Tag: Surface RT

MS Surface gets new lease of life

surface-rtMicrosoft’s Surface tablets are refusing to die thanks to a bit of help from another bloated and overvalued mess – the public sector. Phoenix Software reports that it has seen a 40 percent surge in demand for Surface tablets from schools, colleges and the rest of the public sector. We assume asylums are somewhere rank high on the list as well.

The surge came about after Microsoft unleashed Surface tablets on the channel two weeks ago. Phoenix actually had to increase its public sector team by 30 percent to cope with increased demand and it even adopted the Surface itself, through its BYOD policy.

The Surface Pro is fully compatible with Windows-centric networks used in most public sector institutions, and since it ships with Microsoft Office, multiuser support and a physical keyboard, it has an edge over Android tablets and iPads in such an environment. The Surface RT also has a few things going for it, as it replicates the IT suite environment used in many schools, although it lacks compatibility with legacy x86 applications.

It’s good news for Microsoft, which sort of makes us wonder why it didn’t go after known Windows addicts like the public sector in the first place? It seems someone at Microsoft truly thought those colourful TV ads would make civilians buy Surface tablets over the iPad. Could it have been someone who’s about to step down perhaps?

Microsoft shares soar as Ballmer set to quit

steve_ballmerSteve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, is to retire from the position within 12 months while the software company hustles to appoint a successor.

Ballmer said in a prepared statement: “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

Microsoft has appointed a committee to search for a successor to Ballmer – a committee which includes founder Bill Gates.

Share prices for Microsoft stock soared in early trading, up by close to eight percent to stand at press time at $34.9.  There have been murmurings that Ballmer should go for quite some time, following what appear to be errors in strategy, including slowness for people to go for Windows 8 and disastrous sales of Microsoft’s Surface RT platform.


Microsoft turns to channel in Surface catastrophe

redmondMicrosoft will be reeling after top manufacturers dropped Windows RT as a platform one after the other with more rumoured production stoppages on the way.

Asus, Lenovo, and HTC have all ditched RT while Samsung is rumoured to quit production soon, and Toshiba and HP have not made clear any plans to push the operating system, as PC Advisor reports.

In the oversaturated tablet market where Android and the iPad are king, it is not particularly surprising RT failed to woo customers as a ‘cheap’ watered down alternative to Windows 8, that was actually anything but affordable. Microsoft’s none-message advertising campaign spectacularly flopped and while reviews were OK, the tech press was baffled by Ballmer’s insistence to keep the price tag high.

Even with a more recent price cut, the Surface RT is not particularly alluring.

The numbers in Microsoft’s inventory were staggeringly poor, with the company losing $900 million to its bet on the Surface RT sitting shipped but unsold in warehouses everywhere.

When even Windows 8 was not persuading potential customers to jump ship from Android or iOS with their smart devices, it was an expensive experiment for Redmond to insist on the viability of RT, and considering the company’s track record in hardware, even crazier to build and brand the Surface RT itself.

Now Microsoft hopes the channel will be able to convince business owners to cover its bad bet.

Today the Surface team announced the channel availability of both the Surface RT and Surface Pro in 17 new markets – including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Resellers will be able to offer device recycling, data protection, custom imaging, onsite service, and more.

But these resellers will have to persuade businesses that the Surface or Surface RT are actually useful devices. There may be a few bloated budgets channel players will be able to extract some cash from, but overall, the move stinks of Microsoft trying to dump as many of the tablets as far away as possible.

Here is the official line: “We continue to be committed to bringing business channel availability to all markets where Surface is currently sold. As Forrester analyst Tirthankar Sen noted in his blog commentary, extending from our initial U.S. commercial channel roll-out on July 1, this measured approach helps us to quickly gather feedback and improve while we grow our geographical reach in the business channel.

“This availability in international markets, along with the updates coming to Surface RT with Windows 8.1 are all important milestones for our customers”.

The blog post concludes: “We know that people who use Surface love it!”

Microsoft faces class-action suit over Surface RT

surface-rtNow that the true extent of Microsoft’s Surface RT flop is becoming obvious, some investors are bent on dragging a bunch of Redmond execs to court, to answer for their misdeeds.

US law firm Robbins Geler Rudman and Dowd has filed a class action suit against the software giant, claiming that the company mislead investors and tried to hide the true scope of the disaster. CEO Steve Ballmer, former CFO Peter Klein, Corporate VP Frank Brod and Executive VP of Marketing Tami Reller are all named in the suit, reports Neowin.

So what exactly does the suit allege?

