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Microsoft Windows RT tablets will be more security friendly than iPad, Android devices

Client software will talk to management infrastructure, download custom Metro-style apps

By , Network World
April 20, 2012 04:29 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft can perform a type of network access control on Windows RT devices as a way to protect corporate networks from harm these devices might inflict if put to corporate use, making them a cut above iPads and Android tablets in this regard.

The newly announced capability can check the devices for compliance with corporate policies surrounding passwords, encrypting data, antivirus, anti-spyware and auto updates, according to the Building Windows 8 blog. This is similar but less comprehensive than what some NAC schemes do in order to keep devices that don't comply from connecting to networks.

Previously Microsoft had announced four flavors of Windows 8 -- Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows RT -- with Windows RT lacking many of the features included in the Enterprise edition that might make the devices more palatable to businesses.

BACKGROUND: Windows RT tablets will add to the BYOD nightmare

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Windows RT is the name Microsoft has given to a Windows 8 operating system that is packaged with ARM-based hardware such as power-efficient tablets. They are expected to ship later this year or early next. The devices don't support applications that run on standard x86/64 machines, and until now, would accept Metro-style applications designed for Windows 8 only directly from Microsoft.

None of this made Windows RT seem any more BYOD-friendly than Android tablets or iPads.

But a client announced by Microsoft will monitor the security posture of the devices and enable downloading proprietary business applications to them. The client will communicate with an undefined cloud-based management platform that will be announced later by the team working on Microsoft's System Center.

The client's main function is to download and install Windows 8 Metro-style applications that are designed to work on both x86/64 and ARM devices. Without the agent, owners of Windows RT devices can only download applications that are stocked in the Windows Store or via Windows Update or Microsoft Update.

But Microsoft recognizes that businesses will create their own Windows 8 Metro apps that they want to deploy to personal Windows RT devices that employees might want to use for work, according to the blog.

The client makes this possible by connecting to the corporate management infrastructure and to a self-service portal, which displays applications that are available for each user to download. This provides a mechanism to download proprietary line-of-business Metro apps to employees without placing them in the public Windows Store. As the blog says, "... there is no reason to broadcast these applications to others or to have their application deployment managed through the Windows Store process."

If the business or the owner of the device decides to remove it from corporate management, the client wipes out the proprietary apps.

Before users can connect their Windows RT devices to the management service, their Active Directory settings must be changed to allow it and to specify how many devices they are allowed to connect via SSL authentication. The process involves registering the device with the network.

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