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2/28/2013
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Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?

Windows Blue, Microsoft's alleged follow-up to Windows 8, may emerge by June. One prediction: Don't hold your breath for a retreat from the tiled look.

Microsoft Surface Pro: Is It Right For You?
Microsoft Surface Pro: Is It Right For You?
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

For months now, Windows Blue has been the software equivalent of Sasquatch -- which is to say, much-discussed, seldom glimpsed and possibly not what everyone assumes. Big Foot has yet to stomp from folklore into reality, but recent leaks suggest that Windows Blue will make its public debut relatively soon, perhaps as early as June. Microsoft has been mostly mum on the alleged Windows 8 update, refusing to officially verify that it exists. Even so, the rumors have begun to converge around common themes. How does Redmond intend to make its new, touch-friendly OS gain momentum?

Speculation began in August, more than two months before Windows 8 hit the market, when ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, citing unnamed sources, wrote that Microsoft was already at work on something called Windows Blue. Whether the new project would be a de facto Windows 9 or a Windows 8 service pack wasn't clear, but Foley asserted that the endeavor would transfer Redmond's upgrade cycle to an annual model, discarding the multi-year spans that have traditionally separated one iteration of Windows from the next. More recently, Foley reported that Windows Blue will encompass a variety of Microsoft platforms, including Windows Phone, SkyDrive and Windows server.

Claims posted in February to Win8China, meanwhile, suggest Windows Blue will become a public preview in June, with general availability slated for August. Other rumors making the rounds: Windows Blue will be built on a new kernel, include Internet Explorer 11 and offer faster computing while consuming less power. Windows Blue could also be a free upgrade intended to bolster adoption.

[ Microsoft has yet to hit its stride with Windows 8. See Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated. ]

Job postings that refer to Windows Blue, meanwhile, have only added fuel to the fire. The most recent developments include sources telling The Verge that the project includes an improved Bing search charm.

The resignation of Windows chief Steve Sinofsky looms behind all the chatter, as it's too early to tell whether Blue will represent an evolution of Microsoft's current strategy or some sort of corrective response to Windows 8's mixed progress.

Reading into the few tea leaves, though, one can divine a few insights into Microsoft's approach. Faster update cycles mean that new features will reach end users more quickly. Windows 8 might be the newest version of a longstanding product, but because it departs so heavily from previous editions, it's essentially a Version 1 release in many respects. To gain market share, Redmond needs to offer a more polished user experience. It will get there much more quickly if it offers iterative enhancements every 12 months, rather than monolithic refreshes every couple of years.

Also significant is the implication that Microsoft is further unifying its Windows family around common code. On the desktop side, Redmond's application offerings lead the class, but the company isn't yet competitive with Apple or Google's respective mobile portfolios. By making it easier for developers to write a single application for all Windows flavors, Microsoft would be addressing one of its glaring weaknesses.

At the same time, the rumors have suggested that UI tweaks will be confined to making the tile-based Modern start screen into a more cohesive experience. Microsoft seems intent on conditioning users to its new platform, so anyone hoping for a major change, such as the reintegration of the Start Menu, is likely to be disappointed.

All Eyes On Mobile Apps

Businesses are curious about Windows 8 but "they were expecting something more," said Paulo Camara, head of mobility services at Ci&T, a Brazilian IT services provider with clients around the world. In an interview, he noted that enterprises have typically waited for a service pack before adopting a new version of Windows. Windows 8 is a bit different, he said, because its advantages over Windows 7 are mostly geared toward mobility, leaving desktop users fewer reasons to upgrade.

He said he expects Windows Blue "not to reinvent things but maybe to tweak them to make them more user-friendly." Certain applications behave differently in Windows 8's Modern interface than they do in the browser's more familiar Explorer mode, for example, and Microsoft would please some customers by simply smoothing over these wrinkles.

According to Michael Cherry, a Windows expert with Directions on Microsoft, Windows Blue is unlikely to change Windows 8's primary philosophy. In an interview, he said Microsoft executives "love to use gambling expressions" such as "we're all in" or "we've bet everything" to describe their newest OS. If Redmond were to back off now, he said, developers would feel discouraged from writing for the newest Windows platforms.

