FEATURE REVIEW – Microsoft Windows 10 Part II

Windows Live is Dead, Long Live, uh… Windows Built in Apps

The Windows Live series of apps and branding was one of the things that really helped make Windows 7 a success.  While these all changed to ModernUI apps in Windows 8 (and the transition killed what was and could have continued to be a really nice suite of apps), Microsoft has worked hard save some or all of them.  Windows Live is dead.

Long live Windows Apps…!  Uh… yeah.

Windows 10 has some really nice replacement apps that it rescued from ModernUI. While some of them, like Food and Travel will both die as Microsoft discontinues them, others like Video, Music, Photos and Mail and Calendar have been revised and reintroduced in Windows 10.

27 - Windows Apps

Mail and Calendar are two of the apps that help make up the touch version of Microsoft Office (see below) and are really nice Universal and touch implementations of these two (now) system level apps.  All of these apps are available as part of the default Windows 10 installation and are available for use out of the box.  (Whereas with Windows Live apps, you had to go and download a different installer to get them.)

28 - Windows Apps

As a brief aside, the above download will work on Windows 10, as I previously reported, but will require the installation of .NET 3.5 or greater runtime to your Window 10 PC. It’s also the only way to get Windows Live Writer, which, by the way, works very well under Windows 10.

Office Gets Touchy

The touch version of Microsoft Office was first released for iPad in 2014 and then was followed shortly after that with the Android version.  The Windows version is now available for download in the Windows Store, and is free… though, there are a few catches to this.

First, if you want to do anything really and truly productive with it, you’re going to need an Office 365 subscription. Period.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive subscription.  Any one will do; but you’re going to need one.  If you have a Windows computing device that came with an Office 365 subscription, like the WinBook TW700, then you already have the rights to the fully functional bits.

24 - Office

If you have a low-end tablet something with a screen 10.1 inches or smaller, then you can get the apps with basic functionality for free, and won’t need a subscription…unless you need premium features. Here’s the specifics from Microsoft:

“Currently, we are also using screen size to delineate between professional and personal use. Based on our research, we are classifying anything with a screen size of 10.1 inches or less as a true mobile device: You’re probably using it on the go, when it’s not practical to use a larger computing device such as a PC or a Mac. You probably aren’t using a mouse or a keyboard, instead navigating via touch interface. It’s probably not a “pro” category tablet that is used for design or presentations. On these devices, the core editing and viewing experience is free, until you get to those premium, subscription features.”

25 - Office

Any way you look at it, getting these apps is a great idea and something that you will want to have at your beck and call for quick editing tasks or when you simply don’t want to run the full version of either Word, Excel or PowerPoint to make a few quick, light edits.  These are also perfect for school aged children when they need to write a report or to create a presentation for school or some other extra-curricular activity.

26 - Word

Windows 10 is Free

There’s been a lot of talk on this and a lot of it has been confusing, especially when it comes to, “which version and I gonna get?”.  Here’s the skinny on the whole deal.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade, for a period of one (1) year from its release. If you have a PC running a legitimate, activated version of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you have a period of one year to get your free upgrade.  After that, it’s thought that you’ll have to pay for your upgrade, but Microsoft hasn’t clarified that.  You may be able to get it free after 2016-07-29; or you might have to pay for the upgrade.  Users who do upgrade to Windows 10 will get a corresponding version of Windows 10 for free.  You must already have a Genuine version of Windows running, however, and there are a few caveats where versions are concerned.

Users of Windows 7 Starter Edition, Home Basic or Home Premium will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8.1 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

Users of Windows 7 Pro or Windows 7 Ultimate will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.  Users of Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Users wishing to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro can do so, but can expect to pay $99USD.  This can be purchased online, or in stores, at any time, after the upgrade completes.

As always… clear as mud.

Once you upgrade, Microsoft is planning on supporting Windows 10 for a period of 10 years (so until roughly 2025-07-29).

Performance

I’ve been looking at Windows 10 on a couple different machines since the inception of the Windows Insider Program. I think I’ve got enough information as well as enough experience with the new OS to give everyone a decent take on how the OS will perform on new as well as legacy hardware.  However, as with everything in this world, you mileage may vary – meaning that your experience on the same hardware that I’m using and referencing may be different than what I have depicted here.

Surface Pro 3

Performance on my Surface Pro 3 (Intel Core i5-4300U, 2.0-2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) has been acceptable to decent.  Based on what I’m seeing here, and having experienced on my current SP3 this as well as the entry level SP3 (Intel Core i3-4020V, 1.5GHz, 4GB RAM 64GB SSD), it’s clear to me that an Intel i5 processor is likely the bare minimum needed to run Windows 10 with any level of acceptable performance.

As with any version of Windows, it’s going to eat as much RAM as you can throw at it.  The more you have dedicated to a specific processor or processor core, the better the machine is going to perform.

On machines like any Surface Pro or other Windows compatible tablet, upgrading any core PC component, simply isn’t possible. You’re stuck with what you got when you purchased the device.  In situations like this the best thing you can do is buy as much as you can afford.  If you can tolerate it financially, make the purchase hurt just a bit.  While the purchase may be a bit of a stretch, in the end, when you try to make the device do more than it really can or should – and most users likely will – you’ll be glad that it’s there in the end.

The Surface Pro 3 that I have is the mid-range model. I got it when it was on sale and only $100 USD above the price of the low-end i3 model SP3. While this device technically CAN run Photoshop and Lightroom, this configuration isn’t one that I’d recommend doing that on, at least not long term. You’re going to want something with more punch and a lot more RAM than just 4GB.

Low End, Budget and Small Tablets

The biggest problem with Windows 10 on a low end or any kind of budget or small screen tablet, is that these devices don’t have any upgradable storage or RAM… well, and the performance just totally sucks.  Unfortunately, these are the kinds of machines that would likely benefit most from a RAM upgrade.

Budget equipment often uses low end components, like Intel’s Atom processor line.  While this processor can run Windows, performance levels on those machines are really only realized on units that have at least 4GB of RAM.  Unfortunately, devices in the low end or budget category often don’t have that much RAM.  Most of them have 1-2GB of RAM; and you’re going to be lucky to have one that has 2GB of RAM.  Yeah… I think you’ll find that that extra gigabyte of RAM, its strategically important.

