Windows 11 To Get Multi-App Kiosk Mode and Updated Windows Subsystem for Android
Microsoft on Monday announced that organizations using Windows 11 with a "Windows Configuration Update" now have access to a new application control capability called "Multi-App Kiosk mode."
Additionally, Windows 11 users now have access to an updated Windows Subsystem for Android in Windows 11, as announced in this Monday Windows blog post.
Likely, these two new features will arrive for organizations in June or July. Last month, Microsoft announced a bunch of new Windows 11 version 22H2 features that would be arriving for organizations around that time period. The new Multi-App Kiosk mode feature and updated Windows Subsystem for Android feature were not described back then in Microsoft's main May announcement, so they seem to be late-arriving straggler features of a sort.
Notably, Microsoft claimed that the new features just arrive as part of a "Configuration Update," which seems to be new term for features that arrive through the Windows Update patch mechanism.
Multi-App Kiosk Mode
The Multi-App Kiosk mode essentially is the same kiosk model that was introduced in Windows 10, but it differs by using the regular Windows 11 user interface. Microsoft dropped using a so-called "Tablet Mode UI" (that's still used with Windows 10).
Organizations might want to use the Windows kiosk mode configuration option if they want a device to be shared among workers using a "Lockdown profile," or if they want to create "public-facing kiosk devices" using a "Kiosk profile." The kiosk mode lets IT pros circumscribe which applications are presented to users. Microsoft's example showed a Windows 11 desktop presenting access to using just three applications, for instance.
The Multi-App Kiosk mode for Windows 11 isn't the same thing as AppLocker, which is used to restrict access to certain apps. For instance, users still will have the ability to install Universal Windows Platform apps when Multi-App Kiosk configurations have be set, although user access to those apps will be restricted on the next sign-in, according to Microsoft's setup document, dated May 24, 2023.
Here's how that nuance was characterized, per Microsoft's setup document:
Multi-app kiosk mode doesn't block the enterprise or the users from installing UWP apps. When a new UWP app is installed during the current assigned access user session, this app will not be in the deny list. When the user signs out and signs in again, the app will be included in the blocklist. If this is an enterprise-deployed line-of-business app and you want to allow it to run, update the assigned access configuration to include it in the allowed app list.
The Multi-App Kiosk mode for Windows 11 specifically lets IT pros "create different configurations for different users. IT organizations can thereby ensure that users have access to "only what is needed to use the device as intended," the announcement explained.
A new capability in Multi-App Kiosk mode for Windows 11 is the ability to support multiple monitors, per the announcement. However, multiple monitor support must be really new, as Microsoft's setup document stated that "the use of multiple monitors isn't supported for Multi-App Kiosk mode."
IT pros with environments that use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) can configure Multi-App Kiosk mode using the MDM WMI Bridge Provider and the PowerShell scripting language. Microsoft's setup documentation promised that Microsoft Intune and Windows Configuration Designer support would be "coming soon," with no suggested arrival date specified.
The configurations are specified using XML files, which "can define multiple profiles." The XML files include an "<AllAppsList> tag that specifies the allowed apps per user.
Updated Windows Subsystem for Android
In addition to the Multi-App Kiosk mode, a new Windows 11 feature expected to arrive for organizations as early as June is an updated Windows Subsystem for Android, as announced in this Monday blog post.
The updated Windows Subsystem for Android appears to be another straggler feature. It's notable for enabling file sharing between Windows and Android folders. Users will be able to do things like "uploading a photo to a social media app or editing a video in a creative app," the blog post explained. Users will be able to perform file drops and copy-and-paste functions. Microsoft also added updated support for Chromium WebView and Android 13 security updates, among other improvements.
What Is a 'Configuration Update'?
Microsoft's insistence that it's possible to use Multi-App Kiosk mode only with Windows 11 systems that have the "May 24, 2023 Windows Configuration Update" is a bit obscure because the (apparently new) Configuration Update term isn't explained anywhere.
The Configuration Update term likely refers to Microsoft's somewhat new approach with Windows 11 version 22H2 of dispersing new features when they are deemed ready, based on Microsoft's telemetry analysis. The features arrive through the Windows Update mechanism. Some reporters have said that Microsoft internally refers to these releases as "Moments" releases, but Microsoft doesn't appear to use that term in its public announcements. Possibly these Moments releases are getting called "Configuration Updates" -- it's not wholly clear.
With the relatively new Windows 11 version 22H2 feature release scheme, consumers get the new features at the preview stage the month before a more general release to organizations. These previews are blocked for organizations overseeing managed devices. However, if a feature is deemed ready, it will arrive with Microsoft's security and quality updates on "update Tuesdays" (the second Tuesday of each month).
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.