Windows 8.1 tablets vs. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD: Enterprise face-off

With its new Kindle Fire HD and HDX, Amazon is making a pitch for enterprise users. How do Windows 8.1 tablets stack up?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Whose tablets are the most enterprise-ready of them all?


One of the most interesting pieces of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablet announcement this week was the company's focus on "enterprise-ready" features that will be part of its two newest tablets. Amazon dedicated a separate press release to the enterprise functionality in the new devices, listing features such as WPA2 Wi-Fi support for secure access to "resources like SharePoint"; data encryption; built-in Mobile Systems Inc.'s OfficeSuite viewers for office documents; mobiile-device-management support and more.

Amazon execs, citing Forrester data, claim Kindle Fire "is already the second most popular tablet at work in the U.S." (The No. 1 workplace tablet is from a company that only recently has been touting its appeal to business users.)

What about Windows -- specifically, Windows 8.1 -- tablets from Microsoft and third-party PC makers? Though the Softies didn't emphasize it much, there was some enterprise functionality built into Windows 8, and there's even more in Windows 8.1, especially in the Enterprise SKU.

On the management, networking and security fronts, here's how the four different Windows 8.1 SKUs (Windows RT, Windows core, Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise) stack up, feature-wise:


A couple of the management features here are probably worth re-explaining.

There is still no support for domain join for Windows 8.1 RT or Windows 8.1 core. But there is now support for those two SKUs for two new Windows 8.1 management features: Workplace Join and Work Folders. These two features are designed to provide a middle ground between devices that are either domain-joined or not. Workplace Join allows users to have some IT-sanctioned access to corporate resources. WOrk Folders allow users to sync data to their devices from their user folders located on Windows Server in a company's data center.

"Assigned access" -- which is available for Windows 8.1 RT, Pro and Enterprise (but not core) -- is the name for the ability to lock down a device so that it can run only a single Windows Store application.


Other new, business-focused Windows 8.1 networking features that Microsoft announced earlier this year include NFC tap-to-pair printing, Wi-Fi direct printing and broadband tethering using a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

On the office suite front, since Amazon is highlighting availability of free OfficeSuite viewers, it's probably worth mentioning that Microsoft is bundling its own Mail and Calendar apps on all Windows 8.1 devices. If you're running an ARM-based device, you also get the basic Home & Student Office suite, plus Outlook RT, for free, as well. Microsoft has said its four core Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) also will be preloaded for free on smaller screen (less than 10-inch) Intel-based Windows 8.1 devices. Microsoft also makes viewing and basic creation/editing of Office documents available for free with Office Web Apps, which work in IE, Chrome and Safari browsers.

Microsoft's chart comparing the four different Windows 8.1 SKUs, from a feature and functionality standpoint, is a handy one for business users and IT admins who may be considering Windows 8.1.

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