Windows 8.1 includes the ability to run modern apps, typically delivered from the Windows Store. But for organizations that develop their own line-of-business apps, we have also provided a mechanism called "sideloading"; that allows the installation of apps without using the Windows Store. Once enabled, any app can be installed. For more information on this process, including how to deploy apps using an enterprise app store built on Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager, see Sideload Windows Store Apps in Windows 8.

As organizations continue to adopt and build Windows Store Apps, we are making changes to minimize the requirements around obtaining sideloading keys for deploying internal line of business apps, including:

We have heard feedback from organizations that the requirements for enabling sideloading on a Windows 8.1 device were challenging for some customers, primarily due to the costs involved in obtaining sideloading keys. To address that feedback, we are making some adjustments:

  • As part of Windows 8.1 Update, we are enabling sideloading for all Windows 8.1 Pro devices that are joined to an Active Directory domain, matching the current behavior of Windows 8.1 Enterprise. So if you are using either of those two versions, you won’t need to worry about sideloading keys or activation at all.

  • As of May 1, 2014 customers in the following Volume Licensing programs (regardless of what product they purchase) will be granted Enterprise Sideloading Rights and provided with a sideload key at no additional license cost.
    • Enterprise Agreement
    • Enterprise Subscription Agreement
    • Enrollment for Education Solutions (under a Campus and School Agreement)
    • School Enrollment
    • Select and Select Plus

  • Also starting May 1, 2014, other customers who want to enable sideloading will be able to purchase an Enterprise Sideloading key for $100 through the Open License program. An unlimited number of devices can be enabled for sideloading using this key.

With these changes, we believe all organizations will be able to leverage sideloading for all of their Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT 8.1 devices. For additional information on sideloading licensing, review the Windows Volume Licensing Guide.