Microsoft Goes Deep on Windows 8 Enterprise

Microsoft shed more light on Windows 8 Enterprise, the version of the upcoming operating system that is aimed at large corporate environments and business users.

After treating it as a footnote in a post on the upcoming Windows 8 editions earlier this week, Microsoft has shed more light on Windows 8 Enterprise.

In an April 18 blog post, Erwin Visser, senior director of Windows at Microsoft, said Windows 8 Enterprise features include all the capabilities that customers get with Windows 8 Pro plus premium features designed to provide the mobile productivity, security, manageability and virtualization needs of today's businesses.

Some of the features that will be available exclusively to Windows 8 Enterprise customers include Windows To Go, DirectAccess and BranchCache. Windows To Go is a corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick. This will allow IT organizations to support the "Bring Your Own PC" trend, and businesses can give contingent staff access to the corporate environment without compromising security, Visser said.

DirectAccess enables remote users to access resources inside a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN and helps IT administrators keep remote users' PCs in compliance by applying the latest policies and software updates.

BranchCache enables users' PCs to cache files, Websites and other content from central servers, so content is not repeatedly downloaded across the wide area network (WAN). When used with Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 brings several improvements to BranchCache to streamline the deployment process, optimize bandwidth over WAN connections, and ensure better security and scalability.

Other Windows 8 Enterprise features include AppLocker, which can help mitigate issues by restricting the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run. Microsoft also added enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 that provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios. And new Windows 8 app deployment scenarios allow domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise to automatically be enabled to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro-style apps.

"In addition to these features, customers will get improvements to the fundamentals, including end-to-end security and better manageability," Visser said. "Businesses will also benefit from the immersive, personalized experience Windows 8 has to offer and the no-compromise business tablet that will mean businesses no longer have to choose between the functionality of a tablet or the productivity of a PC. There's a good summary of these features in a press release we issued last month."

In addition, with Windows 8, Microsoft also is enhancing its Software Assurance (SA) benefits to meet the needs of today's workforce. "We will be making improvements to Windows Software Assurance that provides business customers with better ways to enable these flexible work styles," Visser said.

Visser added that after Windows 8 Enterprise becomes available, Software Assurance customers will have the following new use rights:

  • Windows To Go Use Rights: Windows To Go will allow companies to support Bring Your Own PC scenarios and will give employees who need to work from home more secure access to their full corporate environment. With Windows To Go use rights under Software Assurance, an employee will be able to use Windows To Go on any company PC licensed with Windows SA as well as from their home PC. Additionally, through a new companion device license for SA, employees will be able to use WTG on their personal devices at work.
  • Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights: When used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance licensed PC, Windows RT will automatically receive extended VDA rights. These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the data center, which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers.
  • Companion Device License: For customers who want to provide full flexibility for how employees access their corporate desktop across devices, there is a new Companion Device License for Windows SA customers. For users of Windows Software Assurance licensed PCs, this optional add-on will provide rights to access a corporate desktop either through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices.

In addition to Windows 8 Enterprise, Software Assurance customers have the ability to subscribe to Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). MDOP helps enterprise customers take advantage of desktop virtualization, manage Windows features and restore user productivity after a system issue. Microsoft also added User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), which allows individuals to change their device without reconfiguring applications or settings in Windows 7 or Windows 8.