There is no ARM in Windows RT

Windows RT is the name of Microsoft’s version of Windows 8 for ARM processors, right?  It’s aimed primarily at Consumers, right?  It’s role in business is primarily in the BYOD realm, right?  That’s so 2012!  Let’s talk about strategy and where I think Microsoft will go with Windows and particularly Windows RT.  And how their strategy may become more obvious in 2013.

The name Windows RT wasn’t chosen to convey a message about Windows moving to ARM processors.  Nor was it chosen to convey that it was a Tablet OS.  The name appears to have been chosen primarily for one reason, it is an operating system devoted to running Windows RunTime apps.  It splits the mainstream Windows product into two families.  Windows for running Win32 “desktop” and Windows RunTime applications and Windows RT that drops the legacy Win32 application support.  Windows RT is Microsoft’s go forward client operating system, while Windows is the operating system Microsoft will need to keep selling and enhancing for a transition that will last a decade or more, but it will eventually be considered a legacy.

I know I just sent a lot of people’s blood pressure through the roof because today they either (a) dislike Metro/Modern/whatever-you-call-it ,Windows RunTime, or the Start Screen and/or (b) the new environment isn’t really suitable for their usage scenario.  But keep in mind I’m talking about where things are going over several releases of the re-imagined Windows.  There will be many refinements, improvements, and changes before Windows RT replaces Windows as Microsoft’s primary client operating system offering.

The desktop lives forever, right?  Well, on Windows yes but not on Windows RT.  Today Windows RT only needs the desktop for two reasons.  First, many traditional utilities from the File Explorer to much of system management are only available as desktop apps.  Second, Microsoft Office is only available as desktop apps.  But in each release going forward this will become less true.  A Metro File Explorer will become standard.  More and more system management will move to the new model.  And eventually Microsoft will remove the desktop from Windows RT.  Then it will be able to remove many pieces of legacy (including Win32), making Windows RT smaller, faster, and more secure (via smaller attack surface) than it’s Windows sibling.

Microsoft started the ball rolling with Windows RT on ARM because that was the most practical thing to do.  With ARM unable to run existing x86 apps Microsoft had to decide if it would evangelize conversions of existing applications to ARM or put the energy into getting developers to write new Metro/Modern apps.  And without a library of Modern apps it was unlikely that any of the x86-oriented OEMs would create an x86 Windows RT system.   No rational amount of pricing difference on Microsoft’s part would encourage a OEM to use an operating system with no applications when they could just as simply use one with a huge, if aging, library.  ARM thus became the obvious place to introduce Windows RT.

As the library of applications in the Windows Store grows it becomes more and more likely that Microsoft will introduce Windows RT for x86 systems.  Will that happen in 2013?  By the end of 2013 the Windows Store will likely have in excess of 150,000 Apps.  Perhaps in excess of 200,000.  Assuming that the quality is there (meaning they are the apps people want and are equal to their iPad and Android equivalents) the market for systems with no need to run legacy desktop apps will have grown dramatically.  Microsoft, many of its OEMs, and Intel (of course) will want the option of using Clover Trail (and its follow-ons) in those systems.  So it is quite possible that Microsoft makes Windows RT available for Clover Trail-based systems in 2013, and it seems a certainty for 2014.

As a side note this is something that Paul Thurrott will probably not be happy about.  Paul has called on Microsoft to use Clover Trail in its next generation of the Surface so that it would have the full Windows experience.  But I expect that if Microsoft did use Clover Trail in a Surface (as opposed to Surface Pro) replacement that system would still run Windows RT.  Sorry Paul 🙂

If Windows RT for x86 is speculative in 2013 here is something I think is a surer bet.  Windows RT will expand into a family that mirrors the editions of Windows.  I expect that in 2013 we will see a Windows RT Enterprise (and perhaps Pro as well) edition.  Why?  Well the current edition of Windows RT is missing some key functionality that would accelerate its adoption within Enterprises.  And I’m not even talking about UI or Windows RunTime changes that would increase the application space it was applicable to.  I’m talking purely about lower level operating system features.

Being able to participate in a domain is part of Microsoft’s secret sauce for enterprises, and today Windows RT can’t do that.  A Windows RT Enterprise edition would bring the ability to join a domain, use DirectAccess, use BitLocker, fully participate in Microsoft’s management capabilities, etc.  Whereas the solutions introduced in 2012 are acceptable for BYOD situations and some limited application scenarios, an Enterprise edition would allow Windows RT systems to participate as full members of the enterprise computing environment.

