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back to article Microsoft's Surface proves software is dead

Did Microsoft finally get the memo on software licensing? While Microsoft's legal department continues to believe that software licensing is the industry's best business model, its mobile team now acknowledges that software is just one piece of an overall product, and not even the part that consumers buy. With the launch of its …

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Linux

Software isn't dead...

...it's the fact Microsoft have done it so poorly for so long that these "free or integrated OSes" are coming out of the woodwork to solve problems they caused themselves. Too much emphasis in locking you in, countless price increases and now going from Physical CPU to CPU Core licensing; I'm not surprised people are annoyed.

Anyway, it makes sense to integrate software into specialist products (such as mobile phones, tablets etc). You only enhance the experience by concentrating on how you use it rather than how it it works.

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Holmes

Re: Software isn't dead...

Your complaint doesn't quite line up. You're saying software isn't dead, and then you have a go at lock-in, cost and licensing.

Those things are separate. Outlook might tank at the things you mention, but given the dismalness of available email clients, is still, from a *functional* perspective, the best email client around.

The business value of Outlook, both to MIcrosoft, and it's customers, is another matter entirely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Software isn't dead...

Like AL Capone and taxes, its the pricing not the products destined to be Microsofts downfall if current trends continue IMO.

My wife is currently tasked in a public sector organisation with eliminating IBM product licensing because of the high recurrent licensing and support costs. At the moment Microsoft is chugging along although if the UK volume license increases coming in outside the public sector applied they would be next under the microscope.

Microsoft need to be very careful in this area.

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Devil

Re: Software isn't dead...

"Outlook might tank at the things you mention, but given the dismalness of available email clients, is still, from a *functional* perspective, the best email client around."

Outlook is one of the most awful email clients I've every had the misfortune to have to use. Its only saving grace is the fact that its calender and address functionality is compatible with most other peoples email set up ... because that's also Outlook. So that's pretty much on par with "I enjoy smoking because I'm a smoker".

Whether software is dead or not, or whether that has anything to do with lock in I can't say. But the fact that Outlook is still alive and so prevalent entirely to do with lock in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Software isn't dead...

"Outlook is one of the most awful email clients I've every had the misfortune to have to use. Its only saving grace is the fact that its calender and address functionality is compatible with most other peoples email set up ... because that's also Outlook. So that's pretty much on par with "I enjoy smoking because I'm a smoker"."

Possibly the most stupid comment I have read im many years - Outlook is a choice, other clients use the same protocols, you do not have to use it with Exchange, and you can also use it with other open standards compliant clients as an option.

RTFM.

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Thumb Down

Re: Software isn't dead...

To those young or lucky enough to never have the abomination that was Lotus Notes forced upon you for a paycheck count yourself lucky.

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Thumb Down

Re: Software isn't dead...

Agreed, Lotus Notes is an abomination, but that's not a good excuse to use Outlook.

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tgm

Re: Software isn't dead...

Has it really done "so poorly for so long"? Last time I looked, windows was the dominant desktop OS. Apple's recent success isn't because it bundles the OS with the Hardware; it's *always* done that, and it didn't work out that well in the 80s/90s did it?

Apples recent success is all about the AppStore.

The lock-in that Microsoft had wasn't actually physical lock-in: you have always been free ditch windows and install linux, but people didn't because everyone else used windows and office. It was "lockin-via-annoyance". The same is now happening with iOS. Everyone has an iPhone/iPad because everyone else has one. Friend: "oooh, you should get this new app". Me: "oh, I can't, it isn't available on WinPhone7 AppStore".

That's what makes people want iPhones, so they can have what everyone else has.

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FAIL

Re: Software isn't dead...

You've obviously nevered used lotus notes...

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Linux

Re: Software isn't dead...

Outlook is not a choice, it's something imposed upon you because it does more than just the little bits that involve real standards. The rest is highly proprietary just like the rest of msoffice is.

Outlook is the perfect example of taking an open standard and perverting it with vendor lock.

