Today, during a keynote address at Computex in Taipei, Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing, discussed recent Windows developments including Windows with Bing, relaxed certification requirements, Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows universal apps.
He also talked about the value of Microsoft cloud services across devices, and revealed some hugely impressive numbers relating to everything from Office 365, One Drive and Skype to Xbox Live and Bing.
Windows XP users might be able to (sort of) cheat the aging operating system’s end of life, but ultimately the only real way to stay safe is, as Microsoft says, by upgrading to a newer, more modern version of Windows. NetMarketShare’s monthly snapshot of the desktop OS share trend shows users are continuing to slowly migrate away from XP. The OS’s share dropped 1.02 percent from 26.29 percent in April to 25.27 percent in May.
So the question is, where are XP users moving to? I think you probably know the answer to that by now.
I have no problems with touchscreens in general, no problem at all. I can't imagine using a non-touchscreen phone any more, and I have tablets of all shapes and sizes coming out of my ears. Touchscreens make sense, they are intuitive, they are fun to use. In the right situation, at least. I bang on about being a very happy Surface Pro owner (not as yet a Surface Pro 3), but how often do I take advantage of the fact that it has a touchscreen? Very rarely. I might jab the screen every now and then to switch apps, I may even mess about with handwriting recognition from time to time, but despite my love of the device, a keyboard/trackpad/mouse combo is my preferred choice.
I use my Surface Pro as a laptop, and perhaps this is where my issues stem from. To me it makes little sense to reach over the keyboard to interact with the screen when a far more energy and time efficient trackpad flick does the job just as well. Used as a tablet, it would be a different story, but to me the Surface Pro range is not about amalgamating the best of laptops and tablets, it's about having a fancy laptop. But I digress. My point is that I have yet to be convinced of the value of touchscreen laptops (when used as laptops), and the idea of touchscreen monitors for desktop computers just seems like a step too far.
Microsoft may have been granted permission to launch its Xbox One console in China in September, but a decision by the Chinese government could impact severely on sales of Windows 8. China's official state news agency, Xinhua reports that the latest version of Microsoft's operating system will be banned from governmental computers, although there are to be no restrictions placed on home computers. The reason for the ban on Windows 8? Well it's not quite clear, but it's put down to something to do with energy-saving -- although this seems unlikely.
The website of China's Central Government Procurement Center posted an 'Important Notice' entitled, catchily, "Agreement to supply information about the class of energy-saving products complement the mandatory tender notice". A list of criteria then follows including, at number 5 "all computer products are not allowed to install Windows 8 operating system". This is slightly at odds with the news agency's suggestion -- the official news agency, remember -- that Windows 8 is being banned from new government PCs in "a move to ensure computer security after the shutdown of Windows XP".
It’s not immediately obvious why we need yet another Start Menu alternative, then. But Spencer (yes, that really is its name) does have one or two differences which help it stand out from the crowd.
Remember Unreal Tournament? Remember the hours (days?) you invested in it? Well, it's back! Or at least it will be soon… It's a game that we've heard nothing of for some time now, but Epic is wheeling out the classic title for a new airing. This time around, the gaming community is being called upon to contribute. In a post on the Unreal Engine Blog, Steve Polge says, "work on the future of Unreal Tournament begins today, and we're happy to announce that we're going to do this together, with you".
What does all of this mean? To cut to the chase, a new version of Unreal Tournament is, as of right now, being developed. Yippee! The UT community is a passionate one, and the new project is going to take full advantage of this. This is a collaborative project and the finished product will call upon the input of fans, Unreal Engine 4 developers, and Epic. If you fancy getting involved -- be it to contribute code, artwork, or just ideas -- you are free to do so.
Once a month I report on the desktop operating system market share using data from NetMarketShare. The changes in fortune between the different flavors of Windows is usually fairly minimal -- a percentage point gained here, a percentage point lost there. And usually the rise or fall is a lot less than one percent, although as a month is quite a small time scale to measure market share changes over, and we’re talking about millions and millions of Windows users, that’s to be expected.
I decided, out of curiosity, to take a look at what a year’s worth of market share variations would look like, using StatCounter’s Global Stats, and the results were less than thrilling, with the different operating systems showing very little change. In May 2013, Windows 7 had 56.27 percent. 12 months later it is on 55.03 percent. A drop of just 1.24 percent. Windows XP fell 6.73 percent, while Windows 8.x grew 8.16 percent. The pattern is clear -- Windows 8.x sales look to be coming from upgrades (mainly XP) but people are mostly sticking with their older operating systems. Open up the time scale however, and a more dramatic -- and damning -- picture emerges.
