There are plenty of reasons to question Microsoft’s move this week to launch a tablet – and to launch their Microsoft Surface tablet the way they did. But likely enterprise interest is not one of them.
You could definitely question why they would decide to go against their normal ecosystem of partners – those who provide hardware while Microsoft provides the software. You could also question whether they have the design point right (landscape, eh?). And you certainly could nitpick about launching without a delivery date. Or pricing.
However, as a device, the Surface looks intriguing. And, a lot of the “typically Microsoft” approaches to lock customers in…er, keep customers coming back aren’t going to work this time around, given their lack of control in the cloud.
Analyst Dana Gardner has a good post on ZDNet about how he thinks some of this will play out. “Microsoft will try to keep this a Windows Everywhere world, but that won’t hold up,” said Gardner. “What makes mobility powerful is the escape from the platform, device, app shackle. Once information and process flow and agility are the paramount goals, those shackles can no longer bind.”
Another big deal with the delivery of the Microsoft Surface, that Dana also noted, is probably the most significant one: enterprises are deeply wedded to Microsoft, its operating system, and its productivity tools. We here at Framehawk see this every time we ask customers and potential customers what they want to use from their iPads. Some very likely initial answers? Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. SharePoint, too. A tablet that helps you make the most of those previous investments is a big positive for the enterprise.
Gardner actually thinks the larger implications are pretty profound. As he said in his post, “with Surface and the Windows PC-tablet hybrid it defines, Microsoft is showing a way to enterprise mobility.”
But will the Microsoft Surface be a winner? Pundits, as always, are mixed (there’s a good SF Chronicle summary here). I saw comments about the Surface ranging from “rather fantastic” to “not a threat to Apple.” Farhad Manjoo from Slate.com was already “deeply smitten.” And as Apple fan boys griped a bit about how Microsoft ripped off Apple, I was amused by the alternative view from Lucas Mearian in Computerworld: in fact, Microsoft came up with the tablet PC first (in 2002). It’s just that nobody cared.
I’m not necessarily convinced that Surface will be a winner, but its appearance (whenever it actually happens) and any adoption it does get in the enterprise, adds to the diversity of devices that IT needs to think about.
A successful Microsoft Surface will increase the need to consider BYOD policies and strategies that are effective, regardless of which device an employee ends up bringing and using for work purposes. iPads are dominant today. Android is a player, though still small in the business world. And, this new entrant from Microsoft will surface an increased need to be device agnostic. For IT, that means it’s time to really focus on those BYOD issues – and to do so now to get ahead of the curve.
In the meantime, Stephen Vilke, our CTO at Framehawk, tweeted that he “can’t wait” to get his hands on Microsoft’s new tablet. He expects it, plus Framehawk-delivered applications to be, in his words, “wow.”
And I agree with Jason Hiner of TechRepublic & CNET: “I’ll say this about Microsoft Surface… the more I read, write, and think about it, the more genuinely curious I am to get my hands on it.”
I think that’s as good of a start as Microsoft could have asked for at this point.