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.
It feels like repeatedly kicking someone when they’re down, but there’s really no other way to describe Windows tablet sales -- both RT and Windows 8 Pro -- other than pathetic and embarrassing for Microsoft. Which is a shame. Surface is a great tablet, Windows 8 on Surface is a good operating system, but people just aren’t buying the device in any great numbers. Well, pre-fire sale at least.
According to a new report from IDC, just 200,000 Windows RT tablets shipped in Q2 2013 (even the ailing BlackBerry PlayBook managed 100,000), and there’s no good news for other Windows tablets either as IDC reports just 1.8 million devices shipped with that OS onboard. Apple, by comparison, shipped 14.6 million iPads in the same quarter.
Yesterday a striking fact regarding Surface was revealed in a SEC filing from Microsoft. The software giant's tablet lineup brought in revenue of $853 million in the company's fiscal year 2013 -- just under the embarrassing $900 million Surface-related write off Microsoft declared two weeks ago.
$853 million might sound like quite a lot of money, but what it actually means is the tablet line is a flop, with Microsoft selling just slightly more Surface PCs in a year than Apple shifts iPads in a week.
Windows 8 is an operating system designed for touch PCs, but it's struggling to find a sizeable audience on them. PCs as we know them are on their way out, and tablets are the future, as we've been told time and again by analysts. Figures from the likes of Gartner and IDC clearly back up this sea change.
So if people aren't buying into Microsoft's new OS on regular PCs (with or without touch) then they must be scrambling to buy tablets running Windows 8 and RT surely? Well things don't look too rosy for Microsoft there either.
In the wake of the $900 million Surface RT inventory adjustment hit announced yesterday, Microsoft has released an updated ad comparing Surface RT to the Apple iPad. Microsoft warned that its marketing was going to get more aggressive and this ad is probably the strongest attack on the iPad we've seen to date.
I'm a big fan of ads that focus on features and I am a bigger fan of ads that focus on features against a competing product. This ad is particularly good, not just because of the feature comparison, but the price comparison. See for yourself.
Late-yesterday, Microsoft released its latest financial results, for Q4 fiscal year 2013, revealing a whopping $0.9 billion charge that is "related to Surface RT inventory adjustments". The $900 million that the software corporation just wrote off is a telltale sign that its Windows RT-based tablet is not selling as well as the company expected, leaving considerable stock unmoved.
Here are the highlights of the Q4 FY13 financial results: $19.89 billion in revenue, operating income of $6.07 billion and $4.97 billion as net income (or, 59 cents per share). The numbers are below analyst expectations, which placed revenue at $20.73 billion and net income at 75 cents per share. According to Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, Surface RT can be partially blamed for the less-than-stellar financial results.
Microsoft has slashed the price of Surface RT, making the device pretty affordable. Anyone hoping that Surface Pro would see a similar reduction will be disappointed. Microsoft shows no signs of cutting the price of its premium tablet, suggesting the company is happy enough with sales and margins at the moment.
The problem with RT is it looks like Windows 8, and behaves like Windows 8, but isn't Windows 8. If you buy Surface RT, or any other tablet running the OS, you might reasonably expect to be able to run traditional software on it. But you can't.
Rumors that Microsoft was planning to cut the price of Surface RT have been swirling for a couple of days, and yesterday they came true. Staples in the US is currently advertising the 32 GB base model of the device for $349.99, a drop of $150. Although the price reduction hasn’t been seen elsewhere yet, it should start appearing at other retailers next week. No word on whether the reduction will be offered in other territories.
The price cut is interesting as it’s yet another example of Microsoft offering aggressive discounts on Surface RT. The 32 GB version was made available to schools and universities for $199, and attendees at the Worldwide Partner Conference and TechEd gatherings were offered Surface RT 64 GB with touch cover for $99 (although admittedly they had to pay a fortune for a ticket in the first place).
Microsoft just released a new Windows tablet video ad, which pits Dell's XPS 10 against Apple's popular iPad. This time around the action takes place at a baseball field, with the software giant emphasizing the multitasking benefits available to the users of its tiled operating system.
The video ad shows two agents trying to sign a new baseball player, with one using the iPad and the other the XPS 10 to video chat with the boss and obtain relevant stats. Needless to say, the Apple slate user struggles to multitask, having to switch between apps to communicate and find the needed information, while his rival takes advantage of Windows RT's built-in snap feature to run two pieces of software at the same time.
Evernote Corporation has released Evernote Touch 2.0, a major update of its touch-friendly Windows 8 app. The latest version's main new feature is a hub page providing a summary of the user’s account, while it also promises improved editing tools and support for Business accounts.
The major new highlight is undoubtedly the hub page, which is the first thing users will see when logging into the app. All of its core navigation items as well as an overview of the various parts of the user's account, including notes, notebooks, tags and shortcuts, can now be found here.