back to article Surface RT: A plan worthy of the South Park Underpants Gnomes

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 …

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  1. Tim Brown 1
    Holmes

    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.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Not only Surface RT

      Courier seemed to be quite promising. Alas, designers "forgot" to include Outlook.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/01/the_death_of_the_courier/

      Maybe Courier is now haunting in the halls of Redmond?

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        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.

      2. Fibbles

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        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.

        1. danbi

          Re: I would have gladly paid top dollar for a Courier.

          Why?

          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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        lol @ "Sun Microsysetms"

        Had you been using a Surface RT / Office then it would have corrected that for you...

      4. Guy Geens

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        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.

    2. danny_0x98

      Re: Not only Surface RT

      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.

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        <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

    3. Bob Vistakin
      Facepalm

      They scoffed when Bob called 2013 Microsofts year of hell

      No one wants their PC OS.

      No one wants their phone OS.

      No one wants their tablets.

      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.

      1. bdam
        Happy

        Re: They scoffed when Bob called 2013 Microsofts year of hell

        @Bob

        No-one wants <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/19/us-microsoft-research-idUSBRE96I0MO20130719">their shares.</a>

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: They scoffed when Bob called 2013 Microsofts year of hell

        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.

        1. Faye Kane, homeless brain
          FAIL

          Re: They scoffed when Bob called 2013 Microsofts year of hell

          ==--

          > 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.

          -faye

    4. Big-nosed Pengie

      Re: Not only Surface RT

      True. In fact marketing has always been the only thing they've been good at.

      I won't be sorry to see them go.

    5. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Not only Surface RT

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        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?!!

      2. danbi

        Re: Windows 8 isn't that bad

        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.

    6. Belardi

      Re: Not only Surface RT

      No, that analysis applies to ALL Microsoft products in the past 12 months.

      Crappy products at crappy prices.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only Surface RT

        "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....

        1. danbi

          Re: and the Surface Pro is better than pretty much any other

          Any other... skateboard?

  2. Sil

    Ego boosting journalism

    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.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Ego boosting journalism

      Quote

      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?

  3. Herbert Meyer

    perhaps the chief gnome is named Balmer ?

    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.

    1. tempemeaty

      Re: perhaps the chief gnome is named Balmer ?

      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.

    2. Charles Manning

      Well to be fair to Ballmer...

      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.

  4. Onomatopoeia

    Next course of action.

    Phase four: The Red Mound - get rid!

  5. A Butler

    Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But does the market allow persistence?

      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!

    2. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

      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.

      1. H H

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        [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.

      2. danbi

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        "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.

    3. Peter Black

      Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

      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.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/19/microsoft_q4_2013_earnings/

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

      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.

      1. El_Fev

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        Let me guess ..PS3 owner ? lol

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        "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!

        1. danbi
          WTF?

          Re: Xbox just overtook

          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.

    5. Captain DaFt

      Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

      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!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        "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).

        1. Captain DaFt
          Facepalm

          Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

          Meh, the dain bramage kicked in, I meant Office.

        2. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

          ""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.

          https://blogs.technet.com/b/uspartner_ts2team/archive/2012/11/29/q-amp-a-how-do-i-license-office-rt-for-commercial-use.aspx?Redirected=true

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

            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?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        "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""

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easy to find an RT

      Go to your local John Lewis, they'll have at least one in the cupboard of returned items.

    7. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

      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.

      1. Belardi

        Re: Surface RT not a bad product - distribution was the let down

        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.

      2. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Surface RT - Mr Hankey

        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.

        MrHankey

        A very fitting name I think.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    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.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      The bad idea was Windows 8.

      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.

      1. Spoonsinger

        Re: It's less Windows than Windows CE was...

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's less Windows than Windows CE was...

          "Unlock the Surface and you can run anything"

          And just how do you do that? This isn't IOS or Linux where it has more holes than Swiss Cheese. It's a secure OS and so far there are zero firmware hacks...

      2. danbi
        WTF?

        Re: If Surface ran a version of Windows 7

        No, it would not.

        Remember, before the Surface there were lots of tablets running Windows 7. Not very successful, except in the small niche they filled (mostly for fanboys).

        As for Office, nobody wants it. At least, nobody wants "full Office" (whatever that pipe dream means) in a portable mobile device, because using portable mobile device and what "full Office" is used for are incompatible. Including any version of Office with Surface RT and claiming this is a "deal" was another mistake Microsoft made.

        Surface RT should not have had a "desktop" at all.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      @Charlie Clark,

      "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.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        @bazza

        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.

        Really? C'mon we're not that naive. If that really was the case then they wouldn't have disabled macros and all the existing application developers would have given it a go. As Gavin points out in the article the trade press was selectively seeded in the run up to the launch.

        You don't need a lot of grunt for an awful lot of applications including word processing. Software emulation on an ARM might be pushing it a bit but it would have been easy enough to license Transmeta's code to do it in hardware (and use less power in doing so). The reason they didn't do this was not to piss Intel off: it was Intel who really pulled the plug on Windows on ARM.

    3. danbi

      Re: Some kind of support for x86 binaries would have

      No, it would not.

      No x86 software is/was written that can be properly operated by touch. Whether the old code could be executed on the device is pretty much irrelevant.

      Microsoft should have created a new platform, without the "Windows" name and eventually kept APIs and technologies they developed over the years and their developers understand --- and start from the beginning. That could have took few years to reach some kind of parity with iOS/Android/Others and the new Microsoft platform would never dominate, but Microsoft would have had a pie in this new exiting mobile world... as opposed to today, when they got nothing, but negative feelings from users.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Charlie Clark

      Some kind of support for x86 binaries...

      The best way to do that would be to use an Intel processor. Since they decided not to do that, the second best way would be to translate the x86 opcodes into ARM equivalents. This would be very difficult, and the result would be slower than if the code were executing on an x86 chip. The third best result (and easiest to implement) would be to interpret the x86 opcodes at runtime. That would make x86 binaries run between one and two orders of magnitude slower than they would on Intel hardware.

      I am not aware of anyone successfully managing the second option. There is probably a market for it (I can think of one potential customer), so some enterprising reader might like to spend a few years working on it.

      1. Brangdon

        Re: x86 binaries...

        It would have helped if they'd not locked down the desktop. I work for a software house. If we could have got our apps running on RT by just by recompiling them for ARM, we'd have seriously considered it. If it meant tweaking the UI to make it more finger-friendly, that might have been worth the effort too. Porting to a whole new API is much more work, and correspondingly harder to justify.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Charlie Clark

        "the second best way would be to translate the x86 opcodes into ARM equivalents. This would be very difficult"

        What makes you say that? E.g. Something very similar was done many years ago (1990s) by DEC with their FX!32 package which took Win32/x86 binaries and translated them on the fly into Win32/Alpha binaries as the program runs (caching the translations for later), by translating x86 code sequences into code sequences for DEC's Alpha processor.

        This technology may not be for the faint hearted, but it's not new, and it can work.

        You may apparently also be unaware that Intel's Android phones have an ARM to Intel translator/emulator of some kind for apps which use native ARM code rather than pseudo-Java.

        "and the result would be slower than if the code were executing on an x86 chip."

        Don't you think it might depend on which x86 is being compared with which non-x86?

