Windows 8 preview's surprises for businesses

The Metro UI trumps the old Start menu and ARM devices won't be able to connect to domains

Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Guide for Business just a few hours before the widely anticipated release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview. In addition to the predictable pablum, the report includes a few surprises. (See InfoWorld's guide to what you can expect in Windows 8.)

The guide emphasizes that "critical line-of-business apps can benefit from an immersive full screen," just in case the Metro interface comes as news to you. "Specific applications within the Windows Store can be allowed or blocked by using AppLocker. With the new Windows 8 Start screen, business data is at your fingertips. Enterprises can create their own Windows 8 apps that are immersive and real-time." In other words, it looks like we won't get the old Start menu; Metro will have to suffice.

One of the big surprises: Windows on ARM (WOA) devices won't be able to connect to domains: "The ARM-based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, businesses can use these power-saving [WOA] devices in unmanaged environments."

Windows to Go's ability to boot and run a completely independent copy of Windows 8 gets the nod. "By creating a Windows to Go drive, you can include all of the applications that the employees use at work. When a user boots their PC from the Windows To Go drive, it creates a corporate desktop experience so they can quickly start working." Microsoft promises that the host PC can't get at data stored on the Windows to Go USB drive. No word on licensing requirements.

There's a bit of a nuance in the description of Internet Explorer 10 that leaves me scratching my head. "Internet Explorer is also plug-in-free. Line-of-business applications that require legacy ActiveX controls will continue to run in the desktop version of Internet Explorer. The desktop version can be easily accessed by tapping Use Desktop View in Internet Explorer." Note how there's no mention of everyone's favorite bête noire, Flash, nor its partner in crime, Acrobat Viewer. More than that, I'm surprised that Microsoft doesn't draw a distinction between the "32-bit and 64-bit versions" (we used to call them the Intel/AMD versions) of Windows 8, and the WOA version -- which won't allow any IE plug-ins, even on the desktop. Confusing.

DirectAccess, a Windows 7 technology, gets top billing for setting up a direct connection to the corporate network without VPN. "To use DirectAccess, companies need to use Active Directory Domain Services and Windows Server 8." No indication why Windows Server 8 is required; it's currently available in Windows Server 2008 R2.

BranchCache, another Windows 7 feature, which caches corporate files, websites, "and other content" from a central location to a local machine, gets a whole page. "Performance is improved by reducing data transfer size requirements through cache encryption, using data deduplication, and minimizing cache block sizes. BranchCache can scale to offices of any size by allowing you to deploy as many hosted cache servers as needed at a location. New database technologies ensure that BranchCache is faster and more scalable" -- thus connoting that the Windows 7 version is slower and less scalable, I imagine.

There are improvements in printing. "IT pros can use Hyper-V and failover clusters of print servers to remove the need for special drivers. If one of the virtualized print servers fails, another automatically starts. In the event of a hardware failure, the virtual print server restarts on the next Hyper-V server in the cluster. Print jobs that are sent from client computers running Windows 8 to a printer that is shared on a server running Windows Server 8 go directly to the local branch office printer. ... Administrators no longer need to load different driver packages onto the print server for different client computer architectures. In addition, when the print server is running Windows Server 8, clients running Windows 8 don't need to download a driver to use a printer that works with the Windows Server 8 print driver model."

Enhanced security features include UEFI-based Secure Boot, BitLocker, and AppLocker improvements, and SmartScreen Reputation service -- which may have an impact on installing corporate apps.

There are also significantly improved tools for deploying Windows and applications throughout the enterprise.

This story, "Windows 8 preview product guide for business contains surprises," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

This story, "Windows 8 preview product guide for business contains surprises," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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