Windows 8 roundup: Apps for beer and remote cop cars

Developers have come up with a Windows 8 CRM app called Ultimate Beer Ranger to automate the sales team at New Belgium Brewing, which has already decided it will adopt Windows 8 on mobile devices.

Why? The brewery is a Microsoft shop and it wants to use its in-house Windows expertise as it pushes its CRM to mobile devices that the sales team -- beer rangers -- carry with them. The Windows 8 tablets will replace a smartphone app that was too clunky for the rangers to buy into, says Jim Steger, a principal with Sonoma Partners, which wrote the app.

BACKGROUND: Windows 8 wants developers to fall into Metro lockstep

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The application will take advantage of Windows 8 touch capabilities as well as the tablets' internal GPS to steer rangers to nearby potential customers. It will also enable accessing and inputting data to the brewery's back end.

New Belgium still has to wait for Windows 8 itself and tablets that support it to hit the market before it can deploy to its 100 or so beer rangers.

Here is a sampling of other Windows 8 news from the past week.

Windows 8 controls cop car

A Geekwire video shows a police car's internal systems being controlled via voice command through Windows 8 laptops. By talking to the machines, developers of the app, Modularis, open car doors, turn on wipers and sound the siren and incidentally startle a nearby cabbie. They say they've made provision for preventing the voices of perps in the back seat from taking control.

Fixingwindows8.com is broken

A cranky former Microsoft employee launched a blog earlier this month called Fixing Windows 8 in which he described his experiences working with the consumer preview of the operating system, but now the blog has disappeared.

He had a lot of complaints about having to learn new things in order to navigate the Metro-style touch-based system on a mouse and keyboard machine.

In some cases he'd rant about how unattractive a feature of Windows 8 was, and then write about it again later saying the feature was actually pretty good once you got used to it. He might have trouble ascending the learning curve.

No word yet on what happened to the blog.

Gartner: Windows 8 is key to 2013 PC sales

While predicting that PC sales will grow 4.4% this year and at least 8.6% next year, analyst firm Gartner says a lot of the burden for next year's growth will fall to Windows 8.

"PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "The real question is whether Windows 8 and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again."

He says ultrabooks will become more popular and could stimulate the market for mobile PCs, but tablets, such as Windows on ARM devices coming as part of Windows 8 and others, could put a crimp in that. "PCs will face more competition as we see new media tablets based on operating systems from Android and Microsoft, as well the new iPad," Atwal says.

Miss the Start menu?

Many people trialing Windows 8 hate that the Start menu has disappeared from the bottom of the desktop in favor of the Start page, a collection of squares and rectangles that lead to applications.

Finally someone is doing something about it.

Stardock is introducing Start8, an application for Windows 8 that adds the Start menu to the Windows 8 task bar. It also adds an alternative to shutting down the machine that is similar to the way it's been on traditional Windows desktops.

Virtualize with Windows 8

Businesses testing Windows 8 can now do so with virtualized applications through the beta version of Microsoft's Application Virtualization that is an upgrade supporting the new operating system.

App-V allows businesses to install traditional apps on servers from which they are streamed to PCs with desktop App-V clients, the advantage being that there is no need to install multiple apps on each PC.

The latest version of App-V, called 4.6 Service Pack 2, can be downloaded via Microsoft Connect.

The beta also works with the Windows Server 8 Beta, with Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

IE 11?

A patent filed by Microsoft came to light this week for a browser frame -- what the screen format would be for this browser. Here's what Engadget quoted from the patent application: It will have a "control layout area ... wherein one of the selected controls comprises a website-branded control that serves as a website's homepage button, and a navigation control that provides an input field." So the website being visited could create a button (or tile in IE 10) that has its name or logo on it, for example, that brings users back to the sites home page. It would also have an address field. A diagram filed with the patent application shows this as part of a toolbar across the top of the frame, which would run counter to the IE 10 design that has no toolbar. Perhaps it would hide off the top of the frame ready to be drawn down with a finger swipe that Windows 8 supports on touch screens. The application was filed in 2010, so perhaps it's an idea that was discarded.

Nokia working on Windows 8 tablet ... 

According to Pocket Gamer Nokia's design chief is spending about a third of his time coming up with a Windows 8 tablet. The only solid thing Nokia's top designer Marko Ahtisaari said was, "We're working on it." Not a surprise, really, but Nokia has been officially mum about its Windows 8 plans.

... Lenovo, too

The Verge reports that Lenovo is planning a Windows 8 tablet to be available the day the operating system becomes generally available, likely sometime this fall. There are no details on the machine except that it's not an ARM-based device and that it could be an existing device demoed at CES this year.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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