Don’t be blue: Windows Blue is Coming

Microsoft is taking home computing into the future. They are not resting on the success of Windows 7. Just as Apple wants to offer a unified experience by drawing upon synergies between computer, phone, tablet and a television connected media box — Microsoft is running toward that destination — albeit being slightly late to the dance.

I’ve gotten to assist several customers with upgrading an existing Windows 7 or XP system to Windows 8. Others have purchased a new computer with Windows 8 on it.

There are some aspects that are really different. There is a brand new START SCREEN that replaces the start menu. That start screen is referred to as the Modern UI (user interface) or Metro UI. However, you don’t have to use the new start screen at all if you don’t want to. Gradually I think my clients should progress toward learning it. In the future, it will be an indispensable part of everyone’s Windows experience.

There are some commendable aspects to Windows 8. File copying — such as backing up your files to a flash disk or an external hard drive are MUCH faster. Starting up and shutting down the computer has sped up considerably. Microsoft is now allowing you to save settings and preferences through a Microsoft account ( an email address of your choosing) in case you have to move to a new computer or reinstall Windows on your existing computer.

You know how I pick computers for customers. I really try to steer people away from the off-the-shelf big box store models. When I get involved in setting up a new PC for a customer — there are certain customizations that I perform during each installation. With Windows 8, I will install two helper programs created by a Michigan company (Stardock.com) that have proven very helpful in easing customers into Windows 8. These programs cost a total of $10 and are called Start 8, which adds the traditional start menu back to Windows 8 and the other is called Modern Mix which allows you to run some of the new-style "modern" applications on your traditional Windows desktop. It’s easy to wonder why Microsoft simply didn’t include these features with Windows 8. I will look at the situation from the other side of the glass and say, I’m thankful that Microsoft has allowed a credible third party company to offer these tools to enhance your Windows 8 experience.

Just a couple of you are still running Windows XP. If you are, the game is just about up. Microsoft will no longer be supporting it with security updates after April 2014. If you are still running XP on a computer at that time, perhaps a secondary computer, it would be a good idea to get any data off of there, take the hard drive out and stop using it. It was pretty much impossible to buy a new computer with XP after October 2009. By April of next year your computer will likely be 5 years old. Unless its an exceptionally robust computer and you can get some type of corporate discount on Windows 8 software (retail is $200), I think it would be better to buy a new computer with Windows 8 Pro than to try to upgrade a Windows XP computer to 8.

If you are running Windows 7, you are fine. Microsoft will continue to publish major revisions until 2015. They will put out security updates for Windows 7 until 2020. Barring any corporate or academic discounts that you may be able to tap into, I’ll bet a lot of you probably do not want to pay $200 for Windows 8 Pro software to upgrade. You don’t have to. Microsoft will not pull the plug on your Windows 7 computer. If you’ll remember, there was a discount period from October through the end of January where you could have upgrade for $40 and its wonderful that some of you took advantage of that. If you didn’t, I think you will probably be getting a Windows 8 styled system (which may be called Windows 9 by that time) WITH YOUR NEXT COMPUTER.

For those of you currently using Windows 8 — Microsoft will be putting out a fairly major update this summer or fall. The code name of this update is Windows Blue though the final name will be different. It may be known as Windows 8 Service Pack 1. None the less this update will fix some of the nagging issues in 8. It is expected that this update will be free and you will be prompted for it as you would your regular Windows Updates. This is going to be the start of something new for Microsoft and for its individual consumers. From this point forward they see themselves putting out YEARLY updates to Windows. With the exception of this 2013 update, they will probably charge a small fee for the update — somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $40.

Instead of paying $100 to $200 every 3 years for a full Windows update, you would pay a lesser amount every year to keep Windows current. Unlike past pricing models, I would expect these updates to be mandatory rather than optional. This change further ushers in the era of Software as a Service for consumers. The business world has been operating this way for a long time. We need to embrace it.

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