Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview released

Microsoft has released its Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, a month after the consumer preview was made available for the revamped operating system.

Redmond is encouraging businesses to try out the enterprise preview update and it is available to download here.

The software giant showcased a lot of the business-friendly features Windows 8.1 Enterprise will offer at its recent TechEd conference is New Orleans.

As reported by IT Pro at the time, these include the introduction of the Assigned Access feature, which will only let certain users boot to a specific application once they've logged into the device.

Business users will also be able to make use of Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology to connect to compatible end points, including printers, and make them interact with their Windows 8.1 device.

Further to this, the release also features improved desktop personalisation, application deployment and data access controls, as well as a raft of connectivity and security enhancements.

In a blog post announcing the release of the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, the company also trumpeted a number of new features the operating system looks set to include when it goes on general release in the Autumn.

They include the introduction of the Windows To Go Creator, which will allow enterprises to make their own corporate Windows 8.1 desktop on a bootable external USB drive for security or BYOD purposes.

Enterprises will also get greater control over the layout of the Start screen, to ensure that important apps are easily accessible and to prevent users from customising them.

Other enhancements that will make their debut in the preview include AppLocker, which will allow IT departments to restrict the apps and data users can run on their device, and Windows Enterprise Side-Loading.

The latter feature means users can side-load internal Windows apps on domain-joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

"We encourage customers to start testing the Windows 8.1 Enterprise preview now," said Erwin Visser, general manager of Windows Commercial Business at Microsoft.

He also used the blog post to reinforce the fact Windows 8.1 will have the same end of support date as Windows 8, which is 10 January 2023.

"Windows 8 customers will have two years to move to Windows 8.1 after the General Availability of the update to remain supported under [the] Windows 8 lifecycle," Visser added.

"With the availability of [the] Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview, it is time to start planning your deployment...[And] in the coming weeks, we'll be providing more details around these and [the] other features found in Windows 8.1 Enterprise."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.