Windows 8.1 and the Start Button

Microsoft revealed their new update to Windows today. Version 8.1 includes a long list of minor changes and fixes and improvements. In many ways, it's in a similar fashion to how different Windows 98SE was to Windows 98.

The biggest point of contention for Windows users with version 8 has been the Start Button - or lack of a Start Button I should say. Consumers wanted their old desktop back with the classic Start Button they grew to know and love since it was introduced in Windows 95. The people want familiarity and ease of use. Microsoft has been working on ways to get rid of the button for years now.

Windows 8 did just that. They gave us Metro - which is essentially a big colorful and customizable Start Menu where you can put your most commonly used programs and get updated with information without having to open anything. Many people find it confusing - especially when they are using it on a desktop pc.

They are moving away from programs and toward apps. It's a tablet and cell phone culture now. That doesn't mean there's no longer any use for laptops and desktops. Touchscreens are convenient and small and they aren't going away... the market is going to continue to grow in fact, but desktop computers are going to be around for awhile. This is particularly true in business and publishing and design. Metro icons are a distraction and a hindrance of productivity.

Public outcry has been loud for Microsoft to return the Start Button to the desktop and allow users to disable Metro so they can get back to work. Microsoft responded by adding a Start Button back into Windows 8.1, but it's almost like a "fuck you" or a big "gotcha!" to consumers. All it does is pull up the Metro Start screen when you click it. Nothing else. That means there are now 4 ways to get to the Metro interface.

Microsoft brought it back with the thinking that novice PC users and senior citizens were having trouble navigating without the Start Button. The opposite is true as it would seem that most people who wanted the Start Button back are long-time users. I'm personally a bit offended and insulted by Microsoft's little trick. It's like they are saying, "here, dummy - here's your damn start button - it goes to Metro, LOL! Enjoy, asshole!"

I'll stick with Windows 7 until they get it right.

Start Button My Ass

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Tablet-Mania! HP Changes the Game… By Quitting.

HP TouchPad SmartBuyHP announced recently that it was getting out of the computer hardware business. Less than two months after the release of their HP TouchPad WebOS Tablet, they decide to call it quits. They drop the price of both the 16gb and the 32gb model by $100 - leaving them at 400 and 500 respectively.

They still weren't selling after a few weeks of that, so they made the "tough decision" to just drop the price to $99 and $149 respectively this weekend and get out of the PC market completely. Stores sold out within minutes of announcing the price drop. Wal-Mart, Best-Buy, OfficeMax, Staples, etc... all ran out of available units like it was a Black Friday special.

Websites offering the deal suffered from heavy loads. HP's own Small Business website was brought to a crawl on Saturday. Other websites had their servers completely crash within minutes of changing their pricing. As of this writing, there are still a number of sites that are holding out with the original pricing and still have units in stock. Newegg and BarcodeGiant and all still have inventory and are waiting to change the price.

Those who feel like they missed out on this "opportunity" can blame the people who single-handedly clear out stores just to resell the items for profit. Sites like ebay and craigslist and Amazon marketplace are crawling with bottom feeders (similar to ticket scalpers) and are flooded with units on sale just under their original retail cost. Waiting in line is not a job.

Having played with an HP Touchpad, I can say that it's a nice little device. I recently had purchased an e-reader for 99 bucks and it was pretty much slow and useless. The Touchpad is snappy and solid. It is definitely more than 99 dollars worth of hardware and software.

HP has even come out and said that they will continue to support WebOS - they are focusing on Printers and software. They bought Compaq and VoodooPC and Palm and then just threw most of it out the window. It's an interesting move and we'll see what their stock does on Monday. They will likely sell off their PC and hardware division to a competitor like Sony or Toshiba or Dell - similar to what IBM did with the Thinkpad when they sold out to Lenovo. It's definitely bizarre when a market leader just quits like that.

iPad and Android tablets have been selling like hot cakes for awhile now. It's the trendy new thing. Oversized smartphones and undersized/underpowered laptops without keyboards. There's not really a need for them, but people are buying them anyway as a luxury item.

Now it seems that HP has turned them into a necessity by finding the perfect price point for a tablet. If all tablets were under 200 bucks, everyone would feel like they needed to own one. It's more or less a toy, and it should be priced accordingly. However, HP clearly spent more money to produce each unit than it is taking in.

This holiday season is going to be very interesting. This will definitely surge the popularity of Tablets in general. October will see the release of a few new Android Tablets including the ASUS Transformer 2. Microsoft has a tablet in the pipe and Apple is working on the iPad 3. If the prices don't come down significantly on tablets by the end of the year, these HP units are going to perhaps go down as the deal of the year.

Android hacker groups are already working on porting Android to the TouchPad. Personally, I'm happy with WebOS. It's the only tablet that really does justice to Flash. Perhaps dropping the price of the hardware to the floor was a way to get these tablets into as many hands as possible so they can get WebOS into as many hands as possible. A bold gamble, to be sure... time will tell if it pays off.

Hopefully you managed to get in on this deal. I got mine. It's definitely worth it (if there was ever any doubt). If you haven't, then check fatwallet and slickdeals forums for info on getting yours. Avoid ebay and craigslist. Good luck!

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