Why I Believe We’ll See a Windows 8 Smartphone in 2013

 

First things first, the rendition of the Windows 8 Smartphone above is not an actual Microsoft product.  It comes from the fertile imagination of Jonas Daehnert, an industrial designer, who was inspired by the Surface.

That being out of the way, I’ll proceed to share why I feel we are very likely only a few months away from a Windows 8 Smartphone running Windows Phone 8.

The first reason is that given the existence of the Surface RT and the Surface Pro in early 2013, it makes no sense to build a reference model for tablets and ignore the exploding smartphone market.

Windows 8 Smartphone, as I choose to call it, completes the logical business plan.  And not just for the “reference model” benefits, I think cold hard cash from fat margins would help a great deal too.

The Wall Street Journal voices its own suspicions, noting;

Microsoft Corp. is working with component suppliers in Asia to test its own smartphone design, people familiar with the situation said.

The move suggests the computer-software giant is increasingly adopting a variation of a business model favored by rival Apple Inc., which designs computers and phones along with the software that powers them.

The Apple model of making extremely profitable hardware AND software cannot have escaped Microsoft’s attention.  It may not be worth the trouble to create Microsoft desktops, since that market is mature and growing ever so slowly.

However, it is a whole new deal in the smartphone market, where there is really only Nokia (and HTC) to upset.  Samsung is a newer relationship and probably won’t care as Android is their main market.

You see, it just makes sense.  Just take a look at Google, and their Nexus project, which has already seen The Nexus 4, 7, and 10, running ‘pure’ versions of Android.  Google couldn’t just do Nexus 7 and 10, without 4, the smartphone, no more than Apple could build only the iPad.

I’m not sure that Microsoft has learned anything new about timing, so it could be 2014 instead of 2013, but this is a glaring opportunity that even Redmond must be able to see.  Why wait until the Lumia and others fail because you didn’t launch the Windows 8 smartphone?

Alternatively, why wait until they succeed and make it more difficult for you to make money in that space?

Last, Microsoft has said they will be making many of their retail outlets permanent, creating more of them, and ‘expanding’.  Could that be in anticipation of the Windows 8 smartphone?

All in all, I see the Windows 8 smartphone coming soon to a Microsoft Store near you.  Do you?  Share your views in the discussion below.…

Dell Execs Asked Microsoft not to Give the “Windows” Moniker to RT

At the Dell World conference in Austin last week, Dell’s vice-chairman and President of its PC business, Jeffrey Clarke, said that he strongly advised Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer not to include the name “Windows” with the new Windows RT OS, despite its similar look and feel.

The reason was that customers might be misled into thinking that native Windows applications could run on the new ARM-based tablets running Windows RT.  Mr. Clarke’s revelation of his earlier warning strangely sounds very much like an “I told you so!’

Apparently that warning seems to have been prophetic in hindsight as Microsoft has had to relax its return policies to accommodate users returning heir Surface RT tablets because they do not run their favorite Windows applications.

Mr. Clarke said that Ballmer had responded that the Windows brand was too important a franchise to not be used with Windows RT.

Hopefully, this does not turn into a full-fledged public relations debacle for Microsoft as relaxed return policies are a clue that the return rate may be significant enough to require policy changes.

To make matters murkier, Intel will have a new low-power Atom processor that is legacy- or x86 compatible, giving new tablets built with it the ability to run native Windows applications.  Thus there will effectively be 3 processor choices for Windows tablets – the ARM, the Atom, and traditional Intel chips e.g., Core i5 and i7.

Earlier, there were many reports that Microsoft has cut orders from its OEMs for Surface RTs, giving more indications of soft demand.  In January, the picture will become clearer as to Surface RT sales.  If it doesn’t, we should be even more concerned.

The implications are particularly important in the enterprise where Windows native capabilities matter to a lot of firms, even in the era of BYOD (“bring-your-own-device”).  Lacking the ability to run native x86 Windows applications  Surface RT has to get in the same line as other tablets with no special consideration given.…

Nielsen Studies Windows 8 Usability – A Tough Verdict.

There’s an interesting study of Windows 8 usability by the well known Nielsen Norman Group that may give businesses (and consumers) insights into how the new OS might affect productivity.

