What Will Windows 8.1 Hold For Business?

    By Iain Pemberton | Small Business

    The first major update to Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (OS) – version 8.1 – has been confirmed for a global release starting on October 18th. It is expected to provide a range of new and improved features for the OS, as well as address some of the most common user complaints about the software.

    Windows 8 was a major overhaul from the previous Windows 7 version and had a focus on making it more user-friendly for touch devices and portable gadgets. However, user and critical reaction to the OS has been mixed, and adoption rates have been slow. The software picked up just 0.3 percent more market share in July, taking it to 5.4 percent, according to figures from Net Applications.

    Many people were upset about the removal of the familiar start button and the requirement to go through the new, tile-based Start screen before they can access a more traditional desktop. Microsoft is looking to address some of these issues in the new update.

    “Windows 8.1 continues the vision we began with Windows 8 and is an example of our commitment to continuous innovation and improvement for our customers,” said Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc in a blog post confirming the release date.

    But what will the update offer to enterprise users who have been wary of upgrading from Windows 7 to the new system? TechRadar reports one of the big questions has been how the platform will fit in with a more mobile environment, where employees expect to use their own tablet devices at work.

    For firms looking to deploy a “bring your own device” strategy, greater control of mobile device management systems will be offered, with more opportunities for changing settings and ensuring the devices are secure.

    “If a business has apps that it wants its employees to use, such as an expenses reporting tool, it will not have to go through the Windows Store but can sideload them into Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 devices and send out any updates,” TechRadar’s Mary Branscombe wrote.

    This could prove beneficial to firms that are keen to increase their communication and collaboration with remote workers through BYOD gadgets. Although Android tablets and Apple iPads continue to dominate the market, Microsoft has said a much wider range of Windows 8-based tablets and convertible devices are on the way, from manufacturers including Acer, Asus and Dell.

    Other features set to be offered in Windows 8.1 that may be of use to enterprises include improved snap views, which will allow users to view apps side-by-side for better multitasking, while the ability to save files directly to the cloud should aid with collaboration by allowing remote workers to access the latest information wherever they are.

    When it comes to enterprise BYOD features, the additions made to Windows 8.1 will mirror some of those already found on iOS and bring the platform more in line with other smartphones and tablets that are commonly used for BYOD.

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