Windows RT and Surface Tablets are Dead

Here’s why I’m sad to see them go…

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Its clear to me that Microsoft really tried to create a total converged device with Windows 8 and its Surface RT product. Its also clear to me that the computing public – both consumers and tech pundits alike, myself included – totally panned, bashed and otherwise lambasted the OS to the point where Microsoft scrapped its roadmap, dropped back and brought back not only the desktop, but the Start Button and Start Menu as well.

The mobile strategy was simple, really… build and market a product that could compete with Apple’s iPad line of consumer tablets so that Microsoft wouldn’t miss out on the tablet revolution that was sweeping the nation (back in 2012 when the tablet revolution was in full swing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft failed. Back in the 1990’s you’d never even think of anyone thinking those words, let alone typing them on a web page that would be read by ba-gillions of people. Today, however, the tables have turned on Microsoft and their mobile strategy, well… it just sucks.

Windows Phone never caught on in the States, which is unfortunate, because the mobile OS is very capable and does what it does very well. Microsoft thought, erroneously, that they could combine the success of the desktop products with the tablet form factor and give everyone a product that would be a home run. I’m certain it sounded good in the Board Room when it was pitched, too. Unfortunately, this is where Microsoft missed the boat.

They thought that people wanting to bring their iPad to work meant that they really wanted a TabletPC. They don’t. They want a tablet that can do some PC-like things; but they still want a tablet. Microsoft, I think, got that; but maybe not so much.

Windows RT was an experiment that didn’t quite make it because Windows on ARM, or WoA as it was originally called, couldn’t run all of the desktop apps that everyone had been using and amassing for years. Users of Windows RT and Surface RT tablets couldn’t install their familiar applications and Microsoft was never able to convince its 3rd party development partners to release any software for the platform. Thus the death of a platform.

They just couldn’t leave the desktop alone. Putting a desktop on a product that didn’t have any desktop apps didn’t make any sense and really kinda tanked – and eventually killed – the product. Nobody could EVER figure out what it was supposed to be.

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However, if Microsoft had just embraced the iPad-like need that their customers were telling them they wanted, and made Windows RT more like Windows Phone, then they may have had a chance on making the product work. The in betweeny thing that RT really tried to be – a bridge between the TabletPC/ desktop world and a more productivity-based, consumerization of IT device – just didn’t work and as I said, confused nearly everyone, Microsoft included. They ended up concentrating more on the Surface Pro product line, as it followed the standard desktop PC paradigm they were used to seeing and working with.

However, I can’t help but think of what Windows RT really could have been if it did what it should have done. I really think that Apple has the right model. iOS is very similar to OS X. It just lacks a few key support items and features, but its really very close to Apple’s full blown, desktop OS. While those differences do require developers to make mobile counterparts to their venerated desktop programs and apps, Microsoft has been struggling (until Windows 10) with how to make that work. They really only wanted developers to HAVE to make a single app if they wished (hence the whole “universal app” concept in Windows 10).

But if Microsoft had totally ditched the desktop on Windows RT devices, which confused and befuddled users, and didn’t really permit them to DO anything that they could do on their Desktop machines, and figured out a way to have Phone apps run on RT, who knows what could have happened to the product.

We *COULD* have had a Windows based tablet that was a real and true iPad competitor. With a clarified and solid marketing strategy that differentiated and defined exactly what “Windows Mobile” was (Windows Phone plus Windows RT), Microsoft could have had a platform that may have been able to compete with both Apple AND Google’s Android. It could have been really cool.

And that’s why I’m a bit bummed. I saw an article on Computer World that says all signs point to the death of Windows RT, and they’re right. Microsoft isn’t going to provide an update path to Windows 10, though they will have some kind of update released to sort of bring it close.

I have no idea what that sentiment means. I have no idea what Microsoft is really going to do with Windows RT. I don’t think THEY know what they are going to do with Windows RT. However, its clear… they need to do something, and they need to provide some way for users to either use the hardware they invested in, or provide a way to spring board into Surface Pro (maybe some kind of hardware trade up program..??)

But it could have been cool… Unfortunately, the technology world is full of “could have been cool’s” from over the years. In the end, we’re just going to have to wait and see what Microsoft wants to do.

Goodbye Windows RT… We really never knew you or what the heck you were supposed to be.

