Windows 8: Something old, something awkward

Microsoft's old Windows desktop and tablet-friendly Metro UI make strange bedfellows

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Unanswered questions
In spite of the massive outpouring of software and documentation about Windows 8, there are still many burning questions for IT types. For example, will enterprise apps be available from the Windows Store? Microsoft has been promising for ages that enterprises will be able to load Metro-style apps from the Windows Store onto corporate PCs, but we haven't seen any details or examples.

Also, what happened to Windows to Go? In theory, Windows to Go will let you boot to a custom Windows 8 system from a USB drive inserted into any Win7 or Win8 PC. Windows to Go runs in an isolated environment and leaves no traces behind: The host PC can't get into the WTG session, and the WTG session can't get into the host PC. Microsoft calls Windows to Go an "enterprise feature," but aside from a handful of working USB drives distributed at the Build Conference in September, nobody has seen prototypes. There's also no word about licensing requirements.

And how will Windows SmartScreen technology actually work? Just as SmartScreen in Internet Explorer 9 aims to protect users from malicious URLs, SmartScreen in Windows 8 is supposed to protect users from installing rogue apps, tossing up a notice that "Windows protected your PC" when you try to run an iffy installer. So far, however, this has proven to be a pain in the neck. Windows guru Long Zheng, who has detailed his travails with Windows 8 SmartScreen in his blog, complains that the application reputation mechanism is shrouded in mystery. Additionally, "the act of signing your installer and application with a code signing certificate (which costs up to $499 a year from Microsoft's recommended certificate authority VeriSign) doesn't automatically grant you 'enough' reputation either," he writes. Fortunately, you can disable SmartScreen fairly easily.

Finally, there's another nagging factor. When the so-called WOA systems -- the Windows 8 systems that run on light, cool ARM architecture -- arrive, they won't join Windows domains and they won't be managed via the Microsoft System Center. WOA machines will only run Metro apps, with a few Microsoft-dictated exceptions. This makes it hard to imagine why IT would recommend WOA machines over iPads. Perhaps there's a convincing argument coming down the pike.

Microsoft's COO Kevin Turner is expected to talk more about the enterprise and Windows 8 at his CeBIT keynote in Hanover on March 6. Hopefully, we'll learn more then.

This story, "Windows 8: Something old, something awkward," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in Windows and mobile technology at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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