Windows 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade


One of the fundamentals of MS licensing has been changed. It’s always been the case that:

“the only way to get Windows Enterprise is to buy Pro + SA”

Well not anymore!

As of March 2014, there is a standalone Windows 8.1 Enterprise SKU available via Volume Licensing.

Why?

This means organizations who can’t/won’t enter into an agreement with Software Assurance can now benefit from things such as:

  • Direct Access
  • AppLocker
  • Windows To Go

and more

Other SA benefits are not effected so things such as:

  • New Version Rights
  • MDOP
  • Virtualization

etc. are still only available with SA.

What else has changed?

It is now ONLY possible to attached SA to the Enterprise Upgrade SKU.

This takes away one relatively common practise. Organizations would often buy machines with Windows Pro OEM and then attach Windows SA within 90 days. This is no longer possible as SA can be attached only to Enterprise – and that won’t come pre-loaded on machines.

If you bought the OEM devices before July 1st 2014, you still have the 90 days to purchase SA. Once that date passes, it will no longer be possible.

Windows 8.1 for the Enterprise


There have been a number of announcements about the upcoming Windows 8.1 and now we have more information around how the latest Windows OS update will help enterprises.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

This is a huge area of interest for a huge number of people and organizations right now. Even if they’re just at the research stage, well over 60% of the people that I speak to are looking at how BYOD may/will impact their business…whether they want it to or not. Microsoft have announced a number of key additions in this area:

  • Workplace Join – This feature allows a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. With Workplace Join, IT administrators now have the ability to offer finer-grained control to corporate resources. If a user registers their device, IT can grant some access while still enforcing some governance parameters on the device to ensure the security of corporate assets.
  • Work Folders - Work Folders allows a user to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation’s data center. Files created locally will sync back to the file server in the corporate environment. This syncing is natively integrated into the file system.  IT can enforce Dynamic Access Control policies on the Work Folder Sync Share (including automated Rights Management) and require Workplace Join to be in place.
  • NFC tap-to-pair printing – Tap your Windows 8.1 device on an NFC enabled printer and boom – you’re printing!
  • Wi-Fi Direct Printing – No additional drivers or software are needed to connect to Wi-Fi Direct printers.
  • Native Miracast support – Connect to a Miracast enabled projector with no cables or dongles.
  • Web App Proxy – This new service in the Windows Server Remote Access role provides the ability to publish access to corporate resources, enforce multi-factor authentication and more.
  • Multiple VDI Enhancements – Various additions to Windows Server 2012 R2 will make it easier and more cost effective to support VDI environments.

Mobility Enhancements

  • VPN – Added support for a wider range of VPN clients – in Windows AND Windows RT.
  • Mobile Broadband – Windows 8.1 supports embedded radios for this, giving longer battery life as well as thinner and cheaper devices.
  • Broadband Tethering – Use your Windows 8.1 device as a WiFi hotspot.
  • Auto VPN – When an app requires VPN access, one click sign in will now be possible.

Security Enhancements

  • Remote Business Data Removal – This gives organizations greater control over their content; being able to mark it as corporate and then wiping it when the relationship between company & user ends.
  • Improved Biometrics – End to End biometric support as well as optimization for fingerprint biometrics. Access to apps and their content can be restricted based on their biometric identity.
  • Pervasive Device Encryption – The encryption found in Windows RT & Windows Phone 8 will now be available in all editions of Windows.
  • IE 11 – faster page load times, side by side browsing, 3D graphics, and more all in Windows 8.1.
  • Assigned Access – This new Windows 8.1 feature will allow you to set a single (Windows store) app on a device. This can be for  in store experiences as well as educational uses and more.

Modern UI Experience

  • Variable Snap Views – Resize apps, share the screen between 2 apps or have up to 3 apps on each monitor (depending on resolution)
  • Boot to Desktop – Perhaps the #1 reason I hear for why a business isn’t moving to Windows 8 and it has now been addressed.
  • Desktop & Start Screen – Improvements have been made to better support the mouse & keyboard experience within Windows 8.1.

