Updated November 8, 2014 1:12 am - Today, at the Build 2014 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced new features and improvements for businesses in Windows 8.1 Update and announced a new release of the Windows Phone OS, with Windows Phone 8.1.
18 months ago, with the launch of Windows 8, we took our first step towards a unified Windows and Windows Phone experience for customers, partners and developers by creating a consistent UI across desktop, notebook, tablet and phone. Today’s updates take another major step forward by unifying the developer platform and Windows Store and Windows Phone Store experiences to synchronize app experiences across devices. This convergence enables enterprise developers to easily reuse code and business logic in apps that run on everything from the smallest Windows smartphone devices up to the largest PPI displays, and everything in between. It also makes it simpler for ISVs to create apps that run across the entire Windows device ecosystem. Let’s review more of the detailed updates we’ve made for you, the enterprise customer.
Windows 8.1 Update
Windows 8 made touch a first-class citizen, introduced the Windows Store, and launched a variety of new device form-factors. This new, modern Windows delivered significant benefits to our worldwide enterprise customers, including Resona Holdings Inc. and United Utilities. Both customers chose to migrate directly from Windows XP to Windows 8.
One of the top five banking groups in Japan, Resona Holdings Inc. recently completed a 30,000 seat migration to Windows 8 Enterprise to increase overall efficiency and productivity across the company. Windows 8 Enterprise functionality resulted in significant operational cost savings, while BitLocker drive encryption technology created a stronger security environment, allowing the institution to more easily maintain compliance.
Windows 8.1 advanced our initial vision, responding to customer feedback, improving the UI, and further refining the platform. Based on these improvements, United Utilities, the UK’s largest listed water company, has confirmed their commitment to migrate over 2,000 employees to Windows 8.1 Update by December 2014. With a business so diverse, ranging from field engineers working on remote sites, through to customer contact centers, to office-based business leaders, the release of Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1 ensures United Utilities can easily support existing applications and gives them the flexibility to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, from their desktop to tablet to phone and back, with a familiar look and feel across devices.
“Windows XP has served us well, and we have worked hard to select the right OS to replace it,” said William Hewish IT Director United Utilities. “One of our key objectives was not to just refresh our current estate but also enable our business to innovate and transform. The new release of Microsoft Windows 8.1 ticks all the boxes, it’s easy to manage and we believe will provide a great platform for the future.”
Windows 8.1 Update, available today on MSDN and TechNet, via Windows Update (WU) beginning on April 8th and for Volume Licensing customers later this month, delivers important capabilities designed for the enterprise:
- Better Internet Explorer Compatibility – Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer improves Internet Explorer 8 compatibility on Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. Meaning that IE11, the most secure and enterprise-ready browser, can now run legacy IE8 web-based applications and modern sites seamlessly side-by-side. Companies can standardize on the latest version of Internet Explorer across all Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 devices, experiencing increased performance, improved security, better backward compatibility, and support for modern web standards.
- UI Improvements – The modern Windows UI and Windows Store apps are now easier for mouse and keyboard users: move your mouse to the top of your screen for the familiar functions of minimize and close; move your mouse to the bottom of your screen to get the taskbar for fast app launching, status or switching. You can also pin Windows Store apps directly to the taskbar for easy access on the desktop.
- Mobile Device Management – Get deeper control over your organization’s policy settings with extended Mobile Device Management (MDM), including configuring Windows Store app whitelists or blacklists, URL filters, and Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer settings.
- Easier Deployment – Delivering Windows 8.1 Update via Windows Update allows businesses to deploy updates with increased predictability. And, to help businesses develop and deploy modern apps for their workforce, we are enabling sideloading for any domain-joined Windows Pro PC or tablet.
- Low-Cost and Latest Hardware Support – Windows 8.1 Update enables the latest hardware innovations across a broad array of devices to fit any business need. We’ve enabled our hardware partners to deliver low-cost machines that only require 1 GB of RAM and 16GB HDD. Last, we’re pleased to see even more, new, highly-productive tablet and 2-in-1 options come to market, including support for 64-bit Windows on Intel Atom processors.
Businesses need increased flexibility to deliver Windows experiences to their users. To support that need, and provide more business value, we are adjusting some of our licensing models:
- Windows Embedded Edition Rights – Beginning this month, Volume License customers that have Software Assurance for Windows or Software Assurance for Windows Embedded will have access to both Windows Enterprise and Windows Embedded Industry. Now customers deploying industry-specific systems and devices, can choose the right Windows edition for their needs, on any device. You can learn more about what this means for your organization here.
- Enterprise Sideloading– In May, we will grant Enterprise Sideloading rights to organizations in certain Volume License programs, regardless of what product they purchase, at no additional cost. Other customers who want to deploy custom line-of-business Windows 8.1 apps can purchase Enterprise Sideloading rights for an unlimited number of devices through Volume Licensing at approximately $100. For additional information on sideloading licensing, review the Windows Volume Licensing Guide.
Windows is also providing developers with new tools to leverage existing code to easily create and deploy touch-friendly business apps, and improve efficiency across devices, including:
- Brokered Windows Runtime Components – Sideloaded Windows Store apps can access Windows runtime components running outside of the app container and have access to the full power of Windows and .NET.
- Network Loopback – Sideloaded Windows Store apps can communicate with desktop processes and apps via network loopback. Now, you can build touch-centric apps while using existing code that depends on Win32 or Base Class Library components, which is otherwise unavailable to Windows Store apps. Developers can use both tools and APIs to enable network loopback for Windows Store apps.
