Today in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress 2012, Microsoft showed it still is able to surprise. It is unveiling not one but two versions of Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview. A general one for consumers.
And one — a significantly more secure server-ready versionfrom the looks of it, for enterprise.
- Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Live Blog
- Microsoft Windows: History of Windows, a Windology (infographic)
- Apple TV, iPad 3 and Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Ranting Roundup with Eric Mack
No one expected it, but a few hours before Windows chief Steve Sinofsky hit the stage to roll out Windows 8 Consumer Preview there, Microsoft slyly posted a product guide for a more secure version of Windows 8 — one that squarely targets enterprise and IT. Smells like Windows 8 Server.
I analyzed the doc. Here are the top eight features worth noting from an enterprise perspective.
1. DirectAccess — Like BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), this feature will allow connections to home networks and mobile devices with no sign-in, the doc says. I wonder about the security of this and what encryption it offers. It is linked in, according to the Microsoft Product Guide, with Active Directory Services. If implemented correctly, this feature will allow IT administrators to more easily push out back door — without users even knowing. No intervention needed. From an IT pro standard, this is cool.
2. HyperV Integration: It’s built into 32- and 64-bit versions of Consumer Preview for business. That means you no longer have to run Fusion or Virtual box to set up and run virtual machines. This is outstanding because it would, from the looks of it, allow IT to more cheaply build server clusters. Can’t wait to see this work in the demo.
3. Windows PowerShell: This is an integrated scripting environment, Microsoft says in the doc, for setting up log in scripts allowing you to set security access and other capabilities to users who log into your corporate domain. This is also a feature of Active Directory, which is a bit confusing. As I learn more, I’ll update you.
4. BitLocker Drive Encryption: BitLocker 9, it says, is faster and more secure, allowing for better encryption of corporate data on the network. Microsoft in its document claims it boosted performance “increasing overall encryption performance and overall power consumption.” This is pushable from Group Policy. And it offers selective encryption, meaning you are able to encrypt select directories and not whole drives. This is pretty neat for IT folks who obviously have no interest in encrypting the personal data people now keep on company devices.
5. Catching up to Google Chrome, Firefox and especially Apple Safari, Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business supports the following browsing standards: HTML5, CSS3 and SVG. Microsoft should’ve had this all along and consumers will like it because browsers will look and act in a more modern, attractive and easy-to-use way.
6. Like the straight consumer version, Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business also includes Internet Explorer 10, which will allow legacy ActiveX controls to run in the browser. This is a big deal because Microsoft hasn’t supported legacy ActiveX control since IE 7. At my enterprise, we have two web apps that won’t run unless we use IE 7. IE 8 actually blocks legacy ActiveX controls and IE 9 won’t even render them. In the doc, Microsoft writes, “legacy ActiveX controls will continue to run in the desktop version of Internet explorer.”
7. The doc Microsoft quietly released on this surprise Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business hardly makes any mention of the mobile version of the browser. But by saying the legacy ActiveX controls will work in the desktop version of the browser implies it will be announcing a mobile version IE 10 with this feature.
8. SkyDrive integration for small business is mentioned — that’s to be expected, as Microsoft has pre-announced integration of SkyDrive into Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Now we know it’s in this new product we never expected — Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business.
We’ll see at the demo today if this new Windows 8 release will be enough to satisfy enterprise and we’ll post the link for you to download it and see for yourself. So far, the jury is still out. I need to play with it.
Here’s Microsoft’s summary:
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Guide for Business provides a detailed look at the many new and improved features in Windows 8. The guide is designed as an accurate source of information that can help businesses understand how Windows 8 enables users to be ready and productive practically anywhere, allows for a personalized user experience, and provides IT with more secure, easy-to-manage intelligent infrastructure.