Windows

Six Windows 8 enhancements that will benefit the business

Although he remains skeptical that Windows 8 will be an immediate hit with the enterprise, Scott Lowe outlines eight features that he thinks will be good for business.

Although I remain skeptical that Windows 8 will be an immediate hit with the enterprise, there are some goodies coming in the new operating system that should appeal to the IT department.  Here, I will outline eight such features and explain why I think they're good for business.

Windows To Go

You might be sick of hearing about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, but it seems to be growing in popularity, with some pundits even going so far as to say that it could wipe out the need for an IT department.  I am not one of those pundits.  I believe that BYOD is too important to ignore, but believe that IT has a critical role to play, even in that movement.

Microsoft might be on to something here, though.  With Windows To Go, a feature of the upcoming Windows 8 Enterprise, allows Windows 8 to be run from a USB stick on any Windows 7 or Windows 8 system.  Now, organizations can provide those that need to use personal devices with a corporate Windows image in a way that's accessible.

Perhaps the downside here is that Windows To Go is that it requires Software Assurance in order to obtain Windows To Go use rights to use it at work and on a home PC.  Further, Microsoft is introducing a new "companion license," employees can use Windows To Go on a personal device in the office.

Improved Task Manager

Not every improvement in Windows 8 is going to be immediately visible to the user.  Some items will be behind the scenes, but will improve the overall support function.  Once such tool is the lowly Task Manager, which hasn't gotten a lot of love over the years.  Sure, Microsoft added the new Resource Monitor tool, which is fantastic, but with Windows 8, Microsoft has given Task Manager itself a huge functional facelift, making it much more useful and adding Metro application information.  My TechRepublic colleague, Rick Vanover, gave the new Task Manager a full walkthrough a few months ago, so I won't repeat it all here, but have included a couple of updated screenshots below.

Figure A

The new Task Manager in action

Figure B

How Metro apps appear in Task Manager

Secure Boot

Security is always a consideration in the enterprise.  Windows 8 adds a new feature called Secure Boot, a feature which disallows the loading of unauthorized firmware, operating systems, and drivers at boot time.  For x86 versions of Windows 8, Microsoft will require that vendors adding Secure Boot capabilities to their UEFI (as opposed to BIOS) systems also make provisions for users to be able to disable Secure Boot.  For Windows RT (ARM)-based Windows 8, manufacturers will not be allowed to disable Secure Boot.

Hyper-V on the desktop

Although not revolutionary since hypervisors such as VMware Workstation and Virtual PC have been around for years, Microsoft's decision to fully bake Hyper-V into the Windows 8 client could have enterprise benefits.  Hyper-V is far more capable than type 2 hypervisors that were available before on the client side and may be a boon for developers that need to run multiple operating systems.

Hyper-V on a Windows 8 desktop requires systems with processors that support Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) and with enough resources to run multiple operating systems.

SMB 3

SMB 3 is another behind the scenes improvement.  But, when fully implemented, it's one that users will probably come to appreciate.  SMB 3 brings to the table major performance and feature improvements.  SMB 3 also boasts encryption in transit and other features, including a new feature known as SMB multichannel. This allows the system to use multiple network channels, increasing overall throughout and adding fault tolerance to the environment.

Another colleague of mine, Stephen Foskett, has written a definitive guide to what's new in SMB 3.  It's worth a read.

Improved multi monitor support

Although Microsoft estimates the percentage of Windows users with multiple monitor installations in the low double-digits, for those people (myself included), multiple monitor support has often been frustrating, requiring add-ons in order for things to work as expected.  For example, in my three-monitor setup, the taskbar appears on only one monitor.  While this isn't a huge problem, it is a frustration.  Windows 8 adds, for example, a multiple monitor taskbar and the ability to have different backgrounds on each display.  While the background images won't matter much, having the taskbar across all assets will make life a bit easier for the 13.48% of desktop-based power users that use two displays.  My ZDnet colleague, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, goes in depth into the new multi-monitor support in Windows 8.

Summary

I've been extremely concerned about some changes that Microsoft has made to Windows 8, namely the removal of the Start button and some window management challenges I see with Metro.  However, as I start to use it more, I'm beginning to warm to it, but still believe that Microsoft needs to listen to their audience before the final product ships.  That said, there are a number of business-friendly features that may be compelling for the enterprise user and administrator.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

15 comments
btsander
btsander

It seems the performance increase is only small at best and not worth the headache.... I just don't get what they're doing. They're certainly not going after me as a desktop user. I think they believe that touch screen and "iPads" are the future and WE (desktop users) need to get use to it so we can buy their new surface computers.

btsander
btsander

I'm trying to use it but I just don't like the OS. I can't get use to the new UI. I really think Microsoft BLEW it. I think, they should have made the shitty new UI an option.

cybershooters
cybershooters

The only one of those six things that is really a new feature in Windows is Windows to go, the other five are just improvements (arguably) to things already there. Secure Boot for example is just an extension of blocking unsigned drivers in the x64 version of Windows 7. Having played around with it, yes it's a nice feature, but the reality is that most users need access to some sort of resource that is only on the domain, so it's not that useful to be able to take that environment home with you. If you have DirectAccess set up, then it becomes more useful but DirectAccess is a bit too tied down to Microsoft technology and it's not widely used. Not yet anyway.

rickshep
rickshep

get over it! It's a real nice UI

rickshep
rickshep

I boot from USB occasionally on a pocket Linux but this inevitably fails after a few writes and rewrites. Ditto Puppu so Win 8 seems to me to be a no no for this approach. Dedicated SS HDs will fix this though

fluxtatic
fluxtatic

So, if it can be disabled in the bias, why all the press over Debian forking out to get a signed cert? If it's not absolutely required, what does it matter? Or is there something I'm misunderstanding.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

This same capability is part of what Microsoft has been pushing for about 15 years as part of their long term vendor lock in process. It's had many names in the past and been trounced each time, but they have been slipping it in a little at a time over the last 15 years. The next stage will be a major service pack where Secure Boot, once activated can NOT be turned off. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next-Generation_Secure_Computing_Base When they first put this out as Palladium it was intended to be a lot more intrusive and restrictive that what wiki says about it. As to the rest, some of the items are long overdue and simple copies of what Linux has been doing for a few years. I see absolutely no innovation here by Microsoft at all. They claim they want to give the user choice, but most of the changes in each new version remove choice and restrict user personalization capability.

