Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.

EVER.

Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.

WP-01

I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.

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After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.

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The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.

BUT..!

What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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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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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,

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“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…

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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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Expect Windows 10 to RTM this Week

This is either a good thing, or a not so good thing…

windows 10

As a SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) professional with over 25 years in QA, releases are always a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve heard some SDLC professionals say that software is ever “released,” it escapes. The more that I think about that statement, especially in light with all of my personal, professional experience, I can’t help but agree. As a QA guy… you always want more time with a project before you release it into the wild. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that way…

I think this is going to be how things work with the release of Windows 10. The way things have been going over the life of the beta since Windows Insiders started testing in October 2014, it’s been a bit rough. Here are the articles I’ve published on Windows 10 since the Technical Preview started. Please note these are in reverse order, with the most recent listed on top:

There’s a lot there. Thirty (30) articles is a lot for around six months. That’s about one article a week, at least; and when you consider that we’re in the home stretch, there’s likely to be a number of different builds pushed to Windows Insiders, up to, and past the 2015-07-29 scheduled release date.

I say scheduled, because I’m a QA guy, and the QA guy in me says, it ain’t done cooking yet.

What does that mean, REALLY? Well, there are a couple things that have come to light today – 2015-07-06 – as I write this article, and they’re really kinda telling.

First and foremost, Windows 10 is reportedly supposed to RTM (that’s Release to Manufacturing, to the uninitiated…) sometime this week. That means that at some point this week, Microsoft will need to deliver a build of Windows 10 to all its OEM partners so they can start building machines with the final version of Windows 10 installed on them. In the past, that has usually meant that the Windows Development Teams are done with development and can shift gears to post implementation support (meaning, they have bug fixes and Windows Update updates and patches to create, test and deliver. When have you NOT bought a Windows computer, set it up and then waited (what seems like) days for it to download and install a boat load of updates via Windows Update?

Well, according to another recent development, that’s going to happen again. Only this time, it could be a much longer wait.

Microsoft recently announced that Windows 10 Insiders would be the first ones to get Windows 10 once its available on 2015-07-29. There are roughly over 5 million of us as of this writing, and that’s going to clog up the Windows Update servers for a good WEEK or more, at LEAST, before all 5 million plus, get the RTM bits. After that, the OS will be made available to the general public, according to your reserved place in line – read, your reservation [number]. It’s going to be a good long while before the rest of the world gets their first taste of Windows 10.

Let’s take a good look at that last sentence there – It’s going to be a good long while before the rest of the world gets their first taste of Windows 10.

If you read between the lines, this smacks of “delayed deployment.” In other words, it can be interpreted that Windows 10 isn’t ready, and what’s likely to be the case is that a number of updates as well as potential new builds will be released to everyone in that release chain before it hits the general public. OEM’s may install (and I’m totally making this number up…) Build 10200 on their systems as the RTM build, but by the time early adopters get new, native Windows 10 machines in their hands, they may need to download Build 10299 (or greater – internal builds not released to even Insiders may take up a lot of build numbers between RTM and the build end users actually have installed on their machines after initial setup and updating is done) on their machines.

This is both good and bad.

It’s good because Microsoft should be continuing to update Windows 10 to resolve bugs, provide finish and polish to the OS as a whole. It’s bad because a build is anywhere between 2.5GB to 4GB in size depending on your processor type (32bit or 64bit, respectively). Users also don’t want to have to wait to download a whole bunch of updates before they start using a new PC, either. Making them wait is just Microsoft begging for bad press.

And it seems its already getting some on this particular issue, too.

The best and easiest way to insure that you get Windows 10 either on, or as close to Release Day as possible, is to join the Windows Insider program.

According to Microsoft News, 2015-07-09 is Windows 10 RTM Day. They also state that Microsoft is currently testing Build 10176 on their internal, TH1 branch. It’s also supposed to be the first internal release candidate. If that’s the case, Fast Ring Insiders should expect at least one Build to be released to them this week. My guess is that we’ll see at least two (2), with a potential for a third, like last week. However, that’s going to depend on the amount of usable feedback Microsoft got on that rapid fire, three build release. As I said… I’d expect two (2).

What do you think? Will Windows 10 be ready to go at the end of the week? Will the RTM Build be usable, or will it contain issues that will REQUIRE an immediate, end user upgrade to the latest build as soon as your new PC is turned on? How big of a PR or perception issue will that be? Will Microsoft’s new, rapid release effort cause people to blow their bandwidth caps? Will it create a multi-build download requirement, or will all builds be cumulative updates? Is this a good idea, or just a disaster waiting to happen?

I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you give me your perspective on this issue in the discussion area below, and let’s figure it out.

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10162 to Fast Ring Insiders

Wow! It’s been a busy week in Redmond!

Windows 10 Build 10162

I am so behind in my writing projects it’s not even funny. I relayed the status of my big summer projects this week. I was fortunate enough that I was able to knock out my review of the Pebble Time just a short time after that. That… was a big win for me.

It was a big deal because both my Windows machines – my Surface Pro 3 and Dell Latitude ST2 – are in varying states of train wreck status, even though both of them are using Build 10158 or later. Yes… I’m still having all sorts of train wreck classification errors with the Dell. I just don’t know if this thing is going to be a good candidate for Windows 10. Dell is going to have a lot of optimizing to do in order to make certain that they don’t run into support related issues with it.

While things are a bit better on the Surface Pro 3, Windows 10 is still in a pre-release state, and there are some potholes still out there. However…

In that regard, Microsoft has released a third build of  Windows 10 Build 10162  to Fast Ring Insiders today. According to Gabe Aul – Windows 10 and Windows Insider Grand Poohbah extraordinaire – Insiders normally on the Fast Ring can now consider themselves on the faster, Fast Ring. Says Aul,

“We’re at the point in the development of Windows 10 where nearly every build is getting out to our internal rings, and passing the criteria for release to Windows Insiders. We’re focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it’s much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we’re adding big new features. So now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates. We’re deciding how long to let each build stay with Windows Insiders so you can really exercise them and send feedback on any problems that you’re hitting. I know many of you have said you’d love daily builds, but it is actually important sometimes to get a few days on a build so that all of the code that does deferred work (like OneDrive sync, search indexing, background updating, etc.) can run and we can get feedback and error reports.”

According to Aul, it’s very possible that Windows 10 Build 10162 may get released to Slow Ring Insiders as well, as early as next week. This would also kick off the release of official ISO images of the build (so that I can get it on my Dell. Did I mention getting Windows 10 on that machine was a bit of a train wreck..??)

With the release and RTM of Windows 10 so very close at hand (T minus 27 days and counting…), it’s very possible that we’ll see many more rapid fire releases of Windows 10 between now and then hit the Fast Ring. If you’re on that ring, expect to see more of this in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the new OS on 2015-07-29.

I suspect that testers on the Slow Ring will also see an increase in build releases during the same time frame.

Are you on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring track? Have you installed any of the builds released this week? If so, what do you think of them? I’ll have some updates on the state of my installs next week. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, though, and let me know how things are working for you.

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