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5/18/2013
07:25 AM
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Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs

Thanks to new apps and smaller, cheap devices, Windows 8 is primed for a rebound -- if Windows 8.1 delivers.

8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Research firm Forrester says IT isn't interested in Windows 8, and that the platform's success relies on consumers and BYOD. Given that consumers aren't exactly embracing the new OS, Win8's prospects are easy to dismiss -- so much so that Frank X. Shaw, Redmond's VP of corporate communications, recently felt compelled to reprimand the media for its emphatically bleak appraisal of his company's plight.

But here's the thing: Shaw could be right. Windows 8's consumer appeal is about to get a major upgrade.

An important note: this prediction presupposes that the OS's usability issues are addressed in Windows 8.1, a free update, formerly known as Windows Blue, expected to be revealed in June.

There's been some doublespeak from Microsoft on the usability point. Redmond executives have claimed that customer feedback informed Blue's development -- but they've also defended Win8's Live Tile start screen, which has been a significant driver of user criticism. There's a fine line between upholding one's convictions and alienating one's fans. Win 8.1 looks like it will land on the right side of that line -- but I'll come back to that later.

First, here are five reasons things are looking up for Windows 8.

1. New Intel Chips, Better Battery Life

Intel's Haswell core chips should be shipping inside Windows 8.1 devices by this fall. If you found the Surface Pro somewhat attractive but were deterred by its poor battery life and modest i5 processor -- your time is coming. Haswell is expected to deliver major improvements in power management, which means designers have more flexibility to balance CPU power and battery life. The result should be Win8 tablets and Ultrabooks that function like high-end laptops but can run all day on a single battery charge. Intel's chips are also expected to facilitate thinner, lighter form factors, and to deliver improved graphics performance -- perfect for the high-density screens that will be common on the next round of high-end, Surface Pro-like machines.

Intel's Bay Trail Atom processors, meanwhile, won't be on the market until later this year. But the new mobile-oriented chips are expected to substantially improve the graphics performance and central processing muscle of Atom-based Windows 8 tablets. Intel says the new processors are twice as powerful as the current ones, and Intel is clearly looking to challenge ARM, the chip of choice for smartphones and tablets. If Bay Trail lives up to its promise, it will enable the lightest and most portable of tablets to not only run the full version of Windows 8, but also, and more importantly, do so without a hitch. In a space dominated by cheap Android tablets and the iPad Mini, the ability to run Microsoft Office and legacy x86 apps could be a major differentiator.

2. Lower Prices

For many users, the first wave of Windows 8 devices was prohibitively expensive. The next wave, however, should offer options to fit all budgets. Intel has stated that Haswell-based Ultrabooks should reach the $600 price point. There will be more expensive options too. But given the improvements the new chips should facilitate, Intel's promise means that devices with more raw processing power and better battery life than the Surface Pro will soon cost only a little more than much-ignored, and x86-incompatible, Surface RT.

Atom-based Windows 8 tablets, meanwhile, could be much cheaper. The prospect of $1,000 Win8 Ultrabooks didn't entice many people -- but $300 for an extremely thin tablet that can capably run Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Angry Birds and most anything else? That could take a bite out of the iPad Mini's sales.

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Wolf45Kc
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Wolf45Kc,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/19/2013 | 5:36:20 PM
re: Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs
Have 7 on my desktop and 8 on a new LT I purchased for the wife
to be honest the have not had a good OS since XP Pro
Packard Leonberger
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Packard Leonberger,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/19/2013 | 2:23:02 PM
re: Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs
Windows 8 works great for the Junior High crowd, but I live in an adult world and I don't need pictures and cute little tiles to use an OS. Windows 7 was Microsoft's best attempt at a good OS and they dropped it even though. Give me a break Michael, you really think Windows 8 is going to be worth anything? Millennium Edition? Vista?
vdx660
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vdx660,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/19/2013 | 6:02:03 AM
re: Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs
Microsoft should just have designed Windows 8 to take the strengths of both Non-Touch (Start Menu) and Touch (Start Screen) merged them into one screen instead of having two separate ones as shown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
CopyingAppleIsDangerous
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CopyingAppleIsDangerous,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/18/2013 | 6:07:18 PM
re: Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs
"There's been some doublespeak from Microsoft on the usability point. Redmond executives have claimed that customer feedback informed Blue's development -- but they've also defended Win8's Live Tile start screen, which has been a significant driver of user criticism. There's a fine line between upholding one's convictions and alienating one's fans. Win 8.1 looks like it will land on the right side of that line -- but I'll come back to that later."

Microsoft is trying very, very hard to lie to their sheep (of which I would be considered one) as long as possible, hoping that somehow, momentum will build with Windows 8, and they can ignore our feedback, and finally get on to their objective, which is to "monetize" those friggin' Live Tiles.

News Alert For Microsoft:

Quit stalling. Your stunt FAILED. Don' you get it? Your user-base sees through all that Metro crap and what you are trying to do. This sentence says it all:

"Speaking of those rumors, with Windows Blue, users will likely gain the option to boot directly to the desktop interface, rather than being force-fed the Live Tiles start screen every time they start their machines."

"force-fed"

Get it? Your force-feeding strategy already FAILED. Give it up already. We want a Windows 7-like interface.

If you want to create a separate application that launches Metro, fine. But quit trying to play mind games with us. We're not stupid, and we know what we want.
NPCO
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NPCO,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/18/2013 | 2:27:47 PM
re: Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs
Unless there's a reasonably efficient (both in practice and in resources usage) start menu or application launcher, 8.1 is of no interest to me. A simply button to launch the start screen is pointless - the start screen itself is a horrible way to launch programs on a mouse driven desktop with a monitor in the 20 to 30 inch range. It might very well work great on a touch screen tablet... but my work computers aren't tablets... they're WORKstations. And for those who endorse typing the names of the programs you want to run, I'm sorry, but I stopped using command line OS's more than 20 years ago. I don't even have to launch applications by typing on Linux for Pete sake.
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