back to article Microsoft: Someone gave us shot in the ARM by swallowing Surface tabs

Microsoft has produced the name of a corporate customer in a fresh attempt to convince us Windows 8 is being adopted by businesses. Unfortunately, and in a sign of just how desperate things have really become, that customer is ARM - one of Microsoft's co-conspirators on Windows RT and Surface RT. The threadbare "news" comes …

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Joke

Imagine if the Microsoft Welsh Male Voice Choir and the ARM Barbershop Quartet got together and recorded a single together - and then the MS boys made the ARM chaps go down the shops to buy a few thousand copies of it in a vain attempt to bump it up the "Alternative" music charts!

This is exactly what they're doing here!

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The problem with the surface is/was price mostly - the RT version should have been £399 WITH the type cover etc. In fact, had it been I would have bought one. Because it wasn't, I actually spent more and bought the Ideapad Yoga as it had other benefits too, and I'm very happy with it.

Win RT is absolutely fine (I found - like I do normally) that web browsing is absolutely fine once you bin off ads which thanks to being overly bloated and mostly seem to be served from very slow servers relatively speaking just slow everything down.

I've not massively yearned for other apps yet, pretty much the stuff I most use is all available in the various metro/tifkam/start screen apps or whatever they're called. I don't expect it to replace a laptop, but the incredibly good battery life, neat sync with my full fat all in one win 8 machine etc actually works really well.

MS screwed up on pricing big time. Should have done a cut price introduction to get it out there, made it available widely (wtf were they thinking MS site only... madness....) and included the keyboard since it was one of the big advantages of it over icraps etc - it's not an advantage if you have to buy it distinctly (cause y'know you could for the icrap too)

Long/short anyhow - Surface not a bad device, WinRT not bad for it's purpose. But cost/compromises stupid. And easily fixed before launch. Stupid MS again. They just keep shooting themselves.

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"WinRT not bad for it's purpose"

But that is not for 'serious business', as in those with years of Office VB lock-in that has requires code not been ported to the gimped version of Office that ships with the WinRT slabs, which is a reason why they have to stick with Office in the first place.

For other users, yes if it was significantly cheaper than the equivalent iPad/Android set-up it may be quite attractive. But it is not, and unless they are in to loss-leading hardware in a BIG way, unlikely to become so.

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"But that is not for 'serious business'"

Yet, "serious business" use iPad all the time. WIndows RT blows away the iPad for serious business. You make a terrible point.

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@Narg

You seem to have misunderstood what I said.

You also seem to have confused 'serious business' as I defined it (those business-critical stuff cobbled together over the years with Office macros and VB scripting - yuch! - and unusual x86-only CAD software, etc) where you need full x86 compatibility and really a decent keyboard as well, with managers who just want a shiny presentation device.

If you want shiny, ease of use and lots of programs, the iPad has a big advantage over WinRT. Even price until recently (perhaps, depends on how MS discount)!

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No, you do

"You make a terrible point." No, you do.

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Two problems: Price and walled garden

"The problem with the surface is/was price mostly - the RT version should have been £399 WITH the type cover etc. In fact, had it been I would have bought one. Because it wasn't, I actually spent more and bought the Ideapad Yoga as it had other benefits too, and I'm very happy with it."

Ouch.

For me ~£200 would be the price point where it might be interesting. Given how locked down it is, probably would need to knock another £50 at least off the price.

Now, if the app side would be bit more open and it would be easy to get/port stuff like ssh, simh on it....

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Anonymous Coward

Need an OS with that box, Mr Customer?

"ARM is probably one of the few customers on the planet to actually have more apps for ARM than for x86."

Possibly true. But all except two of the apps run in environments other than Windows, environments that make sense for ARM but no sense for Windows. There's more to life in the ARM world than Windows, Office and Outlook. There's even more than just Linux.

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Re: Need an OS with that box, Mr Customer?

Do you honestly think ARM doesn't have the ability to unlock the boot loader? I'd wager their RT tablets are dual boot units by now.

