Microsoft Fixes Windows 8 Freezing Bug


In a tweet to Rafael Rivera, a Microsoft employee has acknowledged that Microsoft is well-aware of the Windows 8 freezing bug that many have encountered, informing users to “stay tuned”. We also asked around, and, according to sources familiar with the matter, the bug has already been fixed in internal builds of Windows 8. As expected.

I’ve encountered this issue in each build drop of Windows 8 — Developer Preview, Consumer Preview, and Release Preview — and it always gets in the way of me doing anything productive on the OS: The entire machine gradually locks up to a point where you cannot even fire up the task manager to do something; your only way out is to reboot the machine entirely (though I’ve found that for some reason, Skype works just fine as this happens, and I can continue to talk in a call).

At first, I assumed that sour Boot Camp drivers were to blame as I installed Windows 8 on my iMac, but I quickly found out that this issue wasn’t limited to Macs. Quite a few people (on PCs) that I knew also mentioned that they had frequently encountered the issue, and a thread was created on Neowin where a fair amount of people also claimed to be affected. Even Paul Thurrott has encountered this issue, mentioning it as one of two serious issues he has been experiencing that make the Release Preview almost unusable.

That being said, we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this bug will not find its way into the RTM build.

At $599, Surface Would Be The Best Value For Money Tablet To Own

While Microsoft has not officially announced the price of the Surface, rumors doing rounds suggest the Windows 8 ARM Surface will start at $599. And that is a great price, it beats the iPad by a huge margin. The iPad starts at $499 for 16GB, while the 32GB model is $599. The iPad does not come preloaded with Microsoft Office and neither does it bundle the cover and a keyboard.

The first thing to understand with the Surface is that the keyboard is NOT a separate device. The engineering geniuses at Microsoft have made the keyboard so thin (3mm) that it is the cover for the Surface. If you want the keyboard, you open the cover and use it as a keyboard, like here:

(Image courtesy Tech Radar)

And if you don’t want the keyboard, you open the cover and it snaps at the back of the Surface, like here:

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s compare the iPad and Surface pricing:

On the specs page for Surface, Microsoft lists the covers as part of the device which would indicate the price when announced will include the covers. I think the rumored price of $599 also comes from the fact that the 32GB iPad starts at $599.

Disclaimer: The $599 price for Surface are rumors and haven’t been confirmed yet.

Reminder: Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit Is Today, Don’t Forget To Catch The Livestream

It’s shaping up to be a rather crazy Microsoft week. It’s hardly been two days since Microsoft dropped the bombshell that it’s making its own tablet, and, in roughly an hour — at 9AM PDT, 12PM EDT — Microsoft will be providing a sneak peek of Apollo at the Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco. If their objective was to take everyone’s mind off of some Google event that’s taking place soon, it appears that they’ve succeeded.

WPCentral has put together a pretty nice list of what to expect at the Summit today; notable things include the long-rumored switch to the Windows 8 (NT) kernel, multiple screen resolutions, better Skype/VOIP integration (perhaps they will also fix the issue of not being able to use the rest of your device while in a Skype call), and an answer to the big question of whether legacy devices will be able to upgrade. They’re saying not to expect any big changes UI-wise; we also have it on good authority that this is the case.

Of course, there are a few other tidbits of rumored Apollo functionality that weren’t mentioned on that list (NFC support, multi-core processor support, enterprise tidbits such as BitLocker and Secure Boot, etc.), but it’s worth noting that Microsoft will probably not reveal everything at this event; it is just a sneak peek after all.

So yes, for emphasis, this is taking place at 9AM PDT, 12PM EDT, and you can watch a live stream of the event on Channel 9 once it begins.

Steve Ballmer Composes Optimistic, Enthusiastic Internal Memo

Following Microsoft’s big announcement on Monday that it’s entering the hardware business, Steve Ballmer sent out an internal memo that excites employees about recent achievements: Shipping the Windows 8 Release Preview, announcing SmartGlass, the Bing redesign with additional social features, and of course, announcing the Surface tablets. He also looked to the future and hinted that some “great news” can be expected within the next few weeks from the Windows Phone (he is of course referring to the unveiling of Windows Phone 8 which will happen at today’s Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco) and Office divisions.

Quite a lot of people have wanted Ballmer to step down, citing that he is an unfit CEO who lacks the right vision to lead the company. It’s undeniable that the company has made quite a few big mistakes under his watch, but at the same time, it’s undeniable that as of late, the company has been taking some drastic steps in the right direction, also under his watch.

GeekWire managed to get their hands on the memo, which you can read below:

From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:31 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: Big Day, Big Year
I love this company.

I love that we have brilliant engineers with brilliant ideas. I love that we aren’t afraid to make big bold bets. I love that we are persistent – after all it’s our passion and tenacity that bring our dreams to life. And right now, I love how so much of our hard work, passion and tenacity are coming together in the products we are bringing to market.

