Posts Tagged ‘Windows 8’


Microsoft wants you to forget Windows 8

by admin ·

Look to Vista for how Redmond will treat Windows 8 as it moves on to the next bright, shiny OS

As talk of the next Windows begins to build and some details of what most are calling for now either Windows 9 or Threshold come into focus, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to remember Windows 8.

Because Microsoft will want everyone to forget it. And we will.
Unless the Redmond, Wash. technology company radically changes its habits, it will throw Windows 8 down a memory hole even before the successor ships. Just like it made Vista persona non grata in its official messaging in 2009, it will shove Windows 8 so far into the background that we’ll need the Hubble telescope to find it.

Not that that’s unusual. All companies fake amnesia to a stunning degree, even when what they want to forget — more importantly, what they want customers to forget — was once trumpeted with Joshua’s band. Ford tossed the Edsel into the don’t-mention file, Coca-Cola did the same with New Coke, Apple erased the Performa and Ping from its corporate memory, and IBM would be hard pressed to admit it ever knew the PCjr or OS/2.
Windows 8

It’s always about next year’s shiny object, not last year’s.

Vista redux

To see the future for Windows 8, look at how Microsoft treated Windows Vista — the 2007 edition that launched late and quickly garnered negative reviews that painted a reputation from which it never recovered.

In the months leading up to the launch of Windows 7, Vista’s successor — and a wildly successful one at that — Microsoft came close to banning the word “Vista” from press releases, its most official line of communications to the media, investors, partners and customers.

From January through October 2009 — the latter was Windows 7’s launch month — Microsoft mentioned “Vista” in just one press release headline or the single-line synopsis accompanying a headline. During the same stretch, Microsoft used “Windows 7” 16 times.

In comparison, three years later, during the January through October 2012 run-up to Windows 8’s debut, Microsoft mentioned “Windows 7” in 6 press release headlines or summaries, and used “Windows 8” 14 times.

So while a failure, as judged by Microsoft, was outnumbered 16:1 in mentions, a success, also as implicitly labeled by Microsoft, was bested by only about 2:1.

Expect the former for Windows 8. In fact, it may already have started as Microsoft preps for 8’s successor, called “Threshold” by long-time Windows watchers: Since the first of the year, Microsoft has mentioned “Windows 8” in its press release headlines or summaries just 6 times, on pace for 11. During all of 2013, Microsoft referenced the edition 16 times.

The second half of the year will be especially telling if, as often-in-the-know bloggers like ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley have contended, Threshold is to launch in the spring of 2015. With just over seven months until the start of March 2015, eight to April, it’s coming up on the time that Microsoft changes messaging from the past to the future.
Time to go silent on Windows 8

There is evidence that Microsoft has begun deemphasizing Windows 8.

In his mission statement of July 10, CEO Satya Nadella mentioned no specific edition of Windows on the desktop, using simply “Windows” when he wasn’t talking about “Windows Phone” or “Windows Server,” or relegating Windows to secondary status in the newly-minted Microsoft he envisions. Windows 8 was also AWOL among the speeches Nadella and other Microsoft executives made the following week at the company’s Worldwide Partners Conference, and was the subject of just three sessions out of more than 450 offered to attendees.

During this week’s earnings call, Nadella referenced “Windows 8.1″ just twice, both with the past tense. ” In April, we released an update to Windows 8.1,” he said of the refresh aimed to mollify enterprise users.

That’s no surprise: Not only has Microsoft acknowledged that its share of all computing devices — smartphones, tablets, personal computers — now hovers at 14%, a far cry from its near monopoly as late as 2010, but the company certainly understands how poorly Windows 8 has performed even within the small segment composed of desktop and notebook computers.

The newer OS has outsold Vista, certainly, about 31% better according to calculations based on stated sales milestones that were then turned into per-month figures for Windows 8’s first 16 months and Vista’s first 19. But Windows 8 has lagged far behind its predecessor, Windows 7. The latter bested Windows 8 by 113% on a per-month basis calculated for its first 15 months.

Estimates from analytics firm Net Applications confirm that disparity between Windows 7 and Windows 8. When both have been judged at the same points in their respective post-release timelines, Windows 7 consistently accounted for more than twice the total active Windows user share of Windows 8.

Windows 8 has led in percentage of total Windows user share over Vista, but not by much: Last month, in fact, Windows 8’s lead over Vista at the same point in each editions’ career was the smallest ever, only two-tenths of one percent.

Putting an end to Windows 8

To ease Windows 8 into the past, Microsoft will likely make little, if any, noise about the edition’s final update, slated for Aug. 12, reports say. That bump-up, probably to “Windows 8.1 Update 2,” will be released with little fanfare and few noticeable changes, certainly not with the modified Start menu Microsoft previewed this spring at its Build developers conference. From all indications, that — as well as other features to restore an emphasis on mouse and keyboard — will take place with Threshold to let the company tout that edition as a clean break from its predecessor.

