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Biztech Nov 8, 2012

Can BYOD Do The Trick For Windows 8 In The Enterprise?

By Robin Chatterjee

Ever since Windows 95, whenever Microsoft has announced the launch of its flagship product, the buzz within consumer as well as enterprise communities has been phenomenal. The launch of Windows 8 was no different. However, as the initial euphoria settles down, most Indian CIOs seem to be going in favour of waiting it out than be the first to put their neck out. But, then don’t be surprised if Windows 8 sneaks in unofficially through employee owned devices, and even before you realise it you could well be on your way to officially supporting it. And, that might as well be the stepping stone to an enterprise-wide roll-out not so far in the future.

BYOD Boost

Windows 8 targets to blend the two most revolutionary experiences in computing, i.e., PC and tablet. It is this very factor that holds out the enterprise promise and most likely the first entry point for the new OS into this territory. In fact, Microsoft put its Surface tablet centre stage at its Windows 8 launch event. And, then of course there is Windows Phone 8 for the mobile devices. A world where Windows 8 spans across a whole spectrum of devices ties in effectively with the emerging ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) wave. Enterprises that are betting big on BYOD are likely to have Windows 8 thrust onto them for support sooner or later. “It also provides easier adoption of BYOD with ‘Windows to go’ option and that will be an incentive to the enterprise community,” says S. Janakiraman, President & CTO, Mindtree. Being BYOD friendly also means that CIOs are likely to proactively consider it as part of their BYOD roadmap rather than a force factor.

Hence, a lot will boil down to the BYOD uptake in India. As Binoy C.S., Director- ICT at Frost & Sullivan points out that enterprises who are more into BYOD practices won’t hesitate moving to Windows 8 as the end-users in their organisation will rejoice the simplified PC-Tab experience. But, then it is also worth noting that BYOD itself is still at a very nascent stage, which negates the possibility of a large number of BYOD driven adoptions.

Having said that, given the mobility and information security features it offers, Windows 8 will be worth a consideration for specific organisations that are betting heavily on mobilising their workforce. “There are certain verticals where the workforce is mostly mobile, e.g., retail, logistics, insurance, etc. These CIOs can opt for Windows 8 as this will make business sense for them,” explains Ravishankar Subramanian, Director- IT Advisory, KPMG.

The Larger Picture

Looking at the broader picture, the sense is one of postponement. The very fact that Indian enterprises are not the first ones to adopt any new technology makes the foray of Windows 8 into the enterprises a little dicey. Ketan Parekh, CIO of ShareKhan, in a way sums up the sentiment across the CIO community when he says, “I don’t want to be the first one to jump into Windows 8. I guess, people like me will wait to see how things are shaping up and then only we will decide whether our business needs an OS upgrade at all.”

Further, if one adds to this the other fact that there is a considerable chunk of CIOs in the midst of migrating to Windows 7, the number of prospective early adopters is likely to further come down. According to Subramanian, it will take Indian companies at least a year or two to adopt Windows 8. They will take the time to gather and understand whether Windows 8 is worth the move or not. According to Sebastian Parayil Joseph, President Technology, DDB Mudra Group there are a number of things from hardware limitations to specific application compatibility which need to be understood properly.

Arun Gupta, CIO of Cipla suggests that enterprises, irrespective of their size and vertical, should opt for Windows 8 ‘cautiously’ and first try to understand whether the new OS is apt for their business, are the applications compatible, or is the business benefit too inevitable.

The biggest roadblock as CIOs weigh in on the pros and cons includes the lack of a compelling business case for the move and the high cost involved, unless the company is betting high on enterprise mobility roll-out. There too, Veneeth P, Head-Technology, HyperCITY Retail believes that even if the workforce is mostly mobile and there’s a need for an integrated OS, many organisations will not like to upgrade. Firstly, because the hardware infrastructure might pose a problem and secondly, the CIOs will wait to see some real use case before jumping in themselves. Also, the high price point of touch-enabled laptops or tablets will play a dampener in broader adoption. Again, the fact that mobile is Microsoft’s weak spot doesn’t help the case any further.

According to Joseph, the new UI might be cumbersome for employees to understand at first. “I think CIOs/CTOs first see how they can leverage maximum from their current infrastructure before planning to upgrade,” he concludes. Which means that there are chances of CIOs happily sticking to Windows XP, or Windows 7 in case they have already made the transition, and wait it out till the next Windows upgrade and give Windows 8 a skip altogether.

by Robin Chatterjee

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