The biggest problem with all of this – small tablets like the WinBook TW-700 – came with Windows 8.x Pro.  That means they’re supposed to get the Pro version of Windows 10 on 2015-07-29, when the new OS launches.  Tablets like this suffer from three huge issues

  1. They don’t have a powerful enough processor
    The Atom processor on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 may be a few years old, but it technically still has some usable life in it. However, I’ve noticed that anything short of Intel’s CherryTrail Atom line – the processor in the Surface 3 – won’t have enough power to push Windows 10.  So, all of those awesome WinBook tablets like the TW-700 and the TW-800 line tablets, are going to have huge issues running the new OS, even though they should qualify for the upgrade.
  2. They don’t have enough RAM
    Tablets in the budget line often have just 1GB of RAM. While Windows 10 will live in that space, it’s like shoving your foot in a shoe that’s half a size too small. You can walk; man, it’s extremely painful.  It’s going to be the same way here.
  3. They don’t have enough storage
    Seven to eight inch tablets are usually 32bit machines.  I haven’t seen one yet house  64bit processor.  The Windows 10 install DVD for 32bit machines is about 3.5GB in size.  This is a problem because many of these smaller, budget oriented tablets only have 16GB of storage space.Decompressed, Windows 8.x requires about 7GB of space, on a virgin drive.  After you add in Windows Update History and an application or two, you’ve only got 2GB or so of space left over.  With Windows 10 requiring at least 4-8GB of space to install, you’ve got impossible space problems.  You aren’t going to be able to upgrade that tablet let Windows 10.  You might be able to do a clean install, provided you do a full hard drive wipe; but then you’ve got to install all of your apps again, and if your product/ registration codes were virtual – meaning they really did come preinstalled on the device – then getting them back is going to be nearly impossibleWindows 10 was supposed to ship with a method that would allow you to temporarily uninstall apps and/ or move them to an SD card in order to facilitate installation, but that feature got delayed, and will likely be part of Threshold 2 (TH2), or the next official big update of Windows 10, due out in October of 2015.  I don’t think Windows 10 will run on these small, budget tablets then, either.

So, what are you to do if you want to try to put Windows 10 on that kind of tablet?  Your best bet is to either find the ISO and burn a hard copy DVD or buy a copy with a dedicated product code and install Windows 10 that way.  Any method you use, however, won’t improve Windows 10 performance on this type of budget tablet.  It’s still going to be slow going and it’s never going to get better, because you can’t install additional RAM.

Conclusion

There’s a lot here, kids.  There really is.

It’s clear that Microsoft really screwed the pooch when it came to Windows 8.  They went all in with touch, but then didn’t embrace a mobile strategy that made any sense.  Windows 8 – and Windows RT too, if you really think about it – tanked because Microsoft didn’t (couldn’t or wouldn’t) give up the desktop.

Windows RT was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to the iPad, and it would have worked (been better received/ accepted..?) if RT devices were MetroUI/ ModernUI ONLY…and without the Desktop.  Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make that happen, and nearly everyone choked on a touch interface on a non-touch enabled PC.

But that’s in the past.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to learn from its mistakes and has introduced an operating system that tries to embrace touch but gives up enough to allow it to work on the desktop without causing most of the world’s workforce – who does business on a Windows powered PC – to get work done. In this regard, Windows 10 will succeed and do very well.

From a mobile perspective, Microsoft is trying.  They really are… yeah, they’re trying…as in trying my patience.  Windows 10 Mobile still isn’t out yet, and still isn’t available in preview form on the Windows Phones I have access to.

Microsoft is trying to create one “version” of Windows that has enough UI common elements that you’ll feel comfortable and familiarized with it, regardless of what kind of device – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet (regardless of size) or PC – that you’re holding.

What Do *I* Really Think?

Windows 10 is designed to be FAMILIAR… and it is, in many ways. Users of Windows 7 will feel comfortable with the redesigned Start Menu (though they’ll likely remove ALL of the Live Tiles…); but it will at least look and feel familiar enough for them to use and work with.  Those that did move to Windows 8 and are stuck on that paradigm, will find Live Tiles in the Start Menu and can even make it go full screen, if they wish.  Again, familiar.

But again, what do I think..?  That’s pretty easy.

Windows 10 is a decent operating system. I think there are going to be issues with updates and new builds that will likely either break the internet or try your patience as you try to download updates that are likely to come at a pace that’s a LOT more frequent than you’re used to.  I have a feeling you’re going to see a bit more bundling of fixes and such into service packs than we have in the past few years… that will at least make it easier to update your PC after you have to blow it and rebuild it because you got a nasty virus or adware infection.

Using Windows 10 is fairly straight forward and the new UI elements are easy to get used to.  As I said, its familiar; and you’re going to like it coming from either Windows 7 OR Window 8.x.

Should You Upgrade?

If you’re using Windows 7, you can stay there for another year or two if you really have to. There’s nothing wrong with it, but when the Windows 10 upgrade is free, and it’s still fairly familiar to what you’re using now, upgrading makes a lot of sense.  If you’re on Windows 8.x and you don’t like it, and you really need to get off of it or switch to something else, again… the upgrade to Windows 10 is free and at least worth a shot before you go off and buy a Mac or switch to some Linux distribution that will also likely be a bit of a stretch for you.

So, if you fall in any of those spots, yes, upgrade.

Unless…

If you’re on a budget tablet – anything with say an Atom processor and DEFINITELY anything with 1GB of RAM – stop.  Don’t accept the upgrade and stay with Windows 8.x. Period.  I’ve had nothing but trouble with my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet on Windows 10, and it has 2GB of RAM. I can’t imagine what 1GB of RAM would be like.

One the desktop side, it’s going to be pretty much the same thing.  Any older processor types – Core Duo’s, Core 2 Duo’s, Celerons (regardless of how new the PC is) – won’t fare well under Windows 10 with anything under 4-8GB of RAM, and even then, you may not want to upgrade.  And going back to your previous OS may or may not be possible, depending on the amount of storage you have and whether or not you have the original restore DVD’s.

So, in the end, Windows 10 yes. Two thumbs up.

Windows 10 on older machines (say, 4-5 years old)…? Your mileage may vary; but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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FEATURE REVIEW – Microsoft Windows 10 Part I

Windows returns to its roots with the last version of Windows…ever.

Introduction
I’ve been involved with every Microsoft Operating System release, as either a part of the formal technical beta team, a representative of an MS partner doing formal testing in cooperation with Microsoft and the company I worked for (the MS partner), or as part of a formal public beta, providing professional level feedback (i.e. detailed bug reports) since Windows 95. I’ve had my hands on (nearly every) beta and prerelease build of Microsoft Windows (and Office, for that matter) since the (public) beginning of the internet. I still use the MSN email address that was assigned to me during the test of the original MSN dialup service (you know… the one to go up against AOL). It’s now used as my Microsoft Account ID.

