Boring

Tom Warren, The Verge:

This approach of recognizing where Windows 8 needs improvement really underlines Windows 8.1. It's not so much an update with some stand out features and big name changes, but more of a refinement of the existing operating system. All of these minor changes add up to big improvements in the way you can use Windows 8.1 across touch and keyboard / mouse. Microsoft has had time to sit back and witness the reaction to Windows 8 and see exactly how people are using the product. With Windows 8.1 we're seeing very real changes based on that.
"We really have a great sense of where we got the details of these bets right and where we actually maybe missed a little bit," admits Microsoft's Antoine Leblond, who oversees Windows Web Services. The good thing is that Microsoft is correcting some misses after just months on the market, and it's coming as a free update for existing Windows 8 users. If Microsoft can keep this rapid pace of improvement for Windows then it has a real chance of challenging others in the tablet market, providing even more touch-friendly apps are made available. The PC is in decline and tablets are taking over consumer spending, so Microsoft and its OEMs have to ensure tablet offerings are solid.

For those who were reading OneThirtySeven last year, you'll remember a lengthy period during which I was outrageously excited for Windows 8. Although I joined a great many with decrying the ill-advised "no compromises" mantra, I still held a great deal of optimism for the revival of an otherwise uninspired piece of software.

Today, I feel virtually no enthusiasm whatsoever.

Of course the design is interesting and I'll pay close attention to the Surface's second iteration, but, otherwise, I simply have no reason to care.

The core problem is that Windows 8 promised to be an audacious and disruptive entity in the marketplace. And yet, for virtually every facet of thoughtful experimentation, it was obvious that a businessman had offset the value of a disruptive idealist.

When Apple first introduced OS X, it was riddled with problems. The design was new, software was unstable, and it lacked developer support. But Apple held true to its guns. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be strangled by the tension between volatile idealists and dull pragmatists.

Several days ago, John Moltz shared a thought regarding Windows 8:

This could be a transitional phase. We Mac users didn’t immediately stop using all Classic applications when we switched to OS X, either. I wonder, though, based on current reports of Microsoft retooling Windows 8.1 to make it less “Modern” (which is apparently the new name for “Metro”), if they have the stomach to see it through.

This is precisely why I can no longer muster sincere excitement for the operating system. Touting the return of the Start Button and watching comments threads ignite with enthusiasm is outrageously discouraging.

Microsoft was bidding for something grand and different, but it hamstrung itself with a lack of confidence.

Google Glass, albeit in alpha form, has not shied away from its identity as an agent of controversy. The reason is because controversy is a characteristic of a disruptive technology. No one should feel immediately warm and fuzzy about a piece of technology destined to change the way we interact with the world.

Google and Apple have both owned their controversial and revolutionary promise as elements of their marketing. Microsoft, however, is clearly torn. They have bold, colorful advertising touting a revolutionary new technology, but they betray the technology with a lack of character strength.

Perhaps Microsoft can right the ship. This update certainly promises to — in Warren's words — "right Windows 8's wrongs." In doing so, perhaps it can even regain some users it may've alienated with Windows 8. Those are certainly not bad things in a traditional sense. But without the fortitude to contribute something truly new and useful for its customers, then how could I possibly consider myself a serious proponent?

The narrative of Windows 8 and its successors is not supposed to be about re-introducing removed features and tweaking minor nuisances. It's supposed to be about re-defining the way we engage with our personal devices. And with the tweaks and regressions of 8.1, I just simply cannot see how they intend to tell that story any longer. It's disingenuous.

And, more importantly, it's a shame.

Dell Urged Microsoft to Avoid Confusing Windows Branding

Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:

Dell executive Jeffrey Clarke has reportedly revealed that he urged Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to avoid using the Windows brand for the company's Windows RT operating system. The Australian Financial Review reports that Clarke said the new OS for ARM-based tablets should be called something other than Windows, but Ballmer insisted the brand was too important.

