Windows 8 Rumored To Debut By October

While we have already known that Windows 8 will be completed and subsequently released later this year, we didn’t know exactly (at least in terms of months) how late — or early — it would happen. A report from Bloomberg suggests that Windows 8 will be finalized sometime this summer, and will reach the GA (general availability) stage in October.

On top of this, Bloomberg is also hearing that over 40 Intel devices will hit the shelves (though they aren’t being clear about whether these are specifically Intel tablets), along with less than 5 WOA tablets. This small amount of ARM devices reportedly has to do with strict quality-control on Microsoft’s part, which is definitely good to hear. Microsoft cannot afford their big debut in the tablet space to be botched by OEMs trying to make a quick buck off of crapware and outdated drivers.

This timeframe is realistic; if Microsoft are gunning for a holiday season release in late 2012, Windows 8 has to be finalized at around this time in order to get its foot in the door of store shelves. And, as Sinofsky is not one to forego prudent shipping, it is unlikely that they would miss such a target.

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg concurs:

“If they miss the September-October time frame, they’re going to be stuck without being able to ship anything in 2012. The last thing Microsoft wants to have is a situation where there are no compelling Windows tablets at a time when the new iPad looks like it’s going to be a good seller for the holidays.”

HP Throws a Hail Mary, Combines Two Dying Business to Revive Both

HP, the personal computing giant of yesteryear, which has seen sales of its PCs decline over the last couple of years, is planning to restructure its business in order to make it more cost efficient and reduce costs, according to a report by AllThingsD.

It will be moving its Imaging and Printing Group (Printers) under its Personal Systems Group (Personal Computers), with the new larger division reporting to a single head.

HP’s printer business was one of its most profitable ones, but had seen sales decline over the last couple of quarters. Its PC business has also not been doing very well, as worldwide desktops sales have slowed down and are expected to decline going forward. Both businesses combined added up to more than 50% of HP’s total revenues in 2011.

HP was planning to spin off the PC division or sell it to someone like IBM under its previous CEO Apotheker’s management, but the new CEO, Meg Whitman scrapped that plan.

HP’s printer business has much higher operating margins than its PC business, but given the product synergies and the overlapping target customer base, it may actually be a good call on its part to combine the two to cut costs, improve margins and maybe improve sales.

The future of HP’s PC business depends on how well it capitalizes on the ultrabook and tablet trend, following the launch of Windows 8 in late 2012.

Is Microsoft Testing Windows Phone Apps On Windows 8?

With the major Windows Phone 8 ‘Apollo’ update on the horizon, speculation has been abound that its most major software-side change is with a kernel switch from CE to NT. With that in mind, WMPowerUser stumbled upon something interesting: I’m a WP7, an app which lists all of the build numbers of the OSes that users install the app on, has reported that 1% of people who use the app are running it on Windows 8 build 6.2.8283.0; essentially, this shows that someone is running this Windows Phone app on a desktop Windows 8 machine.

WMPowerUser speculate that Microsoft are going to allow Windows Phone apps to run on Windows 8, essentially giving the tablet marketplace a 70,000 (likely unpleasant to use) app boost, and the information we see reported by the I’m a WP7 app is of them doing internal testing of this functionality. Something worth noting is the mention of “Jupiter” in the I’m a WP7 app, which, as we know is essentially the codename for the Metro, “Immersive”-style app ecosystem in Windows 8.

This of course backs the credible rumors we’ve seen that suggest Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will share many of the same components, allowing for easy app ports across the two platforms (and apparently the ability to seamlessly run Windows Phone apps on Windows 8 itself.)

With both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 slated to launch later this year, it will be interesting to see how consumers and developers alike react to Sinofsky’s new “one Windows” vision when it hits the shelves.

