Tag Archives: Windows 8

Nokia Chairman: Tablets And Hybirds Are Being Looked Into

Whenever asked whether or not there are plans to develop a Windows RT tablet, Nokia has generally beat around the bush and strayed from issuing any definitive answers. However, Jorma Ollila, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nokia — who will be departing the company after a 27-year run this week — has told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the company does plan to launch both tablet and “hybrid” (smartphone + tablet) devices in the future.

He said this in particular referring to tablets:

“Tablets are an important one, so that is being looked into, and there will be different hybrids, different form factors [handset designs] in the future.”

Nothing was said about specific device plans, or whether or not these devices will run Microsoft software at all. But, I think that it’s pretty much a given at this point that if Nokia indeed develops a tablet, it will be an ARM-based Windows RT device. It will be quite the challenge if they do go this route to get their foot in the door of an iPad and Android-dominated market. This will be yet another market where the company is an underdog that will have to go above and beyond to succeed.

Another interesting thing here though is Ollila’s mention of “hybrids” and other form factors. Is Nokia considering entering the market defined by the Galaxy Note, which is a very bizarre market segment to say the least? Perhaps Nokia may feel that, instead of trying to overtake a market that has largely been created and dominated by the iPad, they want to be the pioneers who “do things right” in the hybrid space. Still, I am a bit biased as I’m not a fan of the Note, or that breed of device.

I am, however, extremely excited at the prospect of a Windows 8 tablet from the company.

With 500 Million Active Users, Windows Live Being Morphed For Windows 8

As of today, Windows Live is a suite of software that complement Windows Vista and Windows 7. The suite includes a mailing client, a messenger, a cloud file sync tool, a photo gallery tool and a video editing too. All the products have so far been known as Windows Live <product name>; with Windows 8 this will change. In an update on the Windows Team Blog, Chris Jones from Microsoft talks at length about the future of the Windows Live brand and products.

Long story short, the Windows Live brand will be on its way out once Windows 8 comes out. To replace the existing Windows Live utilities on the desktop, Windows 8 have Metro based replacements. Here’s a chart from the team blog explaining the transition:

(I’m not sure why have a Photos app and a Photo Gallery app in Windows 8.)

I believe, the suite will continue to exist for some time since there are a handful of Windows 7 users out there, somewhere. The other interesting part of Chris Jones’s blog post was numbers. According to Jones:

  • There are 500 Million active Windows Live users
  • Active user means they either send an email using Hotmail, or an IM via Windows Live Messenger, or upload a file to SkyDrive, at least once in a month
  • Hotmail has 350 Million active users, with 105 Petabytes of storage
  • Messenger has 300 Million active users
  • SkyDrive has 130 Million users (17 Million upload files every month. Part of these will definitely be Windows Phone users who use the service to share photos.)

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble: From ‘Complicated’ to ‘In a Relationship’

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble Inc. have joined hands to announce a strategic partnership – A B&N subsidiary, provisionally referred to as Newco. After the patent dispute between the two companies last year, this surprising new venture aims to focus on e-reading and the education market while burying the patent litigation apparently.

B&N will own 82.4 percent of the new subsidiary and Microsoft will make a $300 million investment to hold a 17.6 percent stake in the company. Newco, will bring together the digital and College businesses of Barnes & Noble. B&N’s NOOK Study software is a leading platform for distribution and management of digital education materials to students and educators, and Newco would aim to extend this reach. The alliance would also bring about a NOOK application for Windows 8 bringing Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore to hundreds of millions of Windows customers worldwide.

As the two companies move forward as allies, there are few things which aren’t answered in the press release and the commentary around it:

  • While the two companies closed on the alliance, how was the patent dispute tabled and settled? Would Barnes & Noble and/or Newco pay royalties to Microsoft on every Nook sold?
  • While Windows 8 tablets are expected to have a NOOK application now, and this might extend to the next version of Windows Phone, would there be a Nook tablet or e-reader running, maybe, Windows RT to participate in the market against Kindle and Kindle Fire?
  • While Microsoft has less than a fifth stake in the venture, would the reach of Windows platform make Nook Microsoft’s card in competition with Amazon and Apple in the e-reading market?

Windows 8 Release Preview Set For Early June

At Japan’s Windows 8 Dev Days, Windows boss Steven Sinofsky dropped the news that the next preview release of Windows 8 — dubbed the Release Preview — will touch down a little more than a month from now in the first month of June.

