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Windows 8: could it be more than lipstick on a pig?

Posted on 6 Jun 2011 at 09:35

Jon Honeyball delivers his definitive verdict on Windows 8 - and wonders whether Microsoft may have an ace up its sleeve

So Microsoft has finally shown its hand, and opened the curtains on Windows 8, if only for a highly controlled sneak peek at the D9 conference. Some pro-Microsoft commentators have rambled on about how this was aimed at the audience of the D9, and thus the wider questions were left unanswered. Utter tosh. D9 was merely a vehicle for Microsoft's PR machine. It was all part of a planned unveiling, and if you think the global audience watching the videos were not considered to be the primary target, then more fool you.

What has Microsoft shown? Of course, it’s easy to jump to conclusions on the basis of a few minutes of demonstration. The devil is always in the detail, and the product is far from ready for release. Have I put in enough tempering thoughts so that I’m not accused of leaping off into the unknown?

History will not be kind to the Windows team and its utter failure to predict the rise of the 7-10in tablet

Well, here goes. Windows 8 is the most important release since Windows 95. Back then, it brought a new UI and a move to proper 32-bit GUI programming. Today, we have the same basic UI, an OS in 32-bit and now 64-bit versions, and a crater-sized hole in the shape of the tablet marketplace.

History will not be kind to the Windows team and its utter failure to predict the rise of the 7-10in tablet. Worse still, it will be even less kind in its view of Microsoft's ability, or rather almost complete inability, to respond to this emerging space.

The reason Microsoft was caught on the hop was down to history. The deal with the OEM partners was simple: the OEMs made the hardware, Microsoft made the OS, delivered the developer tools and fostered a development community. The reality is that the delivery of the development tools was almost a by-product of writing the OS and its own internal applications, both client and server. A development community happened almost without Microsoft's input, because of the huge market share that Windows enjoyed. Of course, effort was poured into programmes such as TechNet, MSDN, the developer conferences and so forth. But the developer tools were a by-product of the larger Microsoft vision, not an end unto themselves.

Apple’s game-changer

Apple iPad

With tablets, Apple changed the rules. No longer was it a case of an OEM supplying the hardware, and Microsoft coming up with the OS, the developer tools and the third-party developers. Now it was an integrated stack - hardware, OS, developer tools and an application store. Not only that, you got a walled garden of security for the user. Apps were checked before being made available to ensure they had no malware. Style guides were enforced with a non-negotiable rigour. Credit-card handling, app distribution, versioning and so forth were all handled by Apple for a relatively small fee. But worst of all for the developers, the customer was an anonymous paying entity that was hidden away from the developer.

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User comments

Spot on

Apple and Google both recognise that tablets are fundamentally different in terms of how they're used and interacted with, compared with laptops and desktops. So, in both cases, they've created tablet OSes whose roots are in the pre-existing smartphone OSes - smartphones being much more similar to tablets than laptops are.

Microsoft made a pretty good (if late) fist of the latest version of Windows Mobile and Windows 8 clearly takes its UI cues from mobile. HOWEVER, to saddle an OS with a requirement for compatibility with legacy apps strikes me as not "brave" but has the whiff of cowardice and lack of confidence.

I don't want a mobile optimised UI on my desktop. I don't want legacy apps designed for mouse and keyboard on my tablet.

For chrisakes, they have great examples on the market to look at after all! The iPad shows the way, Android 3 is almost there too. Microsoft is in severe risk of missing out on the tablet market just as it's probably missed the boat with smartphones. Late 2012 is too late. Way too late.

By KevPartner on 6 Jun 2011

One thing I don't understand:

"Despite the UI default being the new touch-tiled interface, you can bet that there will be a policy-based setting that lets a company turn this off by default if needed, especially on business desktops."

How sure are we that this will ever be the default UI for desktops? My only source is the video that says it will be the first thing one sees after loading W8 but this was stated during a demo on a tablet where that would make sense. I don't get why anyone would want a desktop to boot into such a heavily tablet-oriented environment. Personally, I think it would make more sense for this to load as a separate overlay, similar to WMC, so there'd be no need to embed it to the extent that you'd need to play around with policies to get rid of it.

By Alex_G on 6 Jun 2011

Innovate or Die

At last Microsoft's inability to innovate and develop - 4 year product cycle? - has caught up with them. The company maintained their position only through agressive monopolistic behaviour and through their wallet.

In a stroke their 90% plus market dominance has been slashed. They have negligeable presence in the mobile sector (their offerings from the earliest mobile devices were woeful compared to elegant OSs. The tablet market has kicked them out completely.