Cherry additionally said that Redmond seems resolved to roll through the early Windows 8 criticism. "Those concerns were raised well before they shipped [Windows 8]. When I look at it, I see no interest or inclination [from Microsoft] in taking that feedback," he stated. "I don't see that anything's changed that, despite Mr. Sinofsky leaving."

Microsoft should dedicate Windows Blue largely to improving the platform's app ecosystem, Cherry said. He noted that Microsoft's pre-installed apps aren't impressive, and that developers might not have the guidance they need. "If Microsoft can't even write compelling apps for it, it's safe to assume it's tough to write apps for that platform," he said.

"Nobody can tell us an app for Windows 8 that they just have to have," Cherry continued, adding that one "can debate whether the UI is right or not" but that killer apps are the key to use cases that will drive adoption. He mentioned that the iPad didn't have an extensive catalogue when it launched either, and that comparisons between iOS and Windows 8 are thus a little unfair. Still, he said, one can argue that it's "Microsoft's fault for not [addressing mobile platforms] years earlier."

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GBARRINGTON196
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GBARRINGTON196,
User Rank: Strategist
2/28/2013 | 9:35:36 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Windows is not dead to me. . . completely, that is. I still find value in my Adobe Lightroom software. But see no reason to go beyond Win7 at this point. If Microsoft tries to strong arm me to upgrade, I would remind them, I have Unbutu loaded on my system as a dual boot, just for fun.

In light of the positive response to the Unbutu Mobile OS, do they REALLY want me getting deeper into that world?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2013 | 4:02:36 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for the comment. Interesting you bring up Adobe, which is attempting to use a subscription model for its Creative Suite that is somewhat similar to what Microsoft is doing with Office. I know of mac users who've gone over to Windows because they're dissatisfied with Apple's Pro Apps--e.g. Final Cut X, Aperture, Motion, etc. Adobe's Creative Suite is pretty fantastic, and Apple hasn't updated the Mac Pro in ages, so some creative professionals, rather than buying an iMac and running Creative Suite on OS X, are building cheap powerhouse PCs from scratch and running Creative Suite on Windows 7. In BYOD stories, a lot's been written about Apple's infiltration of the enterprise. Creative professionals - once one of Cupertino's core focuses, and still, it seems, an interest - might be one of the areas in which Apple has actually lost workplace market share. I haven't heard if there was a rebound after the Retina display MacBook Pros came out, though.

Anyhow, thanks for the thought. Hearing a bit more about Unbutu lately; I haven't heard it posed as a Microsoft concern, but it seems like it's gaining fans.
- Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
ePractical
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ePractical,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 3:05:18 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Money will trump Microsoft's stubborn idealism.

I strongly believe that Microsoft is getting hardly any Upgrade business from classic Laptops and Desktops, basically the complete installed base.

If this is the case then MS will have to "unhide" the nested Start Menu and more robust search just to name a few necessary features, to make the Keyboard and Mouse useful to the Touch focused OS.

Case in point, I had 4x $12.99 Win8 Pro upgrade promos that I was going to let lapse today. At the last minute I discovered Start 8 for $4.95 which solves the above mentioned deficiency. Had I not found Start 8 - I didn't want any of those upgrades even if they were for free.

