Shifting Landscapes: Windows 8, Lenovo and BlackBerry
As the company has well publicized, Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows 8 platform will run on both desktops and tablets. Microsoft has tried to better clarify product strategy and capabilities across both form factors and architecture base this week. Elsewhere, Lenovo Group, Ltd. continues its adoption rise while Apple Inc. makes some perceived additional headway in the enterprise. Lastly, Research in Motion, Ltd. loses more highly-visible customers while it attempts to mount a comeback.
- Microsoft is clearing up some of the confusion around its impending release of the Windows 8 platform, which will be used on both PCs and tablets using x86/64 and ARM platforms. Windows 8 includes both the so-called Metro interface, which uses a Live Tile user interface based on that seen in Windows Phone 7.5 and the familiar desktop paradigm that has continuously evolved since Windows 95. Tablets and PCs using the x86/64 architecture will be able to run applications designed for both interfaces, allowing enterprises to migrate existing desktop programs to the new platform without issue. Windows on ARM (WOA) will run Metro UI applications and have a fully-ported version of the Office suite available.
- In the period ending December 2011, Lenovo posted its highest-ever quarterly revenues and net income, and has now grown faster than the other top-five PC manufacturers for the eleventh quarter in a row. Revenues rose 44 percent to $8.4 billion while net income improved 54 percent and reached $99.7 million. Some of the biggest gains were attributable to mature markets, which rose 81 percent to $3.6 billion. Notebook sales accounted for $4.5 billion and desktop sales represented $2.8 billion of revenues, an increase of 30 percent and 32 percent year-over-year, respectively. New research from multiple sources demonstrates how Apple's presence in the enterprise is becoming more ubiquitous. The publicly available portion of the research is somewhat incomplete, as the numbers available include the use of Apple products that are both employee and corporate owned. Key facts include that eight percent of those surveyed use a Mac, nine percent use an iPad, and 11 percent use an iPhone. A total of 21 percent of workers used an Apple device. A mere one percent of respondents employed all three device types, while five percent used two devices, and 15 percent used just one device.
- A mounting list of companies is abandoning their BlackBerries in favor of alternative platforms. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the main procurement agency for the U.S. government, has expanded its list of allowable devices to include Apple iOS and Google Inc. Android devices. Haliburton and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are moving to corporate-issued Apple iPhones. Numerous banking institutions have made or are making the switch to Apple iOS and/or Google Inc. Android devices, including Barclays Bank PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, and Standard Chartered Bank. Major revisions for the BlackBerry operating system are expected later this year with the arrival of BlackBerry 10 when the first smartphone, codenamed London, arrives. BlackBerry 10 will feature widgets similar to Microsoft's Windows Phone's Live Tiles, an updated icon tray, and a universal inbox.
Experton Group believes the upcoming version of Microsoft's converged tablet and desktop UI is visually appealing and functional. Unfortunately, the two user interfaces come off as a bit confusing, incongruent, and redundant. The intent behind having the platform serve as the basis for both tablets and PCs provides Microsoft with a single set of interfaces for users to learn and pave the way for better touch-based PC interfaces, better allowing the company to compete with Apple's suite of offerings.
ARM interface options may be compelling for enterprises interested in a tablet platform that matches the look and feel of newly-deployed PCs, but IT executives are advised to stay away from ARM-based PCs until and unless a variety of enterprise software becomes available. As the majority of enterprises services are becoming Web-enabled, IT executives may find that Windows tablets are an attractive alternative to Apple's iPads – if pricing and enterprise management utilities can justify the switch.
IT executives are advised to continue to watch Windows 8 developments as they unfold, but the lack of killer applications and services on both the tablet and PC provide little justification for widespread adoption at this juncture. Lenovo's mix of effectively targeted marketing, hardware quality, and wide array of both notebook and PC offerings explains its rapid rise in sales and popularity. The company's continued and improving strength in key geographies is likely to only gain ground for the foreseeable future and IT executives should continue to keep it on the short list during refresh cycles. There is little doubt that Apple's popularity has been, and continues to be, on the rise. The dual forces of Web-enabled applications coupled with IT consumerization have taken hold as fashion-forward executives and younger workers are and can increasingly demand Apple products. Enterprise-backed Apple smartphone usage is understandable given the recommendations of Experton Group and other trusted parties; however, the addition of Macs as enterprise supported products remains somewhat ill-advised given higher costs and the lack of enterprise management tools. There is nothing technically "wrong" with enterprise Mac PC/notebook deployments, but appeasing the masses is hardly worth the added cost, complexity, and incorrectly-perceived safety from viral threats.
As Experton Group has said many times before, enterprise abandonment of BlackBerries is well underway and will continue unless BlackBerry 10 proves to be a complete game changer (completely unlikely). Thus, IT executives should continue to migrate mainstream users towards other devices and continue planning the migration of users with highly-sensitive data access towards other platforms. At this rate and unless a tidal and unpredictable advantage arises, most enterprises should have migrated at least 85 percent of their smartphones towards non-BlackBerry products within the next 30 months.