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Microsoft Partner Goes All-In on Windows 8

Much of the attention from last week's launch of Windows 8 and hybrid PC devices based on Windows RT -- including the new Surface from Microsoft -- has focused on trying to stop consumers from defecting from Microsoft's OS platform to the rapidly growing iPad and devices based on Google Android.

But just as important to Microsoft, if not more, is keeping business users plugged into Windows. It appears interest among business users in Windows 8/RT is lukewarm right now. At last week's launch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave a brief plug to business users, but that was about it: "Our enterprise customers will love the new Windows," he said.

I spoke to one Microsoft Gold partner last week who said he is seeing interest from enterprise customers in the new OS: En Pointe Technologies, a global integrator focused on enterprise customers based in Los Angeles, with 500 employees nationwide and 1,200 globally.

En Pointe is involved in about 20 proofs-of-concept for enterprise customers. Peter Renner, director of Microsoft professional services at the Los Angeles-based partner, told me most of them are customers that still have Windows XP and face the impending 2014 end-of-life deadline imposed by Microsoft, when the company will no longer support the aging desktop OS. Two are customers that already have Windows 7 but want to be on the so-called cutting edge, Renner explained. For competitive reasons, he declined to identify them -- understandable, since these are all deals still in progress.

While there is little margin in selling Windows or PCs, Renner said a lot of customers that deploy PCs or tablets with Windows 8/RT are looking for professional services in the form of deployment, administration and training.

"Right now, customers have been asking for limited pilots and for application remediation. In other words, Windows XP or Windows 7 applications working in Windows 8 and how the Metro interface will work with their applications like SAP," Renner said. The first users in those organizations are high-level executives, he added.

Besides the new modern touch-oriented interface (which Microsoft called "Metro" prior to the release), there are other reasons enterprises are interested in Windows 8, Renner said. One is improvements to security with features and better support for remote users. One feature that many customers have found appealing, Renner said, is Windows To Go, which lets organizations give users a systems image on a USB stick and run it on any PC without concern that data will leave the flash drive.

"There are a lot of customers looking at how to manage the tele-users," Renner said.

En Pointe has relationships with key PC vendors, including leaders Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, and there are various incentive programs in place. Renner said he is also looking forward to seeing Microsoft's new Surface, also launched last week (see RCP Editor in Chief Scott Bekker's first impressions of the new device). Though it remains to be seen if Microsoft will let En Pointe sell the Surface, Renner is prepared to support the devices regardless of how customers procure them.

All said, Renner has geared up to promote and incentivize enterprise customers to deploy Windows 8/RT-based systems. "We've taken a proactive approach to provide a Windows 8 accelerator program for our customers," he said. "We've provided hardware incentives and professional services, and our resources have been consumed pretty heavily because of that. I am hiring more people that focus on Windows imaging and Systems Center deployment to meet that demand."

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Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on October 29, 2012