June 2, 2011
The key problems with Windows 8

I just read a great article on the fundamental problems associated with Windows 8 by John Gruber, below is an excerpt:

Microsoft’s demo video shows Excel — the full version of Excel for Windows — running alongside new touch-based apps. They can make buttons more “touch friendly” all they want, but they’ll never make Excel for Windows feel right on a touchscreen UI. Consider the differences between the iWork apps for the Mac and iPad. The iPad versions aren’t “touch friendly” versions of the Mac apps — they’re entirely new beasts designed and programmed from the ground up for the touchscreen and for the different rules and tradeoffs of the iOS interface (no explicit saving, no file system, ready to quit at a moment’s notice, no processing in the background, etc.).

The ability to run Mac OS X apps on the iPad, with full access to the file system, peripherals, etc., would make the iPad worse, not better. The iPad succeeds because it has eliminated complexity, not because it has covered up the complexity of the Mac with a touch-based “shell”. iOS’s lack of backward compatibility with any existing software means that all apps for iOS are written specifically for iOS.

There’s a cost for this elimination of complexity and compatibility, of course, which is that the iPad is also less capable than a Mac. That’s why Apple is developing iOS alongside Mac OS X. From a piece by yours truly, writing for Macworld back in January:

The existence and continuing growth of the Mac allows iOS to get away with doing less. The central conceit of the iPad is that it’s a portable computer that does less — and because it does less, what it does do, it does better, more simply, and more elegantly. Apple can only begin phasing out the Mac if and when iOS expands to allow us to do everything we can do on the Mac. It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.

When I say that iOS has no baggage, that’s not because there is no baggage. It’s because the Mac is there to carry it. Long term — say, ten years out — well, all good things must come to an end. But in the short term, Mac OS X has an essential role in an iOS world: serving as the platform for complex, resource-intensive tasks.

Apple’s radical notion is that touchscreen personal computers should make severely different tradeoffs than traditional computers — and that you can’t design one system that does it all. Windows 8 is trying to have it all, and I don’t think that can be done. You can’t make something conceptually lightweight if it’s carrying 25 years of Windows baggage.

http://daringfireball.net/2011/06/windows_8_fundamentally_flawed

I assume the thought process by Microsoft’s management team for Windows 8 must be:

  1. The advantage of Windows is the plethora of Windows based software and applications.
  2. If Windows 8 adjusts its UI on top of previous versions of Windows sourcecode, then Microsoft can enter the tablet market easily with a host of programs that can be incorporated into the Windows 8 universe.

This however, ignores the following problems:

  • Windows 8 is flawed because it is a minor UI overhaul on top of the old Windows.  This means that software / applications for Windows 8 (and Windows 8 itself) is is still fundamentally resource intensive, just like its legacy desktop focused counterparts.  The key problem with this comes from battery life.  Apple is redesigning iOS with battery life, stability, and resource use in mind.  Windows 8 is neglecting that.
  • Additionally, all the bugs and problems of the prior Windows OSs are dragged along.  This disrupts the simplicity attraction associated with with tablet devices.  Bringing along old software will also bring a clumsy user experience carrying along all the frustrations associated with Windows desktop devices (but exacerbated because the interface isn’t customized for tablets).  That is why tablet applications should be designed from the ground up keeping in mind the touch screen interface.

On top of the problems mentioned by Gruber, I have a few concerns of my own.  Namely, this key quote:

Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2011/jun11/06-01corporatenews.aspx

I think I’m stating a commonly held belief when I say that Internet Explorer is traditionally prone to many security flaws.  The integration of Internet Explorer with Windows magnifies those security concerns.

Now imagine malware exploiting an Internet Explorer flaw.  If you think getting rid of viruses/malware on a PC is a pain, imagine how difficult it will be on a tablet device?  Not a pretty thought.

May 12, 2011
Chrome OS on laptops, the tipping point for SaaS and Freemium

Chome OS is now officially announced for Acer and Samsung netbooks.  This is huge news for two reasons:

  1. If Chrome OS based netbooks and laptops take off, it marks an inflection point for SaaS and Freemium software companies.  If Chrome OS takes off, you’re going to see a new generation of SaaS and Freemium software companies really take off alongside the growth of Chrome OS based computers.
  2. This also marks the point when Windows OS / Microsoft Office truly has a competitor

The first models will be manufactured by Acer Inc. at a price of $349 and Samsung Electronics Co. starting at $429. They will be sold starting June 15 through retailers like Best Buy Co. and Amazon.com Inc.

Google won’t make money from sales to individuals but expects to get an undisclosed cut from selling $28-a-month subscriptions to corporate customers and $20-a-month plans for educational institutions and governments. The plans, which come with a three-year term, include the laptops and customer support from Google.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576317361801753874.html#ixzz1M86HcTdu

Why Chrome OS means big things for SaaS / Freemium software companies

  • Up until this moment, most desktop users have been entrenched in the offline paradigm of software services.  True, people are online constantly, but most of their software is on their desktop.  They might be downloading their software online.  But at the end of the day, the software still needs to take up significant space on the end users desktop / laptop / netbook.
  • Chrome OS encourages true SaaS/ Freemium software companies that truly run online.  I’ll contrast this with “fake” SaaS software companies that charge you by the month for their services, but whose operating procedures primarily run on the end users computer.
  • Since Chrome OS will be less “clunky” relative to Microsoft Windows, theoretically, these devices should be able to have significantly better battery life.  This will provide a real value add to consumers for using Chrome OS as an alternative to Windows.

A true competitor to Microsoft Windows

Because they rely on Web-based apps, the Chrome devices boot up in eight seconds, the company said. The laptops will have limited capability when users aren’t online, though some Web apps including Google Docs, the company’s word-processing service, and Rovio Mobile Ltd.’s Angry Birds game, can function on Chrome offline.

To ensure that Chrome laptops always stay online, Google said Verizon Wireless will provide free wireless Internet connectivity—allowing users to send and receive up to 100 megabytes of data a month. Users will have to pay extra for bigger monthly data plans.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576317361801753874.html#ixzz1M8994wu0

The thing that makes Chrome truly dangerous to Microsoft is the fact that it slowly pulls people off the Microsoft Office paradigm.  The biggest thing Microsoft has going for it is Office.  The joint Windows / Office releases is why Microsoft is able to consistently pull in massive amounts of cash year in and year out.  You need a smooth Windows / Office experience to do work.  Then when you get home, you need a smooth Windows / Office experience to edit your work.  Despite the fact that you can use Windows for Apple, there are a lot of bugs with regards to formatting and integration that makes Apple computers a real nuisance for non-creative workplaces (that runs Apple everywhere).
How does Chrome OS change all of that?  Well, it will slowly cull users into using Google Apps.  Once the implicit chain to Microsoft Office is broken, the end begins for Windows.  If users start using Google Apps for document publishing and spreadsheets then…

  • End users no longer have to buy a Windows release every two or three years for several hundred dollars

I wouldn’t say this is the end for Microsoft, because they can adjust.  But if they want to pivot, they need to start pivoting now.  This means changing they way they approach OS development from ground up.
These are some rough thoughts for now, I’ll probably have some other ideas I want to get out of my head about this topic later this week.