At the Build conference Wednesday morning, we released the Windows 8.1 Preview for IT Pros to download and evaluate. This morning Jon DeVaan, corporate vice president for Windows Development, took the stage at TechEd Europe in Madrid to explain how all of the pieces we’ve shared about Windows 8.1 over the past month fit together to deliver the best business tablets and next generation business PCs.
Windows 8.1 Features
Jon demonstrated the modern Windows 8.1 user interface and how integration with technologies like SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, or Work Folders enables business users to stay in touch with everything important for them, at work and in their life. This includes access to their data, UI settings and Windows Store apps from anywhere, on any Windows 8.1 device.
User experience and app improvements are a big part of the Windows 8.1 update, as are business-centric features such as NFC-tagged and Wi-Fi connected devices to improve mobile productivity; security enhancements that include fingerprint-based biometrics and multi-factor authentication using Virtual Smart Cards.
Additionally, Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) management improvements were central to this update and include the ability to remotely wipe data from a device and support for the Mobile Device Management solutions by leading MDM vendors.
New management capabilities for the Start screen now allow IT pros to deliver standardized Start screen layouts for their companies, while Assigned Access enables a single application experiences on a device which is ideal in common customer-facing scenarios (e.g. selecting car features on a device at an auto dealership). More info on Windows 8.1 features available here.
App-V 5.0 SP2 and UE-V 2.0
Today we also announced the beta availability of Microsoft User Experience Virtualization 2.0 (UE-V 2.0) and Microsoft Application Virtualization 5.0 SP2 (App-V 5.0 SP2), two critical components from Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) that give business customers access to all of their desktop and internal line of business applications, as well as personalized Windows environments from anywhere. UE-V 2.0 and App-V 5.0 SP2 will ship as part of a future version of MDOP but are available in beta versions now for download and support the Windows 8.1 Preview.
- UE-V 2.0: Allows users to switch devices without reconfiguring their applications or settings. The beta adds support for Windows 8 and 8.1 applications, including Windows Store apps and customized line of business apps. It provides enhancements to how settings and applications sync across devices, including giving users more flexibility and control of their individual sync settings.
- App-V 5.0 SP2: Gives IT pros the ability to deliver virtually any application, anywhere to users for a more flexible, integrated and powerful experience across virtualized applications. This beta builds on Microsoft’s long history of providing virtualization solutions for our customers, enriching the user experience by enabling virtual applications to behave as if they were locally installed on a device.
Visit Springboard, our destination for IT Professionals, for more information on these components.
Windows 8 Customer Adoption
In Europe we are seeing great adoption of Windows 8 and today TechEd Europe keynote attendees heard from SAP and the Dutch Public Prosecution Services on how they are using Windows 8, but here are some other businesses from the region I wanted to share who are using Windows 8 to modernize their businesses:
- Tube Lines transports 700 million passengers every year, so maintaining the safety and performance of its tracks is critical. In order to perform maintenance operations in the most efficient way possible, the company has adopted Windows 8 devices to give technicians streamlined access to the information and equipment they need, without flipping through a heavy paper manual. See this video for the company’s own words on why it chose Windows 8 over the iPad and how the operating system has been “revolutionary” for its operations.
- Erste Bank, Austria’s first savings bank founded in 1819, adopted a banking app called Finanzcheck on Windows 8 that allows their financial advisors across various bank branches to easily manage wealth management programs, home loans and bank accounts. The company has also adopted a new customer-facing app called netbanking for the Windows 8 Marketplace. Erste Bank has enjoyed the attractive touch-based functionality of the apps and started using Windows 8 tablets to modernize their day-to-day business functions.
- BT, one of the world’s leading communications services companies, serving customers in the UK and in more than 170 countries, has deployed over 6,000 Windows 8 touch devices for its field-based engineers to replace its aging Windows XP laptops. BT adopted the operating system to provide its engineers with a fast and reliable computing experience to easily manage and update their assigned job information and troubleshoot job-specific tasks. Windows 8 features like Virtual Smartcard and Mobile Broadband also help the workers connect quickly and securely to the information they need on the go. See this video for more on BT’s experience with Windows 8.
- ARM Holdings is a leading provider of semiconductor IP based in Cambridge, U.K., and has a highly mobile workforce which is constantly on the road working with global partners. To work more effectively while traveling, ARM deployed Windows Surface RT devices, which utilize an ARM-based chip, to field employees to take advantage of the Windows 8 platform with Office, and features such as live tiles, notifications, connected standby, and always-on, all-day battery life connectivity.
- EVRY delivers IT services to financial institutions, municipalities and health authorities in 50 Nordic cities. The company deployed Windows 8 on approximately 600 PCs and laptops to improve employee productivity and reduce costs. EVRY has also taken advantage of out-of-the-box security features like BitLocker Drive Encryption and Trusted Boot in Windows 8. Tor Leknes, service portfolio manager for EVRY noted, “To maintain our competitive advantage, it’s important for EVRY to be first to implement, deploy, and demonstrate the business value that Windows 8 can offer customers.”
- DDM, an Italian digital media agency developed a pan-European app called CineTrailer that allows customers to find and view movies across multiple devices. The company announced it has optimized the app for Windows 8 and Windows Phone and has migrated its back-end technology to Windows Azure from Amazon Web Services. After experiencing the benefits of Windows 8, Marco Dufour, CEO at DDM commented, “We see Windows 8 as a market changer and we think that developers have just started to see its tremendous potential.”
Be sure to visit the Microsoft News Center for more information on these customers and others adopting Microsoft’s latest innovations.
Try Out Windows 8.1
We’re excited for our customers to evaluate, test and pilot Windows 8.1 in their organizations, to see the benefits of Windows 8.1 for tablet and PC scenarios and to evaluate new modern Windows apps for their businesses. The Windows 8.1 Preview is pre-release software so customers who want to upgrade now, should download the free Preview on secondary and test machines. (Note that when updating from Windows 8.1 Preview to the final Windows 8.1 release, only data and user accounts will be migrated, both desktop and modern applications will need to be reinstalled.)
For enterprise IT organizations that want to install Windows 8.1 Preview on Windows 8 machines dedicated to testing, there are two options available for volume license versions of Windows: 1) update and refresh (i.e. machines can be updated in place, retaining all data, settings, and apps, using the original Windows 8.1 media) or 2) IT pros can perform a “refresh” deployment, where the data and settings are captured, the current OS is removed, Windows 8.1 is installed on a clean drive, apps are reinstalled, and then the user data is restored.
- If your business is still running Windows XP, we encourage you to migrate to a modern Windows operating system before Windows XP end of support on April 8, 2014.
- If you are currently deploying Windows 7, we advise you to continue with your deployment, and simultaneously evaluate and pilot Windows 8 for mobile scenarios and tablet solutions.
- Customers deploying Windows 8 or developing apps for Windows 8 should continue as their investments will carry over to Windows 8.1 when available later this year. When refreshing PCs, we recommend customers purchase Windows touch-enabled devices to ensure their hardware investments are future proof.
IT Professionals – look for an update on the Springboard Series Blog announcing the availability of Windows 8.1 Preview ISO images for deployment of Windows 8.1 in managed environments tomorrow (Thursday, June 27th.)