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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 26, 2012 | 02:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

CLICK BAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 26, 2012 | 03:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I do hope people will switch to linux. No restrictions there, no privacy violations, painfully simple, wide platform support (even games are coming across)
I mean, wake up people. Linux is free. And it's honest. Why all this nonsense...
If you wont use a companies product, they'll fall. Simple as that, they will have to take action to drag you back.

October 26, 2012 | 05:38 AM - Posted by Jesse (not verified)

Very good article. And I'm glad someone is writing about this. It may be a bit naive, but maybe this could be just the push a lot of devs and users need to make the switch to open-source. Linux brings new challenges, sure. But the last few years alone have been very good to a lot of distros. Both aesthetically, and technically. For me Linux is the way to go and always has been. I may use Windows a big part of the time for gaming, but using and learning Linux is something I feel good about. My hate for Windows didn't start with Windows 8. The platform has always been a huge scam to me. But that's a whole other rant. Haha.

October 26, 2012 | 06:36 AM - Posted by Brian (not verified)

Okay first off.
I wanna say that I have had the full release of Windows 8 Pro for about 1-2 months, if a little background is needed. I am a IT-supporter, and we got a deal from microsoft to test the real version 2 months prior to release, and so it was possible to make apps for it.

I don't really get this.. why are people so upset about this?
That microsoft wants to control their app store.
It's not like they are making it impossible for you to use your computer like you use it everyday. you can install all the games you want and all the applications you want.

The only thing they want to certify is what goes in their app store. it's just like having your itunes app store or google play on your pc thats all, even apple and google control what's on their mobile app store.

I just don't see what's the problem. please enlighten me.

October 27, 2012 | 11:43 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Yeah I had the RTM version too (actually my laptop or a VM on my PC had all four public builds installed), and I was all set up to make apps for it. It was a couple of days after I installed RTM that I decided I would not support the whole thing at all. I did not want to encourage Microsoft to go down the path they seem to want to go down.

The problem lies with Microsoft wanting to control their app store and that they are acting suspiciously like they want the appstore to be the only way to access content as is the case on Windows RT.

If the appstore is the only way to install applications, then the appstore's requirements (whatever they might be at any given moment in time) are the requirements the applications need to fit to exist.

There could be a bunch of stupid requirements like "All games must have an Xbox Live component."

There could be government requirements like "No encryption" or "The government must certify all apps too." -- That's not so much a Western concern but still one to consider globally.

Or there could be pressure from the cert people to prevent sensitive political topics from being discussed, again like same-sex relationships as allegedly happened with Harvest Moon on the Nintendo when it was brought to America, out of fear of political backlash of "what Microsoft lets in the store".

And if Microsoft really doesn't like you, they can pull your dev certificate and you won't be developing anything again.

This is not much of a concern if you view your PC as a tool. This is not much of a concern if you view your PC as an entertainment consumption device. This is frickin' terrifying if you view your PC as an art medium.

You can't even, as it stands now, make something and give it to a friend for them to install on their PC if it doesn't go through cert. (There's work-arounds with development, but yeah)

Don't really look at Windows 8... look at Windows RT and consider the problems that could be faced.

October 26, 2012 | 10:23 AM - Posted by Jeremy A. (not verified)

very good article. linux is what i use, the only thing we open source developers want is justice. force microsoft to fully open source directx; end of problems forever... not just a public sdk/api... i mean fully open source... back in 1998 or so microsoft was pitching to us that it was closed source for our own good. think of all the hardware we are saving.... yea ok no thanks...

October 26, 2012 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Stan Zaske (not verified)

Great article Scott! Thanks for giving me food for thought on the whole Win7 Pro upgrade decision for my PC's I was facing. I really like the underlying improvements made to Win8 and understand there is software that can bypass the "Metro" crap. Seeing as how Gabe Newell and Steam are being ported to Ubuntu and that Win7 will be supported for years to come I'll pass on Win8. I'm embarrassed to say how much time I've ruminated this year on this whole thing. Have a nice weekend!

October 30, 2012 | 09:58 PM - Posted by Chefbenito (not verified)

Wow. Just Wow. So many linux fanboys and MS haters it is disgusting. Fully Open Source DirectX! Hah! I guess companies do not have a right to make money anymore?

I think the author, Scott, digs his hole deep and deeper the more he responds trying to get to everyone. It is no longer linear this discussion.

Enough with your "There Could Be..." "There Could be..."

That's not journalism or even helpful, its just speculation.

"Don't really look at Windows 8... look at Windows RT and consider the problems that could be faced"

Read that to back to yourself Scott.

My fav is....

"again like same-sex relationships as allegedly happened with Harvest Moon on the Nintendo when it was brought to America"

OK rly WTF does this have to do with anything. It's time to step away from the keyboard man.

October 30, 2012 | 10:38 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

It has to do with pressures to change the message of artistic content.

With a closed platform, such as Windows RT, you cannot even share your applications with a limited audience without Microsoft's explicit consent. As such you have content censored for political topics, language, violence, sexuality, and so forth.

So "WTF does that have to do with anything."

It has happened in the past and will continue to happen. An art medium should be based around free (as in speech, not as in beer) and preserved expression. Any time you expose an art platform to censorship it will be used and abused. Pressure through age ratings to censor "sexuality" in North America is one such example.

-----

Companies can easily make money on open-source platforms. RedHat Enterprise Linux is the obvious example. Samsung, LG, and other TV manufacturers use the Linux Kernel as the basis for their televisions. They used Linux to make money on their TVs... including implementing features that their competitors shared alike.

-----

<<Quote>>

"Don't really look at Windows 8... look at Windows RT and consider the problems that could be faced"

<<End of Quote>>

People look at Windows 8 and see the legacy support still there. It is. The point of the editorial is to show how Microsoft: is making moves to deprecate legacy, has incentive to remove legacy, and why that is absolutely terrible from so many perspectives.

Also, that is journalism.

((Also, as you no doubt read from other comments: I really liked Windows 8. I was planning to develop from Windows 8 including switching my main machine over. It was only a couple of months ago that I looked down the path of where Windows was headed and got very uncomfortable. Hope I'm wrong... but if I'm not -- and Microsoft doesn't shy away -- know that you've been warned.))

October 31, 2012 | 09:23 PM - Posted by Andrew (not verified)

Thanks Scott,
This is scary but,not surprising.

November 4, 2012 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Chefbenito (not verified)

Hate to state the obvious, but if it is as bad as you say then nobody will use it and it will fail. If the point of the article is to discuss how big companies (banks, phone co's,software, hardware, insurance co's) have incentives to remove legacy I think that is a bit obvious.

It all about new, new and change or diminish the old. Everyone has been "grandfathered in" with an old plan because new plans change. New iOS updates and now my first gen ipod touch (which works flawlessly) will no longer play netflix and many apps are broken. Car companies, insurance companies all big business follows this model. That you have dissected Microsoft and Windows RT and their nefariousness hopefully we can move on to say, every other major company that does the same thing.

As for using the linux kernel, there are countless for profit, closed systems that use some linux kernal or another.

Still really feels like finger pointing and FUD

December 18, 2012 | 05:05 PM - Posted by Marjory Quezad (not verified)

As soon as I observed this internet site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

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