back to article Microsoft returns to Valley of Death? Cheap Surface threatens the hardware show

According to industry watchers, below the surface of Microsoft's Surface business it's not a happy picture. Microsoft claimed to turn its first profit on Surface in 2014, after racking up $2bn of losses, and by 2016, it was almost out of the woods. Amid a collapsing tablet market, and just in time, Microsoft had redefined …

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It doesn't much matter

It doesn't much matter how good the hardware is on a Surface product. If it continues to be saddled with Windows 10, as we know it will, Apple has the advantage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It doesn't much matter

I can no longer recommend Windows to anyone.

I use it myself, but I wouldn't subject anyone else to it.

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Re: It doesn't much matter

I honestly don’t understand the Windows hate. I’m quite fond of Windows and Mac and ElementaryOS.

I like them for different reasons. I honestly could never imagine coding for a living on a Mac. Even when coding for Mac, I use Windows and I very heavily use Ubuntu through WSL which is far far better these days than the Mac command line experience.

Also, Windows 10 is frigging fast. Of course I’m using a Surface Book 2 15” which is a mega-beast of a machine. But I also use some much older equipment and I just can’t feel the hate.

Stability wise it is crazy. I don’t bother rebooting except after major Windows updates and sometimes it takes a few reboots when installing a new machine. Using tech like .NET, even when I’m developing, my programs can go weeks or months without a crash.

That said, Mac has a lot of good stuff too. The App Store is still nicer. Apple is still about a million miles away from getting VPN or Remote Desktop right though. Mac will probably never win any prizes for being fast, but it’s very consistent. What I love about coding on Mac is how the development tools do an awesome job of helping you find the right place to put your text and such.

When working as an IT guy (a big part of my job), I like the Mac a lot. Being a network engineer doesn’t require anything fancy. Just a web browser, a text editor, ssh, telnet and serial. Omnigraffle is nice too, but I tend to use PowerPoint there.

Again, can’t feel the hate.

These days, since the Mac keyboards have gotten so bad, I tend to either use a Mac Book Air from 2011 or a PC. The MacBook Pro latest and greatest sits docked to some screens. I find however, I almost never use it anymore unless it’s via iRapp because I just can’t stand typing on it anymore :(

Of course if you have a favorite compute and can do your stuff... go for it. I actually recommend trying a Surface Book 2 at some point. Add some mixed reality goggles and you’re set for life.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It doesn't much matter

It's not so much "hate" - more "dislike" or "there are viable alternatives".

My problem with Windows is it's unpredictable and commercial. I only use it in a VM once a week or so for testing, and more often than not I'm delayed by an update, which then causes a core to burn for 20 minutes while it does something when it finally boots.

I also keep getting a spotify ad from cortana, even though I disabled cortana... and each update presents me with a new "recommendation" in my start menu - or should I say "their" start menu... and last week an icon for Edge presented itself on the desktop.

So to me, it's just a dislike. Perhaps if I had to use Windows daily it would turn into hate, so I can see where some people are coming from.

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FAIL

Re: It doesn't much matter

"I honestly don’t understand the Windows hate".

It's actually WIn-10-NIC and "Ape" hate. Windows XP and 7 are OK, as far as I'm concerned (and most of the Win-10-nic haters seem to agree).

Ever since Sinofsky and Larson-Greene invented "the Metro", Windows has been sliding down a slippery slope of angering their customer base with "new features", moving away from what the customer wants, and towards what THEY want the customers to HAVE, and often enough, not so gently.

Here are SOME of the reasons for the Win-10-nic hate:

1. The 2D FLATSO "tile screen" of Windows "Ape" and 'the Metro' in general.

2. The abandonment of the best of Windows 7's features

3. The addition of ads and spyware into Win-10-nic

4. The policy of "forced updates"

5. The COMPLETE lack of proper QA and testing of those updates

6. UWP foisted upon developers as "yet another" direction change, and only compatible with Win-10-nic

7. The use of GWX and other "sneaky methods" of shoving Win-10-nic onto your existing computer, whether you really wanted it or NOT.

And this tiny list *EASILY* explains the *HATE* on its own.

Even if you're a 'fanboi' and actually LIKE all of that stuff, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to see why OTHERS might hate Win-10-nic (for those reasons and others).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It doesn't much matter

We're still running 3 machines in our house with Windows 7, having made the effort to avoid the GWX malware and other dirty tricks MS pulled to try and sneak in telemetry and other shit. I also noticed at the time that there seemed to be far more 'updates' for Windows 7 every week than there were usually in three months. And that all dropped off very quickly just after the 'free upgrade' window closed.

However, one thing I have noticed over the past six months or so, is that all three of our Win7 PC's normally want to do a 'force logoff' when logging off while Task Manager reports it's waiting for an application to close but not showing any application, or they will take anything up to 10-minutes to logoff and shutdown. This is even when rebooting after updates are installed.

I don't think this is necessarily unique to our Win7 PC's, and I wonder if I'm not the only person who suspects that MS may well be deliberately engineering these issues into updates for Win7 to encourage people to move over to Win10.

But MS wouldn't do that, would they?

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Re: It doesn't much matter

"I honestly don’t understand the Windows hate."

I don't see what's so hard to understand. Microsoft strong-armed people, including using duplicitous means, into "upgrading" to an operating system that spies on its users shamelessly and forces you to continue upgrading on its schedule, whether you want to or not.

I honestly don't understand why there is anyone who isn't filled with hatred for Win 10 and Microsoft.

As a result of how they dealt with this, I will never again buy or use any Microsoft product if it is at all avoidable -- even if that product is the most amazing thing ever made.

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Re: It doesn't much matter

No, my hate is just for 10. I'm using "Ape" now, as you call it, and it doesn't have any Metro or flat anything. You can get rid of that stuff in 8.

I get "Win-10-nic," but "Ape?" What's wrong with apes? We are apes, you knew that, right?

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Re: It doesn't much matter

AC:

I can no longer recommend Windows to anyone.

I use it myself, but I wouldn't subject anyone else to it.

I haven't been able to recommend Windows since late 2015, when it had become apparent that Microsoft didn't care that Windows 10 wasn't what anyone wanted, and that the idle hopes that they'd hear the complaints and do as they had in the past and fix it were in vain.

I still use it sometimes, but not 10. Never 10. The suitability of any new PC hardware is exactly equal to its compatibility with alternative operating systems (including Windows pre-10).

I use 8.1, suitably modified to resemble a reasonable PC OS, not the tablet abomination it was out of the box. Win 10's too far gone to fix, and even if it wasn't, it would just be unfixed in 6 months when the next "feature update" no one wants forcibly installed itself.

It's not, in my case, "Windows" that is the problem. "Windows as a Service" is the problem. Windows 10 is the problem. At the root of it all is the failure of the OS to recognize that the job of the OS is to assist the owner of the hardware in performing tasks of his choosing. It's not that "serve Microsoft" is too high on the list of priorities... it shouldn't even be on the list in the first place. Once the owner of the PC (who in consumer-land is usually also the user, but not so in enterprise, of course) accepts the EULA, that OS has only one job, and that's doing whatever the owner says.

I've always despised all things Apple, from the Apple II days forward. I always preferred the sincere and amiable "I'm a PC" guy to the douchebag "I'm a Mac" slacker. Even two decades before Apple came up with those commercials, Apple represented the elitist snobs who thought they were better than everyone because they spent way too much for their hardware.

The MSDOS/Windows PC, by contrast, was the platform for people who valued choice and had enough brain cells that still worked to be able to think about what they were doing, so they didn't need someone in a corporate office somewhere making all of the decisions for them.

I now find myself in the position of having to recommend Apple products. It's not that Apple really got any better... it's that Windows has gotten so bad that Apple looks good by comparison. I'd actually consider MacOS if they offered it as a standalone for my PCs (I'm not going to buy their hardware one way or another. I don't like their hardware, and I am not paying MORE to have worse hardware than what I have now). I like Linux, but there are programs for Mac and PC that won't run on Linux, and they still matter to some people.

Windows 10... no. Just no. I may stoop to the point that I may be mistaken for an Apple cultist, but I ain't going so low as to accept Windows 10. As long as Redmond thinks it owns my PC, it can deliver its malware to people who aren't me.

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Def
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Re: It doesn't much matter

I only use it in a VM once a week or so for testing, and more often than not I'm delayed by an update, which then causes a core to burn for 20 minutes while it does something when it finally boots.

Settings > Update and Security > Advanced options > Pause Updates

(I don't think this exists in the Home version though.)

That said, if you only boot it once a week, it's not surprising you're always having to install updates. I'm sure you'd be complaining just as much if it was never updated and you kept getting h4x0r3d. ;)

...and each update presents me with a new "recommendation" in my start menu...

Settings > Personalization > Start > Occasionally show suggestions in Start

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Trollface

Re: It doesn't much matter

Settings > Personalization > Start > Occasionally show suggestions in Start

I make sure that's ticked. I prefer occasionally to all the time.