Windows 7 is a far better interface for keyboard and Mice. And most important, it lets us populate and organize our real-estate with the information and content WE WANT most accessible - not a Program and App centric filled screen that is only useful for a Touch interface. Also, notice they have to fill the space with big blocks for fat fingers to navigate too.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2013 | 4:05:22 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for the comment, ePractical. Interesting perspective, especially in light of the rumor that Windows Blue will be a free upgrade.
- Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 3:28:35 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I have a lot of comments to make, but I have to say I just don't get the Start Menu argument. Michael, what's your input? I agree the Start screen needs improvement and there are some other concerns, but the Start Menu is one thing I'm glad to see go. I would never have thought I'd say that until I actually used Windows 8. I now never have to click Start, and browse through nested folders to open something. I just type. I don't have to click search and type. I just type. Want to open Word, just type Word. Outlook? Type Outlook. (Actually, just type O-U.) Control Panel? Guess what... type C - O - N, and there it is. I can even type Office and see all the Office programs. I can literally find 5 programs quicker than I can find one with the Start button. It's funny, too, to hear the Mac fanboys complain about it. How often do you use the Apple menu on a Mac. Most people use the Dock. I'll admit I got used to pinning apps to the taskbar in Win7, but then, I'd still have to search for the icon and would sometimes click the wrong one (or any) by mistake. With Win 8, I still find it easier to simply start typing. A lot of Win8 complaints are valid but this is just people's hesitation to change.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 10:58:46 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
2.3% market share in January
2.7% market share in February, after launching Office 2013 and Surface Pro.
+0.4% increase was less than half the worst result Vista made at its launch, even with Office and Surface Pro launch!
If Office and Surface Pro cannot save Windows 8, nothing can.
I'll not holding my breath for they getting a clue Zune-like interface is killing their business, nor the rest of the world do, see sales / adoption rate figures!
Anyway, business is business, and if they don't get a clue, shareholders will, and the problem with tiles will end anyway, after MS shuts down.
GBARRINGTON196
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GBARRINGTON196,
User Rank: Strategist
3/1/2013 | 12:37:14 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I'm not a Microsoft hater, the truth is my entire working life has been centered around the infrastructure built around the products of IBM and Microsoft. These two companies had a very profound effect on the United States and the rest of the world. But for the first time, I am starting to consider the possibility that Microsoft is NOT going to survive. Which is weird.

When Eastman Kodak failed, I was shocked, but it's end came as no surprise, it was a slow and torturous death. But I suspect a Microsoft collapse would be much quicker, which is in synch with the world that MS helped create. It's odd to consider that a company with such a profound effect on the world might not live beyond the life of it's creator. It is also odd to think that MS could have no place in a world it helped create.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2013 | 3:54:35 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Hi GBARRINGTON196,

Thanks for the message. It's a provocative point, and you're not the first one to raise it.

Still, I'd be surprised if it goes that far. Microsoft gets a lot of grief, but it's still a company with $60 billion in the bank and a lot of resources. Windows 8 is a big transition, which makes some initial struggles inevitable. I think Microsoft knew that enterprise sales would be soft for at least a year; analysts agreed on as much before the OS launched. Remond certainly hoped for more from consumers, sure, but there are still variables that could turn that around. An analyst recently told me that though Microsoft would have been thrilled with a bigger splash, the company's nowhere near panicked about its progress. I can buy that argument.

A lot of narratives are still being written. I think a few things have to happen before the outlook turns apocalyptic.

If Windows Blue (or whatever) comes along without addressing usability issues, that would be disappointing. Even so, I agree that apps might be the biggest deal; people will forget about some of their UI dissatisfaction if developers can spin awesome experiences out of the platform. If Redmond can give programmers the right motivation and direction, a lot could change. I've heard some criticism about Microsoft in this regard, but I also see the company making moves with developers in mind.

Other forthcoming factors... New Ultrabooks with better Intel chips, new tablet form factors-- for matters to turn truly bleak, those developments would have to fall flat through the rest of the year, and adoption rates would have to continue flat-lining over the same period. There are also companies experimenting with limited Windows 8 deployments right now. If productive use cases emerge and more compelling devices hit the market, the OS could pick up steam. If companies revert to iPads after testing out Windows 8, that'll be a different story. There's also the success or failure of Chromebooks, as well as whatever Apple, Samsung and Google come up with. It's one thing for Microsoft to catch up with, say, the current version of iOS, which is in an incremental upgrade phase. It's another thing if Apple somehow has anther revolution waiting in the wings. Plus, there's all the revenue Microsoft generates that isn't tied to the future of Windows 8.

So I don't think Microsoft is on the fast track to ruin. The bigger concern, I think, is that its best days might be behind it. I don't think Windows 8's slow progress is a sign of doom; most experts agree that adoption will gradually pick up, and the experts have been pretty accurate on Windows 8 so far. But a lot of the work we'll do in the future will involve interfaces that look more like iOS than Windows 7. Microsoft needs a presence in both worlds, and the longer it takes for its mobile plan to gain traction, the more entrenched people become in their current workflows.

