CXO optimize

Here's why Windows 8 tablets really do have a future, in business at least

Windows tablets have struggled to compete with cheap Android devices and Apple's iPad but that may be about to change.
Windows tablets have until now struggled to generate much demand in what should be home territory – business. 

Some of this is down to badly thought out products – indeed, Microsoft was so underwhelmed by the hardware manufacturers poor attempts at Windows tablets that it had to build its own, the Surface, which has so far had limited success in the marketplace.

Other reasons for limited take-up include cash-strapped businesses being unwilling to splash out on yet another device, the lack of clear business benefits of tablets and the unexpected willingness of staff to buy their own devices instead.

But whatever the reason, the result has been that around 85 percent of the tablets used in business are either iPads or Android devices (or Amazon's Kindle Fire version of Android). And while PC makers have struggled to compete with either cheap Android or the more expensive Apple devices, they could soon find some respite in the business market.

When asked "Is there a real demand for Windows 8 tablets in business?" TechRepublic's CIO Jury of tech decision makers voted 'yes' by a margin of nine to three, suggesting Windows 8 tablets may gradually start to make an impact with business users at least.

Matthew Oakley, group head of IT at Schroders: "The ability to have a full (secure) corporate build laptop in a tablet with handwriting recognition that actually works without training is significant. Suddenly OneNote makes sense...Surface Pro2 is a bit heavy, we prefer the Lenovo – but the idea is one whose time is dawning (finally!)."

Michael Hanken, VP of IT for Multiquip added: "It's the natural extension of the desktop to mobile without the need to develop mobile applications on another OS. This is especially interesting for manufacturing environments and we will start deploying rugged devices soon."

Delano Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group said "I believe they are viable replacements for Windows based laptops in certain industries if the business application stack allows it," while Juergen Renfer, CIO at Kommunale Unfallversicherung Bayern said the tablets would allow businesses to rely on the same applications across PCs, laptops and tablets.

Some tech chiefs have already started to make the move to Windows tablet. For example, Shawn Beighle, CIO at the International Republican Institute said: "I've already moved off my laptop and am now working exclusively off of a Surface Pro 2. Using a USB 3.0 docking station, I have two full sized monitors going, which gives me three monitors total counting the Surface itself, a full size keyboard and mouse, external speakers, hardwired Ethernet network connection and an external printer."

He added: "So far this little machine has taken everything that I've thrown at it, including running QuickBooks 2013, Lync, Skype, OneNote, Outlook, Excel, iMindMap, all while streaming music from Pandora and watching two different video streams on YouTube, and all at the same time. The cursor hasn't even stuttered."

Beighle said that he is continuing to test the device. "If it holds up, we're going to begin allowing staff to choose between a desktop, one of the new Dell Latitude 7000 Series Ultrabooks or a Surface Pro 2 for replacements of equipment at the end of its lifecycle."

Andrew Paton, group manager IT services at Rondo International, said his organisation has also set its sights on a Windows tablet.

"Why Windows over iOS or Android?  Well for me it's all about a common platform used across the enterprise and a common toolset to manage them."

Paton said he saw limitations with the iPads in the corporate environment and has security issues with Android. "We see Windows based tablets as the future 'tool of trade' for our mobile sales reps, replacing traditional laptops in the field. This niche area is still evolving as vendors work out what form factor provides the best fit for the enterprise. In many cases they are pursuing a combination of paths from traditional tablets with various add-on bits and pieces through to the hybrids that offer traditional laptop keyboards but with screens that separate and pull off."

He said while the Surface Pro 2 still has some limitations this may be resolved particularly with Microsoft's recently acquired access to Nokia hardware expertise. 

"You only have to look at the new Nokia 2520 RT-based device to see that they know their stuff when it comes to making hardware devices. Surface 2 and Pro 2 needs to be thinner and lighter, keyboard better quality, one more USB port, place holder for the Stylus in addition to the power connection, of and instead of a kick stand with two positions why not make it three or four, but it does have the underpinnings of a great device. Full laptop power under the skin. MS just needs to listen to its customers more closely and work on the obvious."

Not all CIOs are seeing the same level of demand: Rohit Kilam, CTO, Masam Group, said some business users want to experiment with a tablet as an additional device while John Rogers, IT director at Nor-Cal Products, said: "In our company I wouldn't say a greater demand as much as more interest in what a Windows 8 tablet can do for them versus iPad or Android tablet. Some of my peers have also been seeing an uptick in interest. In our case we will be bringing in Windows 8 tablets because they fit our needs better since we are a Windows/Microsoft shop."

