Windows 8: Lingering questions and (a few more) answers

Windows 8: Lingering questions and (a few more) answers

Summary: Will there be downgrade rights in Windows 8? Will line-of-business apps be able to be sideloaded on Windows RT? Slowly but surely, we're getting some answers.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

It may sound crazy, but even though users have started downloading the final Windows 8 bits over the past couple of weeks, there are still lots of questions about the product -- and its ARM-based complement, Windows RT.


Luckily, a few of the folks writing Windows 8 books are providing some answers.

Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera, coauthors of Windows 8 Secrets, posted this week a handy feature-comparison matrix, listing a couple dozen features that are supported to varying degrees in Windows 8 (the consumer SKU), Windows 8 Professional, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows RT. They created this chart using a tool Rivera wrote, and acknowledge that it is generating the best-available (though maybe not entirely accurate) data at this point. 

The availability and lack thereof of some of these features has been noted and, in some cases, explained by the Windows team. (Example: No domain join supported in either Windows 8 consumer or Windows RT.) But in other cases, a few features on Thurrott's and Rivera's list that have generated even more questions. For example, if codecs, including H.264, are not supported on Windows RT, how will these systems play back media content?  And is there really no line-of-business app sideloading in anything other than Windows 8 Enterprise? If so, why not?

I asked the Windows team about the codecs and sideloading specifically, as many of my readers were asking about those two points in particular. Here's what a company spokesperson told me via e-mail:

Re: Codecs: "There’s a chart on the B8 blog “Building a rich and extensible media platform” that explicitly shows that several of those codecs will be available on Windows RT. MPEG-2 is the only one called out in their piece that is actually not going to be available on Windows RT. The others will be. It also says 'Formats popular among the enthusiast community or with specific developers such as FLAC, MKV, and OGG, can have their own CODECs packaged as part of a Metro style app, since the Windows 8 media platform is highly extensible,' Which implies the options can be extended through apps.

Re: Sideloading business apps on Windows RT machines: "It’s a bit nuanced as the process itself is somewhat different in Windows RT, but the below excerpt from this post, 'Managing 'BYO' PCs in the enterprise' (including Windows on ARM), explains how the side-loading of LOB (line of business) apps concept will for Windows RT –- it’s admittedly slightly different from the x86 side-loading process but the idea remains the same."

We Windows 8 curious got some more answers via ZDNet's Ed Bott, author of Windows 8 Head Start. Bott provided an answer this week to a question I've gotten a lot from my readers -- namely, will Microsoft provide downgrade rights to Windows 7 to those who purchase Windows 8. The short answer is yes. For the answer in full, read Bott's post, as it's challenging to condense into 140 characters the nuances of anything having to do with Microsoft licensing. Bott also said, based on his reading of the Windows 8 licensing documents, that Windows 8 will allow the installation of Windows 8 in a virtual machine.

In related news of potential interest to enterprise users looking at Windows 8. Microsoft has made available for download versions of a handful of its enterprise deployment tools that now support Windows 8.  This includes the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK), which replaces the Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7; the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Update 1, which integrates all the ADK tools into a single deployment process; and the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 7.0, which helps for planning migrations to Windows 8 Enterprise.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft


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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  • Obvious !!

    "And is there really no line-of-business app sideloading in anything other than Windows 8 Enterprise? If so, why not?"

    1.To force consumers to pay the 20-30 percent tax through the MSFT app store.

    2. Had MSFT tried to get this past anyone in business then they would have discovered the favourite swear words of that customer!
    • Or, you know, they'll use a desktop application like they always have.

      Which, if I have to remind you, are perfectly free to install to your heart's content. Sideloading only becomes a problem with Metro Apps, which most small businesses aren't going to bother with, and if you're a large business...well, you'll have Windows 8 Enterprise.
      • except on arm.

        except on arm. Must go through a cloud...
      • except on arm

        Which once again it means it's to force consumers to pay the 20-30 percent tax through the MSFT app store.
        Cylon Centurion
        • Windows RT is not an enterprise product - was never meant to be

          Windows RT is a consumer product which is also suitable as a BYOD device. Microsoft hopes Windows-RT tablets will become the "iPad killer" Android always hoped to be. If this strategy is successful, Android could end up being the ultimate loser here.
          M Wagner
          • Windows RT is probably going to fail just like Windows 8

            first let me beotch about this stupid name ... Windows RT ... WTF??? What does that even mean? WHY don't they call it Windows 8 Mobile? WHY do they wish to pollute / dilute their brand with nonsensical names and irrelevant product lines? I am beginning to believe that Microsoft has actually lost their way. Anybody with half a brain knows that Win8 (i.e., the PC version of the OS) is already a flop.

            I don't think that the Surface pad with WRT is going to be much better ... it's likely to compete well against Android pads, but I can't see it actually surpassing them. It sure as heck ain't no "iPad killer" ... I ain't no iPad fanboi (I have never owned an Apple product, don't feel a need for one), but I can see what's going on in the marketplace fairly clearly.
            Gravyboat McGee
          • Well MuleHead...

            There seems little likelihood at all Windows 8 will fail, many haters have tried to explain in their minds how it could happen, but it just dosnt float.

            Using the fact that...well lets use you for example, HATE WINDOWS 8, most likely have little personal likening for Windows generally, is nothing close to an explanation for why Windows 8 will fail.

            Already most people who have taken a reasonable look at the situation of the correlation between people who do not like Windows generally & those who have professed a distaste for Windows 8 specifically & those who predict failure for Windows 8.