Rather than belabor Windows 8, which is dead to Microsoft, it will beat the drum on the next name for its Windows client.

For that, Microsoft could re-run the post-Vista play, but turn it on its head. After Vista, the company declined to continue names as its naming convention (“XP” and “Vista” for the two consecutive releases) and instead went with the numerical “Windows 7.” The smart move this cycle would be to quit numerals, tainted after Windows 8, and distance Threshold from its predecessor with a word as name. “Windows Threshold” has little ring, but Microsoft has legions of marketers who could come up with something much better. “Windows Redemption” is probably off the table — too literal for what the company thinks, or better put, hopes.

From the Vista experience, too, Microsoft can assume that Windows 8 will slide toward, but not into, insignificance — assuming Threshold is a better stab at what customers want — as users upgrade and replace devices.

Much of Windows 7’s success was ascribed to customers abandoning Vista or leaving the even-older XP, which they’d clung to because of wariness about Vista. It was actually more about Vista, which lost 30% of its user share in the first year after Windows 7’s release. Windows XP shed just 15% of its share in the same 12 months.

Windows 8 (which includes Windows 8.1) will top out at around 16% to 16.5% of all personal computer operating systems in March and April 2015 — the assumption is that Threshold will ship then — according to the upwards tempo reported by Net Applications. Under the Vista-Windows 7 model, then, Windows 8’s user share will fall to 11.2% to 11.5% in a year.

But if Microsoft offers Threshold free of charge to current Windows 8 users, as many anticipate, 8’s decline should be much steeper. Using Windows 8.1’s manhandling of Windows 8 — the former was a free upgrade that reduced the latter’s user share by 50% in just seven months — as a guide, Microsoft could drive down Windows 8’s share to about 8% by October or November 2015.

It took Microsoft nearly two years to cut Vista’s share in half.

Let’s see: 22 months with Windows 8 hanging around, most of that time with double-digit share? Or just seven months? Which will Microsoft choose?

No contest: If Microsoft wants to air out the stink of 8 from the Windows domicile as quickly as possible, it must give away the Threshold upgrade. It would simply be the smart thing to do.

In fact, the decision to make Threshold free to Windows 8 customers will be the sign that Microsoft needs the 2012 OS to just go away. Microsoft won’t do it out of largess, it will do it to promptly draw the curtain on Windows 8.

Because the faster it can make everyone forget Windows 8, the better.

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The two outsiders attracting Microsoft’s attention for Steve Ballmer’s job

by admin ·

Microsoft may be well-served to bring in an outsider to replace departing CEO Steve Ballmer. Here are two strong candidates.

As I said in a prior blog post, I feel Microsoft’s problems are too big for an insider to handle. This person will have allegiances, friendships and biases that may cloud his or her judgment at a time when cold, hard decisions need to be made.

It seems I’m not alone. Some Microsoft investors have their eyes on outsiders as well, according to a Reuters report, and two names have bubbled up: Ford CEO Alan Mullaly and Computer Sciences Corp. CEO Mike Lawrie.

So, let’s give them the old look-see.

Alan Mullaly
Age: 68
Education: BS, MS in aeronautical engineering
Prior work: Boeing

If he retires tomorrow, Alan Mullaly will already have had an enviable career. At Boeing, he had a hand in plane design from the 727 to the 777, including leading the cockpit design team on the 757/767 (they have identical cockpits despite different hulls). He also worked on the 777, first as director of engineering and then as vice president and general manager.

Mullaly was considered a leading candidate for CEO of Boeing but was passed over, so in 2006 he made his move to slower, earthbound vehicles, taking the reins at Ford Motor Co. He restructured the firm, cut losses, and renegotiated contracts with the UAW, reducing cost per hour from more than $20. Anyone who can make the UAW blink is all right in my book.

He kept Ford afloat while GM and Chrysler crashed in 2008 and sold off Ford’s stake or ownership in Jaguar Cars, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo Cars, and Mazda. So this guy knows how to cut the fat.

And he’s got the endorsement of the man he would succeed. In Time magazine’s Top 100 list, issued with its Person of the Year, Steve Ballmer wrote of Mullaly, “he understands the fundamentals of business success as well as any business leader I know.”

John Michael “Mike” Lawrie
Age: 59
Education: BA, Ohio University, MBA, Drexel University
Prior work: IBM, ValueAct Capital, Siebel Systems, Misys plc

Lawrie is a veteran of the computing industry and worked as a senior executive at IBM under both Sam Palmisano and Lou Gerstner. That alone is enough to shine up any resume. It should make some people at Microsoft nervous, too. Lawrie was at IBM when Gerstner cut 100,000 jobs in the process of making IBM a lean, mean, collaborative machine.

