade we will want everyone on the same OS.
    • re: Will enterprises buy into the New Windows vision?

      Pure BS from the resident MS shill.

      They don't need to adapt at all, they can and will ride on Windows 7 for a looooong time just like they did with XP. Open source is also a possibilty if Microsoft doesn't change course in the meantime ... then WHO is going to fade out of existence?

      Ballmer called, he said your check in the mail Lovey.