We all know the original Surface RT failed badly, and there are multiple reasons for its lack of success, including overpricing, poor distribution, commercials that revealed nothing about the product, and of course Windows RT -- the operating system that was a total mystery to consumers. No one knew anything about it. It came out of nowhere, hidden in the shadows of Windows 8.
What does RT mean? To anyone? (It’s just another in a long line of ambiguous Windows acronyms, joining the likes of XP, NT and CE). It looks like Windows 8, but it isn’t. It can’t run (most) desktop applications, despite having a desktop, and has other less than obvious limitations too.
One of the biggest problems I have with all those fancy iPad rollouts in corporate America is that they are merely patching a larger problem instead of solving it. Let's face it, nearly 60 percent of tablet buyers currently are not replacing their primary mobile devices -- they're merely supplementing them. Less than 9 percent truly see themselves replacing their laptops with tablets. If tablets are the future of mobile computing, there is a serious problem with their perception by non-consumption driven buyers.
When one of my customers approached us about helping them migrate an aging, near-crippled fleet of netbooks into modern tablets, I knew there had to be a better way than the "iPad standard". We initially toyed with the idea of getting tablets to use in conjunction with GoToMyPC or LogMeIn, but the recurring costs on such an approach started to balloon. Plus, a workforce that lives and dies by the full Microsoft Office suite would never adjust to a touch-only future.
Google is doing it with Android. Apple is doing it with iOS. So why shouldn't Microsoft allow its smartphone operating system to run on tablets? Obviously, the name would have to change, likely from Windows Phone to Windows Tablet. But would such a product be the right thing for Microsoft? One rumor points in the slate direction.
As with any Microsoft consumer operating system there is no easy answer. The best parts, that together would make the best OS, are scattered across a couple of products. And, Microsoft already has Windows RT which, even though it is not selling as well as the company had hoped it would (hence the $0.9 billion write-off for Surface RT), is quite competent in today's mobile landscape from a feature standpoint. Once we move past the silly one-sided preferences, it really makes little sense at first glance for Microsoft to drop its current tablet OS in favor of its smartphone OS. Windows RT is, dare I say, better. Yes, I have my flame suit on. But does that mean Windows Phone could not offer any value as a tablet OS?
In his "5 reasons Surface tablets blow away iPads for a mobile business workforce" piece, my colleague Derrick Wlodarz explained why Remote Desktop on Windows RT (and, by implication, Windows 8) is better compared to third-party clients on Android and iOS. Derrick says that the former offers a richer feature set, a smoother experience, improved stability, less compatibility issues and comes with no initial cost (because it is free, as a built-in feature). As you can tell, the lack of official Remote Desktop apps on Android and iOS tips the scale in Microsoft's favor.
That is about to change, as Microsoft has announced that it will release Remote Desktop apps on "a variety of devices and platforms", which include Windows, Windows RT, OS X, Android and iOS. The software giant says the offerings will be introduced with Windows Server 2012 R2, which launches later this month, on October 18, alongside Windows 8.1.
If you are a Windows Phone and/or Windows 8/RT user who loves RSS feed reader apps then I am sure the name Nextgen Reader rings a bell. It is one of the best-rated and most popular pieces of software currently available on Microsoft's latest consumer operating systems, and probably one of the best built mobile apps that smartphone and tablet users can get today.
To learn more about Nextgen Reader and Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT development, I chatted with the person responsible for all the code behind the app, Gaurav Kalra. The man, alongside his brother Sorabh, is the co-founder of Next Matters, the company that develops Nextgen Reader.
Microsoft held an event in NYC to launch the Surface 2 and Brian was live-blogging. The full video of the launch is available to view online as are advertisements that show off the tablets' versatility. Microsoft is pinning a lot on the updated product after the first generation suffered from poor sales. There were no great new features, but there is a redesigned kickstand, a healthy speed boost, new dock and updated covers -- Brian was particularly impressed by the Blades.
Anyone buying a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 earns themselves a SkyDrive upgrade. Purchase a new device and your online storage gets upgraded to 200GB, but the same amount of space is available for $100 per year. Moving away from Surface-related news, Microsoft turned its guns on Google Docs, highlighting user complaints to demonstrate the superiority of Office 365.
Today Microsoft opens the pre-order books for its second-generation Surface lineup. The two slates, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, come with major under-the-hood and external changes, including beefed-up processors that are faster and help deliver better battery life and revisions to the built-in kickstand, as well as a slew of new accessories.
Surface 2 comes with the most noteworthy improvements of the two new slates. It now sports an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor which Microsoft says is up to four times faster than the Tegra 3 chip from the old generation, offers 25 percent more battery life, comes with a two-angle kickstand and features a full HD -- 1920 by 1080 resolution -- display which, again, is better than before (Surface RT's panel has a lower resolution of 1366 by 768). Pricing starts at $449 for the base 32 GB model. The 64 GB model costs $549.
