Windows Insider

Windows 8: A Container for Applications

The lackluster reception for Microsoft's newest Windows offering may have more to do with how we view modern OSes than it does with actual Windows 8 reaction.Once you start viewing Windows 8 as a portal for app deployment, there's much to like.

Repeat after me: The desktop is a container for applications. Now, repeat it again. In fact, post this little mantra somewhere visible in your office. Pin it to the walls wherever your IT staff congregates. Add it to the logon banner Group Policy forces onto your admins every morning.

Why? More and more, the world is beginning to realize this statement defines modern Windows. Windows 8 hasn't debuted with lackluster fanfare because it's a horrible OS, or a failure of epic proportions. Far from it. Windows 8 hasn't been exciting because people aren't excited about OSes anymore.

And that's a good thing.

Ignore its controversial Start menu. Overlook the not-entirely-mouse-friendly touch-centric UI. Disregard its Windows RT-and-yet-not- Windows RT split personality.

Then ponder for a minute what Windows 8 actually delivers: An intelligently designed container for the applications we really care about.

The Windows 8 story isn't so much about Windows 8. It's about the entire infrastructure surrounding that container -- the multifaceted application delivery-and-management je ne sais quoi that's the real brilliance behind this wave of Microsoft releases.

Or, put in different terms, Windows 8 is about what goes in Windows 8.

Infrastructure's Time to Shine
Where can Windows 8 generate ROI return? The answer lies in your infrastructure. Consider the following as your short list.

The System Center Configuration Manager 2012 user-centric delivery model removes IT as the gatekeeper to application delivery. Users now install packaged apps from a catalog any time their job requires new software. With Configuration Manager 2012 SP1, that catalog encompasses traditional apps as well as those for Windows RT devices.

Lengthy desktop troubleshooting becomes irrelevant with the aid of that same Configuration Manager 2012 catalog. With a little up-front effort, even a complete desktop refresh becomes a self-servable activity. The desktop-as-container approach enables System Center automations to reliably reconstruct the user's workspace at will.

Microsoft's investments in Remote Desktop Services (RDS) further enhance the experience for applications that work best inside the datacenter. Most apps work flawlessly atop traditional server-based computing; those that don't are simply re-homed onto virtual desktops within the RDS infrastructure. Accessing remote applications happens seamlessly with the assistance of RemoteApp and Desktop Connections.

Location becomes irrelevant when Windows 8 integrates with the now-simplified Microsoft DirectAccess infrastructure. Once enabled inside the datacenter, devices anywhere never truly leave the LAN. Users need no extra steps and apps operate anywhere just as if they were LAN-connected.

Devices, desktops and laptops on any network remain under IT management with the support of Windows Intune. The Microsoft cloud management service keeps on-the-move company assets permanently under control, while at the same time delivering packaged apps to user-owned devices in support of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives.

Finally, even strongly controlled environments can extend past their traditional brick-and-mortar by utilizing the new Windows 8 Windows To Go. With a tightly controlled Windows 8 instance on a USB key, users anywhere can "borrow" available hardware to extend the corporate network.

Changing the Mindset
We've long disagreed with our users about whether OSes or applications were more important. It turns out the users were right all along. Without OSes there can be no applications, but without applications there can be no business. This can be seen in the current wave of Microsoft technologies.

It's likely Windows 8 might never see the rabid excitement its predecessors basked in. But that's a good thing. What Windows 8 does deliver is a worthy container for all the applications -- in all the use cases -- that your business demands.

About the Author

Greg Shields is a senior partner and principal technologist with Concentrated Technology. He also serves as a contributing editor and columnist for TechNet Magazine and Redmond magazine, and is a highly sought-after and top-ranked speaker for live and recorded events. Greg can be found at numerous IT conferences such as TechEd, MMS and VMworld, among others, and has served as conference chair for 1105 Media’s TechMentor Conference since 2005. Greg has been a multiple recipient of both the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and VMware vExpert award.

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 Steve Chicago

Has any of you actually used Win 8? It is much better then Win 7. And what is all this nonsense about no Start Menu? There is a Start Screen that is your list of favorite applications and there is an App List that lists all your applications Much better then the old Start Menu. And Win 8 runs all your Win 7 applciaiotns the same way. Win 8 is the best OS yet.

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 ITMAGE

Microsoft needs to do a three things to make Win 8 desirable: 1) Put back the darn Start button, 2) Make it easy to default to the 'classic' desktop and lock it there, 3) Return Aero - it's cool and actually useful to many of us. Do these three things and it'll move.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 IT Manager Central NY State

Ditto most of the comments already posted. AND add to it a big WTH about "intelligently designed container for the applications we really care about." If you care about some idiotic tile announcing every time a "friend" breaks wind or some info more properly displayed in a (now discarded) small gadget, then yeah - Win8 is for you. If you really DO need to get work done, you know - actually get some of that productivity that "business demands", then Microsoft is way off the mark. Let's move to the cloud, it's all the rage. Nevermind that HUGE providers (Amazon) go down far too regularly, who needs continuous access to their data? Why not move my applications there too? It's all ludicrous.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Dan Rochester

"We've long disagreed with our users about whether OSes or applications were more important". Please Greg- those of us supporting small businesses have always known the client's business is what's important and they view their computers as simply tools to get the job done. They couldn't care less about the OS unless it gets in the way, and asking them to use Win 8 in its current rendition would definitely get in their way.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 John B Connecticut

There are thousands of small-medium sized businessed that haven't made the invenstment in SCCM and don't plan to. Ditto for 'the cloud'. Users have been used to working on laptops/desktops that allow them to have multiple application 'windows' open. This is like going back to DOS with each app wanting to go full screen. This ignores the fact that the dual interfact is a disaster with the jaring change between the 'metro' apps and 'desktop' apps, the fact that settings are all over the place, and not it 'control panel', the unintuitive 'charms' when using a desktop/laptop w/o a touch screen. Bad design and nothing changes that. Well, maybe they'll fix it in the next release. I believe we'll be skipping this verion.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Argentina

I've used NT 3.5, NT 4, 2000, XP and 7 as desktops, now that 8 arrives...enough for me.... I've switched to Ubuntu (with the old UI, I also don't like the new one).... and... perhaps I will never come back...

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Ed S Colorado

Yeah, ignore all the stuff that people hate... Then it's not so bad :). It fails as an application container, too, because of its heavy handed restrictions on making applications full screen and only really live when they are the viewed app.

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 ahanse

***Ignore its controversial Start menu. Overlook the not-entirely-mouse-friendly touch-centric UI. Disregard its Windows RT-and.................*** Yeah yeah and what's left??? You maybe right that win 8 is a sink hole for applications But we still have to use the damm thing to be productive.. I look forward to the next year or two.

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 milad 981365


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