Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

Summary: Microsoft's Windows 8 made a splashy debut with developers, but there are multiple wild cards ahead.

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Microsoft's Windows 8 made its developer debut and not-so-surprisingly the reaction followed a familiar historical pattern of reaction. In the beginning it's "wow," "looks good," and "can't wait." Then there's the next phase, which includes questions about hardware, deliverables and wild cards. Finally, we get to the realization that Windows 8 is a year away and we're not quite sure how this adventure is going to play out.

Such is life when your development process is as public as you can get. Survey the tech chatter today and it's clear that the reaction to Windows 8 is somewhere between the second and final phases for this round of development.

In a nutshell, Windows 8 looks swell, but is far from complete. There are questions about how the Metro UI will ultimately go over with developers, Microsoft's grand plan to port Windows 8 to the ARM architecture and a big mystery about the hardware side of a Redmond-powered tablet.

Here's a look at the caveats about Windows 8 in order of importance.

The timing. As Ed Bott noted the other day, Microsoft is an odd duck that develops in public. This approach is easily mocked. Daring Fireball's John Gruber said that companies like Apple and Amazon would never preannounce something a year in advance and show off a work in progress warts and all. But that's how Microsoft rolls. The reality is that Windows 8 is probably a year away and that gives others a chance to garner a larger lead. In the PC market, the lead-in to Windows 8 will be the great pause before a sales pop. In the tablet market, a year is an eternity. Harry McCracken noted that the jury is anything but in on Windows 8. Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard said in a research note:

The company did not announce a final timeline for a Windows 8 launch; however, we expect a final version should be ready for holiday 2012.

CBS News' Charles Cooper was a bit more direct about the timing issue:

Give Microsoft's spinmeisters credit for a job well done. They got the desired headlines out of this week's big developer conference where Microsoft offered a long, detailed look at Windows 8. But the most important headline for applications makers - and ultimately consumers - still remains unwritten: When will the product really ship?

The tablet plan. Microsoft's Windows 8 looks like an easy play for the tablet. The problem is that Microsoft had to hand out a large somewhat clunky slate to developers with Windows 8 on it. The ideal: Hand out a Samsung Galaxy Tab with Windows 8 included. Instead, developers played with a 11.6 inch tablet with an Intel i5 and a PC spec sheet. We know that the slate approach flopped so Microsoft needed to go out of its way to put Windows 8---even if buggy at this early stage---on hardware that didn't scream "PC wannabe!" Beta News' Joe Wilcox seemed to like the hardware, but it's doubtful that he represents the target audience.

Also see: How will Windows 8 tablets stack up to the competition of the future?

Collins Stewart analyst Kevin Buttigieg said:

Designed to blur the current distinction between a PC and a tablet, the Windows 8 tablet that was demo-ed (and provided to developers) has an 11.6 inch display (versus 9.7 for the iPad) and is also longer, thicker and heavier, though users didn't seem to mind right now. Like a PC and several Android tablets (and unlike iPad) it has several ports (HDMI, USB, microSD); it also had 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD drive which provides for instant-on. There was no word on battery life, though the hardware was also pre-beta. Only x86 mpu was demo-ed, though Microsoft indicated that ARM is on the same development schedule.

ARM port questions. Windows 8 development is running concurrently on x86 and ARM. At this point, the consensus seems to be pointing to x86 first as far as a final Windows 8 product. Windows 8 on ARM, however, is critical. Microsoft needs to get into the tablet game as soon as possible. Windows 8 on ARM can't wait until 2013 since Android will just improve and Apple may be on iPad 4 by then. As noted previously, there's a lot of pent up demand for a Microsoft Windows 8 tablet. I'm just not sure there's that much pent-up demand.

The Wintel meets post-PC era issue. Intel announced that Android will work with Atom chips going forward. Windows 8 will also play well. The big question is whether Wintel can do something more than act like a revved up netbook in a new form factor. The Wintel obits are premature, but so is the idea that Intel and Microsoft can navigate the post-PC era. The burden of proof sits with Microsoft and Intel. Also see: Great Debate: Is the post-PC era is reality or hype?

How will this Windows 8 app strategy emerge? It's telling that Microsoft let its summer interns take the lead on the Windows 8 app demos. On one side, it's nice that even an intern can launch Windows 8 apps. On the other hand, Microsoft isn't exactly stating apps are a huge priority. Toss in the role of different app efforts---Windows Phone 7, Xbox etc.---and the Windows 8 app strategy is fuzzy at best.

In the end, we've learned a lot about Windows 8 this week, but not nearly enough. This development in the public eye approach isn't easy.

