Editorial

Microsoft, it's time to get serious about devices

In the summer of this year, Microsoft announced – ultimately to the surprise of no-one – its intentions to purchase Nokia’s device business in a move that, when it is completed next year, will see Microsoft effectively become a smartphone manufacturer with the kind of product integration of software and hardware that only Apple has managed to make a lasting success.

Nokia – still operating more or less autonomously as the Microsoft deal slowly progresses behind the scenes – this week unveiled a trio of new devices, including the first Windows Phone phablets, the 6-inch Lumia 1520 flagship, and the cheaper but identically sized Lumia 1320. The company also revealed its first Windows tablet, the Lumia 2520, immediately introducing an awkward overlap with Microsoft’s Surface 2. It seems likely that it will be Nokia’s one and only tablet, as it is widely believed that Microsoft will maintain the Lumia brand for its smartphones, with Surface remaining for its tablet devices.

You would be forgiven for experiencing a modicum of apprehension over this state of affairs. Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a great deal of experience when it comes to its own hardware. Yes, you can point to Xbox, but that’s a very niche market with very specific requirements; hardly a relevant comparison to the broad and infinite needs and wishes of the smartphone and PC markets. Of course, Microsoft does have Surface – but this is isn’t exactly a shining example of market success.

Yesterday, as part of its earnings report for the first quarter of its 2014 fiscal year, Microsoft revealed that, for the three months ending September 30 2013, sales of its Surface tablets had doubled compared with the previous calendar quarter. But over a year on from the launch of Surface, Microsoft has still not revealed any actual sales numbers for its tablets. That in itself is telling, but this ‘doubling’ in Surface sales tells us nothing: if I sell one slice of cake, and then another slice of cake, I’ve doubled my sales, but I haven’t really sold much cake overall.

The absence of real sales figures from Microsoft certainly implies that the news is not good, and as Business Insider points out, $400m in Surface revenue for the quarter hints at sales below one million units. The fact that the company took a $900m write-down on Surface inventory last quarter paints an even bleaker picture. And deep price cuts – with up to 30% reductions on the Surface RT – earlier this year only go to underline the fact that Microsoft did not exactly get things right on its first try.

We cannot really condemn Microsoft for this – however nervous that imperfect start may make us about the Nokia takeover – and the company is clearly undeterred by its lack of progress so far. This week, it launched its second-generation Surface tablets in a blaze of publicity, including placing a giant 383ft Surface in London’s Trafalgar Square.

But Microsoft hasn't exactly rocked the boat with its new Surface devices. In terms of design, they are virtually identical to their predecessors, a fact that some have expressed disappointment over. "The company has done some great work with its Surface accessory range"That said, it gives Microsoft the opportunity to improve its accessory support without cutting ties completely with the previous generation, so there is some merit in this choice.

The company has certainly done some great work with its Surface accessory range. A docking station for the Surface Pro and its successor is a very welcome addition, and one that many have been hoping for. Today, it emerged that Microsoft has brought forward the launch of this accessory, with it being available for purchase right now, rather than next year as originally stated. The new Touch Covers are immensely impressive too, offering greatly improved gesture support and backlit keys in a package that is somehow even thinner than the original.

With the new generation, Microsoft has also introduced us to Surface ‘blades’ – essentially Touch Covers with customised layouts for specific usage scenarios. The company showed off a DJ-centric blade for music production, as part of its Surface Remix Project, and is encouraging users to share their ideas for other blades too. The potential here is very exciting.

But blades remain a concept for now, and it is not clear whether or not Microsoft has any structured plans to release such covers, or if the company is just kicking it about as a side project and making noise about it to make Surface seem a bit more cool and exciting to consumers.

Surface could certainly use the help. The new generation of its tablets is certainly a fine, incremental improvement over the original line-up. Battery life is improved, there’s a new dual-stage kickstand, the Windows RT version gets a 1080p display… it’s all very nice.

But there is nothing to get excited about; nothing to really grab a consumer’s attention, slap them across the face a bit and get them to want this product. They don’t have Retina Displays to take on iPads; they are neither the thinnest nor the lightest; they do not offer superlative performance; and this is all to say nothing of the less than perfect state of the Windows app ecosystem.

Instead, Microsoft’s marketing of its second-gen Surfaces remains focused on the keyboard covers as a central part of the offering, despite these still being optional extras. On the Surface homepage, the main header declares the trio of Surfaces (Surface 2, Surface Pro 2 and the original RT, which lives on at a lower price-point) “the most productive tablets on the planet”, highlighting the keyboards, USB port and Office as the main selling points. 

It seems that Microsoft has adjusted its focus – having failed to make any significant impact on the consumer market with its first-gen devices, is it now looking to a more business-focused future with Surface? A report a couple of weeks ago on Surface sales in the U.K. actually suggested that that might be the case, indicating that Microsoft would be targeting the business and education sectors with the new devices, rather than aggressively chasing consumer sales.

Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen. But if it is not, then it is another indicator that Microsoft is repeating its mistakes. When one of the highlights of the Surface launch was the company pointing out that the Windows logo on the rear had been replaced by ‘Surface’ branding, it certainly seemed that way. "Microsoft has chosen to release two new products that look the same as the old ones, at pretty much the same prices"Microsoft appears to believe that the best approach is more of the same, with modest improvements.

That strategy is working out pretty nicely for Apple – but then Apple has already been giving people what they want for some time, and incremental improvements are what its customers expect. Shake things up too much – as with iOS 7 – and people get upset. Microsoft is not in that position. The last twelve months has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that people are just not that interested in Microsoft’s tablets as they stand. Rather than look closely at the reasons for this, and make changes to improve that situation, the company has chosen to release two new products that look the same as the old ones, at pretty much the same prices.  

Some would cite this as justification enough for Microsoft to give up on devices entirely, and focus instead on what it is good at – software. But look at the company’s earnings for the last quarter. The Windows Division was down 20% year-on-year. Yes, the Windows Division includes figures for Surface, but Surface alone was not responsible for that decline. The market is changing, and consumers are increasingly finding that they do not necessarily need to replace that desktop PC, for example, or that they are more content carrying around an iPad than a larger Windows laptop. That has had a significant impact on Windows sales, as PC makers turn increasingly to alternatives such as Google’s Android and Chrome OS.

"OEMs are looking towards a future where they no longer have to pay OS licensing fees to Microsoft"Indeed, Microsoft’s once-faithful allies are now turning their backs on the company. Many OEMs were furious when Microsoft began selling its own devices; Acer, for example, was one of the most vocal to criticise the launch of the Surface tablets. Acer’s president also spoke up to complain about weak sales of Windows 8 devices, as well as consumer confusion surrounding Microsoft's products. All of Microsoft’s OEM partners – with the exception of Nokia, which is effectively part of the family now anyway – have abandoned Windows RT. And as OEMs release more and more Chromebooks rather than Windows laptops, and Android tablets rather than Windows slates, they are increasingly looking towards a future where they no longer have to pay a small fortune in operating system licensing fees to Microsoft.

That, to put it mildly, makes Microsoft uneasy.

The evidence of this is already plain to see in Microsoft’s financial statements, and with traditional PC shipments in continuous decline, there is no reason to believe that it is going to change in the long term. Worryingly, the news that Microsoft's Windows licensing revenues didn't decline by as much as expected last quarter - but still fell significantly nonetheless - is only likely to fuel Microsoft's desire to avoid doing anything that might harm that revenue stream. 

But the die has already been cast. The company has already edged into the hardware business with Surface, and incurred the wrath of its OEM partners in doing so. There is no way to put that toothpaste back into the tube. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s hardware rivals have already established a commanding lead in selling the new generation of devices that buyers crave. And Google's decision to avail its operating systems to OEMs without charge remains one that Microsoft can do nothing about, even as manufacturers are now flocking to these alternatives in greater numbers.

HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, acknowledged this changing state of affairs earlier this month, when she said that “long-time partners such as Intel and Microsoft are becoming outright competitors”. Like many other OEMs, HP has released non-Windows devices. Earlier this year, it launched the $169 Slate 7 with Android Jelly Bean, long before Windows 8 even supported devices of that size; this month, the company also announced its new $279 ChromeBook 11, a small budget-friendly notebook running Chrome OS.

