Tablets

Windows 8 fever? First, plan a tablet evaluation

Surveys show that Windows 8 is garnering nearly as much interest as the iPad, but Patrick Gray encourages organizations to plan a tablet evaluation that focuses on tasks, not the platform, before making any decisions.

While Windows 8 is being greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism in many corners of the enterprise, in the tablet space, it's a hotly anticipated technology. The promise is obvious: run all your existing enterprise applications and content under a familiar OS, with the portability and form factor of an iPad.

Survey after survey has Windows 8 tablets garnering nearly as much interest as Apple's ubiquitous iPad, even surpassing the myriad of Android-based tablets. With a matter of months until the commercial release of Windows 8, and the likely flood of tablets running the software, here are a few suggestions for preparing for a full-scale tablet showdown in your enterprise.

Rally the troops

We haven't seen final Windows 8 tablet hardware, but the obvious benchmark will be Apple's iPad. Microsoft and its hardware partners know this all too well and will need to deliver tablet hardware that's similar in size and battery life to Apple's product. Unless Microsoft delivers an exceptionally compelling hardware differentiator, like high-quality pen input, the battle for tablet supremacy will likely take place on the software side of the house.

A large part of the reason CIOs are positively predisposed toward Windows 8 is that it represents the familiar. Despite a massively reworked interface, Windows 8 has the familiar manageability, compatibility, and development environment under the hood. I see this as somewhat of a danger to a well-executed tablet evaluation. If you keep the project IT-centric and don't involve personnel outside of IT, that predisposition toward Windows might cause you to buy into a solution IT loves and everyone else hates.

Therefore, when planning your tablet evaluation, make sure you have representation in the test community from across your company. Focus on your most mobile users, like sales and field personnel, where tablets could be the primary means of working rather than an ancillary device. Having a wide variety of test subjects will also reveal some of the management challenges you'll experience on a daily basis, testing remote management, maintenance, and support of your tablet contenders. Ideally, you'll have key personnel work with multiple tablet operating systems so that they can compare and contrast the various platforms and how they performed in their work environment.

Focus on the task, not the platform

When designing your evaluation, focus on the tasks and processes where a lightweight computing platform can help solve a problem. Forget about the nuances of the operating systems and devices for a moment, and consider computing problems like mobile access to company data repositories, optimizations engendered by mobile devices on the production floor, sales rapidly accessing client information, etc. Once you've developed a strong list of scenarios, you essentially have the test cases for the various tablets. By focusing on the problems you'd solve with a mobile device, you'll not only put each platform through a realistic series of tests, but also validate your underlying assumptions about whether tablets are relevant to your enterprise. Better to discover the winner of your tablet showdown is the "none of the above" option than carefully pick a great platform that doesn't actually solve any of your computing problems.

This also lets you evaluate what are essentially two very different philosophies on tablets. The Apple iPad in its current guise is a secondary computing platform for most users. Many people will still need a desktop or laptop for everything from word processing to enterprise applications. Windows 8 promises a single device with a split-personality of sorts, where it can quickly browse information like an iPad and then plug into a docking station or wireless keyboard and act like a standard desktop. Android seems to lie somewhere in the middle, with more of a full-scale OS than Apple but lacking the universal compatibility of Windows. All of these usage scenarios have pros and cons, and the key to your tablet decision should be determining which is most relevant to how your company works.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

9 comments
James-SantaBarbara
James-SantaBarbara

Win 8 will be an iPad competitor on RT tablets for 'consumption' usage and a workhorse for individuals and enterprise that need to get real work done with real software for ultrabooks.

flanative27
flanative27

Uh.....Fujitsu makes the Q550 tablet that runs on Windows and weighs 1.7 lbs. I own an iPad 2 and am considering the purchase of a Q550 because of its capacitive AND pen digitizing capabilities. BTW, I am a graphics artist.

TNT
TNT

The article has a good point that multiple people - including people outside IT - should be in on the testing. However, I see the testing of multiple tablet OSes in various scenarios as largely a waste of time. If you are running a Windows shop there isn't anything iOS is going to do so much better than Win8 that it would make sense reconfigure and update your entire AD and security schema to accommodate a new OS. TCO on an iPad - even if iPad is significantly cheaper - will always be higher do to the support, maintenance and security involved in incorporating it into a Windows network. Honestly, platform wins the day in the enterprise.

Seotop
Seotop

To my mind win8 will be the greatest fail in IT world...

tomam
tomam

You can't do everything with a tablet, if you try you'll fail and your customers will hate you. That's the point he's trying to make. Win 8 will hopefully, be a a huge success. Realistically, I don't even think Win 7 has hit it's stride yet, but Win 8 is important because clouds and tablets are more rapidly with every new device pushing traditional computers out of the mainstream. Users, as silly as it seems, don't care that everyone has all there pictures and data. They just want a seemless experience without having to worry about backups and failures. At work, they want something like what they have at home. Windows needs a product that keeps them relavant at home and allows people to share that seemless feel at work.

TNT
TNT

Due to computers shipping with Windows 8 alone it will outsell Mac OS X and Linux combined several times over. Microsoft will make hundreds of billions off of Windows 8 without it being on tablets, and even more with. "Greatest Fail" my you-know-what.

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

I don't see win8 really taking off to be honest, reminds me too much of millenium and vista; an OS released before it should have been.

TNT
TNT

I believe the number Balmer used in his speech at the release of Windows Surface was 170 billion. Which is believable since by the end of Vista's first summer (only a few months after its release) 60 million licenses had been sold. Vista never gained enterprise adoption because its hardware requirements were too high, but Windows 7 has seen unprecedented acceptance.

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