So why not Windows RT Enterprise Edition?

So why isn't there a Windows RT Enterprise Edition?

If you’ve played around with Windows Server 2012 you’ll have noticed that Windows Deployment Services supports ARM as an architecture, just as it supports x86 and x64. If you’ve had a look at the categories for WSUS, you’ll notice that Windows RT is listed. Windows RT is also listed in the text of a fair number of group policies. The hooks built into Windows Server 2012 hint at the possibility of a domain joinable version of the OS designed for the ARM architecture.

The interesting question is “why isn’t there a Windows RT Enterprise Edition”

Windows RT already has local group policy (don’t believe me, type gpedit.msc into the Search charm) and Windows PowerShell – both things that seem out of place in a purely consumer targeted operating system. Conceptually, PowerShell on RT is a bit like the idea of a Bash shell (OSX command prompt) on an iPad. It’s not ridiculous (iOS and OSX share a common lineage), but Apple probably didn’t include it because they didn’t see the need to provide the target audience with that type of functionality.

My guess is that because it doesn’t run software compiled for x86, idea of Windows RT Enterprise edition has been put on hold. All the bits are in place to “flick the switch” if and when it makes sense. Given that enterprises move slowly adopting new versions of Windows, they’d be even slower to adopt a new OS architecture.

My guess is that we will see a domain joinable version of Windows RT in the future at some point, but that there’s probably little need for it until Windows 8 gets enough market share to have application developers get serious about publishing to the Windows Store (because Windows Store apps run on x86, x64 and ARM).

ARM better meets the long term usage case for laptops – it keeps things light and it offers substantial power savings. In the long run the light laptop with the long battery life is going to be the one you choose to carry about over the heavier laptop with the shorter battery life. There is a need for an OS that runs on ARM that can also be managed in the way that a traditional Windows client desktop can be managed. That need might not be strong at the moment, but Windows RT is well positioned to meet that need as it develops.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Apr 22, 2013

I think we will never see something called "Windows RT Enterprise Edition". The "enterprise edition" of Windows RT is called Windows 8 Pro, and it runs on the Surface Pro. (Presumably the Surface Pro can be reimaged with a real Enterprise Edition of Win8 also.)

The software that currently ships on WinRT is not licensed for enterprise use, so you're talking about a completely new product.

The reason that WSUS does not distribute updates for WinRT is because the Microsoft update schema does not support the installation file specifications necessary for the ARM architecture. Same reason it doesn't do Unix/Linux/MacOSX.

Building 'hooks' (even if only in the UI) into something should never be interpreted as evidence of it's planned existence. In fact, I would even argue that exposing those options in the UI (even assuming the underlying code exists) was probably an error.

But who knows... stranger things *have* happened in Redmond, Washington. :-)
With WSUS, historically product categories do not exist until updates exist for that product category; unfortunately, WU and WSUS use the same product category list, so the creation of the updates for WU triggered the creation of the product category in WSUS. Nothing more than that should be read into the situation.

on Apr 26, 2013

If you remember, Windows RT was originally called Windows on ARM (WOA). They changed the name to Windows RT to highlight the fact that the only exposed API in the OS is WinRT.

I think the significance here is that Windows RT is not long term targeted at just ARM processors, but that it is an evolvoing OS that ONLY supports WinRT -- not Win32 (which support is relegated to W8 Pro). Someday there will probably be Windows RT running on X86 machines, and when that happens, the Windows RT Enterprise begins to make more sense. I suspect we don't have it yet because WinRT (ultimately a complete replacement for win32) does not yet have all the hooks and bells/whistles to support all the enterprise bumf that is in win32 and associated API's -- also there marketing issues with OEMs that probably will hold back X86 support on Windows RT until ARM devices achieve a viable foothold on Windows.

Windows 8 Pro supports BOTH win32 and WinRT -- IMO it is destined to evolve into the legacy/deprecated path for those needing backwards compatibility.

I don't expect any of this to happen in the Blue (windows 8.1) timeframe -- perhaps in W9 (which I would expect to see about 3 years after W8 release (late 2015/early 2016). That also assumes that there will be a second W8 interim release (W8.2) in the fall of 2014.

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Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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