Microsoft has fallen from the position of the biggest technology company on the block. That title now belongs to Apple. As such, they have had to adjust their market strategy. As the PC market has matured, and aged, new technologies have come to replace the desktop, and even the laptop. Tablets, phablets, and smart phones are all the rage, and are good at what they do. To make a bad situation worse (for Microsoft), Apple now has a 12% share of the PC market, up from 3% 10 years ago.
Well we had a feeling that we would be seeing Microsoft’s newest versions of Office for both the “desktop” and for the cloud. The thing is that both of them are still geared toward the cloud. So far looking at the live announcements and the “reviews” of the consumer preview that a select group of web sites had access to we are both impressed and disappointed in Microsoft’s next productivity suite. At the top of the list of praises is a lack of “bloat”. Now it is true that Office is a large application install, but speaking as someone that actually uses the applications for more than their basic functions much of that is add-ons to make it more flexible you can chose not to install about ½ of that if you do not need it.
*** Update - All of the "preview" links for Office 2013 are actually for Office 365; Microsoft's cloud based version of Office. Although you do get the Office Applications you are also signing up to put your documents in their hands and also adding yourself to their mailing lists. ***
Today is the day that Microsoft is allegedly going to release Office 15 to the world (although most are galling it Office 2013 now). The rumors started to surface when it was announced that Microsoft would be holding an invite only press event today (July 16 2012) in San Francisco. Just like the debut of the Surface Tablet Microsoft is keeping quiet about the actual news they are going to give out at the event today so they could be announcing almost anything including their own phone, but we think that is unlikely. We know that Microsoft intends to include Office 15 with Windows RT so it is probably much more likely we are going to see something on their new productivity suite.
Not that long ago (when Microsoft was still hammer out the details of their Office 15 offering) there was a small stir on the internet about the possibility of Office for the iPad and for Android based tablets. At the time Microsoft completely denied the rumors and stated that they were not working on working on office for iPad and that the pictures floating around were faked.
In the IT world there was a time when we all feared the Marco viruses that could be embedded into Word, Excel and other Microsoft Office Products. It was bad enough at one point that I found a single system with over 3,200 counts of an Excel Macro virus (it replicated itself quite nicely). Back then it was common for IT to recommend the use of RTF (Rich Text Format) instead of .DOC for documents and there was even an option inside exchange to force the use of this format even if the end user has Word as their email editor.
Understandably the news has been filled with information on Google’s new product. We have heard about their typical tendency to copy and paste their terms of service along with how it is going to kill Dropbox and other storage providers. Along with these we have even heard how Google drive is signaling the death of Microsoft Office… ummm hang on a bit there. The death of what?
Microsoft is doing the hard sell on Windows 8 features and in particular they have made a valiant effort to push past some of the bad press (and consumer grumbling) about Metro UI and the way many of the apps are locked down. We have talked a little about this and even touched on it during some of our gaming coverage. Although you can launch “desktop” applications from the Start Screen (The Metro UI interface) you are not actually running them there. The only apps that will run in Metro UI Mode are ones that are downloaded from the Microsoft Store. This limits the functionality of the OS in many ways. Sure you can get some applications to interact with each other, but even then there are limitations.
After our initial report of an Office suite from Microsoft developed for Apple’s iPad it seems the company is trying very hard to deny the rumors and speculation, while at the same time leaving their options open. What is the real story? We are not entirely sure, but we are convinced that something is going on that will allow Office functionality on the iPad and other tablets in the works.
There is a rumor (according to CNET) that says Microsoft might release a version of their popular Office Suite for the iPad. Before you start slamming Microsoft or make the comment that Apple’s iWork suite is better/ just as good, let’s take a quick look at why Microsoft would even entertain this idea.
Ok, so I missed telling you about the installation and setup of all of the tools that I use on a daily basis. The two main ones that I have to have are Office and Photoshop. Office presented no issue at all (I did not expect it to) and the install was pretty quick,… considering. The biggest problem I had in getting things installed was (and still is) the issue with the hot keys. It is FAR too easy to get stuck on a Metro UI screen that has NO WAY OF GOING BACK. This is a HUGE flaw in the OS and the UI. If you have no option to go back or way to bring up the OSK (On Scree Keyboard) then you have a useless UI. To keep moving forward and get everything installed I had to disable the Metro UI with a fun Registry hack. Tos get this done I had to plug in an external keyboard (again because the OSK cannot be manually launched with the hotkeys) run Regedit from a command prompt and then change the RPEnabled value from 1 to 0 in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\ registry key.
After that things went a lot smoother although there were still times when I could not do anything because the OSK would not open up and there was no way to force it. The rest of our productivity applications went in without a hitch. Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Canon Zoom Browser, Zune (yes Zune), even Daemon Tools worked well. The last item we installed, but were leery of was VMWare’s Workstation 8. We use this for a small Mandriva install that I keep on a USB key. It is fun to tinker with and also is nice to have in case I need to examine files without too great a risk.
Day was uneventful on the installation range. However, we still cannot get the system fully operational. The lack of full audio support and the hot keys is huge for us on this tablet. There are just too many things that are not working without these.
Observations; The Metro UI has been designed for a touch interface this is obvious by the simple icons and the easy slide that you have. However, Microsoft had better make some changes fast. The lack of a “back” or home button in the UI is a serious oversight and not one that I would have expected from Microsoft. The UI is also missing some other very important features; where is the run line? How can I run the command line if there is no option for an on screen keyboard on a touch screen? Why do the most basic gestures not work on any of the Metro screens?
These items have pushed me back into using the no Metro UI for now and there are still plenty of hurdles to get over before we can consider this a success. Now that we have our basic productivity tools loaded we can begin to try and get to work.
This one is a short entry; I was able to get the system going without too much of a fuss, but the lack of the OSK for many things is still a hindrance. One place where this stands out is using remote desktop. You can do everything you need to connect, but once you are in there is no way to type unless you plug in a keyboard. Again the simple lack of an OSK launcher or a working hot key button is killing the usefulness at this stage. On the other hand when you can get it going the new OSK is brilliant. It is not quite a full QWERTY keyboard but when you press the “&123” you are greeted with a very nice layout for symbols and numbers. I love the 10-key layout for the number pad as it is perfect for entering in IP addresses and also performance numbers in Excel. Kudos to MS for this, now give us a back button in the Metro UI and an OSK launcher that works in all apps.
Other than my obvious frustration with not being able to do things I could do easily in Windows 7, the developer preview of Windows 8 is very quick and responsive. I am more than a little impressed with the speed of the OS even at this early stage. Now we just need to work with MS and Asus to get all of the functions of this EEE Slate EP121 working and things will be outstanding.
Check back for Day 4 when we try out Hyper-V on the EEE Slate.
Read our Day One observations
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