Windows 8.1 tablets vs. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD: Enterprise face-off

Windows 8.1 tablets vs. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD: Enterprise face-off

Summary: With its new Kindle Fire HD and HDX, Amazon is making a pitch for enterprise users. How do Windows 8.1 tablets stack up?


Whose tablets are the most enterprise-ready of them all?


One of the most interesting pieces of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablet announcement this week was the company's focus on "enterprise-ready" features that will be part of its two newest tablets. Amazon dedicated a separate press release to the enterprise functionality in the new devices, listing features such as WPA2 Wi-Fi support for secure access to "resources like SharePoint"; data encryption; built-in Mobile Systems Inc.'s OfficeSuite viewers for office documents; mobiile-device-management support and more.

Amazon execs, citing Forrester data, claim Kindle Fire "is already the second most popular tablet at work in the U.S." (The No. 1 workplace tablet is from a company that only recently has been touting its appeal to business users.)

What about Windows -- specifically, Windows 8.1 -- tablets from Microsoft and third-party PC makers? Though the Softies didn't emphasize it much, there was some enterprise functionality built into Windows 8, and there's even more in Windows 8.1, especially in the Enterprise SKU.

On the management, networking and security fronts, here's how the four different Windows 8.1 SKUs (Windows RT, Windows core, Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise) stack up, feature-wise:


A couple of the management features here are probably worth re-explaining.

There is still no support for domain join for Windows 8.1 RT or Windows 8.1 core. But there is now support for those two SKUs for two new Windows 8.1 management features: Workplace Join and Work Folders. These two features are designed to provide a middle ground between devices that are either domain-joined or not. Workplace Join allows users to have some IT-sanctioned access to corporate resources. WOrk Folders allow users to sync data to their devices from their user folders located on Windows Server in a company's data center.

"Assigned access" -- which is available for Windows 8.1 RT, Pro and Enterprise (but not core) -- is the name for the ability to lock down a device so that it can run only a single Windows Store application.


Other new, business-focused Windows 8.1 networking features that Microsoft announced earlier this year include NFC tap-to-pair printing, Wi-Fi direct printing and broadband tethering using a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

On the office suite front, since Amazon is highlighting availability of free OfficeSuite viewers, it's probably worth mentioning that Microsoft is bundling its own Mail and Calendar apps on all Windows 8.1 devices. If you're running an ARM-based device, you also get the basic Home & Student Office suite, plus Outlook RT, for free, as well. Microsoft has said its four core Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) also will be preloaded for free on smaller screen (less than 10-inch) Intel-based Windows 8.1 devices. Microsoft also makes viewing and basic creation/editing of Office documents available for free with Office Web Apps, which work in IE, Chrome and Safari browsers.

Microsoft's chart comparing the four different Windows 8.1 SKUs, from a feature and functionality standpoint, is a handy one for business users and IT admins who may be considering Windows 8.1.

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Networking, Security, Tablets, PCs, Microsoft Surface


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This is an easy one

    In terms of plugging into existing enterprise management/security systems, Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise fit like a glove and Android/iOS are square blocks into a round hole. That's why the MDM industry developed, because you couldn't use conventional security/management tools on mobile products.
    • Not so easy after all

      Enterprises more accepting of Android, while Windows is losing ground. "Only 26 percent of enterprise staff are very interested in developing mobile apps for Microsoft's OSes, according to a new survey."
      • Are these internal apps

        or apps for customers? Either way a windows 8.1 tablet seems the obvious choice, as you can integrate it into your already established system without implementing many BYOD measures.
        Sam Wagner
      • Referencing Infoworld in an article about Microsoft is like...

        Referencing Fox News in an article about Obama. Both will use more critical language and statistics.

        The global terms and conditions, privacy, and security model behind Android are a nightmare for any enterprise, especially those in the Fortune 100.
        David Addison
        • Fox isn't very conservative, sadly.

          David Addison -- Someone needs to turn a critical eye on Beloved Leader. The mainstream media are all his lapdogs, spewing whatever they are told to emphasize. Fox News is about the only news outlet that hasn't drunk the Koolaid.
      • Except

        Except you don't have to develop mobile apps if you don't want to. But as a .NET developer I can tell you writing apps for Windows tablets is a much easier learning curve than Android or Objective C.

        Now how many .NET developers are there vs. the other 2 combined?
    • While I can't speak for Android devices...