It was only natural for me to get involved with the Windows Insider program for Windows 10 when it started in October of 2014. I’ve tried to stay active throughout the Windows 10 beta, and as you can see from my Insider Profile, I’ve done an ok job.

I’ve also tried to cover Windows 10 developments since the start of the Insider Program. If you remember the list that I published recently, then you’ll notice that there are just a couple more to add to the list:

There’s more to say about Windows and small tablets as well as budget tablets and PC’s. Is Windows 10 the right OS for your legacy hardware, or should you stay with what you have? Will Windows 10 run well on your device, or will you bump into performance problems? Will Windows 10 be the savior that Microsoft is hoping it will be? I hope to answer all of that and more. Let’s take a look at what Windows 10 has to offer and we’ll find out…

New Microsoft Windows 10 Features

Some would call Windows 10 a natural progression of features and UI enhancements from Windows 8.x. I completely disagree. Like Windows 7, Windows 10 is a strategic retreat… a rehashing of features and interface elements designed to make it more appealing, more acceptable to a near totally disgruntled user base.

Like Windows Vista, nearly everyone HATED Windows 8. Windows 8.1 (either with or without its Updates), was only begrudgingly tolerated; and in my opinion, only because owners of Windows 8.x native computers HAD to tolerate it. I don’t have the actual numbers, but I’m certain that nearly everyone that could downgrade their PC to Windows 7 without losing major functionality or hardware compatibility, did. Windows 10 has a huge row to hoe when it comes to improving the PC computing experience.

Windows 10 is supposed to be familiar and easy to use. The Start Menu is back, but it’s not quite like you remember it. It’s sort of a mish-mash between the Windows 7 and Windows 8 Start Menu and Start Screen, respectively. You can pin apps and live tiles to it; and if you’ve not actually in love with either, you can pretty much customize its complete look and feel. With pinned apps, you get access to the apps you use the most. With Live Tiles, you get access to either Universal or Desktop apps, but also get a small window into the newest data received by the app.

If you accept that an Intel Core i5 is the baseline processor, even with 4GB of RAM, I think the OS starts up and resumes fast, has more built-in security to help keep you safe, and is designed to work with software and hardware you already have.

There are some decent new features that come standard with Windows 10. While some of these features may require specific hardware in order for them to be used, many of them will be usable by nearly everyone, regardless of computer brand or system components. Here, I’m going to cover some of the more notable features. With that, let’s take a look at what Windows 10 will offer…

Windows Hello

Passwords are a pain in the butt to remember. When you have a password policy at work that requires you to change it every 30 days, remembering your (constantly changing, constantly) new password can be challenging. Windows 10 tries to better that with the implementation of biometric login’s via either fingerprints or your face.

Yes… your face.

With Windows Hello, Windows 10 is able to recognize your face and log you in with a smile. While this will require specific and specialized web cam hardware – and did I mention that that hardware does NOT exist on the Surface Pro 3? – it does nearly insure that no unauthorized users will be logging into your computer to steal your data.

01 - Windows Hello

I haven’t had the chance to try out Windows Hello, largely because none of the computers I have, have the necessary web cam hardware in order to be able to take advantage of it. However, it sounds pretty cool. If this kind of camera hardware is relatively inexpensive to either add as a third party option or to include as part of a computer or tablet’s core components, then this could be a huge step forward in providing a secured PC computing experience. However, only time will tell if this turns out to be something useful or something that’s nothing more than a fad at best.

The Start Menu Returns… Sort of

One of the biggest fau pax’s in Windows 8.x was its lack of Start Button and complete absence of Start Menu. The Button came back in Windows 8.1. The Menu is back in Windows 10, sort of…

In Windows 10, the Start Menu is more of a mish-mash between the Start Menu of Windows 7 and the Start Screen of Windows 8. In Windows 10, you have both menu shortcuts and Start Screen live tiles. To boot, the whole thing is resizable with your mouse.

On the left side of the Menu, you have app folders and short cuts. Live Tiles are on the right. If you wish, you can completely remove all of the Live Tiles and keep just the Start Menu. This will make the whole thing seem more Windows 7 like, and perhaps something that will be more familiar to those that need the familiarity.

<02 - Start Menu>

While this mashup isn’t always the best of features – during the beta period, many tiles would work for a while and then stop working – at least you have a choice of all, some or no tiles at all. In Tablet Mode, however, you get the full Windows 8.x style Start Screen (and that’s all that Tablet Mode really seems to be – a giant Start Screen, well, and full screen width system dialog boxes…).

You can still get access to the Desktop in Tablet Mode… which doesn’t make ANY sense to me… but I digress.

Virtual desktops

The biggest issue with mulita-tasking is that there just doesn’t seem to be a big enough monitor for me to put all of my open apps on in a way that’s easy for me to get to, especially when I’m really working hard. Virtual desktops allow you to organize work in such a way that you have access to your monitor’s full resolution, without having to constantly minimize and maximize open windows (though, quite honestly, I don’t know what the big hullaballoo is around that…)

03 - Virtual Desktops

Anyhow, in Windows 10, you can create an “unlimited” number (and by unlimited, I mean, given how much physical and virtual RAM your machine has, can make and can manage) of virtual desktops that will allow you to organize programs in a way that makes sense to you. How well that makes sense to you, is a bit hard to predict. You get there via a Windows Key + Tab key combination, or you can tap the virtual desktop icon on the task bar, next to Cortana’s search bar.

04 - Virtual Desktops

This feature has been possible via third party apps for years, but now its native functionality in Windows 10.

Windows Snap Improvements

Back in the days of Windows 3.x, cascading and tiling your open windows was all the rage, and one of the better ways to organize your work, especially once OLAE (Object Linking and Embedding) came around and you could actively link parts of one document into another. This made it very easy to find what you were looking for in one document, and then either cut and paste it or drag and drop it into the target document.

09 - Windows Snap

Fast forward a decade or two, and Microsoft introduced Snap in Windows 8. Snap gave you the ability to anchor one window to one half of your monitor and then another app on the other half of your monitor, effectively giving you the ability to swap bits and pieces back and for like you did back in the day, though with Snap, it may be a bit easier to setup.

Metro apps are Dead. Long Live Universal Apps!

So… ok. Windows 8’s MetroUI/ ModernUI and the apps that went with it totally sucked. Microsoft finally got it and completely killed not only the UI in Windows 10, but the apps that went with it. Well, that is to say, that they killed the way the apps looked. Now, these apps are called Universal Apps.