Windows RT Enterprise will not allow side-loading of desktop applications, but it may allow side-loading of limited types of system software.  As great as DirectAccess is (and given my involvement in it I’m biased, but then I also lived with it as my “VPN” for a year so know how fantastic the user experience is) most enterprises use Cisco VPNs.  And while Windows RT is certainly adequately protected with Windows Defender, IE SmartScreen, etc. most enterprises will want at least the management capabilities of enterprise-oriented security products and probably the ability to use their corporate standard (i.e., Symantec, McAfee, etc.) products and infrastructure.  Unless Microsoft addresses these adoption of Windows RT will be much slower than desired.

And what about requirements for access to desktop applications on Windows RT systems?  Many, perhaps most, enterprises are fine with using VDI to allow users of these systems to access desktop applications.  Some are downright enthusiastic.  But many do not want that access occurring off their corporate network.  Hence the need for the ability to join a domain, and use DirectAccess or VPNs when users need remote access.  You then run VDI over the corporate network.

Now we get to another wildcard in all of this, Office.  Today’s situation with Office being a desktop Win32 application on Windows RT, and only being available in the Home and Student edition, represents a major drag on Microsoft’s ability to move Windows RT forward.  Microsoft needs to either allow upgrade of the edition of Office on Windows RT to an Enterprise edition (including, for example, making Outlook available) or to move Office fully to Metro/Modern (likely in multiple editions).  They may do both given the time it could take to create a true Office RT.

An Office RT would benefit the entire Windows RT  and Windows 8 market and is the logical direction for Office to go.  But I find it hard to believe they can get to full equivalence with the Win32 Office apps in a year, let alone in a traditional longer release cycle.  We’ll see some, perhaps substantial, movement in this direction in 2013 but I don’t know how far Microsoft will get.  In the mean time they may find it prudent to release Office 2013 Enterprise (standalone and/or as part of Office 365) for Windows RT systems.  However this rolls out, Microsoft will substantially improve the Office for Windows RT situation in 2013.

Finally, let me reinforce a point I’ve blogged about before.  Microsoft is moving to annual (or more frequent) updates as a (at least unofficial) corporate standard for release cycles.  There may be exceptions from time to time, but I’d expect pretty much every actively developed product to have annual releases.  That means faster evolution in smaller chunks is the norm.  You don’t like how the Start Screen works today?  By the end of the year there will no doubt be improvements that address major complaints.  Windows RunTime missing an API that keeps you from creating a Metro/Modern version of your App?  You might have it later this year.  Can’t stand that the Share contract doesn’t work with Outlook?  Again, a solution may appear faster than Microsoft customers have ever imagined possible.

2012 was an exciting year for Microsoft and its customers.  2013 may be even more exciting, and delightful.



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47 Responses to There is no ARM in Windows RT

  1. jon says:

    How is a “Metro” File Explorer even possible, given that Metro/RT/WindowsStore/Modern/Non-Legacy/Whatever apps are sandboxed and can’t see anything outside of a few library locations?

    • guest says:

      Think about IE/WinStore etc, a special kind of app with super power

    • halberenson says:

      There are third party Metro file explorers already, though of course they do face the sandboxing issue.

      Metro tomorrow is not limited by what we see of Metro today. Repeat numerous times.

      In the short run Microsoft could use the (apparently undocumented) “Full Trust” capability (that web browsers use) to create a File Explorer that provided a Metro user experience even if it wasn’t a pure Metro app. In the longer run I’d expect Microsoft to add a “Full File System Access” capability that allowed an App to access the entire file system while otherwise being sandboxed. However, they might not make that capability available to third-party Apps. It might only be usable by Apps that are part of Windows itself.

  2. Nick K says:

    Here’s hoping this turns out to be the case… Still, doesn’t Microsoft have a chicken-and-egg problem with bootstrapping Windows 8 and RT?

    Either because of Intel’s failure to deliver Clover Trail on time, OEMs’ issues with supply chain backlogs, or a plain lack of interest on users’ part, Windows 8 isn’t exactly flying off the shelves. Whatever of it is available there. At the same time, businesses who could benefit dramatically from the Surface bundled IE10, Office, and TypeCover are not buying due to all enterprise limitations mentioned above. So, who’s going to be adopting it?