Considering Dell's comic affinity for confusing branding, the fact that Clarke spoke with Steve Ballmer on the topic speaks volumes.

The entire Microsoft ecosystem is mired with baffling branding, compounded by Microsoft's seeming inability to make any semblance of a firm decision regarding software mechanics, branding, and hardware. The lingering nature of the Windows brand is resounding evidence of a company too fearful to truly disrupt the status quo. 

For all of the colored squares and angular backdrops, Windows 8 and RT continue to be plagued by an extraordinary lack of foresight and self-control from within Microsoft. Considering the operating system no longer relies upon a windowed UI, the Windows moniker clearly remains only to coax consumers into a purchase.

Not only is this lazy, but it betrays a deep-seated lack of confidence within Microsoft. Steve Ballmer is evidently fearful of launching a new OS brand for fear of sacrificing customers — a fact which offers a scathing indictment of the affability, purpose, and longevity of Windows.

Consumers thrive upon confidence — a quality which is unquestionably bereft from Microsoft's branding and marketing rhetoric. As Mr. Warren wrote ten days ago, it's simply time for the WIndows brand to be retired. Without getting in front of that inevitable narrative, Microsoft will continue to castrate and embarrass itself in front of its consumer base.

Ben Brooks on the Potential Lure of Windows 8

Ben Brooks:

Last night I saw an ad for Best Buy that features a convertible Microsoft laptop of some sort and I have to say, I can see the appeal of that for people. For example I am tapping this out in my iPad, sitting in a vacant office space waiting for a service technician — this is something I do often. I have my iPad 3 with LTE, my iPhone 5 with LTE, and my retina MacBook Pro all here. Yet I’m only using the iPad, because at a moments notice I will need to get up and meet a technician. With my laptop that means I’d have to close it up and stuff it carefully back in my bag. The iPhone is too small for typing like this, so I go with my iPad, but I would be done with this post already if I had a keyboard for the iPad, then again that’d be silly because my retina MacBook Pro is right here.

Easily one of the most unexpected articles I ever would've expected to see from Ben. And I mean that in a very admirable and positive manner.

The newfound Microsoft philosophy is, as I've written before, not without its allure for even the most staunch of Apple advocates. Although I suspect it will take some time for Windows 8 and this conceptual shift to gain traction, if Microsoft is able to win over — or at least intrigue — people like Ben, then it could well find success sooner rather than later.

Of course, beyond the interesting notion of a versatile computing experience, Microsoft and its partners must deliver upon such a bold idea. And, at the time of writing, they have not yet done so.

So, I certainly hope Ben's concluding "maybe" evolves into something more concrete. I'd be genuinely fascinated to hear his thoughts on the topic, particularly if he were to rely upon a so-called "hybrid" device for an extended period of time.

Four Million Windows 8 Updates Sold in First Three Days

Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:

Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system went on sale on October 26th, and the company has just announced it has already sold four million upgrade copies. At a keynote address in Seattle today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed the first Windows 8 statistics — four million upgrade copies over the first weekend of sales. Ballmer mentioned the launch of Surface, but did not reveal any specific sales figures for that particular device.

For context, Apple sold 3 million in 4 days and 7 million in just less than 2 months.

Of course, considering the vast size of Microsoft's install base, these numbers are altogether different, rendering it somewhat difficult to compare the two.

Still, Windows 8 is an enormous departure from the typical Windows design language of the past, and will likely cause a slowdown in adoption. Windows is, also, not typically installed on a first-day-out basis, but is often held up by systems administrators or unused by otherwise unaware families.

In the Windows universe, from my experience, a new operating system is often seen only when buying a new PC. Few non-technical people upgrade their PCs unless they are prompted to do so.

For all of this, however, it's still rather early to be judging Windows 8's performance. Although some have been quick to ridicule these numbers, they do not sound awful to me. But only time will tell.