Windows 8 Tablets Have No Clear Advantage Over The iPad in Business



This week’s Microsoft announcement of the details of Windows 8 on ARM-powered tablets raises a big question: Will Windows 8 tablets based on ARM or running on more tradition x86 hardware blunt the iPad’s surge in business and enterprise environments?

A few years ago, it would have been easy to say that Windows 8 devices would become the defacto standard in business, particularly for large companies with Microsoft-centric IT infrastructure. But conventional wisdom like that has broken down when it comes to workplace technology in the face of BYOD programs and the consumerization of IT trends. In today’s environment, there are many factors that could tilt the playing field in favor of either Microsoft or Apple.

The argument for Microsoft regaining control of the enterprise are predicated as a set of core assumptions:

  • IT has the final say about technology in business
  • Windows 8 will be fundamentally easier to manage from a technical perspective
  • Systems administrators and other IT professionals instinctively prefer to manage Windows 8 tablets
  • Windows 8 tablets will be more cost effective
  • Windows 8 on tablets will deliver a better or more familiar user experience
  • The best business tools will be those available on Windows devices

None of those assumptions can be fundamentally guarnteed to be true today.

The consumerization of IT has shifted the balance of power away from IT. Any IT professionals that argue otherwise are either deluded or have yet to feel the impact of this worldwide trend. BYOD programs, in particular, have placed a great deal of device selection power in the hands of non-IT managers and individual employees. IT departments are being forced to rethink everything from the devices that they support to the job roles that they contain in order to keep pace with the new business reality.

This doesn’t mean that users will automatically choose iPads and not Windows 8 or Windows on ARM (WOA) tablets. In fact, it’s possible that consumer choice may actually lead to faster the expected Windows 8 adoption if managers and employees prefer the Windows 8 experience to that of iOS or Windows 7.

Windows 8 probably may seem easier to manage and more familiar to IT departments as a whole, in particular to departments that have yet to deal with an influx of iOS devices. However, with iOS devices deployed in many business and enterprises, there’s a lot of IT departments out there already supporting and managing the platform, typically via an mobile device management (MDM) solution that plugs into traditional Windows infrastructures like Active Directory. For them, Windows 8 may actually prove more challenging in some way because it is a new product with a new interface.

Without pricing for Window 8 devices or licensing, it’s impossible to say whether Windows 8 tablets (ARM of x86) will be more cost effective. It is easy to say, however, that replacing an existing large-scale deployment of iPads will be more expensive than maintaining them – at least for a while.

Even though Windows 8 will offer a degree of Windows desktop functionality, Microsoft is really pushing Metro as the new face of Windows (the killing of the Start button in the first consumer preview is a good example). So, there’s no guarnatee that users will find it comforting or intuitive. With iOS devices have such a large presence and longer time in the consumer market, many users may find it a more familair experience.

While there are many thousands of business apps for the iPad, many businesses have long-time investments in Window solutions. This will give an edge to Windows tablets running on traditional Windows hardware because they can continue to run those tools. However, when it comes WOA devices, that advantage disappears because Office is the only existing Windows software of any form that will run on them and there are already solid Office-like suites for iOS (by that I mean suites other than iWork) and Microsoft is even working on an iPad version of Office.

Ultimately, there are still too many unknowns to predict the impact of Windows 8 on the iPad in business. There isn’t even a known release date for Windows 8. Nor is it certain how quickly Windows 8 will take to ake it into the workplace. If businesses follow the traditional pattern for rolling out a new Windows version, widespread adoption might not happen till 2014. That leaves a lot of time for the iPad to gain a lot more business marketshare.

  • stopthisshipt

    who fuc*ing cares about widows HERE???

  • Greg

    There is one fundamental reason that WOA tablets may have an impact on business. I work for a company that has about 70 facilities around the US that have ‘concierge’ type employees. We also have a significant investment in CRM data and technology. We would love to give each of those employees an iPad and write app that hooks into this. Needless to say, we have no interest in going through the app store to distribute such an app. With WOA we could accomplish this. I’ve never understood why Apple won’t work with this type of model. Seems like they leave a lot of sales on the table. Not that they seem to be suffering.

    And stopthisshipt – there are lots of us here who care deeply about Windows. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that.

  • Greg

    Actually, I see Apple related posts in Windows forums all the time. But, regardless I guess you forgot that you can choose to not click a link with ‘Windows’ in the title. Seems to me that the folks that run the site ought to be able to post things that they think are important. How many times do the words ‘iPad’, ‘iOS’, and ‘Apple’ appear in this post? Seems kinda Apple related to me.

  • OS2toMAC

     I thought I read here on CoM a day or so ago about the possibility of a “Company App Store”, where each company would house the applications they want their employees to use.  I could see the need for this in schools too.  Buy a site license for (or build your own) app, then sync/install via an Apple branded “My Company” App Store.  No need to purchase through the App Store, but still usable for other one-off items.

