Samsung's Ativ Q: Can dual boot Windows 8, Android device sell?

Samsung rolled out devices Thursday that may give Windows 8 a boost, but there's also a significant hedge: A convertible tablet that can also run Android apps.

It's unclear whether a dual-boot tablet is a real winner for technology buyers, but Samsung is going to give it a shot.

As for the lineup, Samsung rolled out the following:

The ATIV Q, the convertible that runs Windows and Android. Like other Windows 8 devices, the ATIV Q is designed to work as tablet and laptop. The device will run Windows 8 and Android Jellybean 4.2.2. Files will be shared from Windows 8 to Android.
The ATIV Tab 3 is "a tablet with the power of a PC" and is billed as the thinnest Windows 8 tablet. It's basically a Galaxy Tab with Windows 8.
Here are the specs:

There are two ways to read this Samsung announcement. Samsung's way is that the new products strengthen the tablet lineup and show support for Windows 8. Another read would be that Samsung doesn't want buyer's remorse with Windows 8 and is offering Android too.

CNET's Roger Cheng noted that Ativ is designed to replicate the success with Samsung's Android powered Galaxy line. Everything Windows 8 will be Ativ. But the Android hedging strategy negates some of the pop to Windows 8. Microsoft could use the boost, but a dual boot product indicates that Samsung may not be sold yet on the software giant's latest OS.


Microsoft's choices on Windows 8, Xbox One annoy even its fans

Dear Microsoft: It's the customers, stupid.

Part of becoming a successful business is developing products that people want to buy. People want to enjoy the things they own. A robot that does nothing but periodically punch you in the kidneys wouldn't sell.

Yet your recent products resemble that kidney-punching robot more than something a real person would want to buy.

I am a longtime Microsoft user. I'm still happy with my home computer loaded with Windows 7. I think Windows Phone is attractive and useful. The Xbox 360 is robust and elegant.

I can't say the same about your recent developments. It's like you design them to please yourself, rather than your customers.

Take Windows 8. I can understand the basic philosophy behind it - the tablet experience is here to stay, and PCs need to become easier to use and more fun to keep up. I don't blame you for that.

What I do blame you for is the bizarre split-personality for the system. Why do I have to keep switching back and forth between the tiles and the desktop screen to do everything?

Why did you try to have the mouse movements imitate touchscreen swipes? Why do your tablets have to mess with tiny, impossible-to-touch windows?

You've apparently listened to the cries and brought back the Start button in the preview of the update. But it doesn't do anything except switch you back and forth between the tiles and desktop. Do you realize that when people were demanding the Start button, they were also demanding shortcuts in the Start menu?

And then there's the Xbox One. It requires an Internet connection, used games can only be traded at specific dealers, games can be given to friends only once, some games can't be traded at all, no renting, and so on. Plus a start price of $499.

Can you think of anyone outside the Microsoft organization that this would appeal to? Especially considering that Sony's PlayStation 4 doesn't have any of these random restrictions, and it's cheaper.

I know you want to hit all the demographics and make as much money as possible. There's nothing wrong with that.

But you can't lose track of normal human behavior. People aren't demographics. They want to use an intelligently designed system. You might lose some money if you can't get a cut of used-game sales, but isn't that preferable to alienating millions into not buying your console at all?

Come on, Microsoft. You're better than this. It's long past time to remind people why you became such a giant in the tech world.
APP OF THE WEEK: PGA Tour Caddie (iOS)

I've seen a few sports companion apps. PGA Tour Caddie has a killer feature - 500,000 holes based on GPS info from more than 40,000 golf courses around the world.

That includes every course in the Tulsa area from Southern Hills Country Club to Lit'l Links Golf Club.

The app lets you record your shots, customize your club selection and store your information so you can compare your handicap with friends. An in-app upgrade also gives you access to real-world golf tips and drills videos so you can sharpen your game.

After a few days of speculation, Google made it official and spent $1 billion for Waze. Google promised it'll keep it independent.

Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of Waze: It is an up-and-comer. It's a navigation app that stands out from the crowd by crowdsourcing up-to-the-minute traffic information. If there's a bad accident, a grass fire or just someone with a blown-out tire on a tight curve, users can report it and let everyone know.

Waze isn't perfect. I'd like for it to start including the names of businesses and major landmarks. Yet it's plenty useful, and I don't think the asking price was too much.


Windows 8: Microsoft's Qwikster Moment

The Windows 8 update was a radical departure from the usual Windows fare. If you sharpened your computing skills using the nearly 20-year-old Windows 95 interface, then you could still get around Windows Vista or 7 with little trouble. But Windows 8 reset every expectation you might have brought along. The software was clearly optimized for touchscreen tablets first, then grafted onto traditional PC systems with a half-barked order to like it or else. Users largely hated the abrupt shift and complained in droves.

So far, so Qwikster-like. Netflix built a successful DVD-mailing video-rental service with a bit of digital streaming on the side. Customers started getting used to the complete DVD library and convenient streaming service, side by side. Life was good, and share prices climbed as high as $300.

