Microsoft Ends Retail Sales of Windows 7

microsoft-windows-7You can’t buy it at the store any more…

I saw this the other day and it was one of those “oh yeah..!” revelations that take you buy surprise, but you kinda already knew if you sit and think about it for a second or two.  Microsoft very quietly has announced that is has ended retail sales of Windows 7 as of October 30, 2013.  However, don’t start panicking just yet.

If you still want Windows 7, you can still get it if you buy a new PC.  However, that’s likely the ONLY way you’re going to get it.  And – here’s the caveat on that – you have to buy that new Windows PC between now and October 30, 2014. Over and above that, the PC vendor you’re buying the hardware from has to offer the PC with Windows 7.  Unfortunately, not all of them do. However, PC vendors that DO provide that option should be able to sell Windows 7 at least until that date (2014-10-30) or two years after the release date of Windows 8.

After that, you can still get Windows 7 if you want. Windows 8 includes downgrade rights, so consumers can put an older OS on a Windows 8 machine if they wish. Further, OEM’s can also make use of those rights and offer the hardware with an older OS if they choose, before it ships.

Microsoft first announced this policy – to stop selling the OLD version of an operating system one year after the latest version is released – in 2010.  With Windows 8 released in October 2012, it was time for this policy to kick in.  However, Microsoft, as late as September 2013 hadn’t acknowledged this. Obviously, now they have.

win7_size

However, if you’re not in the market for new hardware, again…don’t panic. Its likely that you’re still going to be able to find retail copies of Windows 7, though likely not the latest, greatest version as of 2013-10-30, at a number of online retailers, including Amazon, for example, for years.  Copies of XP and Vista were available for quite a while after Microsoft stopped selling it directly to retailers for quite a while, and getting restore DVD’s for current hardware for some level of nominal fee has been possible for Dell customers for as long as I can remember. Downloading ISO images may also be possible, depending on the PC vendor in question.

For those that don’t have options to get Windows 7, you can always use apps like Stardocks’ Start8 to bring the Windows 7 UI experience to Windows 8.x.  The OS itself isn’t bad, its fast, stable and easy to use. It also has touch built in, so if your hardware has a touch screen, you may find it easier to use with Windows 8.  If not, apps like Start8 will make your Windows 8 PC more Windows 7 like.

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Decrap

DecrapIconClean up a new computer and start fresh. That’s the benefit of this cool Windows utility.

One of the neatest things about opening a new computer for the first time is finding out exactly what the manufacturer put on it. One of the worst things is trying to remove it after you find out its really nothing more than trashware. This is why I like applications like Decrap. Not only is it aptly named, it’s a clean up tool for Windows machines that may just be what you need.

Decrap is an application that helps you safely and easily remove all of the bloatware that comes pre-installed by the manufacturer on a new Windows PC. It can often take hours or even days to get all the pre-installed junk removed from your new computer. However, with this little freeware app, you can completely uninstall all the unneeded software without any real user input!

Pre-installed bloatware is often deeply integrated into the Windows operating system. Trying to remove it by simply deleting the installation folders not only means you may not get rid of it all, but can also result in other important programs not functioning properly.

DC-06

Decrap looks like it’s a decent app; but the biggest problem it has is that its not always clear what you should keep and what you should remove. You’re going to need to understand what apps you installed and what apps you want to keep. If you can’t figure that out, you’re going to have a hard time using the app. I wouldn’t trust it in full automatic mode. I’m really not THAT trusting.

This app isn’t great, but its definitely NOT bad at all. As long as you understand what junk the OEM installed on your new PC and what you want to remove, then you should have no problems using Decrap to clean up your PC.

download Decrap

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HP & WebOS – What does its Loss mean, really?

In a mobile world currently dominated by iOS and Android, does the loss and then open sourcing of WebOS really matter?

I’ve been in mobile devices most of my career. I cut my teeth on them. I’ve watched some devices and operating systems grow up, grow old and die. PalmOS, WindowsCE and Windows Mobile are a few. WinMo was killed for Windows Phone, and its totally different.

WebOS with its cards motif was a big step forward and a huge step away from Palm’s traditional PalmOS. The hardware was ok, the OS was pretty good; but Palm lost their momentum and wasn’t able to turn it around.

Palm mothballed the OS and sold it to HP. HP promised to do something with it, but they couldn’t get it together either. They initially decided to let the OS die, but later decided to revive it and open source it. Its been a number of weeks since that announcement. I can’t help but wonder what the impact of that development means at this time.

In a word or two…not much.

HP’s official development and work with WebOS has ended. They’ve given the software to the development community to tweak and use as they like. Right now, there aren’t any CURRENT devices using the open sourced (or any) version of WebOS. Unless a major hardware manufacturer or OEM decides to go that way, you likely won’t see it, either.

So again, what does that mean? Will it make a difference in an iOS and Android dominated market?

I don’t think so. The iPhone is the iPhone and will continue to grow in popularity all over the world. Android will continue in current and new devices, and be as diverse as the day is long. Windows Phone will continue to chip away at both; and RIM will likely disappear,  regardless of what WebOS does or doesn’t do.

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Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 3

Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to.  Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.

Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,

T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.

Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google.  This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.

What does this mean, exactly?  In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books.  However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.

It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music.  From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone.  It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps.  Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.

While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.

Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.

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Legacy Devices & Android 4 – Why your Ice Cream Sandwich is Gonna Melt

I’ve seen this over and over again – I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy.  Will I get the new upgraded OS for it when it’s released?

I remember back in the day when I had a Samsung i700 on Verizon Wireless here in the US.  Windows Mobile 2003 was about to come out, and the device was fairly new, and should have received the update for it fairly quickly. Samsung came out and stated that the device would get an update; but this was the early days of true smartphones – and apparently, the driver development wasn’t going well.

