Microsoft’s 1 Slide That Explains Windows 8

At what will turn out to be the most entertaining keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, company COO Kevin Turner shared an interesting slide that explains Windows 8. Microsoft’s two-pronged approach to desktop & tablet with Windows 8 has been the focal point of several debates. The two questions that keep coming up are:

  • Is Microsoft compromising the tablet experience by having the legacy desktop?
  • Or, is Microsoft ruining the desktop experience by bringing in the touch-friendly tablet interface?

Which of the two compromises is Microsoft making with Windows 8? According to Kevin Turner, neither. Windows 8 is a no-compromise solution for content consumption and creation, it is meant for home and enterprise use. Kevin Turner’s slide that shows the breadth achieved with Windows 8 and how Windows 8 is a no-compromise solution is quite an interesting one:

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 RTM: Early August; General Availability: End Of October

Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference is underway at Toronto, Canada and the enthusiasts have their eyes on the announcements. Steve Ballmer is on stage with and has so far discussed Office 365, Yammer and Windows 8. As Microsoft’s Tami Reller—VP for Windows—is showcasing several Windows 8 PCs and gave us a Windows 8 release date timeline. According to Microsoft:

  • Windows 8 will RTM in the first week of August (Windows 7 RTMed in the third week of July)
  • Windows 8 will be available for upgrades and off-the-shelf buying towards the end of October

One of the announcements many were expecting was about Office 15 or Office 2013; Steve Ballmer mentioned Office 2013 and said he uses it along with Windows 8 but brushed any product announcements to later this summer.

Microsoft’s Worldwide Developer Conference usually is about their hardware and software partners across the world and Microsoft seems to be pulling off a great show. One of the key topics to start the show was cloud computing and Office 365.

On Surface tablets, Steve Ballmer said he hopes to sell a few millions from the 375 Million PCs expected to sold in the coming year. My expectations for the event were Windows 8 PCs and maybe some Windows Phone 8 devices, hopefully we see some.

Samsung Working on a Windows RT Tablet

Samsung may be working on a Windows 8 RT tablet, which will be unveiled following the launch of Windows 8 later this year. Samsung is already the largest Android tablet maker, and has hedged its bets with several platforms in the smartphone space.

It seems to be looking to do the same in tablets; hence the investment in a Windows RT tablet.

Windows RT tablets are expected to compete with the Apple iPad and other Android tablets and would be much cheaper than devices running Windows Pro. They would be powered by ARM processors, and would be much more power efficient than standard x86 tablets. Samsung’s Windows RT tablet will feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors.

Microsoft recently unveiled the Surface, with two variants running Windows RT and Windows Pro. By raising the benchmark for its tablets, Microsoft may have made a wise move that would force its hardware partners to compete with each other to create better tablets that could possibly challenge the mighty Apple iPad.

The tablet space is heating up with Google launching the Nexus 7 Android tablet recently and Apple reportedly working on a cheaper iPad Mini.

If I had to bet on any single manufacturer to take on the iPad, it would be Samsung. Stay tuned; we’ll keep you updated with Samsung’s every move.

via Bloomberg

Microsoft Bets Big on Windows 8, Offers Upgrade for $40

If you have been looking forward to taking the new Windows 8 OS for a spin, then there is some good news for you. Microsoft has announced that all Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 users will be able to upgrade to the Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 in 131 markets. This enticing upgrade option will be available till January 31, 2013.

Microsoft’s sweeping new upgrade offer is unprecedented in more ways than one. Not only is it remarkably cheap, but it also covers outdated systems like Vista and XP. Microsoft is taking a leaf out of Apple’s book by keeping the upgrade price fairly low. However, it would be wrong to construe Microsoft’s offering as a defensive response to Apple.

The Redmond giant’s decision to offer Windows 8 upgrades to users of decade old operating systems like Windows XP at an extremely alluring price illustrates exactly how much it is betting on the new OS. Windows 8 is the most significant Windows release since Windows 95. While it doesn’t quite break free from the legacy of Windows, it does provide a roadmap to the future.

windows-8-upgrade

One of the biggest draws of Windows 8 – at least as far as consumers are concerned – is its Metro UI, which requires an entirely new breed of applications. None of the millions of existing Windows applications will function inside the Metro UI. Thus, in some ways, Metro nullifies the biggest strength of Windows – its ecosystem. While desktops and laptops will come with a traditional desktop shell that will be capable of running legacy applications, in Microsoft’s eyes, Metro is clearly the future of Windows.

In order for Metro to succeed, Microsoft needs to attract hundreds of thousands of developers. And, in order to attract developers, Microsoft needs to ensure quick adoption of Windows 8. If Windows 8 also receives a lukewarm response like Vista, Microsoft will find itself in hot water. This is exactly why Microsoft is making it really simple and cheap to upgrade to Windows 8, and this time around it’s taking along even users of its old operating systems.

It’s not just Microsoft’s domination in the desktop segment that is at stake here. While Metro is optional in desktops and laptops, it will be the only supported mode in most tablets. If Microsoft wants to offer Apple a run for its money, Windows 8’s quick adoption again becomes imperative.

Windows 8 will also have something to say about Microsoft’s future in the mobile arena. Windows Phone 8 will be running a full-fledged Windows core. This will make porting Windows 8 metro applications to WP8 fairly straightforward. If Microsoft succeeds in kick-starting the Windows 8 ecosystem, Windows Phone ecosystem will also benefit from it.

Given what’s at stake here, the decision to offer existing Windows users a strong incentive to upgrade to Windows 8 looks like a no-brainer. Over the years, Microsoft’s biggest competition has always been its own offerings – Windows 7’s biggest competitor is Windows XP, and not Mac or Linux. With Windows 8 trying to break free from legacy of Windows, Microsoft just can’t afford to have a repeat of the Windows Vista debacle.

MetroTwit, Another Twitter App for Windows 8

MetroTwit is a popular Twitter client for Windows inspired by the Metro design language. A preview of the app, designed from the ground up for Windows 8, is now available on the Windows Store. The app has been developed by Pixel Pixel Tucker Pty Ltd, an endeavour by Long Zheng, David Golden, and Winston Pang.

The Metro app allows you to track your Twitter feeds with interactive tiles and a multi-column layout. The app uses nifty features of Windows 8 Metro apps for a great user experience. It allows you pin multiple columns on the homescreen and provides a Snap view for quick access to tweets. The tweet options and action buttons are available in the application bar allowing maximum screen estate for the Twitter feeds. MetroTwit is one of the few applications with built-in support for edge scrolling, triggered by the mouse when it reaches a vertical screen edge

The app is developed from ground up since a port of the existing WPF app wouldn’t have been possible. Also, according to Long, it is designed for both mouse and touch from the start, a deviation from the existing Windows developer mindset.

The app scores well in terms of usability, and fits the bill for the needs of both casual and power users of Twitter. Apart from MetroTwit, Windows Store features two other Twitter apps – Rowi and Tweetro.

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.

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?