    As a developer, I also find the promise of 200,000 quality apps by the end of 2013 a bit of a stretch. First of, ‘quality’ sadly doesn’t apply to a vast majority of Windows Store apps starting with Microsoft own stock (Xbox Music is an unmitigated disaster!). Second, the initial growth may disappear as soon as people churning out apps realize the hundreds millions of devices thing preached by Mr. Ballmer isn’t happening. If the adoption slows, will there be the same enthusiasm to build and support? What about the wildcards of BlackBerry 10 or Samsung move to Tizen? There seems to be no lack of latecomers vying to capture a slice of the market and some of them (Samsung) know how to push large quantities needed to create and sustain an ecosystem.

    Finally, this vision of pure RT future assumes Microsoft has years to handle its transition while remaining relevant. But its major competitors are not standing still. Both Apple and Google have mature and widely adopted platforms, with no major departures expected, and continue to enhance their offerings. Apple in particular has been converging both OS X and iOS for a while now, and while it may never run a “fridge and a toaster hybrid” of the two, they are just a few revisions (and a TypeCover of their own) away from offering a well-rounded “post-PC” vision that seamlessly unifies desktops, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. I sure hope Microsoft’s strategy here didn’t include Mayan end-of-the-world thing…

  3. Sumit says:

    All that’s said here sound like Beethoven to me 🙂 and would love for MS to go this direction… With all the negativity around Surface RT I was scared MS might just scrap Windows RT!!! This gives me hope!!!

  4. JimmyFal says:

    Interesting that “blue” is supposed to be out in the next 6 months. It would be nice if these releases of major updates, if they will be yearly, would be pre-summer as to give everyone a chance to get used to everything before the fall crunch of getting busy.

    It’s also funny to hear people talk about all the negativity surrounding Surface. Because last time I checked Amazon’s ratings for Surface there were 99 reviews averaging 4 and 5 stars. I’m sure the product would have a LOT more difficulty gaining popularity if actual users were in fact giving it bad reviews.

    I think the only thing wrong with Surface other than lack of apps which will come is the price which should be more attractively lowered by $100. All my early stability complaints about Surface are mostly gone.

  5. blue ninja says:

    I get the strategy. But it feels like OS 2. Technically strong, and enterprise IT want it to work but very late, and poor application and OEM support! I can see limp ‘blue ninja’, ‘better DOS than DOS better Windows than Windows’ marketing this year (replace DOS Wiindows with IOS / Andrioid). billg nightmares come to life. MS 2013 == IBM 1990?

  6. Tim says:

    I didn’t think joining a domain was as big a deal these days. Aren’t corporations are moving toward the understanding that no “network” is secure. Rather, they’re securing their data. In my own company, we are moving to encrypting all data on the wire — internally on our private network. I’m certainly not that knowledgeable about domains and networks, but if you assume no network is safe and instead focus on securing your data/servers and application endpoints, would it make a huge difference whether WinRT was able to join a domain?

    I recently saw Brian Madden present on this topic (about security)…quite interesting.

    • halberenson says:

      The network edge is indeed fracturing, but most corporations are trying to keep it in place as long as possible. With IPsec (and IPv6) the assumption had been that a computer makes a secure encrypted connection to another computer, and typical functions of network edge security are moved into the endpoints, but corporations are extremely leery of this. They want the ability to monitor network traffic for things like Data Loss Prevention, IDS/IPS, etc.. So IPv6 adoption has been held up until the ability to read this secure traffic could be implemented in network security devices, routers, etc. I don’t know their current state.

      If you eliminate the network edge the ability to monitor, manage, and enforce policies on the end-points goes UP and the adequacy of solutions such as Windows Defender in the corporate environment goes down.

      Besides, domains aren’t a security mechanism in and of themselves. They are used as part of authorization, policy distribution, backup of Bitlocker keys, etc. so they play a major role in security. But basically they are a network management concept that has very little to do with network edge security.

  7. Andrey says:

    I had this very idea in the Summer of 2012. Windows 8 looked like a very promising long term strategy. However, as more presentations and Microsoft blogs appeared, it became more and more clear that Microsoft is either not thinking strategy or the strategy is doomed to fail. Right now exactly nothing non-trivial can be implemented in RT. This can be fixed later and we are promised annual updates that will enhance the SDK and, consequently, the system itself. However, it is impossible to base the future of computing on COM, even if you move the RTTI from type libraries to plain files. When I see that not only COM requirements took precedence over .NET achievements, but JavaScript limitations took precedence over COM limited abilities, I cannot believe in any strategy.

