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Why Windows 8 for mobile is perfectly viable for enterprise use

Sure, iOS and Android devices have a head start, but enterprises can consider Windows 8 for mobile users without qualms, says our columnist.

What's your mobile device strategy? If your business is like many enterprises, it's anything goes. Not that there's anything wrong with that, culturally speaking. It's hard to get buy-in on Windows 8 for mobile devices from a workforce using a range of technologies when your very own executives are the rogue warriors heading up the bring your own device management nightmare. If execs want iOS or Android-based mobile devices, they're going to get them. So is everyone else in your workforce.

Have you considered standardizing on -- or at least wholeheartedly supporting -- Windows 8 on mobile devices, especially on tablets but even on laptops and phones as well? Windows 8 mobile devices are worthy alternatives to the more common mobile platforms, and here's why:

1. The operating system is as enterprise-ready as iOS or Android is. Windows mobile devices are every bit as capable as their more popular counterparts. Windows 8 RT aside, you can secure a Windows 8.x-based mobile device through Group Policy and other traditional controls that have proven themselves over the years.

2. Mainstream mobile-device management, or MDM, controls that you may already have, such as MobileIron, MaaS360 and AirWatch, all support Windows 8 mobile devices.

3. BitLocker drive encryption is available for those who have the foresight to enable it (no encryption on mobile devices is a breach in the making). With all the improvements in BitLocker in Windows 8, there's absolutely no reason to not use it if it's your only option.

4. The Modern UI (formerly known as Metro) in Windows 8 stinks on non-touchscreen systems, but it rocks on mobile devices. It's at least as good as iOS or Android. Think about procuring touchscreen-only laptops in case they'll be upgraded to Windows 8.

We all know how well Microsoft's OS has served us to this point. But should IT professionals just fight off all attempts to move to Windows 8, even in the mobile realm?

More about Windows 8 mobile technology

Microsoft exec shares Microsoft's Windows 8 mobile vision

Windows 8 mobile users get a re-engineered wireless stack

Your mobile device strategy should account for Windows Phone 8 security

Windows, devices and services plans will be affected by Microsoft reorganization

Surface RT tablet is positioned as a enterprise alternative

Both the iPhone and Windows 8 for mobile devices benefit from Azure back end

Don't get me wrong; Windows 8 RT certainly has its limitations. The apps in the Windows app store are pitiful, including malware-protection options. Is Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender going to be good enough to keep your devices safe? Probably not at the enterprise level.

Another downside is the relatively limited availability of 3G and 4G cellular data support on Windows 8-based tablets. Furthermore, who knows about the long-term viability of the Windows mobile hardware platform, especially now that Steve Ballmer is stepping down?

I think Windows 8 on mobile devices has been shunned partly because of the novelty of iOS and Android. Likewise, all it takes is a few people in the media to claim that Windows 8 is an awful OS for most of society to believe it.

As I've written about recently, Microsoft's latest OS may have missed the 100% mark, but with some tweaking, Windows 8 for mobile can be just fine. Its benefits far outweigh any usability concerns. Remember, though, that Windows 8's Modern UI is suited only for touchscreens. But it's not really an issue with Windows mobile devices.

We tend to treat mobile devices differently from traditional desktop computers, but we shouldn't. If you're hesitant to go all out with Windows 8 on mobile devices, do it because of the uncertainty with Microsoft, not because the OS is "inferior" for whatever reason. It's not.


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