Microsoft has, not to be outdone, created an app store all its own for Windows 8 and 8.1 apps. Many of the applications are capable of running on phones, RT or ARM devices like the Surface RT, and standard installations of Windows 8.1. Microsoft has applications for all types of different experiences, from games to business productivity (Figure A). Even some of the larger applications, like Microsoft CRM, have been rebuilt for the immersive Windows experience and are available in the Windows Store.
Business apps in the Windows Store.
Because the Windows Store is relatively new, it does have the fewest number of applications available, but there are more apps released every day. In terms of apps being accepted into the store, the rules seem to fall between the Apple App Store and Google Play, leaning more toward the higher security requirements of Apple.
Desktop or RT
Apps available in the Windows Store are geared toward the immersive Windows experience. These apps run in full screen mode and are not traditional desktop applications. Installation, updating, and removal happen through the Windows Store.
When accessing the Windows Store from the Surface, you'll see a section called Surface Picks, which are apps suggested for the Surface tablet. Other apps will work on the Surface, but these are some ideas to get you started.
Because I also use an iPad, I wasn't sure what to expect with the Windows Store. However, after a bit of scrolling around, I saw that the number and diverse types of apps available in the store wasn't too bad. It's not quite on pace with the App Store or Google Play, but as Microsoft stays in the mobile space and offers its own app store, it will only get better.
The Windows Store, of course, isn't just for business users. It offers the following app categories:
- Books and Reference
- News and Weather
- Health and Fitness
- Food and Dining
Given the number of categories it already has and the inclusion of things like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the Windows Store could prove just as useful for business as for casual Internet users.
Installation, update, and removal of Windows Store apps
Windows Store apps are very simple to install. When you find an application that you want to install, click the Install button on the app screen (shown in Figure B with the Evernote Touch).
Install the Evernote Touch app by clicking Install.
When the app has completed its install process, Windows will let you know with a banner in the top corner. The app will be available in the Apps list of the Start Screen, and you can just click or tap the icon once to launch it.
When an app has an available update, it will be listed in the Windows Store. To view available updates, open the Windows Store and swipe the charms bar in from the right edge of the screen. On the charms bar, tap Settings. This will open the Windows Store Settings panel (Figure C).
The Windows Store Settings panel.
Select App Updates to view update settings for Windows Store apps on the Surface. From here, you can enable automatic updates of Windows Store apps (only on non-metered connections), which will install updates as they become available. Select Check for Updates to see if there are available updates for installed items.
To install updates, tap available updates to select or choose Select all from the menu bar, and then click Install. Update installations will not alert with banners when they're complete, but the Windows Store update screen will indicate that the updates have installed.
To remove an app loaded from the Windows Store, locate the app on the Start screen. Tap and hold the icon to enter customization mode for that app. Tap Uninstall on the customize bar. When you're prompted that the selected app will be uninstalled, select uninstall on the prompt dialog. That app will be uninstalled and removed from the Start screen.
Corporate or line-of-business apps
Because all apps published to the Windows Store are made public, and some organizations may want to write their own apps for use on Windows Surface devices, Microsoft has also introduced technology to help side-load apps. The process for side-loading apps is outlined below:
Note: You will need a developer license (that Microsoft offers for free) to create and test your apps.
Requesting a developer license is done through PowerShell, running as an Administrator. Enter the show-windowsdeveloperlicenseregistration cmdlet, which produces a license agreement dialog. Selecting I Agree will then prompt you to login with a Microsoft Account. This will associate the developer license with the provided Microsoft Account.
Once these steps have completed, you can use PowerShell to side-load an application by running Add-appxpackage “path to file.” This method is used for working with an app that will be published to the Windows Store.
The Surface Pro 2 also supports the use of side-loaded line-of-business applications. These are applications developed by your organization that will not be published in the Windows Store. Loading an application this way requires the use of Microsoft’s Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM.exe). This method is also used when developing and testing apps for Windows 8.
The Windows Store makes the installation, updating, and even the removal of apps for Windows 8 extremely easy. There are many apps that still behave in a traditional manner and require traditional methods, but I would not be surprised if more applications move toward the managed install method of the Windows Store.
Do you have any tips or tricks for working with the Windows Store? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.