Microsoft certainly seems to be ramping up the help for its new operating system at the moment. First it uploaded a "Get to know Windows 8" video to YouTube, and late yesterday it published a "Windows 8 End User Training Brochure" in its Download Center.
Unlike the video, the 36-page PDF guide is definitely new (there’s a screenshot from April 2013) and will prove a godsend for anyone struggling to get to grips with Windows 8 or Surface. Each of the multi-colored pages clearly and concisely explains how to use a particular element of the operating system, with the aid of large, friendly illustrations.
It may not be entirely what we hoped for, but today the NFL makes strides towards greeting the twenty-first century. Earlier we saw the big Xbox reveal which, among other things, reveals a partnership with the National Football League. The sport is the last holdout of major U.S. leagues to embrace the internet, but better late than never, I suppose.
Today's show in Redmond, Wash. features a short video-taped appearance by commissioner Roger Goodell to talk of the new features that Xbox One customers can expect. However, it is only half of the story. Later in the day, the Surface team announces that the NFL will also be available to customers of the Microsoft tablet.
Not content with free versions of its cut-down photo editing software for iOS and Android, Adobe has released Photoshop Express for Windows 8 and RT. As this is available free of charge, it should come as little surprise that the app does not afford users access to an unfettered range of professional level image editing tools, but for quick and dirty tweaks and fixes, there are plenty of options.
Taken a wonky photo? Getting things straightened up takes just a couple of taps and swipes. There are also tools for removing red eye, adjusting color levels and tweaking shadows and highlights. If you don’t feel like doing the hard work yourself, you can always turn to the auto-fix option to help take care of common issues in an instant.
This is how you sell a tablet. Tuesday evening of May 14, Microsoft debuted a new commercial for the Surface RT that finally explained the benefits of the tablet. No dancers. No super cool music. Just Microsoft talking about why the Surface RT is the next device you should own. The company emphasized the included USB port, kickstand, keyboard, and the single biggest sell of Surface RT, the included Office 2013 install. It sold the Surface as the power of a computer in the package of a tablet.
Is this not precisely what I called on Microsoft to do in my previous article about those odd (but awesome) Windows 8 ads? In that article I told the story about a guy who was working in a coffee shop on his Surface when someone walked up to him and said, “Is that the tablet that clicks?” He recognized the product from the commercials, but seemed to be unaware of anything other than its clicking. I wrote,
We already knew that Surface Pro was coming to Europe, but what we didn't know was exactly when. The company today announces the dates for availability, and the rollout begins in France on May 17, continuing to the United Kingdom on May 23. It wraps up with a broad May 30 release in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, and one more big day in Germany on May 31.
There's more to come, but Brian Hall, General Manager of the Microsoft Surface team concedes that "some markets are still confirming timing so aren’t included here".
If you live in the UK and are thinking of purchasing Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, now is the time. Pick up one through the Microsoft Store or a participating retailer (which in terms of brick and mortar sellers means John Lewis) and you’ll get a Touch or Type Cover thrown in for free.
It’s a very good deal, as you’d be looking to pay around £100 if you were to buy a cover separately. You can pick up the 32GB tablet-only version of Surface for £399 at the moment.
There’s more than one way to advertise a product and while I am a big fan of the approach that specifically focuses on features, I understand there is a need for other approaches. Sometimes you just need to go for the pure emotional response. In the case of the ads released by Microsoft today which focus on the Asian market that seems to be what they were going for. Take a look.
If you live outside of the US and Canada, you might have been wondering when -- or indeed if -- Microsoft's flagship Surface Pro tablet was going to appear in your part of the world.
It’s been all quiet on the Surface front for a while. Microsoft announced back in February that it would be broadening the availability of the RT version of its tablet, introducing it into 13 more European countries, but since then we haven’t had any other real news. That’s all about to change though, as Microsoft has finally delivered an update regarding worldwide availability for its Windows 8 Pro powered device.
Today, after the closing bell, Microsoft revealed what might be the closest-watched quarterly results in 11 years. Fiscal third quarter, like the one in 2002, marks a time of record-low PC shipments, with blame falling on the newest operating system. In recent weeks, every idiot arm-chair pundit imaginable has taken to the web to proclaim Windows 8 a failure and prophesying Microsoft's doom. Not so fast. This company is still a money machine.
