Prices of Windows RT devices have started falling, signaling an attempt by PC makers to quickly clear out stock after poor adoption of tablets and convertibles with the operating system.
Microsoft released Windows RT for ARM-based devices and Windows 8 for Intel-based devices in October last year. The price drop is an acknowledgement that Windows RT has failed, analysts said.
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Though Microsoft has not publicly acknowledged the failure of Windows RT, there is already growing concern about the fate of the OS. IDC earlier this month said that Windows RT tablet shipments have been poor, and that consumers have not bought into “Windows RT’s value proposition.”
- Falling Windows RT Tablet Prices Signify Slow Adoption (Slashdot) (mobile.slashdot.org)
- Microsoft VP: We’re Not Giving Up on Windows RT (tomshardware.com)
- Prices of Windows RT tablets drop, point to failure of OS (techworld.com.au)
- Why aren’t Windows RT tablets selling? Ask Argos (pcpro.co.uk)
We didn’t miss cell phones, but the way that we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership. So it’s clearly a mistake.
– Bill Gates, speaking about his performance and that of Steve Ballmer.
I received e-mails from a few readers who made treks to their local stores on Saturday morning only to discover stores received a handful, or in some cases, just one 128 GB Surface Pro. Some stores still have 64 GB Surface Pros on hand as of February 10. Users can’t order these devices online via the Microsoft Store, Best Buy or Staples sites because they are “sold out.”
Microsoft claims that the sales were “amazing” but they provided no numbers. Ms. Foley’s headline for her story is “Microsoft’s Surface Pro launch marred by supply shortages.” You be the judge as to which side is right.
Here is a collection of links to reviews of Microsoft’s Surface Pro:
All right then: the Surface Pro is fast, flexible and astonishingly compact for what it does; that much is unassailable. But in practice, there are some disappointments and confusions.
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The speakers aren’t especially strong. The screen and keyboard are both slightly smaller than what you’d get on a real laptop. The magnet on the power cord is stronger than on the non-Pro Surface, but attaching that cursed cord is still a flummoxing operation.
You should also realize that of the base model’s 64 gigabytes of storage, only 23 are available for your use. A full 65 percent of your storage is eaten up by Windows itself. (On the 128-gig Surface Pro model, only 83 gigabytes are free.) Ouch.
We’re still completely enraptured by the idea of a full-featured device that can properly straddle the disparate domains of lean-forward productivity and lean-back idleness. Sadly, we’re still searching for the perfect device and OS combo that not only manages both tasks, but excels at them. The Surface Pro comes about as close as we’ve yet experienced, but it’s still compromised at both angles of attack. When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface — though more native Windows 8 apps might solve the problem by keeping us from having to even go there.
That it offers compatibility with the massive back-catalog of Windows apps gives this a strong leg up over the earlier Surface RT, but the thickness, heft and battery life are big marks against.
Some users may not mind the price or bulk of the Surface Pro if it frees them from carrying a tablet for some uses and a laptop for others. But like many products that try to be two things at once, the new Surface Windows 8 Pro does neither as well as those designed for one function.
Who is this for? Even a well-executed Surface still doesn’t work for me, and I’d bet it doesn’t work for most other people either. It’s really tough to use on anything but a desk, and the wide, 16:9 aspect ratio pretty severely limits its usefulness as a tablet anyway. It’s too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it’s too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. In its quest to be both, the Surface is really neither. It’s supposed to be freeing, but it just feels limiting.
As a tablet, the Surface Pro is not as strong as its competitors. It’s larger, the battery life can’t compete and still lacks critical apps. As a laptop it’s hampered by its smaller screen size, lack of a good mouse option and the fact that it doesn’t really sit on your lap. Putting the two together results in a breed that’s simply not as compelling as separate tablets and laptops. The Surface Pro is a good choice for a niche mobile user, one who is willing to pay $1,000 for the power and robustness of a full Windows computer in a small and very compelling form factor. Many people, however, will likely prefer to get a tablet and buy a separate Windows laptop, so they don’t have to make another compromise.
I’m not arguing that Surface with Windows 8 Pro is a machine without a market. If you equip it with an external display, keyboard and mouse, it becomes a serviceable desktop PC, and if you stick to Windows 8 apps, it may be the best Windows 8 tablet so far. If I were shopping for an Ultrabook and my budget allowed, I’d consider it. But used with the applications I tried, Surface Pro doesn’t prove that one computing device can do everything well. Instead, it makes clear that there’s no such thing as no-compromise computing. That’s not the lesson Microsoft intended, but it’s a useful one nonetheless — for consumers, for the industry and maybe even for Microsoft.