    Considering the proven inability of Microsoft to handle infighting and the sad fact that it is technically much easier to fix Android then to upgrade the Windows RT COM based fundamentals, I doubt that Microsoft has enough years to fix that which we have now with annual updates.

    Since the desktop part of Windows 8 has been considerably and successfully improved, my bet is that Microsoft survives both the RT and achievements of competitors and RT will be yet another once hyped and next forgotten Microsoft technology. I expect something like the Windows Phone 7 upgrades fiasco. The strategy you wright about is likely to be implemented, but not this time.

  8. Vincent says:

    Win8 is a fail. Primarily on desktop, but mobile users also don’t hurry to buy MS tablets. Mobile market is shared by Google and Apple with a lot of quality apps. What MS gonna offer there? Next idiotic reincarnation of Office? Super-solitaire? Skype? Nobody need it. MS waste time on a stupid idea “let’s pull their eggs into mobile world and take control over their data”. How many stupids you know to follow it?? So my primary market is desktop with WinXP/Win7 + .NET; Hope MS will quickly heal from mobile virus and concentrate on desktop.

  9. louisila says:

    Reblogged this on Ely Bob's space and commented:
    If you have Any lingering confusion about the difference between ARM and WinRT and what Win8 means for Microsoft check this out:

  10. Wake says:

    The advantage Microsoft has always had over Apple and Linux is the number of programs that are available for it. In the consumer/mobile space Apple has taken the lead away from Microsoft, if Microsoft follows the strategy that is laid out here and plans to drop legacy support ANYTIME, that will be the year you see Microsoft start to lose real share to Linux and Apple. Microsoft better be happy they own business / desktop and stop trying to force their desktop users into a mobile operating system, if they don’t they will lose out in that space very fast, then they will have nothing left.

  11. markrendle says:

    This certainly seems like a realistic scenario, and not a bad one, but I hope that if Windows RT becomes the mainstream MS will allow third-party browsers and the like, and maybe even competing Stores, like Steam.

  12. Eletruk says:

    Maybe they should call it Windows SS, for SIngle Screen, because that’s really the only place the Modern UI is actually useful. I have been using Windows 8 for about a year now, and with the addition of Classic Shell, the only time I see the Modern UI is when I go to start up a game. And that isn’t very often. The problem with the Modern UI is that it is actually less productive than the start menu. What Microsoft should have done is made the Live Tiles be on the lock screen. Then all the updating information is available when you only need to glance at the screen. As it is, most of the info is not available, unless you happen to have apps that can post info on the lock screen (and even then you can only put on a few).
    I really wish Microsoft had taken more time to wait for feedback from beta users before they locked the whole UI/desktop dichotomy.

  13. Eric the Red says:

    While it is interesting to speculate about Microsoft’s strategy, a more important question for me is, when will Microsoft *tell us* what the strategy is? If the desktop is indeed going to go away, application developers need to know. If it is going to take more than a decade for the desktop to go away (which clearly it will), can Microsoft afford to already move it into “sustaining engineering”? Or are we going to see a few more rounds of innovation on the desktop before things go to sustaining engineering? Microsoft has a large incentive not to be real specific about the future, because if they were to come out and say “the desktop will be dead in 15 years”, people might start panicking and moving to MacOSX or something. But particularly us folks who are still build desktop applications for Windows need a little help to understand where we should be headed. So I’ll give Microsoft a year to see how things are shaking out with Windows 8/RT, but then I’m going to need some sort of real roadmap.

    • halberenson says:

      Do you have even a small clue of what the computing environment will look like in 15 years? I sure don’t. But I know it will be vastly different from where we are today. Even 10 years out is too far to plan for. That’s part of the point of my article actually. Microsoft won’t kill the desktop until it has been pretty well abandoned by customers and taken its place alongside the ability to run DOS applications as a legacy capability. That will take a long time. In fact longer than anyone’s planning horizon. Including Microsoft’s (which is short term these days compared to a few years ago).

      The Windows/Windows RT split allows Microsoft to avoid the need to say anything about a demise of the desktop. The desktop lives on, indefinitely, on Windows. The desktop could disappear in the next few years on Windows RT because the only scenarios they allowed it to be used for are Microsoft-controlled scenarios (i.e., Windows utilities and Office 2013). They will phase out those uses, followed by the Windows RT desktop itself.

