Windows 8 And The Enterprise: Has Microsoft Made Some Major Mistakes?

Windows 8

The idea that a Microsoft OS would not be suitable for the enterprise seems bizarre given the dominance previous Redmond operating systems have had over the years. But times change and there are a number of mistakes Microsoft has made that could potentially impact on Windows 8’s chances of success in the enterprise.

Firstly, it is an OS that has been written for finger control and ‘gesturing’. This is all well and good – we are huge fans of the iPad (our COO has recently officially dumped his laptop) and we are very aware of the huge smart phone penetration in the enterprise market. But the fact remains that there are millions of desktop and laptops still used in business and that will remain the case for a number of years yet. Will Windows 8 translate well for these more old-school devices?

Is Microsoft trying to be all things to everyone? The consumer market is obviously a massive market for Microsoft, as is the enterprise. As much as we speak about the consumerisation of IT (and it’s something that is undeniable) the two markets are still vastly different and targeting such disparate entities with just one OS and one user interface (UI) for all device types is a massive challenge – surely concessions will have had to be made to the detriment of other experiences?

As the Apple devices and OS had such an impact initially with consumers, I suspect that Microsoft will have thought of the consumer experience first when it comes to Windows 8. This is fine but does place an additional question mark against its suitability for the enterprise.

We have already seen this approach fail miserably when RIM launched the PlayBook last year and whilst Microsoft will have been mindful of this, could history be about to repeat itself? Microsoft’s core market is the enterprise and not creating a UI/UX with that in mind could add to the nails in the coffin maker’s toolbag.

Another issue is that unlike Apple, Microsoft does not have the perfect scenario of making the hardware to accompany the software. With tablets really making an impact on the enterprise, will there be enough Windows 8 devices with enough appeal to give the iPad any serious competition? Obviously the laptop and desktop vendors will naturally start shipping Windows 8 when it is out, but with enterprise tablet use growing month-on-month this could be a market that Microsoft fails to really penetrate.

Perhaps the most major flaw though, is Microsoft not making any mobile device management (MDM) APIs available for Windows 8. MDM is something that enterprises are adopting in increasing numbers. The key to a successful MDM deployment is the preservation of the user experience – people don’t want to have the native experience of the device impacted with cumbersome third-party apps, it needs to be straight forward and automatic – and the way to achieve this is via the native approach delivered by companies such as MobileIron.

But Microsoft’s failure to develop those APIs will make Windows 8 a tough sell for any CIO that wants to use an existing platform to manage a heterogeneous estate of tablet devices. Rumours have suggested that the Windows 8 launch will be Q4 2012 and the early word on the user experience has been broadly positive.

But whilst I welcome the addition of any technology that makes mobility and connectivity better, the jury is most definitely out on its suitability for the enterprise. If the issues outlined above were taken in isolation then there might not be so many questions asked, but put together they add up to a potentially huge problem for Microsoft and a burgeoning toolbag for the coffin-maker.

Richard Neale is the Chief Technology Officer with Esselar, a communications integrator that specialises in mobility, connectivity, Web and email management and smart device management. Esselar works with organisations such as Harrods, BDO LLP, Arup and Norton Rose.