We currently know little about what the RP will bring to the table, but having spent a few additional months in the oven compared to the Consumer Preview, which was released in February, here’s hoping that various stability and UI bugs have been ironed out in this release. One thing we do know however is that Microsoft will be adding 33 more countries to the Windows Store, hopefully diminishing the amount of people exiled to the “Rest of World” part of the Windows Store.

This news suggests that Windows 8 development is well on-track for an RTM by October, as rumors have suggested. Which is a great thing, as Windows RT tablets will then be able to get their foot right in the door of the holiday market.

Just last week, Microsoft revealed that it had simplified the SKUs of Windows 8 to just two which regular consumers can purchase, and three if you count the WOA SKU, Windows RT. The other two SKUs are for developing markets and the enterprise space.

Windows Store Coming To New Markets

When Microsoft dropped the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it included of course a preview version of the new Windows Store as well. However, users residing anywhere but France, Germany, India, Japan, and the United States were greeted with the somewhat condescending “Rest of World” catalog. Microsoft has announced that they will be expanding the global coverage of the Windows Store come the next significant preview release of the store (in the next pre-release version of Windows).

33 additional app submission locales for developers will be added — Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom — bumping the total number of those up to 38. The number of market-specific app catalogues will also be raised from 5 to 26.

Microsoft proudly notes that this expansion is all being done within the pre-release timeframe of Windows. It’s about time that the company focus on launching a service (mostly) worldwide come the final launch of a product. It is 2012, after all.

Microsoft Simplifies Windows 8 Versions To Two Primary SKUs

Microsoft has now officially confirmed the versions of Windows 8 that will be available to consumers, OEMs and enterprise customers. In a huge attempt to simplify things, Microsoft will now be offering just two flavors of Windows 8 for end users in the US. As opposed to the several versions with Windows Vista and Windows 7, the versions available for Windows 8.

For the end customer in the US and generally across the world there are two versions of Windows 8:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Pro

There is no Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate as of now. These editions will be available for off-the-shelf buying and for OEMs to bundle. The other version available to OEMs will be Windows RT; this is the Windows on ARM specifically for tablets. Windows RT will NOT be sold at shops and end-users CANNOT upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 RT.

The difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro is essentially that of business features such as BitLocker, VHD Boot, Hyper-V, Group Policy. Windows RT won’t have the business features either, in addition to no Windows Media Player and no support for legacy x86/x64 apps. Microsoft has a very simple and useful chart explaining the differences.

The same blog post does however mention that there will be another SKU for markets like China and some emerging economies. This version will be a local language version unlike Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro that will let users switch languages.

Coming to enterprise, Microsoft will offer Windows 8 Enterprise that will have all features of Windows 8 Pro and some IT administration specific additions. In a follow-up blog post on the Windows Team Blog, Erwin Visser detailed what Windows 8 Enterprise will offer. The SKU will be available only for Microsoft’s Software Assurance customers. The IT administration specific features that Software Assurance customers get with Windows 8 Enterprise are:

  •  Windows To-Go
  • Companion Device
  • Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access
  • MDOP (Desktop Optimization Pack)
  • Windows InTune

Companion Device and Windows RT VDA are very interesting. The blog post explains the features as:

Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights: When used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance licensed PC, Windows RT will automatically receive extended VDA rights. These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers.

Companion Device License: For customers who want to provide full flexibility for how employees access their corporate desktop across devices, we are introducing a new Companion Device License for Windows SA customers. For users of Windows Software Assurance licensed PCs this optional add-on will provide rights to access a corporate desktop either through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices.

So, while technically Microsoft will have 5 SKUs of Windows 8:

  1. Windows 8
  2. Windows 8 Pro
  3. Windows RT
  4. Local language version of Windows 8 for emerging markets and China
  5. Windows 8 Enterprise

…there are just 2 for most users.

Gartner Predicts Windows Will Command 4% Of The Tablet Market In 2012

With Windows 8 set to hit the shelves sometime this October, it should come as no surprise that tech analysts are already making predictions about how well the highly tablet-optimized OS will sell. Gartner Group made a bleak prediction, stating that they predict that Microsoft will only command four percent of the tablet market in 2012.

“Despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and launching themselves into the media tablet market, so far, we have seen very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad,” Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said.

