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Microsoft hopes for second chance with Windows 8.1

Mark Hachman | June 25, 2013
What does Microsoft need to accomplish at its BUILD developer's conference this week? Establish that it can listen to customers, analysts say.

For example, setting up a third-party device just works—as it should, and as it always should have. The new OS also requires less memory than Windows 7, and the required disk storage should drop with Windows 8.1, as well. The bottom line? Windows 8 is a toned, stylish, polished professional athlete. But it's wearing clown makeup, and that creates a serious image problem.

We need mobile apps—not many, but the biggies
Before a new product can sell, notes Directions on Microsoft's Miller, it has to offer a compelling answer to a critical question: What can I do with this that I couldn't do before? With Windows 8, "the story hasn't been compelling," Miller said. "There hasn't been enough great experiences." And those experiences need to emerge through apps.

The apps question flips the Desktop versus Start page argument on its head. People working on PCs instinctively visit the Facebook Web page. It works fine. We're used to it. But Facebook formatted as an app or mobile Web page for iOS, Android, and (my favorite) Windows Phone looks far smoother than any Web page for the desktop.

Ignoring the fact that the share of Windows tablets is miniscule, Microsoft simply needs to commission a few key apps for Windows 8: Facebook, Yelp, and Pinterest, for starters. Pinning a Web shortcut to the Start menu is not the right solution.

And if Microsoft plans to usurp the iPad and the Chromebook in the education market, stronger partnerships with educational developers are essential. My Lenovo Twist has a Windows 8 Encyclopedia Britannica app that's not bad, but we really need an iPad-quality app that Microsoft can put in front of educators (and consumers) as an example of the potential of the platform. If only Encarta were still around.

You might be able to argue that Foursquare, for example, belongs on Windows Phone, as it does. But as Forrester's Gillett points out, we need to see a "continuously evolving and improving" apps story across the ecosystem.

Apps, apps, apps. And not just on Windows Phone, either.

"We need to see more of the operating system, but also more of the total Microsoft experience," Gillett said. "Phones and Windows tablets is just part of that one continuous Microsoft experience."

BUILD represents Microsoft's second chance. Has the market passed it by? You could make the case that it has, but you can also argue that Microsoft still has wind in its sails. We'll find out this week.


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