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The Cost of Side-Loading on Windows 8

by Dave Davis on January 19th, 2013

[Cross-posted from blog.davemdavis.net]

Recently, Rocky Lhotka wrote a blog post call Cost to enable side-loading on a Windows 8 device. In this post he breaks down the cost to side load a one a Modern UI Application (formally known as Metro) on to a Windows 8 device. He starts out by showing each SKU’s side-loading capabilities :

Domain Joined Non-Domain Joined
Windows RT N/A Key Required
Windows 8 N/A N/A
Windows 8 Pro Key Required Key Required
Windows 8 Enterprise No Key Required Key Required

As noted in the table, certain SKUs require a side loading key.  These keys cost around $30 dollars each and are sold in groups of a hundred, for a total of $3000 minimum.  Rocky uses an example of an organization with 100 Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro machines.  I will challenge this assumption.   Most larger organizations will deploy the Enterprise versions of Windows, so they will not require side-loading keys.  Smaller organizations need to weigh the cost of Windows 8 Pro vs. Windows 8 Enterprise with the cost of side-loading keys.  If they are going to develop internal applications that need to be deployed through side-loading they may want to invest in the Enterprise Edition.

Windows RT is a different beast.  In my opinion Windows RT is not suited for the enterprise.  It is geared towards the consumer market.  Most organizations are going to want to invest in tablets running full versions of Windows 8, and there is no reason that that version could not be Enterprise.  Obviously ARM devices are cheaper and have better battery life but this rapidly changing.  Intel has recently announced vast improvements to their line of processors. In addition, most enterprise users will require access to legacy desktop applications which you can’t do on a Windows RT device, which means you can’t deploy a WPF to these devices.  So they would have to carry a laptop in addition to a Windows RT device.

Finally what about BYOD? I believe that most organizations cringe at the idea of allowing devices that they don’t control into the network, and also, most BYOD devices tend to be Android tablet or iPads, neither of which can run Windows 8 applications. One of the reasons BYOD is popular is that most organizations, especially larger ones, tend to run on the Microsoft stack and there has been a large mobile gap in this stack. With Windows 8, organizations will be able to fill this gap and may steadily reverse their BYOD policies.

Deployment

Rocky next covers the cost to deploy a Windows 8 application using side-loading.  He outlined 4 options:

How are organizations deploying desktop applications today (we will ignore web applications for now)?  It seems to me that most organizations have an infrastructure in place to handle deployment, and I bet that list of options looks like the list above. Rocky took the standpoint of adding the cost of implementing one of these solutions from scratch and associating the cost with the cost of side-loading.  I would avoid the last two options if this is the case but these options offer more benefits to the organization than just Windows 8 application deployments.

Summary

With any enterprise/organization IT implementation all the costs should be considered as well as how those costs align with the organization’s strategic goals.  I believe that Rocky took an isolated view in his post.  He did not compare the costs to the cost of building and deploying alternative applications (Web and WPF) nor did he show how the cost plays in strategic goals of an organization.  In my last post I cover some of the challenges of developing web applications from which you can infer some of the hidden costs.

Are Windows 8 applications going to be the answer to every development problem? No, organizations must evaluate all the requirements, technical, tactical and strategic, to determine the right solution.  That includes determining the costs of any solution.

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