It was just before midnight last night that I caught up on the news that Microsoft had demonstrated the new Windows 8 UI at the D9 conference (liveblog and video here). The demo’s were slick, and Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky did a great job under pressure, handling Walt Mossberg’s pointed questions with aplomb.  I sent him a congratulatory email afterward.

One question left unanswered by Sinofsky was the intended ship date for Windows 8.  At best, he offered that Windows operating systems generally ship every 3 to 4 years.  My bet is that Windows 8 is going to manufacturing in June of 2012.  Why? In Redmond’s playbook:

  1. Serious public displays of important Windows operating systems usually start about a year before the ship date.  The goal is to build a wave of demand around launch.  The first public demos of Windows 8 were at the Mix’11 conference in mid-April, where Dean Hachamovich showed IE 10 running on Windows 8.  Yesterday’s public demo of the new UI at D9 is another the next step in the demand building strategy.
  2. Large scale professional developers conferences are usually held in the fall of the year before a major Windows release.  Developers need time to build products to target the platform, and Microsoft wants them to ship their products when Microsoft is ready with its own.  In April Microsoft also announced the next PDC will be Sept 13, 2011 in Anaheim California.
  3. Operating systems releases targeted at consumers generally go to manufacturing no later than June of the year in which they ship.  This is to allow hardware manufacturers to target the fall sales season – back to school, followed by Christmas – which is the busiest consumer buying cycle of the year in the PC world.

Microsoft is clearly targeting May / June 2012 for release to manufacturing.  And, given how Apple and Google are gobbling up market share in the tablet space, it seems clear that Microsoft has no choice but to meet that date.

Any bets on the exact date?

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Apple’s naked self interest

by alec on April 12, 2010

Any vendor in the platform business knows that their primary product is programming interfaces – the so-called APIs that developers depend upon in order to deliver applications.  The API exposes features of the platform, and differentiate applications running on that platform from all others.  Lose control of the API, and you will lose control of the developer.  Developers are the leading indicator for platform success.  Ergo, lose the developer, lose the platform.

Steve Jobs’ protestations about quality aside, Apple’s recent moves to bar developers from using any but Apple approved technologies to write iPhone applications is naked self interest… nothing new. For example:

  • In 1992, Borland was kicking Microsoft’s rear with Turbo C++ and a development framework called Object Windows Library (OWL) which abstracted the underlying Windowing system out of existance, allowing developers to write applications that run on several OS platforms, including IBM’s competing OS/2. In Canada, Microsoft’s developer market share was below 30% in 1992.  They were about to lose the entire Windows franchise to Borland – a company that made programming languages. Microsoft responded by releasing C7 with the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC), Visual Basic, and a number of other tools that eventually became Visual Studio.  Within less than two years, market share amongst developers had climbed back over 70%.
  • In 1993, IBM made their famous statement that OS/2 was a better Windows than Windows.  They allowed Windows applications to be run inside a virtual machine on OS/2, giving them instant access to the thousands of Windows applications on the market.  Having done that, however, developers chose to write applications for Windows instead, knowing that they would run well on OS/2.  IBM never made significant inroads into the developer community, and OS/2 never gained traction.
  • In the telecom industry, Nortel (and many others) routinely asked developers to sign NDAs before allowing access to the APIs for their products.  The NDA was a legal mechanism by which vendors could prevent their APIs from falling into the hands of competitors, and thus hinder the development of compatible knock off technologies.

Controlling APIs by tying them to the use of specific development tools is simply a bare-knuckled way of retaining control of the platform, which is critical to the health of the iPod/iPhone/iPad franchise. It’s not about screwing Adobe or developers who use Flash.  It’s about not allowing Adobe and other cross platform vendors to screw Apple.

As Microsoft learned from their experience with Borland, Jobs and co need to be mindful that developers will naturally migrate to tools which offer advantages such as productivity improvements, cost savings, or user experience benefits.  Prohibitions, unfortunately, will only work for Apple for a short time.  Ultimately, they must choose to compete for the hearts and minds of developers.  I expect that they already know that, however, and are planning one or both of:

  • a licensing program to allow third parties to build development tools that use the iPhone API natively.
  • a suite of modern development tools and languages that give productivity benefits in line with what developers are used to in the web development world.  MacOS already comes with Ruby built in.  Why shouldn’t iPhone OS also support Ruby or something similar?