Then, with little warning, the company split the streaming service apart from DVD mailers and asked customers to swallow it. DVDs were scheduled to spin off into a totally separate entity. The proposed name Qwikster quickly became a curse word, and users only saw decreased convenience for a higher total price -- kind of like the forced march into Microsoft's tablet-oriented Metro experience.

And that's where the similarities end.

Netflix backed out of the Qwikster dead end swiftly and gracefully. CEO Reed Hastings posted a public apology and scrapped the wholesale Qwikster separation. He still introduced separate DVD and streaming plans but kept them integrated under one service umbrella. It hasn't been a smooth ride, but share prices have tripled from the Qwikster lows. Splitting off the DVD service might be a realistic idea nowadays. Qwikster was a timing error more than anything else.

Microsoft could have followed a similar path: drop the most controversial features of Windows 8 or at least make them optional, rather than mandatory; bring back the good old "Start" menu for users who feel lost without it; leave the tablet-like app store in the ditch, and bring it back when customers are ready for it; and train people on tablets first and then introduce the newly familiar features of the core Windows experience.

But no, that's not what Microsoft is doing. Redmond is about to introduce a Windows 8.1 update, and it's a free upgrade for existing Windows 8 users. It's a golden opportunity to back off the largest issues with an unpopular platform. Instead, Microsoft decided to tweak a feature here and there while keeping the core experience far too intact. We're talking about cosmetic changes that do nothing to smooth over the jarring transition from older Windows systems.

For example, the missing "Start" button is back, but without the cascading program menu you're used to. Instead, the familiar button becomes just another way (I think there are about four different methods now) to bring up the new start screen -- a brand-new Windows 8 feature with no equivalent in older systems.

Windows users might have appreciated a kinder, gentler approach to the new experience. Windows 8 may in fact be exactly what Microsoft needs in the long run as tablets and smartphones continue to replace full-fledged PC systems for most uses. But we're missing an intermediate step: a hybrid model that lets you play around with the new stuff while falling back to the old way for serious work -- like the current Netflix model, where DVD remains an option if you're nervous about this newfangled streaming-video idea.

That's why Microsoft shares aren't bouncing back, whereas Netflix shares rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a horrendous idea. Instead, Microsoft stock has largely paced right alongside its Dow Jones (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) peers since the Windows 8 cat was let out of the bag. And I think investors are being too generous, because Microsoft isn't even pretending to fix the root causes of this slowdown.


Dear Microsoft: Add folders to the Windows 8 Start screen

Microsoft has a host of changes in store for Windows 8.1, including a nod in the direction of a Start button that the company is referring to as a Start "tip." But one feature I think would prove more useful would be a simple folder option for the Start screen.

As you install more apps in Windows 8, the OS keeps populating your Start screen with more and more tiles. The more apps you install, the more cluttered and crowded your Start screen becomes. Anyone who installs several dozen or more apps can easily find themselves having to scroll or swipe screen after screen to find a specific app.

Microsoft does offer a few ways to organize your Start screen tiles. You can move tiles around to store them in specific groups, which you can then separate from other groups. You can even add a name to each group to identify it. You can also resize certain tiles so that they take up less screen space. Other options will reportedly pop up in Windows 8.1. But none of them really do much to reduce the clutter of an overcrowded Start screen.

Instead, why can't Microsoft simply add an option to let users set up folders? I realize the company is trying to move away from the whole concept of folders. But folders are still a useful method of organizing data. We still store our documents and files in folders; why not Windows 8 tiles?

Take Apple's iOS as an example. Older versions of iOS offered no folder option, so users had to navigate screen after screen of icons. The more apps you installed, the more disorganized your screens became. Finally, Apple introduced folders in iOS 4.0, allowing users to better store and arrange related apps. On my iPhone and iPad, the apps I use most frequently are laid out individually on my Home screen. Apps I uses less frequently are stored in folders on the second and third screens.

Microsoft could easily adopt the same principle. Windows 8 users could store their live tiles and tiles for commonly-used apps individually and move tiles for other apps into separate folders. Doing so would reduce the clutter and actually put more apps within quicker and easier reach.

The same concept could work in the All Apps screen. This screen lists every single app installed in Windows 8, with some already organized into named groups. But again, the more apps you install, the more scrolling and swiping you have to do to find the app you want. Windows 8.1 will reportedly add the ability to sort your All Apps tiles based on frequency of use as well as other criteria. That's a step in the right direction, but still falls short.

Many Windows 8 users, myself included, have bemoaned the loss of the old Start menu. Though a Start button may be destined for Windows 8.1, Microsoft is unlikely to ever bring back the full Start menu. So, why not give people a little bit of both worlds by at least offering an option to store tiles in folders?


Turning back your PC's clock from Windows 8 to Windows 7

Q: I recently bought a Windows 8 laptop, and the only thing I don’t like about the PC is Windows 8. I want to replace Windows 8 with the more familiar Windows 7. How can I do this?

