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5/22/2013
04:32 PM
Mike Feibus
Mike Feibus
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Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong

Windows 8.1 should be coming out now. Here's why Microsoft can no longer afford to target the fall for new releases.

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
(click image for slideshow)
It is going to be very difficult for Microsoft to succeed with Windows 8.1, and that has little to do with whether the official build will include a Start button or boot-to-desktop option. Rather, it's because Microsoft picked a terrible time to release the upcoming follow-on to Windows 8.

When it comes to weaving the saga of Windows 8.1, the media has pretty well vetted three of the Five W's. Most of the analysis goes like this: Microsoft (Who) must improve on Windows 8 by doing X (What) to bring more computer users into the Modern UI era (Why). The other two W's, though, have been largely ignored. One of them, Where, isn't really relevant to the story. But it's curious that the question of When has barely been touched, because it's tremendously important to the prospects for Windows 8.1 success.

Microsoft hasn't come out and said when Windows 8.1, code-named Windows Blue, will be commercially available, although Digitimes reported last week that the official release will come in late October. Judging from the state of development activity, the timing sounds about right. This much is certain: Windows 8.1 will not be available in the next six weeks, as it needs to be to make it into the first batch of next-generation PCs.

[ When it does arrive, will Windows 8.1 increase acceptance of Microsoft's beleaguered OS? Read Windows 8: 5 Hopeful Signs. ]

Those cool new systems are being released in June and early July for a reason: to intercept the critical back-to-school selling season. An October launch for Windows 8.1 means that back-to-school PCs will be saddled with a lame-duck version of Windows. (I've written before about how important it is for the PC OEMs to update in lockstep their entire product: hardware, OS, and aesthetics. That means we'll see fewer PC sales than we would if PC makers were able to pair their latest hardware with the latest operating system.

In some ways, releasing a new version of Windows in October, which Microsoft has tried to do since Windows XP, makes sense. Microsoft has three primary channels for distributing Windows: Retail, for standalone copies; government, enterprise and other large buyers, which install Windows themselves onto the computers they buy; and the PC makers, which bundle Windows with new systems. October is ideal timing for selling retail copies to customers who want to install the latest onto their home PCs. And large customers don't much care which season Microsoft picks to release Windows, because they're not going to rush out and buy it anyway.

So it's only the PC OEMs that get stung by an October release date. And they still have time to regroup and address the holiday season, even if they risk losing back-to-school sales. They've even got a chance to recoup those delayed purchases.

When Microsoft was forced to push out the Windows Vista launch to early 2007, for example, the final period of 2006 ended up being the PC market's worst in the 22-quarter stretch from early 2003, when consumer notebook purchasing lifted PC shipments out of the post-Y2K slump, through the end of 2008, when the financial crash stalled sales. According to IDC, PC shipments grew just 8.3% in the fourth quarter of 2006, the only period during the stretch that didn't log double-digit growth. But sales bounced back the following period, jumping 15.3% over the first quarter of 2006. Of course, there weren't any tablets around to siphon off holiday spending in 2006. You couldn't even buy a Kindle for another year.

The landscape has changed, and there's far more at stake now. Today, consumers don't just sit and wait until PC vendors get their act together. They spend their holiday budget on other things. Tablets, mostly. And if they buy tablets, the loss to the PC business doesn't end with missed seasonal sales. That's because these consumers aren't the same PC users they were before they got the tablets. Their tastes have changed. And their usage patterns have changed. They do less on the PC than they once did.

Some of them won't come back to the PC. More commonly, though, consumers who opt for a tablet because the stable of available PCs doesn't compel them eventually will return to buy a PC. They'll take longer to do that than they otherwise would have. And they probably won't spend as much on it as they once would, because the PC isn't as essential to them as it once was.

That cuts to the core of the PC OEMs' business. But it's also a nick in Microsoft's bottom line, and one the company can't afford to ignore any longer.

An October release date for Windows 8.1 won't do as much damage as the Windows 8 release caused a year ago. For one thing, Windows 8.1 is a comparatively minor release, so Windows 8 won't feel quite as lame-ducky on back-to-school systems this year as Windows 7 did last summer. For another, there are fewer PC users who've never owned a tablet to alienate. Not after last summer.

