Category Archives: Windows 8

Update: Microsoft quietly seeds consumer PCs with Windows 10 upgrade ‘nag’ campaign

Automatic update delivered to most Windows 7 and 8.1 consumer devices illustrates aggressive marketing intent
Microsoft has seeded most consumer Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs with an automatic update that will pitch the free Windows 10 upgrade to customers.

According to, a March 27 non-security update aimed at Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 8.1 Update — the latter, the April 2014 refresh — lays the foundation for a Windows 10 marketing and upgrade campaign. The update, identified by Microsoft as KB3035583, has been offered as “Recommended,” meaning that it will be automatically downloaded and installed on PCs where Windows Update has been left with its default settings intact.

Microsoft was typically terse in the accompanying documentation for KB3035583, saying only that it introduced “additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user.”, however, rooted through the folder that the update added to Windows’ SYSTEM32 folder and found files that spelled out a multi-step process that will alert users at several milestones that Microsoft triggers.

Computerworld confirmed that the update deposited the folder and associated files onto a Windows 7 SP1 system.

One of the files called out, “config.xml,” hinted at how the Redmond, Wash. company will offer Windows 10’s free upgrade.

The first phrase, marked as “None,” disables all features of the update. But the second, tagged as “AnticipationUX,” switches on a tray icon — one of the ways Windows provides notifications to users — and what was listed as “Advertisement.” interpreted the latter as some kind of display pitching the upcoming Windows 10, perhaps a stand-alone banner in Windows 7 and a special tile on the Windows 8.1 Start screen.

A third phrase, “Reservation,” turns on what the .xml code identified as “ReservationPage,” likely another banner or tile that lets the user “reserve” a copy of the upgrade as part of Microsoft’s marketing push.

Later steps labeled “RTM” and “GA” referred to Microsoft-speak for important development milestones, including Release to Manufacturing (RTM) and General Availability (GA). The former pegs code ready to ship to computer and device makers, while the latter signals a finished product suitable for distribution to users.

The upgrade won’t be triggered until GA, according to the .xml file’s contents.

Presumably, the messages shown in the tray icon — and when displayed, the ad banner or tile — will change at each phase, with the contents drawn from a URL specified by Microsoft in the .xml file.

Not surprisingly, the Enterprise editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 — those are sold only to large customers with volume licensing agreements — will not display the Windows 10 upgrade pitches. That’s consistent with what Microsoft has said previously, that the Windows Enterprise SKUs will not be eligible for the free upgrade. By refusing to show the alerts and ads to Windows Enterprise users, Microsoft avoids ticking off IT administrators, who will, by all accounts, stick with Windows 7 for the next several years before migrating to Windows 10 as the former nears its January 2020 retirement.

Although Microsoft has often prepped existing versions of Windows for upcoming updates with behind-the-scenes code, the extent of the messaging generated by the .xml file issued on March 27 would be a change from past practices. That fits with Microsoft’s professed goal of getting as many as possible onto Windows 10, a position best illustrated by the unprecedented free upgrade.

Users will face a long line of nagging messages that will be impossible to ignore. Add to that the fact Microsoft set KB3035583 as Recommended — by default Windows Update treats those the same as critical security fixes tagged “Important” — and it’s clear Microsoft will be aggressive in pushing Windows 10.

Those who don’t want to see the Windows 10 marketing push on their machines can uninstall KB3035583 from the Windows Update panel. But because the .xml file was pegged as “version 1.0,” there’s a good chance more such updates will follow.

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Windows Phone 8.1 and its first update could appear this week

This might be the first time an OS and patch came out simultaneously.

Windows Phone 8.1, the revision to Microsoft’s mobile OS that has taken longer to manifest than Windows 8.1, might finally show up this week or next, along with its first update.

Improvements in 10GbE technology, lower pricing, and improved performance make 10GbE for the mid-market

Windows Phone 8.0 came out in October 2012. That’s 20 months between major releases if 8.1 shows up this month, longer than the gap between Windows 8 and 8.1, and far, far longer than the updates between iOS and Android.

Fortunately, there’s a lot to love in this point release, which is really closer to a full revision. The big addition is Cortana, the voice assistant, along with the App Framework that makes it easier for Windows 8.1 apps to be ported between a PC and phone.

