Windows 8 will be ready for the enterprise. That's the word from Microsoft as it tries to build enthusiasm for companies to upgrade to the new operating system when it's released this fall.
That outlook was the theme of a keynote address by Microsoft executives at the company's TechEd North America, being held in Orlando.
"Windows 8 is enterprise-ready by design," said corporate Vice President Antoine Leblond, adding that it offers "new possibilities in mobility, productivity, and security ."
He also described it as the "third leg" of Microsoft's key software products for businesses, with Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure being the other two.
Mobility, Management, Security
In tag-team fashion, Leblond and Linda Averett, director of program management for Windows, made the case before a large audience of IT professionals. They said that Windows 7 evolved from Windows 95 and from a world where mobile computing devices were not center stage, whereas Windows 8 was designed from the start with mobile in mind.
They also contended that the Metro user interface is easy and intuitive to use, whether with a finger in a touchscreen setting or with a keyboard and mouse. They demonstrated gestural commands and other features of the Metro interface, as well as several business applications designed for Metro.
Several subjects of keen interest to IT departments -- such as security, management and virtualization -- were also discussed. The Microsoft executives pointed out that with Windows 8, IT departments can choose a tablet , a laptop or a desktop.
Microsoft also announced this week updates for its Desktop Optimization Pack management tools, and the availability of a beta of its Advanced Group Policy Management 4.0 Service Pack 1.
There are several potential issues that Microsoft is trying to overcome. One is that many companies upgraded from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 not that long ago. The other is the perception that the new OS is oriented toward touch-based computers, such as tablets.
While many companies have adopted tablets, the shift to a tablet-oriented or touchscreen oriented workforce represents a major decision. Tablets certainly have their roles, such as serving as portable devices for mobile workers, but there are lingering questions about whether workers can be as productive on tablets or touchscreen computers as with keyboards and mice.
There's also the potential issue that Windows 8 RT, the version for ARM-based devices such as tablets, will not run legacy Windows applications, but only apps written for Metro. However, Windows 7 apps can be run remotely on RT devices via Windows Remote Desktop, although it's not yet clear if there are performance issues.
Microsoft could argue that Windows 8 also has a traditional desktop interface, navigated by keyboard and mouse, but then the question arises of why a company should upgrade. Toggling between the two interface modes also raises questions about the kind of hardware that would best serve both, which is why some tablet-laptops hybrid models are beginning to emerge.