This could be just the thing that Microsoft needs to reignite developer interest in Windows Phone: A common app store for its multiple platforms. Unnamed sources tell The Verge that Microsoft has been testing out a single app store for both Windows 8 apps and Windows Phone 8 apps that will offer a common platform for developers to sell their software. Microsoft is planning to launch the store with the release of Windows Phone 8.1 and with a special update to Windows 8.1 in the first half of 2014. Although we still don’t know how the combined app store will work, The Verge speculates that “it’s possible that Microsoft may take an approach that’s similar to Apple’s App Store, where tablet specific apps don’t run on the phone, but phone apps scale to run on a tablet.”
One month out from release, Microsoft has announced the official pricing and packaging for Windows 8.1 The newest version of the Windows operating system will be available as a free download for Windows 8 users starting on October 17th from the Windows Store. All of the features Microsoft announced earlier this year will be included in the update. Windows users who do not currently run Windows 8 will be able to buy the upgrade online or at a brick and mortar retailer. Windows 8.1 will cost $119.99 and Windows 8.1 Pro will cost $199.99. Windows 8.1 Pro Pack, which adds Pro features to the regular version of the software, will cost $99.99. More →
Windows 8 is certainly polarizing but it’s certainly started to gain momentum over the last month. The latest numbers from Net Applications show that Windows 8 machines accounted for 7.4% of all desktop computers in August 2013, up two percentage points from July when they accounted for 5.4% of all desktops. The rise is Windows 8 adoption has coincided with a fall in use for Windows XP, which saw its share of desktop computers fall from 37.2% to 33.7% between July and August, a drop of 3.5 percentage points. Since Microsoft plans to drop support for Windows XP next year, the platform’s market share plunge should only accelerate more in the coming months.
If something sounds too good to be true, then that probably means it’s bloatware. Ars Technica reports that Lenovo’s new Start menu replacement for Windows 8 PCs probably won’t deliver the traditional Start menu experience that many PC users have been looking for. Essentially, the third-party Start menu from SweetLabs that Lenovo is pre-loading onto its new PCs has an annoying habit of constantly prompting you to buy new apps that you probably don’t want. More →
Although Microsoft is indeed bringing back a version of the Start button with its upcoming Windows 8.1 update, it’s still not bringing back the full Start menu that’s long been a staple of the Windows experience. Lenovo, however, is aiming to fix this by bringing the Start menu back on its own. Bloomberg reports that Lenovo plans to “pre-install SweetLabs’ Pokki software, which provides a replacement for the dearly departed Windows Start menu” on new Windows 8 PCs that it will start shipping in the coming weeks. More →
The National Security Agency’s snooping practices may be costing American companies a lot of money. German publication Zeit Online has obtained leaked documents that purportedly show that IT experts within the German government believe that Windows 8 contains back doors that the NSA could use to remotely control any computers that have it installed. More →
Adding touch capabilities to laptops and notebooks doesn’t seem to be a magical elixir for reviving the PC industry. Unnamed industry sources tell Digitimes that touch panel suppliers actually expect to see lower sales of touch screen PCs in the second half of 2013 than in the first half. Digitimes‘ sources also say that “Windows 8 has not helped the touch notebook market develop as much as expected,” which backs up a recent report from IDC that lowered the firm’s estimates for touch-based laptop shipments in 2013. Microsoft had hoped that Windows 8 would really start to take off once more OEMs started shipping more PCs with touch capabilities but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Microsoft has taken a page out of Apple’s playbook recently. With Windows now the underdog operating system in the tablet market as the iPad continues to dominate, Microsoft has been running an advertising campaign that bears a striking resemblance to Apple’s old “I’m a Mac” spots. In this latest addition, Microsoft heads to a college classroom and pits the iPad against Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga convertible ultrabook. More →
Microsoft’s bet that people would come around to Windows 8 once they got to experience it on touch-based PCs hasn’t gone well so far. Computerworld reports that research firm IDC will “likely” drop its estimates on touch PC shipments from 17% to 18% of all laptops shipped in 2013 to between 10% and 15% of all laptops. IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell tells Computerworld that high prices on touch-based notebooks are big reason why touch-centric PCs haven’t taken off yet this year. More →
The Windows update that luddites have kind of, sort of, maybe been waiting for is set for public release sometime in October. A report at ZDNet from the always-reliable Mary Jo Foley states that Microsoft is on track to make good on its promise to deliver the RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 8.1 by the end of this month. Then, Foley says the final version of Windows 8.1 will launch to the public sometime in October. Windows 8.1 includes a number of updates, but the most talked about are likely the ability to boot and log in directly to the Desktop view, and the return of something that resembles a Start button but functions quite a bit differently. More →
There is absolutely no question at this point that tablets are responsible for the global decline in PC sales. This was an inevitability that top market research firms fought at first in an effort to guard their clients, but the numbers don’t lie: PC sales are falling as tablet sales skyrocket. There are still signs of life for PCs though, and one is that people for whom work is a priority still need the software and multitasking benefits afforded by laptops and desktops. Recent market research from Deloitte found that 82% of college students own computers and 80% own smartphones, but just 18% own tablets. “The combination of smartphones and laptops makes the tablet redundant for students,” Deloitte’s Brent Schoenbaum told MarketWatch. Dealnews.com’s Louis Ramirez added that “unless you’re shooting for a degree in Angry Birds, tablets are a horrible back-to-school purchase.”
Although Windows 8 has been steadily building momentum all year, the latest numbers from Net Applications show that its growth rate has stalled over the last month. Overall, Net Applications found that Windows 8 was on 5.4% of all desktop computers in July, up from 5.1% of all desktops in June. However, this is the slowest adoption growth rate that Windows 8 has had in months, as its growth by 0.3 percentage points is half the growth rate that the platform saw between May and June. Windows 8 adoption also grew by 0.5 percentage points between April and May, by 0.6 percentage points between March and April and by 0.5 percentage points between February and March. It will be interesting to see if growth picks up again once Microsoft releases Windows 8.1, which will add a boot-to-desktop mode and a variation of the Start button, later this year.
Tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems have struggled to gain traction so far and Paul Thurrott of the Supersite for Windows says there’s a very simple explanation for this: The first generation of Windows tablets just isn’t very good. To be clear, Thurrott says that there are several touch screen Windows 8 PCs and ultrabooks that are very worthy of users’ time and that shouldn’t be overlooked. But when it comes to pure tablets, he deems that every single one is “simply to flawed to recommend” to anyone interested in buying one. More →