Four reasons why Windows 8 tablets could beat the iPad in business

Credit: IDGNS

Apple has sold more than 120 million iPads in less than three years, and it completely dominates among tablets in the enterprise, according to stats from vendors like Good Technology (which provides mobile device management and security software) and Egnyte (which provides online file storage).

Meanwhile, Windows 8 tablets have gotten off to a slow start, and Microsoft itself has sold only about 1.5 million of its Surface tablets, according to Bloomberg.

But at least one analyst thinks the iPad has peaked in the enterprise. Patrick Moorhead, a former AMD executive who now runs Moor Analysis, issued a paper last week predicting that Windows 8 tablets are going to "disrupt iPad dominance in the enterprise," thanks to the touch-ready interface of Windows 8 and the low-powered Intel Atom processor.

[SEE ALSO: Why 200 Million Workers Want Windows Tablets.]

First, he listed several issues that IT departments might have with deploying iPads:

  • They require extra tools to secure and manage. Most companies already have a security and management infrastructure in place for Windows PCs, but they must buy additional tools if they want to ensure the same level of control over iPads.
  • Software must be revamped, or may not be available. Some development work or a desktop virtualization solution is often required to make existing enterprise apps available on the iPad, and some essential apps -- particularly Office -- are not available or lack essential features, like macro support.
  • Existing peripherals might not work. Things like smart card readers and receipt printers are available for the iPad, but if companies have already invested in these peripherals for Windows PCs, they probably aren't transferrable.
  •  Repair. The iPad is not easily serviceable.

Moorhead also listed several Windows tablets that will offer better battery life and greater expandability than the iPad.

The security and management point is probably overstated -- iPads are inherently more locked down than Windows PCs, as they only run signed binaries distributed through the App Store, and data leaks are no more  likely on an iPad than on any other kind of device. (The issue is more about locking down data throughout its lifecycle.)

But his other points are well taken -- enterprises have a traditional way of dealing with PCs, and many would probably prefer to maintain the status quo rather than investing in any new infrastructure to support the iPad.

But that said, Windows 8 isn't like previous versions of Windows. Users will have to be retrained, and software will have to be updated for best results on the touch screen -- you can use Office 2010 on a Windows 8 tablet, but the experience isn't ideal.

Moorhead also ignores the whole consumerization angle. The iPad first snuck into the enterprise through C-level executives and other business leaders who demanded that IT make their new devices work with corporate systems. As long as users keep bringing iPads into the workplace, IT will be forced to support them anyway -- which means that adding them as an official corporate-purchased device add as much time and expense as Moorhead seems to imply.

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