It's more of the same Microsoft proprietary lock-you-in-to-our products racket. iTunes functions in the same way.

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Re: Software isn't dead...

Funny how no one has managed to point out how or why Outlook is apparantly so bad. You can read and send email can't you? Manage your calendar and contacts? It's nicely integrated with Windows and the Office suite. Where exactly does it fall short? Price can't be used to argue against use of a product. People choose to pay and if they are happy with it, they keep on paying. Nothing wrong with that. If there was a feature that was missing I would understand, but I've never found it lacking and the 3rd party add-on support is better than any other major email client. Perfect software does not exist and never will. Outlook has continually evolved to meet user requirements and keep up with business users. In my travels I'm seeing more businesses migrating away from Lotus Notes and Groupwise than migrating from Exchange/Outlook. Outlook's only real threat, IMO, is Google Apps Mail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Software isn't dead...

Outlook 2010 (at least in my workplace) takes about 5 minutes from launching to become usable, and in the meantime hogs so much CPU on the (dual-core, 4GB RAM) PC that you can't really do anything else with the machine. I shudder to think how many man-hours are lost our in (10,000+) organisation every single day due to this single piece of crap software. I know the tea lady makes a lot of money though.

And even once you start using it, it's prone to hanging for no apparent reason - really, how difficult is it to program your software to paste a line of text from a Word doc? Why does this cause it to go blank and give me the egg timer for up to a minute? I've never met any other software that struggled so badly with such a simple task.

Some days it's so bad I just give up and use the web client, which is generally fine, and the functionality that 99% of people use 99% of the time is in there, so actually there's very little reason to use Outlook itself.

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Re: Software isn't dead...

I disagree. Outlook is not a great e-mail client. The only thing it seems to do better than others is group calendar functions.

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WTF?

Re: Software isn't dead...

4 minutes to launch? hogwash or misconfigured. I'm no real defender of MS (we use a lot of openoffice but outlook is the one app I cannot prise from people!)

We run positively ancient gx520 p4 2.8's with 2gb RAM (and 80gb drives!) they have been recycled so many times it isnt funny, yet we still have about 40 of them on the network. They are still running XP (I refuse point black to upgrade them to W7 even though it works fine). They do run office 2010 though.

From power on to logon screen is just short of 1 minute - assuming I have nothing in the computer GPO set to install. From CTRL-ALT-DEL to desktop is a mixed bag - student have mandatory profiles so they take 2 mins 30 to get to desktop (desktop being HDD light stopped not "first icons but im still running logon scripts in the background so you cant use me yet"). Office takes about 30 seconds on first launch then less than 5 for any app on the remainder of the log on session. I *do* replace templates from a central store on use so that is probably the biggest drain.

Staff profiles are roaming, if they have logged onto that station before then under 1 min to usable desktop, otherwise its a mixed bag - depends on their profile size (docs and library redirected) but typically the same as students.

Our newer optiplex 390 dual cores take roughly the same time , maybe up to 30 seconds quicker on a good day. This points to me being a network bottleneck (1gb throughout). Office 2003 was quicker to start first time but didnt cache as much it seemed, so switching from outlook to word to powerpoint to publisher was tiresome, 2010 seems fine at using all the apps at the same time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Software isn't dead...

If your outlook takes 5 minutes from launch to usable across the organisation I'd say that's an issue with the mail/group/exchange server not the client.

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FAIL

Re: Software isn't dead...

A little dated list below but most still apply as well many of us are forced to use older versions as well. For me I agree the bloat has always been unacceptable but again still better than crappy Lotus Notes.

http://wanderingstan.com/2008-02-01/67_reasons_that_outlook_sucks

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Linux

Re: Software isn't dead...

Looks like you got voted off of the island!

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Anonymous Coward

surface says nothing about licensing model

I don't think anything about Surface changes the Microsoft position on licensing. Or necessarily yields any OEM issue (I worked for an OEM years ago personally involved with the MS licensing negotiations from a technical standpoint so thats not an uninformed moms basement remark).

