If you don't like the direction Microsoft is taking Windows 8, tough luck, Team Sinofsky knows they have you
Choice. It’s something that all free people crave. We want the right to choose, whether it’s what we eat, where we live or how we arrange our furniture. Generally speaking, we don’t like being told what to do. Nor do we like it when some impersonal agency imposes its will upon our freedoms.
Case in point: Microsoft’s decision to force users to boot to the Windows 8 Start Screen. Instead of giving us the option (choice) of going directly to the desktop, Microsoft divisional president Steven Sinofsky and friends are saying it’s “their way or the highway”. Any attempts to deviate from their approved usage model will not be tolerated, and if you try to code around us, we’ll shut you down. Period.
Windows 8 looks like it was designed by a bunch of two year-olds wired from watching too much Barney
I hate flat things. Flat tires. Flat musical notes. Flat soda bottles because my teenage son can't bring himself to tighten the cap properly. I just can't stand stuff that lacks in one dimension or another.
So you can imagine my reaction to the recently leaked screenshots of the final Windows 8 RTM build's UI. Not only has Microsoft done away with the last vestiges of Aero, the company has taken a virtual steamroller to the entire Windows landscape.
It's a BlackBerry Playbook fan's penance. After months spent swiping away the nightmares from my early Android tablet experiences (think Honeycomb 3.xx on Galaxy Tab 10.1), I find myself once again staring into the dark abyss that is Google's nascent mobile OS.
The occassion? An impromptu evaluation of the Acer Iconia Tab A200 as a potential low-cost computing solution for secondary education. My wife and I looked at possible post-PC alternatives for use in a new private high school we're funding on our home island of Mauritius. The hope was that such a tablet, coupled with a wired or wireless (the A200 has a full-sized USB port) keyboard/mouse combo, could serve double duty as both a library reference device and a thin client for hosting RDP sessions into a Windows terminal services environment (still gotta teach those kids Microsoft Office).
Ah! Life in paradise. As the literal incarnation of the mythical "guy who ran away to a tropical island", I've had the joy of returning to my once primary (and now mostly vacation) home in the United States only to discover all of the things that can go wrong with an empty house in the Florida heat (this time, it was a failed A/C compressor -- ugh!).
However, I've also had the opportunity to revisit many of my core IT beliefs from the perspective of a relative outsider living in the slower-paced world of coconuts, litches and 2Mbps ADSL connections. Basically, my geographic isolation has forced me to take the long view on new technology trends. Which is why I'm so excited about the potential of BYOD: I see the emergence of the Post-PC phenomenon as a truly disruptive force that will forever change how people view "computers".
It’s a form of denial. In my recent post on the Office team dissing Windows 8, I noted how the lack of full touch support in Office 2013 undermines Microsoft’s efforts to break into the Post-PC space. And while I expected some push back from the Redmond choir, I was surprised at how many readers seem to be having a hard time accepting the reality of the Post-PC phenomenon.
Simply put, the PC as a technology driver is dead. Yet some people -- most notably, IT professionals who fear the coming BYOD apocalypse -- are determined to prop-up the corpse, slap some lipstick on those rotting lips and pretend that it’s still 2009.
A letdown. That's the only way to describe Microsoft's Office 2013 announcement. With the fate of the Windows ecosystem hanging in the balance, the Redmond, Wash.-based giant is doing what it always does when faced with a tough, course-changing decision: It’s playing internal politics.
On one side you have the Windows division. Right now, they're facing an existential crisis, with Apple and Google poised to dominate the emerging post-PC landscape. Division head Steve Sinofsky and his team need all the help they can get to crack into this new territory that threatens to subsume everything that came before.
It’s an addiction. For nearly three decades, the PC industry has gorged itself on profit margins. Whether it’s a “premium” line of notebooks or the latest uber-gaming rig, vendors have always managed to squeeze enough margin out of their product offerings to line their respective silk purses. And who rides shotgun to this PC profit gravy train like some deranged, hypodermic-carrying monkey? Microsoft.
The Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth injected itself into the basic PC equation a generation ago, and it has milked the OEM license revenue stream ever since. Fortunately for them, average selling prices across the spectrum of PC categories helped offset this Microsoft addiction “surtax”. After all, what’s $70, $80 or $100 when the system in question retails somewhere just north or south of the $1,000 mark?
