Windows 8: Enterprise Features Could Set Tablets Apart

Windows 8 adoption on PCs and tablets will be a tall order for Microsoft. But proven enterprise support and the security and networking features built into Windows 8 may give the OS an advantage over consumer-focused Macs, iPads and Android tablets.

With Windows 8, released last week in the Consumer Preview beta form, Microsoft is aiming to "reimagine Windows and change the face of computing," to quote Microsoft COO Kevin Turner in his keynote at CeBIT 2012 in Germany this week.

Some have applauded Microsoft for making Windows 8 different in a transformative time where compatibility across PCs, tablets and smartphones has never been more important; however, other journalists and industry watchers have complained of too much change and that Microsoft has created a Frankenstein with Windows 8.

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Turner's emphasis at CeBIT was on Windows 8 potential in the enterprise. The Windows client OS has always excelled at bridging the consumer-enterprise gap. But Windows 8 is entering a vastly different landscape than Windows 7. There are tablets now, and consumers and business users seem to like them. A lot.

Consumers are more apt to embrace the new Metro user interface as they buy new laptops and tablets running Windows 8. An enterprise commitment to Windows 8 is trickier however, as corporations are traditionally slow to migrate to a new OS, and many have only recently upgraded to Windows 7. Migrating to a new version of Windows that looks nothing like Windows 7 will make Windows 8 an even harder sell to businesses.

But if Windows 8 has an advantage in the enterprise, it lies with its baked-in enterprise-grade security and management features that a CIO or IT manager cannot get with Macs, iPads and Android tablets. Microsoft's history of serving the enterprise will serve Windows 8 well if it gains adoption. As always, the enterprise is Microsoft's ace in the hole.

Here are three Windows 8 features that could give it leverage in the enterprise.

Windows to Go and Mobile Productivity

If Windows 8 tablet users want to securely switch to a PC — even if the PC is running Windows 7 — he or she can do so using Windows to Go. This feature provides users with a full, IT-certified corporate copy of Windows 8 including the user's apps, data and settings on a tiny USB device. When users plug the USB device into a PC they can boot up the Windows 8 image. This is ideal for freelance workers or contractors who need access to the OS and apps, but not the full permissions relegated to full-time employees.

Windows 8 includes improvements to DirectAccess, a mobile access technology and VPN replacement introduced in Windows 7; it also has built-in mobile broadband features that natively support 3G and 4G.

Secure Boot, BitLocker and AppLocker

New Windows 8 feature called Secure Boot that prevents malware from creeping in during boot ups and before any of the OS components are launched. Microsoft has also improved BitLocker drive encryption in Windows 8 so that it encrypts only parts of the disk drive that need it, thereby speeding up the process and worker productivity. Security policy feature AppLocker has also improved in Windows 8 to protect users from running unauthorized software that could lead to malware infections.

Built-In Virtualization

Windows 8 will ship with Hyper-V virtualization software baked into the OS, allowing IT managers and developers to sandbox apps and operating systems within virtual machines on a single PC. Prior to Windows 8, Hyper-V was only available on Microsoft's server products. Microsoft says Hyper-V's integration with Windows 8 will cut down on hardware costs and make app testing less risky.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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