Windows 8 in the enterprise: Fragmentation and deployment

Windows 8 in the enterprise: Fragmentation and deployment

Summary: As we get closer to the launch of Windows 8 and more information is released about the new OS and new devices supporting it, the dreaded "F" word comes to mind.

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The more information that comes to light about Windows 8, the more the dreaded "F" word comes to mind. When you think of fragmentation in the mobile space the first thing you think of is the Android platform. Volumes have been written about the forks in Android that are enough to drive enterprises batty. With so many versions and so many different devices to support, it's enough to give fits to IT folks tasked with making BYOD work.

The fragmentation issue should be a big factor driving the enterprise to Windows 8. Having a single business OS to deal with is an advantage not to be overlooked. The problem is that Microsoft in its desire to have Windows 8 run on both tablets and PCs has created a fork in the platform that complicates support by the enterprise.

There are two versions of Windows 8, the standard version for running on the Intel platform and the RT version for ARM-based devices like some tablets. Both versions have pros and cons that must be considered by the enterprise in determining which one to deploy. If employees are allowed to bring their own Windows gear to work, BYOD will likely see a collection of devices in the office running both versions of Windows 8.

"The Snap feature is a convenient tool for consumers in the new Windows 8 interface, but it does not currently support Outlook or other business applications." — HP

That will require IT departments to make sure that two different versions of Windows are fully supported - including the OS, the devices, and the apps they run. The latter is where fragmentation raises its ugly head as the apps could be different for the two distinct versions of Windows.

The new Metro-style apps that Microsoft is encouraging all developers to create should work on both Windows 8 proper and Windows RT. Legacy apps, all existing Windows apps that aren't specifically converted to Metro-style, will only run on full Windows (not RT). The IT folks will have to look at all apps deployed by the enterprise, and all apps employees run on BYOD equipment, to make sure they work. More importantly they will have to make sure they don't create unexpected problems.

That fragmentation alone complicates the deployment process and support for Windows 8 in the enterprise. Microsoft is pushing hard to get Windows 8 tablets, including its own Surface brand, into the enterprise to hurry adoption of the new platform. IT departments responsible for that deployment are going to have to carefully vet both the new hardware, the new OSes (Windows 8 and Windows RT), and also all apps that might be run.

Many large corporations have proprietary software they've created for use in their operations. They are legacy apps in their current form, meaning they won't run on Windows RT devices. The companies will have to make an effort (and investment) to convert those apps to Metro-style in order to ensure they will run on all Windows 8 devices. It's not clear how open they will be to a pretty big task just so they can deploy Windows 8.

In addition to this fragmentation built into Windows 8 itself, the recent announcement by HP of its new business tablet, the ElitePad 900, opens up another avenue of fragmentation for the IT departments to consider. The HP ElitePad is a nice tablet for the enterprise running Windows RT with one caveat.

Strangely, HP decided to make the tablet with a screen resolution smaller than the minimum required for Windows 8 to support the Snap view as detailed by Matt Baxter-Reynolds. That's the Windows 8 Metro feature that allows the user to "snap" one app to the side of the screen, keeping it visible while working in another app. It's an advantage Windows 8 has over all the mobile tablet competition, an important one for the enterprise.

In choosing to build this tablet that is incapable of using the Snap view, HP has created another fork in the as yet unreleased Windows 8 platform. Should companies deploy the ElitePad they now must also realize that if they convert their proprietary apps to Metro-style, even if they take care to make the converted apps work well in the Snap view environment, the effort will be wasted on this HP tablet. Not on most of the devices deployed, just this one (so far). That's the very definition of fragmentation as far as the enterprise goes, and one that needn't have been created if HP went with a standard screen resolution.

The new Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft and the standard players in the PC space look promising and could push the deployment of the new OS in the enterprise. Having to deal with the fragmentation created with the two different hardware versions of the OS complicates the deployment process for those companies. Adding the necessity to carefully vet which devices can take advantage of all new OS features and which can't will further complicate things.

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Topics: Windows, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Tablets, PCs

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108 comments
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  • Junk

    So HP choose to release a tablet aimed at business with a real junk screen? If you pay more than for an iPad, at least you expect to have 720p or more for screen resolution. The iPad even over 1080p...
    Oden79
    • bye bye HP!

      HP is falling by the wayside. They'll be nearly non-existent in 5 years. Their decision makers in the mobile/tablet realm just can't get it right.
      FrogSlayer Software
    • As is often the case with HP these days ...

      ... they have gone with 1280x800 instead of the 1366x768 minimum to save a few bucks. How smart is that? I bet they got a good deal on those screens though.
      M Wagner
    • They shouldn't get Windows 8 certification

      This laptop/tablet from HP shouldn't get the Windows 8 Certified sticker for this... Maybe a Windows 8 Capable but not certified... (Capable sticker, reminds me of a Vista fiasco...)
      lepoete73
    • HP is trying to save cash by not putting in a super-high resolution screen.