But it looks like Lawrie is doing what needs to be done. As Rob Enderle pointed out in CIO magazine, Lawrie is following the steps of Gerstner and Jobs in turning around the company:

Massive product simplification. Lawrie has done that. He cut CSC from 3,000 offerings to 100.
A handpicked executive team loyal to the CEO and optimized for current market conditions. Lawrie has done that, cleaning out the C-suite and filling it with ex-HP people.
A strong CFO who will drive the simplification effort and focus on optimizing internal expenditures. CSC just did that, hiring former Disney CFO Paul Saleh.
A marketing effort strong enough to convince customers to believe in the company before it has changed, so they’re ready to buy when improved products and services are ready. That has to be launched.

Both men are enviable professionals, and in Mullaly’s case, at 68, he’s earned retirement. Does he want to dive into a mess like Microsoft at that age? Experience with overachievers like him tells me yes, he’d vastly prefer that to sitting on the couch watching CNBC all day. I suspect the favorite would be Mullaly because he’s proven. He could leave Ford in good, stable condition, and he knows Seattle from his Boeing days. Lawrie may be a tech guy, but he is still in the process of fixing CSC and isn’t quite ready to leave it yet because his work is not done.

Either way, they’re both great choices.

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PC satisfaction scores dip as customers drift to tablets

by admin ·

‘Misalignment of expectations’ caused by Windows 8 disconnect with traditional computing devices, says pollster

The jarring combination of Microsoft’s radical reinvention of Windows with old-style hardware caused the average satisfaction score of PC makers to slip in the last year, a pollster said today.

Meanwhile, Apple again took top honors by tying its own 2011 record in computing device customer satisfaction as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a consumer survey that’s tracked opinions on technology for 18 years.

Apple’s score of 87 — out of a possible 100 — was up one point from 2012 and seven points higher than its closest competitor.

The ACSI survey polled more than 2,700 Americans in April and May, asking them to rate their experiences with recently purchased devices — desktop and notebook personal computers, as well as tablets — sold by Apple, Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. The rest of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) were lumped into a secondary “All Others” category in ACSI’s results.

With a score of 80, HP was Apple’s nearest rival; other OEMs collected scores between 76 and 79.

Although both HP and Toshiba increased their ACSI ratings by a point compared to 2012’s poll, Dell and Acer dropped two points and All Others fell four points. The average of all those, other than Apple, fell by a point, a decline of 1.3% over the prior year.

David VanAmburg, the managing director of ACSI, did not point a finger at Microsoft’s Windows 8 for the slip in PC satisfaction — as have some industry analysts — but acknowledged it was a contributor.

“It’s not so much Windows 8 itself as the incongruity between the operating system and most of the devices it’s sold with,” said VanAmburg. “There’s a disconnect between what Windows 8 is touting and the desktop and laptop environment. I’d call it a misalignment of expectations.”

VanAmburg was referring to Microsoft’s pitch that Windows 8 is a “touch-first” OS that works best on touch- and gesture-enabled hardware, like tablets, and the inability of hardware makers to capitalize on that either on tablets or touch-ready notebooks.

Choices in the latter have been relatively skimpy, and prices have been considerably higher than for laptops that rely on a mouse — or a touchpad — and a keyboard. “If [OEMs] could get to lower prices on touch, it could be a whole different ball game,” said VanAmburg, echoing Microsoft’s own belief.

The lower scores overall for traditional PC makers, and the slip in ratings for the likes of Dell and Acer, neither of which has scored in tablets, are expressions of consumers’ search for something more than PCs can provide, said VanAmburg.

“What we’re seeing in our data is the same as what we’re seeing in PC sales, that the trend toward greater mobility continues to gather steam,” VanAmburg said. “Mobility is so attractive [it’s] driving people away from PCs.”

To tablets, specifically. On average, tablets recorded a satisfaction score of 81, two points higher than traditional PC form factors. “Tablets are just a more satisfying computing device,” said VanAmburg, citing the data. Smartphones, too, have scored higher than PCs in ACSI’s recent surveys.

PC shipments have contracted for five consecutive quarters, research firm IDC has said, and the slump shows no sign of ending before 2015. The decline in traditional PC sales — from which Microsoft has always generated the bulk of its Windows revenue — has put the Redmond, Wash., developer in a tough spot, and spurred it to aim for a “devices-and-services” strategy, revamp its corporate structure and look for a new CEO.

That the cause of those seismic shifts — consumers’ preference for more smartphones and tablets over PCs — caused desktop and notebook makers’ scores to drop didn’t surprise VanAmburg.