Related:

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Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

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132 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

    I remember when Vista was in beta we heard lots of bad reviews. The same thing is happening with Windows 8 pre-beta. C'mon you have to make a registry tweak to switch to classic start menu. Besides, where's expose, app armor, space etc Microsoft? We see no reason to upgrade and so do businesses
    shellcodes_coder
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

      @shellcodes_coder [Besides, where's expose, app armor, space etc Microsoft?] You will have to wait till Windows 9 and Windows 11 respectively to get those features.
      Rick_Kl
      • It's all evolution...

        @Rick_Kl

        So long as theres a plan why worry. Having just spent some time looking at hackintosh it's easy to see how Apple support their kit... very limited drivers, very limited hardware, almost locks it to Apple kit. Microsoft at least support a VAST rang of kit, hardware, and drivers. MS and OPensuse etc offer us all options without emptying our wallets. Me... I'm running OSX in VirtualBox to get round Apples insular, restricted, inane support limitations. All because I need to support a few user functions and I'm not willing to spend a fortune just for that.

        MS may get some stick but at least they offer support options to the vast majority of the IT world. Unlike others.
        johnmckay
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

      @shellcodes_coder

      There is a difference.

      This is not a beta.

      All of those people who are saying that it's a beta? They're wrong.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @Michael Alan Goff
        please don't feed trolls.
        Ram U
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @Michael Alan Goff - true.

        For years, beta-grade code has been sold to customers and those "Do you wish to help Microsoft" screens that send data back to the company (anonymously, natch) are just their way of getting around QC -- and making the customer not just the guinea pig as well.
        HypnoToad72
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @HypnoToad

        You mean like how Apple rushed out 10.7.1?
        Michael Alan Goff
      • No, what @HypnoToad72 said

        Here is is for you again, @Goff

        "For years, beta-grade code has been sold to customers and those "Do you wish to help Microsoft" screens that send data back to the company (anonymously, natch) are just their way of getting around QC -- and making the customer not just the guinea pig as well."
        ScorpioBlue
      • I am with you, bro it is...

        @Michael Alan Goff

        ALPHA! ;-)
        Solid Water
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        So if @Michael Alan Goff is the ALPHA, does that mean @Cylon Centurion is the BETA?

        Or is @Michael Alan Goff the [i]ying[/i] and @Cylon Centurion the [i]yang[/i]?

        lol... :D
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @Rama.NET Come on - it's fun feeding the lower life forms...
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • Though it is not Beta...

        @Michael Alan Goff Though it is not Beta, it is not Alpha either. It is pre-beta developer, meaning it is pretty close to Beta, that they can release it to developers and IT Pros.

        I installed it on a friends old laptop, and my new Acer Iconia W500 tablet. The laptop does not have a touch screen, so as a desktop OS, I am not sure how well it will work, yes you can get to a desktop easily, but once there you have to go back to the start screen. The start screen replaces the start menu. How I use a computer at work, this will increase production time. I hop MS will fix that.

        As a tablet OS, it is really nice and and better then Win7, that was installed on my Tablet. The only compliant, is no swipe keyboard on the tablet. I would like to see that.
        Broggy69
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

      @shellcodes_coder

      <i>C'mon you have to make a registry tweak to switch to classic start menu.</i>

      Well, you COULD do that. Or you could just click a button for classic windows.
      SlithyTove
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @SlithyTove Haha, it just shows there's always a choice ;-)
        statuskwo5
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

      @shellcodes_coder

      <I>"C'mon you have to make a registry tweak to switch to classic start menu."</I>

      This is a developer preview meant to break in the new UI. This is not meant for general use.

      <I>"expose, app armor, space etc"</I>

      Windows doesn't need any of that crap. Plus, it has an expose clone. It has since Vista. ;)
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

        @Cylon Centurion

        Expose clone !

        What WOW 3d flip

        You really need to look at compiz
        Alan Smithie
      • compiz

        Yay for full effects on Ubuntu... and wobbly windows >_>
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8: Now it's time for the caveats

      @shellcodes_coder What are you looking at? I'm seeing lots of very positive feedback and numerous websites claiming Metro is the best touch UI built to date (and as a convert from iPhone to Windows Phone 7, I agree--Metro is FAR superior to the old fashioned, stale icon grid UI). Without a doubt, the Windows 8 developer preview, which is either Alpha or Pre-Alpha, will have its share of bugs and issues. That's par for the course, and anyone expecting it to be flawless clearly doesn't understand the first thing about software development :)
      jasongw
    • And how did vista work out for MS?

      I don't see anything controversial written here; early days in dev, long way to go, no idea what or when to be delivered.

      Changes in fundamental method of user interaction in W8 can be unwound using a registry (it's self an abomination) setting? I don't think so!
      Richard Flude
      • How so?

        @Richard Flude: [i]Changes in fundamental method of user interaction in W8 can be unwound using a registry (it's self an abomination) setting?[/i]

        I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why.
        ye