Are Windows 8 tablets the answer?

By Joseph Sweeney, Advisor, IBRS*
Thursday, 10 January, 2013

Are Windows 8 tablets the answer?

If you think Windows 8 tablets are the answer to the mobile device management problem, maybe you need to change your thinking.

Windows 8 tablets are available but consumers are not standing in the rain to get them. But desktop managers are excited. Our phone has been ringing off the hook with CIOs asking us, “Is it true what my desktop teams are telling me … Windows 8 will be the solution to my organisation’s mobility woes?”

The short answer to this question is, “No.” The longer answer is that the question is based on a flawed assumption: that mobility is best addressed by providing a secure, reliable, consistent and economically managed device that mimics the Windows desktop management approach we have honed over the past couple of decades.

This assumption is flawed. If you look at the workload for desktops and notebooks, there is a great deal of uniformity in both how the hardware is used and what it us used for. This workload is almost exclusively dictated by, and for the benefit of, the organisation.

However, our experience with development of mobility strategies suggests that the mobile environment is different. Both the locations and work functions are more varied and tightly connected to a specific point in the business workflow.

Mobility is being driven by changing user expectations. If enterprise mobility does not at least match the user experience of a publicly accessible, cloud-based solution, it simply won’t be used.

Some organisations have attempted to eliminate DropBox file-sharing by offering ‘virtual desktop’ connections to file stores. From a desktop manager’s point of view, this makes absolute sense. From a user’s perspective, the security gets in the way and the user experience is substandard.

This experience impacts device selection as users have personal preferences for devices based on the work they do and emotional perceptions. The only real way to solve the ‘consumerisation problem’ is to embrace a solution that is as good as, or better than, publicly available microsolutions.

So, will Windows 8 tablets solve the enterprise’s mobility woes? Will they enable IT departments to rein in the growing menagerie of personal tablets and smartphones connected to personal, cloud-based solutions?

While Windows 8 tablets can be managed like a desktop they will not stop staff from having their own devices and working around what they see as substandard enterprise solutions. This ship has sailed: IT has lost control of the endpoint and consumers will increasingly dictate the endpoint.

A Windows mobile device is unlikely to take a large enough share of the consumer market to enable IT to go back to an SOE strategy. If a company was to mandate that all mobile applications were deployed on Windows 8 devices, many users would see it as a substandard experience and find workarounds.

Rather than looking at solutions based on desktop thinking, organisations need an Enterprise Mobility Strategy which is grounded in providing staff the applications and data they need to get work done more effectively, at the time and place where the work is being done.

*Joseph Sweeney is an IBRS advisor specialising in the areas of unified communications, collaboration, mobility and Microsoft products. Joseph is also engaged in research focusing on technology’s role in the education sector. Joseph is an accomplished business strategist and technology-marketing expert.

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