Windows 10 & the Windows Store for Business #1

Disclaimer: These posts represent my own small experiments with the Windows Store for Business. I only have visibility of what’s publicly on the internet and I’m learning here so apply a pinch of salt to these posts as I try to figure things out. You should always check with the official documentation here.

When Windows 8 first came along back in 2012 I can remember talking to many developers about the new type of applications that it enabled (sandboxed, touch-first, etc.), the new platform for developing those applications and the Store that powered discovery, sale, installation, update, purchases etc. for those applications.

One of the most common questions that I got at the time was something along the lines of;

Great, but what about Line of Business Applications?

and I’ve heard it many times in the interim and I think that what was mostly behind that question was perhaps one of these few things;

  1. An organisation might want to use the discover/install/update capability of the Windows Store for applications that are internal to the organisation and aren’t intended to be visible to the general public.
  2. An organisation might want to offer/promote/push specific applications from the public Windows Store to some or all of its members.
  3. An organisation might want to control distribution of specific applications from the public Windows Store to only some of its members.
  4. An organisation might want (2/3) above in combination with hiding the public Windows Store access (via “Turn off the Store application”/”Disable all apps from the Windows Store” policy settings).
  5. An organisation might want to buy multiple copies of Windows Store applications via centralised purchasing mechanisms.

and back in 2012 there really wasn’t a great answer in that the best that could be offered was the chance of side-loading an application which, in principle, doesn’t seem to be too bad a thing in that it involves;

    1. signing the application’s package with a suitable certificate that’s/ trusted in the environment that it’s going into.
    2. distributing it with some management tool to a set of machines.
    3. configuring that set of machines receiving the package to allow them to load side-loaded apps.

but the devil, as always, is in the detail and step (3) brought with it a requirement that the machines in question had to meet a set of ‘enterprise’ criteria or, alternatively, be enabled with ‘side loading keys’ which weren’t especially ‘easy’ to provision.

That’s really an understatement and it caused folks to write articles like this one from back in 2013;

Windows 8 WinRT sideloading update

and, frankly, I think it would be fair to say that part of the side-loading process has been ‘less than optimal’.

Jumping forward to today, things have changed around side-loading and, more significantly, the new ‘Business Store’ is also coming online for Windows apps.

You can find the home for the Windows Store for Business on the web here;

Windows Store for Business

For me, the naming is a little misleading here as you don’t have to be running a business to use the Windows Store for Business. You could be running an institution like a charity or a school but I guess ‘Some Kind Of Institution Store’ wouldn’t have been such a catchy name for it and, as we all know, naming is a hard thing to do.

One of the videos in the recent series around Windows 1511 on Channel 9 was an introduction to the Windows Store for Business with a little bit of extra information around how Windows 10 changed side-loading for the better too – I’d recommend watching this one;

Windows 10 for Business- Publishing apps to the Business Store

as I think it’s a great introduction.

For a Windows Store app in 2016 then I think it’s possible to deploy it via;

  • Developer deployment – i.e. for a device in developer mode as you commonly do from Visual Studio when debugging.
  • Side-loading
    • to a device that allows side-loading which can be set via group policy (“Allow all trusted apps to install” AFAIK) or otherwise via the control panel setting.
    • which can be done using some kind of management tool like Microsoft Intune, System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. See TechNet for more on these.
    • where the additional ‘enterprise’ and ‘side loading key’ criteria no longer apply.
  • Windows Store – the ‘default’ way to install/update apps on a Windows 10 device.
  • The Windows Store for Business

If you jump into the documentation for the Windows Store for Business;

Windows Store for Business

then you’ll find that it breaks down into a number of sections;

  1. Sign up, get started
  2. Find and acquire apps
  3. Distribute apps to your employees
  4. Manage apps
  5. Device guard signing portal
  6. Manage settings

There are quite a few pages of documentation there and it’s, frankly, a little ‘dry’ and so I thought I’d try and bring it to life by working through it for myself with a few illustrations to see how it really is in the real world.

That’s what I’m going to be doing in the following few blog posts. I don’t promise to work through all of it but I thought I’d try and work some of those first 4 topics.

Before I get started on that though, I want to raise one thing which I think is very important to flag around the state of the Windows Store for Business right now which is taken from the documentation below;

“For now, apps in the Store for Business are free. Over time, when paid apps are available, you’ll have more options for paying for apps. “

The Windows Store for Business has promised flexible ways for organisations to be able to purchase apps but, at the time of writing, that functionality hasn’t yet opened up and, right now, the Business Store only deals with free apps.

That’s a good start but, clearly, a lot of the value of Windows Store for Business will come from it enabling an ISV<->Organisational connection around volume licensing of apps, distribution of those apps and enforcement of that licensing.

With that caveat in place, I’ll move on in the next post to look at getting signed up for the Windows Store for Business.