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3/2/2012
02:58 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business

Microsoft's admission that Windows on ARM tablets are best for "unmanaged environments" could lock them out of the enterprise computing market.

Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
One of the things we learned about Windows 8 with this week's Consumer Preview is that tablets that run the Windows on ARM version of the OS won't be able to plug into Microsoft's admin and security ecosystem. That's pretty stunning, given that WoA is still Windows after all. What's more, it means Microsoft may have blown a big chance to own the business tablet market.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview dropped on Feb. 29, in conjunction with a launch event that Microsoft held at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The preview version is strictly for Intel and AMD x86 platforms, but along with it Microsoft published a user guide that offered some details on WoA, which is designed to run tablets powered by chips based on ARM's system-on-a-chip reference design.

Among those details was this nugget: "Although the ARM-based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, businesses can use these power-saving devices in unmanaged environments."

Unmanaged environments? What responsible CIO is going to allow his IT department to deploy a fleet of tablets to workers for use in an "unmanaged environment." Probably not the CIO of TJX Companies, which suffered a hack that compromised personal data of more than 45 million credit card members, or the CIO of Healthnet, which compromised the data of 1.9 million past and current customers. And I doubt that the CIO of NASA, which this week reported the theft of a laptop containing codes that control the space station now wants the space agency's employees armed with mobile devices that only work in "unmanaged environments."

[ Learn more about Windows 8. Read Windows 8 Beta: 8 Insights For IT. ]

To be sure, Microsoft and its hardware partners will offer Windows 8 on x86-based tablets that will be compatible with the full suite of Microsoft's management tools, such as System Center and Active Directory policy integration and Active Directory domains and security. But how popular will those be? In touting the benefits of ARM tablets for mobile workers, Microsoft implies that the x86 slates won't have the staying power and agility that road warriors need. "ARM-based tablets use less power than 32-bit and 64-bit devices and workers can rely on the extended uptime of these devices," the company notes in the Windows 8 beta users guide.

The danger here is that Microsoft's decision to bifurcate Windows 8 into x86 and ARM versions could result in a neither-fish-nor-fowl problem that may seriously hamper the company's efforts to become a player in consumer and business tablets. The company seems to be suggesting that Windows 8 x86 tablets will be strong on enterprise tools and lousy on key mobility features like battery life and overall snappiness, while WoA tablets will be strong on the latter but weak on security and manageability.

Faced with such a choice, won't most workers decide to stick with their iPad? The iPad may not be an administrator's dream either (although numerous third-party tools, like Citrix Receiver for iPad, Wyse's Pocket Cloud, and HLW's iTap have emerged that make it more IT friendly), but it's still an iPad.

Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place. It desperately needs to get tablets out the door in time for the 2012 holiday season or it risks falling so far behind Apple, which is expected to announce iPad 3 next week, and Google Android that it may never catch up.

That may not be enough time for it to perform all of the software engineering needed to make WoA a truly integrated member of the Windows enterprise ecosystem. But the company needs to make that a priority with the next version of WoA. Otherwise Windows 8 tablets could fall victim to the same criticism that doomed the BlackBerry PlayBook which, also stunningly, lacked integration with BlackBerry email when it debuted.

The criticism was that the PlayBook was middling at best as both a business tool and a consumer gadget. We haven't seen enough of WoA yet to know if it will be a hit with consumers. But it better be, because unless Microsoft adds some management and remote lock-down capabilities it's sure to be a miss in the enterprise.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 26-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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herman_munster
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herman_munster,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/8/2012 | 5:49:17 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
I think this article sums it up perfectly: 'What responsible CIO is going to allow his IT department to deploy a fleet of tablets to workers for use in an "unmanaged environment."'

Windows 8 tablets, in my mind, have the same level of validity as the Playbook: none at all. It just makes no sense in my mind to adopt these things given the market that's already established around iOS and Android devices. Adopting these devices just creates additional complexity in terms of hardware management and security.