        Don't you think it might depend on what you were planning to do on the system? You might not want to use translation/emulation for a compute-intensive piece of code, but for something that spent 99% of its time idly waiting for events (like a lot of systems do a lot of the time) , you'd hardly notice.

        "The third best result (and easiest to implement) would be to interpret the x86 opcodes at runtime. That would make x86 binaries run between one and two orders of magnitude slower than they would on Intel hardware."

        "Easiest" would be instruction by instruction emulation, which would indeed not be quick.

        Relative performance would depend on which x86 is being compared with which non-x86.

        A faster but slightly more difficult approach might use something like the "dynamic translation" found in e.g. QEMU which is sort of a half way house between a simple emulator and a complex translator such as FX!32.

        It's far from impossible. Is it sensible from a support point of view? Different question altogether. Intel seem to think the ARM->Intel translation is supportable for phones.

  7. A J

    I think the real mistake was Microsoft believing that they could come in to the market as a new player, but with products launching at Apple prices.

    Google jammed its foot in the door by enabling low-priced alternatives to the luxurious iPad. Undercutting on price is an effective way to enter a market as a new player and compete with the established players.

    Microsoft's approach was one of sheer arrogance. We'll go in with premium products at a premium price with hardly any apps available. Yeah, that sounds like a plan!

    Gavin Clarke makes a fair point in calling out Microsoft management on this. Someone should have seen this coming from the start. It is basic stuff.

    1. Paul Shirley

      The real problem is an industry totally bought into the 'we need a 3rd ecosystem' thinking. The carriers may need it, the wannabees may need to believe it, we all agree it's good for generating innovation.

      The public don't care.

      Launch a half finished product, with no ecosystem and no obvious customer advantage *now*, the public don't care and don't buy it *now*.

      Tell them long and hard how magical the future will be for your product and they don't care, they'll buy what works now and wait to see if you deliver the pet unicorns and pixie dust later.

      But misrepresent what your product is and does, they damn well will care if they fall for the lie. If the lie just confuses them, they'll buy something else. Win RT isn't Windows as the public understand it but that's not the impression MS put out.

      Microsoft created a product based on the needs of everyone but the people expected to buy it. And so, like WP7 before it, the public realised they didn't need it.

      1. Belardi

        I think it comes down to this... very few people actually LOVE Microsoft products. After the death of Amiga... you either had to buy a $$$ Mac or a low-cost PC. For Software = PC.

        People love their Amigas, Macintoshes, Apple II, Commodore64s. The difference between an HP, Dell, Gateway, etc... is nothing. Just the amount of pre-installed shit and the name on the generic black box.

        I never loved Windows. Win7 is the best they have made... which I like very much, nothing more.

        LinuxMint is a joy to use compared to Win8.

        Microsoft has been about mass-compatibility, thats it. With the flexibility of the browser... we don't need them anymore.

    2. Robert E A Harvey
      FAIL

      Wilfully stupid

      >believing that they could come in to the market as a new player,

      > but with products launching at Apple prices.

      Doing that at all was, as you say, Arrogant.

      Doing it after watching HP go face-first with the WebOs products - making exactly the same mistake - is beyond Arrogant, it is Wilful Stupidity.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The lesson is, never try

    I had the opportunity to take advantage of the RT TechEd offer and have been playing with the device for the past month - I am very surprised how solid the device is and it also has 80% of the iPad apps I use regularly: Kindle, browser (no Chrome tho), Netflix, Angry Birds,etc.

    I agree that MS was lacking a strategy in connecting the dots between customer/market needs and the final product. Maybe their plan was all along just to skip the initial (long) phase of research and instead flood the market with discounted v1 products to use that as market research for v2? :)

    At least they tried - kudos for that! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhjGoaKf52s

    1. keithpeter
      Childcatcher

      Re: The lesson is, never try

      Have you used the RDP client?

      "Where the Surface RT absolutely shined was a thin client, Remote Desktop machine. " From a review by someone who has used the device for a bit.

      Reason I'm asking: class set of tablets in a college where we have good wifi and solid rdp available for full desktop. Tablets useful for web surfing/light data logging. Battery life long. Cover has keyboard. See where I'm going?

      RT overall - no OEM buy in so I imagine probably doomed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The lesson is, never try

        Well, assuming you don't pay VAT, have a cheap service agreement and volume discounts you have a point - but to the ordinary end user £420 with keyboard and 2 year warranty on a computer which has "failure" written all over it is very steep indeed. My BlackBerry Playbook 64G cost all of £129, and that is roughly how much I would pay for a Surface. It would certainly need to be cheaper than a Nexus 7.

        It's like houses - you can pimp your house all you like but in general you won't ever get more for it than a maximum determined by the average price in that street*. The market has a price people will pay to acquire a product in a fire sale, and £420 is not it.

        *(OK not here in the sticks where ex-council semis occupy the same street as £1 million near-mansions, but you know what I mean).

      2. Robert E A Harvey
        Headmaster

        credibility

        I am not going to take advice from someone who can write " absolutely shined".

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: credibility

          ... unless he tells you that he shined something, of course ... like maybe a jeweller or window cleaner?

      3. danbi

        Re: Where the Surface RT absolutely shined was a thin client

        Probably, that should rephrased as "where Surface RT ever made sense was a thin client". However, they are priced out of this market. A Chromebook is much better choice for that purpose and more ergonomically fit.

        Otherwise... a thin client with built-in Office? :)

  9. dmcq

    Should have viewed it as a toe dip

    I must admit I'm rather surprised that Microsoft made so many of them. It should have viewed the RT as a first step in checking what is really needed and to start building up the ecosystem, in fact that's what I thought they were doing with the price. You can't sell something like that easily if even email has problems. They seem to have thought thought they had a mainstream product already done. I'd be sorry if they abandon it because of this experience, I guess it would make their software able to run on things like IBM Power or MIPS as well not just ARM and who can say who will really be still standing after the server wars end with most of the Linux software made architecture neutral?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Should have viewed it as a toe dip

      A billion dollar toe-dip?

      Thanks, I needed a laugh this morning.

  10. Peter 39

    various problems

    To me, the main problem facing Surface RT was the lack of apps. Apple was lucky to avoid this fate and it was due to iPhone, which had been available for several years when iPad was released. Lots of apps had been created in that time.

    The vast majority of those apps would run on iPad, even though they weren't optimized for it, so iPad was a useful device right at the start. Imagine the debacle if iPad had been introduced first, with just a few apps.

    Fortunately you don't have to - Surface RT shows exactly what it would have been.

    1. h3

      Re: various problems

      Not sure.

      Companies seem to have this viewpoint that because something works for one company then it will work for them. (When looking at it in any sane way you can see that there is one company that can do that for a specific reason).

      I think ipad's would have sold even if the apps were totally incompatible because it is Apple.

      EA can do loads of stuff other companies cannot get away with because of the situation they have with the sports rights.

      Sky can do stuff in TV other people cannot because of its position.

      Microsoft has that sort of power in some markets but not in others but they don't seem to realise that.

  11. A Butler

    Lack of Apps on RT not a serious issue - Flash works in browser

    In the Surface RT the lack of apps not such an issue because flash sites work perfectly in the browser unlike the iPad. Remember is comes pre loaded with Office 2013 up to power point with Outlook on the way in windows 8.1.

