This story was updated March 6 to reflect additional details about Windows 8 for enterprise organizations.
Chief information officers from government, education and health sectors got the latest look at the converging world of mobile and workplace computing platforms – and the new beta release of Windows 8 –at a public sector CIO summit sponsored by Microsoft Corp. Feb. 29 in Redmond, Wash.
The release of the consumer preview, or beta version, of Windows 8 in Barcelona, Spain earlier in the day provided Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer the perfect prop for describing how the IT marketplace is continuing to evolve and what public sector CIOs can expect from Microsoft.
“Protecting and securing data on a device you don’t control is an opportunity for innovation,” Ballmer said at a kick off presentation that was closed to the press, but was captured on Twitter at #USPSCIO.
Windows 8, which has been available to developers since last September, reflects a dramatically different direction for Microsoft’s approach to operating systems.
Its new Metro style design, featuring interactive tiles that update continuously, evolved from a new operating system Microsoft designed for mobile phones. Microsoft incorporated that design into a new approach for its desktop and tablet operating systems, along with its latest efforts to integrate touch and gestures with the keyboard and the mouse.
“Everything that runs Windows 7 will run Windows 8,” Ballmer said. And because Windows 8 is now designed to work on a variety of devices, it promises to drive down the cost of device support, he said, according to Tweets from his remarks.
The new operating system also presents opportunities for evolving authoring tools in a multi-platform, connected world, he said.
But Ballmer also focused on the concerns of government and other public sector CIOs.
“Getting Microsoft Cloud to meet requirements of the government market is Job 1,” Ballmer said, according to Richard Holgate, CIO of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms.
Indeed, much of the day focused on how agencies, educators and health officials are generating significant savings by using Microsoft’s array of office and enterprise solutions that now operate on cloud computing platforms.
Christopher Smith, CIO for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who took the stage after Balmer, highlighted how USDA consolidated 27 email systems and moved the email accounts of 120,000 employees to the cloud.
The move from legacy systems to a single platform, which was completed last September, and the ability to extend the department’s software licenses to the cloud, is expected to save USDA $6 million annually, Smith told Breaking Gov in an interview following his remarks.
Adam Silverman, Chief Administration Officer of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Inspector General Office, similarly described how his agency developed a new investigative management system, built using Microsoft’s Office 365 platform and hosted on a cloud-based infrastructure hosted by NASA.
Office 365 combines the Microsoft Office Professional Plus client suite with cloud versions of Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online. The Office Professional Plus offering provides the complete Office client suite as a monthly subscription service.
Silverman estimates the new system costs 1/20th of what it would have cost him to build it himself. And it was completed in far less time.
“We architected the infrastructure in two days and completed piloting in three weeks,” Silverman said. “Locally, I have almost nothing” except some printers, he said. “What we don’t have is a massive infrastructure I have to maintain.
In addition to the availability of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft announced the beta opening of the Windows Store, which features a variety of Metro style apps from Microsoft and third-party developers. The featured apps will Windows 8 users to take their apps and settings with them across multiple PCS, and promises to offer a bonanza of opportunities for Microsoft’s network of develops.
Few details about Windows 8 were actually revealed at the CIO summit. However, Kevin Turner, chief operating Officer at Microsoft provided additional detail about Windows 8 and its benefits for enterprise users during a speech March 6. Among the benefits he said enterprise organizations can expect:
- Greater user experience. Windows 8 bridges the gap between a personalized experience for users and the security and management features that IT professionals trust. Features include the new Windows 8 Start screen and fully immersive Metro style apps. People can be more productive with both multitouch and traditional keyboard and mouse interfaces. Critical line-of-business apps also can benefit from an immersive full screen, allowing people to easily interact with the app.
- New possibilities for mobile productivity. For people who are increasingly mobile, Windows 8 helps them stay connected and productive in a more secure way. Windows 8 includes Windows To Go – the ability to provide users with a full corporate copy of Windows 8 (along with users’ business apps, data and settings) on a USB storage device. Windows 8 also includes improvements to DirectAccess and built-in mobile broadband features that natively support 3G and 4G telecommunication. And Windows 8 can stay always connected with Metro-style apps.
- End-to-end security. Features such as Trusted Boot and improved BitLocker drive encryption, AppLocker, and claim-based access control help protect corporate data across the client device, the network and back-end infrastructure.
- Advancements in virtualization. With Windows 8, users can get a virtualized experience with high-definition graphics, support for touch and support for USB devices on a local PC. It will be easier for IT departments to implement virtual desktop infrastructures in a more cost-effective way. In addition, Windows 8 includes Microsoft Hyper-V, a high-performing client virtualization technology that enables enterprise developers to develop, debug and test multiple configurations of apps and operating systems on a single PC instead of each configuration requiring its own PC.