What’s New For The Enterprise In Windows 8.1

What’s New For The Enterprise In Windows 8.1

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Today at TechEd North America in New Orleans, we announced several new features available in Windows 8.1 that deliver benefits for business customers. We built Windows 8 to bring a modern computing experience to businesses and to help professionals stay connected to their colleagues and clients from anywhere, anytime. Windows 8.1, which will be available for public preview on June 26th advances this vision and introduces new manageability, mobility, security, user experience and networking capabilities. Windows 8.1 is designed to offer customers the best tablet and most versatile PC experience to meet the needs of today’s modern businesses.

Below is a list of some of the new and updated features that we invite to you test out when Windows 8.1 Preview becomes available later this month.

B.Y.O.D (Bring Your Own Device) Enhancements

  • Workplace Join – A Windows 8 PC was either domain joined or not. If it was a member of the domain, the user could access corporate resources (if permissioned) and IT could control the PC through group policy and other mechanisms. This feature allows a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. With Workplace Join, IT administrators now have the ability to offer finer-grained control to corporate resources. If a user registers their device, IT can grant some access while still enforcing some governance parameters on the device to ensure the security of corporate assets.
  • Work Folders - Work Folders allows a user to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation’s data center. Files created locally will sync back to the file server in the corporate environment. This syncing is natively integrated into the file system. Note, this all happens outside the firewall client sync support. Previously, Windows 8 devices needed to be domain joined (or required domain credentials) for access to file shares. Syncing could be done with 3rd party folder replication apps. With Work Folders, Users can keep local copies of their work files on their devices, with automatic synchronization to your data center, and for access from other devices. IT can enforce Dynamic Access Control policies on the Work Folder Sync Share (including automated Rights Management) and require Workplace Join to be in place.
  • Open MDM- While many organizations have investments with System Center and will continue to leverage these investments we also know that many organizations want to manage certain classes of devices, like tablets and BYOD devices, as mobile devices. With Windows 8.1, you can use an OMA-DM API agent to allow management of Windows 8.1 devices with mobile device management products, like Mobile Iron or Air Watch .
  • NFC tap-to-pair printing – Tap your Windows 8.1 device against an NFC-enabled printer and you’re all set to print without hunting on your network for the correct printer. You also don’t need to buy new printers to take advantage of this; you can simply put an NFC tag on your existing printers to enable this functionality.
  • Wi-Fi Direct printing – Connect to Wi-Fi Direct printers without adding additional drivers or software on your Windows 8.1 device, forming a peer-to-peer network between your device and any Wi-Fi enabled printer.
  • Native Miracast wireless display – Present your work wirelessly with no connection cords or dongles needed; just pair with project to a Miracast-enabled projector through Bluetooth or NFC and Miracast will use Wi-Fi to let you project wire-free.
  • Mobile Device Management - When a user enrolls their device, they are joining the device to the Windows Intune management service. They get access to the Company Portal which provides a consistent experience for access to their applications, data and to manage their own devices. This allows a deeper management experience with existing tools like Windows Intune. IT administrators now have more comprehensive policy management for Windows RT devices, and can manage Windows 8.1 PCs as mobile devices without having to deploy a full management client.
  • Web Application Proxy - The Web Application Proxy is a new role service in the Windows Server Remote Access role. It provides the ability to publish access to corporate resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as apply conditional access policies to verify both the user’s identity and the device they are using resources, and enforce multi-factor authentication as well as verify the device being used before access is granted.
  • RDS Enhancements - Enhanced VDI in Server 2012 R2 which delivers improvements in Management, Value, and User Experience. Session Shadowing allows Admins to view and remotely control active user sessions in an RDSH server. Disk dedupe and storage tiering allow for lower cost storage options. User experience for RemoteApps, network connectivity and multiple display support has been improved. Administrators can now easily support users with session desktops to provide helpdesk style support. Administrators now have even more flexible storage options to support a VDI environment without expensive SAN investments. End users will find RemoteApp behavior is more like local apps, and the experience in low-bandwidth is better, with faster reconnects and improved compression, and support for multiple monitors.