The firm claims Microsoft deliberately issued materially false and misleading statements regarding the company’s financial performance and the Surface RT in particular. It goes on to state that Microsoft’s financial statements for the first quarter were materially false and misleading and that company officials made misleading positive statements about the Surface RT.

Although Microsoft has a responsibility to its shareholders and it can’t just go about inventing numbers that suit it, we do have to note that a simple Google search for Surface RT painted a terrible but true picture long before Microsoft execs allegedly made the controversial statements. Surface RT was dead in the water when it launched, that was basically the consensus of the tech press months ago.

However, last the official line was somewhat different and it wasn’t until last quarter that Microsoft officially admitted the failure, by announcing a massive $900 million write-down for Surface RT stock. Shipments were dismal and even the recent 30 percent price cut can’t turn things around. As if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft and Nvidia are already working on a new Surface RT tablet and this time next year we’ll probably be reporting on how it failed.

How did it go so terribly wrong? Well, the Surface RT is a Microsoft hardware product and it’s not an Xbox. Need we say more?

Microsoft bleeding millions on Surface tablets

surface-rtMicrosoft’s hardware curse is still alive and kicking. A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced a $900 million charge for heaps of unsold Surface RT tablets and last week CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that Redmond got carried away and built too many Surface RTs, just in case there was anyone in the industry who didn’t know it was a massive flop already.

In its latest annual regulatory filing, Microsoft revealed that its combined revenue for both the Surface RT and Surface Pro was $853 million. The RT was introduced last October, while the Pro came along in February. Microsoft’s fiscal year ended June 30. The IDC puts the combined shipments of all Windows RT tablets, including the Surface, at just 200,000 in the first quarter of the year.

In other words, the write down was bigger than the actual revenue.

As if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft also reported a 10 percent increase in marketing expenses. Much of that cash went towards Surface advertising campaigns, which were apparently as effective as the French armed forces in 1940. Adding other expenses such as R&D and distribution into the mix only makes the situation worse.

Microsoft clearly doesn’t need more bad Windows RT news, especially not today, but Asus Chairman Jonney Shih obviously didn’t get the memo. He told AllThingsD that his company would not launch a new Windows RT tablet, which was to be expected as he already moaned about the platform earlier this year.

“The result is not very promising,” he said.

He added that people still use a lot of legacy Windows applications and that Asus will focus on Intel-based products as well.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, Shih is not the only industry leader who thinks Windows RT is dead in the water.

iPad market share at an all-time low

cheap-tabletsApple’s share of the tablet market appears to be at an all-time low, thanks to strong competition from cheap and cheerful Android tablets.

Despite the slump, Apple still remains the biggest player in the tablet market, but it is no longer the only outfit in town.

According to Trend Force, iPad sales dipped from 17 million to 14.6 million units last quarter. It ended the quarter with a 35.5 percent market share. Samsung ranked second with 8.8 million units and a 21.4 percent share. This is rather surprising, since Samsung’s tablets tend to be overpriced and overhyped.

Asus wound up in a distant third spot, with shipments of 1.6 million and a 3.9 percent market share. Acer wasn’t far behind, with 1.5 million units and a 3.6 percent share. Amazon ranked fifth with 1.1 million units and a 2.7 percent share.

Microsoft and Google in next, at 0.9 million and 0.7 million respectively and the figures are surprising to say the least. Google’s Nexus 7 was supposed to be a cheap, high volume device, but it seems it was outpaced even by Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

It should be noted that Apple is gearing up to introduce the fifth generation iPad and the second generation iPad mini. It current line-up is rather dated and the new iPads could turn things around. Google introduced the new Nexus 7 last week and it is getting some very positive reviews as we speak.

However, we believe the most interesting number in the report has nothing to do with Apple, Samsung or Google. Makers of white-box tablets sipped 9.7 million units last quarter, for a combined market share of 23.5% percent. In other words for every Surface RT or Nexus 7 tablet sold last quarter, nameless Chinese manufacturers sold ten of their equally nameless tablets.

Microsoft hit by $900 million Surface RT write-down

surface-rtMicrosoft announced its fiscal Q4 results last night and unsurprisingly the results missed expectations by a wide margin. The PC market remains slow, hence Redmond’s numbers can’t be good. The company reported revenue of $19.9 billion and earnings of $4.97 billion.

However, Microsoft’s attempt to tap the tablet market seems to have failed quite spectacularly. Redmond announced an embarrassing $900 million inventory write-down for Surface RT tablets. So, instead of helping the company out, the Surface burned a massive hole in its pocket.