If someone buys a Windows RT tablet from HP, MS gets a profitable license fee, even accounting for long term after sales costs. If instead they buy a Surface, MS gets the same profit from license but has to carry all the overhead of sales and after sales associated with the lower margin on hardware.

Apple indeed make a high gross margin on iPad thanks to sales volume and good systems management but nobody else makes those margins and likely Apple will see shrinkage as competive pressure builds (Android on tablet hasn't got far yet and Win8 only fully kicks in next year). Ultimately despite Apples brilliant handle on the supply chain, net effect is maybe a 10% advantage on BOM not enough to prevent a major OEM having a profitable business if everything else is done right.

Licencing remains a far better business proposition for MS with higher margins, lower risks. The Xbox business model is entirely different as OEM wasn't an option. If Surface is a runaway success can see more happening but no reason to make OEMs feel threatened. I don't think we need look much further than the stated desire by Microsoft to boost the Win8 tablet concept and encourage OEMs to buy into the ecosystem and raise their game.

Author seems to seen something where there is nothing.

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Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

Webkit

OpenBSM

TrustedBSD

llvm

clang

CUPS

Bonjour

I could go on.

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Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

CodePlex

Mayhem

ASP.NET Web API

Razor

ASP.NET MVC

Windows Azure SDK

Windows Phone Toolkit

Silverlight Toolkit

I, too, could go on.

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FAIL

Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

These only work on Microsoft platforms. Apple (and mostly other) open source projects work on any platform.

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Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

Two wrongs don’t give a shite.

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@Tom 38

Most of what you have here was either used by Apple or bought with a free license, like GPL'ed CUPS.

And you forgot GNU Bash (used on every Mac OSX), Darwin kernel, FreeBSD's userland and more

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

Also putting lipstick on unix and charging double for the hardware !- Steve Jobs is a genius.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

OSX is cheap and Apple hardware seems pricey but compare that to Sun workstations and it seems like a bargain.

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FAIL

@SpearChucker Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

>ASP.NET Web API

>Windows Azure SDK

>ASP.NET MVC

"You are free to use the API to my proprietary product, therefore I am an open company"

???

>Windows Phone Toolkit

>Silverlight Toolkit*

"I had the benevolence to provide developers with a tool to use to develop code for my platforms therefore I am an open company"

???

>I, too, could go on.

Please do. You might talk some sense at some point.

* then again, "we provided devs with tools for a platform we dead-ended 2 yrs later" is closer to the truth, innit.

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Linux

Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

That kind of argument made sense in 1988, not 2001 or now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Tom 38

Darwin is the base OS. The kernel is Xnu, based on Mach 3.

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Angel

Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

Re- Steve Jobs is a genius.

AnonCoward 22 Jne 2012,

is should be replaced with was, unless the Messiah has risen again.

Peace be with you.

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@Eadon

Courier was a tech demo, Surface is a product with a release date (two release dates actually), so I don't think "we can safely assume" that Surface is vapourware at all. Quite the reverse in fact.

Arguments about whether it will be success or failure or separate and different from arguments about whether it will exist at all.

I'd also suggest that Metro wasn't the reason for the failure of Win Pho 7 or Zune, generally speaking the UI has been the one thing both those products received praise for. Lateness to an already saturated market is the more likely reason for these failures. In the case of tablets, I'd argue there's still everything to play for, and the Pro version in particular could be on an awful lot of executive shopping lists this Christmas as it bridges the gap between iPad's consumption bias and a laptop's productivity focus. Just maybe, the one's who've learned from history are Microsoft...

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WTF?

...wai...what?

The courier was never announced, it was not even shown to the public: it was MS skunk works. which was leaked.

The surface is officially announced. that's something different.. completely different.

You want to bash MS, that's cool, but get your story straight. This just makes you look ... how to put this nicely... err... misinformed, yes that's it..

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Re: @Eadon

"I'd argue there's still everything to play for, and the Pro version in particular could be on an awful lot of executive shopping lists this Christmas as it bridges the gap between iPad's consumption bias and a laptop's productivity focus. Just maybe, the one's who've learned from history are Microsoft..."

