Windows 8

10 ways Microsoft can make Windows 8 a game changer

Now that we've had a chance to see some of the things Windows 8 can do, let's talk about a few of the things it SHOULD do.

Tons of speculation has surrounded Windows 8, and while the recent Microsoft BUILD event and release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview have answered many of the questions, there is still plenty of time for Microsoft to unveil new features and strategies for the OS. Here are some things Microsoft can do to make Windows 8 a true game changer in the industry.

1: Better legacy apps experience

Right now, the experience of using legacy applications in the Developer Preview is just awful. You bounce between the slick Metro UI to a Windows 7 style desktop that is utterly crippled. For example, there is no Start menu. It feels like the old Windows 3.1 days, where many apps were still DOS apps and running them under Windows was a completely different experience from Windows apps -- and that is not a good feeling. If Microsoft wants Windows 8 to get quick uptake, this needs to change.

2: 100% Binary compatibility with Xbox, Windows Phone

You know what would be awesome? Having one OS to rule all my devices and applications. Right now, we know that Microsoft intends for Windows 8 to be for desktops as well as tablets. By bringing the Xbox successor and phones into the mix, game developers wouldn't need any extra effort to reach a bigger audience, and enterprises would be falling all over themselves to buy Windows 8 phones so their apps could be written only once.

3: Cloud selection

We're currently seeing a fair amount of cloud integration (via Live) with Windows 8. Application data can get synced to the cloud, as can settings, so that you can effortlessly transition from one computer to another. It would be nice if the OS allowed you to specify a public cloud (great opportunity for Microsoft vendors here) or a private cloud (for enterprises and advanced home users) for this purpose. This would let enterprises feel comfortable having users syncing so much to a cloud, since they can pick it and control the data retention and storage.

4: Social networking hooks

Windows Phone 7 is innovative in its use of social networking. It is easy to have your pictures end up on Facebook, for example. While I doubt that people would want a desktop PC to tie everything to social networking, a level of integration like WP7 has would be great, especially when used on tablets.

5: Docking

Tablets are now powerful enough to run most applications pretty well. Sure, you don't want to be running Photoshop or encoding video on a tablet. But for most basic productivity tasks, a tablet (or even a phone) can get the job done. We're starting to see innovative devices like the Droid Bionic that can dock with other accessories such as monitors and keyboards to expand their capabilities. If Windows 8 has built-in provisions for this, in a way that applications can scale up or down (preferably automatically, without the developer needing to write special code), Windows 8 will be a winner for tablets and even phones.

6: Built-in Office

If Microsoft really wanted to impress us, it could put Office into the OS. Sounds nuts, right? Well, not really. WP7 devices already come with a portable version of Office that can handle Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, as well as a separate Outlook version (that is much more integrated into the phone), which covers most people's needs. Maybe Microsoft shouldn't give away the farm with a full version of each application, but a stripped-down copy of each would be a real winner. It would ensure that Office maintains its dominance and keep Windows 8 useful. After all, why should someone pay for the full Office suite just to get features they aren't going to use anyway?

7: A refocus on business capabilities

Windows 7 is a solid OS for business. Unfortunately, at least in the Developer Preview, Windows 8 is not. The legacy apps, as mentioned, feel out of place, which is bad for businesses that rely on all sorts of specialized applications. The Metro UI is just awful for multi-tasking or side-by-side work, which is a big problem for people trying to get important projects done. While there is multi-monitor support, of course, the idea of trying to perform tasks when applications must consume an entire screen is frightening for most kinds of sophisticated information work.

8: Lighter system requirements

Windows 8 needs to be lighter than Windows 7. While Windows 7 performs pretty nicely, Windows 8 needs to be usable on low-end desktops or tablets, if not phones. Microsoft is claiming that Windows 8 is much lighter than Windows 7, and it's already been shown that system startup is lightning quick. Microsoft needs to do better. If they want Windows 8 to be a smash hit for tablets or phones, it needs to snap alive instantly.

9: Platform for locally hosted Web apps

One of the big changes in IT has been the move to Web applications. A real killer feature would be allowing applications to easily install and self-host a Web backend. This would allow developers to use their existing tools and code base, combine it with backend database synchronization, and instantly see applications with true offline capabilities without much additional effort. The pieces are already in place (IISExpress, LocalDB, and the cloud sync). The question is whether Microsoft can put it all together in one slick package. Enterprises would like to be able to self-host applications, either on the desktop or server level, rather than trust public cloud vendors. This would be a great step in that direction.

