Microsoft seeks to catch up in tablet market with Windows 8

Consumers and enterprises will have the last word on whether the new OS is a success

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

It is possible to toggle between this new interface and a more traditional Windows desktop in Windows 8. However, some observers are skeptical, saying that the new interface could be a deal-breaker for consumers and enterprise buyers who find it too different, and thus counterproductive and inconvenient.

There is also skepticism around enterprise adoption, primarily because a majority of companies have either recently finished migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP, or are in the process of doing so.

As of May of this year, Gartner had estimated that in developed countries, Windows 7 had been fully implemented in about 10 percent of enterprises, while 55 percent were in the process of deploying it and 25 percent were just starting.

Since enterprises typically let several years pass between corporate desktop refreshes, many industry observers are predicting that many IT departments will not consider upgrading to Windows 8 until 2014 at best. Some may bypass Windows 8 altogether.

Microsoft has been trying to strike a delicate balance between promoting Windows 8 without discouraging enterprises from upgrading to Windows 7 from XP.

In pitching Windows 8 to enterprises, Microsoft is focusing on its optimization for tablet devices and on the opportunity for IT departments to standardize on a centrally managed fleet of Windows tablets, as opposed to a heterogeneous, BYOD approach.

This may be a compelling message. A recent survey of 100 U.S. IT managers found that almost half of them plan to standardize their company's mobile platform on Windows devices. That compares with 8 percent for Google's Android OS and 14 percent for Apple's iOS, according to the survey, conducted by ThinkEquity, a financial research and services firm.

Microsoft is also highlighting enterprise features like Windows To Go, which lets users boot and run Windows 8 from USB devices such as flash drives, desktop virtualization improvements and new security capabilities.

Questions have also been raised about the Windows 8 version for ARM devices called Windows RT, which has significant differences with the main Windows 8 version for x86/64 chips from Intel and AMD.

Windows RT also launched Thursday, but it will only be available pre-installed on devices, which will be based on system-on-a-chip hardware platforms from ARM licensees Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. The idea is that these Windows RT devices, compared with Windows 8 tablets, will generally be lighter and thinner, with longer battery lives and lower prices, and thus fulfill different needs.

Most significantly, Windows RT devices will not run existing Windows 7, Vista and XP applications, but rather only new ones created with the new Windows runtime WinRT APIs. Windows RT devices will only be able to install applications from the new online Windows Store, which on the day prior to the Windows 8 launch only had several thousand applications. In fact, browser makers Google and Mozilla have complained that only Internet Explorer 10 will have full access to Windows RT system resources. Windows 8 PCs and tablets will not face these architectural restrictions.

One element potential buyers may find compelling is that Windows RT devices will include a version of the new Office edition at no extra cost called Office Home & Student 2013 RT. It will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and will provide what Microsoft calls "a complete Office experience." However, in what could turn off enterprises, this Office version isn't licensed for business use, requiring that organizations purchase commercial use rights or own a commercial license to Office 2013 suites. Windows RT also lacks several IT management features that Windows 8 does have.

Microsoft plans to make its own Microsoft-branded tablets called Surface. There will be one for Windows RT and another one for Windows 8.

Attempting to address another area where it is perceived to be lagging, Microsoft designed Windows 8 to be tightly integrated with SkyDrive. Microsoft's goal is to make the cloud storage service a "single drive" available across all the devices people use, giving them "instant, secure and private access to their files" and letting them share those files with others.

As of Friday, when Windows 8 and Windows RT begin to ship, their fate -- and Microsoft's -- is in the hands of consumers and enterprises.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Shop Tech Products at Amazon