On Tuesday, Microsoft introduced Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, a taste of what is to come when the full-fledged update arrives later this year. The company said that this preview version is based on the recently-released Windows 8.1 Preview, but adds premium features addressing mobility, security, management and virtualization needs.
According to the company, the full-blown Windows 8.1 Enterprise will include Windows To Go Creator, Start Screen Control, DirectAccess, BranchCache, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, AppLocker and Windows Enterprise Side-Loading. These features will be in addition to what will already be offered in Windows 8.1 for businesses such as Work folders, broadband tethering, remote business data removal and more.
"With the availability of Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, it is time to start planning your deployment. Windows 8 customers will have two years to move to Windows 8.1 after the General Availability of the Windows 8.1 update to continue to remain supported under Windows 8 lifecycle," the company said.
The Windows To Go Creator will allow IT organizations to create a fully manageable corporate Windows 8.1 desktop on a bootable external USB drive. This is a great feature for supporting BYOD environments or for contingent staff to access the corporate environment without compromising security.
With Smart Screen Control, IT departments can control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to ensure key apps are easily accessible. They can also prevent users from customizing their Start screen to ensure consistency across individual workgroups or the entire company.
Microsoft describes Windows Enterprise side-loading as enabling internal Windows apps the ability to be side-loaded on domain-joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8.1 Enterprise. The AppLocker allows IT organizations to create a more secure environment by restricting the files and apps that users or groups can run on a PC.
"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," the company said.
Microsoft is encouraging customers to start testing the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview now. The preview build can be downloaded here, and additional information about what Windows 8.1 Enterprise will bring to the table later this year can be read here.
Kevin Parrish is a contributing editor and writer for Tom's Hardware,Tom's Games and Tom's Guide. He's also a graphic artist, CAD operator and network administrator.
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