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 Thursday, April 03, 2014
« “Mobile” devices | Main | Visual Studio Live Chicago 2014 »

Microsoft has substantially improved the story around side loading of Windows 8 WinRT (Windows Runtime or Windows Store) apps for the enterprise and business environments.

I’ve blogged pretty extensively in the past about the costs of the two steps necessary to side load apps:

  1. Unlock your devices for side loading
  2. Actually side load (install) your various business apps

Microsoft has now radically changed the cost of step 1. This blog post from Microsoft contains the following statement:

Enterprise Sideloading– In May, we will grant Enterprise Sideloading rights to organizations in certain Volume License programs, regardless of what product they purchase, at no additional cost. Other customers who want to deploy custom line-of-business Windows 8.1 apps can purchase Enterprise Sideloading rights for an unlimited number of devices through Volume Licensing at approximately $100. For additional information on sideloading licensing, review the Windows Volume Licensing Guide.

Basically what this means is the following (as I understand it):

For developers/testers things are unchanged – you still use a free dev unlock key to install apps for development and testing.

For organizations with an Enterprise Agreement (EA) you’ll be able to get a side loading unlock key that you can use on all your Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise devices, regardless of whether they are domain joined or not. As before, you can also get ‘companion device’ keys to unlock Windows RT devices if you have a Windows 8 Enterprise device too.

For smaller organizations that don’t have an EA you might have (or can get) one of a number of ‘Open’ or ‘Select’ license agreements with Microsoft. Once you have one of these you can buy a side loading key for around $100 that will unlock any number of Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise devices.

When compared to the old model of buying keys for $30/device this is a major change in the right direction. For a maximum of around $100 virtually every organization (small to huge) can get a side loading unlock key for all their devices.

Now this still doesn’t address the need to actually install your apps onto your devices.

Microsoft offers InTune, which is a full MDM (mobile device management) product. If you find the value proposition of an MDM compelling then InTune is probably the right answer for you – though there’s a per device/per month cost (ranging from $6/device/month to $11/device/month) so you don’t get MDM for free of course.

Screenshot (5)I’ve been coordinating an open source project called OrgPortal that you can use to (relatively) easily create an app store for your organization.

There’s another open source project called CompanyStore that is very similar.

Alternately you can have your users manually run a PowerShell to install and update each app manually over time.

I think Microsoft has taken a substantial step in the right direction with the changes to the cost and availability of side loading keys. Couple this with the increasing maturity of projects like OrgPortal and CompanyStore and I think we’re getting to the point where WinRT is something to consider for business app development.

Thursday, April 03, 2014 3:49:27 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Some time ago I had to tell my own boss that it was hard to envision advocating for WinRT...

Having had a chance to learn about the universal applications at Build (covering one additional minor area - Windows Phone - our current roadmap wouldn't have covered), learning the positive news from your blog post regarding side-loading pricing as well as the potential private store code under development, and finally having a chance to talk to some of the fine people at Xamarin at their booth, I'm really starting to feel that the WinRT + Xamarin (iOS+Android) combination may actually turn out to be the most compelling one.

I was really interested to hear from one of Xamarin's folk that he uses MVVM across all three UIs, enabling the sharing of the view model code as well (perhaps requiring compiler directives at times). I recall asking in a prior post about whether iOS/Android uses MVVM and had the impression not only was MVC the traditional route but the most viable route. If I remember right Xamarin has certain connectors to make databinding more effective, maybe helping to enable this. (I still haven't even installed Xamarin but I believe that's what I recall).

So I find myself thinking that the unique code would in general terms really boil down to *part* of the UI now, correctly or incorrectly.

Anyway, kind of an exciting week so far. While I was disappointed (but not surprised) to hear anything about Silverlight, I had a generally good feeling about the route Microsoft is headed.
Friday, April 04, 2014 9:03:23 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Thanks for keeping this issue current. But I am still not sure if the changes apply to where it really matters "Windows RT"
So with the purchased keys, is it possible to deploy apps to Windows RT devices such as Surface at all? (even if it requires a relatively complicated process)
If not then this only seems to address problem for MS trying to attract users on desktop platforms who have the luxury to give RT apps a miss by using alternative technologies such as full .Net and WPF.
Monday, April 07, 2014 2:16:58 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I agree with Syd's thoughts. I don't see how this addresses the problematic cost improvements for WinRT - specifically devices like the Surface/Surface 2 and Nokia 2520. Both are ARM based and run only WinRT. Prior to these announcements the cost was $30 per device (in packs of 1000 no less, drop that requirement and we are pretty far along). So, unless I am wrong we haven't moved much in the area of Win RT.
Monday, April 07, 2014 11:00:50 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I have a couple thoughts on the Windows RT question (as opposed to WinRT, which is the runtime for all flavors of Windows 8).

Windows RT only runs on ARM-based devices, and this edition of Windows 8 is the most restrictive because you can only install WinRT apps (the only Win32 apps allowed are from Microsoft).

If you have a Windows 8 Enterprise computer you can unlock your Windows RT device via a 'companion key'. In practice most companies with an EA will be running Win8 Enterprise and so will have unlock keys for Windows RT.

For smaller companies this is problematic, I agree. But I also think the total inability to unlock the 'Windows 8' (home) edition is a big problem. Virtually every normal consumer buying a computer from a retailer is likely to get 'Windows 8' (as opposed to 'Windows 8 Pro') and will have _no_ way to unlock their computer for side-loading. No more working from home in the evenings...

My other primary thought here though, is that ARM and thus Windows RT has done its job and is no irrelevant. I think the goal was to scare Intel into making low-heat, long-battery SOCs. And in that regard the goal has been met, because you can now get ATOM-based Intel devices with comparable battery life to ARM devices.

All the major manufacturers seem to agree with this view - the only place you can still get ARM-based Win8 devices is from Microsoft and Nokia (basically Microsoft).

Personally I can't see where I'd buy an ARM-based device at this point, when there are ATOM-based devices that are at least as good, and _those_ devices can run Windows 8 Pro.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 11:32:20 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Nice work on OrgPortal. I wonder if the new brokered apps means that you can get rid of the windows desktop service for installing the apps?
Monday, April 21, 2014 4:49:58 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I think Microsoft needs to take another look at this subject as even thought they have relaxed some of the policies it is still onerous. For e.g., if an enterprise is creating apps for its dealer ecosystem and makes this available on the app store then according to the current policy it requires that each dealer must procure its own side loading license to install these apps. When you have a large contingent of dealers both large and small this makes it challenging. AFAIK, neither iOS or Android have this policy so Microsoft needs to review the current policy,
Ravi Tolani
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