On Tuesday, Redmond-based software giant Microsoft announced the availability of the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview for testing purposes, so that customers could grab it and start deploying it in their environments.
Building on the Window 8.1 Preview, the platform arrives with a series of premium features specifically aimed at enterprise users who need mobility, security, management, and virtualization options inside it.
Windows 8.1 has already been announced with a variety of new business capabilities, such as Assigned Access, which enables an enterprise to allow a device’s user to access a single application, while other system files and apps are kept away from them.
Other similar features that Microsoft made official at TechEd North America back in June include Inbox VPN Clients, Open MDM, Workplace join (so that trusted Windows 8.1 devices could access secured enterprise data), and Remote business data removal.
Windows 8.1 also allows users to boot directly to the desktop, Pervasive Device Encryption, Auto-triggered VPN, Wi-Fi Direct Printing, NFC Tap-to-pair Printing, support for a wider range of VPN clients, Broadband Tethering, and more.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, however, brings along some more business-oriented capabilities, including Windows To Go Creator, Start Screen Control, DirectAccess, BranchCache, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), AppLocker, and Windows Enterprise Side-Loading.
In a recent blog post, Microsoft’s Erwin Visser explains what these new premium features are all about:
- Windows To Go Creator: IT organizations can create a fully manageable corporate Windows 8.1 desktop on a bootable external USB drive. The drive can be used to support Bring Your Own Device scenarios or be given to contingent staff to access the corporate environment without compromising security.
- Start Screen Control: 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.
- DirectAccess: Users can seamlessly access resources inside a corporate network remotely without having to launch a separate VPN. Also, IT administrators can keep remote users' PCs up-to-date by applying the latest policies and software updates.
- BranchCache: Employees in branch offices no longer need to download content multiple times across their Wide Area Network (WAN) as BranchCache caches files, websites and other content from central servers locally on hosted cache servers or PCs.
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): Users will enjoy a rich desktop experience and the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios, thanks to enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012.
- AppLocker: IT organizations can create a more secure environment by restricting the files and apps that users or groups can run on a PC, increasing the security of the device and the data it holds.
- Windows Enterprise Side-Loading: Internal Windows apps can be side-loaded on domain-joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview was made available for download in both 32- and 64-bit variants. Users who would like to download an ISO containing the platform will find them available in Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Taiwan), English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish.
Microsoft recommends the installation of Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview on a test machine, and notes that it won’t be upgradeable to a licensed working version of Windows 8.1 Enterprise.