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Windows 8.1 Preview (microsoft.com)
108 points by ing33k 1487 days ago | hide | past | web | 102 comments | favorite

It's interesting to see Microsoft unashamedly exercising what's left of their monopoly power to force market share of unrelated products up. Defaulting storage to SkyDrive, integrating Bing as a default search every time someone does any kind of search, even tying the windows login itself to a microsoft account, integrating Skype as a default installed app and giving no opt out once you accept linking your Windows login. I notice they've made it extremely difficult to set Google as your default search engine in IE (no default search provider for it, can be quite hard to find in the search provider list).

It's the kind of thing that used to get them in a lot of trouble. I wonder if they are past this or whether they will get rapped on the knuckles for this at some point?

Is that really any worse than Google? At least with Windows, the Microsoft account is optional; you can't even create a local ChromeOS account without a Google account (which is a little bit more disturbing these days).

The difference with Google is that millions of consumers and businesses are simply forced to buy Windows because that is the only way to run software that they need. There is pretty much nothing you can run on ChromeOS that you can't run outside ChromeOS almost just as easily, including all the related Google services if you want them. Thus people buying it are buying it on its own merits and people using Google services related to it are using those on their own merits.

I think the bigger case against Google on this front is with how they are tying Google+ to Google Search. I am actually kind of surprised they have not gotten more heat for it - if Facebook ever succumbs its market share to Google I suspect an issue will be made of it. But then, even with search you have to work very hard to make the case that people are "locked into it".

Android is the place where Google is doing this. Want to use Android without Google? If you are anyone who is non-technical, you damn sure wont!

If Windows was FOSS and we could "swap ROMs" and extract their stuff easily as many of us do on Android, it would be much more acceptable. Forcing your users to use your other products when you have a monopoly is absolutely outrageous.

As it is, I'm staying on Windows 7 (I have only one laptop and need Word, otherwise I'd be using Linux instead of a Linux VM) and Paranaoid Android. No unwanted Micrsoft or Google products anywhere.

Well, Amazon et. al, but your point still stands.

Its about the same. When/if Google fully replaces Microsoft everywhere it'll be the same but with google products. In case of doubt, just look at android.

At this stage, Microsoft isn't a whole lot more powerful than Google or Apple, and all three of them are doing the same things. If anything, Microsoft is last to the party.

Not to mention Microsoft's influence in the consumer space looks exceptionally weak, when you're talking 5 to 10 years forward (short of a small miracle in mobile).

They're clearly going to continue to be left out in the cold in search. The PlayStation 4 looks very competitive with the XBox One (and the One is a helluva expensive Netflix or Blu-ray player). Mobile remains a disaster, certainly in terms of market share; ditto tablets for now.

Skype is interesting in consumer and business, but it'll struggle to ever pay for the acquisition (maybe in 30 years).

Their business / server / tools groups are by far and away the future of the company, as of right now.

>Their business / server / tools groups are by far and away the future of the company, as of right now.

Further evidence of this: The Sony PS4 that you point out as being competitive, is built on top of more than one Microsoft technology:

"Sony is building its CPU on what it's calling an extended DirectX 11.1+ feature set, including extra debugging support that is not available on PC platforms. This system will also give developers more direct access to the shader pipeline than they had on the PS3 or through DirectX itself


The development environment coders will use is based on Windows 7 and fully integrated with Visual Studio 2010 and 2012, allowing developers to debug PS4 code just like PC code."


Microsoft has a 90% desktop monopoly, which they've maintained for about 2 decades. When 9 out of 10 computers run your software, you're pretty darn powerful.

This was always going to be the way with Windows 8....and continues with 8.1. Now that the consent decree imposed by the US gov. has been lifted, since Microsoft's monopoly looks far less threatening these days, and Apple and google are getting away with it in the mobile space I think it is game on for vertically integrated software and services from MS.

Some say monopoly, others say horizontal integration.

Most non-tech savvy types want the ability to have their email, cloud document storage, cloud music service, browser history / favourites, all effortless syncronised between devices.

MS have actually been not that bad at doing this in metro. The share charm is extendible, integrating things like DropBox wouldn't be hard.

So long as they make APIs for say extending the images selection thing available to 3rd parties, I don't think its that bad.

>They made it quite hard to find in the search provider list

yeah it's not as easy as in firefox, this was how it looked


but now google has bubbled up to the top


I find the term "Microsoft Account" to be disingenuous as it can be any email ID (my friends use their GMail) and that is a really nice touch since you can login to all their services with just your old gmail or whatever ID.