Last week Microsoft slashed the Surface RT price by $150 in an apparent effort to clear inventory. The company is already working on the next generation of Surface RT products and it apparently includes two different form factors. The problem is that nobody else appears to be working on RT devices – in fact vendors seem to be running away from it like a particularly nasty flu bug.

The only companies who still seem to be supporting Windows RT are Qualcomm and Nvidia, which comes as no surprise since they are supposed to build the chips for next generation Surface devices. In a recent interview with Computerworld, Nvidia vice president of computing products Rene Haas said the chipmaker is still committed to Surface RT and Windows RT. He said he is excited by the “new price point” which might inspire new sales.

However, analysts are having none of it.

J. Gold Associates analyst Jack Gold said that Nvidia is simply marketing its product. “They don’t want to spook the market and say RT sucks and won’t sell,” he said. Analyst and ex-AMD and Compaq employee Pat Moorhead thinks Microsoft won’t ditch the platform anytime soon – even if it means that it will be the only OEM using it.

However, even Microsoft can’t afford such write-downs every couple of quarters and something has to change soon, or it will have another Zune on its hands.

The writing is on the wall for Windows RT

surface-rtOver the last week or so we witnessed a flurry of Windows RT news, some positive, some very negative indeed. Late last week Microsoft decided to slash the prices of the Surface RT by as much as $150 in an effort to make the uncompetitive tablet a bit more appealing to the average consumer on the prowl for a cheap media tablet.

In June, Microsoft announced that it would release Outlook 2013 for Windows RT tablets, which is clearly an attempt to gain a bit more traction in the enterprise segment. The decision not to include Outlook in Windows RT at launch was baffling, and still is. The first reviews of Outlook 2013 for RT are in and they are positive, but it really should have been included months ago. With the upcoming 8.1 update, it should land on all RT devices, provided there are still RT devices by the time it appears.

This is no laughing matter, the lack of actual Windows RT products is becoming a serious concern. For example, Lenovo has just dropped the Yoga 11 convertible from its web shop. Dell and Asus have also slashed the prices of their RT tablets. Some players like HP ignored Windows RT altogether, while some gave it a go and dropped it, like Samsung. What’s more, all vendors are focusing on proper Windows 8 tablets instead, based on x86 chips.

In fact, the only hardware maker that still seems to be taking Windows RT seriously is Microsoft itself. The Surface RT price cut is a way of clearing inventory and making room for the next generation Surface RT, or a couple of them. At this point it seems that Microsoft is working on two different designs. One is reportedly based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, while the other one will be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 4. Rumours of a smaller Surface RT have been floating around for months and there is a good chance Microsoft will roll out a 7- to 8-inch design along with a new full-size 10.6-incher.

Unfortunately it seems to be too late. Future Windows RT tablets, including the Surface RT in both rumoured flavours, will now have to compete with tablets based on Intel’s new Bay Trail chips. This was not the case last year, when the Surface RT was opposed solely by ARM based Androids and iPads. Now it will face tough in-house competition in the form of Windows 8.1 tablets powered by Intel’s x86 Atoms. What’s more, Bay Trail is shaping up to be a beast. It is said to be faster than the Snapdragon 800 and it doesn’t need much power, either.

With new x86 SoCs from Intel and AMD coming online, it is hard to see why Microsoft would want to stick with a specialized tablet OS, designed for ARM. The next generation of Windows 8.x tablets is expected to end up a lot cheaper than the first generation, leaving very little wiggle room for Windows RT. Small wonder then that many brands aren’t getting on board, since they seem to believe Windows RT will be dead as disco within a generation or two.

It seems that the only practical way to keep Windows RT alive in the long run is to stick it on dirt cheap tablets designed to take on bargain Androids in the 7- to 8-inch range. This probably won’t work, as Windows RT is rather bloated and it’s far too expensive to make sense on such cheap devices, unless Microsoft agrees to practically give it away for free. Since we are talking about Microsoft, this will happen when hell freezes over. In theory at least, Microsoft could keep Windows RT alive, but we’re really not sure it should.

Microsoft way below the Surface

titanic-ship-wreckThis week Microsoft announced that it was cutting the price of the ARM based version of its Surface tablets.

Instantly it kicked itself an own goal with many of the more cynical types in the industry saying that it was a fire sale which HP did when its tablet failed.

Both were trying to do something fairly radical.  HP was trying to convince the world that its WebOS was up to snuff and Microsoft was trying to tell the world that it could run on ARM chips.

HP ended up flogging its warehouses in a fire sale and no the thought is that Microsoft has done the same.

There are some similarities between the HP situation and what Microsoft is doing now, but it is not to do with a fire sale.  Microsoft did make a number of mistakes when it came to its Surface and not it is trying to repair that error.

