Microsoft thinks people want ultra-portable headaches
A while back I mentioned that having a third company make a big splash in mobile was sorely needed. Apple and Google holding all the chips isn't good for anyone except Apple and Google. It was clear then, and still is now, that only one company can afford to keep trying — Microsoft. But their latest news about putting Windows 10 on ARM-powered tablets and convertibles, and rumored to come to phones, is just another way to spend money building things people probably won't want to buy.
To be fair, they have to do something. Intel is done building low-power (and low-performing) chips designed for always-on mobile things. The future will move away from the desktop model we currently have (Steve jobs' computer equals truck analogy will come true, just much later than he thought) and Microsoft's history of trying to reinvent themselves in mobile has been less than spectacular. Windows as it exists on a phone or tablet, as well as Continuum, are ideas nobody asked for. I don't have an answer and don't claim to have ever had any. Luckily, guiding Microsoft's mobile ambitions isn't my job. Critiquing them while unable to do any better is. But I do have a pretty good idea of what the consumer buying public-at-large is spending their dollars on, and more of the same from Windows on a small touch device doesn't fit in with it.
If people really were jonesing to run full blown desktop Adobe photoshop on a touch screen tablet, Adobe would be making it for the iPad (and iPad sales wouldn't be shrinking.) Adding a detachable keyboard and calling a 10-inch tablet something besides a tablet doesn't change that. Shrinking the experience down to 6 or 7 inches and telling people they can use a keyboard, mouse and HDMI cable certainly doesn't improve anything. Having a very expensive and very nice slim laptop with a great input pen that can run Photoshop the way it was intended makes sense and people who need Photoshop at that level surely appreciate the experience on the new Surface the same way they do on the new MacBook. The same goes for Turbo Tax and Quicken, Microsoft Access 2016, AutoCad and any of the other crazy things that have been touted as something people want to do and make the new new Windows portables the best ever. (I stopped reading comments and Tweets when someone said Visual Studio.)
Right about now, half of the people reading this disagree and are ready to express that in the comments. I get it, but people who visit tech blogs on weekends are hardly a representation of the average consumer. Folks still buying tablets as well as people buying phones are looking for something more simple than the computer they left at the office Friday at quitting time. Instead of Steam and Civ 6, they want Temple Run with Mario when it comes to something small they hold in their hands. The same goes for Photoshop — the experience for iOS and Android is good but it can get a little complicated. Yet it's miles away from what you would see on Windows 10. People are buying devices that are cheap and easy to use. Apple and Google see this and are trying to make things even more simple. The things that tech-savvy folks think of as dumbing down are the very same things that let people not worry about how to do things and instead, they can just do them.
I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it is a thing. I don't want to see OS X turn into MacOS (for example) but Apple isn't making products that Jerry wants to buy; they are making products that most people want to buy. Marshmallow did some things better than Nougat does for this power-user nerd. Microsoft hanging on to their legacy of desktop software to drive a new mobile strategy may be cool to some of us, but I think an iPad or Chromebook is going to be a better choice for most people because they are simple and do all the things most people want.
Get the Android Central Newsletter
Instant access to breaking news, the hottest reviews, great deals and helpful tips.
Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.
But that said I do definitely want to buy one to test it.
It's should be better than win rt.
So yes, when Photoshop for Windows tries to fit everything on the screen within reach, the icons and anything else clickable are impossible to touch accurately because they are so tiny. You can use the stylus, but that's not what Jerry's original piece is about. One major point of the iPhone never having a stylus or physical keyboard was to show that we can move forward with touch technology using only your finger.
