Windows 8: Improvements for business customers

By Tom Warren, on 19th Sep 11 10:58 am with 39 Comments

Microsoft’s Windows 8 consumer features are well documented, but how does the latest operating system cater for business customers?

Microsoft unveiled Windows 8 during its BUILD developers conference last week in Anaheim, California. The company revealed the new Metro interface for a range of new style applications. Desktop and classic Windows discussions were at a minimum but there’s a lot there for those who will need to use the classic desktop and deploy Windows 8 in business and enterprise workplaces.

Connectivity, Wi-Fi and mobile broadband improvements

Some of the most basic but important changes in Windows 8 from a business perspective are the improvements in connectivity. Windows 8 now treats a mobile broadband network as a metered connection, allowing Windows to automatically block further network connections and avoid costly data charges. Microsoft’s improved Wi-Fi support makes it easier for users to switch to hotspots as an alternative to mobile broadband connections. Microsoft has also improved its radio support in Windows 8. The operating system includes controls to allow users to quickly turn individual connections on and off or manage them all with a “flight mode” switch.

Metro style apps secure environment

Metro style apps run in a secure environment on Windows 8. The apps’s user data is isolated to the individual application and user. Microsoft revealed last week that Metro style apps will only be available via the new Windows Store environement but the company revealed sideloading will be available and supported. Microsoft is expected to allow businesses to load on their own Metro apps.

SmartScreen Filter

Windows 8 application warning

Microsoft’s SmartScreen filter technology is now integreated for files downloaded from the web. The technology, typically found in Internet Explorer, will prevent end users from launching known malware programs. The technology provides warnings before high-risk apps are allowed to run.

Windows Defender

Microsoft is building its own antimalware protection straight into Windows 8. Windows Defender monitors and protects against viruses and known malware in real time. Windows Defender will also load approved antimalware drivers during the boot process to ensure that even 3rd party antimalware software can start correctly and monitor the system at all stages.

Secured Boot

Microsoft has improved the security of booting Windows desktops a great deal with Windows 8. Secured boot aims to make Windows more responsive to virus threats during bootup. If Windows detects any attempt to start malware before the operating system is up and running it will start the Windows Recover Environment which will attempt to automatically fix the operating system.

Windows To Go

Windows To Go Windows 8 USB

Windows 8 includes the ability to run itself from a USB. Windows To Go will allow businesses to supply end users with a USB copy of their operating system, business apps, data and settings. End users can simply plug the USB into any regular desktop or laptop and Windows 8 will boot from the USB with all the users settings intact.

DirectAccess improvements

Windows 8 includes some improvements to DirectAccess. Windows 8 better supports existing infrastructure by supporting non-IPv6 server resources and simplified deployment for smaller organizations by not requiring Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).


Microsoft has built in new capabilities to AppLocker in Windows 8. AppLocker can be used to manage both desktop and Metro style apps. Business IT environments can create security policies to allow or deny specific applications from being run on a Windows 8 desktop.


BitLocker includes improved performance benefits for Windows 8 users. BitLocker now only encrypts sectors on a HDD that have data stored on them. Windows 8 BitLocker will encrypt the drive as free space is used up. The user experienced is also improved via hard drive pre-encryption with clear key and user pin reset options.

File management Windows Explorer improvements

Windows 8 Explorer - Search tab

Microsoft has built in the ribbon interface to the Windows Explorer. The interface provides easy and quick access to the ISO and VHD support in Windows 8. Microsoft has also made copying/moving files a lot better, combining all file operations in one place. The Windows up button has also returned to the Windows Explorer interface.

Measured Boot

Systems with a TPM chip can be used to prevent rootkit or malware infections with Windows 8. TPM enabled systems will initiate a Measured Boot process in Windows 8 that is used to validate the boot process and prevent rootkits and other malware from loading.

Improved Active Directory-based activation

Windows 8 enables Windows activation based on user identities in Active Directory. The new feature does not require any additional infrastructure and lets Windows 8 systems be activated in an enterprise environment using Active Directory.

Task Manager

Windows 8 Task Manager

Microsoft has overhauled the Task Manager to make it the number one place to monitor and control your PC. The new interface remains simplified to begin with, which then opens up to an advanced Task Manager with an array of new tabs and options. Microsoft has color-coded system resources to show users what tasks are taking up the bulk of the system. There’s also an App History tab that shows how applications have performed on a system.

Client Hyper-V

Windows 8 includes a client Hyper-V version, making it easy for businesses to take advantage of virtualization from the desktop client. Multiple operating system instances can run simultaneously on a Windows 8 computer as a result.

Deployment improvements

Microsoft has made several improvements to Windows 8 deployment methods. IT pros can enable pre-encryption of computers at the time of deployment and enable users to create a PIN during their first use of the system. Microsoft’s Active Directy-based activation improvements mean that a users identity can be used to activate a Windows 8 computer. IT pros can also deploy multiple languages in a single image of Windows 8.

