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Can Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview entice business users?

Microsoft ships Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview on the heels of Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview updates.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview became available this week with new features that may entice organizations to test the new operating system.

In addition, Microsoft reiterated that the lifecycle support for Windows 8.1 follows its existing conventions for product support.

Microsoft said it received a number of questions surrounding lifecycle support -- a standard practice of IT professionals considering deploying and testing Windows 8.1 in their organization.

"We always ask about support when we look at Microsoft [products]," said Brian Katz, a director at a large New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company. "It becomes [especially] important as people think about skipping a release versus how long they will be supported."

The lifecycle support is particularly important to corporations that make long-term commitments and keep their systems longer than consumers do, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, an IT consulting firm in San Jose, Calif.

After the general availability of the Windows 8.1 update, Windows 8 users will have two years to move to Windows 8.1 in order to remain supported under the Windows 8 lifecycle, Microsoft said in its blog post about the latest release.

Mainstream Windows 8 Enterprise support ends on Jan. 9, 2018, and extended support ends Jan. 10, 2023, according to Microsoft's Support Lifecycle homepage.

Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview features

Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview represents Microsoft's strategy to get corporate IT shops to upgrade. It includes a variety of features to encourage enterprise IT to test the new OS in their environments.

The new release includes features that weren't in Windows 8, such as a Windows To Go Creator tool, which allows IT to produce a bootable Windows 8 corporate USB drive for their environments. It also includes the ability to control the Start screen so businesses can have their own images and apps on the screen without worrying about end users customizing their own look and feel. In addition, the Windows 8.1 Preview enables end users to remotely access corporate networks without having to go through a virtual private network (VPN).

Previously announced Windows 8.1 features for businesses include open mobile device management, Workplace Join, remote business data wipe, assigned access for providing a single Windows Store application user experience, mobile broadband tethering, native Miracast wireless display and boot to desktop.

Workplace Join allows an IT administrator to give end users permission to access corporate resources using a device they choose, and remote business data wipe allows IT pros to remotely wipe an end user's business data from a device in a bring-your-own-device program while retaining personal data.

Other enterprise features in the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview have carried over from previous versions of Windows, such as virtual desktop infrastructure and AppLocker for creating secure environments by controlling the files and applications users and departments can access on the corporate network.

Enterprise features in Windows 8.1 enable a group to move to the new OS if it wants to, Enderle said. But if end users are not excited about Windows 8, it will not be deployed, he noted.

"Users dictate what platform a company will move to," he said.

Windows 8.1 Preview fixes

Separately, Microsoft last week updated its Windows 8.1 Preview with a handful of non-security-related fixes.

The updates follow Microsoft's rapid release cadence, fixing bugs as needed in the Windows 8.1 Preview software instead of waiting for the monthly Patch Tuesday. In fact, this is the third update since the company began shipping Windows 8.1 Preview at the end of June.

The updates include a fix for service metadata packages that do not work properly for some network operators. This means the Wi-Fi tethering feature touted in Windows 8.1, which enables some devices to work as a Wi-Fi hotspot, will not operate properly.

Another update focuses on SkyDrive stability, while another centers on Internet Explorer 11. In this update, a webpage does not work correctly with a timer started by the VMScript code.

Other patches Microsoft previously released include fixes to the single sign-on for VPNs that use certificate authentication in Windows 8.1 Preview and a repeated offer update for a device that is not present in Windows 8.1 Preview or Windows RT 8.1 Preview. Microsoft has also enabled ListView contents to scroll smoothly and made improvements for SkyDrive's file search capabilities.

These new fixes come directly from Microsoft as part of the Windows 8 update service in Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview. However, the user must have this feature turned on.

Updates can quietly happen, and there is no official notice from Microsoft of these fixes. If automatic updates are turned on, end users can see what has been installed on their systems by viewing their update history.

On the other hand, optional updates or apps will not be automatically installed onto an end user's device without asking for permission or removing what is already on the system.

Microsoft is expected to release the RTM version of Windows 8.1 next month.

