First in a series
Financial institutions are readying apps for Microsoft's new, radically different Windows 8 operating system for desktop, laptop and tablet devices, which officially launches today.
Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, is one. "We're developing an app for Windows 8 that will provide another convenient way for our customers to interact with Bank of America," said a BofA spokesperson in a statement emailed to BTN. BofA's app is for PCs and tablets.
USAA is also working on adjusting its digital banking applications to run on Windows 8.
"USAA is committed to being there for our members in the channel and platform they choose," wrote USAA in a statement to BTN. "We are working to adapt the affected functions for compatibility with Windows 8 and IE 10 [Internet Explorer 10] and will continue to make adjustments as needed."
ING Direct in Canada, meanwhile, had an app ready for customers to download in the Windows Store on Windows 8 launch day. The Windows Store is Microsoft's download center for Windows 8 apps.
Other banks are taking their time. "In the short term, I see a lot of testing going on and making sure that the user interface will behave correctly so users can perform banking functions," says David Albertazzi, senior analyst with Aite Group LLC.
Windows 8 is a touch-enabled, "reimagined" version of Microsoft's old PC operating system. Watch a demo of the technology here.
Along with Windows 8, Microsoft also launched the "lite" version of its new operating system, called Windows RT, on Friday. Only new, Windows 8 apps will run on RT, not older Windows applications. (Windows 8 runs legacy Windows apps.)
Microsoft also made the RT version of its new tablet, Surface, widely available Friday. This series of mobile devices are powered by ARM-based chips and again, don't support older versions of Microsoft. Surface tablets that will run Windows 8 Pro are expected to arrive in January.
Windows Phone 8, the version of Windows 8 created for Windows smartphones, is expected to hit the market Monday.
ING Direct's new app for the RT tablet and Windows 8 for PCs lets bank customers check their account transactions and find ATMs, among other actions. The bank will also have an app ready for mobile on Monday, when Microsoft releases Windows Phone 8.
"It comes down to a fairly nontechnical point: It's all about giving our customers choice," says Charaka Kithulegoda, chief information officer. Customers "use a multitude of different devices. … From a bank standpoint, we want to give users a compelling native experience on whatever platform they are."
The journey to developing the app was relatively smooth, he says.
The user interface was an "interesting" design to get used to, he says. "It's a different paradigm to some of the other touch-based UIs that we are used to, like iOS and Android."
Part of the new look is Windows 8's start screen, which displays a mosaic of icons. The live tiles, as they are called, stream content from third parties to widgets on the home screen.
Though Kithulegoda says he couldn't point to how many current customers use Windows, he says the number of Web users remains steady. Translation: Under the assumption that a large percentage of those Web users are operating from a Windows-based platform and they upgrade to Windows 8, that's not a small amount.
"A lot of people use Windows as their operating system," Kithulegoda says. "If I just said: 'Consumers, use our website on your tablet device,' it may work in the short term but not the longer term." Why? Consumers are demanding a compelling experience from whatever device they wish to use to do their banking. Plus, consumers want to do their banking quick, without too many clicks required, and securely, which is what the bank keeps in mind when designing for mobile or tablet.
"We look at these things in a pragmatic way to see where we can add value to consumers," Kithulegoda says. "A big step in saving money is about saving people time."
Meanwhile, Kony Solutions, a mobile and multichannel application development provider, announced Thursday it supports Windows 8 operating system.
"With user adoption of mobile devices exploding, it is more important than ever for organizations to deliver an optimized user experience to their mobile users, with applications that run flawlessly on any device," said Sri Ramanathan, Kony's CTO, in a statement. "The KonyOne Platform, used by some of the world's largest enterprises, enables these companies to now target Windows 8 as a platform for new apps, to easily port existing apps to Windows 8, and to continue delivering apps that are fully optimized for each device and each user requirement." Huntington National Bank is one of Kony's customers.
Though Microsoft owns the PC market, it's a latecomer to the tablet and smartphone party. Experts offer mixed reviews of Microsoft's new slew of offerings. In a blog post published Monday, Forrester analyst Frank Gillett gave the firm's forecast of Microsoft's market share:
"Windows 8 will simply stop the shrinking, maintaining Microsoft's share at about 30% through 2016. By 2016, we believe that Microsoft will have about 27% of tablet unit sales, but only about 14% of smartphone sales (and some of us are very skeptical they'll even get to 14%)," Gillett wrote. "The result is the CIOs and individuals face a market over the next five years where Microsoft still dominates PCs, Apple's iPad lead the tablet category, and Google's Android leads in smartphone sales."
This is the first in a series of article by Mary Wisniewski that will explore how banks are adopting Windows 8 throughout their businesses. Future articles will examine use of Windows 8 for internet, employee-facing apps.