What is Microsoft and Office 365 F1, and who is it for?

A few weeks ago at Microsoft’s flag ship event Ignite, Satya Nadella announced Microsoft and Office 365 F1 for front-line workers. Estimates suggest that there is a global workforce of over 2 Bn workers in customer facing roles: including staff in sales, call centers, field service teams, manufacturing shop floors.

Until now, the needs of this highly distributed workforce has been largely untapped, because businesses needed an affordable and secure solution for the large numbers of distributed workers; who don’t need all the bells and whistles of the full office suite. Staff turn-over is typically far higher in customer facing roles, presenting challenges for IT departments to keep up with demands for account and device provisioning.

What are the benefits?

Besides offering the optimised Office Online suite, Microsoft have bundled collaboration services, scheduling and task management software with tools that “… streamlines IT management, minimizes cost, and extends security to all employees and endpoints. Azure Active Directory provides management of employee identity and access; Microsoft Intune helps secure devices; and new features in Windows 10 simplify the management of Firstline Workers’ experiences, supporting locked down single purpose devices with Windows Assigned Access and automated deployment with Windows AutoPilot.”

How will IT deploy, and manage this new offering?

Device and app management is done through a combination of Microsoft’s InTune – a Mobile App Management (MAM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution – and their new Auto Pilot solution, that enables you to provision user accounts and devices, by

  • Automatically join devices to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD)
  • Auto-enrol devices into MDM services, such as Microsoft Intune (Requires an Azure AD Premium subscription)
  • Restrict the Administrator account creation
  • Create and auto-assign devices to configuration groups based on a device’s profile
  • Customize Out of the Box Experience (OOBE) content specific to the organization

The pre-recs, setup documentation can be found here.

Timed with this release, OEM vendors like HP, Lenovo, and Acer have announced new devices, pre-loaded with Windows 10 S, at a price point that fits the F1 use case (starting at $275).

How will customers deploy their line of business applications to their front-line staffs’ Win 10 S devices?

Apps can be pre-loaded on the devices by the OEM vendors, this could include the Office 365 F1 suite and other popular productivity tools. But how do Admins deploy new apps to Win 10 S over the lifetime of the device?

Windows 10 S security improvements include introducing safeguards to application install experience by restricting installs to applications from verifiable and trusted sources. Microsoft provide the validation for their new Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and signing of applications on behalf of the ISV. Signing is essential because Windows 10 S expressly forbids “side-loading applications” – this is the process that enables unsigned, untrusted applications to be installed on a device. Signed and validated apps can then be published in the Microsoft Store, so that users and businesses, know that they can safely install the application without fear of malware, or malicious code. New UWP apps, will work uninstall cleanly because there is clearer separation between the app and the operating system, and cross compatibility across a range of devices from PCs, tablets, Xbox and the new Hololens. 

It is worth noting, that businesses can deploy UWP’s appx applications with other tools like Microsoft SCCM, Citrix XenMobile, VMware’s AirWatch.

How will customers deploy line of business applications for their front-line staff?

While Microsoft have been working with ISVs to get their applications to the Store, Microsoft have also provided the Desktop App Converter to help businesses get Win 32 apps that run on Windows 10 into the required Appx format. The Converter does not perform any actual conversion, nor will it help an app comply with UWP’s requirements – customers will need to change the app’s source code to fix any violations identified during testing.

This presents a real challenge for Enterprises, because most of their proprietary order entry, stock control, patient record systems apps are still incompatible with Windows 10. What chance do they have of adopting UWP when they didn’t have the time, development budget or desire to risk making changes to an app that is critical to the running of their business.

In our blog in July, Cloudhouse announced support for their Compatibility Containers and the Desktop Bridge for UWP Microsoft 365. The solution, listed on Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge page, enables Enterprises to take their Win XP and Win 7 Front-line of business applications and make them compatible for the Desktop App Converter tool. This is possible because our redirection, isolation and compatibility engine enables the App to run on Windows 10 (a requirement for UWP), and then conform to the requirements of UWP so that it can be packaged in an Appx. Once in an appx format, customers can publish their apps to their front-line workers through Microsoft Store for Business or Windows InTune.

Cloudhouse joins G-Cloud 12

Moving the UK public sector to the cloud just got a whole lot easier. Cloudhouse application compatibility packaging is now available from the G Cloud 12 Digital Marketplace.

Migrate ALL applications to Amazon AppStream 2.0 and AWS WorkSpaces

Migrate ALL your desktop applications to Amazon Workspaces or Amazon AppStream 2.0 with Cloudhouse.

The Magic of Compound Application Virtualization

I am Priya Saxena, a supermom, virtualization enthusiast and a developer by heart. I started my career 11 years ago as a passionate engineering graduate