Windows 8 shows us the next generation of Microsoft

Microsoft plans to release the next full version of its desktop OS, Windows 8, later this fall. On the heels of this announcement last month, I took to the SHI Blog to outline the 4 most important ways customers can prepare for a smooth update process. Now, with the release date fast approaching (in fact, Microsoft revealed today that Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing), I want customers to know the top features of this new OS and how it will enhance their business.

Windows 8 is geared toward a full range of disparate hardware, including PCs, laptops, and touch tablets. People can expect the same solid foundation Microsoft laid down with Windows 7, but with a totally new look and Start screen. The new Start screen centrally locates all the information the user needs in a single panel, including contacts, appointments and calendars, weather, websites, favorites, playlists, photos, and favorite applications. Users have the ability to organize their view preferences easily, allowing them to act faster and more efficiently than ever before.

But the most important part of this update is that it was designed for today’s mobile society. In other words, Windows 8 will be fully compatible with all of your organization’s BYOD needs. Here’s how:

First, Windows 8 aims to standardize the OS user interface across a multitude of devices. This way, users can use whatever device they want, whenever and wherever, with a similar and familiar view and experience. Windows 8 is fully capable of running (and in fact, was built to run) on touch-enabled PCs and tablets. Users can choose between two touch-screen keyboard modes: a full-sized keyboard with large buttons, or a thumb keyboard that splits the keys to both sides of the screen for comfortable and portable use.

Second, Windows 8 is completely cloud-connected right out of the box, making users’ Microsoft accounts more portable and personal. As soon as the user signs in, his Windows 8 device is personalized and cloud-connected. Users storing information in the cloud can start a project on one Windows 8 device and finalize it on another. Unifying the experience even further is the People app for Windows 8, which pulls all contacts from major social networks, such as Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and more. This creates a fully connected address book.

Third, Microsoft has significantly reworked the features and functionality to include important mobile broadband features, such as 3G and 4G telecommunication and a broadband metering feature to help manage data usage and costs.

Fourth is Windows To Go, a feature of Windows 8 Enterprise that will allow IT administrators to place a corporate Windows image on a USB storage device for off-site and mobile workers. With Windows To Go, employees are able to work with a consistent and personalized desktop that is as secure as a regularly managed PC. Also, a part of the Windows 8 Enterprise update is Direct Access, which allows remote users to reach into their Windows 8 OS remotely without the need for a VPN connection.

The final benefit of the update that I predict my customers will take advantage of is BranchCache, which has been improved to store ample data, serve more clients, store files more efficiently, and eliminate duplicates.

To me, it has always been easy to see that adopting Windows 8 will give customers bandwidth savings and better network performance. I believe that through both its basic and mobile improvements, Windows 8 is a true representation of the next generation of the Windows desktop OS by Microsoft. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that it promises to change the way entities work — anywhere and everywhere.

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