BUILD it, and They will Come

Microsoft has a lot more work to do than you might think when it comes to Windows 8.1 and ModernUI

gsmarena_002My buddy Preston Gralla has a really great article over at ComputerWorld. In a nutshell, he seems to think that Windows 8.1’s Boot to Desktop feature is going to kill ModernUI development.

He may very well be right.

Users have been SCREAMING for an end to Windows 8’s Live Tiles and a return to the traditional desktop computing paradigm they (meaning, Microsoft) created back in the days of Windows 3.x. In fact, it’s very unlikely that ANY business ANYWHERE will EVER install Windows 8 on the corporate desktop. The learning curve is too steep and the productivity hit(s) are too deep to make Windows 8 a REAL OS in any respect other than limited BYOD or other enterprise engagements.

Windows Store, Alex Washburn

Bringing Boot to Desktop back is a huge win for users but a huge problem for Microsoft AND all of their development partners, currently scheduled to appear alongside Windows 8.1 at Microsoft’s developer conference, BUILD, next week. Unfortunately with only 10% of the apps that exist in both iOS and Android app stores (80,000 vs. 800,000), Microsoft has a big problem to solve. Microsoft wants more ModernUI apps. Here’s what they need to do:

 

  1. Get More Compelling Apps – Many tablet apps are stripped down versions of desktop apps. For example – photo processing apps that let me do quick retouching and leveling while out in the field, saving the big retouches and refinements for desktop counterparts when you get back home. If Windows 8 apps did the same thing as their desktop counterparts, but did them on tablet based processors, that would be huge. The best way for MS to get more compelling apps is for them to create API’s that make development easy and performance smooth. BUILD is just the place to roll out SDK’s with those capabilities.
  2. Incent Developers – Many tablet or device (smartphone/tablet) apps sell for a couple of bucks. Developers make money on volume in the iOS and Android world; and nearly everyone from major 3rd party developers to your grandma’s dog are writing apps and making a fair bit of money, too. Windows 8 apps tend to be 2x-3x more expensive than their iOS or Android counterparts because the volume isn’t there. There aren’t a lot of users using Windows 8. Microsoft has to find a way to get developers to pump out a number of good quality applications quickly. I’m not certain how to incent developers to do that as yet. I’m going to leave it to MS to figure that one out, but that also needs to happen quickly.
  3. Build the Install-base – Just because the apps are there doesn’t mean the users will flock to the hardware or the OS. Microsoft needs to find a way to DRAMATICALLY increase Windows 8 adoption. They can do this by:
  • Giving the OS away or making it dirt cheap to license and/or purchase
  • Permanently, dramatically lowering the price of Surface RT as WELL as Surface Pro tablets. I’m thinking $199 for RT and $299-$399 for Pro tablets. The current price cuts you’ve heard about are a start, but don’t cut deep enough.
  • Subsidizing 3rd party hardware costs, making it easier for OEM’s like Dell and ASUS to provide competitively priced devices in line with the prices, above.

While I wouldn’t hold my breath on any of these, especially that last set of suggestions, it’s clear Microsoft has to do SOMETHING to turn this ship away from the iceberg. If they don’t find a way to get more compelling ModernUI apps and dramatically increase the amount of people using them, it’s clear to me…the Windows 8/ModernUI ship won’t stay afloat for long.

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Will Microsoft do a Redo with Windows Blue?

New rumors are circulating indicating that Microsoft is trying to win you back with Windows Blue…

It’s true I’m not Windows 8 fan. However since my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet run Windows 8 and is a Surface Pro competitor, I’m at least interested in the future of the platform and what Windows 8.1 – more commonly known as Windows Blue – will bring to the table. From what I understand, there’s good news and bad news.

First the bad news – Microsoft isn’t giving up on ModernUI in Windows 8. Windows RT, even though it has Desktop Mode doesn’t run legacy Windows apps, so it can be confusing. WinRT is NOT the Windows you’re used to.

I saw an interesting article by my friend, Preston Gralla. If Preston is right with his speculation, then MS is going to do a bit of rethinking with Windows Blue and will let users boot directly to the Windows Desktop. However, Preston doesn’t think it will happen.

WinBlue

My other friend, MaryJo Foley, is further speculating that not only is Microsoft considering allowing users to boot directly to the Desktop, they are considering bring back the Start Button as well. While both of these design elements were removed from Windows 8 and were NOT part of the original Windows 8.1 feature set, according to MJF, “these two UI options are looking more likely.”

