As of today, there is no official launch date for Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 8. Even so, Windows 8 Consumer Preview currently receives more press and is the topic of more conversations than any other operating system, including Microsoft’s current OS Windows 7. One of the many explanations for this is the excitement surrounding Windows 8 tablets. One question in particular on many minds, including my own, resonates above the others: Will Windows 8 tablets offer valuable and compelling features for the enterprise?
Windows 8 Tablets in the Enterprise
Naysayers abound, but the data is clear; tablets can add value to organizations. Case in point: according to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, over 80% of the Fortune 100 have deployed or are testing deployments of iPads. Think about that for a moment. 80 of the 100 largest companies are finding value in using tablets. Add to this the rapid adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, along with the general consumerization of IT, and Windows 8 tablets have a great opportunity in front of them.
Based on the published specifications and the current Consumer Preview of Windows 8, the product not only looks ready to add value to organizations from day one, but it looks poised to penetrate the enterprise faster than any tablet before it. Most modern organizations leverage Microsoft technology to build their networks and run their companies. Because of this, Windows 8 tablets will complement and integrate with these technologies.
Top 8 Windows 8 Tablet Features
In no particular order, here are 8 features Windows 8 Tablets will have and 8 reasons why enterprises will love them.
- Active Directory and Group Policy Integration
- – This is a big one. The ability to leverage Active Directory and Group Policy will enable a number of the other features on this list. IT Administrators have long been using Active Directory and Group Policy to control virtually everything on their networks and devices. The ability to extend this management and control directly to tablets is going to have many administrators chomping at the bit.
- Multiple Account Support
– Current iPad and Android offerings don’t allow you to login to the device with different accounts to control the apps, layout, and overall experience. Sure, there are apps that support multiple accounts, but enterprises often need fully independent device profiles, which Windows 8 tablets will have.
- Edge to Edge Display
– Current tablets have a 20 pixel buffer around the edge of the display. With Windows 8, Microsoft has found a way to eliminate the need for this buffer giving developers the ability to use the whole screen. 20 pixels may not seem like much, but it can be the difference between a productive user and a frustrated one.
- Five Finger Digitizer
– The core touch interactions defined by Microsoft for Windows 8 involve one or two fingers. This makes sense, but some gestures simply cannot be completed this way. To address this, Microsoft requires all Windows 8 tablets to have a five finger digitizer.
- Internet Explorer 10
– According to Microsoft, Internet Explorer is the most used feature in Windows. Allowing users to use the same browser they use on their desktops can ease tablet adoption pains. In addition, Group Policy already supports more than a thousand policies to manage Internet Explorer. There’s also the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 that will create an optimized experience for using the browser on a tablet.
- Picture Password
– One absolute for any device in an enterprise is security. Usually device security starts with a password to unlock the device and enable it to be used. Tapping a password with your fingers may not seem like a big deal, but many users find it annoying to say the least. Windows 8 offers a new way to ease logging in and unlocking a device: the Picture Password. The basic idea is to take a personal picture stored on the device and draw a custom picture on it. Draw the right picture and the device unlocks.
- Microsoft Office
– Microsoft Office is the leader in productivity suite software, especially in the enterprise. Many apps for both Android and iOS support the Office document file formats, but this isn’t good enough for many users. They want the same Word, Excel, and PowerPoint software found on their PC’s and Mac’s on their tablets. Windows 8 will bring Office to the tablet.
- NFC Support
– Many pundits, including myself, thought the new iPad would support Near Field Communications. We were wrong. Windows 8 tablets will however support NFC giving them an edge in this area. NFC is a great short range interaction technology. It is often spoke of in relation to commerce, e.g. paying with your phone instead of your credit card, but many other opportunities exist for NFC to add value to an organization. Many organizations use RFID in badges to unlock doors and gates when employees get close. This could now be done using NFC in the user’s Windows 8 tablet reducing cost and complexity.
BONUS: USB Support – Almost everyone I know has wished for a USB port on their iPad at some point. Loading apps, transferring files, expanding storage, the list goes on and on for the possible uses of USB ports on a tablet. With Windows 8 tablets we need to wish no more. They are required to have at least one USB 2.0 port on the device.
Windows 8 Tablets are eagerly anticipated. Not only will they be attractive to consumers next holiday season, but they will start showing up in organizations large and small almost as soon as they arrive. Their inclusion of many coveted enterprise functions such as those listed above almost guarantees that Windows 8 Tablets will make a splash in the enterprise.