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For preventing windows updates

For the home version, set your internet connection as "metered" and on the update options select "do not update over a metered connection".

this prevents all updates, and you can then manually select when you want to update by changing the "metered" setting.

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Re: It doesn't much matter

"We are apes, you knew that, right?"

We're not apes, though. We're primates and have descended from the same branch as apes have. We are the "cousins" of apes.

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Unhappy

Re: It doesn't much matter

We're not apes, though. We're primates and have descended from the same branch as apes have. We are the "cousins" of apes.

Sadly that statement is not entirely accurate for far too many people.

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Re: It doesn't much matter

"(Since the current Surface Pro consistently returns us about four and a half hours battery, that doesn't auger well.)"

Are you running Linux or something? I get more like 10 hours watching movies under Windows 10. As per https://www.anandtech.com/show/11538/the-microsoft-surface-pro-2017-review-evolution/7

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Re: It doesn't much matter

"and more often than not I'm delayed by an update, which then causes a core to burn for 20 minutes while it does something when it finally boots."

That can be avoided by choosing shutdown instead of shutdown and update, and setting active hours.

"I also keep getting a spotify ad from cortana, even though I disabled cortana... and each update presents me with a new "recommendation" in my start menu"

To kill all of these annoyances:

To get rid of lock screen ads, head to Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen and set the background to “Picture” or “Slideshow” instead of Windows Spotlight. and disable the “Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen” option here too.

Then head to Settings > Personalization > Start and set the “Occasionally show suggestions in Start” setting to “Off”. To disable the popup "tips", head to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions and disable the “Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows” option.

To disable “suggestions” that appear as notifications, head to Settings > System > Notifications and set “Show me the Windows welcome experience after updates and occasionally when I sign in to highlight what’s new and suggested” to “Off”.

If you don’t want Cortana nagging you, click the Cortana search bar, click the Settings icon, scroll down, and disable the “Taskbar Tidbits” option under “Let Cortana pipe up from time to time with thoughts, greetings, and notifications in the Search box”.

To kill Explorer Onedrive ads, open File Explorer’s options window by clicking the “View” tab at the top of a FIle Explorer window and clicking the “Options” button on the ribbon. Click the “View” tab at the top of the Folder Options window that appears, scroll down in the list of advanced settings, and uncheck the “Show sync provider notifications” option.

To stop the Get Office notifications, head to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions, scroll down, and set notifications for the “Get Office” app to “Off”.

To disable live tiles that advertise to you, right-click a tile and select More > Turn live tile off. You can also just right-click a tile and select “Unpin from Start” to get rid of the tile entirely.

To disable Windows Ink Workspace ads Head to Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink and set the “Show recommended app suggestions” option to “Off” option to get rid of the suggested apps ads.

To hide Share pane in File Explorer suggested apps, right-click in the Share dialog and uncheck “Show app suggestions”.

Wow....

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Re: It doesn't much matter

Homonidae, the family taxon for "the great apes," includes gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans. The superfamily taxon of Homonidea represents apes in general, and includes all of Homonidae plus the lesser apes of Hylobatidae.

The type species of Homonidea is Homo sapiens.

We're cousins of apes in the same way that a grizzly bear is a cousin of a bear.

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Re: It doesn't much matter

Sadly that statement is not entirely accurate for far too many people.

About 7 billion of 'em!

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Re: It doesn't much matter

That can be avoided by choosing shutdown instead of shutdown and update, and setting active hours.

Can I set the active hours to 24 hours a day? 'Cause that's when I think my PC should be doing what I want instead of what Microsoft wants... all the time. I don't have a predefined time window that I use my PC within... I use it when I want, and I want to be able to do so without any interference from MS.

To kill all of these annoyances:

(long list of secret incantations to block equally long list of annoyances)

And do this each time Windows updates, since Windows does enjoy resetting all of your settings back to what benefits Microsoft whenever it feels like it.

Why does it have to be a battle with Microsoft to control a computer one owns?

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MNB

Re: It doesn't much matter

You've got that the wrong way around. We ARE apes, and primates. Specifically humans belong to the group "great apes" along with Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Gorillas and Orangutans. All great apes are primates, not all primates are apes though... primates include all the other monkeys and lemurs.

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Windows

Re: It doesn't much matter

"I honestly don’t understand the Windows hate."

Slaves ALWAYS eventually hate their masters.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't know what all the fuss is about

Classic Shell

O&O ShutUp10

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Re: It doesn't much matter

"If it continues to be saddled with Windows 10"

Well if Windows 10 is a saddle, Linux is like riding bare back, and Mac OS is like riding sidesaddle!