05 - Universal Apps

The idea here is that these redefined, universal apps can run on any machine running any version of Windows 10, regardless of screen size or form factor. With Universal Apps, developers get to code once, (theoretically) compile once, and have an app that runs on a Windows Phone, a Windows tablet, as well as on a Windows PC. Microsoft is hoping that this will entice developers to not only continue developing for Windows, but to also create apps that will run “on every version of Windows.” This is code for Microsoft trying to beg developers to write apps for Windows Phone and the Windows Store, which they have largely ignored since its inception.

Yeah… It echoes in there.

06 - Universal Apps

Action Center

Windows Charms are gone. That interface went out with Windows 8.x. In its place when you swipe in from the right edge of your screen, or when you tap the dialog bubble in the System Tray, you get the Action Center.

07 - Action Center

From here, you can address any and all system level notifications that either the OS or any apps have sent you. You can dismiss one, some or all of them, or tap on any individual notification to deal with it directly.

08 - Action Center

Additionally, Quick Action buttons near the bottom of the Action Center give you instant access to often used, important system functionality. These buttons are customizable via the Notifications and Actions applet in Settings.

Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer has become, over the years, a huge non-standardized mess. Because so many enterprises – companies – run Windows, Internet Explorer in many cases became the default browser of any company that ran the OS. When that happened, those companies locked in their version of Windows AND Internet Explorer in a death grip that still has many companies still running Windows XP, running IE6. It’s just the browser (and version) that just won’t die.

10 - Microsoft Edge

With Windows 10, Microsoft hopes to change that. Microsoft Edge – formerly called Project Spartan – is the newest browser in Microsoft’s new flagship, desktop OS. With Edge, you can annotate live web pages and then share those pages AND your notes with others. You can read online articles without being distracted and you can save articles to be read at a later time. Edge and Cortana (see below) also work together, so you can make restaurant reservations or read reviews, without leaving the page that you’re currently viewing.

11 - Microsoft Edge

The code name for this new Windows 10 exclusive app is aptly named. The app is a bit Spartan when it comes to on screen controls as well as features. While I’m certain they will come, post Windows 10 release, waiting for an Edge version of everything that you may see in other browsers make take a bit of time.

12 - Microsoft Edge

The browser isn’t the easiest thing to use, and many may find it a bit confusing. The address bar, for example, is completely hidden. If you click up near the top of the current tab you’re on, it will appear, but I never feel as though I’m clicking in the right place. I’d rather have a visible edge to the box that I can see… The lack of polish on things like this make Edge interesting, but all the more difficult to use.

Cortana Comes to the PC

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now voice operated, digital assistants. While both Siri and Google Now have been around a bit longer than Cortana, the latter seems a bit more sophisticated and easier to use.

13 - Cortana

On Windows 10, you can even train Cortana to learn your voice. It will only respond to you after that (at least in theory) and its accuracy is much improved after training completes. I was actually very impressed with Cortana during my vocal testing of it.

14 - Cortana

However, I don’t see myself using Cortana all that often. I don’t use Siri hardly at all on my iPhone. I just don’t talk to it; but that may be because it’s not as advanced, and is so very limited. Siri just doesn’t do as much as Cortana can.

15 - Cortana

16 - Cortana

I don’t know that I will use Cortana all that much on my Surface Pro 3. I honestly don’t use it outside of the office; and I’m not the type to talk to my computer. I have enough problems with people looking at me like I’m nuts as it is. I don’t need to provide them with any additional fuel.

17 - Cortana

Using Cortana via a keyboard, however, is totally easy and natural. You type in your natural language question, and Cortana does the rest. Searching the web is easy. Finding documents, apps, or System Components (like Control Panel or Settings applets) is easy and takes just as much effort as typing the name of the document or thing you’re looking for. That works a bit easier than you might think and won’t get you strange looks at work when you talk to your Surface Pro tablet…

However, if over the next few years, Cortana can become more intelligent and can really help boost productivity, then I may revisit this decision of forced silence at a later date. For now, however, I think I’ll just try to stick to typed searches.

18 - Cortana

Xbox and Windows 10

I’m not a huge gaming fan. I don’t play at all, though I do have an Xbox One in the house. My son, however, is the local gaming expert. What I’m really looking forward to allowing him to try, though is the Xbox and Windows 10 gaming integrations between Xbox and a Windows Phone 10 device.

19 - Xbox

The boy can really spend some time playing games. On the weekends – read Saturday… Sunday is Church – when we allow him to play with some extended time, he gets up early in the morning and meets many of his classmates online for extended rounds of Destiny or Halo. They’ve been known to play for hours until one parent decides to break it all up.

20 - Xbox

At our house, that’s usually when my granddaughter gets up and comes up stairs. At times like that, or when others want to use the TV for something other than watching him kill aliens, transferring the game to a Windows Phone handset or to a Windows tablet may be a good thing for him. He can still play his games, and I get a chance to use my television set.

21 - Xbox

Don’t expect this game console – PC/ Windows Phone/ Tablet integration to become available on 29, July, however. While Windows 10 will eventually come to Xbox, I don’t expect it to be released until sometime in mid to late October with the TH2 (Threshold 2) release of Windows 10.

22 - Xbox

The Xbox app on Windows 10, however, will allow you to get access to the same games, and you should be able to play Xbox titles on your Windows 10 PC, with your Microsoft account, if you can actually get the gamer tag to set.

23 - Xbox

On an unrelated side, I’d like to say that I did not choose the gamer tag that’s shown in these shots. The Xbox app chose it, and I actually find that choice of tag to be in very poor taste considering the little girl that was nearly stabbed to death.

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Feature Review – Nexus 6 & Project Fi Part Two

Service

As I mentioned earlier, Project Fi is Google’s MVN (Mobile Virtual Network) like Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile or Cricket is a MVN. All of those companies rent towers and service from either AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon and then resell it to the general public. Project Fi does the exact same thing but with service from Sprint and T-Mobile.

The service from Project Fi is unique, however, in that it offers service from two very distinct and different service providers. Sprint is a CDMA mobile broadband provider. T-Mobile is a GSM service provider. Individually, each services don’t provide great coverage. Some of their coverage areas overlap. Some don’t. However, together, they provide a much better coverage area than they do alone.

Project Fi Local Coverage

At the very least, they provide a much better coverage area where the two services overlap. When you don’t have good cellular coverage, and when you have access to Wi-Fi, you can do everything – make and take calls, surf the internet – via that Wi-Fi network.

Everything is supposed to switch seamlessly between all of the different components without any loss of service. I’m still testing this, and will likely have more on this in the coming weeks.

Service Plans

The service provides unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international text messages, low-cost international calls, Wi-Fi tethering and coverage in over 120 countries, world wide.

PF-01

PF-04

Everyone that subscribes to Fi gets these “basic” services and these things grouped together are actually called, The Fi Basics. All of that is $20 bucks a month.

