Opinion: Windows 8(.1) is the Enterprise OS

Research from IDC in February revealed that 35% of devices in-use by UK businesses runs Android, whilst 32% use Apple’s competing iOS platform. The results make it clear that businesses and their employees are indecisive about which platform they should use for their day-to-day operations.

Mobile, in particular, is a big opportunity which Microsoft has prepared for through utilising the company’s vast experience in the enterprise to know what businesses required. The company tweaked and bolstered their resulting Windows 8 operating systems quickly based on feedback and now serves the only complete cross-device platform.

BYOD has brought issues with managing devices; especially when employees are using a variety of competing platforms. It also means your applications have to be developed not just for each platform, but also for various devices (desktop, mobile, tablet .etc)

CYOD has helped somewhat with this issue as employees can choose from a selection of devices which are guaranteed to work with your business’ infrastructure. However, switching between platforms is then an inconsistent user experience and it’s not always easy to continue what you were doing from the previous device.

If Mac is your desktop OS of choice then Apple has made it easier to continue your work started on an iOS 8-based device via a new feature unveiled at WWDC called ‘handoff’ – as long as you are using an iPhone and Apple’s ecosystem. The desktop is still around 90% Windows-based, however, and it comes back to having to build and maintain multiple applications across a minority platform or switch to an entirely Apple-based business at extra cost for hardware, training, and support.

With Windows 8, Microsoft has created a user interface which is visually similar across devices whether you are using the desktop, mobile, tablet, or even console versions of the OS. Even more important is that the OS shares 90% of the same code which makes cross-platform development a breeze in comparison to alternatives.

This is a dream for your IT department. On top of this, your employees have a consistent experience which is remarkably seamless via the Cloud. Settings such as Wi-Fi passwords sync, personalisation such as colours and themes update automatically, and documents sync via OneDrive (and you can use the industry-standard Office 365 suite.)

Of course Office 365 is now available on rival platforms such as iPad – this is the new Microsoft in which their “mobile first, Cloud first” strategy promises to support rival platforms if it helps their users to be more productive. If you want to use Windows Phone, iOS, and Android in your business then their Enterprise Mobility Suite will support your MDM needs.

Windows 8, as is the case with such radical changes, was initially a training nightmare. The desktop had seemingly disappeared and everything we’ve known about using Windows – even down to how to close applications – was now completely different and unintuitive. Microsoft listened and in Windows 8.1 made all the changes which made long-term users feel comfortable.

Cost is always a big factor in any decision. Alongside Windows Phone’s latest release, Microsoft announced it would be dropping the license fee on devices with screen sizes smaller than 9 inches in order to drive hardware prices down and see a greater uptake in adoption.

Microsoft’s Vice President of OEM partners, Nick Parker, said: “We’ll reach price points that are very industry competitive for 7, 8, 10-inch devices. They will really surprise you. Last year, we were in the 3s, 4s, 500 dollars. This year, we’ll be 1s, 2s, 3s.”

The other big enhancement to Windows Phone 8.1 is in regards to security. The current biggest OS in the Enterprise, Android, is always making the headlines for its vulnerabilities – the latest from an F-Secure report shows 91% of mobile malware targets Google’s platform. In 8.1, Microsoft added the ability for device storage to be encrypted using trusted BitLocker technology.

Other security features include; secure/trusted boot, remote lock, and PIN reset. Certificates can be used for user authentication, with support for SCEP (Simple Certificate Enrolment Protocol). S/MIME support enables the mail client to do signed and encrypted email. Support for IPsec and SSL VPNs has also been added with VPNs able to be applied automatically to specific apps, and can also be triggered by location. Authentication to enterprise WiFi is made smoother and more secure by the introduction of support for EAP-TLS. Auditing support is improved by increasing the amount of information that can be collected from devices, such as phone number, IMSI, and a variety of other data for better compatibility with an MDM system.

It took a while to get Windows 8 up to the standard it is today, and Microsoft still has a large apps gap to fill, but with many of the biggest names jumping on-board since last year the momentum feels a lot more positive. With enterprise uptake it may be enough to give the OS much more traction amongst developers…

What do you think about Windows 8.1 in the Enterprise? Let us know in the comments.

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