That sounds like Android with it's fragmentation issue. From a totally naïve perspective, (I'm not a developer) I suspect the future unified chromeOS will have tighter controls to prevent the rampant problem of fragmentation. If android does it right, it will be a painful transition for android users when that OS arrives because I suspect that android will be leaving people behind just like Microsoft had to when they migrated from windows 7/RT, to windows 8 and 10. (all android apps are made for small screens, with primarily touch interface. The same headache you mention of desktop app to phone only in reverse. Android developers screaming, why would I make my app desktop compatible when Windows and Apple hold 99% of the desktop market.) If not, I suppose chromeOS will just be a watered down desktop OS to be able to maintain the legacy phone apps compatibility. Good enough for consumer, but not powerful enough for business. Android has the same problem Microsoft had only in reverse. I'm not saying Android can't overcome this obstacle, I am saying it won't be painless. Microsoft may be the bigger ship to turn vs a more agile Android, but Microsoft has made the turn already. While android keeps moving down the same path; at least what they have revealed for their future.
Be early doesn't mean better.
Look, I love my LG V20 and regularly use an ipad but I'm not dumb enough to say that what Microsoft accomplished will not be successful in the future. What they have done is a game changer period. Give them the credit that they deserve.
What i prefer to think of Microsoft's efforts is that they are trying to push enterprise needs forward into new spaces within their ecosystem instead of ceding this space to Google and/or Apple in the foreseeable future.
I think Microsoft has actually developed a compelling vision for the future of business computing. Whether it impacts Google and Apple's market share is sort of immaterial at this juncture. If businesses can buy a single device, for instance, that is a work phone and full featured computing platform instead of buying two devices to accomplish the same (which is where many businesses are at this moment) then Microsoft has given them cost savings while securing and possibly increasing their own revenue.
That's a rare win-win scenario and one of the increasing signs of brilliance coming out of them lately.
Just some thoughts to consider.
The "complexity" of Windows is equal to that of Android. The "headaches" caused by Windows are the same (or even less) than those caused by Android. Yet both OS's dominate their respective markets.
People are NOT stupid.
That's what Apple wants you to believe. And Apple customers, by all accounts, seem to fit that description. They're also an insignificant minority in the vast scheme of things (lest we remind you Apple's marketshare is miserable both on mobile AND desktop? Windows accounts for over 90% of the desktop market and Android for over 80%. Now you do the maths on the "relevance" of Apple's presence). Apart from that, expanding Windows to ANY sort of device makes sense. HOWEVER people (specially at Windows Central, lead by their often misguided Editor-in-Chief) are putting too much hope and too many dreams into this "Windows 10 ARM".
Microsoft has had an ARM version of Windows. It was called Windows RT and it flopped. Why? Because it was useless.
It couldn't run powerful programs because those are x86 and, because it relied on the Windows store, it had no apps (just like WP went nowhere). This Windows 10 ARM will NOT be any different. Emulation? Windows RT was able to do that too. In fact, some folks built an emulator for the Surface RT called "Win86Emu". However, because the device was under-powered and locked down, it couldn't expand.
This Windows 10 ARM will have the emulator built in but the question remains: who will allow their programs to be emulated? Most developers won't likely allow it. IF Microsoft had been able to put full blown Windows 10 unto a portable device, that might have been significant. But then Intel cancelled all of that.
Eventually they will as tech evolves and if necessary Microsoft will likely build their own chips. Perhaps 10 years from now. THEN, the offer of having a full blown PC in your pocket will appeal to everyone because the "complicated" machine (which isn't complicated to anyone, really, so stop trying to pretend it is) they had at work can accompany them everywhere and transform itself unto a portable device.
THAT might be appealing to the average Joe who will then NOT have to pay for two machines - a proper PC and a weaker version (phone or tablet or both) - and can have only one device.
However, NONE of that will be on ARM. Windows is not an OS for ARM devices.The future is NOT on ARM, no matter how hard some people want to believe it is. The future will be more and more divided between dumb-devices (smartphones, tablets) and smart-devices (computers). And ARM is just trying to evolve their chips to make them as powerful as Intel chips. Well, guess what? For that, there's already Intel chips. ARM chips will eventually reach a point that they've become so powerful and expensive that their current advantages over Intel chips will vanish. Then what? Well, then Intel will still have the upper hand as they understand powerful chips much better than ARM does. However, no matter what, Microsoft does NOT understand mobile. That's their biggest problem, shown not only by the failure of Windows Phone but also by how they butchered the mobile experience on Windows 10. The Surface was a 2-in-1 on Windows 8.1. The touch experience was easy then. With Windows 10 it became a laptop with a detachable keyboard.