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Anonymous Coward

The expensive surface

Seems to be a popular manager travelling toy (in places that are windows centric i.e. no Mac shiny) , so I expect top end Surfaces sales will trundle along nicely

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Coffee/keyboard

Low Cost? at $499!

Low-cost tablets is how Surface started – at $499 for the cheapest RT Surface.

A low-cost tablet is €70 to €200, not $499 (likely was near £499 inc VAT).

Obviously low cost compared to iPad, but all Apple major products are massively over priced for what you get.

£500 to £700 gets a not bad laptop, though if you want gamer performance rather than email, web, wordprocess & a bit of spreadsheet, maybe £2000. Most SOHO and SME only add Accounts, Payroll and CRM to that.

Surely an MS Surface is a niche, especially given that the GUI is like Windows 2.0 on a Hercules card? What is the USP? It's not any longer backward compatibility.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

If have a reputable used dealer around you probably can buy a couple year old, refurbished laptop with much better specs for the prices you are quoting.

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JDX
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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

This puts it bang in iPad pricing... but for a full OS. The issue is if they can make that run smoothly, because iOS (with all its limitations) runs well on iPad.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

£500 to £700 gets a not bad laptop, though if you want gamer performance rather than email, web, wordprocess & a bit of spreadsheet, maybe £2000. Most SOHO and SME only add Accounts, Payroll and CRM to that.

Slight tangent, but I bought a 1070 based gaming laptop for <£1500 last year, that exact model isn't available any more but you can still get a powerful, VR ready laptop for similar money now. No need to spend 2K!

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

I have some of those $50-$100 tablets. I’m pretty sure that although they run varying editions of Android, we’re talking a different device class.

I think $200 is where tablets start to become almost usable.$300-$400 actually provide a nice experience. $3000 is absolutely frigging brilliant.

I’m not sure how I feel about the $50-$100 range. They have value in some cases, but they get very expensive because they almost never support software updates and very often, their screens have major touch issues making them very difficult to use at all. So you tend to need to buy 3-4 of them for every $300-$400 tablet you’d have bought otherwise.

The one exception I might concede is the $200ish Lenevo items. Of course, the LTE models are more expensive.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

I’d imagine that this will be an ARM based device with LTE. The power usage is already good on the platform but will probably improve over time.

Also consider the trade off for capex vs opex. You may pay less, but the few year old model will not support hardware video decoding of newer codecs. As such, if you’re watching lots of films or clips, the battery will drain FAST on the older machine. Also, depending on which variant of streaming services you use, to gain support for w3c DRM, you may be forced to download H.264 instead of more modern video formats which can easily increase your bandwidth usage over LTE by 3-4 fold.

This surprisely is the best reason to buy new tablets every 3 years.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

"but all Apple major products are massively over priced for what you get"

Wrong. Linus (of Tech Tips) demonstrated this by doing a tear down of an iMac, or possibly an iMac pro - I can't be bothered looking it up right now.

The point being that if you went out and bought the same components used int he assembly of that Apple product (with the exception of the case which of course would have to be a commodity case since you cannot buy the proprietary iMac chassis off the shelf) then your total spend would have been several hundred dollars MORE than buying the same components assembled by Apple in the form of an iMac/Pro.

Now, they also went on to establish that you could get equivalent or better performance with some smarter buying decisions, but in terms of a like:for:like component list, Apple was actually cheaper.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

"then your total spend would have been several hundred dollars MORE than buying the same components assembled by Apple in the form of an iMac/Pro"

But that doesn't address the point.

When people say something is overpriced, they're not talking about the cost of components. They mean that it costs more than the value they're getting from using it. In other words, they can get the same amount of value elsewhere for less.

Value encompasses a whole lot more than the BOM.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

I have a Galaxy Tab S3. Amazing machine. I use it at work every day, and I'm in IT. The S Pen and handwriting recognition just work. I seldom use my MacBook, and NEVER need windoze.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

@Deltics - The point of BYO kit is you control what is used not that you can save money. Usually you do not save money but more. But you have built a machine you want not what is offered by a vendor. Your example is what I would expect, components bought in retail quantities will have a higher cost than the same bought in commercial quantities.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

""but all Apple major products are massively over priced for what you get""

Well last time I looked, the highest spec MacBook Pro was about £2600 and the spec of the best Surface Pro is better in many ways and several hundred pounds cheaper.

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Re: Low Cost? at $499!

"This puts it bang in iPad pricing... but for a full OS"

And far better hardware specs.

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Gimp

Re: Low Cost? at $499!

Obviously low cost compared to iPad, but all Apple major products are massively over priced for what you get.