SkyDrive | iCloud

MS account | Apple ID

Skype | FaceTime

As for changing the default search, it took me about 90 seconds to figure out. I'm really not seeing a problem here. None of the things you mention are mandatory.

The perspective to take is that of a normal consumer and not someone technically able with technology.

My point was that Microsoft isn't doing anything egregious. In fact, there are strong parallels to what Apple does with similar technologies.

Since every article you read now says Microsoft is doomed, that its products are irrelevant, that PCs are in decline and being completely replaced by tablets, that Apple is the world's most (or next-most) valuable company and iPads and iPhones rule the universe, et cetera, then it's probably going to get harder to ding Microsoft for being monopolistic.

Also, integration is good for consumers when it ensure things just work, and Microsoft's approach is not fundamentally different from Apple's or Google's. Indeed, Microsoft is arguably less monopolistic than both of those.

Finally, it's extremely easy to set Google as your default search in IE10. It just requires an extra step, which means most people won't bother. However, it's not clear why Microsoft should give Google $1 billion to $5 billion a year's worth of benefits for nothing.

They'll only get rapped on the knuckles if they succeed in conquering another space using that leverage. Regulators mostly won't care so long as all it accomplishes is Bing having 17% market share (or similar), and Windows Phone having 5% market share. Skype might be an interesting case, but I suspect the Feds appreciate it having a mass installed base (and that already existed before the acquisition).

I previously asked on Quora about why Apple could do things that Microsoft couldn't. But it seems Microsoft can now do them too. I think they may no longer be considered a monopoly.


They're really late to the game in terms of all of this—see Mac OS X (which practically begs you to get an apple ID at every chance, which is really enticing until you realize it only works with apple products) and ChromeOS, which actually used the lack of local storage for documents as a way to market the OS.

> It's the kind of thing that used to get them in a lot of trouble.

Given how few consequences past infractions have had, I doubt Microsoft worries about that. It has made a lot of money breaking laws but no-one was ever sent to jail and the company got to keep most of the spoils.

You definitely make a valid point, however, many of those laws are only broken when ruled so in hindsight. Most of the foundation of anti-trust, for example, rests on deciding after the fact what qualifies and what does not. It's extraordinarily subjective, and varies frequently depending on who is in power.

What qualifies as an abuse of market power? That's up to the Feds to decide, there is no set objective definition that can be run like an equation, such that you can be 100% sure you're breaking the law. It's extremely difficult to know beforehand, and the only safe way to approach it is to either directly ask a federal oversight committee (which many companies do once they're in such a position), or to shy away from any kind of aggressive competitive behavior.

The decisions about monopoly were not just made in hindsight, they were made in the context of Judge Penfield Jackson's definition of the market that SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED both Apple and Linux as they were uncompetitive.

But as you appreciate, usually when a criminal is trial, the argument is about whether or not they did X [illegal act]. With anti-trust, the argument is not whether the criminal did X but whether X is illegal or not. It's always opinion.

Either way, Microsoft should still be judged entirely on what it did in 1995. It's not like the world has changed since then ;-)

If you view Metro as a tablet OS, which many do, they are not monopoly.

How easy is it to match the iCloud experience on iPad?

They are doing what they are extremely good at :)

"SkyDrive is now the default location for saving documents. So you always have your files wherever you go, even when you’re offline. And with the included SkyDrive app, you can manage both local files and SkyDrive files in one place."

This is a massive play for cloud storage. Will this be replacing "My Documents" for the majority of casual Windows users?

And it looks like it will be a massive annoyance for the user, kind of like how OS X now insists on showing me iCloud first every time I save a document, despite the fact that I have never stored any document in iCloud and have no intention of ever doing so.

Annoying, but `defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSDocumentSaveNewDocumentsToCloud -bool false`

You are awesome, thank you. That worked great. :)

I want to hug you so hard right now.

thank you good sir!

Why an annoyance? For most users it will look and behave just like a normal folder.

It will be annoying if they do it like OS X, where they always default to that folder and give you no way to turn it off other than waiting for some kind soul on Hacker News to tell you the magic command line incantation. :)

I mean, I assume that even if it behaves like a regular folder, unless the user actually wants to store the file on SkyDrive, then that folder would not be where they want to save the thing.

I actually even store most document-y stuff on Dropbox, which made Apple's whole "iCloud? Wanna save that on iCloud? Put it in the iCloud? What, Dropbox, you sure you didn't mean iCloud? iCloud? Hey, try saving it in iCloud! Look, iCloud! Woah, by Dropbox, I think you meant iCloud, right? iCloud? iCloud?" behavior so annoying...

