Microsoft released Windows 8.1 on Thursday 17th October with new features added for home and business users. Much of the commentary and opinion surrounding the upgrade has been a mixed bag – some analysts saying the new features improve usability and productivity, whilst others have suggested the changes are mostly cosmetic.
The truth is that Microsoft has seen very poor business sales of Windows 8 and many licenses of Windows 8 are being purchased but only for Windows 7 to be installed. Put simply, the majority of businesses have rejected the radical changes to the Windows interface and Microsoft have reacted by trying to make the new interface less of a challenge for users in business environments to adapt to.
New features of Windows 8.1 for Business
In the Windows 8.1 upgrade, Microsoft has brought back the start button which allows users to log in directly to the traditional desktop mode. Even though this may please many disillusioned users, some applications are still only accessible via the tiled interface.
The upgrade also lets users snap frequently used applications to their desktops allowing them to access their work much faster. There is also now the ability to customise live tiles to suit user’s preferences which can help to boost productivity and reduce resistance and unhappiness with the new interface and changes.
Microsoft have also implemented new and improved search options with all-inclusive searching to find documents, web pages and software applications, and the results are presented in a much more user friendly way.
Mobility and BYOD features have been improved with new Workplace Join features giving users greater control in accessing business resources and giving IT administrators more flexibility in managing mobile devices on their networks. New Work Folders mean better file syncing options for users, so they can work on business files remotely and sync back to a User Folder on the network.
Security has been improved with ability to mark certain types of files and documents as business owned data which can be encrypted and wiped if the user leaves the company for whatever reason.
Biometric features have also been enhanced with capabilities for authentication of identity in Windows sign in, User Account Control or remote access.
Should Small to Medium Businesses Upgrade?
The upgrade is free for current Windows 8 users and makes sense to take advantage of the new features and enhancements. Businesses currently on Windows XP or Windows 7 need to make some considerations before migrating to the new version of Windows. Upgrading directly from these platforms will involve a time consuming process to train users and have them familiar with the new ‘Metro’ style interface.
RODIN has always recommended that until the Windows 8 operating system has been updated and is more widely used that businesses avoid deploying it, but we make an exception for those devices that feature touch interfaces, and for those end users who for one reason or another are happy to change to the new operating system without having an impact on their productivity.