“We would have been surprised if Apple had dropped, or PC makers suddenly surged to the top,” said VanAmburg. “But this is a revolution like what happens to the industry every few years. A while ago, it was laptops. ‘You mean I can pick up my computer and take it somewhere?’ This is the next generation of that. People are increasingly adopting tablets and smartphones and buying fewer desktops and laptops.”

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Eight questions about Windows 8 for Microsoft OEM chief Nick Parker

by admin ·

Nick Parker has one of the more interesting jobs in the PC business right now. As corporate vice president for Microsoft’s OEM division, he manages the company’s relationships with PC manufacturers, including sales and licensing of Windows.

It’s not always an easy job. Microsoft ruffled a few feathers last year when it started selling its own Surface tablets, effectively competing with its hardware partners. And Windows 8 has taken some of the blame for the slump in the PC business, although the popularity of tablets hasn’t helped.

At Computex, Microsoft is taking steps to strike back. Parker gave Microsoft’s keynote at the show Wednesday and hosted the first public demonstration of Windows 8.1, an update due later this year that aims to address some of the criticisms in the first release. Microsoft also announced that Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 for ARM-based processors, will soon include the Outlook email application.

IDG caught up with Parker after his keynote and had a chance to ask him a few questions. Following is an edited transcript:

IDG: So you just announced you’ll be including Outlook with the next version of Windows RT, what was the thinking behind that?

NP: Outlook is one of those apps people love, and when you start thinking about RT in the small business environment, or for heavy email users, Outlook is one of those high value solutions. That was the one we got the most feedback about.

IDG: The reception for Windows RT has been a bit lukewarm, what are some of the reasons for that and to what extent will adding Outlook will improve the situation?

NP: If you look at what we did with RT — it’s completely new silicon, a new hardware platform, and Windows 8 is a new OS. So first you just have a natural growth curve when you’re starting at zero. Then you start seeing new apps appear, the killer apps that people want, like Outlook. And the ecosystem gets more familiar with it — they learn how to code to it and how to certify parts for it.

We get so used to the tremendous success we’ve had on PCs for years, you just think you can flip a switch and the platform’s going to change. I think it’s just the incremental growth of a new platform. And we should be a bit humble about how we go to market and talk about the new capabilities. I think we could maybe have inspired people a bit more with some of the RT devices and some of our marketing.

IDG: There’s a lot of downward pressure on tablet pricing — Asus showed an Android tablet this week for $129. Do you expect to see Windows 8 tablets getting down to those sort of prices?

NP: That’s a question to ask our OEMs [original equipment manufacturers, or basically PC makers]. I think people are prepared to pay for value and we see tablets with higher price points having better capabilities and features. I think buyers are getting smart about what’s good quality. But OEMs will choose their own prices.

IDG: We saw the first 8-inch Windows tablet launch this week from Acer. What are some of the things you’re doing to provide a better Windows experience on those smaller devices?

NP: For any device you can hold in one hand, one of the things you need is portrait mode — so, the ability for the apps to work in the same way, to move and to flow nicely. And for our OEMs, we’re giving them the ability to have buttons on the side of the device, because when you’re holding it in one hand you might want to push a button on the side. You have to make the OS extensible. So those are the types of things.

IDG: Will that all be part of Windows 8.1?

NP: Yes, we talked about that today.

IDG: I’ve never thought of Windows as being designed for smaller screens; the netbook experience wasn’t particularly great. What are you doing to improve the software experience?

NP: In terms of how the display scales up and down, and in terms of the zooming capabilities — as soon as the preview [of Windows 8.1] comes out you should play with it.

IDG: There’s a tremendous variety of form factors out there right now — all kinds of laptops and tablets and convertibles. When you look ahead a few years, do you expect them to coalesce around a few winning designs or will there always be that much variety?

NP: In terms of capabilities, I think touch is going to be the new standard. People aren’t going to want to carry around hundreds of devices. You’ll have a phone, and I think the phablet is an interesting space. But for two-in-one detachables — I’m seeing the interest in those ramp. People want the best of both worlds. You can have a tablet and sit there and surf, then you plug it into a keyboard and you’re off working.

IDG: Is the keyboard here to stay, or will people eventually get used to typing on touchscreens?

I think the keyboard is here to stay, you’ve got that physical feedback. You may see a lot of innovation around keyboards but I think they’re here to stay.


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Microsoft’s Enterprise Windows 8: A true business OS, for once

by admin ·

Business users will find actual IT-oriented features, rather than the consumer OS adorned with extras.

Microsoft recently introduced a trio of consumer Windows 8 SKUs, two for desktop and the ARM version. Lost in the hoopla was Windows 8 Enterprise edition, which wasn’t outlined in great detail.

