What's in the new Windows 8 Enterprise SKU

What's in the new Windows 8 Enterprise SKU

Summary: Microsoft has released a partial list of features in the coming Windows 8 Enterprise SKU for volume-license business users.


Microsoft is sharing more details on what's in the Windows 8 Enterprise edition that the company said would be available to its volume license customers with Software Assurance later this year.

In an April 18 post to the "Windows for Your Business" blog, Microsoft officials outlined the Windows 8 Enterprise feature list that complement/build on the Windows 8 Pro SKU features that company officials detailed earlier this week.

Microsoft officials said on April 16 that there would be four primary Windows 8 SKUs: Windows 8 (for most consumers); Windows 8 Pro; Windows RT (the SKU formerly known as Windows on ARM); and Windows 8 Enterprise. There's also a China/emerging market-specific edition that seems to be a replacment for Windows Starter.

Here's a partial list of what's in Windows 8 Enterprise, according to the Softies:

  • Windows To Go: A corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick (Note: This seems to be the only one of the Windows 8 SKUs that will get this particular feature.)
  • DirectAccess: A feature which allows remote users to seamlessly access resources inside a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN
  • BranchCache: A feature which allows users’ PCs to cache files, websites, and other content from central servers
  • AppLocker: Restricts the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run.
  • VDI enhancements: Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012
  • New Windows 8 app-deployment support: Domain-joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise will automatically be enabled to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps

Software Assurance users will automatically get Windows To Go use rights, Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access rights (i.e.,"access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers," according to the post); and a Companion Device License, which provides rights to access a corporate desktop either through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • AppLocker

    It seems to me that AppLocker is the single best thing that many small businesses could implement to increase the security of client PCs. I think it's reprehensible that this advanced security technology should be denied to those who purchase PCs with OEM operating systems pre-installed.

    Direct Access is another one - small businesses might have a few key employees who would benefit from it, but last I knew you can't buy less than five Enterprise licenses, making it prohibitively expensive for a small firm that just wants DA for the owner or a couple of remote workers.

    We have about 24 users, and we've bought Windows 7 Ultimate for the few who need BitLocker encryption. I would do the same thing for DA, but I'm unlikely to buy 5 expensive Enterprise licenses, on top of the cost of OEM, to get it for, at most, three employees.
    • I agree with you ...

      ??? to a certain degree, but I think you're missing a few key points:

      1) The cost for n Win8Ent licenses are likely to be far less than the cost of a 3rd party VPN solution alone. The reduced user frustration & support costs of DA vs. VPN clients is likely to repay the purchase cost many times over during a typical 3 year licensing agreement.

      Win8Ent ALSO then allows those users to take advantage of BitLocker, BranchCache, advanced deployment & AppLocker support, each of which are, frankly, pretty valuable in their own right, but when combined are priceless.

      I am working with several clients as I type who are transitioning from a small company "buy Windows & Office at retail" mentality and are moving to a "license Windows & Office" approach, spreading payments over 2-3 years to reduce the capital outlay

      Most who have or are in the process of signing-up a licensing agreement wonder why the heck they didn't do this years ago vs. buying retail.
      • But...

        You have to have bought a PC with a Windows 8 licence in order to use the Windows 8 Enterprise licence... :-S
    • That's why Enterprise costs more

      There is actually more in it than OEM versions. Seems like if you need it or see the benefit of it, you would just pay for it.
      • Except you can't...

        unless you are an enterprise and buying in bulk... For a small business that needs one or 2 copies you are SOL.
    • You don't really need AppLocker...

      You can still do it by other methods in Group Policy. The only problem is that it's a lot less convenient. Besides that, I find it more effective to revoke administrator rights so they can't install anything you don't provide them.
      • alternatives

        There's also cacls which can be used in batch files or called from WSH scripts. Often better than group policy for file/folder permissions. Not all that difficult to add plug-ins to Explorer to build such batch files.

        As for removing admin privileges, it doesn't prevent running portable software or installing software which modifies HKCU rather than HKLM. It takes a heckuva lot of work to truly lock down a Windows user account.
    • a few tips

      First off, Enterprise is available as an UPGRADE ONLY. You have to purchase an OEM license anyway.

      Secondly, if you want less than 5 licenses, set yourself up with a partner that sells Windows Intune to cut your costs down. You get Enterprise with Intune. MDOP is optional for an additional $1/PC/month though. If you're a business, and you don't already know this, moving to a software subscription model means that your software becomes an OPEX (operating expense) rather than a CAPEX (capital expense). The old IT-as-an-asset model doesn't work because IT hardware and software don't hold any value. You probably know this already because you can only claim depreciated value year over year. Moving to an OPEX model means you can claim 100% of the expense every year. The longer you own your hardware and software, the more expensive maintenance and support will become, and therefore it holds less value.
    • Software Assurance

      SA covers as few as five employees and gets you Enterprise and actually usually works out less than retail Ultimate (although that goes away in 8 of course). And look into volume purchasing even for a few machines; OEMs like Dell support it for SA customers, so no OEM cost.
    • @DaveN_MVP .. Yes and No

      Yes, insofar as AppLocker would be nice for OEM machines - but surely you know AppLocker is, first and foremost, enterprise-centric (by logical design). You're running a SOHO operation ... honestly, the mechanisms of AppLocker were specifically designed with a large corporate / enterprise / .edu user base in mind. So why would you want to try and scale AppLocker to fit into a SOHO / SME environment?

      I'm guessing that your alias points to a MS certification, so couldn't you improvise and just use a gp template (or two) to control your 24 clients? I mean, i'd be happy to show you how to do that if you're having trouble controlling that "huge population" [sic] you're overseeing.

      So, effectively, No. I don't see any reason why you really need a security mechanism like AppLocker (again) designed with enterprise in mind, when you could easily implement an improvised workaround suitable for a SOHO. I mean, for example, SBS will do everything you'll ever need for that small outfit - and then some.

      You take care now.
  • I assume a lot of that stuff with be in Pro too?

    I assume a lot of that stuff with be in Pro too? Like Direct Access.

    So only "Windows To Go" is Enterprise only? If so, it seems as pointless as Ultimate was before it. Is one feature enough to create another SKU?
  • Branch Cache and DirectAccess have been around since Windows 7

    is there new functionality with either?
    Your Non Advocate
  • Sounds like ...

    ... side-loading of Metro apps. will not be allowed for consumers :-(
    Will I be able to write a Metro app. for MY OWN computer?

    Pity about Windows to Go - I liked the idea of that facility.
    • Just share the source then?

      Well, think of a scenario that's a bit like how software is often deployed on Linux systems: just provide the source code and let the user compile (and license) it by himself. I don't know if that's a possibility with Visual Studio 11 Express and a developer license, though. If yes, it would be one mechanism to effectively bypass the Windows Store for, let's say, open-source solutions.

      I mean, who would write a Metro-style app that only runs on a single computer (or single user account)?
      • assumptions

        Linux source code packages usually include installation scripts which need to run under bash, perl or python and call make. WinRT is unlikely to have anything more than Javascript. The bigger question is whether execute permission is implicit throughout the whole file system or restricted to only a few directories. If the latter, and if only the Windows Marketplace app could copy any files into those directories, there may be no way to load executable files other than through Windows Marketplace.

        I haven't seen anything about file system organization and security specifically for WinRT, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's different from x86/x64 Windows and much more restrictive.
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