What’s in a name?

Sometimes in the IT industry, we are prone to over complicate, confuse and bamboozle our customers.  The use of acronyms, abbreviations and silly confusing names are occupational hazards in corporate IT and it’s about to get a little additional help in the next 10 days as Microsoft release 3 versions of “Windows”, developed for 3 different technology markets/scenarios: –

  • Windows 8  (standard, Pro, enterprise)
  • Windows RT
  • Windows Phone 8

Windows 8 and RT are released for general availability on Friday October 26th, and Windows Phone 8 has an entirely different release all of its own on Monday 29th.  So, 3 products, what are they for, and what are the primary differences?

Windows 8 is what users would normally consider Windows, though as I briefly covered last week, it looks different and is developed to cover both touch, keyboard and mouse.  There are different versions depending on your specific need, but essentially, it’s your usual corporate windows, Active Directory integrated product, which runs typical X32 and X64 bit applications, and is entirely backward compatible with Windows 7.

Windows RT, (a name that has no meaning at all) is really geared as consumer market product.  It doesn’t run on Intel X32 or X64 technology, but runs on ARM technology usually found in smartphone handset technology.    It’s geared as an alternative to Android and Apples’ ubiquitous iPad tablets, and will spawn quite a lot of cheap slates no doubt.

Windows RT cannot be connected to an Active Directory, but will be shipped with Office 2013 (a version for RT), but, oddly, it’s a version which cannot be used to create corporate/commercial documents unless you have additional licence entitlement apparently.  (An interesting move, but one I can’t see people keeping too, or see how that’ll be very enforceable).   Most importantly, it cannot run traditional corporate 32bit or 64 bit applications, though you will be to use it with Citrix receiver if you have such technology available to you.

Applications for Windows RT will be downloaded from the app store, and as of writing this, there are around 6000 apps already available, (which isn’t bad considering it’s not released yet), and I hear Microsoft talking 100k apps by Xmas, which seems optimistic to me, but I guess we’ll see who’s the loser on that bet come Xmas. £10 that I’m a winner MS.

Windows Phone 8 will be a very interesting product, one which has been swathed in secrecy.  Microsoft are seemingly try to create some hype (ala Apple).  All of the features have not been released yet, and the development tools have only been released to the very top application developers to try and contain leaks of what’s in the product.

What I can tell you, is that it’s going to be a very well integrated corporate product, fixing all of its previous products shortfalls in the corporate security space.  Expect class leading mail/calendar (as has been in 7.5), with encryption and application security to surpass all.  We’ll cover more details when it’s released.  Expect some cutting edge industry leading handsets, (Nokia Lumia 920 anyone?) and it’s going to be a big push by Microsoft to attack corporate phone supply business for Microsoft houses.

What’s the most interesting thing about all these versions of Windows though is in one specific feature that’s not been widely articulated by Microsoft, and one I believe could well prove to be one of the primary drivers for (corporate) adoption.  When we consider most likely use cases for the new versions of Windows almost all are likely be used primarily on mobile devices.

The biggest challenge almost every corporate is having with mobility, (beyond the issue of wall to wall wireless internally), is getting access to corporate applications.  Sure email and calendaring is pretty easy, and most corporates have done tactical MDM implementations to help with the challenge of enabling BYO, and providing some corporate integration.  Applications access though, is not widely successful or even remotely easy to achieve right now.

Most corporate applications are X32 or X64, though of course, there are many applications that are widely used that are Web enabled.  Windows 8 and all its derivatives, all run the same common OS core code, (we call that a kernel), what this means, is that applications that are developed for your traditional desktop OS, can be quickly and easily ported down onto both RT and Windows phone 8.    What a vendor will have finally enabled, is a way of creating apps and making them easily movable across a broad spectrum of devices, a scenario that Apple hasn’t enabled or achieved across iOS and OSX and it’s entirely impossible on Android too.

Could this one specific feature be the killer feature that Microsoft needs to really provide customers with a more scalable and a better mobile integrated business?  I guess only time will tell, but it’s certainly got to be an interesting consideration for an organisation and its mobility strategy, if like most, you’ve not been developing your own iOS or Android Apps.  Will we finally move from tactical mobile solutions to a more strategic choice with a key vendor?  Microsoft is certainly hoping so.

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