There is hope for Windows RT

Believe it or not, I think there is still hope for Windows RT to gain traction only if the following three critical points happens:

  1. Rebrand it to something else other than the incredibly confusing “Windows RT” name. Call it “Windows 8 Touch”, “Windows 8 Express”, “Windows 8 Tablet Edition” or simply “Windows 8” and rename the home edition to “Windows 8 Home”. Whatever the name is, it cannot be “Windows RT”.
  2. Remove Desktop. Yes, there is absolutely no use for it if the only thing it can run is Office in Windows RT. And since the Office suite is being developed as modern apps as we speak, it’s more reason for Desktop to be useless on Windows RT. File Explorer has been baked into Windows 8.1’s modern UI so that too is another nail in the Desktop coffin in Windows RT.
  3. Apps, and lots of popular apps. Without the top 10 apps that people know and expect on a tablet platform, there will be no reason for consumers to adopt Windows RT. Make sure those apps are in Windows Store.

That’s it. Consumers don’t need to know the technical definition of Windows RT to know what Windows RT is and what it enables them to do, hence rebranding it. Consumers don’t need to be confused with the presence of Desktop on a tablet when it’s mainly used for touch. And last, but no least, apps. Bring them, and buyers shall come.

Why is it called Windows RT?

Microsoft decided to completely remove the ARM based Windows OS from the Windows 8 family by calling it ‘Windows RT’, even though it looks completely identical to Windows 8 to the end user. Now why would they ever do something like that?

It looks exactly like Windows 8, it runs the same Windows Store apps like Windows 8, and on top of all that it even comes with Windows Desktop just like Windows 8. I understand that it won’t run other Desktop software besides Office but why confuse the end user with terminology? What happened to ‘Keep It Stupid Simple’?

The average consumer doesn’t give a crap of the underlying technology, and Microsoft expects them to know that ‘Windows RT’ stands for ‘Windows Run Time’ and that it’s sharing kernel code with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8? Are you kidding me?

Here is what I think: Windows RT should have been called Windows 8 Express (just like how Microsoft uses ‘Express’ for other light weight and free software), and Windows 8 should have been called Windows 8 Premium and keep the Windows 8 Professional offering.

Express, Premium and Professional (and there is always the special Enterprise version). Simple and straight to the point.

Metro, Modern or Windows Store app?

It would have been fine if they kept using the term ‘Metro’ for the modern apps (Windows Store apps?) but for some reason Microsoft forgot to do their due diligence on whether they can legally use that name or not before they started using it.

So when they realized they had to stop using that name, they started calling them ‘modern apps’ for the lack of better words. But that’s not gonna help differentiate the type of apps since any application (whether a Windows Store or Desktop app) can revamp their UI and call it modern. Modern isn’t a noun, it’s an adjective. It can be used to describe any application if it fits the definition. So by calling them modern also added more confusion to the developers and end users.

So when Microsoft realized that, they changed it a second time and told us to start calling them ‘Windows Store’ apps instead. But any Windows 8 or Windows RT ‘app’ can come from the Windows Store eventually, and calling them Windows Store apps basically tells us that the app came from the Windows Store and not what type of application it is (I’m talking about what an average consumer would think).

So calling them Windows Store apps isn’t gonna help either in the long run and will most likely (as it is already) add more to the confusion.

Personally, I have no clue what those apps should be called, but I did like the term ‘metro’ the most out of all of them. Unfortunately, ‘metro’ cannot be used anymore.

Get your shit together, Microsoft.

Windows 8 Music app volume issue

I recently installed Windows 8 Pro on my home PC, which is the last computer that needed to be upgraded, and after installing the latest update for the Music app I experienced a strange issue.

I had no problems opening and browsing the Music app but when I started to play a song and switched to Desktop the computer somehow decides to dramatically lower the volume. Switching back to the Music app would bring up the volume automatically.

Since this is a Windows Store app, I couldn’t play with its settings or configuration files to try to determine what could be causing this, so I simply uninstalled the Music app and installed it again which fortunately fixed it.

Anyways, I thought I would post my experience in case there are others out there facing a similar issue.

Bundling and Minification with ASP.NET 4.5

One of my tasks recently was to implement bundling and minification on a ASP.NET 4.5 web application. So naturally, I started to read many articles and tutorials on how to implement it until I understood the technology and got confident on implementing it. The implementation was quite simple really and I was very happy with the progress…until I reached a brick wall.

For some reason there was absolutely no mention on how to reference bundles created in the markup of a web form AND still be able to debug by disabling the bundling and minification. Most, if not all, articles and tutorials were talking about ASP.NET MVC implementations as opposed to web forms. When I was able to get the bundling and minification to work, I kept losing the ability to debug my bundled JavaScript files (in Visual Studio) when I set “debug=’true'” in my web config file.