PF-05

Project Fi data is an additional $10 bucks a gigabyte, a month. You want 3GB of bandwidth, that’s an extra $30 bucks (plus the $20 for Fi Basics), so a total of $50 bucks a month. Google charges you in advance for the service.

If you don’t use all the data that you’ve budgeted for, then Google will credit your bill back for the bandwidth you don’t use, next month.

Given all this, let’s take a look at how well the service actually works in the wild.

PF-06

Voice Performance

I’m using the Nexus 6 as a backup device and not as a daily driver. With the deprecation of Google Voice (see below), I can’t use my GV number as I used to. The Google Voice app for iOS won’t function as it used to and allow me to use my iPhone 6 with both numbers.

PF-07

However, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from the voice and data coverage in my area. Calls are clear and apparently transfer from tower to tower without issue. Areas that are known to be dead spots or weak coverage areas perform without issue. Areas where known tower transfer issues occur (on a single service) don’t seem to be an issue with Project Fi.

Provided you have decent Sprint or T-Mobile coverage in your area, and provided you have a @gmail.com, AND provided you can get an invitation and are looking for new cell service, Project Fi might be a decent option for you. But…those are a lot of “ifs.”

PF-08

Data Coverage and Performance

I’ve been pleased with the speed of Project Fi’s data network up to this point. As long as there’s decent mobile broadband coverage, I haven’t really run into any real challenges with slow network performance. Because the service has two distinct mobile signals to choose from – one from Sprint and one from T-Mobile – the Nexus 6 (always) has a (potentially) fast mobile signal to choose from.

PF-09

The best thing about Project Fi and its data coverage is that it’s always receiving all voice and data signals from every service at all times. It is intelligently able to choose the best signal and tower/ service to use for the tasks you’re trying to complete. I’ve actually really liked the way the data service has performed so far.

The only issues I’ve had with any data related speeds have been on the Wi-Fi networks that I’ve been using. That, however, has more to do with those networks than with the Wi-Fi adapter or antenna in the Nexus 6.

PF-10

Google Voice Deprecation

If you’ve ever had an Android phone, of any flavor or version, then you’ve likely used Google Voice with your cell service. When coupled with an Android phone, its an awesome feature. However, there are issues with Voice when it comes to Project Fi, and if you’re going to use the two of these together, then you need to be aware of them.

Under Project Fi, Google Voice is completely deprecated. What you used to know as your voice mail, is, like, gone, man. Its history… splits-ville… erased… and I do mean TOTALLY ERASED. For me, that’s a huge problem. I lost my dad a few years ago, and I had four messages from him that I was able to save from the trash a number of years ago, and every now and again when I needed a bit of cheering up, and I needed to hear his voice, I’d play one.

Well, now, those are totally gone; and I have no idea how to get them back, or if its even possible. Project Fi completely replaces Google Voice, even on the desktop; and once that’s done, it can’t be undone. If it weren’t for those four saved messages from my father, I wouldn’t care; but…

Depending on how much you use Google Voice – I haven’t much since making the move to the iPhone as a daily driver – then this may or may not be a road block for you. With Voice gone, you’ll have to switch to Hangouts for texting and other communication services, outside of voice mail. This may or may not be a problem for you. I’m not a huge Hangouts user, but from what I’m reading on the web, it’s a poor substitute for what you got from Google Voice.

Conclusion

I started this review out with the clear intent of really only reviewing Project Fi. I’ve tried to remain true to that.

The Nexus 6 is a decent device, but boy is it big. Its difficult to work with, with only one hand. The screen is clear and bright. The device has a decent camera and the performance of the hardware is really great.

Android Lollipop 5.1.x is ok. Honestly, I’m not an Android fan, so there really isn’t any chance of me moving to the Nexus 6 permanently. However, if Android is your cup of tea, then the Nexus 6 is a decent device.

Project Fi is a decent network, provided you live in an area that has decent coverage. Nationally, the picture isn’t all that great.

Project Fi National Coverage

While Project Fi could potentially make use of any cellular network (with the right agreements or contracts between Google and a carrier) to increase the 4G or LTE coverage, but currently the best coverage seems to be in the Mid West US.

However, if you are in an area with coverage and you can get on the service (as I previously noted…) its not bad. The fact that everything works, including voice calls, on all of the network towers that it works with, is kinda cool. The coverage is decent in my area, and the prices are definitely good. If this gets implemented a wider range of coverage, this could be a decent service for everyone… provided that it works on a larger array of devices.

Working on Android only and then only on the Nexus 6 is kind of a bummer, and an expensive one at that.

Related Posts:

Feature Review – Nexus 6 & Project Fi Part One

Google’s new cellular network, Project Fi, is here. Is it all its cracked up to be?

Nexus-6

Introduction

I’ve been a Google Services user for quite some time. In fact, I have a Gmail address that I still actively use that dates back to one of the very first and original Gmail Invitations. I began using Gmail in 2003, shortly after it was introduced to the public. I’ve been using Google Apps as a (now grandfathered) free, domain account since late 2009. I love Google Services for (seriously) just a very few reasons, the first and foremost being that they usually are always up and running. Its not like the earlier days when they went down all the time.

When Google announced Project Fi, I looked into getting myself a review unit and an account. With device and service now in hand, I am now currently looking into how well it all fits together. Project Fi is the company’s first foray into being an MVNO – Mobile, Virtual Network Operator.

Project Fi combines services from two mobile operators and one universal, networking service (Wi-Fi) in order to provide voice and data services. With Sprint and T-Mobile providing calling and mobile broadband service, combined with Wi-Fi calling and internet access, you should have coverage nearly everywhere… or at least that’s the idea.

There are a couple caveats with Project Fi, however. In this article, we’ll look at those. We will also look at the service it provides, the changes it makes to Google Voice – if relevant in your use – as well as the hardware it requires. I’m not going to go into a truly in-depth look at the Nexus 6 hardware (though I will cover it, somewhat). I’m going to concentrate more on how it works with Project Fi more than anything else.

The device has been available for a while; and if you’re looking for an in-depth or teardown review of the Nexus 6, you should check those out first. Again, I’m going to go over the device , but I’m going to really skim over it. There are a number of really good reviews of the Nexus 6 on the web already. You can find a few at pocketnow.com, C|Net and Engadget. With all that said, let’s get to it…

 

Hardware

The first thing that you need to know about Project Fi is that it requires very specific hardware. You can’t just take a Project Fi SIM and stick it into any phone with a SIM slot. It just doesn’t work that way. In order to use the service, you have to use compatible hardware, and that means acquiring a new device, unless you happen to own a Nexus 6.

