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Category: Windows 8

Windows 8 will have an app store, but will it be called App Store?

Windows 8

Microsoft has offered up a few more details on what to expect in Windows 8, its highly anticipated operating system that will run on both PCs and tablet computers.

But one addition, if Microsoft can do it right, could be hugely important for Windows 8 -- its app store.

Steve Sinofsky, who is in charge of Windows 8 development for Microsoft, broke down in a blog post the different teams working on specific aspects of the new OS and an "App Store" team was on the list.

An app store is, obviously, a store that sells applications, software to run on Windows 8 machines.

The inclusion of an app store in Windows 8 is a natural one, and not much of a surprise given Apple's huge success with selling mobile apps through iTunes and desktop apps through the Mac App Store.

Apple's iTunes has seen more than 15 billion apps downloaded and purchased -- a huge boon for Apple and huge attraction for developers.

A June screen shot of Windows 8 also featured, prominently, a "shop" icon with a Windows-logo adorned bag sitting beside it, too. And Microsoft has embraced the app store idea with Windows Phone 7's app Marketplace.

Even the much-maligned Windows Vista had an app store called the Windows Marketplace, though it (or Windows Vista) never found much popularity.

Among the questions, however, that remain is just what Microsoft will call its app store.

If the ongoing lawsuit between Apple and Amazon is any indication, Apple would be terribly unhappy if Microsoft just stuck with that App Store team name for the name of its new store. That's because Apple says the term App Store is a label it owns and that nobody else can use.

Apple sued Amazon in March after the online retail giant revealed its Amazon Appstore for Android, arguing that the similarity in names would confuse consumers looking for Apple's iTunes or Mac App Stores.

Amazon has disputed Apple's claims, arguing itself that "app store" and "appstore" are generic terms that shouldn't be owned by any one person or company.

What do you think? What will it take for Microsoft's Windows 8 app store to take off? If Microsoft doesn't call their store for apps an app store, what should they call it?

Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: Screen shot from a Microsoft demonstration video of Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft talks cloud, mobile and Windows 8 at big conference in L.A.

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Microsoft Corp. is doing a little show business in L.A.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant is firing up the spotlight downtown this week for its annual conference of business partners.  The event, held at the convention center, has attracted about 15,000 attendees, and boosters say it will bring tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the city.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer kicked off the event Monday with a keynote that touched on Microsoft's current strategy, which is largely focused on moving its business into the computing cloud.

"It's going to be one of the most beneficial transitions for all users of information technology around the planet," Ballmer said, noting that Microsoft has more than 40,000 partners that identify themselves as cloud-ready.

Last month Microsoft unveiled Office 365, a cloud-based version of its popular office software.

Ballmer also hyped the company's mobile handset offering: Windows Phone. Though he acknowledged that Microsoft hadn't yet won many mobile customers with the product ("We went from very small to very small"), he said the offering had plenty of potential. For one thing, he said, mobile phone giant Nokia cast its lot with the Windows Phone.

"Nokia -- who had a choice this year to bet on themselves, Android or Windows Phone -- said for their bet-the-company strategy, they're going with Windows Phone," he said. 

Microsoft also touched on Windows 8, the next version of its popular operating system, slated for a 2012 release. Windows 8 will be tailored to work on the smaller computing chips found in smartphones and tablet computers, as well as traditional PCs.

"Windows 8 is a true reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface," said Tami Reller, who leads business and marketing for Microsoft Windows. "We designed Windows 8 from the ground up to be excellent for touch-only tablets -- and to work well with the keyboard and mouse."

Later Monday, Ballmer was slated to host a reception for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other L.A. city officials for the presentation of a "Microsoft Week in L.A." certificate.

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Photo: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses the crowd at the 2011 Microsoft partner conference in Los Angeles. Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft's Windows 8 to have Xbox Live built in

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Microsoft is building its Xbox Live online gaming and entertainment service into its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

Mike Delman, vice president of global marketing for Microsoft's interactive entertainment unit, told the Seattle Times at E3 2011, that Xbox Live will become the central application through which consumers will buy media -- games, movies and music -- across a variety of devices.

What is surely not a coincidence, Microsoft also said during its E3 keynote that Xbox Live on the Xbox 360 is getting a new look -- one that incorporates the company's "live tile" design seen on Windows Phone 7 handsets and which it has said will be central to the look of Windows 8.

Xbox Live currently only runs on the Xbox 360 home console and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices.

"Live has been successful on the Windows Phone," Delman said in the Seattle Times report. "Live will be built into the PC. It will be the service where you get your entertainment. We were talking about it -- you will not just see consoles and handhelds at this show next year, this show's going to morph into other devices."

Delman also said that the way Xbox Live will work across devices -- whether consoles, phones, or Windows 8 PCs and tablets -- will be similar in approach to some of its competitors for entertainment sales online.