    That covers a lot of the app requirement issues.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Lack of Apps on RT not a serious issue - Flash works in browser

      That covers a lot of the app requirement issues.

      It obviously doesn't which is why nobody's buying them and why Microsoft is writing them off. There are an awful lot more apps in the world than MS Office and Flash games.

      Every third party application developer thought "fuck you very much Microsoft - both I and am my customers have to do work in order to be able use this product."

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Lack of Apps on RT not a serious issue - Flash works in browser

      Apple has by general agreement done the IT world a big favor by NOT supporting flash on the iPad. **

      If you think that having flash on the Surface is a USP then perhaps you might like to study the vast numbers of buggy whip makers that are still in existence?

      ** This despite what many people may think of Apple as a whole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Gimp

        Re: Lack of Apps on RT not a serious issue - Flash works in browser

        They're all in the 'specialty adult products' category.

  12. Steve Knox

    Microsoft failed to see their competition.

    Apple had no real competition with the iPad because it was successfully marketed as a new gadget rather than a replacement for a laptop or a competitor to an existing product. They continue to succeed because they compete with the market leader (their previous version product.)

    Android tablets do okay because they recognize their competition is the iPad (and each other) and so compete with those both on features and price.

    But Surface RT entered a different kind of market. Sure it had Android and iPad to compete against, but there was also a third competitor to beat: Microsoft's own PC ecosystem. I'm currently typing this on a Windows 8 laptop that cost $500 -- less than Surface RT did when it came out -- and I could have bought one that would still beat an RT tablet for $300 -- less than Surface RT costs now -- but I wanted a little more power. Microsoft's Surface tablets are simply not able to compete with Windows laptops on features or price.

    (Other Windows tablet manufacturers have seen this problem,and tried to make less expensive tablets or ones with special features, with middling success. But many of them make laptops and Android tablets as well, so they have no real drive to help Microsoft succeed in tablets in particular.)

    Microsoft couldn't compete with their own ecosystem, yet they priced their new, untested (by the market) product which has little in the way of feature differentiation, at the top of the market, effectively refusing to compete with rivals' tablets on features or price.

  13. silent_count

    I think I've spotted..

    The problem. They've have become so focussed on what Microsoft would like Microsoft's products to do for Microsoft, they've completely lost sight of some unimportant, annoying people. Those people. You know... um...

    XBox - We'll have it phone home once a day so WE can be assured they're not running unauthorised software and give US some handy usage data too. Oh and we'll kill the second-hand games market so people will all have to buy new games, which will make the platform more attractive to developers, who will write games for US rather than Sony.

    Win8 - We'll force them to get used to OUR tablet interface so when it comes time to buy a tablet...

    Surface RT - We've got this secure boot things so people can't use that evil Linux stuff or the accursed Android, and it won't run any existing Windows software so they'll have to spend money in OUR app store. Oh! We'll use ARM so it's cheap for US to make but we'll make the tablet expensive as all hell so WE get a decent wad of cash out of every sale.

    ... now what were those pesky people called? Them! The ones who clog up our helpdesk with calls.

    1. Tridac

      Re: I think I've spotted..

      I think it was mainly the price. As someone else pointed out, entering a market as a newby at prices of the high end was most likely not a good idea. From the reviews i've read, not a bad product at all. As for the secure boot (EFI ?) and Arm processor, nothng that other vendors aren't doing. Arm was chosen most likely because it is becoming more widespead in trad x86 areas, is very good on power and anyway, Intel don't have anything with that kind of power envelope at all. Arm is also the most widely used cpu range in history, in just about every mobile phone, including all the Apple products, all the slabs that run Android, good development tools etc, so what's the problerm ?. Compared with the Ipad, which is completely locked down and doesn't seem to connect to anything interesting, unless approved by Apple, the uSoft product could be a valid alternative and will have more connectivity right out of the box, secure boot or not.

      My lad won and Ipad in a work raffle, has barely used it and apart from web browsing, what use is it at all ?. More style over substance, underwhelming, overpriced product from Apple, was the gut reaction from everyone here...

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: I think I've spotted..

      Consumers! That's what they're called, and it's their job to buy what we put out!

      Lazy bastards, they're wrecking us! Get HR on the phone, tell them to fire those lazy SOBs!

    3. Jes.e

      Re: I think I've spotted..

      Agree in so many ways.

      The main problem is that a long time ago I realized that Microsoft's err.. customers weren't who I always thought they were.

      Bill Gates originally said that he wanted a Microsoft OS on every desktop; and their stated goals with all their software updates was to boost their customers *productivity* - generally demonstrated with measurements showing why a given process is faster in the newer version.

      Productivity. That doesn't sound like a persons interest doesn't it? Apple wants to enhance your *experience* on the other hand.

      They show this by listing 200 new features in each OS release..

      Microsoft's err.. customers are businesses, not individuals.

      In fact this fully explains why their software is so badly designed and takes massive amounts of expert help in order to keep the boxs running.

      Large business, have the infrastructure to do this. My mother doesn't stand a chance.

      Lastly I would like to leave you with the notion that there are only two businesses that call their customers this something else.

      What was that word??

      1. beep54
        Joke

        Re: I think I've spotted..

        "What was that word??" John's, perhaps?

      2. Blank Reg

        Re: I think I've spotted..

        Actually I do care about productivity, it's the main reason I hate using my Mac as the os seems designed to ensure you work as slowly as possible.

      3. Goat Jam
        Windows

        Re: I think I've spotted..

        Microsoft's err.. customers are businesses, not individuals.

        For many years, Microsoft's customers were PC OEM's and not end users.

        Now MS are trying to follow apple and reverse that policy but they are finding that it is not as easy as they thought it would be.

        They created a perception amongst punters that Microsoft Windows = boring business stuff which is going to be a hard thing to reverse.

        1. danbi

          Re: I think I've spotted..

          "They created a perception amongst punters that Microsoft Windows = boring business stuff which is going to be a hard thing to reverse."

          Perhaps this explains the Microsoft Surface ads with those dancing people who click in, click in, click in...

          Dancers in an office?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think I've spotted..

        "In fact this fully explains why their software is so badly designed and takes massive amounts of expert help in order to keep the boxs running."

        Erm - you know the TCO with Microsoft stuff is lower than any other competitor for the vast majority of server side products? Hence why virtually every corporate uses them...

    4. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: I think I've spotted..

      >The ones who clog up our helpdesk with calls.

      Helpdesk? What helpdesk is that, then?

      1. danbi

        Re: I think I've spotted..

        "Helpdesk? What helpdesk is that, then?"

        Virtual. Calls terminate somewhere in India.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    But... This is unfair to the gnomes!

    A more charitable interpretation of what the gnomes are about can be found at Cartman Shrugged: The Invisible Gnomes and the Invisible Hand in South Park. They are mysterious, vaguely menacing, and may not know what they are doing. With 20/20 hindsight their antics are laughable, but they could have been a contender...