And the Windows apps? Still going nowhere, much thanks to Microsoft.
The UWP is by all accounts a complete failure.
And this "Windows 10 ARM" and the building-in of the emulator into it just gives developers yet another reason to not bother with Windows apps. What for? They can continue building their x86 programs and be done with it. Oh and worth noting, the World doesn't begin and end with Adobe products. Want a good example of an x86 program? Google Chrome. Which happens to be the most used browser on Windows. Google does NOT offer Chrome in the Windows store. They could do it and have people for example on the Xbox using it.
So to have a Windows ARM device that might work with consumers, Microsoft will have to make sure they can emulate simple stuff like Chrome. Otherwise it will be just as dead as Windows RT and Windows Phone are. I just don't think it will work out that well.
Microsoft would do better to continue to try to work things out with Google and other developers instead of finding ways around them.
Because one thing I can clearly foresee: if the emulation tools are open to anyone, Microsoft might be throwing itself into a sea of legal problems. This is the conundrum that makes Microsoft not succeed outside their existing strongholds. To succeed on mobile currently they either need to bring on developers or all sizes or to be able to work around that with these emulation schemes.
I doubt any of them will work.
Microsoft will have a mobile future. But they'll need technology that isn't available yet. Until then, they'd be better off making sure Windows is up to snuff for when that technology arrives instead of waiting for it to arrive and then try to develop Windows around it.
However, so far, we know nothing. There are no devices yet, nothing. We can only speculate.
As for the developers, they'll likely need to consent on the emulation. There are legal issues behind it which Microsoft will have to work on before release (copyright protection laws aren't the same worldwide and emulation doesn't have the same legal status everywhere). But yes, the failure of Windows RT is absolutely due to it being completely locked down AND (and we should remind ourselves of this) attached to stupidly overpriced devices (the Surface RT sold for over 600€ which was ridiculous for such an underpowered device...and the 1 billion loss it made Microsoft sort of speaks for that).
They're moving to cloud services (i.e. Office 365). I'm far from a Windows fan, in fact I just got a Windows laptop this past summer...my first in years. I think Microsoft clearly sees the end of Desktop coming, and will be well prepared to continue innovating as a cloud/services company. But to defend Jerry (not that he needs my help) trying to shoehorn desktop apps onto a phone is an excruciating experience. Any time I come across a web site not optimized for mobile, I wish I could reach through my phone and smack the developer. And I think we'd all agree that Microsoft's attempts at mobile have been a disaster.
All your apps and data are on one device. And when you work in your office and go home, you take your phone without closing all your open apps. Then at home, you can continue to work from the exact same state (if you want to work at home). I doubt that people in the future want to buy and use 10 different devices for every aspect of their life, when their phone is capable of doing all of this.
That said, Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft will be offering Windows 10 on Qualcomm to device makers “across a variety of categories, including 6-, 10- and 14-inch categories.” So it won’t be only PCs. It will be mini-tablets, traditional tablets, 2-in-1s, and notebook/portable PCs of all kinds. Fanless PCs. Silent PCs. PCs that get hours and hours of battery life. PCs that can compete with both iPad Pro and traditional laptops.
What they won’t be is phones. But that 6-inch form factor must have some wondering. After all, the Nokia Lumia 1520 was a 6-inch design, and that did run on Windows Phone OS back in the day. Could Win32 app compatibility come to phones too?
I doubt Microsoft will deny hardware makers this opportunity, but they’ll need to use full Windows 10 on those devices, at least for the foreseeable future, and not Windows 10 Mobile. So we should now look out for any plans that Microsoft may have to bring phone features to full Windows 10. For example, the firm is going to offer cellular data access through Windows Store, and that means that ARM-based Windows 10 PCs are going to include SIM slots. Can’t they make phone calls? Why not?