  • Greg

     I wish that were true. At least if it is, I’m not aware of it. I suspect we’d buy a hundred iPads instantly if it it were true. We’ve already developed an App for our customers that is in the App Store so we have the skill set. Just no means of restricting the availability of an internal App.

  • ddevito

    iOS is nice, but it won’t fly in the enterprise like all the iSheep want you to believe.

    Windows 8 will have one HUGE advantage: developer support, and MSFT already dominates the enterprise, it will be a natural migration for many businesses. 

    .NET is the most (or close 2nd to Java) widely adaptable enterprise platform. No one in the enterprise knows, likes or cares for objective C.

    Then Apple has to approve your app unless you go with their corporate licensing, which requires a key from Apple.

    Organizations won’t play Apple’s game. iOS is an epic fail for businesses. What’s needed is a device that runs just as or almost as good as an iPad and IT and the enterprise will catch on quickly.

    Once the smokes clears, the Apple love affair will come crashing down.

  • ddevito

    And I’m not throwing BS around, I’m being serious.

    At my company they gave an iPad to all executives and board members. Of course they loved them (who wouldn’t?). But then when they built a team to migrate “stuff” to the iPad that’s when the road got rocky.

    We have in-house app development, which now meant IT had to buy Macs – strike 1.

    They wanted a corporate license, and with 600+ users it would cost (I believe) just under $100/yr – not a bg deal, but we still need Macs – which were 200% more expensive, and IT needed to expand staff to support them. Strike 2.

    Then Apple required a key for the corporate license. Strike 3.

    Game Over.

    (We are going with Motorola Mobility and are going to use Android).


  • nolavabo

    Apple has done a shockingly poor job of making people aware that it is possible to install in-house apps without using the iTunes Store.

    Go to apple(dot)com/ipad/business/resources/ and look for the guide “Distributing Enterprise Apps”. To summarise, there are 3 ways to deliver in-house apps w/o the iTunes Store.

    – Have an IT administrator install the app on devices using iPhone Configuration Utility

    – Post the app on a secure web server; users access and perform the installation wirelessly

    – Use your MDM server to instruct managed devices to install an enterprise or App Store app, if your MDM server supports it.

    There are steps prior to the above to create Config Profiles to allow the devices to run the apps; read the full guide.

    The CoM article referenced above was a third party tool for SMEs that replicated an App Store experience. This is aimed at companies that find all 3 of the methods above too difficult.

  • Peter

    I’m in the hospital/medical business. Every sales rep that comes through the door these days is carrying an iPad. They use it for making presentations, taking orders and managing inventory and they’re all using custom apps.

    I think the game is already over…

  • vistarox

    The same thing was true in the early 90s when Windows and Microsoft Office was a joke. Never underestimate Microsoft. They arrive in a market late, people declare the company dead and then they end up taking over the entire market. They have done it dozens of times. 

    Windows, Office and Xbox are the best examples of this. 

  • OS2toMAC

    Thanks for correcting my mistake.  I did not read the entire article, and made some assumptions based upon what I had.

  • techgeek01

    “Windows” is why Windows 8 tablets have a CLEAR ADVANTAGE over the iPad in business.

    (Microsoft may come late or move slowly, but see what the “damage” they have done.)

    Most business/enterprise use Windows.  And since they use Windows, this allows the Windows 8 tablets to integrate far better into the network, ecosystem than with iPads.  Yes, you could have that integration and ecosystem with Macs, but there is as reason why businesses use Windows.  Microsoft caters to business/enterprise.  They give the stuff they need.  Apple?  It’s a second thought.  Microsoft and it’s partners (Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc…) cater to business/enterprise in ways that Apple does not.  Business specific/grade software and hardware.  Services as well.  These are things that you DO NOT get in the Apple world.

    Windows 8 tablets have ONE clear advantage over iPads.  That is that they will be able to FULLY replace laptops/desktops/etc…  Well, on the software side, maybe not on the hardware side.  It runs a full desktop OS.  That means, throw a keyboard onto this device (with mouse) and you (literally) have a full functional computer. That can’t happen with the iPad.  This may not look like a big deal, but for businesses that are looking to consolidate their devices, this may be a big winner. 

  • George Wedding

    These so-called “Windows 8” tablets don’t exist yet – they are vaporware. When they are released, they will be v1.0 products and filled with bugs and incompatibilities that will take a couple of years to work through. And updated software will take a year or two to arrive. Don’t overhype these non-existent products just yet.

  • George Wedding

    Due to Microsoft Window’s longstanding vulnerabilities to malware, the company is adopting a more closed App approval process for tablets, and it will implement an App approval process that will be similar to Apple’s App Store. Because of similar fragmentation and malware problems, Google also is tightening up its App Store too. Microsoft still has to overcome the bad reputation it garnered with Windows 6 Vista.

