See also: Seven tablets for business
Mobility is transforming the IT world and it is clear that the apps store model is winning the battle to dominate the software market, with an increasing focus on business software.
Apple, Google, RIM and, as of this year, Facebook have jumped into the business apps market with low cost, easy-to-use applications that employees at many levels in many organisations find an attractive alternative to corporate IT.
For CIOs, the mobile revolution can be an uncontrolled environment and good IT practice is based on firm controls and clear governance.
The concept of a single solution to the question of any-time-any-place working hugely appealing for the CIO.
It has the potential to restore control over data, applications and access into the CIO's hands while making life simpler for users. No need to get to grips with different user interfaces and different ways of working.
These advantages are precisely what the soon-to-be-launched Windows 8 is designed to achieve, and if the product matches up to expectation, it points to a transformation for business users.
Despite its unassuming name, Windows 8 is not just another upgrade but a radical departure, and it marks Microsoft's determination to dominate the new world of apps, touch screens, tablets and smartphones as decisively as it does the old world of PCs and laptops.
In its own pre-launch marketing materials, Microsoft stresses two key business benefits of Windows 8:
- empowerment of the workforce
- productivity of employees
In my view, the extent and speed of adoption of the new product will depend crucially on the one key concept of mobility.
Every business or public sector organisation will need to examine the mobility question for itself.
- Are its senior executives frequently on the move, perhaps jetting off to meetings and conferences overseas?
- Do its salespeople and other customer-facing staff need access to data and applications while on client sites?
- Would service engineers be more efficient if they could consult up-to-date manuals while attending to problems in situ?
Similar questions might well apply across many departments and grades of employee, and the attractiveness of Windows 8 to any individual organisation is likely to depend on the answers.
Early indications are that Windows 8 really does have the much more modern look and feel it will need to impress a tablet and smartphone generation, and that it works well on a range of mobile devices.
There is undoubtedly real excitement about the prospect of a common platform, especially for those businesses with a significant proportion of mobile staff.
CIOs and others are not slow to grasp the implications for efficiency and productivity.
If the CIO is left to make the decisions about corporate IT, then Microsoft is likely to dominate corporate IT in the future as it has done so successfully in the past, and the CIO will remain firmly in the driving seat. But, users who have become familiar with 'apps world' will also need to be convinced by the new product.
Christine Hodgson is Chairman of Capgemini UK