A major driver for the adoption of cloud computing has been the rapid acceptance of consumer devices into enterprise IT. It wasn’t very long ago that IT professionals and C-level executives were debating the merits and prudence of allowing Droids, Tablets and iPads onto the corporate network. Those debates are essentially over. The consumer device has become a part of almost every Enterprise network. The conversations have morphed into how to manage, secure and most importantly – create functionality for those devices.
Cloud computing has been a natural extension for consumer devices due to the relative ease of access allowed in Public and Private Cloud infrastructure. End users have been willing to accept a tradeoff to date - less functional, scaled down applications without a full feature set in return for portability and ease of use. As organizations look to leverage these technologies, they often find that the simplicity works fine for e-mail, but it does not meet their goals in other areas, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
Many organizations have used thin client technologies from Microsoft, Quest Software or Citrix to deliver remote applications. They work fine for the most part but require an “always on” internet connection, and they can hinder the rich integration available with mail, document and spreadsheet applications. It’s become increasingly difficult to handle the number and range of devices for end users, with the typical worker often having three devices: laptop, iPad, and smartphone. With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is looking to change the way workers access enterprise data.
The Developer Edition of Windows 8 was released this past September, and the feedback has thus far been resoundingly positive. Windows 8 is an operating system that is becoming a tablet, as opposed to a phone OS that can “sort of” be configured to deliver Enterprise functionality. Past versions of Windows have been primarily for a desktop or laptop, with a release including a few minor changes for a tablet. With Windows 8, Microsoft has created a version that’s equal parts PC and tablet – in one interface.
The tile look to the OS is very similar to the one found on Windows Phone 7. Beneath the “shell” is a full-featured version of Windows. Several problems that have plagued tile versions of Windows in the past, including required hardware, power consumption and especially interface, have been addressed. So what end-users get is a full-featured combination tablet and laptop. The full-featured tablet, available sometime next year, will lead to a rapid acceleration of Cloud technology.
The first wave of Cloud Computing, which has occurred over roughly the last two years, has been dominated by commodity applications – e-mail, web portal and storage. You can get quite a bit of functionality built into an iPad or Droid device, but there are still tradeoffs. For example, have you ever tried to view another person’s calendar in Exchange on an iPad? You can’t. Address book integration? A little kluge. Deficiencies are amplified with more complex, highly integrated applications. There are scaled down specialty apps available for consumer devices today, but nothing that remotely approaches the functionality of a PC. Windows 8 changes all that.
Software providers will be given a tablet platform in which their full-featured applications will work out of the box. In order to tailor the app for Windows 8 tablets, there will be GUI changes to make the tactile experience easier – but the app does not need to be re-written. The ability to present rich applications will tear down the wall that has prevented Enterprise Applications from moving to the cloud. A major barrier to cloud adoption will be removed – and cloud migration will accelerate. It should to be fun to watch the development of end user-driven applications on this new, robust platform.
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