Microsoft offers expanded sideloading options for Windows 8.1

Microsoft is trying to make it easier for businesses who want to release apps for Windows 8.1 outside the Windows Store via sideloading. A few days ago as part of BUILD 2014, the company announced an expansion of the customers in several Volume Licensing programs that will be able to obtain sideloading rights for no additional cost.

In a blog post, Microsoft said that customers who have Enterprise, Enterprise Subscription, Enrollment for Education Solutions, School Enrollment, Select and Select Plus agreements can now get a free sideload app key. Also, as part of the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft will allow for sideloading apps for all Windows 8.1 Pro devices that are joined to an Active Directory domain.

Finally, starting on May 1st, other business customers who want sideloading rights will be able to purchase them for $100, which grants access to an unlimited number of devices. As ZDNet points out, this is much cheaper than the previous plan which charges businesses $30 for sideloading to each device.

A few months ago, a Microsoft team in China uploaded an easier way to sideload Windows 8 apps via the Codeplex site, but that effort was apparently unauthorized as the code was quickly deleted from that page.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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Another piece in the business puzzle, specially for tablets and future internal apps or updated apps that run in winrt and support touch.

+1

It is one thing to go through a certification process and what else not when publishing an app to the whole world, it is another thing when I just want to share a damn thing with my friends or even install on my family members' machines. Stupidly ridiculous that they are even doing this.

Still sticking to WPF for everything. As modern as the APIs may be, they are terribly limiting. No admin access, no Powershell access, can't call or pass arguments to other apps...

At this rate they probably will. One by one the criticisms directed at Windows 8 are being addressed - the lack of start button, the lack of Start Menu, the lack of right-click menus on the Start Screen, Metro apps not appearing on the taskbar, not being able to run Metro apps in a windows, etc.

Microsoft pushed too hard and now it's had to backtrack.

scumdogmillionaire said,
They need to dump that sideload license. It's ridiculous.

Absolutely. When a company (Particularly a Small Business) purchases a device, they expect to own it and be able to release custom software to it. For them, hoops are viewed as entirely unnecessary and restrictive.

scumdogmillionaire said,
They need to dump that sideload license. It's ridiculous.

Having a license or a fee is done specifically to make sure not everyone can bypass the store for everything. Business writes it's own in-house apps and needs this options. Consumers don't, last thing a developer who's trying to make money with their store app wants is for anyone to take the .appx and sideload it.

Enron said,
Isn't the license free?

The way I read that was the sideloading would only be available for free as an addon to your current volume licence agreements, which generally rules out smaller businesses.

Come on Satya, you have a great opportunity to really turn windows 8 around for businesses.....

George P said,

Having a license or a fee is done specifically to make sure not everyone can bypass the store for everything. Business writes it's own in-house apps and needs this options. Consumers don't, last thing a developer who's trying to make money with their store app wants is for anyone to take the .appx and sideload it.

It is not about the license, but about the ability to freely share and install software without going through the certification process. Keep the license fee for the Store distribution channel, allow devs to install and test apps from source codes or app packages without their hair becoming white from all the artificial limitations.

If I have a laptop and a Surface, and I develop my app on my laptop, there is no logical reason for me to publish the app to the world just to be able to install it on my Surface. It is my app, and I'd like to be free to install it on as many of my own devices as I'd like, without doing stupidly insane things like running some process to unlock my own devices for development.

Adam1V said,

The way I read that was the sideloading would only be available for free as an addon to your current volume licence agreements, which generally rules out smaller businesses.

Come on Satya, you have a great opportunity to really turn windows 8 around for businesses.....

That's where the 2nd part comes in, the one time $100 price for unlimited devices is for smaller businesses I think. Notice how it says "other businesses", so those not covered by one of the listed volume licensing agreements.

elenarie said,

It is not about the license, but about the ability to freely share and install software without going through the certification process. Keep the license fee for the Store distribution channel, allow devs to install and test apps from source codes or app packages without their hair becoming white from all the artificial limitations.

If I have a laptop and a Surface, and I develop my app on my laptop, there is no logical reason for me to publish the app to the world just to be able to install it on my Surface. It is my app, and I'd like to be free to install it on as many of my own devices as I'd like, without doing stupidly insane things like running some process to unlock my own devices for development.