Well, Microsoft has started to provide information on it, and it sounds like, for once, it will be a true business OS and not just the consumer product with a few extras thrown in.

Windows 8 Enterprise will contain all of the features of Windows 8 Pro plus a number of exclusive features for business users. First among them is the ability to create Windows To Go portable USB installations, which will help with the whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement at work lately. The USB drive will create a bootable external USB stick to give access to the corporate environment without compromising security.

Another notable feature is DirectAccess, which allows for remote access to corporate networks without requiring a VPN connection while allowing administrators to keep remote users’ PCs in compliance with policies and software.

BranchCache allows remote users to cache files and other content from central servers on their local PCs. Windows Server 2012 will come with a number of improvements over Server 2008, which first introduced this concept.

AppLocker has been updated to restrict the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run. Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 provide an improved VDI experience, and Windows 8 App Deployment will support side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps.

To make full use of these features, Microsoft is modifying the Software Assurance license to support Windows To Go users, and for power users, Companion Device licenses will allow employees to access corporate environments through either Windows To Go or VDI using up to four personally-owned systems. This will cost extra from regular licenses.

Windows 8 Enterprise will also include MDOP, which helps manage clients, including swapping between Windows 7 and 8, and Windows Intune will allow for remote PC management that takes advantage of all of the new features in Windows 8.

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Windows 8 won’t hit critical mass in enterprises, Forrester says

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Windows 8 won’t hit critical mass in enterprises, Forrester says
The new OS isn’t expected to ever reach 50 percent adoption in workplace PCs, according to the IT research firmWindows 8, the most significant upgrade to Microsoft’s operating system since Windows 95 and one of the most important products in the company’s history, will not achieve enough adoption in enterprises to be considered a standard, according to Forrester Research.

By the time the next major Windows upgrade is released, Windows 8 will be in less than 50 percent of workplace PCs, unable to overtake its predecessor Windows 7.

“I have to believe Microsoft expected better enterprise adoption for Windows 8,” said Forrester analyst David Johnson, the lead author of the report “IT Will Skip Windows 8 As The Enterprise Standard,” released Thursday.

As it is, most enterprises have either recently migrated from Windows XP to Windows 7, or are in the process of doing so. In a Forrester survey of European and North American enterprises and SMBs conducted in last year’s third quarter, Windows 7 was on almost half of respondents’ PCs and Windows XP had a 38 percent share. Respondents further said that they forecast having Windows 7 on 60 percent of their PCs a year later, and Windows 8 on 26 percent.

Factors affecting enterprises’ interest in and adoption of Windows 8 are varied, according to Johnson. IT pros aren’t generally convinced that Windows 8 offers their companies a marked improvement over Windows 7, which has proven to be a solid, stable OS.

In fact, many IT departments are concerned about some elements of Windows 8, such as its radically redesigned user interface — based on tile icons and optimized for touch screens — and how much of a learning curve it will represent for their end users.

There is also skepticism over how that so-called “Modern UI” interacts with the more traditional one that is also included with the new OS for running Windows 7 applications. “There isn’t a truly seamless experience between the two interfaces,” Johnson said.

Another concern are the cost and effort involved in upgrading desktop OSes across an enterprise, a process that causes “migration fatigue” and makes companies unlikely to embark in shortly after finishing it.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to improve Windows’ weak presence in tablet devices, but iPads and to a lesser extent Android tablets remain the preferred options.

Windows RT, the Windows 8 version designed for ARM-based devices, has also hurt OS adoption in the enterprise for several reasons, such as its inability to run Windows 7 and XP applications and its limited IT control capabilities.

Microsoft officials said recently that an update, called Windows 8.1, will be released as a preview in late June and in final form before the end of the year, but they haven’t provided any details about what will be new or changed in terms of features and functionality. They have only suggested that the Start button and menu might be restored.

Thus, it’s hard to tell if Windows 8.1 will be compelling enough to change the adoption plans of enterprises, but even if it doesn’t, IT departments need to be ready to deploy Windows 8, according to Johnson.

Those rollouts may be limited to special sets of users or scenarios, such as a new fleet of tablet devices, but interest on Windows 8 is high among end users, more so than among IT pros. A Forrester survey in last year’s fourth quarter showed that 38 percent of employees would prefer to have Windows 8 on their work PC, while 35 percent expressed a preference for Windows 7. Also of significance was that when asked about their work tablet preference, 26 percent chose the iPad, while 20 percent picked a Windows 8 tablet.

As a result, IT departments need to be ready for the arrival of Windows 8 devices in their enterprises, whether the adoption is led from the top down or whether it’s via a BYOD situation in which employees bring their personal Windows 8 tablets to work.

