Windows 8's pitch to the enterprise

Microsoft is promoting Windows 8 as a bridge between consumer users and enterprise professionals seeking a more secure and manageable operating system.

Microsoft's Windows chief Steven Sinofsky opened up his pitch at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona today by noting that "the last time we made a generational change was Windows 95". While the spotlight focused on what the new OS will offer consumers, Microsoft also used the occasion to make a quiet pitch to the IT community.

In a preview product guide for business, Microsoft promoted Win 8 as a bridge between consumer users and enterprise professionals seeking a more secure and manageable operating system. In the days and weeks ahead, business users will get an opportunity to test the system against the bold promises. But in the meantime, here are some of the highlights of what Microsoft says they can expect.

Will IT administrators be able to kiss their virtual private networks goodbye? The DirectAccess feature lets remote users access the full complement of internal corporate resources without first needing a separate connection. No word yet on encryption so this offer raises the obvious security questions and will likely need further sussing out.

Business app development
Managers can centrally manage, update, and distribute Win 8 apps created in an enterprise and they can stay within the corporate firewall. Microsoft also promised that a majority of existing line-of-business applications which ran on Windows 7 also will work on Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit versions).

Scalability starting with tablets
Both 32-bit and 64-bit tablet computers running Windows 8 will integrate into a company's existing IT management infrastructure. Assuming Microsoft makes good on that promise, it gets rid of an administrative headache, allowing the company to deal with tablets in the same way it manages desktops and laptops within the rest of an enterprise.

Keeping data safe
Playing up Win 8 as a way to keep corporate data safe, a Windows To Go USB drive will remain active for the duration of a contractor's employment-the goal being to ensure that no corporate data gets stored on a personal device. Windows To Go Drives can also be issued to employees working outside of the office. After Windows 8 users insert their cards into a Windows 7 or Windows 8 compatible PC and reboot, they get their entire personal environment, and operate as a fully managed device. After the card gets removed, they can move on and use it on another PC.

BitLocker Drive Encryption
Microsoft says the latest version of BitLocker is faster and more secure and works without causing interruptions. BitLocker comes with support for Encrypted Hard Disk Drives which come pre-encrypted from the manufacturer. One feature is the ability of an IT administrator to selectively encrypt individual directories instead of entire drives. As free space gets used, Microsoft says, it will be encrypted.

Built-in HyperV integration
Microsoft has streamlined the overhead needed to run virtual machines. Rather than requiring a separate PC for each configuration, Microsoft says IT will be able to conduct development and testing of several app configurations and operating systems on a single device. If it works as advertised, that could save time and money.

Mobile support
Windows 8 natively supports 3G and 4G telecommunication and allows data metering. costs low with built-in mobile broadband metering. Win 8 also allows remote users to access files cached at headquarters but access the content locally.


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