CeBIT 2012: Microsoft targets CIO BYOD problems with Windows 8, kind of

Why did Microsoft release specs in writing and then not even acknowledge them in a keynote speech at CeBit?

Microsoft COO B. Kevin Turner appeared to make good on Microsoft's promise at Mobile World Congress 2012 to give more details on the enterprise features of its upcoming Windows 8 next gen operating system at this week's CeBIT tradeshow in Hannover, Germany. Appeared is the operative word here.

Turner left out a lot, skimming over just the high points of Windows 8 that most people already know via quietly posted documents detailing all kinds of details CIOs need to know if they are going to believe Windows 8 will do anything about the BYOD issue. And he was talking to CIOs. Why?

Turner kicked off the show with a keynote acknowledging what he said is one of the biggest challenges IT pros and CIOs face -- the fact that end-users are sneaking in their own hardware, software and services and don't much care what IT thinks. As enterprises scramble to secure and manage data that's scattered among personal cloud services, tablets and smartphones, Turner told the CeBIT audience Microsoft aims to provide a way for them both to both secure data and allow users to bring in personal devices.

Here is a shot of Windows 8 Server, as taken by IT pro Ant Pruitt.

It doesn't sound like Microsoft but, then again, the Metro Style UI on Windows 8 doesn't look like Microsoft, either. It's a major switch for a company that, just a few years ago, scoffed at Larry Ellison's attempt to create the first network computer, or thin client. Then again, the veil of confusion surrounding exactly what Microsoft says in public settings and posts quietly online is pure old-fashioned Redmond. That or pure old fashioned IBM. Say it ain't so!

Let's start with what Turner did say at CeBIT -- that Microsoft was positioning Windows 8 as way to help enterprise get a grip on the BYOD explosion in businesses nationwide and globally. Between big data, cloud computing and the BYOD trend, there's a ton of pressure on CIOs to figure out how to keep on keeping on. But times are changing, Turner said, saying that its Metro UI and various other high-level Windows 8 features will do the trick to move IT into the next phase.

With "the next release of our operating system," he told the audience, "I want you to think about an operating system with no compromise. CIOs are always asked about tradeoffs and compromise. Should I have touch or should I have a mouse and a keyboard? Well, depending upon the job function in the company, the answer is yes and yes ... (but) ... should I have security or should I allow people to bring in any device they want? In the past, the answer was yes -- and no.

"The future is yes and yes," said Turner, who before taking his COO spot at Microsoft was CIO at Walmart. There should be management and security across all devices, he added, again plugging the unified user interface of the Metro Style UI across systems and mobile devices as the features that solve it. He also mentioned Windows 8 common UI across mobile and desktop systems and its Windows to Go technology for booting off flash and external drives as two key tools CIOs could utilize to improve manageability and usability. The industry, he said, is moving toward a "virtual IT infrastructure," where mobility is the norm.

"We see an explosion as it relates to the consumerization of IT. And what we see with the consumerization of IT (or BYOD) ... is the ability a have a tremendous digital work style really get married with the convergence basically of a digital lifestyle."

But there's a lot more to the story. Turner and, then, Microsoft Windows senior director Erwin Visser, came out to demo Windows 8, but they mainly focused on the standardized UI across desktop and mobile platforms. They talk about Internet Explorer 10. They briefly mentioned a photo-based password security idea. They talked about the new Windows To Go feature and about its Bitlocker integration for encryption.

Yet neither executive talked about the PDF that quietly emerged on Microsoft's site hours before the Windows 8 launch in Barcelona, which was quite specific about the exact features that would allow Microsoft to help CIOs actually secure and manage data on remote and personal devices via Active Desktop and services like what Rim's BES provides.

According the the PDF, titled Windows 8 for Business, the company plans to offer a number of standards and features targeting data security and management across devices. Yet they aren't talking publicly about that, even though docs and downloads exist on the MS site that do.

For instance, in an address supposedly targeting CIOs, Turner never mentioned the product name Windows 8 Server, though Microsoft calls it by name in some notes online that several IT pros on my writing staff at have already downloaded.

It's odd. The PDF called Windows 8 Consumer Preview Guide for Business clearly outlines such bullet points as the return of IE support for legacy Active X controls, an integrated scripting environment quite similar to that supported by Active Desktop, BitLocker support that IT pros can push from Group Policy to users, support for remote encryption, a feature akin to RIM's BlackBerry BES, and support for such standards as HTML5, SVG and CSS 3, all of which would make mobile Windows devices, at least, more secure and manageable than they are now.

And here's what's even odder. Dig around the Microsoft site, and you'll find a link to download what it calls Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which Microsoft claims will enable IT administrators to manage roles and features on computers that are running Windows Server 8 Beta from a remote computer that is running Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Is this sneaky stuff -- or just accidents from various divisions not knowing what the others are doing?

So that makes two names -- Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business, which the PDF here describes, or the Windows 8 Server name Microsoft itself includes in its product notes. But they are elephants in a room. So much for the supposed unveiling of enterprise features promised at MWC 2012 to happen at CeBIT. It's all very murky. And just a tad bit disturbing. If Microsoft can't decide what to name its products, that's one thing. If you dig into the registry, there are references to other enterprise type products, including Windows 8 Enterprise Edition, Windows 8 Enterprise Eval edition, Windows 8 Professional edition, Windows 8 Professional Plus edition and Windows 8 Ultimate edition and at least four other names targeting entry level products

But to release specs in writing and then avoid even acknowledging them in promised keynotes like the CeBIT one is just ... strange. What to make of it? I'd love to hear your comments below.