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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 | 07:21 AM - Posted by thesporei (not verified)

This is one incredibly well written article.

October 25, 2012 | 08:06 AM - Posted by Daniel Meier (not verified)

I agree, i really liked it too.

October 25, 2012 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Thanks everyone for the kind compliments!

October 25, 2012 | 06:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Agreed, very well done.

October 25, 2012 | 09:45 AM - Posted by ET3D (not verified)

It has an interesting point, but I won't say that it's incredibly well written. Just look at things like: "The applications we love and the openness we adore are contained to an app. I will explain how you should hate this..."

"contained to an app"? "how you should hate this"? Not the best writing IMO.

October 25, 2012 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I come from Canada, and they say I'm slow...

... ... ... ehhhhhhhhh?

October 25, 2012 | 04:21 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

I don't understand why some people are so damn rude on the internet. Don't listen to this guy who has nothing to say about the content of your article.

The article was great, written better than most computer reviewers, and the ending lead exactly to the conclusion most gamers (the primary audience of PCPer) should be considering right now - Am I going to have to head to linux, and how soon will steam be on linux?

October 26, 2012 | 11:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I don't see how you can claim the guy is rude. He addressed a statement claiming that the article is not in fact incredible as far as the writing goes, even if it has valid points. I agree - it's a good article, well-written and about important issue but is not incredible.

You are quite rude and unfair by calling others to ignore his opinion just because it doesn't fit yours.

October 26, 2012 | 12:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It was quite rude that you called him rude for calling the original poster rude.

November 29, 2012 | 02:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

rudeption.

October 25, 2012 | 09:29 AM - Posted by Olternaut (not verified)

All I know is that I'm not touching Windows 8 (tablet or desktop) with a 10 foot pole. It's windows 7 desktop and iPads for me for the foreseeable future.

October 25, 2012 | 10:51 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

iPads have all the same problems. That's why people infect it with a rootkit, specifically one with a payload beneficial to the device owner, to gain admin priviledges from Apple jailbreak it.

The issue here is that people do not understand those problems.

As I said in the post: Imagine if a government wants encryption software gone? Not in the appstore, it will be gone unless the user jailbreaks their device... and that relies upon a permission-escalation security vulnerability being reliably found.

October 26, 2012 | 06:12 AM - Posted by MinecrafterOfWindows7 (not verified)

Uh-huh.
Windows 7 is a masterpeice.
Windows 8 is just... Blooggghhhh... Luke warm...
They just went "HEY BROOOZZZ U KNOW WAHT?? WE NOOOW U L00EEVV TEH WINDOOZ 7 DEKSSTAWP, SO WE JUST WENT AND MAED IT COOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! YAAAYYY NO R18 GAEMZ!"
Really Microsoft? Really? I know that you are abandoning Windows to go over to your gaming dreams.
Ugh... And that's why I don't have an Xbox 360...
But still, I have Windows.
Seriously, Macs...

October 26, 2012 | 11:40 AM - Posted by Ryann (not verified)

Huh?

Also: "Seriously, Macs..." That is the perfect option for someone who wants to pay 2x as much for the same piece of equipment and the same lack of control. But, you're probably right. Before you start to flame me, I have the top of the line MBP as well as an 6core/decent video/decent ram/etc. PC.

October 26, 2012 | 12:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

U mad bro? Apple ftw!

October 26, 2012 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Haha. Apple, more like going for broke. They look nice, but are definetly not worth the price. You could get a PC for the same price and it would have 5 times the amount of hardware. Apple is a joke when it comes to pricing. Naive people will buy it though.

June 3, 2013 | 10:00 PM - Posted by bwear.ie (not verified)

Soon after all these years I had been undertaking this workout
considering it was going to whip me in shape, wow!

October 25, 2012 | 09:54 AM - Posted by ET3D (not verified)

It's interesting speculation and I didn't know about the app age limitations, which I think was worth reading the article for.