Nexus-6

The Nexus 6 is the first (and currently only) smartphone (at the moment, at least) that works with Project Fi. If you already have a Nexus 6, you’re halfway there. All you have to do to get on the service is go to the Project Fi website and request an invitation.

Yep… an invitation. Oh… and then wait. Like, forever.

Nexus-6

Like everything cool that Google does, part of their DNA is to dangle their projects in front of you, make the access exclusive, elitist and again, cool; and build demand for it, if only just to build up the hype. In the end its (metaphorically speaking) just a photo upload service, just a webmail app, just an online office suite, etc.   So, Project Fi is just like a… no. Wait… I’m getting ahead of myself… AH-GAIN.

Nexus-6

In order to access the service, after your invitation arrives, again, you need a Nexus 6. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can purchase one through Project Fi. If you do, you have the option of buying it outright, or by paying for it over the course of 24 months as part of your monthly service, interest free.

Nexus-6

Through Project Fi, the Nexus 6 is $549USD for a 32GB version or $599USD for the 64GB version. Project Fi only offers the Midnight Blue version of the Nexus 6, so your only real choice with the device is storage size. If you want to purchase a Nexus 6 via their monthly purchase plan, you’ll pay about $22 a month for the 32GB version and $24 a month for the 64GB version. Again, there are no finance or interest charges. Your monthly charge will include any applicable taxes. If the Nexus 6 on Project Fi is going to be your daily driver, then it really makes sense to purchase the 64GB version, especially if you go the monthly payment route, as the price difference between the two is only $50USD. That process requires a credit check, though.

Nexus-6

However, Google is being very picky about who qualifies for the monthly payment option and who doesn’t. I wasn’t given specifics, but I was told by the PR rep I spoke with that even with my very good credit, that I wouldn’t qualify.

Screen

The first thing you’re going to notice about the Nexus 6 is its huge screen size. The device’s screen specs can be seen below. All of the specs in this article have been gathered from Phone Arena, which is one of the best places I know of to look for hard core, device specs.

Nexus-6

Physical size: 6.0 inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density: 493 ppi
Technology: AMOLED
Screen-to-body ratio: 74.03 %
Touchscreen: Multi-touch
Features: Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)

Simply put, at 6 inches, the device… is enormous. With a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, its screen rivals the display resolution of my Apple Thunderbolt display. The only difference in the resolution (and only the resolution) between the two is that the default orientation for the Nexus 6 is Portrait (where any monitor – like my Thunderbolt Display – has a default orientation of Landscape). According to the specs, above, the screen is nearly 3/4 of the entire device. When you see it, you’ll likely have two thoughts – 1. Wow! The screen is 3/4 of the entire device!; and 2. Wait… its only 3/4 of the entire device?? That can’t be right. There’s more screen on this thing than that! The rest is system board, casing and battery.

Nexus-6

With its AMOLED display, the Nexus 6 is incredibly readable in direct sun light. I didn’t have any issues with it in that department. The device is awesome for watching video or taking pictures with its 13MP camera (more on that, below). Game play on this thing has to be amazing, given the screen’s large size and resolution. (I, unfortunately, am not much of a gamer…)

Nexus-6

With such a large footprint, the device is nearly impossible to use one handed. I’ve used a lot of devices with a lot of different form factors, with and without large touch screens. This one is hard to use with only one hand. I’m not certain I’d even try if I were you. You’ll sprain a thumb, at least. When I tried, I kept dropping the display on my desk.

Nexus-6

Lastly, the Nexus 6’s screen is covered with Gorilla Glass 3. The glass is effectively scratch proof, though Google will tell you its only scratch resistant. However, Gorilla Glass 3 is so tough, you won’t have to worry about the contents of your pocket scratching your screen.

Specs

The Nexus 6 runs Android 5.1.x, Lollipop. Google has recently stated that the device will receive an update to Android 5.1.1, “within days,” but since I received my review unit on 2015-07-09, I haven’t seen the update hit. Android 5.1.1 will be arrive as an over-the-air (OTA) update; and will provide a number of improvements, such as improving the display, increasing battery life for Wi-Fi calling and enhancing notifications.

OS: Android (5.1, 5.0)
Dimensions: 6.27 x 3.27 x 0.40 inches(159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06 mm)
Weight 6.49 oz.(184 g) the average is 5 oz. (142 g)
Rugged: Splash resistant

If the screen size didn’t give it away, then the dimensions above, should. The device is really big. At 184g (6.5oz), its also got a bit of heft to it, too. The biggest problem I had the first day I had it, though was actually keeping it in my hands. The device kept sliding out of my hands (as I noted above) because I kept trying to use it one handed. Thankfully, I was sitting at a desk in the office. With a phablet this large, don’t try it. If you’re out and about and you fumble the device, you’re likely going to have it hit the ground, and these things always manage to land on a corner or edge and then the screen shatters (Gorilla Glass 3 or not). That’s physics and geometry. Hitting the corner of a device at the right speed and velocity will likely send enough force up the glass to crack or shatter it. This bad boy requires you to use both hands to operate it. Get used to it and get over it.

The Nexus 6 has a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and Adreno 420 graphics with 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The device is quick and can handle just about anything that you throw at it. With the native resolution that it has, and support for HDMI (via microUSB), with the right adapter, a Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft Office for Android, this could make a decent, on the road, laptop replacement. Couple that with OneDrive for Android, and you’ve got a perfect on the go way to edit documents in a pinch. With its large screen, you don’t really HAVE to have a microUSB to HDMI adapter. You could probably edit documents right on the plane in your oh-so-comfy coach seat if you really needed to.

In that regard, the battery on this device is pretty nice too. At 3220mAh, you have about 12 hours of talk time, 14 days of standby time and 10 hours of continuous video playback (or likely somewhere in between, depending on your brightness settings and data needs). When you need to recharge, the device comes with a turbo charger that can take you from 0-50% in 20-30 minutes. The device also supports Qi wireless charging (pronounced “chee”) for your cord-free, charging convenience.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY

GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS: 800, 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE: 700 (band 28), 800 (band 19), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 900 (band 8), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
TDD LTE: 2500 (band 41) MHz
Data: LTE-A Cat 6 (300/50 Mbit/s), HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSDPA+ (4G) 21.1 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, EDGE, GPRS
nano-SIM: Yes
VoLTE: Yes
Positioning: GPS, A-GPS
Navigation: Yes
Bluetooth: 4.1
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
Mobile hotspot: Yes
USB: USB 2.0
Connector: microUSB
Features: Mass storage device, USB charging
HDMI: via microUSB
Other: NFC, MHL, SlimPort, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync

Camera

I’ve been trying to use the Nexus 6 as a camera whenever possible. Its not the easiest device to wield and hold; though, in truth, taking pictures with it isn’t a horrible experience. Though (also) in truth…the performance could and should be a whole lot better, especially with the specs on the camera and the system hardware. This thing should be a whole lot faster than it is.

