Not only Surface RT
The exact same analysis could be applied to Windows 8.
Microsoft has never been particularly good technically, the one thing they used to be brilliant at was marketing. Now it seems that even that skill is deserting them.
Business strategy at Sun Microsystems became a joke long before even the prospect of a mercy acquisition by Oracle was in the air. If I’d heard one Sun executive try to convince me that hardware-dominated Sun was going to become a successful software and services player, I’d heard them all say it. Tired of hearing the same …
The exact same analysis could be applied to Windows 8.
Microsoft has never been particularly good technically, the one thing they used to be brilliant at was marketing. Now it seems that even that skill is deserting them.
Courier seemed to be quite promising. Alas, designers "forgot" to include Outlook.
Maybe Courier is now haunting in the halls of Redmond?
I would have loved to see Courier ship.
Windows CE didn't bode well, but it's possible if you squint hard to imagine Courier could have created a new business slablet market and taken a chunk out of future iPad sales.
Instead - Surface RT, which is pretty much just Windows Raspberry Pi without the good OS.
The minima and maxima of Windows demand is well established. Interfaces may be changed. The thought was, I guess, that oodles of people get Win8 via work or because their current pcs needs replacement, love it, and switch to a Win8 mobile device. It would seem to be a 48 month plan to me.
The RT write down is, at this time, a discount to clear inventory and get the devices into the hands of people so that developers see an opportunity for porting. I don't think we've seen any hint that there will not be an RT 2 this fall. And frankly, looking at the financials, Microsoft can afford the over-estimation of demand for the first-generation. Will they have a smaller run for version 2 and take a reduction in margin? There has to be a hardware upgrade, otherwise the price will have to match the discounted price of version 1.
Still, the big picture may not be as wacky as Mr. Clarke posits. As to the reorganization, one has to figure that it had a 24 month gestation, at least, and has its roots in a critique of the company 2007-2011.
It could also be a temporary thing to find Ballmer's successor, but to do so in a context where execution in a team structure is the sole criteria, as divisional revenues are sublimated.
All that said, a case may be made that Microsoft doesn't understand the iPad's success. It isn't a PC-replacer, it is the thing that people buy instead of a PC because a PC is too much trouble for what they want to do with it. The os is a red-herring. So marketing an ARM device that runs Windows misses the point, if people wanted Windows on a tablet, they would not have bought an iPad.
The Surface Pro, though, is the expensive Windows pc in tablet form, and as such is unlikely to appeal to iPad customers and ends up looking like an expensive, but more portable, alternative to a Windows laptop. It hurts Microsoft's partners more than Apple. More importantly, it means Microsoft and its partners are grappling over getting the profits from a diminishing customer base, those who are buying PCs.
But never mind it's not all bad news - at least soon Chrome OS users will be able to natively edit Word and Excel docs. Love to see the furniture repair bill in Seattle when that comes to the Chrome browser.
Extoring the Android manufacturers seemed such a great idea at the time. Arrogant Microsoft needs no friends, you see. They won't ever fall on hard times, and even if they did they can just bully their way back out. Can't they? Well, if not, here's some sound advice for them.
I would have gladly paid top dollar for a Courier. This is from somebody who isn't enthralled by the latest fad for tablets. Whilst I realise that technology demos don't often make the transition into reality fully intact (or, more often, bearing any resemblance to their former selves,) what Microsoft appeared to be showing the world was a content creation device. The only other manufacturer who seems to have even vaguely attempted this is Samsung with their Galaxy Note and even that is just a bog standard Android tablet with a Wacom tablet bolted on. Microsoft could have had the market all to themselves, legitimately.
True. In fact marketing has always been the only thing they've been good at.
I won't be sorry to see them go.
Windows 8 isn't that bad assuming you run it on a touch capable device. The problem is most existing Windows owners have a mouse and keyboard and a large screen and the metro experience is perfunctory. Perhaps 8.1 will fix the worst grievances. Otherwise from a desktop experience Windows 8 is stable and fast.
In some ways I think Microsoft saw Windows 8 as another Vista - an opportunity to introduce radical changes knowing they'd have another iteration to refine the experience before enterprise businesses started complaining. I think Windows 9 will be better received. The hardware will have caught up and the metro made desktop friendly.
No, that analysis applies to ALL Microsoft products in the past 12 months.
Crappy products at crappy prices.
<quote> It isn't a PC-replacer, it is the thing that people buy instead of a PC because a PC is too much trouble for what they want to do with it</quote>
I think that hits the nail on the head. Microsoft big Achilles heel has always been that they cannot perceive a world without a PC, either as your primary workstation or the way you access content.
As the world moves to a more cloud based model, using lower power tablets to access them, Microsoft have been reduced to hawking Office compatibility as a must have to a world that no longer cares. Google and Apple get the new order, MS doesn't
I've been using Windows 8 for a few months on my existing desktop and laptop computers (neither touch capable). I now like it, but after much tweakery.
On a standard install, when you try to open a PDF it opens in some Metr fullscreen app. No obvious way to get back to where I'd opened it from! I get the same with music or video files.
So what I see is that Microsoft have taken a mature, full featured operating system, very capable of multitasking, and given it a presentation layer that emulates a reduced capability, single tasking, device operating system. WTF?!!
No-one wants <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/19/us-microsoft-research-idUSBRE96I0MO20130719">their shares.</a>
lol @ "Sun Microsysetms"
Had you been using a Surface RT / Office then it would have corrected that for you...
"Crappy products at crappy prices."
Crappy prices maybe, But Microsoft have by far the best phone, tablet and desktop OSs - well ahead of the curve compared to the competition, and the Surface RR devices are decent - and the Surface Pro is better than pretty much any other tablet....
You prefer to apply some logic and instead resort to wishful thinking? What you think the Courier could do, that current tablets can't? Why you think Microsoft would not insist on putting Windows and all their software bloat there?
Truth is, nobody *wants* Windows. People do not *want* iOS or Android either. However, for many, Windows brings bad memories (crashes, malware, poor performance, frustration), while iOS and Android at least bring either satisfaction or hope. Doesn't matter which is "better".
Microsoft could have been successful with Surface RT, if they:
- refrained from calling the OS "Windows"
- priced it adequately as an first attempt and an mass market product
- never, ever try to claim they compete with the iPad (hint: Apple never claimed they compete with anything Microsoft with the iPod, iPhone and iPad).
Further, the primary reason for Microsoft's failure is their assumption that they deserve to win.
Yes. It is not that bad, if you don't pretend it is "Windows", because it clearly is not. The user interface is designed in such a way as to *prevent* windows being used.
But, it is too late now. Microsoft should have used the occasion with a new runtime (WinRT) and a new interface (Metro) to let the Windows legacy go.
Any other... skateboard?
Courier could have been a game changer. At the time it was announced, the iPad still had to earn its place as the reference tablet where every slate is compared to. Android tablets were practically non-existent.
Microsoft could have defined a new category of devices separate from single-screen tablets.
They lost all that because it wouldn't sell Office.
Hmm, their mobile OS is continuing to gain market share and compelling hardware. And lots of people do seem interested in the Pro tablet, in the business world anyway - which is quite a big market.
> lots of people do seem interested in the Pro tablet, in the business world
The incompetent IT managers who will buy a Microsoft tab instead of an Android are the same people who leased a sys/360 instead of a Univac 1108. They knew they were out of their league in their job, and figured "nobody gets fired for choosing IBM. Plus what the hell, it;'s not MY money."
Microsoft, who you work for, is going exactly down the same road as IBM, for the same reason: corporate arrogance. "You have to buy our $1,000 IBM modems instead of $100 ones from Ingram because otherwise we won't repair your IBM mainframe."
Ballmer could have said that.
Not sure what the purpose of this article is. Ego boosting journalism? Yet Another Microsoft Bashing?
The flop of the Surface RT - btw in many ways a very good product - has been very well documented already. Now we even publicly know how much the Misjudgment cost Microsoft. Do you really think the program manager will have free reins to do whatever s/he wants? Do you think s/he'll have a big bonus? We already see signs that things are changing in depth such as availability of key software & services on other dominant platforms from the competition. Microsoft needs to try to tackle the tablet market. Did it do a crappy job, notably with launch, distribution & marketing? Absolutely. Will it improve? Almost certainly.
The flop of the Surface RT - btw in many ways a very good product
The De Haviland Comet 4 was in many ways a very good aircraft. They'd solved the issues with the Comet 1 and 2. Did it sell very many? Nope and certainly mot when compared to the Bowing 707. The 'Comet' brand was terminally tarnished by what went before.
The 'Surface RT' brand is in many ways a laughing stock now. Like the Zune, not a fundamentally bad product in itself but IMHO Not the right product for the market as it now stands.
MS Marketing have lost a whole lot of credibility in recent years and it seems that they have not leaned any lessons from disasters such as the 'Kin'.
It could be that 'Surface' turns out to be MS's Titanic product. The Titanic was not a bad ship. If one less compartment had been holed it probably would never have sank. Itanium/Itanic is not a bad product but it is not one that is currently needed by the market. Get the gist?
Although using Gnome and Balmer in the same sentence is very difficult. But put Balmer in a cap and costume, and leave him out in the yard - your yard, please.
Thank you for that mental image. I think it will be with me forever. It's to hilarious to forget.
Only a garden gnome would design a UI that looks like the side of the Partridge Family tour bus.
Microsoft has been dabbling with tablets for a very long time. The tablet was always BillG's platform of choice and he never missed the opportunity to wave around a tablet at COMDEX.
Microsoft had at least 4 goes at tablets - dating back into the 1990s - before the current one and all those flopped.
Where MS failed this time was the arrogance no not learning from the past and thinking that the market is now ready for tablets and that was all that was holding back tablet sales.
What they fail to understand is that the market might be keen on tablets, but not the way MS do them.
Phase four: The Red Mound - get rid!
Microsoft made a mess of distribution and sales of the RT. The product itself is not a bad device however I can buy an iPad in my local Tesco to get a surface RT is hard work.
The one great strength of Microsoft throughout the years is persistence. The xBox being the last hardware example, initial this lost massive amounts of money for Microsoft, now look its the star performer.
They need more of the same attitude with the RT; improve it, market it and stick with it. It will come good.
Back in the day, Microsoft was master of the long game, and a debacle like RT would have been shrugged off easily. Fast forward to now, and the markets seem far less forgiving, and far more about the quick buck than creating sustainable business. Like Dell, Microsoft might rue the day it went public!
Perhaps cost more than anything.. maybe distribution was an issue overseas but it was pretty easy to get one in the U.S. and people still didn't want one.
I saw an RT for the first time back in March. One of my friends is an MS employee and got one free from the company(he also has a Surface Pro, I think also free from the company).
He thought it was *OK*, it did the job. I asked him if he would of paid for it on his own -- he said no. Or maybe he said "probably not". In any case that told me quite a bit there. Tablets he did buy on his own were old Dell Android Streak tablets, he had a couple of those at home. Nothing special, nothing fancy.
I'm a WebOS user still and knew even before the Touchpad came out that it was setup for failure. The somewhat famous quote from the HP guy saying they wouldn't release something if it wasn't perfect. The hype build up was huge. I didn't believe the hype, though I still bought one the day it was released because I believed in the platform and the investment $$ HP could put behind it, Best buy did refund me the difference when the fire sale came). HP set the expectations so high there was just no way they could meet them. My expectations were it would fall flat, and HP would double down again and keep plugging along - much as Microsoft had done over the past decade with various Windows mobiles, windows phones etc...obviously that didn't happen!
Microsoft did the same with the RT. There was no plan B. Failure just wasn't going to happen. I don't know how you can get people, whether it is at HP or MS (hey- maybe it's the same folks?!?!) that can believe that sort of thing, it doesn't make sense to me. MS had a decade of (relative to Android/Apple) failed tablets, they were releasing a crippled device, and they had the arrogance/ignorance to believe it was going to be a smashing success out of the gate?
I suppose the only thing worse than believing that was RIM, I mean Blackberry saying tablets are a fad and are going away soon.
But unlike Blackberry, whom threw in the towel on tablets, MS isn't going to give up. I give them credit for that. People say they missed the mobile boat.. many people(non tech folks anyway) forget they were there doing mobile more than a decade ago with Windows CE and the other software packages they had(Pocket PC etc, they obviously have had a strong presence in car navigation systems for a long time as well. ). They didn't catch the wave of the latest generations of devices like Apple and Android.. but they have been doing mobile for a LONG time, just not well.
The whole story mirrors that of the Zune pretty well now that I think about it. Microsoft gets upset that it's partners aren't able to effectively compete with Apple, and so decides they know what consumers want and make a device themselves -- only to have it flop just as bad as their partners' devices. This time their partners learned and most (all?) decided to pass on RT.
It is sad to see for sure to have only two platforms dominating. I could like Android more if there wasn't so much stuff tied to google services around it. I don't trust them. But still may get one anyway, just have to investigate more how much exactly do I need to give up to google to use the thing. HP I trusted - because I did/do not believe they have the technical capability that google has on the data mining front.
Actually, while it's nice to think that the problem has a simple solution, it's not really true that distribution would have fixed this. A decent range of apps, for example, would have been necessary.
Also, the idea that XBox is an example of success is worrying. It sits in a loss-making division, whereas Tools and Servers are the areas that really blow the doors off. Knowing what you're good at is one key to success.
Xbox, star performer? You would have to be delusional to actually believe this.
They launched 15 months before everyone else, ended up in last place and 50% of their sales are replacements, meaning their active userbase is by far the smallest of all the consoles.
It's not even profitable either. Microsoft play games with their financial reporting. The development cost was hidden in a single bad quarter, as was the RROD costs, if you factor these in, they won't make a dime this generation.
How is that a star performer? Amongst all the other Microsoft failed products, it might not have failed so badly, but it's a failure by any other companies measurement metrics.
Distribution was only one of the problems. That could be overcome if the product was useful... it isn't.
MS rushed to get Windows on the tablet, and it shows.
What do you get when you buy RT? A touch tablet, Win RT, two incompatible versions of IE, a version of Word that's only liscensed for private use, a few apps that are versrsions of, or similar to, apps on Apple and Android, and... that's it.
No compatibility with any of the thousands of existing software that runs on Windows, no way to effectively interface with existing Windows products, and it all came at a premium price on hardware that was well behind the competition.
The big problem that led to this mess? Ballmer's vision. He looked at what the competition had at the time, and ordered, "Make Windows do this!" Problem is, it took time to do that, and when they had the product ready, the competition had already moved on to faster, better products.
He really should've asked "Where do I want Microsoft to be in two years?, How can I make it exciting, useful and competitive?", but unfortunately, he can only see what the other guys are doing, and yell "Me too!"
"a version of Word that's only liscensed for private use"
Really? It does ring a bell, but a reference would be most welcome (for amusement purposes if nothing else).
Meh, the dain bramage kicked in, I meant Office.
Go to your local John Lewis, they'll have at least one in the cupboard of returned items.
No, it is a bad product. I have one, got it for free but I carry a Nexus 7 with me that I paid for.
MS thought they could be Apple (this seems to be the major problem for the last couple years) and sell direct and keep all the money. When that didn't work out (there is one of their booths in the mall next to where I work, I've never seen them sell anything) they tried to get other stores to sell them. They still didn't sell (I'm SHOCKED it tell you SHOCKED!) so now MS is going to have dedicated store in a store in Futureshop/Best Buy so they can not-sell Windows 8 stuff. If it was any good they would not have a problem getting stores to stock them.
