BootyBay: One Microsoft team's attempt to fix Windows 8's sideloading problems

BootyBay: One Microsoft team's attempt to fix Windows 8's sideloading problems

Summary: A team of Microsoft evangelists and developers in China has developed a proof-of-concept app aimed at making Windows 8 app sideloading of business apps more palatable.

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Windows 8 app sideloading has been largely at a standstill since Microsoft first outlined its strategy for allowing business users to install line-of-business apps without publishing through the Windows Store.

codenamebootybay

Small- and mid-size developers have found Microsoft's sideloading requirements particularly onerous. Licensing requirements are prohibitive, as are costs, as has been well documented by Magenic Chief Technology Officer Rockford Lhotka and a handful of others.

It looks like some inside Microsoft are tired of the lack of movement on the sideloading front, too.

I stumbled onto a Microsoft blog called "Lighthouse." A January 27 post on that blog outlines a new proof-of-concept project aimed at removing some of the current Windows 8 sideloading barriers.

The Lighthouse developers are from Microsoft's Global Partner Services team and Developer Platform Evangelist team in China. They published the source code for the project to Microsoft's Codeplex code repository. The project's codename is BootyBay. Booty Bay is a pirate city in World of Warcraft (I discover after a little Web searching, plus some help from @ShawnWildermuth) -- and, according to the Lighthouse blog post "a great place to store your treasures."

The BootyBay developers didn't mince words in describing the problems developers are encountering with Windows 8 sideloading. From their blog post:

"Microsoft’s only solution for side-loading app management for enterprise is System Center/Intune. The System Center is too expensive and complex, and Intune is still not available to many regions yet especially China Mainland. Today, with the growth of the win8 device selling to enterprises, there are many partners and customers are looking for a light-weighted, easy-to-deploy solution for app management purpose, especially for Line-Of-Business commercial apps. Although we have Windows Runtime APIs to do so, there is no complete solution available internally or externally to meet the requirement. That’s why we are working on the POC (proof of concept) development."

The BootyBay proof of concept is a private Windows Store solution that includes a Windows Store app as the "private store," a desktop app which is the "Store Agent," and an ASP.Net MVC app that acts as the "Store Server." The target audience for BootyBay is independent software vendors who are developing side-loadable apps for business customers who don't necessarily have System Center, Windows Intune "or even 'domain,'" according to the post.

The BootyBay console agent, available for download, is marked as an alpha. The code is under a Ms-PL (Microsoft Public License). There's a lengthy still-to-do list for the project, but it's at least a start.

I've checked in with the Windows Enterprise team to see whether there's anything new they can share about updates or changes to Microsoft's sideloading requirements and policies that might get SMBs interested in building some Windows 8 line-of-business apps that they can publish to the Store. No word back yet.

Here's hoping  there will be an update at Build 2014 this year about Microsoft's plans to support developers interested in building sideloadable business apps.....

Update: Speaking of the aformentioned Rocky Lhotka, check out the Magenic OrgPortal (on GitHub), which is a "pre-alpha" portal designed to help users find and install WinRT business apps via sideloading. The OrgPortal includes a WinRT client app, an ASP.Net service and a Windows Desktop system-try app that performs the actual install via PowerShell.

Update No. 2 (January 29): It looks like Microsoft pulled the Lighthouse blog post and removed the BootyBay project from Codeplex. 

Microsoft reiterated its current stance regarding sideloading via this statement from a spokesperson:

“Microsoft provides a variety of options for businesses to sideload LOB apps on devices running Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, including:
• Company Portal apps via Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager, which allow businesses a way to let employees or users easily install line-of-business apps
• Portals through third-party solutions (like Citrix, MobileIron, and AirWatch) based on the new MDM capabilities included in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1
• Built-in PowerShell commands for performing installations

Per the blog post you found, Codeplex projects also have used APIs available to perform the same tasks, an option for companies who want to roll out their own app delivery method or MDM provider.”

For now, there is no further official word as to whether there's something new/more coming around sideloading licensing/pricing options for smaller developers in the next few months.

 

Topics: Software Development, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows 8

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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23 comments
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  • Give Us Root

    Its the same thing I want from iOS and Android. Its our device, why can't I have root and load what the heck I want. This is a use restriction for the benefit of the seller that is being sold as a benefit to the consumer. My Android and iOS devices are rooted/jailbroken (mainly so I can block ads, its literally the only way to do so in Android).

    If you don't have root you don't own the device.
    txscott
    • you have whatever you want with android

      Google and iOS have chosen proper secured opererating system models for the average consumer. This is very wise.

      but for those like you, the ultimate freedom has already been given to you by google. Please download , build and customize android as you please at no charge. Give yourself root! Use a nexus phone which provides the unlockable bootloader, with google's blessings.
      deathjazz
    • Those days are going to be behind us

      I think it is getting less and less likely that will happen. For years (decades?) the vendors gave us free reign on our devices. We installed malware, poorly written apps, and all other kinds of junk on them. Then we blamed the OS manufacturers for creating a shoddy product that lends itself to running malware, poorly written apps, and all other kinds of junk. For better or worse, the writing on the wall seems to indicate that the days of "root" are going to be fading into the rear view mirror in favor of curated app stores and sandboxed APIs for this very reason.
      avidgator
      • And this is a good thing because?

        It's easier for Joe Blow to operate an app store than a real computer, but not everyone is Joe Blow and not everyone is satisfied with just "apps".

