Windows 8 tablets need more apps, but will eventually outpace Android, SAP exec claims

Learning curve is not significant for new platform, adds Nick Brown

Windows 8 might, or might not, prove to be a big hit with enterprise customers. But SAP is betting it will become an important platform in workplaces and figures Windows 8 tablets will outpace Android tablets, an SAP executive said Thursday.

The biggest barrier so far to Windows 8 adoption within businesses is a shortage of Windows Store apps to run on new Windows 8 touchscreen tablets, Nick Brown, senior vice president of mobile strategy at SAP, said in an interview.

With that in mind, the enterprise software vendor this week announced six new workplace productivity apps for Windows 8, along with custom developer tools and management software.

The goal is to offer the same SAP capabilities for Windows 8 as SAP already has for devices running iOS, Android and BlackBerry, Brown said.

SAP makes about 50 apps that can be loaded on those competing platforms, and has consolidated many of those productivity-focused apps into SAP WorkDeck for Windows 8, Brown said. Apps that affect other vertical businesses, such as SAP's Electronic Medical Records app, will eventually become available for Windows 8, too.

During the past year, Brown said hundreds of tests generated a "very, very positive response" to Windows 8 and the SAP apps, including the ability to zoom into key features of an analytics app to see specific data.

"When you look at what Microsoft has done with Windows 8 -- going from PC to tablet to phone and that continuum -- we're excited about their paradigm and the ease of using the [tablet] device," Brown said. "Microsoft may have the formula for success."

The biggest concern of business customers so far, Brown said, is "limited apps.... They [at Microsoft] have got to work on enterprise-class solutions. We think it will happen. We do hear from customers that they like the promise of Windows 8, with more apps and more capabilities on the platform. It seems like momentum is strong."

There have been concerns that traditional Windows users accustomed to a mouse and keyboard might have a difficult time adjusting to Windows 8 tablets with touchscreens. Microsoft could have lessened those concerns, Brown said, by making sure there were plenty of apps specific to Windows 8.

"Not that many new apps affect the Windows 8 platform, and if there were more new ones, you wouldn't go back to the old ways," Brown said. What some users might not recognize is that a Windows 8 tablet is "not a replacement for a PC, but a movement to a new paradigm," he said.

Brown downplayed the adjustment needed to use a touch tablet form factor, though he said Windows PC users "will have habits that are harder to shift.... There are nuances, but they aren't that significant."

Brown said he's found Windows 8 to be "complex in the background. But I was delighted they did keep it fairly simple for users."

Because Microsoft has a tradition of loading up features in its software products, Brown confessed, "that scares me a little" with Windows 8. "I want it to succeed, but there's always too much in a Microsoft product, like Word, which has things I'll never use. With a tablet, I might only want it to do five things."

So far, it appears that Microsoft has "done OK" with the OS, Brown said. "Is it perfect? No. But I'm impressed with its capabilities."

In coming years, Brown predicted Windows 8 tablets will "have good tablet [growth] pickup over Android tablets," though not over the iPad. "You can't ignore Microsoft. They've got a lot invested in Windows 8 and a lot at stake."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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Tags WindowsSAPsoftwareoperating systemsmobile apps

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