Microsoft woos businesses with Windows 8.1 BYOD features

Windows 8.1 will include an Outlook RT app, but Microsoft is seriously wooing enterprises to join the Windows 8 crowd by offering a plethora of BYOD enhancements with the upcoming OS update.

Outlook 2013 RT is coming to Windows RT tablets as part of the free Windows 8.1 update. Users can also expect to see the Start button enabled by default when Windows 8.1 launches in preview on June 26 as well as configuration options to allow booting directly to the desktop. But Microsoft got serious at the TechEd 2013 conference about wooing businesses of all sizes over to Windows 8 by announcing BYOD enhancements that are coming with Windows 8.1; these updates will offer new manageability, networking, and security capabilities.

Windows 8.1

Security enhancements include improved native fingerprint-based biometrics, touch and swipe, to authenticate Windows sign-in, remote access, and even the ability to lock down specific folders. Microsoft wrote, "Modern readers are touch based rather than swipe and include liveliness detection that prevents spoofing (e.g.: silicon emulated fingerprints). Access to Windows Store Apps, functions within them, and certificate release can be gated based on verification of a user's biometric identity."

When the "relationship" is over between a user and a corporation, the corporation will have more control for remotely wiping data from the previous employee's device. Pervasive device encryption, improved Internet Explorer 11, malware resistance, and device lockdown are also listed under security improvements coming with Windows 8.1.

Besides selectively wiping business data from a BYOD device, IT administrators will be offered more control via other manageability options in Windows 8.1, such as controlling the layout of the Start screen and preventing users from customizing it. With "Workplace Join," admins will have "finer-grain" control access so only "registered" and "trusted" devices can tap into secured business data. Work Folders will allow users to keep local copies of their work on their device and also automatically sync data from their user folder in the corporation's data center.

New Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) capabilities will allow for better "mobile device management using third-party MDM solutions, such as MobileIron or AirWatch, with no additional agent required. Enhanced policies allow administrators to manage more settings from both Windows Intune and the third-party MDM solutions for both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1."

Life will get easier for people who need to print as they only need to tap their Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer and they are good to go. If the company printer is not NFC-enabled, "you can simply put an NFC tag on your existing printers to enable this functionality." Other printing options include connecting to Wi-Fi Direct printers, forming a peer-to-peer network, without needing to add additional drivers or other software.

No wires or dongles will be needed for work presentations as Windows 8.1 will allow a user to pair with a Miracast-enabled projector, either via Wi-Fi Direct using NFC or via Bluetooth, and "Miracast will then use the available Wi-Fi connection to let you lean back and project wire-free."

Other Windows 8.1 networking features optimized for mobile productivity includes a wider range of VPN clients and an app to automatically trigger VPN connections. Broadband tethering will allow Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PCs or tablets to become personal Wi-Fi hotspots.

You can see the full list of BYOD enhancements coming with Windows 8.1 preview, read the TechEd 2013 highlights that include Microsoft's plans for fueling a hybrid cloud, or even watch a TechEd keynote video.

Here's Windows 8.1 in action:

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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