Visions of Sugar Plums, or Nightmares of Supporting Windows 8 BYOD?

It’s no surprise that Windows 8 came out just in time for the holiday season and the end-of-year wave of computer purchases. Sure, the economy can use a boost, and these new devices are extremely cool, but don’t forget that there’s a consumer-side and a corporate-side to every release of Windows. For a long time, those sides co-existed separately, but they’ve become more intertwined lately, as all of us in IT have noticed.

I think there are two key  scenarios for IT to deal with around the adoption of Windows 8:

  1. The push to use the latest and greatest hardware coming from outside your organization, as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) continues to grow and picks up steam with every consumer device innovation.
  2. The need to modernize aging Windows  hardware from inside the IT organization, as applications and functionality centered around the latest browsers and the newer features of Windows are required – not to mention the impending deadline for XP support going by the wayside.

In this post I’ll talk about the first scenario, and in a follow-up post I’ll explore the second.

The Windows 8 push from outside

End users will have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads this holiday season – and in many cases they will take the form of new Windows 8 devices on their Christmas list. Make no mistake, this will certainly bring new challenges in the new year for IT.

I’ve been talking to several analysts since our vSpace Platform launch last month, and a year-end theme keeps coming up around Windows 8.

Santa is going to bring lots of shiny, new Windows 8 devices to consumers this month, like laptops, phones and tablets. After two weeks of fun-work at home, those consumers will take those shiny, new devices into the office in January, expecting to use them for “work-work” – email, Web browsing, printing, running corporate apps, accessing network resources, and more. CIOs, sysadmins and IT managers can’t buy Santa off, so they’re going to have to make peace with these devices somehow.

You’re going to see big-time Windows 8 BYOD in your organization. How are you going to find a win in it?

The sugar plums ...

First of all, there’s no denying that the apps in the Windows 8 Modern User Interface are slick. The tiles match the ones on tablets like the Surface, game consoles like the Xbox 360 and phones like the new Lumia, giving users a harmonized experience across devices.

And how about those devices? Have you stopped by a Microsoft Store lately? They’re selling cool hardware. More than a few of us in the IT space are going to stuff the stockings of our friends and loved ones with devices running Windows 8. We may even put one or two of them our wish lists too.

The only thing better than a cool user experience you can enjoy at home is a cool user experience you can enjoy at work, right?

... and now the potential nightmares

So will you be ready for the line of people outside your office door after the holidays, all saying, “This new Windows 8 laptop will improve my productivity. How can I use it here?”

Most IT managers are going to bury their face in their hands and utter a few different objections:

  • “But we’ve only just gotten Windows 7 working.”
    Windows 7 came out in 2009. After a year of convincing ourselves that it really was better than Windows Vista, and a year of testing and rollout, we’ve finally let it settle into the enterprise and it’s all working. Very well, in many cases, and it is now our standard. Plus, it has Windows XP Mode for our legacy applications. Why should we rush to migrate to Windows 8?
  • “Most of the novelty of Windows 8 won’t do you any good at work.”
  • The cool apps with the Windows 8 Modern UI are written in WinRT. Our corporate apps are certainly not ready for that, so users on Windows 8 laptops will have to run our apps through a browser or from the Desktop environment anyway. What’s the benefit of using a Windows 8 device for that?
  • “We’re not ready to support you.”
    It’s too soon to be responsible for how a three-month-old operating system behaves on the network. We’ll have to figure it out eventually, but we’re going to set the schedule for that support. Users can tell us it’s a priority for them, but they can’t tell us it needs to be done yesterday.

Your job, of course, is to solve problems, not to avoid them, and you can’t wish Windows 8 BYOD away. So what can you do?

Desktop Virtualization and Windows 8

You may not want to be responsible for supporting all the new computers that come in the door, but how about agreeing to deliver a uniform desktop experience with your corporate applications over your network to them?

You can set up desktop virtualization around a server running a single instance of Windows 7, an OS you know pretty well by now. Your users can put their laptops and mobile computing devices onto your network once they’ve installed a soft client that gives them secure, tested access to your organization’s resources through a virtual desktop running Windows 7. They perform all of their work-work – business email, printing, Web browsing, running corporate apps, etc. – using the same Windows 7 virtual desktop environment and applications they always have, but using the new super cool Windows 8 device. When they’re finished with work-work and they want to use their machine for fun-work, they simply disconnect.

Think of desktop virtualization as your line of defense in dealing with BYOD. It gives you all the network control and preservation of existing standards you want while letting users work with their favorite computers.

It’s a better solution than burying your face in your hands when you see them come in with new devices or turning your lights off and hiding under the desk.

And by the way, this win-win solution of centralizing and virtualizing Windows desktops and apps works equally well for extending the corporate standard environment to non-Windows devices like Android devices and iPads too – another nightmare you might be dealing with right now too.

Stay tuned...

Next time, I’ll describe the Windows 8 push from inside, as you take your shopping list into the marketplace to buy new PCs. Happy Holidays to All!