Acer – outspoken as ever – had something to say on the matter as well. In October last year, ahead of the Surface launch – the company’s CEO, JT Wong, called Microsoft’s entry into the hardware market “something to kill the whole ecosystem”. He added that Microsoft may believe that “they need to do something aggressive to compete with Apple and not rely on brands like Acer.”

Although he probably did not intend it as such, that last comment from Wong is precisely what Microsoft needs to do. Microsoft’s Surface strategy so far has not been successful, and the company has only itself to blame for this.

There was marketing that focused too heavily on the keyboard – an accessory that is not essential or a ‘killer feature’ for everybody, and one that was only offered as an optional extra that added a sizeable amount to the cost of the device. Pricing was a broader issue in its own right. Microsoft positioned the Surface RT against the iPad, and the Surface Pro against similarly specified notebooks. But the RT was an entirely unknown quantity for consumers – a new and unfamiliar OS with an immature app ecosystem could not compete effectively for buyers’ attentions against the well-established and immensely popular iPad at the same price. "Surface RT could not compete effectively against the well-established iPad at the same price"

The Surface Pro, meanwhile, suffered from an identity crisis. Most techies understood the concept – a notebook PC in a tablet form factor – but consumers had become accustomed to the idea of tablets as thin and light devices, and were instantly turned off by the Pro’s heavy, chunky body. Consequently, to many, it came across as an incredibly expensive tablet, rather than a competitively priced laptop in a compact form factor.

Curiously, Microsoft appears to have learned little from any of this. The new products appear more or less identical, while the marketing still focuses on the keyboard and productivity – not exactly thrilling features to promote – and pricing has more or less stayed the same. The price of the RT-based Surface 2 has been slightly reduced, but this is unlikely to make a significant difference with the launch of the thinner and much lighter iPad Air for just $50 more.

So, at a time when the company faces attacks on all sides, when even its own allies have all but declared war on it by consorting with the enemy, Microsoft’s strategy to pursue long-term success in devices now stands with two modestly improved versions of devices that failed to meet sales expectations, with one of the originals still being sold alongside them. Oh, and Nokia, which has repeatedly been held back by the limitations of Microsoft’s operating system.

This is depressing.

It is not as if there is a shortage of inspiration out there for Microsoft to explore in making better devices, as well as new ones.

Earlier this week, Apple announced its second-generation iPad mini, featuring a beautiful Retina Display and a range of other nice but modest improvements that you’d expect. Meanwhile, the first 8-inch Windows devices are only now starting to roll out from various OEMs – if you forget the utterly terrible Acer Iconia W3 released earlier this year with Windows 8 – but there’s still no Surface device in that size range. A smaller Surface is expected to arrive in the first half of 2014, but in the meantime, millions of iPad minis, Nexus 7s, Kindle Fires and other small tablets will be sold while Microsoft's entry in one of the fastest growing device segments is still in development. 

Elsewhere, Samsung has been raking in the big bucks too, selling tens of millions of Galaxy Note devices, and bringing stylus input and handwriting support to some of its smartphones and tablets. Windows Phone has no such support, despite the first giant phablets having now been released. Stylus input remains absent too on the Surface 2, even though this would be a fantastic addition coupled with OneNote and the inclusion of Office, which Microsoft is convinced seems to matter so much to buyers.

"It may not wish to admit it, but Microsoft is now battling against not only Google and Apple but also its OEM partners, in a war that everyone else is already fighting"Microsoft could have sought hardware inspiration from the diversity of the Windows PC ecosystem too, with a wide range of fascinating new form factors - from the Acer Aspire R7 to the Lenovo Yoga range - certainly indicating that there’s still life left in the PC market. Frankly, with this kind of innovation still alive and well, it’s not hard to understand Microsoft’s hopes that it can continue to prolong the inevitable, so that it can milk the Windows OS licensing cash cow for as long as it can.

But like it or not, the global PC market is shrinking, and OEMs are relying less and less on Windows. It may not wish to admit it, but Microsoft is now battling against not only Google and Apple but also its OEM partners, in a war that everyone else is already fighting.

Microsoft needs to start fighting back.

The ‘transition’ to becoming a devices and services company was never going to happen overnight, but the pace we have seen from Microsoft on the devices front so far is not encouraging. While its rivals are releasing entirely new devices and pushing boundaries – thinnest, lightest, fastest – Microsoft’s devices offer incremental changes and no significant differentiation besides Office and the keyboard covers.

Microsoft’s OEM partners are already launching devices in ‘traditional’ Windows form factors – laptops, desktop PCs and even all-in-ones – with Android and Chrome OS on board. Needless to say, manufacturers are delighted at the prospect of selling more machines without paying additional Windows licensing costs to Microsoft. But Microsoft has not yet responded in kind by diversifying its own hardware offering. A smaller Surface mini will be a welcome addition – when it eventually arrives – but we need to see more than this.

When will Microsoft release an ultra-thin ‘SurfaceBook’ laptop to go head-to-head with the MacBook Air? Not everyone wants a tablet, and whatever Microsoft might say, there are some seating or reclining positions that just work a lot better with a notebook than with a Surface and Touch Cover, even with the new dual-stage kickstand.

"OEMs want the best of both worlds: the freedom to explore other OS options, while expecting Microsoft to just grin and bear it"When will we see a ‘SurfaceTop’ all-in-one desktop PC? Dell has shown how effectively you can combine a PC with a tablet form factor with its stunning XPS 18, while other designs like Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 show that there’s plenty of room for Microsoft to explore interesting ideas in creating a truly compelling Windows PC for the home or office. 

When will we see a ‘SurfaceStation’ business PC? It’s not all about high-def displays and kick-ass specs. Many organisations have much more modest needs for their devices, but they still need them in enormous quantities, as evidenced by the huge numbers of low- and mid-range PCs sold to them from the likes of HP’s Pro line and Dell’s Vostro. One of Microsoft’s greatest strengths is its relationship with its business and enterprise customers, who spend vast sums on Windows OS licensing each year, and it is understandably keen to keep that arrangement going for as long as possible. Even so, it is easy to see how the company would be well positioned – and well served – by selling its own hardware to its business customers too.

The PC ecosystem is just so much more diverse than the limited, ‘one size fits all’ solution of the current Surface line-up. Microsoft cannot – and of course should not – attempt to copy every form factor out there. But as its OEM partners turn away from it, it needs to push further into their territory if it seriously believes that there is a ‘Windows Everywhere’ future as it claims. Microsoft’s hardware partners want the best of both worlds – they want the freedom to be able to explore other OS options so they can wash their hands of the company; but they also expect Microsoft to just grin and bear it as this plays out. Microsoft, fearful of antagonising OEMs and impacting its dwindling Windows revenues further, has been holding itself back.

This is the time for Microsoft to be pushing forward. The company is still learning the ropes when it comes to offering its own hardware, of course, but that does not mean that it cannot be a bit more aggressive in its offering.

The Surface 2 weighs 50% more than the new iPad Air, although you’re unlikely to notice the 1.4mm difference in thickness between the two. The Surface Pro 2 still weighs enough to make using it as a tablet less than comfortable, despite the tablet form factor being a central selling point. Was it really beyond Microsoft to make thinner, lighter devices while still maintaining support for accessories? "The tech industry has shown time and again that those who do not move quickly enough die"

And what about price? Why, when original Surface sales were so poor, did Microsoft price the new tablets at more or less the same level as their predecessors? This is all the more galling given the company’s own admission that sales doubled when prices were reduced. Of course, the reason is that, yet again, it did not want to risk upsetting its hardware partners.

This, ultimately, is Microsoft’s biggest problem as it continues its huge transition from software giant to a company built around services and the devices that use them: it is bound by the fear of what may come. It was afraid enough of the decline in Windows PC shipments to dip its toe into the waters of building its own hardware; but it is too afraid of antagonising its ‘partners’ to take the actions that it needs to strengthen and broaden its hardware offering.

