I think Windows 8 is doomed to failed on the desktop. But, much as I dislike Windows 8 and its Metro interface, I thought it had a chance on the business tablet. Oh, forget about Intel and Microsoft's dream that the first wave of Windows 8 tablets will push the iPad’s global market share to below 50 percent by mid-2013. That's not happening. But, Metro's designed for tablet-sized displays and, I presumed, IT would be able to deploy and manage them with their existing Active Directory (AD) tools. Guess what? Microsoft won't be supporting AD on Windows 8 on ARM (WOA).
When I first heard that Microsoft wasn't enabling AD on Windows RT--the ARM-specific version of Windows 8--I thought there must be some kind of mistake. AD isn't just a directory service, it's the heart of business Windows authentication, authorization, security, and management. Every Windows system administrator, since Windows NT's domain system was put out to pasture, knows AD. It's what they use, just for starters, for:
- Adding new users to Active Directory
Granting rights to file servers
Allowing remote access to the network
Setting login and logout scripts
Controlling when users can use the network
Creating security groups - with either static or dynamic membership
You don't need to be a system administrator to get why little things like that might just be important for your business. Heck I use AD all the time to manage the Windows side of my networks and I use Linux everywhere I can!
So, how the heck will you mange them then? Well, Microsoft seems a little confused on this point. For Windows 8 on x86/x64 tablets you'll use System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune. Windows RT? We don't know. We think it will be Intune, but we don't know.“Intune?” You ask, “What the heck is Intune?”
First, it's not a mis-spelling of Apple's iTune. Intune is a cloud-based Windows security and management service. Eric Main, director of product marketing for Windows Intune, says the the next version of Intune, which will be Windows 8 compatible, will “cost $11 U.S. per PC, per month," with an additional "four mobile devices per seat.”
So, let's put this all together. You can't use the same AD tools you've used for over a decade to run Windows on Windows 8 tablets. Instead, you'll need to learn, pay, and use an additional management program. Oh, and by the way, this is a Microsoft cloud-based service so I hope you're comfortable with managing part of your infrastructure on the cloud, because that's the only way you can do it.
My writer colleague Gregg Keizer asked some experts what they made of Microsoft's new management tools for Windows RT and they were unimpressed. Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said, "Unless someone has an absolute need to run Office locally [on a tablet], there's no more value to Windows RT than there is to an iPad, which at least is a known quantity.” The more we learn about RT, said Michael Silver, a Gartner Microsoft analyst, the “fewer and fewer organizations will be looking at WOA." I can well believe that.
That's not me, the guy who doesn't care a bit for Windows 8, saying these things. This is people whose work lives are spent covering Microsoft talking.
I really don't get it. I don't think Windows RT tablets have any chance of winning consumers with fat wallets away from the iPad. I also don't think Microsoft tablets have much of a shot against the Android tablets at the lower price points.
What I did think, though, was that Microsoft would have a decent chance at getting IT departments into buying them for their users to avoid the “bring your own device (BYOD)” management headaches that comes with users bringing in their own tablets. I may not like what I've seen on Windows 8, but I could see Windows RT tablets with AD integration making good solid business sense for companies that were deeply invested in Windows.
In the first version of this story I included a clause stating that x86 tablets wouldn't have AD support. That was an error. Only Win RT tablets won't include AD support.--sjvn