No one questions that migrating to Windows 8 is a process with thousands of moving parts. What many don't realize is just how many of those parts orbit smartphones.
It's easy (and somewhat natural) to focus on the basic software and process issues that come along with a major migration, but the nature of the Windows 8 migration is somewhat different than most of those that have preceded it. Where the migration from, say, Windows Vista (or Windows XP) to Windows 7 was a software-centric event, Windows 8 is an operating system that doesn't make sense without considering new classes of enterprise client hardware.
In most cases, desktop and laptop hardware brings with it a limited number of accessories. A mouse, a keyboard, and external monitor, perhaps a USB hard drive -- unless you're deep into scientific instrumentation or a POS application, that's about it. It's relatively easy for IT departments to standardize on the accessories and straightforward to account for their use and upkeep. When it comes to tablets and smartphones, though, things are different.
At the recent CES 2013 in Las Vegas, it was clear that both tablets and smartphones are platforms around which entire constellations of accessories will orbit as individuals and enterprises alike use the ultra-portable devices for thousands of separate applications. I saw accessories ranging from external camera lenses and components for professional-level video production, to health monitoring devices and medical instrumentation, to payment acceptance and full POS applications. The spectrum of devices and accessories means that IT departments have a whole new set of things to consider when planning a migration.
There are two separate levels of concern when it comes to all these accessories and systems. The first is that it will add complexity when IT departments must plan purchases for both hardware and software. Expertise that serves a team well when trying to decide on ERP software can be of limited value when picking video production packages. Here, let me take a moment to correct those who think that apps like video and audio are solely the realm of the consumer; modern enterprise communications increasingly rely upon video and audio methods for getting a message across. Expecting those messages to be created only by the marcomm department shows a touching reliance on the strategies of the last century. For the rest of the business world, recognizing that essentially every employee is going to make simple audio and video content is a key part of migrating to a new reality.
That new reality becomes even more complicated when employees bring those accessories into the enterprise as part of a BYOD program. It's one thing to make decisions about which components will be purchased when things can be carefully tested and sandboxed before they're brought into the network. When they just show up because they're not the primary smartphone or tablet -- they're "just" accessories -- the possibility for unfortunate interactions and complications increases dramatically.
Simply banning all accessories isn't a good option for most enterprises. Instead, creating a formal employee review program, in which people who buy accessories work with the IT department to accomplish quality control and compatibility testing, may be the key to successfully migrating to Windows 8 -- and all the hardware that comes along for the ride.