Windows 8 optimize

What Windows 8 closed app distribution means for consultants

If you plan to develop custom Windows 8 applications for your clients, you have three choices. Chip Camden outlines those options.

For Windows 8 applications that use the new Windows 8 UI, Microsoft wants to limit distribution exclusively to the Windows Store, ostensibly to insure quality, compatibility, and freedom from security vulnerabilities and malware. Of course, this means that Microsoft gets a cut of the price (30%, reduced to 20% for volume). It also means that applications must pass Microsoft certification.

We consultants often develop applications that don't fit this model. If you develop custom applications for your clients, you don't want those in the Windows Store. If your client develops software for a specific vertical market, they may want to be able to distribute directly to their customers without sharing revenue with Microsoft. Microsoft is making allowances for that, via a process called Enterprise SideLoading. Side-loading allows an IT administrator to install a signed application if the systems they're installing on are part of a domain, that domain allows trusted applications to install, and either (a) the systems are all running Windows 8 Enterprise or (b) they've purchased side-loading keys from Microsoft. Talk about Simon Says rules!

Thus, if you intend to write applications for Windows 8, you have three choices:

  • Don't use the new UI. Microsoft will not subject desktop applications to this restriction, but we don't know for how long. Nor do we know how long the desktop will remain a viable interface on Windows.
  • Distribute through the Windows Store. Go through the certification process and hand over a percentage of your revenue to La Cosa Microsofta.
  • Use side-loading. This means limiting your target systems to the Enterprise version of Windows 8, or requiring end-users to purchase side-loading keys per machine. It also means that the machines must be part of a domain, and that the domain enables the policy to "Allow all trusted apps to install."

I foresee a lot of businesses and consultants going for the first option. If the new UI catches on, though, we will start to get pressured from clients and customers to provide solutions that employ it to its maximum effect. At that point, we'll have to decide how to fit into Microsoft's grand scheme, unless they decide to change their policy. Or not -- we might be able to convince users that other platforms provide better value at that point.

Also read Jason Hiner's post Windows 8: Four big takeaways for business and IT

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

26 comments
mattohare
mattohare

They visit the URL and they're already in the app. Now that HTML5 handles some local storage, I should be fine.

gak
gak

Everybody can download Visual Studio Express and get a free license to develop Windows Store Apps. I am even not sure about the license, possibly Microsoft has already removed that obstacle. Thus, any open source hub solves all distribution problems.

mattohare
mattohare

My idea with the iOS platform was to distribute the app for free and have people subscribe to the site to use advanced features. It seems that would just go through the shops for free.

Slayer_
Slayer_

If I can't make my own apps and load them myself, whats the point? I might have liked Windows 8 if it allowed me to make my own applications and put them on the tiles and lock screen. I'm sure it won't take 10 minutes before someone has a hack for this. (So there probably already is one)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Apparently they expect that their inertia in the market will overcome any objections to this new distribution model. What do you thinbk about that?

dogknees
dogknees

Will there be a version that I can use to develop personal apps on the machine I want to run them on?

Marc Jellinek
Marc Jellinek

That's likely the model I'd use. Charge customers a subscription fee for access to back end services, give them a free Win8 front end from the Store. That way, even if someone downloads the free app, they don't have access to the back end services until they pay the subscription fee... and when they stop paying the subscription fee/maintenance fee, they lose access to the service. Businesses can bitch all they want, but they do it every day... with SalesForce.com; Google Apps; Office365

dogknees
dogknees

Where is the native dev environment for WinRT? If MS really want to convince programmers of the worth of RT, they need to show us how a rich complex app can work in a tuoch environment. A full function version of Visual Studio would be a good start.

jrmontgomery
jrmontgomery

the market place has changed quite a bit from the introduction of INTER-Net to the general public. This is a consolidation of experience gleaned from the market. This is apparently the new Economic modeling in action, adjusting to demand and the times. The demand is expressed in the form of one-click simplified, applications. Supply side had responded by downsizing the salesforce. People can more easily define what they are looking for.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

While not a developer, I find this new policy at M$ for Win8 to be seriously detrimental to the end user, though it will mean more money for M$ (which, it seems, is all they care about now) it seems like it will mean less money for consultants unless they up their price to overcome that 30% take (which, again, hurts the end user).