It is fitting that Nokia has joined forces with Microsoft as both of these have missed the boat in terms of new devices and operating systems. Microsoft won't be in financial trouble and Nokia's pockets are still huge, but their market share will start nosediving.

By Manuel on 6 Jun 2011

Clean Slate

If you'll pardon the pun.

If they are going for a clean slate with Windows 8 on the ARM, why not go clean slate all the way?

Microsoft showed that they could integrate XP Mode into Windows 7 for some legacy applications that are too scared to come out of 2002.

Why not start from scratch with a new, optimised Kernel and relegate legacy apps to a legacy OS running in a VM?

That would make developing for Windows 8 cross-platform easier. It *should* mean a faster, more efficient core OS.

The 3D support on the VM would need to be good, given the amount of legacy software that needs decent 3D - CAD/CAM, for example - or gamers.

Hardcore gamers might be a miniscule part of the market, but they are also a very vocal community.

@Alex_G Why would you want touch-style interface on the desktop? Because it is useful (I have a Windows Phone 7 device and the tile system works very well). Mix that in with touch-based laptops and all-in-ones with 20 - 24" touch screens and it does make some sense.

The discussion of using HTML5 for the panels on the new UI might be a red herring. HTML allows the embedding of objects, for a start, and it would allow users to quickly and easily build their own custom tiles, whilst leaving .net or SL to go beyond the confines of HTML5. I think we will have to wait and see.

@Jon - the one thing that is worrying me, is the single maximised application business, which it looks like Unity, OS X Lion, and now Windows 8, seem to be inherriting from their smaller siblings.

I am currently sitting here with a multi-monitor set-up and my laptop has a 1920x1080 resolution, before I plug it into its dock.

I have Tweetdeck open on the left, then Outlook, then my "working area" in the middle and a on the second screen my web browser, which I generally use for reference material and keeping track of web based systems, like our ticket tracking software.

I don't want to end up with a 3840x1200 pixel Word windows and have to constantly switch between it and a web browser to check reference material. Some applications benefit from being maximised - Project, image editing software, large Excel worksheets etc. But the majority of apps don't need a full screen(s) on a desktop, they can sit comfortably in a strip.

Having the tiles on the left, then a working window, then a reference window, for example would be a good layout, but the demo that MS gave at D9 only seemed to cover the basics of full screen, with a "preview" panel which would be too small to read a web page from, whilst typing in Word, for example.

I like the general concept of the tile interface, as long at it isn't restricted to tiles, or preview tiles and one working window...

I will be interested to see what MS say over the coming months.

By big_D on 6 Jun 2011

I can see one advantage of having same OS catering for tablets and desktops - dock your tablet and you don't need to bridge the gap between a tablet and a desktop with a laptop.

There is also a chance that such 'one OS to fit all' would be scalable. And why not have a full-fat OS on a tablet, just add to it any touch-optimised app you want? Tablet specific apps on the go, dock and desktosoftwarere at the desk. Could that work?

By Josefov on 6 Jun 2011

I'm still not seeing it, big_D :)

I'm not down on the interface per se, I totally get how the tile interface works well in WP7 and would suit a tablet or all-in one equally well but I'm not sure that it adds so much to desktop usage that it would be suitable as the default.

I'd guess that when the vast majority of users loads a desktop PC, they probably want to see...well, a desktop.

By Alex_G on 6 Jun 2011

Apps on tablets

"And do we really want all of that legacy stuff on a new tablet, portable, or wall-mountable form factor? Do I really want to have Excel dragged screaming into this arena?"

Are you suggesting it would be better for Excel to be excluded from tablets by MS on purpose? Think about what you're saying.

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011

"History will not be kind to the Windows team and its utter failure to predict the rise of the 7-10in tablet"

Unlike PCPro of course....

By Lacrobat on 6 Jun 2011


in a word, yes. of course yes! It's obvious to you and me. How anti-MS naysayers like Honeyball and Stevenson, genuine computer experts, can argue that consumers PREFER files/apps on their tablet, PC and phone NOT to function on them all, that MS is wrong to aim for that, is simply mental. Moore's Law unlocks convergence. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Well, the engineering is very difficult science obviously! but the principle that this is a GOOD THING is not hard to grasp. This article and the anti-MS blog post is anti-MS trolling pure and simple.

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


I was thinking precisely that about the laptop becoming redundant. Obviously it's a very personal choice but the standard of laptop I've always wished I could play the games I want on is just too expensive.

My indestructible 2006 x60s thinkpad might just be the last laptop I ever buy. An ARM tablet and a high-powered desktop both running Windows 8 would cost less in total than a good laptop, and I could take my spreadsheets round with me. awesome!

