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back to article Surface: Because Microsoft does so well making hardware?

If you want a job done right, do it yourself: that’s the consensus on the Windows 8 Surface tablets. Or, put another way: “OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.” It’s easy to draw this conclusion given the world’s largest maker of software has bothered spending money – something it has been cutting back on in …

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MSFT should just buy Vizio

It's perfectly possible to be an American company building everything in Asia and still have excellent design - without being Apple. You just have to talk to your suppliers slightly more than just requesting a quote and complaining when something is late

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MSFT should just buy Vizio

"It's perfectly possible to be an American company building everything in Asia and still have excellent design - without being Apple .."

OK I'll bite. Name one other US company that has done this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MSFT should just buy Vizio

That would be the Vizio of his title, friend. They sell mainly through big-box retailers like Best Buy and Walmart, and just introduced a lovely new line of computers.

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Anonymous Coward

On what planet

On what planet does Microsoft think a blue computer will work? Hi Apple.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MSFT should just buy Vizio

Ah sorry, My Bad(tm). I was focussing on the use of the word 'excellent' .. I wasn't considering average and/or derivative.

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Re: MSFT should just buy Vizio

Companies that use foxconn:

Amazon.com (United States)

Apple Inc. (United States)

Barnes & Noble (United States)

Cisco (United States)

Dell (United States)

EVGA Corporation (United States)

Hewlett-Packard (United States)

Intel (United States)

IBM (United States)

Microsoft (United States)

Motorola (United States)

Netgear (United States)

Vizio (United States)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn

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FAIL

"OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Just like the showed ATI how to design a GPU?

http://eetimes.com/electronics-news/4077187/The-truth-about-last-year-s-Xbox-360-recall

"The Xbox 360 recall a year ago happened because "Microsoft wanted to avoid an ASIC vendor," said Lewis. Microsoft designed the graphic chip on its own, cut a traditional ASIC vendor out of the process and went straight to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., he explained.

But in the end, by going cheap--hoping to save tens of millions of dollars in ASIC design costs, Microsoft ended up paying more than $1 billion for its Xbox 360 recall."

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Sorry Barry, I just down-voted you. I try and grab my hand holding the mouse with my free hand, screaming, but the mouse-holding hand is stronger. And wins. Every time.

For what it's worth, the parallel you draw with the Xbox has no bearing on Surface. I'm not going further than that because making a counter point to any of your points is even more pointless than an IQ test for George W. Bush.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Horizontal keyboard - Check.

Viewscreen at a comfortable angle - Check.

So what they've invented is a notebook computer with the computer bits behind the screen instead of under the keyboard.

I'm so impressed.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Yes, Vole's hardware reputation is not exactly stellar.

Apparently their keyboards used to be OK, for those who like that "ergonomic" junk instead of proper keyboards, but a lot of corner-cutting in recent years has resulted in cheap crap where the lettering wears-off easily. Their mice were (are?) fugly and unwieldy - give me a simple three (real) button "Pilot Mouse" design every time. As for the Xbox 360: exploding PSUs, the Red Ring of Death, scratched discs, faulty ASICs... need I go on?

Not that Microsoft actually "built" any of it, mind you, but their logo on anything should be a fairly clear warning sign for to prospective customer.

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Happy

Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

"Horizontal keyboard - Check."

3mm thick and doubles as a cover for the tablet portion and automatically disables itself when folded back. Also completely detaches leaving the device a sofa-surfing suitable tablet if desired. Check.

"Viewscreen at a comfortable angle - Check."

Full HD touch interface that also accepts a stylus at 600DPI.

"So what they've invented is a notebook computer with the computer bits behind the screen instead of under the keyboard."

No, it's a tablet that is also good for production as well as consumption, has proper user accounts, decent connectivity options (USB, display port / hdml, SD card)... Basically, tablets are really good for somethings. For others a laptop is better. The x86 version is basically an ultrabook that turns into a stylus friendly tablet and back.

"I'm so impressed."

Me too. :)

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

>accepts a stylus at 600DPI.

Yep having a stylus worked out so well for their initial generation of tablet PC. As for production even on a fully proper netbook its very awkward.