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ARM should be able to come up with a way to run x86 code reasonably well and Microsoft should let them.

(And unlock building your own desktop stuff without messing around. Putty is something I need on something like this).

If only to prove their stuff is as good as anything else which I don't think it is. It is marketed as being really good but it has its own issues due to its legacy. (That MIPS seems to be relatively free from).

Intel can translate arm -> x86

DEC managed to translate x86 -> alpha

Transistive managed to translate anything to anything. (Then IBM realised they were too good to be allowed to continue.).

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Linux

So you want something like what http://eltechs.com/ is doing (except they are doing it for ARM servers and almost certainly are dealing with Linux, not Windows). i am sure there are others, that was just one of the first Google turned up.

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Already done

Qemu emulates several different architectures, and can emulate x86 and AMD64 on ARM. Determined people have even got Qemu and WINE working together, so you can run (well walk) x86 Windows code on ARM. I have no idea if Qemu runs on Windows RT. If it doesn't, just wipe off Windows RT, install Linux and you can run your legacy x86 code on Surface RT...

Oops - someone restricted the boot loader to make installing Linux difficult, and made the price so hight that no-one bothered to defeat the boot loader. If anyone can do that cost effectively, I would expect it is ARM. Perhaps Microsoft will regret publicising this deal.

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The problem is that such an instruction set emulation would make the machine both slow and power hungry when running x86 stuff, and that removes the advantage that ARM currently has over x86 devices (might be OS issue then just CPU of course).

If you must have a Windows tablet, just get the x86 one and forget WinRT.

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"ARM should be able to come up with a way to run x86 code reasonably well"

You already can run x86 code on an ARM with the x86 emulator which has been around in various forms since 1987 with the original PCEm.

"and Microsoft should let them."

How could they not let them, they don't have the power to either let or prevent anybody emulating an x86 processor.

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The EDA stuff (Which actually is used producing the Verilog / VHDL won't be on ARM)

And the people developing Realview (Compiler) will be developing it on x86.

Those are the most significant things they do.

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Anonymous Coward

Dumb Assholes

M$ still thinks people are stupid. (Just because they are stupid enough to buy Ithings) they thought they are in the same league and People will buy in droves ! WIthout the Ecosystem and applications and the keyboards to use them

And the beancounters had other ideas on prices and the markteting monkeys saw Fields of bananas, ready to be picked at will. Soooooo last century thinking.

They didnt even learn from HP slates, Blackberry Plaything who tried to emulate Apple pricing for non-Apple products. Seriously, what are they thinking? Probably, they have their collective brains between their legs.

In this internet age, people are more savvy and knowledgeable to "just fall for M$ hype".

And the hideous adverts. Looks like they,re advertising condoms aimed at youngsters who will jump and dance to anything the guys come up with.

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Anonymous Coward

Head......hurting...... cant.....comprehend......Balmers........thinking........on......MicroSoft.........

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We made lots of money in the past with a monopoly on desktop OS and Office.

So if we don't change we will continue to make lots of money with a monopoly on desktop OS and Office.

After all, the same logic worked for DEC, Tandem, SGI, IBM ....

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Anonymous Coward

Surface RT - not for business

Interesting - I had heard "from well placed sources within Microsoft" that any Microsoft sales person who brought a Surface RT device into a corporate account would lose their job. Guess that is no longer the case and they are now ready to sell to anyone who will buy.

Anonymous for obvious reasons

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surface RT - not for business

" they are now ready to sell to anyone who will buy."

Someone somewhere knows how many committed orders were in the manufacturing contract.

MS can either bury them and get nothing for them, or sell a few at silly prices and get a bit for them.

Normally selling at silly prices is a bad idea because it eats into the potential sales of some other more saleable (more profitable) product.

In this case they can't sell many of them anywhere on the open market, either in x86 form or ARM form.

I wonder how much ARM were paid to take them. I guess we'll never know.

