Windows 8 cannot succeed until the apps and hardware that go with it are ready. So now it is up to the developers. For SAP.info I checked in with SAP partners to find out what they think.
The long arm of Microsoft is its partner ecosystem. There are almost 40,000 companies selling Microsoft products in Germany alone. To judge the success of Windows 8, you cannot avoid the partner community: the independent software vendors (ISVs), original equipment manufacturers OEMs), and value-added resellers (VARs).
“Windows 8 is too complicated”
Jim Wong, corporate president of Acer, made the headlines recently. In early January, he told German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, “I think Windows 8 is too complicated. People just don’t understand it. So I guess it’s up to us to help them.” He commented that, as a Microsoft development partner, Acer felt obliged to set up its own service centers where it could explain the benefits of the system to customers. He also blamed Windows 8 for the current sluggish laptop market.
It is no secret that the way the Windows 8 rollout was handled has given some of Microsoft’s development partners a headache. One issue has been the announcement that Microsoft intends to sell more hardware itself; another has been the cloak of secrecy in which Windows 8 and its associated office software were shrouded before release.
Microsoft sought to calm everyone’s nerves: At its German partner convention in Stuttgart last fall, it announced that it expected more than 100 hardware products for Windows 8. Soon, the business apps market would be buzzing, too, Microsoft claimed. It spoke of 100,000 apps on its Windows Store by February 2013. Despite all the talk, the selection of Windows 8 devices to choose from is still decidedly thin. And the apps were slow in coming: At the end of January, there were just 40,000 on the online store, with the lucrative business section almost completely ignored by the ISVs.
Cat and mouse
Microsoft-watchers say the problem is not the technology; it is the users who are not yet willing to welcome the new system. Despite a reasonable start, Windows 8 sales have not yet taken off. Until customers – large numbers of customers – really embrace the philosophy behind Windows 8, development partners will hold back from investing in it. And Windows 8 in particular requires substantial investment. For example, the system offers touchscreen control, so any ISV developing apps for Windows 8 must also recast its legacy software in the new mold.
Right now, hardware developers and software developers are engaged in a game of cat and mouse. There will be no rush of new devices and partner apps until Windows 8 wins over a big slice of the market. On the other hand, Microsoft depends on precisely those solutions to boost Windows 8 along its aspirational trajectory.
SAP.info went out looking for views on Windows 8 from the SAP ecosystem. Everyone expressed the opinion that Windows 8 was good for them. They are all developing solutions and IT business designs for the Windows 8 world already. And most already have their first apps out – just like SAP, which recently published its first apps for Windows 8. But it has to be said: Three months after launch, much of the noise is still coming from behind the scenes
Here are the Partner-Voices I received:
Matthias Kumm, Manager Customer Solutions & Inventions, Itelligence AG:
“Because we concentrate on the business-to-business market, we are always focused on the market-ready concepts that our customers are looking for. For the medium term, that means we’ll be offering usable solutions for Windows 8 tablets with the new SAP apps in the second quarter using SAP’s SDKs (Ed.: software development kits). We can see a lot of promise for Windows 8, and it isn’t difficult to link into an existing IT infrastructure. Business apps for Windows 8, Apple iOS, and Android will be key in the future, so we are going with the SAP Mobile Platform to build our adaptable business apps across all platforms.”
Itelligence AG, headquartered in Bielefeld, Germany, offers customers a full range of services relating to SAP software. It employs 1,800 people and has 3,000 customers on the international market.
“Windows 8 sure has what it takes for a mobile platform, as do iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. We have around 1,400 midsize SAP customers – the biggest SAP maintenance contract customer base in the German-speaking region. How they invest is driven by value and applications. Technology itself is not a key driver. Nonetheless, we expect the new Microsoft operating system to provide an extra boost to our SAP mobility suite, ERP in motion. Companies whose mobility strategy depends on the direction Microsoft takes can now see where it is headed.”
All for One Steeb AG offers a full range of services for SAP software and has more than 2,000 customers, chiefly midsize companies in manufacturing, consumer goods, and services. Its headquarters are in Filderstadt-Bernhausen, near Stuttgart, Germany.
Stefan Eller, Managing Director, ITML GmbH / Smart Enterprise Solutions GmbH:
“To ITML and Smart Enterprise Solutions, Windows 8 is an excellent operating system for businesses. It’s good news as a system for tablets because they are desktop/mobile hybrids. The software distribution is simple, security is good – as we have come to expect, and it is easy to use. These are all important elements. You only have to make new software once for all Windows platforms – Windows Phone for smartphones and Windows 8 for tablets and desktops. ITML and Smart Enterprise Solutions already presented our first Windows 8 apps at CeBIT 2012; we are the leaders in our field for SAP-based apps.”
As you can see, the executives I spoke to seem pretty happy, confident and active with Windows 8. Do you share their views?