How IT can prepare for Windows 8-packing millennials

At a recent Intel event held to showcase upcoming Windows 8 hardware, Lauren Berger, blogger and author of "All Work No Play," delivered the opening presentation. Berger's topic was the life of a millennial, a group she considers herself a part of. As I am from a different, older generation, I don't have the same insight into millennials that Berger has. She is far better explaining what this powerful group of buyers is looking for than I would be.

The fact is the millennial generation is very different in what they do, how they view the world, what products attract them and, like it was when we were young, how much the world seems to revolve around them. In short they are just as high energy, just as convinced they are right, and think they are just as different from their parents as we did. So, here we are, with this latest generation about to get a bunch of brand new toys, courtesy of the Windows 8 launch less than a month away, for which they will soon be clamoring to IT about getting them to work.

Let's explore this new "I want everything, I can do it better than you" generation.

They Want Everything NOW!

An aspect of youth is that wants aren't that well defined, they are easily distracted by the latest flashy object and everything they say seems so incredibly deep and important to them and the older generation they are replacing don't get it.

For millennials everything is new and different even though much of it has been recycled from ideas that have been around for generations. And they want it all, they haven't yet defined what "all" is and clearly the vast majority is beyond their grasp. As a result, their expectations can often have little to do with reality.

This means that while it may be relatively easy to get their attention, it is very difficult to hold it. And they probably aren't going to wait for "authority" to get its act together any more than we did when we were their age.

A Day in the Life

Lauren took us through a day of her life, which began at 5:30 a.m. (I immediately disliked her, even though I, too, once used to be an early riser). She starts her day engaging almost immediately on social media. She delays email by an hour because she apparently thinks email is a low latency communications platform. She argued that 5:30 a.m. was simply too early to engage in email even though it's opened on the whim of the recipient and not the sender. This showcases what I think is a consistent significant difference with this generation; they assume everything is instant even when it isn't and, because of that short attention span, doesn't wait long enough to recognize it isn't.

In short they want instant but, as long as they aren't waiting, they will act as if it is even when it isn't. Their assumption appears to be that someone may be getting their email instantly because they see their email as soon as they open up the application. Even though the email they see may have been there for hours, they see it as instant and likely attribute any delay to the other user who they likely think is also multi-tasking.

Throughout the day she stays connected and is active on a variety of communications products (this really drove home to me why we, if we want to drive safely, really need self-driving cars. Communicating while walking, while eating, and even while talking to someone else over some form of electronic media is common, which suggests that for some people doing it while driving is likely common.

The Millennial

This gives us a profile of someone who wants to be connected all of the time. Wants to be able to run everything everywhere and wants consistency in experience, but variety in execution (so they get the best of commonality and individuality). But, like prior generations did, they will likely group around designs (much like they now appear grouped around Apple), but likely won't like designs favored by their parents (showcasing a long-term Apple problem). And, based on Lauren as an example, they have way too much energy.

Intel Windows 8 Showcase

Intel is clearly positioning the Windows 8 offerings against this millennial audience. Products that have substantial breadth in terms of applications compatibility yet still provide very slim designs and long battery life.

Slideshow: In Pictures: The Best of Windows 8 Hardware (So Far)

Acer, Asus and Samsung showcased convertible tablets that are thought to be the keystone product for Windows 8. With attachable keyboards they can convert from laptop to small notebook. In tablet mode they are similar to the iPad in size and performance and with the keyboard they are in line with an ultra-light notebook. This form factor has the broadest utility but also the sharpest screen size limitation in this class. Of the vendors in this group I like Samsung's Windows 8 line best because it spans all product types from phones to PCs and best anticipates the message that Windows 8 will likely drive, of "getter together" and creating a family approach that showcases why this company scares Apple.

HP showcased a high-end version of this concept, more robust, with what appears to be more money spent on both making the product look richer and providing a stronger touchpad. This will likely sell at a premium over Acer and Asus's offerings and closed it looks close to a MacBook. They are clearly targeting the traditional Apple class of buyer seeking products that convey status.

Lenovo and Dell showcased their business-focused tablets. These are sturdier, use a larger screen and tend to being more robust. They trade off price for these features and typically use wireless keyboards like the iPad does for greater functionality. These emphasize security and productivity. While I think that a millennial will initially be drawn to the more attractive first class, the more experienced buyer will likely favor this class because it should provide a substantially better expedience for folks that need to work off these things thanks to its tighter focus on productivity.

The ZTE Wild Card

From China came the ZTE Wild card. Unlike the other presenters, ZTE argued that its leading go-to-market feature wasn't the hardware, which extended down into Intel-powered phones, but was services. Strangely enough I think they actually understood the millennial target audience best because this audience is likely less about the hardware and more about the need to be constantly connected.

So what does this all mean? It means that your young employees will be driving to make sure you are up to your armpits in new tablets and you may want to spend some time providing direction as to which ones you'd prefer they brought into your shop. It might also be wise to start watching Samsung and ZTE; you'll likely be seeing more of them in the coming years.

CIOs, Look Ahead: Millennials, Consumer Tech and the Future

And what else can prepare you for these screaming millennials? Well just think back to what worked when you came in screaming that the MIS department needs to support your new PC. Yep, that's right, not a damned thing...karma.

Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Rob writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.

This story, "How IT can prepare for Windows 8-packing millennials" was originally published by CIO.

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