What do YOU think Microsoft should do with Windows RT and Surface RT and Surface 2? Should it all be scrapped? Should Microsoft provide some kind of premium trade up program? Should they do anything else? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below and give me your thoughts on the whole situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Microsoft to Update Surface Devices

Redmond isn’t giving up on RT; and will also update Surface Pro in FY2014

mwpMicrosoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference concludes today (2013-07-11). There’s been a ton of information that has been disseminated, but one of the most interesting points came during a presentation from Microsoft’s COO, Kevin Turner – Microsoft is planning some updates to both its Surface tablets during FY2014.

When you look at the slide, it’s clear that not only is Microsoft planning to introduce new Surface RT and Surface Pro accessories, in multiple colors, but its planning on updating the tablets as well. Intel recently released its Haswell processors, and I would expect the next version of Surface Pro to use this processor.

Surface RT, which uses ARM based processors, doesn’t have a clear upgrade path at this time.  The Verge is reporting that MS is giving serious consideration to using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor in the next version of the consumer tablet.  According to The Verge, Microsoft has been testing Windows RT 8.1 on RT tablets powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.  The chip has LTE connectivity on-board, so Microsoft may be planning to include mobile broadband support with the next version of Surface RT.

Nearly everyone who uses a Surface RT or Surface Pro tablet likes the clickable Touch and Type keyboards that are available for them. However, the devices, Surface Pro specifically, lacks a docking station.  Microsoft has officially stated that it won’t be releasing one. However, third party providers may release one.  MS has promised, however, “future peripherals that can click in and do more.”  What that means, specifically remains to be seen, but we should know well in advance of the Holiday Buying Season.

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Microsoft unveils its own tablets running Windows 8

Yesterday at an event in Hollywood, Microsoft unveiled Surface – its own-brand family of tablets – “an unique expression of entertainment and creativity. As presented, there will be two models of the tablet available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro.

Tablet highlights:

  • Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.
  • VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
  • Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
  • Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.


Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.

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Microsoft Mobility – I Don’t Think They Get It…STILL: Part 2

I’ve quipped on leadership before, but fer cryin’ out loud – I’m DYIN’ over here

There’s a lot happening over here at Soft32.  I’ve been doing deep dives on both Apple and Microsoft operating systems and you should be able to see them on Soft32 shortly.  2012 is definitely the year of the new OS; and Soft32 is committed to keeping you up to date on all of the developments.

Last time I was talking about how Microsoft needs to severely clarify the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT.  Let’s get back into it and I’ll let you in on what I’m seeing out of Redmond with both Windows 8 and RT.

Microsoft is currently marketing Windows 8 and Windows RT as a tablet-based OS.  Windows 8 will run on Intel based machines and will include desktops, laptops (including TabletPC’s) and (slate based) tablets, similar to the iPad in form factor. Windows RT will run on ARM based tablets, and ARM based tablets ONLY.

Do you see the common element?  Tablets.  Both will run on slate based tablets.  An Intel based tablet will run the full blown version of Windows 8, which will include a desktop mode.  An ARM base tablet will run Windows RT and will NOT include a desktop mode.  ARM based tablets will support Microsoft’s new UI –  Metro – only.

The problem comes in from an end user perspective. Both Windows 8 tablets run, well…Windows 8; and I don’t think the average user is going to understand the difference between the two tablets.

What’s the difference?  Simple…Windows RT is a direct iOS, and therefore, iPad competitor. The two share the Windows 8 app store; and I don’t think users are going to be able to correctly distinguish between the two different tablets, OS’ and app versions.  It’s very likely that users will have a Windows RT tablet at, say, work…and a Windows 8 desktop/laptop at home.  The Windows 8  app store will sell both legacy desktop Windows software that will run on Windows 8 and Metro apps.

I’m certain that a Windows RT user is going to buy a Windows 8 app in the app store and then get frustrated when they can’t install it on a Windows RT tablet. The similarity between the two operating systems is going to create a huge amount of user confusion. Microsoft is pushing the perception that they are the same OS. Users will see this, and want to install apps from their Windows 8 machine to their Windows 8 tablet.

Windows RT is also not available for purchase or install, anywhere. The only way you get it is if you buy a device that has it on it. This will also confuse consumers, as some head to their local big-box retailer meaning to purchase it.