10: A price drop to free, or nearly so

This is the least likely of all, considering that Microsoft's #1 source of revenue is Windows, followed by Office. Windows 7 took a while to start replacing XP, in no small part because while it was good, it wasn't good enough to justify paying for an upgrade. By dropping the price significantly, along with reducing system requirements, Windows 8 looks like a good upgrade for existing machines, keeps the cost of Windows 8 powered notebooks, netbooks, and tablets low enough to compete with Android tablets and the iPad, and keeps the partners happy. HP has already announced that it's pulling out of the PC game entirely, in no small part to cratering profit margins. Getting Windows 8 more attractively priced would help ensure better margins for those who are left.

More on Windows 8

Your take

Do you think Microsoft needs to take the steps listed here to make Windows 8 a success? What other features do you think need to be tweaked, changed, removed, or added?

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

83 comments
dogknees
dogknees

1 A way for me to define more snap points on the screen and the window location and size they trigger. 2 A way to save a workspace. That means all the applications that are currently open, the files they have open and the location in those files I'm working. I could then launch the appropriate set of apps and documents for a given task in one step. 3 Similarly, a way to launch several apps in one click. A way to define as many of these groups as I want and select them at any time. 4 A way, using only the mouse, to launch a second, third,.. copy of an app. 5 In Windows Explorer, a way to define the view and the preview size specifically for each folder or file type. For example, when I select a PDF, I want the preview to flip open to half the width of Explorer so I can read it. If it's a test document, leave the preview at 20% width,.... 6 Bring back the ability to browse the folder tree with the arrow keys, displaying the content WITHOUT HAVING TO HIT ENTER on each one. There are lots more.

mdavis9171
mdavis9171

Will Win 8 be compatable with Win 7 and can I upgrade to Win 8 from Win 7???

Scalloway1
Scalloway1

Microsoft produce a cut down version of Office 2010 called Office 2010 Starter, replacing Works. It is only available on new PCs which have the full Office 2010 avaialable for installation. If you don't install the full product you can use the Starter version in perpetuity. I've kept on using Excel 2003 but the Starter version of Word is adequate for my needs

ack82861
ack82861

Win 8 is essentialy a faster booting win 7 with 2 GUI's. Win 8 should be just for tab's and smart phones and an option for touchscreen all-in-one PC's. Win 7 is great all ready.

doveman
doveman

Another thing that would really help is if User Accounts were more isolated from each other, so that when one user logs in they don't get applications that another user installed automatically starting, such as firewalls, anti-virus etc, and when they change settings on these applications it affects the other users. Some software, such as Ashampoo Firewall, is OK as it has seperate settings per-user, so each user can have their own set of rules, but other software isn't so helpful, so if Microsoft could enforce a sort of sandbox per user, that would solve a lot of problems. An easy way to move startup applications from Local Machine to a specific user would be nice as well. At the moment I seem to have to manually create the key in regedit under the User and then delete the LM key.

ivangardos
ivangardos

I wrote to MS to include Office suite with microsoft office 365. I for one, would not mind paying a nominal monthly fee and get the latest and make sure everyone in my company had the same version always! Learn as each new improvement is released instead of relearning every time!

jduncanson
jduncanson

The title of this article uses the words "game changer". If Microsoft really wants to build a game changer OS, it should come out with a very simplified OS for people outside the computer profession. Think of the sweet little old church secretary who never had to use a computer until now and who now has to track expenses and send out newsletters. Believe me, they are a large market that is poorly served. I have been in the software industry for over 25 years and I have difficulty many times managing my own Windows system. So when the secretary of my non-profit organization asks for help, I am surprised at finding tasks which are simple, routine for me are a challenge for her. But, alas, there is no "champion" for such people. Most developers and development organizations, especially Microsoft, think that adding more and more complex functions make the product more useful. But functionality is not usability. They don't track how difficult it is for different types of people to use their product.

blueberry606
blueberry606

I agree with most of you artical, but what stands out most is metro gui. Without a fundamental change to this gui, windows 8 is dead on arival. This is the 21st centry. Wheres the beef? Wheres the 3d? Metro is flat and uninspiring. The look alone will be a strike out for customers. I havent gotten any good feedback on it. Even if it was for a pad device. Not happening.

corcorac
corcorac

A lot of usfull comments but everyone is choosing to ignore the fact this is a Developer Edition, we are far removed from the first Beta. Trying to judge all the changes that will inevitabley take place in the next year/s is futile. To all the MAC and Linux users there is one place to get all your Microsoft updates allready. It's called Microsoft update and does update all your Microsoft programs. Once they can intergrate all the 3 RD party apps it will be better. As for Blarman, there are users out there who are capable of and do use many of the "bells and whistles" in office and appreciate its options. Yes open office is good but in a real shop where you need the integration Open Office has a long way to go. Last bit on the soap box, Yes it isn't MAC or Linux but give it a chance it may suprise you

doveman
doveman

How about multi-sessions, so I can have my TV software or a game running on my TV, whilst I (or someone else) can still use my monitor to check my e-mail, browse the web, etc without affecting/minimising whatever's on the TV. Apparently Actual Multiple Monitors can lock the mouse to one monitor and prevent stuff being minimised, but I'd prefer if this was built-in to windows and if there were proper isolation between the two.

