Here’s my first report on experiences with Windows 8 Pro RTM, in the wake of two successful upgrade installs: one on my Lenovo X220 Tablet, the other on my i7-2700K.
First things first: Mr. Denny’s tip on modifying the
cversion.ini file in the
.../sources directory in the unpacked ISO files is a gem. I was indeed able to use a modified ISO-based image for Windows 8 Pro to perform an upgrade install on my Windows 8 Release Preview install, and preserve my already-installed applications and tools, as well as settings and preferences while installing the latest and final version of the OS on my Lenovo X220 Tablet and my i7-2600K desktop PC. As you might expect, the installation takes a while longer (over half an hour) when you have various installed elements to port over from an old OS to a new one. I grabbed the Windows 8 Pro ISO from MSDN on Tuesday, and then used the Windows 7 USB DVD Download tool to convert that ISO to a writable install image on an 8 GB UFD (I tried a 4 GB UFD, and the copy process failed to complete properly, so you’ll want to go 8GB or larger). A quick edit to the aforementioned file, and everything worked as I expected it to.
The post-install aftermath came with a couple of unexpected and interesting side effects. I figured the Windows 8 RP drivers would port to Windows 8 RTM without a hiccup, but I figured wrong. For one thing, I had issues across the board with Bluetooth. Before the installer would let me proceed with the Windows 8 Pro install on my desktop, which includes an Asus P8Z68-V Pro Gen3 motherboard with built-in Qualcom Atheros BT circuitry, it required me to uninstall the Asus BT GO! Bluetooth software, citing incompatibility issues with that software. And so far, I’ve been unable to find a replacement BT software suite to run with this motherboard, either. That said, the built-in Windows Bluetooth utilities — namely Add Bluetooth Device, Change Bluetooth Settings, View Devices and Printers, and Set up a connection or network — all work properly with the default driver that Windows 8 Pro RTM installed on that machine. Likewise, I’ve been unable to install and use what DriverAgent insists is the latest and greatest Bluetooth driver on either machine, so there’s something wonky going on with BT that I’m still puzzling my way through.
On the Lenovo X220 Tablet, four drivers needed updating after I upgraded from Windows 8 RP to RTM:
- Intel HD Graphics 3000: I was able to grab and use a Fujitsu driver (they seem to be doing a very good job of keeping up with Windows 8 drivers, and I’ve learned to trust them as a source for solid, stable Windows 8 driver software). But my Windows Experience Index value for this graphics circuitry dropped from 5.1 in Windows 8 RP to 4.6 in Windows 8 Pro RTM.
- Intel 82579LM GbE Network Connection: another Fujitsu driver to the rescue here, thanks very much.
- Intel Display Driver Audio: still one more Fujitsu driver, and thanks again.
- Bluetooth: haven’t yet been able to crack this nut, even using the Fujitsu driver. Instead of a successful install, I get the following error message window, even if I use the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter and try it with various XP, Vista, and Windows 7 settings as well:
I imagine I’m just going to have to wait to get these matters resolved, as Asus and Lenovo (and probably also, the Bluetooth technology vendors such as Qualcom Atheros, Broadcom, and so forth) get their heads around the underlying issues and start to issue newer drivers and software tools for their Bluetooth devices.
Some other observations based on my two days’ of experience with the new OS include:
- Boot-up and shutdown are noticeably faster on both machines as compared to the RP version
- The Aero-free desktop is pretty clean, and easy to work with
- Switching between Windows 8 GUI (the UI formerly known as Metro) and the desktop is easier than before, thanks to easier access to the Start screen by “cornering the cursor” (moving it into the nearest corner on your screen)
- Desktop Gadgets are indeed gone, gone, gone (searching for “Gadget” through the Start screen turns up 0 Apps, 0 Settings, and 0 related Files).
- Gabe Topala’s Siw-x64.exe (the temporary version he produced for Windows 8 beta users) quits working in the RTM version. So far, no news on a replacement 64-bit commercial version for Windows 8 x64 RTM and final versions, either.
- All of my applications still appear to be working: I haven’t made an exhaustive survey of everything yet, but every program I’ve tried has continued to work without issues (except for the Bluetooth stuff the installer asked me to uninstall before I continued on with Windows 8 Pro installation, but since it’s not installed anymore, I can’t exactly try it out — and it won’t install on Windows 8 Pro, either).
My final comment on where things stand is “So far, so good.” I’ll continue to follow up as more things present that appear worthy of reporting and discussion.
