Windows 8's enterprise play: evolution not revolution

Windows 8's enterprise play: evolution not revolution

Summary: Microsoft does expect businesses to use Windows 8: it's not just for consumers. However, based on a seminar it held in London this week, its adoption looks like being a long, slow process....

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

It often takes businesses several years to roll out a new version of Microsoft Windows, especially if they have a lot of in-house applications to test. With a large section of the market still moving from XP to Windows 7, there are relatively few prospects for enterprise-wide Windows 8 projects. None the less, Erwin Visser, Microsoft's senior director for Windows Commercial, reckons that "customers can start bringing in Windows 8 alongside Windows 7", and he gave some examples of how that could work.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer launching Windows 8 to consumers
Steve Ballmer launching Windows 8 to consumers Credit: Microsoft

Traditionally, businesses have preferred to have all their users on the same version of Windows, to reduce support costs. It's not clear whether this still makes sense when BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies are introducing dozens of incompatible systems. However, Microsoft's basic argument is that Windows 8 is just the same as Windows 7 from the business software point of view. There is no need to retest software for Windows 8 if it has already been tested in Windows 7 for compatibility, security and compliance.

This glosses over the introduction of Internet Explorer 10, though this may not be a significant problem. In fact, IE10 could have the advantage in being closer to Google Chrome and Firefox in terms of support for modern standards. It's not the same sort of problem as moving from IE6 to a later version.

Windows 8 also includes the touch-oriented TIFKAM (The Interface Formerly Known As Metro) front end, which is strikingly different from anything in Windows 7. This will almost certainly involve some retraining, at least until most users become familiar with Windows 8 on their home PCs.

However, rather than increasing costs, Visser reckons Windows 8 will save money by bringing down "the management costs of mobile devices". It's a roundabout way of claiming that Windows 8 tablets will work with the current enterprise IT infrastructure, while Apple iPads don't.

At a Microsoft seminar in central London this week, three businesses from Microsoft's First Wave adoption programme explained how they were using Windows 8. Their representatives were Peter Scott from British Telecom, Edwin MacGillavry from the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, and Vincent Santacroce from Poste Italiane.

Santacroce said Poste Italiane was developing Windows 8 apps (essentially, CRM) to make its sales reps more efficient. Also, he said, "they feel more cool", which is an advantage because postal authorities tend to be viewed as staid organisations. However, while Poste Italiane was gradually increasing its Windows 8 installations from 60 to this year's target of 500 PCs, it's still in the process of upgrading 95,000 PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Poste Italiane had also implemented an even cooler idea: Poste Shop Kinect. This is a pavement-facing screen in one of its shop windows, using a PC with Microsoft Kinect. Passers-by can search the company's online catalogue even while the shops are closed.

Panasonic Toughbook C2 convertible

BT's amusingly blunt Peter Scott, who had recently given a similar presentation at a Gartner Symposium in Orlando, said that BT had now equipped 4,500 field engineers with Windows 8 running on Panasonic convertible laptops to replaced old and slow Panasonic ToughBooks running Windows XP. "This was their decision, not ours," said Scott. The advantages included the ability to use the TPM chip in the laptops as a "virtual smartcard" to save log-in times, and the ability to run the engineers' existing Windows software.

BT had also converted some of its apps to run in Metro, and staff could download those and other apps from Microsoft's store. Apps could be "developed quickly at low cost," and since Metro apps are sandboxed and can be removed without trace, there was "a lot less to worry about", said Scott. The main change to BT's IT infrastructure was upgrading Windows Server.

BT's move to Windows 8 is a natural part of its four-year refresh cycle. The company offers a "self service retrofit" service where users can rebuild their own PCs, said Scott. So far, 11,000 users have done that.

"We move to the latest stuff, and it washes over the rest of the company over time."

Scott said the combination of Windows 8, Microsoft Office and Lync 2013 provided "a really rich environment that is extremely challenging and in many cases impossible [to provide] on other devices. And expensive."

Although all three spokesmen were enthusiastic about Windows 8 — which you'd expect in a Microsoft seminar — they were all exploring Windows 8 on Intel. None of them had plans to invest in ARM-powered Windows machines like Surface RT, which Visser described as "a companion device, rather than a full device."

In sum, Windows 8 will attract some enterprise users, but any adoption will probably come through a gradual process of evolution, rather than a revolution. For Microsoft, moving the laggards from XP to Windows 7 is still Job 1.



Topics: Windows, Microsoft

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Bring Your Own Device: Is it real or something ZDNet have made up?

    Or maybe it's just popular in America?

    I've never heard of or worked anywhere in The UK that uses it (save or a personal iPad having work e-mailed added). The idea is madness, personal devices don't get security vetted/antivirus controlled/each device is different. The list of reasons why it's madness are endless.
    • When you say America...

      I hope you mean North America. Here in Canada BYOD is catching on. The company I work for uses a variety of different devices. So no it's not something ZDNet made up.
      Arm A. Geddon
    • BT has a BYOD scheme in the UK

      Peter Scott said people on BT's BYOD scheme had about 8,000 devices. Otherwise, while I appreciate your points, people have always brought their own devices (used personal kit for business purposes), and I've done it myself. It's just been done unofficially and not in a controlled way.
      Jack Schofield
    • I agree

      I would never let in happen in the company I work for, and there are a few reasons why.