            The correlation between those 3 categories is almost seamless. That equates in real terms to their opinions meaning nothing beyond the fact in the opinion of people who dont much like Windows to begin with they like Windows 8 even less so they hope its going to fail. Its like big deal.

            You will also find there are huge numbers of people who have tried Windows 8 and like Windows to begin with and think Windows 8 works fine and will not suffer any premature burial. Given that there are multiples more of people who do like Windows generally than those who do not, that generally bodes well for Windows 8.

            All you haters should just give it a rest for a few months until there is at least some kind of sign that points to significant public rejection of Windows 8. Otherwise your just blowing any credibility you have left if Windows 8 makes out not too badly in a world where new computer sales are monstrously low no matter what version of Windows they come with.

            You better just keep in mind just how bad desktop and laptop sales are right now because the way things are, Microsoft isnt going to have to move a whole pile of operating systems for Windows 8 to do as well as it possibly could under the circumstances.

            But then again, when you just hate something that bad, sometimes people cannot just keep their mouth shut; even to their own detriment.
          • .....

            Hmmm so basically in your world those who hate or dislike Windows 8 are only those who hate or do not use windows to begin with? If thats the statemtn then I would have to say your more then way off track. There is a very very good chance windows 8 will fail. It has an overwhelmingly high dislike/ hate amongst consumers and even tech reviewers already. It is rare to find comments praising windows 8 or even just people really liking it finding enough reason to upgrade to it. We do have a quite a good long trial of it via the release of the new windows phone which run the metro tile style and it without argument completely failed. ZIt only slightly exceeded kin type sales. So with all that going against windows 8 and the metro ui major failure is of a very high chance.
          • Nope.

            Just a close corrolation. Not perfect at all.

            And again, your wrong, there are way more positive reviews of Windows 8 then negative. There are way more positive user responses than negative.

            In YOUR world, you see what you want to beleive. In my world I could care less about putting a single shred of my self esteme into my hardware or OS. I use what works best for me and I do not discount positive reviews and positive posts just because Windows 8 is different.

            Not only is there nothing even remotely like an overwhelming negative response, there is mostly a very clear response by mostly Windows haters as seeing this big change in Windows as an oppertunity to bash Windows.

            Go ahead and tell me that YOU thought Windows was a great OS and prefer it to OSX and Linux...right up until Windows 8 came out.

            Say it.

            Or, if thats not the truth than say what the truth is, that you do not care for Windows in general and you see Windows 8 as a big failure.

            Go ahead.

            Lets see a point proved.

            Or say nothing and just go away.
          • It

            Can mean and/or you can call it anything you want. I will call it Microsoft Righteous/Tablet. Let that genius out of that big round bottle!!!
          • Typical refrain heard about Windows 7 post Microsoft Vista.

            "No one is going to want to use it" Windows 8 is much faster than is Windows 7 and you get all the same functionality in 8 a you do in 7, if not more so. Who isn't going to want to run faster and more smooth? And Windows 7 is quite smooth.

            Secondly, if you don't want to use the Metro/Modern IU side of the house, don't. I read a lot of blogs and for me, I enjoy the "veg" aspects of it on the desktop. I expect that will improve or is improved from what I'm running now which is Build 8400.

            As far as names go, might be a matter of taste or expectation. I didn't get the XP label either but nonetheless, to this day it remains a very popular and very capable OS. No one seems to mind the name either. Its household. Well, some might not like the name still but after 10 plus years on the desktop and tablets, they won't let it go.
            Personally, I don't see Surface competing with Android tablets as they can't even compete with IOS yet. I expect Surface to compete with IOS directly especially since BOTH companies have had their hand in education, design and business far longer than google which only knows search, advertizing and flooding the market with broke-ware. Hard for me to take then seriously beyond that.
          • That's a big IF

            Foisting the same GUI on it and then calling it something different.

            The average windoze user thinking it will do everything the desktop will do, will be in for a rude awakening.
            Cylon Centurion
          • I agree with you 100%

            I've been saying that since it came out.......people here on zdnet can get around most issues very easily .........but I agree with you that the average use is in for a rude awakening.

            My personal feeling is Windows 8 will end up being a Jack of all Trades and a Master of NONE ......unfortunately
            Over and Out
        • All OSes have paid Apps

          Why can't Microsoft????
        • Enterprises would never deploy Windows RT

          They would deploy Windows 8 Pro
    • Huh?

      1. you know that Apple takes 30% for any app purchased at the AppStore(TM). If the developer has to refund for any reason, Apple doesn't give back their 30%. So the developer actually shells out 130% back. FYI. Microsoft's store [which won't even compare in size], takes 20% on the majority of apps sold.
      2. Seems you are definitely anti-Microsoft. So either an Apple Fanboy or a Google zealot.
      • But that 30% doesn't apply to desktops in Apple

        Since they don't run on iOS.

        It does apply with Win8 whether you own a desktop or not.

        Get a clue.
        Cylon Centurion
        • It does if you go through the apple store on desktop

          and there are features that are only available to apps on the app store so you've got EXACTLY the same situation for consumers except Apple doesn't provide a bypass for enterprises.

          Get a clue yourself
          • Features?

            What the heck are you talking about? Features have to be often be cut back when you sell things through the Apple App Store – that is one of the largest complaints and why some software vendors can't or won't sell their products via that method.

            I agree with Cylon Centurion, please get a clue.
          • But the Apple app store is optional on OSX

            You don't have to see it if you don't want to. There's no iOS interface for it.

            Unlike Win8 since it's baked into Metro and you can't avoid it. A perfect example of "forced marketing".
            Cylon Centurion