But we'll see. A lot of people initially got the iPhone and iPad wrong; thanks to the consumerization trend, this stuff can turn quickly.
--Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 2:27:35 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
The problem is MS is struggling to kill the business strategies that make it conquer the desktop market AND explode the desktop market as first sector in IT for revenues in '90s and '00s.
Apple and Google did not thrived because of the limited UI and the walled garden stores, they thrived for lack of competition.
Bing is a costly joke, MS tablets and UMPC were killed by Vista, that managed to delay 2-3 years the netbook wave, CE was killed by MS that worsened its crisis nearly breaking compatibility at every Phone iteration, Xbox does small profits if compared to cash needs of MS to stay in business.
MS does not need to deploy a castrated content delivery API (so badly fit for content creation that even the Office team did not managed to create an RT Office for it!) threatening Win32 developers that are everyday called "legacy" (legacy? having a single distribution channel is an improvement for developers? please don't joke, think to what would have been of Mozilla, Chrome, OpenOffice with a single MS-centric distribution Store for the software!).
MS needs to deploy a system as light and simple as iOS, that can keep up the whole working day, or keep up a week if you use it casually, bring Win32 to that system, assure developers it is not trying to kill third party distribution channels, assure OEMs it is not trying to be the next Apple.
If they will not manage this, they need to keep alive at least in desktop market, not with an os calling the desktop "legacy" all the way (again, full screen is not innovative, it is OLDER than multiple windows managers!), but with an OS that can keep up to the professional (and possibly higher profits per unit) market the desktop is becoming as casual users are moving to ultramobile - or shifting parts of the usage hours/day to mobile devices.
Sorry, 8/Metro/Surface/Store/subscription-driven Office is neither a true ultramobile environment, nor an improvement for desktop over previous generation.
BTW ChromeOS web user share exploded by 700% while W8 is already slowing its adoption rate...
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/5/2013 | 2:47:16 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for the thoughts, Palpatine. You raise some good points, particularly in terms of how some developers and OEMs are reacting to Microsoft's strategy. Redmond is walking a fine line between advancing its new agenda and alienating some of the users that made Windows so successful, as the divisive reaction to the OS has demonstrated. I think Microsoft can still be okay in the end, as the enterprise refresh cycle bought the company a little breathing room to tweak the new OS. The tweaks will need to support existing use cases while promoting new ones, though, and as you point out, Microsoft faces hurdles in achieving this goal. And though there is time to make adjustments, competitors aren't standing still.

The ChromeOS web share is noteworthy, though the starting point was so small that a 700% increase isn't quite as dramatic as it seems. Sort of like the recent Windows Phone gains, but even more exaggerated. I'm also not sure how big the market currently is for cloud-reliant devices like Chromebooks; the demand for such machines will increase eventually, but I think we're still a few years away from widespread acceptance. Still, with HP, Acer and others experimenting with not only Chrome but also Android, Windows 8 isn't getting an unambiguous vote of confidence from OEMs. If Redmond can mobilize the developer community, a lot could change, of course. The company is making efforts in this regard, but as you point out, Microsoft faces obstacles in fomenting developer enthusiasm. More than the new touch-capable Windows 8 devices hitting the market, the developer angle will probably be the story to watch throughout the spring.
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 3:48:39 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
The points are all valid and unfortunately, perception is reality. Still, most of the arguments I hear are based on the past. Companies - especially tech and software companies - have to respond to the future plans - including, unfortunately, industry buzz. When iPad took off, there were a lot of people who said it was a fad and served no real business purpose. I might have even agreed if, in my job, I didn't find immediate business uses for it. (What I did find is that as much as I love my iPhone and using the tablet, there was a lot it couldn't do for my business - mostly because of Apple-political - not technical - limitations.). Which brings me to my point. MS has to revolve and react. I agree they need to make improvements to Win 8, but a lot of the hate is about staying in the desktop market or not forcing the changes. While it might pan out that this move is a mistake or they may do it the wrong way, I don't think you can fault them for the path they chose. On paper anyway (and prices aside), they are offering a competing tablet that can theoretically do everything that your PC does (including 1000's of things the iPad and Android cannot. Try adding ANY printer you have lying around to iPad or Android and then do the same with an Intel WIn8 tablet). You can then argue "that's fine for tablets but what about my desktop"? Well, they have that covered - again maybe needing some improvements, but that takes time just as it has with any company. What they are offering is One System. One Windows for tablets, PC's, and hopefully phones. Granted Apple products are simple, but for a laymen, there's still a learning curve between a Macbook and an iPad. Again, it remains to be seen, but MS' solution is to have them all the same. (On a side note, I think the tie-in with Skydrive, etc. works better than Apple's options for pushing the cloud integration - reducing the need for backups and insane amounts of storage.) Personally, I believe it's logical, intelligent, and possibly even necessary. If they tweak some things, they could be the only company in 2-3 years that will have an option that any hardware or software you own will work on any form factor device you choose. Maybe they'll simply succeed in forcing Apple and Android to offer one system solutions. Or, maybe I'm wrong and it'll all crumble. Still, I think it's a smart risk and I hope they succeed.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2013 | 4:23:53 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for reading, whsteffan. For what it's worth, I don't have strong feelings about the Start button, and I actually like the Surface Pro. But many people to whom I've spoken find the missing Start button to be a deterrent. They also dislike that some applications behave differently in the Modern UI than they do in the Explorer UI. Analysts I speak to say they hear the same things from clients. Commenters on this site have expressed similar sentiments. When I mention UI dissatisfaction, it's not to make Windows 8 look bad; it's to present the information that's been conveyed to me.

