As promised, Microsoft continues to reveal tidbits about the upcoming release of Windows 8.1. The latest blog entry, written by Erwin Visser during the TechEd conference in New Orleans, reports that the update has modern businesses in mind by introducing new manageability, mobility, security, user experience and networking capabilities. Some of these new features also apply to consumers including native Miracast wireless display support and NFC tap-to-pair printing.
"We built Windows 8 to bring the most powerful and modern computing experience to businesses and to help professionals stay connected to their colleagues and clients from anywhere, anytime. Windows 8.1 advances this vision," he writes. "Our goal for Windows 8.1 [is to] offer customers the best business tablets and versatile, next generation business PCs driven by the most powerful operating system designed for modern businesses."
Some of the new network features include broadband tethering, allowing the user to turn a Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PC or tablet into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, thus allowing other devices to connect and access the Internet (and essentially nukes the need for third-party solutions). There's also W-Fi Direct printing which forms a peer-to-peer network between a Windows 8.1 device and a wireless printer without the need for additional drivers.
Visser says that Windows 8.1 is also more secure. An enhanced Windows Defender includes network behavior monitoring to help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware. There's also now support for fingerprint-based biometrics, and easier multi-factor authentication when using Virtual Smart Cards.
Another new feature added to Windows 8.1 is NFC tap-to-pair printing: simply tap an NFC-enabled Windows 8.1 device against any printer and users are instantly good-to-go. "No more hunting on your network for the correct printer and no need to buy a special printer," Visserr writes. "Just attach a NFC tag to your existing machines. And you don’t need to buy new printers to take advantage of this; you can simply put an NFC tag on your existing printers to enable this functionality."
Microsoft plans to release a public preview of Windows 8.1 for Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry on June 26 at the BUILD developer conference in San Francisco. Upgrading to Windows 8.1 will be a simple process as it does not introduce any new hardware requirements and all existing Windows Store apps are compatible.
However until then, the company will continue to reveal details about what the update will bring, so stay tuned.