Windows 8.1 for BYOD, enterprise mobility, security and more

As Microsoft readies Windows 8.1 for commercial release on October 18, 2013, individual users and enterprises across the world are eager to get a glimpse of what exactly is in store for the new Windows operating system. The improved OS comes with a number of productivity enhancement features for enterprises.

Windows 8.1 for Enterprise introduces new capabilities to address the mobility needs in today’s enterprises. Enhancements on manageability, mobility, security, user experience and networking capabilities are designed to enhance the performance of devices ranging from tablets to notebooks, PCs and high-performance workstations.

Windows 8.1

To support the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend in enterprises, Windows 8.1 introduces new capabilities such as Workplace Join, Work Folders, open MDM, Mobile Device Management, Web Application Proxy, RDS enhancements, NFC Tap-to-pair Printing, Wi-Fi Direct Printing and Native Miracast Wireless Display.

Workplace Join allows a user to work on the device of their choice while still having access to corporate resources. 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.

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. All this happens outside the firewall client sync support.

With Open MDM feature, Windows 8.1 supports BYOD by allowing organizations to manage tablets and other devices as mobile devices. With Windows 8.1, you can use an OMA-DM API agent to allow management of Windows 8.1 devices with mobile device management products, like MobileIron or AirWatch, the company said.

When a user enrolls their device, they are joining the device to the Windows Intune management service.  They get access to the Company Portal which provides a consistent experience for access to their applications, data and to manage their own devices.  This allows a deeper management experience with existing tools like Windows Intune.

The Web Application Proxy is an added feature in the Windows Server Remote Access role, which gives ability to publish access to corporate resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as apply conditional access policies to verify both the user’s identity and the device they are using resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as verify the device being used before access is granted.

The new RDS enhancements include enhanced Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in Windows Server 2012 R2 with improvements in management, value, and user experience. Session Shadowing allows administrators to view and remotely control active user sessions in an RDSH server. Administrators now have even more flexible storage options to support a VDI environment without expensive SAN investments.

With enhanced mobile broadband functionality, NFC based tap-to-pair with enterprise printers, native Miracast wireless display capabilities and other new features, Window 8.1 allows professionals to stay connected and remain productive anywhere. With NFC Tap-to-pair Printing, you can tap your Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer and you’re all set to print.  Windows 8.1 also supports Wi-Fi direct printing.

The new Windows OS comes with a host of mobile apps designed to enhance productivity in enterprises. The update also includes features like boot to desktop and improved mouse and keyboard navigation.

Security being top concern among enterprises adopting BYOD, Microsoft is set to address these issues with the new Windows 8.1. The new platform comes with a broad set of new security capabilities including enhanced support for biometrics for user authentication and remote business data removal, which ensures that corporate data is encrypted and can be wiped remotely.

Corporate data can now be identified as corporate vs. user, encrypted, and wiped on command using EAS or EAS + OMA-DM protocol. With improved biometrics, the new SKUs enable authenticating with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows. Device encryption previously found on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is now available in all editions of Windows.

Windows Defender, Microsoft’s free antivirus solution in Windows 8, will include network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware. With modern UI experience, you have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at once.

Mobility enhancements include support for a wider range of VPN clients in both Windows and Windows RT devices. We have also added the ability to have an app automatically trigger VPN connections.

To enhance mobile broadband experience, Windows 8.1 supports embedded wireless radio, which gives you increased power savings, longer battery life, also enables thinner form factors and lower cost devices.

Other key mobility features include Windows To Go to enable the Windows Store by default, Broadband Tethering to turn your Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PC or tablet into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, Auto-triggered VPN to automatically prompt you to sign in with one click.

Another major change expected in the new release is the Start button that was lacking in the previous version.  With the new single search, now you can find whatever you want– from PC, apps and the Web search powered by Bing– in a single screen.

With Windows 8.1, users also get a chance to experience the latest Internet Explorer 11 Preview that boasts faster download speed and side-by-side browsing of sites. The new IE also lets real-time info to be delivered on to the Start screen through live tiles for your favorite sites.

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