      What Microsoft will do is continue to evangelize Metro/Modern and give lip service to the Desktop. Each (annual) release of Windows will expand the application space and user scenarios that can be addressed with Metro/Modern. Over time you, and all developers, will find users demanding Metro/Modern versions of your apps. Over time you’ll find them purchasing Windows RT and unable to run your desktop app. At some point you’ll have both versions, and then the demand for the desktop app will drop off. And then the point will come where you wish you could kill the desktop app because it is nothing more than a maintenance headache. At some point Microsoft will find that the majority of systems run Windows RT rather than Windows. And that they’ve done enough work so that all classes of applications are reasonable in the new world. That’s the point where they will decide on, and perhaps communicate, a roadmap for the eventual retirement of the desktop. Is that a 2-year phenomenon? Absolutely not. Is it likely (they will give guidance) within 10 years? Yes. Is it likely you can still purchase and deploy a version of Windows with the desktop in 10 years? Yes. Is that likely to be a mainstream high-volume product? No.

      In the mean time will there be innovation on the desktop? Maybe, but not much. I expect them to do some things to make the co-existence smoother than it is today. But other than that every month that goes by the demand for innovation on the desktop goes down. I’d bet heavily that usage of the Times Reader desktop app has peaked and that the NY Times is now pouring almost all its Windows-related resources into the Metro App. Do they care about innovation on the desktop? Highly doubtful. Do you think any of the CRM or ERP vendors are pushing Microsoft for desktop innovation? I don’t. I think they are pushing Microsoft on Metro/Modern features and Windows 8/RT usage improvements so that they can address the full range of scenarios currently in their desktop apps in Metro apps. And on and on. Now if developers and users get together and come up with a prioritized list of things they’d like to see addressed in the desktop then I can imagine Microsoft addressing many of the top items. Not out of a desire to innovate, but rather a desire to address customer satisfaction issues. But for the most part I expect the input from the developer community to rapidly shift away from “I want x, y and z in the desktop environment” to “I need a, b and c in the Metro environment so I can address my customer base with it”.

      Maybe that’s the long way of saying that Microsoft has already told us that Metro is the future. They don’t need to tell us that the desktop isn’t.

      • JOhn Mitas says:

        Let MS abandon the desktop metaphor … Im sure Android/ChromeOS, OSX/iOS, other operating systems will gladly make up for MS’s decision to abandon desktops!

        I’m looking to Apple if MS removes the desktop! Apple have been doing a brilliant job of keeping Mobile and Desktop unlike what I’m hearing from you!

  14. patbob says:

    The strength of Microsoft’s OSs are in the quantity and diversity of third-party applications that run on them. RT has a long way to go to get them back to that point, and may never be able to because its last to the party. However, with Windows 8, they can bring their OS to both the mobile and desktop worlds. Not only can you never be without access to your data, but you can also never be without access to your applications that utilize that data, no matter who writes them. In that kind of a world, RT is a hugely valuable supplement to the desktop OS in the near term. Microsoft may be really wanting us to migrate to their OS that can give us the best of both worlds and be carried with us all the time, giving us access to the strength of their platform anytime, anywhere.

  15. Tudor says:

    Of course Win RT is not just for ARM devices, but what everybody, including MS recognizes is that Win RT (or Modern UI) is only usable on touch-enabled devices (tablets, smartphones and a few laptops). Other than that, as long as somebody does not invent some new revolutionary and affrdable input device for desktops (other than the mouse, and better than it for all tasks), Windows 8 and Win RT is not usable there, or is usable with a sustained effort from the end-user.
    A 26″ touch-screen standing vertically on my desk is not a real solution, except for very limited scenarios.
    Most probably MS will soon come with a Win “9” version that will automatically detect the kind of hardware used and adjust the UI accordingly. For laptops, even without touch screens, they will probably keep the Metro UI, since a laptop is very often used without a mouse.

    Of course, MS marketing will talk only about Metro and Modern UI, because that’s where the new money comes from and that the market segment where they are lagging behind.

    • halberenson says:

      The Start Screen and other aspects are perfectly usable on non-touch devices. Could they make improvements? Sure. And they will.

      • Tudor says:

        Well, that’s your opinion 🙂 – thousand of customers find the Start Screen and most ‘Metro’ apps very hard to use and unnatural, using a mouse. Sure, all developers I know have already learned the necessary shortcuts keys to skip directly to the desktop screen and to avoid the new “Start screen”, but a non-technical person, used with a normal user interface will have a very hard time adjusting to this unnatural user interface.