The biggest error Microsoft did was on an increasing saturated market it attempted to launch a product at a price which was far too high to push it into the market.

It also initially launched a product based around ARM which could not do half the things that the x86 version could manage.

At the time there was a good rumour that Microsoft was going to release its keyboard based Surface at about $100 to $150 lower than Apple.  This would have to be subsidised, but would certainly have proved popular and could have gotten Vole’s foot in the door.

However Microsoft decided instead not to do that.  In fact there was some indications that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did not want to hack off his OEMs too much by releasing a cut price tablet which would have knocked them out of the market.

After coming into the market late, and with a product that was going to be overpriced and a tough sell, Microsoft did not do too badly.  However the figures did leave Microsoft with shedloads of overpriced tablets sitting in its warehouse.

The answer to this was to come in late with price cuts and hope that cheap and cheerful RTs would encourage future upgrades to the concept later.

But typically with things Microsoft, it mis-handled the whole thing.   What Microsoft wanted to do was issue a new range of Surface tablets with a better spec.   It wanted to empty its warehouses so it could introduce a better selling model.

If it were Apple it would start the world talking about the new spec first.  Then no one would question what the price cuts were all about.  Those who wanted the new machines would wait, while those who did not care too much about future proofing would believe they had a good deal.

But Microsoft kept the news of its new tablets quiet until after the cuts were announced, giving the impression that they had not sold.  This re-enforced the view that the Surface was really dead in the water.

All the way down the line, Ballmer has mis-read what is happening in the Tablet market and mis-judged how Microsoft should have responded.  This is despite having a tablet which is arguably a better product than anything on the market.


Microsoft to slash Surface RT prices in US

surface-rtMicrosoft is apparently about to slash the price of its Surface RT 32GB tablet by $150. The price cut should help the troubled tablet quite a bit, as it was originally priced at $499, which made it rather uncompetitive given its underwhelming spec.

Now though major retailers in the US are listing the Surface RT 32GB for just $349, reports Engadget. The new price sounds like a pretty good deal, although it is still no bargain. With such a sensible price tag, the Surface RT might have been a success, but the cut seems to be coming too late. Although Microsoft has not released any official sales figures, analysts believe it only manages to ship a couple of hundred thousand units per month.

Furthermore, the Surface RT is already ripe for an upgrade. It is based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 and it has a 10.6-inch screen with 1366×768 resolution, which makes it look rather obsolete compared to iPads and high-end Android tablets.

Microsoft is expected to introduce an all new Surface RT in a few months, but before it does the current model should get a significant OS update, along with Outlook and it seems – a new, sane price tag.

British VARs getting Surface tablets in September

surfacetabBritish value-added resellers will start peddling Microsoft’s Surface tablets to businesses come September. Microsoft has already named ten US VARs who will kick off the enterprise oriented Surface campaign this summer.

The names of British VARs have not been disclosed yet. According to Microsoft UK director for partner strategy Janet Gibbons, only a few select resellers will be able to sell Surface tablets as part of a pilot scheme.

“In every market, we’re positioning [Surface availability] as a pilot… Our only experience of being a hardware provider is with the Xbox, and that’s a different world,” she told CRN. “If we’re going to come to the market with a device, we have to know we are set up well to support the channel with things like warranty, return, credit and distribution of stock [information]. All of that has to be worked through.”

At this point it might be a bit too late. The Surface RT is almost a year old and by the time British VARs enter the fray it should get a successor, give or take a few weeks. The Surface Pro isn’t as stale, but it not a hot new product, either.

Microsoft channels Surface to businesses

surface-rtIn what can only be described as a last ditch effort to keep Surface tablets from flopping, Microsoft has launched a new channel programme in the United States. The programme should push sales of Surface tablets to businesses and other organisations. 

For the time being, the programme is limited to the US, but it will expand over the next few months. Under the programme, Microsoft’s channel partners stateside will offer the Surface RT to schools and universities at steep discounts, reports PC World. Private sector companies and government agencies are being pursued as well.

The partners will also be able to offer technical support, on-site assistance, data protection, recycling and asset tagging. Independent software vendors are also being encouraged to develop apps for Windows RT and Windows 8. The latter just crossed the 100,000 app milestone, but on the whole the choice of RT and Win 8 apps remains rather limited when compared to competing platforms. The software part of the programme is called AppsForSurface and developers who sign up will receive Surface devices and funding.

Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data, CDW, CompuCom, En Pointe, Softchoice and Zones are already on board, while Citrix, Airstrip and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have signed up for the software part of the programme.