Capt_Ron2012
Capt_Ron2012

Any device that supports boot from USB. I've run it on Window XP boxes, Linux boxes, and even MacBook Pro. as a matter of fact, I'm building a Windows To Go development box on a 240GB SSD with USB3. That was I can use it on my workstation at work, home computer, and my Mac laptop.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

Out of the 6, there are maybe 3, (and that's a bit of a stretch) that I think that actually would be considered benefits. Windows to go: Not seeing the real benefit there when everything is moving to virtual Os environments, and alot to cloud based storage. If anything I would have liked to see more advanced Remote desktop support. Honestly I would rather have my users connect to there environment in a terminal server then carry it around with them in any from. They can use there own device but they can run in my environment. Improved task manager: Ok I admit this is cool and I will concede the point with this one. However I am not seeing why this cant be just an add on in the next windows 7 service pack. Hyper V on Desktop: Can we say late to the party? Forget the fact that VMware, Virtual box, and Virtual PC are already here and work well, and with enough resources can run multiple OS's effectively. I am not seeing the real advantage to a full blown Hyper V to a standard business user. Yes for a select few having and second OS loaded is great but the current VM technology and duel boot configs already fill that hole, and pretty well. This is just one more thing for me to disable to save horsepower on a standard desktop. Secure Boot: This is a good idea, as long as there is a way to disabled it when needed. I use a few Linux boot discs and other tools for repair and virus removal when systems get hosed or the test the hardware. SMB3: good idea. Improved monitor support: Solved with third party utilities and registry modification. Hell there is even a MS power toy that can fix this. It comes down to this there is just not enough gravy here to justify the grief that this OS is going to cause. Where is the good stuff? Where is the stuff that would make our lives as techs easier. How about more precise error codes? Something that would make it easier for us to locate research and fix problems within an OS. How about that new file system to replace NTFS that we have been promised since Windows Vista? The ability to mount Iso files from the OS not just burn them, without third party software? More granular control of the OS? Let us choose the interface we are most comfortable with? I have said this many times back when it was vista and it applies again. "its pretty and that's about it" I don't need pretty, I need powerful. I don't need another toy, I think we need better tools. It's time that MS stops trying to be apple, stops trying to be fisher price it needs to be craftsman again. On the other hand just like Vista was to Win 7, this will be a very costly beta test. So I have hope for Win 9.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

either, but they won't as that means actually thinking about the users and not their bank account. The big deal is familiarity of operation for all those people with many years of menu driven computer usage and the trouble with having to learn a new method.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

devices like tablets and phones etc. The Secure Boot MUST be turned on and locked down by the OEM or MS will spit the dummy with them and not sell them any more. I suspect the reason is the OS is so big and kludgy that ARM devices like tablets without huge amounts of resources will not be able to handle any third party apps that aren't cut down the way MS wants.

TrajMag
TrajMag

No thought to the literally millions it will cost the enterprise in lost productivity. The mighty M$ can be changed - Just stop buying this junk!

fluxtatic
fluxtatic

Aside from that, if I'm interested in hacking on it/rooting it/etc, why would I buy a tablet with Win8 in the first place? Strictly my opinion, of course, but if that's the direction I were inclined to take it, I'd likely be better off with Android anyway. The Asus Transformer is quite nice. My concern was more with x86 hardware. If that were coming, I'd horde all the current-gen motherboards I could afford and hang onto them like grim death. Either way, though, still wondering what the big deal with Debian was, and thinking a little more every day that Win 8 will be another disaster for MS, but they'll get it right in Win 9. I'm more than happy to hang onto Win 7 until I get to see if I'm right.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

all I can where it suits them. However, there are many organisations and people that have a specific piece of software that's critical to their business operation or they just 'can't live without it' and it will only run on Windows. The sad side of this is that for most it will only run on one particular version of Windows and they get caught with having to pay for a new version of it when Windows changes how it talks to software with each new version. However, I'm finding people who weren't that interested in Linux in the past are now interested as they want new hardware but don't want Win 7 or Win 8 they want something that looks and works like what they're used to, and that's where Zorin OS 5 Premium with the Win 2000 graphics interface look comes in very handy for them.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

back in the mid 1990s Microsoft mentioned some aims that equate to a total vendor lock in which got a lot of angry responses - the current version is called Trusted Computing, and a past one was called Palladium. The aim is to make the hardware and software such that once installed you can't change it but the vendor can via updates etc, they also want to get it so that you can't talk to anyone who isn't using one of their systems. They got into hot water at the time and have been introducing the intended changes slowly via stealth processes. When MS first introduced the over the Internet verification as against the serial number code on the software package they assured everyone that it wasn't able to disable the software and never would - right, it didn't for a couple of years and then MS WGA was introduced and later versions started killing legit systems because of the poor way it worked. Now we have Secure Boot as a hardware software lock down on the system, but only for ARM devices - never mind explaining why it's needed on the ARM devices apart from them thinking not many will object. I'm sure that windows 9 or Windows 10 will have compulsory Secure Boot lock down on all devices, just wait and see.