Well, the news site Neowin is claiming that Windows Phone 8.1 has been done for a while, and not only will it be pushed out soon, so will the first update to the OS, called a General Distribution Release (GDR). The GDR will be relatively minor, with a small set of enhancements, such as native folder support. That will enable users to create folders of tiles by dropping a tile on top of another, something iOS and Android have had for a while.

Of course, first thing we need is WP 8.1. Microsoft has kept the release date quiet, but someone from Microsoft India tweeted that the OS could roll out in the first or second week of July. He didn’t say if that’s for the U.S., India (where WP is popular), or worldwide.

Given the GDR hasn’t even shown up on the developer network for testing, we can only take this with a few grains of salt. If Microsoft does indeed have an update ready to go this fast, then it’s more evidence of its plans to reduce the time between software updates, something CEO Satya Nadella has promised.

I just hope it does something to get WP moving. This 3% market share is pitiful, as is the lack of apps. As a WP phone owner (Samsung ATIV SE), I’m getting tired of searching for apps and coming up empty. As Beta News noted, the Windows Phone app store is a ghost town, not an encouraging sign for a platform that is solid and should be a lot more popular than it is.

I’m not clamoring to return to the iPhone, but I’m not blindly loyal, either.

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Windows 8 Update: As Windows XP wanes, Windows 8 scoops up users

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 laptops get faster

Windows 8/8.1 has topped 10% market share for the first time, apparently picking up a few users from among those who are finally leaving Windows XP behind.

According to Web analytics firm NetMarkeshare, users of all versions of Windows 8 amounted to 10.49% of Internet users for the month of December, up from 9.25% in December. This as users of Windows XP have dipped from 31.22% to 28.98%.

+Also on Network World: 7 things on Microsoft’s 2014 to-do list | China prefers to stick with dying Windows XP rather than upgrade | 10 reasons to take a Chromebook on the road +

While the showing for Windows 8/8.1 is a milestone, it is also part of a gradual trend. Since last February, use of the operating system has risen 7.82 percentage points while XP has dropped 10.01. Windows 7 use has moved up 2.97 points over the same period, so it seems most of those abandoning XP have moved to Windows 7 or 8/8.1.

Over the same period, Windows Vista dipped 1.56 points.

NetMarketshare’s data is gathered from the browsers of visitors to its customers’ 40,000-plus Web sites worldwide. The firm breaks down the sites as 46% commercial, 18% corporate, 10% content and 29% other, including government, search engine marketers and .org groups. Seventy six percent participate in pay per click programs to drive traffic to their sites, the company says.

Surface Pro 2 upgrade
Surface Pro 2

While it’s not an official hardware overhaul, customers who buy Microsoft Surface Pro 2 laptops now will get faster machines than those who bought them last month.

That’s because the Windows 8 devices are being built with a better CPU than the earlier versions, according to a report by WinBeta. The newer Surface Pro 2s have Intel i5 4300U (1.9Ghz) CPUs vs the older versions that had i5 4200U (1.6Ghz) processors.

Here’s how Microsoft explained the changes to WinBeta: “Microsoft routinely makes small changes to internal components over the lifetime of a product, based on numerous factors including supply chain partnerships, availability, and value for our customers. With any change to hardware or software, we work to ensure that the product experience remains excellent.”

Chromebooks rule on reports disheartening holiday sales from a Windows 8 perspective: Chromebooks are outselling the best-selling Windows 8 laptops.

According to the site’s Best Sellers, two Chromebooks – Acer C720 and Samsung Chromebook – are ranked No. 1 and 2 with two Windows 8 devices – Asus Transformer Book T100TA-C1-G and Asus X200CA-HCL1104G – coming in third and fourth.
Price seems to be a factor. The Chromebooks sell for $199 and $179, respectively, while the Windows devices go for $448 and $298.
Another blow to Windows 8: Toshiba’s Satellite C55-A5245 came in fifth – equipped with Windows 7.

Surface 2 BitLocker woes

Microsoft is promising a Jan. 14 solution to a Surface 2 software problem that has the device demanding the BitLocker recovery key when it boots up.


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Windows 8 Update: Microsoft urges Windows 8 upgrade for security’s sake

Microsoft: Windows XP machines are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8

Even those who don’t like Windows 8 should consider it for its superior security vs. older Microsoft operating systems, if nothing else the company says.

