Microsoft can't even get IT interested in its mobile platform

Three years after Windows Phone and a year after Windows 8, businesses are testing -- and using -- rivals instead

Boutique research firm Nemertes Research interviewed more than 200 IT organizations about their mobile deployments and reports that 25 percent are at least testing "Windows 8 mobile" devices, meaning Windows Phones, Windows 8 tablets, and/or Windows RT tablets. Nemertes President Johna Till Johnson says that shows Microsoft is about to get a serious role in enterprise mobility. I say it shows Microsoft isn't taken seriously by its own core constituency.

For several years, I've been hearing the notion that IT will ensure Microsoft Windows becomes the primary mobile platform in business because they know and depend on Windows PCs. The opposite has happened.

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iPads and iPhones are now the de facto standard mobile devices -- in fact, Nemertes' research shows that 95 percent of companies use them, and all the major analyst firms report similar data. As Samsung and others have begun to harden Android, the percentage of IT shops testing that platform has risen to 70 percent, according to Nemertes, though actual deployments are a much lower percentage. A recent survey by mobile app dev tools vendor Appcelerator shows a similar trend of IT turning ready from Window or mobile.

There may be those in IT who'd prefer to stay all-Microsoft shops, but that ship has sailed. Windows Phone has been around for three years and Windows 8/RT for a full year, and hardly anyone uses them. (Windows 8 holds about 1 percent share of enterprise computing devices, according to mobile management vendor Fiberlink, whereas half still use the 12-year-old Windows XP.)

The fact that, after all that time, only 25 percent of IT shops are even looking at Windows 8 mobile devices is a damning fact, not a sign of better times to come. Believe me, if those IT shops could get users to use Windows 8, they would. But they can't.

Johnson's own take on the companies her firm has interviewed reveals this: "Organizations are seriously assessing, and in many cases banking on, Microsoft. They're not loving it, but that's what they're doing." Pay attention to the key words: "they're not loving it."

Worse, Windows Phone is the least secure of the major mobile platforms, and Windows RT requires a special set of only partially baked management tools. Even the fallback security argument often used to force bad technology down users' throats can't be applied in this case. Windows 8 can be made very secure, using the Windows management tools already in most enterprises, yet that advantage has done nothing to up this lemon's adoption rate.

The truth is that businesses are becoming dual-device environments, with Windows PCs (running XP or 7) the primary platform for desk work and heavy-lifting apps, and tablets (mainly iPads today) the primary platform for work on the go. As businesses become more mobile, you can expect tablet usage to equal or surpass PC usage. I suspect for some years to come, knowledge workers will use both, while field forces will gravitate to tablets.

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