Windows 8.1 Enterprise is up on MSDN, TechNet

Microsoft released the Enterprise version of Windows 8.1 -- but not through the VLSC site, confusing volume license customers with Software Assurance agreements

Causing no small amount of confusion, Microsoft's Erwin Visser announced last night that the Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM bits are available on TechNet and MSDN. Several Volume License customers with Software Assurance agreements tried to download the bits from the VLSC site, but discovered that the RTM isn't available there. Instead, SA customers are instructed to use their TechNet subscriptions -- which come with the SA bundle -- to download the software.

(Yes, TechNet is disappearing soon.)

Visser echoed a statement that's starting to make me a bit uneasy about the real "RTM" status of the latest release:

As my colleague Steve Guggenheimer shared this past week, the primary objective in making Windows 8.1 RTM bits available on TechNet and MSDN is so developers and businesses can continue testing the latest version of the operating system as our engineering teams refine and update the product and tools in preparation for Windows 8.1 general availability. And once GA bits are available, you will be ready to conduct final testing and begin your deployment of Windows 8.1. Testing your operating system for compatibility with existing applications and better understanding what needs to be done to migrate your business -- especially for those organizations still on Windows XP -- is paramount.

He's saying you need to test now, but you better be ready to test again at GA. "Final" testing, he calls it. Oh boy.

The Enterprise edition covers several features that aren't in Windows 8.1 RTM retail:

  • Windows to Go Creator -- presumably to put Win81 on a bootable USB drive, although the supporting blurbs only mention Windows 8.
  • Start Screen Control -- to lock down the Metro Start screen on Enterprise devices.
  • DirectAccess -- obviates VPN, conduit for applying patches.
  • BranchCache -- caches on local servers, typically in branch offices.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) -- which, according to Microsoft's website, enhances "the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and touch-enabled devices" for VDI scenarios.
  • AppLocker -- controls user programs and files.
  • Metro Side-Loading

There's a detailed description of what's new in this Windows Client TechNet post.

Microsoft has a side-by-side checklist of Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise features on the Windows website.

On the licensing side, there's one important wrinkle: Your company can get a free upgrade from Win 8 Pro to Win 8.1 Pro, whether you have System Assurance or not, but:

This does not apply to Windows 8 Enterprise; you must have active [Microsoft's emphasis] SA for the Windows desktop operating system to have rights to Windows 8.1 Enterprise licenses. Windows 8.1 for production use (Pro and Enterprise) will be available through the VLSC on October 18 and for new customers to purchase through Microsoft Volume License Resellers beginning November 1.

Worth noting: There's no price break on upgrading individual copies of Windows 7 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro -- all the new Windows 8.1 retail licenses are "full install" only. It hasn't yet been announced whether there will be price breaks on VL upgrades from Win 7 Pro.

Should you be considering a move, see the extensive Win 8.1 Enterprise deployment starter advice on the Springboard Series Blog.

With conflicting reports on the extent of Windows 8 deployment in the enterprise, the marked slowing in Win8 adoption overall, and Win 8.1's lackluster new user-side offerings, it's hard to imagine a stampede to replace Windows 7 Enterprise.

This story, "Windows 8.1 Enterprise is up on MSDN, TechNet," was originally published at 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 on Twitter.

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