Windows 8.1 for the Enterprise


There have been a number of announcements about the upcoming Windows 8.1 and now we have more information around how the latest Windows OS update will help enterprises.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

This is a huge area of interest for a huge number of people and organizations right now. Even if they’re just at the research stage, well over 60% of the people that I speak to are looking at how BYOD may/will impact their business…whether they want it to or not. Microsoft have announced a number of key additions in this area:

  • Workplace Join – 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.
  • Work Folders – Work Folders allows a user to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation’s data center. Files created locally will sync back to the file server in the corporate environment. This syncing is natively integrated into the file system.  IT can enforce Dynamic Access Control policies on the Work Folder Sync Share (including automated Rights Management) and require Workplace Join to be in place.
  • NFC tap-to-pair printing – Tap your Windows 8.1 device on an NFC enabled printer and boom – you’re printing!
  • Wi-Fi Direct Printing – No additional drivers or software are needed to connect to Wi-Fi Direct printers.
  • Native Miracast support – Connect to a Miracast enabled projector with no cables or dongles.
  • Web App Proxy – This new service in the Windows Server Remote Access role provides the ability to publish access to corporate resources, enforce multi-factor authentication and more.
  • Multiple VDI Enhancements – Various additions to Windows Server 2012 R2 will make it easier and more cost effective to support VDI environments.

Mobility Enhancements

  • VPN – Added support for a wider range of VPN clients – in Windows AND Windows RT.
  • Mobile Broadband – Windows 8.1 supports embedded radios for this, giving longer battery life as well as thinner and cheaper devices.
  • Broadband Tethering – Use your Windows 8.1 device as a WiFi hotspot.
  • Auto VPN – When an app requires VPN access, one click sign in will now be possible.

Security Enhancements

  • Remote Business Data Removal – This gives organizations greater control over their content; being able to mark it as corporate and then wiping it when the relationship between company & user ends.
  • Improved Biometrics – End to End biometric support as well as optimization for fingerprint biometrics. Access to apps and their content can be restricted based on their biometric identity.
  • Pervasive Device Encryption – The encryption found in Windows RT & Windows Phone 8 will now be available in all editions of Windows.
  • IE 11 – faster page load times, side by side browsing, 3D graphics, and more all in Windows 8.1.
  • Assigned Access – This new Windows 8.1 feature will allow you to set a single (Windows store) app on a device. This can be for  in store experiences as well as educational uses and more.

Modern UI Experience

  • Variable Snap Views – Resize apps, share the screen between 2 apps or have up to 3 apps on each monitor (depending on resolution)
  • Boot to Desktop – Perhaps the #1 reason I hear for why a business isn’t moving to Windows 8 and it has now been addressed.
  • Desktop & Start Screen – Improvements have been made to better support the mouse & keyboard experience within Windows 8.1.

More info can be found here:

http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/springboard/archive/2013/06/03/what-s-new-for-the-enterprise-in-windows-8-1.aspx

These improvements are all excellent additions to what is (I feel) a great OS, and will serve to make Windows 8 even more popular with existing users and open it up to a whole new section of users and organizations.

Windows Blue Update


Microsoft have confirmed a few things we already knew about Windows Blue, so not new news but good to have it as a definite nonetheless.

Tamie Reller, Windows CFO (pictured below), said today that Windows Blue will indeed officially be Windows 8.1 and that it will be free to existing users of Windows 8 & Windows RT.

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The rumours that it would be a chargeable add-on were growing in strength in some corners of the internet; it’s good to see Microsoft moving to correct the chatter and let everyone know how the land lies.

Earlier this month, Reller also revealed that Blue would be available by “holiday 2013”. Also, Julie Larsson-Green (pictured below), Head of Windows Engineering, confirmed that a public preview of Windows Blue will be available by the end of June 2013 – making it’s appearance at the BUILD conference on 26th June.

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See more about the announcements here.

See more about Windows Blue and its features here.

ITAM Review: Windows 8 Licensing Guide


If you’re looking to get a better understanding of Windows 8 and it’s licensing, including new additions such as Windows To Go and Companion Subscription Licenses, head over to ITAM Review and check out their guide – written by yours truly:

http://www.itassetmanagement.net/2012/12/20/windows8/

This is a great site for all things Asset Management related so if you’re interested in licensing and/or Software Asset Management (SAM) – check out the rest of the site too 🙂

Surface Pro Pricing Announced


Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet has been out for just over a month and is generating a lot of interest from business customers. However, due to RT’s inability to run legacy software (non-RT versions of Office, Adobe Acrobat, LOB apps etc) the general conversation has gone like this:

 

“Wait for the Surface Pro”

“When’s it out”?”

“January”

“How much is it?”

“Erm…not sure”, we’re still waiting to hear from MS”

Well, now we’ve heard. Officially announced by Microsoft, the pricing is:

Surface Pro 64GB = $899

Surface Pro 128GB = $999

Converting them in GBP at today’s exchange rate gives:

Surface Pro 64GB = £560

Surface Pro 128GB = £623

but it is rare that costs of software & devices so truly follow the exchange rates, so it will be interesting to see the final UK price.

These are actually cheaper than those “leaked” from Germany a few weeks ago (Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Leaked) which is great, as many considered those leaked costs to be too low to be true!

