will Windows 8 offer something new to the enterprise?

Microsoft is offering the public a free trial of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system from today.

The new operating system, unveiled at Mobile World Congress, will run on ARM tablets as well as desktops and laptops - and is widely seen as a sea-change for Windows that is seen as a make-or-break opportunity for Microsoft. But what’s in it for enterprises?

different variations but manageability won’t be the same

Windows 8 will come in two “super fun experience” variations - one that works on desktops and laptops, and a new version for the ARM microprocessors in tablets, smartphones and other portable devices – and was developed in conjunction with thousands of vendors and developers.

The enterprise is a huge opportunity for Microsoft. Historically, Android has had a horrible time with tablets and relevancy. So, if Microsoft plays this right, it could help encourage take-up of Windows devices for portable use.

However, Microsoft has disclosed that Windows on ARM won’t offer the same manageability features that businesses have come to rely on for overseeing their legions of computers.

“Although 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 devices in unmanaged environments,” Microsoft said in a detailed guide released ahead of its Windows 8 event in Barcelona.

A lack of manageability isn’t the only reason many big businesses probably won’t want to go Windows on ARM. It also won’t work with most desktop apps other than Office.

focus on the consumerization of IT

Instead, Microsoft is targeting enterprises who are looking for a BYOD strategy, through a “Windows To Go” feature that allows businesses to offer workers access to Windows 8 and corporate apps on a thumb drive.

“Growing mobility and consumerization trends pressure IT professionals to provide users with secure access to a corporate operating system and apps in situations when a device or network is out of the IT department’s control,” Microsoft said.

“Windows 8 includes the ability to provide users with a full corporate copy of Windows (along with user’s business apps, data, and settings) on a USB storage device.”

Fast and fluid were the key themes for the Windows 8 experience - It should be fun and functional, said the VPs in the MWC presentation.

look & feel of Windows Phone

The feature works with both Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines.

“When users insert their device into any Windows 7 or Windows 8 compatible PC and restart the PC, they get their entire personal environment, and operate as a fully managed device,” Microsoft said. “When they sign out, they can remove the USB device, and it is ready to use on another PC.”

In both versions, Windows 8 features a completely new interface, borrowed from what Microsoft calls the ‘Metro’ style of the current Windows Phone software. It features blocks or 'tiles' that can be moved around the screen or tapped to go straight into an application. The tiles update in real time, so you can see if you have emails, voice messages or Facebook notifications at a glance.

If PC and laptop users do not like the new format, they can revert to the old style with a click of the mouse. A handy at-a-glance sidebar on Windows 8 can be seen on the Daily Mail’s writeup.

Microsoft has released a giant Product Guide for Business in the interim. This guide is a total of 16 pages long and shows off how small businesses will be using Windows 8 in their day-to-day comings and goings. Ten key benefits are listed for the operating system on the whole, and such features as Windows to Go and SmartScreen Application Reputation shine in a deluge of Windows 8 goodness. You can download this guide for yourself over at the Microsoft Download Center.

You can download the beta of Windows 8 now at windows.microsoft.com. Windows 8 for Enterprises will be formally launched at CeBIT from 6 to 10 March in Hannover, Germany.

Will you be testing out this new evolution of operating system to see if it meets your enterprise needs?

Nicolas Jacquey
Joe Fernandez

Joe Fernandez is a technology writer and blogger for Futurity Media. As a journalist, he was an editor on Computer Weekly and Microscope magazines and worked as a deputy editor for Marketing Week and its sister title Pitch covering online marketing and social media developments. Joe has also appeared in titles including New Media Age, Guardian Computing, Computing Magazine, The Inquirer and Mobile Magazine.