Windows 8.1 is set to include beefed up antivirus capabilities in Windows Defender, built-in device encryption, a consistent approach to fingerprint authentication, native support for Miracast, and at least 16 other new security, BYOD and mobility features, most of which will be available across the Consumer, Pro and Enterprise editions of the new operating system.
Although Microsoft took the increasingly common approach of announcing the whole long list in a blog post on Tuesday, some of the new features in Windows 8.1 are being demo’d this week at TechEd, a Microsoft conference for business IT pros, which is focused mainly on new server technologies like Windows Server 2012 R2.
In a session at TechEd on Wednesday, Chris Hallum, senior product manager at Microsoft, said that Windows 8.1 will add “device encryption,” describing the feature as a “variant” of Bitlocker, an encryption technology first introduced in Windows Vista.
The built-in device encryption which will show up in Windows 8.1 first appeared in Windows RT tablets, Hallum said. Encyption keys are stored in SkyDrive. The feature will be enabled automatically in all three editions of Windows 8.1, but the Pro and Enterprise editions will be configurable by systems managers with additional encryption and management through BitLocker.
Microsoft is also demoing new fingerprint reader technology which gives users the option for securing folders with the touch of a finger. Instead of supporting fingerprint readers only through third-party drivers and software, Windows 8.1 will include native support. By swiping a finger on a reader, you’ll be able to log in to Microsoft accounts and apps as well as to purchase apps from the Windows Store.
“We’re also looking at this so that you can actually take folders and say this folder requires fingerprint access to get into,” said Michael Niehaus, another senior product manager at Microsoft, during a session on Monday.
Partial Wipes of BYOD PCs
In other demos, executives have shown new security and printing technologies for BYOD devices. In a new security feature called “Remote Business Data Removal,” administrators can conduct only a partial wipe of a laptop or tablet, eliminating the business data but leaving personal data untouched.
Windows 8.1 users will also be able to print to WiFi Direct printers without adding drivers or software, and to print to NFC printers just by tapping the PC or tablet to an NFC printer.
Stephen L. Rose, Microsoft’s senior community manager for Windows client, outlined a series of 20 new features for security, BYOD, mobility in a blog post on Monday, along with three features — the changed Windows Start Screen, Boot to Desktop, and variable sizes of snap views — mentioned in an earlier blog post last week by Tami Reller, CMO and CFO of Microsoft’s Windows Division,
New in Windows Defender: Network Behavior Monitoring
On the security side, Windows Defender will add network behavior monitoring to “help detect and stop the execution of known and unknown malware,” said Rose.
With “Assigned Access” — a new feature for Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, and Windows 8.1 RT — administrators can “enable a single Windows Store application experience on the device,” according to Rose.
Mobility enhancements will include mobile broadband tethering, for turning a laptop or tablet into a personal WiFi hotspot; support for a wider range of VPN clients on both Windows and Windows RT devices; and “auto-triggered VPN,’ a feature that will automatically prompt you to sign in to a VPN when you encounter an app that requires VPN access.
On the BYOD side, Windows 8.1 will also feature native support for Miracast, an open alternative to Apple’s AirPlay mirroring which lets you stream content from a PC, tablet or other device to a TV.
Through another new BYOD feature, Workplace.Join, corporate administrators can decide to give a Windows 8.1 PC or tablet access to certain parts of a network, instead of being limited to allowing access to either all of part of it.
In order to get access, though, the user of the device must be registered and authenticated.
Microsoft plans to deliver a public preview of Windows 8.1 on June 26 at its Build developers conference.