Business Embraces Tablets-With Caution Need to Interoperate With Existing Apps
Enterprises and SMBs also have a need for tablets to interoperate with existing applications and software-something that's led to an increased presence of Windows 7 touch screens in businesses. "We see demand from all business sectors-health care, field service, construction, retail-for a Windows-based tablet PC," said Mike Stinson, vice president of marketing for Motion Computing, which offers tablet PCs with Windows 7 for verticals. "Windows seamlessly integrates with the legacy systems prevalent in the majority of enterprises. It also provides the software compatibility and security that businesses require.""They're not essential, job-related functions," Stinson said. "That's not to say those media features aren't there; they are just less of a priority." Stinson does have his eye on Windows 8-reportedly due in 2012-which Microsoft is designing to run on a variety of tablet form factors in addition to traditional PCs. "We think the new enhancements, such as improved touch navigation and security features, will improve the user experience, while conforming to security protocols, helping IT better manage its devices," he said. Windows 8 offers two user environments: the desktop mode (familiar to anyone who's used Windows) and a tablet-ready interface featuring colorful tiles that link to applications. In the early developer preview (see review, page 28), the transition between the two environments is quick and seamless. Windows 8 will support both x86 and ARM architecture. During his Sept. 13 BUILD keynote, Windows and Windows Live Division President Steven Sinofsky insisted that the rise of mobility made it essential for Microsoft to release a new version of Windows optimized for running on tablets. Once Windows 8 arrives, IT administrators will have to decide whether to embrace x86 or ARM tablets. "The ARM products initially won't have all the management hooks, but because they won't run legacy code, they will likely be immune to most existing Windows viruses, and should be lighter with a bit more battery life," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group. The alternative is "an x86 device that has full compatibility but will also carry Windows baggage."
IT departments, he said, are already "overwhelmed," and adding new mobile operating systems such as Android or webOS to the mix will "only further exacerbate the situation." Many features found in consumer-centric tablets, such as a Netflix streaming app, aren't necessary for touch-centric devices in the enterprise.