Archive for microsoft
Microsoft is all set to officially launch the next iteration of Windows, version 8.1, in October. Towards this, volume production of notebook devices based on Windows Blue is set to kick off in September. However, it remains to be seen is whether a new version of Windows will be enough to spur demand in the notebook segment that is finding increasing competition from tablet devices. The fact that Microsoft isn’t extending any incentive to the notebook manufacturers, such as reduced licensing fees, isn’t helping things either. As of now, Microsoft is offering licensing subsidies for devices with a display size smaller than 11.6 inches.
Meanwhile, in another related development, Microsoft is all set to enter the budget tablet segment with a new Surface RT variant that will have a display of 8 inches and is set for a June launch. The tablet is likely to sport a price tag of around $249 – $299 and is being put together by Pegatron Technology. The 8 inch touch panels are being sourced from Samsung and will be built around a Tegra chip. A bigger 10.x inch Surface RT is also in the pipeline, which will be launched during Q3 this year. However, analysts are skeptical about the success of the smaller Surface RT device, considering the less than enthusiastic response the bigger cousin managed to evoke. Further, competition is set to become even more fierce in the smaller tablet segment with Apple and Google set to launch follow up devices to their successful devices, the iPad Mini and Nexus 7. Samsung also has a few offerings lined up in the budget tablet segment, as well. Microsoft is expecting sales of the two Surface RT variants to reach a million units a month.
There is no word though what the successor to the Surface Pro will be like. Microsoft’s tablet sales in the first quarter of 2013 have stood at 900,000 units, with Surface Pro being the majority contributor to that figure.
Tablet shipment figures for the first quarter of 2013 are already here and they present an interesting scenario. For instance, according to a Digitimes report, tablet shipment reached 31.93 million for the first three months of this year, which represents a decline of 26.1 percent on quarter but increased by 66.1 percent on year. However, IDC is reporting an even more optimistic shipment figure of 49.2 million for the quarter.
However, both Digitimes and IDC seem to be unanimous regarding the iPad, reporting shipments of 19.5 million of the Apple tablet during the period. However, while the iPad continues to be at the top of the heap, the trend seems to be on the slide. Apple still has 39.6 percent of the tablet market to itself, though it used to be 43.6 and 58.2 in the last two preceding quarters. Analysts claim it’s quite normal, as Apple generally records a weaker first quarter after strong sales during the holiday season. Apple has recorded a year over year growth of a healthy 65 percent.
Samsung and Asus make up the second and third slot with sales of 8.8 and 2.7 million respectively. The individual figures might not be too inspiring, but both companies have reported 288.7 and 267.6 percent increases in sales respectively compared to the same period a year ago. Microsoft, according to IDC, managed to make it among the top five tablet makers with shipment of 900,000 of its Surface devices.
However, there are some contradictions that come to the fore that pertain to the operating system that dominates the tablet segments. While Digitimes is claiming the Apple iOS accounts for a dominating 61 percent of the total tablets shipped in Q1, IDC is pegging the figure at lower than 40 percent for iOS, with the Google Android making up 56.5 percent of all the tablets shipped. According to Digitimes, Android and Windows make up 31 and 8 percent of the total tablet shipment.
Another interesting finding of the Digitimes research is that the smaller tablets measuring 7 inches or so that are in greater demand, accounting for 56 percent of the tablets shipped in Q1. Tablets measuring 9 and 10 inches make up 22 and 20 percent of the shipments.
It has been established that the PC market is under threat from the new crop of smart mobile computing devices. It is down to a struggle for desktop PC’s basic existence, as predicted, and the results have just begun to emerge. The first quarter sales report of desktop and laptop is no secret, and the sharp 14 percent decline in sales is demonstrative, to say the least. That’s the figure that International Data Corp has suggested, though Gartner has come up with the gentler figure of an 11 percent decline. Not surprisingly, with Microsoft having a vice like grip on the segment, it is considered to have contributed to the slide more than anyone else. The recently released Windows 8 is being held as the number one villain that analysts believe may have actually led to the slide rather than help prevent it. Blaming the shaky world economic scenario won’t help either, as the desktop is sliding faster into obscurity even when the economy is showing signs of bouncing back.
The reason behind the shift in consumer preference towards portable computing devices such as tablet PCs is understandable considering the tablet’s immense convenience. Tablet devices are handy, offer excellent computing power, and respond to touch based inputs, negating the need for external pointing devices such as a mouse. They offer extreme convenience for almost all general purpose computing needs. Compare these to the desktops that are bulky and immense compared to tablets. Tablets are even handier than laptop or notebook devices.
