Microsoft has bowed to the age of consumerisation and ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), announcing features in the next version of its business OS, Windows 8 Enterprise, it hopes will fit in with the trend towards device hopping and home working.
Only days after revealing that the Windows 8 for consumers will come in three versions, there had been some curiosity as to how the business version of Windows 8 would accommodate the consumer trends that have become a subversive influence in many enterprises.
In a new blog, Microsoft marketing director Erwin Visser confirmed that Windows To Go will be an important part of the Enterprise package, allowing employees to securely boot their business desktop from a USB drive image on a home PC.
The company has even revised its licensing approach under its Windows Software Assurance to allow users to legally use the desktop and USB drive images of versions of Windows 8, a concession that extends using a companion license to up to four devices, Visser said.
Another intriguing feature is DirectAccess, an alternative way for remote PCs to connect to business networks without having to tunnel in through a VPN. The advantage of DirectAccess is mainly that it allows admins to fully manage the connecting PC by policy.
DirectAccess has been around since Windows 7 which suggests that Windows 8 Enterprise will refine its integration. Another Windows 7 generation technology, AppLocker (a way to restrict which apps can be run) looks to have been given a similar if unspecified makeover.
BranchCache, however, will be all new, a technology that lets users cache web content and files from central servers (especially Windows Server 2012) in order to cut down on WAN traffic.
Windows 8 Enterprise PCs and tablets (that means Windows 8 RT users running ARM-powered devices) will also, of course, be able to run Metro apps, including Microsoft hopes those specially developed to enhance the business environment.
On one hand by embracing BYOD and consumerisation in Windows 8 Enterprise, the new OS looks like an important change of direction – the company has seemed to be behind workplace trends in the past, preferring that businesses and users fit into its pre-defined technological roadmap.
On the other hand, the company probably has no choice. Consumerisation threatens the hegemony of Windows by pushing people to other devices that don’t run it, particularly rival smartphone and tablet operating systems and Apple hardware.
Microsoft will be hoping that Windows 8 Enterprise and its BYOD makeover offers enough reasons for business to upgrade from older versions rather than hedging their bets while the consumerisation wave changes the landscape further. That would erode Microsoft's revenues. Windows 8 Enterprise is the company's plan to stop the rot.