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Hey, Microsoft: It's the apps, stupid

Gregg Keizer | May 31, 2013
Analysts applaud changes to Windows 8 UI, but wonder when, or if, Microsoft will kick app development into high gear

What must Microsoft show at BUILD? "They have to talk about what they're going do for developers to make it easier to build great apps," Miller said. "And a real advocacy for how to build business apps in the Windows Store world."

Cherry and Miller contended that Microsoft has yet to do either, and that without a much-improved app ecosystem with more high-quality apps, Windows 8 is destined to disappoint Microsoft, enterprise customers and consumers.

"But I don't see this as a mulligan at all," said Miller, referring to the golfing term for a do-over. "I see this as Microsoft betting the farm on Windows Store, and still doing that, but then cautiously retooling what they built for Windows 8 on the desktop.

"Microsoft's saying, 'You don't have to be a second-class citizen with a mouse and keyboard,' and that's really important to people like me who spend most of their time on the desktop and don't have a touch PC," Miller added.

Microsoft and analysts alike have put some of the blame for Windows 8's poor performance on shortages of touch-enabled personal computers, and on the high prices of those that have been available.

On the bright side, said Miller, Windows 8.1's changes could be the tipping point for businesses—assuming Microsoft solves the app issues.

"It will ... possibly help corporations or businesses that may have hesitated," said Miller. "It may be enough for some to skip Windows 7 and upgrade straight to Windows 8. It may be enough of a change that they look at that. If so, it would be a huge win for Microsoft."

Miller described the revealed changes in Windows 8.1 as Microsoft "slowly putting back what it took out," but both he and Cherry cautioned against coming to conclusions too quickly. Microsoft, they noted, has promised to divulge more information about the update's contents between now and BUILD.

"They're teasing us," said Cherry. "They learned from Apple how to stir up the [news] cycle. They're chumming the waters before BUILD. But none of the changes I've seen [in Windows 8.1] is a fix for a blocker. Microsoft has yet to tell enterprises how people are going to be more productive with Windows 8, or Windows 8.1."

And like everything else, that comes down to apps.

Windows 8.1 will ship in final form later this year and will be a free update for current Windows 8 and Windows RT customers.


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