However, with this being the state of affairs in the traditional computing scene, putting the entire blame on Windows 8 alone would be a bit harsh. If the new gen platform from Microsoft alone is to be blamed for the poor show, consumers could still have bought the Windows 7 based PCs on the market. Besides, the trend isn’t just limited to the Windows based PCs. Apple is also having to cope with reduced demand for its PCs, while its iPad is scaling new heights in sales almost every quarter.
It’s the gradual but seemingly firm shift in consumer preference that should be held responsible for the decline in PC sales. Consumers have had enough with the desktops and laptops and nothing is more exciting now than the new sleek tablet devices. It’s something they can carry everywhere, does not need to be tethered to a single place, and can perform most computing jobs as well. Of course, there is also the cost factor associated with it as tablets typically cost just a fraction of what desktops and laptops cost (around $1500). A tablet can cost anywhere between $200 to $700, depending on the display size and other configurations.
Also, while still on Windows 8 and the decline in sales of PCs, what should also be taken into consideration is that the former has opened up an entirely new segment of computing, that of hybrid tablet devices. While demand for these is still in the early states, these are expected to be the future of personal computing. These offer the best of both worlds, a tablet when the display is used in isolation or a netbook offering 10+ hours of runtime when attached with the keypad unit. The way the computing segment might shape up in the future is that the tablet devices will be used for those who need it for entertainment or general purpose computing while the hybrid tablet could be the ideal solution for those who need some serious computing.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on an update to its Windows 8 OS in the form of Windows 8.1 Blue. Slated to be released this summer, Blue can do what Windows 7 did to Vista. While it would be interesting to see if it can arrest the decline in PC sales, it remains to be seen if Microsoft can turn things around. In short, we have reached a crossroads and there plenty of changes are happening very fast. We will let things settle down a bit before we jump to any firm conclusions.
With the recent Gartner research pointing out in clear terms that tablet PCs represent the future of personal computing, the writing on the wall is all too clear and desktops are clearly on the way out. The implications of this are the most severe for Microsoft, which has the lion’s share of its resources in the traditional computing segment. It’s imperative for MS to survive the tablet wave and make the transition to the new gen smart connected device market. At the present rate at which competition is moving, Android is all set to eat into Microsoft’s market stronghold as early as the next 3 years, by which time consumers will be using more tablets PCs than desktops and even laptops. Apple won’t be far behind with its iPad range already topping the tablet segments.
“Winning in the tablet and phone space is critical for them to remain relevant in this shift,” said Carolina Milanesi who led the research to the Guardian. “We’re talking about hardware displacement here – but this shift also has wider implications for operating systems and apps. What happens, for instance, when [Microsoft] Office isn’t the best way to be productive in your work?”
Of course Microsoft is already on the rescue act, though its efforts have proved to have little impact. Windows 8, Microsoft’s answer to the demand for a mobile OS has had limited success so far. Its commercial uptake is slow but steady, though its proliferation in the all important tablet segment is far too low so far. What is needed is a lot of more tablet devices running Windows 8. The recent decision from Microsoft to lower screen resolution limitations might lead to the development of more Windows based tablets in the sub 10 inch category. This while capitalizing on the lead that Windows has in the hybrid tablet and ultrabook segments, both of which have recorded positive growth.
Speculation is rife that Microsoft might look to cut licensing fees of its Windows RT to help manufacturers compete better with the plethora of low cost tablets currently available in the market. The entire tablet market seems to have settled down into two broad segments; a low cost one ruled by Android, and the Apple iPad ruling the roost in the higher priced segment. Windows RT is struggling to find traction in either of these segments. Microsoft wanted to pitch its Surface RT as a competitor to the Apple iPad, though the vast difference in sales of each in the past few months has proved that clearly is not the case. So the best option for Microsoft is to let it compete in the low cost category.
Manufacturers aren’t waiting for Microsoft to cut its fees, though, and have already resorted to heavy discounts as a desperate means of pushing sales of their Windows RT based tablet devices. Prices have gone down steadily in the past few weeks at Amazon and elsewhere. The Asus VivoTab RT with 32 GB on-board now costs just $372 at Amazon, down from the $599 it started out with. Similarly, the 64 GB Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 RT now costs $499 at Amazon, down from $699 some time ago. Dell too has been forced to reduce prices of its XPS 10 tablet, the 32 GB version of which now costs $450, which is $50 less than its original price. All this while Samsung didn’t even release its Windows RT based ATIV Tab in the US and was forced to withdraw from other markets citing lack of interest around the device. Interestingly, Microsoft hasn’t tinkered with the price of its Surface RT, even though consumer interest around the device has perhaps plummeted to record lows.
Another reason for the lack of interest in Windows RT based tablets is that one can also opt for Intel Atom based tablet devices running the full blown Windows 8 for around the same amount. For instance, the 64 GB ASUS VivoTab Smart is now listed at Amazon for around $450. With this, consumers will have a device that is compatible with all legacy Windows apps, something sorely missed in the Windows RT version. Under the circumstances, the only chance for Windows RT to survive is if it is priced significantly lower than its Windows 8 counterpart.
