Microsoft Aims Windows 8.1 at Financial Firms
Money talks, and Microsoft is speaking volumes about its flagship operating system's place in today's financial services industry.
Mobility is foremost on Microsoft's agenda. While at the Sibos conference in Dubai, a gathering of financial companies and professionals, the software giant is "discussing how our technology can help financial institutions grow their businesses through mobile innovations for employees and customers," informed Erwin Visser, general manager of Windows Commercial, in a Sept. 16 blog post.
He added that his company is "working with financial institutions to help them embrace mobility to take advantage of the new business opportunities it offers" while hinting that finance and banking concerns don't have to sacrifice IT manageability to pursue those opportunities.
Microsoft's Windows 8 OS straddles the line between tablets and desktop PCs. A tiled interface (formerly Metro) offers users access to touch-optimized apps while the traditional Windows desktop—along with its well-established hooks into corporate IT management systems—allows users to tap into a vast business software library. It's this blend of new mobile-friendly capabilities with an IT-friendly legacy that Microsoft believes will resonate with financial firms.
Visser argued that Windows "is uniquely positioned to help companies utilize mobile technologies, so that they can do business in new ways, while also meeting the stringent IT standards for security, manageability and support that financial institutions require for their sensitive data." Microsoft is doubling down on those requirements with the upcoming Windows 8.1 update, which was designed "with enterprise needs in mind." Windows 8.1 is scheduled for an Oct. 17 release (Oct. 18 at retail).
Windows 8.1 Enterprise, currently in preview, is the latest in the company's efforts to deliver the most enterprise-ready version of Windows yet. With an eye toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and remote workers, Microsoft has baked in features that promote simplified connectivity beyond the corporate firewall. DirectAccess, for example, provides secure access to corporate applications without the need for a virtual private network (VPN).
In some cases, users can even carry their work PC on their key rings. Windows To Go Creator lets administrators "deploy" a full Windows desktop on a USB flash drive. When plugged into a Windows 8 PC, a corporate desktop image, along with the appropriate applications, settings and policies, is presented to the user. Other highlights include OpenMDM support, built-in Windows Defender malware protection and locked-down Start screen layouts.
Windows 8.1 also offers security-conscious financial "biometrics for user authentication, remote business data removal for BYOD devices, and encryption support on all Windows 8.1 devices," stated Visser.
The Windows 8 app business software ecosystem for tablets is also gathering steam. Microsoft offered up new apps that debuted at Sibos, including SunGard's Ambit Concierge, BoardLink from Thomson Reuters and Temenos' prototype Treasury Management Dashboard, as examples of big business apps that can work on Windows 8 slates.