Tech Strategy Trends


January 26, 2013  12:59 PM

Will Microsoft slash the price of the Surface tablet?



Posted by: Tony Bradley
Apple iPad, iPad, Microsoft, tablet, Windows 8 tablets

The Surface RT–the ARM-based tablet running Windows RT that Microsoft launched last October–has received a fair amount of praise in reviews for the quality of its engineering and construction, and the general tablet experience. However, by most estimated those favorable reviews did not necessarily translate to sales, and the Surface RT is not meeting expectations.

Why? Well, Microsoft is coming late to the party, and there are already established tablets dominating the market. Right, wrong, or indifferent, the single best way to differentiate a device in the market is price. The iPad starts at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model. The Surface RT was introduced at $499 as well–albeit for a 32GB Wi-Fi only model. As nice as the Surface RT might be, businesses and consumers looking to spend $499 on a tablet are almost universally going to choose the iPad. It has endless apps, and an established track record. It has an entire after market of gadgets and accessories. It is a known. The Surface RT is an unknown.

Microsoft missed an opportunity to capture tablet market share. It should have launched the Surface RT at $199 as was rumored prior to the official pricing being revealed–even if it meant selling at a loss temporarily. It could have framed it as a limited-time launch promotion, and then raised the price to $400 or $450 later (Going head to head with the iPad price would still be a mistake). Is it too late to correct that error?

There is some speculation that Microsoft may, in fact, sell a cheaper Surface tablet, but the evidence is sparse. The report stems from a quote from Microsoft CFO Peter Klein during the recent Microsoft earnings call promising “a greater variety of devices at a bigger variety of price points.”

It doesn’t NOT say “cheaper Surface RT”, but it’s also a bit of a stretch to jump to that conclusion.

I think the Surface RT is a very nice tablet, but Microsoft has to get its foot in the door first. Market share has a way of self-perpetuating–the more people have a given device, the more likely others are to want / purchase that same device. If Microsoft bites the bullet and cuts the price, it could build some momentum for the Surface RT that could eventually sustain itself.

I’m not sure it’s worth it, though. Or–more precisely–I’m not sure that’s the battle that Microsoft should commit its resources to.

Microsoft has a huge opportunity with tablets still. But, the real potential lies in the Surface Pro and other Windows 8 Pro tablets, rather than the Surface RT / Windows RT versions. As the tablet industry matures, and the PC industry evolves to engulf and include the tablet industry, a Windows 8 device that is a PC when you’re at your desk, and a tablet when you’re on the go meets the needs of both while providing a consistent experience, and access to all of the same software and data no matter where or how you use it.

January 23, 2013  10:57 AM

Game over for Microsoft? Not quite



Posted by: Tony Bradley
Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

I’m not sure if he’s based out of Washington, but it seems like Adam Hartung is smoking some powerful stuff. In response to the seemingly tepid reception Windows 8 and the Surface RT tablet received over the holiday season, Hartung is shouting “the sky is falling” from the rooftops, and proclaiming the death of Microsoft. Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic, the title of his blog post is “Sell Microsoft NOW – Game over, Ballmer loses.”

Hartung is sure Ballmer is the worst thing to happen to Microsoft, and that the company will quickly plummet–following the likes of RIM and Palm from once lofty heights to mere also-ran afterthoughts, or possibly complete oblivion. He suggests that Microsoft will be forced to cut up to 60 percent of its 94,000 employees–more than 56,000 jobs–in the next few years.

Seriously? I’m not suggesting Steve Ballmer is a great CEO, and I’m not saying Microsoft hasn’t made some (many) mistakes along the way–but Microsoft isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Judging from the comments on this Windows8Update post, I’m not alone in thinking that Hartung is off base (to put it mildly).

First, Hartung does a lot of comparing apples to oranges, or more like apples to bicycles. He talks a lot about Windows 8 and PC sales, but then goes on to use iOS and Android statistics as an argument in support of the demise of Microsoft and Windows PCs.

Hartung claims that Microsoft dominance has fallen from 95 percent down to 20–citing a Goldman Sachs chart. The chart isn’t looking at PC operating systems, or mobile platforms, though. The chart is looking at overall total devices connected to the Internet. In that respect, Microsoft is losing ground, and it does have something to worry about. It’s a simple reality that the idea of a PC is somewhat dated, and that smartphones and tablets have emerged as primary computing devices for many users.

I agree with this quote from the cited Business Insider post, “Microsoft’s inability to make a smartphone people really love could be a deadly mistake. As people became comfortable with the iPhone, they became open to the idea of the iPad. As the iPad takes off, it is slowing PC sales. As people become comfortable with the iPad, they’re going to be more inclined to buy a Mac to stay in Apple’s ecosystem.”

