To date, Microsoft hadn’t done a very good job of articulating why businesses would want to skip Windows 7 and migrate to Windows 8 instead. But on the second day of TechEd 2012, the software giant unleashed a tsunami of enterprise-oriented Windows 8 information, providing our most comprehensive look yet at its plans. It even showed a tiny peek of the next Office which, yes, is called Office 2013.
“Windows 8 is enterprise-ready by design,” said Microsoft corporate vice president Antoine Leblond, who provided the day two keynote address. “Adding features that bring new possibilities in mobility, productivity and security, Windows 8 will delight developers, IT professionals and the employees they support.”
Of course, with Windows 7 still going strong and racking up over 600 million sales since its debut in late 2009, one might think that Microsoft needs to tread an uneasy balance between pushing the new and selling the current. But the company showed no such qualms about that, noting that virtually all enterprises were already in the process of moving to Windows 7 and wouldn’t need to change their plans. Instead, they figure that businesses will mix and match between Windows 8 with the latter being used in specific scenarios, including tablets and Windows To Go, which provides a safe, secure, and easily transportable Windows 8 environment on a USB stick.
Microsoft made a number of Windows 8-related announcements at the show and revealed more information about enterprise-oriented Windows 8 features. These include:
Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) 2.0 Beta is now available. This brings Windows 8 support to the firm’s enterprise-focused BitLocker management tool. Download the Beta.
Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) 4.0 Service Pack 1 Beta is now available. Also adds Windows 8 support. Download the Beta.
Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8 Release Candidate (RC) is now available. Again, provides Windows 8 compatibility. Download the RC.
User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) Beta 2 coming soon. Microsoft will deliver the second beta of its user experience virtualization tool by the end of June, I was told. It works with both Windows 7 and Windows 8, and even syncs settings for the same user between different Windows 7 and 8 PCs.
Windows Intune v3 is now available. Microsoft announced this in day one of TechEd, but the new version of the Intune cloud-based PC and device management service is now available. Find out more about Intune.
Windows 8 security features. Windows 8 PCs will feature pre-boot and boot-time protection against boot- and root-kit malware courtesy of Secure Boot and Trusted Boot, respectively. It will provide sign-in protection with new sign-in technologies including virtual smart card support which uses the TPM chip in the CP to offer multi-factor authentication without an easy-to-lose physical smartcard. And it will protect users post-sign-in with technologies such as SmartScreen, which debuted as part of Internet Explorer 9 in 2009. Windows 8 also offers important updates to BitLocker and other security features, and adds support for a coming generation of self-encrypting SSD storage devices.
Windows 8 connectivity features. Windows 8 brings mobile broadband into the OS in a highly integrated way, offering a way for users to easily view and stay within their data limits. It also features advances to DirectAccess (a VPN replacement) and BranchCache, many of which work better when used in tandem with Windows Server 2012.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Microsoft’s datacenter-based hosted desktop technology is now much easier to set up, deploy and configure in Windows Server 2012 and it supports three deployment types with Windows 8. RemoteFX requirements for hardware GPU on the server have also been eliminated, and in side-by-side tests with Windows 7, Windows 8 performs dramatically better in VDI environments.
Windows To Go. There’s been a lot of confusion about Windows To Go, and the various hacks I’ve seen online that attempt to provide this capability have never worked properly. The reason is simple, Microsoft says: It is only certifying two specific USB storage devices for Windows To Go at this time, the Kingston DT Ultimate and the SuperTalent RC8, for performance reasons. A tool to create and deploy Windows To Go sticks will be provided in the RTM version of Windows 8 Enterprise only, Microsoft says, but the company provided Release Preview sticks at a press event, so I’ll be writing more about this technology soon.
During the day two keynote, Microsoft confirmed that the next Office version, expected in early 2013, will be called Office 2013. The version that will be bundled with the ARM version of Windows 8 , Windows RT, will be called Office 2013 RT.
If you’re in Orlando for TechEd today, I'll be taking part in a "Skills for Emerging Technologies" session, which is inconveniently located at the Hilton Orlando Ballroom (across from South Convention Center). It starts at 11:45, but I'll be there around 10:45. If that's not possible, I'll be in the press room and then the Windows IT Pro booth for a few hours in the afternoon.