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8 Days a Week: Phone 8, Orb, and Office 15

Last week may have been a quiet one but that was clearly just the calm before the storm. This week, Windows 8 exploded into the news in a way it hasn't since the Developer Preview release last September, with numerous interesting revelations, none of them official. If you cover or watch the tech news as avidly as I do, you live for weeks like this. They don't happen very often.

But first, the boring stuff: Microsoft's on-the-record blog posts.

From on high: Feedback and a plugin-less web browser

Microsoft was pretty quiet this past week, which makes sense: The software giant is gearing up for a February release of its long-awaited Beta Consumer Preview release of Windows 8, and I'm sure the folks on the Windows team are quite busy indeed. There were only two relevant posts from official Microsoft blogs this week.

The first, well ... I don't mean to take credit for this entirely, but I have to think I played some role in it. Just days after bringing up the topic of or how (or even whether) Microsoft incorporates feedback into the development of Windows 8 on the Windows Weekly podcast, the company published a lengthy blog post covering just that topic. I covered the changes--all related to the Windows desktop and file management--in Responding to Feedback, Microsoft Makes Changes to Windows 8 File Management.

Then, Microsoft very briefly discussed its intention to ship two versions of Internet Explorer in Windows 8, one a traditional desktop application that works much like today's IE and one a Metro-style app that will not support plug-ins. This change isn't news--both are available in the Developer Preview from September, and Microsoft already discussed its decision to make IE Metro plugin-free--but it was treated as such by the media, which apparently isn't paying attention. My own post on this topic, Windows 8 and the Plug-in Free Web, summarizes the Microsoft post, but again, there's nothing new to discuss here. Moving on.

Big news week: From around the blogosphere

A lot happened this week, of course.

On Thursday, Pocketnow revealed the contents of an internal Microsoft video starring Joe Belfiore that was created for the company's partners at Nokia. In it, Belfiore runs down virtually the entire Windows Phone 8 feature-set, and I covered the bulk of it in my own article, Windows Phone 8 Preview. It's worth noting, however, that there's more to this story. Out of respect to Windows Phone, Nokia, and the folks at Microsoft, however, I'll continue sitting on what I know. It's all good news.

The number one question coming out of this revelation, however, is whether existing phones will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8, which is indeed based on the Windows 8 kernel and shares many key components and user experiences. The simple answer is I don't know; I've never been told or seen any information about this topic one way or the other. But I do have some thoughts. First, there's no technical reason that at least some existing Windows Phone handsets couldn't support the upgrade. But second, I can't imagine that wireless carriers are even slightly interested in making that happen. So I don't expect it to happen. That's just an opinion, however.

In the wake of the Windows Phone 8 news, I also wrote about how those revelations inform us about Windows 8 in Windows 8 Secrets: What Windows Phone 8 Tells Us About Windows 8. This is part fact, part speculation, but I tried to be obvious about which was which. I think the most interesting bit is that Windows 8 will include the media experiences from Windows Phone. That's awesome, and I can't wait to see them, hopefully in the coming Consumer Preview.

A few days ago, a Chinese web site leaked what appeared to be a Consumer Preview-era build of Windows 8 that did not include the Start Orb, or what some people still think of as the Start button (on the desktop). This looked cropped to me and I verified that applying a well-know registry hack would achieve the same effect. So I dismissed this as rumor. Since then, however, I've been told by a trusted source at Microsoft that the Start Orb is indeed gone from the Consumer Preview build of Windows 8. So I wrote about that topic this morning in a blog post called Start Orb Removed in Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

The sheer amount of excitement over these topics suggests to me that rumors of Microsoft's impending death are highly exaggerated and wishful thinking on the part of the Apple crowd. People are flocking to news about Windows 8, and this makes me think that this month's release of the Consumer Preview is going to be huge. I can't wait.

And then there's Office 15.

Microsoft's next Office version is as steeped in mystery as is Windows 8. On Monday, Microsoft revealed that its Office 15 technical preview has begun. But this isn't open to the public. Instead, only close partners have access to the pre-release version of the office productivity suite, with a public beta expected in the summer.

As I noted in my post, Office 15 will be a big release, Microsoft says, and this will mark the first time it will simultaneously update all of its Office-based cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio.

Office 15 for Windows is expected in late 2012 or early 2013, so it probably won't hit at the same time as Windows 8. But like Windows 8, there are many, many questions. Key among them: What about Office for Mac, iOS, and Android?

We don't know. And we really want to know. So I guess the announcement had the desired effect.

Yes, Virginia, We're covering Windows Phone 8 in Windows 8 Secrets

If you've been paying attention to what I've written about Windows 8 Secrets previously, you may have noticed that I've never really revealed the table of contents for this book or explicitly discussed the topics Rafael and I are covering. There's a reason for that. Like the title of the book itself, some of the content is still a secret. But yes, I can now tell you that we'll be covering Windows Phone 8 pretty heavily. That was part of the secret.

Now that Windows Phone 8 has been revealed somewhat, I suppose it's OK for me to reveal how we're doing this in the book: We've integrated coverage of the phone all over the book as well as given it its own dedicated chapter. So you may consider Windows 8 Secrets to be a follow-up to both Windows 7 Secrets and Windows Phone Secrets. Because it is. And I love that, because Windows Phone Secrets was also all-new material, and a much more reasonable length. This new book will be similar.

Speaking of which, I wrote previously that Windows 8 Secrets will only be covering new information. That is, it's not an update to the previous book, Windows 7 Secrets, with edited and slightly rewritten content that appeared previously; it's all new writing. And that's true. But since Windows Phone is so new to most people--part of Microsoft's expectations for Windows Phone 8 is that the vast majority of its users will be new to smart phones, period--the phone is, in effect, all-new for most people.

That's not to say I'll be cutting and pasting Windows Phone Secrets into the new book. But Windows Phone Secrets is indeed a good starting point, not just for the phone material in the new book, but for the general user experience discussions. That's because so much of what makes Windows Phone special is coming to Windows 8. And I'm excited to finally be able to discuss that. I've been bursting at the seams, frankly, and I didn't expect even the slightest bit of Windows Phone 8 material to become public for quite some time. So while I have my reservations about this happening so soon, it is like a weight off my shoulders.

It also partially explains why there was no Windows Phone 7.5 Secrets. There just wasn't enough time for a book like that to make sense.

(On a related note, imagine how horrible it would have been trying to write about Windows 8 without having extensive experience using and writing about Windows Phone. This is yet another area where Rafael and I are very well positioned. The competition just can't match our experience.)

Folks, both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to be awesome. As a result, so is the book.  

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