HANNOVER, Germany – Just a few days after launching a beta preview of its forthcoming operating system for consumers, Microsoft on Tuesday used the CEBIT trade show to position Windows 8 as a way to empower CIOs to satisfy the user expectations around the bring-your-own-device trend and mobility while satisfying enterprise requirements around security and manageability.
Kevin Turner, Microsoft COO and the former CIO of Wal-mart, said cloud computing, big data and the consumerisation of IT are all creating increased pressure on chief information officers to create value for their organizations. Microsoft’s response, he said, has been to offer in Windows 8 a platform that relies heavily on its new Metro interface and Windows to Go technology to grapple with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) a more virtual IT infrastructure.
“As you think about the next release of our operating system, I want you to think about an operating system with no compromise,” he said. “CIOS are always asked about tradeoffs and compromise. Should I have security or should I allow people to bring in what device they want to work? The future is ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes.’”
In a live demo of Windows 8, Microsoft senior director of Windows Erwin Visser showed off several features designed specifically for businesses users that may require touch-based tablet experiences at one moment and a more traditional keyboard-mouse imput mechanism later on. The touch-based version of Metro-style apps included Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), Microsoft Dynamics business software, programs to track currency changes and the weather. The applications are spread out in a tile-like display and can be easy swiped to move back and forth or show the edges of interfaces side-by side.
In one of the more unusual moments of the demo, Visser showed how businesses could rethink traditional security by setting up a photo-based password. Visser’s screen, for example, displayed a photograph of his three children at the zoo, looking at a cheetah. His “password” involved connecting the noses of his children with the nose of the cheetah with his finger. “Obviously it would be up to businesses if they wanted to use this kind of password,” Visser said.
Windows 8 will also offer full keyboard and mouse support for Windows 7 apps and those that need mouse and keyboard. Visser showed a more traditional desktop interface and well-known features where a user can snap two applications side by side and have two documents open. A Metro-style application can be brought into such an interface and displayed like a sidebar of sorts.
Microsoft’s main solution to the BYOD challenge is to allow a corporate Windows 8 environment to be downloaded onto a USB drive via Windows To Go. Visser put a USB in an UltraBook running Windows 7, then restarted the device so that the primary hard drive went offline and the system could reboot from the USB device. Using Bitlocker for security, Visser was then able to run Windows 8 on the device, and played a high-definition movie on it.
“One of the big questions I get asked by customers is, what happens if by accident the USB gets disconnected?” he said, jerking the drive from the machine. The movie stopped. “The system freezes. Windows to go gives you 60 seconds to put it back. When it’s connected again, the video resumes. Otherwise the system will shut down with no footprint from the corporate secure PC.”
Enterprise customers see a lot of scenarios for Windows 8 and Windows To Go, Visser said. These include contractors that bring their own device, people who want to work from home or employees that bring their own devices. Some even see it as a disaster recovery solution, he said.
Turner said like it or not, IT departments are going to have to consider things like Windows 8 as part of their BYOD strategy. “Their traditional role of being gatekeeper of devices is now shifting,” he said. “The CIO has never had a greater opportunity to embrace these trends, to get in front of these trends.”CEBIT 2012 runs all week.