The Enterprise Preview version of Windows 8.1 is now out. It builds on business-friendly features shown last month in the preview of standard 8.1, plus adds a variety of premium features designed to make IT departments happy.
For example, there is now is the ability to create a fully manageable corporate Windows 8.1 desktop that can be booted from an external USB drive so that workers bringing their own devices can have access to the operating system without risking a security breach. Start screens can be customized for devices provided by a company, allowing frequently used applications to be immediately available and avoiding the need for users to customize their own Start screen.
With Direct Access, users can remotely access resources from a corporate network without employing a virtual private network, and remote users' PCs can be kept current with the latest software or policies.
BranchCache allows for content from central servers to be cached locally on hosted cache servers or PCs, making access to that content easier for employees in branch offices. Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 provide for a rich media experience in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure across a LAN or WAN network.
The AppLocker feature means that IT departments can readily restrict files and apps that users or groups of users can run, and Enterprise Side-Loading allows Windows apps to be side-loaded on PCs and tablets that are domain-joined.
Microsoft pointed out that these enterprise features are additional to the business functions that were already previewed in Windows 8.1 last month.
Those features included the ability to limit users to a single application in Windows Store without accessing other system files or applications, the ability for third-party VPN providers to include versions of their VPN clients' inbox, and new Open Mobile Alliance Device Management capabilities for using third-party Mobile Device Management solutions, such as MobileIron, without an additional agent. Other functionalities already in version 8.1 include the ability to remove company content from a device without touching personal data.
Will 8.1 Sell Computers?
Microsoft has noted that "nearly all" computers that can run Windows 7 or Windows 8 will be able to run Windows 8.1, as memory, processors, and disk space requirements are the same.
A key question is whether version 8.1, in its standard or Enterprise form, will help move more Windows devices off shelves or virtual shelves. The update's release will be joined with many more hardware options than existed when Windows 8 was originally released, including less-expensive ones, and the Windows 8-specific applications will be greater in number.
Additionally, businesses that are less than enthusiastic about the tile-based interface that is optimized for touchscreens will have more options in 8.1 to rely solely on the desktop interface.
But there are still many businesses using Windows 7 and even the venerable windows XP. The question for those businesses is whether there are enough reasons to upgrade, even if touch-optimization is not one of them.
Posted: 2013-07-31 @ 4:47pm PT
As long as Metro UI can't be permanently and forever bypassed with a single setting and the Start Menu restored, Windows 8.xxxx is dead as a Dodo bird in the enterprise and SMB.