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The Windows You Love is Gone

Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Windows RT: Runtime? Or Get Up and Run Time?

Update #1, 10/26/2012: Apparently it does not take long to see the first tremors of certification woes. A Windows developer by the name of Jeffrey Harmon allegedly wrestled with Microsoft certification support 6 times over 2 months because his app did not meet minimum standards. He was not given clear and specific reasons why -- apparently little more than copy/paste of the regulations he failed to achieve. Kind-of what to expect from a closed platform... right? Imagine if some nonsensical terms become mandated or other problems crop up?

Also, Microsoft has just said they will allow PEGI 18 games which would have received an ESRB M rating. Of course their regulations can and will change further over time... the point is the difference between a store refusing to carry versus banishing from the whole platform even for limited sharing. The necessity of uproars, especially so early on and so frequently, should be red flags for censorship to come. Could be for artistically-intentioned nudity or sexual themes. Could even be not about sex, language, and violence at all.

***

Last month, I suggested that the transition to Windows RT bares the same hurdles as transitioning to Linux. Many obstacles blocking our path, like Adobe and PC gaming, are considering Linux; the rest have good reason to follow.

This month we receive Windows RT and Microsoft’s attempt to shackle us to it: Windows 8.

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To be clear: Microsoft has large incentives to banish the legacy of Windows. The way Windows 8 is structured reduces it to a benign tumorous growth atop Windows RT. The applications we love and the openness we adore are contained to an app.

I will explain how you should hate this -- after I explain why and support it with evidence.

Microsoft is currently in the rare state of sharp and aggressive focus to a vision. Do not misrepresent this as greed: it is not. Microsoft must face countless jokes about security and stability. Microsoft designed Windows with strong slants towards convenience over security.

That ideology faded early into the life of Windows XP. How Windows operates is fundamentally different. Windows machines are quite secure, architecturally. Con-artists are getting desperate. Recent attacks are almost exclusively based on fear and deception of the user. Common examples are fake anti-virus software or fraudulent call center phone calls. We all win when attackers get innovative: survival of the fittest implies death of the weakest.

Continue reading why we think the Windows you Love is gone...

The WinRT architecture distrusts its users to an extreme end: like Apple, Microsoft removes user control.

WinRT is the layer which forms the basis for Windows RT and Windows 8. Apps designed for WinRT will run anywhere WinRT does. Windows RT will only run WinRT apps and those apps must come from Windows Update or Windows Store. Web apps in Internet Explorer are the only exception.

Again, do not think Microsoft designed Windows RT out of greed. Microsoft supports open web standards even over Silverlight, their platform with a now uncertain future. Security and stability are favored over selling proprietary development tools.

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Yes that was Photoshopped... to remove whitespace and make it smaller without scaling.

No UI elements were cut out, just pushed together. The full size image is just as ironic.

It makes sense for Microsoft to slowly end Windows as we know it and transition to Windows RT. Microsoft will never be dependent on a hardware platform again and they can finally shake their insecure stereotype. They certainly seem to be trying.

Removing legacy UI elements enables a less cluttered experience with their new interface. The concern is not that Microsoft removed the Start Menu and boots to the Start Screen. Microsoft did not stop there. Microsoft breaks numerous hacks to restore previous functionality. That extra effort is an attempt to make the past uncomfortable.

Windows Server is even more telling. Windows Server is not a consumer operating system and yet your choice is the “Modern UI”, a telling name to occasionally replace “Metro” with, or Powershell. Visual Studio Express was WinRT-or-bust until developer outcry made Microsoft sweat. Just this week Bill Gates discussed how Windows 8 and Windows Phone platforms are “evolving literally into be(ing) a single platform.” Compare Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8: Windows RT is the middle ground.

Do not be surprised if Microsoft intends to remove the cancer it considers its legacy.

… The Bad and the Ugly

Applications in the Windows store must adhere to strict but not permanent guidelines.

