Software // Operating Systems
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7/22/2013
11:17 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste

Following disappointing Q4 earnings, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said the company's reinvention will take time. But Microsoft lacks that luxury.

It was inevitable that Microsoft would feel investor backlash following Thursday's earnings report. But for its core business, things could actually still get worse. Microsoft will still reap billions from the enterprise. For businesses, there is value in the way Office products are becoming better united and more collaborative. Many corporations will be intrigued by Office's emerging business intelligence functions, such as Power BI. Office 365 can also make on-the-go workers more productive while also ameliorating IT headaches. And Microsoft is cleverly positioning Azure as the go-to cloud infrastructure for mobile apps, allowing the company to benefit from the continued popularity of Android and iOS.

But a lot of that doesn't matter to consumers. Business intelligence? Whatever. Office 2010 is fine.

The bring-your-own-device movement has been disruptive, and without consumers, Microsoft will lose out on the windfall. BYOD has limits, and as a result, Microsoft will remain a strong enterprise player in almost any foreseeable scenario. But Microsoft's entire business philosophy has traditionally hinged on the clout it commands with Windows. If Microsoft's reorg can't translate some of that clout to the consumer market, Ballmer's full plan will never come to fruition.

The next generation of Surface tablets needs wider appeal, for example. Intel's new chips will help by delivering better graphics and longer battery life, and Microsoft will need to aggressively promote and develop the redesigned Windows Store that will debut with Windows 8.1.

But Surface tablets themselves need to evidence a more collaborative attitude from the ground up, starting with hardware. From a form factor perspective, the first round of devices hasn't maximized what Windows 8 actually has to offer; Julie Larson-Green's Devices and Studios unit must work closely with the Office, Windows, and SkyDrive teams to fix that.

With Windows 8, Microsoft has already misread consumer preference to an epic extent. The unsold Surface inventory speaks to these missteps, as does the possibility that the device's discounted price might still be too expensive.

Microsoft also dubiously assumed it could swagger into the premium tablet market by simply throwing Office into a nice piece of hardware.

Then there's Win RT itself. The product has confused consumers, who, thanks to Microsoft's misguided but ubiquitous advertising, don't understand why the lightweight OS even exists. The Modern UI also ignores much of what has made the iPad popular. It's natural that Microsoft wants to condition users to use the Search charm, for example -- but deciding not to include a prominent search bar in the Windows Store is just silly. How much momentum did the store lose while users figured out that buying Angry Birds necessitates navigating a series of menus or swiping a hidden charms menu into view? Windows 8.1 will fix this, but it's puzzling that Microsoft made such a stubborn miscalculation to begin with.

Given the company's consumer-oriented mistakes, one could charitably say that Microsoft was high on its own hubris with Windows 8, and that Windows 8.1 is a humbled step in the right direction. Then again, one could also look at Windows 8.1's ersatz Start button and conclude that Microsoft remains as out-of-touch as ever.

For Microsoft to meaningfully expand its consumer footprint, and for Ballmer's plan to stay on course, devices that ship with Windows 8.1 need to show tangible signs of a new, improved Microsoft. If not, the company can still retain much of its enterprise dominance -- but can it still keep Apple and Google from taking over the consumer and BYOD segments?

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Paul987
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Paul987,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2013 | 12:25:18 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
CurtisQ901 said: "If Surface RT proponents at Microsoft had had their way, Surface RT would have sold for around US$200 from the outset"

There's a problem with this suggestion - Microsoft had no hardware partners to offend with accessories like their Touch and Type covers, yet they priced them similarly insanely high. They could have chosen to sell keyboards at, or just above, cost (which has been estimated to be in the $20 range), but instead priced them at $100 and $120. That speaks to them being simply out of touch as to what people are willing to spend, and the value of their products.

You might be entirely satisfied with your Surface, and that's great, but the Surface line has clearly been a commercial failure to this point.
Paul987
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Paul987,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2013 | 12:16:42 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
"As the unsold Surface inventory attests, Microsoft seems to have overestimated consumer demand for tablets that run Office"

I don't think this is entirely, or necessarily, true. Tablets with full fledged OS's capable of running all your existing desktop apps have clear advantages over iOS and Android devices. Where Microsoft seems to have gone wrong was:

A- the half-baked UI that is Metro/Modern. Sure, it's better on a touch device than it is on a desktop, and it has potential, but for the time Microsoft had to work on it, it's been shockingly primitive with huge and numerous usability issues.

And B- Ridiculously overpricing their devices. Microsoft is the one who's coming from behind. They're the one who needs to make headway in the mobile market. They're the one with the unproven product(s). Yet somehow they thought that they could command higher profit margins than even Apple. $600 to $800 for an RT tablet is simply insane. $1000 to $1100 for a Pro tablet is absurd.