Another way Windows RT can be saved from the situation it is in right now is by ensuring cross compatibility of apps on both the Windows 8 and the RT version. This along with around $300 for tablets based on Windows RT could make for the ideal situation towards creating some buzz around the devices.
Meanwhile, sources point out the upcoming Windows Blue version due out this summer will also make it to the Windows RT in the form of Windows RT 8.1 this summer.
A smartphone from Amazon has long been a hot topic for rumor mongers. Now that has got a fillip on the back of news about Amazon having poached a smartphone expert who has rendered 2 decades of service at Microsoft. Charlie Kindel’s most recent attachment at Microsoft was the Windows Phone Division. His LinkedIn profile mentioned he had been associated with the Richmond based company since 1990 though he left in 2011 to work on two start up organizations before making it to Amazon. The online retailer, on its part had secured the services of two other senior Windows phone managers in 2012.
Amazon currently offers the Kindle range of ereaders and tablet PCs, the USP for both series being its low initial cost. That the same pricing strategy will also be followed in the smartphone venture is almost a surety. Amazon is up against the likes of Apple and Samsung both of which has a thriving smartphone and tablet business (though it should be mentioned Apple at this moment is far ahead of Samsung in the tablet segment). This makes it almost mandatory for Amazon too to have a strong contender in the smartphone segment as well.
However, a possible timeline for the smartphone’s release continues to be elusive while Kindel described his latest role at Amazon saying he is “hiring cloud and mobile developers and testers, program managers, and product managers.” His newest update on his Linkedin profile has described his role at Amazon as ‘something secret’.
Reports emanating from Taiwan claim HTC is developing a new tablet device that will run the Windows 8 operating system. Details are scarce at the moment, though sources did mention the tablet will sport a HD 10.1 inch display that will pack in 1920 x 1080 pixels. That translates to a comfortable 218 pixels per inch. LG is tipped to be providing the displays while Pegatron Corporation will be assembling the device. However, both Microsoft and HTC declined to comment on the issue, which means it is still a rumor at best.
HTC’s earlier attempt at the tablet segment comprised of the 7 inch HTC Flyer and the Jetstream that offered a 10 inch display. However, none failed to make a mark, which can be attributed more to the high price tag than anything else. Let’s just hope HTC does not repeat the same mistakes with its forthcoming tablet ventures. The company is already battling a low demand for its hardware and is currently engaged in an all out battle to promote sales of its current flagship smartphone, the HTC One. In fact, it is such a desperate a situation for the company that its CEO Peter Chou is said to have even put his job on the line and has promised to step down if the One smartphone does not succeed. The company already offers the Windows Phone 8X and a Windows 8 based tablet offering will be interesting, to say the least.
The above image is for descriptive purpose only and may or may not bear any resemblance with the final product.
Microsoft has quietly changed the minimum display requirement for manufacturers to place the Windows 8 logo on their products. While earlier it would require a display to have a minimum of 1366 x 768 pixels to justify its association with Windows 8, the same has now been reduced to 1024 x 768 at a depth of 32 bits. This could pave the way for manufacturers to start offering smaller tablets with 7 or 8 inch displays running Win 8. While there is no stopping tablet makers from launching a smaller tablet with a 1366 x 768 display, 7 inch tablets with that resolution are often prohibitively expensive and don’t do well on the market. Most tablets in this genre boasts of a cheap price tag of around $199 or so. No wonder there haven’t been any Win 8 tablets so far that offer a display of less than 10.1 inches.
However, before we start to celebrate the prospect of smaller and hopefully cheaper tablets running Win 8, there will be a few compromises to be made. We may have to give up on a few unique features. These include Windows Snap, which enables two Windows Store apps to be viewed simultaneously. Microsoft has stated in its Windows Certification Newsletter that all companies that wish to make the best of the changed scenario will have to clearly mention what features their devices will not be able to support.
The Win 8 operating system has given birth to a whole new segment of hybrid tablet devices, which are tablets with attachable keypad units that combine to form a notepad. Typically, they also cost much more than what the average tablet buyer would like to spend. Also, with the focus seemingly shifting towards the smaller tablets, which are a lot more affordable and portable, Microsoft would be stupid not to create a presence in that market. What remains to be seen now is how manufacturers respond to the scenario. HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and others have all launched low cost Android tablets and maybe a Windows 8 version is next. Word on the street is that a smaller Win 8 based tablet from Barnes & Noble might also be in the making. Or maybe a low cost version of the Surface tablets with a 7-8 inch display. However, what is almost a surety is that manufacturers will most likely wait till Microsoft launches the nest Windows iteration, Blue, before venturing in the low cost Windows 8 tablet game. Microsoft Blue is due out this summer.
