Does Microsoft have any Shot at All on the Windows 8 Tablet Front?

By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief — November 08, 2011

Recent research from Ovum strongly suggests that enterprise IT departments are being overwhelmed by the influx of smartphones and tablets – especially iPads – brought into the company strictly from a BYOD perspective. The Ovum research suggests that IT is becoming less influential over the end user technology it needs to manage, and in turn is causing a significant rise in the sales of mobile device management software.


In truth it doesn’t require a lot of research to know that this is going on. There is a question though, that continues to lurk under the surface – is BYOD really the right game plan? Should IT departments be dis-intermediated from the hardware acquisition process? Is there a hidden longer term security issue lurking that could be avoided by mitigating the BYOD push?


In the old days the answer would come directly down to “What is Microsoft doing?” But these days, although Microsoft continues to do a great deal on the enterprise IT side, Microsoft is mostly not seen or heard in the BYOD realm. The company is moving ahead with its Windows 8 tablet strategy and its consumer-focused WP7 strategy – and the Metro UI that underpins both continues to improve.


Those efforts seem likely to go nowhere in light of the massive consumer plays that both Google and Apple have pulled off and continue to pull off. Enterprise IT should think about this – perhaps the time has arrived for IT to begin exploring more deeply what it is that Microsoft is doing on the Windows 8 tablet front, and perhaps it is time for IT to begin making demands for enterprises to seriously consider Microsoft’s approach to tablet computing.


Perhaps the greatest demonstration of where Microsoft currently sits is the recent news that General Motors is very likely to move as many as 100,000 users from Office and move them all onto Google Docs. As good as Google Docs is, it does not have the rigorous underpinnings and inherent security of Office – and the move by GM appears to perhaps look penny wise and – longer term – perhaps pound foolish.


One wonders what GM’s enterprise IT really thinks about this. But for Microsoft it is not good news. Defections from Office of this size (even potential disruptions as GM hasn’t signed with Google yet) disrupt Microsoft’s ability to move Windows 8 tablets, and makes it harder to keep BYOD at bay.


Can one make the case that Microsoft hasn’t made the internal shift to upgrade its key products (such as Office) to work seamlessly with the Windows 8 Metro UI? It would be difficult to believe that this is how it will play out – but the perception that Microsoft may not be moving in that direction (or moving quickly enough) can put a halt to both small and large scale purchase considerations of Microsoft’s products. This in turn kills Microsoft’s chances of delivering a successful tablet.


Microsoft still has a tremendous capability in terms of what it does from an overall IT perspective. It needs to figure out how to use this capability to leverage itself in the tablet space. It cannot do it alone. It needs its enterprise IT friends to start pulling for it. Microsoft needs to put a ‘huge’ tablet game plan on the table and tie it into (leverage) its many other IT products to help drive the game plan. Enterprise IT needs to start making strong and loud demands of Microsoft to put the game plan out there. Without a groundswell of enterprise IT to counteract BYOD, it may very well be that Microsoft won’t see a tablet play.


HP’s release Windows 7 Slate tablet with multi-touch is actually a very sharp enterprise tool. It hints at what a Windows 8 tablet with full Metro UI is likely to offer. It will be interesting to see how the enterprise tablet scenario moves forward – it’s a safe bet enterprise IT wants those Windows 8 tablets. To do so it is time for enterprise IT to start making some noise.


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