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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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S. Kyle Davis
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S. Kyle Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:45:16 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Ok, a couple things here: First, Microsoft, as others have said, was very clear on its plans for Surface. The Surface RT was set for Windows 8 Release (10/26) and the Surface Pro was given a loose "three months later" release date. That puts it at or around the end of January. That was always the release date for the Pro, and isn't news. Why Microsoft wanted to approach this is unknown, though part of it could be a desire to focus on one product release at a time, hammering out RT details before moving on to the Pro. That's complete conjecture on my part, though.

The second thing: the Pro is going to run an i5, not an Atom. So, the delays to Clover Trail are not related to the Surface's January release date. The Clover Trail does seem to be delayed, but OEMs are also slow-rolling their tablet strategies as well. The Dell XPS 10 has the same mid-December release date as the Latitude 10. That's an RT tablet that again isn't affected by Clover Trail. The only Windows 8/RT tablet you can find right now (besides the surface RT) is the ASUS VivoTab RT. The Samsung SmartPC is supposed to come out any day now, though, so maybe more are on their way.
WP7
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WP7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:41:54 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
iPad is better than Surface? LOL.

Does the iPad have a USB port for connecting a printer, backup drive, USB stick, XBox controller, or any other USB devcie? Nope.

Does the iPad have Micros SD card expansion? Nope.

Does the iPad have an integrated kick-stand? Nope.

Can the iPad run two apps side-by-side? Nope.

Does the iPad have Live Tiles? Nope.

Does the iPad support desktop mode which can be extended to a second screen? Nope.

Does the iPad have a Micro HDMI port? Nope.

Does the iPad support multiple users? Nope.

Does the iPad include FREE Microsoft Office? Nope.

All of the above is a YES for the SURFACE RT.

I could keep going, but basically the point is this - There is LOADS that the Surface CAN DO which the iPad CANNOT.
WP7
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WP7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:31:51 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
What evidence do you have which supports that Surface RT has failed?
WP7
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WP7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:30:21 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Show some intelligence and stop commenting with nonsense.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:25:48 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Whatever, iPad is also CRAP for flying a Mars mission into space or performin a heart surgery.

Surface is way more CRAP than even half of what iPad can do. So...
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:23:06 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
I dont care about stinking SD cards. Period.

Advertised 32 GB can reasonably be expected to be occupied, but still be at least 90% available, not 50. You buying a coffee and getting just half of it would complain won't you?
WP7
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WP7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:16:18 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Nope, I'm not going to leave it alone for the simple reason that it winds you up!!! :)

Like I said, I never said that iPad needs to be for enterprise. What I AM saying is that the iPad IS CRAP for the enterprise.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:14:24 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Ok, its perfectly legit in claiming that Windows RT on Surface RT failed. So it has merits.
WP7
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WP7,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:12:38 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
Where have they lied about the size of the memory? Find me a spec sheet where they lied? They never advertised available storage. In fact, NO COMPANY advertises available storage.

At least you can expand the storage on the Surface RT by simply popping in a 64GB Micros SD card.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 6:11:21 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Plans In Disarray
It is perfectly functional consumer product for this Holiday Season.
And why the hell it needs to be enterprise and why you've assumed it needs to be enterprise is beyond me. I think you should just leave it alone.
<<   <   Page 3 / 8   >   >>
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