One thing that we’ve made clear over the last few months, beginning with TechEd North America, TechEd Europe, WPC and in conversations with customers: Windows 8.1 is designed with businesses in mind. Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM comes with a host of new capabilities only available in the Enterprise edition, as well as new industry-leading security features.
Beginning today, TechNet and MSDN subscribers will now have access to Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM. This also includes access for Volume License (VL) customers with an active Software Assurance (SA) agreement, as you receive a TechNet subscription as part of SA.
Preparing Your Organization to Migrate to Windows 8.1 Enterprise
As we mentioned when we originally announced RTM back in late August, we talked about how we are moving forward with a rapid release cycle for Windows. If you have not started, begin your Windows 8.1 planning today. We encourage you to evaluate Windows 8.1 RTM bits to get a jump start on your deployment planning, using it with the new deployment tools that are already available to create a fully-functional model of the deployment processes that you will use once Windows 8.1 Enterprise is generally available on October 18*.
As my colleague Steve Guggenheimer shared this past week, the primary objective in making Windows 8.1 RTM bits available on TechNet and MSDN is so developers and businesses can continue testing the latest version of the operating system as our engineering teams refine and update the product and tools in preparation for Windows 8.1 general availability. And once GA bits are available, you will be ready to conduct final testing and begin your deployment of Windows 8.1. Testing your operating system for compatibility with existing applications and better understanding what needs to be done to migrate your business – especially for those organizations still on Windows XP – is paramount.
Businesses that are still running Windows XP need to accelerate testing and migration to a modern operating system – like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 – as soon as possible before end of support occurs on April 8, 2014. If you are currently deploying Windows 7, begin evaluating Windows 8.1 for all devices, including touch and mouse and keyboard options.
As business customers evaluate versions of Windows 8.1, we’ve just posted an updated feature grid comparing the Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise SKUs for reference as you’re evaluating Windows 8.1 for your business. That said, we strongly encourage business customers to evaluate Windows 8.1 Enterprise, which supports the premium features designed to address the mobile productivity, security, manageability and virtualization needs of enterprises. For all devices currently running Windows 8 and for those of you who are testing Windows 8.1, use Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM as another opportunity to evaluate the operating system so you can start your official migration when Windows 8.1 Enterprise GA becomes available on October 18.
And with the new business PCs recently announced at IFA earlier this month, we also recommend businesses start targeting Windows 8.1 touch PCs for their hardware refresh planning, as well as evaluate Windows 8.1 for all device form factors.
Additional Information About Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM Availability
To make sure that our Volume License customers running Windows 8 can experience the great benefits Windows 8.1 has to offer, organizations that acquired Windows 8 Pro through a VL agreement are licensed for Windows 8.1 Pro even if their SA expired prior to the GA release of Windows 8.1 Pro. This does not apply to Windows 8 Enterprise; you must have active SA for the Windows desktop operating system to have rights to Windows 8.1 Enterprise licenses. Windows 8.1 for production use (Pro and Enterprise) will be available through the VLSC on October 18 and for new customers to purchase through Microsoft Volume License Resellers beginning November 1.
* Starting at 12:00am on October 18th in New Zealand (that’s 4:00am on October 17th in Redmond).