Tiny pile of Windows 8 ARM slabs slated for October
This is only a test, people
It’s not the timing but the numbers that are really interesting when it comes to Windows 8’s planned delivery.
Bloomberg reports Microsoft is planning to “finish work on Windows 8 this summer” with the client operating system going on sale “around” October. People of few words, it’s often said, are more direct: Bloomberg couldn’t have been more vague with its talk of “finish work”, “summer” and “around” October.
Fortunately, we have precedent to help keep us from losing our heads.
Windows 7 was released to manufacturing (RTM) in July 2009. RTM is when Redmond’s code jockeys sign off on the bits and hand them over to PC makers and DVD burners to start putting it on computers and squeezing it into boxes and download sites. Windows 7 was officially launched three months later, in October. Before that, Windows XP was RTM'd in August 2001 and officially went on sale in October.
Microsoft missed this once in recent history: with Windows Vista, which had a staggered launch in November for businesses and was then pushed out to consumers in January.
As ever with Windows 8, Microsoft wants an October sales kick-off to be in position for the traditionally lucrative Christmas shopping season.
Some are talking about Windows 8 slipping into 2013. Don’t bet on it. For this to happen would require a substantial re-write or re-working caused by bugs or a change in features in response to feedback. You can forget campaigns like this based on difficulty using charms and the ditching of the start menu.
According to those driving it, Windows 8 is substantially done, done to the point that what is actually a beta – the Windows 8 consumer preview launched in February – has been re-branded as a "preview" by Microsoft.
What’s unique this time is that Windows 8 will arrive not just on Intel and AMD x86, but – for the first time – on ARM. And, if Bloomberg is correct, it would seem there won’t be a lot of ARM-based devices in circulation – at least initially.
There will be “fewer” than five ARM devices versus 40 Intel machines.
“Fewer” – more vagueness – but the underlying point is clear: for all Microsoft’s talk about Windows on ARM (WOA) as the next evolution in Windows, WOA won’t be hitting the channel like some new x86. Instead, it plays more to what we’ve been saying here for months – and to what was hinted at by Microsoft’s chief operating officer Kevin Turner Monday: WOA will be for locked down, use-specific devices like ereaders rather than for general purpose machines.
Just like a Kindle, where we know you won’t be able to install another operating system or third-party apps, we also know WOA won’t be available through retail.
With “fewer” than five devices coming out – somewhere between one and four – we can speculate that WOA, despite Microsoft’s bluster, is still an experimental technology and market. And not just for Microsoft, which wants to see how it works first. Just like the first versions of the rebooted Windows Phone, Microsoft is keeping the form factor options locked down and is excluding third party apps to make sure it works and doesn’t suffer any embarrassing crashes.
WOA is an experimental technology for partners, too. They will be approaching this thing conservatively, to see how it works and measure its reception as an indicator of future growth – not just among end-user consumers, but also among developers who will be building the apps.
This also means, that for all the excitement about Windows 8 tablets in time for Christmas 2012, it’ll mostly be slabs running good-old-x86 that Microsoft has to throw at the iPad rather than ARM. The difference is ARM was embraced because it potentially meant the kinds of lighter and more energy efficient and tablets with a longer battery life against the iPad that Intel couldn't match.
If Microsoft is putting less than five WOA tablets into the market – of which, let’s say one is a reader – for Christmas, then it will have fired a blank against Apple.
Windows is a volume business, but it looks like WOA won’t have the volume needed to make a difference for Microsoft against the iPad in 2012. If WOA does come in October, then Microsoft will have scored a symbolic victory and 2013 could be considered the actual launch date. ®
I can see the advertising now...
Apple had "I'm a Mac."
Microsoft followed that with "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea."
HP (I think...?) went with "I'm [Name] and this is my PC."
The Arm-based tablets will have "WOA is me!"
Re: I think it will slip
Well then you're using it in a superficial way or not paying attention. The metro gui is an incredibly clumsy replacement for the start menu.
