BUILD 2014: Windows Sideloading Changes Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 7, 2014 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, winRT

A few days ago, I reported on the news from BUILD 2014 that Windows would see the return of the Start Menu and windowed apps. These features, which are not included with today's Windows 8.1 Update 1, will come in a later version. While I found these interface changes interesting, I reiterated that the user interface was not my concern: Windows Store certification was. I did leave room for a little hope, however, because Microsoft scheduled an announcement of changes. It was focused on enterprise customers, so I did not hold my breath.

And some things did change... but not enough for the non-enterprise user.

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Microsoft is still hanging on to the curation of apps, except for "domain-joined" x86 Enterprise and x86 Pro PCs; RT devices and "not domain-joined" computers will only allow sideloaded apps with a key. This certificate (key) is not free for everyone. Of course, this does not have anything to do with native x86 applications. Thankfully, the prospect of WinRT APIs eventually replacing Win32, completely, seems less likely now. It could still be possible if Windows Store has a major surge in popularity but, as it stands right now, Microsoft seems to be spending less effort containing x86 for an eventual lobotomy.

If it does happen, it would be a concern for a variety of reasons:

  1. Governments, foreign or domestic, who pressure Microsoft to ban encryption software.

  2. Internet Explorer's Trident would have no competition to adopt new web standards.

  3. Cannot create an app for just a friend or family member (unless it's a web app in IE).

  4. When you build censorship, the crazies will come with demands to abuse it.

So I am still concerned about the future of Windows. I am still not willing to believe that Microsoft will support x86-exclusive applications until the end of time. If that happens, and sideloading is not publicly available, and web standards are forced into stagnation by a lack of alternative web browsers, then I can see bad times ahead. I will not really feel comfortable until a definitive pledge to allow users to control what can go on their device, even if Microsoft (or people with some form of authority over them) dislikes it, is made.

But I know that many disagree with me. What are your thoughts? Comment away!

Source: ZDNet

Who didn't see that coming; litigation over failed Surface RT launch

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2013 - 09:38 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, winRT, fail, Surface RT

Predicting the next best thing in mobile computing is not an easy task, nor is convincing people that your run of the mill product is in fact the second coming of sliced bread.  However some products are doomed to failure from their inception, regardless of the quality of the product due to the company in question attempting something that does not fit with their specialization.  Ask Ryan about his Zune, a quality product doomed to failure thanks to the fact that it was hardware born to a software company that has not previously needed to worry about package design or producing physical products.

Surface RT on the other hand was full of warts to begin with and doesn't have any of the saving graces that Microsoft's audio player did, it does nothing well and some things 'just good enough'.  MSI came out against Microsoft's plans to produce hardware in direct competition to the companies that have been licensing Windows for their products from the beginning and ASUS also expressed doubts not only about the success of the product but the wisdom of trying to steal business from your customers.  Surface for the most part has been successful but the WinRT version has been an overpriced failure.   This is probably why the inevitable has happened, it will be lawyers at dawn.  You can read the complaint that was filed over at The Register if you wish.

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"According to a press release issued by the law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd on Monday, the suit charges Microsoft with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including failing to disclose "then presently known trends, events, or uncertainties" in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission."

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Source: The Register

It's a bad day to be Ballmer

Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2013 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, winRT, fail

The future of Windows RT and the Surface tablet are bleak, maybe bleaker than you think as Microsoft made $853 million in sales on the non-Pro Surface.  That number is lower than the hit that Microsoft's prospective sales took in lowering the price of the Surface by $150.  Acer warned them a year ago that they should stick with software and ASUS has just announced that they have no interest in making any more Surface devices until demand appears.  You can see the actual numbers of the immense loss for Microsoft that Surface created at The Register.  If that wasn't bad enough, British courts have ruled that Microsoft can not use the term SkyDrive for their online storage solution anymore.

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"Got that? Microsoft spent more in a single year advertising the Windows 8 and Surface launches than it took in from Surface sales that same year."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft cuts the price of non- Pro Surface tablets

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2013 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: winRT, price cuts, microsoft

Translated into US currency the new price of WinRT tablets is around $350, putting it on par with the price of an iPad Mini and making it significantly less expensive than a full sized iPad.  That might help it meet the expectations of prospective buyers, providing a Windows based iPad alternative with more storage space as opposed to the previous price point which implied that the WinRT based Surface was almost a real laptop in terms of processing power.  That price does not include the base with keyboard which is more than a little disappointing for those who might consider a Surface at the new price.  The Register and other sites feel that the price drop is indicative of a new model in the works sometime in the near future.

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"Probably to make way for a refreshed Surface RT device tipped to be on its way soon, the 32GB Surface RT now costs £120 less than Apple's 16GB iPad with Retina display, with double the storage, and just £10 more than an iPad Mini."

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Source: The Register

Can 3,000,000 Surface buyers be wrong?

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: winRT, win8, surface, microsoft, sales, Surface Pro

Believe it or not, according to The Inquirer's sources Microsoft managed to sell three million Surface and Surface Pro tablets, accounting for 7.5% of sales in the first quarter of 2013.  In comparison Apple accounts for a hair under 50% of branded tablet sales, with Android tablets making up the rest of the market.  For a company not generally associated with hardware, apart from the Zune, Microsoft has made a definite impact on tablet sales with their new OS and hybrid machines.  They do not define the split between Surface and Surface Pro, nor mention how many buyers did not realize the limitations of WinRT, regardless this is good news for Microsoft if not for some of their traditional partners such as ASUS and Acer.

