Windows 8 and bundling: What a difference a decade makes

Windows 8 and bundling: What a difference a decade makes

Summary: Microsoft is taking some emboldened steps toward bundling formerly separate apps and services in Windows 8.


For the longest time, bundling was a dirty word among Microsoft execs. It probably still is, given the trouble the Redmondians got into just a decade ago or so with U.S. antitrust authorities over "bundling Internet Explorer" with Windows.

In the end, the Department of Justice did not overrule Microsoft's contention that its Internet Explorer browser was not a separate program, but a component of Windows. Now that the DOJ's court-stipulated oversight is done over Microsoft, a Windows PC monopolist accused abusing its monopoly power, it seems the Softies feel bolder about bundling up a bunch of previously separate programs and services with the coming Windows 8 release. Internet Explorer -- version 10 this time around -- is still part and parcel of Windows. But if you look at the Consumer Preview (beta) that Microsoft showed off on Februrary 29, a bunch of formerly separate elements are part of Windows, too.

"Consumer Preview includes a set of free, built-in apps, including Mail, Messaging, Photos, People, SkyDrive, Calendar. All part of the core user experience," a spokesperson confirmed.

Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott has a good explainer as to what each of these apps really is. Bottom line: Many of them are rebranded versions of things that up until now have been separately downloadable Windows Live services with similar names.

We still don't know exactly what Microsoft intends to do regarding Office 15 on its Windows 8 on ARM tablets. All Microsoft execs have said officially is they intend to "include" new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote with WOA tablets. That may mean they're bundled, as in preloaded, free-of-charge, but so far, I cannot get Microsoft officials to say that.

Whether the full versions of these apps are bundled or not, it's still interesting to see Microsoft doing what its competitors have felt free to do for a while now. Will this result in any new antitrust agitation? That will be interesting to watch. I am not hoping this happens, just to be clear... and maybe it can't and won't, given Microsoft isn't a monopolist in tablets. I like the integration of all my Microsoft apps and services in my Windows Phone and wouldn't mind seeing the same in Windows 8.

Topics: Software, Browser, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Security, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Expect loads of "free stuff".... a way to compete with established mobile devices.
    • I disagree.

      I may yet be proven wrong here, but I wonder whether:

      1) The Consumer Preview includes these apps in order to preview to the consumer what kind of experience they can expect in the final product, and that in the RTM version they'll remove all these apps and make them available for download from the store.
      2) Because everyone else ships a ton of apps integrated into their platforms and there is now significant competition in the marketplace, whether MS feels that it's justified in shipping a product pre-loaded with features that its customers CHOOSE to buy.

      I think that there's now significantly more competition in the market today on almost every front - from OS to browsers, from Office Suites and to databases. And most of Microsoft's competitors ship a number of key apps within their OS/platforms. I think MS is now perfectly justified in shipping whatever it wants in its x86/x64 OS/platform (in which it still has a monopoly, albeit a diminished one compared to 1998-2002), so long as it doesn't prevent users from installing other competing apps.

      The WOA market is nascent, tiny and proprietary and Microsoft can do what it wants in that space to provide a product that is compelling to its target audiences.
      • MS wan't prevented from shipping bundled items because it was...

        A monopoly, it was because it ABUSED it's monopolist position in the marketplace. It was punishment for past wrongs and preventative against future wrongs.

        I'm sure we don't have to revisit the findings of the case again.

        Clearly MS see the same solution, bundling its popular apps to gain traction in new markets. This time they're starting from behind. Let's see how it goes.
        Richard Flude
      • "so long as it doesn't prevent users from installing other competing apps."

        Not that you're suggesting otherwise, but they never prevented users from installing competing apps even back then. This is what always boggled my mind. If they have prevented you from installing say Netscape back in the day, then sure, that's a violation. But you could install it. So I've always felt that aspect of the monopoly argument never held water. Anyway, I'm thinking you may be right about the "unbundling" for RTM version just to play it safe. Really, though, it's ridiculous at this point. Apple has/had the monopoly on the smartphone market and BLOCKED flash. That, IMO, is an abuse.
      • Blocking Flash is a great thing

        If that's abuse, too bad. Tough. You don't have to buy their products.

        Go find a Windows desktop or an Android to Flash yourself with. They're as common as washing machines.
    • I think the killer feature of Windows 8 would be...

      Microsoft creating a virtual server farm, so when you bought Windows 8 your licence key unlocked a synched copy of your system on the cloud with, say a 500Gb HDD on the server. Then you could remote desktop into your system when away from it, still use your system offline (on your local copy on your PC or laptop) while auto sync when internet connected, it could even replace the Chromebook system - have a (really) thin windows client and boot to the remote copy of windows you have. Then, if you had a thin client program on the iPad that would boot to this remote version of Windows 8 but still allowed the remote version to utilise all forms of input from the device (Camera, audio, all sensors, multitouch screen) not only do I think MS would sell more licences for Windows 8, and give it a great purpose to upgrade beyond Windows 7 (Sync between ALL of your devices! All your work on any device!)

