Q&A: Microsoft explains Windows 8 value in the enterprise

Microsoft isn't saying where it sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses, but the company still claims that the new system is perfect for enterprise users.

Microsoft executives have claimed record sales of Windows 8 -- some 40 million licenses sold in the first month after it became commercially available. However, the company refuses to break down that figure, so it's difficult to know how many of those licenses have gone to corporate customers.

TechTarget met with Pieter Uittenbogaard, marketing director in Microsoft's worldwide Windows marketing team, to discuss who should consider moving to Windows 8 and when, as well as who shouldn't and why.

What does Windows 8 bring to IT pros and corporate users that they don't already have with Windows 7?

Pieter Uittenbogaard: I went to Japan about three weeks ago, and I was in a car, and I heard this song on the radio. Without thinking, I picked up my phone, let Bing listen to it, and bought it right there and listened to it on the airplane.

And I was thinking that five or six years ago, I would not have even thought of doing this. How we interact with technology is changing super-rapidly. This [consumerization] context is super-important if you think about Windows 8 in the enterprise space.

In the enterprise, we really bring together these end-user expectations -- stuff that people really love, as well as the stuff that IT requires -- and bringing those two together in the product is for us a very important strategy.

Whether I'm on the corporate network or using my wife's PC at home, it's very easy to make sure that people have both a personal experience as well as a work experience.

With Windows 8, you don't have to leave the app; it's all right there, and so the tablet is not only a great consumption experience, if you will, but it's also fantastic for productivity. It really brings together the convenience of the tablet as well as the productivity, manageability and security of a PC. Where the tablet really becomes important to us is in the enterprise.

So far, we've seen a lot of resistance from IT professionals to the Surface running Windows RT because it doesn't support Group Policy, because it doesn't support joining domains, and it lacks other management features that they've come to rely on.

Uittenbogaard: Yeah, well, it really depends, because I've been talking to many customers as well, and you see that IT [pros], when security and management are most important, then they tend to go x86. But when the most important criteria are weight and battery life, we see them lean to RT, in my experience.

We see customers use RT for very specific scenarios [such as] for mobile activity, where form factor is important or battery life is a concern. Now, if you want to run Windows 7 applications, then you need to go to Intel x86 with Windows 8.

What are the features in Windows 8 that are going to specifically motivate IT pros, who are pretty traditional, to get them to pursue a Windows 8 migration from Windows 7, which many of them have just finished upgrading to?

Uittenbogaard: We do think there is [added] value for customers running Windows 7 [to update to Windows 8, but] we don't expect customers who just moved to Windows 7 to forklift their whole infrastructure.

More on enterprises considering whether to update to Windows 8

Who will upgrade to Windows 8?

Frequently asked questions about Microsoft's latest OS

How Windows 8 improves on security

Windows migrations proceed, despite BYOD and the cloud

Touch is key to the Microsoft Windows 8 environment

Face-off: Dueling reviews of the Windows 8 tablet

TechEd tweeters skeptical of Windows RT tablets, Windows 8

If you're deploying Windows 7, then we think you should continue to deploy Windows 7. Now, if you're on Windows XP, you should just move to Windows 8 and skip everything in between. So, I would look at Windows 7 customers that are perfectly happy and say they probably should not forklift-upgrade yet.

When you have already deployed Windows 7 today, I think that enterprise customers are exploring specific scenarios where Windows 8 makes sense for them: mobile productivity and Windows To Go and, absolutely, security.

[Another] area that I think customers are enthusiastic about is virtualization and management. ... We added touch support so, if you're running a virtual desktop environment in your data center, you can offer a local-like experience on a tablet. And if you support ten points of touch through that virtual session, you can run Windows 8 from the data center right on that tablet.

It seems like IT shops will typically deploy more of what they'd think of as a replacement for something that's more traditional, like a PC desktop, whether it has touch or not.

Uittenbogaard: Of course, time will tell what will be deployed in the future. Windows 8 is great with the keyboard and mouse, and touch just adds to the experience.

I think customers really look at Windows 8 as an opportunity for laptops and desktops and a keyboard and mouse experience, as well as new opportunities with touch. And especially if you look at mobile productivity, that's where they're really focusing on light form factors and touch.

[For instance], BT [Group] looked at its field engineers and decided, "We see so much value in Windows 8 that we're going to just forklift all 4,000 of our Windows 7 PCs up to Windows 8." That's where you see across-the-board value adoption.

So, doesn't it still seem to be the case that the volume is going to be in desktop replacements -- x86 laptops and desktops?

Uittenbogaard: More and more laptops will have touch capabilities, or at least a new, big touch pad, called the "modern touch pad," which will have basic touch. Over time, you'll see the platform ecosystems evolve to full-touch experiences. [But] there's still a lot of value on traditional desktops and laptops that don't all have touch, including faster performance, as well as security and management, virtualization, and stuff like Windows To Go, so there are compelling scenarios even without touch.

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