Microsoft has released an Azure RemoteApp client for Windows RT devices, allowing businesses to close the app compatibility gap that has plagued the platform since it debuted in late 2012.
Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 that runs on tablets and devices with low-power ARM-based processors. Unlike x86 PCs and Microsoft's own Surface Pro tablets, Windows RT devices can only run compatible Windows Store apps. They are effectively shut out of the massive Windows desktop software ecosystem.
This fact has made Windows RT devices like the original Surface RT tablet—while low-cost and generally competitive with iPads and Android slates, a nonstarter in corporate circles. Last year, poor Surface RT sales led Microsoft to write off $900 million, tarnishing otherwise solid financials from the software giant.
Now, the company is making a stronger case for Windows RT in the workplace with the new Microsoft RemoteApp client.
Azure RemoteApp is a service that hosts Windows applications on the cloud and provides users with 50GB of storage. The product also supports hybrid implementations by leveraging the company's virtual networking technology for apps that require access to on-premises data and IT resources.
The solution rests on a dynamically scalable, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) foundation provided by Microsoft's massive cloud infrastructure. The result is a cloud-based alternative to traditional desktop virtualization, minus the hardware costs.
In addition, Azure RemoteApp provides organizations with a flexible method of deploying apps to mobile employees and non-static workforces, asserts Microsoft. "Quickly ramp up and provide seasonal workers, vendors, or large groups of new employees access to company applications without paying for new servers and expensive on-premise infrastructure—then scale down again when business needs change," boasts the company in a product page.
Client software provides fast, responsive (bandwidth permitting) and secure access to applications that reside on the service, claims the company. Currently, Azure RemoteApp is supported by the Microsoft Remote Desktop App for iOS, Android and Mac OS X. A Windows Phone 8.1 version is in the works.
Customers can now add Windows RT to the list. "The desktop apps you publish through the Azure RemoteApp service, including Office and additional LOB [line of business] apps, can now be accessed from Windows RT devices where they otherwise can't be installed," David Bélanger, a program manager on the Remote Desktop team, said in a statement.
Azure RemoteApp blurs the line between cloud apps and local software while safeguarding data, according to Bélanger. He asserted that while apps "will appear to run locally, they are actually running in Azure and you can interact with them from your Windows RT device, helping keep your corporate data safe."