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Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer

Microsoft has a chance to regain control of the Windows 8 narrative at Build conference. But can the company execute where it has stumbled before?

2. Will Microsoft inspire developer enthusiasm for the Modern UI?

Windows 8's Modern UI is a capable platform, but Microsoft has had trouble convincing developers to write applications for it.

Whether the company can convince its massive foundation of .NET and Win32 programmers to embrace Live Tiles will be one of the biggest questions Microsoft must answer at Build. Redmond has been courting developers throughout the spring, and Windows Store submissions have gradually increased over time. But iOS and Android still boast around 10 times Win8's number of titles. In a market in which the "there's an app for that" attitude helped give rise to BYOD, the Modern UI still doesn't match up.

Ironically, Windows 8.1 could actually impede Redmond's efforts to unite developers. Thanks to the update, users who want to stay in the OS's desktop environment will be able to do so. Michael Cherry, a consultant with Directions on Microsoft, told ComputerWorld that the ability to omit Live Tiles from the Win8 experience could deter developers from writing for the Modern UI.

In an interview with the Seattle Times, Microsoft evangelist Steve Guggenheimer said Build presentations will explain how Microsoft's various platforms fit together. All the Windows 8 versions, from the variant that runs on the Xbox to the full version on the Surface Pro, share a common kernel. Theoretically, this should allow developers to write an app once and then deploy it through the entire ecosystem -- from smartphones to PCs -- without much revision.

Such an ecosystem could certainly appeal to consumers. If Microsoft can present a family of devices that seamlessly intermingle with and enhance one another, developers will sign up. Guggenheimer also said Build would address the gaps between various developer communities -- another good sign.

Still, Microsoft faces high stakes. David Johnson said that among Forrester clients, desktop users haven't perceived much benefit in the Modern UI. If that feeling is widespread, developers who write x86 applications don't have much reason to join the new wave.

Likewise, iOS- and Android-centric developers have surely noted the indifference consumers feel toward the Modern UI. Those who write for multiple mobile OSes generally make Win8 apps more expensive, a sign that they expect fewer sales from Microsoft's platform.

According to Johnson, ultimately the success of Windows 8 or Windows RT is less important than the success of the Modern UI. This, he said, means that apps matter more than most people realize.

3. What about those devices?

If Microsoft makes inroads in the mobility scene, Windows 8 and developer buy-in will be big factors. But Steve Ballmer sees "devices" as part of Redmond's new strategy. The company's ability to produce compelling hardware, and to inspire its OEMs to do likewise, will be central to its BYOD success.

Many expect Microsoft to debut at least one new Surface device at Build. Some rumors suggest Redmond will showcase a family of devices, while others imply that only one new machine -- likely a WinRT-based tablet -- is coming this week. Rumors also disagree regarding the alleged new Surface's availability, with some claiming the device won't be available until the back-to-school season or perhaps even sometime in 2014.

Two things are clear now, though: People are interested in the Surface RT only when Microsoft basically gives it away, and the Surface Pro is looking a lot less attractive now that Haswell-equipped Ultrabooks -- and their dramatically improved battery lives -- are hitting the market.

Most rumors indicate that Microsoft will release a 7- or 8-inch tablet. Some believe it will run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, suggesting robust LTE support, and that the device will boast a 1400 x 1050-pixel screen that handily outclasses the iPad Mini's.

An Xbox-themed Surface has also been mentioned, which could represent an additional way to target consumers and, indirectly, BYOD.

One big factor could be price. Windows RT has a growing number of apps, and it will soon have Outlook -- but it's also the most unpopular and least-used version of Windows 8. Some rumors have pegged the cost of a new Surface at $400, which is appreciably pricier than the iPad Mini, let alone low-cost Android tablets.

Will Microsoft price the Surface lower to drive adoption, or does it think its second generation will be compelling enough to demand a premium? At Build, many will be eager to find out.

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User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2013 | 6:28:29 PM
re: Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer
This is my opinion as a computer
professional since 1989 that has been with every Microsoft operating system
since DOS 3.0.

1. A Touch interface for the
Desktop and laptop computer market is not needed.

2. The Windows 8 Touch interface;
is nice for a tablet or cell device. However, can use polish, and made to be
more logical, friendly. Microsoft needs to test product with people who do not
use computers, and see just how easy their product is to operate. Novel Idea
huh? Apparently too simple for Redmond.

3. My advise to Microsoft, from a nobody. We Peons do not like to feel ruled over.
Do not tell the world you will change a major OS without asking....what
people want? and force a change, shoving it down our throats. Most people who
are not computer savvy look at Windows 8 Like a blueprint of Chicago, they are
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2013 | 7:00:29 PM
re: Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer
The product people at Microsoft should be fired for the poor understanding of how users with desktops - not tablets - use software and interact with their computer.

I've used MSFT for years - way back from MSDOS - and through the ups and downs of the OS I have continued to use it to get my work done. But looking at Win 8 I have for the first time thought of moving to Linux with VirtualBox to run the needed Windows software.

If MSFT continues to disregard the desktop users they will damage themselves beyond repair. Sure tablets are great for certain things like consuming content but who would do serious work on a touch screen PC, laptop or tablet.

Astonishingly the product group at MSFT does not seem to get that.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2013 | 11:39:41 PM
re: Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer
No restored Start Menu means Microsoft is lying though their teeth about listening to their customers. The restored Start Button is yet just another way to force the user back to the execrable and hated Metro UI, meaning Microsoft has pretty much just spit in the faces of their users and has indicated that it no longer has any real interest in remaining in the business of making products its customers want. The outrage that will be engendered by such a slimy move will make the anger triggered by the original Start Menu removal look trivial.
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2013 | 3:05:41 AM
re: Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer
One thing people need to stop concentrating on is OS boot time. We boot one time, and use the machines for a half hour, or even hours before we turn them back off. We can put them to sleep for even shorter boot times. Boot timings are simply not that important. Back when they took minutes, it mattered, but not today.

So while the instant on of a tablet is great, the 15 seconds it takes for a MacBook Air or the 20 seconds it takes for a Macbook Pro, as non Windows examples, simply isn't important. Windows machines are getting shorter book times as well, but the truth is that 10-15 seconds one way or the other isn't very important considering how few times we do it. For our desktop, we may never turn it off at all, just put it to sleep, unless we're doing a major OS Upgrade.

Lets get on to more important things.
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2013 | 3:10:39 AM
re: Microsoft Build: 3 Windows 8 Questions To Answer
They do allow direct boot to the Desktop in 8.1, so that is something.

But the Modern UI is the future for them. The Desktop will disappear at some point, along with all the software that runs on it, and people better get used to that fact. So I can understand Microsoft's reluctance in going too far back to 7. I'm surprised they are allowing direct boot to the Desktop at all. I don't believe that will last for more than a couple of years before it goes away permanently, despite any subsequent outcry..
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