Multi-monitor improvements

Windows 8 multi-monitor support

Microsoft has made some much needed improvements to its multi-monitor support in Windows 8. The Start Screen Metro interface can be displayed on one monitor or another. Windows 8 now supports different desktop backgrounds on each monitor or the ability to stretch an image across both. Microsoft also natively supports taskbar spanning across multiple screens or the ability to have unique task bars on each monitor.

Push-Button Reset

Windows 8 Reset

Windows 8 includes a number of options to restore a PC to its original state. There’s a basic reset option which will allow users to restart fresh while keeping all of their documents, accounts, personal settings and Windows Store Apps. Windows 8 also includes a complete reset option which will restore the PC to an original state with a fresh operating system image.

  • Lord Jem

    finally better multi monitor support 

    • türkgü_cccü

      Speaking of multi monitor, has anyone actually tried Windows 8 on multi monitors?

      Begin in the classic desktop, the click on the Start menu?

      Is a 2-monitor screen change really necessary to launch a single application?

      Right now, I’ve created a bunch of task-bar pins/desktop shortcuts, just so I don’t have to go to the Start screen all the time. The new start is really cool at first, but becomes annoying when you try to actually get any work done.

      Personally, I would rather have static icons that I can quickly launch, compared to huge live tiles that completely changes the screen each time I click on start.

      In my opinion, live tiles = gadgets that you can’t turn off without a registry hack. But then again, I’ve only started using Windows 8. I may change my mind, and warm up to the idea of a full screen change just to launch an app, but we’ll see.

    • Anonymous

      how is searching for a program in the old start menu more efficient than searching in the new start screen? To me it seems they are both just application launcher, but now provide some live information. If you want to load up your desktop with shortcuts, I assume you can still do that. I am curious how the new screen is more annoying than pushing start-program files and then searching for the program. Are the transitions to the new metro screen slow?

    • türkgü_cccü

      I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned “slow”. In fact, it’s fast and snappy, and the transition animation is silky smooth (though it means time-spent on animation, which means technically, it IS slower than the old start menu that pops up immediately).

      But therein lies the problem. All this animation and screen transition becomes annoying when I try to use it to do actual work. Besides, it takes you away from what you’re working on. Need a program? Start screen. Need yet another program? Start screen…. Personally, it gets rather disorientating, each time I want to launch a quick program, or to do a search. And it doesn’t help with all the little animations (and live tiles). For me, that’s visual and information overload.

      The reason I’m finding it hard to let go of the old start menu is because it is a small menu, and it keeps everything that I’m working on in view. Nice, simple, and extremely functional. 

      At the moment, I don’t need (or want) a screen-sized start menu to launch my programs.

  • Anonymous

    I want windows to go


  • Anonymous

    Thanks Tom for this list.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone write that there is nothing for businesses in Windows 8 (usually engadget readers).

    One thing you may want to add is native ISO and VHD mounting.  Not a groundbreaking feature, but it will come in handy a lot in my office.

    • Guest

      Spell check throughout the OS finally being included will also be appreciated by many.

  • Anonymous

    I often wonder why most people complain about the metro gui. Guys, do you really think there will be a pc in the world that doesn’t support touch 5 years from now. I mean come on… Are you going to be like my mom who refuse to upgrade because it’s to hard for her to learn new things. Look at folks older than you and see how they use the computer… You know the type, and your going to be like that 5 years from now.

    Why not enjoy the learning experience?

    • Anonymous

      I can’t help but notice the way people like to needlessly bitch it about too. They are the same kind of people who would have bitched when the mouse was introduced as well. It’s like you point out, anytime a new feature or interface is introduced, and they either complain or dismiss it to no end.

      It’s the same problem Kinect faces. Many people just dismiss it, but the more comfortable you get with how it uses voice commands, the more valuable it becomes. Heck the other night I was watching Star Trek TNG, and I found it amusing that I could interact with the XBox 360 in a simular way the characters did with their Ship Computer.

    • Guest

      Part of the issue is they released a DP broadly. So you have a lot of “users” wading in who don’t have the background to understand that what they’re dealing with is nowhere near an RC. It’s like giving a 500 piece IKEA kit to someone, only with no instructions and missing 250 pieces. Developers can deal with this. They do it every day. Many users will get frustrated and start freaking out.

      All that aside, the UI must work well with mouse and keyboard at launch. That’s non negotiable. Sure, touch will be more pervasive in five years. But a year from now when W8 hits, mouse and keyboard will still be the dominant form of computing, at least in enterprises.

  • Robert Wade

    I’ve been playing with the Windows Developer Preview since it was released and I have to say that it is so dramatically better that it still floors me.  Although the Metro UI isn’t quite a duplication of the Windows Phone, it’s close enough that I had no learning curve.  At this point I really hate it when I HAVE to jump to the old desktop (not all apps are Metro-built).  The only thing that I’m still getting use to is that Metro BEGS to be touched, so having to resort to the scroll bars to pivot screens is gets a bit frustrating.  I would much rather that the mouse work like single-touch.  If one of those touchpads will work I think I might install it.  In the meantime, I’m still exploring how fast and powerful this OS is.  It boots on my old dual core, 2GB machine in 30 seconds.  Once booted it moves quick.  And as more apps take their cue from Windows Phone and become “conversational” with each other I’ll be extremely glad to get rid of icons.  I HATE a sea of icons.  Hubs, hubs hubs!!!