      Just my thoughts as an ex-MicroSoftie.... #ShouldNotHaveLeft
      • Not sure it's really needed

        Your WLID gives you app and setting sync. SkyDrive is built in with tiered cloud storage too. Remote Desktop is there if you ever need to remote into another PC, or you could always use Azure for RDP sessions if you don't have a corporate infrastructure. Internet connections aren't really fast enough to match local resource access and massive data interchange though.
  • Looks just like WP7

    These features mirror the design of WP7, having the same names as the tiles and hubs. There really will be one OS to rule them all ;-)
  • Built-in anti-virus software for Windows 8?

    Is this still on the table for Microsoft? ZDNet's [s]Ed Bott[/s] AKH wrote of this in September, 2011.

    This one would raise some eyebrows from the likes of Symantec, McAfee (Intel), Kaspersky, etc.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Antivirus

      Good point. I believe there is an antivirus product known as Defender that is a superset of Windows Security Essentials that is built into Win 8. There's no official word yet (I believe) as to whether this replaces WSE. Defender in Win 8 does include an engine and signatures, however. Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Defender is a malware detection product

        It was originally from Giant, which was bought by Microsoft and made part of the Windows security. It is not an antivirus product.
        linux for me
      • RE: Defender is a malware detection product

        @linux for me According to ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' article, "Windows 8 will ship with built-in antivirus protection" dated September 13, 2011, "Microsoft is adding features from its Security Essentials program ... to the Windows Defender package already built into Windows."
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Defender USED TO BE a malware detection product

        @linux for me
        Years ago Defender was just a malware detection product, but it has since morphed into Security Essentials which is a full blown AV/AM product. MSE is basically the free consumer version of Forefront Endpoint Protection.
      • Defender in W8 includes all of the features of MSE

        It is not the same as the old version of Defender that was bundled with Vista/7. Those versions didn't have the antivirus engine. This one does. Microsoft is just calling it Defender because it is bundled with Windows, like the other versions. MSE was(is) the standalone product. All of Microsoft's current antimalware software use the same antimalware engine features and signatures now (they do still support defs for the Vista/7 versions of Defender, but they will NOT add antivirus to Defender - you'd use MSE on those platforms instead). Intune and EndPoint Security are duplicates of MSE, as is W8 Defender. They all use the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine (MSMPENG).

        The Windows Store includes a section called "Security", so this is likely where antimalware developers can list their products.
  • If they start acting like they did before.

    Then it is warranted, If they are acting in an anti-competitive manor, any company should be investigated. Being that Microsoft is in a unique position to leverage their desktop monopoly, this needs to be taken into account.
    Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Bigger problem this time round ...

    ... because Europe, for one, will likely still regard M$ as having a suffuciently large desktop market share to insist on unbundling of IE and maybe anti-malware too on everything but tablets.

    "In the end, the Department of Justice did not overrule Microsoft???s contention that its Internet Explorer browser was not a separate program, but a component of Windows."
    Since we know that M$'$ claim was BS ... and was part of their eventual monopoly ... one would have to like a monopoly to let M$ get away with it again.

    There would of course be no problem with allowing a customer to select ALL M$ ... providing others had the option to say Chrome + <another AV>. Mary Jo still doesn't seem to understand the word 'choice'.

    I must admit I don't know how M$ and OEM's are getting away with Windows only and the Starter version of Office on new hardware. I'd force OEM's to offer a pure hardware base. Nor do I understand how tying OSX to Apple hardware isn't unlawful tying.
    • Interesting ...

      Consider Apple: They have a 100% monopoly on hardware that can (legally) run their OS, even though there is nothing proprietary or unique about their laptop & desktop hardware other than a deliberately engineered motherboard function created to "prevent piracy" of their OS which then allowed them to use a clause in the DMCA to sue competitors out of existence (e.g. Pystar).

      They ship their OS with apps for email, calendar, internet, chat, video conferencing, etc. preinstalled. Why? Should they not be bound by the same rules as Microsoft, especially considering that they have a far greater monopoly on the Mac market than Microsoft ever had over the PC market.

      No, I think it's clear that the market has spoken and that there's now clear and full competition in the computing device market sufficient that Microsoft shipping an email client integrated into their new OS is just not an issue any longer.
      • I have to agree.

        The world is much different from that of the Win95 era. I think Mary Jo is just setting us up for click bait and flame wars.

        Don't get me wrong. Microsoft is still evil. They just are not as relevant so the danger has diminished a bit.
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • Interesting...

        Thank you! That is it!
      • Marketshare

        Great points.

        I'd guess the difference is general market-share. Should Apple eclipse Microsoft at some point, they'd probably face the same type of investigation. But as it is right now, in sheer numbers, despite being the owners of the iOS devices, Apple isn't nearly big enough.

        Of course, this may change as desktop environments become lesser in importance. A re-interpretation of how these companies do and don't hold monopolies may be in order.