Thanks to SQL Server blogger Mr. Denny right here on ITKE, I have a great trick to share with readers who want to upgrade their Windows 8 Release Preview installs to the latest RTM version now available through MSDN, TechNet, and other sources. This blog post of his is entitled “Upgrading Windows RP to RTM” and covers the complete set of actions required to achieve this eminently laudable goal, step-by-step. Apparently, the whole exercise hinges on the contents of a file named
cversion.ini that resides in the
<drv>:\sources\ directory (where <drv> is the drive letter for the UFD onto which you’ve unpacked the Windows 8 RTM install ISO image). I’m guessing that the number that appears in this file usually matches up to whatever release number attaches to the version of Windows installed on your PC. For Windows 8 Release Preview that’s 8508.0. But by changing the number to 7100.0 (a number that corresponds to a version of Windows 7 , though my Windows 7 with SP 1 installed shows up as 7601 when I run the
winver command) you can fool the installer into performing an upgrade install to bring your version up to the RTM version without demur.
Fantastic! Having been out on vacation this past week with family, I plan to try this out later today, as soon as I finish downloading the latest Windows 8 RTM ISO from MDSN.
[Note: Copy added 12:14 PM CST Tuesday 8/21/2012]I’m installing the new OS right now. Without editing the cversion.ini file on the install UFD, I couldn’t access the upgrade option on my Lenovo X220 Tablet. But after editing the UFD as Mr. Denny suggested, the upgrade install is steaming along on that machine quite happily right now. When it finished, I’ll do the same for my home-built i7-2700K desktop and see how that works. Tomorrow, I’ll blog about my upgrade experiences. Stay tuned!
The ongoing Metro flap continues. Yesterday, Mary Jo Foley posted a story entitled “Microsoft: Don’t call it Metro. Call it ‘Windows 8.’” She suggests that the whole dust-up is intended to resolve a naming dispute with a German retailer (and Microsoft partner) named Metro AG. So, from now on anyplace you’ve seen Metro, you’ll now see Windows 8 popping up. Thus anything once called “Metro-Style application” (which sometimes appears without the hyphen) is to be called “Windows 8 application.” Likewise for “Metro Design;” it’s now “Windows 8 design.” She also points to a new promo page from Lenovo for its Windows 8 Thinkpad Tablet 2 that makes use of the new terminology in a bullet that refers to “Desktop and Windows 8 Apps.”
There’s still some apparent confusion within the MS ranks, though: earlier this week the Windows 8 app developer blog featured an entry entitled “Building your own Windows Runtime components to deliver great Metro style apps.” It will probably take a while for this new official word to percolate all the way through the organization and for the necessary string substitutions to take effect globally. Foley also speculates that the same rules will affect Windows Phone as well, itself due for a version 8 of its own software.
Others have speculated that terms such as “Modern UI Style” might possibly replace Metro (Tom Warren, The Verge). Apparently, MS used Modern in connection with the new interface as far back as January 2011, as documented in this article from Paul Thurrot. Who knows? In this rough-and-tumble world of Windows, anything is possible! That said, you can be sure MS won’t call it “Old-fashioned,” “Frustration,” or “No More Start Menu!”
There’s been enough hoopla and unhappiness about the Windows 8 tile-oriented user interface known until now as Metro, that MS has apparently decided to kill the name and call this GUI something else entirely. Too bad I haven’t yet laid hands on the RTM code for Windows 8, because I’d love to find out if the M-word shows up in that version of the OS. On August 2, Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reported that “…I’ve been hearing from a number of my contacts that Microsoft is trying to slow, if not halt, internal and external use of the term ‘Metro.'” She also produced this marvelous quote from a Microsoft spokesperson about Metro: “We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.” Very interesting, and even more interesting is the follow-up work that Ed Bott documents in his recent article entitled “Cleaning Up Microsoft’s Metro Mess.”
Ed performs some fascinating text analysis on the MS corpus, to produce the following information on Metro mentions therein:
- Steve Ballmer mentioned Metro as “our featured attraction” in his 2012 CES keynote address, and then went on to mention the name 27 times in that presentation.
- Microsoft has been encouraging developers to build Metro style apps since 2011, until the end of last week (August 3).
- Microsoft even posed a Windows Metro Style App Challenge to students enrolled in accredited college-level programs.
- He provides a link to a page in the Windows Dev Center entitled “White papers for Metro Style apps” that includes over a dozen entries, plus links to other materials.
- He points to language in the App Developer Agreement that makes repeated references to Metro Style Apps as such, and also points to sessions for MS’s Public Sector Developer Weblog for sessions at a Tampa, FL, DevCamp Public Sector Series, 7 of which use the word “Metro” in their titles.
