Windows 8 signals the beginning of Microsoft’s relaunch of everything
By Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst, Consumer Impact IT
The arrival of Windows 8 – a version of Microsoft’s operating system optimised for tablet computers and traditional PCs – presents something of a dilemma to those organisations trying to maintain standard operating environments for PCs, smartphones, and tablets, and begs the question: Can Microsoft really unify these hitherto separate worlds with a single OS code base?
“Tried and tested” still rules the roost in the corporate world
The Windows PC is still the mainstay of the corporate knowledge worker, but it is no longer the only device being used by the employee.
Smartphones have been PC “companion” devices for a number of years, but the arrival of tablet computing devices, and of the Apple iPad in particular, has set a significant trend in motion that is changing the end-user IT landscape.
On the surface, Microsoft’s strategy seems plausible, but operating systems are like icebergs in that 90% of their mass lies below the surface; it is more than just look and feel.
Windows 8 can trace its lineage back 20 years to NT 3.1, and this code base now forms the basis of Microsoft’s desktop, tablet, and smartphone strategy as it competes with Apple and Google in these markets.
With Windows 8, Microsoft really has gone “all in” on the IT industry’s biggest spin of the roulette wheel in history, and the odds of it winning are not as long as some people might think.
Windows 8 looks to the past as well as to the future
Windows 8 (technically Version 6.2) is only a point-release update of Windows 7 (technically Version 6.1), but the addition of a second user interface, designed primarily for touchscreen users, makes this operating system like no other.
Like the Greek god Janus, Windows 8 looks to the future and to the past. Janus is also the god of “new beginnings and transitions,” which is exactly how I view Microsoft’s new operating system. Offering a similar look and feel to Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system (also being updated to version 8), Microsoft is hoping that Windows 8 will bring synergies across its device product range and get users to wholeheartedly re-embrace its offerings.
However, it has divided opinion: most observers cite the fact that the operating system has two very different user interfaces and is therefore twice as complicated, while Microsoft fans argue that this makes Windows 8 twice as good as anything else on the market.
A final judgement should not be made until the new OS is available to use on Microsoft’s own purpose-built Surface tablet.
Windows 8 brings Microsoft Office into the tablet era
To date, business users have mainly selected Apple iPads to use in the workplace, but poor compatibility with Microsoft Office and enterprise management tools means that this solution has been found wanting.
Desktop and application virtualisation solutions have satisfied some use cases, but a true Windows-based tablet running “real Microsoft Office” could be the solution that many have been looking for.
Announced in June 2012, Surface is Microsoft’s attempt to get a share of the burgeoning tablet and ultra-portable notebook market, areas that are currently dominated by Apple with its iPad and MacBook Air. The Surface will be available in two versions: an energy-efficient ARM version running Windows RT (to compete against the iPad) and a powerful Intel version running Windows 8 Pro (to compete against the MacBook Air).
This week, consumers trying to pre-order the 32GB Surface with Windows RT found the device to be out of stock just a few days after going on sale, so there is clearly an untapped market that Microsoft is reaching with its new offering.
Business leaders are happy to let employees spend their own money on IT
As the corporate market continues to explore the idea of “bring your own device” (or “spend your own money,” as more frugal employees are describing it), Ovum believes that the timing of Windows 8 could not be better. But can Microsoft and its partner ecosystem deliver?
The next few months will see Microsoft release new versions of Office, SharePoint, Exchange, and Windows Server, so Ovum fully expects a Microsoft marketing onslaught throughout 2013, targeting the consumer persona of the enterprise employee in the process.
In twelve months’ time we will know if Microsoft’s big bet on Windows 8 has paid off. In the meantime, Microsoft investors will be looking to Windows 8 to bolster their returns following a third-quarter slump in profits.
- » EE pushes LTE speeds, bumps coverage, and hits out at competition
- » Five ways to reach all mobile internet user segments
- » Facebook, Twitter join Google’s call for surveillance transparency
- » 4G LTE connections grow 50 percent in 5 months
- » Name your car E.T. - by 2015 it will “phone home” via eCall