It appears you enjoy Windows 8, though-- and if so, please feel encouraged to share why. You seem passionate about it, so maybe you'll change some minds.
- Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
newyorkcitymale
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newyorkcitymale,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 5:21:49 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
The "fixes" for Windows 8 are pretty simple (because consumers are telling Microsoft exactly what they do & don't like):

1-Make the Start button & Task Bar an option that can be toggled on (but is off by default)
2-Combine the two desktops/Start screens so there's only one
3-Beef up the Metro apps so they're more powerful & useful (add more functionality)
4-Make things easier to find
gilly05
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gilly05,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 8:50:35 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I think part of the problem is that users/consumers are stupid. I was not the biggest fan of Windows 8 when it released, but I have come around. I now have a non-touch screen desktop with Win8 (multi-monitor), a Dell XPS One touch screen desktop, and a Samsung Ativ tablet all running Win8. I love the touch interface and the desktop is exactly like Win7. The issues I tend to have are with interactions between modern and non-modern apps, along with issues with multi-monitor (where the start screen appears on one monitor, but not the others, etc.... kind of annoying).

If MS could get more consumer apps (i.e., mail, flixter, yelp, facebook, pandora, etc.) they would make some headway. Beyond that, they need to make the interop between modern and non-modern apps better.

But, to be honest, I find it laughable that people complain about the lack of start menu or the Win8 search capability. The actual search in Win8 is better than Win7 and the means of performing a universal search is exactly the same... (1) hit the start button (2) type. That's it. The start button is replaced with a start screen that has guess what... icons. Sure, it sucks when you install an app and the start screen is filled with stupid icons you don't care about. Guess what... you can remove them with a right-click/unpin, same as in Win7.

In a year, people will have gotten used to the new UI, because it really isn't that bad. At the same time, MS will have improved it. That's the way it goes. People, including myself, didn't like a lot of the changes between XP and Vista. But, we got used to it and MS made it better in Win7. The same thing will happen here. The added benefit is that when they get it right, we get it across every device we own... phone, tablet, PC. Try doing that with an Apple device.
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 3:50:59 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Exactly! I'm glad to hear someone with a logical response. It's funny how most of the complaints are actually improvements.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2013 | 12:45:10 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Maybe it works fine for you, but the masses disagree....and they did long before Wi8 came out. Microsoft arrogantly ignored the feedback it got from beta testers and now the result shows - and it is not surprising. I has nothing to do with IQ, but simply with good and bad software. And Win8 is nothing else than bad software.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 3:55:30 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
At the rate that we're going, it looks like Microsoft is "getting it right" with every other product release. ME was DOA, XP is still in wide use, Vista is gone (for all intents and purposes), Win7 is in wide use... Win8 which I'm currently testing, provides no compelling reason for me to want to move to it full time as a home user and no compelling reason as to why I would recommend an enterprise running Win7 to move to it either.

