How Microsoft targets Windows 8 for enterprises

Far outside the RAI convention center and apart from Microsoft TechEd 2012 Europe, MS organized a Windows 8 workshop -- and while they didn't reveal anything new (contrary to my expectation), they did put more serious effort into explaining how Windows 8 and the ARM-based Wndows RT will fit the enterprise.

This should prove interesting, because Windows 8's simplified Metro approach has been almost exclusively panned by admins and more business-oriented users.

Let's look the argument for the business and put them into perspective:

Specialized enterprise apps

Microsoft demoed a Metro-style app that handles patient data in a fictional hospital. It gives an overview of a patient's status, diagrams (e.g. heart transplants) and even lets the patient use pen input to authorize an operation.

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The idea seems to be that by building very easy to use Metro-style apps, the less-tech savyy users (think nurses, secretaries, receptionists, etc.) wouldn't need to struggle with a full-blown and generally complicated Win32 application.

My take: I'm not sure how many business will actually think about developing a specific Metro-style application. They probably got all their LoB applications from a single provider who's specialized in their field (say, for example, patient management tools). It seems unlikely that those providers will invest resources developing for Windows RT when their current development model works just fine. Will the simple development model entice these developers in the future? Err, maybe.

The desktop is still there

Microsoft tells businesses that the classic Windows 7 desktop is still there. Businesses will have the new, rich apps but still have the classic applications and desktop.

My take: Fine, but at least give admins an easy (!) and immediate way to boot right into the desktop. I can't even begin to imagine the kind of support calls IT admins will get when a sales guy has to hit the desktop tile every time he signs into the PC. Currently, there is a way to boot directly into desktop using Group Policy, but c'mon give us an easier way!

Windows To Go

Using a simple wizard, admins can create a full-blown and BitLocker-protected portable version of Windows 8 and put it on a bootable USB stick. Windows To Go runs completely from this USB stick -- the portable environment will be completely sealed off from the physical machine so you don't see the actual hard disk of the PC it's plugged into (for obvious security reasons).

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Even if the stick is lost or stolen, the data is safe. It can't just be plugged it into a different PC since it's password protected using BitLocker.

My take: That's probably the coolest thing for businesses yet! Unfortunately, it’s only available in Windows 8 Enterprise.

Windows RT to feature "Company Apps" and better business connectivity

Now let’s turn to the problem child, Windows RT for ARM devices. Obviously, Windows RT (which can't run x86 programs) has been declared DOA for businesses. Your IT line-of-business apps just wouldn't work. Is it a killer?

Well, apparently Microsoft doesn't think so: In tandem with Windows Server 2012, Windows RT devices can connect to a server and use RemoteApp to stream x86 software to ARM devices over the company network. Of course, you’d have to set up an entire Windows Server 2012 infrastructure to really experience x86 applications on these low-powered devices.

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Next on the list is a feature called "TPM Virtual Smart Card" that is, essentially, a replacement for your SmartCard in a Windows RT environment. Using a built-in TPM chip, which Microsoft says is present and mandatory in every WinRT device, you can sign on to your corporate VPN using just the TPM module.

Finally, Microsoft revealed its "Company Apps" side-loading feature which admins could use to distribute corporate Metro-style apps to Windows RT devices.

My take: RemoteApp is a great workaround for ARM machines, but it all depends on IT's willingness to deploy Windows Server 2012 alongside Windows RT devices.

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