It seems like every other week Microsoft finds a way to fit its foot further into the mouth. The company updated their knowledge base last month for updates included in Windows 10 version 1511, and it has now been made known that the group policy setting to disable the Windows Store was removed intentionally. Starting with version 1511, users of Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Education can no longer disable the Windows Store application through group policy, which allows a lot of problem applications to be downloaded by users who are unaware of their impact on the system they’re working on.
The benefits for turning off the store are many-fold for security reasons, and it’s easier to troubleshoot systems displaying weird behaviour if you don’t have to work around any oddities introduced by Universal Windows Apps. If an organisation forbids it, disabling the store was a great way to stop users from downloading applications for social networks or games, rather than having to meddle with AppLocker to block everything by default. If the organisation’s IT department doesn’t develop any universal apps that are distributed through a local, customised store run by the company, this also means that you won’t have to worry about updates for these applications taking up drive space or bandwidth.
But now, many organisations are just starting their rollout of Windows 10 and they’re not going with the latest version. Instead, a lot of migrations are starting off with build 10240, the RTM version of the OS that was first launched back in July 2015. While these companies are allowed to defer upgrades to newer versions of Windows 10 for about eight months, they’re inevitably going to have to move to version 1511, and thus lose control of what their users can do through the Windows store. If, however, the company makes use of Windows 10 Enterprise instead of Pro, they can stay on the Long Term Servicing Branch of any qualifying Windows 10 version for up to ten years.
As a network administrator by trade, I’d say that this is a bad idea. Microsoft’s insistence on using the store, and the number of downloads from it, as a metric of success means that it’ll do anything it can to keep those numbers growing, and corporate rollouts of Windows 10 Pro sometimes number in the tens of thousands of installations. Already, Windows 10 Home users are unable to disable updates or disable applications like the store app, and now users of Windows 10 Pro are seeing the starting steps to Microsoft having more control over what you do on your computer. It’s a dangerous precedent to set, and I hope to see Microsoft renege on this decision in the coming months.