According to its latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, machines running Windows XP are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8, the report says. The raw numbers are that 9.1 Windows XP machines need to be cleaned per 1,000 vs. 1.6 Windows 8 machines.

The reason, Microsoft says, is that Windows XP’s data execution prevention (DEP) is old and doesn’t address modern threats as well as the defenses in Windows 8. “People figured out how to get around DEP as a mitigation,” says Holly Stewart, program manager for Micrsoft’s Malware Protection Center.

Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP next spring and has been urging customers to upgrade to a newer operating system.Worldwide Windows XP makes up 21% of the OS market, Microsoft says.

It’s not just Windows XP with an infection problem: Windows 7 machines are more than three times more likely (5.5 per 1,000) to become infected than Windows 8 machines.

In addition, Windows XP machines also encounter more malware than Windows 8 machines, with 16.3% of XP machines encountering it vs 12.4% of Windows 8 machines, the report says. Stewart says she doesn’t know why Windows 8 machines face fewer threats. Windows 7 computers have the highest encounter rate with 19.1%.

Microsoft gathers data on Windows computers through its Bing search, accounts and Windows users who agreed to share data about their activities with Microsoft, adding up to information on billions of Internet transactions.

Windows 8 users supplement security
One of the big selling points of Windows 8 is its security, part of which is supplied by Windows Defender anti-virus. OPSWAT security management specialists say that despite integration of Windows Defender in the new operating system most customers run third-party anti-virus software, too. That’s 65% of the Window 8 users from a sample of 840 monitored by OPSWAT. Lower percentages of Windows XP users (9%) and Windows 7 users (20%) also run third-party anti-virus, OPSWAT says.

Old Surface Pro is cheaper
With the Surface Pro 2 expected to ship in December, Microsoft is cutting the price of the original Surface Pro by $100, making the current prices $699 for a 64GB model; $799 for a 128GB model and $999 for a 256GB. The prices for Surface Pro 2 are $899, $999 and $1,299, respectively. Surface Pro 2 also comes in a 512GB model for $1,799.

Microsoft has been trying to unload its inventory of the original Surface Pro for months in the run-up to Surface Pro 2. It cut $100 off original Surface Pro prices back in August, so the latest offer makes it $200 cheaper than it was originally. The latest deal expires at the end of the year.

All hands on deck
Microsoft’s corporate Vice President of Surface Computing Panos Panay personally hawked the product recently at malls around the country. He addressed about 150 potential customers at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., according to a story in the Washington Post, in advance of the official launch of the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.

He also popped up at the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles, for a similar engagement, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

While he seems a bit overqualified for pitching computers directly to consumers, it’s hard to fault his enthusiasm.

Calling all cars

Windows 8 is making its way into police cars in the U.K., or at least into trials at the Hertfordshire Constabulary, according to a TabTimes report.

The tablet in question is a ruggedized 8.4-inch Panasonic that officers can carry with them to access police applications.


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Windows 8 Update: Microsoft sacks iPad in Windows 8 ad, join forces with NFL

About those lofty Windows Store app numbers…

A new ad from Microsoft mocks iPads by comparing them – unfavorably – to tablets running Windows 8, which receive live updates on their Start screens, run office apps, display two apps at a time and support Microsoft Office applications – things iPads don’t do.

The ad has the hapless iPad acknowledging a string of things it can’t do until it finally asks (in the voice of iPad’s Siri interface) “Should we just play ‘Chopsticks’?”

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The ad hearkens back to an earlier iPad Mini ad in which a “Chopsticks” duet is played on both an iPad and and IPad mini.

The ad wraps up with a display of the price of an iPad ($699) and the price of a 64G Asus Vivo Tab Smart ($449) the message being that for $250 less, you can get a machine that does more.

It’s interesting that the ad doesn’t use the comparable $899 Surface Pro tablet made by Microsoft as a reference.

Low usage of Windows Store apps

Microsoft says it has more than 65,000 apps in its Windows Store inventory that are designed specifically for use on Windows 8 machines. The catch is that they don’t get used that often, according to a report by Soluto, a Web-based PC-management service provider.