The tech industry has shown time and again that those who do not move quickly enough die. BlackBerry is perhaps the most obvious example of this, but Nokia is another valid, and very relevant, example, having failed to anticipate or react to the threat of the iPhone until it was too late, resulting in the rapid decline of its business. Microsoft simply cannot afford to drag its feet and run the risk of being left further behind when it comes to building its future around new and better devices.

It is not just about Surface and not only about hardware either. The pace of improvement – which Microsoft laughingly refers to as ‘innovation’, on occasion – in the Windows Phone 8 OS has been woefully lethargic. It is telling that a unified notifications centre, a widely requested feature since Windows Phone 7 launched in 2010 – is still not slated to arrive until the first quarter of next year, and there many more examples like this. Still, Microsoft did announce some worthy improvements in WP8 Update 3, but delivery to users remains complicated by carriers, frustrating the experience of owning a Windows Phone.

Credit where it is due though: Microsoft delivered Windows 8.1 which, while still imperfect, is a vastly improved version of its predecessor. The wide consensus is that this is the OS that Microsoft should have shipped a year ago – and that seems to be a fairly common verdict when it comes to the company’s way of doing things these days.

Windows Phone 8, for example, delivered a much more complete experience than its predecessor, so much so that it effectively ‘rebooted’ the platform – leading many to make the same comment about how WP8 was what WP7 should have been in the first place. But even at launch, Windows Phone 8 was still lacking many of the features of its OS rivals which, even today, it continues to lag behind. The latest Surface improvements, meanwhile, are welcome, but consist largely of features that may well have been exciting a year ago at the original launch, but which do not really make much of a difference when compared against rivals today.

Perhaps Microsoft needs to regain its confidence after losing its dominant position in the market. Perhaps it just needs to ‘man up’ and stop worrying about upsetting its hardware partners, who have already begun to flirt with its rivals. Either way, things will not improve for Microsoft until it starts to really get serious about devices.

Expanding its portfolio of PC hardware will be a critical part of this as OEMs begin scaling down their Windows device production. If Microsoft was really serious about pushing its own devices, it could follow Apple’s lead in no longer charging for OS updates on its own PCs, giving consumers an incentive to buy Microsoft devices over those of other Windows OEMs. That might well happen further down the line, but not until Microsoft has succeeded in capturing a greater share of the market.

For now, though, it would be nice to see… well, more – something to indicate that Surface means more to Microsoft than just an Apple TV-like ‘hobby’. That means more than just incremental improvements, more form factors, more impressive marketing that tells a more exciting story than just ‘the tablet with the keyboard’. "Will Microsoft do what it takes to succeed in hardware, with truly compelling and exciting features, and new devices and form factors?"

Perhaps it all seems like a bit much to expect of Microsoft, just one year on from the launch of its first tablet. After all, the company is still finding its way in a new segment, and is up against intensely strong competition from entrenched rivals.

But Microsoft’s rivals are not going to afford it the courtesy of waiting for it to catch up, and they will gladly take any action that serves their best interests, even if that means turning away from their long-term 'partner'. The company now has the impending Nokia acquisition looming over it too, making it even more crucial that it understand the need to act more swiftly and more aggressively in executing its devices strategy. It has taken three years for Microsoft and its partners to eke out just over three percent share of the global smartphone market. How long will it take for Microsoft to capture a significant share of the tablet and PC market with its own devices? How long can it afford to spin its wheels in the mud as others continue to advance?

No intelligent mind could deny the immense potential in Microsoft’s hardware future. The range of Lumia handsets that it is acquiring in the Nokia deal are, with few exceptions, outstanding devices, while there is much to like in the new Surface tablets for those that will give it the time of day. It is easy to imagine what Microsoft could achieve with its own devices and services if it stopped holding itself back. 

But the question remains whether or not Microsoft will do what it takes to succeed in hardware - not just to catch up with its rivals, but to strengthen its current offering with truly compelling and exciting features, and diversifying into new devices and more form factors as its partners move on to pastures new.

The possibilities are endless and ripe for exploration. For now, though, it seems that Microsoft is only scratching the surface. 


Image credits: 1) Microsoft; 2) David Parry/PA Wire; 3) Microsoft; 6) HP; 7) Apple; 9) mobilenet.cz; 11) Mashable

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People have wanted alternatives to Window's for eons now, and now that there finally is MS is eroding quicker and quicker each year...MS as a brand took a hearty beating in the 90's, so much so that I don't think it can ever recover, people are happy to leave MS and the writing has been on the wall for a long time.

The monopoly is over, good riddance.

And why have people wanted alternatives to Windows? You and others keep saying that; however, have you stated any reason that has nothing to do with price as to why? First off, Microsoft actually has NO control over what OEMs charge for their hardware, over and above the cost of the Windows license itself - what the OEMs charge for Android tablets and slates is proof enough of that. And the reasons for BYOD in the corporate world are entirely driven by the up-front cost to the companies; the back-end costs of BYOD are as high as, if not higher than, keeping the desktops entirely company-supplied. The REAL reason why Microsoft is resisted in the tablet and slate space has more to do with what is available from OEMs as opposed to what Microsoft (in terms of the software, or even Surface/Surface Pro/Surface 2) brings to the table. However, it does NOT help that Microsoft has become (once again) the Rodney Dangerfield of IT - it gets next to no respect, in either operating systems or applications. (Microsoft has been here before - and oddly enough, after a wildly-successful Windows 98. While 98SE sold more than even 98, it was greeted with largely a yawn, and we ALL can remember what happened with Windows ME. Windows 2000 Professional almost got tarred with ME's brush, merely due to appearances. Segue to now, and Windows 8 and 8.1. Never mind that it has managed to do what nobody else has even TRIED, and without breaking that backward compatibility that has been held up as the ne plus ultra, it's STILL not enough. It's still a Microsoft OS, and thus will get no props.

.....

bloggers

people want apple devices and are willing to pay the apple tax even if they cant afford it

why_ because bloogers like this guy keeps giving apple a pass while attacking MS every chance they get even though MS offers waaaay much more than apple

but bloggers dont care...

if it is apple it is golden

no matter how often MS innovates and apple underperforms... apple will always be the gold standard in the blogosphere

Instead of the Apple vs Microsoft situation, it is becoming more and more an Apple vs "apple-wannabee" situation. So much for Microsoft's appreciation of business/enterprise loyalty.

You swear by the titles of these articles... why aren't these bloggers running the companies if they are so smart instead of blogging what they should be doing.

Andy Weir said,
Microsoft doesn't exactly have a great deal of experience when it comes to its own hardware. Yes, you can point to Xbox, but that's a very niche market with very specific requirements; hardly a relevant comparison to the broad and infinite needs and wishes of the smartphone and PC markets. Of course, Microsoft does have Surface - but this is isn't exactly a shining example of market success.

I think we can all agree that Microsoft knows how to make good hardware. Very good quality hardware in fact. The Zune when it was sold was a very solid and beautifully crafted device, and the same can be said about the surface. Ironically, it is the software side that is the thorn in Microsoft's side at the moment, design and UI being a bit of a growing pain, and i would say that marketing and global distribution is one of their biggest blunders.

Mixed feelings about the article...

But it should shut up all the people who claim this site, neoWIN, only advocates the MS company

so in summary:

author rambles about the death of the pc. argues MSFT needs to make PCs.
author goes over and over about OEMs fear of MSFT, yet google competes with OEMs even harder, and they are killing OEMs with their nexus.
author thinks the mac has a future, and MSFT needs to challenge it even as MSFT already won that batter and apple reported decline mac sales.
author goes on and on over areas where MSFT has already won (business) and neglects chromebooks have failed for 3 years to register in stat counter or net applications.

arg...what a waste of internet space this article was. sorry.

Really great article!

tldr; Long ranty post ahead, sorry!

I wish Microsoft could release RTbooks to combat Chromebooks. A $250 plastic laptop running Windows RT? If people are clambering for an OS that is just a browser with only a handful of offline functions and no real app store then RT with a full OS (let's face it, normal people don't need more than Office, if they even need that), Office, a decent app store with all sorts of apps and games, and a full browser that works with Flash and most other things.