The device eventually got the upgrade that was promised, but it took Samsung over 18 months to deliver it.  Eighteen months…Eighteen months?!  Are you serious?  Yes, it was well into 2004 by the time the Samsung i700 WM 2003 upgrade was delivered.

Google just released the source code for the latest version of their Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich. As such, Samsung, HTC and others are in the process of working on Android 4.0 powered devices. Some of their flagship devices, like Samsung’s Galaxy S II, and HTC Sensation 4G may or may not see some ICS love.

At the end of the day, kids…It’s up to the manufacturer or the carrier, not Google.

This is somewhat different than my experience with the i700 and Verizon.  While it took Samsung a while to get it together, Verizon also did a great deal of “testing” with the new OS before it released it.  While the OEM and the carrier are supposed to partner together to manufacture the device, in the end, the carrier has the final say.  They’re the ones you call when you have a problem – not Samsung…not HTC.  You call Verizon, AT&T…whomever you have your mobile contract with. In the end, they really don’t want you to upgrade, however. They want you to buy a new device.  Think about it…it’s part of how they make their money.

However, I know that both Samsung and HTC have already announced a starter list for devices that will definitely get ICS.  Those lists can be found at the manufacturer’s web site, and should be easily located, so if you’ve got a Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. device and want to know if you’re going to get the upgrade, the best place to look is their home page.

If your device isn’t going to get an automatic upgrade, it’s not over. You can always root your phone and check out XDA Developers or CyanogenMOD.  More than likely, you’re going to be able to find a version of Ice Cream Sandwich that will meet your needs at either of those two sites.

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Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #2

In the Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #1 article we’ve been talking about why Ecosystems and mobile devices.  The big question that many of you are probably asking is, “ok… so what’s the big deal?  Why do I care about this? What differences does it make if my gadget of choice is part of any kind of an ecosystem?” It’s a good question.  And actually, it’s something that I know many pundits and marketing mavens have been tossing around. Most people, the pundits and mavens included, don’t completely get it.

Let’s break it all down…

Why an Ecosystem Matters at All
Mobile devices that do nothing more than PIM and Sync Services are equivalent to PDA’s of unconnected times past (think back to 2002-2005 and Compaq/HP’s iPAQ line of personal organizers) or are equivalent to one of RIM’s various Blackberries.  While that may not be too bad in some people’s eyes, think about the issues that are currently plaguing RIM, connectivity and outdated architecture aside.

As you may recall, we briefly touched on an ecosystem containing the following:

  1. PIM,
  2. Sync Services
  3. Purchasing Options & Methods for
  • Multimedia Content

– Music,
– Movies,
– TV Shows, etc.

  • Apps
  • eBooks
  • Pictures
  • etc.,

While the PIM and Sync Services are common to all mobile devices today, let’s consider the Apple model again, as we examine the above list.  What’s common to everything in that list..?  Simply put – iTunes.

iTunes manages the PIM data and sync services. It provides a purchasing and organization method for all consumer content. Apple also provides tools to help developers create content and register it with iTunes so it can be sold. This ecosystem is so simple to work with many developers can top 6-figure revenue marks in under 12 months, given the right product subject matter and type. This “no-brainer” product development model saw many developers leaving other, well established SDK’s for iOS development over the past few years.

But that’s been Apple’s model – build the complete solution, for consumers as well as developers – make it easy for them to live within the defined boundaries [of the ecosystem] and they will come. As I mentioned before, this is where the real money is, not in the hardware. Compatible hardware is simply enables the sale of consumer content.

What Amazon Did
Amazon did something similar, but they are trying to emulate, to an extent, what Apple has created by plugging the holes Google left in the ecosystem they created.  Google has the PIM and Sync Services; but doesn’t really have a trusted way to sell consumer content.  Amazon has had a way to sell music for years.  They have recently created a way to sell Android Apps. They’ve recently created a way to provide streaming movies and TV shows (via Amazon Prime). Their Kindle software provides a way to read and purchase eBooks.

I’ve been saying this for years – Amazon should concentrate on the sale of consumer content, not on selling hardware – to make their mark.  They actually did better than that, as the Kindle Fire is now poised to take the number 2 sales spot in the tablet market, but NOT because of the hardware. The Kindle Fire may take that spot due to the hardware sales, but it’s got the sales because of the kinds of content it supports, and what users can do with the device.

What Google Didn’t Do
Google may have a flagship phone in the Galaxy Nexus, but Samsung controls it; and they haven’t really enabled the new OS to do anything more than any other Android smartphone. Google doesn’t want to provide any type of specific experience, or control how you experience Android. They’ve built openness into the platform and have only recently chosen to address some of the holes with updates to Google Books, Google Music, etc.

What they haven’t done, though, is truly created the framework of the ecosystem for all of the OEM’s making and selling hardware. As such, there are a number of different launchers, like TouchWiz from Samsung and SenseUI from HTC. There are a number of different Android builds built into a number of different formats from tablets to smartphones to e-readers. The level of fragmentation that they have allowed by permitting OEM’s to choose from 5 different OS revisions (Éclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich) and their acknowledgement of their lack of revision control is staggering. By permitting 5 different OS revisions to be actively used at the same time, creates a great deal of variation and compatibility issues with applications in the Android Market.

While they may have the lion share of the handheld market, Google’s Android is floundering, struggling for direction. It needs Google to step up and define that direction in order to bring solidity and stability to the platform. If they truly want to beat Apple at their own game, this is what they need to do. Period.

Come back next time, and we’ll try to figure out where the heck Microsoft is in all of this.

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