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"TABLET UPSTART Microsoft managed to capture 7.5 percent of the global 'branded' tablet market in the first three months of the year."

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Source: The Inquirer

You can run x86 programs on WinRT thanks to this beta tool, but don't expect miracles

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2013 - 10:52 AM |
Tagged: winRT, arm, x86 emulator

While there was a previous hack which allowed you to run unsigned applications on WinRT devices it would not survive a reboot and so needed to be reapplied.  A programmer at XDA Developers has created a similar and improved tool which functions as a limited 32bit x86 emulator on WinRT.  Once you unlock your device and install the software, which is still in beta, you will be able to run a number of older games and a number of simple applications.  One thing it cannot do at this point is launch an x86 program from within an emulated x86 program so some installers will not function if they rely on decompressing and launching a second program.  Check out the latest version of the software and the FAQ by following the link from Hack a Day.

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"It seems with a lot of black magic, [mamaich] over at the XDA Developers forum has a solution for us. He’s created a tool for running x86 Win32 apps on Windows RT. Basically, he’s created an x86 emulator for ARM devices that also passes Windows API calls to Windows RT."

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Source: Hack a Day

NVIDIA to rip the ARMs off of Surface?

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2013 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, winRT, tegra 4, nvidia, arm

NVIDIA's new Shield gaming device might have distracted your attention from another new product they demonstrated which could be even more important to their success, a fully functional WinRT tablet.  The tablet is powered by a Tegra 4 chip and apparently runs smoothly even on this OS which was theoretically designed for ARM hardware.  DigiTimes feels that this is a sign that NVIDIA, who have had a long if somewhat troubled relationship with Microsoft, could become a chip supplier for new Surface devices and tablets.  Hopefully in the near future we will get to see a head to head review of two devices powered by different chips so that we can see which provides the best experience.

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"Nvidia unveiled a pilot tablet based on its new Tegra 4 processor and Microsoft's Windows RT operating system at CES 2013, and since the device is already operating smoothly, Nvidia will have a chance of becoming the CPU supplier for next-generation Surface tablets or Windows RT-based tablets from other IT players, according to Digitimes Research senior analyst Eric Lin."

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Source: DigiTimes

Viva las VivoTab

Subject: Mobile | November 13, 2012 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: asus, vivo tab rt, tegra 3, winRT

Hopefully the rounded corners on the VivoTab will not catch the attention of Cupertino but until it does this convertible tablet/notebook will be popular.  The tablet portion has a 10.1" 1366 x 768 SuperIPS+ display, aka 155 PPI, powered by a Tegra 3 T30 @ 1.3GHz. It has an 8MP camera at the rear and a 2MP camera which faces you for video conferencing and while it does have the ability to provide a USB connection it does so with an adapter and the docking port, so USB is unavailable when you are docked.  Overall The Tech Report mostly liked the device, it might load some WinRT apps slowly but once they are running they perform admirably; lack of support for x86 programs was disappointing and in some ways they preferred the previous Android versions.   See why that is so in the full article.

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"Asus' Transformer approach to convertible tablets has finally come to Windows. We take a closer look at the new VivoTab RT."

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ASUS VivoTab RT, Windows 8 on ARM

Subject: Mobile | October 31, 2012 - 03:59 PM |
Tagged: winRT, vivotab rt, asus

When The Tech Report last talked about the VivoTab RT they were focusing on the new OS and its features and usability but they didn't touch on the device its self.  That has been remedied with this review which highlights the usability of the device along with some specifics like split screen mode and battery life.  They held off on running benchmarks which in a way makes sense as the limited usefulness of WinRT machines will mean that some cellphone benchmarks would provide information but not many of the usual PC benchmarks will ... we already know it won't play Crysis.  Check out their overview before you pick one of these up if you are not positive you want one.

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"After spending the weekend with Asus' Tegra-powered VivoTab RT, we've posted our initial impressions of the convertible tablet."

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More on the 'Just Good Enough' OS

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2012 - 11:14 AM |
Tagged: winRT, vivotab rt, asus

Why settle for second best when you can get your hands on a WinRT powered device?  If Fruit Ninja and Farmville represent the pinnacle of your gaming experience, if using macros in Office software just seems complicated, the ability to install software from any source is just too much choice to handle and if being able to join a Domain sounds dirty to you; why not supersize your phone by replacing it with an ASUS VivoTab RT?  The Tech Report tried out this convertible device, a tablet in the front and a laptop in the back, with some mixed success.  While the OS interface was comfortable for them, attempting any real work in Office proved quite a chore and they look forward to trying out an Intel powered Surface device with the full Win8 OS.  If you are looking for more information on Microsoft's unique new OS head on over.

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"After using that system for about a week, there is one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: a Windows 8 convertible is in my future. It probably won't be the VivoTab RT, but my time with that device has made plainly clear that Microsoft's fusion recipe has immense potential."

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