Maybe they could shift some of those (then again, beyond the anecdotes from the tech press, Chromebook sales have been abysmal to the point that Surface RT has sold more in 12 months than Chromebooks have in three years)? Though if Microsoft did it the OEMs would likely bury them. They're barely tolerating Surface so if they went into laptops too? Bloodbath (as would a BayTrail Surface have been). They should allow OEMs to do stuff like that though.

RT should be the perfect answer to Chromebooks and Android tablets like the Nexus 7 (heck, even cheaper ones like the Acer B1 or HP Slate 7). MS should licence it for free, disable the desktop and remove Office for cheaper and smaller devices (don't want to canabalise the higher end) and get it in peoples hands. Only then will the ecosystem flourish at a faster pace, like it has with Android.

While I don't really care for ChromeOS, Google have marketed it well. The commercials are friendly and make it look like Chromebooks can do anything (oh, and it's made for everyone!) even though it's half crippled even when it is online compared to Windows, OSX, or Linux. People will consider buying them because it shows them that this laptop can make their life amazing.

MS have dropped the ball with the Surface Gen2 models. While they both look great (still), there wasn't enough of a price drop to warrant people flocking to the stores to grab one. There wasn't an amazing standout app (the Bing apps are great, but iPads have iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand, oh and all of Adobe's Photoshop lite apps) that really shows off what it can do.

Their advertising still warbles on about that bloody USB port and Office and how much work you can do on it. It doesn't sell it to real people at all. Show me how grandma can Skype me from another country or Great Aunt Hilda managing her photos collection or little Timmy mixing some music or painting or something.

Apple do some really boring desktop demos, but their iPhone and iPad demos are always cool because they show off features in a practical application. Microsoft sort of just blitzes through a list of features and just expects you to figure out how to use them. Miracast support is a great example of this, it's great for people who have it but go ask any normal person what it is or if their Surface has it and they won't have a clue.

Microsoft have made two great products, and they've improved on them this year. But that's just not enough and the price for Surface 2 (and the higher specced Surface Pro's) is just that bit too high for people to take the risk. If Surface 2 was the same price as the discounted Surface 1 ($350) and then Surface 1 dropped to $250 then people may pause when considering their new tablet but if there's only $50 between Surface 2 and the new iPad Air most people will choose the iPad because it's a freaking iPad!

If Apple have (as people have surmised) named their new tablet the 'iPad Air' because they're planning on releasing an 'iPad Pro' next year then Microsoft will find themselves in a tricky spot. iPads sell like crazy anyway, even to professionals, and f Apple bring out a tablet tailored to more professional things, like a bigger screen, keyboard case, maybe a stylus, and more souped up, touch and pen friendly, versions of Final Cut and Aperture people will go wild.

I'm worried Microsoft have nothing up their sleeve to combat something like that. I hope I'm wrong but they can't even get the power cover released for Christmas and they deliberately delayed the Surface Mini so it doesn't cannibalise Surface 1 sales... Oh, and Surface 2 doesn't come with a pen even though there's cheaper active tech available from Synaptics if they didn't want to spend on Wacom tech.

Yikes, I'm apparently in a ranty mode tonight so I'll stop there.

I love Microsoft, love Surface, Windows 8.1, Office and their entire eco-system but godammit they really need to shape up and get PR and Marketing savvy soon and go on the offensive; if they want to compete with Apple rather than Android they need to step up.

Very nice article. I think the the tone of Microsoft's next 5 years hinges on the XBOX One. It's hands down their sexiest product. If it explodes it could really light a fire under Microsoft. If it falls flat it will not only shake the confidence at Redmond, but shape how consumers think about Microsoft in terms of delivering a fully realized hardware/software product.

If the XBOX One fails to ignite within the first 5 years the way the 360 did AND SteamOS starts making traction, Microsoft will be fighting on all fronts and that's not good in the position they are in.

I have a better idea for Microsoft: Stop trying to be Apple and stick to what you're actually good at: Making decent desktop software.

Javik - that is indeed the way consumers (and most business folks) think - very much a case of MASSIVE tunnel vision. It doesn't matter that Windows (whether we're talking 8.x or RT) can do everything Android or iOS can do - Microsoft, in their minds, is associated with the "status quo" - deservedly or not. Consumers (and also a lot of business software users) see Microsoft as today's IBM - traditionalist and old-school. They want to trap Microsoft in that niche so badly they can taste it. Never mind that Microsoft doesn't want to be relegated - it's not what the CONSUMER wants. Microsoft is the company that nobody wants to admit to using the products of.

And as OEMs release more and more Chromebooks rather than Windows laptops, and Android tablets rather than Windows slates, they are increasingly looking towards a future where they no longer have to pay a small fortune in operating system licensing fees to Microsoft.
If MS just wants to be a toll booth then definitely device makers will turn to alternatives such as chrome os or they will just end up putting together their own custom software solutions like smartphone makers.

Average consumers are moving to tablets and average consumers don't want Windows on their tablets. They had Windows on their PC's because they had to, now there are other choices people are not selecting a Windows device.

Try this... Think about everyone in your family, go to extended family as well if you like. Go from very young to very old, include everyone. Now match all these family members with todays tablets, I bet you don't allocate a Windows Tablet to most of these people.

This is the problem that Microsoft has and sales number prove it.

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment of this article.

I remember a discussion with a family member in the not too distant past, where he described moving to Apple because it "just worked" compared to his experience with cheep consumer level laptops. I tried to explain the difference between buying from a hardware vender that works hard to control the user experience compared to a hardware vender that works as an oem and piles on the crap and actually proved the point by taking the Windows laptop that he complained about, rebuilding it (as someone that [likes to think they] know what they're doing) and he was impressed with how well it then worked. The problem then became that he complained about the shoddy build of the device itself - that part had nothing to do with the Microsoft offering, but more the fact that he bought a laptop for less than £500 and tried to compare it to his £1000+ apple device (at that point I just raised my hands).

[/babble ends]

My point being that if Microsoft were in more control of the quality of devices on offer this wouldn't be an issue, but leading the way with appropriate hardware devices and avoiding the myriad of (oem) crapware is certainly a good starting place and will hopefully lead oems to rethink their approach to the market (less crap more quality) even at the lower end of the marked.

(Thanks for listening)

So many people ****in hate Microsoft, for the fact that Office and Windows not only dominate their respective markets, but that they are irreplaceable.

Everyone now wants to invent an idea that somehow, 8" and smaller devices can and are replacing PCs, because they can browse the web, or do some other primitive task, because we've become primitive people,with primitive brains.

And hey, lets use PC sales to help us spread this idea. Yeah, that'll show em. No, just stop. It used to be that you would buy a PC regularly, because your PC you just bought would become a slow obsolete POS in no time. And by the time the newest OS came around, you'd be lucky if you could upgrade. Nowadays, you can use a PC you bought 5 years ago,and run the newest OS even faster than before, and everything you've ever wanted to do is accomplishable at respectable speeds. Logic

Not only that, but all these OEMs,and competitors already beat themselves, by getting involved in a sub $300 market that they will never get out of. They have tried,and failed miserably at doing anything non windows at 10" and up, that is why they are where they are now. People buy these devices because they are basically accessories, companion devices to **** around with, that you wouldn't give a **** about if you lost it,or dropped it and it broke. Even apple got suckered into this area,and now their mini tablets have taken over from their larger ones. There is now an unmolested 10" and up market that no one can touch, all to Microsoft themselves.

Microsoft sees this opportunity to make massive profits selling hardware. OEMs are welcome to continue making the journey if they please, but Microsoft is in no way concerned. They aren't even competing with them. Who's going to use a 7" tablet to work on office documents? Microsoft sells the OS by selling other products and services that cant be copied.

Windows 8s reason to exist is to help create one platform, for every single device,regardless of size. This is Microsofts plan on becoming an even greater monster. People can bitch and moan about having metro on the desktop, yada yada. But these people are short sighted.