Though other market followers have already intoned the inflection point between Windows XP and Windows 7 — namely, the point at which the old (XP) finally dips below the new (Win7) — tracking firm NetMarketShare has not yet seen its sampling of millions of PC users indicate that Windows 7 has surpassed Windows XP in overall share. That said, they do report that the numbers are getting closer all the time, as witnessed in the last years’ trend lines for XP (in blue) and Windows 7 (in green).
It looks like the inflection point could occur sometime during this month (August, 2012). That’s ironic because it’s occurring almost three years after Windows 7 launch in October, 2009, and only three months before the General Availability date for Windows 8, which was released to manufacturing on Wednesday, August first. The RTM version of Windows 8 will be made available to entitled users through subscriptions or service contracts starting with TechNet and MSDN users on August 15, and various other groups shortly thereafter. This all reminds me of the grim need to avoid gaps in the royal succession inherent in the French epigram: “Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!” (The [old] king is dead. Long live the [new] king!)
I find myself wondering if the success and uptake for Windows 7 (which is now also running on half or more of enterprise and business desktops globally at long last) doesn’t make it less likely that the Windows 8 trend line will be close to crossing over the Windows 7 trend line three years from today. Windows XP’s long run — it’ll be eleven years old the day before Windows 8 becomes generally available on October 26 — may just presage a longer-than-expected run for Windows 7, too, given how reluctant business users have become to relinquish Windows versions that appear to be stable and reliable. My gut feel is that Windows 8 is in for a longer occupation of the crown prince’s chair than Windows 7 had, and that this poor prince may never actually take the throne, given others sure to queue up (Windows 9 and 10) behind him may get a better reception in the marketplace than Windows 8 has enjoyed so far.
At 11:00 AM Central, 9:00 AM Pacific, Microsoft pushed “Releasing Windows 8 — August 1, 2012” out to the Building Windows 8 blog. It wasn’t so much a set of rumors (see below), as it was a set of educated guesses, apparently. Also, as of today, “… the [Windows] Store is open for business, and we’ll rapidly expland to over 200 markets around the world.” Though the next stop is touted as GA on October 26, no word yet on when the RTM will be made available to corporate users, and to the legions of TechNet and MSDN subscribers. I guess we’ll have to save that for another day!
[Note added 8/2/2012] Peter Bright at Ars Technic reports this morning that MSDN and TechNet subscribers will gain access to Windows 8 RTM on August 15th. See his story about the RTM release to manufacturing for more information.
OK, the rumors are flying thick and fast that MS has already signed off on the RTM release, and that it will make its way to OEMs really, really soon: meaning today. I’m watching the MS site for news –especially the Building Windows 8 blog (often the place where release news receives its first official Microsoft mention) — but so far, there’s nothing official. That said, you can find rumors, guesses, and other forms of speculation all over the place that August 1, 2012, is THE DAY for Windows 8 RTM to leave Redmond and make its way into OEM’s no-doubt eager hands. Check out this Google News search to see over 50 stories on this subject, including this doozy from the BGR site in India entitled “Windows 8 RTM leaked, offers more customization options,” itself based on information posted to the Win8China site on July 31.
Windows 8 tracking site Windows8Beta.com also posted a story early today entitled “Windows 8 RTM Already Signed Off?” They quote a report from the WinUnleaked.info Windows 8 build list to the effect that a release numbered
9200.16384.win8_rtm.120725-1247 is in all likelihood the Windows 8 RTM release that will go to OEMs sometime today. With tongue planted firmly in cheek to acknowledge its “license terms,” I reproduce the builds list graphic as the lead-in to today’s blog posting. I’ll keep check the official MS outlets, and post again later whenever real word comes.
I had to chuckle this afternoon when I read Ed Bott’s latest Operating Systems piece. It’s entitled “How to skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7.” In it he makes the very essential observation that MS doesn’t retire its old OSes as soon as new ones come out. He also tells an amusing story about his experiences in a Kentucky coffee shop to make this point: “If you don’t want to upgrade, just don’t upgrade.” Then he points out that the end-of-support-date for Windows 7 SP1 is January 14, 2020 (that’s 7 years and 5 months from now). He also observes that retailers will be able to sell a boxed version of Windows 7 until October 25, 2013 (or longer) and that OEMs can sell systems with Windows 7 pre-installed until a year after that (October 25, 2014, and also perhaps longer). And finally, he points out that Windows licenses usually confer downgrade rights, so that you are within your rights to replace Windows 8 Pro with a copy of Windows 7 Professional, should you so choose. Bottom line: Windows 7 isn’t going to disappear when Windows 8 ships, and plenty of buyers will happily continue to buy and use systems with the older OS installed.
