As modern smartphones and tablets have gained in popularity, businesses have struggled with balancing a carefully maintained and secure corporate environment while allowing employees to take advantage of the latest consumer technology. This “consumerization of IT” often presents quite a challenge, especially when many smartphones and tablets–unlike traditional Windows PCs–don’t provide adequate tools for businesses to take advantage of. Microsoft is looking to rectify this issue with Windows on ARM (WOA).
ARM devices running Windows 8–or Windows RT, if you go by the official branding–will empower enterprises to easily manage “BYO” PCs/devices by allowing employees to seamlessly connect to the corporate network, find and install apps, and manage permissions/policies. To establish a connection to the network, the client need only enter their company email address and password. Everything else happens behind the scenes, including a check to ensure that the user hasn’t exceeded their maximum number of connected devices. Disconnecting from the network is just as simple, and can be initiated by the client or the administrator.
Enterprises are concerned about device security, and rightly so. Microsoft has implemented a number of configurable policies such as convenience logon (biometric or picture passwords), maximum failed password attempts, inactivity time lock, password characteristics, and more. Devices can only be attached to one corporate network at a time, but Windows 8 can still manage conflicting policies, choosing the most restrictive setting in each case.
Windows 8 will also conduct a maintenance task on a daily basis or whenever an app is installed. This task applies policy changes and app updates specified by the IT admin, in addition to providing the admin with device information “such as make and model, OS version, device capabilities, and other hardware information.” It should be noted that, while the status of private corporate apps installed on the device are sent to the administrator, information on apps downloaded through the Windows Store are not.
Enterprises can also set up a private app marketplace, known as a Self-Service Portal (SSP). The SSP hosts private internal line-of-business (LOB) apps which are completely separate from the Windows Store, in addition to independently developed and licensed apps for internal use. IT admins can also provide links to apps in the Windows Store, as well as websites and web-based apps. Disconnecting a device from the corporate network will revoke access to the SSP and LOB apps and remove any corporate policies. Revoked apps are not deleted from the device, but they cannot be launched.
All in all, Windows 8 looks like it will be a great step forward for both consumers and businesses alike.