Windows-hugging IT needs to let go

Microsoft's failed client platforms and withholding strategy for Office and SharePoint deepen the wedge between users and IT

Every so often, you see a research survey that shows IT organizations plan to buy Windows tablets or Windows Phones more than any other type of mobile device. Then you look at the data on what people actually buy and don't notice Microsoft technology gaining any appreciable traction. So why does IT keep saying it plans to buy Microsoft technologies that users don't want?

The answer has to do with a sort of in-breeding within IT organizations. Many IT organizations are at heart Microsoft shops, running Windows Server, Exchange, and SharePoint for much of their systems. Yes, they run Unix and Linux, too -- maybe even a mainframe or two -- plus an ERP system from Oracle or SAP and a databse from Oracle or IBM. But the mainstay computing and application platforms come from Microsoft. At the client side -- that is, what the users get -- the baseline is a Windows PC running Microsoft Office and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Other vendors' apps may pop up, but the Microsoft portfolio is again the core.

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IT simply expects that Microsoft core to extend into the newfangled technologies such as mobile and cloud. Never mind the evidence to the contrary -- Microsoft has long been the answer, so it surely will be there, too -- if IT only waits long enough to outlast users' Apple, Google, and Amazon.com foolishness.

That "waiting for Microsoft" mentality is why IT keeps hoping beyond any realistic basis that Windows tablets will displace iPads, Windows Phones will displace iPhone and Android smartphones, and Office 365 will bring Office nirvana to those foreign devices that manage to survive the coming Microsoft utopia, getting rid of Quickoffice, iWork, Google Docs, Evernote, Box, and Dropbox in the process. It's why the knee-jerk reaction of so many people is to try to deploy desktop virtualization via VDI on PCs and tablets alike, so they all run the standard Windows software instead of the apps that users actually find more value in and better fit the mobile and cloud contexts.

Waiting for Microsoft? You might as well be waiting for Godot.

Yet many IT pros continue to wait. Andrew Borg, the chief mobile analyst at Aberdeen Research, explains: "There is the long-hoped for (and not yet delivered) integration across smartphone, tablet, laptop, server, data center, and cloud -- one ring to rule them all."

As Borg says sarcastically, "It's not an unreasonable expectation, just perhaps not in our lifetime coming from Redmond -- or at least not until Windows 9. (But that's what they said about Windows 8 when Win7 shipped.) I hold Steve Ballmer directly responsible for the a) lack of vision and strategy, b) shoddy execution, c) god-awful and misdirected marketing, and d) global warming."

Borg is not alone in this sentiment. I've heard it from multiple analysts; Borg's just more colorful in how he presents the situation.

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