>The x86 version is basically an ultrabook

Those have sold well (sarcasm) so I am sure having a smaller screen will help. They only reason I am looking forward to thing is to see how long until somebody roots the Win ARM tablet and puts Android on it. With Microsoft possibly subsidizing some of the cost it might be worth buying then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

@asdf - There are quite a few people starting to use styluses on iPads, it turns out that with a sufficiently high resolution digitizer, they're really rather good.

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

>with a sufficiently high resolution digitizer, they're really rather good.

Better than an etchasketch eh? Yeah the first generation flopped because it required a stylus. Exactly the kind of thing that is a major pain in the ass to have laying around if you have a toddler. Its ok though as the toddler will make the stylus disappear in no time.

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

You mean, they invented a top heavy notebook computer with an innovative hinge that doesn't hold the screen up without a kickstand.

Kickstand - Check.

Training wheels - Real Soon.

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

"Yeah the first generation flopped because it required a stylus"

The Surface does not "require" a stylus. At all. The ARM version doesn't even include one. It's an extra for the x86 version and it will be very useful to many of us. The first generation (i.e. older Windows tablets-hybrids before the iPad came along) weren't as popular because the technology back then made them weigh about 2.5kg, were 3cm thick and the screen was about as sensitive as Barry Shitpeas. If you think that is less a significant issue than optionally being able to use a stylus (it was optional on the Toshiba ones I used, at least), then you have a very strange aversion to optional styluses.

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Devil

Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Stylus - the difference between drawing and finger-painting

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

The mark 1 stylus flop was a specialized piece of hardware, expensive, easy to lose and hard to replace. These days it can be any generic not very pointy object.

On my (not very smart) mobile I usually enter texts using a biro with the cap on, because my fingers are a bit on the blunt side. The phone packs a stylus, but it's less ergonomic than a biro. Useful if there's no biro to hand, though.

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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

Just FYI, capacitive screens are a bit more picky than "any not too pointy object".

Needs to be conductive, and in a lot of cases, needs to occupy a fair blob of screen surface - iWotsits included. That's why capacitive pens tend to have either a soft brush or conductive rubber tip.

Resistive, Nintendo DS-style screens, well yes, you can use anything that points.

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Anonymous Coward

The devil is in the detail. Nobody knows the price and availability?

Microsoft only makes a profit on the software usually and so they need to make a nice fat profit. OEMs have to build that figure into the cost of the device and as a result sometimes they have to cheapen the look of the device to cut costs and still make a profit.

By making the device themselves Microsoft can make half of the profit on the software and half on the hardware or a varying divide between the two. In turn this means more of the money you pay goes into the product.

The OEM model doesn't always bring you quality, it just brings competition as well as choice, but it can be a race to the bottom in terms of quality.

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Google model

"The OEM model doesn't always bring you quality, it just brings competition as well as choice, but it can be a race to the bottom in terms of quality."

This is what I think could be going on. The Galaxy Nexus is a flagship device costing top-of-the-market prices. It leaves room for cheap-as-chips phones while acting as an Android flagship. I suspect this could be similar.

As for 'Microsoft's experience in hardware'-I suspect the more everything is made by Foxconn the less of a problem hardware engineering is. Everyone uses the same component suppliers now.

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Anonymous Coward

Availabillity

It appears that they're going to be out in the Autumn, I suspect for the release of Win8.

As for pricing, I doubt that they'll release it until the release date, in order that they're not undercut by competitors.

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Xbox Loss?

Really? 10years on and its still making a loss?

I have my doubts on that one. The 'hardware' division may well be, but thats never the point of a console, its licencing the rights to make games is where the real revenue is.

MS may make a loss per 'Surface' but the licencing of Windows, Office products, and whatever other killer apps they can come up with is where the money will be.

iPads havent (as far as I've seen) taken the Enterprise by as much storm as might be expected given the number of users that have bought one.

But if MS can pull of an Enterprise ready tablet, that works with all the domain secruity, runs the enterprise apps, then they can sell individually at a loss but make that back on the 'Surface Edition' versions of Office/Powerpoint/VB/etc.

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Re: Xbox Loss?

Absolutely with you on the XBox, if they've made a loss, that purely down to bad management..