There are no hordes of people that wanted a surface, if only they could find one.
The only horde MS had with their tablets were the MS-fanboys.
After that... flat sales.
For regular people, Android and iPad... because the SurfaceRT/WinRT offered NOTHING over the competition. The best MS could have done is sold the SurfaceRT for $200 (a loss) to create excitement and sales. Why pay $500 for a tablet with weaker display, far weaker GPU, no apps? Oh, you get a kickstand?
The Win8Pro slates are not tablets... they are 2-3x the price of an iPad or Android without the benefits. Might as well just get a $600~900 notebook which would be just as good.
"he can only see what the other guys are doing, and yell "Me too!""
Good post. On that last point though I would say actually it's worse than that. It could be rewritten,
"He can only see what the other guys are doing, laugh at it, wait two years and see it has blown the top off the sales charts, then yell "me too""
""a version of Word that's only liscensed for private use"
Really? It does ring a bell, but a reference would be most welcome (for amusement purposes if nothing else)."
It was widely reported at the time...
Here you go.
Let me guess ..PS3 owner ? lol
"They launched 15 months before everyone else, ended up in last place and 50% of their sales are replacements, meaning their active userbase is by far the smallest of all the consoles."
I guess you are out of touch, but the Xbox just overtook the Wii to take first place: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/xbox-360-overtakes-wii-as-the-uk-s-no-1-games-console/0117798
Microsoft came from a way behind position in the previous generation to pretty much parity with Sony - and most of the PS3s were purchased as Blu Ray players - meaning that the Active gaming userbase on the Xbox is also larger than the PS3 - as can be seen by the generally higher sales of games on the Xbox...And Microsoft have significantly higher revenue from Xbox Live than Sony do from PSN.
Sony have actually lost over $5 Billion to date on the PS3!
Much appreciated, thank you.
How can any sane person turn something so simple ("we've installed this software for you and it's not crappy trialware") into something so difficult ("but you probably can't actually use it unless you pay us more money"), especially in the era of "free software"?
How many folk see an MS Product Use Rights document, never mind how many understand it?
Is/was there an EULA to accept on these boxes? Would this usage restriction and the options for non-trivial use have been clear from the EULA ?
Have they lost the plot completely?
[quote]...many people(non tech folks anyway) forget they were there doing mobile more than a decade ago with Windows CE and the other software packages they had(Pocket PC etc, they obviously have had a strong presence in car navigation systems for a long time as well. ). They didn't catch the wave of the latest generations of devices like Apple and Android.. but they have been doing mobile for a LONG time, just not well.[/quote]
Yeah, exactly, "just not well". All the examples you mention brings up awful images of stylus driven, sluggish handheld gadgets like barcode scanners, mobile phones and swiveltop laptops not to mention the (equally sluggish), confusing mess that most car navigation systems I've come across are.
It amazes me that Microsoft can still find custom in these markets with such an appalling user experience.
Please, Microsoft, wise up or go away. There's enough harm done already.
"Microsoft gets upset that it's partners aren't able to effectively compete with Apple"
Microsoft is not Apple. Nor is any of Microsoft's partners Apple. Even mighty Intel understood they are no Apple.
Apple, as it stands, are the only of the Personal Computer manufacturers left. They know one fact and don't let anything make them forget: you must pay for all your mistakes, up front, not live on credit.
I believe more will be created now, history repeats itself. But none of these will be in any way connected to Microsoft.
I have yet to see one Xbox in the wild. Connected to a TV that is, not sitting on the shelves and collecting dust.
The only time I saw Xbox promotion, was a bundle with an 40" LG HDTV for 400 EUR. Impressive.
In mean time, plenty of other gaming consoles around.
Having received my Surface RT as a Christmas bonus, and the south park theme of this story caused me to remember and early south park episode...
My Surface is now named.
A very fitting name I think.