Windows 8 is great for mobile devices as touch is its focus, and that’s how users interact with those devices. The desktop experience hasn’t responded well to touch. If it did, PC’s like the HP TouchSmart, the Dell Studio One or Inspiron One or Lenovo Idea Center would be everywhere, and they clearly aren’t.

Microsoft needs leadership. It needs vision. It needs direction. It needs Windows 8 not to suck…and I am truly afraid that they are going to lose out on all counts…

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$49 Android PC by VIA

You might have heard of Raspberry PI, the very low cost, credit-card sized computer that generated a lot of excitement – mostly for its price and size. Well, now it’s time for some real competition.

VIA Technologies, the company primarily known for motherboard chipsets, just unveiled a $49 APC Android PC system which comes with a browser, a selection of preinstalled apps and optimization for keyboard and mouse input, plus hardware acceleration for demanding video formats.

Powered by a WonderMedia ARM processor at 800MHz, APC integrates memory (DDR3 512MB), storage (2GB NAND Flash), and a full set of consumer I/O features, APC can be connected to a TV or monitor. APC consumes only 4 watts when operating at idle power and 13.5 watts at maximum load. This is ten times less than a standard PC system and ensures significant power savings in large scale deployments.

APC Android PC features:

  • Optimized Android OS
  • HD TV support
  • Hardware acceleration of the most demanding video formats
  • VGA and HDMI display ports
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • One microSD slot
  • One 10/100 Ethernet port
  • Audio-out/ Mic-in
  • VIA WonderMedia ARM 11 SoC
  • 2 GB NAND Flash
  • 512 DDR3 SDRAM
  • 15W power adaptor

For more information, please visit APC website

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Microsoft Returns the Simple to Windows 8 Editions

Microsoft has announced how it will release  Windows 8 in three different editions, two of which should be right for most.

Microsoft has always taken an unusual stance when it comes to how to distinguish between the different versions of Windows. Barring special editions that were released as a result of litigation or court proceedings, such as Windows XP Starter Edition for developing markets or Windows XP Edition N, Microsoft made it easy for most of us with just two versions of Windows XP – Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Microsoft released Windows Vista with a bit more diversity.  Vista came in five different editions – Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise.  Windows 7 was similar with Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Microsoft is taking a “Windows XP Editions” approach with Windows 8.  There will be two – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional.  Windows 8 is the edition that most everyone will use. It replaces Windows 7 Home Premium and includes the ability to switch languages on the fly, which was previously only available in Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate.

BitLocker and Encrypting File System support are part of Windows 8 Professional. It also has client Hyper-V virtualization and can boot from a virtual hard drive (VHD).  Windows 8 Professional is the edition you’re most likely to see in the enterprise, as it also allows you to join a Windows domain, contains support for group policies and has Remote Desktop host.  Currently, these features are only available in Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise.

Both Windows 8 editions will be installed at the factory, and will be sold at retail locations. They will be the only editions available to the consumer.  Microsoft also plans on releasing Windows 8 Enterprise; but it will only be available to corporate customers with a Software Assurance agreement.

Windows on ARM, or WOA, has been rebranded as Windows RT. It does not come with the Microsoft Windows 8 brand, even though it has a similar feature set and the Windows 8 code-base. It will only be installed on ARM-based computing devices at the factory. It will not be available for purchase in any retail or corporate channel. Pricing for all Windows 8 editions is still unknown.

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Nokia Windows 8 tablet to hit the stores in early 2012

With analysts predicting an explosion in computer tablets sales over the next four years, Nokia have joined forces with Microsoft in a bid to break Apple’s iron grip on the market.

The new Nokia Windows 8 tablet which is set to hit the stores some time in 2012 has been designed to seriously challenge the might of the iPad.

Yet, exactly what special attributes will this “new kid on the block” posses to make it a serious contender for Apple’s heavyweight belt. And will its potential success dramatically alter the course of Nokia’s future and fortunes.

Nokia have already tied their colors to Microsoft’s mast and launched a number of Windows Phone handsets in a bid to rejuvenate its smartphone line-up and keep pace with not only Apple, but other rivals such as Samsung that use Google’s Android operating system.