Surely the US iPad starts at "From $329" or $170 cheaper - Or €369 in Ireland including 23% VAT?

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The 'pro-Apple' sites are reporting

That MS is aiming to go after the iPad business which seems to have turned a corner in recent months.

The rumours tend to point to a really cheap Surface at around the $329 for the cheapest iPad.

There can't be any margin in that for MS as they don't have the economies of scale that Apple clearly has in production.

It remains to be seen if this will work and MS will sell millions of cheap Surfaces.

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Re: The 'pro-Apple' sites are reporting

If they do they'll prevent the sale of many high priced Surface Pros. Apple started with the lower priced (not as low as today, but FAR lower than most people predicted when it came out) iPads, and added the higher priced iPad Pro later.

Having only a far higher than iPad Pro priced Surface Pro today, and putting a non-Pro out that costs 1/10th the price of the highest priced Surface Pro doesn't seem reasonable. There's no way they can cut down its capabilities enough to justify such a huge price gap, and not compare very poorly with a $329 iPad - heck compare poorly with a $99 no-name Android tablet!

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I wonder if this is where Windows 10 running on ARM/Snapdragon 845 comes in? No Intel tax, potentially longer battery life, cooler running and limited to the Windows Store so you can only install ARM vetted applications.

So lets see, a Windows powered iPad but without the depth of App Store, surely a winner.

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Build said Windows Store is temporary

Windows Store is mandatory at first so that users download the appropriate installers.

But in the future, MSIX should cover direct distribution through alternative channels. I think they just want to be able to gain meaningful telemetry on ARM products before unleashing the beast.

That said, Windows Store has improved... I’ve been using it far more often the past few months. I’m not sure what they did, but it seems less covered with crapware and actually looks like someone is actually monitoring it now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Build said Windows Store is temporary

But in the future ...

Really? You believe that?

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GPD Pocket

Maybe there a market for non power tablets and the likes.

I have a GPD pocket, it's Atom powered with 8gb RAM, 128gb SSD, runs Windows 10 with no issues at all and has more ports than Apple or MS. Cost around £400 and I use it as a DJ laptop which runs all night flawlessly outputting HD videos.

Not everyone needs i5, i7 and all the shiny stuff at well over a grand. The Pocket is solid aluminium and is made by a non-branded factory. It has sold well and proves that you don't need the best of everything to succeed.

Microsoft have no strategy at all, and it shows.

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Holmes

The elephant in the room

Checkout chromebook sales and trends this last quarter. There's even a "Chromebook" branded tablet now. Who gives a damn whether Apple or Microsoft is the worse value any more?

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Re: The elephant in the room

"Who gives a damn whether Apple or Microsoft is the worse value any more?"

Good point. Now it's a three-way race for "worst value".

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Re: The elephant in the room

No, for "worst value" always seems to have Microsoft in front.

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So, they think they'll make computers like phones

It seems people are willing to pay a lot for not very much power these days. Surface devices may have a design advantage, but they are impossible to upgrade with new hardware and I'm not exactly sold on the pricing model. For the cost of these machines, I'd expect more ports (there is plenty of room on the rim for some more) and either a significantly faster processor or a better battery. I'm also concerned due to my experience with trying to fix a surface for a friend, which had managed to kill its battery with a firmware problem, the patch for which would not install because it required at least 40% battery power. However, if you have a working surface and you're tired of windows, the one I was working on managed to run Linux quite well, with no driver issues. That was kind of nice.

Then again, laptop prices don't seem to have any connection to the technology that's actually in them. I've been looking for a cheap-ish laptop for my father that I won't have to replace any time soon. I see a lot of essentially the same computer, usually with a mid-range i5 and 8gb memory, ranging from $420 to $900. I'm sure there are many of these above the $900 mark, too, but I'm not going to pay that. I wonder how certain companies get away with charging $400 more for no spec change. In fact, many companies are doing that internally--I'm probably going to buy a relatively cheap dell inspiron something, but there are a lot of dell laptops that cost a lot more and I'm not sure why. The main difference I've noticed is that the cheaper ones have mechanical drives and the higher-priced ones include SSDs, which certainly provide a big speed boost, but the cheaper mechanical drives usually have 1tb of space, whereas the SSDs are either 128GB or 256GB at the highest. I figured that would balance out.

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Re: So, they think they'll make computers like phones

"However, if you have a working surface and you're tired of windows, the one I was working on managed to run Linux quite well, with no driver issues."

Which one? I was told that Ubuntu drivers were a disaster for anything "touch-related" on the Surface Pro 3... which is annoying because I have an ever harder time to justify running Windows to myself.

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