More info can be found here:

http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/springboard/archive/2013/06/03/what-s-new-for-the-enterprise-in-windows-8-1.aspx

These improvements are all excellent additions to what is (I feel) a great OS, and will serve to make Windows 8 even more popular with existing users and open it up to a whole new section of users and organizations.

Windows Blue Update


Microsoft have confirmed a few things we already knew about Windows Blue, so not new news but good to have it as a definite nonetheless.

Tamie Reller, Windows CFO (pictured below), said today that Windows Blue will indeed officially be Windows 8.1 and that it will be free to existing users of Windows 8 & Windows RT.

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The rumours that it would be a chargeable add-on were growing in strength in some corners of the internet; it’s good to see Microsoft moving to correct the chatter and let everyone know how the land lies.

Earlier this month, Reller also revealed that Blue would be available by “holiday 2013”. Also, Julie Larsson-Green (pictured below), Head of Windows Engineering, confirmed that a public preview of Windows Blue will be available by the end of June 2013 – making it’s appearance at the BUILD conference on 26th June.

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See more about the announcements here.

See more about Windows Blue and its features here.

Windows 8 Blue


Windows 8 has been with us for around 6 months now, and for a lot of that time, rumours of Windows Blue have been with is as well. (Mary Jo had a post about it on August 13th 2012 – http://www.zdnet.com/windows-next-just-call-it-blue-7000002535/)

Well, this week saw an early build of Windows Blue leak online and – thanks to early early adopters – we’ve got a great look at what it has to offer.

What new things are on offer?

Side by Side Snap

Windows 8 currently offers a snap view where one app takes up 2/3 of the screen and another makes up the other 1/3. I find it very useful and use it regularly but not everyone seems to agree on it’s usefulness. HP, for example, claim it is a “consumer feature” and purposefully built their business focused Windows 8 tablet, the ElitePad 900, with a screen resolution incapable of snapping; as they don’t feel that business users need it.

Windows 8 Blue brings new snap capabilities, giving 50/50 snapping (as per desktop mode & Windows 7) but also allowing 3 and 4 apps to be snapped simultaneously.

Current Snap:

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New Snap:

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These improvements also extend to multi-monitor support, allowing you to run individual Windows 8 apps across multiple monitors.

As the current Windows 8 snap features requires a minimum resolution of 1368×768, will the additional 3 & 4 app snap capability require an even higher resolution?

Internet Explorer 11

The latest revision of Internet Explorer will be available as part of the Blue update:

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The word on the street/online is that tab synchronization will be introduced in IE11 and Windows Blue, allowing users to continue internet browsing across devices. You’re looking at a page on your desktop pc and need to leave the office, you can pull out your tablet on the train and pick up where you left off…it should also be possible to continue the browsing on a Windows Phone 8 device.

Oddly enough I was talking to someone who’s quite the Apple fan the other day (hi Mat!) and they mentioned this as something they really like about the iOS universe. I wasn’t aware that it was a thing and had never really thought about it so it wasn’t something that I missed…that said, since our conversation and now it’s rumoured inclusion in Windows Blue, I can see myself using it a lot between laptop/desktop and tablet. Something I wonder is this – will it be possible to do it across devices that don’t share MS accounts? For example, people won’t have their Hotmail account linked to their work machine but they may wish to continue their browsing on a personal device, which will have the MS account rather than corporate details – will this be possible?

New Live Tile sizes

In a move that brings it in line with Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 Blue will support smaller live tiles. This please me and I’m sure many others, as it enables one to have many more things easily accessible without creating a huge start screen to scroll through. That change between WP7 & 8 was one of the biggest and most beneficial for me.

