PolicyPak announces Start Screen and Taskbar Manager

Even if you're not trying to do MDM, Windows 10 still brings new challenges.

Last fall, Gabe and I talked to Jeremy Moskowitz of PolicyPak to learn about how PolicyPak MDM helps bridge the gap between traditional and MDM management.

Today, PolicyPak is announcing two new products, Start Screen Manager and Taskbar Manager, and I caught up with Jeremy to learn more (and shoot the breeze about MDM versus traditional management).

First, note that Start Screen and Taskbar Manager are very similar to PolicyPak’s existing File Associations Manager.

Between Windows 7 and Windows 10, the settings for the Start screen, taskbar, and file type associations went from being controlled by Group Policy Preferences to being controlled by XML configuration files. To create these XMLs, Microsoft’s guidance is to set up a gold image and then export them.

This approach is cumbersome and not very flexible, so PolicyPak is leveraging its stack to provide an alternative way to create and deliver these settings. PolicyPak’s solution can also use rules to target different groups for more flexibility.

Settings for the Start screen, taskbar, and file type associations can be created right in your Group Policy Management Console using PolicyPak’s plugin, and then delivered via Group Policy, SCCM, over the internet, via MDM (packaged up as an MSI), or through other management tools. The PolicyPak client-side extension then interprets the policies. Gabe went deeper on this stack the last time we covered PolicyPak, and there are a ton of videos and resources at PolicyPak.com.

To me, as someone steeped in mobility, it makes sense to be able to just use an MDM server to generate the XML configuration files, and then any time apps are provisioned or policies are updated, the MDM could overwrite the XMLs. But of course it’s very early days for Windows MDM, and PolicyPak is already doing a very similar thing—it’s giving you an easy way to create and update these XML configurations, regardless of how you’re doing your management.

What’s interesting is that we’re used to talking about all the challenges that come with Windows 10 MDM, but in this case, these challenges aren’t coming up because of MDM—they’re coming up for everybody because they’re part of Windows 10 no matter how you manage it.