  16. Mark says:

    Hmm, I can see this coming “want to play games?” “buy an XBOX!!”

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  18. Meg says:

    I imagine that Windows Blue will allow Modern UI applications to run in a window (with a frame), given the user has a large screen with high resolution. Applications that use utilizes WINRT API is the future. Applications that use this modern API is hardware platform independent, is sandboxed, ready for cloud computing, and is designed for energy efficiency.

    Win32 will gradually be phased out in the same manner as Win16 and MS-DOS.

  19. Pete says:

    RT will unify tablet and phone application platforms (someday, MS is moving slower than most assume), but the big question is what happens to the classic desktop? Can Microsoft make a seamless transition from mobile to desktop, and not sacrifice productivity? File explorer in RT shell is not sufficient.

  20. John Fro says:

    This is all very complicated. Can you imagine CAD or Photoshop in “Metro”?? Porting games over? Everything RT is going to have to revert to everything Win32 in order to get the fine-grained performance and control that these types of programs require. This is going to go in a big circle.

    • halberenson says:

      You mean things that need to be written in C++ and have direct access to graphics via DirectX and Direct3D? Yeah I guess…no wait, that’s already supported for Metro apps. And the mainstream gaming engines have indeed announced support for the platform.

      The need for a new apps model for Windows was driven by many things, such as solving Windows long-term problem with application state management, as well as newer issues such as extreme power and other memory management requirements. Fixing these things in Win32 has proven to be impossible and so the reset button was pressed. But there is nothing to say that once you have a cleaner model you can’t extend it, as long as you don’t break it.

      The UI paradigm change is another one where lots of extension is possible and likely forthcoming. Again the trick is to preserve the basic concepts and extend them in ways that don’t damage the environments they optimized for. Imagine a Photoshop that had three views, the Metro full-screen view, the snapped view, and a new workstation view where the latter was explicitly optimized for a pointer rather than touch.

      • Tudor says:

        “Imagine a Photoshop that had three views, the Metro full-screen view, the snapped view, and a new workstation view where the latter was explicitly optimized for a pointer rather than touch.”

        And do you really think that Adobe has any incentive to spend millions of dollars to rewrite from scratch Photoshop for WinRT in the next 10 years, when the current version works perfectly fine? 🙂 It the same case as for Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad and Android, that can never replace Photoshop and is just a toy application.

        The reality is that WinRT/Metro will be used only by small, newly written applications that are suitable for users that mainly consume information on a portable device, not for complex applications used to produce content in a professional way.. (of course, that’s for the next 10 – 15 years, what will happen later nobody knows).
        This is all fine – there is a big market also for this type of applications, as was proved by iPad success.

        • JimmyFal says:

          Maybe the bigger question for Hal is, if a Photoshop, or a QuickBooks can run on RT, does it have to be a finger friendly app or is it possible to still create these types of apps with mouse input? Does an RT app HAVE to be a touch app? I don’t mind using my finger on the tablets, but I don’t think I EVER envision using my 3 screens with my finger. Like, ever.

          • halberenson says:

            Today or in the future? I would expect any app in the current model to be touch friendly. That doesn’t mean you ever have to actually touch the screen.

            I postulate that Microsoft could add an additional view type that was not touch friendly, but all apps would have to ship with a touch friendly view as well.

        • halberenson says:

          Check history. It was the reluctance of productivity app vendors to jump on GUI brought about by the DOS->Windows transition that allowed Microsoft to go from the back of the pack to #1 with Office. Word and Excel owe their success to WordPerfect and Lotus not taking GUI seriously. The Word and Excel teams had to have their arms twisted to do it, but they did and the rest is history.

          If Adobe doesn’t pay attention to history they are fools, because you can bet Microsoft hasn’t forgotten. There are no doubt still people at Microsoft who have had dreams of making a major play in this area. If Adobe shows signs of following in Lotus and WordPerfect’s footsteps…well, sharks smelling blood in the water is a fitting analogy. And even if Microsoft has no interest, there are no doubt dozens of players who think they can do better than Photoshop but have been dissuaded by Adobe’s dominance. They will seize on a paradigm shift that Adobe fails to embrace.

          • Tudor says:

            That’s true – but that paradigm shift, when we are talking about big, desktop screens, still has to be invented.. Currently nobody is aware of any better input method for Photoshop-type applications (professional image processing) than a Wacom tablet or similar, complemented with a keyboard and mouse. Photoshop is optimized for this type of interaction, and currently nobody has come up with a better alternative. The finger on a touch screen simply is not a precise input device for this category of users.