Microsoft never made public how many of its Surface tablet devices found buyers since they were launched, though unofficial estimates are painting a rather grim picture of the tablet’s sales record. Three people privy to the company’s sales claim Microsoft has sold little over a million of its Surface RT device, while in reality the Surface Pro only managed to entice about 400,000 buyers. In stark contrast, Apple’s iPad range went in for 22.9 million sales in the quarter ending December 2012.
The Surface tablet series marks Microsoft’s first attempt at mainstream tablet hardware, and is being touted as the best series of devices to showcase the company’s computing solution in the new age. It is interesting that the Surface Pro sales numbers were being ignored to portray the Surface tablet as a hit with consumers. Most of the stores carrying the Surface Pro resorted to flashing the ‘Sold Out’ signs soon after it was launched, leading many to believe it has garnered great support from its intended business clientele. That is clearly not the case if the above sales figures are indeed true. At least Microsoft has been putting more effort towards making the Surface tablets available in more markets, which will add some more to the sales figures.
While the Surface RT suffered from the lack of sufficient apps that would make owning the device a worthwhile experience, a price revision to make it more affordable could generate some buzz around the device. In contrast, the Surface Pro is being touted as the device that can be both a tablet and a laptop replacement, though this may be what drowned the device. The market does not seem to be ready for such a hybrid tablet/notebook just yet, and the high price tag and low battery life of the Surface Pros helped lead to its lukewarm response. Both the Surface tablet variants already score on quality, though a price cut for the Surface RT and a hard keyboard cover for the Surface Pro with a built-in battery that won’t add to the tablet’s cost might bring the Surface tablets right back in the game.
Internet Explorer for Windows 8 and Windows RT is now flash enabled thanks to an update that has been made available today. Microsoft has been delaying flash compatibility for IE10 as it conducted tests on how flash enabled sites worked on the new tough-enabled Windows 8 and RT platforms. Microsoft had to make sure flash programs didn’t have an unusually adverse effect on performance and battery times, two key parameters in tablet and touch enabled tablet/notebook hybrid devices. Until now, only the sites present in Microsoft’s Compatibility View list were showing flash content. However, some of the sites will still be incompatible, though it’s only 4 percent compared to the thousands of domains that Microsoft has found to be perfectly compatible.
Microsoft has announced the availability of both its Surface Pro and Surface RT tablet devices in new markets around the world. The Surface Pro will be seen on store shelves of 7 new countries, which includes Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, France, Germany, and the UK. So far, the Surface Pro was available only in the US and Canada. However, the company hasn’t stated any specific dates or launch period except that the tablet will launch “in the coming months.”
Coming to the Surface RT, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mexico will see the tablet towards the end of March. The Surface RT is the lower priced version of the Surface running Windows RT, but the model has seen less user uptake. In contrast, the Surface Pro running the full blown Windows 8 version is reported to have evoked greater consumer interest. This in spite of it having a relatively high price. Microsoft has stated that they remain committed to the Surface line of tablet devices and are already working on the next gen versions. Also, the gradual launch of the tablet devices in newer markets marks Microsoft’s renewed push to see greater acceptance of its Surface lineup.
Microsoft intends to launch its Surface RT device in Japan soon, or as Nikkei news has reported, it can happen as early as next month. However, no specific dates are mentioned and the most that Microsoft has confirmed to CNET is that “Surface will be coming to Japan in the near future.”
As for the tablet’s pricing, it is speculated that the base 32 GB version of the Surface RT could be priced 50,000 yen, which turns out to be around $530. This, if true, will make the starting model a bit costlier than its US version, which is sold for $499.
The Surface RT is the most affordable tablet the company has ever released and was designed to battle the iPad or the other Android tablet offerings. Consumers, for the most part, did not like to be limited to only the new style of apps and the inability to use legacy Windows apps.
Microsoft hopes things could change for the better once more apps arrive at the scene, but there is a bright light. There is currently a massive effort by XDA to make Windows RT Tablets run apps compatible with the x86 platform.
Microsoft had promised it would replenish stock of the 128 GB Surface Pro by Saturday and already there are indications of the company having kept its word. The top of the line Surface Pro is back in stock and can be ordered online via the company’s online stores. Retailers Staples and Best Buy will have their quota of the Surface Pro. Delivery time at the Microsoft online store is being pegged at about 2-3 weeks.
Customers will have the option to reserve the Surface Pro at Best Buy and Staples, though only if both the retailers have none in their inventory and are sure they will have more stocks of the tablet coming their way. If the above isn’t applicable, no reservations are allowed and the stores will be back to flashing the “Sold Out” signs.
Microsoft has tied up with Future Shop and Best Buy to make the Surface Pros available in Canada. More details are awaited regarding the tablet’s availability in that country.