back to article Ballmer plays down sales impact of Surface

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has downplayed the impact of Redmond's "iPad-killer" – aka the Surface tablet – as he wrapped a comforting arm around PC OEMS that may feel a little unnerved by the move. The covers were lifted off the shiny slate weeks ago, but it was dismissed by several hardware vendors, including long-time …


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  1. qwarty

    Getting Windows RT to developers

    Very few Windows developers currently have access to Windows RT systems for development/testing, only 3 months before RT launches. Makes for a pretty weak starting app store. Suspect this is one of the motivations behind an early Surface release although if digitimes is to be believed there are problems getting volume on the magnesium alloy case.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Getting Windows RT to developers

      But according to it isn't "3 months before RT launches" but more like 9 or 12. That means *very* little incentive for anyone except MS to be adapting *this* year's tablet designs to run WinRT. I'm sure the only reason MS are developing their Surface thingy is because they realise that, without it, there will be nothing running WinRT this year and so no software in their app store at Christmass and so no incentive for manufacturers to make next year's designs run WinRT either.

      1. Wibble

        Re: Getting Windows RT to developers

        Shirley they're developing a tablet so that their own developers can finish developing the operating system!

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Getting Windows RT to developers

      We've got development resources for WRT. Had them since March with updates ~every two weeks since. Why don't you have them? You should contact your MS regional office.

  2. ukgnome

    The only way the MS Surface will kill the iPad is if it drops on one!

    1. Anonymous Coward


      But I think you might better combine both the RT and non-RT version to make sure you got enough weight ;)

  3. Big_Ted

    As far as I know

    For most developers the only way to test windows 8 apps on a tablet is with ipad and android.....

    If I was a developer I would be really pissed off that my only test bed is not via MS........

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: As far as I know

      As you aren't a developer, you can be forgiven for not knowing this, but it's perfectly possible to test Metro apps on Win8 on many of the existing tablets. Or if touch isn't the focus of your application (i.e. it's just a regular thing, not a photo-viewing application or similar), you can test it easily on the Release Preview on any regular laptop or Desktop. Certainly it's incorrect to say that the only way to test Win8 apps is via an iPad or Android device.

      1. Big_Ted

        Re: As far as I know

        Yes, but to test on a tablet you need a tablet, as x86 based ones are not that common and would cost you a load of cash then my point stands.

        Oh and as a developer on Android I'd like to point out that most apps are are not in the cubset of "i.e. it's just a regular thing, not a photo-viewing application or similar)" If you want even your "regular" app to be usable then you had better set it for touch as well or release it as a program not an app like say vlc player as apps in the store will need to be available for both RT and x86 to be a success.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: As far as I know

          "Yes, but to test on a tablet you need a tablet, as x86 based ones are not that common and would cost you a load of cash then my point stands"

          I don't agree at all that developers will have trouble because "x86 tablets are not that common". If you need one, open up Amazon and get one. You do not need to hope to find one lying around. Nor do I agree that they will cost you "a load of cash" if you are a professional developer. You posted that the only way a developer for to test this was "not via MS". That's far from correct.

          "Oh and as a developer on Android I'd like to point out that most apps are are not in the cubset of "i.e. it's just a regular thing, not a photo-viewing application or similar)" If you want even your "regular" app to be usable then you had better set it for touch as well or release it as a program not an app "

          You said earlier that "if you were a developer" so I hope you'll accept that you may not know how this works on Windows 8. You don't need to have a touch device on Win8 to develop a Metro App that will work on a touch device. There are some very effective APIs that keep things comfortably abstract, handle the navigation, zoom, etc. and they will work well on both touch and non-touch enabled devices. It's certainly not the case that you can only test things on non-MS systems (which was what you said), but even addressing the shift in your argument, it's perfectly possible to write Metro apps on a regular Desktop or laptop. If you want to create a photo App, then you should be testing it on a similar platform than that which you plan to release on - that's always been the case. But I can develop a Metro app right here and now on my normal old laptop I'm typing this on and can be very confident it will work well on a touch-enabled devices.

  4. squilookle

    After the hash other makes have made of pitting Android tablets against the iPad - various glaring flaws, high prices, lack of support/updates, necessary UI overlays and crapware (the latter may apply more to phones than tablets, I don't know) I think MS absolutely have to do this if they want to make sure that Windows 8 is a success. I'm no expert on the matter, but it looks to me that most of the competition to the iPad has been half-arsed and that too many corners have been cut.

    It should hopefully push the other manufacturers into doing a better job with their Windows tablets and so help the success of the platform. If the other makes are nervous, then they deserve to be. I really think there is room for tablets other than the iPad, if the manufacturers get the balance between quality, features, price and support right.

  5. Joefish

    "Microsoft should concentrate its efforts on software development"

    If only...

  6. TRT Silver badge

    And kind of impact...

    on the surface of an iPad has the potential to shatter it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So when....

    Will he do the same about his Windows 8 expectations ?

    Its slowly turning into a joke IMO.

    I mean; only after 3 'waves' of very specific critics (introduction and the developer & customer preview) did MS finally gave us a tip of the iceberg: their decisions regarding Win8 were all based on user input. Information collected through Windows 7.

    But if that were so; then I could imagine that MS would become a "little" nervous considering the /huge/ numbers of strictly negative user critics. Not merely critical comments; also usually well build up with arguments as to why the users are so negative.

    I know this is about surface and not so much win8 perse, but it strikes me as odd that with the surface all of a sudden MS (Ballmer) does start to reduce expectations a little and "warn" people not to get overexcited. Now; maybe an unfair conclusion but to me it looks as if everything said earlier about user input being used is total bogus. Worse; it seems to me that all MS really cares about when it comes to Win8 and related products such as surface is keeping its partnerships at bay (as said; both customer and competitor all of a sudden).

    But when it comes to endusers MS actually doesn't really seem to give very much about their opinion since the whole thing will launch "and it will be sold anyway".

    Well, one way to find out.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: So when....

      The thing is, the loudest are not always the moistest. If you read the Win8 developer blog there are always some muppets typing all in caps or repetitively about how they hate Metro and they obviously think their opinion is more important than everyone else's. But that does not mean that they are a wave of criticism. And nor is emotive writing particularly an argument against usability by them either. I can actually demonstrate that on average, using Metro to launch programs is actually faster for me than using the hierarchical start menu. I am a power user as well. As all the old software still works and the Desktop is mostly the same (bar some improvements for multi-monitor and different screen resolutions), then I think it's a plus. For the common user it's going to be even more so. Basically, whilst there are people who are extremely vocal about what they dislike in Win8, the volume of these people does not necessarily translate into numbers and even to the extent it does, it doesn't mean their position is more than things not looking how they're used to. I personally think that MS are onto a winner with Win8. I think by most users it will be fairly well received. And yes, I'm using it now on my laptop. It really doesn't hold me up in the slightest, I think it's faster.

      1. jim 45

        Re: So when....

        Exactly so. I'm also running W8 on a laptop and liking it. It will be great on a tablet and do well in the market.

        Basically it's a very welcome change.

  8. Homer 1

    Oh dear!

    After all that bullshit bravado about selling 500 million devices, now it seems Ballmer has to concede "RT" gizmos are destined to suffer the same fate as Phone 7.

    Vole's insistance on constantly flogging dead horses is rather amusing.

    1. Phoenix50

      Re: Oh dear!

      That's right - because clearly Windows RT is the only version that will be sold *full stop*.

      Your own article link states 500 million Windows 8 "users" - that's across tablets, dekstops, laptops, not just Windows RT.

      At least make your FUD vaugely believeable.

      1. Homer 1

        Re: Oh dear!

        I call your puerile accusation of FUD, and raise you Ballmer's usual propaganda.

        Ballmer deliberately used the word "devices" to obfuscate the fact that nearly all of said "devices" will just be x86 PCs, undoubtedly with the intention of leaving the simple-minded American consumer masses with the impression he meant "tablets and phones" - i.e. the sort of things one usually refers to as actual devices. IOW it was a PR deception, from which he's been forced to back-down, mainly by the brutal lashing he received from certain high-profile OEMs on the subject.

