By Mike Halsey, Microsoft MVP
Microsoft's first major update to Windows 8 is now in the wild and offering more new and enhanced features than any previous update to a Windows version before it. With this update Microsoft have put a great deal of focus on business productivity, and in this article I want guide you through the new 8.1 (obviously) features for business users of this OS.
1) Mobile Tethering
If there are two things in business that are almost guaranteed it’s that firstly people will need to work away from the office and that they’ll occasionally find themselves without an Internet connection when they need one the most.
Windows 8.1 solves these problems with the introduction of Mobile tethering support. If your carrier permits it, any Windows 8.1 device that comes with an in-built SIM or a mobile data dongle can share that connection through the simple creation of an ad-hoc network. These set up Wireless hotspots that up to ten devices can connect to at a time. These devices don’t need to be other Windows 8.1 PCs, but anything that can connect via Wi-Fi.
2) Multi-Monitor Display Scaling
In the world of business multi-monitor use is commonplace, but unless you’re a multi-billion pound hedge fund with a brand new office, you’re unlikely to have happily matching kit, especially when it comes to your multiple screens. This can result in different displays not appearing correctly because the desktop scaling for each makes text and other items smaller on one display than on another. Windows 8.1 fixes this issue with support for global and individual scaling for different screens.
3) Wireless Display Support
Presentations are everywhere, and if you’ve had to sit through a PowerPoint talk in the last week you’ll know exactly what I mean. Worse are the issues involved with giving the presentation, with the need to make sure you’ve got all the right kit, cables, wires and more. But with Windows 8.1 your presentation can be slicker and much more professional with the introduction of support for WiDi and Miracast wireless displays. With a compatible screen or projector and laptop combination you can leave the cables at home.
4) Workplace Join
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is everywhere now in business with people wanting to use their own tables and laptops. Windows 8.1 introduces two new features to aid this, both simple and easy to use. Workplace Join is the first of these features allowing access to a company domain without the PC needing to be configured for this before-hand. IT Administrators can now grant access permissions to BYOD PCs while still enforcing strict company security and access policies.
5) Work Folders
The second of these new features is Work Folders. This allows a BYOD device to synchronise work files for use away from the office with a BYOD device, again without the IT department having to configure the device beforehand. The Work Folders feature also provides system administrators with remote control over the data, including rights management and remote wipe if necessary.
Windows 8.1 starts faster than any version of Windows before it with a resume from sleep time now as quick as 300ms with compatible hardware. Now going on a break or lunch no longer requires an extra few minutes before productivity can resume.
7) Wi-Fi Direct and NFC Printing
One of the biggest issues with workers visiting remote locations, or other company premises, or with visitors to your own premises is the lack of printing support when its needed. How many times have a USB drive had to be found, then a PC sought or even printing foregone altogether? Windows 8.1 includes support for Wi-Fi Direct and NFC Printing, enabling the latest generation of printers to pair automatically with a PC to permit printing straight away.
8) Improved Biometrics
Data security is essential in today’s businesses and while Bitlocker offers a government grade encryption solution, many businesses also rely on the biometric sensors embedded into their laptops and tablets. Now Windows 8.1 includes new support for biometrics including fingerprint sensor access built right into the same controls as your standard password and PIN settings.
8.1) New APIs
As an extra bonus Windows 8.1 includes many new programming APIs which permit more than 20 new interface features including flyout menus, navigation bars and integration with 3D printers, helping make your switch from your legacy bespoke apps to Windows 8.1 even more successful.
These are just some of the great many enhancements and new features in Windows 8.1 that are aimed specifically at the business user. For more and further detail Microsoft have a guide on their own website which you can read here.
Thanks Mike! The UK Windows User Group are going on tour towards the end of November, so catch them live near you:
25th November 2013, Newcastle – Windows User Group Tour Newcastle - Register Now
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27th November 2013, Bristol - Windows User Group Tour Bristol - Coming Soon
28th November 2013, London - Windows User Group Tour London - Register Now
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12th December 2013, Sheffield - Windows User Group Tour Sheffield - Register Now