With business becoming more global and having remote offices in different locations, network performance is more than ever a key issue for administrators, especially when performing system updates.
System management specialist Adaptiva has launched a new version of its SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) tool OneSite, aimed at improving WAN performance and scalability as well as making the most of Windows 8 environments.
Microsoft announces fiscal third quarter earnings on Thursday -- reason for me to visit the site today in preparation. I saw what you see in the photo. Tagline: "Honestly, my new PC is exactly what I need at half the price I thought I'd pay". I find the company's months-old "Honestly" campaign to be refreshing in overall presentation and emphasized benefits. Value is big among them. (Colleague Wayne Williams disagrees, by the way.)
Honestly, what's missing: More promotion how great a value Surface is. The Windows RT model doesn't get loads of respect, but I increasingly think that it should. Surface 2 offers HD display, like the Pro model, setting the tablet apart from comparably-sized Androids or iPads selling for about the same price: $449, with 32GB of storage. Microsoft Store offers the refurbished original, granted with lower screen resolution, for $199. Bump memory to 64GB and pay $219. Keyboard cover is another $74.01. Honestly, wow.
With tablets becoming more common in the workplace, the problem with normal models is they're not robust enough to cope with the demands of utility workers and field service operatives.
I’ve been asked by a couple of people in the past week how to download the Windows 8.1 ISO file from Microsoft. Downloading the ISO file necessary to install the OS at a later date, or on another system, is very straightforward, although it’s far from obvious. I covered this six months ago, but things have changed and less trickery is involved now.
At the moment the provided ISO file doesn’t contain the recently released Update, so you’ll need to update Windows straight after installation has finished to guarantee you have the latest version.
Microsoft was in the headlines this week not for launching new products but for, finally, bringing an end to support for Windows XP. Yes, the now ancient and decrepit -- although still much loved and used -- operating system is no more. It will be interesting to see how long it manages to survive now it has been officially dropped -- some are suggesting that a move to Linux might be in order, or even a switch to Chromebook. But, of course, it hasn’t all been about XP. After the announcements at Build, Joe Belfiore revealed on Twitter that developers will be able to get their hands on Windows Phone 8.1 in the "first part of April".
There is also renewed interest in Windows 8.1 following the release of Update, and Microsoft published a guide to making the most of the new features and options. Will the operating system be viewed as fondly as XP in years to come? Only time will tell. Working in conjunction with Google, Microsoft also gave a new and improved YouTube experience to Xbox One owners.
It's difficult to deny Microsoft at least some of the limelight this week as the Build developer conference generated some interesting news. Bringing Windows version numbers in line with each other, Windows Phone 8.1 was finally revealed, complete with a notification center and Siri-like Cortana. The highly anticipated Windows 8.1 Update (which you may have heard something about) was official unveiled and given a launch date of April 8. Wayne, for one, liked what he saw.
Microsoft came over all open source, making the Roslyn compiler as well as WinJS freely available. Brian was pleased with the tech giant's latest moves, proclaiming Microsoft is now back. Build also gave us a sneaky glimpse of an upcoming, but as yet unnamed, version of Windows that features the return of the Start menu -- all of this chopping and changing is getting confusing. Maybe next on the list of things to do with Windows will be getting rid of those apps and features that should have been killed some time ago.
The office suite battle is really starting to heat up. Last week, Microsoft released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for the iPad, signaling a sea change in the company's focus. However, Google is still pushing forward with its attempt to sway users with its web apps. While both are good, no one can deny that Microsoft's offers more features.
With that said, more features does not always equate to better. In other words, if Google's offering meets a user's or business' needs, then it may be more cost effective. Quite frankly, too many features can be seen as noise when unused. One such company, the Glyndebourne opera house, switched from Microsoft to Google with great results.
Build 2014 has seen lots of revelations already -- a free version of Windows is on the cards, universal apps for different devices will make the lives of developers rather easier, and a raft of new Windows Phones are just around the corner -- but there is one that is particularly intriguing.
During the keynote speech today Microsoft also revealed something else. That it is changing its bloody mind yet again. The Start menu is going to make a return. Yep. The Start menu that was shunned is coming back.