At an event in New York, Microsoft reveals the successor to the Surface RT and Surface Pro -- the predictably named Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 (interesting to note that the "RT" is gone from the former's name) -- and Brian Fagioli was live-blogging from the event. So what do we have to look forward to from the product refresh?
Just two years ago, before the Surface RT was even on the horizon, another alternative entrant in the computing market was posting miserable (Surface RT-esque) sales after launching. The suspect in question, Chromebook, was only able to post about 5000 units sold for Acer in the two months after its launch in June 2011. Samsung supposedly fared even worse. Analysts across the industry were taking bets on when Google would throw in the towel on Chromebook. They all but called the device destined to fail.
Fast forward just two years, and Chromebooks now represent the fastest growing PC segment already. In fact, as of July 2013, they officially snagged 20-25 percent of the sub-$300 laptop market. And the warm feelings for Chromebook are anywhere but over. The radical alternative to Windows and Apple laptops is poised to grow another 10 percent in just 2013 alone. The burning question still stands: how did the analysts get it so wrong?
Looking at the the biggest stories on BetaNews from August, 18 - 24, 2013. Perhaps the biggest news from the last seven days -- at least in part because it came as such a surprise to most people -- was the announcement that Steve Ballmer intends to resign from Microsoft within the year. The CEO is planning to step down as soon as a suitable replacement is found, but there has been speculation that Ballmer may have been pushed rather than opting to jump.
Getting my hands on a Surface Pro for the first time gave me an opportunity to try out Windows 8 as a touchscreen operating system. Despite loving the Surface in general, I pondered whether the use of the same version of Windows 8 as on desktop machine may have been what's stopping Microsoft’s convertible devices from becoming more popular. At the same time, Brian fell in love with the Lenovo Yoga, citing Windows 8 as one of the computer’s strengths.
Almost every time I have written about Microsoft in the past, I have been accused of being on the company's payroll when I write something positive, or being a hater out to bash the firm when I write something negative. Fair warning to anyone inclined to make such accusations (and a slight spoiler); this is one article in which I am going to sit firmly on the fence.
Let’s get one thing out of the way to start with. I quite like Windows 8. It’s not perfect and I have my complaints, but it is my primary operating system on three computers, and has been for some time. Until now, my only experience of Windows 8 has been on a traditional desktop and a laptop -- this means I have only interacted with the OS using a combination of a keyboard, mouse and trackpad.
Microsoft has announced the launch of new channels to sell Surface RT and Surface Pro to business, education and public sector customers. In addition to the US commercial channel which launched in July, today's announcement sees 17 countries including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK added to the list.
Writing in a blog post Cyril Belikoff, Director -- Microsoft Surface says, "This availability in international markets, along with the updates coming to Surface RT with Windows 8.1 are all important milestones for our customers. We know that people who use Surface love it! We’re looking forward to introducing even more customers in more places to the powerful productivity that Surface uniquely makes possible".
The PC as we know it is dying, and tablets are unquestionably where the sales are right now. As a result, vendors and retailers are clamoring to pull in the consumers by ramping up their advertising spend and exposure.
In Q2 2013, according to data gathered by analyst firm gap intelligence, vendors and retailers placed a total of 771 tablet ads in print media in the US, up 266 from the same quarter last year, and while 83 percent of the adverts were for Android tablets, Windows devices made a big splash, accounting for 12 percent of all ads. When new products launch, or sales aren't great -- both true in this case -- it's quite typical to see an increase in ad spending in order to reach as many consumers as possible.
Microsoft is facing a class action suit brought by law firm Robbins Geller on behalf of purchasers of Microsoft Corporation common stock during the period between April 18, 2013 and July 18, 2013 (the "Class Period").
According to the suit, during the stated period, Microsoft "issued materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s financial performance and its tablet computer, the Surface RT" -- or to put it in laymen's terms, the company lied about the poor demand and sales of Surface RT, and about the earnings related to the tablet.
This week Microsoft rolled out two new video adverts -- one pitting Surface RT against the iPad, and the other putting the Acer Iconia W3 next to the iPad mini. The adverts follow the same format as previously with a side by side look at the features on offer.
Of course the comparisons aren’t fair. Microsoft picks areas where its tablet/operating system is strongest, and avoids the areas where it’s weakest -- apps and popularity, for example. It’s a lot like comparing apples with oranges (or, yes, lemons in the case of poorly selling Windows devices) and then pointing out that it’s easy to peel an orange, but you need to buy a separate peeler to accomplish the same task on an apple.