WinInfo Short Takes, September 16, 2011

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other BUILD news ...

Windows 8 Gets Off to a Fast Start

Microsoft reported Wednesday morning that users downloaded more than 500,000 copies of the developer preview version of Windows 8 in its first 24 hours of availability, indicating that people are in fact pretty darned excited by the release. "We're gratified by the reactions and the interest," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during his brief appearance at BUILD. Now go buy Windows Phone, too, please. No seriously, go buy a Windows Phone.

The Windows 8 Schedule?

When asked about when it would deliver Windows 8 to customers, Microsoft executives this week were deliberately coy, pulling out the old "we won't ship any software before it's time" baloney. I think there's a schedule, and if you look back on how it worked with Windows 7, you'll see something like a beta release in January—just in time for CES—a Release Candidate (RC) in April, and then the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version in July. That puts Windows 8 general availability (GA) at almost exactly this time a year from now. Which seems like a long way off, but let's face it, Microsoft just did something it hasn't done in years. There are now tons of people who were previously considering an iPad who will now simply wait for Windows 8. Mission accomplished.

Top Windows 8 Question: How Do You "Close" a Metro App in Windows 8?

Answer: You don't. Windows automatically suspends apps that aren't on the screen and, over time, will shut them down as needed, so you don't have anything to worry about, or anything to micro-manage. In some ways, it works a lot like it does on Windows Phone, which makes sense, though it's a much more sophisticated system. And if a Metro app does hang, you can always kill it with Task Manager, just like you do with today's applications. I'm guessing that won't be a pressing need, based on the quality of the underlying platform, called Windows Run Time (WinRT).

#2 Windows 8 Question: How Do You Change the Background Color of the Start Screen?

That's called the Accent color, and for now you don't. But there's a Control Panel coming for that in a future pre-release build; it's just hidden in the Developer Preview.

And the Single Most Confusing Thing About Windows 8 Is...

ARM. Windows 8 will run on both ARM and Intel-type x86/x64 chipsets, and while the latter is clear-cut, the former is not. Microsoft has said that the ARM version(s) of Windows 8 will not run legacy Windows applications—meaning all the existing software out there today—but that it will run all new Metro-style apps (the ones that run from the new Start screen). But will ARM versions of Windows 8 even come with the Windows desktop?  Will all the normal Windows desktop apps that ship in Windows 8—like WordPad and Notepad and Paint—come with the ARM version(s)? Will developers be able to create new desktop applications that run on ARM? We don't know. And for now, Microsoft isn't saying.

Microsoft Has Not "Banned" Flash from Windows 8

I've seen several reports this week claiming that Microsoft has followed Apple in joining the anti-Flash crowd and has banned the company's web technologies from Windows 8. That's not true. What's happened is that Windows 8 includes two versions of the Internet Explorer (IE) web browser, one that runs in the new shell (or Start screen) and one that runs on the classic desktop interface (like today's IE). The latter is fully 64-bit (on 64-bit versions of Windows), and there is in fact a beta version of Flash that works on that version. But the new "immersive" or "tailored" version of IE—the one that runs on the new shell—doesn't support add-ins, which is how Flash is currently delivered. This is entirely in keeping with the sandboxed, locked-down nature of these so-called Metro-style apps. But if you need Flash in Windows 8 for some reason, you've got it. In the desktop version of IE.

Microsoft Could Make Billions ... On Android

Microsoft's patent-licensing deals with Android hardware makers just seem to be getting more and more lucrative, with Acer, General Dynamics, HTC, Onkyo, ViewSonic, Wistron, and others all ponying up between $5 and $15 per Android handset sold. According to the market researchers at Trefis, this means that Android licensing could soon be Microsoft's next $1 billion business, assuming Android keeps selling well. And, of course, if Windows Phone takes off, all the better. Trefis calls this a win-win, because Microsoft wins whether Android or Windows Phone comes out on top. But with Android and Windows Phone as the top two mobile platforms of the future, this isn't a win-win, it's WINNING.

Potential Blockbuster Story of the Week. Next Week.

AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo! are reportedly close to sealing an online advertising deal that would pit the three firms against Google. The deal would let the three companies sell the combined space on their collective sites to advertisers, creating a much bigger audience than that offered by Google, which is currently the market leader. None of the companies has confirmed the report, but then none has denied it either. "We are always looking for ways to partner with others in the digital advertising ecosystem to offer innovative solutions that benefit advertisers and publishers," a Microsoft spokesperson said, apparently while silently mouthing the phrase "It's a go!" and offering a thumbs-up. Subtle.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Mary Jo and I were in Anaheim, California, this week for BUILD, so we recorded a live episode of the Windows Weekly podcast directly from the BUILD expo show floor. It was a great time, and we had a lot of our fellow bloggers on with us, and, yes, shenanigans occurred. (I recommend the video version for this one.) The new episode should be available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, the SuperSite Blog, and on Windows Phone Secrets. Coming soon: Windows 8 Secrets!
TAGS: Windows 8
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