A couple weeks ago, Harry, Jenny and I met with Microsoft’s Director of Windows SMB Commercial, Jay Paulus, for a full tour of the new Windows
Jay began his presentation by showing us the Miracast feature of Windows 8.1 devices, which allows users to wirelessly display their Windows 8.1 PC or tablet via compatible Miracast devices. Once paired, you can wirelessly project your entire Windows experience, including audio and video, just like being connected by a wire. For Windows 8.1 devices, this connection is quick and seamless. Jay also walked through some of the usability and management features, such as Open MDM and Workplace join, which make it easier for employees to bridge their personal and professional lives by bringing personal devices into the workplace.
“The way I work on my office desktop is the way I work at home,” Jay explained. “And for working remotely, I basically have my Surface Pro, a mini-keyboard, and my phone, and I’m set.”
This growth in BYOD scenarios can be great for productivity, but can also leave company data vulnerable- but the security features in Windows 8.1 address some of these scenarios. Windows 8.1 Pro devices, like the new Surface Pro, are enabled with a new security measure in the form of a picture password. This feature allows the user to sign-on to the account with a series of taps, swipes or drawings on the screen. Jay explained that he can give his family the device “tap sequence” to access applications without giving away any sensitive passwords. He also explained that many new Windows 8.1 devices have a UEFI feature, called “Trusted Boot,” that can detect suspicious code on boot, and deny that code from starting.
Beyond the technical information, Harry and Jay discussed the general SMB attitude towards Windows 8.1. Both Jay and Harry recognized that some small and medium businesses are slow to move away from older OSs, such as Windows XP. Further, many who are moving away from XP are opting for Windows 7, with the main hesitation being that Windows 8.1 is perceived as being less user-friendly. “If only I could go around and talk to every person who is hesitating about the change. SMBs want technology that makes their lives easier, makes their business better, and ultimately just works. ” said Jay, who explained that Windows 8.1 has all of Windows 7 in it, with some key features for SMBs. Here are a few tricks:
- Customize your navigation: Right-click the Task Bar – select Properties – select the Navigation tab and you can completely reconfigure your Start screen and desktop. You can also customize the experience with the option to boot directly to desktop.
- Side by Side Apps: Easily open your Windows Store apps and then just drag and snap them in place and they will run side-by-side. What’s more, the desktop can run just like an app, which means you can snap your desktop right next to one of your Windows Store apps. And with Windows 8.1, you can control how much screen space each app gets. If you are working directly on your desktop, you can snap three or four desktop apps side-by-side.
- File Manager Tips: Copy File Location and Invert Selection are cool new commands on the ribbon toolbar. Go ahead and explore these!
The conversation ended with clarification on the distinction between SharePoint and SkyDrive and when we should use the two. Jay suggested that “SkyDrive pro is a feature of SharePoint and Office 365. Customers should store business sensitive information on SkyDrive Pro, and personal information on SkyDrive.” From Jay’s demo, it seems that the fluid way Windows 8.1 brings your work together across all of your devices, from phone to PC to tablet, is a pretty intuitive and seamless experience, and a good fit for the way SMBs work.