Based on data gathered from 10,848 Windows 8 devices, Soluto found that users were more likely to fire up Windows Store apps if they were working on a tablet or touchscreen laptop than if they were working on a desktop or non-touch laptop (see graphic).
Windows 8

How many times a day will a Windows 8 user launch a Metro App?

Soluto hasn’t crunched the data yet about how often non-Windows Store (Metro) apps are launched, but suspects it is significantly higher, says Roee Adler, chief product officer for Soluto.

What were those apps? The most used was Yahoo! Mail, which was launched on average 26.91 times per week, followed by Social Jogger (25.98), Social Networks (21.19) and Lync MX (9.98).

Most users of desktops, laptops and touchscreen laptops didn’t average launching a Windows Store app even once per day, and 44.38% of tablet users fell into the same category.

What does Soluto make of this? “There’s a consensus in the market that Windows 7 was a good, solid operating system, and it’s unclear why the change to Windows 8 was needed for those who are happy with Windows 7,” the report says. “If you’re pragmatic about using the Windows operating system with a keyboard and mouse – there’s no rush. Wait and see what “Windows Blue” has in store for us before you upgrade.”

Look for Surface tablets on NFL sidelines

Rather than stalking up and down the sidelines referring to laminated play charts NFL coaches may soon use Microsoft Surface tablets.
Microsoft has signed a five-year, contract to pay the NFL $400 million to improve interactive features between football viewing and its new Xbox device. After that, the deal is expected to place Surface tablets in the hands of coaches, according to a story by the Associated Press.

For Microsoft this will primarily serve as a TV showcase for its technology and serve as a kind of advertising for the devices. Microsoft has already engaged Surface product placement, most notably in an episode of the ABC siticom show “Suburgatory” in which the device was actually written into the script as a love interest for the main character.

Microsoft will also place its branding on referees’ instant-replay devices and other areas along the sidelines, the AP says.

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Windows 8 Update: Gates: Windows 8 is about the iPad

Also, a Windows 8 tablet for less than $400 is a natural for BYOD

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s best effort to catch up with Apple and grab tablet sales away from the iPad by including things iPads just don’t have, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

These things include keyboards and Microsoft Office, Gates says in an interview with CNBC. “With Windows 8 Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device,” Gates says.

He says Windows 8 was designed to wrap PCs into a tablet form, as exemplified by Microsoft’s own Windows 8 hardware Surface PRO and Surface RT.

“So if you have Surface, Surface PRO you’ve got that portability of the tablet but richness — in terms of the keyboard, Microsoft Office — of a PC,” he says. “So as you say PCs are a big market. It’s going to be harder and harder to distinguish products whether they’re tablets or PCs.”

Microsoft sees customers are unsatisfied by limitations of pure tablets with touchscreens and no support for Office. “A lot of those users are frustrated,” Gates says. “They can’t type, they can’t create documents, they don’t have Office there so we’re providing something with the benefits they’ve seen that have made [tablets] a big category but without giving up what they expect in a PC.”
Small, cheap Acer tablet

A product listing for a rumored Acer mini tablet popped up briefly on last week for the surprisingly low price of $379.99 before the item was taken down.

But the specifications listed for the device indicate that it can support a full-blown PC version of Windows 8 on an 8.1-inch tablet.

The low price makes them attractive to consumers and increases the possibility that Windows 8 devices will become a factor in BYOD programs. At the same time these small tablets become more attractive to businesses because they can support all legacy applications that run on Windows 7 including the full version of Microsoft Office.

A separate version of Windows 8 — Windows RT — is designed for tablets that are based on ARM processors, but they only run Windows Store applications and a truncated version of Office. Windows RT devices also can’t join domains.

The Acer product in question is the W3-810-1600, pictured below in a photo that was posted two weeks ago by the French website but taken down at Acer’s request.

The screen resolution is 1280×800 pixels is the low end of minimum requirements for Windows 8 devices set by Microsoft, according to specifications posted by The Verge.

While it’s OK to build devices to that spec, it’s not without ramifications. The devices can’t support snap screens, which is a feature that displays two applications at once — one small and one large — and to reverse which one is bigger with a simple touchscreen swipe.