A curated platform is also a censored one. Microsoft will only allow an equivalent of ESRB M for North America or PEGI 16 for Europe. You might feel okay with Windows Store not carrying ESRB AO -- like most retailers -- but that is not the issue we face. This abolishes content from the platform. European gamers might be worse off as the following games exceed PEGI 16: Bioshock, Dishonored, XCOM, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Borderlands 2, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and of course Grand Theft Auto. I just name a few.

Again, this is not a refusal to carry in the store. This eradicates content from the platform.

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Steam chooses what they carry, not what you carry.

If they don't carry it? GOG.com, Amazon, the author's website, you can make it yourself...

Parental filters are one issue but a strict ban on the basis of sex and violence is a whole other one. It even puts pressure upon censoring sensitive political topics such as same-sex relationships -- as allegedly the case with Harvest Moon -- and it throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Problems are prevented by discussion and context -- not by silence.

The power of art marries societal issues with their consequences. You benefit when art contextualizes the general issues of humanity and that is especially true for an audience in a time of personal struggle. Such as the case of a kidnapping where the captor views the victim as an object instead of a real person, violence is often a result of the dissociation between actions and consequences to a being. Likewise, art helps victims recover through a similar contextualization. Check out ConnectSafely for their discussion about child access to violent media.

Then consider if Microsoft faces pressure to change their mandate and require official ESRB/PEGI rating? Getting told that your content is safe for children is expensive; even worse, those who can pay are less likely interested in art.

Before we stray too far from the topic of certification fees, Xbox Live Arcade developers must pay an estimated $40,000 to validate a single patch.

Not a full game, just a patch.

What if Microsoft decides that Windows cert fees are the burden of the developer? Consider the impact on free or open source software should Microsoft invoice them. If they do on Xbox they can on Windows RT.

Mods are at risk too. Six years ago we faced Games for Windows Live. Mike Capps of Epic said it best: “I think the thing gamers need to worry about right now is that we’re seeing the console mod community coming to the PC -- which is that -- you cannot ship content to people because Microsoft is afraid of what you might put into it. Right? They are putting a cert process, or considering it, for Games for Windows Live: and that’s scary.”

Déjà vu?

Is artistic censorship or developer restraint not important enough? Consider a government who demands Microsoft block encryption apps. Well that is really scary. We know Microsoft complies with a law despite its political intent. Why shorten your own leash? If you build censorship, they will come.

A few silly problems: maybe Microsoft eventually wants you to include controller or Kinect support? Maybe your app replicates core functionality? Maybe you gave up your recourse when you entered the walled garden.

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Seem fishy, yet?

I fear for users and developers. There will be perpetual problems when Microsoft finally drops the hammer on legacy Windows and closes the platform. The average person stresses, “I am just doing simple things.” Simple is subconsciously defined as what they do: Flash support, Outlook, PowerPoint, the rest of Office, a specific web browser, doing their taxes, a game, or even printing documents. It is all simple until it is found simply impossible.

Then they are stuck.

Keep your options open in case Windows RT becomes Windows. If you truly have simple needs Linux should be dead simple. Most Linux distributions are designed for the simple and typical needs of most users, right from install. You do not need to move immediately or maybe at all. Just consider an action plan and keep it as easy on yourself as possible if Microsoft bares decision day upon you.

Does the mention of Linux remove your confidence that your needs are simple? That might be more reason to consider an open and community-supported platform.

At least then a single company cannot say no.


For more coverage on Windows 8/RT and other topics from PC Perspective you can subscribe to our podcast, our YouTube channel or just stop by the home page to see other editorials and reviews!

October 25, 2012 | 03:01 PM - Posted by brisa117

Scott, assuming (without the classic joke making us asses) that the average consumer, and more immediately the pro-sumer/power user, feels the constraint of the proverbial walled garden, what do you think will happen?

Do you feel that there will be a mass exodus to the land of Linux, do you think people will just hold onto Win7 (like they did with XP), or do you think they'll, heaven forbid, all pay a couple grand for a Mac?