Johnson recommends that IT departments first and foremost accelerate and complete their Windows 7 migrations, because this move from Windows XP will put their enterprises’ IT infrastructures in much better shape to accommodate Windows 8 machines.

Also, they should implement a formal BYOD policy and program, because it’s likely that Windows 8 devices will begin to appear in their enterprises in this manner. “With Windows 8, you should understand how to support BYOD scenarios and be opportunistic about finding applications for tablets, because they may prove useful in many instances,” he said.

Johnson also recommends implementing and expanding application and desktop virtualization, as well as testing and piloting Windows 8, its applications and its devices with a variety of employees from different departments.


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Microsoft’s Windows Blue to be available later this year

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The update to Windows 8 will be delivered across a variety of form factors and display sizes

Microsoft’s update of its Windows 8 operating system, code-named Windows Blue, will be available later this year, supporting a variety of form factors and display sizes, and providing more options for both businesses and consumers.

“The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT,” said Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer and chief financial officer in a post on Tuesday on the progress of Windows 8.

Microsoft shipped Windows RT for ARM-based devices and Windows 8 for devices based on Intel processors in October last year. The update to Windows 8 comes in the wake of sometimes adverse user feedback about the operating system, which is said to have failed to boost flagging PC sales.

First-quarter PC shipments, for example, totaled 76.3 million units, down 13.9% compared to the same quarter last year, in part because Windows 8 failed to boost sales, and also because of the popularity of alternative computing devices like tablets, research firm IDC said in April.

Reller did not provide details on the features of the upcoming version of Windows 8.

Microsoft has recently crossed the 100 million licenses sold mark for Windows 8, about six months after its general availability, which includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8. “This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January,” Reller said.

The company has also seen the number of certified devices for Windows 8 and Windows RT grow to 2,400 and is seeing more and more touch devices in the mix, she added.

“While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market,” Reller said.

The decline in the PC market in the first quarter was worse than the 7.7% drop previously forecast, and the market could be headed into further contraction, IDC said in April. Reller, however, continues to be optimistic about the PC business.

“The PC is very much alive and increasingly mobile,” she said. The PC part of the market is evolving fast to include “new convertible devices and amazing new touch laptops, and all-in-ones,” she added. Some of these PCs are coming into the market now, and they are more affordable than ever, Reller said. The Microsoft executive said Windows 8 was also built to address a broader market consisting of devices like tablets.

Microsoft has also seen the number of apps in its Windows Store grow six-fold since launch. Over 250 million apps were downloaded from the store in the first six months, with almost 90 percent of its app catalog downloaded every month.

The company claims to be doing well in some of its other services too. It announced Monday that over 250 million people are now using its SkyDrive online file hosting service. Microsoft now has 400 million active accounts for its webmail, after completing the transition of Hotmail users to the new service. The company plans to add more features to, which started with the integration of Skype, which is being phased in throughout the world. It now has over 700 million active Microsoft accounts using its services, Reller said.

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Microsoft Surface sales suck

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Or do they? If you listen to some analysts, Surface, and other slates running Windows 8 or RT, started slow out of the gate. Considering how much tablets sapped PC shipments in Q4, slow forebodes trouble ahead. Or does it?

“There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul”, Ryan Reith, IDC program manager, says. “However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company’s Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best”. He estimates that Microsoft shipped just 900,000 Surfaces during fourth quarter, which means to stores and not actual sales to customers.

That number sure looks low compared to any manufacturer in the top 5. Even lowly ASUS shipped 3.1 million units. But sell-through matters more. Except for about 10 days of the quarter, at retail, Surface sold exclusively through 66 retail shops in Canada and the United States. Apple offered iPad through an average 390 shops — 150 outside the United States. Accounting for online sales and doing some best guesstimates, I get 14,680 iPads sold per Apple Store and (assuming 600,000 units) 9,090 Surfaces per Microsoft shop.

However, when adjusting for actual sales days (Microsoft’s slate was available for only about two-thirds of the quarter), Surface-sell through averages out a little higher than iPad on a per-store basis. Meaning: Given limited distribution, Microsoft’s tablet sells better than IDC shipments suggest.

Size Matters
Microsoft’s problem is something else: Size. “We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices”, Reith emphasizes. That’s a polite way of saying Surface RT costs too much at $499 and Pro, for sale starting February 9, is already overpriced. But are they? Really?

According to NPD DisplaySearch, market demand shifts towards smaller, and lower-cost models. The firm forecasts that slates with 7-7.9-inch displays will account for 45 percent of shipments this year. By contrast, 9.7-inchers will fall to 17 percent — that’s the size of iPad, the category leader. But Apple offers the 7.9-inch iPad mini, whereas Microsoft and its partners offer nothing in this rapidly exploding size segment.