Here’s the deal. Microsoft has almost 92 percent of the desktop OS market. 92 percent. Mac OS X has a little over 7 percent, and Linux has 1 percent. Mac OS X has gained in popularity, and has increased market share a tad in recent years, but it is highly unlikely that either Mac OS X, or Linux, or Chrome OS, or anything else will pose any realistic threat to Microsoft’s OS dominance any time soon.

As pointed out above, though, the real threat is from mobile devices. Microsoft may not lose dominance of the PC OS market, but the definition of a PC and the relevance of that market is quickly fading. That, however, is where Microsoft still has a long-term advantage, and why Windows 8 is brilliant.

Surface RT is a well-engineered, high quality device…that will probably never be any real competition for tablets like the iPad, Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or Kindle Fire. Had Microsoft brought it to market for $300 or less, it would be a different story. But, the price is too close to an iPad for people to justify. There’s enough about Windows RT that isn’t really “Windows” that it puts Windows RT tablets at a disadvantage.

The Surface Pro, on the other hand–or more precisely Windows 8 Pro tablets in general–are another story. The Surface Pro won’t be available until February, and the existing Windows 8 tablets like the Dell Latitude 10 may not be flying off the shelves…but they will. What’s better than having a Windows or Mac PC with a separate tablet you can take when you go mobile? Having a PC you can just take with you, and still have all of the same data and applications you’re used to with you wherever you go–that’s what.

The PC market is fading because the definition of what defines a “personal computer” has shifted. As long as you consider PC sales and tablet sales as two separate entities you won’t really have a complete picture of the PC market or the relative success of Windows. The market may balk at the dramatic makeover of Windows 8, but people always resist change. Eventually they’ll get used to it. Eventually they’ll need a new PC (or tablet, or hybrid). Eventually Windows 8 will be the number one operating system–and when it is, it will be the first step toward Microsoft reshaping itself to continue as a dominant force in a redefined PC market.

Whether he’s under the influence or not, Hartung is just wrong.

 


January 17, 2013  8:21 AM

The best of both worlds: Running Windows 8 and Mac OS X together



Posted by: Tony Bradley
aero snap, Apple, Mac OS X, MacBook, Windows 8

I really (really) loved my Dell XPS M1330 laptop. It served me well for years, with only minor issues that Dell support showed up at my house to fix. It was a great laptop. As it began to show its age in terms of the underlying hardware and processing power, I could have just gone back to the well and purchased whatever the newer version of that same laptop might be, but I decided to take that opportunity to broaden my horizons. As an industry analyst and tech journalist, I figured I should have some firsthand experience with all of the different platforms, so I decided to replace the Dell XPS M1330 with an 11-inch MacBook Air (MBA). I made that decision in part because I knew I’d still have the option of dual-booting or running virtual instances of Windows or Linux operating systems on the MBA, but if I had chosen a Windows laptop I would not be able to run Mac OS X.

As far as the physical laptop goes, it’s beautiful. The engineering is pristine, and the quality of the construction is better than any laptop I’ve seen or previously owned. When it comes to the OS, I’m not as convinced. It took me a lot of adjustment to get around in Mac OS X after years of living in Windows, and even now–a year and a half later–there are things I miss and prefer about Windows. One of the things I missed most was Aero Snap. I loved the simple convenience of just dragging a window to the left or right to automatically fill half of the display, or maximizing and minimizing the window by dragging it up or down. It had become habit–a habit that allowed me to work more efficiently and be more productive.

I also found that there are certain software applications I rely on which have Mac OS X versions, but that the Mac versions are sad, pathetic shells of their Windows counterparts. The Mac versions of Microsoft Office and Intuit’s Quicken personal finance applications are like dumbed-down caricatures of the “real thing”. I’m not sure why Office can’t just be Office, but there are a number of small–but key–features and capabilities I found missing, and the cartoon-like balloon letter icons for the Office apps in Mac illustrate how Microsoft views the audience–whimsical and immature, as opposed to serious and professional. Quicken on Mac OS X is a joke. It’s simple features are an insult to the Quicken brand.

Thankfully, I found a solution that gives me the best of both worlds. Parallels. Parallels allows me to run a virtualized Windows operating system from within Mac OS X. The best part, though, is that I don’t have to treat Windows as a separate OS, or switch back and forth. There is a feature of Parallels called Coherence which basically merges the two platforms together, and lets me access and use all of the Windows tools and applications directly from Mac OS X, as if they’re installed natively. Parallels provides seamless access to both operating systems–and their respective software–simultaneously.

