Microsoft's upgrade avalanche a challenge for IT pros

Corporate technology managers must take time when deciding on Windows, Office upgrade path

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Instead, Office 365 has multiple versions at different prices with different mixes of components, and as Hyatt looks ahead at transferring to it from BPOS, Blake finds the licensing scenario annoyingly complex, calling the many versions of Office 365 "crazy" and "foolish."

"With Google Apps, it doesn't matter how many trips to the buffet you make, you're good to go. Microsoft on the other hand segments the salad bar, the starches, the meat, and you have to say, 'did I remember the meat? The starch?' And if you forgot the salad, then you need to pay another license fee for that," Blake said.

Explorer and Windows Phone

In development along with Windows 8 is the next version of the browser, IE 10, which, according to Microsoft, is designed to be "edge-to-edge fast" with "less browser and more Web." It will offer two different interface experiences -- Metro-style and traditional Windows desktop. IE10 is being designed to take advantage of hardware acceleration features; supports HTML5, CSS3 and other Web standards broadly; and will be more secure than its predecessors, Microsoft has said.

Also relevant for enterprise IT executives is the next major version of the Windows Phone OS, which hasn't been officially announced but is said to be code-named Apollo. Some speculate it will be called Windows Phone 8 and that it will provide more code and application consistency with the desktop and server OSes than has existed up to now.

Whatever enhancements are present in Windows Phone 8, Microsoft finds itself -- much as in the tablet market -- as an underdog in the phone arena. At the end of last year's third quarter, Android held 52.5 percent of the worldwide mobile operating system market, while Microsoft ended in sixth place with 1.5 percent, according to Gartner. In the U.S., as of the end of February of this year, Android had 50.1 percent of the smartphone OS market, while Microsoft had almost 4 percent, according to comScore.

When Microsoft does talk in detail about the next major version of Windows Phone, there are two major areas CIOs should focus on, according to Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis.

The first area is the phone IT security and management controls that will be available to IT departments via Windows server products.

While Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 are in general more advanced than their predecessor, Windows Mobile 6.5, the latter gave IT staffers more administration controls over phones, Greengart said.

"If I was a CIO, I'd be asking for a more detailed road map on what is and isn't supported before I'd commit to deploy Windows Phone," Greengart said.

The other major issue is the level of application compatibility. "There will be some compatibility. The question is how much," Greengart said.

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