I’m still waiting to understand more good reasons to upgrade to Windows 8, and continue to believe that “later, rather than sooner” will be the timing for many business users who don’t have compelling needs to put tablets or other touch devices into their employees’ hands. By the same token, I’ll be very curious to see if a new generation of touch-enabled mobile devices springs up to replace the durable Psion and other touch- and pen-based devices that some meter-readers, the UPS guy, and countless other mobile workers carry with them on their daily rounds of data acquisition, service or package delivery, and so forth and so on. Maybe the embedded systems buyers will actually lead the charge to the new OS, simply because it speaks to value propositions that they already know and love?
On the other hand, I’ve found many things about Windows 8 to be worth an upgrade — at least as far as I’m concerned:
1. I’ve been using touch long enough now that it’s starting to feel natural and unforced. In fact, I find myself reaching out to touch screens now that lack touch capability, just because I’m used to interacting with my systems in that way.
2. I’ve also learned to appreciate Windows 8’s improved Task Manager and its nice touches to the Windows Explorer interface (especially more and better data about ongoing file copies, the Quick Access Toolbar, better right-click menus, and context-sensitive tool tabs).
3. The ability to synch my notebook and desktop using the login to the same Windows Live ID is great — as long as you set files up so that they’re easy to share across platforms. I expect this will become a widely-used feature for users who bounce between or among multiple Windows platforms. So far, I don’t see it reaching far enough to create a clamor for Windows 8 smartphones, but I could always be wrong (or somebody will write a killer app that brings Android and iOS devices under this umbrella).
4. A sleeker, speedier Windows: Faster boot-up and shutdown, faster app loading and execution, manageable memory footprint, incredibly SSD-friendly. There’s probably more to say here, but I haven’t found or learned it yet. I can’t wait until Mark Russinovich and his colleagues get around to another update to their Windows Internals book, so I can improve my understanding of the inner workings of this new OS (but alas, it probably won’t be out for at least another 18 months, if history is any guide).
I think for a lot of consumer- and enthusiast-grade users, these factors and more will propel a certain level of Windows 8 adoption when it hits the streets in October 2012. Whether that’s enough to justify Microsoft’s hopes and analysts expectations’ that Windows 8 sales will help Microsoft’s earnings trend upward is still an uncertain guess, as far as I’m concerned. All I can say on this subject is “We’ll see…”
MS hasn’t yet made any announcements, but the rumors are flying thick and fast right now that RTM is “in its final hours of compiling and completing Windows 8.” Winbeta.org goes on to speculate that official ISOs may appear sometime between July 30 (next Monday) and August 6 (the following Monday), with custom images on their way to OEMs possibly as early as this weekend. That means leaks could show up very soon on BitTorrent and other unofficial download channels, with more official (and safe and reliable) ISOs to follow in early August. Another rumor source — Windows8Beta.com — confirms that a new build (8523) is currently in the making, but indicates that the RTM to OEMs is still about a week away, and is confirmed by WinUnleaked.info which closely tracks Windows 8 builds and their contents.
I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in and what’s out of the RTM version, and hope to get a chance to install a copy before mid-August. In particular, I’m expecting to see the Windows Sidebar and Gadgets gone, gone, gone. I’m also wondering if various tips and tweaks will still remain to restore glass effects to the desktop, or if MS will lock things down to make them opaque and tile-oriented as for the Metro style UI. I’m probably most curious to see what apps will make it into the final release, and what kinds of tricks MS and partners will have up their sleeves — and in the Store — for users to (buy and) download for the Metro side of the OS.
One a more mundane note, I’m very curious to learn how the big notebook makers — particularly Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Samsung, Sony, and MSI, among others — will proactively work to provide drivers and update/management tools to permit owners of existing Windows 7 systems to upgrade to Windows 8 should they wish to do so. I have observed in my testing of notebook and desktop systems since last February that, by and large, interoperability of Windows 7 drivers with Windows 8 is pretty good, probably approaching a 90% on this metric: “If it works for Windows 7, it will also work for Windows 8.” But the same is NOT true for vendor-supplied update, backup, system analysis, and other management tools. Thus, for example, while I can get some parts of the Lenovo ThinkPad Advantage toolbox to run on my Windows 8 X220 Tablet, I can’t use the modules for Rescue and Recovery (backup functions), Update (scan the machine and download newer drivers where available), and so forth to work on that machine. Same thing holds true for HP Advisor and HP Help and Support on my Pavilion dv6t.