Apple tablets are pricey, too. Starting February 5, one iPad 4 will sell for $929. But fruit-logo pricing starts lower, at $329 for 16GB iPad with WiFi. Microsoft is locked lowest at $499 with a 10.6-inch slate. What the company needs more is a broader range of sizes and prices, the strategy competitors like Apple, ASUS and Samsung pursue. That would preserve current Surface pricing.

Such an approach doesn’t easily fit Microsoft’s current tablet strategy, which is all about making a traditional desktop operating system available on more form factors. But that’s not what the market wants today, when tablets displace some computer sales rather than replace PCs altogether.

Reith warns: “In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes”.

Give a Little
Simply stated: Working with partners, Microsoft must make gaining market share the top priority. Tablet shipments grew about 75 percent year over year and quarter on quarter to 52.5 million in Q4. Laptops lead the PC category, but NPD DislaySearch predicts that tablet shipments will exceed notebooks this year. Again, that’s not so much slates replacing PCs as displacing new sales, as capabilities overlap. Microsoft doesn’t want to be left behind Android and iOS slates. This is a platform war that nobody wants to lose.


ASUS tablet shipments grew 402.3 percent year over year and Samsung’s by 263 percent, according to IDC. These are phenomenal gains, and both companies offer models running Windows 8 or RT alongside Android. Something else: They also sell what Microsoft doesn’t — smaller slates with screens 7-7.9 inches. Short term, Microsoft’s options are limited with Surface. But working with partners, Microsoft could bring Windows RT to smaller screens. Such a strategy would preserve Surface pricing and Microsoft’s strategy around bringing desktop Windows to new devices.

But there’s a wrinkle. Android costs ASUS and Samsung nothing, and Apple realizes the cost of iOS through research and development. Whereas, Microsoft partners pay to license Windows RT. I wouldn’t recommend that Microsoft give tablet OEMs Windows for free, but co-marketing contributions and other incentives could temporarily make the fees essentially zero — on smaller slates.

Already Apple feels the pinch. In Q4, iPad shipment share fell to 43.6 percent from 51.7 percent a year earlier, even as volumes increased (22.9 million from 15.1 million), according to IDC. However, for the second quarter in a row, iPad share declined.

Apple’s falling tablet fortunes show just how dynamic is the segment, and that competitors can and will gain share. But for which platform? Android or Windows RT? Microsoft can answer the question, even in part, by adjusting its tablet strategy.

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Microsoft alum: Windows 8 “a much deadlier assault weapon” than Windows 7

by admin ·

Former Microsoft senior VP says Windows 8 on ARM tablets is a “scale 9 earthquake”

Windows 8 is just what Microsoft needs to take advantage of the ongoing irreversible shift from PCs to handheld devices including iPads, iPhones and other form factors yet to be designed, according to the company’s former OEM chief.

Just as Windows 7 won instant popularity after the debacle of Vista, Windows 8 is poised to capture business from phone and tablet leaders such as Apple, only to greater effect, says Joachim Kempin, former Microsoft senior vice president in charge of OEMs who worked for the company from 1983 to 2002.

“Windows 7 spearheaded a comparably small rejuvenation,” Kempin says in his just-released book “Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft’s Secret Power Broker Breaks his Silence”. “I predict Windows 8 is readied as a much deadlier assault weapon.”

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He says the main intent of Windows 8 is to push the operating system into low-powered mobile devices running ARM processors vs traditional x86 chips. He says that when Microsoft introduced Windows 8 nearly two years ago it “flabbergasted the IT world by running on a tablet powered by NVidia’s ARM-based CPU. I consider this move to ARM a scale 9 earthquake and wake-up call for MS’s longtime allies Intel and AMD.”

He says that shift potentially signals the end of notebooks and PCs, not just media tablets. A strength of Windows 8 is its common interface and navigation across all devices, he says.

“No need to bother with the annoyance of having to remember different key strokes or gestures when switching between devices or operating them with a mouse or a touch screen,” Kempin says. “Neither Apple nor Google have ever accomplished such uniformity.”

He praises the design of Microsoft’s two Surface tablet models but dooms them to failure.

He thinks they will anger OEMs that were working on their own Windows 8 tablets and notebooks and who now may be driven to make them with Linux or Google operating systems.

In addition, he doubts the devices themselves can be profitable. “MS does not own a factory and has a track record of having trouble with sourcing hardware components and producing devices as cheaply as her competitors,” he says. “I do not know who did the math on this project. The slim revenue gain with not much hope for real profits combined with losing partners’ trust and loyalties seems not worth that risk.”

Instead, Microsoft should spin off a startup with the mission of making Windows 8 devices, putting a distance between the devices and Microsoft itself and creating just another OEM that competes with current OEMs.

