NEWS ANALYSIS: The new preview version of Windows 8.1 appears to be delivering the most enterprise-ready version of Windows yet.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise is focused specifically on the needs of corporate users and brings with it a host of features that target exactly what corporate IT managers have been asking for–not just from Microsoft, but from other OS vendors as well.
This new version
of Microsoft Windows includes security enhancements, management tools and new features aimed at implementing and securing BYOD mobile units. This new version also allows unprecedented configuration for the corporate environment, allowing the IT staff to make Windows 8.1 enterprise look and function exactly as the managers wish.
The enterprise configuration features bring a new level of control to the Windows interface. Managers can adjust the layout of the tiles on the Windows Start screen so that corporate-issued apps show up on the main part of the screen. In addition, the IT department can then prevent users from changing the Start screen layout so that all company-issued computers have the same screen appearance.
The IT department also can configure Windows 8.1 Enterprise so that it boots directly to the desktop, just as you could when Microsoft released the Windows 8.1 Preview.
As is the case with the tiled Start Screen, the IT staff can prevent users from tampering with that setting.
Microsoft highlighted some of the new enterprise-friendly features
when it released Windows 8.1. Now that the Windows 8.1 Enterprise preview is available, Microsoft’s general manager of commercial marketing, Erwin Visser, provided a better look at the preview’s contents in a blog post
. It’s clear that not everything that will eventually appear in the Enterprise version of Windows 8.1 is in the preview, but what’s there is intriguing.
For example, Microsoft is paying a lot of attention to BYOD and remote workers. There’s the Windows To Go Creator that lets the IT staff create a full Windows desktop that can be installed on a flash drive. Then, all a user needs to do is find a Windows 8 computer, plug in the flash drive and suddenly they’ve got their standard company desktop and Start Screen.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise also includes something that Microsoft calls DirectAccess, which does away with the need to launch a separate VPN. Instead DirectAccess provids corporate applications with a secure means of access so that they can reach inside the firewall securely.
DirectAccess also keeps track of security policies and automatically updates users’ remote computers with current security software updates and policy updates. However, Microsoft has also announced that there will be a wider range of VPN clients in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT devices.