Nah, you're not seeing it like a normal user. I work in an office with non technical people and they NEVER know where they saved something. They just always use the program's default. My whole family except me does this as well. For the average person its a life saver if every program always defaults to SkyDrive. Now they only need to remember one or two folders ever to look for stuff. SkyDrive and Downloads. Now if they could just get downloads to go straight to SkyDrive then normal people will be set.

Until they forget their password to Hotmail/Live/Outlook.com (whatever it's called) again.

I find Hotmail's password length terrible and its recovery process tedious.

> Until they forget their password to Hotmail/Live/Outlook.com (whatever it's called) again.

There's no separate password. You log in to Microsoft/Live when you log in to your computer. If your computer is on, you have access to SkyDrive. If you forgot the password to unlock the whole computer, SkyDrive is not the top of your concerns.

I see, I misunderstood.

That's not too bad if done that way. Although I hope I don't get locked out by someone trying to log into my outlook account. It got to be so bad with Hotmail I only use it as an email for my Xbox account.

You used to be able to run a startup disk/startup CD to reset the administrator account password on most home PCs, though. That probably won't work as well when the account's in 'the cloud'?

Again, how would a normal user even notice. As far as they're concerned its a local folder, like the documents folder today.

The only password they need is the one to log into their computer.

Go to System Preferences > iCloud > Uncheck the option "Documents & Data" to change it via the GUI.

I believe that will actually disable the syncing of that data entirely, which probably isn't what you want because some apps rely on that sync.

But nixme's command-line tip above works to specifically fix the annoyance of having save dialogs always start with iCloud, while still allowing you to have it sync all that data.

Doesn't it just default to 'My Documents' now? This doesn't sound a lot different.

What about other programs that save there that are only tangentially documents. I'm thinking of things like saved game files which can often be upwards of 500MB and depending on the size of SkyDrive could fill it up quickly leading to documents not syncing. Or if some files (such as saved games) don't transfer that sounds like a recipe for user confusion.

As someone who has ~20 kbps upload speed this news is very frustrating. :(

You definitely don't have to let it waste your bandwidth if you don't want to use it. You can:

a) Tell SkyDrive not to start on startup

b) Remove that folder from syncing

c) Tell SkyDrive not to sync on metered networks and set your home connection as a metered network

d) Save documents to a different folder

e) Uninstall SkyDrive

This is usually the point where someone comes and says:

a) Install a FOSS OS instead

At what point, I wonder, does that cease to be a snarky response? We are now apparently at the point where you have to jump through hoops to save your own files on your own computer.

It's not Windows 8.1 that's bothering me so much as projecting what this path looks like in Windows 10.

OSes have always catered for the majority use case. A few years ago, no-one had the internet connection to do file syncing like this- and storage was too expensive anyway.

Now both of those barriers have been removed and the OS is now taking advantage of these new capabilities. I really don't see what is wrong with that. Should all OSes remain frozen at a 2003 state of development?

"Now both of those barriers have been removed"

...in some places in the world, but not others. Will MS change their defaults by territory does anyone know?

eh? These are possible options not every single one of them solves the "problem". You don't have to do all of them. Besides, Skydrive is a local folder with throttled upload. So you save immediately and it eventually ends up on the server. So it's not like you will have to wait until it uploads.

On the other hand, you shouldn't upload anything illegal or even objectionable, Microsoft is looking (it probably has to) http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/court-record...

I think doing any of the five options the parent post listed (doing one of them is enough, no need to do all five) is easier than installing an operating system. This is why it's still a snarky response.

At what point? Not sure. Some years ago now, I think. When did Vista launch?

It should still work like a normal folder, even if you're offline, no?

Sure. You can save files locally (SkyDrive is not compulsory) or you can have SkyDrive automatically sync docs on all your PCs and/or Macs.

But if you are creating documents online using the Office Web Apps in SkyDrive, then it would be very odd if the default storage was a local PC, tablet or phone.

All these things are true today under Windows 7 and 8 as well as 8.1.

If cloud storage is such a terrible idea, it seems odd that there is so much hype for Google Apps -- which apparently 100% of startups use -- and for Chromebooks and similar thin client operating systems.

For Joe Average Windows user, I think this is a good move.

For everyone else, I think we've probably already got our own system for online doc backups etc. I'm sure, like past Microsoft products, we can probably change the behaviour through a registry "hack"/modification if they don't have something a bit more configurable built in (ie: in Control Panel etc).

This is actually quite an impressive update.

People like to dismiss MS, but they really understand iterative development.