LK04
LK04

It is always a hassle upgrading an OS system - checking for app compatibility, new drivers, keeping all the same settings, etc. It would be nice if it were a more seamless process (at least in comparisons to my past upgrade processes).

lars
lars

2: This should be possible through emulators, but would be nice. 4: For Windows Phone, yes, obviously, but for Windows 8 on the desktop? Hmmm, maybe not. Or at least, not unless it can be completely removed by administrators. Otherwise Windows 8 can say goodbye to businesses. 5: Microsoft needs to put some serious weight behind efforts to create a rich market in peripherals like Apple has done, and it needs a good selection at launch. 6: Good luck getting this around anti-competition authorities. Remember the outcry over IE? 7: Windows 8 will almost certainly be good for businesses. MS has learnt some harsh lessons from Vista, so I'd expect Win8 to be streamlined for businesses. 8: they have already promised lighter system requirements, but to be honest, as long as it will run on similar hardware to Windows 7, that should be fine. 10: A cheaper OS would be nice, but I can't imagine it being free. And why would it be? The absolutely biggest 'game changer' would, in my opinion, be if Microsoft could facilitate the same smooth integration between devices that Apple has achieved and android lacks. All devices running Windows should be able to talk regardless of manufacturer or hardware.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Topics 1 and 7 are most critical. Windows-8 is, clearly, being designed for games and tablet users; at the expense of serious PC users. Business are the foundation of an OS, not games and casual users. If Microsoft wants to service both venues, then either make two Operating Systems or make the user interface switchable (in essence disabling the one not wanted/needed).

M Wagner
M Wagner

... not because I wouldn't appreciate having Office preinstalled but Microsoft faces a real challenge as it is getting people to buy anything more than the most basic version of Office (Starter Edition or Standard). In professional circles, of course, this just won't do. If Microsoft were to include Office Starter Edition already built-into Windows 8, they would be robbing their OEMs of the opportunity to step PC buyers "up to" Starter Edition or even any of the other editions available from OEMs for much less than retail. Further, most people who don't buy Office now will not be persuaded to move to Office by MS giving it away. I think #8 is entirely irrelevant. RAM now costs under $10 per GB. The baseline for Windows 7 is 1GB (it will actually run with 512MB) but Windows 7 perfoms well with 2GB of RAM. Your point about improved boot times for Windows 8 doesn't really tells us anything about overall Windows 8 performance. It just tells us that WIndows 8 loads fewer services at boot time. This makes sense on handheld devices which are incapable of advanced services anyway. Your #10 shows a lack of understanding of Microsoft's business model. For six years, Microsoft "gave away" OS upgrades to Windows XP - and it set user expectations at unrealistic levels. While Mac users have cheerfully paid their $120 every time Apple has released a "new version" of MacOSX Windows users have complained vehemently when Microsoft has asked for similar fees for "upgrades" of its operating systems. The bottom line is that Microsoft does not want you to pay retail for Windows. They want you to buy a new computer from one of their OEMs. OEMs have no incentive to "bundle" Windows with their hardware if Microsoft provides nothing for them to "add-on" It's like buying a car. The advertised "base price" gets you in the door but the car dealer's ability to sell you more expensive models and options keeps them in business. If all cars were comparably equipped, why would you choose one brand over another? FInally, your comment about HP is misleading. HP/Compaq computers are not going away. Whether HP "spins off" their comsumer PC business (the likely outcome) or they sell it off, the HP/Compaq brand names will continue on. The company will get leaner and learn to live on narrower margins and whether or not their quality and customer service improves remains to be seen but the #1 PC Retailer will be here for a long time to come.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

The last Idea of Free is nice but then what are they going to make a profit off of. A million little things they could start billing you for. And you thought Government today was bad. Since the mid 80's I've always thought of the ideal PC would have the parts as individual black boxes, like the brain(CPU), memory, I/O, power. And they would universally connect via a hyper-speed serial connection (now called a USB port). And now Intel and AMD are putting Video display hardware on the CPU chip, and memory controllers may be next. A Computer on a chip with a 1,000 points of connection. Soon you'll need a doctor just to open ypur computer case.

lloverin
lloverin

with a regedit hack: go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer and change RPenabled to 0. Also disables the ribbon in Explorer and Task manager.