    And lest we forget, Windows 7 really is just Windows 6.5 Vista, secretly renamed as a marketing ploy to try and leave the Windows Vista debacle behind. I can’t imagine that Windows 8 has been completely rewritten from the ground up to discard all the old Vista code — such a project would take many years. So, don’t count Microsoft in before the Windows 8 products have arrived and been thoroughly vetted.

    Microsoft earned its reputation for poor software. Why should anyone automatically trust that the company has moved beyond its many quality and reliability problems?

  • George Wedding

    You guys are gonna’ get what you pay for. Pity.

  • ddevito

    In case you didn’t know they still own 90% market share. I don’t like Windows any more than any Mac fan but the truth is that their core strength is enterprise. Hell Apple uses their Azure platform to power their data centers that power the beloved Siri.

    Enterprises still need desktop computers so Windows will be around for another decade. And if .NET developers can port their code to Windows 8 easily than they win have instant market share.

    I love my iPad as much as any Machead does but even I see MSFT getting tablet market share. Give it a chance

  • vistarox

    Windows 8 will not be v1.0 software. It will actually be the 8th version of Windows built on NT technology and it will be the 17th major release of the Microsoft Windows software. 

    And the Windows 8 tablets do exist (I have actually used one). The tablets will hit store shelves in the coming months.

  • ddevito

    Actually we’re getting flexibility – and we’re also a Java shop so really the transition has been easy.

    Our IT group is working with them on integrating their tablets into our environment with enhanced security settings (no google apps, no google account, no android market).

    iOS doesn’t offer that and you still need an Apple ID to activate them – weak for the enterprise.

  • George Wedding

    Sorry — I meant to say they don’t exist as shipping products just yet. My bad.

  • George Wedding

    Come on: the whole world knows Microsoft has dominant market share, even if it is slipping just a little. 

    I’m just saying, consumers should not automatically trust new, “me too” mobile products and an updated OS from the company that brought malware, including viruses, spyware and crapware to millions and millions of the world’s desktop PCs. 

    As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft needs to start over from square one and demonstrate that it has improved the security of its OS and that the new phone and tablet platforms aren’t just as vulnerable. To pretend like Redmond didn’t drop the ball on security would be just dumb and consumers should not assume that all will OK. Let Microsoft prove itself.

  • ddevito

    Oh I agree with you – but that applies to the consumer space. A time that, frankly, I’ve been waiting for my whole computer using life.

    But the enterprise doesn’t think like a consumer, tides are turning but remember iOS is a mobile OS. There’s the desktop and server pieces of architecture that exist in the enterprise that do not in the consumer market. Lots of companies will adopt to windows 8 like they are windows 7.

    Trust me – I’m fighting my IT groups now because they’re telling me I have to test and verify my applications on Windows 7. Software runs fine but our laptops run worse in terms of device performance. But they’re upgrading and I have no choice. why? Because its Windows and damn it to hell or high water they’re sticking with it. it makes me sick but that’s the way the enterprise works.

  • Hein S

    Windows Tablets will be like WinPhone7, playing CATCH UP.

  • PlatformAgnostic

    Uh, me, because I own devices from both companies? And at least two other people who have posted here?

    Just saying.

    Also just saying, but two things are a little misleading in this article – the start orb/button isn’t going anywhere. Just so you know, fact-checker. Secondly, although it may seem a fait accompli, Office for iPad has yet to be confirmed.

  • PlatformAgnostic

    Was that sent from your cryPad or something?

  • FalKirk

    “They arrive in a market late, people declare the company dead and then they end up taking over the entire market.”-vistarox

    You mean the way they took over the MP3 market with the Zune and the way they took over the smart phone market with WP7?

    Microsoft is not the 900 pound gorilla it once was or you seem to think it still is.

  • FalKirk

    “(Windows) still own 90% market share”-ddevito

    They have 90% of the desktop market share but only 1% of the phone market share and 0% of the tablet market share. And if you add them all together, Windows only runs on 40% of computing devices.

    Microsoft may or may not do well in tablets, but their market share is isolated and hardly guarantees success in tablets.

  • FalKirk

    “”Windows” is why Windows 8 tablets have a CLEAR ADVANTAGE over the iPad in business.”-techgeek01

    The “Windows” that will be running on Arm Tablets will not be the “Windows” that is running on desktops and all of the current desktop apps will have to be re-written to run on tablets.

    How does having three separate operating systems – one running on phones, one running on tablets and one running on desktop/notebooks – help businesses? If they’re seeking consistency, they won’t get it. If they’re seeking legacy applications, they won’t get it. If they’re seeking a proven product, they won’t get it.

    Not saying Microsoft tablets won’t succeed. Just saying that the “it runs Windows” argument ain’t all its cracked up to be.

  • FalKirk

    “we have no interest in going through the app store to distribute such an app”-Greg

    Greg, it took me about 10 seconds to find the following on Apple’s web site:

    “Distribute Your In-house Apps

    Distribute your proprietary, in-house iOS apps to employees or members of your organization. You can also securely host and wirelessly distribute or update in-house apps to employees, keeping them current anywhere, anytime.”