Will Surface Be The Secret Route Into Business Sites For Windows 8?

Microsoft's Surface tablet finally has pricing and a release date, with much of the initial discussion around the device focusing on competition with Apple's iPad. But that's not the only game at stake. One market observer argues that the tablet will be the main route for Windows 8 into businesses in the short term.

Picture by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

"It's a big leap from 7 to 8, and what 8 really brings is the touch interface," Brian Walshe, general manager of Microsoft infrastructure solutions at Dimension Data, told Lifehacker. "But the typical hardware in businesses isn't touch-based at the moment. That means Windows 8 will come in slower on corporate desktops. Where it will get in is via tablets and phones."

"Windows 8 works OK with a mouse, but when you see it on a touchscreen device, it is so much more intuitive to use. I don't think we'll see too many pilots until we get more hardware out there."

Windows 8 tablets and phones could also force a rethink of current hardware boundaries, Walsh suggested. "Because Apple have almost set the market here -- laptop, tablet, phone -- we look at everything through that lens. With Windows 8 we'll see some crossover type devices. That overlap between tablet and laptop has a lot of interest; it's mobile and easy to use but able to run a full desktop."

"In broader business, most people use the iPad for mail and browsing. There aren't line of business applications running. What will be interesting with Windows 8 tablets is firstly you get Office, and secondly, from the corporate point of view, there's the ability to have one set of applications which run across all the devices."

A lack of business applications and management options hasn't stopped many workers using tablets, but Walshe predicts that there will continue to be resistance to the BYOD trend. "We've got 20 to 30 years of hard-earned learnings from managing desktops and laptops, and to a certain extent in the last year or two we've gone 'bright shiny object' and chosen to ignore some of those learnings. It's only going to take a couple of high-level problems that really impact people before they decide we do need to control these devices."

"The question that I keep asking people is 'Why are your staff wanting to bring these devices in?' and the answer is always 'They don't want to use what you provide'. Would it be cheaper to provide that [with company gear] than to retrofit security and management to someone else's device? That's what you need to ask."

Dimension Data has been evaluating Windows 8 for use with its own customer base, and one local site it is working with has already begun deploying Windows 8 devices. However, Walshe predicts that it will be some time before most Windows-using businesses make the shift on desktop devices.

"Over half the market's now on Windows 7," Walshe said. "There's still 30-40 per cent running XP who will have to move in the next 16 months or so [as extended support for Windows XP is withdrawn]. If they're still on XP, they're planning their move."

Walshe doesn't imagine many businesses jumping direct from Windows XP to Windows 8 either. "The people on XP today, we'll take them to 7. We won't take them to Windows 8 because XP to 8 is jumping two releases and that's a bit rich. What we'll see with Windows 8 is there'll be less the big wave of upgrades, and more evolution.

Microsoft's lower pricing for Windows 8 may also factor into this. "If you look at how they've priced the upgrade, they've made it more attractive to move because it's quite cheap That's an indication of where Microsoft is going with upgrades. I would expect we'll see much more regular upgrades than in the past."

Can you see a role for Surface (and Windows 8) in your workplace? Tell us in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


Comments

    I can see a huge roll for many of the employees here for using Win8 Tablets. Mainly for roaming staff but what I'm actually hoping upon hope for is that someone releases the Intel version that connects to a docking station that will allow for two external monitors to be used at the one time instead of one and the tablet.

    If this is done then one department will be changed over to the Intel Win8 Pro tablet version completely. Not to mention owners of the company that are now starting to complain about the weight of the laptops that they use.

    The Intel or Pro version also needs to have Mobile Internet as well and GPS would be nice but the Internet is a must.

    If Microsoft is listening/reading, please make it happen and we'll be ordering 50 Win8 Pro Tablets

      Yep, I second the Win8 pro. I'll take 11 tomorrow. Would need to have fast graphics, min 512gb HD, and 8gb ram.

    I'm very interested in mobile device management works in win8,and it looks like it'll integrate well with our existing setup. It's a promising tablet OS and I'll be trialling it in the field early next year.

    We won't be buying the surface because it lacks mobile connectivity. We have computers in the office, the tablets are for when people are away from any handy wifi. It's a complete deal breaker.

      Surface has a full-sized USB port and support for 3G dongles. Deal unbroken?

        Not really, it's not better than 'bridging to their phone' as a solution. It's an added inconvenience when you need to connect and an added device to lose or break.

        It's a key feature for us, so it makes sense to buy something that has it built in (like the new acer iconia or the thinkpad 2).

        When we get to trialling win8 tablets I'll definitely include the surface and it might turn out to be the best option for us. Right now, Comparing it to how similar trials have gone in the past, I just don't think that'll be happening.

          And your finance dept would probably see the extra data plans as an even bigger inconvenience than the back-breaking effort of tethering to your phone.

        Not sure if anyone would accept 3G dongles as a viable solution for tablets. They're such an ugly solution; a MiFi or similar is a much more usable solution, and that's where mobile users will go.

        Either that or WiFi tethering to their phone, anyway.

      your lack of research makes me glad you're not in charge of my company's IT purchasing, stove!

    How annoying. Your on the bus, you have to pull out your 3G dongle. Load the app required for the dongle to work with what ever provided you are using. Wait for the connection and then you are good to go.That is going backwards. If I am connected I want to be connected all the time.

    It's worth noting that the Surface released today was the RT version, which cannot connect to a domain. The Surface Pro (which can) will most likely be a Jan / Feb release.
    That said, Windows 8 Pro has actually been available through volume licensing since September 1st, so we've been selling it for about 1 1/2 months now. Windows 8 Pro includes downgrade rights to Windows 7 (and Vista lol), and I can tell you (not surprisingly) that of all the deployments we've done in that time, not one has been for Windows 8 - everyone is downgrading their licenses and rolling out Windows 7 instead. Apart from a reluctance for businesses to roll out a new operating system, the feedback has been pretty negative about the Windows 8 interface.
    Personally I don't foresee the Surface changing people's minds, at least in the corporate space (consumer is a different story), and I think that notebooks will remain the dominant form factor for mobile users for some time to come.

    Last edited 17/10/12 5:37 pm

      How stupid is "everyone"!?! What sort of complete idiot would want to use Win7 when they could be using Win8, with all the great improvements and increased speed of doing everything? You'd have to be a complete dill. It's like buying a V8 car and getting a mechanic to take it out and replace it with a V6 that uses more fuel.

        You need to remember that most users are not tech heads. I remember when Windows 7 came out. I thought it was intuitive to use but I have been working with computers all my life. As we deployed Windows 7 we had constant complaints and had to set up a training program and for some user even have to switch back to XP. It's not ignorance by these people it is just they don't really have an interest in computers beyond the tasks they need to do for their jobs, so harder to adapt to the changes. I am constantly surprised by even the amount of the younger and upcoming generation who are computer illiterate, in that beyond using mail and word can't do much else for themselves. Even know people who can't use anything beyond iOS.

    Talking to many companies about how windows 8 will fit into their strategy and most will say it has a place, but it won't be enterprise wide, it will be use case, primarily for the tablet workers, and windows 7 will remain the default on desktops and laptops, at least in the near term.
    There are however the bleeding edgers who are looking at deploying across the Enterprise... It will be a case of watch this space

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