It's been tempting for Microsoft to time new Windows releases for the holiday season, but the company is going to have to change its mindset -- and do it soon. Eventually, its planners will come to realize that consumers aren't going to upgrade a PC to the next OS if they didn't bother to buy a PC that came bundled with the last version.

And that, my friends, is the Why behind the When.

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Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/1/2013 | 1:43:38 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Then you'll just complain when products don't work. Win8 is rock sold, stable. I've yet to have a a customer complain that a Win8 box crashed or BSOD'd. Why would you want to rush release schedules?

Customers want one thing above all else. Reliability. They will not tolerate anything less. What you're advocating will lead to instability and that's bad for everyone.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/1/2013 | 1:41:48 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Oh, BTW, October just happens to be just in time for every vendor to prepare for the BIGGEST sales period of every year, when most resellers in every category from computers to clothing make 30-50% of their yearly profit, Christmas. Why would any vendor release a product at any other time of the year? Consumers spend BILLIONS of $ every year from November 15 through the end of December. 50% of profit in <2 months. Hmmmm... The only ones making $ on in July are grill makers and beer companies (and some back to school sales, but it's not like students can wait for computers if they're going to school so they're buying anyway).
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/1/2013 | 1:36:18 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Wait just a second. The OEMs and component manufacturers either are living in a cave or they know that MS releases products in October too. Make NO mistake, Intel, AMD, ARM, Dell, HP, etc... ALL are here today because of Microsoft. How is it all of the sudden Microsoft's fault that the OEMs decided to jump the gun? Microsoft has RTM'd products on a predictable schedule for over a decade. Why are you slamming them for sticking to their schedule? If they rushed 8.1 to keep up with new hardware you'd just as quickly slam them if something didn't work wright.

Let's see. Do vendors who make fuel pumps, air bag control systems, traction control systems, etc... release their wares to the public before Ford, GM, Toyota, BMW, etc... all come out with their latest models? While I get that this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, my point is the hardware folks understand, or should understand, when MS is going to release the products that actually justify new hardware, so why are they releasing things months early?

Now, for all the Linux fans out there, and there seem to be many here despite the dismal % of actually installs in the real world, NO, Linux does not, has never, and will not in the foreseeable future drive hardware sales and no Linux is not an alternative for 99.999% of desktop users. No, Linux doesn't make Intel, AMD, ARM, HP, Dell, etc... any $. In fact, I would venture to say that every hardware vendor would just as soon see Linux go away so they didn't have to support the bazillion different flavors out there. Go ahead and flame away, but the truth hurts. Linux is not an alternative so don't push it as one.

In the end, Microsoft is doing what they've done for over a decade. Hardware vendors are biting the hand that feeds them and writers like Mr. Feibus don't seem to get it. They've blasted Windows 8 and yet I doubt many have actually used it for long enough to justify the lambasting they've done. I've championed it many times in these forums, but if you don't like Metro, I don't on desktops (it's acceptable on my 8 Pro tablet), just install Classic Shell (there are others but none like CS) and stop whining. 8.1 doesn't give you the Start button you're looking for and very few other 8.1 changes are actually make-or-break updates. 8.0 is just fine if you take 5 minutes to learn your way around. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but then again someone has found a reason to complain about every product that every vendor has ever produced.

As they say, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time. The problem is it doesn't seem possible to please any of the reporters/writers just about any time and when the deride a product the brainwashed public just follow along. They killed Vista and yet with the right hardware Vista works just fine. Maybe they bit the hand that feeds them for too long because they didn't slam Win7 too much and yet there are plenty that I heard customers didn't like. Then comes 8 with a GUI that works if you spend 5 minutes to learn and tweak and it was just too much for the old writers used to Windows 95's GUI.

In the end, again, is Windows 8.0 perfect, no, does it work well, absolutely, IF, and that's a BIG IF, you have an open mind and spend the 5 minutes it takes to learn and configure it for daily use.