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


the issue isnt moores law. Its that touch is a different UI to pixel perfect mouse and pen pointing. Its that taking away a physical keyboard requires an on-screen one, and how that is handled. Its how legacy apps will fit.

By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011


Microsoft had that 'Surface' gizmo in 2007. It is beyond me why they couldn't have thought of cutting the legs of it and shrinking it down.

By Alperian on 6 Jun 2011


Jon thanks for the response, I am probably being disproportionately shirty, but

"how that is handled" you are assuming it will be handled poorly.
"Its how legacy apps will fit." you are assuming they will fit poorly.

That is not a reasonable or enlightening position to take.

Moore's Law is indeed not an issue - you've missed my point. I am saying that moore's law unlocks convergence i.e. it gives tablets enough power to handle MS Office. therefore the ONLY issue is the interface. And you make the assumption that MS will blow it. it's there in black and white:

"But you just know that the new UI will really only be at home on a touch device, or a device with a touch interface...And the old UI will be something of a kludge."

That is trolling.

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


I also said:

"Now I accept that its not quite so cut and dried. It will doubtless be possible to use New Windows with a mouse. And there will be UI tweaks within the OS to help Old Windows be less of a dog when running on a touch-centric device -- things like auto-zooming of clickable items, for example"

now if i have an app where my app does my UI painting (ie I am not using windows supplied objects), how is windows touch UI going to be able to rearrange these? It wont. It cant.

By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011


what about combining Kinect-style motion tracking tech with the Windows 8 UI?

“Face recognition, gesture control, watching what the user is actually doing… A small amount of this wizardry could make a significant improvement to the business desktop"

Jon Honeyball re Project Natal, Jan 2010.

why so pessimistic about MS's ability to innovate with UI suddenly?!

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


Oh sure, we might get arm waving to move panels left and right. Face recog etc. Not sure how this helps with a touch interface, which is the issue here?

By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011


Must admit I don't know what you mean by "UI painting" or "windows supplied objects"!

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


ok, your app can make standard calls to windows functions for things like menu bar. Or standard buttons (OK, Cancel etc). Windows paints these for you, you dont have to do it in your app. But Windows tells your app when one of these things has beenclicked.

Because windows's desktop manager controls these standard furniture items, it is possible for the windows desktop manager to paint them differently. Think about reskinning windows. Windows itself (or the reskinning software) "owns" the button and menu and and so can repaint it a different way. Your app doesnt know, doesnt care. It only cares it gets the message from Windows saying "user clicked OK" or "user clickd File/New" (i simplify, but its ok for the purposes).

Now think about a UI where my app itself draws the OK button. It is my button, not windows. (think about UI on Flash apps, as an example of this). Windows doesnt know it is an OK button or a menu, because Windows itself didnt draw it, and isnt responsible for it -- my app is.

Lets roll forward to Win8. Lets assume that there is a fancy trick for the Old Windows ui whereby when your pointer moves near to a button, or a menu, it automatically grows in size. This makes it easier to see, easier to touch. Your finger wont swamp the button.

This is great! But it will only work on Windows-supplied/drawn buttons. It wont work in my app with custom UI, because Windows wont "know".

So... cut a long story short. Win8 legacy mode will almost certainly have some sort of zoomy enabler, to help with windows furniture -- menus, standard dialog boxes, windows edge scroll bars, etc. This will help. But a huge amount of software uses its own furniture. And it almost certainly wont work there.

Has this helped?


By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011


Yes! That is a good point.

And what you are saying demonstrates @kevpartner's point about "Apple and Google both recognise that tablets are fundamentally different in terms of how they're used and interacted with".

BUT I think the function of the app itself decides whether you're going to use it mainly on a tablet or a PC. A photo-viewer or ipad-magazine will be used on the tablet but with windows 8 running on your tablet and PC you could still run it on your PC if you want. It is YOU who decides, not a walled garden erected by having different OSes on the 2 devices.

I guess I was thinking primarily about using MS Office on a tablet and PC, which by definition would not suffer the problems you detail, and of course I want that. Obviously I'm most likely going to create my financial model on Excel on my desktop/laptop. But I might want to take to a meeting on my tablet, or take it home in my briefcase to check the figures on the train. Or I might want to look at photos on my 30" desktop monitor at christmas with the family. having Windows 8 on both gives me the flexibility.

If I'm using an app which has the problem you suggest, chances are that is a workhorse app I'm going to want to use with a keyboard. In any case, surely the writers of apps will be happy to release windows 8 versions of their apps which work with touch as well as mouse/keyboard where there the market demands it?