Sometimes I think this was all along Microsoft masterful plan. Resting on their laurels, wait for some other market to spruce up,and then have the right to use this windows platform as a weapon once and for all, to become unshackled. Could they have integrated metro, and made the windows store pre 2007? Could they have built their own windows hardware? Windows Phone(same api)? They would have had the feds all up in their ass. They were hoping for an iphone, or an ipad,and now they are free.

Think about it. Even with all of apple success , If they already reached their ceiling, think of what kind of behemoth Microsoft can become if Microsoft has "failed" so far (making ~$6 billion profit a quarter).

Edited by vcfan, Oct 25 2013, 9:23pm :

I digress with you in that, months ago here on Neowin, a lady rep representing MS stated on the stage , on video that windows 8 was to be the OS for all as you stated. however, the argument that STILL lingers is, SOME, alot or few users use the desktop and they have been bamboozled because while MS faked a punt, in NFL terms, and said, sure, we'll give you a start menu, it was basically NOT a lie but a play on words. Laptops/desktops already last a long time because of their power. But what is STILL missing is the tradtional start menu for those who work that way.. period. I don't care about MS laurels or attempts to redefine how we compute with as you say companion devices.. the PROBLEM is a huge swath of users were forgotten, on purpose and told, here.. this is the way you'll compute and work now. try telling that to a corporation who has millions to spend on hardware or those who have no liquidity to spend on upgrading.windows 8/8.1 has its place but that place doesn't work for everyone.

that's not vision, that's a mistake and loyalties live and die by MS corporate attitudes irregardless of what you or I think. I had to use a 3rd party app(classic shell) to get my Win 8.1 setup for my non touchscreen system.

chrisj1968 said,
But what is STILL missing is the traditional start menu for those who work that way.. period. I don't care about MS laurels or attempts to redefine how we compute with as you say companion devices.. the PROBLEM is a huge swath of users were forgotten, on purpose and told, here.. this is the way you'll compute and work now. try telling that to a corporation who has millions to spend on hardware or those who have no liquidity to spend on upgrading.windows 8/8.1 has its place but that place doesn't work for everyone.

that's not vision, that's a mistake and loyalties live and die by MS corporate attitudes irregardless of what you or I think. I had to use a 3rd party app(classic shell) to get my Win 8.1 setup for my non touchscreen system.

Ok? And? Changes happen all the time. Corporations can make all the excuses they want, but it won't prevent change from happening. They're now just upgrading to Windows 7, and will be on that OS for some time. The change in Windows 8 might seem sudden, but by running Windows 7 for the next several years, they'll tackle that change more gracefully. Workers can still get their jobs done without a "traditional" start menu (whatever that means). There is no written rule that states that they can't have anything else - They'll get used to using the start screen, just like they did with the start menu when it was introduced. Workers don't have the same work habits that they did 10 years ago, and Windows 8 is a reflection on those changes.

you're missing the point. What this rep said, representing MS mind you.. it is an OS for everyone, tablet, laptop and desktop. it was a lie.

does it have the start menu? now is it the start menu that alot of desktop and laptop systems.. .wait a minute.... lol what was I thinking?

Windows 8/8.1 is to computing what obamacare is to affordability... while some might be able to get the healthcare system to work, everyone democrat or alike are saying wth? this isn't what i want... you said I could keep my current health care insurance. (analogy ok?)

chrisj1968 said,
you're missing the point. What this rep said, representing MS mind you.. it is an OS for everyone, tablet, laptop and desktop. it was a lie.

does it have the start menu? now is it the start menu that alot of desktop and laptop systems.. .wait a minute.... lol what was I thinking?

Windows 8/8.1 is to computing what obamacare is to affordability... while some might be able to get the healthcare system to work, everyone democrat or alike are saying wth? this isn't what i want... you said I could keep my current health care insurance. (analogy ok?)

How are they lying? Windows 8 works across all those devices, unhindered. Yes, it does have a start menu, press the start button, and voila, you're in Start. Right click the button, and you have more options. How is this any different to what came before it? What makes tiles any different than icons?

the problem here is, basing my comment on a slew of comments here, MS is trying to be an APPLE of sorts and corner the market themselves. with the Surface line as a whole. it is obvious that MS is trying to steer well into an APPLE'esque market where THEY (MS) are building the systems. think about it a second: standard CPU, two flavors of Ram and storage, so much easier to alleviate hardware issues when everyone (who owns a surface) have the same hardware.

maybe MS is trying to cut out the OEM's all together. MS is making a bold move in this matter and the dangers are, MS could alienate themselves if they get it wrong

Seems that you forgot to mention that in those markets that Microsoft takes seriously they regularly achieve over 90% market share. Sometimes they do so well they simply kill off the competition and even et into antitrust problems.

In computers, Apple used to have 40%. Now they're regularly included in the "Other" category and can't seem to get over that big 3% hurdle. Then again, bashing Apple isn't cool, is it?

Major_Plonquer said,
Seems that you forgot to mention that in those markets that Microsoft takes seriously they regularly achieve over 90% market share. Sometimes they do so well they simply kill off the competition and even et into antitrust problems.

In computers, Apple used to have 40%. Now they're regularly included in the "Other" category and can't seem to get over that big 3% hurdle. Then again, bashing Apple isn't cool, is it?

Major I'd like for you to recognize that Apple can easily overcome that 3% if their products were sold by dozens of different manufacturers. However, I don't believe they need to and they could care less. Opening up your products to others comes with some pluses but also comes with schtty products being released. A quick browse online or at a local Best Buy will show the lackluster products being released with a Windows OS running it. Market share ain't everything. You also want consumers to have a certain perspective about products being released with your name on it.

What else can MS do? Consumers and most businesses want iPads and don't want Surface. In a post PC world 'most' people don't want or need full windows on a tablet. Sales numbers prove this to be true. I suppose MS can give them away? Include a Surface in a cereal box?

'Most' people who want to use email and the web never needed a real computer with Windows at all, now they have other options are they are not choosing Windows.

Edited by derekaw, Oct 25 2013, 8:48pm :

No, all our work is done on PCs just like it always has. We're not sticking iPads on call center desks . That lack of being able to virtualize on commodity hardware makes Apple useless in most business applications.

Here 'Most' people are general consumers, MS is not competitive in the consumer space with their tablet offerings, not like the iPad. In the consumer space PC's are in decline, Windows is in decline, the Mac is in decline too. Yes, in business I can see MS keeping their place on most desks and in the data centre etc, however the post PC world is mostly about consumers buying tablets and they are mostly not Windows tablets.

derekaw said,
What else can MS do? Consumers and most businesses want iPads and don't want Surface. In a post PC world 'most' people don't want or need full windows on a tablet. Sales numbers prove this to be true. I suppose MS can give them away? Include a Surface in a cereal box?

'Most' people who want to use email and the web never needed a real computer with Windows at all, now they have other options are they are not choosing Windows.

You post makes sense. Now that I think about it, most of the casual PC users that I know who had PC's in the 90's and 2000's, only used their computer for emails, looking up recipes, finding directions, ECT. Now that they have so many options, the Windows ecosystem is no longer needed. Most have transitioned to an iPad for their basic needs.

Please - Microsoft is looked at, fairly or not, as being traditionalist and old-school. Old-school may work - however, it's not something that will build any sort of following among millenials or Gen Y. It's like Buick was looked at in the 1980s, and that was despite the Regal T-Type and Grand National - it had absolutely zero street-rod cred whatsoever. (The same was also true of Volvo - again, despite the original Turbo and even Turbo Wagon invading SCCA and eating almost everybody's lunch. Mustangs and Camaros still had that cred - built on their PAST, not their present, as during the 1980s, on the track, it was Volvo that was eating Camaros for lunch. Volvo? The uber-soccer-mom-mobile.) Microsoft is seen as basically Volvo, and it truly deserves far more respect than it gets. JHBrown - folks are leaving Windows because they actually can (though, more often than not, they don't leave even Windows completely) and that is entirely because of Windows being seen as "stodgy" and "traditional". What's worse, let Microsoft even TRY to break Windows out of that, and it gets (literally) forced back into the cage of backward compatibility; the assault on Windows 8's lack of a Start menu is merely another attempt to "brand" Windows as being a traditional OS meant only for work.

