On Friday, Microsoft announced new Windows Apportals. Apportals might be the missing link between Windows 8 being a detriment to enterprise organizations to actually turn it into an asset.
Very gradually, people are coming to figure out how to live with Windows 8. The operating system has been a big over-correction to make Windows for the consumer. Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update introduced slight tweaks to bring the operating system back to being functional for enterprises and more intuitive for individuals.
The introduction of Apportals is another step forward to help tame the Start Screen and make it more manageable for organizations. If only Apportals were easier to make, it would be even better.
Apportals are simply Windows 8.1 apps that look similar to the Start Screen and allow an organization to put all of their applications – including desktop apps, new Windows modern apps, and web applications into one spot. The Apportals extend beyond just being a bunch of shortcuts and take advantage of the Windows 8 features like Live Tiles to show relevant data from company sources or Twitter feeds, for example. Access to the tiles and data is controlled by Active Directory security group membership. Deployment of the Apportal is done through the available means such as the Windows Store, internal stores, or side-loading. The user would then pin the Apportal to their Start Screen for easy access to all of their relevant organization data and applications.
In Microsoft’s own admission, Apportals are filling in a gap to coordinate applications for an organization that has previously been missed.
Windows Apportals address a long-missed insight in enterprise sales: customers use software from many vendors. Windows Apportals were built in response to numerous requests to create an “on-the-glass” integration for the wide variety of heterogeneous LOB apps that exist in organizations today, including legacy Windows 7 Desktop Applications; newer Modern Windows 8 apps; and Web Applications. IT Pros within enterprises know that the wide variety of apps, applications, and services which exist in an organization require a loosely-coupled structure – and in today’s diverse organizational environments it is not realistic or desirable to build a single, monolithic application. Instead, organizations want to use the flexibility of the Windows 8.1 OS to create a UI-based virtual integration, and continue to gain value from existing legacy technology investments. Windows Apportals are the solution to this need.
Since Apportals are just a Windows 8.1 app, you have to have Windows Developer access and knowledge of building apps. Otherwise, the Apportal utilizes the built-in OS building blocks to create a nifty dashboard with live tiles, app shortcuts, and other components.
Microsoft has created a site just for Apportals under their Enterprise section. You can partner with a consultant to build your Apportal or build it yourself. From the Apportals site, you can register your interest under ‘build it myself’ and download a 200+ page PDF that details building the Apportal. Within the document, they detail using the Windows Apportal Prototype Generator to create a mock-up that you can then shop around your stakeholders to see if it is a project worth pursuing. The document also includes building and designing the custom Apportal.
This YouTube video dives into the Apportal view so you can see how it could be useful for most organizations to help end users transition and make the most out of Windows 8.1.