Windows 8. A step too far?


One of the most frequent complaints against Microsoft in the past is that they have not been innovative enough and that they tend to follow meekly behind others who have been far more ready to take risks in the past such as Apple. I’ve even been guilty of that accusation myself. But as a user, here’s my take on things for what its worth.

In the past, Microsoft has been the main company serving the corporate technological world. During the years when it was generally only companies and/or institutions who used PC’s, and when most of us ‘none corporate’ users didn’t dream of owning a home computer, Microsoft aimed their sights firmly at the business sector and their usage needs. Word processing, Spread sheets, Databases, and an operating system geared to the running of a business  meant that most of Microsoft’s main focus was squarely aimed at the corporate  user. And rightly so. But in the meantime and certainly since the launch of Windows XP, the user base has slowly shifted from being just the corporate sector usage to the ordinary consumer ‘in the street.’

Microsoft seemed to be oblivious to the shift taking place from the corporate user to the consumer user. It was as if they had their eyes firmly set in only one direction. Others such as Apple and Google were never as focused on the corporate usage side of computers, and therefore they have been quicker to see the demographic shift in needs. There is a huge difference in how an ordinary consumer at home uses technology and their PC to how they are used in the workplace. Consumers tend to prefer to share, photos, short messages, music, etc, and this need has mainly been met  by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Not only that but most prefer  to do this ‘on the move’ and to not be tied down to a static home PC, hence the rise of laptops, tablets and ‘smart’ mobile phones. The consumer user base has slowly grown since the launch of XP, but meantime most of the corporate sector has not kept pace and most  remain still using Windows XP.

For them, ( I should imagine) its a very big undertaking to move forward to a new operating system as it involves the training of all of your staff in its usage. I was shocked last year to realise that the entire NHS is still using Windows XP whilst I’m now running Windows 8 Consumer Preview!  What I am trying to say here is that whilst corporate usage has not moved on, the consumer usage has grown and grown and has become far more advanced.

Now suddenly its as if Microsoft have glanced around from the direction they have always faced and suddenly noticed that its the consumer who is rapidly becoming the de facto user and their usage of technology needs to be met.  The big question is, are they too late? The tablet market is currently dominated by Apple with the iPad with even Android having difficulty making any dint in that area, and despite the fact that Windows phone is fantastic to use, they have an uphill battle all the way.  Talking of Apple, one of the paths that they have not taken was to try and merge the same operating system on both their iMacs and also the iPhone and IPad.  Now, Microsoft are planning the risky step of doing exactly that, serving both the static PC user (which by definition includes the corporate user) AND also the mobile phone/tablet market. Can it be done? Is it possible to meet every type of users needs with just one OS?

Paul Thurrott sums it all up for me in one of his recent posts on the subject of Windows 8 here at  and I agree that in ‘bending over backwards’ to enter the tablet and mobile hardware market, where of course battery life is crucial, are Microsoft going too far and forgetting the static PC user who up until now have been their bread and butter?  Should they instead have one operating system for mobile devices (i.e Metro) and simply keep Windows OS for those users who run a static PC or who want to remain with the Windows environment?

Personally, I am now quite used to using Windows 8 on my static PC with a mouse and keyboard and I really like it, but I have to admit that the Metro interface does look (and work) far better on my phone working with touch input.  Nor am I needing several programs open at once or to do any word-processing or work of any kind, my needs and usage is  far removed from those of the corporate user. And there is the big question mark. If most of the corporate world is still using Windows XP, can I see them rushing to move to Windows 8 anytime soon? To be honest with you, no I can’t. Nor can I envisage users such as the NHS equipping all of their staff with tablets either!

It’s all a very big gamble and one that is sort of surprising in a way coming from Microsoft, a company that most consider to be a ‘dinosaur’ who never innovate or do anything new. Can they pull it off? It’s certainly going to be a very interesting year finding out!


Windows Live Writer. What happens now?


On Wednesday, Chris Jones outlined Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8 and also the rebranding of Windows Live Essentials suite of desktop programs. Windows Live as a brand is to be dropped, and he included a table showing the old named programs and their equivalent names going forward. What was most noticeable from this table was the absence of any Live Writer app for Windows 8.


As Windows Live Writer has become a well loved blogging editor by many users over the years since its beginning, it obviously raises questions as to any long term plans for this wonderful program, which in my case I use extensively for all of my blogs and without which I would probably be lost. 

Live Writer has always made use of every aspect of other programs such as Photo Gallery, SkyDrive to save your photos and photo albums, or including a Bing map to give just a few examples. Moreover, during its lifetime, its team has always been one of the most helpful to its users and also been at the ‘cutting edge’ for introducing new and innovative feature into Writer.

They set up a Live Writer forum especially to help users having problems and gain feedback from them for features they would love to be included. Once when I was having some difficulties getting Writer to sync with one of my blogs, I was contacted by one of the team via email. Wherever possible, users requests for features were incorporated into Writer in the next update, and it now contains many features that other blogging editors can only dream of. For example, they were the first to incorporate Photo Album into the product, which allows you to include a full album of photos in a blog post so that your readers can then go and view every photo in that album on SkyDrive by simply clicking on it inside your blog post. The album can be attractively presented in many innovative ways and contain as many photos in it as you like, yet is kept in the size of your blog post. This brilliant idea was then subsequently ported over to online Hotmail posts and also Windows Live Mail.


Live Writer is also one step ahead of Photo Gallery by allowing you to add a watermark to any photo that you include in a blog post, and there are many more instances where the Writer team have ‘led the way’ with new features where other teams have been lacking. Not only that, you have been able to ‘tailor’ Writer to how you use it by the inclusion of Writer ‘plug ins’ which add many useful features that may not have been included in Live Writer at the time. These include such additions as being able to add a Polaroid picture into your post or add images from your Picasa Web Albums, Facebook or Flickr if you tend to store your pictures there. Some of the more popular plug ins were then subsequently added to Writer by the team, such as being able to add an assortment of smileys to your post or the very popular Polaroid photo feature.

The Writer team have always been open to suggestions for new features from their users and have always been willing to help users when they have encountered problems. In fact, previous versions of Live Writer actually included a ‘help’ button to allow you to contact the team directly. It’s why I always considered the Live Writer team to be my favourite Live team simply because they were willing to listen to their users.

Now we face the fact that maybe Windows Live Writer is no longer going to be supported by Microsoft in the future, and that a Windows 8 Writer app is not on the horizon. As I own a Windows phone, I was also hoping for not only a Writer app for Windows 8, but also one for both tablets and mobiles so I could compose a blog post ‘on the go’. My great friend Scott Lovegrove who has coded many plug ins for Writer has begun a petition at and if you love using Live Writer as much as I do for your blogs, then please take a few moments to sign it. It could make all the difference.

Thanks TG