Marvellous.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surface RT - not for business

I can assure you, from a position of knowledge, that the rumour you heard was bull.

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Big Brother

A little thing stood out ,concept dropping, sort of like name dropping

"to work more efficiently with features such as live tiles and notifications while being virtually always on and always connected."

That "always on and always connected" part is what stood out. They didn't need to add that to the statement.

That makes it looks to me like a propaganda statement to condition the public to accept and to justify an OS that will deactivate if not "always on and always connected" as an "eventuality". Now they wouldn't try to do that would they? Well, XBox One showed they would and forcefully so. XBox One would still have it's 24hr deactivation if not for Sony coming out with their alternative when they did. I believe this is ongoing work to get that paradigm started and I'm not convinced they have given up on it just because they got push back once.

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Anonymous Coward

I would only buy an RT or ARM based tablet if it could run traditional executables. I understand that this was available in beta editions but was scrapped due to mediocre performance and high battery drain. I simply dont care, there are plenty of legacy programs that will almost certainly not be ported and don't need high end performance that I still use regularly. I see this as the only real killer feature they could offer to displace android and apple.

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FAIL

Legacy apps

Windows tablets have been around for years, and always had the ability to run legacy x86 apps... They never sold well, because those legacy apps were designed for use with a keyboard and mouse and are generally difficult if not completely unusable on a tablet based interface.

Apple succeeded because they made a tablet which ran apps specifically designed for use with touchscreen input. And they were also very smart to differentiate ipad from their keyboard/mouse targeted systems.

Microsoft want to tie the whole thing together, so they are trying to sell tablets by associating them to a product that while well known, carries a lot of negative baggage.

People expect a product marketed as being windows, to:

run legacy apps (windows rt does not, and such apps run poorly on x86 tablets)

crash

be malware prone

Or to put it another way, there is no reason why any android device couldn't run traditional unix applications, as the vast majority can be easily recompiled to run on an ARM cpu. Indeed most already have been, and there are a number of ARM based devices which do use traditional input peripherals and which do run traditional applications.

So despite how easy it is, there is virtually no interest in running traditional apps on touchscreen devices, and far more interest in creating new touch friendly interfaces for such programs.

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Anonymous Coward

How it came to be

MS calls ARM

MS: Want to buy some Surface RT?

ARM: (After laughing for several minutes) That's the best joke I heard today!

MS: No Seriously, we think you should buy a bunch

ARM: What makes you think we want that junk?

MS : Sure hate to send out that press announcement saying we are dropping ARM and going Intel only You can have them real cheap

ARM: Sure, we take them

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Re: How it came to be

More like:

MS calls ARM

MS: Want to buy some Surface RT?

ARM: (After laughing for several minutes) That's the best joke I heard today!

MS: No Seriously, we think you should buy a bunch

ARM: What makes you think we want that junk?

MS : Sure hate to send out that press announcement saying we are dropping ARM and going Intel only You can have them real cheap

ARM: But people know you aren't serious about ARM anyway - you're just doing it to try to stop iOS and Android becoming entrenched in the workplace.

MS: Go, on... we'll give you 500 for $1 each!

ARM: Well we do need some new door-stops... Its a deal!

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x86 translation tech exists

"ARM should be able to come up with a way to run x86 code reasonably well and Microsoft should let them."

Solutions already exist to run x86 code well enough on ARM. Run Linux on ARM, and you can install x86 compatibility libs an run Linux for x86 apps as well -- this is using qemu as far as I know. I don't think this is highly optimized, but from what I've heard it's fast enough and good enough to run Skype, and most other Llinux apps are ARM native. LLVM would allow for higher performance (it supports various JIT optimizations and so on), and several companies specialize in high performance on the fly binary translation. Microsoft in fact bought Connectix (who made VirtualPC) so they even OWN a company that specializes in this! When Microsoft first announced WIndows RT, people just assumed an x86->ARM translation solution would be included, until Microsoft said it wasn't.

