Monthly Archives: July 2013

Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview now available


Today, the Windows team has confirmed that the Windows 8.1 Preview (Enterprise Edition) is available for download now.

You can read the full blog announcement here.

From the blog post – Here are the premium features that will be offered to customers as a part of the Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition:

  • Windows To Go Creator: IT organizations can create a fully manageable corporate Windows 8.1 desktop on a bootable external USB drive. The drive can be used to support Bring Your Own Device scenarios or be given to contingent staff to access the corporate environment without compromising security.
  • Start Screen Control: IT departments can now control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to ensure key apps are easily accessible. IT departments can also prevent users from customizing their Start screen to ensure consistency across individual workgroups or the entire company.
  • DirectAccess: Users can seamlessly access resources inside a corporate network remotely without having to launch a separate VPN. Also, IT administrators can keep remote users’ PCs up-to-date by applying the latest policies and software updates.
  • BranchCache: Employees in branch offices no longer need to download content multiple times across their Wide Area Network (WAN) as BranchCache caches files, websites and other content from central servers locally on hosted cache servers or PCs.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): Users will enjoy a rich desktop experience and the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios, thanks to enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012.
  • AppLocker: IT organizations can create a more secure environment by restricting the files and apps that users or groups can run on a PC, increasing the security of the device and the data it holds.
  • Windows Enterprise Side-Loading: Internal Windows apps can be side-loaded on domain-joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

These Enterprise edition features add to the broader range of the new business capabilities in Windows 8.1 that we shared at TechEd North America back in June. These features included:

  • Assigned Access: This new Windows 8.1 feature lets organizations enable a single Windows Store application experience on a device so the user only experiences the specified application but cannot access other system files and applications.
  • Inbox VPN Clients: Windows 8.1 extends the ability to third party VPN providers to include versions of their VPN clients’ inbox. This means that on both x86 and ARM (RT) platforms, vendors can work with Microsoft to include their VPN functionality inbox with Windows 8.1.
  • Open MDM: With Windows 8.1, new Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) capabilities are built into the OS and enable mobile device management using third-party MDM solutions, such as MobileIron or AirWatch, with no additional agent required. Enhanced policies allow administrators to manage more settings from both Windows Intune and the third-party MDM solutions for both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.
  • Workplace join: Trusted devices running Windows 8.1 are allowed to access secured enterprise data.
  • Remote business data removal: Allows personal devices to connect to, access and store company content that can be efficiently removed from the device by IT at a later date while leaving the personal data intact.

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Windows 8.1: For non-touch devices

I want to spend a little time clarifying my comments to many of my customers and friends when I say “if you thought about Windows 8 for Touch-enabled devices and Windows 7 for non-Touch enabled devices, then you should seriously consider Windows 8.1 for ALL DEVICES (touch AND non-touch devices).” My examples below will focus on keyboard and mouse (with no emphasis on touch for this post).

Here’s why I think Windows 8.1 can be leveraged for all of your devices at home and at work.  For this post, I’ll cover:

  • Start Button
  • Tile Sizes
  • Personalization
  • Desktop Transition
  • Applications
  • Customizing Start Screen
  • More for non-touch devices
  • Wrap-up


With Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made a lot of improvements that should be seen as a positive movement for the entire device ecosystem, including non-touch enabled devices. First, the START Button is back! Please note that it is NOT the START menu; it is a start button. Here is what the new taskbar looks like with the included START Button.


When you click the START Button with your mouse, you are presented with the new START Screen. The below START screen should be familiar to you if you are currently using Windows 8. But, already, you can tell there are a few differences. First, there are multiple App tile sizes now (potentially four different sizes depending on the app and how the developer wanted to showcase their Tile).



When you right-click the Weather application, you receive the following options to resize the tile (Small, Medium, Wide, and Large). This allows you to have more flexibility in the overall design and appearance of your START screen.



Additionally, you receive a lot more flexibility in background and color choices with Windows 8.1. This minor update allows you to have a bigger selection compared to the twenty-five (color) options available under Windows 8. Based on Windows 8.1 Preview, you have 324 color choices for Background colors and 216 Accent colors. You can easily personalize your START screen by going to the Charms bar, select Settings, then select Personalize.



But, even though you can personalize your START screen with a different Background image, Background colors or Accent colors, many people still say it is a jarring experience to go from working on the Desktop to choosing an application from the START screen under Windows 8. As an example, the following two pictures showcase my current Desktop background and my START screen background.