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Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier

Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier
Also, iPad keyboard/cover to rival Surface, 8-inch Windows 8 tablet

UPDATE: Microsoft has delayed availability of its Switch to Windows Phone app until sometime next week.

Microsoft figures customers will be more likely to switch from Android smartphones to Windows 8 phones if it makes it easier to find the same or similar apps for their new phone as were on their old phones.

Microsoft is introducing Switch to Windows Phone, an application that finds identical or replacement applications for Windows Phone 8 in the Windows Store to replace their old Android apps.

The new application, which is being released today, is not available for iPhones.
Switch to Windows 8 inventories all the applications on the Android phone and sends that inventory to the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud. When customers log in to the same SkyDrive account from the Switch to Windows 8 app loaded on their Windows Phone 8, the app finds the same set of applications. If there are no exact replacements, the app recommends similar ones, according to Guru Gowrappan, executive vice president for products at application search firm Quixey.

Quixey supplies the apps-search engine within Switch to Windows 8. The engine uses descriptions of apps, reviews of apps, trouble reports about apps and other metadata it gathers from the Web to recommend substitute applications to users, Gowrappan says. The goal is to make them as close as possible to matching the app on the Android phone.

In the case of Switch to Windows 8, the Quixey search engine goes through the 135,000 Windows Phone 8 applications in the Windows Store seeking direct matches – such as the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app to replace the Android Facebook app – or to find applications that perform as close to the same function as possible, he says.

The search engine can also look for applications based on what customers want to do. So a customer could enter “cook Italian food” into the engine and would get a list of apps such as Tuscan Chef and Italian Video Recipes.

Sprint Zone and Sprint Digital Lounge use Quixey’s engine to find apps as does for searching Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry applications.

Keyboard for iPads mimics Surface
Logitech is selling a thin, fabric-covered keyboard/cover for iPads that give the Apple tablets similar functionality to Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface tablet/laptops.

Called FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, the keyboards attach magnetically to iPads and flop down to convert from being a cover to being a keyboard. The device includes a prop to hold the screen at a slant for better viewing when typing. It can also fold over to allow use of the iPad as a tablet.

At $150, that puts iPads with keyboards on a price par with some models of Surface tablets with keyboards.

Some differences: Surface supports Office applications and a file system, something iPads lack. Surface draws power from the computer battery; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio has its own rechargeable battery. The Surface keyboard communicates with the tablet via direct electrical connection; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio uses Bluetooth.

8-inch Windows 8 tablet
Acer is coming out with an 8-inch tablet running Windows 8 if a leaked photo is to be believed.
Windows 8
The photo here was posted by the site but taken down at Acer’s request.

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Windows 8 Update: 50k apps now in Windows Store

Also: Windows RT gets dissed, iPads beware Windows 8

There are now more than 50,000 Windows 8-only applications available in the Windows Store, a big jump from when Windows 8 launched, but a far cry from what the company projected just before the launch.

According to the website MetroStore Scanner, the store has 50,341 apps on the shelves, finally reaching that number over the weekend after more or less growing steadily at 10% per month since last October. There was a spike in December perhaps as part of the Christmas rush.

ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?
But back in October Microsoft predicted it would have an inventory of more than 100,000 by the end of January, and now nearly two months later has just half that has materialized.

It’s bad news for Windows 8 and Microsoft because by the company’s own admission applications designed for the touch-friendly operating system are essential for attracting customers to it. Compelling apps mean more converts.

Getting apps has proven a challenge, with the latest enticement being an offer of $100 to developers for every Windows 8 app they get placed in the Windows Store up to 10. They can reap the bounty for an additional 10 Windows Phone 8 apps in the Windows Phone Store. “Offer good only to the first 10,000 qualified applications published in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store, or until the end of the promotional period, whichever comes first,” Microsoft says.

That’s $1 million Microsoft is ponying up to stimulate apps development in this promotion alone. That doesn’t include the cost of developer trainings and a generous royalty agreement for the most popular applications.

While 50,000 apps is a benchmark, it’s coming too late for it to be considered a positive benchmark.

Jettison Windows RT?
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the same Windows Store stats to defend Windows RT, the hardware/software platform based on ARM chips that runs a light version of Windows 8 and can handle only Windows Store Modern applications.