I think all this boils down to is:

- you've seen MS fail in the past and you are a pessimist.
- I think MS have nailed it with windows 7, phone 7 and kinect and I am an optimist. I am also excited about the possibility of windows 8 making Minority Report / Casion Royale swipey glass desk a reality.

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


Yes I have seen MS fail, but I am also deeply understanding of how windows apps work. And what it would take to get it onto a tablet UI in a seamless fashion. I am very cynical about the one-true-windows approach because I really dont think it is the right way to go. However, only time will tell. It is going to be a fascinating ride

I have to disagree with you strongly about phone 7. I think this is exactly the sort of screwup that Microsoft is in danger of repeating with win8. Too little, poor updating, strung out update schedules for necessary but missing features, disinterest from the marketplace. If Win8 Tablet comes in 3rd place in the marketplace behind ios and android, it would be a huge disappointment.

I would *love* to see a MR/CR style glass desk. Love to see it.

By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011

The key word is "legacy"

You have concentrated largely on what you perceive to be the negative consequences of the Windows legacy.

You nod in the direction of the ARM version, without really appearing to grasp the significance of it. Why should this be a port of legacy Windows to ARM any more than IOS is a "port" of OSX to ARM?
Goodbye all thos dodgy drivers, and the necessity for "kludges".

The explicit statememt, from day 1 that the ARM version will run NO, nada, zilch legacy code, none, suggests that MS may have grasped this point, and an opportunity to (at the very least) do as you suggest and permanently bifurcate the Windows line. On reflection, that's precisely what, by definition it is. Full stop.

So I reckon the significance is that "Windows" will go forward with(probably) two main code-bases: Legacy and ARM.

Am I being really stupid in assuming that just as IOS moved quite neatly from iPhone to iPad, so ARM Windows 8 might similarly be an enhanced port of WP7.1\5 to the Tablet? MS's is actually be easier, as they're developing my hypothetical "merged" WP7 \ Win8 Tablet for a single architecture.

Were this to be the case (does anybody actually know if it is or isn't?) then it seems likely Tablet-based Windows 8 could be shipping Q1 next year. The lethargic pace of WP7 realeases may hide this "merging" process, allowing a much cleaner, more functional start for "Windows ARM\Tablet", and an even more feature-rich WP7.5 \ 8 integrated with it.

As Gavmeister suggested, the significance of Moore's Law is that piddly little SoC systems now have the raw compute power and the graphics muscle to run "full-blown" O/S's. Cheap 'n dinky ARM-powered all-in-one systems could easily run the Desktop systems of the future (finger-twiddling interfaces optional).
As with Apple's migration from Power PC to Intel so MS may manage the previously seeming impossible, and dump all the dross that makes Win 7 "compatible" with 20-year old software and drivers.

Of course your overall pessimism my well be justified, and on the basis of recent history is the most rational approach to Redmond's products. BUT they really DO employ some smart people, some of whom get to make some pretty smart products.

Like Gavmeister I am an optimist, and I hope to see MS producing products that can more than compete. Mainly with Apple's (currently) over-rated self-satisfied ouvre. But I also want to see MS competeing with the information-gobbling Hydra that is Android.

WP7 is a great start let's hope W8 can pick-up the baton.....

By wittgenfrog on 6 Jun 2011


astonished you are so cynical about the "one-true-windows" approach. surely looking 5 years ahead there is no question one-true-os will be the standard, it's what everyone wants, and the only reasons we don't have it now are (a)restrictions of computing power (b)the politics of the software market. But these are merely short-medium term obstacles to that inevitable future, rather than showstoppers? Why can't an OS and apps just switch between both? I just don't get it.

By gavmeister on 6 Jun 2011


Microsoft have some great engineers and some dreadful senior managers (and vie versa in some instances). Too much has been sacrificed for legacy compatibility. In 2011 it is really unacceptable for the stable version of their flagship operating system and office package to be 32bit. Drivers are getting better, but still a nightmare.

The Tablet/Netbook form factor represented an opportunity to start again with a clean sheet. Obviously retain the best of Windows, but re-write it clean, secure, fast, bloat free and with a 21st century Architecture. Once it is stable and has market traction, look to feedback what they have learned into desktop and server windows.

Not a new idea, basically what Apple are doing with iOS and Lion.

By Dannyt on 6 Jun 2011

if nothing else, thanks for the ongoing discussions!!

there is no right answer to all of this -- that will only come with the passage of time.

I have already paid up for Build conference though. I simply have to be there.

