What’s new in Microsoft Windows 8.1


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 enrols 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. Diskdedupe 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 behaviour 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 enrolment 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 favourites, 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 behaviour 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“.

Please bookmark the permanent location of this article, What’s New in Windows 8.1,” on the Windows 8 TechCenter

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Microsoft demos the new Windows 8.1 Start button

The good news for many frustrated users of Windows 8 is Microsoft is bringing back the start button in Windows 8.1. It might not operate in quite the same way as the Start button does in previous incarnations of the operating system, but at least it’s there.

Microsoft released a teaser video a couple of days ago which highlighted many of the new features to look forward to in the OS refresh, but the Start button wasn’t among them. The software giant did however, demo the button — and the improved interface — at Computex 2013, and a video captured by NetworkWorld shows our little clickable friend in action.

The short clip begins by covering the UI improvements, including the ability to swipe upwards to reveal the Apps page, and then takes us to the desktop, where the Start button is to be found in its usual position. When the button is clicked, the Start screen appears with the Windows wallpaper behind it — making the Modern UI appear more like an overlay than a totally different interface. It’s pretty far less jarring, pretty seamless, and brings the desktop and Modern UI much closer together.

I can’t help wondering if it might not have been better to actually have the Start screen as a real overlay — so open windows are visible in the background — but I’m happy to reserve judgment until the public preview build is released on June 26.

There are plenty of other YouTube videos of Windows 8.1 in action at Computex, including this excellent (and very long) public demo of the forthcoming OS. Microsoft also released a very, very short — blink and you’ll miss it — Start button teaser.

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BYOD scenarios will become a great experience in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

Networking features optimized for mobile productivity. Windows 8.1 improves mobile productivity for today’s workforce with new networking capabilities that take advantage of NFC-tagged and Wi-Fi connected devices, including:

  • NFC tap-to-pair printing– Tap your Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer and you’re all set to print. No more hunting on your network for the correct printer and no need to buy a special printer; just attach a NFC tag to your existing machines. And you 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 the printer.
  • Native Miracast wireless display– Present your work wirelessly without any dongles needed; simply project your content to a Miracast-enabled device by pairing the device through Bluetooth or NFC. Miracast will then use the available Wi-Fi connection to let you lean back and project wire-free.
  • 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 for device proliferation and mobility.Security continues to be a top priority for companies across the world, so we’re making sure we continue to invest resources to help you protect your corporate data, applications and devices:

  • Modern Access Controls– Sign in and authenticate devices with new support for fingerprint-based biometrics. Multi-factor authentication using Virtual Smart Cards will also be made even easier in Windows 8.1.
  • 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.

Improved management solutions to make BYOD a reality. As BYOD scenarios continue to grow in popularity among businesses, Windows 8.1 will make managing mobile devices even easier for IT Pros:

  • Improved IT controls– IT departments can now control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to ensure key apps are easily accessible. IT departments can also prevent users from customizing their start screen to ensure consistency across individual workgroups or the entire company.
  • Remote business data removal– Allows personal devices to connect to, access and store company content that can be efficiently removed from the device by IT at a later date while leaving the personal data intact.
  • Open MDM– With Windows 8.1, new Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) capabilities are built into the OS and enable mobile device management using third-party MDM solutions, such as MobileIron or AirWatch, with no additional agent required. Enhanced policies allow administrators to manage more settings from both Windows Intune and the third-party MDM solutions for both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.
  • Workplace Join – Further control access to company data by ensuring that only registered and trusted devices are allowed to access secured enterprise data.

More control over business devices. Businesses can more effectively deliver an intended experience to their end users – whether that be employees or customers.

  • Assigned Access – Enable a single Windows Store application experience on the device (e.g. a learning application for a child, a customer service application at a boutique.) Enabling this feature turns on a predefined set of filters that blocks other actions so the user only experiences the specified application and is unable to access system files and other applications.
  • Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry – Our offering for Industry devices like POS Systems, ATMs, and Digital Signage that provides a broader set of device lockdown capabilities.

The preview of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will be released June 26th.

BYOD scenarios will become a great experience in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

Networking features optimized for mobile productivity. Windows 8.1 improves mobile productivity for today’s workforce with new networking capabilities that take advantage of NFC-tagged and Wi-Fi connected devices, including:

  • NFC tap-to-pair printing– Tap your Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer and you’re all set to print. No more hunting on your network for the correct printer and no need to buy a special printer; just attach a NFC tag to your existing machines. And you 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 the printer.
  • Native Miracast wireless display– Present your work wirelessly without any dongles needed; simply project your content to a Miracast-enabled device by pairing the device through Bluetooth or NFC. Miracast will then use the available Wi-Fi connection to let you lean back and project wire-free.
  • 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 for device proliferation and mobility.Security continues to be a top priority for companies across the world, so we’re making sure we continue to invest resources to help you protect your corporate data, applications and devices:

  • Modern Access Controls– Sign in and authenticate devices with new support for fingerprint-based biometrics. Multi-factor authentication using Virtual Smart Cards will also be made even easier in Windows 8.1.
  • 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.

Improved management solutions to make BYOD a reality. As BYOD scenarios continue to grow in popularity among businesses, Windows 8.1 will make managing mobile devices even easier for IT Pros:

  • Improved IT controls– IT departments can now control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to ensure key apps are easily accessible. IT departments can also prevent users from customizing their start screen to ensure consistency across individual workgroups or the entire company.
  • Remote business data removal– Allows personal devices to connect to, access and store company content that can be efficiently removed from the device by IT at a later date while leaving the personal data intact.
  • Open MDM– With Windows 8.1, new Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) capabilities are built into the OS and enable mobile device management using third-party MDM solutions, such as MobileIron or AirWatch, with no additional agent required. Enhanced policies allow administrators to manage more settings from both Windows Intune and the third-party MDM solutions for both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.
  • Workplace Join – Further control access to company data by ensuring that only registered and trusted devices are allowed to access secured enterprise data.

More control over business devices. Businesses can more effectively deliver an intended experience to their end users – whether that be employees or customers.

  • Assigned Access – Enable a single Windows Store application experience on the device (e.g. a learning application for a child, a customer service application at a boutique.) Enabling this feature turns on a predefined set of filters that blocks other actions so the user only experiences the specified application and is unable to access system files and other applications.
  • Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry – Our offering for Industry devices like POS Systems, ATMs, and Digital Signage that provides a broader set of device lockdown capabilities.

The preview of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will be released June 26th.

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