Jakob Nielsen points out that the dual nature of the desktop means there is more for the user to learn. The traditional desktop UI must be understood along with the new Metro interface.  This can lead to cognitive overload in his view.

This is intuitive as there is a “cognitive setup time” that is required when switching between environments.  In addition Nielson notes that the user has to carry around more commands in their memory for the two interfaces instead of one.

Windows 8, he adds, restricts the user to a single window in the main UI – which is fine for tablets, but more problematic with larger displays where many applications are running concurrently.

He also critiques ‘flat’ style where shadows or raised type that can convey subtle cues have been eliminated, detracting from usability.

The next issue Nielsen raises is one I have heard repeated quite frequently, namely the low information density of the tiled interface.  Many Windows 8 screens actually convince you that a new phenomenon exists – “display underuse”.

For the enterprise, this is extremely problematic, as workers in many settings need information-rich interfaces to handle complex tasks.  So it will be interesting to see what the enterprise feedback is over time.

So much image, so little information

Another issue Nielson highlights is the ambiguity of tiles.  Very often, you have no idea what a pretty picture in a tile means.  You have to guess at it. Obviously, this depends on the tile creator, but too often, tiles can lead to quizzical expressions as to function.

Hidden charms are another issue that Nielsen’s 12 test subjects – experienced Windows users by the way – found problematic. “Out of sight is out of mind” was the problem.

The last issue highlighted was that many gestures were error-prone. Swiping or ending a swipe in just the wrong place could lead to dramatically different results.

Nielsen goes on to say he thinks that in trying to be a jack of all (in this case, 2) trades, Windows 8 ends up being a master of neither the traditional desktop UI or the “Modern UI” as the Metro-style interface is now called.

More to the point of the enterprise, he views Windows 8 as a productivity sapping software program.  Microsoft must hope this is not true, as it is one of its major target markets.

Will the Google/Microsoft Cold War Kill Windows Phone 8?

Mutual disdain between two technology giants, Microsoft and Google has evolved into a full scale cold war in the smartphone and tablet arenas.

This was perhaps inevitable, but the recent raft of ads by Microsoft deriding Google and the latter’s refusal to create apps for Windows Phone 8 took some industry watchers by surprise.

The early part of the relationship between the two was cooperative and complementary, rather than competitive. With Microsoft focused on desktop/server OSs and applications, and Google focused on search, all was well between the two.

How things have changed. The strategic relationship began to shift when Microsoft belatedly woke up to the need to be in search and Google launched their own browser, Chrome, which has since overtaken IE worldwide (though not yet in the US).

With the birth of Android and its market share domination in the exploding tablet and smartphone world, Microsoft became increasingly anxious that the next computing era might end up belonging to Google and Apple, not to them.

Android has been a breakout success for Google, giving them a crushing lead over the second place iOS in the 3rd quarter of 2012, according to the Gartner Group.

Worldwide Mobile Device Sales to End Users by Operating System in 3Q12 (Thousands of Units)

 

Operating System

3Q12

 Units

3Q12 Market Share (%)

3Q11

 Units

3Q11 Market Share (%)

Android

122,480.0

72.4

60,490.4

52.5

iOS

23,550.3

13.9

17,295.3

15.0

Research In Motion

8,946.8

5.3

12,701.1

11.0

Bada

5,054.7

3.0

2,478.5

2.2

Symbian

4,404.9

2.6

19,500.1

16.9

Microsoft

4,058.2

2.4

1,701.9

1.5

Others

683.7

0.4

1,018.1

0.9

Total

169,178.6

100.0

115,185.4

100.0

Source: Gartner (November 2012)

These numbers span both the smartphone and tablet markets and show how dominant Google has become in the increasingly important mobile market.

The truth therefore is that this has become an existential battle for Microsoft. If the mobile market continues on its trajectory and desktops/laptops remain stagnant of even decline as some project, then Microsoft’s long-term future is put at risk.

However, it was still surprising to see Microsoft launch it #droidrage and ‘scroogled’ ads in a bitter broadside directly against Google.

The consensus however, is that the #droidrage campaign generally backfired, while the scroogled campaign – accusing Google of biased search results based on payment from advertisers – had limited impact.

