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Microsoft’s Missing Metro Messages

There has been a lot of hoo-ha about Build and WinRT and Metro apps.  Most of it warranted (well, the hoo-ha I penned was certainly warranted!)  But there are some missing pieces in Microsoft’s Metro Jigsaw where they haven’t told us how things are going to work.

Metro and the enterprise

Assuming your new client computer will come with Metro on, and user facing apps will be written with Metro in mind, we can assume people will find Metro on their new business PCs.  Microsoft have made a fair story of Metro apps following you around, and turning up on whatever PC you use.  This will be a headache for enterprise admins.  So there needs to be a way for enterprise admins to stop Metro apps floating to their PCs.

The Metro Store is another enterprise question.  Apparently the Metro store is the only place we’ll be able to download Metro apps from.  What is an admin to do – does he now require each user to go to the store to get what would previously have been preinstalled software?  How do they pay for it?  Again the enterprise story is missing

Finally, hardware drivers now come with the ability to install Metro softwaqre straight from the store.  How will this work on private networks without direct internet access.  We’ve always had non-net connected ways to install drivers – as well as WSUS to manage exactly what we install via Windows update.  How will we get our device driver support applications offline?

The two solutions to these problems that I’ve thought of are:

1) Local stores – which can be populated from the official Windows store by admins, and which users PCs can be exclusively pointed at (by the domain controller).  The local store could be the only route for new software

2) WSUS improvements – perhaps the windows store will use windows update as its way of downloading new Metro apps.  If so, WSUS might be improved to support or block the distribution of apps and app updates.  That said, not a wonderful story about getting new apps – though I can think of a number of possibilities here.

Metro and the Programmer

Right now, on windows, I can install Python, then run any scripts I or anyone else might have made.  Under metro this is less easy.  While I could conceivably write a metro python interpretor, it would have to have every capability enabled to allow the full python library to be available.  I doubt Microsoft would allow something like this in the windows store – after all, that’s about increasing security, not about introducing new open security holes into the currently locked down model.

The alternative is following the Javascript model – each python script having to come with a manifest that specifies the capabilities it wants to use.  The problem here is, that makes each python script a standalone metro application – and can only be installed via the store.  MS have a workaround for this – you can self-sign metro apps for local use if you have a developers licence – but at the moment, you get this licence by installing visual studio 11 – and there is no story about what the future path will be for getting this licence (and for which programs are able to do the self signing… if you allow anyone to get a licence, and any app to sign, you’ve effectively made a new ‘install anything’ capability)

Right now its looking like MS may control the entire dev environment for Metro, and not have a convenient way to let individuals make their own choices about what languages to support – or at least require the use (and purchase) of Visual Studio before they let you develop a line of code.