Microsoft’s people not only conceived the idea of building a tablet using a chipset – ARM - that the huge majority of existing Windows software could not work on
The hardware wasn't the problem, the artificial restriction on using existing apps was. Some kind of support for x86 binaries would have made the whole thing a very different value proposition by protecting users' investment in software and also providing a clear upgrade path to Surface Pro: existing apps low power apps would work on RT but if you need more power then you could continue using the same apps on a Pro or a notebook. By castrating the software Microsoft also made interesting hardware innovations like the keyboards irrelevant. The strategy was also a double punch to OEMs: not only was Microsoft competing with them directly, it also prevented them from adding value and differentiation with possibly hardware accelerated support for x86.
Because Microsoft persisted in using the name Windows for this it created a different expectation than Apple did with its separation of IOS and Mac OS - even if technically there are little differences between many IOS apps and their Mac OS pendants.
So the market looked like this:
Entry level: cheap Androids which run the many of the same apps that people have on their phones, limited performance but for less than € 250 the risk is low and they're great media players. Very well suited to use in the home.
Medium: I-Pad Mini, branded Android. Access to established eco-systems, excellent battery life making them suitable to be taken everywhere. Great second devices.
Premium: I-Pad, Samsung Note 10 - dedicated devices with clear USPs and eco-systems and usable for real work.
It's really difficult to see where the RT fits in there: it doesn't protect any existing investment, offers no upgrade path and is too expensive for occasional use.
If you're an operating system publisher and you want to extend your desktop application platform to mobile devices, then producing a version that runs on ARM is a good idea. PCs have -always- suffered by being locked into Intel microprocessors, Intel design choices, Intel's price/performance/power compromises.
But Surface RT doesn't run a version of Windows. It runs a version of Windows 8, which isn't Windows. It's less Windows than Windows CE was - and Windows CE wasn't enough Windows to offer a satisfactory mobile platform for applications.
If Surface ran a version of Windows 7 and proper Windows applications, it'd sell.
Yes, I know it runs the Microsoft Office desktop applications - some of them, somewhat. Apparently that isn't enough for us users. We want to run other Windows software as well.
As it is, I am afraid that the outcome will be that a PC market that -is- mostly locked into Windows, will stay locked into Intel architecture, as well. And Intel makes some good stuff, but it would be good to have other alternatives.
I'm not forgetting about AMD, but ARM is better placed to be the alternative.
"The hardware wasn't the problem, the artificial restriction on using existing apps was. Some kind of support for x86 binaries would have made the whole thing a very different value proposition..."
I'm not sure that x86 binaries were ever going to run in an emulation layer on ARM. The diminutive CPU from Cambridge isn't really going to do a good job of running x86 code very quickly.
I know Apple emulated 68000 on PowerPC, and emulated PowerPC on Intel. But in those cases the CPU change was to one with a lot more grunt, so the emulation (compared to the original native execution at least) had reasonable performance. The same can't be said of x86 emulated on ARM. Also everyone's being using ARMs in battery powered devices, and emulation ain't exactly kind to battery life.
However, I don't think any of that really mattered, or matters today. Microsoft showed a full fat version of Windows running on ARM with a compiled-for-ARM version of Office printing quite happily to an Epson printer (see this PC Pro magazine article). The implication is that MS did the minimum of hardware abstraction, compiled up the whole Windows, Office and driver stack using an ARM compiler, switched it on an surprise surprise it worked. The same would have gone for existing apps - just recompile the source code, do some lightweight testing, ship it (at least MS would have been able to have made it that slick and quick).
What confuses me is how on earth did MS go from that very promising start to the mess they're in now? If only they'd done a tablet that was primarily a full desktop PC (just add keyboard/mouse) with a tablet-interface-when-mobile mode it could easily have been very desirable.
Sorry, but that's just wrong. Unlock the Surface and you can run anything which has been compiled for the ARM architecture using a more or less standard application Windows API and at a 'desktop' level.