They've been doing a fantastic job of updating the first party "metro" apps such as mail and music on a near-monthly basis. Really looking forward to a more frequent OS refresh as well, and with more customer feedback. Pulling the desktop background into the start screen is brilliant IMO.

Yeah windows phone smoothly iterated from its early beginnings to where it is today.

Oh... wait.

My guess is that WP9 will just be a tweaked version of Windows 9 without the desktop. The WP8 updates have been annoyingly slow, and Microsoft does not seem to be investing at all in apps (e.g. no Bing apps for WP8).

Is this the first time Microsoft has branded an update as a dot X release instead of a Service Pack?

I for one welcome this change and hope it signals a switch to more frequent major OS updates.

Depends if you count Windows 2.0/2.1 and 3.0/3.1 as similar-sized increments to this [0]

At least in the past 10 years, Microsoft's language has been all about "Service Packs". The landscape of mobile OSes, their app stores, and the movement of web browsers to an always-up-to-date model is conditioning consumers to expect continuously-updated software. It only seems natural that desktop OSes (which are the most entrenched in point releases) will eventually follow.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_3.1#Improvements_over_...

There was also Windows NT 3.1/3.5/3.51 (among other lesser known ones: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Microsoft_Windows)

The branding did recall to mind Windows 3.1, which was the first usable Windows.

The video was clearly not targeted at me - lots of jumping around the product and distracting. It just seems sad versus the Apple approach of focussing on end users doing things.

I agree it was a tad distracting, but I think your comparison with Apple is slightly flawed.

In the Microsoft ad, you're supposed to be able to project yourself to be the person doing these things. You're supposed to feel that 'you' are opening an e-mail and looking at photos or "you" are searching for Marilyn Monroe, etc. etc.

That is similar to the Apple ads, but the Apple ads do two things differently. 1) they are at a slower pace and with less frantic movement and music, so it is easier to understand 2) apple ads will often have a voice over explaining what is happening.

I don't like the Microsoft ad, but the ad does focus on an end user doing things. Everything in that ad is a user doing things. I think they need to refine their approach though, and make it about things people care about doing.

I'm waiting for some Windows 8 for Workgroups...

I mean, Win3.1 was quite usable, then OS/2 (joke), 95, then XP (some flavor of NT w/ a service pack wasn't horrible). It takes some iterations, sometimes, to get it right.

There are things I don't particularly care for in Win8, but compared to Win7, it is much snappier on older hardware and that I appreciate (stuffing it in a VM). I also appreciate the faster release iterations.

A company must live atop a mountain of stupidity to call a free upgrade a "service pack". It is really fun to watch Microsoft walk out of it's own echo chamber and create interesting things. It is an interesting time to be the software business.

Don't forget this download lasts a year, as it is a trial only. Read the fine print after your two hour set-up to see everything is useless after the set date. I ended up canceling my update.

In one of the articles I read on this (sorry no link) I'm pretty sure it mentioned their new philosophy, for hardware and software, was rapid iteration.

Windows 5.1 was "Windows XP"

It only came out a year or so after Windows 2K, which was 5.0 technically.

"Windows 5.1" was definitely not branding, though.

I see. I thought you were wondering if a point release ever got a marketing blitz.

They still refuse to let me purchase a valid Windows 8 licenses here. I'm in Bolivia.

Hell, I can purchase games on Steam, a VPS from a wide array of providers and even make purchases on Amazon, but Microsoft doesn't take my money.

Just give me a cart, a checkout page that lets me pay with Paypal and we're done MS. Just sell me the god damn serial key!

I'm in Tunisia, and my experience is that Microsoft products are available in many retailers and you can pay with your local currency.

I have been using Windows 8 since launch day and I have hardly touched the Metro apps. The only thing in this update I see for me is the start button. Something which I do not need.

The only update I want to see is a 'Shut Down' option when you click you name on the start screen.

I think Windows 8 is alright but I am somewhat disappointed at how they haven't even attempted to unify the metro / desktop experience. I thought this was one of the main gripes people had. As someone without a touch screen, I would use Metro apps far more if they opened in a container on the desktop.

If your titlebar has a dark background color, text and the minimize/maximize buttons are still unrecognizable. Is it so uncommon to use a dark color scheme that no one who works on this cares to fix it?

I've been wondering this exact thing. I generally use darker schemes as it's easier on my eyes, but am forced to use a lighter color as a result of not being able to read the window caption.

Interesting. I heard rumors about them possibly adding something akin to a start button back in 8.1, but there's no mention of that on this page.

Microsoft is being intentionally obtuse here. I think their goal is to knowingly introduce what people are not asking for, then when people complain about that, MS can say "see, people complain, start button or no".

