Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview for Business: Eight Things IT Should Know

Microsoft shows it still can surprise. A few hours before Windows chief Steve Sinofsky took the stage to roll out Windows 8 Consumer Preview at MWC 2012 in Barcelona, the company slyly posted a product guide for an enterprise-targeted version of that OS. Smells like Windows 8 Server. Our senior contributor and IT pro Ant Pruitt took a look at the product guide. Check it out here and find out the eight things Ant finds most noteworthy. More will be revealed at the demo.

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.

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.

Download the product guide here.

Download the 32-bit and 64-bit ISOs for Windows 8 Consumer Preview here.

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.




  • I looks like Microsoft is finally addressing the encroachment of Linux distributions as an enterprise desktop O/S. As long as they can maintain a stranglehold on business users’ desktops, they are likely to be the #1 home O/S as well (after all, most users don’t want to switch back and forth).

    I’m very curious to see how easily some of these new features can be implemented for the SMB market, especially those with limited or no full-time I.T. resources.

    Please continue to post your analysis of the Preview as you learn more. This kind of information is extremely valuable to us.

    • Thanks for your comments, Carey. I hope to play around with it really soon. I just need to partition a drive for it. This shall be fun!

      -RAP, II

  • I’m definitely surprised at having two different versions in the preview. I guess I shouldn’t have been, as I can never see Microsoft producing a single version of Windows for both business and consumer. They’re too addicted to having different price points for different markets.

    Jeremy Lesniak
    Vermont Computing, Inc.

  • I look at Hyper-V as one of the coolest features. Running VM’s can help bottom line in a lot of instances for enterprise. Not as much physical hardware to buy ($$) for your server closet. Get yourself one beefy piece of hardware and run/manage several virtual instances whether it’s an app server or database.

    -RAP, II

  • Is the link still up? Microsoft at the very end of the conference said — we have some enterprise stuff to announce at CeBIT (German tradeshow). Yet there is this PDF. A mistake?

    Anyway, looking at the doc, any questions or comments or wish list. If you’re in IT, please leave city, name, and organization where you work — with a link. Thank you!

  • I agree. The HyperV Integration is needed. More and more we’re sandboxing for testing and making sure that apps users download don’t break anything. I’d like to see how easy we can build and deploy a second less integrated desktop where users can go to safely bank, do social and shop.

    Dino Londis
    Applications Management Engineer

  • Nice write up. I just wonder how all of this is really going to scale out in the real world since it seems to take forever for full adoption of any new/improved OS.

    Service Desk Team Lead
    Technisource, Inc.

    • Good point, Robert and thank you for your comment. Full adoption is a uphill battle for Microsoft.

      Example 1: I know SEVERAL companies still running XP Pro company-wide.

      Exmaple 2: Not that this is OS related, but the change of Microsoft Office 2003 to 2007+ has been interesting to say the least. It seems like every accounting person I know LONGS for the good ol’ FILE menu of yor.

  • Ant,

    Several small and medium sized compaines have decided to use Google Apps. and are not only enjoying the feel but the lack of cash paid to Microsoft.

    With the exit of Office 2003 this has become a very cost effective alternative.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mike. I don’t disagree with you regarding the adoption of cloud computing with Google Apps. Google is a real player in this space. Microsoft may or may not want to admit that. I give them credit, though, for attempting to make this OS for home and enterprise work.

      -RAP, II