It sounds like a silly question. After all, Android is more popular than ever, with new “hero” phones and tablets arriving almost every week. However, for all of the platform’s success, there’s one aspect that remains a lingering blight on Google’s otherwise shiny success story: Software piracy.
Simply put, the rampant piracy of apps on “rooted” Android devices is killing developer momentum, with many devs resorting to unpopular and often intrusive in-app advertising and other gimmicks to make up for the gap in traditional Google Play revenue. And with the Android enthusiast community seemingly obsessed with “rooting” every new device that comes to market -- thus making it easier for unscrupulous users to pirate apps and/or bypass normal app security mechanisms -- the problem only gets worse.
It’s the hypothetical scenario many IT pros try to ignore: What if Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch is a dud? What if Surface is a flop, the $40 upgrade promotion fizzles and all of those slick new Windows RT tablets don’t fly off the shelves?
Given today’s consumer-driven BYOD IT culture, it’s a very real possibility. The Windows ecosystem simply doesn’t hold the gravitas it once did, with users finding every possible excuse to cut the enterprise cord and dump their clunky old IT-issued laptops and desktops. It’s like the cold war-era Soviet Union facing off against Western society: Once the populace got a taste of Levis and free speech, there was no holding them back.
IT news comes in fast. Sometimes it takes us a while to process it all. In the blur of competing headlines, critical trends become obscured, and seemingly disconnected events -- when viewed through the prism of a few days rest and a good cup of tea -- can suddenly seem interrelated.
Consider the past two weeks. First, Microsoft drops the Surface bombshell, including news that only one of the devices -- the Windows RT version -- will be ready in time for the holidays. Then, on the heels of much hand wringing over Google’s Nexus 7 and its impact on the BYOD movement, PC stalwart Hewlett Packard reveals that it won’t be shipping any Windows RT tablets, at least not in the short term. Again, seemingly disconnected events -- yet when you pull them all together they lead to one inexorable conclusion: Microsoft hates BYOD.
It’s relentless. Just when my psyche was beginning to recover from the Nexus 7 bombshell, here comes the Nexus 10. A rumored upsized-version of Google’s recently announced reference platform, the Nexus 10 will be to the iPad what the Nexus 7 is to the Kindle: An immediate, existential threat pounding on the gates of Fort Cupertino.
To Apple, the thought of an ultra-cheap (think sub-$300), 10-inch iPad fighter must send chills down CEO Tim Cook’s spine. But to me, the Nexus 10 represents something much worse: Three extra inches of BYOD hell for enterprise IT shops.
The cat is finally out of the bag. After weeks of speculation surrounding Google’s vaporous "7-inch Kindle killer", the Nexus 7 is now real. And as I suspected, the search giant’s new reference platform is nothing more than another in a long line of cheap, uninspiring Android tablets.
I mean, what is there to differentiate the Nexus 7 from similarly-sized tablets by Samsung or Acer? They all have the same crappy build quality, the same limited output options (no HDMI?) and the same tinny, poorly-placed speakers that have come to define the 7-inch Android tablet category.
I like it when I’m right. Whether it’s dispelling the myths surrounding the Windows 7 kernel (I was right), or bursting the bubble of the VDI-everywhere zealots (right again), I enjoy having my predictions come true.
I’m also an operating system technology purist. I believe that a strong OS foundation is what determines whether or not a given platform will succeed over the long haul. This is why I’m convinced that Microsoft will ultimately dominate the enterprise mobile computing space (Windows Phone 8 is based on Windows NT, an OS for which I have tremendous respect). And it’s also why I believe they eventually will share this space not with Apple or Google, but rather the company that everyone likes to write-off: Research in Motion.
What a week! Just when I thought Microsoft could never be as cool as Apple, bang! Here comes Surface (no, not that Surface) to shatter my preconceptions about the weather in Seattle and its effect on product innovation.
Surface is sleek, sexy, and, dare I say it, kind of cool. It’s got this rockin’ kickstand thingy at the back, a neat-o magnetic keyboard/cover and is made from some cutting-edge alloy straight out of a Star Trek episode (specifically, Voyager -- DS9 would never stoop so low). In short, Surface has all the ingredients of an iPad killer. But while it may achieve some success in the consumer space, enterprise IT shops won’t touch it with a 3-meter pole.