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The Desktop tile is the only one to have a special “extra large” offering too:

image (courtesy of The Verge)

New options in Settings

Microsoft have made many of the Control Panel features now available in the Windows 8 mode, rather than forcing the user into the desktop. This is a brilliant move, the switching between modes is one of the biggest complaints I hear and I find it very jarring myself, so steps to reduce it’s frequency can only be a good thing. I’d be happy to spend all my time in the Windows 8 interface if I could do everything I needed to (and I’m sure many others would) so this is definitely a step in the right direction.

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You can see here the ability to backup a device to SkyDrive. I imagine this will be pretty useful although quite a slow process!

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Charm Updates

The Devices Charm features a new “play to” option.

The Share Charm lets you quickly take a screenshot:

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Other new features

The Verge tells us that “On the Start Screen you can swipe up from the bottom to bring up a list of all apps, and in the desktop mode you can swipe up or down to reveal a desktop app bar that provides access to snap, projector settings, and more” which sounds like a great addition.

The new Apps section in settings lets you see how much storage each app is using.

There is a new, quick way to add VPN settings.

A “Quiet Mode” has been introduced, allowing you to set periods when notifications are subdued.

New built in apps include:

  • Alarm
  • Sound Recorder
  • Windows 8 style calculator
  • Movie Moments – a Movie Maker replacement.

When will we get it?

Microsoft today announced their BUILD conference, the Windows Developer event, will be held in San Francisco on June 26-28 2013. It seems likely that we will see the first public preview of Windows Blue around this time – so not that long to wait really, yay!

Registration for BUILD begins 09:00am PST April 2nd here – www.buildwindows.com.

Thanks to Winforum.eu for the screenshots and The Verge for some of the extra info.

HP Elitepad 900


HP announced the Elitepad 900 a little while ago and it didn’t seem to create that much buzz, with me personally or the tech-sphere in general really. The only thing I knew about it was that it doesn’t meet the 1368×768 minimum resolution to enable the “snap” feature in Windows 8. I’ve been concentrating on the Samsung & Lenovo offerings and that’s where we’ve been seeing the customer interest too (the still elusive Surface Pro aside); but having played with one today my opinion has changed.

It looks good. It feels good. It’s sleek. It’s light.

WP_20130129_001   WP_20130129_007 WP_20130129_021

You’ll notice as you admire those images that it’s sleek edges are uninterrupted by ports, of any kind – this is certainly odd. The HP ElitePad 900 has available for it a range of “expansion jackets” – the one I had today was the “Expansion Jacket”:

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The above jacket comes in 2 parts & clips around the device to offer a good range of ports:

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  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x HCSM/MMC card slot
  • 1 x Combo stereo/headphone port

It seems you can use the jacket as a form of easel for the tablet but that wasn’t apparent to me whilst handling it today.

That rectangle you see in the centre of the jacket (in the first picture) is an additional battery which adds around 80% to the battery life of the device – handy for long days away from chargers! It appears that the battery is not part of the jacket but rather an additional option (see this HP page here & the spec page here).

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Even jacketed, the ElitePad 900 still looks quite stylish and is still easy to handle and hold. As this jacket contained the additional battery it did add a noticeable amount of extra weight, making the device too heavy to hold for any real length of time. The jacket on its own is 260g while the battery is another 190g, so a total of 450g added to a tablet that weights 680g (1.5lbs) – making a total of 1130g (2.49lbs).

Another accessory available for this tablet is a comprehensive (and very well made/heavy at 1.48 lb) docking station, giving you those required ports when at desk.

 WP_20130129_016  WP_20130129_017 WP_20130129_018 WP_20130129_019 

You get:

  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x powered USB 2.0
  • 1 x Combo stereo/headphone jack
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x RJ45
  • 1 x Smart AC Adapter

making it a very well connected device. You can dock it with or without the expansion jacket :

 WP_20130129_009 WP_20130129_013 WP_20130129_014 WP_20130129_015

but it seems i forgot to take pictures of it jacketed in the dock! You’ll notice the stylus pen in a couple of those pictures – this is also an additional option for the ElitePad, although sadly it wasn’t working on the unit I trialled. I find pen input on the Samsung 700t to be excellent and very useful so it’s good to see this as an option for business users.

