An article by the COMPAREX Blog Editorial Team

Since the time of Windows 8.0 and 8.1 Microsoft have concentrated on revamping their Windows Store web portal. People will know what I mean and should agree that the Microsoft Store, when compared to the Apple Store, was deemed to be a rather poor relation when considering application availability and the usability of the webstore interface.

With the release of Windows 10 in 2015 the Windows Store has undergone a radical change in terms of availability of applications, games and tools. All very nice for the consumer market segment, what about adding some functionality and use for business users? Microsoft have done just that. Whereas in the past there existed no integration of the Windows Store in a domain environment, which led to headaches in terms of purchase administration, and potential application licensing issues, to mention just a few.

Previously businesses were confronted with the accounting issues when an employee required an application from the Windows Store. How was control maintained over access and ownership and licensing of the application in question? In short, there was no way to control this. If the employee left the organisation, then the application left with the employee. There was no way of reassigning a license.

Whereas previously users purchased applications from the store using their private Microsoft Live ID or passport account, now users can purchase using their primary work accounts, which administrators can set up and administer on their own bespoke Microsoft Windows Store for Business. All of this necessitates that the users that are to be granted access have accounts in Azure.

Advantages

  • Organisations can make volume purchases of Windows Apps
  • Purchase based on an Organizational Identity example. Mustercorp.com
  • Flexible distribution
  • Reclaim and Re-Use Licenses
  • Create a Private Store for their employees that include apps from the store as well as Private LOB Apps

What are the Basic Prerequisites?

To successfully register for the free Windows Store for business access the following is required:

  • An Azure Active Directory Account
  • You must be a “Global Administrator” of your organisation in the Azure AD Tenant.

What are the Technical Prerequisites?

  • Internet Explorer 10 or later
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Current versions of Firefox and Chrome
  • Microsoft Azure AD Accounts for Employees

How is it acquired?

User can sign up for a Windows Store for Business account at the Store on their respective Microsoft website using this link .

Signing up for the Windows Store for Business
Figure 1: Signing up for the Windows Store for Business

Supported markets

Store for Business is currently available in these markets:

  • Australia
  • Belgium (Dutch, French)
  • Brazil
  • Canada (English, French)
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (French, German)
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Management and distribution

For those organisations that require finer scoping and control of application deployment additional distribution applications System Centre Configuration Manager, Intune and/or other mobile-device-management services can be used.

There are certain permissions which can be assigned to users of your organisation. In order to assign certain privileges, the user with the global administrator role within the Business Store Portal will need to log on to the Windows Store portal and assign the required permissions.

Please note that currently permissions can only be assigned on a per-user basis from the onsite portal. In order to assign based upon group membership Microsoft Azure or SCCM will need to be used.

  Global Administrator User Administrator Billing Administrator
Sign up for Store for Business    
Assign roles  
Modify company profile settings    
Manage Store for Business settings    
Acquire apps  
Distribute apps  
Sign policies and catalogs    

Figure 2: Administrative Roles

  • Global Administrator - IT Pros with this account have full access to Store for Business. They can do everything allowed in the Store for Business admin role, plus they can sign up for the Store for Business, and assign Store for Business roles to other employees.
  • User Administrator - IT Pros with this account can assign Store for Business roles to other employees, as long as the User administrator also has the Store for Business admin role.
  • Billing Administrator - IT Pros with this account have the same permissions as the Store for Business Purchaser role.
     

Store for Business roles and permissions

  Admin Purchaser Device Guard signer
Sign up for Store for Business      
Assign roles      
Modify company profile settings      
Manage Store for Business settings    
Acquire apps  
Distribute apps  
Sign policies and catalogs    

Figure 3: Store for Business roles and permissions

Application Assignment

Once the “Global Administrator” or “Purchaser” has signed into the Windows Store for Business portal he can purchase applications and choose whether to assign these applications to the “Private Store” or to directly assign them to individual users. It can take up to twelve hours before an application appears in the private store.

Application purchase and assignment
Figure 4: Application purchase and assignment

Distribution on a user by user basis
Figure 5: Distribution on a user by user basis

This Private Store is essentially a private segment containing your Azure hosted organization name in the Online Portal where all assigned applications are displayed for the logged on user.

Here the user has an overview of all of the applications that have been directly assigned to him and will be able to download the applications from the web portal.

If the user decides that he would like to choose his own application, he will be requested to enter his private Microsoft Live credentials.

Distribution of offline Applications

Applications can be purchased for distribution offline using your distribution solution for example Microsoft Intune.

Distribution of offline applications
Figure 6: Distribution of offline Applications

The distribution of offline applications is an alternative option to online applications. Deploying offline applications could be a viable option in scenarios where:

  • Users have no Azure accounts.
  • No internet connectivity
  • Imaging is used to manage devices

Your MDM Tool must be configured in the Azure Ad Portal and entered into the Windows Store for business under “Administration Tools”.

Distribution tool in Azure
Figure 7: Distribution Tool in Azure

Once an offline application has been downloaded from the Windows Store, you can, using whatever suitable distribution workload you decide on create an application package and specify where the application to be distributed is an optional install or required.

Windows Intune Application package
Figure 8: Windows Intune Application package

Custom Line of Business Applications (LOB)

With the custom Windows Store for business your organisation has the opportunity to develop and publish its own bespoke applications in the private store to facilitate distribution within its organisation.

Application developers within your organisation or external vendors that you invite can become Line of Business Publishers and submit applications for your company. The application becomes only available to your company.

Applications are submitted through the “Windows Dev Centre” and can be managed and deployed using the same methods as illustrated earlier.

There are however some requirements before this can be initiated. The requirements are as follows:

  • Your organisation needs to be registered for the Windows Store for Business
  • Line of Business Publishers required an Active Developer Account
  • Line of Business Publishers need to have an Application in the store or have one that is ready to be published.
     

Conclusion

The Windows Store for business offers mid-sized and large organizations the benefits of a fully customizable and flexible application distribution portal for their organization. Additional benefits include the ability to publish their own bespoke software to their own portal.

It has been a long time coming that a cloud based store portal has an added value for business customers which eases the administration overhead of purchasing and license management.

Bulk purchasing and license re-assignment enables cost savings to be realized in so far as the organization remains the owner of the software as opposed to the past where individual users who required an application has to use their private Microsoft Live accounts.

On-premise utilization also remains a viable solution for the above listed scenarios where a third party distribution solution is employed. Microsoft will continue to add to the capabilities of the store and the variety of universal applications that are available over this medium.

Watch this space!

Leipzig, 3/8/2016

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