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Anonymous Coward

iPads

strangely enough, my firm has just seemed to totally buy into iPads now. there was a lot of resistance within IT of bringing my own one to work and getting to use the wifi. But now that the upper management have decided they like them, I think they're replaced Blackberry's as the main perk of being that high on the management rungs. There's a cupboard behind me full of iPads and the desktop deployment guys are constantly taking half a dozen out at a time and then going and loading them with software before shipping them upstairs to the powers that be. The wheels of enterprise move slowly, but they do move.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Xbox Loss?

The Entertainment and Devices Division (of which the XBox is a part) is a regular loss maker for Microsoft. Always has been. Microsoft do not make money from hardware, certainly not consoles and associated gaming software - they bleed it so they can stay vaguely relevant.

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FAIL

Re: Xbox Loss?

nope it's in the black now, please pay catch up

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Xbox Loss?

It's a $11bn hole caused by RROD and high development costs.

It's very easy to get wrapped up in Microsoft's monthly profit claims, and forget they hid all these costs early in the consoles life. The fact is, they won't make a net dime this generation. They might make some quarterly profits, but the net result will always be a massive loss.

It's how American companies work, they somehow work around Sarbox by "reserving" cash. Not sure how they manage to work around it, but they do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Xbox Loss?

Nope - a single quarter of profit does not erase all the previous quarters of losses, although much of that profit has originated from the Android Tax and there is no certainty it will continue to be paid. When the new Xbox is announced Microsoft will be bleeding significant amounts of claret once again for another multitude of quarters, and they'll likely have to increase payments to Nokia to keep them afloat too.

Microsoft only make money from their Windows and Office software - stuff like hardware, ie. XBox, phones and also their online services are absolute loss leaders to ensure Microsoft keep all their fingers in all of the pies, and don't get wiped off the face of the planet by Aplpe and Google.

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Re: Xbox Loss?

XBox and XBox Live has been pretty successful. And it has dashed SONY's hopes of replacing the PC with their Playstation as the home hub device.

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Re: Xbox Loss?

M$'s Xbox DIVISION lost $229 million in it's last trading quarter. That includes software and licences as well as hardware.

Regarding "the enterprise", I deal extensively with senior business and legal people in The City and the iPad is pretty much universal. It's never going to replace the desktop PC for the sort of people who enter significant amounts of data with a keyboard, but it is already replacing most things that are traditionally printed.

Price is not a major issue for these people, but quality of exerience is, which is why they have moved from Blackberry to iPhone. Apple already owns this market with the iPad, and based on long and horrible experience of MS "operating systems", of which Win 8 is probably the worst since Windows 286, I can't see the Surface getting any more market share than its phone version. This is why the opportunities are at the budget end of the market, which I expect Android to fill, as it did with smart phones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Xbox Loss?

XBox and XBox Live has been pretty successful.

Successful yes, but not profitable. The online services division loses even more money each quarter than the hardware (Entertainment & Devices Division).

And it has dashed SONY's hopes of replacing the PC with their Playstation as the home hub device.

Really? I think a lot of people use their PS3 for precisely the kind of thing they would otherwise be using a PC for in the living room, so in that regard it's been a storming success. The PS3 is every bit as adept as a PC at playing the part of a home hub device (with less hassle and for a lot less cash), and certainly better than an XBox which sucks at pretty much everything bar playing games.

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Stop

Re: Xbox Loss?

The Touchpad firesale made it VERY successful (sold millions of units overnight), however, how profitable do you think was? Exactly.

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FAIL

Re: Xbox Loss?

Intresting viewpoint, warped and woefully wrong, but still intresting to read, whereas my experence is that the iPad is seen as a toy and rather uselss at performing anything of real merit, the cruix of your post is that they are using the iPad in a replacement for printing. that's ok but it sure would be better to have a device that can be used to do real world work on the not what the iPad is. having the same OS on a tablet and a PC has some real benfits for bussiness.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iPads

Obviously you have never been senior if you think a Blackberry is a perk. Oh look, work emails and calls on my day off? Thanks...

Terrible idea

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Anonymous Coward

iPad?

I'm sorry but the article lost me at "to take on the iPad."

It's easy to draw the conclusion that any first party OS maker that creates a first party tablet is taking on the iPad but in most cases - and definitely in this case - it is incorrect. If you said the same about the PlayBook for the same reasons you would widely criticized. The same goes here. If anything, with Surface, Microsoft is trying to tackle the portion of the tablet market in which the most iPad/OS discontents lie: big business.