By JonH_ on 6 Jun 2011

having spent time with a smart phone and having to clean the screen of smudged finger prints every 5 minutes.I can really see your local accounts dept of your local office needing to keep cleaning their screen when using a touch version of Excel 2013. Face facts.Some programs are better with touch. Some are not.Two versions of the operating system will always be needed.Well it will until you no longer need to touch a touch screen to use it.EG Proximity sensors and just hover your hand over the screen or have a minority report screen and glove or even use god forbid use kinect to detect gestures.

By Jaberwocky on 6 Jun 2011

Just been watching the Apple developer conference keynote

Microsoft has been holding fast to a business model that has as far as I can see run it's course.

Apple is working hard to own the home sector and small business (which is where I sit).

The only real competitors are HP with webOS and Android.

It isn't that Apple is necessarily better than the rest. They are just trying to make the 'experience' seamless.

How are MS going to emulate that. They seem more focussed on Google. Bad move.

By kaneclem on 6 Jun 2011


I too am optimistic and agree with gavmeister - there is definitely a way forward with this for MS. I can understand the concerns about how easily MIcrosoft could mess this up, there track record isnt great after all. But in recent years they have shown a glimmer of hope with Windows 7, Xbox, Kinect and are starting to show really good ideas with Windows Phone 7.

My expectation is that W8 will work in different ways depending on the device - with touch for tablets/phones and keyboard/mouse for desktop pc's. But I still think that MS are really planning to get into the living room finally - Windows 8 on your TV, controlled by Kinect and incorporating Skype HD (after all, didnt they recently pay about $8 billion for that). One they get onto your TV, with all your media stored centrally, then the rest will follow.

They are late to the game, but they were late to the console game - and now look where they are at.

By smn1973 on 6 Jun 2011

I get the Win8 vision

Jon, I respectfully disagree with you.
1) Re: performance - both x86 and ARM SoCs set to have great performance combined with battery life. Win8 hardware requirements no more than Win7 so better than Vista which will be 5 years older in launch terms.

2) Your point and echoed by Kevin Partner is that "desktop apps" are not suitable on a tablet and vice versa. Whilst I agree with the sentiment here, I disagree with your conclusion.

The point is choice (a choice made by the user). The user will simply select the app suitable for a particular circumstance. For clarity, let's consider four scenarios. Case1: touch tablet, touch-optimised app. The computex demo said 60% of time on a tablet (and probably consumer PCs) is 60% spent on the web. Touch version for IE10 coming. Tablets have been shown by Apple etc to be content consumers rather than content producers. MS has created a UI and an environment for which touch-optimised apps will be created. The user uses touch-optimised apps to achieve what they can do on any other slate. So far no different to an iPad or phone strategy.

Case 2: tablet, legacy app. This case is only relevant where a) a user has no touch app alternative and b) needs to do something whilst on a tablet and can't wait to return to a laptop. You can get wireless keyboard/mice, the products are getting invested in - e.g. rubberised roll-up keyboards, IR keyboards etc. The user has a choice to painfully run an app or not, on an iPad there is zero choice to run an OS X app. Win7 touch-enhancements make this a bit less bearable.

Case 3: laptop, legacy apps. Nothing really different. different from the windows we all use today. Media center works just fine with a mouse/keyboard, aside from the new start screen, can just work in "classic windows".

Case 4: desktop, touch apps. No problem for those who want to "touch their screen", works nicely as a ten foot interface, I think will work well with mouse/keyboard. Again, in this case a user has actively chosen to be in the Mosh UI with touch apps rather than classic UI with legacy apps.

So case 1 is normal as per competition, case 4: apple's going this way with Lion and multitouch trackpads, case 3 is normal. That leaves us with case 2 which you don't like. Point is a user has to actively choose to be in case 2 (but at least can make that choice for themselves). App developers can also update their apps to make it less of an issue. Either improve it for touch or provide a full-fat legacy app for mouse and a "child-app" for touch? If the next version of Office can handle the duality of Win8, surely most other apps can too.

By TheBigM72 on 6 Jun 2011

Hardware form factor evolution

I think the one-windows approach is also more enabling of certain new hardware form factors.

I think the "docking tablet" will be a large market - why have two separate devices when you can have one device?

I think it's even more enabling of large-screen PCs alongside kinect. Using an ARM chip, embed windows into a 42" HDTV. Kinect-controllable on a day-to-day basis and wireless keyboard for those occasions you really want it.

By TheBigM72 on 6 Jun 2011


you've just repeated everything I said.

By gavmeister on 7 Jun 2011

We need to look a bit wider

@Jon - yes an interesting discusssionm, and no, there is no "answer".

