What Do You Need to Know About Windows 8 Metro Applications? Print E-mail
Written by Darwin Sanoy   
Monday, August 6, 2012 1:48pm
We've recently updated some of our training content to include Windows 8.  I want to share a little background on those changes and how they might be helpful to your own career planning if you're involved in application deployment or support.  I also wish to outline why the consumerization of IT must be driven from the outside IN, not from the inside OUT. 

The application technology for Windows 8 is known as Metro.  While Metro application development utilizes some tried and true Windows technologies, it is segregated from the traditional sub-systems of Windows.  Metro uses an modernized version of COM, but it uses new registry keys to track Metro COM objects (ActivatableCOM).  It installs applications, but the installations are exceptionally self-contained (don't have as many hooks into the system).  It has a new installation technology that does not leverage Windows Installer - but it does extend the "Click-Once" model for application delivery from the Windows Store.  In fact, the Windows Installer version number is not even changing for Windows 8.  As usual the MSI build number will be incremented to sync with the new platform and there may be non-feature oriented changes made to how MSI interfaces with Windows 8.

In effect, Metro is a bolt-on, leaving our traditional applications and installation services unscathed.  For all non-metro applications, packaging and deployment procedures and technologies will remain the same.  Obviously the new Desktop UI requires users to access their familiar applications in new ways.

Microsoft is forcing the Metro desktop UI on corporate deployments.  In my opinion this is a regretable decision by Microsoft, very reminscient of the Office 2007 "ribbon".  No matter how many academic cases are made that a new "designed from the ground up" user interface is better - the vast majority of people do not like feeling of becoming instantly unproductive in a supposedly "enhanced" environment.  "Here's your new, easy to learn user interface - have a nice time stumbling around for the next few months finding all the tools you've been effortlessly using for years."  It's like falling asleep in your familiar home environment and waking up in a completely different house - no one likes that feeling.  

In contrast, when we obtain new personal consumer devices we expect - and are even delighted by - learning all the new capabilities and how to leverage them.  Another way of saying this is that the consumerization of IT is a one way street.  When we adopt a smart phone or tablet into our personal lives, we (a) voluntarily chose (b) to learn at our own pace (read "no pressure to be productive") to  utlize (c) new capabilities we've never had before.  Using that smart phone at work allows us to leverage the sunk cost of self-paced, low stress learning of new ways to be productive.

It is an inept reversal to set an over-sized smart phone on a user's desk that is (a) unfamiliar and (b) expect them to stay productive (c) with inadequate time to absorb the new environment (read "STRESS").  While consumerization from the outside in is an extremely pleasant experience for users - consumerization from the inside out is an extremely unpleasant experience for users.  Corporate IT will pick up on this quickly and intuitively.

I am making a quiet prediction that Microsoft will eventually re-enable the ability of Windows 8 to have the Windows 7 UI (like it did in the first preview release) in corporate environments - if they don't they'll be risking another Windows Vista non-adoption cycle. (Apologies to all my fellow admins for using the "Vista" word - hopefully your children weren't reading over your shoulder ;)

It is likely that many corporations will stick with Windows 7 on their standard desktops and deploy Windows 8 on phone and tablet devices where Metro apps are desired or required for specialized purposes (e.g. sales forces that present to customers or apps for health care professionals doing their rounds).  This means that Application Provisioning Specialists will need to add metro to their portfolio of knowledge and skills when their company commits to a project that requires it.

In determing how to upgrade CSI-Windows courses, we want to make sure that we account for administrators needs to be out in front of Metro - without ignoring the fact that the majority of corporate applications will still need the same Windows 7 core we've been teaching for years.

To that end, "CSI-300 How Applications Work on Windows 7" is enhanced with additional content to make it into "CSI-300 How Applications Work on Windows 7 and 8"  In a practical sense this means that we will simply be adding a module or two that explain the Metro application model and information on how to deploy and manage Metro apps in corporations without the Windows Store.

For those of you whose companies will be attempting to ignore or bypass Windows 8 - it won't be an overbearing part of any of our classes.  For those of you who will be deploying Metro apps, it will give a grounding in the new technology and kickstart you to being ready for Metro app deployment and support.

This is my initial take on the most concise serving of your Metro application knowledge and skill needs for the coming year.  I'd love to hear your perspectives on what you feel Metro is going to mean for your career management over the next year or two.  Please drop a comment on this blog article or contact me if you have anything to share!


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