Hopefully if all these tablets are being forced upon ARM (as opposed to ARM actually wanting them..), they can wipe WinRT on them, put something useful on them, and sell them back off to the public. *shrug*

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Re: The author is a wanker

"It's better than the iPad in every way but one and that's playing pointless games."

...and right there is exactly why Win8 and Win8 devices are slow sellers. Most of the public *want to play pointless games* and most of the corporations are perfectly aware they don't need new PC's, Win8 or overpriced and/or over powered tablets to get work done.

Microsoft still think they can tell punters what they want but Apple owns all the ones willing to be led, Android the ones that hate being led and the remainder just want cheap and plenty of games to go with their media playback and handheld browsing. Microsoft is fighting for a market that's already lost to them and ignoring the uncommitted buyers by refusing to compete on value.

The vultures resident Microsoft fan, Orlowski, understands the problem and persistently tries to paint Android as 'landfill', cheap and nasty because MS don't compete with cheap. But no-ones listening, they're too busy playing games on their cheap tablets ;)

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Re: The author is a wanker

I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF JETPACK JOYRIDE

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No surprises

It is true that businesses are upgrading to Windows 7 from XP, so there's no way they are going to do another upgrade right away to Windows 8, granted the pain would not be as great. But the cost would be scary enough.

As far as PC sales, Windows sales is tied to PC sales so the fact that has dropped is no surprise. Unfortunately, individuals and organizations are forced to upgrade Windows WITH new hardware purchases because new hardware has been needed to run the bloated Windows OS. If other operating systems were used, like GNU/Linux, the hardware upgrade prices would be much smaller. Unfortunately many would rather pay cash and stay on the same software, than try to migrate to something that has a lower TCO.

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Facepalm

The Great Unified System - not

MS managed to mess this up in so many different ways that it almost stops being funny:

- They figured that the same, familiar, operating system on different devices would be attractive to consumers and then they disfigured their familiar OS so nobody recognized it anymore.

- They saw a big future for tablets and then they designed a device with a keyboard as big differentiator.

- They realized that simple, cheap devices will outnumber general purpose computers in the future, and they designed a simple device that is twice as expensive as compared to cheap computers / notebooks.

- They realized that people are loyal to their familiar Office Suite, so they made it unfamiliar with a completely redesigned menu (sorry, ribbon) system and they created different versions for their RT pad that don't have all the functionality.

- They saw that 'ecosystems' are important and that they have a great windows ecosystem running -- and they locked out the RT pads from the ecosystem by creating a new online store, locking out the million useful win programs out there.

I am sure there is more: Think about anything that would motivate you to buy a tablet and you'll probably realize that the RT does not offer it at a competitive price. Think about anything you like about windows and then consider whether you'd have that on the RT-Surface.

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Re: The Great Unified System - not

- They realized that simple, cheap devices will outnumber general purpose computers in the future, and they designed a simple device that is twice as expensive as compared to cheap computers / notebooks.

Indeed, but the fun part is: those cheap devices augment people's computer inventory, they don't replace it! Marketing, as usual, got it wrong. They thought, for obvious reasons, that everyone would throw away desktops / laptops, and embrace tablets; I say obviously, because Marketing must never have done any actual content creation (I mean serious content creation) on a tablet, or they'd know that it simply wasn't going to fly.

Yes, people like tablets...for games, browsing, and reading books. Trying to use Visual Studio or Adobe PhotoShop or a CAD program on it would be death; trying to write a term paper on it would probably make your finger tips hurt.

As for Windows 8...well, the Surface probably saved 8 from being a complete train wreck, but 8.1 still has some work to do.

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Angel

They must be pretty desperate . . .

if they went with the old, "let's hope everybody has a short memory" trick.

But are they desperate enough to bury the egotrippen and do some rational thinking. Are they still capable of rational thought? They need that to get out of the nice mess they've gotten themselves into.

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Lies, damn lies and...

PR announcements.

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I "work more efficiently" when I use all ten fingers to type, not prod and poke with one finger like a five year old doing finger painting.