One of the other commenters mentioned that Win8 has the same desktop as Win7... functionally, yes, but not from a performance perspective. "Seat of the pants" benchmarking tells me that a brand new Win8 install is visibly slower than my year old, semi-trashed Win7 install was. Don't get me wrong here, there are times where you do need to upgrade hardware in order to run new OS properly (the big leap came when going from 32 to 64-bit), but we're talking 8 Xeon cores, 12 GB of RAM and a SAS mirror+hot spare configuration with 15krpm drives - nothing should run slowly on this system, period.

Does Win8 provide something new for the user experience? Sure. Does it improve functionality or usability of the system? Yes, but is the performance tradeoff worth it? No, not in my case.

And why can't someone in the UI/UX group at Microsoft figure out how to integrate the way that IRIX or OpenLook worked into the new Windows products? Eye candy is great, as long as it doesn't impede system performance - I find that tradeoff wholly unacceptable.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 4:03:15 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I'm not doubting your experience, but I find it unique. In all my reading, Win8 actually did benchmark better than Win7. I agree(d) that there wasn't a great reason to upgrade unless I wanted the app functionality (which I did). After reading, I decided to do some tests myself. I performed fresh installs of Win 8 on a 7 year old Dell Dimension 2.8GHz Pentium with 2 GB RAM, and also on a 1st Gen Lenovo S10 netbook. (About the slowest 1gen Atom with 1GB RAM). In addition, I performed a Win7 - Win8 upgrade on a dual-boot Macbook Pro that's about 5 years old (Dual Core Pentium with 2GB RAM if I recall correctly.) All booted quicker, searched locally quicker, were snappier, and functioned overall well and better than Win7. I forgot, I also upgraded a 6 year old Gateway AIO (can't remember the specs) for my nieces for a Christmas Present. Overall, the new OS brought new life to old systems. Not only did they perform well, but it actually gave me reason to use them for the new functionality. In all of my experience, Win 8 has performed better than Win 7 and Win XP. And, if I don't complain about the changes and embrace them, the systems are actually more usable with apps, better interaction with copying dialogs and other enhancements.
AlexBlanks
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AlexBlanks,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2013 | 9:19:08 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I am an 'IT guy'; I manage and administer staff and technology for a living.

My staff and I have been using 8 as primary for months from Beta trhrough Production. @ Home and @ work.

Absolutley non of the interface changes are an improvement for anyone who uses as more than a giant iPhone; aside from being unfamiliar, the changes are not intuitive or more effective. Charms, Corners & Start are just some obvious fluff that provides no improvements.

YES - under the hood the power is improved, but not fantastically so.

The UI is a hindrance, is inappropriate and MS is missing the point that MOST users do NOT need a more powerful tablet, or PC -- users never needed that power and now they have options that make sense in a lower power tablet that is lighter and has much longer battery life.

Surface RT makes sense, WM8 makes sense - Surface Pro/Windows 8 does not.

All of the improvements that have substance are easily integrated into 7, app performance and behavior can be consistent independent of the primary UI.

The idea that my phone/tablet/desktop UI should be similar ignores fundamental ergonomics and usage patterns.

Why people struggle to defend this misstep, and worse refer to 'stupid' users is just farcical to me. Despite those rare, vociferous defenders/proponents, the vast majority of technical users despise it, most causal users are uncomfortable with it, and those casual users listen to guys like me and my team, and no one anywhere is recommending 8, but in fact disdaining it.

Check what the big boys are doing - abandoing MS ship, from investors to corporate IT, even game dev is moving towards linux both due to poor W8 reception and developer preference.

Modern is NOT modern, and it wasn't when it was Metro.

I like some of the features of the UI - if they were optional, so I could implement them only in appropriate scenarios like shared kiosks or casual use stations. MS is 'all in' and wont give me back my start menu? well Win 7 will carry for at least 4 more years, and in the meantime cloud based application solutions will defeat the need for a specific OS anyway, so get a a clue MS, or get the boot.