I used the VGA port to connect the device to my monitor and use it as a second screen, which worked very well. Also, the snap feature is then available.

ElitePad 900 Specs

The spec of the device are reasonable:

  • Intel Atom Z2760 (1.5GHZ, “upto 1.8GHZ using Intel Burst & Hyper Threading)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB or 64GB Flash storage
  • 10.1” 16:10* 1280 x 800 Gorilla Glass 2 screen
  • 2 x cameras (1080p front, 8MP w/LED rear)
  • 9.2mm thickness
  • Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • HP hs2350 HSPA+ Mobile Broadband module w/GPS Support**
  • HP hs3120 HSPA+ Mobile Broadband*

*This gives users an extra 5% usable space over a 16:9 screen (according to HP)

**Not all models will have 3g capabilities.

 

Accessories and costs

The docking station is $149 (HP Site)

The expansion jacket is $99 (HP Site)

The expansion battery is $149 or $99, depending which page you look at (HP Site or HP Site)

The ElitePad case is $39 (HP Site)

There will also be a “Productivity Jacket” which gives:

  • integrated keyboard
  • “”several additional ports”
  • SD Card reader

and allows you to use the ElitePad like a clamshell notebook. I can’t find final specs or a price for this as yet. HP say it will be available “Spring 2013”, here’s a picture until then:

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The pen is an additional item but I can’t see a price for that either.

The full range of accessories is:

  • • HP ElitePad Productivity Jacket
  • •HP ElitePad Expansion Jacket
  • • HP ElitePad Rugged Case
  • • HP ElitePad Case
  • • HP ElitePad Jacket Battery
  • • HP ElitePad Jacket and Battery
  • • HP ElitePad Docking Station
  • • HP Tablet Stand
  • • HP Executive Tablet Pen
  • • HP ElitePad USB Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad SD Card Reader
  • • HP ElitePad Serial Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad 10W A/C Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad HDMI & VGA Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad Ethernet Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad Smart A/C Cable
  • • HP Multi-Tablet Charging Module

The multi-tablet Charging Module will be very useful for companies looking to have a number of tablets as pool/loan devices. This will give an easy, tidy way of keeping them safe and charged.

Conclusion

My biggest issue is the  lack of connectivity ports without the jacket; I find it far from inconceivable that people will leave the jacket at home when they set off in the morning, in the hotel room when they checkout, on the adjacent seat on the train etc. etc. and then you’re stuck. Yes, you can have additional jackets dotted around but that is an extra cost and certainly not ideal. That said, it’s been pointed out to me (by the HP Category Manager) that it does ship with a USB adapter. This means even without the jacket/s users will still have a USB port through which to connect peripherals.

Not having the snap feature is mildly annoying but I feel one would quickly get used to not having that at your fingertips, so no biggie there. Interestingly, HP’s line on leaving out snap is this:

Snap doesn’t currently work with Outlook – or some other business applications – which are pretty vital for day-today
commercial use. Here’s the thing: The ElitePad supports the Windows 8 Snap feature when docked and
connected to an external monitor. So, it’s a consumer-centric function that isn’t yet optimized for a business tablet.

I do think the Atom processor and 2GB RAM could give some organization cause for concern as to whether this will be powerful enough as a laptop replacement. Having plentiful and quick access to trial units will be the best/only way to get past this in many instances – letting customers trial the device in real world settings and see how it fares.

All in all I’m very impressed with HP’s ElitePad 900. It’s clearly aimed at businesses and they’ve done a good job of providing everything they will need, making this a real contender for large scale enterprise rollouts and laptop replacement efforts. I’m very excited to talk to customers about this device and get their feedback – that’s always the key part!