Microsoft Explains Windows App Store Licensing For Users

Microsoft’s Windows 8 will introduce an application marketplace like Apple’s App Store for OS X. The app store can be tried in the recently released Windows 8 Consumer Preview build and looks like the web and Zune marketplace for Windows Phone. In an article posted on the Windows Store blog, Antonie Leblond has explained the fine print about purchasing apps from the end-user’s perspectives. (Windows 8 tablets based on the ARM architecture will run apps installed via the marketplace only.) Leblond talks about the licensing of apps bought from the store. Here are some details:

  • According to Microsoft’s option to developers, free app trials can last for 1, 7, 15, 30 days or forever
  • A tiny ‘x’ will appear on the app’s tile indicating that the app has expired
  • The expired app cannot be installed on the same PC under another user ID either
  • Settings for apps purchased after using the trial will be preserved
  • The app store will support in-app purchases
  • In-app purchases can have limits too; once expired the user will have to explicitly purchase the in-app feature again, no auto-renew option
  • Apps once purchased can be purchased on not more than 5 PCs
  • Family PCs count as “Shared PCs” and apps can be installed on systems signed-in using your family members’ accounts
  • To install on a 6th PC you will have to de-link a PC from your Microsoft account
  • A vaguely worded line in the post says, we will have to wait for 5 days before installing an app on a 6th PC if a recently added PC was de-linked
  • App updates are free—it’s that simple

Microsoft Allots Special Status to Web Browsers in Windows 8, Google Confirms Metro Version of Chrome is Under Development

Microsoft, which has been making a lot of noise about the “no-compromise” development mantra of Windows 8, has been forced to make another compromise. Realizing that the new WinRT APIs are too restrictive for modern web browsers, Microsoft has created a special application class for web browsers.

nullWinRT or Windows Runtime is the new programming model that Metro apps will be using. WinRT applications can be developed using Visual C#, C++ etc. as well as web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. WinRT is a sandboxed API that is more secure and power efficient than the classical Win32 API. The expectation is that WinRT will go a long way towards solving Windows’ malware problem. Unfortunately, Microsoft has already been forced to make compromises for the sake of practicality.

Windows Phone, which has received widespread critical acclaim, has had a very visible influence on Windows 8. Unfortunately, not everything that works in a smartphone is conducive to a desktop OS. The restrictive nature of Windows Phone has deterred developers such as Opera from supporting the platform. No one made a big fuss about it since Microsoft has a fairly small smartphone market share. However, if Windows 8 were to do the same thing, anti-trust proceedings would be all but certain. Moreover, Microsoft itself executes Internet Explorer Metro with elevated privileges.

The solution proposed by Microsoft is far from ideal, but compromises never are. The Metro version of a browser will be dependent on the classical version. Hence, a user will have to download and install the browser through a classical installer package. This means that third party web browsers won’t be available in the Windows Store. This is a fairly significant limitation, since ARM devices will only support the new Metro interface, and sideloading of apps will be disabled. Another restriction is that only the browser that the user sets as default will be able to run in the new Metro mode.

Firefox had already confirmed that it intends to release a Metro-fied edition. Now, a Google rep has informed Mashable that Chrome for Windows 8 is also under development. “Our goal is to be able to offer our users a speedy, simple, secure Chrome experience across all platforms, which includes both the desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8,” the rep said. “To that end we’re in the process of building a Metro version of Chrome along with improving desktop Chrome in Windows 8 such as adding enhanced touch support.”

Nokia to Launch Windows 8 Tablets in Q4 2012

Apparently, the rumors are true. According to a report by Digitimes, Nokia is likely to launch a Windows 8 tablet in Q4 2012. Nokia’s Windows 8 tablet will be powered by Qualcomm’s dual core platform – possibly Krait – and will probably be one of the best Windows on ARM devices at launch.

Nokia is currently the largest Windows Phone partner, and probably the only one that has put all its eggs (at least the ones that matter) in Microsoft’s basket. We have already seen interest by major notebook and tablet manufacturers like HP and Dell in Windows 8, and Nokia was only a logical ally for Microsoft in the tablet business.

Nokia will be outsourcing production of the tablets to Compal Electronics, and will ship out 200,000 units of the tablet in the first run.

Since Android has failed to dominate the tablet space unlike the smartphone space, I expect Windows 8 to have a very good chance of capturing a significant market share in tablets, with the Apple iPad being its only major competitor. However, the rumored Nexus Tablet by Google could change things.

On a side note, Windows 8 is going to have a very tough time competing with the iPad in the tablet market. With the iPad 3, Apple seems to have another winner on its hands, and its tablet platform is currently miles ahead of anything else on the market. The next few months are going to be very interesting.