So it was not surprising that Google now appears to have launched a “get even” effort on in its part.  It just announced it would drop consumer support of Google Sync, the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol used for getting email, contacts, appointments and tasks onto mobile phones, on January 30, 2013.

In its stead, Google recommends CalDAV for calendar, CardDAV for contacts, as well as IMAP for email. In essence, this is a blow to Microsoft, as they do not support CalDAV or CardDAV.

Google’s actions now make it clear that if you buy a Windows Phone 8 device, don’t expect to use its consumer services.

The funny part of this is that Microsoft had benefited immensely from Android’s success. The EAS protocol used also by the iPhone was licensed them and they received royalties from every Android phone sold. Until now.

In addition to denying Microsoft licensing revenue, Google apps on Windows Phone 8 will no longer work properly after the switch is made, UNLESS Microsoft spends immense time and energy developing CalDAV or CardDAV interfaces.

Next, Google has announced it has no intention of developing Google Maps or YouTube or Gmail or g-annything else apps for WP8, as its share of the market does not warrant it. While arguably true, boy, does that hurt.

As Darren Murph in Engadget argues, that may be the cruelest blow of all as apps determine whether a smartphone lives or dies.

The rumble about lack of apps continues to hurt the Lumia and other WP8 smartphones and the latest kerfuffle with Google won’t help any.

Microsoft is now in the unfamiliar position of underdog as this cold war with Google comes at a time when the Lumia and other Windows Phone 8 phones are struggling during the Christmas season.…

Gartner Predicts Windows 8 Enterprise Adoption will Remain Slow Going Forward

The year 2012 is winding down and that’s when predictions about next year start showing up from various analysts.

This time around we have Gartner’s list of predictions, two of which really focus on Windows 8 and the enterprise. Without further ado, here they are:

Slow Windows 8 Enterprise Adoption

As a Windows 8 site dedicated to the enterprise, we believe that there is a lot of potential for Windows 8 to rock the business world. That said, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict that its slow adoption will likely continue into 2013.

Gartner says that businesses aren’t ready for Windows 8 just yet. That said, I don’t agree with the analysts at Gartner that are suggesting that 90% of enterprises will skip Windows 8 altogether. Instead, I feel that the slow pace of Windows 8 will continue into the 1st (maybe even 2nd) quarter of 2013. As businesses start to understand that a unified Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 experience can help overall efficiency, I believe that things will start to turn in Microsoft’s favor.

More businesses will likely be considering Windows 8 for their mobility needs by mid-to-late 2013. I do believe that Windows 7 will still continue to dominate overall in the enterprise environment, but many companies will take a mixed approach: they will keep Windows 7 on the desktop but will adopt Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8/RT devices for their mobility needs.

Windows PC Dominance Continues to Fade

Again, this seems like an obvious one. Consumers are buying less PCs and more tablets and phones for their households. By 2015, Gartner believes that 80 percent of handsets will be smartphones and that only 20 percent will run on Windows Phone.

As far as the enterprise world is concerned, Gartner believes that 90% of enterprises will support at least two mobile operating systems, and in the next five years 65% of businesses will use some kind of mobile-device management solution.

There are many other predictions from Gartner, which you can check out by clicking the source, but these are certainly the big hitters.

I honestly agree for the most part, but let’s understand that even if Windows 8 isn’t going to be a big part of the enterprise world right away, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good OS.

Let’s think about this for a second.

Why Windows 8 could be a win for Enterprise Situations

A stunning 90% of businesses by 2015 will support two or more mobile operating systems, likely on top of some form of desktop Windows as well– at least according to Gartner. Think of the IT and admin costs for training and maintaining these multiple systems.

While iOS and Android can work with a Windows-based enterprise environment, going all Windows across the board can truly eliminate frustration, confusion and training/maintenance costs.

If you own a small business and have need of tablets and a unified phone program for your company, why not consider Windows 8? It will make life easier across the board. This is even more true if your company utilizes in-house programs. You can eventually make a Metro-version of your software and will find that this version can play nicely with Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with just a little porting work.

Are you a business considering Windows 8, if so, what is holding you back right now…