Windows 8 Update: Microsoft Windows 8 is not Ballmer's biggest regret

  • Tim Greene (Network World)
  • 27 August, 2013 19:13

Even though Windows 8 incited hordes to call for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's ouster, the operating system is not what he regrets most about his 33-year tenure at the company.

That distinction falls to one of Microsoft's other operating systems, Vista, according an interview with Ballmer by Mary Jo Foley on her All About Microsoft blog.

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It could be argued that Windows 8 is as big a debacle as Vista. Windows 8's underwhelming sales numbers in its first few months were compared unfavorably to those of Vista, which is generally considered to be Microsoft's biggest OS flop. Ballmer perhaps hints in the interview that it's the fact that Windows 8 is still within its first year that he's giving it a pass so far, but it's difficult to tell from the transcript.

Here's his somewhat vague and rambling answer:

"Oh, you know, I've actually had a chance to make a lot of mistakes, and probably because, you know, people all want to focus in on period A, period B, but I would say probably the thing I regret most is the, what shall I call it, the loopedy-loo that we did that was sort of Longhorn to Vista. I would say that's probably the thing I regret most. And, you know, there are side effects of that when you tie up a big team to do something that doesn't prove out to be as valuable."

TPM: Windows 8 security boon or boondoggle?

Microsoft has been boasting that its use of Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips in certified Windows 8 devices is a security asset, but leaked German government documents warn it could be a security liability.

Even more dire, TPM could actually be a backdoor that would allow attackers the leaked documents include the U.S. National Security Agency among them to undermine the security of the devices entirely, the documents say.

Microsoft says this is nonsense, according to Die Zeit, the German publication that got hold of the documents and wrote about them.

According to Microsoft, using TPM makes it nearly impossible for root kits to infect machines successfully, thereby preventing a devastating type of attack. That's why Windows 8 enables TPM security by default and links it to certificates signed by Microsoft itself.

It also gives users the option to use substitute certificates and bootloaders or to turn off TPM altogether.

The risk, according to the documents Die Zeit obtained from the German federal Office for Security Information, is that manufacturers place a master encryption key on TPM chips when they're made. So if that key is somehow compromised, the security that flows from it is also compromised.

That possibility is remote, experts say, and would affect not only Windows 8 machines but any computers using TPM.

Since the initial Die Zeit story, the German security agency has backed off its recommendation that government and businesses avoid using Windows 8's TPM capabilities.

Prices down, usage up for Surface RT

Since Microsoft has offered bargain deals on Surface RT tablets that run an ARM-specific version of Windows 8 use of the machines has blossomed, according to a blog on the Web site of AdDuplex.

The site gathered a day's worth of data from 393 Windows 8 applications that run AdDuplex SDK and then figured out as best they could what device they were running on. "It is also worth noting that, since our stats are based on Windows Store apps, their definitely skewed in favor of Windows RT, tablets and other touch devices," the blog says.

Here's a chart of what they found out.

The blog compares the results to those gathered in April and finds that Surface RT represented 6.2% of Windows 8 devices in use then and represented 9.5% in August. Over that period Microsoft has offered special deals that deeply discount the Surface RT price.

New devices

The same blog drops in mention of what may be a new Surface model called Surface 2.

AdDuplex says that in reviewing its log information it comes up with thousands of model names for the devices it tracks.

"We don't have any deep details but we regularly see devices named Microsoft Corporation Surface 2 and Microsoft Corporation Surface with Windows 8.1 Pro," the blog says. "The first one definitely looks like a new device, but the second one theoretically could be just a change in what Surface Pro with Windows 8.1 installed reports."

Windows 8.1 is RTM

The first major overhaul of Windows 8 is released to manufacturers, according to the Windows ITPro blog written by Paul Thurrott.

That means device makers have the code in hand so they can start making Windows 8.1 machines, which are due out in October.

Lenovo installs Start button app

Microsoft is restoring a start button to Windows 8 when it releases Windows 8.1, but that's not good enough for Lenovo.

The major PC vendor plans to install Pokki software on its Windows 8 machines, a Bloomberg story says, attributing the news to the co-founder of SweekLabs, which makes Pokki.

Individual Windows 8 users who have bought Pokki on their own use it an average of 10 times per day, the company says.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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