Thankfully, it appears as though Google has heard the wails and cries of its peoples and has released a Nexus 6 and Android 5.1 Lollipop only update to Google Camera that addresses some of these issues (plus others). The update – version 2.5.052 (2005148-30) was released on 2015-06-11. I’ve had this device for about a week, and I’ve had it on every day since getting it. I’m not certain why I’ve only just received this update today.

I’ve got a small gallery of pictures that I’ve taken with the device. They’re not anything spectacular, but you can check them out, below.

Camera: Popup13 megapixels
Flash: Dual LED
Aperture size: F2.0
Features: Autofocus, Optical image stabilization, Face detection, Digital zoom, Geo tagging
Shooting Modes: Popup High Dynamic Range mode (HDR), Panorama
Camcorder: 3840×2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920×1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps), 1280×720 (720p HD) (30 fps)
Front-facing camera: 2 megapixels

The rear camera is a 13MP camera that will shoot in a number of different sizes and modes. The camera supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio shots. You can get 13MP, 5MP, and 3.1MP shots in 4:3, and 9.7MP and 2.1MP shots in 16:9. The camera has a f2.0 aperture, so its pretty fast and should be ok in lower lighting situations. The cool part, though comes in its camcorder modes. The Nexus 6 shoots 4k, 1080p and 720p video at 30fps.

Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6

Speaker pop

I’m not sure why this is happening; but every time I turn the device on or off, the bottom speaker is popping. Its getting pretty annoying, too. The device started doing this out of the box, even before any software was installed or updated on it, so I know this isn’t something that I installed or updated causing a problem or conflict. I may need to contact Google on this one…

Software

Stock Android

The great thing about a Nexus device is that you’re running stock Android. Granted, this is not AOSP (Android Open Source Project), which is what Amazon and similar players use. This has the full Google Services install in it, and as such, you get the full Google Experience.

With the Nexus 6, you are supposed to get updates regularly, and you’re supposed to get all the updates, too. I’ve now gotten my Lollipop 5.1.1 update, and I really don’t see much of a difference in the device’s performance.

End of part one … come tomorrow to see the part two of our review

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Windows 10 Build 10240 Reaches RTM Status

Microsoft has released Windows 10 Build 10240 to manufacturing.

Windows 10 Build 10240

So what’s 6 measly days between friends, right?!

It’s just been announced that Microsoft has reached RTM status and will release Windows 10 Build 10240 to the public, according to The Verge. This is the “last” version of Windows to be released to users prior to the July 29th release date.

While there hasn’t been any indication of release of this RTM build to Fast Ring Windows Insiders, I would expect that to happen prior to the end of the normal work week. According to The Verge, there aren’t any new features included in this new build. It’s largely fit, form and functionality improvements and bug fixes, even with the large build number jump from 10166 to 10240 (which, by the way, is the binary value, equivalent to 10.00… see what they did there..?)

This is the build that will be shipped to computer manufacturers and OEM’s so that it can be put on new machines that are supposed to ship with Windows 10. As I mentioned, its assumed that Windows Insiders will get this build (along with others that will likely come to the general population) prior to the 2015-07-29 release.

The last couple weeks of this month should still be interesting. Let’s see what happens. You can look for a formal review of Windows 10 on Soft32 in the weeks to come.

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Microsoft Puts Windows 10 Insiders on the Outside… Temporarily

Microsoft recently announced that new builds via the Insiders program will be temporarily suspended, effective immediately.

windows 10 insider logo

At some point during the late part of last year and the early part of this year, I thought that Microsoft might do this, but as things progressed, that thought moved further and further from my mind. Unfortunately, Microsoft has actually done what I thought it would do when it comes to Windows 10 RTM and post RTM deliveries – They’ve asked their Windows Insiders to test the production delivery system.

In order to do that, Microsoft has removed access to Builds 10162 and 10166 from the Fast and Slow Insider Delivery Rings. They’ve also removed official ISO’s from their site. At this point, if you haven’t downloaded either of those builds from Microsoft or haven’t downloaded any official ISO, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining either of those resources via Windows Update or the Windows Insider website.

According to a post from Insider Grand Poobah, Gabe Aul,

unnamed

“We’re suspending the availability of Windows 10 builds briefly while we prepare for that, and the next build that we flight to you will be delivered using the production channels. Starting tomorrow, we will also not be delivering any additional ISOs at this point as we really need Insiders to be using, stressing, and validating our distribution and upgrade processes. We’ll make ISOs available again in the future, but for now we ask you to upgrade your current build via Windows Update once the next build is released.”

In the next 24 hours, you should expect to see that Windows 10 shows “up to date” when looking for a new build, and again, the ISO’s to disappear. You will also find that pre-release keys will no longer activate builds.

Again, Microsoft is assuring all their Windows Insiders that this is temporary and that they need us to test the production delivery systems. Additional builds will flow down to Insiders, but when they do, they will be via the Production Pipeline, and will be builds that will most likely be Release Candidates as well as the final RTM build of Windows 10.

Microsoft has said that they will also continue to release builds to Windows Insiders post RTM release. I am assuming that they’ve worked out the delivery system for Insiders vs. the general public when “everyone” is running Windows 10, post RTM, and a new Insider Build is made available. How THAT will be setup, however, hasn’t been made generally available, however.

The important thing to do here, however, is to go and get the ISO’s as quickly as you can… to go and run Windows Update NOW and get Builds 10162 and 10166 ASAP, because if you don’t have them now… by this time on 2015-07-14… you won’t be able to get them OR more importantly, to activate them.

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UPDATED – Expect Windows 10 to RTM this Week

Yeah… about that…

windows10

So, earlier this week, I posted an article that cited reports that Windows 10 would RTM, or Release to Manufacturing, this week. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

Microsoft was initially targeting 2015-07-09 as the RTM date, according to internal sources. The new RTM “target” of the middle of NEXT week – 2015-07-14 to 2015-07-16 – is when it is now expected. Microsoft instead pushed Build 10166 to Fast Ring Insiders late on the evening of 2015-07-09.

Missing this date signals a couple of things.

