Microsoft reimagines Windows while others search for business value

Whilst there are many conferences and many keynotes to keep an eye on, I watched last night’s keynote from Microsoft’s Build conference with great interest. The geek inside me was interested in the technology but there was another side too – I wanted to see how Microsoft, for many years so dominant, is responding to today’s pressures of IT consumerisation.

It seems that I’m having an increasing number of conversations about “bring your own” (BYO) device schemes – indeed I hope to be able to publish a white paper on this soon – but the reaction seems to be either:

  1. No, it’ll never happen here or in any large company because <insert security, manageability, etc. concerns>; or
  2. We think BYO sounds promising but need to understand more about how to make it a reality.

That’s why I was so pleased to see a major airline announcing its BYO programme (for up to 35,000 seats) this week.

So what are the devices that our enterprise IT consumers will bring to work? Well, an increasing percentage are Apple MacBooks and iPads, Android tablets, etc. and these threaten Microsoft’s hegemony in the world of enterprise IT (not to mention the fact that Fujitsu also designs and manufactures PCs, many of which run Windows, unlike the devices I mentioned a moment ago…) .

Microsoft promised that, at Build, they would present “Windows reimagined”. I was sceptical at first but, I truly believe that they have struck a remarkable balance between maintaining compatibility with existing Windows applications and creating a platform that allows for convergence across device types (PC, phone, web) and architectures (x86, ARM). Crucially, they also got a big chunk of the Windows development community on side with a free tablet device from Samsung and/or access to a preview copy of the code.

What does this mean for the enterprise though? It seems to me that the most important question is not about technology, but what’s the business case for a Windows upgrade; why would a CIO invest in Windows 8? Or, as Glen Koskela, CTO for Fujitsu’s Nordic region, put it:

“Windows 8 @ BUILD Windows. Platform changes, major UX overhaul etc. But: tell me the relevance of the business problems Win8 solves.”

[@gkoskela, on Twitter]

Glen’s comment sounds harsh – at least in 140 characters it does – but he is right on the mark. A new version of Windows is, in itself, not something of value – we need to find a reason to adopt it – something that either has an impact on the bottom line or addresses other business requirements (such as security, legal or regulatory concerns).

Build is a developer conference and yesterday’s keynote reflects that. As we learn more about the technologies that Microsoft produces, we’ll be able to see where these features and the associated advantages can translate into tangible, business benefits.

Meanwhile, what we have been shown might just make those Windows devices more attractive to consumers – the group of people that will buy the devices that access the content we provide to business end users, in this brave new world of cloud-enabled enterprise IT.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

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