Still, he likes Surface RT. “Adding an innovative wireless keyboard makes it a hybrid located between today’s notebooks and tablets,” he says. “When combined with the slick design promises to totally obsolete notebooks in a few years when solid state drives will become cheap and small enough to replace traditional hard drive storage units.”

He admires the strategy of porting Office applications to Windows 8 tablets based on ARM, known as Windows RT. Other tablets can support Office but only via remote services, not locally. “Less need for constant connectivity for 8-powered tablets when running MS-Office applications means a further leg up over Google’s solution,” he writes.

Apparently the book was written before Microsoft’s Windows 8 leader Steven Sinofsky quit the company just after Windows 8 launched Oct. 26. Kempin says the company should tap Sinofsky to champion Surface as a product fanatic as focused as Steve Jobs was at Apple.

“Like others I always wait for a service pack to be released before trusting a new OS version,” Kempin says. “[Sinofsky] will need to correct this notion with product excellence right out of the chute to gain vital momentum. This is in particular important for changing MS’s fortune in the media tablet market where Apple, Google and Amazon are seen as leaders.

Blindly mimicking Apple in order to take sales from it is a mistake, and that means getting rid of its new brick and mortar Windows Stores. “The company needs to get rid of all distractions like her doomed retail stores,” he writes.

He says Microsoft’s investment in Barnes & Noble and its Nook e-reader represent an assault on Amazon and its Kindle tablets and e-readers. He says Microsoft miscalculated the market for them when it devoted research into the devices in 1998. “But the developers involved in this effort were told to shut down because their solution was not Windows centric enough,” he says.

That was the wrong way to look at it, though. “You do not need Windows to read a book – MS-DOS would have sufficed and could have easily been replaced with more advanced technology later,” he says.

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Windows 8 discounts end in three weeks

by admin ·

Price of Windows 8 Pro upgrade may quintuple after Jan. 31

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Pro upgrade discount will expire in about three weeks, at which point the company will triple or even quintuple the current price of the new operating system, according to several online retailers.

On Friday, Microsoft reminded customers that a different upgrade deal will expire Jan. 31 — one that lets purchasers of new Windows 7 PCs acquire Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 — but made no mention of the same deadline for an upgrade from Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 on older PCs.

10 third-party alternatives for ‘missing’ Windows 8 apps

That discount, also set to end Jan. 31, prices a download upgrade to Windows 8 Pro at $39.99, or $69.99 for a DVD.

Microsoft announced both deals in mid-2012, and began selling the upgrades in October when Windows 8 debuted in retail.

According to online retailers, including Amazon, Newegg and TigerDirect, the DVD-based Windows 8 Pro upgrade carries a suggested list price of $199.99, or nearly triple the now-discounted price of $69.99.

Although Microsoft has repeatedly declined to comment on post-January pricing plans for Windows 8 Pro, its past pricing practices sync with the $199.99 list price: An upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, analogous to Windows 8 Pro, has always been priced at $199.99. Microsoft’s e-store currently lists it at that price.

It’s unknown whether Microsoft will continue to sell Windows 8 Pro as a download after the discount expires, and if it does, at what cost. If the price of a download is identical to the boxed copy — Microsoft has priced downloads and DVDs identically in the past — then the OS price will jump five-fold on Feb. 1.

The company has also declined to answer questions about Windows 8, the less-capable edition pre-installed on most new consumer PCs. But its silence has effectively confirmed that there will never be a Windows 8, as opposed to Windows 8 Pro, upgrade.

There is another, less-expensive, option after Jan. 31: Windows System Builder, the version for do-it-yourselfers who assemble their own machines, and who want to run Windows in a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. While the new “Personal Use License” of System Builder bans using it as “an upgrade license for an existing underlying Windows operating system,” there’s nothing stopping customers from using it to do a “clean install,” the term for installing an operating system on a reformatted hard drive.

Microsoft does not sell Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro System Builder itself, leaving that to retail partners. Although some offer minor discounts, the list prices are $99.99 (Windows 8) and $139.99 (Windows 8 Pro). Those are identical to the prices for “OEM” editions — the former name for System Builder — of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, respectively.

Another price that may jump after Jan. 31 is the Windows 8 Pro Pack’s, which upgrades Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft sells Pro Pack at $69.99; retailers currently sell it at that price or the slightly-lower $66.99, but note its list price as $99.99.

Other Windows 8 deadlines are also approaching: The Windows 8 Developer Preview of September 2011, the Consumer Preview of February 2012 and the Release Preview of May 2012 all expire Jan. 15. After that date, the free previews will automatically restart every one or two hours, and on-screen messages will tell customers that they must upgrade to a paid license.

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