Windows RT came under fire recently from IDC, which suggested Microsoft dump the package. It is intended to compete with iPads, but hasn’t made strong inroads so far. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows planning told CNET that “as the number of apps grow in the store, that value promise only gets stronger.”

That value promise was based on a narrow set of circumstances. “Let’s say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps],” he told CNET. “That’s the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch. So, on Windows RT, the user experience stays consistent over time.”

iPads beware
Despite the attack on Windows RT, the full Windows 8 software that supports any app that runs on Windows 7 is getting praised as an operating system for tablets.

Moor Insights and Strategy says in a whitepaper that Windows 8 tablets offer more than one advantage over Apple’s tablet. “Enterprise IT can and are deploying iPads but are doing so at an increased cost, time and complexity than PCs,” the paper says.

These tablets are PCs only without the keyboard, and so have a the manageability of a laptop with the touch centricity of Windows 8. The Intel Clover Trail processor gives the devices performance per watt that is comparable to that of the iPad, the paper says. “Through the combination of Intel Clover Trail and Windows 8, HP, Dell and Lenovo have created tablets that take the best the consumer elements of the iPad and adds to it enterprise features IT wants in their next generation tablets,” it says. “Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options.”

Acer likes Windows 8
Acer President Jim Wong had some nice things to say about Windows 8 tablets recently during a financials conference call.

According to, Wong expects sales of tablets in general to pick up over the course of 2013.

According to the website, “More importantly, Wong said that momentum in Microsoft Windows 8 devices has been improving. Acer Chairman J.T. Wang echoed the sentiment during the company’s conference call, saying that Microsoft “has done some good things finally” to revitalize the Windows ecosystem.”


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IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales

IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales
Better acceptance of Windows 8 could help a PC rebound later this year

The final numbers are in showing that PC makers shipped fewer machines last year than in 2011, and Windows 8 is among several factors being blamed by IDC for the decline, which is expected to continue this year.

Looking back IDC found that in 2012 total worldwide shipments of PCs was down 3.7%, including desktop and portable PCs.

The trend was worse in mature markets — the U.S., Canada, Western Europe and Japan — with a dip of 4%. Emerging markets — Asia/Pacific, Latin America the Middle East and Africa — were down 1.4%.

Limited interest in Windows 8 led last year to a dismal fourth quarter, IDC says in its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Volume dropped 8.3% in Q4 2012 compared to Q4 2011, wiping out a potential bump during the normally robust holiday sales quarter, IDC says. That’s the largest drop ever recorded for a holiday season.

IDC described the reception of Windows 8, which launched in October, as “underwhelming.” Also contributing to the slow fourth quarter were tight IT budgets and a continuing poor world economy.

Hurting the potential lift that Windows 8 might have provided was the lack of components for touchscreen devices — the type of machine Windows 8 was designed to work best on. That makes the touchscreen devices that are available seem expensive compared to non-touch devices, IDC says.

Still, Windows 8 could help PC sales rebound somewhat late this year, says Rajani Singh, a research analyst at IDC. “IDC expects the second half of 2013 to regain some marginal momentum partly as a rubber band effect from 2012, and largely thanks to the outcome of industry restructuring, better channel involvement, and potentially greater acceptance of Windows 8,” he says. But it still won’t be enough to register growth; IDC projects worldwide PC sales in 2013 to drop another 1.3%.

The end of support for Windows XP should force more PC upgrades later this year as well, which could help bolster shipments later in 2013, Singh says.

The study doesn’t include tablets because they aren’t the functional equivalents of PCs, but their popularity among consumers helps siphon off dollars that otherwise might be spent on PCs, says Loren Loverde, vice president for Worldwide PC Trackers at IDC. “Growth in emerging regions has slowed considerably, and we continue to see constrained PC demand as buyers favor other devices for their mobility and convenience features,” Loverde says.

Long-term shipments of PCs shows better but still modest growth, the report says, projecting a 9% increase between 2012 and the end of 2017.

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Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries

Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries
Also: Windows 8 upgrade rumored for summer, more Windows 8 ads queued, deals on Windows 8 machines

Microsoft has run out of Windows Surface Pro tablets twice in a month but is forging ahead with plans to make them available in six more countries.

According to today’s Surface blog the six countries are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan. The Surface Pro and Surface RT will be available there “in the coming months.”

