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Lack of enterprise Windows 8 app development tools complicates upgrades

Diana Hwang

If Microsoft can make it more appealing for application developers and enterprise users to create Windows 8 applications, then the migration to the new operating system may not be too daunting for enterprises considering the upgrade.

Microsoft offers basic controls for building consumer apps, but nothing for enterprise apps, said Chris Sells, vice president of developer tools at Telerik, a tools provider in Waltham, Mass.

"We are filling in the missing enterprise controls," Sells said.

Microsoft offers the Windows 8 Software Development Kit and Visual Studio 2012 developer tools. While these tools enable Windows Phone and Windows 8 app development, developers want a software code base that can be easily compiled for all different platforms, including Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

Windows 8 upgrades hinge on app compatibility

Applications and access to data represent important pieces to the enterprise puzzle as businesses move from Windows XP and upgrade to Windows 7 instead of Windows 8.

"For enterprise customers, it's more important that their existing applications [such as legacy applications] run on new operating systems flawlessly," said Srinivas Sesham, director of platform architecture at Kony Solutions Inc., a mobile applications development tools provider in Orlando, Fla.

Windows 8 and apps for a variety of mobile devices could be successful if the code base, whether for commercial or in-house apps, can be ported to different platforms.

The ability to use a portable software code base for different platforms cuts down on costs and software development time, and would enable enterprise users to build their own custom applications based on their own needs.

Equinix Inc., a data center provider in Redwood City, Calif., develops all its applications in-house, based on the types of devices its users own -- which excludes Windows mobile devices at this time.

"We are developing like crazy for iOS and Android," said Brian Lillie, chief information officer of Equinix.

Equinix will not develop for Windows 8 and Surface until the products gain more traction, Lillie said. His company is currently developing for other native Windows versions and the Web environment.

DataArt, a custom software development firm in New York that recently created a mobile social search network app for Innova Networks, has developed some commercial Windows 8 applications for clients. "But it's safe to say the amount has not been overwhelming," said Alexei Miller, executive vice president at DataArt.

"One big thing about the enterprise, particularly larger ones, is that they have a lot of frameworks around the operating system and operating environments," he added. This is particularly the case for financial services customers, because strict regulations for security and audits affect how they deploy and provision their desktops.

Meanwhile, some developers, including Lillie, rely on the cloud as an environment for application development and a way for end users to access their legacy data instead of being tied into the Windows environment.

The Windows Blue curveball

The next rumored release of Windows this year, code-named Windows Blue, has companies wondering if they should delay Windows 8 upgrade work.

Kony's customers are concerned about the learning curve for users of Windows 8 applications and whether there are enough developers in the market for apps in the Windows Store, Sesham said. In addition, Sesham said his customers wonder whether they should wait for the next major release of Windows.

Windows Blue may kick-start more Windows 8 enterprise deployment, said Telerik's Sells.


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