Dig Deeper on Windows 8 and 8.1

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Will you consider testing Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview in your organization?
I have to keep up with my non IBM customer base and with XP support waning I anticipate moves to 7 and 8.1
Its part of our plan to roll out the next version of windows and 8.1 looks to be a much more enterprise friendly version
Thanks for your comments @microeric. Just curious. Will you be deploying Windows 8.1 soon? What version of Windows are you currently using?
Long live Windows 7 until this flop is buried.
Win 8 (8.1) is a Lame OS for this organization

Win 7 and XP our mainstay
Wait for Win 9 or 10
8.1 looks great
I thing 8.1 looks interesting
Must wait to read reviews and feedback from normal everyday users.
Windows 7 is fine for the foreseeable future, really wish Microsoft would have started minor updates with Windows 7 instead of an entirely new OS, in a corporate environment that is huge!
Windows 8.x is a complete waste of time. It is geared towards their failing tablet market and not towards businesses. Updates/upgrades are fine, but they need to keep the Win7 look/feel in order for it to be productive. And for God's sake - ADD SOME COLOR TO OFFICE!! As long as our three choices are bright white, dull white and dirty white, it will never be implemented in our company.
not much point until the interface gets rid of the hand waving and telephone interface in favor of a productive environment instead of time wasting like facebook and twitter.
Windows 8 is a piece of shit! I hate the OS, its lack of backwards compatibility, its crappy user interface, and I just don't feel secure on the "CLOUD". And don't get me started about the MS office 2013 and 365.
It's not a business OS. I suggest Microsoft consider writing one.
Only an idiot would move their business to Windows 8/8.1. It has no value in the workplace.
Going to deploy RTM as soon as available.
I want to play and test the new features with windows 8.1 before users get it.
We will evaluate 8.x for Ux, as well as deployment and support requirements.
Some of the new features are way over due.
Windows 8/8.1 is a useless time waster in the corporation as well as the home. More time is wasted in trying to find what you want to use than it takes to do the job. Things that used to work no longer work. The Start screen with its tiles is a poor replacement for the programs menu in previous versions. Everything you need, right from the start is a big joke. The only thing there that I can use is the Desktop Tile to get me to the Desktop which is where I should have been when I logged on. When is Microsoft going to wake up and give people an operating system that is intuitive, fast, compact, and secure instead of these monsters that gobble hard drive real estate and memory.
Possibly in time...
i don't like what i see now
need to evaluate web support
so far my experience with windows 8 is that it has been design for 16 yo kids with a tablet.
There is nothing in it that will my company get more productive or better.
What were you thinking about Microsoft ?
We will be testing to see if 8.1 is more user friendly.
no more upgrades
If windows 8 tried to be a katana, the katana'd be a club.
Updating a club to become a katana, ... hmrpf.
But MS's miscarriage has huge impact on creativity all over the world. I never observed such vivid growth in non-windows systems market before.
No, they can't entice me, unless and until they wake up from their "useless group-think-slumber" and come up with a version of Windows 8 that restores all of the deleted functions, means, methods and uses that were "STANDARD" in XP and Win 7.
May be in 2 or 3 years, when Win 8.5 comes around.
For a business user, time is money. If Microsoft thinks it is a good thing to require
of users three, four or five keystrokes or mouse clicks, when the same task required JUST ONE KEYSTROKE or JUST ONE MOUSE-CLICK before (in XP and Win 7), then they really don't seem to want any business users at all.
Currently Microsoft is simply listening to the wrong experts. They could have it both ways, by offering the Metro deal to the "gamer, texter, smart phone and facebook user" and by offering the "Standard Useful
XP & Win 7 Interface" to the business user.

But so far they are not smart enough to figure that out.
SkyDrive integration is a problem (don't want it). User interface is a disaster. Give us an option to kill Modern Apps & Metro and we might reconsider.
Nope, In an enterprise environment, touch screens and tablet like functionality ISN'T needed.
I have to so I can support clients buying a new PC