Windows Everywhere


From smartphone to server, Windows has been the backbone of businesses for decades. Now, with Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Server 2012 R2, all of your business-critical devices are more closely aligned than ever before, allowing you to move from one device to another, safe in the knowledge that all your data and settings will be seamlessly synchronised in the background.

The Windows look and feel

Whether it's on the 4in smartphone in your suit pocket, or the 27in screen on your office desk, Windows is the only platform to offer a consistent, familiar interface. Live tiles rotate with the latest information from your apps, so that you can see your next calendar appointment, a snippet of unread messages in your inbox, or live sales figures from your company's bespoke app without even having to open those apps in the first place.

The live tiles can be arranged and resized to suit your needs on each device. Alternatively, you can choose to synchronise your Windows 8.1 Start screen tiles across different devices, and know that you'll find your business-critical apps in exactly the same place on your tablet as they are on your desktop.

The live tiles aren't the only part of the Windows interface that is synchronised across devices. Colours, themes, backgrounds and desktop wallpapers can all be synchronised in the background, so that any Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 RT device* you own is instantly familiar and unmistakably yours.

Synchronised settings

It's not only visual settings that are preserved from device to device. Other settings that are synchronised in the background include network logins, so after you've logged in once to the Wi-Fi network in the company's meeting room, any other Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 RT device you take into the room will be instantly connected, without any user input.

No more work time is wasted setting up a PC the job's been done for you

Internet Explorer settings, history and favourites can also be harmonised, so that the site you were looking at yesterday on your home laptop can be instantly recalled at work. Website sign-ins and passwords are synchronised across devices, so there's no delay at login screens.

Printer settings, keyboard languages, custom dictionaries, File Explorer customisations, and ease of access settings can all be married across any device logged in with the same Microsoft account. Not only does it save you from making the same tweaks on multiple devices, but it makes setting up a new PC a breeze: you simply enter your Microsoft account credentials during the set-up procedure and everything is configured just the way you like it. No more work time is wasted setting up a PC the job's been done for you.

Apps everywhere

Windows apps can be added to the list of things that can be synchronised between multiple devices. Unlike some other platforms, apps bought on one Windows 8.1/Windows 8.1 RT device can be installed on any other device that you own, so you will never pay twice for the same app on your PC and tablet.

Better still, developers also have the opportunity to allow you to synchronise app settings. That not only means that you don't have to keep fiddling with settings to get apps the way you like them, but in-app purchases can be synchronised across devices, too, so that extra feature you added to a business app on your tablet is available on your PC, as is the copy of the digital newspaper you purchased on your way into work.

Aside from the business apps in the Windows Store, with the Enterprise and Pro versions of Windows 8.1, businesses also have the opportunity to "sideload" apps on to employees' devices. This means custom-built business apps can be quickly deployed to a workforce without having to first publish them in the Windows Store. Such an app could give tablet users touch-friendly access to data stored on the company intranet, for example, or provide a company welcome pack for new employees, with searchable phonebook, video guides and access to internal forms, such as expenses or holiday requests.

OneDrive integration

Desktop, laptop, ipad and phone showing Onedrive page

No matter what application you're using, there's always somewhere to save data that can be synchronised across your devices: OneDrive (previously known as SkyDrive). Now fully integrated into Windows 8.1, both Windows Store and desktop apps can save files to OneDrive.

This comes into its own with the latest version of Microsoft Office which comes pre-installed on all Windows RT devices and compact Windows 8.1 tablets. Documents, spreadsheets or presentations can be saved straight to the user's OneDrive from within Word, Excel or PowerPoint, from where they are instantly accessible on any other device.

This means, for example, that you could save a document on your desktop PC before you leave the office for a meeting, and pick up where you left off using a Windows 8.1 tablet on the journey. Word 2013 even helpfully allows you to jump straight to the point you last edited with a single click. Alternatively, you could review the data in a spreadsheet in the back of a taxi using your Windows Phone 8 device, and even make edits to the worksheet using the built-in Office app that ships with every Windows smartphone. All formatting, macros and formulae within your spreadsheet will be preserved, even if you edit the file on your mobile.

On the desktop, OneDrive now appears in the left-hand navigation pane of Windows Explorer, making it easier than ever to access files that are stored in the cloud. The OneDrive app on the Start screen, meanwhile, makes it easy to search, open and view files using a touchscreen tablet.

And there's no need to worry about OneDrive files swallowing up all the disk space on tablets with limited storage. OneDrive will only download files to your tablet as and when you need them. That means you can still have easy access to gigabytes worth of files without wasting valuable storage on files you've never opened on that device. If there are particular OneDrive files or folders that you always want access to, you can choose to make them available offline any changes made to those files on other Windows devices will still be fully synchronised.

Ready for work, wherever you are

With that unique combination of synchronised interfaces, settings and data across all of your devices, it's only Windows that's ready to work whenever and wherever you are. Whether in the office, at home or somewhere in between, Windows brings all your files and business-critical apps with you.

(*Windows 8.1 RT is the version of Windows for devices running ARM-based processors. It's predominantly deployed on compact tablet or hybrid devices.)

Click to find out more about Windows 8.1.

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.