I’m not going to list all of the features of the base Windows 8.1 edition, or cover Windows RT capabilities in this post, instead it’s an overview of the IT Pro oriented features that Windows 8.1 Pro bring to a corporate environment. Many of these enhancements will be the focus of the rest of the articles in the series on Windows 8.1, and also set the stage for the next post on Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
Windows 8.1 Pro
For most businesses this is the default choice, and the traditional reason for this from the Windows XP timeframe onwards is Domain Join and the related benefits, such as Group Policy. With Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, additional capabilities have been accumulating in the Pro edition that makes it even more appropriate for business use.
The inclusion of BitLocker, and then BitLocker To Go to secure internal and removable drives with whole drive encryption was a major step up over what Microsoft had provided previously through Encrypting File System (EFS – not to be confused with Elite Fitness Systems, a friend’s powerlifting related business – I don’t think Microsoft’s EFS ever had their own range of tshirts).
BitLocker inclusion is important as it reduces the risk of data being acquired after hardware loss or theft, but as with all security measures, there are overheads that need to be taken into consideration on the hardware, user and management side. From a user perspective, having a device with a Trusted Platform Module is the best way to go, and it also steers the hardware purchasing towards business oriented devices.
Offline files and Remote Desktop capabilities are two of the long standing features, so I won’t dwell on those, instead it’s two new features, Client Hyper-V (introduced with Windows 8 Pro) and Assigned Access (new in Windows 8.1 Pro) will wrap up the Windows 8.1 Pro enhancement section. I’m not trying to downplay the enhancements that have occurred to these over the last few Windows releases, I’ll spend more time on them in the future.
Client Hyper-V inclusion is a huge leap forward from a technology perspective over Virtual PC and XP Mode in Windows 7. Being able to move virtual machines from the client to the server or vice versa is great in a test and development environment, and some of the enhancements in Windows 8.1 Pro include support for UEFI for Secure Boot, SCSI boot, and PXE boot finally not relying on the 100Mb/s legacy adapter.
Going down the path of choosing a Generation 2 virtual machine means that you will only be able to run it on Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise, or Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V installations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing or a major roadblock.
The final feature for today is Assigned Access (also known as Kiosk Mode) which allows a single Windows 8 App to be assigned to a non-admin account, effectively acting as the shell for that user.
Setting it up is simple, just select the user and the app that you want to assign to that account, and you are done.
As the Kiosk Mode name suggests, this is type of usage scenario that would traditionally be single purpose, but there are a bunch of additional scenarios where a fixed function device with Windows 8.1 underpinnings would make sense. Maybe Qantas will replace the rather poor user experience on their iPad entertainment systems =)
Coming up next… Windows 8.1 Enterprise – what are its features, and how do you get it?