Odd H. Sandvik
Odd H. Sandvik

Regarding tiles.. Right now I have around 100 apps installed. How can tiles be more effective than the regular start menu in that scenario? And no, I can't remember all their names, so typing won't do. Sometimes I know what a program does, but not its name.. But I fully expect that Microsoft will make the regular start menu optional. They are not stupid.

shenry4
shenry4

I don't understand why Microsoft is coming out with another OS so soon, Windows 7 has pretty much stabilized the problems with Vista, and the only thing Microsoft should concentrate is embellishing Windows 7. The Windows Explorer with ribbon control would be excellent if it was available for Win 7. It wouldn't/shouldn't take much to make the SP2 for Win 7 comparable to Win 8. My workplace has just recently replaced all the XP computers with Win 7 and Office 2010 and that took 2 years after Win 7 came out.

grifs71
grifs71

The future tech arena will not need 40G operating systems and proprietary Office Suites to edit a (.doc) file. Google Chrome OS might be laughed at now, but check back in 5 years or so. I remember people laughing at me when I was running Red Hat 6.0 back in 1999 or so, who is laughing now?

JOHNRYAN815
JOHNRYAN815

Really think that microsoft will never be a game changer anymore since everything they do is catching up and they need the tech communities suggestions to do so. When are we all going to get paid for "testing" their software and operating systems?!

ron-beauchemin
ron-beauchemin

Microsoft should change the installation process prior to RTM. If a touch monitor is not detected, then make the desktop the only UI. If the user installs a touch device then add the Metro UI. At a minimum, they should include the ability to disable Metro on systems with no touch sensitive device.

mrdelurk
mrdelurk

'10 things Windows 8 really needs' To which, my first answer would be: a purpose

georgeou
georgeou

" If they want Windows 8 to be a smash hit for tablets or phones, it needs to snap alive instantly." Fast boot is irrelevant for phones and tablets since you never turn those devices off. You just leave them running in a standby state and never shut down or sleep.

en.core
en.core

How about Windows 8 Developer? Just like there's Professional, Home, etc, Developer version could have important tools such as SDKs already included.

SpiritualMadMan
SpiritualMadMan

As an end user and developer I am sick and tired of having apps and tools I paid good money for be obsoleted every time M$ upgrades its OS. Look XP on Win7 was a total failure, IMHO, WoW worked better for running 16 bit apps on XP! You needed a top of the line AlienWare Gaming system to get any useful throughput with the XP Virtual Machine. *NOT ACCEPTABLE*! Which is why I am still running a few XP boxes and even a couple 98se Boxes. They're Paid for! At 59 I am no longer a bleeding edge kinda guy. And, quite frankly, at my age, this obsolesence thing kinda hurts! And, BTW, why doesn't the Arrow Keys work in this stinkin text entry box??? Win7 Ult/IE9 top of the line and the stinkin arrow keys don't work!!! (At least not as fast as all the other keys and then the cursor disappears!!!)

jquiroga2005
jquiroga2005

OO is compatible with MS products, so if you can generate a .doc or whatever oother format OO can read it and produce one (lighter usually). and the lack of integration is not their fault M$ has part of responsability on it. M$ talks alot about interoperability, and is truly interoperable between M$ family product no more. Or try with Thunderbird against Exchange or any other e-mail client except Outlook.

Odd H. Sandvik
Odd H. Sandvik

A JIT (Just In Time) compiler translates code to native before execution. That gives a massive speedup. It has been used for many years. So running ARM and PowerPC code on Windows is feasible, and with today's powerful hardware, it's likely you'll get 100% speed, while having lots of CPU for other stuff.

sperry532
sperry532

$120 for an OS upgrade from Apple? Really? I paid $29 for Leopard and $29 for Snow Leopard at an Apple Authorized store. I haven't gone to Lion since my PowerPC Mac is still running just fine, but Lion's available at Apple.com for... wait for it... $29.

blarman
blarman

Few real users need the full Office Suite, and it has been proved time and time that most Office users use only about 10% of the features in Word/Excel - they don't need all the bells and whistles. It would be more productive to offer a stripped down version of these that is lightweight (compared to the 1.7 GB install for Office 10 - what a joke) and inexpensive (read

