The strategy Microsoft must pursue to recover from Windows 8

Yes, tablet and PC environments mesh poorly, but the new Windows reveals a sea change: PCs are now simply a type of mobile device

If my InfoWorld colleagues and I haven't made it clear, we believe Windows 8 is a failed operating system, a muddled mess that combines awkwardly the mobile/touch context with the desktop/peripheral-input context. Windows RT is little better; though users can install only Metro apps on it, RT comes with Windows 7-based Office, File Explorer, and IE10, all of which fare poorly in the mobile/touch context. As a result of Microsoft's Windows 8/RT muddle, the iPad is the only sensible tablet option for businesses.

But put aside these major flaws and think ahead. Weston Morris at the Unisys consultancy has. Morris, who focuses on the consumerization phenomenon and how to serve enterprise clients on mobile and consumer-class deployments, expects Microsoft to learn quickly from the Windows 8 and RT failures (long pointed out by analysts and pundits like me, giving Microsoft plenty of time to think about them). He expects the platforms to be improved fairly quickly, and a year or so from now, Windows RT Pro or whatever you want to call it will be what Windows 8 and RT should have been in the first place.

[ See InfoWorld's full coverage of Windows 8: Review: Surface RT • App wars: Metro and iPad apps face off • Woody Leonhard on why it's so bad and why we need a new version of Windows 7 instead. • The diehard's guide to Windows 8 • The new breed: Eight innovative Windows 8 PCs • Review: Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

A PC isn't a PC any more -- and Microsoft knows it
Morris also believes, despite the negative feedback from reviewers and broad skepticism from IT clients, that Microsoft has done something pivotal with Windows 8 and RT, with huge consequences for the future: Even if Apple introduced the concept in the iPad, Microsoft's Windows 8 and RT efforts have changed the paradigm among vendors, users, and IT.

The conversation has moved from trying to shoehorn mobile devices into the PC paradigm (seen in the control-freak management tools proposed by vendors and desired by shortsighted IT pros) to thinking of PCs as simply another type of mobile device. That has huge implications, starting from the management paradigm. Rethought as mobile devices, PCs are no longer "inside the perimeter" machines but in-the-wild devices forcing a new, necessary analysis of how to protect data. Shifting from the device to the data is critical in the more open, interconnected, and digital world we and our businesses now all live in. (I profiled Intel's approach to the same issue recently, and it's a good example of the fundamental rethink in action.)

What Morris sees in the field is that most IT organizations expect to avoid Windows 8 completely on their desktop and laptops -- it's too much of a mess to use the dual operating systems, for no real benefit. (Pretty much every survey comes to the same conclusion.) But he sees a small number -- the more visionary companies -- consider Windows 8 tablets not as Windows PCs but as a new option for the mobile and tablet strategies they're developing anyhow.

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