After a brief hiatus from Windows desktops everywhere, it’s back. No, we’re not talking about Clippy, the faithful virtual assistant from Microsoft Office editions from 1998 through 2003, but rather, the Start button, which was axed from Windows 8 after Microsoft did user testing that the company claimed proved the Start button wasn’t widely used. It now has been revived in Windows 8.1.
For companies that were holding out on making the move from Windows XP to Windows 8 because of the lack of a Start button, it is now safe to make the jump.
Ok, no more excuses. Both Windows 7 and 8.1 have a Start Button. Migrate from XP today ;-)
— Sean Kearney (@energizedtech) October 18, 2013
While the Start button is a reassuring and familiar part of the Windows user interface, there’s a lot more going on under the hood than just the return of the Windows icon.
One of the unique aspects of Windows 8 is that it is an operating system that serves two masters: mobile and desktop computers.
As part of the new feature set in Windows 8.1, the company has included some bring-your-own-device and mobility management capabilities for IT workers.
On the BYOD front, Microsoft has included Workplace Join, Work Folders, Open MDM and Wi-Fi Printing. The company outlined some of these new features on Technet.
Workplace Join: This feature creates a middle ground between all-or-nothing access, allowing users to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. With Workplace Join, IT administrators now have finer-grained control over corporate resources.
Work Folders: This feature allows users to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation’s data center. Files created locally sync back to the file server in the corporate environment. This syncing is natively integrated into the file system.
Open MDM: With Windows 8.1, you can use an OMA-DM API agent to allow management of Windows 8.1 devices with mobile device management products, like MobileIron or AirWatch.
Wi-Fi Direct Printing: Connect to Wi-Fi Direct printers without adding additional drivers or software on your Windows 8.1 device, forming a peer-to-peer network between your device and the printer.
On the security front, Microsoft, like Apple, has put some weight behind biometric safeguards, allowing users to authenticate using their fingerprint throughout the OS. Windows Defender, the company’s baked-in anti-virus solution, now has network behavior monitoring to combat malware.
But perhaps the most impressive security feature in Windows 8.1 is the Remote Business Data Removal tool, which allows IT to remotely wipe data from devices. This tool is sophisticated enough to wipe only corporate data and not personal data, provided the data has been tagged accordingly.
For small businesses, enhancements at the consumer level, such as improved search, automatic app updates and improved integration with SkyDrive, make a compelling case for upgrading, according to Howard Lo of ZDNet.
Has your company made the switch to Windows 8.1? Let us know in the Comments.