So for anyone who is in the same boat, I feel your pain and here is what I went through:

I added the following markup for a script bundle called ‘~/scripts1’:

<script src=”~/scripts1″></script>

That didn’t make bundling and minification work. So I tried:

<script src=”scripts1″></script>

It worked this time, but setting “debug=’true'” would still bundle and minify my JavaScript files. So I tried the following:

<script src=”<% Scripts.Render(“~/scripts1″); %>”></script>

That gave me the same result as the previous one. So after hours of researching and playing with code, I wrote the following line right in the markup without any <script> tags:

<%: Scripts.Render(“~/scripts1”) %>

It worked! I got my bundling and minification to work only when “debug=’false'”.

I hope this helps some poor soul out there. If you need more information on bundling and minification with ASP.NET 4.5, read this article.

How does Messaging work on Windows 8?

On Windows Phone, I tap on the Messaging tile and from there I can see who’s online, all my previous message threads and an option to change my chat status. So you’d expect the same experience or similar options when you click on the Messaging tile on Windows 8, right? Wrong.

The most important option when it comes to messaging is to see who’s online, which is sadly not present on Windows 8’s Messaging app. In order to see who’s online, you’ll need to open the People app and if you click on an online contact Windows 8 switches you to the Messaging app to chat. So essentially, you’d have to keep flipping back and forth between the Messaging and People apps.

Am I the only one who believes that this messaging workflow is completely flawed?

That being said, and as I mentioned before, the experience and workflows between both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 aren’t always consistent and often confusing even for people trying to use Windows 8 whom already own a Windows Phone.

As much as I like Windows 8’s new modern Start screen, the way I currently see it and from a developer’s point of view, it certainly shows that this was a quick first iteration that Microsoft had to release on launch day. The built-in apps feel like they’re still in beta which further confirms (I hope) the rumor of an upcoming major update that will bring all Microsoft’s Windows platforms closer to one another in terms of features and UI consistency.

Where is the consistent “Windows Everywhere” experience?

If I recall correctly, Microsoft promised us a “Windows Everywhere” experience that is quite consistent in its nature, especially when it comes to the user interface. So far, it’s been “modern UI” and tiles everywhere but sadly that is as far as the consistency goes.

I’d love to see the same live tiles everywhere. I’d love to see my own settings and accounts being brought up from Windows 8 to Xbox to Windows Phone. I’d love to see the same apps available in all Microsoft platforms. More so, I’d love to see consistency in developing apps for all their devices so that developers can easily deliver the same apps across many Microsoft products. That’s the “Windows Everywhere” experience that I am anxiously waiting for.

What’s the deal with Xbox Music pass on Windows Phone 8?

So let’s assume that at least a million people out there own a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, and let’s also assume that a quarter of them have an Xbox Music pass. Well, most (if not all) of those people are suffering including myself. Apparently, Microsoft seems to have released Windows Phone 8 before it entirely matured cause you simply cannot sync or properly use your Xbox Music pass on it.

Microsoft’s Zune/Xbox Music support representatives keep telling me that in order to fully make use of my Xbox Music pass that I need to use it with the Xbox Music app on Windows 8, and that’s the only way. Whatever music I download on my Windows Phone 8 device doesn’t get synced on the Xbox Music cloud collection and I cannot just simply hookup my phone with Windows 8 and expect all my Xbox Music collection to get synced automatically without any issues (DRM issues specifically).

It’s an ongoing issue that has plagued Windows Phone 8 since its launch. I am hoping that Microsoft is working on a major update for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 that will enable them to talk ‘better’ with each other.

Bridging the gab between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8

I hope that Microsoft is working hard on bridging the obvious gab between Windows 8’s modern UI and Windows Phone, especially with the built-in apps. If Microsoft is really after a single consistent experience, when it comes to the user interface, on all their platforms then they still have a lot to work on at least when trying to bridge the gaps.

Here are a few things I’d like to see Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone teams working on:

Like Windows 8, Windows Phone also needs a screen rotation lock option.

The same experience we get with Xbox Music & Videos apps on Windows 8 must be consistent on Windows Phone 8. “Music + Videos” app must go.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 are mobile products at heart, which means that IE10 on both of them deserve a reading mode.

Windows Phone’s built-in apps should be updatable from the Windows Phone Store like on Windows 8, including Internet Explorer.

Apps on Windows Phone 8 should install the same way as on Windows 8, they should immediately be pinned to the Start screen.

The super easy way of changing tile sizes on Windows Phone 8 also needs to be implemented in Windows 8. Not sure why this isn’t the case.

Windows Phone’s “Me” tile needs to be added to Windows 8. Having it hidden in the “People” hub doesn’t make sense.

Flickr, PhotoBucket & SmugMug for Windows Phone

Windows Phone’s market share is growing, no doubt about it, and it might be growing faster than you think despite what those pessimistic analysts may have told you. One of the clues that proves this is the fast pace of the platform’s adoption from major companies including those in the image hosting sector.

As of today, users can find Flickr, PhotoBucket and SmugMug apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. So if you are a user of one of those services and own a Windows Phone, you’ll be glad to know that you are now covered and can start uploading those priceless Kodak moments of your cat.

One of the unique things about Windows Phone is its metro interface that got positive feedback all over the world. That same metro interface experience is used in most of the apps in the Marketplace including the three mentioned in this post. The experience is so delightful and fluid that it almost makes you feel guilty for not uploading photos.