In Pictures: 9 things enterprise IT will like about Windows 8

Microsoft has simplified its versioning system, which was much too complex. Instead of up to nine different options with Windows 7, Windows 8 comes in Home, Professional and Enterprise.

  • Fewer versions Microsoft has simplified its versioning system, which was much too complex. Instead of up to nine different options with Windows 7, Windows 8 comes in Home, Professional and Enterprise.

  • Faster boot times On our Lenovo T520 tablets -- on the same hardware -- Windows 8 boots in 16 seconds to usability in a fresh installation vs. Windows 7 (with updates) at 27 seconds. We could detect no real disk speed changes, but the UI is fast and has a “snappy” feel when we changed screens, or popped back to the Windows 8 UI with the Windows key on the Lenovos.

  • Comes with Hyper-V You get Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor in Professional/Enterprise editions of Windows 8 that's the same version shipped with Windows Server 2012. It replaces Windows Vista/Windows 7 Virtual PC to serve as a bare metal-type hypervisor. Ostensibly, it's used to run a prior version that you upgraded from, like Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

  • Flawless upgrades All upgrades we tried from Windows 7 to Windows 8 worked flawlessly and without complaint or annoyance. Microsoft suggests that anywhere Windows 7 works, Windows 8 should install; the only limitations we've heard anecdotally are where drivers for advanced displays just aren't available yet; we didn't run into this problem in 11 installations.

  • Improved application virtualization Microsoft's application virtualizer, App-V, has been upgraded and now has a physical-to-virtual feature. AppV V5 allows, like prior versions, a Remote FX-based GUI connection to an application that's executing someplace else. It appears as though the application launching, manipulation, and execution are happening locally, but these are actually communication broker stubs that link to the application on a server somewhere else.

  • Smooth deployment We tested the Windows 8 User State Migration Tool, which allows user settings to be migrated to a new machine; Windows To Go, which makes a bootable (think USB Flash Drive) instance, system hardware-permitting; and we played with making customizable Windows 8 P/E images for distribution purposes. By combining these tools, coupled to server-based key management tools, deploying Windows has been made almost as simple as an online Linux distro.

  • Secure boot Microsoft Windows 8 wants to own the master boot record (MBR) on a system's hard drive. The controversy regarding whether to prevent boot-sector virus vectors through the use of a UEFI secure boot initially riled people who like to host concurrent operating system or disk partition instances. And we found that Windows 8 at installation indeed grabs the disk master boot, securing it, and making it very difficult to place other operating systems on it. We applaud Microsoft's attempts at boot security, and don't have the qualms that others find when a vendor tries to secure a system.

  • Easy activation The Windows Server 2012 Key Management Service allows enterprises to securely activate multiple instances of Windows 8 Enterprise. Operating system payloads can also be modified to deploy both Microsoft and third-party software for automated updates, although Microsoft's System Center 2012: Configuration Manager handles this chore with better finesse than manual payload management.

  • Tight integration with Windows Server 2012 From the same Metro-style GUI to the same Hyper-V hypervisor, Microsoft has tightly integrated its desktop/tablet operating system with its server OS. This means that all enterprise IT functions associated with activating, deploying, securing, and upgrading a fleet of Windows desktops, laptops and tablets can be easily accomplished.

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