Army computer users

Windows 8 gains a foothold in government with DOD deal

Windows 8 will get its first large-scale test in the public sector in the Defense Department, which has awarded a $617 million contract to Insight Enterprises that will make Microsoft’s new operating system available to the Army, Air Force and the Defense Information Systems Agency, Microsoft said in an announcement. Along with the new OS, all three organizations also can begin using Microsoft Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 Enterprise.

The Navy and Marine Corps had previously inked a $700 million deal in July with Microsoft to provide Windows 7 to desktops, which Microsoft said would lay the foundation for an eventual move to the Windows 8 OS.
 
“Microsoft has longstanding relationships with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force and DISA, and we are honored to expand our support of ongoing technology modernization efforts across all three organizations,” said Tim Solms, general manager, Microsoft Department of Defense Business.

The move towards a Windows-only environment isn’t too surprising. The Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command and the Air Force Program Executive Office for Business and Enterprise Systems have been working closely with Microsoft on achieving Army Golden Master and Air Force Standard Desktop Configuration compliance for Windows 8.

And as GCN reported last October, many of Windows 8’s features seemed tailor-made for government or other private-sector work.  The OS has boot-level security, identical mobile and desktop interfaces, support for whole-disk encryption that doesn’t interfere with centrally controlled update procedures and Windows To Go, which has the ability to put the entire operating system, including the desktop environment, on a secure key drive.

When Windows 8 was rolled out in the fall, it got the attention of government officials because of those features, but agenciesweren’t expected to make a transition soon. Many agencies are still running XP, for which Microsoft support runs out in April 2014, and were planning a shift to Windows 7 next. Other agencies recently moved to Windows 7 and weren’t looking for another upgrade.

DOD’s contract could kick-start the move to the OS, with its tablet-like touch-screen interface.

Although there are many compelling reasons why agencies might want to embrace Windows 8, a likely selling point for DOD — which has been emphasizing mobile capabilities — is the fact that the mobile OS that runs on tablets and notebooks is identical to the desktop version. Personnel only have to learn how to use the OS once, and then can make use of it on any device. And all new devices and PCs can take advantage of the enhanced security the OS offers.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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