These reviews are unfortunate for Microsoft, since this is what they said at the Surface introduction event months ago:
Mr. Ballmer and other Microsoft executives repeatedly use the words “no compromises” to describe the tablet computers they envision running Windows 8 and Windows RT — which means that users will be able to use work-oriented tools like Microsoft Word and Excel programs, not just be used for watching movies and surfing the Web.
It seems that thieves have stolen property from a Microsoft facility. The stolen property was limited to iPads.
Paul Thurrott has written a Windows-focused blog, called Supersite for Windows, for years, and is generally a fan of the platform. He has just published an essay that highlights the huge damage caused by the explosion of netbook Windows machines over the past couple of years. By damage, I mean that the sale of cheap netbooks effectively caused purchasers to discount the value of the Windows platform, thereby causing a huge problem for both Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers who drove the market down and down. It is worth a full read.
And here is an excerpt:
Windows 7 was a lie.
See, that 20 million [sales of Windows 7 per month] figure—which I believe to have been massaged from a bookkeeping standpoint—was unfairly bolstered by sales of low-cost PCs, primarily netbooks. And that’s the clue we see in the NPD statement above. It says that the average selling price of notebooks [this past holiday season] “rose only $2 to $420.” The average selling price of Windows-based PC notebooks is barely above $400. Do you know what the ASP is for Apple’s Macbook line? It’s $1419. A full $1000 more than that of a typical Windows notebook. $1000!
It’s not pat to say that the Windows PC market went for volume over quality, because it did: Many of those 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month—too many, I think—went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap. Netbooks didn’t just rejuvenate the market just as Windows 7 appeared, they also destroyed it from within: Now consumers expect to pay next to nothing for a Windows PC. Most of them simply refuse to pay for more expensive Windows PCs.
And this isn’t my opinion, it’s a fact. Despite being created as a “touch-first” OS, only 4.5 percent of Windows 8 PC sales including multi-touch capabilities. When you couple this with the fact that statistically zero percent of PCs that were upgraded to Windows 8 included touch capabilities, you can see that even in the tiny current market of Windows 8 users, virtually no one is using multi-touch.
(Before anyone else points this out, yes, the NPD’s data cited here does not include tablets, like Surface, nor does it measure sales at Microsoft’s own retail stores, which accounted for virtually all Surface sales in Q4. But let’s not pretend that Surface sales have taken off. Based on Microsoft’s silence, and what we do know about Windows 8 sales, it’s likely that Surface accounts for a tiny, tiny percentage of Windows 8 sales overall.)
In a privately distributed report, NPD concludes that “netbooks did an incalculable amount of damage to the PC market,” driving average selling prices down at an unsustainable rate.
I just don’t see the tons of crazy new ideas that I did a few years ago. Things that are genuinely new and interesting.
Yeah, yeah, mobile. I get it. Everything’s mobile these days. LET’S GO MO-BILE! But really that’s just an IQ test. When you see bold new startups with nothing but a desktop strategy, you know they just don’t get it and you move on.
But really a lot of the mobile stuff out there is just radioactive decay from the iPhone launching in 2007.
Old news! Ancient platforms!
Yeah, the iPhone and Android are great. But seriously, look at the top headline grabbers in tech news in 2012. Apple. Google. Facebook. Microsoft. Christ. It might as well still be 2007.
– Michael Arrington. I have to agree that the launch of the iPhone in 2007 was the last super-meaningful technology change since then.
Happy New Year.
I love this.
Sales of Windows 8 PCs are well below Microsoft’s internal projections and have been described inside the company as disappointing. But here’s the catch: The software giant blames the slow start on lackluster PC maker designs and availability, further justifying its new Surface strategy. But Windows 8’s market acceptance can be blamed on many factors.
Thurrott provides a list of factors causing the problem in the full article, which is worth a read.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
Not so good, at least among consumers.
Most Windows users in the U.S. know about Windows 8 but few have immediate plans to upgrade to Microsoft’s newest operating system.
What’s more, about one-third of Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP users who are ready to buy a new personal computer say they intend to switch to an Apple product.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
Microsoft releases its tablet computer, called the Surface, on Friday. You have probably seen the opening TV advertisement which focuses on a clicking keyboard or kickstand but fails to show what the tablet can actually do.
And now reviews of the Surface from tech writers are coming in. Below is a sampling.
How would you like to move into a stunning mansion on a bluff overlooking the sea — in Somalia? Or would you like the chance to own a new Ferrari — that has to be refueled every three miles? Would you take a job that pays $1 million a year — cutting football fields with toenail clippers?
That’s the sort of choice Microsoft is asking you to make with the spectacularly designed, wildly controversial Surface tablet.
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Unfortunately, Windows RT [the Surface operating system] is not the full Windows. The Surface comes with preview 2013 versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint — workable, but sometimes sluggish.
Otherwise, though, Windows RT can’t run any of the four million regular Windows programs. Or the 275,000 iPad apps. Or the 17 Android tablet apps. (That’s a joke! There are actually 19 Android tablet apps.)
Instead, it requires all new apps. They’re available exclusively from the online Windows App Store, and there aren’t many to choose from; for example, there’s no Facebook, Spotify, Angry Birds, Instagram, Draw Something or New York Times app. The total in the United States is about 3,500 apps so far; many are bare-bones or junky.
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And how ironic that what lets the Surface down is supposedly Microsoft’s specialty: software.
It’s in the other half of the equation, that of the content consumption and entertainment, where the Surface is currently lacking. It needs a bigger pile of apps and games to make up for that and, while we’re sure they’re coming, we don’t know when. If those apps arrive soon, then early adopters will feel vindicated. If, however, the Windows RT market is slow to mature, not truly getting hot for another six months or so, holding off will prove to have been the smarter option.
So, if gaming and music and movies and reading are what you’re looking to enjoy, then we might advise sitting this one out for a few months just to make sure that all your bases will indeed be covered. If, however, you’re looking for an impeccably engineered tablet upon which you can do some serious work, a device that doesn’t look, feel or act like a toy, then you should get yourself a Surface with Windows RT.
Still, there are rough edges to the Surface. The biggest is a paucity of apps for the new touch interface. At launch, Microsoft estimates there will be only about 10,000 third-party such apps available globally, of which about 5,000 will be available in the U.S. More important, many popular titles, like Facebook, will be missing. That’s a tiny number of apps compared with the 700,000 touch-operated apps that run on the iPad.
And there is more bad news about apps. This first edition of Surface uses a variant of Windows 8, called RT, that can’t run the vast array of traditional programs many Windows users rely upon daily, like Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, Apple iTunes or even Microsoft’s own Outlook. A second edition of the Surface, due in January, will run the full version of Windows 8, and most of these standard Windows programs. But it will be heavier.
Should you buy it?
No. The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That’s a lot of money. Especially given that it’s no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It’s a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior.
That could change. Maybe there will be a new Touch Cover that retains the original’s terrific physical qualities while actually allowing good typing. Maybe the quasi-vaporware Surface Pro, which eschews Windows RT in favor of the real-deal Win 8, will make all the difference, opening itself up to the open seas of PC software (for several hundred dollars more). Maybe the app store will look different in a month, or a year, and have anything to offer. Maybe. But remember that Windows Phone—which has swelled from mere hundreds, to tens of thousands, to over a hundred thousand app offerings over the past two years—is still a wasteland compared to iOS and Android. Poor precedent. Maybe Windows RT will be different. Maybe.
But those maybes aren’t worth putting money on. As much as it looked (and even felt) like it for a bit, the future isn’t here quite yet.
I’ve been waiting a long time for somebody to produce tablets and phones that are lock, stock and barrel better than what Apple’s been making since the first iPhone. Every year, somebody gets closer. Surface is good, but it doesn’t get close enough. The thing is, Surface is supposed to be so much more than just Microsoft’s iPad alternative, the Other Tablet. It may very well be one day. It has everything it needs to be that. But right now it’s just another tablet. And not one you should buy today.
The Surface is a nice tablet. The design and aesthetic are pleasing, the feel in the hands, particularly of the kickstand and magnetic cover connection is excellent. But is it worth buying on the day of release?
The big problem Microsoft has is that right now it doesn’t matter how good Surface is. The decision on whether or not to buy depends not on Surface itself, but on Windows RT. The only third-party applications that will run on Windows RT are those that use the Metro interface and are distributed through the Windows Store. At the moment, there just aren’t that many applications, and many of the ones that exist are mediocre.
Apple stock has been on something of a tear lately. Today, it closed above $665, an all time high for the company. And, if you ignore inflation, Apple today passed Microsoft’s all-time high market capitalization ($618 Billion) with an Apple market cap of $623 Billion. For the calendar year to date, Apple is up 64%.
But keep in mind: past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
Analyst firm Canalsys, which believes that iPads should be treated as personal computers, is out with a press release focused on personal computer sales. It rates Apple as the number one personal computer seller in the world with 19% of global PC shipments. This is a stunning number.
But the press release also includes the following gem:
The information available to date suggests the prices of both [models of Surface tablets] will be too high to capture significant market share, and a direct sales approach will prove inadequate. We expect the Surface pads to have a similar impact on the PC industry as the Zune did in portable music players.
(via The Loop)
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.