USB stick allows staff to take work home in their pockets
The day of the clunky old office laptop is over.
Instead of taking home a laptop connected to the workplace computer network, containing its applications and data, workers will be able to take a 32-gigabyte USB stick home instead.
It's called Windows To Go.
To launch it, you plug it into your home PC, or any PC that you can lay your hands on, and switch it on. The machine bypasses its own hard drive in favour of the USB stick and launches Windows 8, plus whatever work applications your IT department has installed on it.
Dustin Ingalls, program manager for security and identity in Microsoft's Windows team, demonstrated its capabilities at the Exploring Windows 8 workshop for the world's technology journalists in Amsterdam yesterday.
"All I need to do is plug it into any device that will boot from USB," Ingalls said.
"I just transformed this PC into a full IT-managed workstation."
IT managers are usually opposed to mixing company-sensitive work data with personal data on home machines, and Windows To Go solves that problem because all of the work applications and data remain on the USB stick or stored on the office server.
"There's no mixing between whatever happened to be on that PC and Windows to Go."
Ingalls showed how he could access a spreadsheet stored on his work server and edit it, using Windows To Go.
It has a built-in fail-safe device too. If the USB stick is knocked, or pulled out, you have 60 seconds to plug it back in and the machine will resume from where you left off. Fail to stick it back in and the machine will shut down.
Windows To Go ignores the host PC's hard disk drive so there's no risk of accidentally copying files to and from the USB stick, which means it's safe to use on a public PC.
Ingalls showed how Windows 8's colourful new user interface, which displays live information from applications on the start screen, could be used for businesses.
"I can see things like pending invoices I have to deal with, get straight to the information I need, and I haven't even touched the PC yet."
Ingalls also addressed fears that software written for older versions of Windows wouldn't run on the upcoming Windows RT Surface tablet that Microsoft announced last week.
He showed how software such as SolidWorks eDrawings could be installed on a work server and launched remotely by the tablet.
"There's a powerful application running on my mobile, light, Windows RT device," he said.