news Microsoft and Parramatta City Council today announced that the council would be the formally first in Australia to deploy the latest Windows 8.1 version of its flagship desktop and tablet operating system that Redmond is releasing this Friday.
In a statement published by the two organisations associated with a visit to the council today by Microsoft Australia country manager Pip Marlow, the pair said the move formed part of Parramatta City Council’s adoption of a range of “innovative new technologies”, and commitment to a wider technology transformation to ensure Parramatta is “a leading economic region, a centre of excellence in research, education and enterprise, and a vibrant home for diverse communities”.
Lord Mayor, Councillor John Chedid said: “People are at the heart of what we do at Parramatta City Council and we’re focused on being innovative, and on providing the tools and services those living and working in our City need to succeed. By 2038 we want Parramatta to be one of Australia’s most important business districts, leading on innovation and encouraging collaboration to constantly drive business improvement. This announcement today signals the start of what we hope is an ongoing, long-term partnership with Microsoft that will not only improve our own internal efficiencies but also lead to more positive community outcomes.”
“Technology will be a key enabler in turning this vision into reality, and our move to Windows 8.1 reflects our commitment. Once implemented, the software will help transform Council’s 750 employees into a truly mobile workforce with anywhere, anytime access, with significant flow-on benefits to the local community.”
Windows 8.1 will initially be installed upon the council’s fleet of tablets, smartphones and laptops, according to the pair, before being rolled out to its desktop PCs, with a Windows application in development for employees that will deliver remote 24/7 access to its tools and services. The council is also committed to introducing a range of new smart devices and programs, including 3D printers, video conferencing tools, and mobile computing.
Microsoft Australia Public Sector Director Michael Gration said: “Technology has transformed the services local councils have been able to offer in recent years, and it is of course a critical step in continuing to improve the level of service for citizens. Deploying Windows 8.1 will also help to speed up and streamline administrative work while maximising the time spent doing practical good as part of their job.”
The new software features a modern user interface, according to Microsoft which “seamlessly integrates” across its technology portfolio – including smartphones (Windows Phone 8), tablets, laptops and PCs (Windows 8.1). These features will better equip Council employees to deliver on their objectives, the two organisations said.
With employees often working outside of the traditional office environment, council workers will have a consistent user experience regardless of their location and the Windows device used, allowing field workers to collect, process and distribute information quickly. From property inspections, to booking appointments and community events, those in the Council area will benefit from faster response times and better outcomes.
“The consistent experience delivered by Windows 8.1 across a range of devices was a key element in our decision to upgrade and provide employees with the tools they need to work effectively whether they’re off-site or in the office,” Cr Chedid said.
While it’s nice that Parramatta City Council is being formally annointed as the first organisation in Australia to deploy Windows 8.1, let’s get a little bit real about this. Given that the Enterprise Release to Manufacturing version of Windows 8.1 has been available to customers for a month now, and given that Windows 8.1 is, after all, essentially the modern version of a service pack, isn’t this announcement by Microsoft and the council a little bit of a stretch? It’s likely that there are already many organisations and individuals across Australia already using Windows 8.1 RTM in production.
In addition, I would have to question some of the other statements in the statement. For starters, Windows 8.1 really isn’t been deployed to the council’s “smartphones”, as claimed. That would be Windows Phone 8, which is a completely different operating system to Windows 8.1. And although they do have many user interface elements in common, the user interfaces are actually not that similar. I’ve found using Windows 8 quite a different experience to using Windows Phone 8.
Of course, I am nitpicking here. The bigger trend, as Microsoft would be quick to point out, is that Redmond’s strategy of deploying Windows Phone 8 through mostly Nokia-based smartphones in corporations, in tandem with Windows 8 to desktops and tablets, really is working. This deployment in Parramatta City Council is just the latest we’ve seen in Australia recently where we’ve seen both of these elements working in tandem (and of course, there will be background supporting infrastructure — Windows Server, SQL Server, Active Directory, Exchange, Office 365, Hyper-V and so on).
You might laugh, but this deployment at Parramatta City Council is yet another indication of where Microsoft’s strengths are: Not with the consumer, but in the enterprise, where it still dominates. I’m sure Apple would have loved the council to have deployed iPhones instead. But the total Microsoft environment story is amazingly strong at this point.
Image credit: Microsoft