Many pundits have made the argument that the iPad’s days in the business and corporate world will be numbered once Microsoft releases Windows 8 and Windows on ARM (WOA) tablets later this year. The biggest rationale behind this argument is that corporate IT departments will feel much more comfortable deploying and managing Windows devices and that they will already have the skills, tools, and resources needed to setup, secure, and roll out Windows-powered iPad competitors.
That argument lost a lot of credibility this week when Microsoft acknowledged that WOA tablets cannot be managed like other Windows variants including Windows 8 on PCs and x86 tablets or PCs running Windows 7, Vista, or XP. This makes the iPad much more suited for business than Windows on ARM devices.
Microsoft quietly listed this information in a guide for businesses to its Windows 8 Consumer Preview. In a section called discussing the various form factors of Windows 8 devices Microsoft said that “the ARM- based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.”
That’s rather vague and it could imply that WOA tablets might have a different set of management options or a subset of the standard capabilities that can be applied to Windows PCs using group policies in Active Directory but Microsoft goes to suggest “businesses can use these power-saving devices in unmanaged environments.”
It’s looking like WOA tablets won’t be able to join an Active Directory domain, which would mean not only is there no traditional management capability but there wouldn’t even be access to centralized corporate user accounts.
That pretty much eliminates any confusion about the ability to manage these low-cost tablets. Add to that the fact that they also won’t be able to run any existing Windows applications (with the exception of Microsoft Office) and it becomes clear that WOA tablets pose significant concerns and challenges to business and enterprise environments without offering much in return.
Given that the iPad can be centrally provisioned and managed and that there are tens of thousands of business apps for it, it clearly is more business-worthy.
Of course, Windows 8 tablets based on x86 processors will offer a full range of management capabilities, but those tablets are expected to be more expensive and have shorter battery life than both their ARM-based counterparts and the iPad.
It’s also worth noting that the iPad is an option that is available today as are apps and management solutions for it. In fact, many businesses have already adopted it to some extent or have conducted pilot projects. There may even be a version of Office for the iPad available in the near future – one that I’d bet is pretty similar to the WOA version. That makes the iPad not just a better solution than WOA, it also gives it some advantages over any Windows 8 tablets.