Exactly - iPad is a toy most of the time - if you want to do real work, you still have to go grab your laptop - AND if a another account manager in the company I work for bitches that one of the proposal engineers has screwed up a proposal BECAUSE the idiot AM is looking at it on an iPad - well I'm sorry but consumer grade isn't about productivity. With the Intel version, M$ appears to be making a play for people like myself that can't use an iPad for work because it doesn't have the HP or the functionality I need. Success for them in that venture is yet to be determined, but 4 downvotes shows some very short-sighted people - or sad little fanboi rate-atards....

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Boffin

Re: @Eadon

Exactly, @Eadon.

One only has to recall the "LongHorn" announcement, filled with amazing features and slathered in promises.

What finally arrived was VISTA, an abject failure immediately followed by Win7, which many feel is just XP with patches and lipstick. The emails released in the Combs vs MS trial revealed that Jim Alchin's programmers came back from the OSX presentation saying that OSX was what LongHorn was supposed to be. Alchin passed that bad news up the management chain in an email and didn't remain with the company very long after that. Apparently those at the top in MS have a world view which isn't tuned to reality.

Like the "LongHorn" announcement, the Surface presentation's purpose is to freeze consumers in the glare of Microsoft's PR headlights, hoping to restrain them from buying products running iOS or Android on newly released or soon to be released hardware.

Also accompanying this announcement are a gaggle of MS "Technical Evangelists", in the James Plamondon catagory, astroturfing websites with effusive praises and promises to buy, just like they did following VISTA's release.

Surface will be running Metro, which the general public has already rejected on smartphones and by those who installed the beta release on tablets. These facts puts Microsoft's sub 5% market share in jeopardy.

Under Ashlee Vance's article is a comment by "TruthHz", who claims "These two tablets also act as a wake up call for lazy PC manufacturers." The truth that hurt's that view point is that OEMs weren't "lazy", they were chained to Microsoft and did its bidding regardless. When they and 3rd tier marketers responded to pent up demands for Linux on notebooks (200,000/week) the Combs emails showed that Microsoft threatened to raise their per Windows license fees if they continued. The "reason" given by Walmart for not continuing to supply their popular Linux powered notebook was that there were too many returns. It was later revealed that the number of returned Linux notebooks were 1/4th those of XP notebooks. Court trial documents make interesting reading. People should check them out.

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Re: @Eadon

"If your hypothesis that lateness was the reason for the failure of the Zune and Win Pho 7 then there's no hope for MS denting the tablet market either for the very same reason. "

Nonsense. The entire global installed base for tablets is about 60m to date; laptop sales still dwarf that but tablets are expected to get to about 80m a year by 2015. Microsoft are involved WAY earlier in this cycle than for MP3 players and smartphones, and unlike in Smartphones, where they faced two massive incumbent OSes, Android is a busted flush in tablets.

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Trollface

Re: @Eadon

Win7 was Vista stabilized and made efficient, also with some time for the driver/apps ecosystem to catch up. Saying it was based on XP is basically just stupid and wrong, otherwise as a trivial example, why are Vista drivers compatible with 7 (as a rule) and not XP? I normally don't get involved with drivel like this, but would it kill you to think before you started typing?

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Re: Zune not a failure

Zune was not a failure. It was succesful in the market is was intended for, the USA. However, there is no reason to continue with Zune in this day and age when every smartphone can replicate Zune's functions. Therefore Zune is now unnecessary and would only stop people from adopting a smartphone, which could a Windows Phone. iPods too are redundant. It's just a matter of time before Apple stops making them, and that I think will be quite soon.

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Re: Zune not a failure

No, because Apple, through their app store, have managed to turn the iPod into a mobile gaming machine. My kid of 7 now wants an iPod touch instead of a DS. And he'll probably get it, given that the games for it are about 1/4 the price of the other mobile gaming platforms.