    But what about the gnomes, who, after all, give the episode its title? Where do they fit in? I never could understand how the subplot in "Gnomes" relates to the main plot until I was lecturing on the episode at a summer institute, and my colleague Michael Valdez Moses made a breakthrough that allowed us to put together the episode as a whole. In the subplot, Tweek complains to anybody who will listen that every night at 3:30 a.m. gnomes sneak into his bedroom and steal his underpants. Nobody else can see this remarkable phenomenon happening, not even when the other boys stay up late with Tweek to observe it, not even when the emboldened gnomes start robbing underpants in broad daylight in the mayor’s office. We know two things about these strange beings: (1) they are gnomes; (2) they are normally invisible. Both facts point in the direction of capitalism. As in the phrase "gnomes of Zurich," which refers to bankers, gnomes are often associated with the world of finance. In the first opera of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold, the gnome Alberich serves as a symbol of the capitalist exploiter—and he forges the Tarnhelm, a cap of invisibility. The idea of invisibility calls to mind Adam Smith’s famous notion of the "invisible hand" that guides the free market....

    Even the gnomes do not understand what they themselves are doing. Perhaps South Park is suggesting that the real problem is that people in business themselves lack the economic knowledge that they would need to explain their activity to the public and justify their profits. When the boys ask the gnomes to tell them about corporations, all they can offer is this enigmatic diagram of the stages of their business:

    Phase 1: Collect Underpants

    Phase 2: ?

    Phase 3: Profit

    This chart encapsulates the economic illiteracy of the American public. They can see no connection between the activities entrepreneurs undertake and the profits they make. What those in business actually contribute to the economy is a big question mark to them. The fact that entrepreneurs are rewarded for taking risks, correctly anticipating consumer demand, and efficiently financing, organizing, and managing production is lost on most people. They would rather complain about the obscene profits of corporations and condemn their power in the marketplace.

    1. AlgernonFlowers4
      WTF?

      Re: But... This is unfair to the gnomes!

      Kemo sabay, the white man speak with forked tongue!

      Just how much do you want to borrow asked the loan arranger?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But... This is unfair to the gnomes!

      [Quotes are not written by DestroyAllMonsters]

      "The fact that entrepreneurs are rewarded for taking risks, correctly anticipating consumer demand, and efficiently financing, organizing, and managing production is lost on most people."

      Equally, the fact that modern Western kleptocratic corporatism frequently "succeeds" by privatising the profits and socialising the losses (US motor industry, UK rail industry, global casino banking, etc) appears to have been lost on the author of the quotation. Most economists appear to be unable to do sums or logic, but are happy to base their mantras and "wisdom" on little more than pure faith.

      "This chart encapsulates the economic illiteracy of the American public ... They would rather complain about the obscene profits of corporations and condemn their power in the marketplace."

      See above. Plus, the economic illiteracy of most classical economists allowed them to not predict the Western Financial Crash of 2008 (ongoing).

      (1) Collect money (from muppets, as some of Goldman Sachs allegedly called them)

      (2) Make products sufficiently obscure that it's easy to deceive regulators and investors most of the time. But beware, your fellow bankers may do the same to you one day.

      (3) Profit (or, occasionally, global crash(es) followed by massive ongoing taxpayer-funded bailout(s) and associated austerity)

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Re: But... This is unfair to the gnomes!

        All of your points are exactly what happens when government gets involved in private industry. The government, which has the natural tendency to spend and an addiction to the same, becomes unduly invested in private industry success that it cannot tolerate failure. Private industry tolerates failure in and of itself, which is the system upon which economists rely: when the "big fish" dies, smaller fish consume the remains.

        Goldman Sachs, and others, were permitted to become brazen because the greedy ones knew that not only were their actions guaranteed, and in some cases mandated, by the government, or rather the tax payers, the resultant failures would be covered and they would receive government position appointments. With government interference and urging, bigger risks than usual are taken and the loses amplified.

        Bush the Lesser screwed up royally one two counts: first when he instituted TARP, and second when he illegally used TARP funds for the first recent automotive industry bail-outs. TARP was pushed as a necessity because the housing bubble and bust was largely caused by government-mandated activities dating back to the 70s and reinforced in the 90s. The recent auto bailouts are actually repeats in history which should never have occurred.

        The automotive industry was in absolutely trouble in decades past due to bad management and business practices. The first of the bail-outs did nothing to fix the problems, but rather reinforced that the greedy and the stupid could continue to run things without change because they had a rich uncle. The cycle repeated itself and though Obama stated just a year ago that we successfully refused to let Detroit go bankrupt, all the bail-outs have done is to prolong the inevitable and unescapable reality playing itself out today.

        Look at the impetus for the Federal Reserve. Government was bankrupting itself while industry leaders had been able to amass great wealth and wound up having to save government from itself. Any time government gets involved with private industry beyond a minor regulatory capacity (for instance, what may be necessary to keep the greedy in-line, punish gross negligence, etc.) private industry and the economy as a whole suffers.

        Stop the bail-outs, let private industry correct itself, and the economy recovers. If anything is really "too big to fail" then it will fix itself or resurrect in a new more capable and stable form. Short-circuit that process and we suffer much more deeply for much longer periods of time.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows RT

    I have a surface with a type cover and I use it all the time. I've had it since launch, and it's made me discard my ipad. It IS a great product. There's a load of people that haven't used one for any length of time who say it's rubbish. If you keep harping on about running legacy apps, you're missing the point. I like the fact that I can plug in most devices into the full size USB port and it recognises them with no need for drivers. Most computers are used for Email and Internet and some word processing / spreadsheets. Maybe even the odd game. The Surface does all that. People also need to get over Windows 8 - used it since the beginning, works great, and I like it. People don't like change, but change comes all the same, don't all be a load of King Cnuts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Windows RT

      "I like the fact that I can plug in most devices into the full size USB port and it recognises them with no need for drivers"

      So, it's actually running Linux ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Windows RT

        "So, it's actually running Linux ?"

        No - it's a secure OS.

        He means that it supports over 430 million USB devices out of the box....unlike Android or IOS.

        1. Kunari

          Re: Windows RT

          My ASUS Transformer tablet supports USB devices just fine.

        2. Goat Jam
          FAIL

          Re: Windows RT

          Linux supports far more devices "out of the box" than Windows does.

          The fact that every device is supplied with Windows drivers on a disk in the box is not the same thing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Windows RT

            "every device is supplied with Windows drivers on a disk [conceptually] in the box" [1]

            Does that also apply if you're using the ARM version of Windows - does the device vendor (or MS) have to build and distribute an ARM-specific version of their driver?

            Or do ARM drivers only exist if the vendor or MS choose to make them exist? What motivates vendors or MS to do that?

            [1] Mostly true - historically there have occasionally been version/device combinations where MS and/or device vendors, perhaps understandably, haven't bothered to provide compatible drivers.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Windows RT

            "Linux supports far more devices "out of the box" than Windows does"

            Lol, no it doesn't. Windows has by far the most extensive driver support of any OS. And Linux drivers are often 3rd party written hacks with no support and numerous bugs / missing features.

            The Windows driver disk included with hardware is usually for older versions of Windows than the current shipping version.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Windows RT

          No - it's a secure OS."

          I thought it was supposed to be running Windows !

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Windows RT

            "I thought it was supposed to be running Windows !"

            Quite - which these days is an awful lot more secure than Linux. Welcome to the 21st century....

            1. danbi

              Re: Windows RT

              In 21st century more people see trough the Microsoft FUD and don't particularly look for "Windows" on their computers.

        4. danbi
          WTF?

          Re: Windows RT

          "He means that it supports over 430 million USB devices out of the box....unlike Android or IOS."