Now the two technological giants are yet again pooling their impressive resources and attempting to make inroads into Apple’s dominance by launching their very own tablet.

Nokia is no stranger to tablets. In 2007 they introduced the unsuspecting public to the Nokia N810, but the keyboard sporting device was always doomed to failure in the same year that the iPhone was busy revolutionizing technology and the way we interact with it.

Other rivals of Apple have already lost millions trying to compete on level terms with the iPad, so how will Nokia’s foray into this difficult market be any different.

For a start the Nokia tablet’s operating system will be the yet to be released Windows 8 software, which will attract hordes of die-hard Microsoft adherents and bait the curiosity of those slightly disappointed with the limitations of the iPad.

Microsoft is still to confirm the exact release of Window 8, but with the company promising to update the platform every three years, it will be due for release some time in 2012, and all Microsoft updates generate mass interest in the technology loving public.

Microsoft has already committed itself to the tune of one billion dollars in ensuring that Nokia’s Windows Phone competes on a level playing field with Apple’s iOS and the Android, and it is guaranteed they will maintain the same levels of focus and commitment to make the Nokia Windows 8 tablet a success.

Since its launch in January 2010, Apple has led the charge in the tablet market and has shifted more than 40 million units. It’s only rivals to date have had an appalling reaction in terms of sales. At the last count, BlackBerry maker RIM had only shipped 700,000 of its PlayBooks and after only 48 days Hewlett-Packard canceled its ill-fated TouchPad.

The last time Nokia made a major foray into the world of computers, was in 2009 with the small laptop – Booklet 3G, and that has remained a niche product, but with the backing of Microsoft and the excitement being generated by Windows 8, the market is Nokia’s for the taking.

As Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said earlier this November, “There’s a new tablet opportunity coming. We see the opportunity. Unquestionably, that will change the dynamics of the tablet market.”

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Windows 8 – Only What Matters

Windows 8 is likely less than a year away, and it can best be summed up as Windows in the post-PC era. That’s not to say that desktop computers and laptops won’t be a major part of the system, but this will be the first version of Windows designed with both computers and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets in mind.

Starting with the basics, Microsoft has confirmed that the sequel to Windows 7 will indeed be called Windows 8. This isn’t so much a lack of imagination as a belief that Windows 7 was much better received than its predecessor Vista: Microsoft wants to convey the message that the sequel will continue that success. As for a release date, there’s been no official word, but the timing of releases (both official and leaked) of in-development editions is, consistent with an Autumn 2012 release.

Over the years Microsoft has generally followed a pattern on alternating between a new version of Windows that starts from scratch (such as Vista) and one that is based upon its predecessor but has key usability and feature improvements (such as Windows 7.) Windows 8 looks set to fall into the former category and it’s the user interface that is the biggest change.

Previous attempts to produce low-specification netbooks and tablet devices with Windows have proven unsuccessful simply because it was primarily designed for desktops and laptops. Windows 8 changes that with the Metro user interface which is designed to work equally well on traditional monitor/keyboard/mouse setups and touchscreens.

There’s also a major overhaul to the basic look of Windows. The default setup replaces the familiar desktop with small icons and then the taskbar at the bottom. In its place is a new customizable start screen with larger tiles that take the user directly to commonly used applications; some tiles can be set to display information updated in real time such as weather or sports scores. Users can switch to the traditional set-up if they prefer.

The Metro system also means a big tweak to Internet Explorer. The default version of the browser will run in HTML 5 and won’t support any plug-ins such as Flash, which is already blocked on Apple’s portable devices. There’ll be a separate version of the browser accessible through the traditional menu system that does support plug-ins.

While full details aren’t available yet, it does appear Windows 8 will reflect the growing interest in cloud computing by which not only is some data stored online, but some processing work by remote computers rather than by the device itself. One confirmed change from this is that users will be able to use a Windows Live ID to log-in, such that they can go on any machine and access settings and files.

The biggest change “under the bonnet” comes with support for ARM processors for the first time. To date Windows has only supported Intel x86 processor system, which is used in the vast majority of PCs. ARM is far more common in smartphones and tablets and works in a way that uses far less power, thus extending battery life. If all works as planned, this should mean Windows is much more effective in portable devices than before.

Download Windows 8 Developer Preview (32/64-bit)

Note: Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers and it may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version.

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