Microsoft just recently announced the release of Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview. It builds on the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview which was released in June this year. It comes with additional security, management, mobility and more virtualization features that are well suited for business. The preview can be downloaded from TechNet. During the announcement, the company also confirmed the rumors that the life cycle support policy for Windows 8.1 would be the same as that for Windows 8. The support would end on 10th January 2023.
Customers would be given two years to move to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8 after the update has been released. This time-frame is seen as ample enough to allow all their customers to move to Windows 8.1. After the end of that period, the company will no longer provide support for Windows 8, but will only provide support for Windows 8.1 and above.
The preview featured many new features that will definitely generate a lot of buzz. The additional enterprise features that have been included in the list include;
- Start Screen Control. IT departments will now be in a position to control how the layout of the Start Screen on company issued devices will appear. They can control the layout to ensure that key apps are easily accessible by users. The control also makes it possible for IT departments to prevent users from customizing their Start Screen. This will help ensure consistency and uniformity in the work place.
- Windows To Go Creator enables IT departments to create a fully manageable Windows 8.1 desktop that can be on a bootable external USB drive. The drive can easily be used to support bringing your own devices to work, and at the same time, can be given to corporate staff without necessarily compromising security.
- Direct Access enables users to connect via a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN like it was before. IT administrators can also keep the remote users’ PCs up to date by applying all the latest software updates and policies.
- BranchCache. Employees who work in branch offices will no longer have to download content multiple times from the Wide Area Network. This is because Branchcache caches websites, and files them along with any other content from the central servers locally on the hosted cache servers or the PCs.
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Users will enjoy a rich desktop experience and will have the ability to play 3D games. It will also be possible to use USB peripherals and to use some touch enabled devices across all types of network whether LAN or WAN for the VDI scenarios. This has been made possible mainly because of enhancements in Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft RemoteFX.
- Applocker: With this feature, IT department can control the apps and types of files that users run on their devices. This will make their devices more secure while also increasing the security of the data the device holds.
- Windows Enterprise Side Loading: It is now possible to side-load Internal Windows apps on domain joined PCs with tablets that are running the Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
The release date of the full version has not yet been announced by Microsoft but it will not be later than August.