      As mentioned security is out of your control.

      Most importantly, we use bespoke applications that run on Windows Only.

      Also we make sure active directory locks down the desktop PC's so people aren't playing solitaire all day, and you want us to let you bring in a device to play angry birds, web browsing, personal video player, generally avoiding work. NO WAY.

      My company is a manufacturing company, PC's connected to heavy machinery, with bespoke software, the user needs to hands free at all time, negating a hand-held device and breaching health and safety.

      And Lastly you will get losers wanting a new ipad, getting coffee spilled on it, or dropping them in work and trying to claim from the company insurance.

      People in US must either not work very hard or have jobs that don't require PC's. LOL
  • byod

    Is very popular in the united states. I am not sure about the rest of the world.

    Yout are correct that it doesn't have the same level of security, etc. But it saves in others. The business does not have to buy the device and the user chooses something they are more familiar With making their productivity better.
    • Device, Please explain this device you proclaim

      that they are more familiar with, I know many devices computers, lights and many others.

      “the device and the user chooses something they are more familiar With”
      • Why is that a hard concept?

        Which is going to be easier for the average person?

        The phone they already have been using for personal use, already set up with their contact list, already programmed with their shortcuts and skin of choice, ringtones, and preferences,


        starting over on a new phone which may not be the same model or even the same brand or OS, may not be the same form factor, with all stock settings and no contacts set up yet?

        Of course, this wouldn't be a problem for you, seeing as you are way above average, knowing "many devices computers, lights and many others", but for the average user who probably doesn't even know how to sync contacts from phone to PC, much less back up to a different phone, this would be a P.I.T.A. Not to mention, having to then carry a personal phone and a work phone, and two sets of chargers and/or data cables if they don't both use the same type.

        *and this is just phones. There are other devices as well.
  • In Sweden

    In my job here in Sweden we have Windows 7 and SAP. We are not allowed to bring or own devices to connet to the computers there, by security and other reasons.
    And I am not sure I would pay for a own device to get a job done for my company.

    My own stuff I use at home.
  • So....

    Windows is Windows. XP, Vista, W7 and W8...mmm ok.
    iPads don't run MS software...well d'uh.
    The same ole same ole lock-in upgrade path - MS/Intel/PCs is the only way forward...
    Yup, that will keep MS relevant ...???
    • It's not so bleak

      For example, both Citrix [Receiver] and OnLive provide solutions that enable users to run Windows apps on the iPad and Android-based tablets. Citrix [Receiver] also supports RIM's Playbook tablet as well as smartphones including the iPhone, Android-based and RIM's BlackBerry.

      In addition, it looks as if Microsoft is moving forward with Office mobile and Office 365 for iOS and Android.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Really

        So are you saying these products run windows executables or just RDP to a windows machine?

        As one requires network access, which is not always available and speed variable, the other is running it natively on the device.

        Not the same thing
  • Win 8 is crap!

    Are you people kidding me??? Win 8 is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen! Sure add bells and whistles, make the OS more robust. But once you change the GUI, you’d better believe in GOD or switch to Apple! Puke! It might be alright for yuppies to contend with this rubbish, but for most people 50 and over it’s a nightmare.
    Have a nice day
    El Zorro1
    • El Zorro1...I beg to differ, Loverock Davidson is over 65

      and he thinks its the greatest thing since Instant coffee was invented.
      Over and Out
      • Hi!

        Hello there!!!
        Loverock Davidson-
    • Switching to Apple isn't a choice for everyone

      And not everyone hates the GUI, a lot of people are simply apathetic to it. They will 'get used to it'.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Yes, people will 'get used to it.'

        If they have to, people eventually adapt to mediocrity. This has allowed Windows to exist since its inception. Why should it change now?
        • Well, it helps that

          Linux isn't advertised and Macs are seen as overpriced.
          Michael Alan Goff
  • Works with current enterprise IT infrastructure?

    > It's a roundabout way of claiming that Windows 8 tablets will work with
    > the current enterprise IT infrastructure, while Apple iPads don't.

    Not so for the Windows RT (ARM-based) tablets, which is the only type currently available. They can't join a Windows Domain, and without that, I don't see how they're any more enterprise compatible than iPads, Android etc.

    The much touted version of Office supplied on the RT tablets doesn't include Outlook and doesn't run macros. And as Paul Thurrot has pointed out, it's actually covered by a Home and Student licence, so you can't use it for work anyway! (Not without forking out some more money, at least.)

    So really, you need the Surface Pro tablets (Intel-based) for any kind of enterprise compatibility advantage and they're currently vapourware. But expect them to be heavy, noisy (fan) and have poor battery life - i.e., everything that we now expect tablets *not* to be.
    • So... we don't know anything about them

      But you're more than willing to say they're bad?
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Speculation

    As I said, they're vapourware. So nobody *knows* how good are bad they are at this point.

    But my expectation is that they'll very likely suffer the problems that I've listed. If not, then why would Microsoft be bothering with ARM tablets? Why not just have Intel-based tablets if they can tick all those boxes *and* give you full Windows compatibility?