So far, Microsoft has only unveiled the consumer features for its update to Windows 8. Now the company is starting to unveil what it will be doing to win back its bread and butter - the enterprise market - with Windows 8.1
In a post on the official Windows blog, Microsoft's Stephen Rose says that Windows 8.1 will be adding a lot of new features for enterprise users. These new additions can be corralled into four categories - BYOD enhancements, mobility enhancements, security enhancements and a modern UI experience.
For BYOD, Microsoft is introducing features like Open MDM, Work Folders, NFC tap-to-pair printing, Wi-Fi Direct Printing and a better mobile device management system. The best new feature in this group, however, is Workplace Join. Here's how Rose describes it:
A Windows 8 PC was either domain joined or not. If it was a member of the domain, the user could access corporate resources (if permissioned) and IT could control the PC through group policy and other mechanisms. This feature allows a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. With Workplace Join, IT administrators now have the ability to offer finer-grained control to corporate resources. If a user registers their device, IT can grant some access while still enforcing some governance parameters on the device to ensure the security of corporate assets.
For mobility, Microsoft is introducing expanded VPN options, better mobile broadband support, broadband tethering and auto-triggered VPN support.
In security, Windows 8.1 is introducing remote business data removal, pervasive device encryption, malware resistance, assigned access to the Windows Store, and an improved Internet Explorer. Alongside all of those, Microsoft will be implementing improved biometric scanning for companies that like to go a little sci-fi with its security:
All SKU’s will include end to end biometric capabilities that enable authenticating with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, UAC, etc.). Windows 8.1 will be optimized for fingerprint based biometrics and will include a common fingerprint enrollment experience that will work with a variety of readers (touch, swipe). Modern readers are capacitive touch based rather than swipe and include liveliness detection that prevents spoofing (e.g.: silicon emulated fingerprints). Access to Windows Store Apps, functions within them, and certificate release can be gated based on verification of a user’s biometric identity.
As for the modern UI experience, Microsoft has finally confirmed that there will be a boot-to-desktop option in WIndows 8.1. That option alone should help increase adoption among enterprise customers. Alongside that, Microsoft is also implementing improved multitasking features, as well as improved support for mouse/keyboard support.
IT professionals and Windows hobbyists will be able to test drive Windows 8.1 on June 26 when a public preview is released. Windows 8.1 will release as a free download to the general public later this year.