But not all are convinced. Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, said: "Users needing the full PC experience are sticking with their ultrabooks," but said that the full PC experience is not what most users are looking for. "I've been using a trial Lenovo Windows 8 tablet for a few weeks. The hardware is very good, the experience however, is greatly lacking."

One issue for CIOs is that not all applications necessarily make sense on a touchscreen. Jerry Justice, IT director at SS&G Financial Services, said: "There will continue to be a need for a variety of devices because they have different use characteristics. These devices provide a bridge between PC and pure tablets. Also, industries still have many core apps that are not even close to being mobile or touch oriented."

Darryl Roberts CIO at SEMO Health Network, believes certain jobs that require a full keyboard: "In some industries maybe it's got a shot, but in healthcare and other areas where old fashioned data input is the key, no."

Duncan James, infrastructure manager, Clarion Solicitors, said users are learning from experience that specific devices are better suited to certain environments. "What our users really want are bigger multi-screen displays, or the ability to extend off their cramped laptops in order to digest the noisy barrage of information that hits them every day.

"Microsoft is building great foundations for the infrastructure that supports the management of the Surface family devices, the price just needs to be lower for businesses to take these devices seriously."

He the need to support third party legacy business applications is also holding back the move to Windows 8.1. Some of these apps just won't work on the new OS, even in compatibility mode, or others don't suit a touchscreen environment.

This week's CIO Jury was:

Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
Juergen Renfer, CIO, Kommunale Unfallversicherung Bayern
Matthew Oakley, group head of IT, Schroders
Jerry Justice, IT director, SS&G Financial Services
Michael Hanken, VP of IT, Multiquip
John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
Shawn P Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
John Rogers, IT Director, Nor-Cal Products
Rohit Kilam, CTO, Masam Group
Michael Spears, CIO, NCCI Holdings
Darryl Roberts, CIO, SEMO Health Network
Andrew Paton, group manager IT services, Rondo International

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact. Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

17 comments
Capt Obvious
Capt Obvious

Even if you are not a fan of windows 8 (i'm not) there is no denying the fact that the business world needs windows because we  need the apps we use every day which run on Windows. For general every day computer usage, browsing, email, chat etc, pretty anyone can switch to Android or IOS, but this is simply not possible for business users or developers who need to run Adobe Creative suite, PHP, ColdFusion, Ruby, and thousands of other apps for there is no suitable alternative on Android.

I love android, but I couldn't do my day to day work on an Android device, this is just down to android either, it is also down to the fact that a tablet also simply isn't powerful enough to replace a desktop PC, so I think the windows 8 uptake will be very slow as the world is not ready to shift from desktop pc to touch screen tablet yet and neother are the devices.

emilykulish
emilykulish

I agree. I am seeing more and more businesses using Win8 tablets. More interestingly, people like Win8 tablets better than win8 PCs and laptops.

Chris Gravell
Chris Gravell

I take it that these long responses are from people not typing all day, using multiple windows or having to use fullscreen on a 19"+ display to get their work done? Try typing all day on a touchscreen keyboard or even one of the stupidly small Surface keyboards. Try finding what you want on a detailed image without zooming and panning (and wasting your time) on your paltry display. Try inputting figures on a spreadsheet with no numpad. Win8 and Surface are made for each other, while actually spending time working on a computer is incompatible with both. I'm not saying it can't be done. What I am saying is that these sort of things, the bread and butter of business computer use, are made incredibly cumbersome and counter-productive for the vast majority of computer users within businesses. Any company that fully adopts Win8 across the board, rather than just for use in the field, will see an immediate decline in employee performance. I have WIn8.1 on a desktop next to me now, but I cannot last more then 5 minutes on it before wanting it to just go away and leave the world alone. Full-screen-only "apps" on a 17" monitor (for websites, no less) leave the bottom half of the page blank and you need to scroll the mousewheel down to pan to the right! Not only that, but these website-based "apps" only show the last couple of days' info; browsing is a complete no-no, which rather negates the use of the term 'browser' in the same sentence as Internet Explorer with regard to Win8. Win8 is an atrocious OS for desk/laptops, even touch-screen enabled ones; Manufacturers are have to build hardware to take advantage of the software to make it work, rather than the other way round.

