This is the fourth installment in my series on mobile device management (MDM) using Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and Windows Intune. If you haven’t read the previous three posts: preparing for mobile device management, how-to perform device enrollment for mobile devices, and how-to configure mobile devices settings, you should check them out! In this installment, I discuss how-to deploy apps to mobile devices by using System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager applications. So, let’s start off with a bit of background on the System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager application model.

System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager application model

The System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager application model is the only method for deploying apps to mobile devices. Although System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager still supports the Configuration Manager package and program model, it’s not designed to deploy apps.

A Configuration Manager application can have one or more deployment types. A deployment type is used to define different ways of deploying the same application. For example, you could define a Configuration Manager application for Microsoft Skype, and create a separate deployment type for the Windows desktop version, Windows Store version, Windows Phone version, Apple iOS version, and Andrord verion (for a total of five deployment types).

This powerful model allows you to define an application once, and then add or remove deployment types as necessary. The Configuration Manager application model also supports automatic updates to an application, supersedence (replacing one application with another), and application retirement (removal), so you can manage your apps throughout their entire life cycle!

Sideloading and deeplinking

There are two ways to deploy apps to mobile devices: sideloading and deeplinking. Sideloading is when you have the actual installation files (such as an .appx, .xap, .iap, or .apk file) and you want to install your app by using the installation files on the appropriate device type. Some devices may require special certificates or sideloading keys for this (see my second blog post on performing device enrollment). When you create a deployment type for a sideloaded app, you provide a Universal Naming Convention path to where the installation files are located.

Deeplinking is when the app is located in the device store and you provide a link to that app. The app is not actually installed; rather, the user is provided with a link to the app that appears in the Company Portal app. When the user installs the app from the Company Portal app (, the app page is automatically displayed in the device store. When you create a deployment type for a sideloaded app, you provide a URL to where the app is located in the device app store.

Now, let’s look at the types of apps that you can deploy to mobile devices.

Application deployment types

The following is a list of the deployment types that System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager supports for mobile devices:

  • Windows Installer (*.msi file). Used to deploy Windows desktop apps to Windows devices
  • Windows app package (*.appx, *.appxbundle). Used to sideload Windows Store apps to Windows devices
  • Windows app package (in the Windows Store). Used to deeplink Windows Store apps to Windows devices
  • Windows Phone app package (*.xap file). Used to sideload Windows Phone apps to Windows Phone devices
  • Windows Phone app package (in the Windows Phone Store). Used to deeplink Windows Phone Store apps to Windows Phone devices
  • App Package for iOS (*.ipa file). Used to sideload App Store apps to iOS devices
  • App Package for iOS from App Store. Used to deeplink App Store apps to iOS devices
  • App Package for Android (*.apk file). Used to sideload Android apps to Google Android devices.
  • App Package for Android on Google Play. Used to deeplink Android apps to Android devices systems
  • Web Application. Used to create a shortcut to the URL for a web app (such as https://webapp.contoso.com)

As you can see, these deployment types tend to fall into the two categories I mentioned earlier: sideloading and deeplinking. You select the particular deployment type based on the targeted device and whether you are sideloading or deeplinking the app.

However, there is one exception: Web Application. This deployment type allows you to add links (think tiles in Windows and Windows Phone) to a web app. For this deployment type, you specify the URL for the web app.

So, for example, if I wanted to deploy Skype to Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android devices, I would create a Skype application, and then create a deployment type for each targeted device. The one twist is that for Windows, I would probably deploy both the desktop version by using a Windows Installer deployment type and the Windows Store version by using a deeplink to the Skype app in the Windows Store. The other deployment types would also be deeplinks to the Skype app in the respective device stores.

Application creation and deployment

Now, with all the background information, how do you actually create and deploy apps to your mobile devices? That’s the easy part! Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Create a Configuration Manager application with one deployment type by completing the Create Application Wizard.
  2. Create additional deployment types for each device that you want to support by completing the Create Deployment Type Wizard.
  3. Deploy the Configuration Manager application to the user collections that contain your mobile users by completing the Deploy Software Wizard.

After you have deployed the Configuration Manager application, the app shows up in the Company Portal app on each device. Users can install the app and immediately start using it.

Summary

Now you seen how easy it is to deploy apps to mobile devices. System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and Windows Intune can help you manage your apps throughout their life cycle. In my next, and final post in this series, I’ll talk about how to protect business data stored on mobile devices.

NEXT BLOG POST IN THIS SERIES:  How-to protect business apps and data on mobile devices (Coming later today!)