Mobility Enhancements

  • VPN - We have added support for a wider range of VPN clients in both Windows and Windows RT devices. We have also added the ability to have an app automatically trigger VPN connections.
  • Mobile Broadband - At Windows 8 launch, the devices had embedded radios that were separate components within the devices.  Windows 8.1 supports embedded wireless radio, which gives you increased power savings, longer battery life, also enables thinner form factors and lower cost devices.
  • Broadband tethering – Turn your Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PC or tablet into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing other devices to connect and access the internet.
  • Auto-triggered VPN –When you select an app or resource that needs access through the inbox VPN – like a company’s intranet site – Windows 8.1 will automatically prompt you to sign in with one click. This feature will be available with Microsoft and third-party inbox VPN clients.

Security Enhancements

  • Remote Business Data Removal - Corporations now have more control over corporate content which can be marked as corporate, encrypted, and then be wiped when the relationship between the corporation and user has ended. Corporate data can now be identified as corporate vs. user, encrypted, and wiped on command using EAS or EAS + OMA-DM protocol. This capability is requires implementation in the client application and in the server application (Mail + Exchange Server). The client application determines if the wipe simply makes the data inaccessible or actually deletes it.
  • Improved Biometrics - All SKU’s will include end to end biometric capabilities that enable authenticating with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, UAC, etc.). Windows 8.1 will be optimized for fingerprint based biometrics and will include a common fingerprint enrollment experience that will work with a variety of readers (touch, swipe). Modern readers are capacitive touch based rather than swipe and include liveliness detection that prevents spoofing (e.g.: silicon emulated fingerprints). Access to Windows Store Apps, functions within them, and certificate release can be gated based on verification of a user’s biometric identity.
  • Pervasive Device Encryption - Device encryption previously found on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is now available in all editions of Windows. It is enabled out of the box and can be configured with additional BitLocker protection and management capability on Pro and Enterprise SKU. Consumer devices are automatically encrypted and protected when using a Microsoft account. Data on any Windows connected standby device is automatically protected (encrypted) with device encryption. Organizations that need to manage encryption can easily take add additional BitLocker protection options and manageability to these devices.
  • Improved Internet Explorer - Internet Explorer 11 improvements include faster page load times, side-by-side browsing of your sites, enhanced pinned site notifications, and app settings like favorites, tabs and settings sync across all your Windows 8.1 PCs. Internet Explorer 11 also now includes capability that enables an antimalware solution to scan the input for a binary extension before it’s passed onto the extension for execution.
  • Malware Resistance –Windows Defender, Microsoft’s free antivirus solution in Windows 8, will include network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware. Internet Explorer will scan binary extensions (e.g. ActiveX) using the antimalware solution before potentially harmful code is executed.
  • Assigned Access- With Assigned Access, a new feature offered in Windows 8.1 RT, Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise, you can enable a single Windows Store application experience on the device.  This can be things like a learning application for kids in an educational setting or a Customer Service application at a boutique, Assigned Access can ensure the device is delivering the intended experience. In our Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry product, we deliver additional lockdown capabilities to meet the needs of Industry devices like Point of Sale Systems, ATMs, and Digital Signs.

Modern UI experience

  • Variable, continuous size of snap views - You have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at once. You can resize apps to nearly infinite sized windows, share the screen between two apps, or have up to three apps on each monitor depending on resolution.
  • Boot to Desktop - we have made configuration options available which will allow you to boot directly to the desktop in Windows 8.1.
  • Desktop and Start screen – Improvements have been made to better support users who prefer a mouse and keyboard experience to access applications.
  • For more of the UI features, check out Antoine’s post, “ Continuing the Windows 8 vision with 8.1”.

These are just some of the key features available in Windows 8.1 for business customers and IT Pros. We encourage you to test out and try these features when you evaluate Windows 8.1 for use both in your work environment as well as at home in your personal life. Please note that Server 2012 R2 may be required in order for some of these features to be available.

We will continue to update this list when the Windows 8.1 Preview is released, and again when Windows 8.1 becomes available to the general public. For the latest list of new and updated features for enterprises and IT professionals, please bookmark the permanent location of this article, “What’s New in Windows 8.1,” on the Windows 8 TechCenter.

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  • @KHemmelman - I honestly do not understand why this unnecessary whining and ranting about the Start button that went away. Technology MOVES ON and we move with it. It's honestly about time that things have changed and I am VERY happy with the start screen. It's pretty much of a get used to the new technology or go back to your XP, really.  

    Thank you for the Update guys, really appreciated.

