How Windows 8 will take on Chrome and Android

How Windows 8 will take on Chrome and Android

Summary: Windows chief Steve Sinofsky talks about whether the rise of netbooks and lighter-weight operating systems is having any impact on Microsoft's strategy


...PC hardware keeps getting better, why would you want to give things up, if software keeps getting better?

This is what happened in movie theatres — once digital projection started, the movies theatres started saying: "Actually, we can make the seats better." We'll see the same with software taking advantage of new PC hardware.

But the direction of HTML 5 seems to be towards giving the browser and web apps better access to PC hardware, like the GPS. Does that make a difference?
There is very little difference between what happens in a browser and what happens on the rest of your PC, if it's a hardware peripheral. All you're talking about is: can you get to it from a browser?

What about privacy issues with the next generation of browsers, where PC hardware will be accessible from the web?
Take access to sensors. Up until about a year ago, everybody said: "See! This is why using a browser is great. Because all this stuff goes on on your PC, and the browser is an island and doesn't know or have any ability to access that sensor, so you're totally protected." That was an asset.

Now everybody is saying: "But we actually want your browser to know about your location, so now we need an API or a plugin model or an extension to a standard, so the browser can get to it."

But wait a minute — just before that, you were telling me: "This is so cool. You can have a GPS in your laptop, and the browser can respect your privacy because it doesn't know." Now you're saying the browser should know, but you need to finish the privacy part. You can't just say: "Net positive, everybody wins."

So I think of it as a continuum. There's no difference with the browser knowing something about hardware — whether it can it read and write files, or get to your memory, or use any peripherals. It's the responsibility of the whole set of software to let you know.

In Windows, the sensor API warns you that something is using the GPS. If [Internet Explorer] uses the GPS, we'll use that API, and there is no way around it. The API always warns you. That's the approach that we take.

That said, time will tell. Cultures and different ways and different regions of the world will react differently to what hardware peripherals do and when you get notified of what.

There's a lot of interest in smaller devices and tablets. Do you want to bring Windows to smaller devices in a lighter-weight version?
There are many things mixed in there. Right now, the thing that's happening on x86 is our ability to go from a ridiculously mega supercomputer game machine to a laptop that has the same specs to a machine with a five-inch screen that's [touch-sensitive].

We have literally every size of PC: five-inch, seven-inch, eight-inch, 10-inch, 11-inch, 12-inch, 15-inch, 19-inch...

At some point you run out of dimensions; there are only so many ways to take a really big sheet of LCD glass and cut it. We could have a triangle PC and use the left-over corner!

But in terms of a lightweight operating system? Android claims it has advantages, like longer battery life.
The thing to keep in mind with battery life is that the number-one consumer of battery life, right now, is the screen. If you take a phone and put it underneath a really big screen, the battery life drops geometrically, because that's how screens work. That's a really big blocker today.

Even if you do everything in solid state and have the lowest-power-consumption chip, you're still lighting up a lot of light bulbs.

That's the first thing. So basically, if we go to a 10-inch screen, we geometrically increase our power consumption just for the screen.

Of course, once you got to a 10-inch screen, you need more memory to drive the screen, and so all these little things start to add up.

Plus, if you're going to use it all day... well, you don't use your phone all day. You have to compare the talk time on your phone, not the standby time.

Topic: Operating Systems

Simon Bisson

About Simon Bisson

Simon Bisson is a freelance technology journalist. He specialises in architecture and enterprise IT. He ran one of the UK's first national ISPs and moved to writing around the time of the collapse of the first dotcom boom. He still writes code.

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  • NOT - How Win8 will take on . . .

    It's noticable how Mr Sinofsky doesn't really tell you anything despite the amount of words he speaks. For instance, he doesn't answer on the question of Android and Chrome affecting Windows development, nor does he really say anything about Windows in a cloud environment. Rather he just talks about movie theatres.

    As for browsers having access to all hardware including memory not being an issue, all I can say is he's obviously not aware of what the MS browser has allowed into machines in the past. He has no clue about security.

    And rather that talk about what MS is doing to bring an O/S to smaller devices, all he does is carp on about how many devices there are. Then on the question of Android having better battery life than Windows Mr Sinofsky starts a speech about LED screens - again not what was asked.

    No part of this interview is even slightly close to the title of this article. For this man to be the "President of Windows", he doesn't half talk a load of hot air.
    Fat Pop Do Wop
  • Great interview

    Great interview Simon, thanks for sharing this.

    I agree with Steven, there are lots of things missing in the cloud and Windows is still what people really want and need, even if they don't always realize it since the lines are so blurred. Perhaps they will realize what is missing when they try Chrome OS!

    In the meantime, I'm glad I can enjoy Windows 7 today and I can't wait until most companies make the switch so they can see the improved efficiency, added productivity and lowered costs of ownership.

    Anyway, follow us @CIOsConnect, we like the conversation!

    Microsoft Windows Client Team
  • Really?

    I agree that the "cloud" doesn't cover all bases. And I've long thought that some industry sectors cannot trust their sensitive data to third parties (doctors for instance) so in-house servers/data storage will never go away. However, Windows is not necessarily what people really need. A good secure local computer system is what people really need.

    And I'm not convinced by your assertion that Win 7 is more cost-effective than other O/S's, effervescent though your comments are. Of all the operating systems my customers have, it's call-outs to the MS Windows ones that earn my wages by a factor of more than 1000 when compared to the Linux computers I look after. So I really appreciate Microsoft for that.

    What about the huge hardware overhead of all the recent Microsoft operating systems? Will there be any reversal of the trend to bloat? That would be a plus for many small businesses who can't afford to beef up their hardware any time soon.

    Fat Pop Do Wop
  • Not How win8....

    He sounds more like a politician than an executive, side stepping the questions, changing the subject, etc. Maybe they are waiting to see what Jobs & Company do so they can imitate. If they continue on their present path, Google, Apple, & Linux will overrun them.
  • What people want and need?

    MSFT Alex

    It's understood that company people have to rally support, but with all the innovation coming from Google, Apple, & Linux, MS is having a hard time trying to keep up with everybody. Even by forcing people to pay for windows on a new computer purchase, there is no guarantee that it will be used. A lot of those computers have their hard drives reformatted and changed to a Linux box. My laptops, and netbooks have all been switched to Linux, and I have given live CD's to people at work and many of them have switched, because of security, speed, and ease of use.
  • Google Blow A great Chance

    Nice interview, and it just reminded me that google have blown a great chance to have created a fully functional and maybe great operating system. It too along with Linux, Mac and Windows could have been tapping the ever improving hardware that we have constantly hoisted upon ourselves. Instead all we'll get is a bunch of dusty hardware sitting on shelves that people became tired of. Maybe a future version will be an OS with some decent functionality.
    roger andre
  • Trailing Edge Technology

    Actually as Pop pointed out the Microsoft rep/salesman really didn't address any of the substantial issues raised. As I think back, every freaking interview I've read where the interview target was a MS mouthpiece, semantic noise & double-speak nothingness is the result.

    Windows means not committing to anything new, taking the "safe" path, letting someone else innovate first and then buying or stealing their ideas.