Personally I think we (that includes me!) have focused rather too closely on existing paradigms of 'computing'.

All the evidence suggests that 'computing' is NOT what this is all about. Apple's success has come from making consumer goods, not computers, nor even computing tools. The emphasis is on consumption.
"Apps" are generally convenient ways to consume services, data and media (notwithstanding various specialised vertical market applications). The huge success of iPhone\Pad confirms this.

My qualified optimism about Windows 8 is based on MS's having grasped this fact. Kinect, XBOX, WP7, Windows 8 should all integrate seamlessly providing services to users. They have the building blocks. Do they have the vision?

By wittgenfrog on 7 Jun 2011


to be fair though, your point about the windows 8 / skype / kinect nexus provoking new hardware designs is new and is a good point, one I notice MS have made on the front page of the Build conference site.

By gavmeister on 7 Jun 2011


In a word, yes, they do. Eric Schmidt has seriously underestimated MS in my view when he listed the "Gang of four" ruling tech as Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Personally I hope MS rub Schmidt and Jobs's smug, hubristic faces in it.

rooting for MS? I know, weird isn't it. But I am far from alone in that.

By gavmeister on 7 Jun 2011


I agree 100%!

By wittgenfrog on 8 Jun 2011

why let you fingers do the work anyway

So 19th century!
why is Window 8 not a voice controlled system?
fingers on keyboards or leaving greasy trails on touch screens are so backwards,

By UK_Snapper on 9 Jun 2011

My tuppence worth. With a few exceptions, everyone views the marketplace as one single vertical market.

It isn't.

Compare to the motor industry - there is not "one car to rule them all"; there are hatchbacks, cabrios, coupes, saloons, 4x4, limos, sports, supercars. Even petrol, diesel, electic, hybrid models of each.

Assuming one device suits all, and/or one OS for all tasks is boxed thinking.

The biggest problem MS faces with a new OS is the existing hardware base. Vista needed significant hardware to run on - even ignoring the driver issue - and MS failed to persuade users to upgrade.
Win 8 Touch is going to require people to upgrade their monitors or add a "touch pad"... the chances of x hundred million people and businesses doing that... Yeah. Right.

And just how ergonomic is a 'touch' device for typing? Or video editing?

Different verticals, so different requirements. So why not split the OS... What is important is data compatibility and device interoperability. For example, I can create my presentation/document/video on my desktop multi-monitor PC. I can easily transfer it to my laptop/tablet/smartphone.

My touch device doesnt care less that my desktop or laptop is running XP, Win7, OSX, Linux. My printer accepts connections from any device and doesnt care less what connects to it. My monitors or plasma dont care less what is attached.

MS have tried time and time again to persuade users to upgrade hardware simply because of a new OS. So why not accept that there is a large "legacy" non-touch market and continue to develop for it? Office Touch and Office Keyboard/Mouse should still output the same format data files. Where's the beef?

By alan_lj on 9 Jun 2011


Bring back Dos 6.22 and windows 3.11.
I could reinstall the lot into a machine while eating my lunch - take a bite - change the floppy - take a bite - only 22 floppies to go.
Well to be serious - most of us still use windows XP with SP3 and will do so till we buy a new machine and get the latest "windows" with it. That is cheaper than buying the "latest" windows package. The other trouble is that most of us are happy with the programs we use and many of them do not work on the latest windows 7 or 8 or 9 or----.

By theoldone on 9 Jun 2011


you have completely missed the point. why use a spurious car analogy when we DO understand the OS market? waste of time. file compatibility is a given. and the OS *IS* splitting because it will be running on ARM and Intel architectures.

the point is I want to run apps (e.g. Ms Office) on whatever form factor I choose. Why not video-editing on an ipad if it had the power? People already write music on it, what about photo-editing? Yes please! Certainly I want MS Office across all form factors. Devs don't want to have to release multiple versions compatible with multiple Windows 8s: enough to handle ARM and Intel.

People want Windows 8 and apps that works on everything, with an adaptible UI which works on touch, kinect, voice rec or mouse/keyboard.

*I* will decide what app I use on which device, not you, not the devs, not Microsoft, not a walled garden erected by splitting the OS. If I want to battle away editing a spreadsheet or a video on a tablet, that's up to me. Maybe it's an emergency. Maybe I'll attach a keyboard/mouse. But don't you dare take the option away from me to choose to do that.

By gavmeister on 9 Jun 2011

Does it matter ?

This is a bit of a rant and frankly, the basic question is does it matter. As Jon points out, the tablet market has been wrapped up by Apple, everything else is a "me too" product and should MS play that game anyway ?

