Much has been written about Windows 8 and the obstacles it presents to enterprise adoption and application deployment. While these points are quite important to consider, I’d like to discuss what I think are some great opportunities for developing tablet applications that are unique to Windows 8, and why those might be especially valuable to enterprises considering adopting Windows 8.
I think the Windows 8 is a fine tablet operating system, and I think that WinRT is a fine tablet application framework. I’ve been writing tablet apps for quite some time, and have built for Windows, iOS, Android, and the Mobile Web. Working in XAML/C#, WinRT provided everything I expected and enabled me to add touch gesture, camera, and GPS support to apps without much trouble at all. These features are essential in many mobile scenarios, and their presence distinguishes mobile apps from apps that are merely accessible while mobile. WinRT isn’t the only framework that provides them (iOS and Android also do a fine job), but WinRT does this and does it well.
If you write a WinRT app, you can run on both Windows RT and Windows 8. While we’re waiting for super power-efficient Windows 8 devices to appear, Windows RT is a good choice for apps that need long battery life. Writing to the WinRT runtime abstracts the underlying platform, enabling apps to run in either place (largely) without modification making all those sandbox restrictions just a little bit more reasonable. While WinRT’s sandbox restrictions might seem arbitrary or unnecessary to enterprise developers, they aren’t much different than those imposed on iOS or Android developers. Indeed, when running on Windows RT, the whole experience is quite similar to that provided on iOS and Android tablets.
However, when running on Windows 8, solutions that aren’t possible on other tablet operating systems are available, and that’s what I think makes Windows 8 special. To my knowledge, Windows 8 is the only tablet OS that can run classic Windows apps alongside WinRT applications. This enables enterprises with significant Microsoft infrastructure investments to build solutions which blend internal apps and 3rd party apps (like Microsoft Office), and that can enable mobile workers to be significantly more productive and manageable on a Windows 8 device.
Of course, all this presumes that you have a strong use case for building a mobile app. If you’re trying to enable your sales team to capture handwritten notes as they review CRM data while visiting clients and customers, or enable your clinicians to capture voice annotations for later transcription while reviewing patient history, or enable civil engineers to check 100 and 500 year flood hazards while surveying construction sites (or any of a myriad other scenarios), you should consider writing a WinRT app for the reasons listed above. If you’re just trying to make some documents available offline on a Windows laptop, or run an enterprise app over a local database server, you should consider using a desktop framework like WPF or Winforms.
Navigating the world of mobility isn’t simple, and the introduction of Windows 8 makes navigating this world even more complicated. There are some real opportunities for those who manage this successfully, and we’d love to discuss those with you – hopefully this posting illuminates some of those opportunities for your consideration. For some slides that digest these points, please see http://www.slideshare.net/BlueMetalInc/20130312-windows-8-in-th.