However, although businesses don’t tend to shy away from Microsoft, they aren’t exactly lining up for Redmond’s tablets. Demand remains soft and enterprise adoption is anything but spectacular. Windows tablets have one thing going for them, IT departments seem to like them a bit more than Android gear when it comes to BYOD. But many love Apple even more.

Europe to binge on cheap tablets

nexus7The tablet boom is still going strong and according to Forrester Research, plenty of growth is expected over the next few years. Tablet ownership in Europe is expected to quadruple by 2017.

At the moment, an estimated 14 percent of European online consumers own a tablet, and the number should hit 55 percent by 2017. But who stands to gain from the boom?

Surface Pro showered with negative reviews



Microsoft’s tablet push seems to have hit yet another snag. The first reviews of Redmond’s new Surface Pro tablet are in and they are not good at all.

Envisioned as business friendly tablet with unparalleled legacy compatibility, the Surface Pro was supposed to challenge the iPad and high-end Android tablets by wooing traditionally conservative corporate customers to embrace a tried and tested platform, more or less.

At least that was the idea and on paper everything seemed right. The Surface Pro is powered by a proper x86 chip and it runs Windows 8, ensuring compatibility with legacy applications. It also has a full HD screen, physical keyboard and a pretty high price tag, which should be justified by its unique feature set. However, reviewers gave the Pro no quarter.

The Verge reckons it is still a better choice than the Surface RT, which really isn’t saying much since the RT doesn’t appear to be a good choice at all. However, consumers can get a decked out hybrid for about the same money, which led The Verge to put forth a simple question: who is it for? Oddly enough, the Apple loving New York Times was a bit more lenient, concluding that the Surface Pro could be the right machine for a lot of people.

“It strikes a spot on the size/weight/speed/software spectrum that no machine has ever struck. You can use this thing on a restaurant table without looking obnoxious (much),” wrote NYT’s David Pogue.

AllThingsD was not impressed, concluding that the Pro is too power hungry and too difficult to use in your lap. “It’s something of a tweener — a compromised tablet and a compromised laptop.”

Engadget’s Tim Stevens tried to be a bit more positive, but it soon ran out of kind things to say. “When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface,” he wrote.

Business Insider was blunt as usual, saying the Pro is just like the RT version, only heavier, thicker, more expensive and with half the battery life. “It looks like a tablet, but you can snap on an optional (but essential) keyboard cover that turns the Surface Pro into a pseudo-laptop. So why would anyone buy that?”

So what exactly was the Surface Pro’s undoing? Quite a few of things apparently, but most of them are not restricted to the Surface Pro – they apply to all upcoming Windows 8 tablets. On the hardware side all appears well, but vendors have to use power hungry x86 chips in all Windows 8 tablets, rather than frugal ARM SoCs employed by Apple and the Android alliance. The OS itself is bloated, hence a lot of speedy solid state storage is required to come up with a feasible Windows 8 tablet. Android and iOS are a lot leaner. Less efficiency also translates into limited battery life and bigger batteries, increasing production costs and bulk. Modern Android tablets and the iPad mini measure just seven to eight millimeters at the waistline and no Windows 8 tablet can come close to that yet.

Still, legacy app compatibility and unbeatable productivity features could easily outweigh the drawbacks? Well they could, in 2009. Countless developers have spent long hours working on productivity apps for iOS and Android over the past three years, so Redmond’s productivity edge has been blunted. BYOD is another trend that is forcing companies to rethink their approach and embrace cross-platform software solutions.

As far as legacy apps go, Windows 8 tablets seem like the obvious choice, but there are a few caveats. Windows 8 still lacks native, touch friendly apps. Most legacy apps can’t handle touchscreens very well, which means the traditional keyboard and touchpad combo is a must. With that in mind, there is no good reason for those in need of legacy support to get a tablet, as an Ultrabook or hybrid will do just fine.

Windows 8 tablets were cleverly marketed as a natural extension of ultraportable notebook lineups, so many vendors were (and still are) a lot more interested in Windows 8 tablets rather than Windows RT gear. Between Surface RT’s slow sales and the unflattering Surface Pro reviews, Redmond’s tablet strategy seems to be imploding faster than a North Korean uranium warhead.



Surface RT faces high return rates, low sell-through

surface-rtMicrosoft’s Surface RT tablet rollout came and went without much fanfare. Although Redmond’s first crack at the tablet market received relatively positive reviews, consumers seem unfazed and many of them are choosing to trade in their new tablets.

IHS iSuppli estimates that channel shipments totaled about 1.25 million units, but far fewer have been sold. In fact, as little as 680,000 to 750,000 units appear to have actually been sold.