Windows 8 is not the direct cause for poor PC sales, and to suggest this is simply sensationalism. True, the operating system received cool reception from some people, but most don't realize that Microsoft had little choice to do what it did. The company distributed the first Preview during the BUILD developer conference in autumn 2011, and I immediately recognized what was going on. Windows 8 is all about touch and mobile. Mobile touch devices are replacing computers among many consumers. Microsoft likely saw this and had to do something. That something is Windows 8. I discuss this consumerization of the PC market in my late-March BetaNews story.
What some people fail to appreciate is that a PC is more than a consumer device. Windows is more than a mobile operating system. It is very complex, designed for heavy-duty work. Microsoft had one of two choices: Create a totally new operating system for mobile and leave Windows as is; merge a mobile operating system into Windows so it is a hybrid. That the company chose the latter is ingenious, but risky. Likely we won't know until years from now whether or not Microsoft wisely, but it is a noble undertaking nonetheless.
A fortnight ago I asked a simple question -- Is it time for Microsoft to make big changes to Windows 8? BetaNews readers weighed in on the topic and as I'd hoped it made for some fascinating and insightful reading.
Although plenty of people support Windows 8 and the Modern UI, a lot of readers feel that yes, Microsoft should seriously consider making changes to its divisive OS and accept that the "one size fits all" model isn’t working.
I am simply stunned by the ridiculous number of "Microsoft will be dead in four years" stories, following Gartner's grim PC forecast three days ago. I offered brief analysis then and promised something later, and this is it. Yesterday, colleague Alan Buckingham posted first: "Microsoft is nowhere near death's door" -- and he absolutely is right.
Throw a rock, and you can't miss a doom-and-gloom armchair analysis. Among the many are "Gartner: Microsoft is dead, Windows has expired, Office has ceased to be" (Computerworld); "How long can Microsoft go on like this?" (InfoWorld); "Apple's ultimate victory over Microsoft" (Motley Fool); and "Gartner may be too scared to say it, but the PC is dead" (ReadWrite). For the most part, all these armchair pundits are mistaken. Hugely.
"So?" You say. Yesterday, when writing about the Windows Blue leak, I emphasized the importance of Microsoft picking up the pace, by releasing new features faster. Brandon LeBlanc says the updates will come today, but I surely don't see them yet -- so can't authoritatively write about refinements.
Get used to it, these three updates tip changes ahead, like others, such as SkyDrive and Skype. It's a new Microsoft, and the push to the cloud and subscription computing are major reasons, along with competitive need and BYOD. The company's longstanding priority providing backward-compatibility drags development. Some innovations are held back, while enterprise customers using the same software for years keeps new features out of market even if Microsoft releases them. Microsoft lumbers along, in part because core customers do. No longer.
So a very early build of the next version of Windows has leaked online. Codenamed Windows Blue it includes features such as additional Snap Views and changes to the Charms. There’s nothing to get too excited about here, not yet at least.
But I’ve been wondering lately, if it isn’t time for Microsoft to change course and steer away a little from the direction it set with Windows 8. There’s no sign of that happening in the Windows Blue leak, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see more fundamental changes added to the new version as development progresses.
What's that ditty about the kid so nasty that when ransomed the kidnappers end up paying the parents to take him back? That kind of describes Microsoft's platform problem -- paying developers $100 per app submitted and accepted for either the Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 store. Surely Apple and Google don't need to take such a rash approach.
You think I'm going to rake Microsoft, right? Not in the least. This is exactly what the company should do -- jumpstart the ecosystem. With smartphones and tablets choking the life out of PC sales, Android and iOS huge stores of applications, Windows Phone's tiny global market share and Windows 8 marking a major desktop architectural transition, Microsoft must do something. This short-term program is sensible and appropriately timed.
The lack of official apps for Windows 8 led to me describing the Windows Store as being like a Bangkok night market -- full of cheap knock offs. Well today Microsoft’s new OS got at least one big official app, with Twitter arriving for Windows 8 and RT.
It’s similar in design to Twitter’s web interface, and easy to use with Home, Connect, Discover, and Me tabs down the left hand side. Photos appear nice and large, and you can swipe to view multiple pictures. As you’d expect the app has a live tile, so you can see who’s replied to you, as well as view notifications for replies and direct messages.
