Windows 7 Has Sold 630 Million Licenses, Wants Nobody to Be Left off from Windows 8

At the opening keynote at their Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on July 9, Microsoft officials said that they have now sold 630 million Windows 7 licenses so far. This comes on the heels of the announcement they made a month ago at Computex 2012, about reaching 600 million licenses sold.

The sheer number of licenses sold is huge, but putting some context makes it even bigger. For instance, the other announcement Microsoft made was that Windows 7 is now on over 50% of enterprise PCs. That means there are about 50% of enterprise PCs (barring a very small slice of Macs) which still have to upgrade. In addition, the appeal of simpler, highly-connected and mobile devices like the iPad and smartphones has slowed the sales of PCs, especially the low-end PCs. Finally, at least among consumers, you would think there is a feeling that it would be better to wait for new hardware that may come this Fall with Windows 8.

However, none of these factors seem to be affecting Windows 7 in any meaningful way. Add the following tidbits we know from the past few days:

  • Any PC bought from June 2 to the end of January 2013 will qualify for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, for only $14.99.
  • Virtually any licensed Windows OS can be “upgraded” to Windows 8 Pro for only $40.
  • Any PC that runs Windows 7 well, will run Windows 8 equally well or most likely, better.
  • In a surprise move, Microsoft announced they are going to make their own tablets, both for Windows RT as well as for Windows 8 Pro.

In other words, Microsoft does not want to lose the Windows 7 momentum, but at the same time, it is also making it clear that while most consumers will get Windows 8 via a new PC purchased, they want existing users to upgrade too. They are making the “higher end” Windows 8 product, Windows 8 Pro, available for an inexpensive price and that is virtually regardless of what you are running today. Finally, they want to make sure customers get the best hardware for Windows 8, and implicitly telling OEMs that they need to step up their game and match the build quality and design or be left out by market economics.

Microsoft officials, especially CEO Steve Ballmer, have repeatedly said that Windows 8 is a big (and risky) deal for Microsoft. They are in the process of moving about 1.3 billion customers into a modern era of highly mobile, highly connected world of simpler devices.

Can’t say they are not trying in helping everyone with this move.

Windows 8 Release Preview App Overview: Cocktail Flow

On May 31, Microsoft made available the next milestone in their development of Windows 8 — the Windows 8 Release Preview. I have it installed and running on two laptops and while my colleague Abhishek Baxi has covered some topics about the operating system itself, I look at one of the most beautiful apps in the Windows Store at the moment, Cocktail Flow.

Windows Phone users will recognize the name, since it was one of the first apps available on the platform and it is one which truly utilizes the Metro design philosophies. Since the launch of this app on Windows Phone, the creators of this app, Team Distinction have released versions for iPhone, Android and Android tablets.

In case you are not familiar with the app, it is designed to help you make cocktails. It provides the capability to search by base or mixer drink, by type (cocktail, shooter, etc.) and also by a combination of what you have “in your cabinet”. While the concept of a bartender-style app is not new, the way it has been designed makes the app simply beautiful to look at and a pleasure to use. What follows is a screenshot tour of the various features of their latest version, that for Windows 8.

Once you open the app, you are brought to a beautiful panorama of selections you can make to look for information about cocktails. You can see drinks by kind of drinks, by color, by type of drinks, etc.

 

Cocktail Flow Main Screen

Main screen

 

Cocktail Flow Main Screen More Selections

Main screen with more selections

 

Once you click through one of those selections, you are brought to a list of drinks. You can swipe across to see more drinks.

 

Cocktail Flow Whiskey-based Drinks

Whiskey-based drinks

Cocktail Flow Vodka-based Drinks

Vodka-based drinks

Cocktail Flow Green-colored Drinks

Green-colored drinks

Cocktail Flow Shooters

Shooters

If you want to see what kind of cocktails you can make with what you have, you can use the “cabinet” view which lets you mark the spirits, mixers, and liqueurs you have and it adds drinks which you can make from those selections, in the “My Bar” section.

Cocktail Flow My Bar Spirits

My Bar: Choose your spirits

Cocktail Flow My Bar Mixers

My Bar: Choose your mixers

Cocktail Flow My Bar More Mixers

My Bar: More mixers

Cocktail Flow My Bar Liqueurs

My Bar: Liqueurs

Cocktail Flow My Bar Cocktails

My Bar: Cocktails which you can make

 

See the next page for cocktail details screen, adding as a favorite, pinning to Start Screen, etc.

