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How Windows Red can fix Windows 8: The right strategy for Microsoft

Galen Gruman | June 4, 2013
A proposal to rescue Windows 8 and fulfill Microsoft's promise to deliver a modern computing experience on both PCs and tablets.

In Windows Red Mobile, we enhance the Snap View function that lets two apps run side by side by letting users adjust that division through a slider. Windows 8's Metro environment fixes one app to 75 percent of the screen width and the other to 25 percent, which aren't always the best divisions. Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8.1 "Blue" also provides an adjustable slider for Snap View, which we're glad to see. But we're dubious about its splitting of the screen into four windows — on a tablet, those windows are simply too small to be useful. So Windows Red doesn't do that.

Tablet users get a real Microsoft Office, Desktop users get the People app

Rather than create a tablet-savvy version of Microsoft Office for Metro, Microsoft made a few tweaks to its existing Office version, such as a full-screen mode. It's a really bad experience on a touchscreen. To make Office run on Windows RT tablets, Microsoft essentially created a runtime version of Office that exists outside of the RT operating system.

It's not clear why Microsoft has no true Metro version of Office. Perhaps it's afraid that a Metro version — which would be priced much cheaper, as mobile apps always seem to be — would undercut its highly profitable Office sales and staunch one of Microsoft's big income flows. But the lack of a realistic mobile version of Office only depresses demand for mobile Windows, which will depress Office sales as people adopt other mobile OSes running other office productivity apps like Apple's iWork or Google's Quickoffice. Microsoft needs to bite the bullet and build Office for Metro. On the Windows Desktop, Office 2013 is great; Office for Metro needs to be great, too.

Microsoft did create one compelling app for Windows Phone that it wisely brought to Windows 8: the People app, which runs in Metro. It combines contact management and social networking, so you can go to any contact and participate in their social conversations in one place. It's a smart idea that originated in the defunct Palm WebOS, was adopted by the short-lived Microsoft Kin, and performed well in Windows Phone.

Although the Metro People app could run in Windows Red Pro's Desktop, we believe the app deserves to be a native Desktop app because it is so useful. As a Desktop app, it could be enhanced with capabilities such as group messaging, support for multiple simultaneous conversations, and perhaps some sort of Google Hangout-like video clustering. Integration, or at least symbiosis, with Skype and Microsoft Lync is also a natural Desktop extension.

Windows Red should be Windows 9
Microsoft almost never admits a mistake — it's even more arrogant than Apple in this regard. Microsoft doesn't change its public plans either; for example, despite nine months of growing concerns over Windows 8 and Windows RT before official release, Microsoft shipped its new OSes as is, with zero adjustments to the chorus of criticism.

 

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