I must honestly state that I do not have any hands on experience with windows 8, nor with WP8 or even Microsoft cloud services for that matter. All information I have regarding the topic is from either Microsoft engineers, Tech sites and Microsoft Teched. So eventhough my sources are somewhat reliable, I wouldn’t take my assumptions as cast in stone. But as usual, I can’t stop myself from connecting dots, even if they’re not supposed to be connected.
Natural MS bashing put aside
I know a lot of us, including me, have a natural tendency to think negative about Microsoft. Let’s put all prejudice aside and think objectively.
The way I see it, is that Microsoft is actually coming up with a very nice integrated, enterprise package. Quite a while back, I put Google, Microsoft, Apple and SAP head to head with regards to enterprise IT requirements. There, we could already see that Microsoft has a very complete offering for the enterprise, which they have had for many years already. what they were lacking up to now was a decent integration between all the different services. The portability of your work was not always that easy.
Portability to me means that:
- Your data is available anywhere anytime.
- Your data can be viewed and authored on any type of device
- Your data is not depending on local software, which may, or may not be installed
In this perspective, we could say that it’s all about mobility and cloud availability. These are exactly the two domains in which Microsoft had been lacking in the past. Oh sure, they had their windows mobile platform, but the integration of your mobile with your desktop was tedious to say the least. Your excel documents were not necessarily viewable on your device let alone editable.
Certainly, with their Skydrive, Microsoft had already a cloud solution for your storage, but using that on your windows mobile device was another thing. And although MS had already introduced online office applications, they were not supported on your mobile device.
Change is upon us
All of this is changing however with the current wave of Windows Phone. MS seems to follow the trend of integration and omnipresence, just like Google is doing already for some time.
- Your office applications are moving into the cloud with Office 365
- Your documents are stored in the cloud
- Desktop and mobile are converging.
The first two points speak for themselves. I think that by now, everybody has heard already about Office 365. It contains your Word documents, Excel sheets, Access databases, your Exchange inbox and much much more.
The third point however might not seem so earth-shattering.
Didn’t there exist already mobile PC’s, a bit like the tablets we know now (iPad, Galaxy Tab, HP slate,..) which ran on the desktop OS? Isn’t that already the ultimate harmonization? Well, yes. you could either go for a tablet-like device running windows XP, or you could choose for a mobile device running something completely different (Windows Mobile).
The problem with the first, is that it wasn’t optimized for mobile use. If ever, it reacted to your finger, it did so with very poor accuracy, which is a problem if the buttons are only the size of your fingernail. The problem with the last is that it didn’t support much of the functionalities you had on your desktop. (Although I must say that Windows Phone 7 is the exception here, but that’s because WP7 is actually the first step in the revolution which happens in W8)
With Windows 8 and WP8 however, this is going to change dramatically. The mobile and desktop OS will converge. They will both run on the same kernel and they will have the same general User Interface style. Only this time, the user interface has been designed along the idea of mobile first, instead of desktop first. This means that your mobile (tablet, phone, ultrabook,…) will have the same look and feel and the same features as your desktop (Laptop, PC, TV?, Surface?)
The classic Windows Desktop will still be present, as an application in the new Metro UI. On your mobile device, you will probably not have the classic desktop App (although it might be possible, not sure about this). I see this as a necessary intermediate step, which might completely disappear in versions after. So there will be little difference in Apps on your desktop and Apps on your mobile. This means you take your functionality with you wherever you go. Either via software in the cloud, or an App. You also get to take your work with you, wherever you go, as you can store everything in the cloud.
As for integration with the rest of your enterprise, same principle applies as for iOS or Android. You can simply call web services and store the data locally for offline usage and setup a synchronization mechanism.
MS seems to have an advantage over Apple and Google with their Desktop-Mobile integration and their already strong presence in enterprises. I’m very interested to see how this turns out for them and can’t wait to put my hands on some W8 devices. Who knows, they may even run it on their Xbox 720…
What could this mean for Enterprise integration?
Imagine that you have a set of requirements for,… warehouse management (because it’s such a good example). You could have your tablet on which you use your fingers to analyze your stock and order products when your stock is depleting. Meanwhile, someone is busy in the warehouse with order picking using a rugged device and a bar code scanner. In the back office, someone uses a desktop to keep track of all the work and introduce new product lines. The warehouse manager can use an Xbox and Kinect to rearrange the layout of the warehouse for maximum efficiency.
All different ways to interact with different devices, but all on the same platform.
Seeing as both Android and iOS already support speech commands as well (or SIRI as it is called in iOS), I can’t imagine Microsoftstaying behind with WP8. So maybe, the director can even Request sales data from his WP8 phone using spoken language.
Basically I’m not describing anything that is fundamentally different of what I’ve described before for Android or what you can achieve with iOS. And that shows exactly that Ms is going up on a good road, taking the cross-portability even a step further with their desktop, and maybe game, platform.
When it comes to our field, being SAP, I can see some nice opportunities here. All the main building blocks are already present, or under development. Webservices, both SOAP and Odata-REST are already available on the SAP backends. (with or without extra technology). The device management tool Afaria, is reported to extend it’s functionality towards Windows Phone in the coming year. The Sybase Unwired Platform already supports .NET MBO’s. Can it already run on Windows 8/ Windows Phone and if not, how hard can it be to extend the functionality?
It shouldn’t take too long before we can introduce the next generation of Microsoft devices in the enterprise.
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