At Mobile World Congress on Monday, Microsoft's key hardware partners announced several new Windows 10 devices, including laptops, tablets, and 2-in-1s. While there were no official Windows 10 on ARM announcements at the event, Qualcomm did talk about "cellular PCs" based on the Snapdragon 835 chipset, and hinted that this technology could also support Microsoft's VR platform.
Expect to see a different kind of Windows PC at Mobile World Congress 2018
The enterprise laptop market is very different to that of the consumer world. Built to last and with additional security and serviceability features, models designed for the workplace have tended to be somewhat utilitarian in design. But this is starting to change, with Windows laptops, tablets, and 2-in-1s becoming "objects of desire."
HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, Alcatel, Porsche, and Samsung announced new Windows 10 devices at this year's Mobile World Congress, and Microsoft itself is thought to be readying the Surface Pro 5. But there are a couple of problems for any enterprise employee coveting these devices, the first one being that modern enterprise laptops seem to keep going forever. To illustrate the point, this article is being written on a robust Dell Latitude E6230, "born" November 20, 2012. The Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB RAM are more than adequate for 64-bit Windows 10 Pro, and the Intel HD Graphics 4000 adapter has no problem powering the attached 34-inch curved ultra-wide (3440 x 1440) IPS display.
The second problem is that all the devices listed above come preloaded with Windows 10 – an operating system that is not yet widely deployed within the enterprise. Downgrading to Windows 7 is an option for some of these devices, but the result is likely to wipe the sheen from the end-user experience. Organizations operating "choose your own device" programs tend to be somewhat conservative when it comes to the choice of Windows laptop (even when they offer the latest Mac and iPhone to qualifying employees), so demand for these new models is unlikely to reignite the market.
The Microsoft Windows ecosystem continues to champion choice, variety, and versatility, but these virtues are of little interest to enterprise IT departments where the focus is still on cost reduction and simplification. Perhaps we'll see a different kind of Windows PC at Mobile World Congress 2018, a device that is more like, than unlike, one of today's top-of-the-range flagship smartphones. An ARM-powered device, provisioned and controlled using enterprise mobility management software, and running a less complex, less brittle version of the Windows operation system (Windows Cloud edition, perhaps?) might be an appealing upgrade route as Windows 7 approaches end of life (January 2020).
2017 ICT Enterprise Insights in Enterprise Productivity and Collaboration, IT0021-000225 (January 2017)
"Laptop and desktop computers still feature prominently in the post-PC world," IT0021-000229 (January 2017)
"Microsoft teams up with Qualcomm and cellular carriers to attract the next generation of Windows users," IT0021-000227 (December 2016)
Software Market Forecasts: Enterprise Mobility Management, 2015–20, PT0075-000001 (August 2016)
How-To Guide: Ensuring a Successful Enterprise Mobility Management Implementation, IT0021-000188 (August 2016)
Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility