back to article Why I love Microsoft’s vapourware tablet

When I first got into this journalism lark in the late 1980s, the exploding nature of the personal computer market would force the hand of IT companies to reveal products far in advance of their intended launch date. Such was the race to give the appearance of being cutting-edge, they sometimes found themselves announcing …

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Re: Less than £1000

"Which means £999.99"

...in today's money.

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Radical

Who cares when they'll release the damn thing - it's too little too late!

Sweet article!

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I don't think you should buy a Macbook, simply because you've dedicated a whole other article to complaining that Apple's removing everything.

Go buy yourself a nice brick instead ;)

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True, I am not 100% satisfied by anything. Are you?

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"Microsoft was always a much better hardware manufacturer than software developer."

too true, the IntelliMouse Explorer 1.0 was the first expensive peripheral I had for my PC as a young lad (1999) and it was worth every penny (~£50 I think). Lasted me many years.

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Re: "Microsoft was always a much better hardware manufacturer than software developer."

Intellimouse Explorer 1.0, lasted through Diablo 2, World of Warcraft and still putting in solid service in Diablo 3.

One hell of a mouse.

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Linux

The Air runs Linux ?

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Almost

It runs a Unix

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Re: Almost

And could run a Linux, as well as Windows and the aforementioned Mac OSX...

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Macs are now basically pretty-looking PCs. So yes, they can run Linux.

And sorry Dabbs, but your picture really reminds me of the various Ernest videos from way back when. Maybe it's the lighting or camera angle.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092974/ <- see what I mean?

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Happy

People do run Linux and BSD on them.

I've seen it in the field.

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Linus T.s MBA does

as does the one from Dirk Hohndel, who provided me with some tricks and tips so mine runs Linux, too.

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Re: Almost

Surface Pro model can run any OS also - remember it's a PC in tablet form with an Intel Core i5.

(And it'll probably take the ROM cookers over at XDA about a month before they've cooked up Android for the Surface RT model).

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Are they too late?

In about 2007/8 I bought an HP tablet with swivelly keyboard, for £650. The slates were all well over £1,000 at the time. Vista wasn't too bad for touch. The handwriting recognition was very good, and you had one of the Wacom styluses (styli?) for precision. As well as a track-pad, keyboard and USB for a mouse. Windows isn't as bad as some people say on touch (especially with the stylus to fall back on). Just a bit of work to make scrollbars and buttons bigger would have worked wonders. It could have gone from geeky toy, to useful work tool for very little effort from MS and HP - although not mainstream.

If MS hadn't dropped the ball on their mobile side 5 years ago, they could have had a scaled-up version of their current Win Pho with a few more years of polish on it ages ago, or a cut-down version of Win7 for tablets.

But they didn't. And Apple built the iPad. For which I sold my Vista tablet. I miss my stylus, and sometimes even the keyboard. I even miss Flash, once or twice a month.

The problem as I see it is that the WinRT tablet is unlikely to be any better than an iPad. I like WinPho 7, I got the Lumia 710 as it's a third the cost of the cheapest iPhone, with better hardware. And I think it's a better phone but worse computer. And I'm in a minority, I've got half the downvotes I've ever had commenting on El Reg from being nice about WinPho 7. Not many people have bought it, so there's not much love for it that's going to translate into sales.

What might attract me from my iPad 3 is the Intel one. Full fat Win8 with a lovely stylus and a nice keyboard cover. But that's going to weigh half as much again, have shorter battery life and probably cost considerably more. and no lovely screen. The iPad 3 screen really is amazingly nice.

Had they brought this out 1-2 years ago then they'd have been looking good. Even had they been in time to battle the iPad 3, I might have been interested. But the ARM version is unlikely to be much better than an iPad 2, so is 18 months late to market.

Can the Intel one sell well to IT departments, where they've got group policies and proper management tools? Or have the execs and sales droids already forced them to go the iPad route? Can't see the Intel one selling well to consumers. That looks more like a nice geek-toy to me, and maybe business tool. And I've already given Apple my soul, for an iPad 3...

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Re: Are they too late?

It will sell if it works properly on a domain. Ipads are useful for us, not so much in the domain environment where real things such as printing occurs (no, dropbox is not an alternative).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are they too late?