As you can see, it does feel like two different worlds going from the Desktop to the new START screen. Although it doesn’t bother me personally, it does for some. With Windows 8.1, you can customize the START screen to have the same background as the Desktop; therefore, making a more natural look and feel between the two experiences. This is my Desktop and START screen experience when I make this small change.



Under Windows 8, there were also some potential disturbances when installing applications. Let’s use Microsoft Office as an example. When you install the full blown Microsoft Office, not only do you get the icons for Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. but you also get Proofing Tools, Clipart, Language Preferences, etc. that just seem to clutter up your START screen. When you install Microsoft Office, most people just want the applications that they use most often… they may not want the Proofing Tools, Access, Publisher, etc. taking up screen real estate when these applications may be barely used.

Under Windows 8.1, the installation behavior has changed. After you install a program, Windows 8.1 doesn’t automatically pin all of the icons on the START screen. In fact, it doesn’t pin any icons. Instead, all of the applications are placed under the ALL APPS view.

How to find your newly install applications

When you begin to move your mouse on the START screen, a little moniker appears in the lower left corner.


When you click this down arrow, you are presented with an all applications view with the default view of “by name.” Here is an example of my Apps view


By the Apps Title bar is the option to sort your apps by: 1) Name, 2) date installed, 3) most used, and 4) category.


In the upper right hand corner, you will find a search box if you want search to help you easily locate your application.


When you find the application you want, you can also pin it to the start screen (and if it is a desktop application, pin it to the taskbar). To do this, just right-click the application and select “Pin to Start” or “Pin to taskbar.”




It is also a lot easier to customize the START Screen under Windows 8.1. When you select an application to be pinned to the START Screen, Windows will automatically put that icon or tile on the very far right. You can just drag the application to the desired location. Additionally, you can select multiple applications to move at the same time – just right-click each application.


Once you have the applications selected, you can then drag them to an existing group (notice the little 3 in the upper right hand corner? That tells me I’m currently moving 3 applications).


In order to create a new group, drag the applications between two groups until you see the semi-transparent vertical bar. Then, just release your mouse button. You can also name this new group during this time as well.



When you are presented with the all applications view, you may have noticed that it shows all of the modern applications first (especially if you selected BY NAME or BY CATEGORY). Although the modern applications are keyboard and mouse friendly, you may want the option to see the traditional desktop applications before the modern applications.

With Windows 8.1, this is super easy to accomplish. From your desktop, right-click the taskbar and select properties. Then, select the Navigation Tab.


Notice the very last option under Start screen – “List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category.”

In addition to having the ability to show the desktop applications first on the App view, there are other settings that can be set to make Windows 8.1 on non-touch enabled devices more compelling. They include:

  • Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in
  • Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start

The other option we talked about previously is the ability to set the desktop background on Start so there is a more seamless experience when moving between your desktop and the new Start screen.


With Windows 8.1, there have been many improvements made that will allow you or your organization to standardize on Windows – for both Touch and non-Touch enabled devices. There is no doubt that a Touch interface lights up everything and is becoming more natural for all users, but don’t let non-touch devices slow your adoption to Windows 8.1. With all of the security and management capabilities above and beyond Windows 7, Windows 8.1 is a solid operating system that should allow for you to take care of all your use case scenarios.

Hopefully this post was of some benefit to you. If you would like to take a look at the preview, please visit If you are an enterprise customer and would like the Windows 8.1 Enterprise bits, they should be available from MSDN or TechNet.

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Windows 8–Fighter Pilot Tested

I came across this interesting video and thought I would share with you.  There is no doubt that I’m a fan of Windows 8 and I think it brings a lot of great use cases for people and organizations.  It’s a quick 90 second video that I thought would showcase a unique reference story for Windows 8.

This second video has Erik Cornelisse, Test Pilot, discussing the solution at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference about 2 weeks ago.  He discusses how they first looked at the iPad devices, but they didn’t work for their use case (due to both size, security, and manageability).  The first 90 seconds of this 5 minute video shows the reference video above.

What are your use cases that Windows 8 can solve?  There are many improvements coming with the Windows 8.1 release that will make Windows even more compelling for all of your use cases.

Refer to “What’s New For the Enterprise in Windows 8.1” to see what’s coming.

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Halo: Spartan Assault

Just in time for my flight to Seattle, WA, Microsoft has just published the awaited game, Halo:  Spartan Assault.  This game is made for touch enabled devices; specifically, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.


You can download the game right now for Windows 8 devices (I just downloaded the ~850 MB game for my Surface RT) for the low price of $6.99. 

For Windows Phone 8 users, Halo: Spartan Assault is exclusive to Verizon customers ONLY for the moment.  My understanding is that it will come to ALL Windows Phone 8 phones (that can support the hardware requirements) in about a month.

Download the game

For Windows 8

For Windows Phone 8 (coming soon)

Publisher Description

Halo: Spartan Assault brings the excitement of Halo combat to touch-based devices for the very first time. Battle your way through 25 action-packed missions against the Covenant as you explore the origin of the Spartan Ops program and Halo 4’s Spartan Commander, Sarah Palmer.

Earn Xbox achievements, complete mission and weekly challenges, unlock new customizations for your Halo 4 career, and compete against your friends for the top scores in the leaderboards.

It’s time to join the assault, Spartan!

*Halo Spartan Assault requires users to sign into Xbox with a Microsoft account to play.

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Windows 8.1 RTM in August

This is going to be short and sweet.  Today, Tami Reller announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference today that Windows 8.1 RTM will be available for OEM partners in late August.

This is great news and should be a welcomed update for Enterprise customers looking to embrace Windows 8/8.1.

You can read the full post at Blogging Windows.

As a reminder, here is a post on the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Capabilities that have been announced.

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Microsoft in Gartner’s Leaders Quadrant for Virtualization

Posted today by Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Windows Server and System Center.  It is great to see Microsoft continually improve on the platform and to see 3rd parties recognize the efforts made.


You can download Gartner’s full report from Brad’s blog post or here.

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Windows Phone 8 Development for Absolute Beginners

imageBob Tabor, of LearnVisualStudio.NET, is back at it again.  He and Clint Rutkas put together a 35 part series on Windows Phone 8 Development for Absolute Beginners.  You may have already watched the Windows Phone 7 Development for Absolute Beginners, but for this series, Bob promises you that “you won’t recognize a single thing in this series because it has a lot of new things to learn.”

This video series was posted 6 days ago on MSDN’s Channel9 website, where you can also watch all of the recent BUILD 2013 videos.

Specifically for this series, the videos are located here and the source code can be downloaded here.

The 35 Part series includes:

Part 01 – Series Introductions

Part 02 – Installing Windows Phone SDK 8.0

Part 03 – Writing your First Windows Phone 8 App

Part 04 – Introduction to XAML

Part 05 – Basics of Layout and Events

Part 06 – Styling the App

Part 07 – Localizing the App

Part 08 – Understanding Compilation and Deployment

Part 09 – Overview of the Windows Phone 8 Emulator

Part 10 – Overview of the Databound App and Pivot App Project Templates

Part 11 – Setting Up the SoundBoard App

Part 12 – Improving the View Model and Sample Data

Part 13 – Styling Tiles in the LongListSelector

Part 14 – Binding to Real Data at Runtime

Part 15 – Playing a Sound when a ListItem is Selected

Part 16 – Working with the Application Bar

Part 17 – Introduction to Codin4Fun Toolkit

Part 18 – Navigating Between Pages

Part 19 – Setting up the RecordAudio.xaml Page

Part 20 – Recording an Audio Wav File

Part 21 – Permanently Save the Audio Wav File

Part 22 – Animating the Reel Grid with a Storyboard

Part 23 – Testing and Submitting to the Store

Part 24 – Getting Started with the AroundMe Project

Part 25 – Working with the Geolocator and Geoposition Classes

Part 26 – Retrieving a Photo from Flickr’s API

Part 27 – Navigating and Passing Data to the SearchResults Page

Part 28 – Understanding Async and Awaitable Tasks

Part 29 – Filtering the Results Keyword

Part 30 – Adding a Progress Indicator

Part 31 – Multiple Selection with the LongListMultiSelector

Part 32 – Animating Image Search Results

Part 33 – Working with the Lock Screen to Display an Image

Part 34 – Creating a Background Agent for Scheduled Tasks

Part 35 – Where to go from here

I’m a huge fan of Bob Tabor’s teaching style and this series looks to have a lot of great content.  I’m excited to watch this series myself.  Hope you enjoy.  If you do watch it, I would love to hear your feedback.

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