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.

Bing Maps SDK For Metro Style Apps Released

So, now that the shiny new Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been out for some time now, surely you’re eager to develop for it. If any of your preliminary, tinker-with-WinRT apps involves mapping, here’s something to take a look at: On Tuesday, Microsoft released the Bing Maps SDK for Metro-style apps, which packs a set of controls that will let you integrate mapping into your Windows 8 apps quite easily.

For those of you who wish to code your WinRT Metro app using Javascript, you may have run into some issues pertaining to “sandboxing of the web context” when embedding the current AJAX Bing control (during my recent Metro app hackathon with Rafael Rivera and David Golden, I ran into this issue with my app that pulls data down from Reddit.) Not to worry however, the new SDK offers a Javascript control that you can use in your JavaScript WinRT apps without issue. The control is heavily based on the existing AJAX v7 control, but it’s tailored for the “app context” instead of the “web context”. It would be interesting to see what the differences between these controls are.

Unfortunately, some other modules such as directions, traffic, and overlays are currently unavailable, but data can still be rendered through their REST APIs. Head on over here to learn more about developing with the new JavaScript control.

If JavaScript doesn’t tickle your fancy, a control written in C++ was also released for those of you who would prefer to use C#, C++, and Visual Basic along with some XAML. This control offers client vector rendering and full hardware acceleration. And head on over here to learn more about developing with this control.

Dell Tablets To Be Available Same Day As Windows 8

A day after Apple announcing their latest iPad creatively called the new iPad, Dell’s CEO, Michael Dell spoke to Bloomberg about their plans to compete in the tablet space.

Recently, Michael Dell told Forbes that he doesn’t see Dell as a PC company but an end-to-end IT—a significant focus shift for Dell. In his conversation with Aaron Ricadela and Emily Chang, Michael Dell said that they will be competing with the iPad in the enterprise market. Michael Dell’s key statements about the company’s plan for Windows 8 tablets are:

  • Target the enterprise customer with Windows 8 tablets
  • Tablets market a priority for Dell
  • There is demand for a tablet that supports Windows applications
  • Dell tablets to be available same day as Windows 8 launch (this can be significant)
If Dell is planning to launch tablets on launch day, I am assuming other OEM partners will too. I am looking at Samsung in particular. Dell’s focus on enterprise client might give them a market segment to concentrate and target. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

Microsoft Mentions New Business Features In Windows 8

In a Windows for your Business blog post yesterday, Microsoft began delving into some of the new improvements in Windows 8 that will benefit business and enterprise users of the new OS. Here’s a run-down of what they began touching on in the blog post:

Microsoft Reminds Us That Windows 8 Does Not Compromise

Emphasizing their “no-compromise” motto once again, Microsoft point out that the inclusion of the legacy desktop in Windows 8 is something that will allow you to use the applications you know and love today (presumably on an x86 device; on ARM, you’ll be restricted to Office and the applications bundled in Windows), along with the new tasty Metro goodness. While we can argue endlessly about this approach, the familiarity of Windows 7 can be considered a pro in the business scene.

Windows To Go

IT departments can configure Windows 8 on a bootable USB flash drive, providing users the ability to securely boot into and use the OS anywhere, on any machine. One trend — at least in the case of mobile devices — that has been increasing in the workplace is BYOD (bring your own device). With more people wanting to ditch those nasty BlackBerries for modern alternatives, this is something that more and more companies have been embracing. With Windows To Go, this can also apply to PCs as well, as users would be able to utilize their USB flash drive to boot into a secure Windows 8 corporate environment.

Trusted Boot

Trusted Boot is a new security feature in Windows 8 that essentially signs, measures, and validates the integrity of the boot process. “Antimalware” is also in-advance of non-critical Windows components, allowing it to largely assist with malware prevention.

VDI Re-Imagined

Improvements have been made in Windows 8 that will allow virtualized, thin-clients to have a far more enjoyable rich user experience. You will now be able to enjoy responsive touch capabilities, local USB device support, and improved performance.

On top of its many new (and somewhat controversial) consumer offerings, Windows 8 does also have some lucrative new features that will benefit business and enterprise users. Time will tell just how well it fares in that sector, though.