          "Android and iOS", as well as any other sane OS does not count how many devices they support, because support for devices is provided based on the interfaces, APIs and protocols these devices provide. It is therefore enough to support one USB mass storage device, in order to support them all (of course, provided you account for the quirks each device class, generation etc, presents).

          With any non-Microsoft OS, the need to support individual devices with individual drivers is very much reduced.

          Microsoft however wants everything to be proprietary, controlled and "certified". This is how they make their money.

          But, this is not necessarily what the consumer desires and while as long as it all works "seamlessly" consumers don't care, they do care the moment two seemingly identical devices don't work the same way, because the maker of one has paid the "Microsoft tax", while the other did not.

        5. Jon Gibbins
          Stop

          Re: Windows RT

          It still amazes me how waving a little bit of banter around can still make the Product X fanboys whinge and bite the bait on webforums. Is this still 2001?

    2. t20racerman
      FAIL

      Re: Windows RT

      People also need to get over Windows 8 - used it since the beginning, works great, and I like it. People don't like change, but change comes all the same, don't all be a load of King Cnuts.

      You are EXACTLY the kind of customer Microsoft wants - ie one who takes any sh**e thrown at them, claims its great and then insults everyone else who doesn't agree.

      I'm sure you like your Surface, and I'm pleased for you, but the VAST majority of consumers don't like the Surface and hate Windows 8. We may well be 'wrong' in your eyes - and in Microsofts too - but frankly who cares what you or Microsoft think? Microsoft are hemorrhaging PC sales, customer goodwill, and shareholders money. That is the only real 'opinion' that matters.

  16. Philomena Cunk

    Microsoft's problem: No dominant platform to tie all their products to anymore.

    The days of Windows dominance are long gone.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/windows-monopoly-is-getting-destroyed-2013-7

    The 10% (32bn) drop in Microsoft shareprice is bringing it back to where it needs to be. Another 4 days of similar drops should be about right.

  17. bsbcgy

    Naysayers?

    One wonders if Microsoft tolerated any naysayers when Surface was being proposed? The shortcomings of the product would have been obvious (e.g. limited apps, poor encouragement for developers to create apps, incompatibility with existing Microsoft software). Was it corporate suicide to point this out? If so, then it will take more than a re-arrangement of management to rectify.

    Recent Microsoft trends (e.g. canceling TechNet, limiting MSDN's Enterprise offerings to the highest cost tiers, poor training on how to effectively use Windows 8) indicate a disconnect that makes me think of companies like Novell and Blockbuster.

    1. Charles Manning

      Ballmer is an egomaniac like Jobs. Niether of them have/had any time for Devil's Advocates or anyone but complete yes-men.

      The difference is that Jobs could actually hit the ball.

  18. Gil Grissum

    They got it wrong the first time...

    The reason why the RT and Surface have failed is primarily because no one at Microsoft examined why they failed with the first Windows Tablet PC's. They priced them too high, there was no app ecosystem, they were buggy, weren't thin nor life, and the battery life was sub standard. The moment Microsoft management decided to introduce Windows Tablets, they should've immediately examined what they did wrong the first time and immediately examined what Apple did right that makes the iPad sell. It's obvious that no one at Microsoft examined any of those factors, because if they had, the RT and Surface would have succeeded. RT and Surface weren't built on a logic model that made any sense. How anyone at Microsoft could've thought that anyone would buy the RT or Surface at the prices they've sold for, is beyond me. Those ridiculous dance choreography commercials didn't show any of what the RT or Surface are capable of doing.

    The entire project was ill conceived and appears to be based on what someone in management wanted (likely, Balmer), not something that any consumer or corporate customer wanted. In order to sell a product to a customer, it makes sense to evaluate what the customer needs, wants, and can do with it before you develop what they will ultimately do with it. Some sort of usability testing involving "PEOPLE", gives an accurate evaluation of product strength and weaknesses. Without knowing your product's strengths and weaknesses, you can't really derive accurate sales estimates. The fact that it's a tablet that runs Windows, won't be enough to attract developers, and if it doesn't attract developers, it will be difficult to build an app ecosystem. A weak app ecosystem means that it won't be popular with consumers. That leaves business customers, and if it's overpriced, business customers will pass on it and buy iPads all day long.

    1. Craigness

      Re: They got it wrong the first time...

      The original tablet PCs were bulky and had an interface suited to mouse and keyboard. The Ipad was a success because it could be used with a finger. With Surface RT MS "examined those factors" and made something thin and light which could be used with a finger. I'll agree on the price though.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    If I follow the logic of this

    I end up with Microsoft being taken over by Oracle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I follow the logic of this

      Well you never know, it's been at least a week since Larry last bought a company so he's overdue ;)

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: If I follow the logic of this

      Wow. That would be an Omnishambolic Clusterfuck of the highest order!

    3. danbi

      Re: If I follow the logic of this

      Poor Oracle...

      When they swallow the poison Microsoft is, who will ever buy them?

  20. sgtrock
    WTF?

    Microsoft as a savior from the eeevil monopolists? Really?!?

    "And that’s a bad thing. It's bad for investors whose money is tied up in Redmond and an industry looking for a way out of the duopoly of Google and Apple on phones and smart phones, and Google's monopoly on search. The more time and money Microsoft wastes following blind fantasies and getting things like Surface RT wrong at the inception stage, then more power will remain in the hands of a technology few for even longer."

    Excuse me, what planet are you on where a Microsoft product could ever conceivably be considered a great way out of a duopoly? We are talking about a company with a decades long history of ruthlessly crushing all competitors through a long series of underhanded, unethical, and frequently illegal tactics after all.

    Besides, we don't need Microsoft for that 'third ecosystem' anyhow. At this point, any option for creating that third platform will have to leverage what is already in place. That's why I'm watching Sailfish and Tizen pretty closely. Both are Linux based, both can run Android apps, and both have solid backing. Sailfish is aimed at the premium market and is starting small. Tizen has a host of carriers already announcing plans to offer phones based upon it.

    Other options with an outside chance of doing well are ChromeOS, FirefoxOS, and Ubuntu. RIM may even finally get its act together (but I'm not holding my breath on that one).

    Any of these would be better than getting back in bed with Microsoft. Speaking as a long time support and implementation engineer, spare me from that!

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re:we don't need Microsoft for that 'third ecosystem'

      1: Samsung+Android

      2: Apple+iOS

      3: everyone else+Android

      At least from the publics POV. The fragmentation MS endless portrays as bad makes Android a flock of closely related systems, albeit in a very limited sense. MS can hope to beat some of that 3rd tier but not sell enough for anyone to care.

      I wouldn't be surprised if there are more phones running the MIUI version of Android than total WP phones.

    2. Kunari
      Thumb Up

      Re: Microsoft as a savior from the eeevil monopolists? Really?!?

      Agreed, that's what I thought when I read that final paragraph. :)

  21. unwarranted triumphalism

    A South Park Reference...?

    Just when I thought The Register could not get any more idiotic and immature, it pulls something new out of the bag.

    Well done. How 'edgy'.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consumer resistance ?

    "it was obvious that Microsoft had convinced itself that it could sell the device in large numbers immediately .. if the app ecosystem had flourished quickly then it could have taken off but neither was likely".

