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5 Microsoft Mysteries That Need to Be Resolved


With the Windows 8 release looming, could greater transparency restore faith in Microsoft?

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL This may seem obvious, but Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is not Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Microsoft can't withhold information and then hope to wow its fan base with announcement events that feel like magic shows. Microsoft lacks the brand awareness and personality to get away with secrecy, so why has the company waited so long to start building hype for Windows 8 Oct. 26 launch?

Although Microsoft is no longer strictly a software developer, Windows 8 is still its big product of the year. But there is still a lot of mystery concerning Windows 8 and the company's immediate future. Microsoft is in need of some real transparency. It seems to have some transformative plans that could either pique consumer interest or inspire dread from analysts. Here are some of the important issues on investors' minds.

1. What is the future of its OS system?
Windows 8 is a huge change for Microsoft in terms of design, but will policy changes come along with it? Clearly, Microsoft's new user-friendly operating system is in some way inspired by Apple iconic iOS design, but will future upgrades be free like iOS or Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android? Or will the company continue to charge for upgrades as it has in the past? As the company ventures further into creating more hardware, will it take steps to make its software better appeal to consumers -- for example, by making it free?

By getting the software for free, consumers would feel less like they were paying for the newest Microsoft upgrade, and more like they were entering into the Microsoft brand. Generally, consumers don't seem to be concerned with the quality of upgrades from iOS and Android, but those brands have mass appeal because its consumers feel as though they are buying an experience.

Making its future OSs free wouldn't hurt Microsoft's profits that much either. Microsoft's partnerships with companies like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), and Lenovo (PINK:LNVGY) allow it to maintain a chief source of revenue.

Of course, Windows 8 still has a lot of smaller questions that need to be addressed. One important question will be how Microsoft addresses bug patches. Tech experts have been griping for years about how annoying Windows updates are. Microsoft should be using Windows 8 to address this irritation, either by switching to a solution similar to Apple's system fixes, or coming up with a new solution entirely.

Finally, there's some doubt as to what the system will cost in six months. Until January 31, upgrades to Windows 8 Pro will cost $40 to owners of the last three Microsoft systems, but Microsoft has not spoken on what the policy will be after that date. Some hypothesize that a full retail copy will cost $100 or more.

2. How many apps will there be at launch?
Applications could make or break Windows 8. So far, Microsoft had to learn the hard way that the number of apps can boost consumer appeal, and it has invested heavily to develop its own apps and make things easier for developers. Still, as of October 10, Microsoft's US store only contains roughly 2,400 apps, a number short of its stated 10,000 apps goal. Even if Windows 8 computers can manage well enough without a massive app increase, the company's Windows 8 phone brand would continue to hurt due to this deficit.
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