Why Windows 8 Might Be Your Next Enterprise OS
By Matt Pillar, editor in chief
I don’t suspect that the unveiling of Microsoft Windows 8 will have an immediate measurable impact on retail business computing. There’s already a groundswell of activity around POS hardware and applications, specifically of the mobile variety. True to its recent history of product announcements, I anticipate the immediate impact of the release to feel more like an aftershock when an enduring and high-magnitude earthquake has already rattled the ground. That’s not a knock on the technology, but the timing of its release.
As the technology goes, Windows 8 has some seemingly inherent advantages that, stacked onto the ubiquity of the Windows OS for PCs, should create some momentum for the company over the longer term. The most significant of these advantages, and the one that should appeal to retail business users, is that the interface is what I might call multimodal right out of the box. With Windows 8 on PCs and Windows RT on Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, the company has eliminated the PC-to-mobile integration issues, multiple OS support challenges, and device-to-device interface disparity concerns that many face as they rush to deploy customer-facing mobile hardware.
On releasing a solid mobile platform, Microsoft got its timing right for retail business use. Our research into 2013 technology spending plans, which will be released next month in our special report Retail Tech Spending 2013: Mobile Goes Mainstream, tells us mobile devices will be retailers’ leading in-store hardware investment priority next year.
With Windows 8, users can select the interface that best matches their chosen device, using desktop mode for mouse and keyboard intensive tasks involving spreadsheets and word processing, or “tablet” mode for mobile, touch screen-intensive tasks like dashboarding and clienteling.
Because PC sales forecast to fall for the first time since 2001, it’s important for Microsoft to find success with the Surface if the company is to pull out of the shadows of the Apple- and Droid-fueled mobile revolution.
For its part, the Surface sports some features that make it an attractive alternative to the iPad. The combination of a magnesium frame and Gorilla Glass give it a strong yet lightweight feel, and its built-in stand gives users the freedom to engage the device comfortably in their lap, hands, or on a tabletop.
Gartner figures the Surface and other Windows RT compatible tablets will sell around 2.3 million units this year and 9.3 million next year, the latter indicating a modest tablet market share gain to 5% worldwide. Of course, well-built hardware and seamlessness with traditional desktop applications will only take the Surface so far as a retail business enabler. If Microsoft is to pursue business users as a means of meeting or bettering analyst predictions, application development is key. Considering the influx of mobile retail business apps that already flood the market, their time to fertilize application development is scarce.