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Re: iPad?

I think MS are going after everything with the surface. Gamers (with Pro) get a Core i5 and *should* be able to play PC games like Diablo with a keyboard/mouse as well as more casual games, true, it won't be able to compete with high end PC's but if it'll play the latest games with reasonable quality it'll be on to a winner. Business users who use PC's will go for this and also may go for Windows 8 on their desktops as well as Windows Phone, build everything around the Surface and let everything work around the Surface.

People who want a tablet will have a choice, go for a tablet which is limited in what it can do (iPad/Android/Win8RT) or go for a tablet which runs a full OS and can do anything (Pro).

The big question is how they get it out there, the XBox was easy, pay lots of money to get developers over to the XBox with exclusives and timed exclusives, bring out killer games like Halo, with the Pro line the killer apps are for business, Office, Photoshop, not cut down versions either (how much would a professional designer pay for the Pro with Photoshop and Stylus for drawing stuff for instance?).

Business, as I said, will love this machine. You're at work, working on a presentation on your PC made with MS Office, you have to take the presentation to the other side of town, you flip the docs onto the Surface and continue to work on the train/bus, get where you want to be, plug it in via HDMI and display the presentation. Or you can make your presentation, email it across town and know that the person on the other side can open it on their desktop using Windows.

But MS won't sit on it, they will have tight integration with XBox Live and maybe bring out some exclusive "Made For Surface" games designed with the screen size in mind.

I think Surface is going to be a major win for MS, I also think that MS will share the design with other companies letting them use the magnetic keyboard thing even if it's competition with themselves, MS wants to dominate on the OS space without much thought to the hardware side, as long as they are selling things with Windows 8 on it, they won't care who is selling it, and by bringing out what is undoubtedly a fantastic design, they have set the bar way above anything currently on offer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iPad?

I agree: This is clearly a fully featured "grown up" OS on a tablet form factor device, which is actually more akin to an ultrabook than it is to an iPad. The main thing that's kept me from tablets is the lack of a fully featured OS, beit a proper Linux, MacOS or Windows.

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Re: iPad?

Really? Looks pretty iPad killer-y to me: http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/about.aspx.

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FAIL

Re: iPad?@David Webb

Get yer head out the sand! We're well aware of the traditional view. The same view that HP, RIM, et al had when they created their wildly successful tablets.

The world has moved on. The point of a tablet is that it DOES NOT have what you call a "full OS". (Let's face it, they don't come much "fuller" than MS Windows, how can you pack so little into so much code?) It's "lite", it's simple, you don't have to fiddle for days to make it useful. Come to think of it, it's kinda like a book. Open it, read it, put it down and it's just the same when you pick it up the next day.

Same old wintel business model that had served so well, churning along for so many years. Bloated software requiring faster hardware enabling more bloated software requiring faster hardware, ad nauseam.

Post Y2K, the model faltered. Microsoft maintained their profits by sucking margin out of the channel that had made them rich. Everyone in denial until Vista burst the bubble in spectacular fashion.

Business won't care about Microsoft Windows 8. Microsoft knows they will stay on Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows 7 so, in desperation, they are taking the risk and ignoring business in this latest application of pig lipstick.

Remember Novell? They got out-flanked by Microsoft and retaliated by trying to copy them. Bought WordPerfect to compete with Microsoft Office. Where are they now?

Microsoft have been out-flanked by Apple. They too are retaliating by copying their successor. Guess where Microsoft's gonna be in a few years.

PS. Microsoft are making much more sense on the server side as they try to emulate UNIX. A scripting tool that kinda works and GUI-less servers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iPad?

Why? Because they've used some Bauhaus-style, minimalist styling on their website?

I suppose they're trying to take on Ikea too? Don't be so crass.

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how have they screwed up?

How have PC makers screwed up? MS hasn't even had a real "tablet" OS for them to screw up on. HP meanwhile still seems to sell their Slate tablet with Windows 7.

I think it's the opposite, MS screwed up by announcing it's going to compete with it's largest customers for the same end users before those customers have even announced product.

Perhaps it is because the customers have showed little more than luke warm (don't know if this is the case or not) interest in the MS tablets? After seeing how past MS (and Android/WebOS etc) tablets have performed compared to iPad(from a profits perspective at least), and how well the Windows phone platform is doing (and windows mobile before it)?