Robininja
Robininja

Surface Pro 2 is the answer to all my prayers in terms of getting work done on the road. A docking station external monitors, keyboard etc., when I am in office and when I am on the road  VPN and logging on to my active directory domain. Everything is just falls into place. None of this is really so seamlessly achievable with any other Tablet, This I think is the wave of the future.

heda_p
heda_p

I have pro2, basics are missing yet....for ex Lenovo mix 2 with kick stand+LTE+GPS+dock for 2 monitors and keyboard/mouse+place holder for the Stylus is what needed to be successful.....

if you want to be successful u need to have the best device in market and then make cheap ones not otherwise

ParNeverhood
ParNeverhood

It's already started in many companies.  The reality is Windows 8.x delivers what business needs as well as the consumer.  Business generally lags behind 2-3 years before implementing new technology, so this is the beginning for Windows 8.x.  I for one have replaced my laptop,  tablet and my business laptop with Surface Pro 2.  I moved the business laptop to a VM and I run the rest of my environments natively on the Surface Pro 2.  I couldn't be happier, life running through the airport is much nicer now.

dbosley
dbosley

I think you are mistaken. Windows 8 will go the way that Vista went. MS is currently hunkered down while users are struggling to update to 8.1. They are offering very little help. I for one am about two more weeks of trying myself and then I will be switching to Linux mint. NOT because I like Linux but because I dislike the alternative more.

alainforget
alainforget

Windows 8 tablets really have a future only if enterprises migrate to Windows 8. For now, many enterprises are still running Windows XP or just starting deploying Windows 7.

Industry still taks about Windows tablet because Apple can't provide a working lockdown feature, and Android is not able to set a standard (OS & hardware dependent).

Said Zazai
Said Zazai

If we keep our bias out and if we do not consider data security and privacy (which doesn't matter with all the major brands anyways) then we will definitely judge Windows products better. I've been against Microsoft for no realistic reason for many years and I've been loyal to Google products and that was my bias. Now that I don't think I belong to any of the major OSs in any way, I value Microsoft's Surface a lot more than any other hardware or OS. With Microsoft Surface I get everything in one device, Windows OS (which i'm used to for the past decade), touch, wifi, hardware keyboard, easy data transfer, usb support etc. I don't use this device to support Microsoft but this device is so useful to me!

Joshua Morden
Joshua Morden

The only chance Android has is in the virtualization field. There are a lot of Android-based mini PCs that are the size of a credit card, and they are super cheap. These things could run Citrix Receiver and connect to a Citrix Xenapp virtual machine. However, these devices are cheaply made and not reliable at this time. But, if someone decides to make a good quality device, it could catch on. Look at how popular the Raspberry Pi currently (though it does not run Android yet). But, while the potential is there, I don't think Android is going to break through especially since Google has no interest in putting it on traditional PCs. Microsoft on the other hand is the trusted brand, and tablets are going to be the future for some. I foresee a solution where you would have a dock at your desk that is connected to a monitor and keyboard and mouse. You would place your Surface Pro into the dock to do work at the desk, and then take you Surface with you when you leave to go out into the field. You work would then stay with you the whole time.

Irfan Zaidi
Irfan Zaidi

Windows8.1 is so much superior than anything I've tried before on a PC. Haven't tried the phone yet.

Shawn Quinn
Shawn Quinn

yes, because after trying them all, i think most rational people will conclude, as i have, that android is ok for low end phones... applie is great if you like great hardware with browsing that crashes a lot... but windows has mastered the computing platform. The reason people hate microsoft is because microsoft simply writes better code and builds superior computing platforms.

Rostislav Liber
Rostislav Liber

Windows 8 is absolutely useless system. It is dead branch of Windows.

David Furion Rand
David Furion Rand

Yes... but they can only do so much... I.e. replace paper(up to a point)

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

If you take this:  "...if we do not consider data security and privacy (which doesn't matter with all the major brands anyways) then we will definitely judge Windows products better."  ..as a criteria for putting Windows products in a more positive light, then you are on the road to destroying your company.  And that's a heck of a note to say that Windows products and Microsoft are just great because they don't give a da** about two critical essentials.

hakos3d
hakos3d

@Rostislav Liber  A little bit of a reason would help us understand you better.  It's pretty stable but still in its young times. You may not be able to see the possibilities as many others do for Windows 8. The article repeats exactly what I was saying before I read this article. Just wait and watch. As people get used to the UI they will get more into other products of Microsoft. Corporate users will benefit "a lot". Ethernet and USB on a tablet? Are you kidding me? This is insane! It's the solution I've been looking for for a long time as a field engineer.