Sitting in a room full of fellow analysts at Microsoft's TechEd conference, I got the impression that IT departments are starting to fall for Windows 8.
Microsoft brought on stage IT executives from Take Care Health Systems (a subsidiary of Walgreens), Rooms to Go (online furniture seller) and Seton Hall University, all of whom plan to roll out Windows 8 aggressively. Why? The new OS addresses critical problems these organizations are having with Apple and Google platforms.
Given that most of us in the room believe that IT would likely deploy Windows 7 and skip Windows 8, this was a fascinating discussion. It also points to a unique problem IT is having—the Apple and Google tablets employees bring into companies aren't secure enough, can't be managed and don't integrate well with Microsoft-centric IT environments.
The Tablet Wave, Part 1: An iPad Tsunami
When employees bring these devices (mostly iPads) to the office, they demand that IT make to work. The problem is, these tablets were designed to browse the Web, consume media such as movies and games and, in short, entertain users. They weren't designed as productivity tools—that simply wasn't their purpose. While Apple and Android tablets can in fact run business apps, they don't integrate well with existing systems and are vastly different in every critical respect to the notebooks that users increasingly want to replace with tablets.
As a result, IT departments are between a rock and a hard place. They are being asked to make these products comply with company security and management policies, but the vendors haven't designed them for this purpose, so those efforts are quietly failing. (This has become particularly painful in schools, where students often do things to render hardware unusable and fixing each tablet individually is creating an IT nightmare.)
What IT needs, the panelists say, is something that's as easy to use and as compelling as the consumer tablets but, at the same time, can comply with company policy.
In Testing, Windows 8 Tablets Measure Up to the "Others"
Each of the three panelists is in deep test with Windows 8, primarily using variations of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. What they reported out of the test was that the tablets were a godsend, easy to integrate with existing management systems, from focused apps such as sales force automation and customer relationship management, to productivity apps (Microsoft Office), to remote terminals for managing servers and security. From a business perspective, these advantages hit all the high points—and, since the tablets were basically PCs, the companies' existing desktop security and patching systems worked.
What was particularly interesting was how passionate these folks were about the platform. The panelists had used the "other" tablets, and you'd expect them to find the Windows 8 tablets wanting in some of the consumer areas.
But they didn't.