Businesses can empower employees, create new business opportunities and boost developer productivity by developing apps for Windows 8. See how leading companies including IHS, British Telecom and John Lewis are taking advantage of the latest Windows technology.

When you’re running dozens of big events in different locations around the world, you need an efficient way to register visitors and analyse attendance. So IHS, a 1.3 billion-dollar-a-year publishing and information company, decided to build a tablet application for its events team.

However, an early version for the Apple iPad couldn’t deliver the necessary functionality – it was difficult to export attendance data to Excel for analysis and it was hard to deploy the application to devices as each system needed individual configuration.

So IHS turned to LAN2LAN to build a system that would run on Microsoft’s Surface Pro Windows 8 tablet. It not only streamlined event registration and lead capture for IHS but also exemplified everything that’s cool and good about Windows 8 app development:

· Putting business data into the hands of people who need it

· Empowering people with elegant easy-to-use apps

· Delivering the best of both worlds: touch-enabled tablets and the manageability and compatibility that comes with Windows 8

· Boosting developer productivity with familiar, powerful tools

· Creating new sales opportunities for existing services via the Windows Store or sideloading directly to devices using existing management tools

Delivering data

Toyota Racing Development built a trackside app to improve the speed and accuracy of communications between the race car driver and the racing team crew chief. Instead of trying to work with a conventional laptop, drivers can use easily use a Windows 8 tablet to compare times and lap performance.

Empowering people

As Toyota has shown, giving the right information to the right people at the right time can give you a powerful competitive edge. What works for car racing can also work for salespeople, service engineers, executives and anyone else who needs information at their fingertips.

Imagine, for example, an app for financial services. Rather than typing into a computer behind a screen, in that intimidating way perfected by airline check-in clerks, an advisor could work together with a client to fill out a mortgage application or an insurance form on a tablet. Or a store manager could have a tablet with apps that show stock levels, staff rosters and other critical information; not in the office but on the shop floor.

Doctors are already using Windows 8 apps to simplify their paperwork, share results with patients and access patient records during their rounds. The Health Choices app is available for free on the Windows Store and gives people in England information about NHS services, medical conditions and access to their own medical records using Microsoft HealthVault.

Delivering the best of both worlds

Many businesses want to embrace new ways of working such as increasing mobility or ‘bring your own device’. Other businesses are looking to refresh their PC fleets and upgrade to the latest devices and operating systems. The challenge in both cases is to reap the benefit of increased productivity while retaining an appropriate level of security and control.

Windows 8 apps can help reconcile these requirements. Companies can deploy apps via the Windows Store or sideload them using Group Policies, like any other Windows application. In addition, IT departments can manage Windows 8 devices using the same tools they use for Windows 7.

British Telecom (BT) used Windows 8 to equip thousands of its field agents with easy-to-use apps to manage their workload. The agents use the apps, which run on Panasonic Toughbooks, to quickly close a job or find out where their next assignment is. This allowed BT to upgrade their operating system to the latest version while retaining compatibility with legacy applications running in Windows.

Boosting developer productivity

As LAN2LAN found, developing apps for Windows 8 is very efficient. They took the proprietary iOS application and rebuilt the functionality using industry standards including HTML5 and frameworks including jQuery Mobile and then wrapped it up in a Windows 8 app, optimising the interface and graphics for Microsoft Surface Pro’s Full HD display.

By offering a choice of development approaches, Microsoft makes it easier for companies to leverage their existing resources, build on the current skills of their development team and tap into open source and industry standard technology. The benefits are faster development, compatibility with other systems, including Windows and Office applications, and access to a larger base of qualified developers without retraining.

Creating new sales opportunities

As well as applications for employees, you can also make Windows 8 apps available to consumers and customers. For example, John Lewis has created a ‘Things we love’ app showcasing a weekly selection of hot products. It looks great and provides a new channel to market based on the company’s existing ecommerce platform.

Apps that build on Windows 8’s modern design look amazing and give customers an elegant and intuitive interface. Because the market is less congested, it’s easier to shine on the Windows Store and Microsoft offers up to 80% revenue sharing (compared with 70% with Apple or Google) for non-free apps.

Next steps

Whether you’re looking to modernise your application portfolio, empower your employees with touch-enabled tablets, upgrade to Windows 8 or supply apps direct to customers via the Windows Store, apps on Windows 8 represent an important opportunity for your business.

More information

· See apps case studies, examples, design tips and more: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/apps

· Download Windows 8 developer information and tools: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/apps/br229516.aspx

· See how the public sector is using Windows 8 in our free ebook: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukgovernment/archive/2013/03/28/public-sector-windows-8-apps-ebook.aspx