As far as I know developers can sideload already, it may be some extra process to do so but you can. Regardless my point stands, if they didn't do it this way and it was something simple then nothing would stop some form of future pirating from going on. It happened on WP7.x at one point iirc till they put a stop to it.

George P said,

As far as I know developers can sideload already, it may be some extra process to do so but you can. Regardless my point stands, if they didn't do it this way and it was something simple then nothing would stop some form of future pirating from going on. It happened on WP7.x at one point iirc till they put a stop to it.

I think you're referring to the devs being incompetent, not the distribution channel being compromised. If we're talking about the same thing, this was also present on Windows Store. The only difference in some apps between the free version and the paid version was a simple binary value in their config files... which MS can't really do anything about, and it is the devs' fault.

Also, ye, I have tried sideloading and it works, but it should be totally unnecessary. And there is an artificial limit of the # of devices which can have your app sideloaded. I don't think we'll ever agree on this subject. :) Personally, I really love the freedom that .NET provides on the desktop side, WinRT is really lacking in many things. Hopefully they will allow access to WinRT APIs from the desktop.

I really, really like the WinRT APIs, but sadly, they are not at all friendly to pro users. For example, there is no way to mount a VHDx, call PowerShell to compact it, and then dismount it. Had to use WPF create such an app.

elenarie said,
+1

It is one thing to go through a certification process and what else not when publishing an app to the whole world, it is another thing when I just want to share a damn thing with my friends or even install on my family members' machines. Stupidly ridiculous that they are even doing this.

Still sticking to WPF for everything. As modern as the APIs may be, they are terribly limiting. No admin access, no Powershell access, can't call or pass arguments to other apps...

Might as well stick to WPF for now.

You can now of course gain access to everything win32 via a winrt app when sideloading, similar to how they opened up SL eventually although you'll have more power.

In addition no cert process for sideloading.

You can clearly see that winrt is there to replace wpf eventually which isn't a bad thing. SL was a definite improvement on the xaml side and winrt xaml gains a lot from that as well (except the ###### lack on relativesource binding abilities).

SledgeNZ said,

You can clearly see that winrt is there to replace wpf eventually which isn't a bad thing. SL was a definite improvement on the xaml side and winrt xaml gains a lot from that as well (except the ###### lack on relativesource binding abilities).

Ye, of course. But would like more freedom when using WinRT. I guess we're still in the early times, hopefully things will improve.

elenarie said,
If I have a laptop and a Surface, and I develop my app on my laptop, there is no logical reason for me to publish the app to the world just to be able to install it on my Surface. It is my app, and I'd like to be free to install it on as many of my own devices as I'd like, without doing stupidly insane things like running some process to unlock my own devices for development.
Developer license is free and renewing is as simple as one PowerShell command. The only reason sideloading is so popular on Android is because it enables piracy (and malware), something Microsoft wisely wants to avoid.

Romero said,
Developer license is free and renewing is as simple as one PowerShell command. The only reason sideloading is so popular on Android is because it enables piracy (and malware), something Microsoft wisely wants to avoid.

Those are some of the common reasons, but side loading also enabled Amazon to have it's store app to be installed. Within the amazon app, there stronger license check, harder to pirate paid apps.

One reason I like android is Google openness, and the danger it offers. It's locked down enough for a normal user to not accidentally venture in to root / side loading without plenty of scary warnings.

Well, to each their own. I think MS' sideloading restrictions are fine and as for those scary warnings, no-one downloading all those pirated often malware-infected APKs cares.

If they want business to consider embarrassing Modern UI apps, limit it to the Windows 8 Enterprise versions (free), but restricted on Pro, regular editions.

The way I read this is that any Windows 8 device that is joined to AD can be used for sideloading regardless. So that leaves Wp8.1 and Windows RT devices. I presume any tablets that might nave been delivered with Windows 8 (core) such as the Dell Venue pro 11 (baytrail) is being reimaged to pro at the very least.

The biggest problem is there's still no supported way for non-OEMs (ie for corporates) to preload Windows Store applications in their images.

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