    Reason it sold in such low numbers was, unlike previous iterations of Windows where it came with virtually every PC, the consumers had to actually go out and buy a Surface RT. Remember the OEMs have to pay a Windows license even if they sell an OS-less computer.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The duopoly of Google and Apple?

    "an industry looking for a way out of the duopoly of Google and Apple on phones and smart phones, and Google's monopoly on search"

    This is news to me, I hadn't realized the phone makers were compelled through onerous OEM contracts to only supply Android and iOS software and consumers were compelled to only use Googles search engine, despite every Windows update making BING the default search engine.

  24. jmk89
    Thumb Down

    No desktop apps

    There was no official way to run any desktop apps on the Surface RT, I'm not even talking about existing ones, new ones as well.

    The thing had a desktop mode, and absolutely no way to run any existing desktop applications, or even create new ones with Visual Studio. Adding the option to Visual Studio to create an RT desktop app, using the same .Net framework running the Metro apps, would have made all the difference, as companies around the planet could port application x from .Net framework main => .net Framework RT and save a lot of cash on hardware, but nope!

    1. Belardi

      Re: No desktop apps

      I think that is BECAUSE Microsoft wanted business to buy ONLY the Surface Pro models.

      1) SurfaceRT (sRT) includes a basic version of Office2013, not licensed for BUSINESS. (so most companies won't touch it).

      2) The .net you said above... true.

      3) sRT is aimed at home users...(because of #1 & #2) for some dumb reason (There are better products on market)

      4) So MS sells the $1000 SurfacePro + $150 for a keyboard + $200~400 for Office2013 = $1500 and a dancing ballmer.

      PS: Like other MS products of late, Office2013 has bad reviews. typical.

      Has MS scored ANY good reviews for a product in the past 10 months?

    2. Craigness

      Re: No desktop apps

      Perhaps without the desktop mode its market position as a tablet would be more obvious; as it is we get a load of complaints about backward (in)compatibility. But the Office suite makes it a better prospect than any other tablet (ignoring app availability) so it's understandable that they'd include it - they just marketed it wrong.

      If they allowed installable software on the RT desktop they'd create a confused ecosystem with X86, Arm and Metro apps. People are confused enough that they have 2 types, like Apple does.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Making the Surface RT sell

    How about this for a plan?

    1. Unlock the bootloader on your current stock (toss it out to users as a Windows update or something)

    2. Publish some specs

    3. Let the community port a real OS to the device (e.g. Ubuntu, Android, perhaps even Windows CE)

    4. Profit.

  26. Chad H.

    No, it wasnt a good product

    I dont understand why commenters are saying the Surface RT was a good product.... The customer had the choice between the iPad, countless android devices, and Microsoft's own full fat surface pro that did pretty much everything they want.... and the Surface RT which did not a lot of a not a lot.

    The product had no reason to exist. It wasn't a cheap device (cheap android devices from China had that nailed down), it wasn't a premium device, and it wasn't a mid range workhorse.

    It was just a complete mistake.

  27. Uwe Dippel

    Wrong, all wrong!

    The problem of RT wasn't the ARM-processor or such, contrary to what the author so nicely describes. I bet a fortune, that all RT fondleslabs would have been sold out by now if MS had bothered to

    1. attach a reasonable price

    2. allow the installation of the OS of the users' choice

    Don't come and tell me the manufacturing costs, then, would have been too high. Or that it was intentional that no useful software could run on it. Because then the problem of excess stock would not have arisen. Then the problem had nothing to do with what the author pretends. Then the problem would have been a straightforward bad business decision: Every somewhat shrewd business persons knows that you can't sell uncool overpriced stuff. Any somewhat reasonable businessperson knows that it is suicide to sell something, and prevent the user from using it the way (s)he wants to use it.

    1. Belardi
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Wrong, all wrong!

      "2. allow the installation of the OS of the users' choice" - That would NEVER happen. Why would anyone buy a Surface if just to put another OS on it? There are better tablets on the market that cost the same price or better. Microsoft (like Apple) does not make hardware for people to put whatever OS that person wants on it.

      If you wanted more choice, get an Android tablet, root it and do with it as you please.

      "1. attach a reasonable price" That is a double-edge sword. It was rumored the sRT was going to be a $200 product. That would have killed the 3rd party RTs.... and as we see, the smarter companies are not/have not released any RT products. There was simply no profit in it for THEM to produce the RT. If it costs a company $250 in hardware to make the tablet, then $80 for the OS = $320 (This doesn't include the millions more in R&D), which they then have to sell it for $400 to go against the iPad and Android tablets.... leaves them about $20 profit. BUT, they released them as $500~600 products... which nobody with brains would have bought...

      Other than unsuspecting public who thought "Windows tablet for $500, what a deal" who were suckered in and when they tried to use the "WINDOWS" device, they found out that it doesn't run ANY WINDOWS software what-so-ever. Hence, the very high return rate for the RTs. Bestbuy in the USA no longer sells 3rd party RTs. They only have the sRT... starting at $350... which NO 3rd party company could hope to compete with... that is at COSTS, give or take. MS doesn't pay the $80 OS-Office-half-as tax.

      Microsoft has gone STUPID for 12 months now. They killed the cool sounding "Metro" name for TIFKAM. Metro is NOT Windows. There are NO Windows UI elements in Metro. I call bullshit on "We had to drop the Metro name because of some German store", nobody would confuse the two. Anyone think an Apple at the grocery store is an Apple computer?

      Okay, back to the pricing issue: Selling the sRT at $200~300 (Loss or at cost) would sell more units to help build up the base. Problem is... the sRT are not the typical low-cost tablets. When you sell something cheap, it devalues the brand name. Its a stupid human mental trick. Think of the idiot who buys a $1million car... mainly because it has a $1million price tag. Or the $20,000 iPhone (it has jewelry glued to it). I remember an article from a tech mag (INFO?) in the early 90s:

      A Macintosh software developer LOVES making programs that people use. He sold it cheap so that the most amount of people could or would buy his software. Off the top of my head, the price was $30. He wasn't getting many sales and he was starving. He raised the price to $200 and suddenly, people were buying it! Because of the higher price, the consumer thought they were buying a more worthy (value) product.

      Hence... MS shouldn't have to be competing against no-name brand and lower-end / smaller tablets... it looks bad.... but it was their best chance.

  28. Gary F
    Headmaster

    Spell check please!

    "Business strategy at Sun Microsysetms became a joke..."

    And spelling at Vulture Towers also become a joke... Sorry, that's bit of a mean comment. Maybe we should blame the proof reader for missing a typo 5 words into the article? You do still have proof readers these days? Or someone who can click on the spell check button? ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spell check please!

      "And spelling at Vulture Towers also become a joke"

      Probably using an inferior device that doesn't support a proper version of Office...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So to summarise...

    - Windows RT takes all the bloat of Windows Fat, but takes out some of the more useful bits, and makes it even slower than the real thing. And that's saying something.

    - Surfaces are priced similar to iPads...

    - ...but with far, far, far worse screen resolution...

    - ...and heavier...

    - ...and slower...

    - ...and uglier...

    - ...and no apps...

    - ...and Windows Lite.

    - You can't even side load your own OS onto the device.

    - Microsoft provides rather less than a walled garden, and more of a walled cesspit. And guess which side of the wall they want you on... (hint: bring a wetsuit.)

    Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail. Staggering.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So to summarise...

      "- Surfaces are priced similar to iPads..."

      But with:

      A full featured, multitasking OS (can run one app on the tablet and different one on an external screen, or snap multiple apps on screen)

      Full USB support

      A larger screen

      A proper Office suite.

      A secure OS and boot path

      A proper stand

      A larger ecosystem

      Is thinner than the iPad

      Weighs less than the iPad

      Has a micro SD card slot

      Has higher quality chassis construction (magnesium)

      1. danbi
        WTF?

        Re: So to summarise...

        Who cares when it doesn't work for the consumer?

        Besides, most of these pros exist only in Microsoft and their religion followers wishful thinking... or prayers.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: So to summarise...

        Full USB support

        No wonder you keep posting anonymously as this is drivel!

        What do you think full USB support is supposed to mean? Because it most certainly does not mean: will support any device that is plugged in. USB defines some mechanical and electronic stuff plus some baseline driver specs (eg. HCI for mice, keyboards, or an equivalent for mass storage) pretty much everything else requires drivers to be written and compiled for the particular OS and why you almost always have to install some software when you connect say a USB TV receiver.

        We're very happy for you that you like your Microsoft gear but please stop pretending that you are: a) everyman and; b) know anything technical.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So to summarise...

        'Is thinner than the iPad

        Weighs less than the iPad;

        Um, according to the published specs comparing a Surface RT to an iPad 3 (IIRC that's the one that was out when it launched), they're the same thickness to within a millimetre and the Surface RT is heavier.

        Holding both in my hands (I do mobile device acceptance testing where I work, so I got given an RT to try out) the RT feels much bigger, heavier and more cumbersome. That's what people will actually care about.

  30. tempemeaty

    Silent Consensus

    I know this. Every Person in the industrialized world now is the owner of a smart phone and potential fondle slab owner. Almost every one of them is also a PC owner. Microsoft pissed off every PC owner by forcing the phone OS onto PCs. That pretty much killed any hopes they might have had of selling a Surface or Windows phone. It's a virtual boycott by silent consensus. They better make PC owners happy again and get farking TIFKAM off the PCs or Microsoft may never sell the surface or smart phones.

  31. Kunari

    ".. It's bad for investors whose money is tied up in Redmond and an industry looking for a way out of the duopoly of Google and Apple on phones and smart phones, and Google's monopoly on search...."

    Does no one remember bofore this Apple/Google "doupoly" that Microsoft (and Intel) had the strangle hold on the market? I find it funny that Mr Clarke doesn't seem to remember the Wintel days.

  32. Robert Forsyth

    Weakness in MS

    You cannot design interesting products by market research, you test can test* a design with market research, but you cannot create one. Taking the average customer will create an average product, something similar to what is already on the market with little, if any, evolution.

    However, you need a range of different designers, some (prototype) products will succeed and some will fail, but hopefully you will have enough successes to pay for the failures. Or you do the venture capital thing with one product.

    MS of past, with Windows would have the 'Classic' option, which hid the new features and provided a familiar theme. MS must have studied Linux with a kernel, a standard set of (Gnu) programs, and a choice of window manager. Linux was born out of USA inventions: Unix, cheap commodity PC (IBM's version of the Apple 2), and open education software (MINIX). With Linux, Android and iPhone/iPad apps, you have a choice of several that do the same thing, but in slightly different ways, so there is more of a chance of being an app you like, (except it is harder to find it).

    Steve Jobs appeared to have real faith in his products and people, I had the feeling Jobs was more quality assurance than sole visionary. I think Apple got a lot of things wrong, but also they were trapped by early decisions with hindsight were now not the best way to do something (MacOsX scroll bars). The change to touch only interface allowed them to revisit those things and improve them.

    * see what selling price might be and the numbers sold, thus if that provides enough profit to make the product viable.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Weakness in MS

      "MS must have studied Linux with a kernel"

      nope - the monolithic model is dated. Microsoft studied VMS amongst others - and hence Windows has a modern hybrid microkernel - with security and auditing built in from the ground up, and not as a plug-on afterthought like with Linux...

      1. darklordsid
        Windows

        Re: Weakness in MS

        "Windows has a modern hybrid microkernel - with security and auditing built in from the ground up"

        And it is clearly working well, being it still the most frail and virus prone platform.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weakness in MS

        "Windows has a modern hybrid microkernel - with security and auditing built in from the ground up"

        The original Cutler design may have been along those lines (though as Custer's book Inside Windows NT acknowledges, there's probably as much VAXELN as there is VMS, not that most folk would be aware of VAXELN).

        One of the impacts of doing things that way is that, although the increased separation can deliver increased security and stability, and the capability to support meaningful security and auditing, it also comes with a performance penalty, especially on simple benchmarks. Performance and productivity aren't the same thing, but regardless, Gates didn't like it when Windows 98 benchmarks ran slower than Windows NT - even though it was probably inevitable because of the "shared everything" (lack of) security on W98.

        Consequently, stuff which shouldn't have been kernel mode and stuff which shouldn't have had shared data ended up in kernel mode and/or with shared data. That way, things go a bit faster, in return for which it's also a bit less secure and a bit less robust.

        One of the other generally unnoticed differences is that properly written VMS code (including the OS itself) passes stuff around using a concept called a descriptor, which is natively supported by most VMS languages. The descriptor concept when used properly makes buffer overflow exploits very unlikely. NT lost that too.

        So really, Windows security isn't that close to VMS at all, though obviously Windows has a lot more shiny GUI pseudo-security stuff than VMS does. Only people who don't really know both VMS and Windows can ever claim that Windows is comparable in any serious way.

        "not as a plug-on afterthought like with Linux..."

        What would happen if you ripped out the kernel in a Linux and replaced it with a real microkernel?

        You'd have OSF/1 (RIP, 1994), or something very similar.

        Variants of OSF/1 had rather impressive security classifications whose names I forget.

        Might be an opportunity there for someone...

      3. Robert Forsyth

        Re: Weakness in MS

        I agree with your statement - monolithic kernel not good, but that was not my point.

        A micro-kernel with modules/drivers or kernel (with modules eh? ) *has the option of several GUI* (and CLI) environments.

        Anyway, it is mainly invisible to the user, except the wait at boot time and when something is plugged in.

        The micro-kernel philosophy of running things at the lowest security level possible, makes sense if that driver/module may have a bug which crashes or allows an exploit. I don't see how Windows XP did this, when a driver could BSOD and there were viruses which spread over a network from machine to machine.

        Supposed micro-kernel OS:

        NEXTSTEP

        Windows NT

        MINIX

        GNU Herd

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Weakness in MS

          "A micro-kernel with modules/drivers or kernel (with modules eh? ) *has the option of several GUI* (and CLI) environments."

          There's something I'm missing here. A UNIX can have (and some have had) had multiple distinct shells and GUIs (as can/does a Linux). Not to worry.

          "The micro-kernel philosophy of running things at the lowest security level possible, makes sense if that driver/module may have a bug which crashes or allows an exploit. I don't see how Windows XP did this, when a driver could BSOD and there were viruses which spread over a network from machine to machine."

