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Microsoft: Here's why businesses will want Windows 8.1

Mark Hachman | June 4, 2013
Security, manageability, flexibility: Microsoft executives outlined several undisclosed features of Windows 8.1 at its TechEd conference on Monday.

To make it easy to connect all those devices, Molly Brown, a development lead at Microsoft, showed off how new devices could be tied to authenticated using Active Directory, connected to Windows Azure. Brown's demo wasn't complicated — a device was added in a single click, validated, and then the user had the ability to download his or her necessary Windows apps - and then removed by another single click.

"Show of hands — how many of you have had personal data deleted by your IT department?" Anderson asked.

Iain McDonald, a partner director at Microsoft, didn't reveal any new features about how Windows 8 is doing— the company has sold over a hundred million copies, with over 750,000 apps available. More data will be released at the end of the month, he said.

McDonald did, however, show off some of the features of Windows 8.1, such as a new way to more easily connect a device like a Windows tablet and wireless printer via NFC, a technology McDonald called "tap to print". (That demo struggled, given the massive amount of Wi-Fi networks in the audience.) Microsoft also showed off the ability to "beam" presentations to a wirelessly-connected display using a technology called Miracast.

"It's great for your conference room presentation," McDonald said.

McDonald also demonstrated a capability to allow Windows 8.1 machines to share Wi-Fi and cellular data by "tethering," one to another. While U.S. users may shrug, this capability is useful for international travelers who may pay an arm and a leg for public Wi-Fi access, which is generally not as cheap as in America, McDonald said.

Security improvements, too
Companies trying to straddle the lines between personal and company devices will likely be interested in what Microsoft calls "assigned access," where a device can essentially be locked to a single application, such as a customer service application or a testing environment for a child. Under assigned access, Windows 8 turns on filters that prevents the user from moving outside the application or accessing system files.

Microsoft's assigned access locks down the Start screen.

Apps developers can also build in their own VPN technology directly into devices - useful for doctors or salespeople who are constantly bouncing from one location to the next, McDonald said.

From a security standpoint, Microsoft said that Windows Defender, Microsoft's free antivirus solution in Windows 8, will include network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware, the company said in a blog post. Internet Explorer will scan binary extensions (e.g. ActiveX) using the antimalware solution before potentially harmful code is executed, Erwin Visser, the general manager of commercial Windows marketing, wrote.


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