A problem with the Windows 8 ecosystem AKA All I want is a dock


Microsoft Windows 8 has many great things about it, and some things that could be better. It has as many naysayers as it does great features and, as you probably know, I’m certainly not one of them. I’m a fan of it’s new tile interface (matches my Lumia 920 very well), it’s new sync features, it’s inclusion of an “app store” and more…but I do have an issue with it, and that is is the ecosystem.

This is an area that Microsoft can’t directly control, however I feel they must surely be able to take action to improve the situation. The situation is this:

I’ve got a Samsung Ativ Tab, the Windows RT device released a couple of months ago. It’s a great device: it’s sexy, it’s light, it’s quick, it’s got Office – I’m a big fan. I love using it in it’s tablet form but the other week I noticed the dock connector on the bottom of the tablet and thought about all the extra things I could do with a keyboard attachment too.

Samsung Ativ Tab Connector Here’s the dock.

I got into work and emailed one of our distributor partners to find out how much the dock would be, it’s availability etc. – and this is there the story starts.

The reply was quick to come back that I would need AA-RD8NMKD/UK, but that’s listed as being for the “Windows 8 Pro versions only” so no dice. I pointed this out and waited for the correct part code to come back. I chased up a few hours later to be told that there isn’t a dock available because “the RT version comes with the keyboard” – which isn’t correct.

I also asked our Samsung account manager who came back with the part code for a generic bluetooth keyboard!

I’m now at a loss as to whether this dock even exists and if it does, how on earth one is supposed to buy it. This kind of thing is surely going to put consumers off moving to one of these devices – if someone with direct access to distributors and even the manufacturer can’t get a straight answer, how is someone’s mum/auntie/dad/niece/brother going to fare in PC World?! There will either be so much confusion they just decide not to bother OR they’re sold the wrong item, causing them inconvenience and giving a better experience of Windows 8. (In this scenario, it’s doesn’t matter if it’s RT or 8, Samsung or Microsoft – it will be seen as the fault of Microsoft and Windows 8).

I’m confused as to why the item I was originally given is listed as “only for Windows 8 Pro devices” – what’s the difference? A hardware manufacturer surely isn’t going to incur the extra cost of changing the manufacturing process for two such similar devices? I can’t see that it’s an OS level issue either?

After much searching I’ve managed to find comparable pictures of the 2 devices:

Ativ Tab

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Ativ Smart PC

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The top device there is clearly designed to have the ability to dock – so why can’t I find one anywhere?! Is it that they share the same dock? Is the Ativ Tab add-on simply not released yet? So many questions!

A “regular” consumer would have given up on this about a week ago and at best decided to get a different Windows tablet (be that RT or Pro) or, at worst, gone and bought an iPad.

If anyone reading this can shed some light, that’d be great :-)

ITAM Review: Windows 8 Licensing Guide


If you’re looking to get a better understanding of Windows 8 and it’s licensing, including new additions such as Windows To Go and Companion Subscription Licenses, head over to ITAM Review and check out their guide – written by yours truly:

http://www.itassetmanagement.net/2012/12/20/windows8/

This is a great site for all things Asset Management related so if you’re interested in licensing and/or Software Asset Management (SAM) – check out the rest of the site too :-)

Surface Pro Pricing Announced


Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet has been out for just over a month and is generating a lot of interest from business customers. However, due to RT’s inability to run legacy software (non-RT versions of Office, Adobe Acrobat, LOB apps etc) the general conversation has gone like this:

 

“Wait for the Surface Pro”

“When’s it out”?”

“January”

“How much is it?”

“Erm…not sure”, we’re still waiting to hear from MS”

Well, now we’ve heard. Officially announced by Microsoft, the pricing is:

Surface Pro 64GB = $899

Surface Pro 128GB = $999

Converting them in GBP at today’s exchange rate gives:

Surface Pro 64GB = £560

Surface Pro 128GB = £623

but it is rare that costs of software & devices so truly follow the exchange rates, so it will be interesting to see the final UK price.

