New details about Windows 8, Microsoft's forthcoming operating system, which some observers see as a huge bet for the software giant, seem to be emerging on almost a daily basis. A new survey found underwhelming adoption of Windows 8 in its current Consumer Preview stage.
Of course, IT departments might be waiting for the Release Preview, which is slated for the first week of June, according to a tweet from the Building Windows 8 team. Earlier this month Microsoft's Erwin Visser wrote in a blog post about what enterprise customers can expect from Windows 8.
Visser's post likely created excitement in some IT organizations and apprehension in others. But several developers who have already created applications for Windows 8 believe the new OS offers much to like for both users and IT admins.
Anand Gaddum, director of the Healthcare Practice at iLink Systems, a Microsoft partner that has developed proof-of-concept apps with Windows 8 for several companies, said one of biggest strengths of the new OS is an improved user experience, for both mobile and desktop platforms. "There will be a learning curve for users, but once they experience it I believe they will like it," he said, adding that users will also find it appealing to easily access most Office apps on tablets and other mobile devices.
Corey O'Brien, development director for Sonoma Partners, a Microsoft Dynamics consulting company, said the OS offers a "beautiful" experience for users. He also thinks it gives developers ample opportunity to create applications that "run with the content front and center," the approach his company took with an app called Ultimate Beer Ranger that it created for New Belgium Brewing, the third-largest craft brewer in the United States.
Ultimate Beer Ranger showcases tight integration that offers sales teams in the field easier access to their client accounts and enhanced visibility into sales pipelines. Among the app's features: built-in search, a calendar with appointment scheduling, instant access to sales figures and other key metrics, customer profiles with an option to import photos straight from a tablet, and geolocation capabilities that show accounts within a predetermined radius. Sales reps can also record notes, dates and other information following a client visit, and the information is immediately stored in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
One advantage offered by Ultimate Beer Ranger and other Windows 8 apps is that the new OS will automatically sync applications settings from machine to machine for users who have accounts associated with a Windows Live ID, an especially big bonus for mobile users. "So if I’m carrying a Windows 8 tablet in my backpack and configure an application just how I like it, when I get home and launch that same app on my desktop machine, it will already be configured for me," O'Brien said.
O'Brien also thinks users will appreciate the ability to run Windows 8 apps in a “snap view,” where they are docked next to other running applications. "There are plenty of times where I’d like to be reading my ebook but have one eye on my inbox while I wait for an important email to come in," he said.
For IT admins, the built-in security features of Windows 8 will be a "huge differentiating factor," said Gaddum. iLink's clients in the healthcare industry, especially, tend to worry about apps involving sensitive patient data when they evaluate tablets as form factors for health personnel, he said.
For companies using Active Directory, Microsoft's directory service for domain networks, IT admins can connect Windows 8 devices to the appropriate domain so users sign in with Active Directory credentials, O'Brien noted. This allows companies to enforce consistent security policies for all devices, minimizing at least some of the security concerns associated with mobile workforces.