Yup I agree with the domain bit. we're currently having to install Anyconect, Filebrowser and an Office App whose name escapes me at the moment (it's friday afternoon) to get people access to their network shares...

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Re: Are they too late?

With Asus EP121s we just had to install Windows 7 Professional, Home does not work with our 2008R2 domains.

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Re: Are they too late?

As I recall, none of the Home editions of any Microsoft OS back to XP will join an Active directory domain. That's kind of the point of why they're Home editions - you have to pay more for Pro for the domain connectivity.

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Re: Are they too late? - Battery

Why oh why is everyone assuming the battery life will be crap? Have you looked at what is possible even using current technology? We already have Ultrabooks that can last up to 8 hours (Samsung series 9). There is no reason to think the battery will fall short. Given the amount of thought Microsoft clearly has invested in the Surface, do people really think they'd go with a crappy battery life? Of course not. They'll either source the best battery cells or make damn sure that the Windows 8 OS is capable of conserving as much power as possible when it is used on such a device. Serisously folks, just think about it. Three years of military grade secret development and they just slap in a run of he mill power pack? Don't think so. I'll bet it'll have battery life parity with the iPad or Galaxy Tab.

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Meh

It exists...

Pegatron has been announced as the manufacturer. The Surface RT specs look surprisingly close to their current lineup of Tegra 3 tablets, and Asus even demo'ed their own Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets recently. Sure, the case is new and the keyboard on the Tegra model is a novelty, but the hardware in this case isn't a boardroom fantasy: it is a high-end version of current technology (perhaps a bit dated once it hits shelves) made to showcase Windows 8's two versions.

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Re: It exists...

"(perhaps a bit dated once it hits shelves) "

I thought you just said it exists?

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Re: It exists...

"Exists" =/= "On store shelves." The hardware that was showed off can be had now running either Android or Windows. The missing piece is Windows 8/RT.

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Re: It exists...

"Exists" =/= Stuff that's almost the same hardware running a different OS.

It's not in a warehouse, it's not coming off the line in China as I type this. The OS is not even finished!

There is a prototype / mock-up, running beta software. It's not the same "it" that will show up on store shelves.

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I'm intruiged by it...

... as I've held off buying an iPad as it won't replace all of the things my home laptop currently does - most, but not all.

A nice tablet running Win8 may just do that, if the price is right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm intruiged by it...

Except that if you hate Windows 8 then you'll not like this tablet. The addition of the traditional desktop is more of a backward compatibility options.

If you get the ARM version you're stuck with Windows RT as nothing else will be allowed to boot (although I'm sure someone will crack this ).

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Re: I'm intruiged by it...

@AC - I admit, I'm not sold on Win 8 for the desktop, but it IS an OS designed for a touch interface. Should be pretty OK on a Surface.

And all ARM tablets are stuck with the OS that they shipped with. iPad only runs iOS, Transformer only runs Android. (Well, without hacking anyways)

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"all ARM tablets are stuck with the OS that they shipped with."

FYI, Asus have released an official bootloader unlocker tool. You assume any risk involved, but isn't that the case with any alternative OS install?

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Re: "all ARM tablets are stuck with the OS that they shipped with."

It's one thing to have some simple locking to stop you messing around, but the secure boot in Windows 8 is a step too far.

It requires Linux vendors to buy code signing certificates to get their OS to boot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_8#Secure_boot

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Meh

Hmmmm tough call.

Okay so for sitting on the coffee table and spending most of its operational time looking up stuff to confirm arguments/facts over stuff watched on TV or to look up where we saw 'that actor' before on IMDB we have the choice of -

A Windows 8 Tablet at £600+

or

A dual core IPS Android tablet for £200.

Yeah.....

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JDX
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Re: Hmmmm tough call.

Given an iPad costs £400 where do you get £600 from?

And if you've ever used an iPAd it's far superior to a £200 android tablet.

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Re: Hmmmm tough call.

But why would I want to spend more than £200 for the usage I mentioned above?

You see a lot of people hardly use 20% of the functionality so why spend more for just looking up the odd thing now and then?

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Re: Hmmmm tough call.

