This just in from Group Policy Most Valuable Professional Alan Burchill: It looks like there could be a way for business users to circumvent the Windows 8 Metro start menu after all.
Burchill found this while sifting through the Consumer Preview bits:
"The 'Do not show the Start Menu when the user logs in' policy allows you to boot the OS into the more familiar desktop and not the Metro start menu. Interesting to note that booting into the desktop is also the default behaviour for Windows Server 8 so you can also use this setting on your server if you want to start them into Metro (but you prob don’t want to)."
Update: This might not be as promising as Burchill originally thought. He has amended his post to note that this setting may be a server-only thing.
While many love the tiled Metro start screen and are looking forward to using it on touch tablets and PCs, many others aren't keen on it -- especially business users who are convinced that Metro will be nothing but a nuisance, especially on non-touch-enabled hardware, and that they'll do most of their work in the Desktop app on Windows 8.
Paul Thurrott of Windows SuperSite told me a while back that he believed Microsoft would allow users to get around Metro using a group-policy setting, but when I ran that past my contacts at Microsoft, I was told this would likely not be the case. So in the end, it looks like So who knows at this point whether business users who don't want Metro may get their wish, after all.
Microsoft may share more on this topic at CeBIT in Germany, which runs March 6 to 10. At the February 29 Consumer Preview launch, Windows officials said Microsoft would talk more about Windows 8 in the enterprise at CeBIT next week.
Update No. 2: Microsoft officials confirmed COO Kevin Turner will share more enterprise-focused Windows 8 information on March 6 during his keynote at CeBIT. No specifics yet as to what will be on the agenda.
The other big looming question that many business users want more information about is what they will and won't be able to do when it comes to managing their Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets and PCs.
Microsoft posted a document for download on February 29 (not sure if intentionally or not) that outlined Consumer Preview features for business users. In that document, Microsoft corroborated word that WOA tablets won't be able to join an Active Directory domain. Some sites have reported that the document also said that Microsoft wouldn't allow WOA tablets to be managed at all using Microsoft's own management tools.
The sentence in question from the Business Consumer Preview guide:
"“Although the ARM-based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, businesses can use these power-saving devices in unmanaged environments.”
From what I can tell -- given the Softies are declining to comment publicly on this -- it sounds like the domain prohibition is accurate, but the inability to be remotely managed via System Center may not necessarily be.
Charles Fitzgerald, a former Microsoft exec now working at VMWare, noted that the domain join limitation means Microsoft won't be able to one-up the iPad on this front. (And lack of manageability was one of the themes that Microsoft has advised its salesforce to use in selling agains the iPad in businesses.) From Fitzgerald's March 1 post:
Lack of domain join "means Windows 8 ARM tablets are going to be consumer devices that don’t integrate with the Microsoft enterprise infrastructure any better than the iPad, so Microsoft loses what should have been a major selling point. You will have to sacrifice battery life and go with x86 to get enterprise features and manageability. This is a big blow to Microsoft’s tablet proposition for the enterprise and WOA may be DOA as a result.
I'll be interested to hear Microsoft's explanation as to why domain join is out for WOA tablets if and when they share it....
Update No. 3: Since last night when I posted this, a number of my chums on Twitter have wondered whether the reason Microsoft might be cutting domain join for WOA has to do with licensing. The thinking is Microsoft may want to try to charge users who need domain join more or to require them to move to a higher end SKU. I have no idea if this is the case. I've also seen others note that WOA tablets still will likely be managed via Exchange Active Sync (EAS) -- which is basically what the case is with iPads, I believe.