Tag Archives: Windows

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.

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.

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?

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.

Will Microsoft Face the Ire of Antitrust Regulators for Windows 8?

As you must have heard by now, Mozilla is furious. The non-profit organization behind Firefox is angry because Microsoft is practically making it impossible to develop third party browsers for Windows 8 for ARM through artificially imposed restrictions. A short while back, even Google backed Mozilla and expressed its concern about Windows 8 restricting “user choice and innovation”. My colleague Paul Paliath has already weighed in on the debate. While he believes Mozilla’s complaint is baseless, I am not quite so sure.

Windows-8-Platform

Before proceeding any further, let’s delve a little deeper into the technicalities involved. With Windows 8, Microsoft is introducing an entirely new class of applications. These applications will run in Metro mode, and will be built using the WinRT API. The Windows applications that we are accustomed with are all built using the Win32 API. Now, Microsoft isn’t exactly killing the Win32 API. Windows 8 for x86 (desktops) will continue to offer a classic mode, which will be capable of running all Win32 applications. However, if an app wants to run in Metro mode it has to use the new WinRT API. The trouble is that in an attempt to make WinRT power efficient, fast, and secure Microsoft ended up making it way too restrictive. Due to this, several classes of modern applications can’t be developed by leveraging WinRT alone. In order to skirt around this significant roadblock, Microsoft created a third category of applications. This category of applications have a frontend developed using WinRT, but they can also leverage the power of the Win32 API. In other words, they look like Metro apps, but offer the power and flexibility of a traditional Windows app. Unfortunately, on ARM devices, the only apps which will be allowed to leverage both WinRT and Win32 APIs are apps from Microsoft. Paul is right in saying that Microsoft isn’t specifically targeting browsers. In one fell swoop Microsoft has put all third party apps at a significant disadvantage. Whether it be office suites, media players, or browsers – all apps will have a hard time matching products from the Redmond giant as they will practically be running on two different operating systems. To make matters worse, Windows 8 for ARM won’t allow third party apps to run as pure classic apps either. Asa Dotzler explained the trouble faced by browser developers quite succinctly.

Microsoft has made it clear that the third category won’t exist on Windows for ARM (unless you’re Microsoft) and that neither will the first category (unless you’re Microsoft.) That means that IE on ARM has access to win32 APIs — even when it’s running in Metro mode, but no other Metro browser has that same access. Without that access, no other browser has a prayer of being competitive with IE.

You might be wondering exactly what kind of restrictions does WinRT impose that makes it impossible to develop a competent browser. Here’s an example – WinRT doesn’t allow translation of code at runtime. This is something absolutely critical for a technique called JIT (Just-in-time compilation). You might have heard of JIT before, as over the past few years, all browsers have been using JIT to deliver astounding improvements in JavaScript rendering speed. Lack of JIT will instantly push a browser back by several years. Keep in mind that this is just one example. Modern browsers are pushing the limits of what is possible within a browser. With the restrictive sandbox offered by WinRT, many of the bleeding edge features offered by modern browsers can’t be implemented in WinRT.

Mozilla has already issued thinly veiled threats of legal action, and considering that Windows 8 is pretty much done, the threat of another anti-trust ruling is the only thing that can realistically make Microsoft change its mind. However, is Microsoft really abusing its monopolistic position to crush competition? The answer is trickier than you might think.

Microsoft Reports $17.4 Billion Quarterly Revenue; Office and Server Sales Grow Most

Microsoft announced its earnings for the quarter ended March 31, 2012, with revenue of $17.41 billion and operating income of $6.37 billion, a 6% and 12% year-over-year increase respectively. Its net income was $5.11 billion.

The Server & Tools business posted the highest revenue growth, with sales growing to $4.57 billion, up 14% over last year. Microsoft’s primary money maker – the Business division which is comprised of Office and Dynamics – saw revenue grow 9% to $5.81 billion.

On the other hand, its Windows division saw revenue growth slow down to just 4%, with revenue of $4.62 billion. It is expected to see a massive jump once Microsoft launches Windows 8 in late 2012.

The Online Services division, comprised of Bing, MSN and Microsoft’s other online properties, posted a loss yet again, losing $300 million on revenue of $707 million. At this rate, it should become profitable in the coming years.

Entertainment and Devices – Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phone and Zune – posted a 16% decline in sales, which dropped to just $1.62 billion, as the holiday sales period wore off, and the Xbox 360 enters its 7th year. Microsoft may launch the next Xbox in 2013 or 2014, which should lead to a sales boost.

“We’re driving toward exciting launches across the entire company, while delivering strong financial results,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. “With the upcoming release of new Windows 8 PCs and tablets, the next version of Office, and a wide array of products and services for the enterprise and consumers, we will be delivering exceptional value to all our customers in the year ahead.”

With Windows 8, Office 15 and the next Xbox launching in 2012 and 2013, the next couple of years are going be be very important for Microsoft.

IDC: Android to Topple Windows by 2016

IDC just published a new research report tracking the growth in sales of PC, tablet and smartphone shipments in the coming years. Smart connected devices, which include these three, saw shipments of more than 916 million units, with revenues of around $489 billion in 2011.

IDC predicts total device shipments to reach 1.1 billion in 2012, with device shipments almost doubling to 1.84 billion units by 2016 – a CAGR of nearly 15.4%.

IDC Smart Devices 2012

Smartphones are expected to account for a major portion of this growth, while tablets will also account for significant growth. PC shipments aren’t expected to grow much in the coming years.

While Windows is currently the top platform on smart devices, its overall share is expected to drop to 25.1% share in 2016, from a 35.9% share in 2011. On the other hand, Android devices will account for almost 31.1% of all smart devices in 2016, up from 29.4% in 2011, and lead the total market. Apple’s iOS devices are expected to capture 17.3% market share in 2016, up from 14.6% in 2011.

The growth in Android device sales is expected to be driven by the propagation of cheap tablets and smartphones, a segment which is currently dominated by Android.

Interestingly, IDC mentions that most Android device makers will find it hard to stay profitable, given the intense price competition.

It also says that iOS will continue to be more lucrative for developers, despite the low market share, due to a higher proportion of users who are willing to pay for apps.

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 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.