Government // Enterprise Architecture
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6/20/2012
02:31 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough

Windows 8 tablets will need to take off with consumers before CIOs will embrace them. Here's why.

CIOs will give Windows 8 tablets a close look. When I spoke to IT execs for an article on business uses of tablets earlier this year, everyone was interested in what Microsoft would be coming out with. But getting IT interested in buying Microsoft's just announced Surface tablet won't be enough.

InformationWeek's research also shows considerable open-mindedness among IT pros when it comes to Windows 8 tablets and smartphones. In a survey of 452 business tech pros this month, before the Surface announcement, we asked about company plans for Windows 8 smartphone or tablet deployments. One third of respondents fell into what I'd call "ready and waiting"--they're either testing now, planning to deploy as soon as available, deploying within 12 months, or deploying as workers bring Win 8 devices into the enterprise. Sixty percent fell into what I'd call the uncertain category: no timeline, no plans (14%), don't know, or deploying 12 months or more from now.

There's a big opportunity for a work-friendly tablet. iPads just don't work very well with a lot of legacy enterprise software. Citrix Receiver lets you look at data, but you can't really work in it, tech execs say. If Microsoft's Surface tablet makes it easier to provide enterprise app access in the tablet format, that's intriguing to a lot of CIOs. IT shops have a lot of Windows expertise in house; they're light on iOS talent. They'd be interested in replacing laptops for some mobile workers. And they're intrigued by the Metro interface: 45% of survey respondents say Metro makes them more likely to upgrade to Win 8 on tablets; just 7% are less likely.

And that leads to an idea I've seen pop up in several Surface write-ups: that Surface will appeal to the enterprise, but we'll have to wait and see about consumer markets. It's a safe middle ground. But I don't think it's realistic. Surface either succeeds in consumer markets, or it doesn't fly at all.

[ Want more on tablets? Read 9 Powerful Business Uses For Tablet Computers. ]

Even enterprise IT needs some coolness factor. Several of the execs I spoke with for that tablet article described the iPad as the default choice for the project or pilot they had underway. They cited practical reasons, like the iPad's features, familiarity, and development kit. But don't underestimate the iPad cachet. "We're in the fashion industry, and they're what's cool," explained Neil Goodrich, head of IT for Holly Hunt, a high-end home furnishing showroom, about iPads the company was testing for sales, the warehouse, and its prototype shop.

Bill Martin, CIO of the cruise line company Royal Caribbean, put iPads in every stateroom of its most recently renovated cruise ship. Why iPads? "That's what the hotel team wanted," Martin said. But he noted that choice could change over time if viable Windows tablets came into the market and Android tablets gained in popularity and stability.

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CIOs are far from the only voice in picking personal technology for employees. A tablet in a salesperson's hand is part of how a company presents itself, so the sales leadership is going to have a big say.

Now, I do think the cool factor around tablets will fade, and employees won't remain quite as insistent on iPads as the one acceptable tablet. Other companies will narrow the gap, even if the iPad keeps a step or a half step ahead.

But there's another reason Microsoft needs consumer success: viability.

For companies to make a big bet on a tablet deployment, like giving them to all their salespeople, they want to know that device will be around awhile. Now, Apple doesn't provide the kind of long-term product roadmap IT teams are used to getting for enterprise software, server, and PC lines. But for Martin at Royal Caribbean, the lack of a roadmap wasn't a big issue. "It's more around our confidence that the product has a viable life," he said. Apple's iPad has that.

IT execs may not know which iPad features Apple will roll out next, but they know Apple will keep innovating and keep supporting its blockbuster product. With the consumerization of IT, CIOs will be skeptical of any device that's solely dependent on enterprise sales. Microsoft has bailed out on hardware endeavors before--Zune music players, the Kin phone--that didn't take off. (Josh Greenbaum has a good take on the three factors that will make Surface viable.) And Surface is an even riskier proposition than those hardware efforts, since a tablet could alienate Microsoft's longtime hardware partners, including Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Would an enterprise-focused tablet be worth that risk?

Microsoft this week demonstrated a very interesting tablet concept for knowledge workers, but it still has to prove to CIOs it's committed to becoming a large-scale hardware maker. Winning over the consumer is part of winning over the CIO.