Today, we made an exciting and significant Windows announcement — we revealed Microsoft Surface — a new family of computing devices from Microsoft. Surface complements the work of our OEMs and fulfills the Windows 8 vision. You can learn more and watch the event video tomorrow on the Microsoft NewsCenter.

This great news comes on the heels of an incredible few months. Just think, we celebrated the one year anniversary of the Skype announcement. We shipped the Windows Release Preview. Dynamics delivered key updates, and continues to crank out double digit growth. We made search more social (and we did it the right way!) with a significant redesign of Bing. We announced that we’re making entertainment more amazing with Xbox on the phone, PC, tablet and TV with the coming releases of Halo 4, Internet Explorer on Xbox and SmartGlass. We shared our vision for a new era of cloud computing with Windows Server 2012 and important advancements to the Windows Azure services. And in the next few weeks we’ll see more great news and momentum from the Windows Phone Division and the Microsoft Office Division.

Our plans are well underway to unleash an incredible pipeline of new devices and services that consumers love and businesses need. Our work is getting noticed and our customers are excited.

We still have a lot of hard work to do. But today, I encourage you to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come over the past few years and how much further we’ll go in the next one.

I’m incredibly proud of the work this company is doing and incredibly optimistic for what’s ahead.


Image Courtesy: The Verge

Microsoft Has Finally Taken A Stand Against Janky OEMs

From way back — years ago, on then-popular Internet forums — I vehemently argued that Microsoft needs to either highly regulate OEMs, or manufacture its own hardware (and this wasn’t even in the context of tablets at the time; prior to Windows 8, the bigger issue was the complete lack of touch usability). Rather, OEMs made sub-par hardware, provided a terrible customer experience, loaded up their machines with bloatware, and at times failed to produce adequate drivers for their hardware, causing instability issues for the end-user. And, partially wrongfully — they still could have taken more action to prevent it — many users blamed Microsoft for these shortcomings.

Fast forward to now, Microsoft has realized that the tablet space will be a very crucial part of their business in the years ahead. They have built Windows 8 primarily with touch in mind, taking a relatively big risk with some of the major changes they have made to the OS. They have also realized that, during such a critical time for them as they adapt to the changing ecosystem, they cannot completely entrust their fate in OEMs. Finally, they have taken matters into their own hands.

Now, while I do have some criticisms towards both the event itself and the actual Surface devices that were announced, it’s important to realize that this is a colossal step in the right direction for Microsoft in many ways.

The event took place at a highly suitable venue: Milk Studios, a noteworthy photo studio that could have had the keynote easily mistaken for a fashion runway event. The lighting was excellent, and the slides were elegant and simple while still looking like Microsoft. But not the clumsy Microsoft that we have come to know; rather, the slides help to depict the new era that the company is kicking off.

Thankfully, Microsoft did not deploy any of their notoriously embarrassing tomfoolery, such as that Tweet Choir from CES, or that inappropriate joke about genitals and the innuendo of the company name.

Something else worth noting is the secrecy that surrounded this event. Shortly after the cryptic invitations to the keynote were sent out to the press, AllThingsD and some other noteworthy sites began to report that Microsoft were building their own tablet. However, there were no solid leaks or specifics revealed about the actual device.

Now, that being said, there were also a few negative things about the event. For one, they didn’t reveal some very critical details about the devices; we’re still in the dark on availability, pricing and battery life, all of which are critical things that people consider when purchasing a tablet.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that not only is there no official word from the company on when these tablets will be available, but we also cannot preorder them. That brings us to the timing of the event: If Microsoft for whatever reason felt unable to announce these details or even make the tablet available for preorder for that matter, why couldn’t they have waited until they were able to? I fail to see how this was time sensitive in that regard. If the timing was so that they could overshadow Google’s I/O event, it wasn’t worth it in my opinion; they should have just waited.

Moving on to the devices themselves. There will be two Surface tablets: The first is an ARM-based Windows RT tablet that’s aptly named Surface RT. As it is targeted towards the iPad, Android tablets, and other Windows 8 ARM devices, it will likely be competitively priced and endowed with considerable battery life. The second tablet — Surface Pro — is Intel-based and will run a full-fledged copy of Windows 8 Pro. This is more of an ultrabook competitor, so it will be obviously more expensive with less battery life than its ARM counterpart.

As you can see, they just couldn’t resist doing two highly Microsoft-y things here: Confusing customers with SKUs, and terrible branding. Now people will have to educate themselves about the differences between the Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. They may even assume that due to the higher price tag and use of the word “Pro” with the Surface Pro tablet, the Surface RT is inadequate for their needs when really they just want a tablet for content consumption purposes. It’s even more confusing because the legacy desktop is still present in Windows RT and may lead consumers to believe that they can run all desktop apps on their ARM device, but that’s for another post.

And what’s with the recycling of the Surface brand? When you think of a surface, you think of a generally larger area such as a table or countertop. But a tablet? Did Microsoft want to capitalize on what consumers may have already known about the Surface branding?

