The arrival of the Windows 8 Release Preview — with its corresponding app development tools — heralds a new phase in the acceptance of mobile form-factors into enterprise computing.
For several years, IT organizations have faced an acceleration of demand for “bring your own device” (BYOD) support — first for smartphones, then for tablets — driven by the consumer appeal of devices such as the Apple iPhone and iPad. While superficially “driven by the business,” expenditures on IT resources to support end-user BYOD demands usually violate the second principle I wrote about in my previous blog posting: IT projects should only be initiated when there will be a measurable financial benefit to the enterprise.
BYOD is a different issue, of course, from those leading-edge enterprises, primarily in consumer markets, that have developed mobile apps for marketing and customer-service purposes. One could presume that they did so only after developing credible business cases for those investments (although I suspect that many were done to “get on the bandwagon” without a convincing financial analysis).
One of the challenges facing IT when it comes to embracing the current dominant mobile platforms — Google Android for non-Apple smartphones, and Apple iOS for iPhone and iPad — is that these systems are alien technologies to their current staff. Also, these platforms were not designed with a goal of fitting easily into enterprise architectures. These factors have, I believe, discouraged IT leaders from thinking proactively about how mobile technologies can be used within the enterprise to create business value.
Windows 8, on the other hand, will shift the balance, particularly with regard to internal tablet applications. With most enterprises in the throes of Windows XP to Windows 7 migrations at the desktop, we expect that it will be several years before enterprises give much thought to a desktop migration to Windows 8. For tablet applications, however, Windows 8 brings a whole new ball game. Although the programming style for Windows 8 “Metro” apps is different than for traditional Windows applications, Windows 8 is designed to fit seamlessly into current enterprise environments, using the same applications development and systems management tools with which IT organizations are familar.
This gives savvy IT leaders — those who have followed our advice and “kept their ear to the ground” by maintaining close relationships with their business peers, and understanding the problems the business is facing — the opportunity to think creatively about how tablet devices (running Windows 8) could be used internally to drive business value. It is time for IT leaders to get out in front and lead, not just react to the BYOD clamor.
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