Windows 8: Embrace Or Reject?

Windows Logo

Microsoft made the “Consumer Preview” (beta) of the next version of their Windows operating system, Windows 8, available on February 29, 2012 in Barcelona. Since then, they also tweeted that they had over one million downloads within the first 24 hours. Needless to say, the interest in the new operating system is very high. It is so high that the casual users are screaming “I love it” and some of the power users are screaming “This is a piece of confusing mess”. Here is my take, trying to take a step back and wondering aloud, if there is a method to the madness.

One of the biggest changes in Windows 8 is the removal of the Start Menu and the replacement of the same with the Start Screen. Not only is the medium different – the Start Menu is exactly that, a menu, whereas the Start Screen is a screenful of brightly colored tiles with animations showing photos, notifications, etc. – but also, Microsoft has made it difficult/impossible to revert to “classic” style. Microsoft has made it clear, there is no going back, and this is the way to the future. This is the cutoff from the past and Microsoft’s entry into the PC-Plus era. “Touch first”, “fast and fluid” and of course, “no compromise”. The latter has been the topic of a lot of controversy, as you will see later in this article.

Windows Live Now Connects to Google Contacts: Google Talk Coming to Windows Phone and Windows 8?

Google

Liveside has reported today that it is now possible to connect Windows Live to Google, and at this point it allows access to Google Contacts from within Windows Live.

I tried this myself, and I can confirm that I am able to link my Google account to my Windows Live account. It allows a two-way sync between Google Contacts and Hotmail Contacts. Hotmail Contacts provides the ability to see a contact’s information across all the services they are connected to, so now when you search for a contact you will see their information flowing in from all major “address book” databases – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and of course your local Hotmail contacts.

Google connected to Windows Live

The Windows Live team recently moved away from trying to integrate with various services (like they did with Yahoo! Messenger) and instead, chose to just “link” to them using open standards. As a result, they are able to easily and quickly increase not just the breadth of the offerings but also the functionality they provide through the various services. So while the current link to Google only allows access to Google Contacts as of now, we could potentially see the addition of presence and feeds like they can do with Facebook Chat and Facebook updates (and similarly, across the many other services).

Could this be in preparation for native support of Google Chat/Google Talk in Windows Phone’s People Hub? Given that Windows 8 is going to have a similar “People” tile which will be linked to your Windows Live ID, could this be in preparation for Windows 8? What about the previous rumor that Google+ would be a native service in Windows Phone like Facebook is today? This linkage would be required in order to support any such functionality.

Regardless of what’s in store, all of which is pretty exciting, at this point it seems Microsoft is serious about making sure no matter what your choice of service is, Windows Live, Windows Phone and Windows 8 support it. You have one less reason to stay away from the Windows ecosystem now.

A Truckload of Wholesome Updates Confirmed Coming to SkyDrive

SkyDrive

After several leaks of upcoming SkyDrive features made the rounds on the internet in the past few days, Microsoft confirmed a bunch of fantastic updates to SkyDrive on their Building Windows 8 blog today.

Let’s look at what was announced in the post by Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, Group Program Managers for SkyDrive:

  • Metro-style SkyDrive app for Windows 8
  • Windows Explorer integration of SkyDrive
  • SkyDrive.com browsing of remote computer files

 

SkyDrive Metro-style App

Browse folders on SkyDrive

In addition, several other items were confirmed:

  • The SkyDrive desktop app is not limited to Windows 8. It will be supported on Windows 7 and Windows Vista as well. Curiously (and perhaps, deliberately?) no mention of a Mac desktop app, even though the screenshot leaks showed there may be a Mac app coming as well.
  • The post also confirmed that SkyDrive, which offers 25GB free as of today, will have the ability to get upgraded. Obviously, no details were mentioned about the pricing or the tiers, but finally we have official confirmation that we will be able to upgrade that storage, so we can use it meaningfully as a “personal cloud”.
  • SkyDrive was recently updated to handle file sizes of up to 100MB, but in today’s day and age it could be a limiting factor, especially with videos. Today we have confirmation that we will be able to upload files with sizes up to 2GB!
  • With the remote file browsing feature, we also have confirmation that there will be 2-factor authentication required, unless those PCs are trusted PCs.