For fiscal Q3, ended March 31, Microsoft revenue reached $20.49 billion. Operating income: $7.61 billion and net income was $6.06 billion, or 72 cents a share.
Well, well, perhaps Windows 8 isn't cause for all the PC market's woes, as IDC strongly stated yesterday. Gartner's first-quarter assessment is grim but no reaper. The analyst firm lays blame partly on consumers unwillingness to pay more for touchscreen models and asserts that the business market actually grows. Also, the firms released contradictory data, with Apple showing glaring and shocking differences.
Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, doesn't blame Windows 8: "Consumers are migrating content consumption from PCs to other connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones". The first factor pulling down PC shipments, which by Gartner estimates fell 11.2 percent globally during Q1, is tablet competition, then. Not Windows 8.
If you surveyed the different directions K-12 school districts take in the United States, you'd find nothing less than a hodgepodge of technologies. The mess that was known as "Novell Hell" universally bows down to a diverse array of technologies including Active Directory, campus-wide Wi-Fi, iPads, Chromebooks, and a little bit of everything else in between. While it's reassuring that most districts I'm in discussions with are moving to cloud-based Google Apps or Office 365 for their email, the end-user device side of things is murkier.
I'm not going to call myself an expert in K-12 technology and policy, but seeing that I spent the last four years supporting and training users' technology needs at my former high school district, I've got good experience understanding the issues affecting teachers and students alike. After attending educational tech conferences year after year, the common consensus stands: everyone in education knows where they want to be, but the paths some of them take to get there are muddled with too much idealism and not enough realism.
That's the question on my mind today, as an executive from yet another PC manufacturer disses the operating system. Yesterday, Jun Dong-soo, who heads Samsung’s memory chip operation, told Korea Times: "Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform". Remember, Microsoft gave developers Samsung slates in autumn 2008 to test Windows 8. Samsung shipped touchscreen models for the previous operating system, when few other OEMs did. So the slap is no small one, and worse: "MS’s rollout of its Windows Surface tablet is seeing lackluster demand", Dong-soo asserts.
I don't agree with him, by the way. On Monday I explained: "How I came to love Windows again". Two words: Surface Pro. I find Windows 8 to be remarkably efficient and fun to use on the touchscreen tablet convertible. Modern UI really is modern, trendsetting. But I'll be first to concede that users won't get the same kind of experience using just mouse and keyboard. Touch changes everything.
The biggest problem with Microsoft Surface is you probably can't buy it. The model running Windows RT is available in just 20 countries, and Pro even fewer (say, how do you like them Canada and United States). Today, Microsoft promised expansion into new geographies starting in late March, and, get this, taking several months. I can't imagine why tell us all now, other than perhaps to remind everyone that Surface exists and to keep those wanting one hanging on instead of buying something else.
Surface RT is currently available online or in stores: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Microsoft added 13 on February 14. The months long expansion will bring the tablet to Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan.
When Windows 8 launched on October 26 2012, the Windows Store had an estimated 9,000 apps available to purchase or download. Today, according to the excellent MetroStore Scanner, that figure has risen to 43,083 worldwide, of which 28,904 are available in the US store, and 26,385 in the UK one.
The biggest problem with the Windows Store is not the overall number of apps -- in four months it’s seen reasonable growth although the number of new weekly additions has slowed -- the issue is more with quality. While there’s no shortage of third-party apps, many of which are very good, you can’t help but notice how many big names are absent.
Yesterday, I spent about 45 minutes at Microsoft Store San Diego, which was busy -- sight not seen since Kinect's November 2010 launch. Shoppers came to see Surface, and there were lots of questions and explorations of both tablets, although clearly Pro was the draw. Unfortunately, only the 64GB model is in stock, which somewhat muted sales, or so I observed.
If Surface is a failure, as so many bigmouths on the InterWebs claim, what company wouldn't want one like this? There are many measures of success in retail, and just getting people in the door is one of them. Once inside, shoppers may buy something, or walk out feeling better about the brand, leading to sales of something else later on. "Jesus! Can you believe that Microsoft? Baby, you shop here for my birthday!"