Metro vs. MSI – Windows 8 for Setup Developers, Part 1

April 24th, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

Windows 8 is approaching, a “Release Preview” is coming in the first week of June, according to an announcement today. Therefore I plan to write some blog posts, looking at various aspects of Windows 8 from a setup developer’s perspective. In this first post I’m discussing AppX vs. MSI,

Windows 8 introduces a new application type – Metro Apps – and a new installation method and installer file format: AppX. Some people are asking if that will make Windows Installer (MSI) obsolete. Well, I believe that MSI will continue to play an important role in software installation for quite a while. Here is why.

There is a huge number of existing applications that won’t be re-written as Metro Apps in the near future. And for some types of applications, converting them into Metro Apps doesn’t have significant benefits or doesn’t make sense at all.

One of the most important advantages of Metro Apps is their tight integration in the App Store: they can be purchased, installed and automatically updated in the store. But Desktops applications can also be listed in the store, which gives them the desirable visibility for end users, even if purchase and installation will be outside the store experience. For business customers I think this is even less important. They will prefer other methods to deploy and update applications, controlled by the IT department. Smaller companies without a dedicated IT department can use tools like Windows Intune to manage computers and applications packaged as msi.

A big hurdle for the transition to AppX is it restriction to Windows 8. If you want to build Metro Apps and package them as AppX, but also don’t want to leave your customers behind who are still using Windows 7, Vista or Windows XP, you will have to build and maintain two versions of your application and two packaging types: AppX and MSI.

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