  • As much as I dislike Linux, most of the distributions I've played around with have two options for interfaces - KDE and Gnome. KDE reminds me of the Windows 3.1 Program Manager and Windows 8. Gnome has a Start Menu similar to Windows 7.

    Why can't MS do something like that? The Start button in 8.1 is just that - a button. It still takes you back to that hideous Windows 8 Start Menu. It isn't a menu that keeps the screen clear of the clutter that is the Windows 8 Start Menu.

    Because I treat my home network about the same as the company where I work, I haven't read anything that makes me want to run out an purchase a Windows 8 computer yet, nor do I see anything that makes me want to install it on business computers either.

    Almost all of the features listed above represent security and compliance risks that I as a Desktop Systems Engineer/Administrator do not really want to deal with. I mean really, what security and compliance person in their right mind would want employees downloading company documents to a personal tablet/laptop? I didn't see anything about encryption for these tablets.

    There are those that say if you don't like Windows 8/8.1, it's just because you haven't taken the time to learn it. On the contrary, that's my job. It's what I do for a living. Every time a new OS is released, I disect it and form conclusions about whether or not to use it. I put the beta, then preview, then release versions in VMs or on hardware if available and take them for a spin.

    For us, Desktop Gadgets, the Sidebar, etc., are disabled in Windows 7. No one verifies those apps/gadgets, and I've seen too many that are just plain CPU hogs. We don't need more calls to the support desk because someone downloaded a gadget/app that crashes their computer.

    Just because I don't like something doesn't mean that I haven't taken the time to learn it, or that I'm afraid to learn new things. We all make decisions about what we like in life. Some prefer GM cars, others prefer Ford. Some like like the fact that newer cars have OnStar or GPS. I won't buy a car with OnStar or GPS. It isn't because I don't understand the technology. It's because I do understand the technology that I won't buy.

    In this case, I prefer Windows 7 and its features much more that I do Windows 8/8.1. I haven't found a compelling reason to put our business through the learning curve and clutter that is Windows 8/8.1, that I can't recommend an upgrade yet. People that sit all day and do email, word processing, or number crunching, don't want cute little apps from the Windows Store, or the clutter that is the Windows 8/8.1 Start Menu. They don't want "charms". They don't want what passes as news, weather, and sports streamed to some goofy looking "tile", and I don't care how many sizes they come in, they look ridiculous. People just want to get their work done.

    Anybody remember Microsoft Bob? Meet his grandchild - Windows 8.1.


  • Thanks for the note SB.  We do have the KB installed, but it's not what we want to do.  If you use the GPO to set the lock screen, I don't believe users can change it.  Plus, not all our computers are actually a member of the domain and wouldn't get the group policy.  We really just quite simply want to replace the image files Microsoft included in Windows 8 with images of our own.  Not sure why Microsoft doesn't understand this.

    I had removed the provisioned apps via DISM, but upon syspreping to generalize and oobe the image, the sysprep process fails per the KB you mention.  (We ran into the same issue if we tried updating the built in apps via the Store.)  Apparently we are missing something on this.

    With regards to customizing the Start Screen, please don't belittle the benefit of doing this.  We have a variety of standard apps and programs we put into our clone image and would like a consistent layout and available Tiles to show up when a user logs in.  It makes supporting and training users much easier when you know what the initial layout of the screen is.  I don't see a problem with us wanting to do this, nor do I understand Microsofts lack of understanding on "why" an enterprise might want to do this.

  • I don't know that this is a greatly sought feature, but, I am wondering if Windows 8.1 will permit video as wallpaper?

    Would also like to know if W8.1 will support Blu-Ray playback.

  • sandflo
    0 Posts

    I am very keen on the Miracast feature! Will it be available for Windows Phone as well?

  • @

    You've been able to set a default lock screen from almost day 1 with Windows 8.

    As long as you've got update KB2770917 installed you can then use Group Policy to control it.


    See support.microsoft.com/.../EN-US for more information.

    Also, you can remove the OOB apps (Travel, xbox games etc).

    You use either PowerShell (online) or DISM (offline) to remove the provisioned apps.

    See support.microsoft.com/.../2769827 for more information.

    And I can tell you from personal experience on having done this for large customers it works fine.