This is a nice out for those of us still in mourning for Windows phone. There is a future there, a way forward, a platform that combines the best of what we love with this best of what we need. And that platform is not Windows phone. It is Windows 10.
Huzzah." What Microsoft is doing is indirectly competing against Android and IOS. Notice how Microsoft is only going to support 6 inch category 'phablets' that does phone calls. Not 7 inch, not 8 inch or 9 inch. Only 6 inch devices. They will have Esim technology as well and everything. This indirect competition from Windows worked, it made Android tablets irrelevant to anybody and OEMs, iPads continued to decline, introduction of the iPad Pro, Pixel C where it was thought to be vision as a future of personal computing (failed at it massively) it got Windows Tablets to have 16% of market share and increasing and a highly profitable market that Android currently suffers. The situation with X86 on ARM is similar to the transition from 32 bit to 64 Bit. Where as more 64 bit computers continued to sell more, more developers started to develop for 64 bit PCs, to take advantage of the hardware. The same case is for Win32 to UWP. The lack of X64 apps is a strategic (and technical) move for Microsoft and Qualcomm as a way to have developers use UWP to take advantage of the hardware found, as UWP works on 64/32 bit, ARM and X86 natively.
Satya Nadella is a VERY smart man. Banked 26 Billion on LinkedIn, because he knows the future of CRM, caused Salesforce to have a fit and claim monopoly, Microsoft got away with and not share LinkedIn trove of data. They undermined the whole PC Gaming industry because of UWP/DX12 and Windows 10's 400 million people and growing.
Tough to beat an OS which has crazy millions of people working on it for free.
Security be damned, let it just work.
Object based programming makes it "easy" to do just about anything. Command line correction/ proofing
is near impossible however.
Many many things can be hid in Objects, not all good and/or stable.
But I digress.
for me, after last 8 years on linux and some time on mac, windows is still a pain in the ass.
Nothing better, easier, or appealing about them in this conversation.
P.s. my surface pro 3 is a great desktop, meeting laptop, and tablet when I'm wasting time waiting on the family somewhere...
And if it were a less-than-pound laptop-ish peripheral (screen and keyboard), it'd be lot easier for average consumers to dock it and use it as a PC. (or, cast on a big screen and connect a keyboard while at home)
Using a single versatile device, they don't even need to give a sh** about seamless cloud syncing thingy. All the favorite apps. files, photos, music, videos and what not are always there. I'm just saying.
1000 shots to your intellect buddy keep it up.
If Google pulled off unified-OS that runs Android on the phone while it morphs into ChromeOS UI when it gets external display, it'd be nice, albeit just a novelty.
My point is, continuum itself isn't really a bad idea at all.
Their market relied on innovation by users who added pieces and changed pieces regularly, which drove innovation, I used to build and modify my own PC's regularly adding and changing bits from one pc to another but I don't bother now because windows will refuse to work when I swop several bits. Anyone who ever spent time trying to get windows reactivated by phone will realise it is a costly and pointless exercise both in time and money admittedly it was many years ago when I tried but I was to phone America (I'm in the UK and at the time phone calls to USA were expensive) you're better off just scrubbing it and installing linux which is what I did, The desktop market is dying because of lack of innovation not because phones are better computers, in fact phones are crap computers and touch screen tablets are fine for half an hour of surfing but struggle with any decent applications. Desktops have stagnated now the one I have is over five years old and I don't bother replacing it because apart from an SSD there's nothing new that would make more than a marginal improvement to it and it's over five years old.
Unfortunately, Continuum is a couple years too late. Companies are already converting their programs to applications - like TurboTax, so the necessity of a phone that runs desktop applications is less necessary. That being said, it will be a long time before the mobile Excel app will be able to replace the desktop program for my purposes.