Microsoft's TechEd conference showcases the apps retailers, governments, and others are developing to take advantage of the new OS's features.
Windows 8 Preview: Key Features
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Windows 8's formal debut is just months away, so a number of businesses are already deep into the process of developing apps that will allow their employees and customers to take advantage of new capabilities baked into the latest version of the operating system, according to Microsoft officials who spoke Tuesday at the company's TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla.
Electronics retailer Newegg, furniture vendor Rooms To Go, suds purveyor New Belgium Brewing, Wikipedia, and a number of healthcare and telecom companies, are among the organizations starting to roll Windows 8 apps for internal and external use on PCs and, even more so, on tablets.
While numerous companies have already deployed apps for Apple's iPad, Microsoft officials said the majority are holding out for a platform that provides deep, out-of-the-box integration with their backend infrastructure and security services. Their pitch: that platform is the Windows 8 client.
"The Windows 8 tablet is the tablet they've been waiting for," said Erwin Visser, senior director for Microsoft's Windows Commercial group, at a press conference. "We're investing not only in the personal role, but also making sure Windows 8 is a great client within the enterprise."
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Visser said the Windows 8 client, particularly the Pro version that runs on x86 and x64 chips, provides management, security, and virtualization features that the iPad and Android tablets can't match. Windows 8 gives enterprises "what they already know from Windows," said Visser.
Among those features are BitLocker security, Hyper-V virtualization support, System Center compatibility, and backwards compatibility on Intel devices, combined with the new, touch-friendly and tablet-optimized Metro interface.
According to Visser, Rooms To Go is experimenting with Windows 8 tablets that employees can use in-store to check the stock room, display products on the floor, and create shopping carts for customers while they browse. "It can also check them out and get them going," said Visser.
New Belgium Brewing, meanwhile, is working on a Win8 tablet app that allows its Beer Rangers, a.k.a. sales reps, to better manage their territories. They can pull in CRM data from a cloud service like Microsoft Dynamics, review sales levels, identify hot-selling products, and chart customer locations.
Even the public prosecutor's office in the Netherlands is going Windows 8. Visser, who is Dutch, said laws in that country require police officers who hand out roadside tickets to first obtain authorization from a prosecutor before they can impose a penalty. The office is developing an app that would allow Dutch cops armed with tablets to communicate directly with prosecutors to get that authorization.
Telecom and healthcare companies are also looking to innovate around Windows 8, working with OEMs to develop customized, and in some cases ruggedized, hardware that meets the standards and requirements of their industries. "There is really no other platform that can provide the variety of form factors," said Visser.
Microsoft is hoping it all adds up to Windows 8 being a big enough hit to slow Apple's influence in the enterprise, which has been growing as an increasing number of employees bring their iPhones and iPads to work. Windows 8 is expected to formally ship later this year.
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