1. Windows 10 still needs finishing work from Microsoft Developers
2. Missing the 2015-07-09 target will affect the ability of OEM and hardware manufacturers to have new computers with Windows 10 ready to ship on or close to Windows 10’s 2015-07-29 release date

If you’re a Windows Insider – part of the team that’s been beta testing Windows 10 – or someone with a Windows 10 reservation, this likely isn’t going to affect you too much. You’ll get Windows 10 for free when you’re supposed to. OEM and hardware manufacturers, however, will need to wait for Microsoft’s release process and evaluations to finish before they can get the copy that they’re going to install on new computers; and while that will likely be well in advance of the 2015-07-29 date, its likely going to effect when they’re going to have product ready to ship. Its likely that new computers won’t ship with Windows 10 in time for 2015-07-29.

The way that things have been going is definitely slower than Microsoft expected, I think. They really didn’t start applying any real fit and finish to Windows 10 until Builds 10158, 10159 and 10162 were released in rapid fire succession during the week of 2015-06-29.

This delay also indicates that Microsoft will likely have patches available for installation when new users initially turn on and setup their newly purchased computers for the first time. While this isn’t a surprise to anyone – there are ALWAYS patches to download and install via Windows Update when setting up or rebuilding a (new) machine – it is a bit aggravating. Its part of what makes rebuilding a Windows machine such a horrible experience. It doesn’t take long to do a clean install; but it does take a great deal of time – sometimes hours and hours – to have it all updated before you can really get your hands on it and begin putting all of your software back on.

This delay signals more work needs to be done; and while OEM’s will get their build, with all of the work that Microsoft is doing, its not clear if new computer users will need to download and install patches, or will need to download and install a new build…or both. I mean, who hasn’t installed Windows and then spent the next day or so downloading and installing system updates?

So yeah… about that RTM thing I mentioned this week.. Apparently…not so much.

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Microsoft is Killing the Ballmer Legacy

…but at this point, I don’t thing Ballmer cares

Microsoft

I’ve been a huge Windows Mobile guy most of my writing career. I was an enthusiast when Windows 10 Mobile was WindowsCE back in 1990-blah-blah-blah. I’ve written for the WindowsCE Lair, and helped both pocketnow and Gear Diary get off the ground. If you remember, I was nominated for Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP at least twice (that I know of) between 2003 and 2007 (when the program was officially terminated). So when I see information regarding the dubious future of Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, it always hurts a bit. Today, that development was made public; and it’s devastating for Windows Phone and Windows Mobile.

If you remember, a couple weeks ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella informed the Microsoft crew and the rest of the world of upcoming changes to the organization. A massive restructuring like that and a message of “[having to make] tough decisions” about the business going forward is upper management speak for, “layoffs are coming.” It’s never good for current staff that find themselves in vulnerable areas, and unfortunately, given their current market share and position, Windows Phone was an obvious target.

Today, Microsoft announced a number of changes to the division that contains Windows Phone. The organization is making a downsizing that will reduce up to 7,800 positions globally in the phone business; with the reductions taking place “over the next several months.”

These changes are huge, and unfortunately, very expensive. Per Nadella’s email to all MS employees:

“Today, we announced a fundamental restructuring of our phone business. As a result, the company will take an impairment charge of approximately $7.6 billion related to assets associated with the acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business in addition to a restructuring charge of approximately $750 million to $850 million.”

According to my good friend, MaryJo Foley,

“Microsoft will focus its phone efforts on three segments: Businesses, value-phone buyers and flagship phone customers, moving forward.”

Further, Mary Jo isn’t surprised that MS is making this change. Nadella made more than one statement in a recent earning’s call that indicated that, “further action [was needed] to reduce [Microsoft’s] costs across devices as [they] execute on our Windows 10 first-party hardware plans.”

It’s all very interesting if you think about it.

Further, it’s completely killing the legacy that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer left when he exited the organization; but I’m not certain that current CEO Satya Nadella is too concerned about that.

Nadella was never really supportive of the Nokia acquisition. In fact, he originally came out against it. Microsoft acquired the phone manufacturer’s business in 2014 for $7.2B. With this current write down – or COMPLETE devaluing – of the original acquisition (based on the original purchase price vs. the write down), Microsoft is willing to take up to a $8.45B hit – or a 10% hit over and above the original purchase price of the purchase of Nokia – just to jettison (what he obviously feel is) the dead weight.

Microsoft has stopped just short of killing Windows Phone, however. With Windows 10 still in beta, and with Windows 10 Mobile still in testing, Microsoft has a great deal of current activity and resources actively engaged in upgrading and improving their mobile experience. However, this new action may make a number of people – including me – actively question that commitment.

While Nadella has said,

” In the near term, we will run a more effective phone portfolio, with better products and speed to market given the recently formed Windows and Devices Group. We plan to narrow our focus to three customer segments where we can make unique contributions and where we can differentiate through the combination of our hardware and software. We’ll bring business customers the best management, security and productivity experiences they need; value phone buyers the communications services they want; and Windows fans the flagship devices they’ll love.”

Its changes like this that clearly show the breadth and depth of an organization’s commitment to a platform that just hasn’t been able to effectively compete in the mobile segment.

This, again, points the limelight and the fickle finger of fate back on Ballmer. He is the one that never understood Mobile and completely caused Microsoft to lose its competitive edge near and around (before and/or just after) the time that the original iPhone was released back in 2007. Prior to that, despite Microsoft’s lack of full support for PocketPC and Windows Mobile, they had quite a large share of the mobile market. (Their big competitors at the time were RIM/Blackberry and Palm.) While Microsoft is still in the game, the other two aren’t, and the share that Microsoft has is really a fraction of what it once was. While Nadella isn’t killing the platform, this could really be the beginning of the end.

I mean, after a buying a business for $7.2B, you write it down for as much as $8.45B (or again, a 10% bump over and above the original purchase price), for a total cost of $15.65B doesn’t bode well for a platform and a market that just don’t know what they want to be when they grows up… if they ever get the chance to. All of this really makes Ballmer look bad, and cements what I’m certain (but speculating) everyone at Microsoft already thinks they know – Windows Phone’s life expectancy is very short.

It’s also clear to me that Steve Ballmer probably doesn’t care how his legacy, if he even really left any lasting legacy at Microsoft, is perceived at this point. It’s clear that both Microsoft and he have moved on. Ballmer now owns the LA Clippers; and Nadella (and the rest of Microsoft) seem to be firmly on course to remaking Microsoft into an organization that can survive the Post PC and Post tablet computing eras, which if you REALLY think about it is not only cool, but is the way it really should be.

What do you think? Is the huge write down good for Microsoft? Will Windows Phone survive? Will Microsoft simply exit the hardware business..? The mobile business..?? Or will they reinvent mobile computing with ultrabook convertibles like the Surface Pro 3? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on all of this?

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