With Cisco more or less pulling the plug on its business tablet Cius, Microsoft tablets based on Windows 8 have an opportunity and a challenge.
The opportunity: give businesses an alternative to the popular iPad that employees bring in as part of sanctioned BYOD programs. This is a strong plus for Windows 8, which can support all the apps that Windows 7 can plus whatever new Windows 8 Metro style apps are developed. iPads can’t do either.
BACKGROUND: Cisco all but kills Cius tablet computer
Even the more limited Windows 8 edition for ARM-based devices – Windows RT – has features attractive to businesses that iPads can’t duplicate, notably integration of four Microsoft Office applications.
The bottom line here is that from an IT management perspective and from a business functionality perspective, Windows 8 mobile devices are more attractive than iPads.
The challenge: for Windows 8 to succeed in a BYOD environment, employees first have to bring Windows 8 devices to the workplace. That means they have to choose them over iPads, a decision that likely doesn’t consider how well suited they are to work.
As consumers upgrade their personal mobile devices, they may in fact chose Windows 8 tablets based on their past use of Windows laptops and the new touch-centric features of the new operating system. Much depends on price, on how well cooked Windows 8 is at its release and on how well it performs on the hardware that it’s bundled with. If Microsoft and its hardware partners come through, there may be a surge in the number of Windows devices that are BYODs of choice.
That’s a big if, and Microsoft shouldn’t bet much on it coming to pass. The demise of Cius, however, offers lessons that indicate that eventually, Windows 8 mobile devices could do well in the enterprise.
First, businesses aren’t interested in buying business-tailored tablets when they can get employees to buy their own consumer-oriented mobile devices that support enough work-related tasks. But they might buy mobile PCs that support the corporate desktop, which is dominated by Windows. Windows 8 on tablets could become a preferred form of corporate desktop replacement.
Second, Windows 8 and Windows RT combined can be deployed on devices that range from low-cost tablets such as Kindle Fires and Nooks to ultrabooks and convertibles that can perform as tablets or full laptops. That gives the software the chance to fill a variety of corporate needs that could be met either buy businesses purchasing the devices or embracing them as part of BYOD programs. Either way, it’s good for Windows 8.
The downfall for Cius was inflexibility. It performed certain specific functions but not more general ones, and at the same time was being challenged by devices that couldn’t perform the work-specific functions, but did the more general ones well. The general and flexible won out.
Windows 8 in all its flavors does offer that flexibility and as such represents a wide net. Some of its success in business will depend on whether consumers embrace it.