Gates is keeping his mouth shut for a reason (or 1000)

None of this is irrational, or misguided - this is a bad design with some slightly good ideas muddled into it. Not a releaseable product, and MS will most certainly adapt or continue its decline.
Murnende
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Murnende,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 10:23:50 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
I like your final point, the one regarding built-in apps and guidance for developers. So far, Windows 8 (let's call it) Metro appears to be all about the look, with little thought reserved for functionality. The built-in apps are terrible for the most part (sideways scrolling? Really?), and the lack of functionality is extremely frustrating to say the least. One would assume that these apps are core to the success of the platform, as they represent the model on which third party apps are presumably built; so if these apps are lacklustre, third party apps won't be compelling either.

This particular failure seems to be compounded by Microsoft's marketing failures with Windows 8. The built-in Windows 8 apps seem to value style over substance (while placement and organisation of options and settings is apparently obtuse, to say the least), and the marketing campaign seems to be in the same vein, that is to say it's all about style, and it's somewhat obtuse.

While I am not an expert in marketing, I can say that I often find Apple's advertising superior to most other companies. A recent iPhone commercial illustrates my point nicely: the viewer is shown the bottom of an iPhone with a finger pointing to the microphone. The voiceover states that "this microphone records your voice," while "this microphone . . ." (the finger now points to a second mic next to the camera) ". . . filters out background noise." Was the iPhone the first phone to have this feature? No, but to the uninitiated, it looks groundbreaking and brilliant. Furthermore, it points (pardon the pun) directly to a feature that makes you believe that this phone will offer a better experience than your current phone, assuming of course that your current phone doesn't already do this.

Compare the above to your average Windows 8 commercial. Wow, the little girl can paint on the screen while talking to daddy in the snapped Skype app. Certainly it might make me consider the benefits of a touch screen to my 5 year old, but what new or innovative functionality does it highlight? Running applications side by side in full operating systems is not particularly new or innovative (better than iOS, I suppose), but why would it make me want to upgrade my Windows 7 install (or XP, for that matter)?

Windows 8 has a lot of great ideas and great features, but no one knows about them. Everyone's too busy being turned off by the more publicised shortcomings of the new OS, being frustrated by the lack of a tutorial, or annoyed by the built-in apps when they try them out in the store. Hopefully the release of Windows Blue will address not only some of the shortcomings of the OS and apps, but will also feature a new, benefits focussed marketing campaign.
dleippe
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dleippe,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 7:31:38 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
When MS figures out that the 1 billion Windows users out there with non touch screen PCs want the Desktop, Start Button and Start Menu back either by default or as a user option they might get some traction with Windows 8 or its successor.

MS's bread and butter has been the traditional desktop and Explorer Windows with the menus at the top. The ribbon interface is too busy, takes up to much real estate..but at least it can be toggled out of view.
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 4:46:32 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for the article. I won't get into the start-screen debate too much. I think it is a good concept but could be executed much much better.

I especially liked the comments about the Metro/Modern apps. I know Microsoft apps tend to be lowest-common-denonimator apps (sound recorder, outlook express, disk-burner, etc.) but I am really surprised that they didn't make a big push to release killer apps to try and win over converts.

For example: look how unhappy people currently are with iTunes11, this would have been an awesome time for Microsoft to have had a killer music library app in place...instead we have the poorly implemented generic ad-platform that is the Metro videos app and the unchanged WMC (which is only available to a few) - really Microsoft? Have you actually tried to manage a 250gb music library with WMC? Is that really the best Redmond can do?

I find it quite surprising that, including prerelease, after over 3 years of development, the apps are as lackluster as they are. Either the guys in Redmond are seriously overpaid, or the envronment is a LOT harder to do anything more serious than fruit-ninja then we have been led to believe, or there is a conscious decision by Redmond not to put the effort into releasing anything of quality.

At this point I can't think of one Metro/modern app that I think is better than a comparable desktop one. Either the feature set is missing (try managing your dvd queue in the Metro Netflix app, try checking the print queue in the metro "HP Printer Control" app ) or the waste (in time or display) is amazing (try opening a video on a networked drive from inside of the "videos" app, really-a full screen display just to tell me its raining?????)
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 5:11:38 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Whsteffan - The problem with the current iteration of the start screen is not that it doesn't work, but that while it may be great for a no-keyboard touchpad, it works poorly for typical desktop workflow.