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So much negativity and none sense

I never has read so much negativity in an article. The author forgets that when the iPad was released there were only few Apps for iPad. The same thing is happening with Windows RT. I have been using a Surface RT for almost a year already and I never have noticed any lack of Software. Whenever I can't do something there I use remote desktop to connect to my desktop and I do it there.

Surface RT comes with a full version of Office and a full version of IE and this last point gives you access to 99.99% of all websites in the web. Using an iPad you may get access to 70% or less and you are forced to use Apps to access the rest, like Facebook and Twitter. So the iPad need a lot more Apps to go around it's shortcomings. Surface does not need that.

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Re: So much negativity and none sense

"a full version of Office" - but can't run any legacy VB code, so not full after all, and initially no Outlook which is often a business must-have (fixed yet?).

"a full version of IE" - you say that likes its some advantage, why? Can't you get other web browsers for WinRT that are not hobbled by TIFKAM that MS has not applied to IE? Oh, sorry, forgot about that down side as well...

"the iPad need a lot more Apps to go around it's shortcomings" - really, most iPad user I know (not got one myself) found most things they wanted were free and they had plenty of choice. Hardly a downside, except maybe for Office, but alas - not even a full version on WinRT.

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Joke

This just in...

ARM announces a new "ReSurface" tablet running Android operating system available in limited quantities.

Get 'em while they're hot..

Of course, maybe this ISN'T a joke after all. You never know!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This just in...

even better, they're shipping with a Citrix Receiver client installed, so you can run full-blown x86 apps on your server farm.

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.Net was the answe. Too late now...

If MS had developed their main applications (office etc) with .Net, as they expect everyone else to, then they could already be running all of the main apps, Office, Visual Studio et al un-changed on a WinRT box, by just providing the CLR for WinRT.

But they didn't.

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Re: .Net was the answe. Too late now...

The problem for Office is it was already developed and in use, along with the VB interpreter, long before .net came along. It has been rumoured that the stuff they did not port for Office, specifically the legacy VB stuff, was due to a lot of it being unintelligible code written in x86 assembly and thus going to be a major PITA to port and debug for other non-x86 platforms.

For Visual Srudio the problem would not be the GUI but things like the JIT debugger that has to hook in to the OS at a really low level to trace through code, etc. That is the sort of thing you really have to write for the native CPU in C and/or assembler, thus it becomes a major project for each target CPU to implement.

For most other software, had they supported win32 API and old-style GUI then compiling it for ARM should have been a fairly painless experience. But they did not, so unless vendors used .Net and are willing to re-do the GUI in TIFKAM they can't be ported.

Given the small market share of WinRT compared to x86 laptops, etc, where you can get a traditional desktop (even if the damn thing keeps jumping to metro for no obvious reason) you can see why the MS store is a touch bare still. Oh yes, and MS wanting a cut for the pleasure of allowing your customer to install it on WinRT (MS store-only) compared to x86 Win8 (any way you please).

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Regarding Win8/PC sales...

...the only thing wrong with Win8 is that Win7 is perfectly good enough, thank-you-very-much.

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Linux

So, when is Windows 9 expected to debut?

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Dogfood that only a dog could eat

So what this article is saying is that ARM employees are being made to use ARM based computers, despite the fact that they run Windows and therefore are crap.

This is no different than the late 1990's and early 2000's, when the only people using Sun desktops were those working at Sun. And we know how transformative that was to the market.

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FAIL

Re: Dogfood that only a dog could eat

"This is no different than the late 1990's and early 2000's, when the only people using Sun desktops were those working at Sun. And we know how transformative that was to the market."

Bzzt. I certainly had a SS10 desktop (running SunOS 4.1.3 as the then new fangled Solaris 2 at the time was rather dire) in late 1990s and I definitely was not working at Sun.

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Meh

Giving them away for good PR seems one route to lower stocks

http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/13/surface-rt-giveaway-iste/

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