Yes, that's right, there is no typo. The Dell XPS 10, which runs Windows RT and came to market sporting a $499 price-tag, is now available for purchase at a very affordable $299.99. Clearly, the US computer manufacturer no longer has its eyes set on Apple's fourth-generation iPad, one of the most popular fondleslabs available today.
So what do you get for $299.99? For the money, the XPS 10 packs a 10.1-inch multitouch display with a resolution of 1366 by 768, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 32 GB of internal storage. And, for just $50 more you can up the internal storage capacity to 64 GB.
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.
Colleagues Mihaita Bamburic and Larry Seltzer both have stories today about Microsoft's newest sales milestone. They make valid points in "Windows 8 is such a failure Microsoft sells 100M licenses" and "You wish you could fail like Microsoft". However, 100 million is less than you might think and represents Windows 8's failure.
Meanwhile, the announcement is Microsoft's attempt to use seemingly good news to admit failure, by softballing step-backwards changes coming with Windows Blue.
Judging by all the heavy criticism hitting the interwebs each day one would rightfully assume that Microsoft is on the wrong path with Windows 8. The operating system is often blamed for declining PC shipments, an user interface designed only for touchscreen devices or a scarce Modern UI app ecosystem filled with knockoffs. So, therefore, Windows 8 must be a clear sales miss, right?
Today, Tami Reller, Windows & Windows Live CFO, boasts about 100 million Windows 8 licenses, a figure which does not fall in line with what every naysayer leads you to believe. "This number includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8. This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January. We've also seen the number of certified devices for Windows 8 and Window RT grow to 2,400 devices, and we're seeing more and more touch devices in the mix".
So much for Apple's tablet reign that analysts stoutly stood by even just months ago. Android kicks ass, crushing iOS shipments during first quarter, according to IDC. Among the top four, the fruit-logo company posted the lowest year-over-year growth (65.3 percent), and considerably less than the overall market (142.4 percent). Meanwhile, the company's market share fell by 18.5 points to 39.6 percent.
Among tablet manufacturers, Apple is market leader, with the question being for how much longer. Samsung share rose 282.6 percent -- ASUS even more (350 percent). Strong Nexus 7 shipments pushed ASUS past Amazon to take third place. ASUS' challenge and opportunity could be Google I/O, where the tablet launched last year and new model is rumored for the event starting May 15. Challenge is maintaining shipments during product transition; opportunity is capitalizing on new sales.
Little more than a month after the company released significant updates for three of its major Windows 8/RT apps, Microsoft unveiled a new set of features for the Weather app. The latest update is aimed at "meteorologists", but the enhancements are likely to be felt by casual users as well.
The weather app now introduces "interactive and dynamically" moving maps, a feature which shows cloud cover, precipitations, radar, satellite views and temperatures for the city or region in which the user resides. The functionality should be familiar to people watching the weather forecast on TV.
For road warriors looking to catch up on the latest events, reply to important business emails, or perform some crucial tasks while traveling, a cellular data connection is a must-have feature for a tablet. The best case scenario -- if Wi-Fi is not available or a safe option -- is to rely on a smartphone in order to tether, which drains its battery in a couple of hours (at best). Definitely not an option for a lot of people.
Luckily, Dell finally gets it. The American company introduces a new cellular data option for the XPS 10 which gives the Windows RT-based tablet the ability to connect to 4G LTE networks. Considering that the device was launched around the same time as Windows 8 and Windows RT, it took Dell quite some time to make cellular data a priority, at least for the XPS 10.
Back in December, I explained: "Surface RT sales are quite good, you just don't know about it". The Internet Idiocracy called the tablet a failure, while based on sales per store I saw success. Surface Pro shipped the following month. Now there are real numbers, and they're quite good -- for all Windows tablets -- validating touch-focused Modern UI.
During first quarter, Windows captured 7.5 percent global branded tablet market share, according to Strategy Analytics. That's up from zero a year earlier. Unit shipments: 3 million. Right now, Microsoft is the major seller of branded Windows tablets. Granted there are others, like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Samsung.