Let the flames begin...
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/1/2013 | 1:17:09 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Install Classic Shell, open source & free, and you get to skip the Metro start screen.
elleno
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elleno,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2013 | 9:59:34 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Others have commented on your ignorance. I won't.

I'll simply point out the REAL IRONY is that you are commenting on W8 without having used it.

Pretty embarrassing for you.
bloy761
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bloy761,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/28/2013 | 3:38:38 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Actually, for someone that has been a Unix/Linux fan most of his life I find that I really like my new desktop system with Windows 8. The system is up and running within 10 seconds of being powered on and I need only one click to get to the desktop. The OS is obviously designed for touch screen use which is the up and coming technology so no real complaint there. I have associates that have trouble transitioning from their tablet to their desktop and fingertip to mouse which can be kind of amusing to watch. The only real option that was needed was to skip the tile screen (for desktop users) and go straight to the desktop screen. However, with the time I save on booting the system the one click that is needed is still a substantial advantage over previous versions of Windows and actually beats Linux hands down. I'm curious to see what Win8.1 has to offer.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/27/2013 | 6:17:35 AM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
Wow, I've rarely read a similar bunch of nonsense and propaganda. You miss the whole point of W8 and its related MS business strategy, but don't worry, they will not last long.

BTW, I'm not exactly a toddler, at least if you not consider S/38 and S/36 youngling toys, it buys nothing trumpeting you are in the business by a couple of century, I'll gladly trade my (and your) experience for half the tech and business talent of Mr Gates, Jobs, Brin, Page, or Zuckerberg.
CopyingAppleIsDangerous
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CopyingAppleIsDangerous,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 5:58:34 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
What is remarkable is that, in trying to change the public's mind about Windows 8, people who attempt to excuse Microsoft and blame the media actually make things worse.

If an OEM attempts to sell a vehicle that has an interior that smells like horse manure, and instead of replacing the leather, they say that there is something wrong with our collective noses, or that we don't know how to buy air freshener, or that we will "get used to it", or that it is the media's fault for brain-washing us, after a while we start to become personally offended. Not smart. There is such a thing as customer good-will.

I wonder if Microsoft realizes that they are making matters worse by trying to convince us that we are the ignorant and stupid ones.
CopyingAppleIsDangerous
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CopyingAppleIsDangerous,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 5:45:38 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
What you said is irrelevant, and shows the hypocrisy of Microsoft. Since you are an industry veteran who knows how a computer works, we know how easy it is to allow the user the choice to boot to desktop or Metro, ~done by Microsoft~.

Furthermore, we also know that, when hackers discovered in mid-2012 a way to boot to desktop via a registry hack, Microsoft deliberately went in and killed the hack.

Let's think about that. A registry hack. Microsoft actually deliberately went in and killed a registry hack, to herd everyone to Metro.

If that stunt is not an indication of Microsoft's motive to take away choice, I don't know what is.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 5:41:43 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong
@Palpatine, I appreciate your comments. However, I have been working in the computer industry since Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were young lads. I can assure you that I completely understand how the various Windows OSs work. If you are really honest about it, you would then agree that the Windows OS is an open platform that is "purpose built" for running third party apps. So, adding a free or very low cost app from a third party in order to bring back the Start button/menu is not straying too far off the path now is it? Just because MS has one implementation of the UI does not mean you are completely stuck with it forever. Certainly not worth foaming at the mouth over now is it?
In the Modern UI, you can always change the file association to the equivalent desktop app (if it exists) rather than using the Modern app. I'll give you an example. Take the Adobe PDF reader app. If you don't like the Modern version, simply set the .pdf file association to use the desktop version. The same is true for many apps. The modern UI is best used for touch, tablets, phones, and small form factors. The desktop for all other cases. Having a single OS that can do all of the above is imho a better solution than say Android that cannot do desktop and iOS vs. OS/X where the two are completely different from each other in code base and in UI.
At least with Windows, you have a tremendous amount of native and third party customization via software that you can do to "build" your own working environment. Like I said previously... you have choices. Many more choices than you have on other platforms.
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