Also, who really wants Windows on a tablet?! If I wanted Windows on a tablet, I would invest in Motion Computing tablets and distribute those to staff in place of laptops. Motion Computing devices have been on the market for a decade and are proven and sturdy devices that run standard versions of Windows or Linux.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2012 | 7:14:24 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
There are plenty of third-party security software providers, Q1 for instance, that provide all of those security features on an agent. That is what most companies are using for their iPads.... The problem isn't that people won't be able to secure their tablets. The problem, for MS, is that security and other management features that used to be OS tools are now abstracted from the OS as third party tools. This makes Android, iOS, etc enterprise capable regardless of Google or Apple's willingness to produce management tools. An entire industry has been created around mobility management.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2012 | 7:08:42 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
$199 Windows tablets? MS isn't going to give away their licenses (far from it). Who is going to be able to build a tablet for less than half the cost of Apple when Apple has much higher volumes from all of the suppliers? If they are anywhere near $199, MS would have to be substantially subsidizing the OEMs.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2012 | 7:03:53 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
I bet this was a concession to Intel. ARM = Consumer. Intel = Business.
Gideon
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Gideon,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/6/2012 | 9:54:58 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
Paul:

It is not too late to get into any business. Afterall, Apple was failing until Microsoft pumped $125 million in investment into it, which eventually led to growth of of the former (Apple). That said, Microsoft is not late. Actually, this is the right move for Microsoft. According to their CEO, they are all in (cloud, smartphone, etc). Right now, Office 365 is selling like hotcake. I subscribed to it, which cost me about $24.00 per month. But the price is right, until I find something better. Meanwhile, you get Exchange, Lync Sharepoint, and even to download Office Plus Professional to 5 devices (call it computer or any device if you wish). I refused to buy iPad until Microsoft comes up with its own tablet. I bought an Android (EVO) at one time from Sprint, and I returned it. I am waiting for Windows 7.5 (Mango), and I plan to subscribe to it, in a couple of months.

Microsoft is a great company. Actually, the cloud environment has provided Microsoft with a better way to make money. It is just like the phone company: You subscribe, and you pay. With cloud, MS will rule. They have their own OS, with legions of programmers and customers. Yep, some software can be free, but I'm not going to bet on them until someone is ready to provide some services. Nothing is free anyway. There is a price to pay.

Anyway, in order to keep the innovation going, someone has to get paid. And to get paid, the product by that person or company has to be bought by another person or another company. No payment, no innovation or no job!

Paul, you need to do your research before posting into your column. Have a nice day.

Gideon
hlubinv8l
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hlubinv8l,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 5:11:50 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
RSL: "The Vista debacle was also blown way out of proportion."

If anything, the size of Vista's failure has been downplayed.

NetMarketShare's stats for February 2012, show:
Windows XP (an 11-year old operating system) has a 45.39% share
Windows Vista (which Microsoft spent Billions developing and marketing) has only 8.10% share!

Even Windows 7 is higher than that (but W7 share is still much less than Windows XP).
RSL
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RSL,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 6:36:08 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
Absolutely correct. Besides Cutler and crew moving to Microsoft, the VMS memory management scheme was bought by Microsoft from Digital. You still see Demand Zero Page Faults in the Windows performance monitor. Naturally those VMS/Windows vs Unix banters remain. My point is that Digital never responded to the GǣPC revolutionGǥ, sat on their laurels figuring that VMS was King and would always remain G looked what happened. Microsoft, albeit late to the game, is responding with Windows 8 in a big way, and in the right direction. This is good, and deserves the proper praise. Hence my initial comment about the BS /sensational headlines and knee-jerk Windows bashers, that blur the lines of intelligent commentsGǪwhile we witness important changes in the evolution of IT.

f2photo
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f2photo,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 3:02:08 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
What do you think you are running with Windows? All of those VMS engineers left DEC years ago and wrote the heart of what is now known as Windows. The heart of the war that started at DEC between Untrix and VMS is still very alive.
rogerrobie
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rogerrobie,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 2:47:42 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
Who give a fark about those overpriced paperweights? are you kidding me
rogerrobie
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rogerrobie,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 2:47:10 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets Could Be Risky Business
Geez, Microsoft appears to be an "unmanaged environment"
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