Microsoft’s Recent Consumer Driven Year

Paul Thurrott—of SuperSite For Windows—posted an article titled “Microsoft Rising”, describing how Microsoft has shown the ability to connect with consumers rather than simply selling products:

For the past decade or more, Microsoft has been the punching bag of the technology industry, delivering strong sales and financial results but only rarely achieving any form of emotional connection with customers or reviewers. This year has been a revolution for the software giant, however, and with recent announcements and leaks centered on next generation versions of Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, and Office, Microsoft is suddenly the darling of the tech world.

I agree with Windows Phone and Xbox. Both of these products were designed for and directed at consumers, not the heads of IT departments, and it shows. The biggest issue I have with Windows Phone is traction, which I would think Microsoft is trying their best to remedy. Xbox’s next generation system is still an unknown. With more people gaming on their phones, it makes me wonder how much adoption the system will get versus previous models.

Windows 8 seems like a mixed bag, with confusion about the direction of one OS for both desktop and tablet form factors. Even after its announcement, there were still many open questions amongst the community. I pin this directly on Microsoft’s inability to set the standard up front and stay the course. Just like what we saw with the Surface announcement, there are more open questions than answers.

Office, on-the-other-hand, is just a productivity sweet of apps that helps us get the job done. Does it have an intuitive and well thought-out interface? Nope. Do I despise the ribbon interface? In many cases, I do, but it could always be worse. With the exception of professionals that rely on Office’s expert features, I can’t imagine a lot of consumers caring too much about it. In fact, many Office users could get by on competing products just fine, and may even incur less stress while doing so.

Microsoft May Drop Desktop in Windows 8 Tablet

When Microsoft announced Windows 8, they showed that it contained both the familiar desktop environment, as well as Metro, their Windows Phone 7 tile interface. According to a recent column by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft may scrap the desktop interface on the tablet version of Windows 8, only affording the user the Metro interface instead. From ZDNet:

However, if my Windows Weekly co-host Paul Thurrott is right, Microsoft has rethought that plan and is leaning toward cutting the Desktop from Windows 8 ARM tablets. That would mean only Metro-style apps would be supported on that platform. (Thurrott just dropped that bomb while we were taping Windows Weekly on December 1.)

While some writers—such as John Gruber—focused on the hardware issues faced with running classic Windows apps on an ARM tablet, my issue was actually using an interface not originally designed for touch. I have had the displeasure of operating both my Mac and Windows machines via Splashtop Remote on my iPad, and it is anything but productive. While I am sure the hardware is one reason to not support classic Windows apps on a tablet, for me the bad experience would be the main reason.

Forrester Bullish on Windows 8 Tablets: Too Late to the Party

It appears Forrester is bullish on Microsoft Windows 8 tablet prospects:

On tablets, Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party. […] For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower. Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches.

Does that mean millions of business users won’t give it a shot in tablet form? Probably not, considering many businesses:

  • Are usually slow to adopt new versions of Windows
  • Stay with Windows for backwards-compatibility and familiarity

What about consumer adoption? What are the chances they will ignore Windows 8 on the tablet because it is late to the party? I don’t believe time is all that important. Take the Kindle Fire for example. Compared to existing tablets—Android based, the BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad—it was the first to actually garner considerable demand at launch, which was only two-weeks ago. It obviously wasn’t because it was early to the party, but rather because it was desirable, and I believe Windows 8 tablet has the potential to be desirable.

Windows 8 “SecureBoot” Lockout a Non-Issue at Dell and HP

Just a few days back, I wrote how Windows 8 “SecureBoot” could lock out non-Windows operating systems, and how Linux advocates were voicing their concerns. Have no fear, Ed Bott of ZDNet has posted an article outlining how Dell and HP plan to handle this issue:

In an e-mail exchange and a follow-up phone conversation, a Dell spokesperson told me, “Dell has plans to make SecureBoot an enable/disable option in BIOS setup.”


I also contacted HP’s PC division, where a spokesperson had to scramble to find anyone within the organization who was even familiar with the issue.


The spokesperson confirmed for me that HP has no plans to participate in any conspiracy against a non-Windows OS: “HP will continue to offer its customers a choice of operating systems. We are working with industry partners to evaluate the options that will best serve our customers.”

The fact that HP had to scramble to find “anyone within the organization who was even familiar with the issue” is disconcerting. While I appreciate Ed doing the research, it was hard getting past his blatant smarmy delivery.

Windows 8 “Secure Boot” a Threat to Competition

Do you enjoy booting multiple operating systems—including non-Windows variants—on your computer? According to Red Hat, Canonical and the Linux Foundation, Microsoft’s latest OEM requirement to qualify for the “Designed for Windows 8” logo may prevent you from doing so. From ars technica:

Windows 8 computers that ship with UEFI secure booting enabled could make the task of replacing Windows with Linux or dual-booting the two operating systems more difficult. In order to get a “Designed for Windows 8” logo, PCs must ship with secure boot enabled, preventing the booting of operating systems that aren’t signed by a trusted Certificate Authority.

One option is to give the users the ability to disable the secure boot feature, which seems like common sense. Another option is to create an independent certificate authority:

The Linux Foundation further supports the establishment of an independent certificate authority to issue keys to third-party hardware and software vendors, presumably allowing Linux-based operating systems to be installed and still gain the security benefits of UEFI secure boot. (The Free Software Foundation has also weighed in with a petition directed at hardware vendors.)

This issue is not just limited to Linux user. Haiku is another non-Windows desktop operating system that could also be negatively affected by this implementation. While some may recommend building your own computer, this does not provide a realistic solution to laptop users.

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