And can they say WHY they want iPad, as opposed to Surface? You are offering an opinion without gist to back it up. I actually DO have some gist to back up the same impression - and it comes down to how Microsoft (and Apple) are perceived. Apple is still seen as David, while Microsoft is still seen as Goliath. Folks are buying iPads, iPhones, etc. (even to an extent Android hardware) because they are not "contributing" to Goliath (AKA Windows/Microsoft). Perception, perception, perception - which has absolutely SQUAT to do with reality. When it comes to tablets and smartphones, Google and Apple are the Goliaths; Microsoft (and that is even with Windows 8.x and RT) is David. However, how many consumers see it that way? Google and Apple have been doing a bang-up job about looking much smaller than either actually is; however, how long can they keep it up?

I'm looking forward to the article where you bash Apple for this long.

They take other peoples ideas and refine them. This tactic only has a limited lifespan, which is slowing coming to pass in that Apple hasn't really come up with anything new for a few years now.

Google and Microsoft are in fact doing more interesting things, and they've both got larger ecosystems to tie all those parts together.

Walrush said,
I'm looking forward to the article where you bash Apple for this long.

They take other peoples ideas and refine them. This tactic only has a limited lifespan, which is slowing coming to pass in that Apple hasn't really come up with anything new for a few years now.

Google and Microsoft are in fact doing more interesting things, and they've both got larger ecosystems to tie all those parts together.

I'd like to remind that almost all manufacturers copy something from another manufacturer. From the shoes on my feet to the car that I drive. What Apple does well is intergrating these ideas seamlessly for the most part. This "tactic" does not have a limited lifespan. Companies have been doing this for ages and it is how we progress in technology. Microsoft has done this same "tactic" you accuse Apple of doing.

Loved the article Andy. Good read over my lunch break. I'm really not sure what else Microsoft can do to intrigue consumers besides lowering prices or coming out with something truly revolutionary and mind boggling. It could be the bad press from Windows 8 and many people just don't want to touch anything that resembles it. (I've overheard this conversation at a Chipotle restaurant at lunch). The question still comes up for many people, why should I switch from an iPad or MacBook Air, or Ultrabook, to a Surface Pro 2 or Surface 2? Obviously including Office is not the answer. A USB port is not the answer. Microsoft needs to work on their culture.. A culture that can get people hooked and talking about their products. Competition is good for my wallet and as a Micorsoft fan since the early 80's, I hope they can clean up this mess.

Complete synergy with their all products and a broader product range/portifolio? How about:

Receive/send SMS Text Messages on any 'paired' Windows 8 Devices
Dial/Receive Calls on any 'paired' Windows 8 Device(s)
Stream 360 Games on any linked Win8 Device(s)
XB1 Games over LAN on any linked Win8 Device?
WinPhone as a PC Companion (access homegroup/network/printer/rdp/files/settings in a small screen friendly UI)

I don't think they can hit lower price points with the risk of offending OEMS... at least they can't take that risk with a small range of hardware devices. at least bring the Surface mini in at max $249.99

(BTW, Top article)

SCOOBY_666UK said,
Complete synergy with their all products and a broader product range/portifolio? How about:

Receive/send SMS Text Messages on any 'paired' Windows 8 Devices
Dial/Receive Calls on any 'paired' Windows 8 Device(s)
Stream 360 Games on any linked Win8 Device(s)
XB1 Games over LAN on any linked Win8 Device?
WinPhone as a PC Companion (access homegroup/network/printer/rdp/files/settings in a small screen friendly UI)

I don't think they can hit lower price points with the risk of offending OEMS... at least they can't take that risk with a small range of hardware devices. at least bring the Surface mini in at max $249.99

(BTW, Top article)

Excellent points Scooby!

SCOOBY_666UK said,
Complete synergy with their all products and a broader product range/portifolio? How about:

Receive/send SMS Text Messages on any 'paired' Windows 8 Devices
Dial/Receive Calls on any 'paired' Windows 8 Device(s)
Stream 360 Games on any linked Win8 Device(s)
XB1 Games over LAN on any linked Win8 Device?
WinPhone as a PC Companion (access homegroup/network/printer/rdp/files/settings in a small screen friendly UI)

I don't think they can hit lower price points with the risk of offending OEMS... at least they can't take that risk with a small range of hardware devices. at least bring the Surface mini in at max $249.99

(BTW, Top article)


a great concept when you buy everything windows is that it should all easily sync with each other. The reality is that it doesn't. Some things may sync, but never easily. Lately Microsoft is acting more like an unemployed software designer, willing to try to do so many other things to stay relevant but forgot to stick to the one core thing they are based on, software. Syncing my Microsoft devices with my Microsoft devices should be as easy as adding a new controller to a ps3, not as hard as trying to get a toddler to eat broccoli.

Yeah, sure, hundreds of millions of Galaxy devices sold, sure, but let's all not forget how Samsung is busy screwing Google over, and how that could ruin *that OTHER* ecosystem :
http://www.theverge.com/2013/1...r-conference-android-future

You could put it this way - all of these companies have their different struggles with their different business models, of which I think Microsoft's business model is the most sustainable

"Time to get serious about devices?"
You could argue they have...which is why they're growing their share in the different sectors.

inb4 "Please, give Microsoft a break"

I would like to see them do a Surface laptop. While the tablet, touch/type keyboard is a nice idea I think they could come up with an amazing laptop given the extra space for components.

They should do this

Surface tablet for consumption and light work. Windows RT.

Surface Pro Laptop for consumption, light/serious work. Windows 8 Pro

Surface Desktop, medium sized box for everything, connect to Monitor, TV. Windows 8.

Microsoft went the jack of all trades and master of none approach believing too strongly in their idea. Surface and type/touch covers were exciting but in practice they don't really hit the high notes and come up short.

coresx said,
I would like to see them do a Surface laptop. While the tablet, touch/type keyboard is a nice idea I think they could come up with an amazing laptop given the extra space for components.

They should do this

Surface tablet for consumption and light work. Windows RT.

Surface Pro Laptop for consumption, light/serious work. Windows 8 Pro

Surface Desktop, medium sized box for everything, connect to Monitor, TV. Windows 8.

Microsoft went the jack of all trades and master of none approach believing too strongly in their idea. Surface and type/touch covers were exciting but in practice they don't really hit the high notes and come up short.

The current Surface Pro is more powerful than most desktops in use, and can easily connect to peripherals and monitors.

The i5 CPU in the Surface Pro is per core faster than any AMD desktop CPU, and faster overall than 99% of all AMD CPUs. (Somehow this gets lost in the 'low power' capabilities.)

Even the Intel HD 4000 that is considered a low end GPU option, is still faster than low end discrete video options from NVidia and AMD's integrated GPUs. It can play Crysis 2 & 3.

Wow, great article Andy. I agree with you that Microsoft should just go all in with the hardware and go all in. They need to be more aggressive in pursuing their ambitions because at the moment tablets are outselling laptops greatly, and to stay consumer relevant, they need a piece of that pie.

That said, if this all goes south and WP and Windows fade in to darkness then what for Microsoft? Businesses will still rely on Windows, Xbox will live on along with Skype but everyone would of started moving on to tablets and Microsoft will become IBM.

Corporate and well, boring.

And this would of happened even if they stuck with Windows 7.

At least at the moment they are still fighting for their corner, and for better or worse, at least they did something than nothing.

I don't know anyone seriously considering Android or Chrome OS a tablet contender unless you count the Kiddle Fire as Android. They'll put out some devices of course but it's not a cornerstone of their business plan.

While PC sales are slowing down, the reasons for this are mostly (completely) unrelated to MSFT. For starters, 3 year old hardware is still quite capable and usable to day unlike say 5-8 years back when you needed to update hardware every two years or so.

Also, in case you did not notice, we are in a worldwide recession and people (as well as companies) do not have the means to go out and buy new hardware every two years.

Lastly, with things the way they are Windows Based PCs still outsell the nearest competition by about 9:2 so for now there's really no reason for panic.

paulheu said,
While PC sales are slowing down, the reasons for this are mostly (completely) unrelated to MSFT. For starters, 3 year old hardware is still quite capable and usable to day unlike say 5-8 years back when you needed to update hardware every two years or so.

