Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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11/15/2012
10:01 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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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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WrittenDescription
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WrittenDescription,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 7:17:27 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Buy the Surface RT and forfeit compatibility with legacy Windows applications. Buy the Surface Pro and forfeit battery life (and a sizable chunk your savings), but gain compatibility with legacy applications, while being forced to run those legacy applications in a non-Metro interface that was never designed for the Surface's touch input. (Which problem can be solved by buying a $100+ keyboard, which then begs the question of why you didn't buy an Ultrabook.)
Byshop
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Byshop,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2012 | 9:04:37 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
The Surface Pro is only one of many i3/i5/i7 based tablets that are available post-Win8 launch. If you -specifically- wanted to get the Surface Pro then you are SOL until after the holidays but there are many other options that have been out since before this article was written (Samsung 700T Pro and the Acer Iconia W700 are a couple, not to mention all the convertible touchscreen ultrabooks).

I bought a Samsung Ativ SmartPC 500T on October 28th, two days after the Win8 launch so I have to question where the author is getting his information. While it was a bit hard to find at the time, some buddies of mine just walked into an MS Store in Bellevue Washington and purchased two without any problems. I've been using this Clover Trail based tablet for 3 weeks now and it's awesome.
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2012 | 1:51:54 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Actually Surface Pro was not announce back in February and you can get other hardware (tablets, desktops, laptops, and netbooks) with Windows 9 Pro on it now. You are confusing a tablet model's availability with Windows 8 availablity in general. MS got it completely right. Intel is just not delivering as planned on new chips. Windows 8 is available on other Intel chips.
cscamp
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cscamp,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 11:55:16 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Seems like the writer is the only one that doesnt know that Surface Pro is really coming out about 3 months after RT. Whoever told him that Pro was suppose to available now? Maybe apple fanboys!

Actually ASUS and Samsung now have some full versions of the windows 8 Tablet (not running RT). weightwise they are heavier than the Microsofts Surface tablet

So NO Windows Pro plans are not in Disarray and being in IT myself. i am waiting for the Pro to come out. My local Microsoft store says around January
premier511
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premier511,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2012 | 2:37:15 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Go buy an iPad then
tomwall
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tomwall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/17/2012 | 5:27:38 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
If it is a software issue with the power management, how is it that Samsung has the ATIV 500T in the marketplace?
Uptown Haberdasher
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Uptown Haberdasher,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/17/2012 | 8:06:21 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Microsoft is right to smell opportunity in tablet-land: Apple's stuff is lovely, but it costs an arm and a leg. Google's stuff is cheap, but they've only just got their stuff sorted out on phones; they've still a way to go on tablets.

Yet, Microsoft thinks it can show up late to the party with a limp operating system, a closed ecosystem with no apps, and charge iPad prices. It won't fly unless they halve the price or stop half-assing it.
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 6:10:26 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
==--
PAUL:
When Microsoft's marketing scum pretending to be real people badmouth your article and your publication, your employer should pay you a bonus for doing a good job.

MICROSOFT MARKETING SCUM:
I've read InfoWeek, InfoWorld, and Computerworld in paper editions for decades. They are the "Washington Post" and "New York Times" of our industry.

When they call Ballmer out on his latest failure, it caries gravitas and authority not shared by web sites that MS can bribe with interviews and invitations. They also have more integrity (i.e. authority) than PC Mag, which has been planting stories for Redmond ever since their shameful "Will Linux Kill Windows?" cover story during the antitrust trial (which I was involved in for the good guys).

EVERYONE ELSE:
Read Dvorak's column about Redmond marketing shills' coordinated project to sway Win8/Surface opinion by polluting IT comment sites with their dishonest propaganda.

-faye
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
11/17/2012 | 5:44:34 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
===--
FUNNIEST THING IN THE IT PRESS THIS WEEK:

In this comments section, one of Ballmer's marketing shills pretending to be a real person (see Dvorak's recent column) painted himself into a rhetorical corner while (as they all do), dragging Apple into a discussion of how screwed up Microsoft is. When called on it by Vasya Pupkinsan, he tried to escape with:

> I never said that iPad needs to be for enterprise. What I AM saying is that the iPad IS CRAP for the enterprise.

So then Vasya Pupkinsan says:

> Whatever. iPad is also CRAP for flying a Mars mission into space or performing heart surgery.

AHH HAHHAAAHA! Someone buy Vasya Pupkinsan a $50 cee-gar!

-faye,
former IT manager for HQ and 90 field offices
billreilly
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billreilly,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/16/2012 | 1:47:37 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
"Steven Sinofsky said in February that the company's goal was to have Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT systems ship "simultaneously."

That's a lie, as NOBODY had even heard that Microsoft was creating the Surface tablet until June... This writer (Paul McDougall) is trying to cover up his own ignorance with a straight out lie...

He may have misunderstood Sinofsky saying that Windows 8 and Windows RT (the operating systems) would ship simultaneously, which they have, but that has nothing to do with the Surface tablet...

And if Sinofsky was talking about Windows 8 and Windows RT systems in general (from the OEMs) then he's correct, as both Windows 8 and Windows RT systems are currently available, and have been for a few weeks now... Even Intel-powered tablets running Windows 8 are available now, such as the Samsung ATIV Smart PC which uses a Clover Trail processor...

Either way, Paul McDougall is either ignorant or he's an idiot, neither of which is a good quality to have for a so-called "Tech Journalist"...
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