£200 for MS Office?

Would you bother buying a windows pad without it?

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FAIL

What's the opposite of "synergy"?

Because MS is demonstrating exactly this. There's "Surface", an ARM-based tablet that is very similar to the iPad: Halfway affordable, light, long-running, Appstore-only apps. Just that it will run *only* Metro-only Apps for Windows 8 compiled for ARM, of which exactly none exists right now. Hard to see why it should fare better than WP7 with smartphones.

Then there's "Surface Pro", an Intel-based low-end Ultrabook with an optional awkward keyboard and a display angle you can't adjust, making a hot and short running, heavy, expensive tablet PC into a laptop you won't be able to use on your lap. It will also run every old Windows application on a 11.6" screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels, which will mean the keyboard, trackpad, digitizer and stylus aren't just nice options -- they are there for a reason. How this thing should be much more successful than the bad old Tablet PCs I don't know.

So each of these devices lacks something important that the other has in scores: Surface is a great tablet with no apps and Surface pro has all the apps and compatibility without being an usable tablet or even an Ultrabook.

MS should have named them "!Synergy".

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Re: What's the opposite of "synergy"?

May I propose: "clusterfaced".

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Megaphone

Problem is marketing

When it comes to marketing then Microsoft still has a lot to learn IMO. And that shouldn't come as a surprise either because we're talking about a company which used to dominate the market. But now we're long past the era where "Whatever Microsoft says goes".

Which I think is the main problem.

Just look at the recent announcements regarding the Windows Phone. Many people bought the device because they were under the impression that the smartphone would at least be supported for a long period, just like MS is doing with their OS environments.

Granted; Windows Mobile 6.5 set a wrong example, but taken into context all the signs around WP7 (specific hardware requirements, specific build requirements, etc) made it look as if MS itself wasn't taken their actions around WM6.5 lightly and were determined to come up with a longer lasting and more mature environment.

And now we're almost 1.5 years away and suddenly a new platform (WP8) has been announced. Nothing wrong there perse; but leaving the current userbase in the dark about the future of the current platform isn't exactly smart marketing. And insinuating that the current environment won't get any updates or enhancements apart from a visual change to make it look like the new one wasn't that smart either IMO.

Note that I'm saying insinuating, not stating. Fact is we don't know for sure what is going to happen to the current platform. But despite that many WP7 users are getting a very bad feeling about these developments, right up to the point that some are in the process of selling their WP7 device right now (not making this up, and no; I'm not talking about myself).

As such my conclusion: Microsoft needs to brush up their marketing skills, esp. when it comes to dealing with current customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Problem is marketing

You know, I never thought of that... but really it's true, when it comes to marketing they really don't have a clue (one exception, below). In the past Microsoft has always had the lever of the desktop monopoly to use in conquering adjacent markets, mixed in with a variable dose of FUD and the occasional underhanded behaviour.

The difference is that these days it's very easy for the consumer to go somewhere else - online services and free mobiles on contract.

Although Xbox has not made them money, that is the one area where the "bad old Microsoft" tricks have not been pulled and the product has been sold against established competitors in a fair fight. Let's hope there will be more of that from MS, and less of the bad old ways.

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Angel

Re: Problem is marketing

Thanks for speakling on behalf of all us WP7 users. I must be the only one who thinks it's been too long for WP8 announcement and they should be much farther down the road with it. It's been 1.5 years and we're only now getting a sneak peak!! WTF!

What I can't get my head around is why Microsoft are such bastards that they are the only company to lock users of downlevel clients out of all the juicy new features because of hardware restrictions.

Wait, what... http://cdn.macrumors.com/article-new/2012/06/ios6-feature-chart.png ... oh.

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@ac

"In the past Microsoft has always had the lever of the desktop monopoly to use in conquering adjacent markets"

That's the only sort of marketing Microsoft know. The Metro/Win8 mess is Microsoft disrupting their desktop business to serve the needs of marketing mobile,tablet and embedded devices. Instead of building new product and new marketing they simply pervert the existing monopoly so it can carry on as normal as a coercive marketing tool. It seems there's no limit to how much they'll screw over desktop users along the way.

