Business Insights Newsletter Article | April 2012

With the release of the Consumer Preview of Windows 8, there’s been no shortage of buzz about Microsoft’s latest operating system. The Metro-based user interface, with its easily navigable array of eye-catching tiles, has certainly caught the attention of reviewers and consumers, as has the effortless availably of apps through the Windows Store.

But many business customers have been left to wonder: What does Windows 8 offer for business users? The answer: A lot.

I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, I’m reading this in a Microsoft newsletter, so what else would you say?” You might even be skeptical about the business chops of an OS that seems so determined to win over the hearts and minds of consumers.

If that’s the case, read on, as we focus on just three of the many reasons why Windows 8 is the best business operating system Microsoft’s ever offered.

Reason #1: Built for the Mobile Workforce

Think about it: How many of your employees spend all, or even most, of their work time anchored to a desk? Chances are, not many. Between sales and service representatives, warehouse staff, and telecommuting employees of every stripe, you have a mobile workforce. Small wonder, then, a recent market-research survey conducted by NDP Group found that 73 percent of small and midsize businesses intend to buy tablets—the form factor of choice for mobile workers—in 2012.

So, what does Windows 8 offer the tablet-toting employee? Plenty. For starters, most Windows 8 tablets deliver a touch-based interface that lets you use your fingers to point, swipe, and “pinch” your way among applications and displays. But sometimes finger input isn’t what users want, so Windows 8 tablets also provide full support for the mouse and keyboard. Microsoft calls this a touch-first experience, a moniker that reinforces the primacy of the touch mode while stressing the flexibility to use whatever method works best for the particular task at hand. It’s a no-compromise solution, in that employees no longer must choose between the productivity of PC and portability of a tablet. Employees can type, swipe, or click—whatever works best for the job.

What’s more, Windows 8 tablets provide superior battery life on ARM-based tablets—a definite plus for on-the-move workers. The last thing they need is a drained battery that interrupts a sales presentation or halts an inventory count. With an ARM tablet running Windows 8, your employers will enjoy extended uptime.

And then there’s Windows To Go, which allows offsite and mobile workers to load a corporate Windows 8 image, captured on a USB stick, onto their laptop or home PC. Employees just plug the Windows To Go USB drive into their remote computer, and, voila, they have a corporate desktop with all the applications they use at work. Meantime, your vital company data is more safe and secure, since the remote computer’s installed operating system has no access to the corporate Windows To Go installation.

Reason #2: Provides End-to End Security

Nothing strikes fear in a business leader’s heart like the thought of the IT systems being attacked. (Okay, maybe an IRS audit, but only if you’ve been pushing the envelope.) Windows 8 offers a wealth of security safeguards, helping protect your business from malware, viruses, and hackers.

The first line of defense comes right at boot-up. Windows 8 Secure Boot validates the integrity of the entire boot process and also loads anti-malware software ahead of all non-critical Windows components. With these safeguards in place, it’s far less likely that malware can subvert the boot process or lurk undetected by antimalware.

Then there’s the Trusted Platform Module (TMP), which is a component on many modern systems. With TMP in place, Windows 8 can go even further by allowing you to measure, sign, and store every aspect of the boot process in a TMP chip. With such “measured boot” processes in place, the integrity of the computer can be validated by a remote service.

Okay, so you’re booted up. Still, you need to worry about someone gaining unauthorized access to the company data on laptops and tablets. According to a 2008 Ponemon Institute study, business travelers in the United State, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates lose more 16,000 laptops a week. Startling? Absolutely…and it’s not the whole story by any means. Think how many laptops going missing elsewhere (like that coffee shop where so many people like to work) or are stolen from cars and homes.

With BitLocker drive encryption in Windows 8 Pro you’ll have data protection on mobile Windows 8 computers that includes a TMP chip. Granted, BitLocker has been around since Windows Vista, but in Windows 8 Pro it encrypts hard drives more quickly than ever, helping secure company data with minimal interruption to employee productivity.

And then there’s the problem of employees who compromise security by downloading applications from the Internet. All too often, such unauthorized apps unleash viruses and worms. To combat this threat, Windows 8 offers a new opt-in feature called SmartScreen Application Reputation Service. With this service in place, users are warned of those downloads that carry a higher risk of being malicious—namely, those without established reputations, especially those that aren’t digitally signed. This service protects against malevolent downloads while sparing the user from unnecessary warnings for well-established apps.

Reason #3: Perfect for the Cloud and Virtualization

Still on the fence about the cloud? (How’s that for a mixed metaphor!) With Windows 8, you’ll get the cloud without hassle. Storing, accessing, and sharing data in the cloud becomes simple with SkyDrive. This easy-to-use cloud storage solution can be made private or public; in addition, you can limit access to specific people. Why pay for on-premise storage when you can park your data in the ether?

And speaking of controlling costs, if you haven’t virtualized your IT environment yet, you’re missing one of the great savings opportunities around. With Windows 8 Pro, you’ll get Hyper-V, Microsoft’s virtualization software. This marks the first time Hyper-V has been included in a client Windows operating system. This flexible and powerful client virtualization technology will enable your developers to write, debug, and test multiple configurations of apps and operating systems on a single PC. Running Hyper-V on Windows 8 computers lets you cut costs by consolidating hardware and improving efficiency.

Bonus Reason: Because You’ve Waited too Long

Now this reason’s an extra because it doesn’t apply to everyone—just to the legions of business customers who decided to skip Windows Vista and Windows 7 and stick with Windows XP. You’ve already missed out on years’ worth of advances in productivity and security enhancements, so what are you waiting for—the end of support on Windows XP? Well, Mainstream Support ended a year ago, and the cessation of Extended Support is coming—on April 8, 2014, to be exact.

So why not get ready for the next generation of business computing now by licensing Windows 7 with Software Assurance, which will guarantee you Windows 8 when it’s launched? You’ll take a quantum leap forward in security and productivity right away, and you’ll assure yourself of getting the latest and greatest Windows operating system as soon as it’s available.

Interested? Learn more about the business value of Windows 8 here.