Written by Eric Akasa
Microsoft has launched the latest version of its operating system – Windows 8 – into the Kenyan market – East Africa’s largest economy. The latest product offers more than an upgrade on the speed and efficiency of Windows 7 – to give consumers and businesses – a new and amazing user experience. The new operating system will help local app developers commercialize their products using the Windows Store; available on more than 1000 Windows 8 certified PCs and tablets.
“With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is unveiling a reimagined Windows to the world,” says Kevin Connolly, Windows Business Group Manager at Microsoft in West, East and Central Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. Windows 8, Connolly added, allows the consumer to create, work or play with a personalized experience that fits their unique style and needs. A number of local innovators have already adopted the new operating system and have started creating apps for this platform.
Speaking during the launch of Windows 8, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Dr. Bitange Ndemo, reiterated the government’s commitment to providing a necessary framework to local innovators to produce content relevant to the local market as well as to build applications that will position Kenya as Africa’s Silicon Valley.
“The Kenyan Government continues to make big investments such as the undersea fiber cable that enabled unlimited access and connectivity to the world that saw Kenyans’ ability to download Windows 8 straight immediately it was released to the public from a website instead of having to receive mailed physical discs,” remarks Dr. Ndemo. The government has also been able to effect the zero-rating of imported software to spur innovation and growth in the country.” He adds.
The Kenyan software economy has been losing revenue due to piracy and distribution of counterfeit software.
“We are also at the forefront of Anti-Piracy and ending sale of counterfeit products. Piracy has long been a thorn in the flesh of Kenya’s economy and I applaud international companies like Microsoft who have continued to encourage genuine products for growth and subsidized pricing of their produce in markets in Africa.” Dr Ndemo says.
Windows 8 is poised for good uptake locally with several local institutions already building apps to support their customers using Windows 8 devices.
One such institution is the Co-operative Bank. “We are excited that Co-operative Bank is the first bank in Kenya to launch a banking application on Windows 8. Our application, allows customers to access their account from anywhere in the world via the internet, direct transfer from a Co-operative Bank account to either M-pesa and Airtel Money, purchase airtime, direct airtime top-up from Co-operative Bank account to any mobile phone on all the networks, enquire credit card balances, check on loan repayment facility, transfer funds to any bank account as well as an option to invite a friend to try the app for themselves. This is an app designed to meet the banking needs of any Co-operative bank customer anywhere, anytime.” said Dan Mugo, Managing Director of Software Universe, a local company mandated to develop Co-operative bank’s mobile banking platform.
“Windows 8 is exciting for developers because it offers a friendly environment to develop applications as well as upload and distribute them for downloading from the Windows Store anywhere in the World. Virtual City already has a set of working Windows 8 app namely Distributr™.
According to Thuo, Distributr™ is geared towards harmonizing distribution chain along the supply chain, by seamlessly providing an integrated software solution on a reliable communication platform that will provide a consolidated overview of the transactions undertaken as a whole by fast moving consumer’s goods companies across Africa.
With Distributr™, sales agents are provided with a hand-held mobile device already installed with the Distributr software. The agent is able to transact and issue receipts in the field and transactions are updated to the distributor system in the office HQ through synchronization.
At the office level, they are using a web based app running on windows 8 where the system enables the company to issue stock to sales agents, manage inventory and issue orders to the headquarters. The solution is running entirely on the cloud.
Distributr™ has been in the market for a number of years and is running the supply chains of several of Kenya’s blue chips.
Another brilliant Windows 8 app is Executive Insight, whichis a dashboard that allows a business owner, such as an SME in the distributorship business, to collect and transmit data using mobile devices. The data is stored in a centrally located database and the Windows 8 app interprets the information into business intelligence data at the click of a button.
“Our goal was to revolutionize sales force automation and business intelligence by allowing seamless collection and reporting of data for better decision making in an organization. Our system uses the Automated Sales Inventory Management (ASIM) system to achieve this.” commented Joseph Karanja from Olivine Technology. ” commented Joseph Karanja from Olivine Technology.
Two Windows 8 apps are using Open Data and Crowd sourcing platforms to tell their stories. The Kenya County Score Card is an app that provides Kenya-centric data to tell stories in a new way. It uses data from the Kenya Open Data Initiative and then displays easily interpretable data visualization tools. The Ushahidi app on the other hand, uses the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform to gather information from populations in different locations for crisis mapping.
Windows 8 is currently available in three versions; Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise which offers business customers new possibilities in mobile productivity with features like ‘Windows To Go’, DirectAccess, and BranchCache, as well as enhanced end-to-end security with features including BitLocker and AppLocker.
Windows 8 features the new fast and fluid Start screen that gives people one-click access to the apps and content they care most about, the entirely new Internet Explorer 10 that is perfect for touch, and built-in cloud capabilities with SkyDrive to ensure documents on your Windows 8 device are always backed up safely in the Cloud.
In addition to the range of new devices available, consumers can also upgrade their existing PCs. Through the end of January, consumers currently running PCs with genuine Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, are qualified to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of 39.99 US Dollars.
In the same light, eligible Windows 7 PCs purchased between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013 in more than 140 countries including Kenya can download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of 14.99 US Dollars with the Windows Upgrade Offer, available at www.windowsupgradeoffer.com .
Windows 8 is currently available for download to upgrade existing PCs in over 140 markets and 37 languages at http://www.windowsupgradeoffer.com, and at retail locations around the world including various computer stores around Nairobi and other major towns like Mombasa and Kisumu.