Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Windows RT - How to use it in your Enterprise

It is no secret that I love Microsoft Surface.  I spent my last blog post lamenting a bit on some of the many features I enjoy and I hope to not do that again, after all this is a technical blog.  Lets do something useful instead:

How to make Microsoft Surface/Windows RT "Work"

As you know, Windows RT is a cut down version of Windows 8 that does not allow you to install applications outside of the curated Windows Store.  The version of Internet Explorer 10 that comes with RT does not allow for any 3rd party plug ins except Adobe Flash which is built-in to the browser and updated by Microsoft.  You would think that would limit your ability to use this tablet for work, and you would be wrong.  Here are a couple of ways that you can make Windows RT into even more of a productivity device rather than just another toy:

1) Remote Desktop via Remote Desktop Gateway

The Remote Desktop app that is available via the Windows Store can be configured to use your Remote Desktop (formerly Terminal Services) Gateway to connect to your computer in the office while you are on the road.  I've personally used this a number of times to remote into servers when I'm not near my apartment but need to respond to a high priority issue.  Once you get over the screen scaling (after all, it IS a tablet) then you can work on it quite comfortably.  Don't use Remote Desktop Gateway?  TeamViewer is another remote desktop app that is available in the Windows Store.

The drawback to the Remote Desktop client in the Windows Store is that when you configure your gateway settings, it will try to use that gateway for ALL your Remote Desktop connections.  All is not lost though, Windows RT can open .RDP files using the legacy mstsc.exe file so you can use your existing pre-configured RD/TS Gateway .RDP files!

2) Embrace the Cloud with RemoteApp !!

Similar to a Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Session, you can also connect to applications directly via RemoteApp.  This essentially allows you to bypass the "no x86 software allowed" issue with Windows RT by running an application from a RD session.  These programs can be hosted either on your own Terminal Server or using Microsoft Azure, so you are not limited to on-premises hosting.  There are a few caveats to this method though:

- You must be connected to the Internet for the entire time you need to use the application
- Since everything is streaming, performance varies bases on the quality of the Internet connection being used
- For best results, the files you are trying to access should reside in your network (this is arguably a good thing since you can ensure that data is properly backed up)
- Most applications are not yet optimized for touch so you will need to use your Touch/Type Cover or an external mouse for best results.
- Terminal Services Licensing required

While you cannot deploy RemoteApps via MSI, the .RDP method works just fine.  Windows RT also has built-in support for company apps by going into System Properties and selecting Company Apps.

3) Don't Forget about Office 2013!

Finally, don't forget that Windows RT tablets come bundled with Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student Edition.  Out of the box it is not licensed for commercial use, it is pretty simple to be allowed to use it for work.  This ZDNet Article gives a great explanation of what you need to do.

Well that's all for now.  Enjoy!