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Microsoft channel partners see introducing Windows-based tablet computers to their business customers -- and replacing all those pesky iPads that have infiltrated corporate computing environments -- as the biggest opportunity created by this week's launch of the long-awaited Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems.
"We're investing a lot of time and effort into Windows 8 just because the mobile story is so exciting," said Mike Snyder, a principal with Sonoma Partners, a Chicago-based Microsoft Gold partner.
Solution providers say the availability of Windows 8 and Windows RT, the latter for ARM-based tablet computers, will create a wide range of opportunities, not least of which is selling new desktop and laptop computers with Windows 8 and helping customers upgrade PCs from older editions of Windows to the new release.
But, the biggest opportunity for Microsoft channel partners may be the chance to use Windows 8, which is designed to run on tablet computers as well as traditional desktop and laptop computers, to help IT managers resolve the dreaded bring-your-own-device (BYOD) dilemma.
Business executives and employees have been using their own iPads for business tasks. That gives IT managers nightmares because there's no effective means of centrally managing and securing the devices. "Right now, there's no management story around iPads," said Jason Sandys, principal consultant and technology evangelist for Catapult Systems, an Austin-based Microsoft Gold partner. With Windows 8, "the IT department now has an answer."
The value proposition solution providers anticipate offering their customers is the ability to provide application compatibility and a consistent Windows "user experience" from the desktop to laptops and tablets and even to smartphones based on Windows Phone 8.
"I believe [customers] will swap out the iPads," predicts Randy Lenaghan, CEO of Navantis, a Toronto-based Microsoft Gold partner. "Windows 8 will become the de facto standard" for business tablet computers.
"CIOs are excited about having an alternative to the iPad," agrees Syd Millett, vice president and North America general manager at Infusion, a Toronto-based Microsoft partner that focuses on designing and developing Windows-based applications.
IT departments will be able to manage Windows 8-based tablets using Windows Intune and Microsoft System Center 2012, tackling such chores as patch management and setting security controls, said David Geevaratne, president and co-founder of Microsoft Gold partner New Signature. "That, in turn, allows IT departments and consulting firms like New Signature to focus on IT initiatives that are more strategic," he said, such as integrating Windows 8 applications with Microsoft Lync unified communication software and SharePoint collaboration system.