A simple example would be to consider what metro looks like with 20-30 program groups installed compared to start. In start you get a compact alphabetically sorted list. In Metro you get a mess sprawling out horizontally. It must use 3x the mouse travel. Can you rearrange this list? Yes one selected at a time, not rubber banded. Can you shrink the launchers into something more manageable? Nope though there is an overview mode. If you have a multi screen set up do you always have two bottom corners to put the mouse into? No. If you miss the minute hot zone you can accidentally hit IE a lot of the time. Are the metro apps much use for desktop use? No they're primitive. Does metro make much concession to the large size of some monitors? No making it wasteful and tiring on the eyes. And so on.
It's just very clumsy. I don't care if they replace the Start Menu with something else but that something else must be functionally and productively equivalent, i.e. there needs to be an analog for everything a user might be expected to do and it must do it in equivalent or less times. The metro UI doesn't provide that by a long shot.
It would be adequate for tablets but it stinks for a desktop. If Microsoft release something resembling the preview then they're take a lot of heat. IMO they should delay or at least provide a fallback to a traditional start menu for those who want it.
> MS doesn't make such devices
And that means that there will be two companies trying to take a profit. In the case of Microsoft it is likely that this will be a fixed 'tax' for WOA and OOA (Office On ARM) or a higher price for Windows 8 and Office on x86.
It seems to me that WOA tablets will be approx the same features as iPad2 or current top Android but priced higher than iPad3 while iPad2 has dropped in price. W8 (Weight, Windows ate my homework) tablets will be more expensive due to Intel CPU, bigger batteries, requirement for keyboard, mouse, docking station, etc and for W8 and full Office and virus software.
Any price cutting will be from the manufacturer's profit, except for Nokia where MS will give them a bung and piss off everyone else.
I suspect that HP may be one of those releasing a WOA tablet, a revised WebOS tablet. It seems to me that HP relies on the discounts and 'advertising partnerships' that it gets on MS products in order to make a profit. These depend on 'loyalty' where HP would ship Windows on devices that could run it. WebOS was on ARM and MS did not have a suitable OS at that time. But then WOA was announced. The options may have been 'drop WebOS and make WOA tablets' or 'lose discounts on all your PCs'.
This is a rerun of cheap Linux Netbooks where Vista simply could not run so XP was revived from the grave to drive Linux off the market.
Dont' forget - MS doesn't make such devices, so you can simply forget them being successful in the ipad-way. On the other hand, If they come out generically as "windows 8 tablet" or similar, you will hear chirping crickets sales-wise. This is another android-webOS-blackberry-class OS taken by mfrs and installed on yet more black slabs. I *guarantee* these will flop, simply because they can't be quickly flooded into the market the way android can. Hence the ecosystem can never take root. If phones have flopped, forget tablets. Also, I suspect MS can't be terribly interested in ARM tabs as they run on lower cost (profit) software than full PCs (of which they are potentially competing with themselves).
There's a reason android tabs continue to flood the marketplace (despite appearing poorly sold, when viewed through ipad-goggles) - the massive ecosystem you get with it (and its free). An android based fondleslab doesn't have to be anywhere remotely ipad successful - its just another product to put out that will sell at least a certain # of units because its android.
Windows on Life Support
Wow, they do seem to be running around like headless chickens. Suddenly all this fanfare about WOA seems to be a huge 'much ado'...
On the one hand they've completely retooled their OS to behave like a tablet OS, then rather than coming out strong on their change of direction they completely retreat into the old model of going with x86 and whilst punting a few WOA tablets on the side.
What's going to happen to WOA - it will be truly DOA as developers realise they don't need to port their x86 apps or develop for a new platform since MS are clearly not aiming for a huge market here - just an also-ran e-reader to compete against Kindle (which they've recently decided is where they want to place themselves).
I can see the Currys/Best Buy conversations now. "Well, yes, it's Windows but it's not like a full version of Windows... you won't be able to install your existing desktop apps on it - why don't you have a look at this rather more uglier and bulkier tablet running full Windows".