October 25, 2012 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I think they'll hold on to Windows 7 or Windows 8 until they can't put up with it anymore... and either give up for Windows RT not knowing or caring about the consequences... or jump to an alternative OS then. I'm hoping more the latter.

October 25, 2012 | 03:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A lot of people seem to be missing the point that WinRT is more similar to the .NET framework. It is not the core of Windows 8 (not talking about Windows RT running on ARM). You don’t need to write a program using WinRT, in fact you can still write an application using .NET or C++ and install it in the Windows 8 Desktop.

The only time you need to write an application using WinRT is if you want to sell it through the app store and install it to use in the new “Modern UI” / Start screen.

October 25, 2012 | 07:11 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Which is the only way you can install software on Windows RT, unless you get it on Windows Update or it can execute through Internet Explorer as a website app. (HTML5/JS/CSS)

The point raised by the article is that it looks like Microsoft wants to cut off the legacy support in a future version of Windows leaving us with JUST the Windows Store/Windows Update/Internet Explorer.

That is the scary part... because of certification (and the bag of hurt that causes) and loss of legacy support... Windows 8 itself is fine I just don't want people to get sucked in and can't get out if Microsoft says "Make a choice -- drop legacy or drop Windows"

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October 25, 2012 | 04:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The closed Win/Apple ecosystem will just give a needed boost to start a serious push to a third more open choice. All the people who use windows 7 beacuse it had a more open ecosystem will now be looking for a more open choice from some other source! They will stick with windows 7, until Microsoft trys to push their closed ecosystem onto the most used windows applications, Office etc., then the computer OEMs and those outside of the Microsoft/Apple business model will have to support an open OS.

October 25, 2012 | 04:22 PM - Posted by thesporei (not verified)

Kinda disappointed with the reaction people have here, I guess this article may be slightly above them. There really isn't one thing factually incorrect with it either.

I've actually read the thing 3 times because it flows so well and I rarely read articles in full. Right down to the choice of pictures and their captions. It's beautifully done.

October 26, 2012 | 12:24 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Thanks a lot for the compliments!

October 25, 2012 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Fozee (not verified)

I think looking at the Desktop as an "app" within Windows 8 is a seriously flawed way of thinking. That's not how it works for me, and I use it every day. The start menu is simply fullscreen now and hosts a bunch of fullscreen applications.

As for tablets, of course they're going to cut Desktop to save on performance, that's why it's a tablet and not our desktops, and you won't be seeing RT on your typical desktop.

I dunno, I was one of those people that were able to use Vista without a single issue as well. Maybe it's me.

October 25, 2012 | 07:38 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I used Vista without too much issue (except for soundcards).

I also liked Windows 8. I just cannot give them the confidence to pull out legacy support and roll Windows into RT. I was actually telling the other PCPer staffers how much of a shame it is because I was actually interested in upgrading.

But it seriously looks like they want to.

October 25, 2012 | 08:37 PM - Posted by Fozee (not verified)

The sound card issue is still a problem sadly, Vista and up have just shown us which vendors were never capable of intelligent driver creation. ASUS was starting to scare me, but thankfully they were only failing to support pre-RTM adopters of Win8.

I think the fact that it would cause a move towards Linux is exactly why Microsoft isn't going to push for the destruction of Desktop. They're very good at making money and market share with Windows, and I think that if we can see that mistake, they can too. Let's hope.

I personally won't buy any RT products, but that's because Android is more of a complete OS to me. Tablets including Win8 with the desktop, however, will be another story when they show up.

October 25, 2012 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

na, I was able to use vista without issue as well. Every user I configed vista for worked fine with no gripes as well.

October 25, 2012 | 07:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

im skerred of Windows8 WAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

October 25, 2012 | 07:39 PM - Posted by Chefbenito (not verified)

You mean the makers of "Costume Quest" and "Middle Manager of Justice" can't afford the patch fee? 40k in a multi billion dollar industry is peanuts. It costs me like 600 bucks to buy a full copy of office and I'm just some dude. 40k seems about for the patch. Oh no! The people who invented DirectX are baaad for gamers everywhere! Am I missing something? This is big money MS why is anyone surprised.