"There will be a lot of similarities in design and service philosophy," he said in the report. "Whether it's us or Apple or anybody else, people want to be able to navigate through multiple devices in a certain ecosystem very seamlessly so we're committed to that."

But while Apple has a central entertainment storefront in iTunes, which sells iOS apps, movies, music and games, Microsoft's offering are spread across various online marketplaces, but that too will change, Delman said.

"Xbox Live will be the pervasive media service across devices," he said in the report, later adding that Microsoft has "a ton of assets" and that "unifying the assets will be good for us and good for consumers."

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Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Microsoft demonstrates new user interface for its Xbox Live service during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Microsoft-branded Windows 8 tablet reportedly under consideration

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Microsoft is reportedly considering selling a Microsoft-branded tablet running Windows 8, in a move to challenge Apple's iPad and the growing field of tablets using Google's Android operating system.

The move would be a bit out of step for Microsoft, which builds operating systems but not PCs. But Microsoft has taken the "own-brand" route before with the hugely successful Xbox video game systems, as well as the unpopular Zune mp3 players and Kin smartphones.

The report that Microsoft may launch a tablet on its own comes from the Taiwanese tech website DigiTimes, which said Wednesday that unnamed sources "from the upstream supply chain" told it that the tech giant is considering partnering with Texas Instruments and hardware makers in Taiwan for the project. Microsoft did not confirm the rumors to DigiTimes.

Despite Microsoft mulling over the idea of entering the tablet market with Windows 8 on its own, the company is still looking to partner with consumer electronics brands to get Windows 8 tablets out, the report said.

Microsoft showed a preview of Windows 8 for tablets and PCs last week, but declined to say when the new operating system would be released. A week before that, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Windows 8 was due in 2012 -- a statement the company later retracted.

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Images: A screenshot from a Microsoft demo video of Windows 8  running on a tablet. Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft previews Windows 8 for tablets and PCs

Windows 8 start screen

Microsoft offered up a preview of its next operating system, which is being given the code name Windows 8 for now, and which is set to run on both tablets and PCs.

One operating system for tablets, laptops and desktops; one operating system that will work by means of a touch interface, or with the traditional mouse and keyboard.

At first glance, Windows 8 looks a lot like the Windows Phone 7 operating system, which has its roots in the OS found on Microsoft's iPod challenger that never caught on as hoped -- the Zune.

"Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface," said Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows experience, in a blog post. "A Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse."

Larson-Green, alongside Windows unit President Steven Sinofsky, showed off the under-development Windows 8 at the All Things Digital Conference conference on Wednesday, on a tablet.

The new user interface uses a "start screen" which offers up a series of live tiles for applications that show up-to-date information -- much like Windows Phone 7's OS. Tapping on any of the live tiles takes a user into that app, while a swipe from the sides (right, left, top or bottom) will bring up various menu options (somewhat similar to the tactic Research In Motion uses on its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet).

The apps from the live tiles that Microsoft showed off launched in full-screen modes, much like a tablet or smartphone and less like a PC. And Microsoft also touted a system they had to easily switch between open apps, all running at the same time, simply with swipe gestures and with no need to return to the start screen.

Windows 8 running two apps at the same time on a tablet Two apps can even run in the same window view -- a feature that other tablet operating systems have yet to offer.

The touch-centric apps shown off, Larson-Green said, run on HTML5 and JavaScript (running on Internet Explorer 10 behind the scenes), allowing developers to use the same tools to build apps for Windows 8 as they use to build websites. These apps are "Web-connected and Web-powered apps" that still have access to the full PC -- a sort of hybrid between a Web-based app and a native desktop app.

If a user prefers the less touch-centric user interface, the old task bar along the bottom of the screen and the traditional Windows start button in the lower left corner of that bar can still be used as an alternative, Larson-Green and Sinofsky said at the conference.

And indeed, the old Windows does appear to be there, likely making Windows 8 not a completely new OS from the ground up, but rather a new user interface put on top of Windows as consumers already know it.

Windows 8 running Microsoft Word and showing its file system When Larson-Green tapped to open Microsoft Excel at the conference, it was still usable with touch input, but the familiar task bar and start button popped up, looking just like a Windows 7 desktop.

And with a swipe, it was back to Windows 8's live tiles and other full-screen apps.

Windows 8, while it will run on tablets and PCs, will give users more options when it comes to attaching peripherals to devices, such as external hard drives, printers and scanners, and it will also give users more access to the files they have by still using a viewable file system like Windows and not keeping files confined in apps themselves in the way that iOS and Android do, Sinofsky said at the conference.

While Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, said recently that Windows 8 would arrive in 2012 on PCs and tablets (all claims that Microsoft later retracted, before saying Windows 8 would run on tablets and PCs Wednesday), Sinofsky and Larson-Green declined to offer a specific date or year when Windows 8 would arrive.