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

To install apps that aren't from the store, they must either buy side-loading keys or use Windows Enterprise. At least, that's what I get from Microsoft's lengthy discussion of the subject. I suppose you could make your end users install Visual Studio Express instead.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Previously on TR I asked if a win32 application could have a live tile. I now know this is impossible as it would have to come through the store, a normal installation process couldn't do it.

dogknees
dogknees

Are more complex and powerful applications. How might I define that?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Someone will hack those keys and make a key generator. And I fully support them.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

as a consumer, but in the context of software etc the word consumer has a special meaning that refers to products that are not used for, and usually can not be used for, productivity or common work activities. Document preparation, as in the typing and formatting of them is seen as a work activity while checking email is seen as a consumer activity. Nothing in the IT industry is every the same as the general usage definition. Windows 8 is designed for browsing, email checking, and playing little games like pinball. I agree with your points about having options and including some of the things that the younger people like - I object to the fact that what Microsoft is doing is removing the options the older options that people like and reducing the choices available. It's the lack of choice and forced changes that are objectionable. The fact those forced changes means the type of work I do day in day out will take more time and a lot more actions by me to do them is more than enough reason to NOT go near Win 8 as it reduces my productivity, and since what i do is what the majority of office workers and common computers uses do on a computer as part of their daily work means it's not an enterprise OS. But the fact it's optimised for browsing, emails, and consumer app use means it's a consumer product as per the definition above.

dogknees
dogknees

I still say consumers covers all those using it other than for work. I have a quite a few friends and acquaintances that did/do the same as me. I really don't agree with the idea that consumers are some homogenous group like the marketers seem to think and that we should look after the majority and ignore the rest. One reason I keep picking at this is that if we don't give younger people at least the same options and tools in their new OS as "we" had in the ones we grew up with, we're killing the possibility of people learning that they can do a lot more than download apps that someone else created and touch buttons. A lot of them will never realize that there is so much more they can do with a computer. Maybe it's a small group that will make use of them, but at least they will be able to do so. I learned so much from writing my own little programs back in the late eighties and the nineties, and I want everyone to at least have that option and for it be discoverable on their computers. The rest of us also miss out on what some of the bright kids of today could contribute to our industry and the world in general. This is nothing short of a "crime against humanity". ;) A computer that has no native development tools is not what I would call a computer. The ability to build your own peripherals and write your own programs is integral to the whole concept. Particularly when we use the term "personal computer". Things progress and change, but I don't believe we need to discard the useful and valuable things we have in order to have something new, more powerful, more interesting and enjoyable. We've finally gotten to the point where the average PC can do amazing things that those of us that have been in the game for several decades could only dream about. And now we are going to take all that richness away. When we're not even close to fulfilling the promise of the "personal computer". I can think of a lot of things that I could do with another dozen orders of magnitude in performance & storage. I've been looking forward to being able to do some of these in my retirement in about 15 years, but that possibility seems to be disappearing in the race to commoditise the industry.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a user who's NOT doing any significant productivity work or development, but someone who's just checking email, web browsing, or playing games. In short, VERY short on data input or document preparation or document processing.

dogknees
dogknees

When I am on my PC at home, I consider myself to be a consumer. As one, one of the things I like to do on my PC are writing software to explore ideas and concepts. The fact that I do these things doesn't stop me being a consumer and expecting to get the same support from my OS to do these things as those who use only simple apps do.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

which will mostly be on Surface and other tablets and much will be the RT version. It's a consumer OS and they will want only consumer type apps for it. Thus the productivity related ones won't be wanted on it, nor will the bigger ones fit on the systems well.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Since a good chunk of the apps for Windows are free, it would be stupid to dump that market. Assuming of course MS wants to make Windows 8 popular.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

from an app provided through their store that they don't get a cut of will soon find the app no longer available via their store. And since most of the apps for the Surface and Win 8 will only be available via their store due to their vendor lock-in system, well, I don't think you'll do well once they get on your case. And from what I can access from the MS site the only free Win 8 apps are the ones they make themselves. The website s I've hit through their system is NOT easy to dig through, either