When Windows 8 was released in August last year, Microsoft’s latest operating system had a strong focus on the consumer market. Their advertising campaign focused heavily on the consumers (remember those hipsters ‘clicking’ their touch keyboards Microsoft Surface advertisements?) in an attempt to make inroads on the already dominant iOS and Android tablet market.
So what about the enterprise? Many organisations were, and still are, in the process of migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 before its end of life in April 2014. The introduction of the ‘modern UI’ start screen, the removal of the start button and start menu, and the inability to natively boot to the desktop in Windows 8 were such huge changes from Windows 7 that it alienated many organisations. How would users cope with such a big change and what training costs would be involved?
The enterprise adoption of Windows 8 hasn’t been great however by the end of last month it had reached 5.4% market share with Windows 7 still dominating the desktop market at 44.49% according to [http://www.netmarketshare.com/](http://www.netmarketshare.com/).
Microsoft hopes to improve enterprise adoption with the release of the Windows 8.1, and some organisations still on Windows XP have been holding out their Windows 7 migration to see what it brings, so let’s see what’s changed.
**The Start Button, boot to desktop and the improved Start Screen**
The start button is back in Windows 8.1 and is a much needed addition. The complete removal of the start button and start menu in Windows 8 meant that accessing the start screen from the desktop required a mouse click on the very bottom left hand corner of the screen, loading the charms bar from the right or pressing of the windows key. On a touch screen only device without mouse or keyboard this was difficult and unintuitive. Clicking or tapping the start button in Windows 8.1 is now feels more natural and will be more familiar to users.
The ability to boot straight to the desktop is a great addition in Windows 8.1 and in Windows 8 the desktop tile would always be the first tile I clicked. As most enterprise users will most likely be accessing corporate applications from a Windows 8.1 laptop or desktop, booting straight to the desktop makes sense. Additionally the power user menu can now be easily accessed by right clicking the Start Button and now includes shutdown and reboot options.
The Start Screen has been updated and can now be configured to show a list of installed applications rather than the ‘modern UI Apps’ which is makes more sense for corporate users. Modern UI Apps can also be grouped into categories and the Start Screen wallpaper can be configured to use the desktop background to help make the environment.
**Additional Enterprise Features**
Windows 8.1 includes additional business-aimed features such as:
– Improved Windows To Go (WTG) for BYOD devices
– The ability to control how the start screen looks and apply this configuration to all Windows 8.1 machines for easy corporate standardisation.
– Improvements to the clientless VPN called Direct Access.
– Easier application management and control with AppLocker.
– Improved installation “side-loading” of Windows Store applications
**Using Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview**
I’ve been using the Windows 8.1 Enterprise preview on a Spyrus Secure Portable Drive WTG USB key for a week now and welcome the improvements that it delivers over Windows 8. The ability to boot straight to the desktop is notable as it’s usually the first tile I’ll click on when booting my Windows 8 machine.
Searching is improved in Windows 8.1 – now when typing a search term after pressing or clicking Start, Windows searches ‘Everywhere’ rather than a specific category which I found frustrating in Windows 8.
Windows To Go is essentially an ‘Corporate Windows Image on a stick’ and allows IT to install Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 on a USB key to allow BYOD devices to boot into the corporate image – all without affecting storage on the users’ device.
I found that WTG has improved with Windows 8.1 and it was quick to get up and running. Performance is impressive for a USB key and boot time was minimal. Further BYOD enhancements include Workplace Join and Work Folders, which allow users to sync data to their BYOD device from their user folder located on the corporate network or in the data centre.
So has Windows 8.1 addressed the initial enterprise concerns of Windows 8? Is it the modern operating system the enterprise market has been waiting for? To a large extent I think it has. These improvements and an easier to use User Interface make an operating system that is ready to deploy to corporate environments.