Tablets and netbooks are essentially products to "consume" material created by other people. The people who create this material are likely to be using desktops way into the future and their investment in legacy programmes is huge, think Adobe products, 3D programmes and so on, the OS needs to be stable and consistent. "Pinch and zoom" is no use to me working on a multi-layer 1Gb Photoshop file ! Yes, there is now and likely will be into the future a two tier approach, one for the punters and another for the pros.

By Bikey2 on 9 Jun 2011

W8 Does It Do WORK?

Dear Jon;
W8 might be the NWO of tablet OS development, BUT can it do work? By WORK I mean can I use it to run apps to design aircraft, marine technology, do my accounting, write my wondrous life story, and send dirty jokes via email? Some of the above or all are what make this rock spin, NOT the bloody game boy toys that occupy the mentally inept in Seat 32A. I worry because of the tons of money I have invested in hardware, old hardware that works better than anything made today and apps that if written today, would cost more than I am worth. If W8 and MS have no respect for us sweaty peasant workers, then what are we to do? Apple? No thanks! Open source? Unix, can't afford a mainframe right now. Buy all new hardware and apps? I'll retire first and sell apples on the corner. Suggestions PLEASE!

By BillB on 9 Jun 2011


They just need to focus on a 100% 64bit OS, with 100% 64bit apps. -Anyone wanting to stay 32bit can keep using xp, vista or 7. They could even roll out a subscription based legacy support program to keep it churning.

I don't see a need to subdivide an OS based on input methods. It should handle them all and just have some pre-defined modes which allow for the type of interaction appropriate to the task at hand. These should be configurable with plenty of options, that's the traditional strength of a PC, adaptability across a huge range of hardware and software.

Clearly a tablet and a phone may mainly be touch based control, but a laptop and a desktop pc should offer the full scope of human interface options. A server like as not wont need much in the way of touchscreen and perhaps should focus more on the remote admin side.

The "Desktop" is just a start point in the end. IF a pc has only one job then it just gets configured to automatically do that one task at power-on.

If a PC is used for 50 different tasks I just want a way of accessing them and organising the easily.

The most important thing to me would be to have the user able to subdivide the combined screen real-estate into sperate screen areas (a bit like logical drives on a big HDD) Some parts of my multi monitor setup I want to define as touch screen with mouse-over capability. Some As touchscreen only (in a POS environment say) and some as mouse and graphics tablet only.

By Gindylow on 9 Jun 2011


have you read the comments?

the tablet=consume, desktop=create argument has been deployed similarly to the blackberry/iphone argument. but it's wrong. musicians write whole albums on their ipad, execs write business plans and construct financial models on netbooks. and docs I create in MS office on a desktop I would take to meetings/on train. Video-editing/picture-editing on-location by filmmaker/photographer using a tablet: of course they want it.

2 tier approach: but what about people who straddle the 2 tiers? no OS should dictate the boundary between the 2 tiers. MS have recognised that. so should you.

By gavmeister on 9 Jun 2011


hear hear. best comment so far.

By gavmeister on 9 Jun 2011


Your last paragraph on a 2 tier approach, please don't be so arrogant and do get over yourself.

The point is fairly simple and is concerned with computing power. If you need "grunt" for rendering images and such high end stuff, you will need a desktop to create that stuff. Sure the output could be run on a netbook, iPad or mobile phone but the original CGI creation cannot.

Sure, low overhead office, music notation, image cropping, html etc can be done on low level (tech spec), machines and if you are happy with that, fine and quite right to make the transfer of data, device neutral.

However, there is and always will be a need for highly specified desktops and it therefore seems logical to expect there to be two OS versions whether for Apple or MS and this is mainly a hardware issue, an Atom chip and a Xeon are rather different animals. Whilst it is interesting to speculate on ARM processors, as things stand, the power in the Wintel camp lies with the high end application companies and their user base how that will play out will be interesting.

By Bikey2 on 9 Jun 2011

Win8 and app structure

An app typically has an engine layer and a UI layer. Maybe some apps will change to support both Metro and Classic UI layers, with the engine remaining the same. In each case, the Metro UI would likely provide a subset of the Classic UI capabilities, in serious apps such as Excel, Word, Photoshop, etc.
As for Win8 itself, it too has its engine (file management, communications, etc) and, unlike WIn7, it appears to have 2 UIs, running via the same window manager.
I read some time back that Win8 will be modular and wondered why that might be useful. Clearly it would be if the Classic UI is jettisonable (along with the Win32 API etc used by legacy apps) so as to have a stripped-down version with only the Metro UI, specifically for tablets, especially ARM ones where the legacy code can never go.
Looking at the Metro UI on WP7, it is clear that it presents virtual screens wider than the actual screen, with lots of lateral scrolling to get to stuff. On a tablet, the lateral scrolling would go. So would WP7 be the same as the stripped-down Win8 for ARM? Not quite. The underlying engines of the OS will be different.
Making it all happen will be hard for Microsoft but it looks like they are doing the work. I would guess that Win8 will introduce a new common kernel for all Microsoft OS variants, and there were rumours about such a kernel a while back.