Also, in case you did not notice, we are in a worldwide recession and people (as well as companies) do not have the means to go out and buy new hardware every two years.

Lastly, with things the way they are Windows Based PCs still outsell the nearest competition by about 9:2 so for now there's really no reason for panic.

THANK YOU! I don't know why every tech blog chooses to ignore that pc technology made huge leaps and bounds just in the last 6 years (Im still using a 5 year old laptop that went from vista to win 8), and that we're in a god dang freaking recession. I worked in retail while in school for a while between 09 to 2012, and while people wanted a more top of the line model, they often went for the cheaper version to save cash. Often times we were told to push the crap $299~399 model laptop, for the sole reason of selling the extended warranty or various services. Retailers make more off of extended warranty and services than they do off the sale of an actual laptop- which may amount to a $10 to $20 profit at most.

Recession has a lot to do with it.

Sinofsky is going to look like a genius in a few years. At the expense of a lot of confusion in the beginning, and subpar apps at the start, by the time this year is over, there could be 200 million "devices" with the Metro interface on them. Considering it took Apple 5 iPads to get to 170 million, the confused strategy will pay off big time by the time folks get used to everything in a year or two.

It doesn't matter how good the interface is now, it matters that it is out in the wild being seen and used. The unified OS, on all screens will pay off big time in the end. IMO.

It's not just the tech blogs - sites like Neowin are just as guilty. My first experience with Windows 8 was with the Developer Preview, which I threw on Vista-7 era desktop hardware. What upgrades I've made on the hardware side are of the same era, while the Developer Preview was followed by the Consumer and Release Previews, then 8.0 GA, then the Public Preview of 8.1, and then 8.1 GA (which is on it today). And I've posted on Neowin about all of it. Even my current setup is similar to an OEM configuration of its day - specifically, the early Dell Inspiron desktops with the same Q6600 CPU, Intel G41 (Eagle Lake) chipset, and DDR2 memory; the Dells had MORE RAM than I do today (6 GB for the Dells vs. 4 GB for me). Given that I run Windows 8.1 today, so could most desktops of that same era. If you have such a configuration, you need upgrade exactly nothing in terms of hardware (or, at worst, very little) to stay OS-current. Basically, unless what you need your hardware to do has changed, you need to upgrade your hardware why? Further, there HAS been a recession since Windows 7's launch, and what do folks typically do during recessions? They either put off impulse purchases, or they aim lower in terms of capabilities and price. Android tablets fit perfectly into that device niche, as they are all too often right in the $200USD price range (basic seven inch tablets can be found for as little as $100USD - and that's retail - not e-tail). If you don't want folks to see that you're affected by the recession, you buy Apple - iPhones and iPads aren't cheap (compared to Android); for that reason, they make great economic camo. (That's one reason why Apple devices are also among the most pilfered.) What is more important than either (to consumers) is that none of that runs Windows; Windows (like it or not) is still perceived as the OS you use at work, and RT is still Windows, and therefore little different perception-wise from what they see at "the cubicle". The decision-making process for consumers is not the same as the same process for businesses and can take some weird twists and turns, because logic does not apply.

Surface 2 is thinner than the iPad 4,3,2,1. Surface cannot get ANY thinner! The USB port is there. Think about how thin the keyboards are, how does That not catch the consumer's eye?

They need a variety of RT devices to go thinner than the iPad, and those should come from OEMs.

Nobody wants to use a keyboard with a tablet, and it costs a lot extra so people don't want to go out of their way to get it especially if they don't think they'll use it.

Geezy said,
Nobody wants to use a keyboard with a tablet, and it costs a lot extra so people don't want to go out of their way to get it especially if they don't think they'll use it.

Then don't buy it? A lot of people on twitter would disagree, they wanted a keyboard on their iPad.

ians18 said,

Then don't buy it? A lot of people on twitter would disagree, they wanted a keyboard on their iPad.

Almost every ipad i ever see out in the wild has a weird keyboard cover on it of some sorts..

Nobody wants to use a keyboard with a tablet? Look at the sheer amount of third-party keyboards for Android tablets and iPads (and especially the iPad, which has no Apple-manufactured keyboard option at all)? Visit an Apple Store (either standalone or the ones that are kiosks inside other Apple resellers, such as MicroCenter and Best Buy) and you'll see quite a few third-party keyboards for iPads. Larger Android tablets typically include keyboards (and most of them double as extender/docks, ala ASUS Transformer and the Surface/Surface Pro, or Lenovo's IdeaTab). You are thinking that touch-support means touch-only. That is not, and has never, been the case with any touch-based OS - not even Android or iOS, let alone Windows, be it RT or 8.x.

It's actualy weird that OEMs where mad on Microsoft because they created their own device, the Surface, and that Microsoft was his own partners concurrention, while those same partners are developing Android together with Google, and than, Microsoft isn't allowed to say a word... Great to see that Microsoft is moving to create their own devices.

um... they are just NOW saying time to get serious about devices? LOL... puhlease....

OEMs aren't going anywhere. they are private corporations out for profit, they'll make money and stay in the game. they may be just smart enough to unfasten MS surface systems with something better. who knows?

chrisj1968 said,
um... they are just NOW saying time to get serious about devices? LOL... puhlease....

but Microsoft said it was all OEMs fault, lacking innovations and design, that caused Windows 8's sales failure.

So they released their own hardware.

WOW, I can't believe Microsoft got it wrong, and continue to get it wrong.

/s

dvb2000 said,

but Microsoft said it was all OEMs fault, lacking innovations and design, that caused Windows 8's sales failure.

So they released their own hardware.

WOW, I can't believe Microsoft got it wrong, and continue to get it wrong.

/s

Where have Windows 8 sales failed? Again just like I said to Order_66 last night, Windows 8 has not failed. Not on the least. Many people are still upgrading, and Windows 8.1 continues to receive positive reviews.

I think MS isn't more aggressive with Surface pricing for two reasons, one it doesn't want the market to race to the bottom with these devices, they did that with netbooks and it just helped to shrink OEMs margins and make consumers expect to pay as less as they can for everything, new mindset basically. Before then laptops and so on were seen as a nice premium device and people were ok with paying higher but not so much now.

Also they don't want to lower the prices more so they leave room for the OEMs to undercut them. It's easy for any OEM partner to come in under the surface pro 2 with close to the same hardware specs and it doesn't really bother MS in the end. If a customer buys a surface pro 2 at $899 or gets, say a Lenovo at $699 overall it still moves the Windows market ahead though I'm sure they're cut from the Surface Pro 2 sale is higher.

One thing I think is of interest, with the Surface sticking around (for now) at $349 as a 10" device then the future Surface Mini should be under that price for sure, maybe $299 then or a bit lower if they have a 32GB and 64GB option for it. Unless of course they pull the Surface because they've sold the final units of it left over and then slot the mini into the $299 and $399 price points.

Very much agree with that assessment GP007, but again articles like this say they understand a transition to a hardware company won't happen overnight but then they criticise the lack of strategy change from just 1 generation....

The simple fact is Windows isn't going anywhere, its still the dominant OS and most widely sold OS in the world. That combined with the unified platform MS is building across desktop > tablet > phone > xbox will result in sales of their devices naturally increasing year on end.

Overall an interesting read but the author gets sucked into specs comparisons of weight and display etc, which is fine to do, but I suspect if these bloggers actually put some thought into how consumers select their tablets rather than resorting to spot the difference in spec comparisons they would realise the majority don't make their purchasing decision primarily on such factors.

Osiris said,
That combined with the unified platform MS is building across desktop > tablet > phone > xbox will result in sales of their devices naturally increasing year on end.

or it could go the other way and people not liking the unification so if they don't like it in windows therefore not liking it in xbox, and windows phone which I think it's what is happening. therefore resulting in sales of their devices naturally decreasing year on end.

Superboy said,

or it could go the other way and people not liking the unification so if they don't like it in windows therefore not liking it in xbox, and windows phone which I think it's what is happening. therefore resulting in sales of their devices naturally decreasing year on end.