Robert Anderson, Bloomington

A: To put it mildly, Windows 8 isn’t very popular. While it makes sense for touch-sensitive tablets, it makes little sense on a PC because it forces people to use the computer in an entirely different way for little apparent benefit.

Not surprisingly, consumers haven’t flocked to Windows 8. Microsoft hasn’t talked about Windows 8 sales in two consecutive quarterly earnings reports. And third-party market research firm Net Applications says fewer people have bought Windows 8 than bought the much-maligned Windows Vista in the first five months after the respective operating systems were introduced.

If you don’t like Windows 8, there are three things you can do:

1. There are several programs that will alter the Windows 8 Start Screen to look and behave more like the Windows 7 Start Menu. See tinyurl.com/boj8ecr. This is by far the easiest solution.

2. Pay a computer repair shop to install Windows 7 for you.

3. You can replace Windows 8 with Windows 7, but it’s not easy.

First, back up your PC’s data (which will be wiped out by switching to Windows 7), then download and back up the Windows 7 software drivers for external PC devices such as printers (you can find the drivers on the website of the manufacturer).

If you have Windows 8 Pro, you can switch to Windows 7 Pro in a way that will let you go back to Windows 8 later if you change your mind. You’ll have to buy a copy of Windows 7 Pro (see tinyurl.com/7cgvxqe, where the prices range from $75 to $310). Then follow the directions in the article “How to ‘downgrade’ to Windows 7” at tinyurl.com/dyqfs2q.

If you have any other version of Windows 8, you’ll have to do a “clean install” using any version of Windows 7. Save your data and software drivers as I mentioned above. Before you start, read section three of the “How to downgrade” article, which explains how to turn off a Windows 8 feature called “secure boot” that would otherwise prevent you from installing Windows 7.

Q: Both my laptop and desktop computers have had their browser home pages hijacked by something called “start.search.us.com” which redirects my browser whenever I connect to the Internet. What should I do?

Bob Jones, Prior Lake

A: “Start.search.us.com” is a browser hijacking program whose purpose is to divert you to shady websites. To remove the program from Windows and from your browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox), try the step-by-step directions at tinyurl.com/cpgldyn.


Fitbit Windows 8 app now available

Fresh from releasing an Android application to sync with its fitness trackers, Fitbit has now added Windows 8 to the platforms it supports with dedicated software.

The Fitbit Windows 8 app is now available on the Windows Store and can be used to analyse the data gleaned from a Fitbit One or Fitbit Zip wireless activity or sleep tracker.

The free download offers all manner of statistic and graph pages, presented in clean, Windows 8 style. It offers visual representations of your activity levels, sleep and weight charts and highlights health and fitness trends for future reference.

As it tracks your weight, body fat and BMI statistics over periods, you can see instantly how you are doing in each category. You can also rate your performance against your friends on a dedicated page.

Fitbit claims that, with iOS, Android and now Windows 8 applications, its wireless fitness trackers are the most widely compatible in the market.

You can download the Windows 8 application from Windows Store now.

YSU takes a byte out of Windows 8

For the past few weeks in Kilcawley Center, Youngstown State University has offered a demonstration of Microsoft Windows 8 — brought to YSU by Campus Entertainment, a college marketing agency.
Windows 8 replaces the traditional start button with tile- and charm-based navigation. Users can move around these icons as they please to access programs more easily.
One application that stood out among students was a program known as SkyDrive, which allows users to access files from anywhere.
“The whole cloud computing system with Microsoft SkyDrive, the new advances in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint. They’re all tools we, as students, use,” said YSU student Paul Emig.
Emig said Windows 8 is useful to YSU students.
“Being a Windows-based university, most of your projects are done via Word, Excel or PowerPoint,” he said.
Windows 8’s new interface, along with a few other features, caught Emig’s eye.
“We have these things called LivePals here, which can automatically update you whether you’re getting a new email. You can link it up to your Facebook and Twitter accounts,” he said.
Like Emig, YSU student Leanne Johnson said she enjoys Windows 8, especially since it is user-friendly.
“I think it’s really easy to use, and they’ll be able to use the touch screen,” she said. “It’s easy to access it and not have to always use a keyboard. Students can access tiles for research.”
Johnson said the design sets Windows 8 apart from competitors.
“[I like] the interface and also the more modern look with the tiles,” she said. “It also has all your office programs, the Excel [and] PowerPoint, so students can use it in class for projects.”
Even following the demonstration period, Johnson said she wants to continue to spread the word about Windows 8.
“I’m going to promote it more,” she said. “I’m definitely going to recommend it to teachers. In the business school, you can take it on internships.”
Given the plethora of features, Johnson said she almost can’t quite pinpoint the feature she enjoys most on Windows 8.
“There are so many different things it has,” she said. “But definitely the SkyDrive [is] the best. I like everything about it.”