Nottinghamshire County Council has announced plans to roll out Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices to care workers in a bid to make staff more mobile.
The council will deploy 2,000 Windows 8.1 tablets, and replace 1,000 BlackBerry handsets with Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones.
Ivor Nicholson, ICT service director for Nottinghamshire County Council, told V3 that he chose to move away from BlackBerry as it is no longer the most cost-effective secure option.
"We started with BlackBerry a few years ago as at the time it was the only secure mobile device," he said.
"Now we have 1,000 coming to the end of their life and from a cost perspective there are now other devices that meet our requirements.
"Also, from a user perspective because we have Windows services on PC, the feedback [from staff] is they want a common interface between devices. We find Vodafone and Windows Phone 8.1 is the best option for this."
Nicholson explained that the council had initially experimented with a limited iPad deployment, but found the council's reliance on Microsoft services made the Apple tablets unsuitable as mobile office replacements.
"We did deploy iPads even though we'd invested in Microsoft. The issue was that we didn't have Windows 8.1 at the time so we didn't have a good touch-screen interface option for everyone [with Microsoft]," he said.
"So at the time the iPad was a really usable tool for us as it was light, and had good battery life. But a lot of what people use is Lync, SharePoint or Exchange.
"Also, as big users of Office products, a lot of what our people were accessing was Microsoft tools, so when we saw Windows 8.1 devices from an ICT perspective they just made sense."
Nicholson added that the council also found Windows devices easier to manage from a Public Service Network (PSN) compliance perspective.
"We had some PSN compliance issues with the iPad. With Microsoft direct access we can meet [PSN] when we're audited in June 2015 as it can be managed remotely, which we can't do with iPad devices," he explained.
Nicholson said that the test period of the mobility rollout has already seen a 16 percent improvement in social care workers' productivity, and the council is planning to expand the strategy to other departments in the near future.
The news comes just after Microsoft unveiled its latest Windows 10 operating system. Currently a technical preview, Windows 10 is set to be released at an unspecified point in 2015.
The new OS addresses complaints about Windows 8, and reworks the interface to look like the more familiar Windows 7. Nicholson said that Nottinghamshire County Council currently has no plans to upgrade to Windows 10.
"We're not particularly looking at Windows 10. We've got our minds on Windows 8.1. That's where our technical architects have been looking," he said.
"It's complex for us moving to one OS from another, making it fit with legacy systems and our wireless estate, so we're currently focused on Windows 8.1."
Nottinghamshire County Council is one of many UK councils using technology to improve its productivity and efficiency.
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