MikeGall
MikeGall

29.99 I think it has been that for the last few new versions of OS X. Mac gets people to pay for the upgrades because they are cheap enough that people say hey even if one of the new features is cool it is worth it. MS could do something like that too. Frequent yearly releases of small incremental changes for say $20. Businesses might not upgrade that frequently (and besides the cool features tend to be for consumerland anyways) but a desktop owner likely would.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I can't make heads or tails of it, and haven't found many web sites with useful 'How to operate the darn thing' information.

jbaviera
jbaviera

Thanks! Happy to know it will disable that %^(%($( ribbon too. I can't stand that thing.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

the Registry edit also disables the enhancements (pause copy, new Task Mgr, etc). Hopefully the RTM won't do this.

Odd H. Sandvik
Odd H. Sandvik

But this will not need registry hacking in the future. You'll be able to do it via the control panel.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

True, Microsoft isn't stupid; but they have made several stupid mistakes. Each one is more costly than the previous ones. Appealing to a small segment of the marketplace, at the expense of the remainder is not wise.

MikeGall
MikeGall

They want to push out their store but they need everyone to have a nice way of running Metro apps. They also probably want some of the cool cross platform stuff like the iOS devices have with OS X. So they had to push out a new OS. Oh and native USB 3 support.

Odd H. Sandvik
Odd H. Sandvik

Believe it or not, but Microsoft needs to make money. That's why they make new OSes all the time.

M Wagner
M Wagner

Further, RedHat's market share was taken from the UNIX server market - not the desktop, not from Windows. Microsofts approach (whether it is successful or not) is to put the same Windows OS on all devices. Five years ago, that would not have been possible. Today, it is.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

All software companies do it. If you don't want to participate, don't download preliminary releases. Personally, I think Apple charges people to do the beta testing of their new hardware, then fixes everything for the second market version. :D

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

Oh geez. Hasn't that been going on for ages. I remember people complaining about that in the early 1990s... MS can just say they were doing that before it was cool. Google says everything is "beta" and now it's cool. I'm not endorsing releasing "test" versions of everything, but I think in reality software is never really "final" either. What about patches and updates?

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Hear, hear ! You are so correct. Now if Microsoft will act smart and "hear and heed the message."

VirtualPro
VirtualPro

Oh... I'm sorry did you mean what would be the purpose for users?

mikroland2.0
mikroland2.0

It's an iphone or a droid phone that crashes and needs to be rebooted and then it takes for ever to boot. My WP7.5 takes 9 seconds to cold boot.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

So much "legacy" software is working just fine and fulfilling the needs for which it was originally. Then, comes software bloat and needless complexity, under the guise of "new and improved." I don't want or need the extra "flash" with its accompanying complexity. Hence, XP lives. If Windows-8 goes totally "gaga" with the cutesy Metro interface, I can see XP users buying a version of WIndows 7 that can run "XP-Mode". Windows-8 becomes marginalized--Microsoft realizes mistake (a la Vista), and Windows-9 comes out as what Windows-8 s should have been. Deja vu.

jbaviera
jbaviera

I bought Office 2000 when I was running a small business for Outlook (More for it's calendar), Word, and Excel, and lastly Powerpoint (which I rarely, if ever used). It was (at the time) cheaper to bundle all four than to purchase the three I needed. I still use Word and Excel occasionally, but not enough to go through the upgrade expense to the newer versions, and re-teach myself as to how to use it.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

You are correct...all that complexity just make doing the routine, simple things so convoluted. Having to slash through the thicket of ribbons, drop-down menus, etc. is so frustrating just to do simple operations. Pity that Microsoft doesn't issue some kind of "Office Lite." Maybe a return to something that used to exist when MS Works co-existed with MS Office.

Odd H. Sandvik
Odd H. Sandvik

Doesn't Apple come with an update every year? In that case you're paying $99 vs Microsoft's 3 year cycle.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

They used to come out with new versions quite often, but they were slower last decade. The time span between XP and Vista was 5 years. W7 came out 3 years after that. If you're talking about the Server editions as well, I get what you mean. When I first heard of W8 I thought of it as "Media Center 2.0." Honestly I think that's what they should've called it, and I think that's what they're going to wish they had done.

jquiroga2005
jquiroga2005

I don't want a virus in my phone spreading through the air. Windows has and will have a large history of security leaks. I only need share information between my phone and my desktop, not necessarily binary compatibility.

jquiroga2005
jquiroga2005

That's the price you have to pay to see old software running as it was intended. But no hope that it will change for two main reasons: profitability and competence.

Editor's Picks