    • Anonymous

      I cannot agree with you more.

      I’ve been using it as my one and only OS on ASUS ep121 (the 4gb version) and now I have hard time going back to rows of icons. My ASUS is connected to the external monitor and at this point I find myself frequently touching the non-touch screen in order to do something. Win 8 is so addictive.

      It is truly irritating that you need to go back to “old” Windows screen for legacy apps.

    • Anonymous

      dude reading your post echos exactly what I am thinking going through with Win 8. Using Win 7 feels old and outdated and even lacking at this point (merely a few days since installing the dev preview).

      My boot time is much faster than 30 seconds with 4GB dual core. But I consider boot to start after I select which OS it wants me to boot in.

      My only annoyance is that the video drivers for my HP compatible with Win 7 are not compatible with Win8. The installer hicups and says minimum version of windows not available or something like that… I am stuck at 1024 x 768.

  • Viki Maverick

    Ha Ha. So, corporates will now provide Win 8 bootable USB drives instead of laptops to its employees. Talk about cost savings. :P

    • Anonymous

      I’m sure some corporations will make great use out of bootable USB drives.  But I highly doubt any company with a serious IT department will make its employees provide their own computers.  The number of issues arising from that are too numerous to enumerate.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know why I’m not able to drag and drop apps to split screen in Win8? Once I drag and release it takes over previous app and only shows in full view. Is there something I need to enable? I’m not able to view more than one app at a time. Would appreciate any explanations thanks!

    • GreyWolf

      Drop the app near the blank border on the right side of the screen.

    • Anonymous

      I’ll give that a try thank you.

    • Olof

      Read somewhere that it requires at least 1366×768..

    • Anonymous

      Oh well that may be the reason my system’s resolution doesn’t go beyond 1024 x 768. Thanks.

    • Guest

      1024×768 is the minimum spec. You should be OK and your problem lies elsewhere:

    • Garath

      The minimum resolution for running Metro apps at all is 768 vertical pixels. The minimum for using metro-style snapping, however, is 1366 horizontal pixels. That said, if you’re developing an app, you can still use Visual Studio’s simulator to see how it would look on a higher-resolution PC.

      (Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft. All views expressed here are my own and not those of my employer. I am posting here in my capacity as an independent developer and consumer, and not as a Microsoft employee.)

    • Guest

      Ah. Thx for the extra detail. I figured it would be the same for both. And no need for the disclaimer. I’m not going to sue you.

    • Anonymous

      That explains it. Your input is appreciated.

    • Anonymous

      I definitely needed that article my first day with Win8 but my issue is with app snapping as Garath has suggested. Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      you can use ctrl + win + tab. it switches appsin snap thing. also instead of dragging you can use scrollwheel in thumbnails and then right click and choose what you want.

    • Anonymous

      thanks for that information!

  • Craig Laurin

    I love what I’m seeing in Win8 too.

    But on the desktop I think there needs to be a little more work on making the 2 UI Shells work together. I don’t believe that Classic Desktop will ever become a second class citizen because:

    1) The Metro App Framework in its current form does not lend itself to programs that need to present Tabular Grids of data.

    2) The mouse will always be king on a PC because of the need for fidelity and large touch screen monitors are too heavy to be held as a primary input device.

    The Win8 preview shows how operating both UI Shells on a dual monitor setup will be awesome. But the single monitor setup still seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. This is a developers preview aimed at getting metro design tools into the developers’ hands so it’s too early yet to completely judge dual UI Shells side-by-side.

    My take on Win8′s future is that it, combined with fully functional tablets, will help move us into the post-laptop era… not the post-pc era. But I am cheering MS on to make Win8 and Win-vNext run on all devices. 

  • Anonymous

    XP had the ability to span resolutions across multiple monitors or clone it. The spanning was lost with Windows Display Driver Model/WDDM in Vista and Windows 7. So they are giving us the spanned resolutions feature back in Windows 8. Good to know that.

    • GP007

      XP could never span the taskbar though, this itself is new and something people have wanted.  Also in Win8 the spanned taskbar can be set to only show apps that are open on it’s own monitor or all open apps on both which is another really nice option.

      You can also have one monitor be the start screen or switch it over to the 2nd one if that’s what you want.

    • Anonymous

      There were always tools like UltraMon for XP which extended the taskbar to two monitors. Although having it built-in is nice.

    • bitmap

      Actually, in WinXP you could move toolbars to another monitor from the one holding the taskbar. This was lost in Win7.

  • Anonymous

    I love the Single-button reset to factory settings. Even Lion doesn’t have that. Windows 8 is making me salivate like a dog before a fresh piece of meat.