Windows phone sales are increasing, Xbox1 sales appear to be on par with ps4 q4 expected sales, so there is no evidence of a decrease.

Eh, Microsoft is doing more.. its the infatuation with everything Apple that hurts it the most. The general angst of the blogosphere, the people who still hate MS for what they did 15 years ago and still hold a grudge..

Do we really want to see the end of OEMs?

spudtrooper said,
Do we really want to see the end of OEMs?

Maybe not, but they're not doing anything at the moment to help their case. They still treat parent companies like crap by forever destroying the intended UX Microsoft and Google create with shovelware, junkware, and other unwanted accessories.

Dot Matrix said,

Maybe not, but they're not doing anything at the moment to help their case. They still treat parent companies like crap by forever destroying the intended UX Microsoft and Google create with shovelware, junkware, and other unwanted accessories.

Not to mention incredibly unattractive design that doesn't match the UI. This goes for both before and after Microsoft changed to modern UI. I Always found that whatever PC or laptop I got the software and hardware never alligned. Apple always succeeded in this. Now that Apple is popular Microsoft has no option. Surface was necessary to show OEMs the way. Post- Surface we're actually seeing a lot of Windows tablets with similar design.

spudtrooper said,
Eh, Microsoft is doing more.. its the infatuation with everything Apple that hurts it the most. The general angst of the blogosphere, the people who still hate MS for what they did 15 years ago and still hold a grudge..

I'd say more than anything that's their largest issue. Even when similar news is reported between Microsoft, apple, and google, the Microsoft version 9/10 will have a negative tone along with a snarky headline. Changing that perception among bloggers would probably lead to some bigger gains in the consumer part of the market, since a lot of the major tech blogs are now sources of info for mainstream news like CNN, FOX, ABC, MSNBC, etc., and help to shape consumer views of products revealed or when reviews are made.

spudtrooper said,
Eh, Microsoft is doing more.. its the infatuation with everything Apple that hurts it the most. The general angst of the blogosphere, the people who still hate MS for what they did 15 years ago and still hold a grudge..

Do we really want to see the end of OEMs?

I would really like to see OEMs move to the mobile word. They need a variety of devices on RT, one doesn't fit all. They just need to get their act together. Microsoft has done most of what it can.

Ronnet said,

Not to mention incredibly unattractive design that doesn't match the UI. This goes for both before and after Microsoft changed to modern UI. I Always found that whatever PC or laptop I got the software and hardware never alligned. Apple always succeeded in this. Now that Apple is popular Microsoft has no option. Surface was necessary to show OEMs the way. Post- Surface we're actually seeing a lot of Windows tablets with similar design.

Apples design is boring, drab and entirely predictable and their revamp under iOS tries to be like Windows Phone but fails miserably..

anyone can play that game and you know what, that's what sucks about technology these days, when its not about solving problems and getting work done - its about how prestigious your hardware and platform is. screw that.

spudtrooper said,
Apples design is boring, drab and entirely predictable and their revamp under iOS tries to be like Windows Phone but fails miserably..

How does it try to be like Windows Phone?

Also, it's not that I want to see the end of OEMs, but rather the end of junkware. Getting littered with cheap/flaky devices is not helping Microsoft in the slightest. What's sad is that one of the greatest Windows tablets, at least according to customers, is the Dell Latitude that I keep hearing about, but isn't sold in stores. Nobody gets to see it...

dead.cell said,

How does it try to be like Windows Phone?

IOS borrowed heavily from the flat ui design of metro and also the gestures that are common in metro apps (and design principals)... everyone i know basically said "oh, you must like the ios upgrade, its just like your personal phone" and they're not that far off.

spudtrooper said,

Apples design is boring, drab and entirely predictable and their revamp under iOS tries to be like Windows Phone but fails miserably..

anyone can play that game and you know what, that's what sucks about technology these days, when its not about solving problems and getting work done - its about how prestigious your hardware and platform is. screw that.

For most CONSUMErs it rarely is about getting work done. And when you're spending a lot of money on a device that you will likely interact with on a daily basis then looks go a long way. I'm alos not talking about the recent iOS update, or iPhone for that matter. I was talking about how - in general - Apple offers devices that have an UI that matches the hardware, whether you personally like the design or not doesnt matter.

Ronnet said,

For most CONSUMErs it rarely is about getting work done. And when you're spending a lot of money on a device that you will likely interact with on a daily basis then looks go a long way. I'm alos not talking about the recent iOS update, or iPhone for that matter. I was talking about how - in general - Apple offers devices that have an UI that matches the hardware, whether you personally like the design or not doesnt matter.

Even if its not about getting work done, its about TV, web, news, apps and everything i can already do on my surface. Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Plex, Yahoo, Web.. The surface is so much more versatile than just a tablet needing apps.. at home i have it on homegroup so it can see my file shares, use my printers, i can plugin HDMI and dual screen my monitor and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

The UI on the surface matches the hardware and flows much better than iOS or Android - whether you personally like the design or not doesn't matter either.

i've got angry birds, i got masterchief, i have reading apps, i have audio books, i have movies, i have music.

what is it that people want? seriously?

Most of the demands simply are conformational bias of ones ignorance and lack of use of the platform more than anything else and Microsoft can do a better job of filling that gap in but its a gap perpetrated by and large by the community regardless of the facts.

spudtrooper said,

Apples design is boring, drab and entirely predictable

That's your opinion. I happen to think the same about Metro.

spudtrooper said,
people who still hate MS for what they did 15 years ago and still hold a grudge...
What did they do 15 years ago? Windows 98SE? That's no reason to get upset! I thought it was well received?

spudtrooper said,
IOS borrowed heavily from the flat ui design of metro and also the gestures that are common in metro apps (and design principals)... everyone i know basically said "oh, you must like the ios upgrade, its just like your personal phone" and they're not that far off.

Microsoft does not own flat designs, and the two OSes look nothing alike in the slightest. You're reaching.

spudtrooper said,

The surface is so much more versatile than just a tablet needing apps.. at home i have it on homegroup so it can see my file shares, use my printers, i can plugin HDMI and dual screen my monitor and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

And if the general consumer (iPad/iPhone) user isn't interested in all that, then it's just in the way and adds clutter and inefficiency for them. There's no Infinity Blade, the phone is just now getting Smart Bluetooth 4.0 on "some" models, there's no iTunes (Zune is dead), for those that venture in to Office now they're in a Desktop UI.

MS hasn't really targeted the iPad market really. And there are still things missing for a lot of people. There's no conspiracy and consumers don't owe Microsoft jack. They can buy whatever they like.

As Microsoft shores up it's phone and tablet shortcomings, sales will go up. Apple has basically stood still from iOS 6 to 7, so MS has no one to blame if they don't take advantage.

Do you know how many people buy expensive iPhone cases such as element cases? Lots, and they're not cheap. People like that type of personalization/customization. Nokia Windows Phones basically have the case built-in. That's nice and all, but not cool, and actually kind of boring.

MS has also done nothing to encourage peripherals that proliferate in the iPhone/iPad ecosystem.

If you make what consumers want, they'll buy it. Stop blaming the buyer and take an honest assessment of why consumers don't want "your" product. And it's not what happened 15 years ago. Most consumers have no clue what happened 15 years ago in the computer industry.

I agree with spud, Apple OS X is really boring, and has not changed for 10 years visually. Hate the dock. Just my opinion tho.

puma1 said,
I agree with spud, Apple OS X is really boring, and has not changed for 10 years visually. Hate the dock. Just my opinion tho.

It doesn't need to change, its beautiful and extremely functional...why change something that is so close to perfection?

Sonne said,

It doesn't need to change, its beautiful and extremely functional...why change something that is so close to perfection?

Without change, you're never going to advance. Nothing stays the same forever.

Dot Matrix said,

Without change, you're never going to advance. Nothing stays the same forever.


And what if Apple can't think of any ways to improve the Dock so far? Would you rather they just make changes to it at random for the sake of change? Need I remind you that's basically how we got Metro?

I guess so, it's just a preference for me. I hate the networking of Macs, I been back and forth a few times. Just always come back to Windows.