"Right now we're focused on getting the release done and the next milestone for us is the developer conference in September," Sinofsky said at the conference. "Every two to three years is a good release."

Which, with Windows 7 having been released in 2009, could peg Windows 8 for 2012.

Below is a video demo of Windows 8 posted by Microsoft on YouTube on Wednesday.

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Images: Screenshots from a Microsoft demo video of Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft

Influential investor says Microsoft's Ballmer should step aside

Ballmer

Microsoft Corp. chief Steve Ballmer should surrender the throne, a well-known hedge fund investor said in New York on Wednesday.

David Einhorn, the manager of the Greenlight Capital fund, said Ballmer, who has been at Microsoft since 1980 and was the first business manager hired by Bill Gates, should "give someone else a chance."

"His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock," Einhorn said at an investment conference, according to a report from Reuters.  Ballmer has been Microsoft's chief executive since Gates handed him the reins in 2000.

Einhorn and his fund are substantial investors in Microsoft, owning close to 9 million shares of the company, or approximatly 0.11% of its shares.

Although Microsoft continues to reap huge profits from sales of its Office and Windows software that runs on hundreds of millions of computers around the world, the company's stock has remained notoriously static, hovering between about $25 and $30 a share for much of the last decade.

Last year, Apple Inc., a longtime Microsoft rival and once a tiny upstart in comparison, became larger than Microsoft in terms of market value.  And on Tuesday, IBM -- also a rival that Microsoft famously overtook in the PC business in the 1990s -- caught and passed Microsoft by market value.  (Microsoft, which has seen a 2.5% increase in stock price Thursday, is back in front of IBM for now).

Microsoft has been playing catch-up in several markets, including search with Bing, its competitor to Google, and its Windows Phone.  The company announced a new version of the phone's software earlier this week.

Updated, 1:43 p.m.: Reuters is reporting that the Microsoft board of directors still backs Ballmer, according to "a source close to the board.  The report did not offer any other detail.

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Image: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CeBit in Hanover, Germany, in 2008. Credit: Kay Nietfeld / European Pressphoto Agency

Microsoft retracts CEO Ballmer's claim that Windows 8 is due in 2012

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Microsoft issued a retraction of Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's claims this week that Windows 8 would arrive in 2012 on tablets and PCs.

The Redmond, Wash., company said Ballmer misspoke and even backed off the next release of its Windows operating system being called Windows 8.

In aWednesday email from a company spokeswoman, Microsoft said:

It appears there was a misstatement. We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.

On Monday, at a Microsoft developers conference in Tokyo, Ballmer said Windows 8 (as he called it) would arrive next year on many different devices.

We've done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand-new user interface. We've added touch and ink and speech. And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.

It now seems Ballmer either didn't know what he was talking about, or he spoke too soon.

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Photo: Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, at a press conference announcing the company's purchase of Skype in San Francisco on May 10, 2011. Credit: Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Microsoft CEO promises Windows 8 in 2012, 500 new features for Windows Phone 7

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Windows 8 for desktop computers and tablets will ship in 2012, and an upcoming Windows Phone 7 update will include 500 new features, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Monday at a developers conference in Japan.

Ballmer made the announcement in a speech, shortly after expressing his condolences to Japan about the earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation in March.

"It's been 18 months since my last trip in Japan, which in my whole 30 years of working for Microsoft is the longest period of time between visits in Japan," Ballmer said in his speech. "Microsoft is very committed to Japan. We're celebrating 25 years this year, 25 years of Microsoft business in Japan. And to all of the developers in the room, I say: Thank you very much for the support and for the partnership."

Ballmer said that Japan is home to Microsoft's second-largest subsidiary and that Microsoft is looking to Japan to help the company be competitive in areas where it "is committed to investing and innovating and leading."

One of the areas Microsoft wants to lead is "natural user interface" -- using speech, gestures and touch to control computers. Microsoft has had success with its Kinect motion-sensing camera for its Xbox 360 video game console, but it has yet to release a major consumer tablet offering, which would rely on a touch-screen-oriented version of Windows.

Ballmer expressed frustration about having released Windows Phone 7 to the market last fall.

"Another big sort of effort for us in terms of transforming the future of communication is the Windows Phone," he said. "We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us.

"But we're moving forward very actively. We launched Windows Phones last November. We've done a set of upgrades. We have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan. Not only is it a new release that is now much more global, but we've added over 500 new features to Windows Phone."

Not long after that, Ballmer turned his attention to what Microsoft is doing on Windows 8.

"Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year," Ballmer said. "We've done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand-new user interface. We've added touch and ink and speech. And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

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Photo: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in San Francisco on May 10. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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