Paul Thurrott on the problems with Microsoft’s Surface tablets:
Microsoft is having its iPhone 4 “Antennagate” moment, thanks to rampant reliability issues with its Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 devices. But rather than publicly face the problems head-on, the software giant has retreated behind a veil of silence. This is a huge mistake, and it is undermining the credibility and viability of its hardware offerings.
I’ve offered this advice privately, to no avail. Allow me to now make it publicly.
Microsoft, you’re f@#$ing up. Big time.
If Microsoft wants to play with the big boys and big girls in the hardware game, it’s gotta man up and address these problems head-on.
Oh this is tasty:
On Monday, the Cowboys’ communication service to their Microsoft surface tablets wasn’t working properly. With their primary source of playbook information temporarily down, they used the next best thing and relied on printed versions of their playbook. Tangible copies can’t fail, right? They don’t, but even the printers weren’t working correctly for the visiting Cowboys.
To make matters worse, Washington cannot access its devices, either, even though they’re still functional. As a rule, the team cannot use its sideline devices if its opponents have technical issues.
Microsoft paid the NFL $400 million just so they could cause them grief.
I think they have a hit on their hands with this Surface thingy of theirs.
Keep up the great work, guys.
Tim Bajarin on Microsoft admitting with their actions Apple’s way is the best way:
But if you look at Microsoft’s new strategy, one can’t help but see this is an acknowledgment Apple’s business model of owning the hardware, software and services is ultimately the best one that assures Microsoft’s control of their destiny. At the moment, it looks like Microsoft will only have three serious PC partners — HP, Dell, and Lenovo — doing any volume. Some are asking how long even these vendors will continue to support PCs given shrinking margins.
Yep. I said as much a few weeks ago.
On that last point regarding partners, I’ve said this before but I think Microsoft needs to proactively drop it’s partners and go full in on the Apple way.
Let’s see how things go for Microsoft with Windows 10, but right now, Windows Phone is still a fucking mess:
While the app gap has always been a problem, Windows Phone is now five years old and it’s still facing new challenges. Over the past year developers haven’t flocked to Microsoft’s platform to improve its app situation. Instead, more and more high-profile apps have actually disappeared. Mint’s removal this week is the latest, angering Windows Phone fans, but it’s not the first, nor will it be the last.
American Airlines, Chase Bank, Bank of America, NBC, Pinterest, and Kabam have all discontinued their Windows Phone apps in the past year. These huge apps have simply disappeared or will no longer be updated. Some companies have cited a lack of Windows Phone users, and others have remained silent, but each removal has put Microsoft another step behind in the mobile race.
And on Microsoft’s constant rebooting of the OS:
It’s easy to blame the lack of apps on developers, but they’ve been saddled with a platform that is constantly rebooting. Windows Phone 7 launched as a Windows Mobile reboot back in October 2010. Windows Phone 8 then launched two years later in October 2012 and existing handsets couldn’t upgrade, and apps needed to be heavily updated. Windows Phone 8.1 arrived last year, finally bringing many features lacking from Microsoft’s platform. Now, Microsoft is on the verge of rebooting once again with Windows 10 Mobile.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think what Microsoft presented at their Windows 10 Devices Event looks great, but who’s to say they don’t just reboot Windows 10 like Windows 7 & 8?
Microsoft had a very short window to respond to the iPhone six years ago, but Google beat them to it with Android. Since then, they’ve simultaneously been revising their strategy AND competing with Google and Apple (hence the schizophrenic behavior).
You’ve got to feel for the PC. While there’s no denying its practicality or gaming chops, ever since IBM dropped the first beige box of PC joy on the world over three decades ago, the PC has never really managed to be cool—and for the likes of Intel, Microsoft, HP, Dell, and Lenovo fighting against a declining market that’s a problem.
So the five of them have teamed up to take on Apple and make the PC cool again, or at least encourage people to upgrade from their five-year-old PCs—of which Intel says there are over 500 million out there—to shiny new laptops with touch-screens, and thin metal enclosures, and longer battery life. The result of their collective marketing prowess is the “PC Does What?” campaign, a collection of short TV ads set to run in the US and China in the coming months.
They’re as cheesy as I expected.