Either would also be in their rational self interest. 


Be thankful you don’t live in the EU.

June 12, 2009

This morning I’m glad I don’t live in the EU.  Apparently caught between their desire to ship Windows 7 by October of this year, and the EU’s intractable stance on including the browser in the operating system, Microsoft has decided to ship European specific Windows 7 SKU’s with no browser whatsoever.  Computer manufacturers will be […]

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Windows 7. The Vista “dot” release

January 11, 2009

At 6:00 AM yesterday morning I started downloading the Windows 7 x64 release. By 9:30 AM I was installing it.  Yes, I admit it, I’m a keener. I’ve used every Windows beta since Windows 3.1 in 1992, and I still find it a thrill to be on the bleeding edge of new technologies.  I also […]

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Windows 7: That Ol’ Black Magic?

January 9, 2009

One of the monitors on my desk at the office has been logged in, via remote desktop, to my home PC all day long.  Why?  Well, at home we have a nice fat internet pipe, and I’ve been waiting for my chance to download the Windows 7 beta.  Unfortunately, Microsoft appears to have been caught […]

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Windows 7 Beta not here yet. Doh!

January 9, 2009

I was up at 5 AM this morning to check and see if the download of the Windows 7 beta was available yet.  A more careful read of the Windows 7 blog site shows that the download won’t be available until this afternoon.  Pacific time!  That’ll be Miller Time here on the east coast. This […]

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Microsoft’s confusing file synch story

December 7, 2008

Image via Wikipedia Microsoft sent mail to Foldershare users late in November to let them know that an upgrade was finally coming.  Foldershare is the folder synchronization tool acquired from ByteTaxi in 2005, and except for minor updates, it has remained mostly unchanged since then.  In December, however, it will be renamed Windows Live Sync, […]

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Squawk Box September 2, Chrome

September 2, 2008

Image via CrunchBase, source unknown This morning’s conference call was about Chrome… Google Chrome – the browser that’s due to be launched in a little over an hour.  The hyperbole is already flying thick. The bottom line for our panel: If it’s really a better browsing experience they’ll use it, of course!  Process segregation and […]

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Squawk Box August 27, Mobile Roundup

August 27, 2008

* The iPhone 3G is close to outnumbering first gen iPhones by selling 6 million units since launch a scant two months ago. It took the 1st generation iPhone over a year to sell six million.
* Meanwhile, Android phones are still on the drawing boards as sketches of the T-Mobile G1 leak out. It’s one hot looking phone, but will they have the application infrastructure to compete with Apple…
* And SmartPhone and PocketPC magazine has announced that their windows mobile focused publication is… ceasing publication. A sign of the times perhaps?
* And finally… more new Nokia N-Series handsets. The N79 and N85 were announced this week. Coincident with that was a great piece by Olga Kharif in Business Week on mobile VoIP… at the same time as Nokia dropped the VoIP stack from these new handsets.

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Squawk Box May 28

May 28, 2008

We started off with Facebook’s plan to open source the Facebook Platform. This is being characterized as a nearly inevitable response to OpenSocial. The claimed effect is to allow nearly any social network to become Facebook compatible, and to create a cross platform API for apps. Facebook will apparently opensource FBML, FQL, FJS, and the FB API.

The real question will be how is it licensed, who owns changes to the tools, and how is it administered.

Yesterday at the All Things D conference, Microsoft showed video of the new Windows Multi-touch interface. Unlike Apple’s multi-touch, it actually works on the screen — pinches, squeezes and so on on a tablet size device. We talked about whether it was as revolutionary as some people seemed to think, and how Apple might respond. And, we talked about the potential contradiction that was implied by Microsoft VP Steve Sinofsky’s tight lighted approach to Windows 7 communications.

A couple of people had installed the Nokia N95 V20 firmware update. People felt that it was faster, and had new features.

And finally, we chatted about the New York Times and their announcement of an API. The Times intent is to allow programmers to easily mash up the content with their applications. Nick Desbarats from Choicebot was on the line, and he was very clear that Choicebot would find the Times API valuable.

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