No one cares about the start button. They care about the start menu. In 8.1, the button just does the same thing as hitting the winkey or clicking in the corner in 8 -- you get completely launched from the desktop environment, and go full-screen Metro-mode launcher.

While at first I thought it'd be the same (press winkey, type, enter), Windows 8/8.1 makes it far more cumbersome and is quite interrupting. Also, on Win8, you need to select what you're searching for. Unlike 7, it doesn't automatically search everything.

There is no way that MS actually thinks people want the button, not the menu.

> There is no way that MS actually thinks people want the button, not the menu.

We have decades of "click the start button" training drilled into peoples' heads. They'll find their app whether it's in a menu or a screen, but stranding them on the desktop without any button to get there was a problem. That's who the change was made for, not the tech enthusiasts that have been doing most of the complaining.

> Also, on Win8, you need to select what you're searching for. Unlike 7, it doesn't automatically search everything.

This is fixed on 8.1, it searches everything by default.

Ironically, it fails to find "Disk Cleanup" which is rather important if you want to properly delete "Windows.old" after the upgrade. (BTW, it's cleanmgr.exe if you want to run it).

I like the start button, but don't care about the start menu.

For what its worth, my (linux) desktop is intentionally very plain.

Apart from the grey background, there is a small bar at the top that shows for a clock and basic windowing stuff (tags, open windows, layout mode). There is also a start button like thing in the corner. Because I never use it, I tried to remove it from my desktop. Everything worked fine, but the desktop just looked wrong without that button in the corner.

I did however, remove the menu that comes up when you click on it.

No offense but, just no.

People didn't like it because it was UNDISCOVERABLE.

As it turns out, the Start Menu was pure shit and everyone did Winkey+"Application Name"+Enter. And they still use it today.

It's there when you watch the video.

It takes you to the Live Tiles screen. (I assume that screen has a real name but I don't know it and you get my drift)

It's called metro I guess. I giggled at how they brought the button back, but not the menu.

I thought it was called the "Start screen"[0]. I cared more about booting straight to the desktop than the loss of the start menu.

[0] http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/start-screen

It looks like Windows 8.1 will be solving many of the issues people have been having with Windows 8.

On the other hand, it’s such a shame that they’ve made Modern UI a walled-off platform. The PC’s biggest strength has always been how democratized the platform was – anyone could build a PC, make software for it.

OS X is sometimes criticized of becoming a closed platform, with GateKeeper and such, but the sad reality is that right now Windows 8 is the more restrictive of the two. At least Apple lets you self-sign and bypass the App Store vetting process (albeit for a fee), and you can easily disable GateKeeper altogether.

It’s also clear that the Modern UI and desktop teams have been working in complete isolation. Microsoft keep pushing out new frameworks, completely ignoring what came before. Will WPF go the way of Windows Forms? What are people who built XNA games supposed to do about Windows 8? What does modern Windows desktop app even look like? Most of them spot ribbons, but there isn’t even a standard component for that.

The first thing I looked for on that page was an image showing the Start button they've added back. I guess it's pretty telling that none of those pictures include the desktop and everything is showcasing the tablet interface now.

The Windows Modern UI isn't intended as a "tablet interface"; its intended as a form-factor agnostic new interface, the desktop is the legacy interface.

Now, I'm not saying I like the interface -- just that it isn't the "tablet interface".

The enhanced fullscreen browsing is pretty much also almost tablet only. Even on a 15" screen having fullscreen browser feels unusable to me – either the site has more-or-less fixed layout with a wide empty strip on each side, or it fills the entire screen so that lines are so long they are unreadable. I can't really imagine what it is to browse fullscreen on an even bigger screen.

For details, please download this 18 megabyte PDF file (don't mention XPS).

What surprices me the most is that Windows 8 is so darn expensive. The vanilla version costs $120, that is the biggest hurdle for my family to upgrade.

I bought upgrade to Win8 Pro for 29EUR. Not that expensive. That was shortly after Win8 was released but anyway - who wanted were able to upgrade cheap.

So no more Service Packs? Now they're just calling them "new versions of Windows" ?

Yep, they're following the Apple model.

Except for the fact that Microsoft doesn't charge for the updates.

Which just follows software versioning in general.

Since there are no IE11 threads on the front page, I'm going to hijack to express some amazement with the IE team. DASH and Media Source extensions (among the other, more well known HTML5 stuff added/bolstered)?! Awesome! Any word of CU-RTC/WebRTC though?

There was one yesterday about IE11 getting WebGL support: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5942739

".1" aka "SP1"

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