Enjoy your summer, IT. Perfect your wizard spells in Diablo 3, revel in Christian Bale’s growl while trying to understand Tom Hardy’s Bane in the Dark Knight Rises, and delight in yet another season of Doctor Who on Blu-Ray. Because come this fall when the unwashed masses (or end users as you call them on a good day) return from summer break, many of your Heisman tactics against Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will fly out the window thanks to Windows 8.
Fall Semester – Mobility 101 The Microsoft Way
There are legitimate concerns about BYOD. The enterprise PC could be set for an extinction level event like its dumb-terminal ancestors now that Microsoft has flexed their muscle upon the introduction of their Surface tablet strategy
In past BYOD cases, IT always had two strong legs to brace themselves when the inevitable backlash from their “no” answers came forth. Apple’s insistence on managing iPhones and iPads “the Apple way”, the fragmentation and weak coherence of Android devices, and flops such as HP’s webOS tablets have never warmed IT hearts, other than working as perfect fodder for taking on projects to cause even more work in the organization. These technologies have always straddled the line on what it means for a device to be “enterprise ready” or “enterprise appropriate.”
With Surface, Microsoft has erased that line with one press conference.
Windows Surface – My Enterprise, My Home!
Pundits may debate the long-term outcome of Microsoft Surface unveiling. Will Windows 8 succeed? Has Microsoft alienated their hardware partners? Microsoft has been flirting with the idea of pen-computing as far back as 2000 with iPAQs and Windows CE, and later tablets with the ill-fated “Project Origami” and “Courier.” These technologies, while successful in some fashions, have failed to capture the public's imagination. The Microsoft Surface tablet looks to change all of that.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet series represents not just their hardware entry into the tablet wars, but an idea come full-circle. With Surface hardware, Microsoft has now jumped that elusive line separating employee’s home-use devices from enterprise hardware. You need to be prepared when, not if, the first user in your organization comes to you wanting to use their new Microsoft Surface tablet this fall.
Ad hominem reasoning isn’t going to cut it anymore here for reasons your IT organization cannot support this hardware. After all, it runs Windows, right?
In an employee’s mind, a tablet running Windows is not going to look or act a lot different than the hardware you’re already issuing out.
But, that’s the neophyte look at things from those that don’t understand the intricacies of IT management.
So, how are you going to manage these new Surface things?
Microsoft MDM Barely Scratches the Surface
Microsoft quietly launched their Windows Intune cloud-based management solution in July 2011. On the surface, this management tool looks like a promising way to manage your mobile devices and workforce. However, dive deeper and you will find a different story.
Support for mobile device management (MDM) in Windows Intune was only recently added in Wave C, introduced this month. In addition to requiring Microsoft Exchange, mobile device support is limited to tasks that can be performed through the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol.
Windows Surface/Windows 8 support for Windows Intune is unclear at the moment. Client operating system support is limited to Windows XP, Vista, and 7 at this time. Organizations running BlackBerry and Lotus Domino mail servers, or Mac desktop/laptop systems are left out from Microsoft’s solution.
Android, iPhone, and even Windows Phone 7.5 devices are limited severely by the current management functions of the Windows Intune product. Considering these devices collectively constitute a large portion of the market share for both consumers and the enterprise, Microsoft should hope Surface captures the hearts of users. Otherwise, we may have another Microsoft Kin on our hands.
One MDM to Rule Them All
Surface could be the next big thing with its physical keyboard and “Windows” feel (although the verdict is still out on how Windows-like Metro truly feels). Windows 8, with Surface leading the way, could be the chasm crosser the tablet world has been looking for.
Ultimately though, your job is not to solely manage this new generation of Windows 8 devices, but also every other type of device infiltrating your corporate walls. Would you buy anti-virus software that only fixed one type of virus? Would you purchase firewall software that only blocked half of your network ports? Probably not. The same thinking should be tied to your selection process of mobility management. BYOD is real, and even if you don’t allow it, savvy employees will find a way in (link to last blog). So whether or not you want to support Surface, Nexus 7, the future iPhone 5, or any other mobile device, chances are you will have to, regardless of your desire to do so.
So desire a mobile device management solution that can do it all.