    My only gripe was the manual effort involved in customising the Start Screen for image deployment, which in Win8.1 is getting easier with the ability to output the layout to xml and deploy via Group Policy.  Along with the ability to also lock it down from user customisation.

    I'm sure I heard something about updating OOB apps at deployment/imaging but don't quote me...

    And as for the Start Menu, really?  What do users actually use it for?  To launch an app.  Is it so hard to put that app on the Start Screen and launch it from there instead???

    At least in Win8.1 MSFT are giving you some more flexibility by allowing you to use a default all apps view instead of the Live Tiles, but then you're just missing the point of Win8(.1).

    I know this doesn't address all your points, some of which are very valid (Outlook notifications, date/time) but we can now but wait until June 26th to get our hands on it and really see what's changed.


  • Most interesting for me is 'Web Application Proxy'. Is this a new feature in the Server version of 8.1? I cannot find any mention of it the Remote Access component for Server 2012. Sounds like the bit we all need to replace ISA / TMG since it was dropped as a product. Here's hoping :-)

  • timanderson, thank you.

    Cylon Centurion, I don't accept that the Start Menu would break more than it would solve.  If it existed in the pre-beta's and a 3rd party companies can make one, it makes no sense that Microsoft couldn't put it back in there.  Yes, I already know Microsoft has no intention of putting it back in.  But that doesn't mean it's acceptable no matter how much Microsoft or people tell you it is, nor does it mean people shouldn't let them know it's unacceptable when you see a Mickey Mouse solution like the supposed Start "button" being put in 8.1.

  • Would really like to see group policy management of the picture password. Picture password is a great client experience that makes unlocking easy and secure. In the enterprise though, we need to require a change interval, and some level of complexity (so, for example, not all tap gestures).

  • Win + X is also available on the standard touch screen keyboard (not the OSK). However you first have to enable the full touch keyboard. Charms - Settings - Change PC Settings - General - Make the standard keyboard layout available. Then, on the touch keyboard, press the keyboard icon bottom right to select the full touch keyboard.


  • xpclient
    50 Posts

    But how many of these features are going to remain in Windows 9? Many will get silently killed. First try to retain Windows 7 features in Windows 8, then people can learn to trust Windows 8 features will remain and not suddenly disappear in the next release.

  • the desktop OSK has a windows key on it. Search for it, and you'll find it.

    You're not going to see the Start Menu come back in any official fashion because it doesn't work with the new UX, nor did it technically support some of the new features in Win8. Putting it back would break more than it would solve. Microsoft has spent considerable amounts of time and energy updating Search in Win8.1, and it's clear that live tiles and Search will be what Microsoft intends to carry forward.

  • KeithGa
    0 Posts

    Thanks for the post Stephen.

    One of the features above that looked cool to me is "Work Folders". It would be good to see how "Work Folders" is compared with some of the other existing "File Sync" technologies like, Roaming Profiles, SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro,  etc...  Been using SkyDrive to sync files between various devices.

    Super excited to try out Windows 8.1 when released during //build.

  • Anyone who says the Win8 Start screen is difficult to use with keyboard and mouse is just simply not making any effort at all.  I FLY over it.  In fact, I'm so use to keyboard & mouse on the Start screen that I dare say I'll have a bit of an adjustment when I replace everything with touch screens.  I now refuse to keep anything on the desktop.  Everything is on the Start screen.  In contrast, I have yet to see a good reason to KEEP the old Start menu.  None.

  • Cylon Centurion, I said "resembling a good reason" for removing the Start Menu.  Not counting pixels and mouse matrixes on distances the mouse pointer has to be moved on the screen.  I don't need an explanation on why someone feels the Start Screen is superior to a Start Menu, I (and many others) simply want a fully functional Start Menu on the Desktop Interface.  There's no logical reason not to have it there, especially when so many people want it.  I would much prefer Microsoft listened to our feedback instead of telling me how wrong I am as a customer for wanting it.  There is nothing anyone can say to change the sentiment of a great many that nothing short of a fully functional Windows 7 Start Menu on the Desktop Interface in Windows 8 is acceptable.  Just put it back in there already and we can all move on.  (Keep in mind when I sayd "I want", I'm not speaking just for me personally, I'm speaking for many users knowing for what their feelings are and the negative response we would get giving them Windows 8.)

