Windows 8 Millenium?

Posted on April 16, 2012


Windows 8 BannerThose of us with long memories may recall back in 2000 when Microsoft released a phenomenal disaster called Windows Millenium. As the last in the range of the Windows 9x series of operating systems it was in many ways similar to the familiar versions of Windows we have seen since – but was an unmitigated disaster because it simply had not been properly thought through.

The Start screen of Windows PhoneShort-lived though it was, this particular disaster did give Microsoft a start on developing both Windows Media Centre and even the first versions of Windows Mobile for their telephone operating system. Unfortunately for Microsoft, neither the Windows Mobile nor the Media Centre have exactly been world-shakers although they have certainly not plumbed the depths of disaster that were reached by Millenium. Unfortunately though, Microsoft have not, it seems, learned the lessons from these versions that they should have done.

Soon – it is rumoured that it may be as soon as this summer – we are about to see the release of a new version of Windows to be known as Windows 8. How the radical changes to the operating system got there stretch the imagination but one can imagine the conversation at Microsoft. With the best will in the world, it would not have been a fun discussion.

“So why,” says a Microsoft sales expert, “are our Windows phones not seling?”
“Well,” replies a technical guru, “there is too much competition. Look at Apple – they have the iPhone and it looks like he iPad tablet, so they can use them both easily. it is even similar to Lion, the desktop OS they use. And they are going to make Lion even better in the newer versions.”
“But Apple are different,” says the sales wizard. “We don’t want to be Apple.”
“Its not just them though,” replies the techie. “Look at this new Android stuff – its the same on the phones and the tablets. They even have versions of Linx like Ubuntu that look similar on the desktop. And look at all the big mobile phone makers that have versions of Android on their models.”
“We can do that,” the sales guy answers. “We can buy into a big phone maker like Nokia and put our Mobile OS on their phones, though maybe we should change them a bit to fit well and look good. We can even use our OS developers to make a version of it work on tablets too – we’ll call it Windows 8.”

Now the chances are that you, us and even your pet dog can see problems with that approach. Sure, its true that Nokia phones sell well before they start, but they own their own phone OS – two of them, in fact. Both of them are better than Windows Mobile, so there will be big changes needed and to stick what you have on a tablet would look ridiculous. Even the chaps at Microsoft could see the problem so they came up with a new idea they call “tiles” and built the new Windows Mobile around them and got Nokia to release it.

Windows 8Meanwhile, their development chaps got together and made a version that would look good on tablets and be easy to use with touchscreen control. The minor snag that there are no Microsoft or even Windows tablets to run it on seems to have been a minor issue. Instead, they chose to run it on desktops too – without touchscreens to control it! There was also the minor snag that a lot of the Microsoft money comes from applications like Office – which didn’t have a way to work as one of these new-style tiled thingies. So the obvious thing to do was to stick what amounts to Windows 7 underneath the fancy new stuff. Even then there was the problem that they wanted their tablets – when they get made – to run with the ARM chips… and the old stuff wouldn’t run well on that.

Such a competing set of issues can only result in one thing in the world of computer technology – an absolute disaster that does nothing well and fails on all counts. That, pretty much, is what we look to be ending up with for Windows 8. We will have a tablet operating system built around touchscreens – but that is supposed to run on desktop PCs that do not have a touchscreen. To add insult to injury, much of what we want them for is “under the hood” as the old-style Windows 7 desktop, unless your PC uses an ARM chipset in which case you can’t have the desktop at all.

It even includes a screen-based keyboard, which is superb by the way but about as much use as tits on a boar when you have a desktop PC with no touchscreen!

You may gather that we at Changed Times think the new version of Windows is about as bad as things could get – and you would be right. Even with all the problems described so far though, the real problem is something quite different. It may be that you find it impossible to imagine how things could possibly be worse, or you may have looked at the new version and for some reason quite like it and find it hard to imagine something bad about it. If so, you would be wrong.

Ignoring the problem that there are pretty much no tablets to run it on – and Microsoft is strongly discouraging manufacturers to actually build and sell any – while touchscreens are pretty silly for desktop PCs, but there is far worse to come. There is a feature called Trusted Platform Module or TPM that many chipsets include – but which is illegal in several countries and must be turned off by default in far more… but not the USA. At the moment, this is up for discussion within Microsoft but as we understand it may still be required to be turned on for all PCs running Windows 8. If that remained the case, which we doubt it will, then Windows 8 would suddenly become illegal in places such as the tiny republic of China, for instance!

The plan was to use TPM for the new boot system known as UEFI or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface to start Windows 8. Not only is there nothing wrong with UEFI, but it is an excellent move to make systems more seure, so what could Microsoft possibly do to make it a disaster? Well, it turns out that they want to use it to make sure nothing can run before Windows 8 starts unless it is a signed application – and the only signature set makers will be forced to include in the chipset is the Microsoft set!

Now, you could turn off this “protected boot” mode altogether to allow other things to run… unless you are using an ARM chipset PC, in which case you can’t. Or you could load up some other signatures as well as the Microsoft set – except that the manufacturers don’t have to tell you how to do that or even to let you do it at all. Plus, of course, not all the stuff you want to run – like the Linux or BeOS operating systems for example – have signatures that you could load anyway. As for compiling your own Linux installation, which many people do, you can just forget that altogether!

You may have noticed that linking Microsoft so closely to the manufacturers with the production requirements for running Windows 8 could be considered an anti-trust issue and land them in court – and you would be right. On top of all the other issues with it Microsoft seem determined to release it as what amounts to a screamingly illegal system across huge areas of the planet.

Unity DesktopDon’t get us wrong here – yes, there are some very serious issues with Windows 8, but it does have some remarkable and innovative ideas as well. Its just that Microsoft seem absolutely determined to make it virtually impossible to run anything other than Windows 8 on new systems – and as a result to make it a massively illegal system. We here hope to see them come to their senses and correct the problems before it is released, otherwise we shall be moving to Linux ourselves. Frankly though, it is more likely that Windows 8 will once again see Microsoft in court all across the world.

When, oh when, will Microsoft learn?