Does anyone really think that gamers will be hopping over to ARM processors for their custom frag boxes?

FWIW Apple does almost all of these practices and actually is far more controlling and unreasonable and taxing. You have to take the good with the bad. You mean old, old, old ancient unsafe OS's are being snubbed out? Great! That's millions less unsecured PCs online waiting the be hijacked for some BotNet scheme or used to send and distribute viruses. It is common knowledge that Windows 8 is a tablet/mobile OS. Businesses, PC users/computer gamers can sit back and skip this one because its not designed for their uses and MS is smart enough to know nobody cares. Win7 us the greatest OS ever created (IMHO) and the modern hardware to pair it with has a much, much longer lifespan. 8 cores @ 5ghz? 8G's of ram for 50 bucks? Super Cheap SSDs? Faster GPUs than anyone ever dreamed of.

Let me break it to you: NO ONE IS RUSHING TO LINUX. I am sure I will offend some people, but absolutely nobody (general terms) cares about or is rushing to Linux. Unless MS is issuing patches to brick my copy of Win7 then actually, the Windows I love is here to stay.

"Most Linux distributions are designed for the simple and typical needs of most users, right from install."

Really? I've been gaming/computing for 25+ years and build my own boxes and fix software/hardware issues and I've never had a painless install of any version of linux. In my experience it is always buggy, has driver issues, hardware compatibility issues, requires a ton of work to get basic hardware functioning or common file types to even be recognized.

This article is spreading FUD.

October 26, 2012 | 12:21 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

1) It's not just Tim Schafer developing software. The point is the precedents that have been set in the past and the potential for the future. I can see open source and hobbyist software getting harmed in one or more of several possible ways.

2) Yeah I have not been on happy terms with Apple for quite some time.

3) So long as people don't screw themselves, give up, and just put up with the crap I am concerned with in my article? Great. Sit back on Windows 7. Upgrade to Windows 8 but don't suck yourself in to "Metro apps". Switch to Linux. Doesn't matter to me. Just so long as Microsoft knows we will not put up with a closed platform.

If Windows stays open/backwards compatible or we switch to an open platform? Either way I'm happy.

4) I was referring to using a PC with Linux installed... because you don't expect a user to install Windows.

Even then: there were also quite a few years (before Vista, which was the first one to be nice to install) where installing Linux was much more user friendly than installing Windows (XP and earlier).

-----

Once Linux is up and running -- which has very rarely been anywhere near as bad as you suggest, except for dial-up modems -- if the user truly has simple needs... they probably don't need to do anything. The web browser is there pre-installed. The office software is there pre-installed. There's pretty simple repositories and app stores for users to get a simple app here or there if they want to. If you exceed that you might need to tinker here or there... but at least there's an option to get it running unlike many simple platforms that just say "no" and that's it..

... And the whole point-of-the-point is to show people that "Simple needs" are not to be taken for granted.

October 25, 2012 | 07:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

There has never been a version of windows that I have loved, there are versions of windows that I can live with, and windows versions I can live without! I can live with #7 but #8 will never have a home on any of my computers! As far as any future windows #, buying any future Microsoft OS will only lead to more M$ foolishness, and the time for the open source OS has come!

October 25, 2012 | 09:03 PM - Posted by Virtuous (not verified)

To install non Windows Store apps people will have to jailbreak their RT tablets just like iPads. MS has locked down Windows RT tablets. MS also wants to make it difficult for people to run Linux on new Windows 8 computers.

October 26, 2012 | 03:22 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I expect it will be some level harder to jailbreak Windows RT than iOS.

Apple tends to be a very complacent company. I mean heck -- they used to protect their battery firmware with one of two static and company-wide passwords until after a security researcher showed how malware could wreck havoc.

They also waited for a couple of months to fix the SMS vulnerability because they didn't get around to it.