      I happen to know "conventional" policy management tools are available for enterprise iOS devices.
      • Yes, but have you used them?

        I have more than 4,000 ioS devices in an enterprise environment...because they're easy to manage using "enterprise tools"? Heck no! Because there are so many Apple fans we can't fight the tidal wave...their success in the enterprise has nothing to do with them working well in this's simply about caving to popular demand. Is it like fitting square pegs into round holes? Absolutely!

        Windows 8 Pro\Enterprise tablets have the best potential to integrate well...they're just late to the party...very seriously late! And the vast majority of Win 8 tablets are very poorly made and highly overpriced. Microsoft still has the best product, particularly with the Surface Pro 2...the problem is that the Enterprise can't buy them! They have no channels that Enterprises use today. Should our Purchaser go line up at the Microsoft store in West Edmonton Mall, watch Dierks Bentley for a while (who's attending the opening) and then ask for 3,000 Surface Pros at the counter? Maybe she could try Best Buy...

        Instead of focusing on the software, maybe figure out how to allow corporate customers to buy the hardware!

        Eventually, our users will understand that iOS devices are toys and turn away from them if a viable alternative is available. Our corporate Apple rep - who just quit Apple - even states "iOS wasn't designed for's a consumer product" every time we push Apple for better management tools.

        At this point there are no really good solutions...don't get me started on BlackBerry...!
        • Surface Resellers

          Did you know there are over 10 resellers for Enterprises? Like CDW, PCM, Softmart, SHI, Insight, etc. This article is dated and I believe there are more (last I heard... like 17 resellers).
  • Case closed

    Amazon (and Google) must get back to work if they want to be a part of this.
  • Specs just tell one side of the story

    The new Surface tablets look pretty good on paper. But then you use one and run into Windows 8 and the experience quickly sours.
    • I'm using both Surface pro and Surface RT

      My experience is not sour. Of course my experience doesn't represent the whole world and like mine yours too. Please don't rub your opinion as fact. If you haven't used the Surface or any other tablet running on any platform, state the fact that yours is just opinion.
      Ram U
      • Why do you need both RT and Pro?

        Why would you want a RT if you already have a Pro that presumably does all that the RT can do and more? Was it just fanboyishness, a desire to experiment with both in a setting where the extra dollars don't matter because of your income, or some limitation in the RT? Perhaps your use scenario requires both? Having both seems like overkill...but it may just be enthusiasm. Can you please explain?
        • Well I use Pro to do on the fly demos and UML modeling

          System Architecture work. But I use RT for emailing, casual surfing and researching online.
          Ram U
          • And I could accomplish on Surface Pro those, but the work I do needs more

            battery power and I look for putting more productivity rather than looking for a power source.
            Ram U
          • It seems to me you only need Pro for RML modeling

            RT could serve every other purpose you describe at a lower up-front cost for hardware.

            The point of a tablet is not to replace the workstation, but to allow a mobile supplemental device for communications and presentations with only some document generation capability.
        • Maybe . . .

          He has RT for Home and Pro for Work.
        • The RT provides most of what is needed

          The RT gives most of what business users need. If your in the science and engineering world you need tools that require much more overhead than the RT offers.
          As for Android in the enterprise, it is a few steps below the iPad. Plus, Android is a toy compared to the Surface from a business tool and functionality perspective.
      • Outlook for RT

        When I saw the Outlook for RT finally arrive, I was excited. However, seeing that it's a outlook for desktop port /w some optimization for touch screen, it was a big let down. I assume MS still haven't figured out how to design Metro apps themselves, how do you envision the future of Windows RT without Desktop mode?

        By the way, one big nagging problem is Windows 8.x launching default Metro apps which forces the screen to switch to full screen all the time. It should be one or the other, not both in very inconsistent manner!
    • It is other way around

      First you decide that windows 8 sucks. No need to even see or try. Just pick opinion, put it on like a new t-shirt and bravely express it.
      Then if you stumble upon win8 computer or tablet just browse a bit to make sure that you know what sucks.
      1. Do not find start button. Look around, poke here and there, look confused.
      2. If you accidentally find start button then start any metro app and pretend to be shocked and disgusted.
      3. Do not try to switch or close apps. Poke with your finger at the place where X used to be in XP and make sure that everybody sees how hard it is.
      4. OMG & LOL @ tiles.
      That should be enough for sour experience.