This is part two of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at yesterday’s “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide”
The use of Windows 8 on devices in education brings many new benefits, features and technology capabilities. One prominent feature is the Windows Store and the new Windows 8 apps. Educational institutions can purchase or create apps for Windows 8 that use the new user interface of Windows 8, and use these alongside apps and resources that they used on previous versions of Windows.
I’ve noticed though that existence of the Windows Store has often raised new questions (especially from schools). The questions include:
- Why don’t I just block the Windows Store, and not let users install any apps
- What is the best way to deploy Windows Store apps in an educational environment?
- Do all the apps for my students and staff need to come from the Windows Store?
- Can I use existing deployment technologies and processes to deploy apps?
This guide, written specifically for Windows 8 in education, offers advice on app deployment strategies, and gives you considerations to help you selecting the right one(s). It is written for IT managers in education institutions, and also to give them the information to advise leaders and teachers on the agreed strategy.
- How much freedom is it appropriate to give on selecting and installing new apps (and should this be different for staff and students)?
- Should my strategy be different for institution-owned and individually-owned devices?
- If a device is dedicated to a single user, do I need a different strategy than for shared devices?
- Who owns apps when they are bought?
The two fundamental models of app distribution that are explained in the guide are:
- Windows Store: using a Microsoft account, and purchasing apps using a similar model that consumers and others will use
- Sideloading: deploying apps directly to devices yourself, without using the Windows Store
Sideloading Windows 8 apps
The deployment guide for Windows Store apps provides an overview of what ‘sideloading’ is all about:
Sideloading is a process for installing Windows Store apps without using the Windows Store. To sideload an app, you must have access to the app installation files (.appx and related files), which you can obtain from the app developer (either internally or from an independent software vendor). You cannot obtain app installation files to be used for sideloading through the Windows Store.
For apps you install by sideloading, you are responsible for validating and signing them, as sideloading bypasses the validation requirements of the Windows Store. Also, you are responsible for deploying any app updates to their users.
IT pros often perform sideloading by using an enterprise app store. An enterprise app store provides similar features to the Windows Store but is exclusive to an organization. You can create such a store by using an electronic distribution system, such as Microsoft SystemCenter 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack (SP) 1 or Windows Intune. An enterprise app store allows you to manage the app through the entire software life cycle, including deployment, updates, supersedence, and uninstallation.
Sideloading allows you to deploy an app to a device, for use by all users on the device with their own individual account, or just to a specific account (for example, you might deploy a timetable app to any user, whereas you’d only make a behaviour monitoring app available to a staff user). And you can get apps for sideloading from different places – we don’t make you buy everything through the Windows Store. It’s pretty much as you do on PCs today – you can buy directly from a software company, or through a catalogue, or in an online store.
Sideloaded apps can be deployed to devices at multiple stages (eg when you first install the computer operating system, or later in its lifetime), and using different tools (Windows Intune, SystemCenter, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or you can even use the command line). And apps can also be sideloaded onto student-owned PCs, assuming you have the right licences setup.
The model of app deployment could be more complex than today’s model, because there are more kinds of apps, and more deployment options. The value in this guide is to explain the different processes, along with their benefits and limits, to help you to find the model that’s going to work for your users, your institution, and your mix of device ownerships.