Microsoft NZ prepares for Windows 8 launch

CEO Paul Muckleston says 30 devices with the new operating system will be on sale tomorrow

There will be 30 Windows 8 devices, from seven manufacturers, on sale in New Zealand when Microsoft launches its latest operating system tomorrow.

Microsoft NZ CEO Paul Muckleston says the company has been working with retail partners throughout the country to ensure a range of PCs and tablets are available with the new operating system.

Any PC with genuine Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 is eligible for an upgrade. A Microsoft representative has told Computerworld that in theory the PC could be 10-plus years old (not three years old has previously stated), as long as it is licensed for one of these previous Windows versions.

Microsoft will also be launching its own tablet, the Surface, however Muckleston says there is no New Zealand release date yet.

The Windows 8 operating system is “touch based” but can be used in a traditional PC environment using a mouse or key stroke commands. It has been in public beta for six months and, it’s fair to say, has received mixed reviews.

“It really comes to life with touch,” says Muckleston. “Clearly the future of personal computing and devices is touch-based, so you want to make sure you’re designing from the ground up to work with touch.”

The most radical move is arguably the removal of the ‘start’ menu. Instead, Muckleston says that as a Windows 8 user “you’ve got to get your head around using ‘search’ to find your apps or go back to your traditional desktop.”

The mosaic screen features live tiles, with real time updates. For example a weather tile continually updates the forecast and a social media tile displays Twitter updates automatically.

Muckleston says that in the previous 12 months, 700,000 PCs shipped to New Zealand and the “vast majority were shipped with Windows 7”.

“Equally in the next 12 months - there are no official forecasts - but I think the PC market is supposed to be around that size again, another 700,000 PCs shipping to the New Zealand market. The majority will be running Windows 8,” he says.

Windows 8 smartphones will be shipped in a couple of week and Muckleston says there will be up to five handsets available in New Zealand.

He says that in a year’s time, when more people are familiar with the look and feel of Windows 8, they are likely to be more open to purchasing a Windows 8 smartphone, as opposed to rival operating systems Android and Apple.

“They will see Windows 8 phones on the shelves that look familiar. We think that will start to give our share of the smartphone market a real boost,” Muckleston says.

Currently Microsoft has around 6-7 percent of the smartphone market in New Zealand, and Muckleston says he wants to see that share boosted to 15-25 percent in the next two years.

The company has been running development workshops in the lead-up to the launch, and Muckleston says there will be 100 New Zealand apps in the Windows store when it officially launches tomorrow.

He says developing for the Windows 8 phones takes “roughly 25 percent more time to optimise the app for the phone as opposed to PCs and tablets. It’s not quite the same code base, but its close.”

According to Muckleston around 50 percent of PCs in New Zealand are running Windows 7 and 30 percent the earlier XP version. Microsoft will not support XP from April 2014, so there is a real push from the company to move customers onto Windows 8. Windows 7 and Vista support will cease in 2020.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s launch will be a low key affair compared to previous Microsoft launches, such as when All Black Dan Carter hosted a midnight launch of Vista. However Computerworld understands that retailer Harvey Norman is planning a midnight Windows 8 launch at its Wairau Park, Auckland branch.

“We decided not to do the queue thing. I think there are countries that are doing the midnight thing. It’s nice but it’s a bit of a stunt,” Muckleston says.

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