Windows RT 8.1 in the Enterprise: Applications and Features

Published: April 16, 2014

Applies To: Windows RT 8.1

In Windows RT 8.1 there are many apps and features available to you including tools to deploy line of business apps, Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Outlook 2013 RT, Internet Explorer, Skype, Video, and Lync, as well as communication apps like Mail, Calendar, and Messaging.

This topic discusses the new application model introduced with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, which facilitates touch-enabled, immersive applications which we commonly refer to as “Windows Store apps.” In most cases, the applications created using this application model can be used on both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 operating systems, as they implement the same underlying programming API (called WinRT). This makes it easy to support both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 in your organization from a single application.

This application model is distinctly different from what is used to create desktop applications, although the same Visual Studio toolset and programming languages can be used to create them. The full functionality of this new application model is exposed to all programming languages, including C#, XAML, JavaScript, HTML5, Visual Basic.NET, C++, and C, so your developers can use languages and technologies that they already know when creating these applications.

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Most organizations will want to deploy their internal line of business apps themselves (rather than making these apps publicly available to everyone through the online Windows Store for anyone to request and install). To support this, Windows RT 8.1 (like Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise) supports the installation of applications through a process called “sideloading.” After a Windows RT computer has been enabled for sideloading, line-of-business Windows Store apps can be installed.

Enabling sideloading for Windows RT devices requires the installation of a special Enterprise Sideloading product key on each device. For many customers (including those with enterprise agreements or Select+ agreements), these product keys will be provided at no charge as part of their Volume License agreement. In other cases, these keys can be purchased. For more information, see How to Add and Remove Apps, the “Windows 8 Enterprise Sideloading” section of Microsoft Product List, and the Volume Licensing Guide for Windows 8 and Windows RT.

In most cases, enterprises will want to provide an “enterprise app store” where users of Windows RT devices can select from available line-of-business apps that will then be installed on the device. This enterprise app store can also be used to install organization-selected third-party apps, as well as web shortcuts. Windows Intune and other mobile device management (MDM) tools provide this functionality; see the Mobile Device Management section more information.

These sideloading functions can also be performed using simple PowerShell commands.

Windows RT 8.1 includes Office Home & Student 2013 RT, which consists of cloud-enabled versions of the Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote desktop applications that have been optimized to run on Windows RT hardware, and ensures they are power-efficient and touch-friendly, while maintaining document compatibility. Some functionality has been removed; see Building Office for Windows RT for more details.

Office Home & Student 2013 RT is licensed for non-commercial use. Commercial use rights are provided automatically when the Windows RT device is used as a companion device by the primary user of a device licensed for Office 2013 volume license or qualifying Office 365 offerings which includes Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office 365 Midsize Business, and Office 365 Enterprise E3/E4. For more information, see Office 2013 RT and Product Licensing.

In addition to the in-box Office Home & Student 2013 RT components, additional OneNote and Lync apps are available through the Windows Store. These apps have been designed and optimized to take advantage of the unique capabilities of Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.

Windows RT 8.1 also includes Outlook 2013 RT, a full version of the Outlook client that enterprises typically use on their existing Windows computers. Outlook 2013 RT provides all the capabilities that you would expect, including support for Exchange and IMAP mail accounts, support for email rules, support for Office apps, and more.

Just like Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Outlook 2013 RT is also licensed for non-commercial use. Commercial use rights can be provided in the same ways as Office Home & Student 2013 RT described above.

Windows RT 8.1 includes a set of core communication apps that work together with both Exchange ActiveSync (which is the protocol used by Exchange and and IMAP-based email services (such as those provided by many ISPs), as well as various social networks. Together, these apps provide key email, calendar, and contact functionality.

By default, you must specify a Microsoft account to use the Mail app. After this account has been added, additional Exchange ActiveSync and IMAP accounts can be added. But with the new version of the Mail app included in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, there is a new group policy setting available to disable the Microsoft account requirement. This policy can be configured directly on the device (through the registry), using the open MDM agent, or through local Group Policy with the Allow Microsoft accounts to be optional setting located at Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> App Runtime.

The functionality provided in the Windows RT 8.1 version of the communication apps is significantly greater than with the original Windows RT release. But there still are features that will only be provided through Outlook 2013 RT; you can choose which email client suits your requirements best. Examples of functionality not present in the Mail and Calendar apps include:

The communication apps do provide support for “remote wipe” capabilities of Exchange ActiveSync. This enables enterprise administrators to ensure that email, calendar, and contact information is removed from lost devices or devices belonging to departed employees. Additional capabilities are provided through Remove Business Data Removal MDM capabilities, described below. Also, the built-in automatic device encryption in Windows RT is used to ensure that only authorized users can access these files.

For more information about the Mail application, see Supporting Windows 8 Mail in your organization.

Another option available to those using Exchange 2013 or Office 365 is the Outlook Web App. When used on Windows RT 8.1 with Internet Explorer 11, Outlook Web App can enable offline access to a mailbox. See Using Outlook Web App Offline for more information.

Windows RT 8.1 includes Internet Explorer 11, an enhanced web browser that supports the latest web standards and is perfect for touch. Internet Explorer 11 has two different browsing experiences: a full-screen, immersive browser that’s ideal for tablets, and a traditional desktop version for web browsing in earlier versions.

Although Internet Explorer 11 in Windows RT 8.1 supports Adobe Flash, there is no support for additional plug-ins.

Windows RT 8.1 includes an application to play a variety of media file formats. See the Windows Store Apps Dev Center for a full list of the formats supported. These formats can be used from any Windows Store app, including custom line-of-business Windows Store apps.

Note that additional types of media files may be playable on Windows RT devices, but these could require additional Windows Store apps.

For organizations that use Lync as their communication platform, an app supporting Windows RT 8.1 is available in the Windows Store. This app provides the core voice and video calling capabilities, instant messaging, and meeting support. See Lync for more details. (Note that the Lync app will allow viewing shared desktops, but the user’s Windows RT 8.1 desktop cannot be shared using the app.)

The Skype app is built into Windows RT 8.1. This app provides voice and video calling, as well as instant messaging capabilities.

Windows RT 8.1 also includes a variety of additional apps, such as Finance, OneDrive, Sports, Travel, News, and Games. Like all of the in-box Windows Store apps, these can be uninstalled through the Start screen or through PowerShell if they are not desired. See Sideload Apps with DISM for details on how to remove Windows Store apps. (Note that users can reinstall them from the Windows Store if needed.)

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