Microsoft's upgrade avalanche a challenge for IT pros

Corporate technology managers must take time when deciding on Windows, Office upgrade path

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"With Google Apps, it doesn't matter how many trips to the buffet you make, you're good to go. Microsoft on the other hand segments the salad bar, the starches, the meat, and you have to say, 'did I remember the meat? The starch?' And if you forgot the salad, then you need to pay another license fee for that," Blake said.

Explorer and Windows Phone

In development along with Windows 8 is the next version of the browser, IE 10, which, according to Microsoft, is designed to be "edge-to-edge fast" with "less browser and more Web." It will offer two different interface experiences -- Metro-style and traditional Windows desktop. IE10 is being designed to take advantage of hardware acceleration features; supports HTML5, CSS3 and other Web standards broadly; and will be more secure than its predecessors, Microsoft has said.

Also relevant for enterprise IT executives is the next major version of the Windows Phone OS, which hasn't been officially announced but is said to be code-named Apollo. Some speculate it will be called Windows Phone 8 and that it will provide more code and application consistency with the desktop and server OSes than has existed up to now.

Whatever enhancements are present in Windows Phone 8, Microsoft finds itself -- much as in the tablet market -- as an underdog. At the end of last year's third quarter, Android held 52.5% of the worldwide mobile operating system market, while Microsoft ended in sixth place with 1.5%, according to Gartner. In the U.S., as of the end of February of this year, Android had 50.1% of the smartphone OS market, while Microsoft had almost 4%, according to comScore.

When Microsoft does talk in detail about the next major version of Windows Phone, there are two major areas CIOs should focus on, according to Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis.

The first area is the phone IT security and management controls that will be available to IT departments via Windows server products.

While Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 are in general more advanced than their predecessor, Windows Mobile 6.5, the latter gave IT staffers more administration controls over phones, Greengart said.

"If I was a CIO, I'd be asking for a more detailed road map on what is and isn't supported before I'd commit to deploy Windows Phone," Greengart said.

The other major issue is the level of application compatibility. "There will be some compatibility. The question is how much," Greengart said.

Microsoft recently said in a blog post that "today's Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone."

The company also said that "all" of Windows Phone developers' programming skills "are transferable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferable as well."

Next: Microsoft server and tool upgrades demand CIOs' attention

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.

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