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  22. patbob says:

    I agree with what you’re saying, but photoshop, in particular, is a poor example. The holy grail of every artist I know creating digital, hand-drawn flat artwork is a Centiq. I know some who are using iPads with a stylus. Like Hal says, its do or die for Photoshop. And you’re right, people won’t be using their fingers :), they’ll use a stylus when their finger isn’t precise enough.

    You are right though, there are tools that won’t translate well. Spreadsheets, accounting tools, word processors, video creation tools, are some, and I fear they’re getting left behind. Right now, almost nobody has a tablet as their only computing device, so they don’t really realize what won’t translate well — they feel forced to use their desktop for those sorts of applications, instead of feeling less productive when they’re stuck using a touch-enabled, defeatured, tablet version.

    • Tudor says:

      When I was talking about Photoshop, I was referring to professional photographers doing fine adjustments to a image – selections with pixel-level precision etc..

  23. I love Windows 8 and Modern UI (or whatever) and have enthusiastically adopted both. I have little time for people who refuse to try it and realise the benefits. But even I find myself shrinking from the idea of a full, Modern UI file explorer, or Office. I’m not saying I don’t want to see them, I just can’t, right now, imagine how they could possibly be as good as the existing versions, which have been iterated over decades to near-perfection.

    I fear a situation, if this scenario plays out, whereby the erroneous perception that Apple’s computers are the ones which must be used by serious creative designers (be it video, music, graphic design, etc.) and Windows is only for “the masses” might actually become true. If Windows is only available in Metro flavours, it’s hard to imagine versions of the most sophisticated, professional-grade applications, both in the creative and other industries, being as good for that OS as for others, if they exist at all. A Metro version of Photoshop? Pinnacle? I can’t even imagine it.

    But I hope to be proven wrong!

  24. Allen says:

    This blog entry explains why MS often times seems tone deaf to the rest of us. The whole Surface RT thing totally does’t make sense. Like others have already said, the unique value add Windows 8 brings to the market is the ability to run existing millions of desktop apps. This is something does not exist on either iOS or Android. Switching to ARM basically voluntarily giving up that unique advantage Microsoft has over Apple and Google. The absence of Windows RT in CES 2013 proves that the OEMs have realized this. It looks to me Windows RT days are numbered.

    I would strongly advise MS refrain from starting any competing products to compete with Adobe Photoshop. Years ago, I switched from Quicken to Microsoft Money when MS started the competing product to Quicken, thinking Microsoft product would crush Intuit …. I was wrong and had to convert my data back to Quicken. Recent history shows MS is not in any position to just enter an existing market and start taking away market share (i.e. Money, Zune, Windows Phone). Office win over Wordperfect and Lotus 123 is the exception rather than the rule. You are now the underdog …. drop the swagger.

    • halberenson says:

      I find it funny that people (a) think success depends on what happens in a two month period and (b) think Microsoft builds products based on what they expect to happen in a two month period. Windows RT is a long-term initiative, not a “drooling fan-boys will buy millions of these just because it has our name on it” product.

      OEMs who enter the ARM-based Windows RT device market at this point in the cycle are brave souls who want to make sure that when the platform does take off they will be positioned to gain leading market share. They knew or should have known that app availability would be limited in the first year. Microsoft limited the number of OEMs who could participate, so it isn’t clear if anyone could have announced at CES. The OEMs themselves appear to have forecast low numbers and ordered limited quantities of devices. And Microsoft threw a curve at them with the Surface, making them even more cautious. This is all good. Even Samsung deciding to hold off on a Windows RT product in the U.S. (and potentially other markets) is not a big deal. With its now expanded distribution it is hard to compete with the Surface in what is currently a small market. The real test for Windows RT will come once the Windows Store is fleshed out with apps.

      I don’t work for Microsoft, so there is no “you” here. And you missed, or actually made, my point. Microsoft doesn’t win in head-to-head battles against a dominant competitor unless that competitor makes a mistake, like deciding to ignore a major market shift. That’s why Money could never make much progress against Quicken. And why Microsoft never has made a serious attempt at competing with Photoshop. But if Adobe opens a door big enough to fly a 747 through then Microsoft would borrow one from Boeing and have at it.

  25. Amanda Otherstrust says:

    I love the idea of transitioning to a paradigm where I can’t always see a clock, my network status, the battery status, and can only have one app reasonably visible at a time (no drag and drop).