Lenovo won’t be selling Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3:
Dell and HP decided to start selling Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 tablet last month, but Lenovo was curiously absent. Gianfranco Lanci, president and COO at Lenovo, has revealed that the PC maker refused to sell Microsoft’s tablet. “I said no to resell their product,” Lanci told attendees at the Canalys Channels Forum, reports The Register. He explained that Microsoft “asked me more than one year ago, and I said no I don’t see any reason why I should sell a product from within brackets, competition.”
Why the fuck would they ever consider selling Microsoft’s products?
Sam Byford, at the Verge, on Microsoft’s limited time trade-in program:
Microsoft has launched a promotion called Easy Trade Up designed to get people to switch to new Windows 10 machines. If you buy a qualifying computer from the Microsoft Store for over $599 until October 20th, the company will give you a rebate after you send in your old laptop or all-in-one — you’ll get $200 for a Windows computer, and $300 for a MacBook. Your trade-in computer has to be under six years old and in working order with a minimum display size of 11.6 inches. The offer is running in the US, UK, Canada, India, Brazil, France, Germany, and Taiwan.
Paying people to buy their new products. Has Apple ever had to do this? (No they, haven’t)
Microsoft likes paying people to use their stuff. Most recently, they paid the NFL $400 million to use their Surface tablets.
This kind of promotion is a tactic Microsoft uses pretty frequently when it wants to juice sales.
So much for “juicing”.
I finally got around to watching Microsoft’s Windows 10 Devices Event (nope, they’ve haven’t shaken their addiction to long names). What i saw is a company just discovering all the amazing things that that are possible when you design hardware and software together. The presenters seemed
drunk giddy with excitement showing off all their products. And why shouldn’t they?! Proudness is what happens when a team comes together and makes something great. Check us out. We made this. Together. And it’s awesome.
The Only Way Out Is Through
I wonder how many current and former Microsoftians are kicking themselves for not owning the full hardware/software stack sooner, like Apple. You know what? Scratch that. Probably very few. Hindsight is 20/20.
The truth is Microsoft had to go through this journey of licensing a powerful yet tasteless and derivative operating system, and robust office suite, to corporations for decades—leveraging their weight and muscle when necessary—until the day they realized they were not equipped to make truly “personal” and mobile computing experiences people would love to use inside and outside the office.
Once Microsoft had this realization—this is after Ballmer dismissed the original iPhone as a threat—Apple’s iPhone and iPad trojan horses had already infiltrated corporate America. I saw it firsthand as a design consultant for Bloomberg in Manhattan in 2008-9. I watched senior VPs roll into meeting with iPads on their laps while we presented our work. In the past (pre-iPhone) corporate IT departments could shoo off the occasional request for pesky Mac assistance, but you can’t pull that shit when C-suite men and women are ordering you to, “get my iPad and iPhone on our network. NOW.”
Hey Guys, They Get It!
It’s taken Microsoft 40 years to realize the true potential of their software. They’re not turning a blind eye and hoping OEMs make the best hardware they can possibly make.
Microsoft now understands why Apple has been spending all these years monkeying with stupid bezels, clickwheels, and aluminum finishes, and designing not just thoughtful but beautiful software experiences. Microsoft now wants to make their own multitouch screens and keyboard cases and styli that communicate and integrate seemlessly with their operating system. If I had to give Microsoft a new tagline it would be: We Finally Get It (hat tip to The Motherfucking Editor).
Panos Panay did a great job as the main presenter. You could feel how genuinely proud he was of all the hard work that went into their Bands, Lumias and Surfaces and the how well the software was integrated into the hardware. Seeing him on stage bragging about the thinness of the new Surface and the feel of the new keyboard covers, I felt as though I was watching a company graduating from Apple Boot Camp. He showed off their new ads throughout the presentation, just like Apple has been doing for decades. He held up his Lumia phone to the audience. When he handed out Surface Pros, I was reminded of Steve Jobs handing out empty, unibody MacBook Pro shells in 2008 (jump to the 24:50 mark).
I don’t follow sports but I but shamelessly consider myself on Team Apple and I indulge in any and all Microsoft schadenfreude I can get. I despise the old, 800-pound gorilla version of Microsoft but I am slowly coming around as I see them taking product design seriously and not muscling their way into market segments just because they can.
It feels good to see your team on a winning streak, but it’s even better to see them up against a worthy opponent who gives them a run for their money.
We’re seeing a glimpse of that with the new Microsoft.