Not to mention they at least used to wait until they collected a quarter of a gigabyte of patches to bother fixing security vulnerabilities in Mac OSX.

Microsoft has been burned several times about security so I expect they'll at least be more careful. Jailbreaking will still likely happen at some points, but probably not nearly as prevalent as iOS. That's mostly just my prediction though.

October 26, 2012 | 05:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not sure how you can make it difficult to DBAN a harddisk... or even to disallow GRUB to override/ supercede the windows bootloader... so how are they making it difficult?

October 26, 2012 | 01:13 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Microsoft is getting motherboard manufacturers who want a "Designed for Windows 8" promotional logo to only boot operating systems signed with an encryption key.

The idea is that if a virus messes with Windows bootloader (or anything else that would cause the key to not certify -- such as not actually being Windows), it would fail and not boot.

Linux community was concerned because even though it was mandated that you could turn it off, that was one more barrier to installing Linux. It's not really as much of a concern anymore because the Linux Foundation is making their own signed UEFI Secure Boot bootloader.

October 25, 2012 | 09:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

M$ ? really did you just type that?

is this 1997? oh gosh a big bad money making machine... like apple isn't?

I loved windows NT, 2000, 7

the time for open source OS has come? yea come and gone... see ya bye bye.

October 26, 2012 | 12:01 AM - Posted by Ben Haube (not verified)

This article is way off point, and I don't thing anyone has anything to worry about. Windows RT is heavily aimed toward the average consumer, and the app store was created to give that average consumer a simple, easy way to find and install applications to their computers. Lets not forget that enterprise is the majority of Microsoft's business, and Windows 8 Pro is geared toward the enterprise users. Microsoft is not going to cut off the business that brings in most of their revenue. It's frankly embarrassing to see an article from a tech journalist stating that Microsoft is attempting to screw over the general public.

Microsoft is simply trying to be more like Apple and change the perception people have of the company. Right now, the average person sees Mac's as hip and cool, while looking at windows as boring. Microsoft is going through a change attempting to make Windows more "hip", and gain back a huge percentage of market share lost to Apple.

October 26, 2012 | 12:30 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I seriously hope I am either wrong or I was right and Microsoft changes their minds.

And it is not attempting to screw over the general public... it is attempting to release the product they want.

... to the detriment, haphazardly or intentionally, of the general public.

October 26, 2012 | 02:25 AM - Posted by Sublym3 (not verified)

Can we get this stuff off PCPer?

Fair enough you have an opinion but you seem to be freaking out over nothing.

October 26, 2012 | 02:52 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

So you ask to censor a piece about potential censorship?

October 26, 2012 | 03:09 AM - Posted by Sublym3 (not verified)

How many articles have been typed up about this subject already (on this site and the lenghty discussion in the podcast). You have been beating the horse so much that there is no horse left to beat.

October 26, 2012 | 05:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have started to think this whole thing was click bate.

October 26, 2012 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Not enough : (

It pains me to see things like: 

- What? Amazon can delete content from your Kindle?

- You mean I don't own my game on OnLive forever?

- Why can Sony remove Linux from the PS3?

You let them by agreeing to their terms of use. It's something you need to think about going forward. That is the nature of closed platforms.

October 26, 2012 | 03:13 AM - Posted by billgatez (not verified)

I cant't see Microsoft forcing people to run apps that are only from there app store.
Look at apple they are pretty wall in when it comes to OSX but even they still allow users to run software not from there app store.

Microsoft hopefully will see what a mess Windows 8 is and give us back what we want. And make the app store a simple program you run like it is in OSX.

October 26, 2012 | 05:38 AM - Posted by cyow

Windows 3.1, Windows ME, Vista, Windows RT ... what's in a pattern?

Ok I give you all bar one and that is Vista it rocks as the day I first use it!

it work great from day one for me and most people I know.

it real just bad press and that why everyone said it bad more then anything

and Windows Rt is just dumb as but if it works right it will be where we all end up one day god help us all!

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