With Windows operating systems (OS) having dominated the PC landscape for many years, their emergence in the mobile arena was guaranteed to attract a significant amount of attention. Businesses and consumers have been waiting patiently for the arrival of Surface and Windows Phone 8, devices which finally bring full Windows functionality to handheld IT. And almost universally, Microsoft's flagship media tablet and smartphone devices have been well received - within the corporate world and beyond.
The launch of Windows-based mobile devices gives companies and individual users the opportunity to consolidate their technology portfolio on a single OS. This offers greater simplicity in the sense that users only need to be familiar with one vendor's operating system. Rather than swapping between systems according to the device being used, individuals can concentrate on making the most of a single OS and its various functions.
Users can access files, documents and data in an instant across multiple devices - something that is becoming ever-more important in the cloud era. The result, in theory, is higher levels of productivity and improved performance. With an increasing number of people working remotely at least some of the time, the benefits of being able to move seamlessly from laptop to tablet to smartphone are immediately apparent. For time constrained professionals, the use of a single OS - one they know and understand - can make a real difference.
Surface - a new competitor in the tablet arena?
The launch of a Microsoft-designed tablet is likely to have a major impact on what is a fast-growing and as yet, relatively immature market. A multitude of touch-screen devices have already come and gone, with many failing to grab the imagination of the business world and public. But Surface has a clear advantage over its rivals in the form Windows RT - and in the near future - Windows 8. As UK ISP Be Broadband noted, the idea of a "truly integrated system" across all devices definitely has an appeal. "It seems like Microsoft has delivered a product that really has a chance at jumping over the impressively high bar already set," the firm said.
Greig Schofield, business development manager at Netmetix, claimed recently that the Microsoft OS work equally well on both touchscreen and traditional devices. He argued that Windows 8 - soon to be available on Surface - is the most exciting Microsoft product for several years, and is definitely "a step in the right direction". Mr Schofield said the interface should work "really well" on the tablet platform, giving mobile workers the opportunity to make the most of their mobile device. But, once Windows users have got their head around some of the upgrades, it promises to deliver for desktop and laptop PC users as well.
Where Surface itself is concerned, Guardian reviewer Tim Anderson said the new tablet is "pleasing" to use. "The transition between the desktop and the modern touch user interface will always be an odd one, but becomes something you accept as normal in this dual personality operating system," he told the news provider. The reviewer also praised the usability of the device - noting that the inclusion of Office makes this "a plausible laptop replacement". Factor in the "elegant" design and durability of the tablet, and it appears Microsoft is on to a winner.
PC users also set to benefit
According to analyst firm IDC, Windows 8 offers "an entirely new experience" to PC users, while blurring the lines between PC and tablet usage. The market intelligence provider said it is "likely to entice consumers to experience the best of both worlds", with its spotlight on apps, social media and live updates.
“The tech-savvy nature of local end users coupled with the relative ease of navigating through the tile based interface bode well for increasing PC and tablet adoption rates," said IDC research manager Daniel Pang. “Most vendors will be launching a wide range of new Windows 8 based PC, tablet and PC-hybrid models over the upcoming months." He said this is a "double bonus" for end users as they will be enjoying the benefits of new software and hardware. "New touch-enabled devices will be the products to watch," he claimed.
IDC market analyst for client devices Ng Juan Jin added that Microsoft is making a "daring move" in revamping its entire aesthetic appeal to its end users. He said that providing manufacturers and app developers continue to push new innovations into the market - to complement the features of Windows 8 - there should be a renewed uptake in PC and tablet sales over the upcoming quarters.
Windows Phone 8 boosting demand
The new features offered by Windows Phone 8 are also appearing to be a hit with businesspeople and consumers. The mobile operating system - the second generation Windows OS for smartphones - offers an improved file system, drivers, network stack, security components, media and graphics support. The OS also enables true background multitasking, and offers an improved browsing experience with the addition of Internet Explorer 10.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said recently that the OS has got off to "a great start", with Windows Phone device sales up four times on the equivalent point last year. He noted that after just a few weeks on sale, Windows Phone 8 devices are "getting rave reviews". In some countries, the initial supply has already sold out - suggesting that the smartphones are meeting consumer expectations in terms of functionality, cost and quality of service. Mr Ballmer explained that the Windows Phone Store now offers more than 120,000 apps, including "46 of the top 50 apps that people use".
There is clearly strong demand for Window 8 devices - some 40 million licences for the operating system were sold in the first month following release. Many of these have been for mobile devices - as businesses and professional people look to arm themselves with the tools most capable of supporting them at work.
Facing increased time pressures and ever-greater workloads, they are seeking to make the most of mobile technology, using systems they know and understand. In pursuit of productivity gains on the move, the opportunity to consolidate on a new, multi-functional Windows OS is proving too good to turn down for many.
Posted by Alex Boardman