Speaker: Michael Niehaus, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

I’ve met Michael before and for a marketing guy he sure knows his stuff! I was actually fooled by the session title here. I expected the session to talk about something I did not think could be done: to deploy the applications you can obtain from the Microsoft Store. However, “Windows Store Apps” is the official Microsoft terminology for what most of us call “Metro Apps”. So the session was a very good one (the best I’ve seen so far) but it was about deploying in-house applications and not those you’d obtain from the Microsoft Store. At any rate, below are my notes from the session, picking out what I found interesting, he also walked through how to deploy applications with each of the available mechanisms that support it. Namely, directly/interactively from the Microsoft Store, via Intune, via MDT, via SCCM and via PowerShell

A “Microsoft Account” is what is need to leverage the Microsoft Store. It was formerly known as a Windows Live ID.

AppX files are essentially compressed archives (like zip files) with an XML manifest inside that describes the application. The new “installation” process is essentially reduced to extracting the files and then registering it with the system.

Sideloading is the process of “installing” these AppX packages using any means other than the Microsoft Store. Right now that pretty much means using PowerShell, but there is acknowledgement here that third parties are going to provide their own solutions (which probably leverage the same). A special key is needed to sideload applications. Software Assurance includes a free sideloading key or you can buy 100 packs starting at $3000 bucks. If you have SA and are looking for your key, you’ll find it by logging into the Volume License Service Center.

Apps are all installed per-user and do not require admin rights. So if you install an application to a machine as user A, when user B logs into the machine it won’t be there for him. This is easy to get your head around, but do keep in mind that software removal works the same way. To really uninstall an application from a machine, it will mean doing so for each user account.

Some applications you cannot uninstall: Internet Explorer, Windows Store and PC Settings app. Windows Store can of course be disabled via policies but it cannot be uninstalled.

Provisioning software means to stage applications for automatic installation. Can be set in Sysprep. You can also provision apps offline by mounting a windows 8 image. You can only provision up to 24 applications. Remember that his is per user, so if you provision to your own account, you need to log out and in again to trigger the automated install. 

To install software, you need the AppX package so customers are asking vendors for AppX packages. Some vendors may provide them, but presently nobody seems to have a process for providing these packages outside the Microsoft Store. Microsoft is no exception; they will not provide an AppX package for any of their software applications (even the free ones).

You cannot prevent users from installing certain applications, or types of applications today. You can turn off the Windows Store completely, but if it is not disabled it is wide open—on or off, no granularity is possible out of the box today.

This Windows Store is disabled in Windows-To-Go (the ability to run Windows 8 from a USB key) because of licensing limitations but it can be turned on via group policy if you wish. The limitation is that you can only have an application on 5 devices and Windows-To-Go is seen as a new system every time that it is used (so it would fail the 6th time you tried to install it on what you consider to be the same device).