    Those are the the types of enterprise-level high-productivity features that make me yearn for WinRT everywhere in my workplace and home. I also don’t want to be able to search for files created in program Y if I created them in Program X (unless the apps are MSFT made and trusted). It would be stupid to think about opening an mp3 to edit it to trim a lecture, for instance. Or open a random .csv in a SQL application.

  26. odahan says:

    The main problem Microsoft will face is that, actually (the future can be different, and I hope so), WinRT is not in capacity to replace fully the classic desktop. Not just because of the sandbox (but it is really a big problem for most professional software like Photoshop, Illustrator, music or video software…) but for one other major reason : on a PC a full-screen mode OS can’t take over the world. On PC WinRT must become a windowed runtime so RT apps can run in windows you can move on a desktop.
    I participated in many user tests for many companies, even mine, and I can tell no professional work can be done seriously using WinRT in full-screen mode (for most jobs needing a PC).
    It is perfect for Surface (I have one and I love it) or Windows Phone (I have one and I love it too). But even in these contexts I have some doubts.
    I have a Windows phone, but I also have an android Samsumg SIII. The last update has brought screen splitting for 2 simultaneous apps. And it is just a phone, and I must tell that it is really a cool update as a user…
    So even for these little form factors I don’t believe too much on the full-screen mode of WinRT. It is, IMHO, a big design mistake, mostly on PC but not only on PC.
    I love WinRT and Windows 8, there are so much good things in these technologies, but WinRT itself can’t replace the classic desktop just because of its fullscreen mode.
    I’m very interested in what will come and how Microsoft will be able to get out from this quagmire now they have created two incompatible desktops in one single OS… Future will be really interesting !
    It is not only a point of intellectual interest of course. This is a big problem for software business because customers don’t believe too in a fullscreen mode OS (how can you compare two or three accounts if you can’t open two or three windows at the same time ? a simple use case you can find in most LOB apps, or how do you translate a text you’re reading with a PDF reader while you’re typing the translation in a Word window ?, etc, etc.).
    Windows 8 without RT is a perfect OS, but because of WinRT most companies are moving to Windows 7… and as RT is not running as a runtime on Windows 7, you must develop using classic desktop tools (as WPF) to be sure the apps will run on any PC.
    Solution is yet obvious : users are telling us clearly “bring back the “s” of Windows and it will be a success !” … If Microsoft does not want to ear these numerous customer voices, I can’t see any future for WinRT on PCs and it will be a sad ending for this good technology.

    • halberenson says:

      There is an interesting question around both how Microsoft evolves the user experience and app model and how developers rethink the way that line-of-business apps should work. Lots of LOB apps avoided Windows GUI and stuck with DOS in the beginning because they had trouble figuring out how to optimize the experience for WIMP. Some apps went a decade into the Windows era before being redesigned/rewritten away from DOS. We’re in the same situation today. There are apps that would currently be silly to fully recreate as Metro apps. There are many others that make a lot of sense to recreate in Metro, but not without a lot of innovative thinking around the user experience and workflow. And there are plenty that could easily be fully rewritten today. And I’m not talking consumer apps, I’m talking line of business.

      Some of the change required is actually change in business practice. For example, back in 2001 I would have debates with the Great Plains architects about things which were leftovers from the days when their was a significant amount of data entry off of paper forms. They had to optimize for the case where you had employees sitting around spending the entire day going through stacks of paper and entering the data in as fast as they could possibly type. Basically, they were designing to the same business requirements as the IBM 3270 terminal was designed to optimize for. Today one would not use a data entry clerk as your design center, which allows more freedom of design. And in general as businesses continue to push capabilities out into the line of fire instead of to specialized pools of employees the opportunity for greater redesign of the business, the workflow, and the application experience presents itself.

      I think it will be very interesting to see what the Microsoft Dynamics team comes up with in terms of Metro apps. They demonstrated some work last year and I imagine we’ll see a new demo at Convergence this March and hopefully a beta this year. What Dynamics does is very important for Windows 8 in the line-of-business space for two reasons. First is that they are highly motivated to invest in coming up with Metro apps and can invest much more effort than most vendors would currently consider prudent. Second is that whatever limitations they will provide a lot of feedback to the Windows team about their experience and the customer reaction to the new apps. So we’ll have at least one major ERP/CRM vendor jump into the Metro world with both feet and be the pioneers.

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