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Johnnythegeek
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Johnnythegeek,
User Rank: Strategist
6/22/2012 | 3:15:08 AM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
How much longer can Microsoft keep interest without a actual product in the market place? I mean they have been talking about another crack at a tablet since the iPad was introduced. Does it really take this long (3 generations of iPads) to make one Tablet called the Surface?
This Surface better be perfectly priced and have no glitches.
Bprince
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Bprince,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 5:48:01 AM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
The bring-your-own device trend is the main thing powering iPad adoption in the enterprise. Stands to reason the same will be true with Surface if there is going to be enterprise uptake, because if no one likes to use the consumer version there is no real reason for an IT shop to switch over from what they are already using.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/22/2012 | 1:31:10 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
You're right that the pressure's on Surface, and it can't feel like a gen 1.0 product in any way. There will be no patience in the market -- consumer or biz -- for that.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/22/2012 | 1:35:04 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
BYOD is one important driver, but it's not the only one, and isn't even the main one at many companies.More companies are issuing iPads, not just allowing personally owned ones in. Look at companies like Level 3 giving iPads to all its salespeople (http://www.informationweek.com.... That's happening at more companies. I could see something like Surface, if Microsoft delivers on the vision that includes this easy-to-use lightweight keyboard and Office apps access, appealing in a sales setting.
EricLundquist
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EricLundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 7:16:26 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
Great article. The Surface surfaces a bunch of underlying issues. If you are in a company with an unrestricted byod, Surface would be one of many contenders. If it has Windows, Office, Exchange, Active Directory and a keyboard it all sounds like an ultrabook. Few companies I know are willing to buy a version 1 of anything. I'm guessing it would be at least 6 months after shipping that IT types would seriously evaluate Surface. Until I get one that I can really run through the paces, I'm holding off giving it a thumbs up or down. BTW, I did a Google+ post on the best Microsoft tablet of all times https://plus.google.com/u/0/10...
Blogpimp
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Blogpimp,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 10:49:10 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
I think you are missing something. There is a good reason why Microsoft's tablet will have the same fate as Zune and their failed phone. I am not a tech guy. I am a consumer. All of the IT guys are into Microsoft products but fail to realize that ordinary consumers absolutely hate Microsoft. Tech guys want "features". Consumers just want something that works and is user friendly and like customer service. Microsoft has none of these things. For years they have been able to dictate to consumers because they had captured the business market. Now, consumers are telling business what they want and Microsoft will never get that. They aren't innovators, their software crashes and isn't user friendly. I sometimes wonder if the only reason that IT people like Microsoft products is because they feel they can keep their priesthood going only as long as tech products break and are complicated and they are needed.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2012 | 1:14:35 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
"I sometimes wonder if the only reason that IT people like Microsoft products is because they feel they can keep their priesthood going only as long as tech products break and are complicated and they are needed."

Yes, and all of the IT techs are trained specifically in Microsoft. To tell them to move off of Microsoft is the same as telling them their skills and certifications are not valuable anymore. They are going to fight it, but the end users are taking over their technology decisions now and they are not selecting Microsoft.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2012 | 1:31:07 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
Agree, I have not seen true BYOD in use. The iPhone/Android smartphone and iPad roll-outs have largely been company owned devices which are managed by the company. It really isn't any more complex than the way companies currently manage Microsoft devices (PCs) except that the security, provisioning and management software tools in use are OS agnostic instead of Microsoft's tools.
Fill
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Fill,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2012 | 10:24:45 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
I work as head of IT at my corp and all I see are headaches from the Surface. You can read between the lines on a product rollout and there are several red flags. One is the Surface web site still says "coming soon", which is ridiculously negligent for MS after a rollout. The other was the Surface crashed during the demo, which is now viral on Youtube. OK, maybe that was a fluke. There's no specs, shipping dates, ability to pre-order, etc. It's a tablet with a kickstand and a floppy keyboard to make it back into a netbook which (because MS won't release pricing) is speculated to be more expensive than a comparably spec'ed netbook or ultrabook. The lesson is, if the company producing the product doesn't show much faith and support it in, then you probably shouldn't either. Caveat emptor.
JEPars
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JEPars,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:43:14 PM
re: Microsoft Surface: Enterprise Tablet Market Isn't Enough
One is led to wonder if the boss has pointy hair.
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