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Why it's way too early to give up on Windows 8

Matt Rosoff | April 19, 2013
Microsoft's report earnings for the first quarter may look bleak but it has two deep pockets of support, and there's still a good chance that these pockets will eventually carry Windows 8 into homes and workplaces.

Second, IT departments.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke with Mike Giles, the CIO of Express Energy Services, an oilfield services company with about 2,000 employees. Most of our conversation was about the company's revamped BYOD program and how it was saving the company millions of dollars, but we also touched briefly on his pilots with Android tablets.

In short, he liked their low price, but didn't like the fact that they couldn't run the full version of Office. 

But he's really happy with the Windows 8 hybrid, the Dell XPS 12, that he's been trying out. "I love it. I haven't seen anything it can't do," he told me. "One thing we love about them is their solid-state drives. It moves from a cold start in 7 seconds."

Giles also thinks that the complaints about Windows 8 being hard to use areoverblown. He piloted some Dell hybrids among the executive and senior leadership staff -- a notoriously picky group in any company -- with the agreement that IT would not offer them any special support because they were still technically a Windows 7 shop. 

"We've had no problems whatsoever. Every now and then I get a call asking me a question like 'is there an easier way to shut the thing down?' .... I don't mind offering lessons I've learned."

He pointed out that most of the execs are operating with a dock and a big monitor, so they take the 12-inch screen on the hybrid and keep it set to the Windows 8 Start screen, and use the traditional desktop on their big monitor. But he also said that the hybrids could be very valuable for in the field training.

"We could send a supervisor out with something like this, they could flip it around, hold it up, train people, then have a forms app to have each person take a little test. Then we could store the results in our learning management system. There's cool functionality we can deliver with this platform."

Again, Giles is just one IT pro, and like most IT heads he's not going to rush to support the new platform. But like a lot of other IT pros I've spoken with, he runs a Microsoft shop, understands what Windows 8 was trying to accomplish, and thought the reported usability problems with it were way overblown.

This positive attitude will eventually carry Windows 8 into a lot of organizations.

Yes, the rise of BYOD and iPads and Android tablets in the enterprise are very real. We write about these cases every week. Yes, the traditional PC market is shrinking and non-Windows devices are growing like wildfire -- the Windows monopoly is truly dead and buried. And yes, Microsoft has a ton of work to do in order to make Windows 8 more palatable to a larger audience, and to get developers to build valuable apps for it. But to write Windows 8 off as a total failure this early is a mistake, and IT shouldn't be fooled into thinking they can ignore it forever.


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