Although it's Tuesday, it's not "Patch Tuesday", which means we shouldn't expect any updates from Microsoft, but the software giant is rolling out patches none-the-less. The updates are across a broad spectrum of platforms too -- Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server, and even Windows RT are included in this update.
Curiously, many of the Windows updates are listed as "non-security". The company generally only pushes out-of-cycle updates when there is a major security flaw that cannot wait for the next month. In the case of today's patches, many are listed as a fix for "issues in Windows".
You can run legacy apps on jailbroken Windows RT and will be able to use a third-party app store (soon)
Starting out as a rookie among veterans, in a matter of months Windows RT has transformed into an exciting and intriguing alternative to established tablet operating systems. The trigger for the frankly unexpected makeover is the jailbreak which allows enthusiasts to run unsigned apps on their Windows RT-based devices -- there's even an automated tool which makes modding a breeze. If you think that is not good enough and you still need or want your old apps, a developer has released a tool that allows legacy programs to run on Windows RT.
The tool, however, does not support every Windows-compatible legacy app known to mankind. It comes with some limitations as resource-hogging, complex, .NET-based, modern, 16-bit and 64-bit apps, among others, cannot run. The reasoning, judging by the developer's input on the matter, is to deliver a solid user experience across the board without major compromises when running legacy programs.
A couple of days ago I described the Windows Store as being like a Bangkok night market, filled with nothing but knockoffs. You can’t get an official app for Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail on there, but you can get lots of third-party alternatives, many of which are of dubious quality.
One of the biggest names missing from the Windows Store is YouTube. Google says it has no plans to create an app for Windows 8, but fortunately an enterprising publisher called T.O.K. has got you covered with his exciting sounding “Youtube Player Deluxe”, which really must be deluxe given its $999.99 asking price.
When Windows 8 launched on October 26 2012, the Windows Store had an estimated 9,000 apps available to purchase or download. Today, according to the excellent MetroStore Scanner, that figure has risen to 43,083 worldwide, of which 28,904 are available in the US store, and 26,385 in the UK one.
The biggest problem with the Windows Store is not the overall number of apps -- in four months it’s seen reasonable growth although the number of new weekly additions has slowed -- the issue is more with quality. While there’s no shortage of third-party apps, many of which are very good, you can’t help but notice how many big names are absent.
After Microsoft cancelled the Surface Pro launch event in New York City due to bad weather, the software giant announced that starting Valentine's Day it would be expanding the Surface RT availability in 13 more European countries. And, as promised, the Windows RT-powered tablet has made its way onto the old continent, likely disrupting a few romantic plans in the process.
Surface RT fans in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland can now purchase the tablet from various local retailers or directly from Microsoft Store, depending on the market. Pricing is consistent among countries where Euro is used, ranging between EUR479 and EUR487 for the entry-level Surface RT in 32GB trim (without the Touch Cover keyboard).
If, like my colleague Joe Wilcox, you’ve already been lucky enough to get your hands on Microsoft’s new Surface PC, or you’re thinking of buying it in either the Windows 8 Pro or RT editions (and a stunning 45 percent of you say you'll be purchasing the former), you’ll want to download the new getting started guide immediately.
The official PDF manual from Microsoft Press is 68 pages long (1.35MB) and starts by introducing the device and explaining the differences between Surface RT and Pro, and also lists the accessories available to buy, before guiding readers through the setup process.
Windows Update is supposed to keep Surface RT shipshape, particularly Security Tuesday updates. But the January 8 bundle causes problems for some Surface users, and Microsoft acknowledges there is an issue.
In an offical statement given to BetaNews: "Some Windows RT customers who attempted to apply monthly security bulletins had issues installing updates. Specifically, impacted Windows RT devices went into connected standby mode during the installation of updates from Windows Update, causing Windows Update to be disrupted. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and are working to correct the issue".
When Microsoft launched its portable music player Zune in 2006 few thought it would be a serious contender to Apple’s iPod. The fact that it was a US-only release spoke volumes. It was a product the firm simply didn’t have enough confidence in for a global launch.
And now we’re faced with a similar launch strategy for Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro. Yesterday the Redmond, Wash.-based corporation announced the delayed slate will be "available for purchase on Feb. 9, 2013, in the United States and Canada at all Microsoft retail stores, microsoftstore.com, Staples and Best Buy in the US, as well as from a number of locations in Canada". And the rest of the world? There’s no word.