By fogtax on 9 Jun 2011

Careful, Jon

Watch out. PC Pro made a huge mistake by calling Vista early and getting it wrong. It's far too soon to say whether Win8 is any good or not. All we've seen are a few demos of a very early cut, and a *lot* of the gestures were misinterpreted by the software if you watch.

Yes, the D9 crowd loved it, and the comments on their site echo this. But look at the comments on other Windows sites and the opinions are very mixed.

By Grace_Quirrel on 9 Jun 2011

Microsoft is not dead!

I sit here writing this on a MacBook Pro, but I can see that there is plenty of mileage in Windows.

I've said many times before that Microsoft need to start again and maybe they will at some point.

But even if they don't, do you think Apple are doing anything for small businesses, let alone the enterprise? Nope, nothing. iCloud doesn't cover multiple users in a small office and Apple's attitudes towards their server platforms is laughable.

Linux is a great platform and I use it myself for a number of things, but it requires knowledge that most people don't have - most techies have grown up with Windows. I see Ubuntu as the greatest threat to Microsoft in the corporate world.

For millions of business users across the globe Windows is the only choice right now. If Microsoft had any sense however they would use their uncool status (lets' face it neither Oracle or IBM are cool but they are doing alright) and develop products that show how Microsoft has matured. They should aim to please IT managers, not the kids on the street. The younger generation will be IT managers too one day, but by the time they are they will realise that 'cool' doesn't necessarily mean reliable, scaleable, etc. and they will want to sleep at night.

I agree that Microsoft need 'version 2.0' as they are still stuck on 1.x with loads of legacy stuff, but when they do that the emphasis should be on something that just works without all the fat and bloat they have today. If they create their own rules and concentrate on functional rather than cool they will sell buy the bucket load in the corporate space. They will have to ultimately downsize in order to evolve 2.0, but they will achieve a sustainable position and credibility for doing so.

By shaunpugh on 10 Jun 2011


there is no arrogance in my final para. plus you have completely failed to address the point it raises.

the rest of your comment is confused drivel. have you even read the other comments, let alone grasped them?

By gavmeister on 12 Jun 2011


bikey2 and shaunpugh both have very interesting and pertinent comments.

The issue is partly about Windows having to be all things to all people, simultaneously on all platforms, versus focusing realistically and strategically on the market sector that offers the greatest return.

It is also very much about cool versus business functionality.

There are thousands of apps out there that are now considered "legacy" that for the developers are still in a cost recovery stage and will be for some time. The ability to run all these apps on all the new platforms emerging, from Netbooks to tablets to smart phones is nice to have, but these cannot be permitted to compromise the business community's need for stable support for legacy apps which must still represent 90% of the software in existence today.

I think bikey2 and shaunpugh are attempting to recognize this.

gavmeister, you have provided some very good input and comments in this thread. Don't spoil it by getting cranky about who grasps your points and who doesn't. This is a very complex problem space.

By LogicResearch on 29 Jun 2011

Ben Cowell

I've just upgraded my CPU and motherboard, and think I'll wait for W8 1spv, but why do they get it so wrong. I'll never forgive them with XP it took them to sp2 to sort out crap and I lost time and data, and they wonder if they are getting behind the curve. Good thing NASA did not have that mindset with the Shuttle RIP, we never have seen those deep space Hubble pics. I’m running Vista Premium and XP. BC

By beecee on 22 Jul 2011

Obsession with Touch

Why are so many people obsessed with Touch? Do you all sit there playing childish games on your computers? Keyboard & mouse is far more productive than touch! I can move my cursor from extreme left of screen to extreme right of screen by moving the mouse 2 inches! Imagine using touch! I'd have to reach across 18" just to even reach the monitor and then move my hand the full width of the monitor!

You're living in fantasy land and I find it hilarious. Oh yes, looks pretty, but try retouching images with your finger or using graphic design software tools with any degree of accuracy. I'm sure no one uses a computer for actually doing work anymore going by most of the comments in here!

I cannot take you guys seriously at all.

By cooloox on 5 Sep 2011

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