Sometimes Enough Is Not Enough
Despite all the huge strides Microsoft has made in the last few years to reinvent itself and adapt to the changing tech landscape I’m not convinced it’s enough get what they want.
Actually, what do they want?
Do they want to regain the size and influence they once had in the software world? Highly unlikely. The world was much smaller when Microsoft ruled to the roost. There was no Google, no Apple and none of the numerous small-to-medium size technology companies all over the world creating amazing hardware and software. Can and will they continue to contribute? Absolutely.
If they’ve come to terms with the fact that they’ll never be the giant they once were, are they truly committed to building amazing, integrated software and hardware experiences, potentially at the expense of unit sales?
This last question is tricky to answer because although they’ve graduated from Apple Boot Camp and fancy themselves newly minted product design Jedis, they don’t live in Apple’s world. They’re still licensing Windows to OEMs like Dell, Lenovo and HP.
This is akin to Porsche building the best cars they can possible make and also licensing their engines and name to Kia, Hyundai and Toyota.
This last, very minor point around Windows licensing tells me Microsoft hasn’t pushed all its chips in.
Microsoft finally gets it.
Or do they?
Vlad Savov on Apple, Google, and Microsoft all solving the same problems:
Consider all the overlaps that have developed in recent times between the strategies of America’s three foremost tech corporations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are getting into the connected car business that Microsoft has been in for years, while the latter’s Cortana personal assistant echoes the voice-activated Google Now and Siri software of its competitors. Where Apple has Continuity to keep people working across various devices, Microsoft has Continuum, and Google has the universality of the Chrome browser and its range of web apps. Besides the connected car and the connected you, all three are also connecting the TV — through AirPlay, Chromecast, and the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter — and developing app and gaming platforms such as the Xbox One, Android consoles, and the new Apple TV.
Savov is right, but what’s the alternative? Not built a product or service your competitor has and risk ceding ground to them now or in the future?
It seems better for the three top dogs to build redundant solutions to the same problems than not build them.
Horace Dediu: iOS v. Windows and Immunity to Disruption:
Which reminds me. This week Microsoft just wrote off the acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business. The growth of mobile as an alternative to desktop/laptop computing was foreseen by Microsoft a decade before the the data in the graphs above. It began in 1994 with Windows CE development, proceeded with a PDA operating system by 1998 and the Pocket PC brand in 2001 and Windows Mobile in 2004 and Windows Phone in 2009.
After anticipating, predicting and dedicating decades of work why didn’t Microsoft participate in its own vision?
The curious thing about disruption is that predictability does not result in immunity. If the new trajectory threatens the current profit formula, the trajectory is not joined with enthusiasm. There is an uncanny unwillingness to self-disrupt.
Just because you were first to market doesn’t mean you had the right vision.
A few weeks ago I linked up to the story about Microsoft giving developers the ability to port Android and iOS apps to Windows.
At Ars Technica, Sean Gallager gets into more of the nerdy details and recalls IBM and Blackberry trying similar, unsuccessful moves:
Neither OS/2 nor BlackBerry 10 has made a success of this capability. There are two major problems with supporting foreign applications on a niche platform. The first is straightforward: it removes any incentive for developers to bother with the native platform. Investing in developing for a minor platform is already something of a gamble, and by telling developers “Oh hey, you can just use your existing Win16 or Android program…” as IBM and BlackBerry (respectively) did, you’re implicitly sending them a message. “Don’t bother learning our platform or writing native apps for it.”
Even with Islandwood, porting iOS applications to Windows will require more work than Android apps require. While some Android apps will be 100 percent compatible with Astoria, that won’t be the case with Islandwood. There are differences between the platforms that need handling—Android and Windows Phone have a back button, for example, whereas iOS doesn’t—and devs will have to change code accordingly.
The impact this has will depend on the app. King’s Candy Crush Saga for Windows Phone is already using Islandwood, and the changes required were described as a “few percent.” CCS supports features including in-app purchases in its Windows Phone version, taking advantage of the StoreKit API mapping. However, as a game, its user interface is largely custom anyway. Apps that lean more heavily on UIKit may well need more work to ensure that their interfaces meet the expectations of Windows users.
It’s Microsoft’s last ditch effort.
Just when I was duped into thinking Nadella was running things differently at Microsoft, they go and announce the 7 different editions (!!!!!!!) of Windows 10.