The specs haven’t changed and are as detailed in this post (Microsoft Surface Pro), giving quite the bang for one’s buck.

One thing that hasn’t been confirmed today is Microsoft’s plans for the sale and distribution of these devices. Will the retain the “direct from MS” strategy of the Surface RT or use the more common model of selling via retail stores as well as via the “Channel”, the network of distributors, resellers, VAR and other partners. The latter is the current way that most businesses purchase their laptops (as well as other IT equipment) and if Microsoft choose not to let them into the party, that will be a very poorly received decision…both by resellers and their customers.

The majority of businesses are not set up to make multiple, sizeable purchases via credit cards on websites and they don’t want to change that – thus Microsoft could be losing sales to their OEM partners (which they will at least say isn’t a bad thing) or perhaps Apple. If there are businesses out there happy/prepared to purchase directly from the MS site, there will then be scores of distributors/resellers upset at missing out on potential sales to their customers.

I’m of the opinion that the Surface Pro must, and will, be available via the Channel and retail stores but it would be nice to see it confirmed by Redmond.

Windows 8 so far


Windows 8 is out in the wild in the form of the Windows Developer Preview and it’s looking pretty awesome!

There are so many little changes as well as the more obvious big ones and my plan is to do a couple of posts covering those off but this post is a bit of a stop gap really.

I spent a good few hours trying to get it to run inside various virtual platforms and was having no luck at all. I eventually discovered (via a blog I can’t remember – sorry!) that you need to have Hardware Assisted Virtualization enabled in the BIOS of your machine for the Windows 8 Dev Preview to run inside VirtualBox!

That done I was able to step through the install process (a look at which will come soon) and boot up into Windows 8 – nice Smile I could see all the lovely tiles for the Metro apps…but clicking on them did nothing Sad smile Thanks to help from Twitter friends it was pointed out that you must have a minimum screen resolution of 1024 x 768. I upped it from the default 800×600 and boom…all the Metro apps were working.

Yesterday (20/09/11) I hooked up a multi touch Acer monitor to the laptop I’d managed to procure and started to experience Windows 8 in all it’s touchy, swipy goodness…and it was great!

However, I came in this morning and the machine completed a bunch of updates. I was happy about that as I hoped that new features might be enabled but no, existing features were broken. The green background of the desktop was gone, replaced with a broken looking white – as were the backgrounds of many apps…annoying but not too bad. I turned the monitor on and was met with a “no signal” error. I unplugged all the cables and re-affixed them but to no avail and now my issue is this…having used Windows 8 with touch for a day…I now find using a mouse…especially a laptop track pad…horribly fiddly and pre-historic! Hopefully this will be resolved in a future update.

Microsoft Windows 8 Metro Style Start Screen


Microsoft’s newest desktop Operating System, Windows 8, is still many months away (9 at least I’d say) but we’re seeing more and more info about what it will contain and how it will look.

Metro is the design style introduced with Windows Phone and is now making it’s way across the Microsoft eco-system…soon to appear in the Xbox dashboard and now in Windows 8. Here you can see:

The Start Menu:

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Desktop Notification Balloon:

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This obviously fits very well with the tiled start screen we’ve already seen from Windows 8:

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I am certainly looking forward to getting my hands on the beta of this ASAP…just need a tablet so I can test it properly…hint hint Winking smile

Windows 8


Although we’re all caught up in the buzz waiting for Windows 7 to be released, MS have started looking forward to Windows 8!

A job posting highlighted by CodeName Windows is looking for someone to work on Distributed File System Replication (DSFR) technology for Windows 8:

“For the upcoming version of Windows, new critical features are being worked on including cluster support and support for one way replication. The core engine is also being reworked to provide dramatic performance improvements. We will also soon be starting major improvements for Windows 8 where we will be including innovative features which will revolutionize file access in branch offices.””

That last point shows that the advanced made in Windows 7 and Win Svr 2008 R2 with Branch Cache are only the beginning of Microsoft’s plans to help companies with satellite offices.

Windows Server 2011 (as I imagine it will be) gets in on the action too:

In Windows Server 2008 R2 release, the Server UX Test team (under the File Server Management organization) is finalizing the MMC [Microsoft Management Console] based User eXperience (UX)/Interfaces for the File Server Role. Currently the team owns DFS [Distributed File System] Management, Share and Storage Management, FSRM [File Server Resource Manager] & Classification UI, Disk Management, SMFS. For Windows 8, the SSD organization is working on the next version of the file server.

“As the team moved to Windows 8, you will have 2 main responsibilities – (i) put on the customer/design critique hat as we plan our next version file server management experience (i) participating in the architectural design, and development and driving automated testing for managing the next generation file server. Our current automation does not meet the multi-machine paradigm requirement and so you will contribute significantly in the development of test automation to validate setup/configuration of the new server, managing configuration changes, performing diagnostics and reporting using Power Shell, Command line, Object Model, UI.”

Thanks to Mary Jo for the job descriptions.

I know some people will think it’s weird that MS are working on another version of Windows while the newest version hasn’t been released yet, but that’s teh best way to ensure that the UX (User Experience) is very similar between the two aswell as keeping to the 3 year timeline.

I’m very excited for Windows 7 but I can’t help wondering what awesome features will be in Windows 8…any ideas?! 🙂

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