Who’s getting aboard the Metro?

Patrick Hynds
February 24, 2012 —  (Page 3 of 4)

Corporate Metro apps
How corporations will deploy their own Metro apps without exposing them to the wider world is an important part of the story at release. There is a pleasant twist in the road at this point: Microsoft will enable desktop apps (i.e., non-Metro apps) to be listed and searchable in the app store.

To be listed, the applications will have to pass Microsoft’s Desktop App Certification. If you look at the certification requirements, you will see that most of them are about security and making sure the app does not hurt system performance. The difference in the experience for the user is that downloading the application is not via the Microsoft store, but instead made at the application developer’s website. This is still a huge opportunity, and Microsoft is still playing the all-important role of market maker. I believe the word is not fully out on this last part so I am very interested to see reactions to it.

In a Windows Store for developers blog post, Ted Dworkin, the Microsoft Partner Program manager for the store, explained the options available to corporations wishing to deploy Metro-style apps for their own use. After explaining that corporations can list their apps just like consumer apps, he pointed out that Microsoft will “also offer support for enterprises that want direct control over the deployment of Metro style apps.”

This other option entails pushing the app via a group policy within the corporate domain and managing it via PowerShell commandlets. On balance this is good, but I would say that it is not optimal. I really want my corporate deployments for Metro-style apps to be as easy as consumer-based deployments, but private in a secure way. I imagine a provisioning system where once I deploy my app, I choose to either offer it to the public or provide a list of users who can access it, or perhaps have an option for a shared secret in the form of a password or certificate. This is alluded to somewhat where the blog post states, “Enterprises can choose to limit access to the Windows Store catalog by their employees, or allow access but restrict certain apps.”

Having not yet tried the current company deployment options in the field, I cannot say how far from my preferred experience the corporate deployment experience will be from the ease of the consumer app deployment scenario. However, as described earlier, the rest of the story is pretty amazing.

The introduction of Metro on Windows 8 puts Microsoft in the running to really challenge Apple for the combined tablet and phone space. Microsoft has a strong record of entering markets late, yet still capturing prime-mover position. The strength of this gambit is that you know what the competition offers. You can then innovate while fixing the foibles of your precursors. This trick is hard to do unless you have billions of dollars and an R&D group at your disposal second to none, which of course Microsoft just happens to have.

If the strategy works, then the way I think it will shake out is that we may end up enjoying an arms race between Apple and Microsoft with some volleys fired by Google. Like the massive innovation that resulted from the browser wars, the big winner will ultimately be consumers.

To really understand what it takes for Microsoft to win the battle against Apple and others, I talked to Billy Hollis, partner at Tennessee-based consulting firm Next Version Systems, about Metro. Hollis not only has a great deal of experience with .NET, he is also a recognized expert on user interface design in developer circles. He said, “Metro is a big step for Microsoft to close the gap with the iPad on user experience. It exemplifies some good user experience design principles, such as putting ‘charms’ on the right side—that way, a right-handed person does not block the screen while accessing a charm.”

Related Search Term(s): Metro, Microsoft, Windows 8

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