Clearly, the OEMs will have a lot of work to do to get new machines ready for Windows 8. But, like many people who already own Windows 8-capable notebook or desktop PCs, I’m equally concerned to see how much and what kind of work they will do to ease the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 on machines already out there in the marketplace. Obviously, with sufficient perseverance and effort, I’ve been able to figure things out on my own. But it’s always nice to have a good backup from your vendor, and I just can’t help wondering what the fate of my half-dozen notebooks will be, if I try to bring more of them into the Windows 8 world. As the proud owner of an HP Dragon (HDX9203KW) — an expensive and powerful desktop replacement luggable PC that HP never updated from Vista to Windows 7 — I’m hoping that OEMs will decide to smooth the transition, rather than abandoning their installed bases and concentrating only on new equipment.
October 26 is just over three months away as I write this blog, and that’s when Windows 8 will become available to the general public — and to enterprises, corporations, government arms and agencies, and other big buyers of desktop tools and technologies. The question is: Will enterprises jump on Windows 8 with any enthusiasm or alacrity?
As always when a new Windows version hits, I have to submit that as far as big institutional users of any stripe are concerned the initial attitude will be “Wait and see.” In many instances, conventional wisdom has dictated that the wait be no less than the interval up to and something past the release of a first service pack for a new Windows OS (usually about a year or so in the making). If the first service pack is a real doozy, or serious problems surface in its wake, many will wait for the NEXT service pack to see if it fares any better. Thus, for example, Windows XP uptake in the business sector didn’t really get going until 2-3 years after it was released, and it’s just this year (almost three years after its release date in October, 2009) that Windows 7 finally resides on about half of all enterprise desktops. Needless to say, Windows Vista never came close to hitting such a mark!
That’s why my blog is entited “How Long Will Enterprises Wait on Windows 8?” where a true, but comical answer is “Until Windows 9 comes along.” In his recent blog on “Microsoft’s Windows 8 enterprise prospects…” Larry Dignan opines that “A Windows 7 to Windows 10 scenario six years from now isn’t out of the question.” Given a three-year development cycle for major Windows versions following Windows 7 and Windows 8 on that kind of schedule, and increasingly long lifecycles for corporate PCs thanks to a chronically dismal “slow growth” economic outlook, I can’t disagree with him, not even one little bit.
My best guess is that some small percentage of enterprises — probably less than 20% if Windows 7 patterns hold true — will adopt Windows 8 in the next 2-3 years (and I mean they’ll start deploying no sooner than two years from GA in October 2012). Perhaps another 10-15% might get on the bandwagon by the time Windows 9 comes along. But my gut feel is that Windows 8 is regarded as sufficiently controversial and in such real need of expensive new touch hardware that many enterprises will elect to wait and see long enough so that they can do likewise for Windows 9 when it comes along in another 39 months or so. Then, I’ll have a whole new calculus to consider: stay tuned, but please: don’t hold your breath!
Listening to NPR this morning, I heard the news that the company is reporting its first-ever quarterly loss in 26 years in business. The loss of six cents per share stems from MS’s decision to write off $6.2 B from its unhappy acquisition of online advertising service aQuantive, which failed to deliver income, or make inroads against Google’s enormously successful AdWords. According to this Associated Press story, ad revenues account for only four percent of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and most of its sales still come from the Office Suite, and Windows desktop and server operating systems. Without the write-down, earnings per share were $0.73, four cents per share higher than the same quarter in 2011. This would have beat analysts’ expectations of $0.62 per share by a pretty hefty $0.11 (about 15 percent, in fact).
What really caught my interest was the offhand remark near the end of the story that MS executives expect similar or better results for the next quarter, owing at least in part to an uptick in revenues expected following the general availability (GA) date for Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 with Windows Server 2012 to follow sometime shortly thereafter (there isn’t much of 2012 left once October comes and goes). I’m interested and a little baffled to learn that MS is expecting the Windows 8 release to help with revenues and earnings, given that the company won’t forecast sales for its new Surface tablet, and that customer reaction to Windows 8 has been mixed at best, and tepid or worse from business users.
I guess there’s a lot hanging on the upcoming OS releases: more than I had thought and perhaps more than MS has a right to expect. Recent coverage of MS sales and business activity has regularly cited that buyers are holding off PC purchases in anticipation of Windows 8, so presumably this means a bump in sales is forecast once new PCs with Windows 8 pre-installed become available upon GA release of the product. My personal best guess is that some brave souls will be hardy enough to buy Windows 8 PCs, but that a great many — especially business buyers — will continue to order units with the popular, stable, and well-understood Windows 7 pre-installed instead.
At any rate, we don’t have too long to wait to find out which set of expectations will be met, and which ones dashed. GA date (10/26/2012) is only 14 weeks away as I write this blog. That’s just 90 days out from today. Stay tuned for more news and musings on the upcoming Windows 8 release right here.