Microsoft to offer Windows 8 business users a way to distribute private apps

Microsoft is going to allow business users to distribute their internal Windows 8 Metro-style apps using the Windows Store (or circumventing it, if they prefer).
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As part of its Windows 8 app store preview on December 6, Microsoft officials shared a few details about its plans to offer business users private marketplace functionality on their Windows 8 tablets and PCs.

Some businesses want to launch applications for use by their own employees via "private marketplaces." Example: Say a company wants to make available to its own employees an expense report line-of-business app developed by a company's IT department (as Microsoft shows in the screen shot at right, which you can enlarge by clicking on it). The IT staff may want to distribute test and final versions of this app to all their Windows 8 users but don't want those not working at the company to see it in the Store. This is where "private marketplaces" come into play.

Microsoft enabled private marketplace functionality for Windows Phone "Mango" earlier this summer. It sounds like the company is planning to offer a similar path to business users for their Windows 8 Metro-style apps.

What about Desktop Apps, aka non-Metro-style apps? Windows 8 Desktop Apps aren't going to be downloadable from the Windows Store, Microsoft officials said earlier this year. However, Microsoft is going to allow business users to circumvent the Windows Store if they so desire in order to distribute their private Metro-style apps, officials said yesterday. Will Microsoft allow them to do the same for Desktop Apps on Windows 8? I asked; no word so far.

Here's what the Softies are saying so far about the Windows 8 private marketplace functionality, from a December 6 post on the just-launched "Windows Store for Developers" blog:

"Apps listed in the Store are visible to all Windows 8 users, so enterprise apps can be offered in the Store, just like any other Metro style app. However, we also offer support for enterprises that want direct control over the deployment of Metro style apps.

"Enterprises can choose to limit access to the Windows Store catalog by their employees, or allow access but restrict certain apps. In addition, enterprises can choose to deploy Metro style apps directly to PCs, without going through the Store infrastructure. For Windows 8 Beta, IT administrators can use group policy to permit Metro style app installations, as long as the apps are signed by trusted publishers and the machines are joined to the domain. Then the IT admin can use (P)owershell commandlets to manage those Metro-style apps on Windows 8....

"This deployment flexibility ensures that employees have software on the devices they prefer while IT can continue to manage software payloads based on their company’s needs and regulation."

Here are some related questions (in addition to the Desktop App question I posed above) that Microsoft officials are not answering at this point in time:

  • Do private marketplace apps delivered via the Windows Store still need to go through the Windows Store certification and verification process?
  • Can businesses also deliver test/beta (not just final) versions of their apps using this private marketplace functionality?
  • When will the private marketplace support be available? With the February 2012 beta? Or later?
  • How similar/dissimilar is this to what Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone?

What else do you want to know --not that we'll get answers, mind you -- about private marketplace support on Windows 8?

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