    Also, I'm referring to replacing the default lock images in your "clones".  Yes, an end user has some ability to switch it later for there specific user profile.  I'm not talking about that, because what I'm referencing is not possible to do in your Windows 8 "clones" that you deploy to workstations and we want to do replace the default set of images with our own to "brand" our clones that we deploy out.

    With regards to the OSK, when I pull it up on the Surface Pro or HP Elitepad tablets I have, there is no Windows key that is part of the OSK and you're not able to use the 'soft' Windows key on the edge of the tablet itself, therefore it's not possible.  As far as why I might want to pull up the most useful (albeit limited) menu in Windows is somewhat irrelevant.  I simply would like to do it.

    I realize you can't run Metro apps in a Windows.  My (poor?) comment was to imply "why" is this not possible?  if a 3rd party company (Stardock) can get Metro apps to run in a Window on the Desktop Interface, then obviously Microsoft 'could' do this too.  The reason you might want to do this has to do with productivity and the letter "s" in the name Windows.

  • iand
    170 Posts

    Miracast case should be interesting, could be good for home theatre users as well.


  • If you've read Microsoft's blogs, they have stated numerous times why they killed the old Start Menu. Windows 8 doesn't have the Start Menu for the same reason Windows 95 didn't have Program Manager. The Start Screen is still easily navigated by mouse, and desktop apps can still be pinned to it, and more easily organized than was possible with the Start Menu.

    Also, lockscreens are easily changed in "PC Settings" located in the Settings Charm (Win+I) on the keyboard.

    You also can't run Metro apps on the desktop, as they were not designed to do so. They are completely different from the Win32 apps you're used to running.

    To bring up the Win+X menu on a touchscreen, simply access the OSK (Type "OSK" without quotes into Search), then simply press Win+X there. Not sure why you need to do this since the shortcuts there are more easily accessed by pinning them to the Start Screen.

  • I posted the below in the "Continuing the Windows 8 vision...." blog and was referenced that enterprise changes would be announced at TechEd.  Reading through these, it appears nothing I posted is addressed.  (I'm rather disappointed.)

    - Still no 'real' Start Menu?  (Why?  I've yet to hear anything resembling a good reason to not have a Start Menu on the Desktop, let alone what it would hurt if one was included.  Why not give "everyone" what they want?  Our computers are 99% desktop/laptops without touchscreens and we want the functional Win7 Start Menu for our users since 100% of our apps will run in the Desktop Interface.)

    - Can enterprise environments "properly replace" the included lock screen images with images of their own?  (We're VERY disappointed you can't currently do this so we can 'brand' out clone images we deploy to our computers.  The default cartoon Seattle Space Needle/Telly Tubby hill is embarssing to have to look at.)

    - When browsing for images to change the Lock Screen image, are you still locked out of not being able to browse all folders on your hard drive?  (i.e. - Browse and select an image from the \Windows\Web\Wallpaper folder.  I can't believe this isn't currently possible!)

    - Can you "easily" customize the Default User profile Metro Start Screen & Tiles in Windows 8 Professional in your clone images so when a new user logs in they will inherit this setup?

    - You can only apparently "share" the desktop background with the Metro Background, but not have Metro set to a different image of your choosing?

    - Can you "easily" update the built in Metro apps in your base clone image?  (The current process isn't functional and you end up not being able to sysprep Windows!)

    - Can you "easily" remove built in (provisioned) apps in your base clone image?  (Almsot all included apps are either not useful, applicable, or violate our "appropriate use" policy for our environment, so we removed several and then couldn't sysprep the image and would be stuck giving apps to users we don't want using.)

    - Can't run Metro apps in a 'window' on the Desktop?

    - Will Outlook 2010 reminders and email notifications popup if you're on the Metro Start Screen?  (They don't now.)

    - Will the Metro Start Screen show me the date/time/network connectivity status, or will you still need to take some action before you see this basic info?

    - Can you associate more than 5 computers to a Microsoft Account for installing store apps?  (How are enterprises supposed to buy/use apps via the store when the limit is 5 and you have thousands of computers?)

    - Will the GPO policy allowing you to 'block creating Microsoft accounts' be split out into its' own "single" policy?  (Currently it's lumped with a few other things it does and that's not acceptable.  We want that piece of the policy all by itself.)

    - On a touch screen device, how do you bring up the Win+X menu?