Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
11/15/2012
10:01 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray

Surface Pro, as well as systems that run Win8 on Intel's Clover Trail platform, are missing in action at a key time -- creating a nasty enterprise tablet problem for Microsoft.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
So where is Surface Pro? Microsoft's much-hyped, business-friendly Windows 8 tablet is nowhere to be seen. The delay, according to industry sources, has thrown the company's tablet plans, and indeed much of its strategy around Windows 8, into disarray. The situation may even have contributed to former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky's sudden exit this week.

Here's the background. Microsoft unveiled Surface earlier this year, revealing two versions. Surface RT, which runs Windows RT and shipped on Oct. 26, and Surface Pro, based on Windows 8 Professional. Windows RT is a Windows 8 derivative designed for consumer tablets. All Windows RT tablets are powered by ARM chips, and are designed to be light and long on battery life. The downside: They won't run regular Windows applications and are incompatible with many Microsoft security and management tools, including Active Directory.

That's where Surface Pro comes in, or was supposed to. It runs full-blown Windows 8, and was intended for business users and others who want legacy application support and compatibility with corporate IT environments. It's powered by Intel's Core i5 x86 chip. It promises full support for legacy Windows software and Microsoft's back-end admin, security and cloud tools.

[ What does the future hold for Microsoft? Read Watch For Microsoft To Acquire Nokia, Nvidia. ]

So which version of Surface is Microsoft currently pitching to businesses? If you guessed Surface Pro, you'd be wrong. Sources tell me company reps are pushing Surface RT to enterprise accounts because, frankly, they have no clue when Surface Pro will be ready.

A Microsoft spokesperson I contacted on Wednesday would say only that the tablet will be available within 70 days, which could put its release into next year. Microsoft isn't saying what's causing the delay. Other Windows 8 systems that run Intel's Core chips have already hit the market.

Not surprisingly, enterprise buyers aren't interested in Surface RT. "What the hell are we going to do with it?" said one source I talked to. The source works at a major financial institution, where Microsoft reps recently pitched Surface RT. "You can only run them in an unmanaged environment -- we'd have to be crazy" to use them, my source said.

There's another mess on the Windows 8 tablet front. Computer makers that developed systems based on Intel's new Clover Trail Atom platform are also scrambling. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and others have announced Clover Trail-based tablets. But try and get any of them to commit to a specific ship date. I faux-ordered Dell's Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet and received a "preliminary" date of Dec. 12.

The problem is Clover Trail. Intel just doesn't have it ready for mass production. Insiders say that, among other things, there's a problem with the chip's power management software. Intel ignored my request for a comment yesterday.

Most of these OEMs were smart enough to hedge their bets on Clover Trail, and also built Windows 8 tablets and convertibles that run Intel's proven Core architecture. I tested Dell's Ivy Bridge Core-based XPS 12 during Hurricane Sandy -- it stood up to the storm.

But the whole point of Clover Trail was that it was supposed to provide the Wintel ecosystem with a platform that could match ARM-based Android tablets and the iPad on power consumption, battery life and instant on/off, while still running Windows applications. Now it appears Clover Trail systems might not arrive in time for the crucial holiday shopping season.

Lest Microsoft try to claim it was never its intention to have Surface RT systems compete with Surface Pro and Clover Trail-based OEM tablets simultaneously, here's a quote from the company's Building Windows 8 blog, published on Feb 9. 2012. "Our collective goal is for PC makers to ship WOA PCs [i.e. Surface RT and other systems that run Windows on ARM] the same time as new PCs designed for Windows 8 on x86/64, using the latest generation of those platforms from low-power [i.e. Clover Trail] to high-performance [i.e. Core]."

Who authored that piece? It was none other than Sinofsky, who in making unkept promises may also have authored his own hasty exit from Microsoft. Ironically, his words were meant more as an assurance that development of the brand new Windows on ARM platform would keep pace with development of Intel-based systems, not vice versa.

Microsoft will undoubtedly insist otherwise, but there's a quiet little disaster in the making for the company and its partners.

Update (12:35 p.m.): Many readers have pointed out in the comments that Microsoft previously stated that Surface Pro would ship 90 days after Surface RT, and thus are taking issue with my use of the word "delay."

Microsoft did state that, in June. But, as I pointed out, Steven Sinofsky said in February that the company's goal was to have Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT systems ship "simultaneously."

So at some point between February and June Microsoft decided to delay the launch of Surface Pro until after that of Surface RT. Whether for technical or business reasons (perhaps to appease OEM partners), I stand by my point that the decision is creating disarray and confusion at retail and in the channel, and has the company's own enterprise salespeople scrambling to fill the void because, as of Nov. 15, there is still no specific launch date for Surface Pro.

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Muchenjeri
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Muchenjeri,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 10:51:14 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
The disarray is more imagined than real. At the release of Surface RT, the projected release of Pro was 90 days. The 90 days is not yet up. That Microsoft is not making song and dance, preferring to be as tight-lipped as they were about the Surface, does not signal any disarray. I think.
Bob Gill
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Bob Gill,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 10:48:14 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
You have no credibility.

MS publicly stated a schedule in February. They then revised their schedule in June.

5 months later you claim disarray even though you admit they said in June - 90 days later.

You're a laughingstock.
daveharruk
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daveharruk,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 10:39:59 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Microsoft have always said 90 days after RT for Pro, how is that a delay? As for Clovertrail, yes they weren't available at launch which is a shame but there are delays and delays. You may wish to speak to Mr Thurrott down at winsupersite as he got a retail Samsung Clovertrail tab yesterday, with pictures to prove it...
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 8:46:09 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Troll Alert...
ninjacut
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ninjacut,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 8:24:12 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Marcus is dead right, the author fails to understand the difference between Windows Pro OS and Surface Pro tablet in the first place.

On 26th Oct, both Windows Pro OS and Surface with Windows RT were released as planned. The Surface Pro which will come with Windows Pro OS will be available in 90 days.

If this is not clear to the writer, he needs to do some research.

Idiots!
ninjacut
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ninjacut,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 8:19:21 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Idiot writer, understand the difference between Windows Pro and Surface Pro in the first place. Windows Pro OS was released on 26th, along with Surface and Microsoft has kept its word.

Now for Surface Pro, which is a new hardware that can run Windows Pro OS is expected in 90 days post 26th October. So still time.

The is no confusion, other than you are an idiot and not in touch with what is happening in the IT world.

Information week needs to fire this person immediately, stupid, ignorant and fanboi writing articles without any basis or background
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
11/15/2012 | 7:55:49 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Information Week writers seem to be doing this to Microsoft all the time, especially anything Windows 8 related. I read some of IW articles just to get my blood boiling, then delete the article. About ready to delete IW entirely. They have become worthless.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
11/15/2012 | 7:53:20 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Vasya, go away, quit posting. You are saying nothing of value. You have gone off course, missed the point. Quit wasting space. Go kiss you iPad.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 7:02:56 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
As a tablet consumer I don't feel I've lost much with connecting a printer.... Everthing else in your list does not matter to me on a tablet.

BTW, learn to use iPad, there are tons of Office replacements which are much more usable there. Office actually feels retarded and outdated and for what? For editing resumes? In case Ballmer fires and need to show someone knows Office?
USB and HDMI with mirrored or extended view is there through adapters.

Live Tiles is BS... seriously, poor man's replacement of notification centers.

And that's it.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:52:33 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Firing head of the project. Microsoft is sued over 32GB storage claim. Consumer tablet costs more than competition.
I did not buy it. I do not want it.
It is based on failed interface of WP7 00..oops, that would be you?
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