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How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 7/25/2013 | 45 comments

Brien Posey
Many Windows 8.1 announcements have focused on changes to the desktop, so it is only natural to wonder how the new release will affect tablet users. Like many things in IT, however, there really isn't a simple answer to the question. Windows 8.1's impact will differ based on tablet model.

Users of X86 and X64 tablets can expect the same experience and feature set they would get from a desktop or laptop running the new OS. For more information on that see my blog post In Windows 8.1, Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Users of Windows RT tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface RT, will receive similar benefits. For example, Surface RT systems will get the new start button and the ability to boot to the desktop. Although Microsoft is not planning to add domain-joining capabilities to Surface RT, it has conceded to customer demands by adding Microsoft Outlook to Surface RT. There is no official word about whether other missing Microsoft Office features (such as macro support) will be added to Surface RT 8.1.

The other big new feature that should prove to be useful to Windows RT users is SkyDrive integration. SkyDrive is soon to be deeply integrated into both Windows 8 and Windows RT, a topic I will cover in a future blog. There are new options to save or synchronize data to SkyDrive. Better yet, it is going to be possible to sync your device settings to SkyDrive so that you can have a consistent experience across your Windows 8 and Windows RT devices. You will be able to synchronize the start screen, app set, etc.

I plan to delve into SkyDrive integration in depth later. Right now, I want to reiterate a point. I mentioned that Windows RT tablets will not support domain joining, even after the Windows 8.1 update. Why is that?

Microsoft isn't offering domain-joining capabilities for RT because of the BYOD trend. Surface has long been considered a consumer device. As such, Microsoft's plan is to treat workplace usage of Surface tablets similarly to that of iPads and other tablets.

Of course, there is no way to domain-join an iPad, which makes management tricky. Microsoft's solution is a new Windows Server 2012 feature called Workplace Joins. Workplaces can be thought of as a next-generation alternative to domains. Users are able to download a special app from the Windows or Apple Store and use that app to join the device to the corporate network. An authentication mechanism keeps unauthorized users from performing Workplace Joins.

Once a tablet has been joined to the workplace, it is provisioned with any apps, digital certificates, or other items that corporate IT makes available to BYOD users. The cool thing about Workplace Joins is that users can deprovision their devices at any time. Upon doing so, anything installed by corporate IT will be removed from the device, but the user's personal items will remain in place. This is far different from the full device-wipe approach that is so often used today.

Ultimately, I expect Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 will be transformational for tablet users. The update will make Windows more of a "cloud-ready OS" through its SkyDrive integration. However, I think that the most profound effects will be felt through Windows Workplaces and BYOD.

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SaneIT   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   9/3/2013 7:17:42 AM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
The people that I know who are using them are corporate users who have them because the company negotiated lower rates and better pricing if they took the Windows phones.   It's not a horrible OS choice and I do think that as the platforms merge it will be even better but Microsoft is still playing catch up here.
RPatrick   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/31/2013 9:05:15 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
"It makes you wonder, who really are using Windows phones????"


Not at the moment, but I actually like Windows Phones. And that Nokia cameraphones looks amazing.
StaceyE   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/30/2013 9:44:11 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
@ SaneIT

It makes you wonder, who really are using Windows phones????
StaceyE   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/30/2013 9:42:43 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
@ Tuscany

I imagine you are right, a relatively new machine and all of your devices would have to be the latest Windows compatible device to take full advantage of Windows-TO-GO.
Marif   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/12/2013 3:50:28 AM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
@randomus: on of the reasons MS products are identified by so many problems is because they are used by masses. Probability of facing issues in a software used by a few millions will be much less than those software which are used by hundreds of million. It increases the number of scenarios executed on a piece of code and hence increase the chances of identifying a bug. As there are so many competitors of MS products, they are ready to exploit any such news any way they can.
Randomus   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/6/2013 4:01:26 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
Marif: No doubt about it. Microsoft is criticized for a lot of things, but if something needs to be fixed, I believe they will iron out all issues. Microsoft has such a wide variety of products and markets being targeted, which is where I think they've run into problems in the past few years.  Microsoft Office and Outlook, however, will remain the most used enterprise solutions, along with Windows – let's face it, there are no actual real world alternatives that provide the same offerings and won't require a drastic learning curve.
Marif   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/6/2013 1:14:25 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
@randomus: you are right MS is not enjoying its monopoly as it was few years back. But still it has some very strong products in the market that will take some time to be beaten by the competitor. Google launched its replica for the office product which was the closest competition for MS Office but don't think it has hurt MS in any way as yet. So in the next 5-10 years, MS will certainly improve its flopped products as well.
TJGUK   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/5/2013 3:27:17 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
Sort of reminds me of when they rolled out "Windows for Workgroups"!
Randomus   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/4/2013 4:39:37 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
Marif: It's a hard time for Microsoft and traditional technology companies that have to deal with stiff competition in today's market that they didn't need to worry about 5-10 years ago. I think Windows RT won't be a success without a major overhaul, but feel Windows 8.1 on touch devices could prove to work out for Microsoft. 
Randomus   How Will Windows 8.1 Affect Tablet Users?   8/4/2013 4:27:56 PM
Re: Advancing BYOD and tablets
PCR: Well, the analyst groups certainly are publishing trends that the market is going mobile – and it's somewhere Microsoft has clearly struggled, whether with smartphones or tablets. I think it's a noble effort that Microsoft brass won't quit in just yet, so I look forward to seeing what they do later down the road.
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