This is another big week for Microsoft.
In a few days it'll launch the Surface Pro, a premium version of the Surface tablet that's powerful enough to replace your regular laptop.
And Windows 8, Microsoft's radical new touch-based operating system for PC, is now three months old. In that short time, the guy in charge of Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, left the company and is working at Harvard as a professor.
Sinofsky's job is now split between Julie Larson-Green, who manages the engineering side of Windows, and Tami Reller, who's the CFO/CMO of the division and handles all the business stuff.
We had a chance to sit down with Reller last week ahead of the big Surface Pro launch to see how things are going with Windows.
Reller wanted to make clear from the beginning that Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change for Microsoft. She's right. You've probably seen all those stories about users having difficulty with the radical new touch-based interface. Windows 8 is completely different from the Windows you're used to.
But Microsoft is betting that touch is the next big thing in computing, and it's making sure Windows 8 can handle the various form factors hitting store shelves this year. Reller calls them "a new class of PCs."
And there are a lot of them in the pipeline. Reller says Microsoft has certified nearly 2,000 unique Windows 8 devices since the operating system launched last October.
There are tablets that dock with a keyboard. There are all-in-one desktops that sort of look like an iMac with a touchscreen. There are laptops that can bend and slide into a tablet. There are regular-looking laptops with touchscreens. And so on.
Our take is that Microsoft's Windows 8 partners are trying every form factor possible to see what sticks with consumers. Expect the choices in Windows 8 PCs to narrow down over the next year or two as people vote with their wallets.
Reller also touched on Windows 8's app selection. She wouldn't give us a specific number, but said third-party estimates that there are 40,000 apps in Microsoft's app store are pretty close. Still, that doesn't matter much if users can't get the big-name apps they don't want. Reller tacitly admitted that, saying many of the must-have apps are in the store already or in the pipeline to launch.
"There's a lot more to do and more to focus on," Reller said.
(The poor app selection was one of our biggest complaints with the Surface Pro, by the way.)
What we couldn't weasel out of Reller are the things you're probably most interested in. She wouldn't comment on Surface sales or new form factors for the tablet, like the rumored 7-inch model.
"We're focused on this launch," Reller said, referring to the Surface Pro.
Well, we tried.
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