These are actually cheaper than those “leaked” from Germany a few weeks ago (Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Leaked) which is great, as many considered those leaked costs to be too low to be true!

The specs haven’t changed and are as detailed in this post (Microsoft Surface Pro), giving quite the bang for one’s buck.

One thing that hasn’t been confirmed today is Microsoft’s plans for the sale and distribution of these devices. Will the retain the “direct from MS” strategy of the Surface RT or use the more common model of selling via retail stores as well as via the “Channel”, the network of distributors, resellers, VAR and other partners. The latter is the current way that most businesses purchase their laptops (as well as other IT equipment) and if Microsoft choose not to let them into the party, that will be a very poorly received decision…both by resellers and their customers.

The majority of businesses are not set up to make multiple, sizeable purchases via credit cards on websites and they don’t want to change that – thus Microsoft could be losing sales to their OEM partners (which they will at least say isn’t a bad thing) or perhaps Apple. If there are businesses out there happy/prepared to purchase directly from the MS site, there will then be scores of distributors/resellers upset at missing out on potential sales to their customers.

I’m of the opinion that the Surface Pro must, and will, be available via the Channel and retail stores but it would be nice to see it confirmed by Redmond.

Windows 8 Shortcut Keys


The usability of Windows 8, particularly on non-touch devices, is a hot topic with many claiming that it’s “touch first” design makes it harder to access things on a desktop or laptop. I personally don’t find it much of an issue on a desktop with an external mouse but have, I admit, found it a little frustrating sometimes when using a laptop trackpad as there can be quite a lot of cursor movement. TO this end I’ve started using keyboard shortcuts more than ever before – they’re quick, easy and make working with Windows 8 even more fluid and enjoyable.

Some of my favourite shortcuts are:

Win+C = Brings in Charms bar from right

Win+i = Bring up Settings menu from right

Win+H = Brings in Share menu from right

Win+Q/F/W = Brings in Search Apps/Files/Settings screen from right

Win+tab = Brings up the “Modern App Taskbar” (aka list of open apps) from left – holding win and pressing tab then scrolls through the apps

I find I use at least a couple of these each time I use my Windows 8 laptop and they definitely make it easier for me – I hope they do for you to!

Over on Technet, there is a great post with a very comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts, many/most not just specific to Windows 8 either – check it out here:

Windows 8- For Those of us who Still Prefer Keyboard Shortcuts to Touch Screens – WE SALUTE YOU!

Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Leaked


Microsoft Surface Pro is the upcoming Redmond produced tablet that will run full Windows 8 Pro, and thus allow installation of legacy/LOB apps etc. We’ve seen recently the hardware spec for the device (http://richfrombechtle.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/microsoft-surface-pro/) and now, via Softpedia, we’ve got leaked pricing from Germany.

128GB Surface Pro = £729 / $1165 / €909

64GB Surface Pro = £648 / $1035 / €809

If those prices are correct (and there’s a high chance they’re not) then that is some quite amazing and aggressive pricing from Microsoft.

I can almost guarantee that all the customers I’ve spoken to about Windows 8 over the last few weeks would purchase those units with barely a second thought. Organizations are, in the most part, sold on Windows 8 and sold on the tablet form factor…it’s the £800+ price tag of many Windows 8 devices that causes them to pause. So a Core i5, 4GB RAM, Full HD, 64GB SSD device for £648 would be a real winner.

It is for that reason that Microsoft MUST ensure this device is available via “The Channel”, the network of distributors, resellers, VARs, LARs etc that make up 95%+ of their business. I’m seeing us lose sales at work, as customers are set on buying the Surface RT & so are going direct to Microsoft. In some cases, we’re able to cross sell to another Windows RT device such as the Samsung Ativ Tab but not always…and that’s to be expected. The Surface RT is such a great piece of hardware that people are bound to want that in a lot of cases. I’m sure this is the case for all the other resellers across the UK and indeed any other location.