Another Windows tablet falls short of the iPad

Microsoft keeps giving IT hope that Windows can out-tablet the iPad, so why can't it beat the iPad's quality or even security?

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Device-level encryption is a fundamental policy requirement for most companies, enforced through Exchange Active Sync (EAS) via an Exchange or System Center server when a person tries to connect to email -- so why don't all new Windows devices support it? All iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads do, and they have since 2010. How can Apple make device-level encryption standard across all its devices but Microsoft can't get its hardware makers to do it? (This month, Apple also achieved federal FIPS-1402 Level 2 certification, a key step most mobile rivals have not taken.)

In an age of consumerization, device makers need to design their devices to work in both consumer and business environments. Apple figured that out in 2010, and Samsung adopted the same approach last year. Why not Windows PC makers? Buyers shouldn't have the think to ask about whether device encryption is a feature in their Windows tablet. It should just work.

If people buy devices like the Iconia W3, imagine the red faces that will result when IT has to explain, "Sorry, but your new PC isn't secure enough, so we can't let you access your email or calendar. That iPad we don't want you to use is secure, but you didn't hear it from me." Didn't Microsoft learn this lesson with the failure of the Surface RT tablet and its crippled Windows RT operating system?

The lack of BitLocker support may seem like a small issue -- many small businesses don't worry about encryption, for example. But it's a foundational concern and points to the mixed messages (you might call it hypocrisy) of the Windows world. Windows 8 already suffers from having one foot stuck in the past and the other in a half-baked future. It at least needs to satisfy the corporate requirements its target buyers actually need -- such as encryption.

Weston Morris, a smart guy at the Unisys consultancy who focuses on consumerization, has suggested that Windows 8.1 is the perfect pivot for IT to embrace the new world introduced by Apple but feared by IT. Windows 8.1's security and management model is more like Apple's policy-based approach: It embraces the commingling of personal and corporate assets using differential management, and through Metro it targets the Apple view of focused apps. With one foot in the past and one in the future, Windows 8.1 will give IT the space to make the necessary mindset change, he argues.

It's possible some companies will be that enlightened, but many will cling to the old ways as long as they can, until that split becomes unsustainable and the fall painful. The better way to make the change is to, well, make the change, and begin the move to modern platforms like the iPad and Android "Jelly Bean." I say "begin" because both need further maturation, some of which iOS 7 will bring in ways I'm under promise not to reveal until it ships. But even IT may be impressed.

Buying inadequate devices like Acer Iconia or Microsoft's own Surface Pro only lets IT fall further out of touch with the new reality, while wasting money and frustrating buyers. Spend that money on Windows 7 laptops and iPads. Ignore the Windows 8 offerings.

This article, "Another Windows tablet falls short of the iPad," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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