With luck the supply of the machines will be better in these countries than it has been in the U.S. and Canada, where Microsoft has run out of Surface Pros twice. Microsoft hasn’t spelled out the reasons for the shortages.

“We are focused on meeting demand in current markets for Surface Pro and are working super hard to get new inventory into retail but recognize demand exists in other countries as well,” the blog post says. “We are committed to working with our retail partners to ensure we are delivering a great experience in the above mentioned countries for our customers.”

More promos
“Microsoft is about to embark on a second wave of Windows 8 client hardware promotions and user education,” according to a Computerworld article from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The story quotes Christopher Flores, director of communications for the Windows client division, who was interviewed at the show, where Microsoft is said to be keeping a low profile but meeting with partners off-site.

This new promotional wave might have something to do with the launch this week of Office 365, which has been redesigned for the touch capabilities that are such a key part of Windows 8. Demonstrating new Office features that Windows 8 supports better than Windows 7 might move some customers to accelerate their decisions to adopt the new operating system.

Windows Blue
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Microsoft is working on Windows Blue, the next iteration if its operating system. If the company follows past release patterns, this won’t be the major transformation that Windows 8 was. More likely it will represent what might be called a service pack in earlier Windows operating system releases.

There’s even a projected date for when Windows Blue (that’s just a code name) will reach the release-to-manufacturer stage: June 7, according to a post on a Chinese-language site that was discovered by Mary Jo Foley.

The site, Win8China, doesn’t attribute where it got its information, but seems to assert that Windows Blue will become the commercial version by the end of the summer. It’s hard to tell exactly from the translation of the site provided by Google Chrome.

Here’s how the translation reads, in part: “The development cycle time RTM version completed in the mid-term of 2013 (the beginning of the end of June -7), MSDN and other users will then use the priority, and then in August it will be open to all Win8 user upgrade download, as well as pre-installed into the new devices inside a PC, Tablet PC, laptop, ultra-extreme.”

Windows 8 tablet discount
Best Buy is knocking $100 off any Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, which in some cases represents an 18% discount.

Some people have linked the sale to the rumored availability of Windows Blue this summer, leading them to conclude that Best Buy is trying to unload current Windows 8 machines before the new version makes them obsolete.

Or the chain might have overstocked Windows 8 tablets and wants to clear its inventory. Or it might be getting ready to stock up on newer hardware due out later this year that blends features of tablets and laptops.

Windows 8 for dunking
Speaking of new hardware, Fujitsu is coming out with a Windows 8 tablet that can sit in a tub of water for half an hour and still work when it gets out.

It’s called Arrows Tab Q582/F and is on display at the Mobile World Congress. It costs about $1,350 to start.

Here’s how Fujitsu describes it: “With the terminal cap and slot cap tightly closed, IPX5 and IPX8 water resistance features protect the tablet from water damage. IPX5 designation indicates that the tablet can normally function after being sprayed with water from a nozzle with a diameter of 6.3 mm at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute from a distance of approximately 3 meters for a period of at least 3 minutes. The IPX8 designation indicates that the tablet will function normally after being immersed in room-temperature tap water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. When the terminal cap and slot caps are tightly closed IP5X dust resistance features protect the tablet from dust damage. IP5X indicates that the tablet can be left in an environment with dust particles with a diameter of 75 µm or less for 8 hours and still function and remain safe to use.”

Windows 8 Pro mobile phone
A company called i-mate says it is coming out with a mobile phone that runs the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. That’s Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8.

When it comes out later this year, it can be purchased with a docking kit that hooks the device into a desktop phone, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The kit includes a tablet driven wirelessly by the phone, which is called Intelegent.

As a standalone, Intelegent costs $750; with the kit, $1,500 and the company hopes to launch the products this summer.

All of this is according to a column in the Seattle Times.

A company spokesman says an i-mate team is at Mobile World Congress this week and couldn’t do an interview. “The i-mate Development Inc. team is busy at Mobile World Congress. We’ll reach out if they become available at a later date,” he spokesman says in an email.

The spokesman also says the Seattle Times column is accurate on details about the phone.

It will be interesting to see whether this device actually comes into being, what its battery life will be (driving an Intel Clover Trail processor) and whether the company can line up service providers that will support it.

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