made the case for Windows 8.1 in the enterprise. A day later, a new report reinforced that businesses might need more convincing.
On Tuesday, SysAid Technologies, a Tel Aviv, Israel, maker of IT management software, said that as of April, only 0.53% of its corporate customers' computers were running Windows 8. It also found that fewer than 12% of the 2,000 corporations around the world that it sampled had deployed Win8 in any capacity, and that around three-fifths of this group has installed the OS on fewer than 10% of its machines.
Aggregately, various Windows versions still power more than 90% of the world's PCs. But as the BYOD trend has gained steam, PCs have ceded ground to smartphones and tablets and iOS and Android have started to eat into Redmond's de facto monopoly over workplace computing.
Because Windows 8 is the first Microsoft platform intended to serve users' growing preference for touch interfaces and mobile devices, much has been made of the OS's consumer appeal. To date, that appeal has been limited, due not only to Redmond's late entry into the tablet market, but also Win8's massively overhauled interface, which has been criticized as not only confusing but also of little use for desktop users.
[ Will Win8.1 resolve the key problems with Windows 8? See 8 Things Microsoft Should Fix In Windows 8.1. ]
According to Net Applications, which monitors 160 million users and 40,000 websites, Windows 8 claimed 3.82% of the market in April -- not a great number, but substantially better than the meager 0.53% rate that SysAid recorded among enterprise users. Net Applications found that Win8's reach expanded to 4.27% in May, eclipsing Windows Vista's share for the first time, but posting its worst month-over-month gains since launching last fall.
Monday at TechEd, Microsoft representatives described Windows 8 in terms of BYOD, but rather than emphasizing consumer trends, keynote speakers framed the message largely around IT manageability and workplace productivity. In building their argument, officials revealed several new details about Windows 8.1, an update, formerly codenamed Windows Blue, that will be released as a public preview on June 26 at Microsoft's Build Conference in San Francisco. Windows 8.1's official release is expected to follow by the end of the year.
Newly divulged Win8.1 details include several features related to wireless networking. NFC technology, for example, will allow Windows 8.1 users to print documents by simply tapping their devices to a printer. If a device lacks appropriate drivers, the OS will automatically install necessary updates. In a similar vein, the update will also include native support for the Miracast wireless display standard, enabling users to more easily connect to projectors for presentations.
For IT administrators, Windows 8.1 will include a feature that automatically establishes a VPN connection when an employee attempts to access sensitive corporate content, as well as an "Assigned Access" mode that, much like the App Lock function that Apple debuted in iOS 6, allows admins to restrict the OS to a single app. This feature targets single-use applications, such as kiosks, though Microsoft also used TechEd to tout Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry, which is aimed at point-of-sale and digital signage needs, and includes additional admin tools.
Win8.1 will also allow IT to control the start screen's layout. Microsoft confirmed last week that the update will allow users to more granularly customize the Live Tiles that populate the start screen, but the feature announced Monday effectively allows companies to deactivate this flexibility and ensure a uniform appearance across all corporate-controlled Window 8.1 devices.
More closely tied to BYOD concerns, the update will enable IT to remotely wipe business data without affecting a device's personal content. Windows 8.1 will also support Open Mobile Alliance Device Management specifications, allowing admins to more easily install many leading mobile device management products.
The keynote also disclosed that Windows 8.1 will allow users to create a Wi-Fi hotspot with devices that have integrated 3G or 4G connectivity. A Monday TechEd Session, meanwhile, revealed that the update will include native support for fingerprint readers, and that the authentication feature can be linked to individual folders.