Microsoft Talks Windows 8 and 'Ecosystem Convergence' at Computex
Microsoft's vision of a world of connected devices got a full airing at Computex today in Taipei, Taiwan.
In a long speech, Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the OEM Division, laid out why Microsoft offers the kind of software platforms that hardware partners and equipment designers will want to build upon. He briefly started with the coming Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft's cloud endeavors, and concluded the talk focusing on Windows 7 and Windows 8. He basically skipped over Windows Phone.
In general, Guggenheimer suggested that device markets are changing, creating new opportunities compared with past.
"So, you have an ecosystem where everybody is looking across the screens and distribution is coming together, you have retailers selling phones, you have operators selling PCs; you have a very different world," Guggenheimer said, according to a Microsoft transcript (Word doc). "You actually have a convergence of ecosystems as opposed to a convergence of technologies now."
While the cloud might not be foremost concern among PC makers, Guggenheimer announced during the talk that Microsoft has worked with Taiwan-based Quanta Computer to create a cloud-in-a-box solution under the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track program. Quanta's box uses Windows Server and Hyper-V in a validated configuration for customer deployment. No release date for Quanta's product was announced. Other partners producing such cloud-ready combinations of hardware and software include Dell and Fujitsu, according to a Microsoft blog.
In other news, Guggenheimer noted that the Ford Motor Co. is expanding its markets using Microsoft Sync technology in its Focus cars. The Microsoft Sync platform enables digital media players or mobile phones to be connected to a car's sound system, enabling voice control. The technology currently works in Mandarin and English, and Ford will expand its Sync market into Taiwan.
Finally, Guggenheimer announced that Windows Embedded Standard 8 is now available as a second community technology preview (CTP) version, which can be downloaded here. Microsoft had initially released a CTP back in March. CTP 2 includes functional improvements, management improvements and expanded language support, as described in this Microsoft blog. According to Microsoft's roadmap, the final Windows Embedded Standard 8 product is scheduled for release "three quarters after Windows 8 is generally available for PCs," which puts the embedded product's availability sometime in late 2013.
Spotlight on Windows 8
Windows 8 might have been expected to be the star of Guggenheimer's presentation, but he admitted that a lot of the devices on stage with him at the Computex talk were Windows 7 based. Currently, Windows 8 is at the "release preview" final test stage, with expectations for release to manufacturing at the end of July, so there are no Windows 8 devices on the market yet.
Guggenheimer said that there currently exist 600 million Windows 7 licenses, which is almost double what he described at last year's Computex. More than 50,000 peripheral devices have been certified to work on Windows 7-based machines.
On the Windows 8 side, Microsoft has expanded its Windows Store to support over 38 markets. The company has tested "over 13,000 desktop applications to make sure we've got great desktop compatibility with Windows 8," according to Aidan Marcuss of the Windows team, during the Computex talk. He suggested that testing desktop apps should be the No. 1 priority for application developers, who can then proceed to making Metro-style apps for Windows 8.
Windows 8 machines mentioned by Guggenheimer included devices from Acer, Asus and Samsung, although he didn't identify the models. He indicated that Computex was showcasing Windows 8 machines based on x86, system-on-chip and Windows RT (Windows on ARM) architectures.
One equipment manufacturer that was apparently left out in the cold by Microsoft was HTC. According to a report by Bloomberg, Microsoft excluded HTC from Windows 8 tablet production because it considered the hardware manufacturer to not have enough experience making tablets and to not have enough sales, even though HTC does makes Android-based tablets. The two companies almost came to legal blows over HTC's Android use, but HTC settled with Microsoft over its claims that Android infringes Microsoft's intellectual property.
New Windows 8 PCs
Acer announced a few Windows 8 products to come at Computex. Its new "all-in-one" Windows 8 PCs include the 27-inch Aspire 7600U and the 23-inch Aspire 5600U, which were described as "ultra-slim" device types running Windows 8. Other Acer Windows 8 devices announced include the Aspire S7 Series of ultrabooks, which will come in 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch sizes. A third line of Windows 8 Acer devices is represented by the Iconia W Series of tablets, including the W510 (with a 10.1-inch display) and the W700 (with an 11.6-inch display).
A report by DigiTimes cited Acer Chairman JT Wang as indicating that Windows 8-based products likely would be sold primarily in "developed economies where purchasing power is strong." The implication was that Windows 8 devices would not be cheap, but no pricing was described.
Asus introduced its Transformer product line at Computex, including an 11.6-inch Tablet 810 running Windows 8 and the 10.1-inch Tablet 600 running Windows RT. The company also announced its Taichi line, which has dual screens to serve as a multitouch tablet and ultrabook computer, presumably running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Dell announced a new line of Inspiron laptops running Windows 7 that can be upgraded to Windows 8. The models, slated for release this summer, include the Inspiron 13z and 14z ultrathin laptops aimed at the back-to-school market and the Inspiron 15R and 17R laptops for multimedia and home applications.
Toshiba announced it has created three new Windows 8 PCs. One of them is an Intel-based Windows 8 ultrabook. Another is a Windows RT-based clamshell PC using Texas Instruments' chip. Finally, Toshiba has another Windows RT tablet that features a keyboard dock that was designed in partnership with Texas Instruments.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.