And I'm not sure I buy the argument that they priced the devices high to avoid issues with other OEMs. Pricing them so high as to be commercial failures sends the message that consumers aren't interested in Windows mobile devices. Also, accessories like their keyboards have been priced astronomically high as well. Is Microsoft worried about offending Logitech or something? No, they're just arrogantly convinced that their products are THAT good. They're not. Give me a $300 RT tablet *WITH* keyboard cover and I might be interested. Give me a $500 Pro tablet *WITH* a keyboard cover and I'll buy one immediately. But if I'm spending upwards of $1000, there are a lot of far more compelling devices out there.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2013 | 1:48:35 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
That's a very hopefully post. But much of it isn't true. There is little to recommend RT. while you may be happy with it, most people will find Android or iOS tablets to be more than good enough, and the far greater sea of software give them much greater choice.

While the RT might be better at a much lower price, it's not likely that there are people at Microsoft who wanted it to come in at $200. This is a supposition on your part. The concept from Microsoft was to co e out with tablets that equaled the iPad in quality, something that no current Android tablet can make claim to.

Microsoft is not in the business of making cheap me too hardware at this level. These aren't cheap keyboards and mice!
Curtis Quick
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Curtis Quick,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/23/2013 | 7:42:58 AM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
Things are not always what they seem on the Surface!
I bought my Surface RT six months ago at the original price and have found it worth every penny since. My Surface RT does many things my android and Ipad tablets could not even hope to do. The issue here is not a good product, but bad marketing into a toxic marketplace. Good marketing can make rotten apples look like gold, while bad marketing makes even gold look like spoiled garbage. Sadly, Microsoft had to sacrifice Surface RT to ensure a future for Windows 8 with their hardware partners.

If Surface RT proponents at Microsoft had had their way, Surface RT would have sold for around US$200 from the outset and been the loss leader to gain marketshare (good) - and alienated their hardware partners into not supporting Windows 8 (very bad). So, instead, to appease hardware partners, Windows proponents convinced MS to keep the Surface RT price high (bad) to make sure they did not undercut their partners (good). MS further restrained Surface RT sales by making it nearly impossible to purchase one. I know, I live in Taiwan and I had to go to San Francisco to purchase one.

Make no mistake, Surface RT users know the value of their tablets and love them; those who don't own one have been taught to dismiss them by the status quo.
ggiese87101
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ggiese87101,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2013 | 11:11:20 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
Another article recently stated that the drop in x86 desktop/laptop PC sales isn't Intel's fault, but it's Intel's problem. Intel's chips (and AMD's, too) are powerful but Microsoft has done little on the PC platform to take advantage of it, and and in the process has looked "lame" compared to tablets and smartphones. Two things need to happen, IMO. Microsoft needs to "give in" and make it's software cost-competitive, ultra-responsive, much easier to use, and it needs to eliminate legacy compatibility that slows it down so it can release new versions quicker. This means supporting Windows 7 and/or Windows 8 long-term but cutting the cord on new versions. The other thing that needs to happen is for Linux vendors to merge or for a larger player to buy several of them and invest the resources necessary to create a low-cost, easy-to-use, consumer-friendly version of Linux that is capable of competing with and beating Microsoft on features, not just price. I would love to see Dell do this, or for HP to create a subsidiary that doesn't use the HP brand but uses HP hardware (like a whitebox-style vendor) and exclusively sells the Linux distribution (also non-HP branded). Google Chrome could go this direction but Google isn't investing enough in it nor is it working closely enough with a software vendor ecosystem like Microsoft does nor is it supporting offline usage enough to make it general-purpose. The funny thing is that tablets are becoming a commodity market and may not generate the long-term returns that the vendors would like, but upmarket PCs could be profitable and innovative if they can solve a few key (mostly software) issues that are holding it back.
Jack N FranF583
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Jack N FranF583,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2013 | 8:15:06 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
Two things: 1) It's not BYOD to work, its BWDH so I (your boss) can contact you 24/7 to work on my problems. The users who have been 'blessed' with closeness to their bosses have had the their Bring Whatever Device Home have been answering short and long messages from where ever they happen to be.2) heal thyself MS/Office Apps by merging Bing into Word, EXCEL and PowerPoint.
DonaldD113
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DonaldD113,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2013 | 7:07:08 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
Heh... Tech writers have the attention spans and foresight of three-year-olds.
thehinac
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thehinac,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/22/2013 | 6:34:13 PM
re: Microsoft Windows 8 Has No Time To Waste
When setting up a Windows 8 user for the first time on a PC or tablet, just give the option (Start Menu "Windows 7 style" or Metro Interface) and watch the sales go up. I'm a network admin for the company I work for. Umm... Most people do not have touch screen monitors at their desks and don't administrate systems from a tablet. Even if our company were to ever move to windows 8, we'd have to buy a 3rd party start menu program for the transition. We have one server running 2012. It's such a pain to navigate that it's more of joke than an interface. Thus 40+ copies of 2008 R2 running verses 1 copy of 2012 with nothing important on it. Oh and it has Startisback installed on it now. making a 70% improvement. It's easy, when Microsoft makes a new product give it to 3rd graders to play with. If they complain then fix it. Then fire who ever said it was a good idea. :D thehinac
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