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.
During yesterday's earnings conference call, departing CFO Peter Klein says that Microsoft is "working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows. These devices will have competitive price points, partly enabled by our latest OEM offerings designed specifically for these smaller devices, and will be available in the coming months".
The rumors are true, and, presumably, because of the context Klein makes the statement, these devices will run Windows 8 -- rather than RT or Embedded. For example, he refers to support for new Intel processors, Haswell and Bay Trail Atom. The former is expected to ship with back-to-school ultrabooks and convertibles. The latter is designed for smaller touch devices, including tablets. During Intel's earnings call this week, CEO Paul Otellini predicted that for touch-screen notebooks running the new Atom processor, "prices are going to be down to as low as $200". Merry Christmas!
Windows 8 is not the direct cause for poor PC sales, and to suggest this is simply sensationalism. True, the operating system received cool reception from some people, but most don't realize that Microsoft had little choice to do what it did. The company distributed the first Preview during the BUILD developer conference in autumn 2011, and I immediately recognized what was going on. Windows 8 is all about touch and mobile. Mobile touch devices are replacing computers among many consumers. Microsoft likely saw this and had to do something. That something is Windows 8. I discuss this consumerization of the PC market in my late-March BetaNews story.
What some people fail to appreciate is that a PC is more than a consumer device. Windows is more than a mobile operating system. It is very complex, designed for heavy-duty work. Microsoft had one of two choices: Create a totally new operating system for mobile and leave Windows as is; merge a mobile operating system into Windows so it is a hybrid. That the company chose the latter is ingenious, but risky. Likely we won't know until years from now whether or not Microsoft wisely, but it is a noble undertaking nonetheless.
A fortnight ago I asked a simple question -- Is it time for Microsoft to make big changes to Windows 8? BetaNews readers weighed in on the topic and as I'd hoped it made for some fascinating and insightful reading.
Although plenty of people support Windows 8 and the Modern UI, a lot of readers feel that yes, Microsoft should seriously consider making changes to its divisive OS and accept that the "one size fits all" model isn’t working.
I am simply stunned by the ridiculous number of "Microsoft will be dead in four years" stories, following Gartner's grim PC forecast three days ago. I offered brief analysis then and promised something later, and this is it. Yesterday, colleague Alan Buckingham posted first: "Microsoft is nowhere near death's door" -- and he absolutely is right.
Throw a rock, and you can't miss a doom-and-gloom armchair analysis. Among the many are "Gartner: Microsoft is dead, Windows has expired, Office has ceased to be" (Computerworld); "How long can Microsoft go on like this?" (InfoWorld); "Apple's ultimate victory over Microsoft" (Motley Fool); and "Gartner may be too scared to say it, but the PC is dead" (ReadWrite). For the most part, all these armchair pundits are mistaken. Hugely.
"So?" You say. Yesterday, when writing about the Windows Blue leak, I emphasized the importance of Microsoft picking up the pace, by releasing new features faster. Brandon LeBlanc says the updates will come today, but I surely don't see them yet -- so can't authoritatively write about refinements.
Get used to it, these three updates tip changes ahead, like others, such as SkyDrive and Skype. It's a new Microsoft, and the push to the cloud and subscription computing are major reasons, along with competitive need and BYOD. The company's longstanding priority providing backward-compatibility drags development. Some innovations are held back, while enterprise customers using the same software for years keeps new features out of market even if Microsoft releases them. Microsoft lumbers along, in part because core customers do. No longer.
So a very early build of the next version of Windows has leaked online. Codenamed Windows Blue it includes features such as additional Snap Views and changes to the Charms. There’s nothing to get too excited about here, not yet at least.
But I’ve been wondering lately, if it isn’t time for Microsoft to change course and steer away a little from the direction it set with Windows 8. There’s no sign of that happening in the Windows Blue leak, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see more fundamental changes added to the new version as development progresses.