I doubt that Microsoft is going to kill Windows as a serious gaming platform. I won't rule that option out completely, but I don't think there's a point to worrying about it now. If Microsoft ever does it, people will simply not upgrade to the latest OS. Which is also why I think it's unlikely to happen.

October 25, 2012 | 11:10 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

It's more than age app limitations: once you curate a platform you can limit applications for whatever reason you want, even for reasons that weren't there when the app was launched.

It looks like Microsoft is just hoping that enough Windows 8 and Windows RT apps will be made to get us to forget (enough) about the applications and the openness we used to have. Will that ever happen? Who knows. Just be careful that it doesn't happen to you in case you need to jump.

And "cert" is very seductive for them. Again, they've tried this back in ~2006-2007 and the industry said, "hecks noes!"

October 28, 2012 | 08:40 AM - Posted by Matthias (not verified)

You don't even need people to forget the freedom they once had. Just wait for a new generation of junkies who never experienced it, and thus won't miss it either.
Consider Apple. Their app store has much the same limitations ("Freedom means freedom from porn" -- Steve Jobs). Plus, they take a huge cut from in-app purchases. And still these iThings sell like crazy.

October 25, 2012 | 10:00 AM - Posted by Windyanna Jones (not verified)

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

I took one look at Windows 8 and I had a cloudy (pun intended) feeling we were taking a giant- if not larger- step towards finishing what Windows Vista tried hard to do:

The destruction of Microsoft.

October 25, 2012 | 10:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Please get an editor to review your grammar and diction!
I have windows, and windows has never been a good operating system, Windows 8/RT is total crap! I will live with windows 7, but now is the time to begin to move away from the Microsoft kiosk style / Apple closed ecosystem "Operating Systems"!

October 26, 2012 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

^This. Grab an English teacher somewhere, as this article has a horrible flow. Few examples of what's wrong with this article:-
- Massive use of short sentences, in a row.
- Few sentences in a row has the same words at the beginning. The only time you should do this is when you want to define conditions. i.e. Rules and regulations.
- Trippy way of starting a sentence. Also, a lack of variance on sentence structure.
- Meaningless sentences that fails to convey any proper message.

I know that you're trying to tell us something but the grammar/style is killing the message. I'm even more surprised by the lack of complaint from the readers, apart from one or two, as I've been used to reading articles with a much, much higher quality than this.

October 26, 2012 | 01:58 PM - Posted by blindbox (not verified)

Now before someone go grammar nazi on my previous post (I've given myself a proper nick this time), do realize I made no attempts to fix any grammar, only gave pointers on what to fix. I also told the author to grab someone else and not me, for editing.

October 25, 2012 | 11:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

thesporei, I see your irony, and raise it by some sarcasm. What standard does pcper's editorial department utilize before allowing such a cogent display of writing prowess find its way onto this website?

October 25, 2012 | 12:04 PM - Posted by Mark (not verified)

Loyd Case did a nice review of Windows 8 that is up. Though, I hate the new UI, his review is very good.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2012830/windows-8-the-official-review.html

October 25, 2012 | 12:10 PM - Posted by ShaneB (not verified)

Its pretty gutsy/ignorant to put all your eggs in the same basket as the failed windows phone os thats essentially being relaunched with windows 8. They are seeing the iappliance is succeeding with controlled content and think that control is a major part of its success.

October 25, 2012 | 12:48 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

It even started before that... long before that.

Microsoft wants to abolish their insecure and unstable stereotype. It was one of the major points for Games for Windows Live, over a year before the iPhone and long before the App Store.

But yes, Apple did help re-enforce and refine their idea.

October 25, 2012 | 12:52 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

When the power of marketing can make you tell customers what they want instead of customers telling you what you want it's hard to resist the power that gives you as a company. After seeing Apple pull it off so well many other companies would love to be able to dictate to the world how 'things are going to be'.

October 25, 2012 | 12:57 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

If only companies spent a fraction of the money they spend trying to crush each other's closed platforms on making a great open one where everyone can profit in their own way.

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