          Much happier with that. Running printer drivers in kernel mode, in the interests of performance, was a bad idea from a security and stability point of view. But it happened (I believe it was fixed too). Whether there are still such relics around, I don't know. MS's "trusted computing" work done on behalf of the high value content distribution industry allegedly made Windows much more secure from an "unauthorised access to someone else's data" point of view, and should have had a significant effect in controlling unauthorised access (and unauthorised elevation of privilege) in general.

          "Windows NT a microkernel"

          Maybe microkernel concepts, pragmatic initial implementation. Later on, security and robustness were sacrificed at the altar of benchmark performance. Trusted computing attempted to reinstate security but afaik didn't reinstate much microkernelness.

          See my earlier essay on Windows NT, VMS, VAXeln, etc.

          1. Robert Forsyth

            Re: Weakness in MS

            It seems MS problems are of their own making.

            Assuming Windows is enough like Linux (Cygwin),

            why can they not provide a WinXP, Win7 and Win8 like GUI program for their display service and gently encourage/ease people from one version to another.

  33. darklordsid

    Too big to fail? I've already heard about that...

    1) 1B is only part of the value of the slabs, it is the planned discount... but as they will not sell, the damage will be far larger (x4 or x5 larger)

    2) they not wrote off the damages of Pro missed sales, that is going to be much more larger - they sold better, but overall poor, and far less what estimated, and numbers were larger: that is the way hw market works, if you overstimate, you are hosed as the margins are tiny and obsolescence is quick.

    Maybe Ballmer thought yelling "we 'r an hardware company now boyz!" dancing and throwing around some chairs would have magically turned 2012's MS in 2005's Apple, but hardware market does not work that way, ask HP, ask Dell, ask Acer, ask Lenovo...

    3) Aforementioned hw companies are fighting back...

    Too big to fail... I don't think so!

  34. strangelybrown

    Pro will be the same story

    Sat here in front of me is a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet II running the full version of Win8. It sucks, frankly, and that's down to one thing alone; the OS... or more specifically the lack of time and care taken by Microsoft over making the OS usable on a slate.

    The few apps which work purely in Metro are very crude - Twitter, for example, is actually less functional that the WP8 version. AccuWeather simply crashes on launch. The apps which require desktop - such as Office - aren't optimized for touch at all. This means you need to resort to the stylus or a mouse in order to use them.

    Furthermore, if you're in desktop mode, it assumes you have a keyboard attached. Calling up the screen keyboard loses half the screen estate and the program open doesn't compensate. Meaning you usually lose sight of the field you're trying to type in. Not being able to easily edit the spreadsheet or powerpoint sort of negates the whole point of the damn thing being a tablet in the first place.

    Lastly, the whole setting/usability interface remains mouse-centric. The worst is bluetooth which can be controlled, to a degree, from metro - but usually requires dropping into desktop to play around with it properly.

    Simply, Win8 doesn't work nicely on a tablet - yes, it works, but compared with true Tablet OS I have in the house - Android, iOS, hell even QNX, it is disjointed. As a laptop, it is simply too small - both physically and technically - to be a viable device to work on all day.

    Having had this thing four months I still struggle to find a use for it, either in work or at home. Given that Surface Pro is the same thing in a different box, I really can't see they're going to get much traction in the business environment - especially since they're well into high-spec Ultrabook territory.

  35. A J Stiles

    It Gets Worse

    Time is ticking until LibreOffice on Android becomes usable. When that happens, even the availability of Microsoft Office on Surface RT won't be such a big deal.

    In fact, users might discover that the way to deal with LibreOffice on the tablet being ever-so-slightly incompatible with MS Office on the PC, is to install LibreOffice on the PC. They can't complain about the price, anyway .....

  36. William 3 Bronze badge

    Branding is Microsofts achilles heals.

    Once upon a time, you had Windows, or you had Windows.

    You used it school, at home, and at work. There was no getting away from Windows.

    WIndows used to crash. A lot. Obtaining software for Windows was full of danger. Especially when the Internet came along and you could download "Free Screensavers" without having to go to a shop and drag the owner outside because he has sold you a virus!

    If you wanted to access the Internet, send an email, or view your photos, you needed Windows. And that was that.

    Then along came the iPod. Hey, this is cool. I don't need Windows anymore to play all my music. It doesn't crash and I it doesn't get a virus. I can live with this.

    Then along came the iPhone, and it did everything your iPod did and allowed you to take photos and email them AND make phone calls. It didn't crash, and it didn't get a virus and it replaced at least 4 devices!

    Then along came the app store, where you could buy applications and install them without it crashing and without it getting a virus!

    So now you could use facebook, twitter and other social media goodies, you could google things, browse the Internet, take photos and post them directly to Facebook.

    Windows became something you either used at work, or used at home to type out a resignation letter to your employer because you've made a million selling a fart app! Sure it was naff, but people paid a throw-a-way fee for a throw-a-way app and it was safer than doing the same on Windows!

    And now we have tablets of all sizes. You can stream on demand videos on them, and they last for hours, and you can complain about Eastenders to all your twitter followers of facebook friends about what a bastrad Ian Beale is!

    That Windows machine. Well, it's for work isn't it? That's what Windows is for? For doing work on.

    Do I want a Windows RT tablet for around the house?

    "It's Windows, and Windows get all kinds viruses!"

    "Nah, I don't wan't to do work, I want to play with a shiney toy!"

    "I don't want to do my tax returns, that's what my Windows machine is for in the corner, gathering dust"

    "If I wanted to write a letter resigning, I'd do it at work, and use their laser printer and paper!!"

    "Oh, I've used a windows laptop before and the battery life was crap"

    "I don't want it to crash"

    "Man, Windows reminds me of work, which I have to be in tomorrow, why would I want to be reminded of work"

    "Dude, I've used Windows loads, and those free screensavers aren't really screensavers, so now thanks"

    "Windows you say? No way, I don't want to be seen as a geek/nerd/dweep. That's what the IT bods at work use, no thanks, I want to be able to pull chicks you know!!"

    I'm sure I could go on listing all the negative stereotypes associated with windows. True or no. I'm sure you can add your own to that list.

    Windows.... It has a really bad name, doesn't it.

    Kind of like the reputation British Motor Cars of the 70's and 80's have.

    That's Microsofts real issue. No-one wants to be seen dead in one. Just because...

    1. Chezstar
      FAIL

      Re: Branding is Microsofts achilles heals.

      I love it how you think that anything apple doesn't crash. My iphone used to crash regularly. Hate to say it, but my old iphone crashed more regularly than any windows install I've had since XP ever did.

      Honestly not sure why people think that windows is any less/more vulnerable to viruses and crashing than anything else. Its not the OS fault, its the user. "OH LOOKZ, I CLICKLED THIS LINK AND NOW MY POOTER CRASHEZ0R5!!" Stupidity on the user does not make the OS any more vulnerable.

      Sure, I'm hating the look of Win8, until I put classic start on it, and killed metro, now it runs just like windows 7, but faster.

      So to celebrate, I went and installed some games on my windows computer, you know, all those PROPER games that you cant get on an iphone, or ipad, or even an android tablet for that matter. Makes for great evenings when things are quiet.

      I have an android tablet and an android smartphone, my wife has an ipad, and we both still have windows computers, because they do what we want, when we want to.

      Just because it doesn't do what YOU want it to do immediately, it must be a fail eh? Here, I have a nice black turtleneck that you can wear, just to be like the rest of the useless pawns.

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