- Windows Notification Services – Sideloaded Windows Store apps are now able to receive push notifications via Windows Notification Services. Using a Windows Store developer account, you can reserve an app name and use its identity. This app identity will not be deleted from active developer accounts, even if your app has not been published to the Windows Store. Learn more about the process for reserving an app name on MSDN here.
Windows 8.1 Update will be delivered through Windows Update. Additionally, enterprise management tools such as Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager, and Windows Intune, can update existing Windows 8.1 devices. Finally, updated Windows 8.1 Update images will be available later this month to make it easier for enterprises to deploy across all devices. Windows 8.1 Update represents a new baseline for future Windows 8.1 servicing going forward – Windows 8.1 customers will need to install Windows 8.1 Update to receive future updates. For more information on deployment, see the Springboard blog.
Windows Phone 8.1
Modern enterprise mobility requires efficiency and productivity across all devices, including smartphones. Windows Phone 8.1 brings the security and manageability you expect from Windows to the smartphone with a set of new, unique features designed with business customers in mind.
Windows Phone 8.1 delivers important enterprise-grade capabilities, including:
- Mobile Device Management – Windows Phone 8.1 has a built-in MDM client that allows IT organizations to manage devices with the management system of choice, such as Windows Intune, MobileIron, Citrix, SAP and Sophos. Device enrollment is simplified to lower support cost and help enrollment in a BYOD and Corporate Liable (corporate-owned devices) scenario. Through enrollment in a MDM system, the IT administrator can fully manage an enterprise collection on Windows Phone, including a large set of configuration policies, email or Office 365 accounts, certificates for user authentication, VPN and Wi-Fi profiles, and apps.
- Windows App Platform Convergence – Windows Phone 8.1 takes a major step toward converging the development platforms for Windows and Windows Phone. Over 90% of the API’s are now shared between Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1. Developing apps for Windows devices no longer means managing separate development projects for tablets or PCs and phones, dramatically decreasing developer investment. And of course, existing Windows Phone 8 apps run on Windows Phone 8.1.
- Security – Windows Phone 8.1 evolves the security architecture to help protect your company data on smartphone devices. Windows Phone 8.1 can utilize remote business data removal to protect data if a device is lost or stolen, implements secure and trusted boot, and sandboxes apps to better protect you from malware and rootkits.
- S/MIME for Secure Encrypted Email – Windows Phone 8.1, brings an industry standard implementation of S/MIME. Managed through the MDM system or Exchange Server, employees can sign and encrypt email directly from their Outlook client on the phone to fit their needs. IT can also force S/MIME policies to comply with your company’s policy, all without installing additional software to enable it.
- Assigned Access – Supported by the MDM solutions and the new “assigned access” functionality in Windows Phone 8.1, companies can lock lower cost handsets to a single line-of-business app for a dedicated task.
- Enhanced App Management – Organizations can register with Microsoft for an enterprise account to more privately, and securely, distribute apps to Windows Phone 8.1 handsets under control of the MDM system. Each app can be pushed to the device, updated, removed or defined mandatory. Apps from the Windows Phone Store can also be published through the private app catalog managed by the MDM system. In addition to white-listing the apps you trust, IT can also black-list the apps you don’t want, or block the Store all together.
- Certificate Management – Through the MDM system and SCEP, user certificates can be deployed to Windows Phone 8.1 handsets, allowing IT professionals to enroll, renew, and revoke certificates for user authentication. Certificates can be used to authenticate against Exchange Server, an Intranet Web Server, VPN, Wi-Fi and line-of-business applications. Advanced certificate management is available so certificates are protected by the built-in TPM enabling Virtual Smartcard on Windows Phone.
- Enterprise VPN and Wi-Fi – Windows Phone includes app-specific VPN capabilities, supporting IPsec and SSL VPN gateways. Configurable by the MDM system, the VPN tunnel will automatically be initiated by the app or location that is accessed and will automatically reconnect when the user needs it. VPN functionality in Windows Phone 8.1 is supported by many major VPN vendors, such as Checkpoint, Del/SonicWALL, F5, and Juniper, making it easier for customers to add Windows Phone 8.1 devices to their corporate networks. In addition, Enterprise Wi-Fi with EAP-TLS and EAP-TTLS will allow the employee to connect to the corporate Wi-Fi network, also managed with the MDM system. To save cost, Wi-Fi offloading will direct all data traffic to a known Wi-Fi network when in range and stop using the Mobile Operator data connection.
As a result of these improvements, BT, a multinational telecommunications company and Windows 8.1 tablet customer, has already announced its commitment to expand its mobile ecosystem to include 5,000 Windows Phone 8.1 devices in 2014.
Making the move to Windows Phone 8.1 sets BT on a path to standardize on the Windows platform for mobility. With the convergence of the Windows OS and Windows Phone OS, BT realizes its vision to build and run apps that cross device form factors to increase employee productivity and improve IT efficiency in the development and management of corporate applications and devices.
Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1 were designed with you, our enterprise customer, in mind. They deliver the features, security and management you need to run a truly modern, mobile business. These updates enable an even wider variety of hardware options, letting you choose the devices that make the most sense for your organization, while ensuring a consistent OS experience, whether you are working on a phone, a tablet or a PC. And with the convergence of our app platform, your app experience is just as seamless, whether you are running a 4-inch phone or an 82-inch PPI display. The feedback you provided allowed us to make these key refinements to make the Windows platform better, thank you. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it in your business.