        20 years of internet, 30 years of PCs and this is what it has come to: a warm embrace by the entire tech sector of devices with the price tag, freedom and software depth of a Gameboy.
        EnaiSiaion
  • Hilariously out of touch

    Microsoft is so out of touch that it's reaching absurd levels. Who at the company thought this was a good idea? For a business, being able to install their LOB apps is the most basic of requirements. The old versions of Windows could do this just fine.

    You really expect people to upgrade when you're doing this to them? Why would anybody do that?

    I swear, a lot of managers in Redmond need to leave the reality distortion bubble around the campus and go visit the real world. It's absurd that this hasn't been fixed yet.
    Tridus
    • LOB Apps

      Remember, only "Windows Store" apps fall into this category. Most LOB apps are Windows desktop apps, which can be installed in the traditional way.
      Honeyboy Wilson
      • Yes, but...

        ...since the Windows Store application model is intended to be the future for all Windows apps, it'll become a problem to deal with sooner or later.
        sevenacids
    • Don't confuse Apps with Programs

      Apps are lightweight playthings.
      Emacho
      • Doesn't matter

        Apps are new, programs are old, so if you still need programs you are a fossil. Now get with the times and play some Candy Crush on this awesome new phone with no keyboard, no windowed multitasking and an expected lifespan of 1.5 years. It's got >>>THREE CAMERAS
        EnaiSiaion
  • More Jargon mumbo-jumbo...

    Sideloading? WTF?

    Let me guess, this is a way to "allow" other entities a hook into the Windows store? So that if you are a large company you can put your apps on there?

    Who would even conceive of such a thing? What company would hook their wagon to this abomination?

    No doubt all the Windows OEMS have been "tasked" to put resources on this and have to take Microsofts word that they are going to stick with it....

    Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! Fail! ....
    SirHuxley
    • Enough

      companies do this already with their iOS and Android fleets...
      wright_is
  • Enterprises *like* locked down machines

    If I'm Delta Airlines, and I'm going to give each of my pilots a Surface to use as an "electronic flight bag" (i.e., loaded with apps intended to replace the flight manuals, manifests, etc. that a pilot needs and uses), the only things I want installed on those devices are the apps that I've vetted. And, I don't want to publish my proprietary apps in the Windows Store.

    "Side Loading" is the ability to load apps "from the side" (i.e., from another "store", not the Microsoft Store). Delta doesn't have problems with this - they likely have the full Microsoft management suite (System Center and friends), and can set up a "private store".

    The problem is if I'm Bob's trucking, and I want to give my 50 drivers Windows 8 (or RT) devices and some touch driven "Metro" apps for tracking their day. I want to be able to do that, but not at the cost of a System Center deployment. Again, I want my apps to be there, but I don't want my drivers to be able to root their devices.
    Flydog57
    • Modern (Metro) Apps

      Isn't it possible to use a special product key be to activate Windows side-loading on each client without having a 2012 AD domain? Once clients are activated to allow side loading, the app must be signed by an authority that's trusted by each client. Now the apps can be installed with a relatively simple script that uses "add-appxpackage". Is this something Bob's receptionist can do? Probably not but if Bob's cash flow supports funding a custom task tracking app, it seems plausible there's room for a few extra hours to prepare the clients and install the apps. "add-appxpackage" can be scripted and if there are hundreds of clients, the key challenge is getting the package on each machine and executing the command.
      robradina@...
      • Go read Lhotka's blog

        He'll set you straight on the problem.
        dilettante
  • Links are not working

    None of links are working. Were they removed?
    Sideloading, ahem, (who even invented this term) would be very useful. App stores must die.
    paul2011
  • Without side loading, metro is never going to gain critical mass

    In the SMB space, that is for sure. Legacy may be a dirty word to millennial, but it, like ALL OF LIFE, is about dollars. If something works, you don't spend money to change it..and unless you have a low cost/no cost option to sideload, there is no incentive to port most legacy mission critical programs to metro. Most business does not exist on MSoffice and web apps, it is always some 15 year old visual basic program to discover the optimum number of styrofoam beads to inject into a dogs chewtoy kind of application that it utterly unique to that one application and useless to everyone else in the world, that are mission critical.
    TrishaDishaWarEagle
  • Why can't win 8 work like gatekeeper, but more secure?

    When I first heard about the win 8 app store, I thought it would be something like the Mac is app store and gatekeeper. I still wish they had gone that way.

    I believe the following:

    1) everyone should be able to side load apps, for free, without restriction (no app limit, time limit, domain join restriction, or extra sideloading unlock key)

    2) you shouldn't have to "root" your device to side-load apps. Side loaded apps should be automatically blocked, with settings to ask every time, restrict to signed apps only, or restrict to apps signed by one of a user specified whitelist of certificates.

    3) When it comes to security, battery life, and so on, why is winrt more locked down than x86? x86 users should be able to lock down their device to make it run like a WinRT device, and WinRT users should be able to open up their machines like x86, INCLUDING desktop style apps recompiled to ARM (of course this would probably only be DX games since a lot of win32 APIs were never ported to ARM).
    SleepyDaddy
    • WinRT is not ARM

      All Windows 8 SKUs shipped have WinRT. Do not confuse it with the marketing term for the "Windows RT" product, an entirely different thing.
      dilettante
  • I've nothing against app stores

    But I want the possibility to go around it like Android which has a checkbox in the settings to restrict install to apps coming from the store only, uncheck it and you can install .apk file from anywhere.

    I want that freedom for Windows modern apps.

    MS please tear down the wall around the garden!
    lepoete73
    • Absolutely!

      Consumers in particular should be allowed to sideload without restriction. If businesses want to prevent it, they should be able to via group policy or whatever. But home users? Maybe make us click a checkbox like Android, but it absolutely should be possible.
      zeblonite