I could see the Zune move MS made years ago, when the folks licensing windows media to make media players showed they could not compete against Apple, MS thought they'd take a stab at it, by breaking compatibility with the older software and music stores and going it alone - and we know how well that worked out.

But here there's no history with tablets and a *tablet* MS OS, so there's nothing to have screwed up on.

I don't think the first gen windows 8 tablets will do well - but if they can finally stabilize the software to make the OS *and* apps forwards compatible with future products they may be able to start establishing a base if they don't give up, build it up over time. I could easily see MS throwing another $10B at this over the next few years establishing a market for their stuff. The key I think is to not break compatibility with every new product that comes out. They did this well enough on the PC side of things.

The other mistake they did was by announcing it so early without having something available to ship shortly. With no apparent announced ship date and no announced price(though expectations put it in the ultrabook price range?), the excitement will have faded by the time it does launch.

I think MS would of been better off making this tablet a technology preview like they did that two-pane e-reader (?) a while back. Gauge interest, if there is interest then say "hey due to high demand we decided to make this a product!" and/or OEM the design to the partner ecosystem for free (they need market share after all).

I think when it launches it will be viewed much like the HP Touchpad was - over promise and under deliver, and the price will seal it's fate. Unlike the HP Touchpad though I don't expect MS to give up after one iteration regardless of it's market uptake.

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Re: how have they screwed up?

>two-pane e-reader

They called it the Courier. Curiously, Sony have tried the same folding two-pane design on an Android tablet. It seems a sensible design for everything except video, and MS were pitching it as a pocket diary and scrapbook, a way of collecting doodles and ideas whilst on the hoof.

I mention Sony, because they have tried making UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs) with Windows XP for years. No one here has mentioned XP for Tablet Edition, because the hardware was too heavy to hold comfortably.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20128013-75/the-inside-story-of-how-microsoft-killed-its-courier-tablet/

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Re: how have they screwed up?

They did announce a ship date, it ships when Windows 8 is released with the Pro version being released 3 months later, be pretty stupid of them to release it *not* when Windows 8 isn't out yet. As it is it gives the OEM's some food for thought "shit, that looks frikken amazing, we better bring our A game" and shows what you can do with Windows 8 and a bloody good design. MS are showing a way that isn't Apple, they are not copying Apple, and in doing so they are saying to the OEMs "Don't copy Apple, do something good instead".

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Re: how have they screwed up?

> Unlike the HP Touchpad though I don't expect MS to give up after one iteration

It is more than likely that HP 'gave up' because Microsoft, after having just announced they were doing WOA, told HP that making non-Windows tablets was being disloyal and that discounts were being re-evaluated.

Just like netbooks really where MS brought XP back alive just to kill off Linux ones.

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Alien

Re: how have they screwed up?

"MS hasn't even had a real "tablet" OS for them to screw up on"

Sure they have, Microsoft have been at tablets since before Apple even knew they existed. If you mean a cut-down OS that isn't really very useful, then yes Microsoft is pretty new to the game.

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Re: how have they screwed up?

The courier was actually a neat idea. I'm talking about the format, if not the actual software.

Sony's folding Android tablet P was a neat idea on paper but in practice, not so much. Android apps have to decide if they'll use one screen or the other or both with all the hacks that go with it. Games would look terrible split over two screens to they're confined to one and so on. Much of the time one screen just ends up wasting battery showing a virtual keyboard or whatever.

It might work pretty well if someone figures how to put a flexible OLED screen into the claim shell so when you open it you get a single contiguous area, just one which folds into half the space. Sony, Samsung et al have demoed flexible OLED screens so it must be close to feasible.

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One thing for sure

They don't have to worry about people NOT helping them write drivers... Come on, Hit ME, I want you to do it I want you to do it, I want the most thumbsdown!!

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Re: One thing for sure

If what you said made any sense I would gladly oblige.

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Who is going to sell it?

PC's are low margin products. To stay in business, retailers have to sell high margin software with the PC (Last time I looked at buying a Linux machine from HP, they shoved options for Windows specific Antivirus and Microsoft Office in my face). If these touch tablets can only get software from an online app store, why would retailers stock them?

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