MJF makes it very clear – nothing is certain, but at least Microsoft is looking at this as a very real option. The next milestone leak or the public preview in June will tell the tale. We’re really just going to have to wait and see, as until the software is in the can, anything and everything can change.

I am stuck in the middle. I’m not entirely certain that MS will relent and have the options built into Blue to bring back the Start Button or allow users to boot directly to the desktop. However, I really think they should do it. If they don’t, I see Microsoft having continued issues with Windows 8 adoption. Unfortunately, that’s something that they really don’t need right now, and the absolutely need to address.

As always, time with tell the tale. In the meantime, if you must have this functionality now, you can always check out my review of Start8 here on Soft32 and install it. It brings back the Start Button and allows you to boot Windows 8 directly to the Desktop.

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Windows 8 Adoption is Slower than Adoption of Windows Vista Was

If this isn’t a “V8 Moment,” I have no idea what might be…

There’s been a bunch of articles hitting the tech rags lately indicating that the current rate of Windows 8 adoption is slower than the adoption rate of Windows Vista was at about the same point in its release cycle.

Well, duh.

If that isn’t a “V8 Moment” (think of the V8 vegetable juice commercials, where people smacked there head out of “stupidity…”) I have no idea what is.

The major reasons why Windows Vista failed were:

  • The interface – Microsoft moved our cheese
  • XP adoption was still strong
  • Enterprise adoption didn’t take off

Unfortunately for Microsoft and Windows 8, the conditions the market is seeing with Windows 8 is either the same or much worse than with Windows Vista. I’m going to break it down, very quickly.

Graph Source: Net Applications via ComputerWorld

The Interface
Unfortunately for Microsoft, I think there’s more negative press with ModernUI than with the Vista version of Aero. The biggest problem with Vista was that MS changed where people had to go to get to most of the same functions they were using in Windows XP. What they were doing when they finally FOUND what they were looking for didn’t really change, though there were some updates to process, method, etc.

Unfortunately for Vista, the changes were considered so drastic that its consumer adoption tanked. People didn’t want to have to relearn what they were doing and those that were buying new PC’s decided to use Windows XP instead. Which brings us to the next point…

Previous OS Adoption
At the time that Windows Vista was introduced, Windows XP was still in very wide use. It was stable. People were comfortable and familiar with it, and most importantly, were productive at home and at work.

Enterprise Adoption
This was a foregone conclusion – enterprise adoption of Windows Vista wasn’t going to happen quickly, even under the best of conditions. IT Admins and managers don’t introduce unknowns onto their networks. They just don’t. They want tried, tested and reliable equipment, software and tools they know won’t fail or cause problems. At the time, Vista wasn’t it, and wouldn’t be for at least a year or more.

The problem with Vista’s enterprise adoption was that people weren’t willing to wait to learn where Microsoft had moved everything. Vista failed to gain any traction because it was considered too different in a sea of Windows versions that had evolved and moved users towards greater productivity.

Now let’s take a look at Windows 8. The interface is a more drastic change from Windows 7 to Windows 8 than Windows Vista was from XP, Windows 8’s touch interface also doesn’t work well with non-touch hardware.

Windows 7 is still very popular and very usable on laptops, desktops, slate styled tablets and ultrabooks. Windows 7 also hasn’t made it into the enterprise in many cases because of the upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. You either need to jump to Vista (and pay a license fee to do so) or wipe the PC and install from scratch. Enterprise adoption slows to a crawl there due to the amount of heavy lifting and/or large cost to upgrade from XP (where many companies still reside) to Windows 7 or even Windows 8.

So what’s the bottom line here? Please don’t be surprised that Windows 8 adoption is slow. Please also don’t be surprised when Windows 8.x (including Windows Blue) is declared a flop. I am seeing a great deal of press on all of this and no one should be surprised.

Windows RT should be the tablet OS and Windows 8 should be a desktop/laptop OS. The Live Tile interface on the desktop doesn’t work, and Microsoft is being VERY stubborn about admitting it made yet another mistake.

My biggest fear is that I’m right about all of this. My biggest fear is that Microsoft takes too long to make changes to address the way its users work and it waits itself right out of business. I’m not saying it’s GOING to happen… I’m saying I’m afraid it might if someone at Microsoft doesn’t take control of how the ship is spiraling out of control…

If I were a shareholder, I’d be demanding changes be made…quickly. If I’m wrong, I’d love for someone to present convincing evidence to the contrary. I’m willing to listen…

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