It’s not perfect, though. First, I am running two complete OS platforms with the same, limited hardware resources. It is typically surprisingly smooth, but if I try to do too much at once it can quickly bog everything down to a frustratingly slow speed. Second, the MBA only has a 128GB SSD–I don’t even keep my music stored locally because it would quickly max out the hard drive. That means I have the virtualized Windows installed on an external USB drive, and if I take the laptop on the road I’d have to bring the drive with me, or not use Windows 8 unless I’m in my office. Lastly, the Coherence feature is awesome, but if I want to be able to use Aero Snap, I have to exit Coherence, and actually use Windows as a separate virtual OS.

I still love Windows. I never have become a true Mac convert or zealot. It has its own pros and cons, and I don’t dislike it per se–but I love Windows. If I didn’t feel like I need to stay in touch with all of the major operating systems, I’d probably just install Windows 8 on the MacBook Air hardware and call it a day. But, if you have a Mac, and you’d still like to be able to seamlessly run Windows software, you should check out Parallels.


April 16, 2012  2:47 PM

Windows8Update Gets Wes Miller’s Two Cents on Windows 8



Posted by: Tony Bradley
GetWired, Onuora Amobi, Wes Miller, Windows 8, Windows8Update

Following the interview with me, Onuora Amobi of Windows8Update conducted a similar interview with Wes Miller. Wes Miller is an editor for GetWired.com and participated on the Windows 8 tablets panel with Onuora and I at the MVP Nation conference.

Check out the interview for Wes’ insights and commentary on Windows 8. Microsoft in particular should be paying attention to what I said in my interview, and what Wes is saying in his. If Microsoft doesn’t heed some of this advice, we’re going to be writing a lot of “I told you so” articles when Windows 8 hits the streets.

Windows 8 Interview–Wes Miller from Directions on Microsoft


April 12, 2012  10:47 PM

Leaked Microsoft Roadmap Hints at Windows 8, ‘Office 15′ Release Dates



Posted by: Tony Bradley
leaked product roadmap, Microsoft, Microsoft Office, Office 15, Windows 8

When will Windows 8 be officially launched? When will the next version of the Microsoft Office suite hit the shelves? Well, we don’t know–but thanks to a leaked product roadmap we may have some idea.

Many users are already using Windows 8 in the form of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The official release of Windows 8 is widely speculated to be this fall, and the information from the leaked roadmap supports that timeline.

As for “Office 15″, if you were hoping to get it around the same time as Windows 8 you may be out of luck. The leaked roadmap hints at an early 2013 release. The good news, though, is that it appears the public beta of the next version of Microsoft Office will be available some time this summer.

Are you planning on moving to Windows 8? Will you buy a new system loaded with the next generation OS, or just upgrade Windows on your existing hardware?

What about “Office 15″? Do you intend to switch to the latest and greatest version of Office when it hits the street?


April 12, 2012  3:55 PM

My Interview with Onuora Amobi on Windows8Update



Posted by: Tony Bradley
Onuora Amobi, PCWorld, Windows 8, Windows8Update

I had the pleasure of meeting Onuora Amobi recently when we participated together on a panel session at the MVP Nation conference. The topic of the panel discussion was Windows 8 tablets, and we had a variety of interesting and salient points shared back and forth.

I was honored and flattered when Onuora asked me if I’d be willing to do an interview with him for his Windows8Update site. We spent some time talking about Windows 8 and my thoughts on the upcoming Microsoft operating system.

Enjoy: Exclusive–Windows 8 Interview with PCWorld’s Tony Bradley


April 9, 2012  8:00 PM

OnLive Makes an Effort to Go Legit



Posted by: Tony Bradley
OnLive, VDI, virtual desktop, virtual server, Windows desktop

OnLive fell afoul of Microsoft’s good graces as a result of hosting Windows 7 online and offering it virtually as a service for mobile devices like the Apple iPad. OnLive offered the service at a very reasonable monthly rate, but unfortunately that rate didn’t include properly licensing the OS from Microsoft.

OnLive was apparently not discouraged by the turn of events, though. Ars Technica reports that OnLive has switched to using Windows Server to host its online virtual desktops, and that it now believes it is in compliance with Microsoft licensing.

Microsoft is allegedly examining the setup to confirm compliance. There is no word about whether or not the shift in business plan will come with a rate hike for customers.


April 6, 2012  10:06 AM

Windows Reimagined? Where’s the Hardware to Back It?



Posted by: Tony Bradley
hardware, reimagined, tablets, ultrabooks, Windows 8

Given that I just rebranded this blog as “Windows Reimagined” it seems particularly apropos to talk about a recent post from ZDNet’s Mary J. Foley.

Mary points out that without next-generation hardware designed to take advantage of the features and benefits of Windows 8, much of what Microsoft has “reimagined” loses its relevance.