John Scalzi (Hugo and Nebula award winning author and current president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) wrote quite a compelling piece about his attempts to fit the start page as it exists now into his workflow and how it made him less productive.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/201...
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 3:32:35 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Agreed that it isn't right. My complaints with it are that you can't group tiles into folders. Also, moving tiles where you want is a pain - especially with touch. Sometimes you may want 3 side-by-side and you can't. Having the limitations is a problem and not necessary. Apple (iPhone) did this initially but they finally made some improvements. Still, per my rant above, finding a program on Windows 8 is much easier than Win7. (With touch or keyboard. Just start typing.)
AlexBlanks
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AlexBlanks,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2013 | 8:49:54 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thats ludicrous; if you are on the 8 Start screen, you arent working - you need to be on the start screen to effect the search.

Start button, then start typing - same for windows 7, except no need to leave your workspaces.

Microsoft will definitely bring back start, or they will bring themselves to a halt. Its obvious and simple.

What usually happens when you 'go all in'; you lose.

This OS needs a rewind; the tech improvements are great but the UI is not one of them. It isnt better, faster or more intuitive - it is less of all those.

Touch is a plus, not a replacment, and MS full bore assault on 3 platforms at the same time when they have trouble getting one right is certainly gambling.

I have no problem using any other OS which all share intuitive compents, be it OSX, Win7, any GUI implemtation on *nix, NeXTStep, Amiga Work Bench, Atari GEM TOS, and so on...

MS is not an innovator, and never has been.
J. Nicholas Hoover
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J. Nicholas Hoover,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 1:30:02 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Unless Microsoft is seriously unhappy with the progress of Windows 8 sales, it's a head-scratcher to me as to why the company would introduce another operating system so soon. Given what little we know about Microsoft Windows Blue, what speculation is out there, how grand a departure Windows 8 is from previous versions, and the compressed time frame between releases, I imagine that Windows Blue is as much Windows 8 Service Pack 1 as anything else.
Paulo Camara
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Paulo Camara,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 5:56:57 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Hi Michael! Nice article!

I think Microsoft has a case in enterprises, specially because interoperability between different devices (desktops, tablets, smartphones) plus BYOD is an issue in most companies. If W8 is able to delivery consistently its promise of a single platform + UX, it is a compelling scenario for lots of different line of business.

Imagine, for instance, a company looking for a single solution for their sales force, who work part in the office and part in the field. Currently these guys probably share two or more solutions with similar purposes: a web tool for the desktop, a native app for their tablets, a different one for their smartphones. Besides the inefficiency, it adds costs with lots of integrations running behind the curtains. Or the companies which do not invest on porting their current solutions to mobile as they will need to replicate business logic on different platforms.

W8 could be an answer for this problem. And Windows still is the platform leader in enterprises.

However as I mentioned during the conversation we had, I feel companies were looking for something more and the first contacts with W8 have not been revolutionary. So they are holding their moves. I personally believe Microsoft is still in the game. It is a big company, it knows how to play the enterprise game and it is convinced that W8 (and its next versions) is the only way to open this door or close it definitively.

Let's see what happens in the following months!
Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 4:24:34 PM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
For all my defending of Win 8, I will say one thing that I agree with the complainers about. As the person who makes these decisions in my company - and in need of some upgrades, I had to decide on whether or not to upgrade my accounting department to Windows 8. I chose not to. I don't like to miss out on the newest, (hopefully helpful) things, and I also didn't want to miss out on a 'free' upgrade when I may need to purchase it later. However, I couldn't justify the learning curve of my people just to have the new thing. In addition, even though our primary accounting software is a MS product, I did have some issues with it on my test PC. I'm not sure why and it may have been a fluke, but until I could fully test and have full support, I couldn't risk it. Some enhancements (like the copy file dialog) can be invaluable on occasion, there's not real obvious reason to upgrade beyond just because we can.
rsotol028
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rsotol028,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2013 | 1:47:33 AM
re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
microsoft needs more time to polish the system to make it better, more complete and almost perfect. id like to see a only 1 or 2 versions of windows, with only 64 (x64) bits with 32 bits (x86) capabilities of course. maybe with the starter office 2013 included like the RT version. and of course, with all languages included to install or use on the disc.

maybe someday will see that. os x and linux they have already that options.
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