WAIT. I’m going to stop quibbling about SKUs and branding. Microsoft has finally stood up to the OEMs that have continually besmirched their software products, and, in the process, (hopefully) set the bar for actually good hardware. Considering that they’ve done something this radical, it’s only a matter of time before they begin to simplify their product names as well.

Now, unlike Apple’s hilarious dick move of not informing carriers about iMessage until it was announced, Steve Ballmer did mention while speaking with The Verge that OEMs were informed about the company’s decision to make their own hardware. He also noted that they might “opine”; sounds like some may not be happy. Here’s hoping that rather than whine about it, they proceed to actually make good hardware.

And, to be clear, there’s nothing unfair or uncompetitive going on here. Microsoft isn’t doing anything dodgy, and have clarified that they will be playing by the same rules as the OEMs in their press release: “OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.”

It will be awesome if the Surface is really as sturdy and well-built as they described, as these are two very important qualities that the iPad excels at. A high-scoring bit on the build quality test will certainly be testing the kickstand to verify that it is similar to the door on a luxury automobile. I think that the Touch Covers were also a great idea. Whether or not you agree with Microsoft that tablets should be accompanied by external keyboards, you have to admit that their execution on this vision is really well-done.

From an aesthetic point of view, the darker shade of grey that the tablet is in can look slightly boring in some photos, but that’s okay. I’m sure it’s nicer in person. It still looks much better than any of the Windows RT tablets that OEMs have shown off thus far (and probably will show off in the foreseeable future). It also looks pretty unique; you can easily tell it apart from an iPad, or from Samsung tablets that look like the iPad. Strangely enough, it didn’t need to be designed by lawyers to achieve this.

I’ll reserve further commentary on the hardware for when I actually get some hands-on time with it, but I’ll conclude the post with this:

Holy shit, Microsoft is actually making their own tablet.

Image Courtesy: Surface, The Verge

Video: Microsoft Surface Tablet Event

Earlier today, during the immensely hyped Microsoft event that had the blogosphere speculating since Thursday, the company revealed something big: They’re making their own tablets, dubbed the Surface. And now, the full video of this pivotal keynote has been released on the Microsoft News Center website (and YouTube, thanks to The Verge.)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky both took the stage to debut the device, along with Michael Angiulo, the Corporate VP of Windows Planning, Hardware, and PC Ecosystem, and Panos Panay, who lead the team that created the device. One quote that truly captures how major this is coming from Microsoft is this, from Ballmer:

“It was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn’t envisioned.”

While Microsoft has certainly made its own hardware before — the Xbox and Zune — it has never done so in a manner that encroached in the space of its valued PC OEM partners, who manufacture the very devices that run Windows.

Head on over to YouTube to watch the roughly 48 minute long keynote.

Microsoft’s Major Mystery Monday Announcement Is A Tablet

Since Thursday everyone following Microsoft has been trying to solve a puzzle, nobody succeeded. Everyone tried guessing and that’s what it has been–just guesses. Nobody knew for sure what was coming and now we know. I summed up the craziness in a post and the roller-coaster we’ve had in the past 4 days.

Now we know.

In an announcement in LA, Microsoft has announced tablet!

This is probably the best kept secret and by far the most interesting news to come out in a few months. Steve Ballmer said

It was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn’t envisioned.

“Much like Windows 1 needed the mouse, we wanted to give Windows 8 it’s own hardware.

We will keep updating this post as we get more details.


Microsoft calls this the Surface. Why?!

  • 10.6 inch display
  • 1.5 lbs
  • USB 2
  • 9.3mm”
  • Built-in stand
  • Cover is a multi-touch keyboard!
  • Runs Windows RT (most likely) and has another Windows 8 version
  • Supports stylus


What I Wish Today’s Microsoft Announcement Will Be

Windows Logo

On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.

Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).

So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:

  • Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
  • Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
  • Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
  • Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
  • Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.

Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.

What do you think? Too much to hope for?

Linus Torvalds: Microsoft Is Full Of Shit & Lying About Convergence

Over the weekend, Linus Torvalds’s talk at his alma mater—Aalto University in Finland went viral for his sharp and blunt criticism of nVidia for their Linux support. While I wanted to watch the talk, I kept putting it off until the boredom of the slow weekend got to me and I had nothing else to do. So I decided to listening and realized after 10 minutes into the talk that it was boring. I fast forwarded by 20 minutes and it got entertaining.

Around 40 minutes in, someone mentioned to Linus that both Linux and GitHub were accidental, so what’s the next “accidental” project Linus has in mind. Linus started answering the questioning by talking about mobile and desktop kernel convergence, mentioned Apple’s 2-OS approach, said Microsoft has the same approach and BAM! Linus said Microsoft was lying and they’re full of shit. After a boring day I finally laughed out.

According to Linus, Microsoft is not converging the mobile and desktop OS with Windows 8 which technically might be true as of now but is strategically incorrect. Time and again there have been reports of Microsoft working on unifying the underlying tech in Windows and Windows Phone, and Apollo is expected to be the first step towards that goal. You can watch Linus calling out technology giants (and showing nVidia the finger) below: