Saturday, December 29, 2012

News Roundup: Google/Android/Linux/Windows 8

Google

Google Apps Moving Onto Microsoft’s Business Turf - NYTimes.com
Report: Google Apps Challenges Microsoft in 2012 | News & Opinion | PCMag.com
Google Apps makes gains on Microsoft Office - CSMonitor.com

Android

Well I said 2013 would be the year of the sub-$200 tablet. Looks like it is already starting:
The best cheap Android tablets to start 2013 | Android Authority
$99-$150 tablets coming from Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Samsung | Android Authority

I've seen several articles recently that says nobody waits in line for an Android phone... well, they just do it differently. (I mean waiting in a line is so 20th century!)
Nexus Availability Checker notifies you when the Nexus 4 is available

Linux

The "big" conclusion was obvious to me, but then I'm obsessed! :-)
2012's Top five Linux stories with one big conclusion | ZDNet
9 Major 2012 Events That Will Influence the Linux Desktop in Coming Years - Datamation

Windows 8

Another data point on Windows 8 sales:
Windows 8 Peaked In Early December And Then Went Flat - Business Insider

This you tube video is a concise rant on why Windows 8 is so bad: Windows 8: The Animated Evaluation

Intel Disappoints

Intel to Offer Nine Types of Haswell Processors in Four Types of Packages - X-bit labs
Intel Haswell possibly delayed till June 2013
Just what Windows 8 needs to finish failing. First of all Haswell will probably not do anything to help the Windows 8 tablet situation. At 10W TDP (at best) it will make for either bad battery life or a heavy tablet.
Only the lowest end chip will work on tablets. Nothing Intel makes is competitive with Samsung's Exynos 5250. Intel even stooped so low as to brag about Clover Trail beating (barely) a Tegra 3. The problem for Intel is that a Tegra 3 is about half the performance of a Exynos 5250, and the even better 5400 will likely ship in quantity in 1Q13.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Paul Thurrott Attempts to Save Windows 8

I thought this series of articles was worth a post all by itself.

First of all I wish to applaud Paul for trying.

I sort of want to laugh or throw up at the idea that it is necessary for him to do this, but I do believe it is necessary. I was frankly surprised to see Paul be willing to take the position that Windows 8 is seriously flawed.

He goes through the main subsystems of Windows 8 looking for ways to fix things. My personal opinion is that it really isn't possible. Microsoft really needs to split it into two systems. However, that is unlikely to occur, so I'm glad Paul is attempting to make the best of a bad situation. Many people will eventually be stuck with Windows 8, no matter what.

Search Results for "Fixing Windows 8"

Sadly though, reading through his articles, it really just becomes clear to me how big the problem actually is. In the end, I keep coming back to the question, how did Microsoft manage to release this turkey? People keep comparing Windows 8 to New Coke. I feel this is not nearly strong enough. New Coke did not actively diminish the productivity of a large percentage of the world population, nor did it threaten the existence of numerous large businesses.

Linux had a Good Year

Here is a nice overview article:

Measuring Linux's Success in 2012 | The VAR Guy

Due to Windows 8, Linux may make some serious strides with hard core gamers:

Steam for Linux gets one step closer as Valve opens beta to public | The Verge

Roccat Reaffirms Commitment to Linux | Maximum PC

Android New Stuff

People keep complaining about a lack of Android tablet-optimized apps... their coming!
(Sheesh... Android tablets had only had serious market share for 3 months tops... it takes some time!)
I personally do not care for the style of Flipboard (was never a fan of flipping through magazines), but I must say its is a pretty and very snappy app.
Flipboard is now optimized for Android tablets

Yet another Android camera:
Polaroid Android-based camera confirmed, to see daylight at CES 2013

I'm expecting next year to be the year where sub-$200 tablets become very nice (and Apple will have to make some really hard decisions about their hideous profit margins). This next article mentions two name-brand sub-$100 contenders:
Acer Iconia B1 leak: $99, 7-inch tablet, Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean | BGR
What I like best about this is that it is no longer Google subsidizing by essentially making no-profit tablets; numerous, good, inexpensive tablets are coming to the market from places expecting to make a profit.

Apple Karma Roundup

One just knew that when Apple started suing everybody, that it would boomerang on them:
Will Samsung top Apple by withholding revolutionary tech? | Apple - CNET News
Samsung sues Apple over notification center in South Korea
Patent Office Rejects Apple Patent Used Against Samsung - NYTimes.com


Anyone who has worked retail would not be surprised by this:
Exclusive: Corrupt Apple Store Employees Come Forward Across America


Their "lightning" connector is a perfect example of the greed talked about in this article:
Steve Jobs Warns Apple: Don't Get Greedy - Forbes
Apple has since "fixed" its licensing to allow this after all, but one should be aware they caused the problem to begin with:
Apple Cries Foul Over Licensing, Forces Largest-Ever Kickstarter Refund | Wired Design | Wired.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Windows 8 is Killing the PC Industry

In my earlier post I offered an overview of how holiday sales are going this season. I now turn to making the case that Windows 8 is the primary culprit in poor Windows 8 laptop sales.

In my previous post I was quite hard on Intel-based Windows hardware, but that being said, remaining Windows 7 notebooks managed to clear the channel with only minor discounting. As is common before a major release, sales of Windows-based devices stalled, but all signs indicate they are still stalled, possibly worse than last quarter. I think it is time to discuss the real problem, Windows 8.

I think it is time we faced the fact that Windows 8 is bad... very bad.

Windows 8 is different, just to be different.

When you use Windows 8 with a mouse, you are continually waiting for things like the Start icon to pop up. Yes, there are keyboard shortcuts, but most people barely manage ^C and ^V. (In fact it is entirely possible that most people do not use even those shortcuts.) The simple truth is that Windows 8 is less efficient even for sophisticated users.

Microsoft should never have blended two entirely different user interfaces, especially switching between those paradigms without warning. I have a laptop that runs Windows 8 (because Windows 8 boots so much faster that I can always power off to preserve battery). I was sorting through pictures from the desktop's explorer. Every time I wanted to look at a picture in detail, it threw me into "Metro" mode's Photo app (which is a poor app). To get back I had to go through the Start screen, then to the desktop. I had to be in desktop mode as I use Google Drive for my photos. It was maddening. Doing this under Windows 7 was much easier. Doing this on a Mac is even easier than that. It is not a coincidence that Mac laptop sales are beating the general decline in non-tablet computing.

"Live Tiles" are a very, very, very bad idea. The problem is that they look the same as launch icons. It makes it extremely hard to figure out what tile launches the program you want to run. Android does this right, its live widgets look nothing like the launch icons, it is easy to scan for what you are looking for, which is the reason icons exist to begin with (humans pattern match images faster than text).

Microsoft may have felt a need for this bizarre conglomerate called Windows 8, but customers do not need or want this. Microsoft should be ashamed for treating customers so badly.

How did Microsoft let this happen? How could people inside the company not known how bad things were? Developers and other beta testers pointed to these problems from the start. How can Microsoft be so blind? Without massive changes, quickly made, Microsoft may just kill the consumer/SOHO portion of the PC industry stone dead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chromebooks Best Sellers, While Windows 8 Devices Flounder

In my previous post I offered an overview of how holiday sales are going this season.  In this post, I will highlight why I believe consumers choose one type of hardware over another.

The number one best selling laptop on Amazon this holiday season is an ARM-based Chromebook from Samsung. In aggregate, tablets based on Google's Android and Apple's iOS are even bigger sellers. While not the big sellers that tablets are, Apple is still selling plenty of laptops. Laptops and Tablets running Windows 8 are definitely not selling well. The question is why?

Windows 8 is a big part of the problem, but I'll save that for another post.

This post focuses on hardware. Specifically, Intel-based hardware. There is a small amount of Windows 8 ARM-based hardware, but Microsoft messes that up and will be covered in the Windows 8 post.

What differs in the hardware?

No Fan

The ARM-based Chromebook and ARM-based tablets have no need for a fan, the ARM CPU chips generate very little heat. Apple's laptops have aluminum casings that dissipate much of the heat, and Apple is very careful to minimize fan noise and is careful about vent placement.

Most Windows 8 laptops have noisy fans that run nearly constantly. Many of them vent to the bottom of the laptop, ironically making it unusable on your lap. Using it on your lap or in other odd places, is something consumers want to do. (I'm writing this on a Chromebook, laying back in a recliner with the Chromebook on my abdomen. When I try this with my Ultrabook, the vents get blocked and the fan goes crazy.)

Battery Life and Light Weight

These two have to be dealt together. It is possible to make an Intel-based Laptop with great battery life, but you'll have a lot of extra weight from the battery.

ARM-chips use less power and thus need less battery to achieve the same battery life, making the device lighter.  Apple laptops do not have an advantage here, they are as hefty as everyone else's laptop.

Cost

Tablets average around $250-$300. (Yes, you paid more for your iPad... that Apple logo is expensive.) The Samsung ARM-based Chromebook costs $249. It is a highly desirable, lightweight design, with good screen, great keyboard and trackpad.  You could make a laptop with a bigger SSD, better camera, etc for $350.  Ubuntu Linux is said to work well on the ARM-based Chromebook. Expect to see Linux ARM-based notebooks soon. Such a notebook would meet the needs of 95%+ of the consumer/SOHO market.

You can buy a $300 Intel-based laptop.  It will have a hideous screen, low-end hard drive, awful track pad, noisy fan, and terrible battery life. The Intel CPU chip will be less powerful than the ARM-based chip in the Chromebook. Intel's high chip prices do not help here. The point is the manufacturers do everything in their power to get you to buy a more expensive model. Again, Apple does not have an advantage here.

A word about CloverTrail. While they are not yet shipping, a line of Windows 8 tablets are supposed to ship using the new Intel CloverTrail chip. It is supposed to have better power usage. It is late in shipping in quantity. Even if it meets the expect power usage, the requirements and costs that Microsoft and Intel put on its usage, guarantees there will be no $300 tablets shipping with it.

Now, is it any wonder that tablets and Chromebooks are selling so well, and Windows 8 laptops and tablets are not?

Why do Apple laptops seem to be an exception?  For some users a higher speed laptop is essential. The Intel laptop vendors play various games, making tradeoffs in hardware quality over a range of prices, but in the end they want you to pay $800 or so (before upgrades). Apple says, here pay $1,000 and we'll give you a system that just works... also, it does not come with Windows 8 (more about that in the Windows 8 post). While I am no fan of Apple's pricing, I must say if I needed the more powerful laptop, I'd probably go with Apple.

Watching Computers and Tablets Sales in the 2012 Holiday Season


I have an unusual hobby these days, I visit my local Best Buy and Staples and look to see what touch screens are the dirtiest. The idea being, the dirtiest screens are the ones most looked at. I also check each section of the computing areas of the store, several times over a 10-20 minute period, to get a feel for where the traffic is. I have also visited Apple and Microsoft stores. Additionally, I've been following Amazon's Best Seller list for Computer's and Accessories. I have done all of this many times, starting on Black Friday.

Sunday, I made my usual visit to Best Buy and Staples (Sunday, because the Microsoft Surface tablet was to be there) and I was shocked. The Windows laptop/desktop section was EMPTY, perfectly clean touch screens (except for a Lenovo Yoga that is in a prominent location at Best Buy). I mean Stone Dead was not an exaggeration.  Other sections had the expected amount of traffic.  I saw two probable sales of MacBooks (a Pro and an Air). Chromebooks had traffic. All non-Windows tablets had very good traffic.  Android selling several, probably an iPad mini was sold. Not one customer in the Windows 8 desktop/laptop section. The whole time, not even a walk through.

Combining the sources I've been watching, I've observed the following:
  • Interest in Windows 8 (not sales, simply people looking) was high on Black Friday. This interest has steadily declined. It is clear that Windows 8 has failed in the consumer/SOHO market. Watching people in the store, you see Windows 8 initially confuses them.  If they receive help on how to use the product, they understand it, but they just are not interested. They just want to use the computer to do a task, not learn a whole new paradigm. This has definitely provided a boost to Apple laptop sales.
  • Android Tablets, especially Samsung, are the most looked at (and purchased). Android tablets sell well in all prices ranges: $69-$499.
  • Next best selling in tablets, iPad minis, then iPad 2s. (Though on Amazon, these two are reversed. It is possible this is true in Best Buy as well, as I am going mostly by smudge marks on the tablets. It could be the case that people try the iPad mini, then buy the iPad 2.)
  • Sales of the 4th generation iPad lag the other two.  I have never seen the 4th generation hit the top 20 on Amazon (though it is usually in the top 100). The iPad 2 has always been in the top 20.  The iPad mini has been in the top 20 briefly; it has always ranked higher than the 4th gen.
  • Apple Laptops do sell at a decent rate, but at a far lower rate than aggregate tablet sales.
  • Touch Screen Windows notebooks get some traffic, but relatively little.
  • The Lenovo Twist and Yoga (both on special display) get significant "touch" traffic, but I've never seen one sold (or even seriously considered... people like playing with them).
  • Windows laptops in general are selling poorly.  Those that do sell are usually inexpensive (sub $500).
  • Retailers seemed to be able to sell remaining Windows 7 systems (somewhat discounted) quickly.
  • Almost nobody even looks at desktop systems.
  • The new Samsung ARM-based Chromebook is the most exciting thing to come out since the first iPhone shipped.  It has been sold out so often, that Best Buy has a 3 foot, commercially printed sign explaining that it is sold out and that you can reserve one.  It has been the #1 best selling laptop on Amazon most (possibly all) of the Holiday Season.  The Acer Chromebook does well too, but not nearly as well as the ARM-based Samsung. All three current Chromebooks and the Chromebox have made significant appearances in Amazon's top 100.
  • The Microsoft Surface tablet will sell even more poorly at Best Buy and Staples than at Microsoft Stores. The only unit on display has a black keyboard that looks faded relative to the stark black border of the tablet's screen. The overall effect is such that the Surface appears to be a really cheap laptop (think early netbook).
We will of course know much more in late January when the numbers come in, but I doubt I'm that far off, at least for the US market.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Android Goes Places iOS and Windows Dare Not Tread.

One of the niftiest things about Android is that it is free and that means that it gets used in new and unusual places.  (Imagine trying to get Windows 8 to run on your camera!) Apple iOS could be used for things like this, but Apple only wants Apple to be using it, so don't hold your breath waiting for Windows 8 or iOS versions of these products.  Oh, and before you think you would never buy a $75 tablet... do you have a need for a Wifi-enabled digital picture frame? How about a tiny portable "TV"?

Samsung Galaxy Camera EK-GC100 - Impressions after One Day :: TweakTown USA Edition

A Trove of Tablets for Young Hands - NYTimes.com

WISE TIVI turns your TV into an Android-powered video conferencing unit

FAVI SmartStick uses Jelly Bean to add streaming to your TV

7-inch tablets for less than $150? Expect to see more of them in 2013

The Toshiba Excite 13 sports the largest tablet screen yet | Android Atlas - CNET Reviews

Microsoft, Apple and Intel: Disastrously Confused About the Future


If you've been following Amazon's Best Sellers in Computers & Accessories list this holiday season, you'll have noticed two very unusual things.

First occupying the #1 slot (sometimes falling as low as #5 when it is sold out) is the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook.  The normal retail price is $249 and it is so popular that companies are able to sell it in the $350 range due to limited supply.
3 Ways Chromebooks Will Alter Your Mind - Forbes
Shortage of Google Chromebooks Sparks Christmas Scramble | PAB News

The other odd thing is that the top 20 has consistently had 5 or more sub-$150 Android tablets.  The cheapest I've seen is $69.
7-inch tablets for less than $150? Expect to see more of them in 2013
A Trove of Tablets for Young Hands - NYTimes.com

The New York Times article contains an interesting quote (talking about tablets for children):
But who wants to pay $300 for the iPod Touch 5, $329 for an iPad Mini or $400 for the lowest-priced iPad 2?
Well, I'm going to take that a bit further... who want's to pay $499-$829 for an iPad?  Who want's to pay $800-$1200 for an Ultrabook? The simple truth of the matter is that Apple, Microsoft and Intel have people believing that you actually need to be paying this much for systems, and it just isn't true. Perfectly good tablets are available for $400 and less and while a few professionals might need to spend $1,000+ on a laptop, the vast majority of people (especially at home) do not need to spend even $500 on a laptop.  Indeed if you only need to browse the web from your laptop, then get one of those nifty Chromebooks.

The common things between the tablets and the Samsung Chromebook is Google, Linux and ARM.
Google provided the money necessary to get things rolling, Linux is a free operating system that Google used to build Android and ChromeOS upon and ARM is type of computing chips that is different from the Intel/AMD computer chips you are used to buying in PCs and Macs.  Almost all tablets and smart phones today use ARM chips, not Intel chips.  ARM chips cost a lot less than Intel chips.

If you build a tablet or laptop with ARM and Linux, the cost of the Chip is around $20 and the operating systems is free.  In contrast, Microsoft charges computer manufacturers around $50 for Windows and the cheapest Intel "Atom" chips run around $40 for laptops and this chip will be slower than the $20 ARM chip. Intel chips usually cost much more, with the laptops they want you to buy costing in the $200+ range, just for the chip.  Microsoft and Intel are used to making $100+ average per computer that is sold (for Microsoft part of this comes from Microsoft Office sales).  Apple makes much more, essentially being the luxury model of computers.  These prices have been kept artificially high by the parties involved for some years now, but it is clear that is about to end.

Using ARM and Linux one could make a rather nice lightweight laptop for less than $350. It would have a 6 hour battery life.  You would run LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office. In tablets, Android is the most common option and there are now Android tablets that more than match anything Apple has to offer for less expense (see for example the Nexus 10 - currently sold out).

Judging from Amazon's Best Seller list, consumers are starting to catch on to the world of cheaper computing.

This is very bad news for Apple, Microsoft and Intel.

For Apple, they have had to launch a iPad-mini line and keep around the older iPad 2 line.  The sales of these lesser (but still overpriced) iPads is cannibalizing the sales of the high end iPad.  The article below does not say much about the iPad 2 sales, but on Amazon, the iPad 2 far outsells the iPad mini and the high end iPad.  Sales growth for Apple in general is slowing.
Analyst: iPad, iPhone, Apple to feel squeeze in 2013 | Apple - CNET News

Microsoft... no point covering Windows 8's problems, surely you have heard.
Here is an example of them failing to come to terms with the new world of low-cost computing. The gist of the article is that Surface tablet pricing is intended to maintain Microsoft's usual per PC revenue.
'Perplexing' Surface pricing can be explained, analyst says | Microsoft - CNET News

Intel... I never thought I would see the day that a company would put out a system with more ridiculous pricing than Apple, but Intel has managed it.  Recently Intel announced the NUC line of miniature systems (it is in fact smaller than a Mac mini). You can buy the thunderbolt version at Amazon for $356.83.  Let's compare it to the lowest end Mac-mini, which costs $599.  The Mac-mini contains a processor that is 1.7 times faster than in the Intel NUC. The Intel machine has only USB 2.0 ports, the Mac-mini USB 3.0 ports. The Intel machine is missing many parts, that come with the Mac-mini: 4Gb of RAM, a 500 Gb disk drive, bluetooth, ethernet, wifi, operating system software, a power cord (yes, the NUC comes with a power brick, but no power cord).  In fact, you cannot put a normal disk drive in a NUC, you have to use a special kind of SSD. Nor is it possible to put in more than one kind of networking without using USB connections. In the end, you would spend more on the NUC than on a Mac-mini and still have less of a system. The concept that Intel would charge more for a do-it-yourself system than Apple does for a fully-supported-by-Apple-hand-holding Mac-mini is simply mind blowing.  To add insult to injury, users report that the NUC units overheat.

Intel's new, not yet really shipping in quantity, Clover Trail chip is supposed to be shipping in Windows 8 tablets real soon now. The ARM-based Exynos 5250 chip is faster than Clover Trail (1.4 x or so), it costs about $20. Intel is said to be charging OEMs $40-$45 for the Clover Trail. In a world of sub-$400 tablets, that is a lot.  Between Intel's charge and Microsoft's charge for Windows, is it any wonder why the Windows 8 tablets are so expensive?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lumps of Coal for Microsoft's Christmas Stocking

I wonder how long before Microsoft has actual good news?

Philip Greenspun's Weblog » Christmas gift for someone you hate: Windows 8

CHART OF THE DAY: Consumer Compute Shift - Business Insider

Nokia Lumia 920: Close, But No Cigar - Hardware - Handhelds/PDAs -

Microsoft Clarifies Office 2013 Product Use Rights -- Redmondmag.com

Microsoft Ads Are Everywhere, But They're Not Selling Windows | Digital - Advertising Age

Microsoft Missed The Open Goal To Rebrand Windows With Metro - Forbes

Software Developer News

Python creator, Guido Van Rossum moves from Google to Dropbox.

Almost hate to mention this one, but John McAfee's story is simply bizzare.

The Go Programming Language is now 3 years old.

Hey, Microsoft, Wake UP!  It's hard to find new developers when you do not release any numbers and the one developer we hear from says they are not making any money:
Microsoft Announces Windows Phone Developer Revenue And App Downloads Have Doubled
(But the announcement didn't actually say anything! Which probably say a lot about how bad things are.)
Indie Developer Slams Microsoft, Windows RT Marketplace
(Basically, a top game developer on iOS/Android is only making $84 a week in the Windows Store.)
Microsoft Surface sales not expected to top 600,000 this quarter
(This was based on weak sources, but Microsoft's lack of information means developers will assume it is true in decide whether or not to develop for Windows 8.)

This next fellow makes a good point... if you need to rewrite all your apps for Windows 8, why not do it for Android or iOS instead?
Should You Rewrite Applications for Windows 8?

Apple, Microsoft and Google all charge developers a fairly high percentage to sell their apps in the their respective stores.  This article questions the wisdom of charging that much.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why Apple is Down in the Stock Market

Wall Street thinks differently than normal people.  Currently, Apple is the highest valued company in the world.  From a profit standpoint it only makes two products, a smartphone and a tablet computer.  First of all, can this possibly make sense?  Neither product is something that someone MUST have.  The reason the valuation of the company is so high is that Apple makes enormous profits from these two items. The recent drop in value simply reflects the fact that Apple's profitability is set to decline.

Apple's most profitable item is the iPhone and it's world wide market share has leveled off with Android still growing fast.  For a time it was unchallenged in the tablet market, but that too is no longer true.  As prices of phones and tablets go down, Apple will be unable to maintain its (ridiculously) high profit margins.

With both products threatened, why would investors stick around when the company has no other lines of potentially high profit to offer? There are few signs that other products Apple has can take up the slack, for example laptop sales are flat.

A final problem is that Apple serves an elite market and such markets are fickle. When they perceive something as no longer cool, the sales stop. There are already signs Apple is no longer cool.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Finally, Some Rationality Returns to Patents

It is good to see some of Apple's sillier claims falling. I can only hope Apple's "rounded corner" patent will follow soon.

USPTO invalidates all claims of 'Steve Jobs' multi-touch patent

USPTO invalidates Apple's "rubber-banding" patent asserted against Samsung

The Forbes article below says nearly 50% of patents are invalidated when litigated and 89% of patents that are reviewed by the USPTO are a partially or wholly invalidated.

A Powerful New Weapon Against Patent Trolls

Google Apps; SilverLight; Developers and Open Source

Google will now begin charging all Google Apps business users for the service.  Previously businesses with less than 10 employees could use it for free.  (Though my business always paid... its only $50 per user per year!)  Several places noted that this is bad news for Microsoft.
Microsoft Should Be Worried About Google's Recent Move

Reputable survey of developers show massive use of open source... 56% use Linux!
Five out of six developers now using or deploying open source

Want to know one reason (of many) why Windows 8 is not getting apps?
This is what happens to you if you follow Microsoft too closely:
Microsoft pulls the plug on its Silverlight.Net site


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New fun things for Android and Linux

Google's developer conference, Google I/O 2013, will be held on May 15-17 in San Francisco's Moscone Center.

In addition to the traditional ways, you can now have your own private section in the Play Store to distribute your internal apps.
A new way to distribute your internal Android apps

Powerful tablet for kids:
Fuhu’s Nabi Jr. is a $99 5-inch ICS tablet with dual-core Tegra CPU

Pengpod is making low-end tablets and stick PCs that run both Linux and Android:
PengPod, a true Linux tablet, hits its mark on Indiegogo

Asustek doing well with Android tablets:
Asustek: Android-tablet shipments may double

Apple Shares Tumble and Other News

Biggest news item for Apple today is its tumbing stock price:
Apple's shares swallow biggest loss in four years
Apple's Halo Cracked

Laying out a case why (larger) businesses should not go to Macs:
Should I Buy A Mac For My Business In 2013?

Ever since Steve Jobs declared war on Google, using Gmail on iOS was painful. This should fix that:
Gmail for iOS Gets a Completely New Look, Finally Supports Multiple Accounts

This next seems to be part of a trend with Apple.  Watching Amazon's Top Sellers in Computers & Accessories list over the last month I noticed that the iPad 2s were selling much better than the newer iPads including the iPad mini. (The mini on a few occasions briefly beat iPad 2s, the newer full-sized iPads were never even close.)  And of course the iPad mini is expected to cannibalize iPad sales. Now it is happening with phones:
Older iPhones Cutting Into Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone 5 Sales

The Best Thing about an ARM-based Laptop

You do not have to spend 10 minutes getting the "Intel Inside" sticker + goo off.

Goodbye, Microsoft. You had a good run.

Ignoring the numerous "Microsoft is failing" stories out there right now:

Microsoft has failed
If Microsoft Failed, Would Anyone Care?
How iOS & Android Are Murdering Microsoft
Microsoft's Future Looks Grim
Microsoft's domino effect: Poor PC sales could unravel company
Microsoft Is Disappearing Before Our Very Eyes


The stories below (in aggregate) do a better job of showing that Microsoft truly is failing. Most of these stories are about Microsoft acting desperate and failing to see reality.

Microsoft acting desperate.

Microsoft's #DroidRage Anti-Android Twitter Campaign Backfires
Microsoft attacks Google with “Scroogled” campaign
Microsoft says 40 million Windows 8 licenses sold in 1st month; doubts about system linger
Microsoft Is Writing Checks to Fill Out Its App Store
Microsoft Cheapens Windows 8 with Ads

Microsoft failing to see reality.

Advice To Microsoft: Slash the Surface Price By 33%
Ballmer says Windows 8 users ‘get it, and like it’
Sales down, Microsoft raises prices radically
How Microsoft can save Windows and maintain its iron grip over IT

This next one quotes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying Windows 8 would have 100,000 apps within 90 days (of October 26th) and found on 400 million devices by next summer.

Microsoft: 100,000 Windows 8 Apps Coming

These next two are a whole new take on the old joke, "We're losing money on every unit, but we can make it up in volume".

Sales of Microsoft Surface tablets flop in the US
Rumor: Microsoft preparing three new Surface tablets for 2013 release

Finally, one really has to question Microsoft's competence.  First, they force tablet features, on all their users, including servers.  Then they do not even manage to make even a slight dent in tablet space:
WinTel tablet paradigm stalls

Of course, it is possible that they can turn things around, but if they cannot see their own problems, how will they manage to do that?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sorry Paul Thurrott, but Microsoft's Mobile Strategy is Wrong.

On Sunday, Windows pundit, Paul Thurrott wrote an opinion piece Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy is Correct and frankly it annoyed me. I have a great deal of respect for Paul, he is a great source for understanding all things Microsoft, but sometimes he is totally blind to Microsoft's problems.

His lead:
With Windows 8 off to an allegedly “awkward” start, some tech industry bloggers are starting to write Microsoft’s obituary, which requires actively forgetting how diverse this company really is. But rather than focus on the broader company, I’d like to hone in on one area that I think doesn’t get enough attention: Microsoft mobile strategy actually makes sense.
That strategy is: Bring the 1.3 billion Windows users forward to a completely new mobile platform, which is still called Windows, by combining the legacy past (desktop) with the mobile future (Metro), and do so while keeping an eye on what Microsoft calls the next billion customers.
He goes on to criticize various other opinionators for complaining about the dual nature of the Windows 8 interface.

Today, faced with clear evidence that Windows 8 is indeed off to an "awkward" start, Paul blamed OEMs for Windows 8's difficulties.

First, how can it ever be a correct strategy to force your customers to a completely new platform?  Microsoft should attract customers to their new platform.

Second, from a user interface perspective, how can it ever be a good idea to stick two platforms together that work in a very different fashion?  That is quite simply a formula for making it harder to get your work done. Does he really want to argue that is a good strategy?  The strategy might be good for Microsoft, but it is definitely bad for the customers.

Third, Windows 8 has far more problems than the dual nature of the platform:
  • Microsoft has declared the Win32 APIs "legacy", but the new WinRT APIs are missing vast numbers of things necessary to make applications. Microsoft themselves did not manage to make their Office Suite work there. This should not be news to Paul, ISVs complained bitterly about this for a year before Windows 8 launched.
  • Microsoft totally changed the way developers develop and distribute apps. They have a walled garden that is nearly as restrictive as Apple's. And with their UI requirements, it might even be worse than Apple. Developers put up with Apple because they have market share (and will leave quickly when that market share evaporates because Apple is obnoxious). Microsoft is starting out with no market share, is as obnoxious as Apple and doesn't even provide a rich API for product development. What developer wants to do work there? There are plenty of other places to go.
  • Windows 8 phone and Windows 8 RT are two different platforms, while you can reuse some code between them, developers really need to treat them as separate. The stupidity of this is breathtaking.
  • OEMs know developers are unhappy. OEMs know the dual interface is awkward. Microsoft unexpectedly went into competition with the OEMs. OEMs are being gouged by Microsoft for Windows RT on ARM. Microsoft was late delivering Windows 8 to the OEMs and the product is clearly unfinished. How can you blame OEMs for not rushing to provide systems? A combination of Intel's high CPU prices and Microsoft's Windows 8 pricing means that Windows 8 tablet pricing from OEMs simply cannot compete with even the iPad, let alone the Google Nexus 7/10.
Microsoft and Intel are the ones to blame for Windows 8's problems. They have grown fat off their captive OEM market and the OEMs can no longer survive in that climate. Bloatware (OEM's worst sin) was just the OEMs trying to find some way to make a profit in spite of Microsoft/Intel overhead.

Normal consumers are realizing just how silly a $800 laptop is, and are just not going to buy that any more.

What consumer (or even business) needs Microsoft Office when there is LibreOffice and Google Docs? Yet Microsoft is raising Office prices, I'm sure that will work well. :-)

During the same period that NPD said laptop sales were down 24%, the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook ($249) sells out instantly every time a new batch arrives. Android tablets did not seem to have had any difficulty selling (in fact they overwhelmingly led Amazon's top 20) in this same period. Apple stores were seen to be be busy on Black Friday. Apple had a laptop in the top 20 at Amazon through out that whole period, and I suspect Apple Stores sold a few as well. On Black Friday, I saw plenty of Windows 8 systems at the local Best Buy, there were touch screen models too, and Windows 8 hybrids and a touch all-in-one as well. They just were not selling. (People did look, frowned, and then went to the tablets that are not so massively overpriced.)

Face it Paul, consumers just don't need or want Microsoft any more. And if you want to see how that leads to the decline of Microsoft's "diverse" other interests, I suggest you read the articles below:


Finally, it looks like OEMs are starting to fight back:

ARM's disruptive technology.

Whether you realize it or not, most of your computing is now done using the ARM-based computer chips.  Until a few years ago most of your computing was done with Intel CPU chips (or copy-cat chips from AMD or VIA).  This is the computer architecture used by Windows and Apple desktop and laptop computers. With the rise of the cell phone and then tablets, ARM-based computers now out number Intel-based ones.  Most people use these new small computers more than they use Intel-based ones.  In fact, everything a normal user does (especially if you have a keyboard dock) can be done on a tablet (or a phone if you have a keyboard and larger display dock). There is likely some missing software still, but it is at least possible for it to be written there.