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Windows 8.1 to freeze out small business apps

ISVs can forget about modern apps for shops with under 100 seats

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TechEd Australia While Microsoft is happy with the “appification” of Windows, and prepares to go-live with Windows 8.1 on October 18, it's created a gap between present and future that could be a stumbling block for a bunch of small ISVs.

The kind of company that lives between the consumer and the enterprise will still be able to create and ship its custom software using old-style installers, but Redmond isn't yet ready to have them move into the app-happy world of the TIFKAM Start screen.

Redmond's rules are a little odd. If a developer wants to pitch software to World+Dog, no problem: just list the app on Windows Store and hope it flies.

Enterprises that want to control the apps loaded on Windows 8.1 can use side-loading, Redmond's jargon for loading apps from an internal source. The Windows 8.1 licensing model lets any enterprise with Software Assurance side-load. Alternatively, customers might be large enough to be forking out for the monthly Microsoft InTune subscription, which also includes side-load keys. If the enterprise has neither Software Assurance or an InTune subscription, it has another option, which is to buy side-load keys itself.

This is where ISVs will find themselves temporarily stranded between the old world of desktop .exe install and the new world of apps: Side-load license keys only come in packs of 100, and they're not transferrable.

An ISV selling half a dozen licences at a time therefore can't buy a bunch of side-load licences and on-sell them, or even give them away for free, for client installations.

For an outfit that lives by creating custom apps that tightly reflect the needs and often the IP of a specialised customer base, the message right now is that they'll have to live in the world of old-style desktop installation and aren't welcome on the Windows 8.1 Start screen.

Which is odd, because that's where Microsoft has been trying to herd us all for a year now.

The good news is Microsoft recognises it could do more to suit small ISVs' needs.

Microsoft's Michael Niehaus agreed that this isn't an ideal state of affairs. “We're getting steady feedback from these partners, that type of developer. That's certainly something that we need to fix. We've been studying for future updates to this process, but Windows 8.1 today doesn't really address those problems.”

He told The Register the ideal solution in the long term would be to bring smaller ISVs into to the world of modern touch-based apps via B2B extensions to the Windows Store.

“That way you could use Windows Store to sell and support the app, but not have to expose the app to the whole world. ®

The author is attending TechEd Australia as a guest of Microsoft, which has shelled out for travel, accommodation, nourishment and Nokia.

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