By Ron Grattopp ….Earlier this week I put together my first Windows 8 presentation/demo. One of the things I did for that presentation was to develop what I called my “Top Ten New Business-oriented Features in Windows 8” and I thought I would share that with you. Of course, the list is subjective, and since it’s just a Top 10, it’s definitely not exhaustive. Perhaps you’ve already started evaluating Windows 8 – now that we’re in Release Preview (nee RC) status you know that launch is not that far off. If you’re already familiar with all of these new features, then I applaud you, if not, then perhaps you’ll see some things here that will pique your interest and will entice to begin your eval process or dig deeper into what Windows 8 brings to the table for your business as well as your customers’.
Here’s the list, then I will follow with some commentary…
Trusted boot process. Although the list isn’t necessarily in any priority order, the new feature in Windows 8 that I think will be of most interest to business users is the Trusted Boot process (aka Secure Boot). I think I’ll probably do my next blog as a more in-depth look at this, but for now what you need to know about it is that it leverages something called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) which is essentially a modern-day replacement, or alternative, for the BIOS. As the system is booting, UEFI blocks the loading and operation of any program or driver that has not been signed by an OS-provided key, and thus protects the integrity of the kernel, system files, boot-critical drivers, and even the antimalware software. IF Windows 8 detects if any of these elements have been tampered with, it will automatically restore the unmodified versions. This will not require the encryption of the disk like BitLocker. Again, expect some more on this in a follow-on post.
PC Refresh is similar, conceptually, to System Restore but is actually a new feature. With Windows 8 you can refresh your PC, which keeps all your documents, accounts, personal settings, and modern (Metro) apps but returns Windows to its original state. You can also completely reset your PC, to the state it was in when you first got it (all data, settings, and apps wiped). And you can use a USB drive for your source bits.
Windows-to-go (WTG) is another interesting capability that I think will appeal to IT (business). With WTG you can put a fully functional copy of Windows 8 on a USB drive that can be booted from any compatible ( x64-based) system, whether at work, home, or anywhere. This means that workers can essentially carry a secure corporate PC in their pockets. Besides the system requirements, another caveat is that it’s only in the Enterprise edition.
File History enhances previous Backup & Restore functionality in that it automatically backs up files in your libraries, contacts, favorites, and SkyDrive, as well as on your desktop. If the originals are lost, corrupted, or deleted, you can restore all of them. Plus, you can also find different versions of your files from a specific point in time, thus you'll have a complete history of your files. You can use an external drive or a network location.
Built-in ISO support. features in Windows 8 add support for 3G and 4G telecommunication, enabling business users on the go to connect to the Internet immediately.
Boot speed and system performance will ultimately help workers be more productive, or at least spend less time waiting for things to happen on their computers. You should notice improved performance and system reliability even on lower-power systems, Windows 8 will start more quickly, run your apps faster, and be more secure from start to finish. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the more efficient boot and better performance of Windows 8, but, of course, I have to caveat that your results may vary based on your system.
Picture password/gesture-based login. Imagine no more typing in (or forgetting, or fat-fingering) passwords. Not only can this be more efficient, kind of like using biometrics, but it’s also more secure as it’s not susceptible to password cracking tools and techniques (as far as I know) or weak password usage.
Client Hyper-V provides all the same capabilities of XP Mode/VirtualPC for running legacy OSes on your desktop machine features in Windows but will now allow running of 64-bit virtual machines.
Built-in ISO support may not seem as compelling as some of the other features, but the fact that it’s built in now and that ISOs can emulate drives gives it some potential to be a boon to IT and users alike.
Built-in mobile broadband features in Windows 8 add support for 3G and 4G telecommunication, enabling business users on the go to connect to the Internet immediately. Windows 8 mobile broadband support also helps businesses keep data usage costs low with built-in metering. And, as mobile users move between locations, Windows 8 automatically uses Wi-Fi hotspots, if they’re available.
Enhanced security features such as BitLocker (which now supports drives that come encrypted from the manufacturer), AppLocker (which lets you control which applications that can be run), and DirectAccess (which manages VPN connections) are also included in Windows 8.
OF course, as I mentioned above, this is by no means a comprehensive list of new functionality and improvements in Windows 8, only my own take on some of the features I think will be most interesting and/or compelling to business users and IT looking for reasons to upgrade from legacy OSes. I didn’t mention that Windows 8 will be compatible with even more devices and peripherals, nor did I mention all the great new and improved connectivity features or enhancements to multi-monitor support, Windows Defender, or other tools such as File Manager and Task Manager, but hopefully you get the idea that Windows 8 brings a lot more value to the business table than just it’s pretty new face and touch capabilities.
Cheers, as always, Ron