In the beginning, large enterprises started realizing the benefits of computing and deployed large, expensive PCs with command-line interface methods that only trained professionals could use. It was Microsoft that popularized a graphic user interface (GUI) and the advent of the mouse that pushed the PC out of a niche consumer hobby and into the nearly ubiquitous position that it has today. In this model, the needs of business helped to fuel development of technology which then slowly filtered into consumer’s homes.
In the last couple of years, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction. Consumers’ need for sleek portable devices that are as intuitive as they are powerful have moved development from the boardroom to the family room.
Mobility and versatility are paramount in the consumer space and companies have begun a race to the top in terms of design, user interface and experience, weight, speed, and software selection. The trends in the consumer markets are beginning to impact the enterprise as CEOs want their tablets streaming financials and sales people are trading in their laptops for new ultrabooks tethered to their smartphones.
Apple has clearly set the pace for development and demand by popularizing previously unsuccessful form factors such as reintroducing the tablet and creating the prototypical ultra-thin laptop. Google has stepped up with its own mobile operating system and democratized the mobile device market with Android and the army of different manufacturers developing hardware and customizing software. Microsoft seems to be late to the game with its Windows Phone operating system and a relatively small number of devices loaded with the software but they are playing a different sport entirely.
For the CEO mentioned earlier to use his or her tablet, he or she needed to make concessions in functionality and features. Tablets require special considerations to be secure in an enterprise environment. They also cater to content consumption rather than creation. Plus, they don’t readily interface with peripherals like printers or infrastructure-based storage and a lot of business applications aren’t available because they aren’t compatible with Active Directory or group policies and the list goes on.
However, enterprise IT professionals have been prompted by their users and management to “catch up” and make it easier to use some of the newest technologies that are already available to them at home or in their personal lives outside of the office. As a result, businesses now need devices that can strike the right balance between the needs of users, the needs of IT, and the needs of the business.
The release of Windows 8 marks Microsoft’s shift to match the consumer trends of power, mobility and design. With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has introduced one of the biggest user interface changes to the operating system since its inception. While still pretty new to the market, Windows 8’s user interface (UI) opens up a whole new world of device options for the enterprise. Windows 8 enables viable enterprise use of the form factors and interaction models that have been the domain of mobile operating systems for the last two years.
You can already see the variety of devices and designs being released by PC manufacturers like Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and even Microsoft itself has gotten into the hardware space with its Surface and Surface Pro “convertible” computers. Some are taking the tablet and adding features and peripherals, some are reintroducing convertibles, and others are creating new designs that are unique with rotating hinges and dual displays. Enterprises and consumers have no shortage of choices when it comes to their computing devices. The release of Windows 8 allows businesses to support different form factors that may better serve a particular user like a field engineer, an IT administrator, or an audit team.
From an infrastructure and security standpoint, Windows 8 simplifies existing systems by incorporating and bolstering enterprise features like:
- Windows To Go: A fully manageable corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick.
- Direct Access: Allows remote users to seamlessly access resources inside a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN and helps IT administrators keep remote users’ PCs in compliance by applying the latest policies and software updates.
- Branch Cache: Allows users’ PCs to cache files, websites, and other content from central servers, so content is not repeatedly downloaded across the wide area network (WAN).
- AppLocker: Can help mitigate issues by restricting the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run.
- VDI enhancements: Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios.
- New Windows 8 App Deployment: Domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise are automatically enabled to side-load internal Windows 8 apps.
Microsoft has also implemented enterprise necessities like drive encryption, group policy objects, and Active Directory domain support for ease of integration with current centralized management environments.
The biggest advantage Windows 8 has in the era of BYOD is compatibility with nearly all of your previous Windows applications. Now you can load Photoshop on a tablet and plug in your mouse and keyboard. You can run full version of Microsoft Outlook, Word, or Excel at your desk or on the bus. Everything you can do on a traditional laptop or desktop is now available in the form factor that meets your needs, which more and more often includes a tablet or one form or another.
We’re now reaching a point where enterprises can incorporate hardware that meets the needs of their employees and their employees’ work habits as opposed to employees who must change their habits to work with the hardware that was issued to them by their employers. Fortunately, technology is already progressing towards a singularity in which users will no longer have to make concessions in terms of form and function. In reality, Windows 8 provides a platform that will bring us closer to the promise of a unified computing experience regardless of the device or computer.