The slow growth estimated by Gartner Group in 2012 doesn’t just have to do with the fact that Windows 8 is touching down towards the end of the year, however. They note that by 2016, Microsoft will only have 11.8% of the consumer tablet market as they feel that Windows 8 lacks consumer appeal. They do, however, feel that Windows 8 will be aided by enterprise interest in the product.

“Many vendors will wait for Windows 8 to be ready and will try to enter the market with a dual-platform approach, hoping that the Microsoft brand could help them in both the business and consumer markets,” Milanesi said.

Gartner released a slightly brighter forecast for Android and iOS tablets, however, expecting that 31.9% of tablet sales in 2012 will comprise of Android, with that number rising to 37% by 2016. The iPad will maintain the lead, with a share of 45% forecasted for 2016.

Microsoft To Expand WinRT Programming Language Support

WinRT — Windows 8’s programming model which allows developers to create new Metro-style apps — already supports a decent breadth of languages. You can develop WinRT apps using JavaScript/HTML5, Visual C#, XAML, Visual Basic, and C++. However, according to a report from ZDNet, Microsoft is expressing interest in adding more languages into the WinRT support mix.

WinRT team Development Manager Martyn Lovell said while speaking at Lang.Next (in reference to WinRT) that Microsoft “wants developers to create languages for the new developer platform.” This was in response to a rhetorical question which asked whether or not WinRT would be “at home” in each programming language. So, what other languages should be fully supported by WinRT? I’m thinking that the three languages which would be commonly requested are Ruby, Delphi, and Python.

WinRT is certainly an interesting programming model. Thus far, I’ve only dipped the tip of my big toe in the WinRT waters when I created a Windows 8 HTML5/JavaScript app which pulled images from a rather unsavory subreddit (hint: space) just to mess around with it. I think that even if support for other languages isn’t added anytime soon, the ability to create Windows 8 apps with HTML5 and JavaScript will be sufficient in allowing people who haven’t done much development with Microsoft technologies to “join the dark side” and create some awesome Windows 8 apps.

Mozilla Shows Firefox For Windows 8 Tablets But Don’t Look Now

Mozilla announcing plans to do a Metro version of Firefox for Windows 8 tablets was received with optimism. The browser has a steady community despite Google’s Chrome replacing it in the hearts of most techies. Yesterday, Ed Bott at ZDNet shared Mozilla’s progress on Firefox Metro. As it turns out, what Mozilla showed wasn’t the final design so I’m being told not to judge them. In his status update blog post, Mozilla engineer Brian Bondy elaborates on where Firefox Metro is:

  • Integration with Share Charm to share a page with any application (What are Charms?)
  • Support for Metro Snap
  • Search Charm integration: if Firefox Metro is your default browser and you enter a URL in the Search Charm, the page will be loaded

Bondy says work on the UI and experience has not started. For Mozilla, supporting Metro in Windows 8 is important since:

If a browser is default on Metro, it will also be default on the Desktop.

If a browser does not support Metro, it is seriously at risk of losing the default browser status, and therefore significant market share.

Here’s what was shown:

When I saw the screenshots I was reminded of Windows 3.0. Here’s why:

Metro is a design language and there are only two ways a company can differentiate their browser from Intern Explorer 10:

  1. Features
  2. Design
It will be interesting to see how Mozilla achieves differentiation.

http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taouu/html/ch02s08.html

Microsoft Publishes iPad To Windows 8 Tablet App Design Comparison For Developers

Microsoft’s Metro design language comes into its own on Windows 8 tablets more than on the Windows Phone. The new desktop OS has been designed with tablets in mind and since the iPad is the best out there, developers will be replicating/porting their apps from the iPad to Windows 8 (or at least that’s what we all hope). Application design is a significant reason behind an app and platform’s success. And when I say design, I don’t mean the color combination or images but the user experience and user interface.

Earlier today, Michael Gillett retweeted a link to a case study published by Microsoft comparing the interface components in the iPad and Windows 8. The side-by-side comparison is quite helpful in providing developers a quick look at how some of the app functionality provided in iPad can be offered in Windows 8 while sticking to the Metro principles.

The case study takes specific use cases to explain how things are done on the iPad and how Microsoft has in some cases improved them in Windows 8. The case study is quite nicely presented filled with images to assist you understand the text. If you’re into app development or into design, it’s quite a fun look at the two platforms.

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.”