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Windows RT 8.1 in the Enterprise

Published: April 16, 2014

Applies To: Windows RT 8.1

This guide is designed to help IT professionals understand the capabilities provided in and restrictions imposed by Windows RT, as well as the specific infrastructure requirements for supporting Windows RT devices within their organization.

Windows RT 8.1 devices can be used in enterprise scenarios, whether employee-owned or company-owned devices, depending on the situation. With the release of Windows RT 8.1, new capabilities and features requested by enterprises have been added to the Windows RT platform, including:

  • Improved email, with the addition of a full-featured version of the Outlook 2013 client used by so many enterprises today, as well as greatly enhanced versions of the built-in Mail, Calendar, and People apps.

  • Better connectivity to corporate networks, with built-in VPN clients for Microsoft (Windows Server), F5, Juniper, Check Point, and Dell SonicWall infrastructures.

  • Enhanced manageability through open and expanded mobile device management (MDM) support built into the operating system (leveraged by Windows Intune as well as third-party MDM tools).

  • App platform enhancements, adding support for specialized USB peripherals used in many point-of-sale, data collection, and other specialized line-of-business scenarios. This can be combined with Assigned Access, which allows a device to be configured to run a single app.

  • New offline data synchronization options, enabling full disconnected use with OneDrive and Work Folders.

  • New security capabilities, with device registration through Workplace Join, remote business data removal if devices are lost or stolen, and many additional security improvements throughout the Windows RT 8.1 operating system.

  • Enablement of new hardware features, with support for integrated biometrics, wired Ethernet, Miracast wireless displays, mobile broadband (3G/4G), high DPI displays, smaller device form factors, and near-field communication (NFC).

  • Usability improvements, with refinements to the Start Screen experience, more consistency in app behaviors, and better discoverability in the UI, as well as new training and help tutorials.

These changes mean that Windows RT 8.1 can be used in a broader set of enterprise scenarios than were possible with the original Windows RT release. Specifically, we believe that devices with Windows RT 8.1 are particularly well-suited for a few key scenarios:

  • Companion devices. For those that have an existing desktop or laptop that is used for their primary business tasks, a Windows RT 8.1 tablet is well-suited for use as a lightweight companion device – in meetings, at home, while traveling, and so on.

  • Line-of-business uses. Many businesses create apps for specific purposes, and then need devices that run only those apps. Because Windows RT 8.1 devices are low-cost, lightweight, and have long battery life, they are well-suited for these line-of-business app scenarios.

  • Primary device replacements, for a limited subset of business users. Some employees (for example, some business executives) may not require the power or capabilities of existing laptop or desktop PCs. As long as they have access to the general productivity functionality (for example, Office, Outlook, and the web) needed for their day-to-day work, a Windows RT 8.1 device may have everything they need.

You may find additional or different scenarios in your business; every user is different, and every scenario may have different requirements. Consider your key capabilities (as described below) and choose a device based on those specific needs.

Companion devices (such as Windows-based tablets, iPads, and Android devices) are becoming pervasive in work environments. People like these devices because they are lightweight, have long battery life, and bring improved user experiences with touch interfaces and “instant on” performance. While some can use these companion devices to meet all of their needs, in enterprise environments many use these in conjunction with existing work PCs. These devices are also enabling new categories of cloud-connected applications, while also providing the business productivity capabilities that organizations have come to expect from existing PC form factors.

Many organizations are choosing to embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy that allows employees to bring employee-owned companion devices into a corporate environment. To make these devices most productive, your organization can take proactive steps to ensure that these devices are supported by your enterprise infrastructure.

Windows-based tablet devices are available from a variety of manufacturers, offering a variety of capabilities. Deciding which device is best for a particular scenario requires considering the key capabilities:

  • Mobility. People who carry their devices, whether for travel to different cities or for routine meetings in their office building, appreciate tablets that are lightweight and have long battery life, which allows them to operate from wherever they are at that moment.

  • Workload. Some people are casual users, primarily reading email, browsing the web, and running a variety of other apps that do not require much computing power. Others may be manipulating large spreadsheets, analyzing datasets, developing line-of-business software, or performing other more intensive operations.

  • Apps. For some employees, new immersive Windows 8 line-of-business apps and Windows Store apps will allow them to perform the majority of their work, while others may require access to existing line-of-business desktop apps. These desktop apps can be run either natively on Windows 8 tablets or accessed remotely using the RemoteApp technology, as long as appropriate connectivity is available.

  • Corporate Access. Some people may need access to the corporate network for their jobs, typically for using line-of-business apps. This can be accomplished using DirectAccess or a VPN connection when away from the office but on the Internet. Others need occasional online access, but frequently work offline and synchronize their files with the cloud or other remote computers.

  • InstantGo. Other users may need the constant connectivity provided by InstantGo (formerly called Connected Standby), which allows apps to continue receiving information from networks even while the device is turned off. These apps can even notify people by playing notification sounds in cases of important events.

  • Manageability. Organizations may need to configure the settings and applications on the devices used by employees.

Depending on which of these capabilities are most important, enterprises might choose devices running Windows 8.1 Enterprise or Windows 8.1 Pro, or they might choose devices running Windows RT 8.1. For additional information, see Which tablet should you choose for your business?

Devices that run Windows RT 8.1 excel at mobility, and are instantly on and always connected. They can also run newly-developed Windows Store (modern) apps. But there are some important enterprise capabilities from Windows 8.1 Enterprise and Windows 8.1 Pro that are not present in Windows RT 8.1, including the ability to run additional desktop apps or services, join Active Directory domains, sign on using Active Directory accounts, or manage through Active Directory Group Policy.

The remainder of this document describes the specific capabilities and considerations of Windows RT 8.1 from the enterprise perspective. Understanding these capabilities and trade-offs is key to making an informed decision as to what types of devices are right for your organization.

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