Windows 8: Is the Enterprise Ready?

Microsoft has launched Windows 8, but is it ready for the enterprise? And is the enterprise ready for it?

NEW YORK — Now that Microsoft has launched Windows 8 and consumers are all set to get their hands on the new operating system, the next step will be to see what enterprises do regarding the new platform.

That is one of the key things Microsoft and its partners are looking at as the OS is now loaded on PCs and ready for sale as of midnight Oct. 25, or officially Oct. 26.

The enterprise is not always first to adopt new operating system software, as it is not easy to migrate an entire fleet of systems from one OS to the next. Many enterprises stick with a single version of an operating system for years, sometimes skipping every other release. For instance, many financial institutions and Wall Street banks are still on Windows XP and older versions of Internet Explorer.

“The first thing we have to do is we want to make sure our enterprise customers have a plan to get off of XP,” Erwin Visser, senior director of Windows commercial product marketing, told eWEEK.

Visser noted that many enterprises are ready to move to Windows 8 immediately for specific business scenarios, including customer-facing apps in industries such as retail or airlines and other areas. One such enterprise is Twentieth Century Fox, which developed its FoxFast app for Windows 8. With the FoxFast application, broadcast partners are able to browse and search through 20th Century Fox Television Distribution’s vast library of features, series, talk shows and special programming with access to extensive information, images/assets and videos for licensed content.

“We were looking for ways to make it more sexy and exciting,” Cristina Mancini, senior vice president of worldwide marketing in the television distribution group at Fox, said of the app. “Just because it’s a B2B site we didn’t want it to be less attractive.”

Tanya Tallino, vice president of enterprise information technology at Twentieth Century Fox, said the move to Windows 8 was a natural evolution and her team “put the pedal to the metal” to develop the app in 30 days using .NET, Silverlight, WPF and Adobe Edge for the front end. The core app was done in C# and XAML, she said.

Russ Rosen, CIO at Rooms To Go, a large furniture retailer, said his company launched a Windows 8 application for its salespeople to use in its retail stores. Rosen demonstrated the app showing how customers can pick and choose furniture and configure whole rooms and then take that “cart” of products to a cashier to pay for the goods.

Rooms To Go initially developed the app for Windows 7 tablets and realized they could have it on Windows 8 so they pulled it until Windows 8 became ready, Rosen said. The app will run on Windows RT, which Microsoft released Oct. 26.

Microsoft said Windows 8 bridges the gap between a personalized experience for users and the security and management features that IT professionals trust. Features include the new Windows 8 Start screen and fully immersive Windows Store style apps. People can be more productive with both multi-touch and traditional keyboard and mouse interfaces. Critical line-of-business apps also can benefit from an immersive full screen, allowing people to easily interact with the app. Windows 8-based business tablets are built for touch and are deeply personalized, Microsoft said.

For people who are increasingly mobile, Windows 8 helps them stay connected and productive in a more secure way. Windows 8 includes Windows To Go—the ability to provide users with a full corporate copy of Windows 8—along with users’ business apps, data and settings—on a USB storage device. Windows 8 also includes improvements to DirectAccess and built-in mobile broadband features that natively support 3G and 4G telecommunication. And Windows 8 can stay always connected with Windows Store apps.

In addition, features such as Trusted Boot and improved BitLocker drive encryption, AppLocker and claim-based access control help protect corporate data across the client device, the network and back-end infrastructure. Also, with Windows 8, users can get a virtualized experience with high-definition graphics, support for touch and support for USB devices on a local PC. It will be easier for IT departments to implement virtual desktop infrastructures in a more cost-effective way. And Windows 8 includes Microsoft Hyper-V, a high-performing client virtualization technology that enables enterprise developers to develop, debug and test multiple configurations of apps and operating systems on a single PC instead of each configuration requiring its own PC.

Microsoft also noted that Windows 8 easily integrates into most existing client management infrastructures, and management tasks are easier with Windows PowerShell automation.

Samsung anticipates a strong enterprise opportunity with Windows 8, in light of the company’s success with Windows 7 tablets, said Michael Abary, senior vice president of consumer IT product marketing at Samsung Electronics America. He added that Samsung won enterprise contracts to supply organizations such as the U.S. Air Force with Windows 7 tablets.

“It takes time because of internal issues and policies,” said David Song, senior vice president of PC sales and marketing for Samsung Electronics, about the adoption of a new OS in the enterprise. “Some customers want to adopt instantly, but others prefer to wait and see.”

“You’ll see adoption in retail and sales force right away,” Abary said. “In use cases where it’s a more customer-facing role, you’ll see more adoption of Windows 8.”

“I think there are opportunities for BYOD [bring your own device] with the new Windows 8 tablets, as well,” Song said.

Luis Pineda, senior vice president of product management for computing and consumer products at Qualcomm, said, “Microsoft is launching Windows 8 with a number of apps for consumer, SMB [small and midsize business] and the enterprise. And we see these devices as all-in-one devices for consumers, SMBs and enterprises.”

Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon processor is powering the Samsung and Dell Windows RT devices.

“For Dell, at $499, this gives us a great entry point for the enterprise,” said Kirk Schell, vice president of computing products at Dell. “This can be part of an overall enterprise strategy as well as play in a BYOD environment,” he said of the Windows RT-based Dell XPS 10 tablet.