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Pint

Re: Zune not a failure

@RegKees "...games for [iPod] are about 1/4 the price of the other mobile gaming platforms..."

Averaging Free and $0.99 for iPod games is about fifty cents. As compares to around $30 for DS game cartridges that have a half-life (until misplaced) of about three days. To a first approximation (ignoring the lost cartridges issue), the ratio is closer to 2% than one-quarter. Your point is many times more valid than your cautious claim. Cheers.

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Re: @Eadon

Late in exactly the same way they were late to operating systems.

I have no idea whether Surface will be a success. What I'm not prepared to do is dismiss it out of hand because of Microsoft's recent hardware history as that doesn't actually make any sense.

And as for "Android is loved..." etc. By who exactly? Android is popular for one reason, its free, so its heavily distributed. The vast majority of customers don't give a damn about Android (as tablet sales prove). Don't confuse early adopters with the mass market, who neither know nor care what's going on under the hood.

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a53
Thumb Up

Thank god someone finally utters this, I've been waiting so long long for a recognisable author to pen this point.

As he says, Apple is a closed world. But that just makes people like me feel safer. I'm not capable of writing software, nor making my own devices. I buy what I trust to be safest for my use. Apple devices in general don't suffer from the same woes that beset those of Microsoft users, no matter which machine they buy. (I looked briefly at Linux but again got lost in the technicalities).

Apple's devices suffer from attacks to software generally other than their own: usually Adobe's. But so do Microsoft users. In addition they (Microsoft users) have up till very recently, suffered from virtually every virus or worm going. This saves me a fortune in security software and on experts to resolve issues caused by the tons of malware out there. (99% designed for M.S. operating systems.) I do have a free AV programme to reduce the chances of being a conduit for less enlightened users.

So when I buy my desktop, laptop, or mobile phone then yes, it may cost me a bit more up front. But a damn sight less ongoing.

If Mr. Balmer's company finally start to get this, it may drive down Apple's prices by giving folks like me a genuine alternative.

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Big Brother

@a53

That's it, just ignore the bombers flying over your tidy little walled garden...

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Linux

The tyrant is gratuitous

You don't need the walled garden nonsense. Your false sense of security is equally attainable with Apple's computer products and they don't enforce any fascist platform restrictions. It's only the crapulence of Microsoft that makes the walled garden seem reasonable.

...and that's only if you forget all of those "I'm a Mac" ads.

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Did I miss something?

Somebody better tell the company I work for that software is dead - we sell nearly half a billion dollars worth a year. Selling software to consumers might be a little poorly, but that's only a fraction of the software market.

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Stop

Re: Did I miss something?

The point is that this is where the industry trend is.

For every trend, there are those that buck the trend. The other side of the point that Matt is making is that software companies that sell very expensive software to a few customers are really selling support and services wrapped up with sale price. That is really what we do where I work, at a proprietary software house.

Without the support, the software isn't exactly worthless, but the real value is the backup of the authoring company. So, in a sense, we are selling services disguised as software.

The real losers, in the long term, are going to be companies that sell shrink-wrapped, lower cost software (like Microsoft). These are rapidly being replaced by open source alternatives and online services which have an ongoing service fee rather than a one-off purchase price.

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Bronze badge

Re: Did I miss something?

Yes, I believe you did.

Watch over the next decade. That $500m in software sales is going to do one of two things. Either your company will change over to a service/cloud model or it will die.

Best thing we did was stop selling software and instead sell service. And I don't mean service as in we'll charge you $x/hr for programming. I mean: we handle the problem for the client. No software means no tech people ( or at least far fewer ) are involved for the clients.

Combine that with flat rate payment terms and they can focus on their core competences without worrying about backups, programmers, support staff etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Did I miss something?

"Either your company will change over to a service/cloud model or it will die."

Not so. Neither you nor I know what software their company sells. There are plenty of businesses - financial services (banks or funds) - that if you told them you were offering cloud only, would suggest where you could deposit your offering. Plenty of people that used specialised software like to keep a short leash on their data.

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