BTW XBox had one major value to PC users: it forced game writers to use DX9. That largely defused their Vista/Win7 strategy of hooking gamers into updates by not upgrading XP beyond DX9. There are only a handful of games that won't run on XP, giving little pressure to upgrade for most gamers.

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Re: Problem is marketing (@fiddley)

Every iOS device released so far has enjoyed at least one new major OS release. Every device manufactured in the last two years is compatible with its 6.

WP7 phones continue to be manufactured now, but not one of them will ever receive the major OS update expected this year.

Are you actually incapable of seeing why the latter deal is significantly worse than the former?

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Re: Problem is marketing (@fiddley)

Which is basically because switching from the WinCE kernel to the full blown Windows kernel obviously meant that WP8 wouldn't run too well. So a multicore CPU is needed.

I feel sorry for the Lumia 900 users who just bought a phone only to find out their phone can't run WP8.

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Re: Problem is marketing (@fiddley)

But apple leave out updates that are hardware specific. WP 7 users will get 7.8, updates from 8 that aren't hardware specific. Don't be sayin' that they're only getting a new start screen. We don't really know the full feature list yet, do we?

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Re: Problem is marketing (@fiddley)

"Every device manufactured in the last two years is compatible with its 6"

Except Siri is very picky isn't she? OS updates are one thing, but you aren't getting all the features of the new OS, which kinda defeats the purpose...

The MS/Lumia situation is sucky I agree, but iOS is no utopia. Sure you can say that's based on hardware restrictions, but isn't that the WP7 situation too?

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Megaphone

Pre-emptive strike

The announcement was THIS week because Google I/O is NEXT week, where they're expected to announce their own Android tablet ("Google Nexus 7"?) which obviously couldn't go unanswered by The Beast of Redmond, even if the answer was "We'll get back to you on that".

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Re: Pre-emptive strike

I think you're right but surely MS must realise that pre-emotive striking does not work in public relations. People remember the last thing they hear, not the first. By announcing early to beat Google, Microsoft is effectively positioning Surface as the first performer at Eurovision.

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Re: Pre-emptive strike

@Alistair: it doesn't work if your new shiny won't arrive in the same year as the competition, no-one waits more than a few weeks to widen their choice of new toy. So of course Microsoft had to fall back on making theirs so incredibly shiny it might buy a few months. So shiny punters won't notice the deception, the good one is too expensive, the cheap one can't do the things they're talking up.

What a pity the Nexus tablets are already on the container ships, ready for launch next week ;)

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Re: Pre-emptive strike

The announcement might have been this week because many people's take on Win8 preview was "On what hardware does this touch-happy Metro + Classic desktop mash up make any sense?" and MS felt they had to try and answer the question.

Is my theory.

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Anonymous Coward

Here's how I'll love Microsoft's vapourware tablet

Microsoft will give me one free of charge as they did with my windows phone.

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By going down the RT / 8 route they've shot themselves in the foot. They are hoping (and praying) that Developers will simply port their older applications to some form of Metro application, so they can eventually drop the Desktop side of things altogether, which is just crazy and won't happen in a million years. The RT / 8 thing will just confuse the public who may have games or other bits of software that they would rather keep using, which they will eventually find out to their annoyance they can't run on that Windows RT tablet.

I think Metro has some really good features and ideas, but after using the release preview since it came out it still feels like the Desktop aspect has just been tacked on as an afterthought. Apple have the right approach in their strategy. They are keeping iOS and OS X as two separate entities, but in the background with each release of OS X more iOS look and feel is creeping in there, but with the trackpad and it's gestures if Apple turned around tomorrow and said you can now use your iOS apps on OS X there wouldn't be much of a issue in achieving it due to the way they've built the two OSes to have the same core, but kept the GUI totally seperate - one for touch - one for keyboard and mouse

This was the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to have Microsoft Metro on Phones and Tablets and continued with a Desktop only version of Windows 8. Instead they've just dumped Metro UI on top of Windows 7 and it is awful. I've still got the Release Preview on a netbook and its annoying because it feels like it was written entirely for a tablet and the Desktop is an afterthought.

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Trollface

You've lost a bit of weight since 2002

And maybe a little hair too.

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