I think that Windows 8 tablets are a foregone conclusion. They’ll appear eventually–probably in sync with the launch of Windows 8 itself. I don’t have tremendous confidence that they will be competitively priced or be able to go head to head with the existing tablets in the market, but I’m sure they’ll at least exist.

What I am more curious about are notebooks or ultrabooks that are “reimagined” to take advantage of Windows 8. I’d like to see some ultrabooks that also have a touchscreen display so you can take advantage of both the Metro and desktop interfaces of Windows 8.

On the desktop side, there are touchscreen monitors available (I know, I have one), but they’re impractical to use. For desktops what we need is new and improved office furniture that makes it more feasible to actually use a touchscreen display.

What do you think? Would you be more excited about Windows 8, or more willing to move to Windows 8 if there was unique hardware designed to leverage its unique features and capabilities as well?


March 28, 2012  9:38 PM

Is Windows 8 Ready for RC?



Posted by: Tony Bradley
release candidate, Windows 8, Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Windows 8 RC

There are rumors that the Windows 8 RC is coming soon. Actually, since the Consumer Preview has already been available for sometime, it doesn’t really take a Nostradamus to predict that the release candidate will soon follow.

The problem, though, is that the RC implies that it’s ready. Microsoft doesn’t normally make grand changes in the product after the RC. The RC is basically the final release, taken out for one last test spin to identify any show-stopper bugs that may yet be undiscovered. But, in terms of look and feel, the RC should be what we get when Windows 8 officially launches.

That could be a bad move for Microsoft. I understand the value of Windows 8 and the Metro interface for tablets–whether Windows on ARM (WOA) or traditional Intel/AMD architecture. I even think that Windows 8 will do well in the emerging ultrabook market as long as hardware vendors put it on ultrabooks that have hardware features that take advantage of the unique capabilities of Windows 8–like including touchscreen displays or something.

But, as a desktop OS–or laptop OS on existing Windows 7 notebooks–it’s got some issues. So far, the Metro interface seems to get in the way more than enhance the experience or add any value on my Dell XPS M1330 notebook. Most of what I do that is actually functional involves dropping into desktop mode which is essentially no different than Windows 7–so what is the value proposition? Why would Microsoft expect me, or anyone else, to switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8?

Onuora Amobi, editor of Windows8Update.com feels the same sense of Windows 8 pessimism. In a recent blog post, Amobi stresses just how crucially important it is for Microsoft that the Windows 8 launch be successful. But, he sums up his experience using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview with, “It has turned out to be a great source of screenshots and research but I don’t see it replacing my Windows 7 Ultimate PC anytime soon.”

Are you using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview? What do you think? Would you upgrade to it if that were the final version of Windows 8? What would Microsoft need to change or improve to compel you to move from Windows 7 to Windows 8?


March 28, 2012  9:20 PM

Microsoft Rolls Out DaRT 8 Beta



Posted by: Tony Bradley
DaRT, Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset, MDOP, Microsoft, Windows 8

The Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). DaRT is a set of tools that helps easily recover unusable PCs, rapidly diagnose problem causes of issues, and quickly repair unbootable or locked-out systems.

With DaRT 8 Beta, Microsoft is updating DaRT to work with Windows 8, and to provide admins with much greater flexibility when it comes to repairing and recovering PCs. According to a Windows for Your Business blog post, the latest version of DaRT includes the ability to:

  • Repair PCs instead of reimaging. The DaRT 8 beta enables IT professionals to easily recover PCs that have become unusable, rapidly diagnose probable causes of issues, and quickly repair unbootable or locked-out systems, all faster than the average time it takes to reimage the machine.
    Use scripts to enable image creation. The DaRT 8 beta has an image creation wizard that is now built on top of PowerShell cmdlets, allowing IT departments to mount, create, apply, ad dismount and burn via scripting – ultimately letting the image creation process be saved and repurposed for later use. This kind of automation should save IT departments some time.
  • Provide native support for USB media deployments. In previous versions of DaRT, additional tools were required to place DaRT images on USB drives. With DaRT 8 beta, this functionality is natively supported in the image creation wizard, minimizing the number of tools required for USB deployment.
  • Create multiple images from one device. The DaRT 8 beta is able to create both 32-bit and 64-bit images on a single machine and transfer them between.
  • Choose the output format. Now as part of the image creation process, WIM and ISO output formats are supported in the DaRT 8 beta so that IT departments are sure the right format is an option for a broader deployment plan.

For more about the DaRT 8 Beta, check out the Microsoft blog post, or this blog post from the Springboard Series, or just sign up to become a participant in the DaRT 8 Beta program and test it out for yourself.


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