Finally, because SkyDrive app will be available to any other app in Windows 8 via Charms and Contracts, every app developer now has access to the SkyDrive. Any app which opens and saves documents and photos, will automatically be able to use SkyDrive for the purpose. This will be a wonderful feature for app developers as well as customers, who will have instant access to their SkyDrive files in Windows 8.

Windows 8 Tablet Success: It’s the Ecosystem, Stupid!

Windows Logo

A lot of the details around Windows on ARM (WOA) architecture were revealed via a recent blog post by Steven Sinofsky, the President of Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft. Once WOA details were out, the discussion then turned to whether WOA tablets would truly compete with the iPad or not. Would the presence of the Desktop environment, albeit in a restricted fashion, make it clunky? Is it truly no-compromise, considering that today’s software will not work on those tablets? The arguments go on.

What should be recognized though, is that unlike Apple, Microsoft does not really build the WOA tablets, so it relies on its partners to build them. It can be debated whether Microsoft *should* build a tablet themselves or not, but it is clear that they alone do not control their destiny.

So, what will ultimately determine the success (or failure) of WOA tablets? The ecosystem, of course! Microsoft has done its part in building a touch-friendly OS, bringing a touch-first mentality to building apps, creating a development environment which will let apps work on “all Windows devices”, and built a marketplace which will help developers reap the benefits of being in front of hundreds of millions of customers all over the world.

I discuss three aspects of this ecosystem reliance which will determine how well WOA (and more generally, Windows) tablets do.

Windows 8 on Kal El tablet

OEM designs

The iPad has been a phenomenal success for a variety of reasons. One of them is the design and the build itself. When you pick up the iPad you can feel that a lot of thought was put into the shape and the dimensions of the tablet. Many Android tablets come off feeling cheap, but the iPad feels exactly the opposite.

What the Windows OEM partners will have to do is go beyond just the iPad. They will need to think hard about the design and come up with something that does not look like a cheap knock off of the iPad, and no, that does not mean just adding a microSD card reader and USB ports. Having those connectivity options is a nice advantage, but the tablet itself should feel good to look at and hold in the hands. These tablets will have to manage sturdiness and long battery life with lightness.

Finally, just because they can, OEMs should refrain from making tablets in all kinds of sizes (yes, I am looking at you, Samsung). There is an advantage in offering a choice of sizes, but there is also a practical limit to what should be done in reality. Don’t confuse the customers with too much choice!

Windows 8: A Fantastic Opportunity for Developers

Windows 8 Start Screen

There has been a lot of discussion about Windows 8, Metro-style apps, Intel vs ARM, etc., from the time Windows 8 Developer Preview was released at //build/ last year. A lot of the discussion and debates have to do with unclear communication and secrecy from the Windows team at Microsoft. For example, what exactly is the deal with Windows on ARM devices? Are they going to be a hard cutoff from today’s Windows and not have a desktop experience at all, or will they have a desktop experience? Will the desktop experience be open for all developers or only certain developers (like Microsoft Office) to provide signed apps for ARM which use a restricted desktop?

(Ed: On February 9, Steven Sinofsky posted details about Windows on ARM on the Building Windows 8 Blog, so some of the secrecy has been taken away. However, the points made here are in fact reinforced by the details revealed in the post.)

Those discussions and speculations aside, I truly believe Windows 8 is a huge opportunity for developers. In this post, I will tell you why I believe so. First of all, some math: According to Canalys, there were 415MM PCs sold in 2011. This is after accounting for a decline in sales per original projections! Even though smartphones have exceeded the number of PCs sold, that PC sales number is still a very large number.

Now, let’s assume that those 415MM PCs are split 60-40 with regard to sales to businesses vs. consumers. Taking a round number of 400MM PCs a year gives us about 160MM PCs sold to consumers a year. I am ignoring business PCs for now because let’s face it – they are not going to Windows 8 for some time, and even if they do, there is a strong likelihood of them turning off Metro via IT policies. Consumers on the other hand, won’t have the ability to turn it off, and all new PCs will ship with Windows 8 (Intel or ARM).