      Let's be real here: for most, 1280*720/800 is more than enough screen real estate. Now, if HP is putting in something that doesn't even have that resolution? Yeah, they are asking for issues.
      Lerianis10
  • You're missing the point...

    The point of this new version(s) of Windows is to make new apps using the the new RT framework so they will run on both RT and Pro versions of Windows 8.
    kstap
    • As mentioned in the article

      That was covered in the article. Which also pointed out that even if they convert the apps, not all devices (like the HP one mentioned) will fully support that conversion effort.
      JamesKendrick
      • It's not strictly true fragmentation...

        because the Metro app will still run fine in full screen without snap. Real fragmentation is where an app won't run at all, like you get on Android. Where this lack of snap "might" become an issue is if (and only if) an organisation internally requires the snap feature for it's line of business.

        As for the RT/Win 8 fragmentation, well the simplest solution for any organisation is to go down the x86 route, such as Intel Clover Trail or AMD.
        wp7mango
        • You are exactly right...

          Mr. Kendrick, in an otherwise interesting article, went off the road on this one. It is not a 'fork' in any sense of the word. They are building a device that doesn't support a feature, the same as if you built a laptop without an extra monitor port. He should retract/rewrite that paragraph.
          batpox
          • Another writer exposing bias and lack of understanding

            It's too bad the author (and the editor) prioritize eye catching titles and sentences over knowledge, accuracy and objective reporting.
            As mentioned by other readers, this is not fragmentation, in the contrary. It's a very well thought out and well structured approach, one that will straddle PC, tablets and mobile (hint: that is one of the key sources of fragmentation as well as security management cost for enterprises today). Applications that will take advantage of the same core capabilities (for example Windows Integrated Authentication) delivered by the same kernel, with extremely minimal adjustment to form factor...
            It's too bad ZDNet keeps serving us the same uneducated Microsoft bashing and misses the forest for the trees. Apparently, Enterprises are not making the same mistake about Windows 8.
            ergos@...
      • The minimum supported screen size for Windows 8 / RT is XGA ...

        ... (1024x768) which has been a baseline for quite some time. I believe that Windows Vista was the last version to support SVGA (800x600).

        Any code written to that resolution or higher will be fine on Windows 8. The fact that SNAP is not available at 1280x800 is somewhat irrelevant for functionality but it is still a STUPID decision by HP!

        My guess is that HP is hedging their bets that this device will also be able to run the Android OS (which has adopted the 1280x800 resolution) in the event that Windows RT is a flop!

        To bad HP's leadership cannot get things together.
        M Wagner
        • 1

          You can say that again.
          TechNickle
      • The minimum supported screen size for Windows 8 / RT is XGA ...

        ... (1024x768) which has been a baseline for quite some time. I believe that Windows Vista was the last version to support SVGA (800x600).

        Any code written to that resolution or higher will be fine on Windows 8. The fact that SNAP is not available at 1280x800 is somewhat irrelevant for functionality but it is still a STUPID decision by HP!

        My guess is that HP is hedging their bets that this device will also be able to run the Android OS (which has adopted the 1280x800 resolution) in the event that Windows RT is a flop!

        To bad HP's leadership cannot get things together.
        M Wagner
        • 2

          You can say that again.
          TechNickle
          • he did

            he did
            fairportfan
      • The minimum supported screen size for Windows 8 & RT is XGA ...

        ... (1024x768) which has been a baseline for quite some time. I believe that Windows Vista was the last version to support SVGA (800x600).

        Any code written to that resolution or higher will be fine on Windows 8. The fact that SNAP is not available at 1280x800 is somewhat irrelevant for functionality but it is still a STUPID decision by HP!

        My guess is that HP is hedging their bets that this device will also be able to run the Android OS (which has adopted the 1280x800 resolution) in the event that Windows RT is a flop!

        To bad HP's leadership cannot get things together.
        M Wagner
        • 3

          You can say that again.
          TechNickle
      • You still don't get it.

        I administer a corporate network. The first thing we do to any new machine is apply a company created image right over it. Yep... We strip out everything we don't want and enforce a consistent configuration across all Laptops, and desktops. As for tablets we'll probaby only deploy the Windows Pro version... and once again slap a cloned image on those suckers. The chance of fragmentation is nil.
        mikedees
        • I'm glad someone finally said it...

          @mikedees - I'm glad you mentioned imaging because my head was going to explode if someone hadn't... There's also huge capability in windows policy and standards enforcement that isn't talked about enough in this article.

          Fragmentation? Not in Windows...
          Darren Sproat
          • Group policy.... Exactly.

            Any admin worth his salt knows and uses group policy. I can make machines in my domains dance like Beyoncé. Microsoft also has a mature suite of deployment tools, and SCCM to control application configuration and management. If you end up with fragmentation in your fleet... you're doing it wrong.
            mikedees