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Windows Blue won't solve all Microsoft's problems, analysts say

Gregg Keizer | April 26, 2013
Drumbeat of leaks leads to high expectations for upgrade, but pricing, form factor and apps need attention, too

Microsoft does plan on addressing price this year. "We are working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows," Klein said during an earnings call with Wall Street a week ago. "These devices will have competitive price points, partly enabled by our latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices, and will be available in the coming months."

Analysts heard the line "latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices," as confirmation that Microsoft will lower the price of Windows to computer and tablet makers, or provide rebates on their license purchases.

"When Microsoft conceived this [Windows 8 and Windows RT] project in 2010, tablet prices were high," said King. "But the world's changed very quickly. The trend is towards smaller, cheaper tablets."

Fewer than half of the tablets expected to ship in 2013 will sport screens larger than 8 inches, King said, echoing other forecasts by the likes of IDC.

Microsoft, in other words, aimed at quickly-disappearing target with its demand for 10-in. screens for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, and now must scramble to shift gears.

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, saw an alternative reason why Windows Blue, although perhaps welcome, isn't enough to markedly move the meter for Microsoft.

"Windows 8 sucks because Windows 8 apps suck," said Cherry, not mincing words. "And there's nothing in all these rumors of Windows Blue or Windows 8.1 that tells me that apps will be easier to write or that will result in better apps."

Microsoft's apps tally -- those touch-centric programs that run in Windows RT and in Windows 8's "Modern"-style UI -- are far behind that of those for Android and iOS tablets. More important, experts have said since the October 2012 launch of Windows 8, is the lack of high-quality, must-have apps necessary to make Microsoft-powered tablets or convertible device competitive with devices relying on rival operating systems.

Cherry strongly argued that until Microsoft can solve the apps problem, nothing else it does will really matter.

"Everyone's obsessed with the look of the thing. What do I care about a Start button in Windows 8 if I spend all my time on the desktop? It's the lack of good applications [that's hurting Windows]. And from what I can tell, developers aren't going to get anything from Blue. I don't see anything about apps getting better."

To prove his point, Cherry pointed to the apps Microsoft has created for Windows 8 and Windows RT, such as the "Mail, Calendar, People and Messaging" app.

"If that's the best Microsoft can do, if that's what they come up with, with their resources, it's no surprise that there's not a [third-party] app worth a darn," said Cherry.


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