        A more honest, realistic (yet still rather optimistic) statement would have been "a few hundred million PCs, and maybe a few million mobile devices". That's a more accurate reflection of existing sales, which are only likely to decline even further, given both the economic climate and that hideous abomination called "Metro" (not to mention "RT's" total lack of compatibility with real Windows applications - the one and only thing that drives any interest in Windows whatsoever).

        The fact that he's had to publicly clarify his original statement, not once but twice already, should be a big enough clue for you. But then I'm sure you're exactly the sort of impressionable Vole acolyte that he had in mind for this propaganda in the first place.

        Now, please go back to Ballmer for your next astroturfing assignment.

  9. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Giving up already?

    Make some room in the trash bin next to the Zune.

    Paris, because relationships just don't seem to last after the initial press release.

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Sounds like he's saying it will be expensive

    If they were pricing it for the mass market he'd have higher expectations. So here's betting the price will be closer to $1000 than $500, targeted squarely at businesses, with little concern over the consumer market at all.

    Microsoft didn't care all that much when Apple sold millions of iPads to college students and housewives, but when they started selling to corporate executives, Balmer got very worried that it would dilute the Windows/Office client lock-in that Microsoft has enjoyed in the corporate world for two decades now.

    The only thing that doesn't make sense is how Surface does Office but not Outlook. I guess they are assuming you'd use Outlook Web Access. Thing is, you can do that equally well with an iPad as you can Surface, so if you don't need Office apps while "on the go" (which most don't, view-only is fine, which iPad can do) then it makes Surface and iPad equivalent for most uses. So they might fail to stem the tide of non-Windows tablets in the enterprise, and the crack that opens could pave the way for Balmer's worst nightmare - Chrome desktops starting to infiltrate corporate America.

  11. genux

    Windows late to the party

    I truly think that Windows is late to the party again and like IE, but once they integrate the tablet into there mainstream and do something that will make the companies get something for free (maybe a free tablet with every PC brought ? ) . But the main thing, sometimes you have to look ahead to find out what customers are requiring and right now Microsoft are just not doing that. They appear to doing what other big companies do, buy other companies that are actually doing the innovative work.

    But in the end MS will get a good strong hold within the tablet market since there main OS seems to be heading in to the same light, just like the xbox.

  12. Fred Flintstone II

    And so it slides..

    The first thing I said when MS announced Surface was that such a strategy turned OEMs into competition and what do we see - Ballmer has probably suddenly realised this too. Problem for Ballmer: he's already lost the OEM trust - which means they will now keep their options open and will start working on their absolute dependence on Microsoft.

    Not that that saddens me in any way :)

  13. eadon2


    This product is vapourware. Once we see a real device, and not a mock up prototype then we can say something sensible. Currently it's a marketroid fantasy.

    1. dogged

      Re: Vapourware

      You think Techradar were typing on a fantasy, then?

      TechRadar's hands-on review would tend to indicate probably not.

      I mean, you can be sceptical as much as you like but it's not as if somebody just announced a tablet with some slides and a mockup.

      1. eadon2

        Re: Vapourware

        @Dogged My understanding is that hands-on reviews are not genuine hands on reviews, i.e. journalists have not been allowed to try the thing hands on at so called hands on reviews. It's a scam basically.

        1. dogged

          Re: Vapourware

          @eadon2 - I don't understand your issue. Either, as you claim, this product is vaporware and does not exist or some journalists used and had their hands on it for long enough to tell us what it's like, a service which they abbreviate to "hands on review".

          Because it's very hard to review the touch-typing on a powerpoint slide.

  14. Arctic fox

    I think that when Ballmer says................

    ..........."but we need partners to have that diversity of devices" that he actually means it and is not (on this occasion anyway) just making mouth gestures. For MS to become any kind of "sole producer" would (in order to set up the whole system) from their starting point in today's reality would be a huge undertaking that would cost the earth plus several local planetary systems without any way of estimating likely success or failure. In other words they would be taking a gigantic punt which if it went tits up could/would break them. That they are currently giving the OEMs a firm nudge - that I believe. That they may well start to produce (over a longer period) more devices - that I also can believe. However, that they have at the present time any real plans to bet the entire financial foundation of the company on such a move - that, I most definitely do not believe.

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