Microsoft $900M Write Down – Why is Everyone Surprised?

I mean… I’m not. This is what happens when you don’t sell the stuff you make.

wpI’ve been watching and reporting on the Microsoft space since 1997. I knew that there was a change coming to their business long before it was publically announced a few days ago. News of the nearly $1.0B write-off come on the heels of a huge Microsoft reorg. Given the wide press that Windows 8 adoption numbers have had, and the abysmal Surface RT sales and licensing figures that everyone suspects are accurate, All that’s happened to Microsoft in June and July of 2013 canNOT be a surprise to anyone.

However, one of the things that everyone IS asking is, how did this happen? My good friend, MaryJo Foley put it the best, and you can read about it in her article, linked above. It’s a good question, too; one that should have been asked in a different form long before the decision to take the write-off was made. Microsoft should have been asking itself and its pundits, “what should we do to keep this from happening?” (or some similarly formulated question…)

The write-off, or “inventory adjustment,” as Microsoft is calling it is a $900M charge for Surface RT, its parts and accessories, as announced on 18-Jul-2013. Unfortunately, the entire world is focusing on this specific development, with many people providing I told you so, arm-chair quarter back/Monday morning analysis of Microsoft’s reported financials.

While I’m not going to get into much of that, I can’t say I’m surprised. What specifics had been circulated – Microsoft hasn’t provided specific sales numbers to my knowledge – shouldn’t make this a big surprise to anyone. Microsoft has been trying to misdirect everyone to other issues, accomplishments and subjects for months.

MJF wants to know how it happened. I want to know why no one took the current actions – reducing prices of licenses, hardware and accessories – until now. I also want to know why there isn’t a (more) aggressive marketing push, and why Microsoft isn’t doing more to attract more 3rd party developers.

The problems here are 3 fold. All of these need to be addressed in order to turn the ship around.

  • Hardware pricing
  • Windows Store Issues
  • Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft-Surface-ad-multiple-devices-hands-001

Hardware Pricing

Simply put, Microsoft needs to sell these at a serious loss if it wants to get Windows RT and Surface RT tablets into the hands of the public. Pricing these at or near iPad/iPad mini pricing isn’t going to cut it. The right price is $199 to $249 regardless of features, manufacturer, or storage size.

Microsoft needs to price Surface RT at a level where it’s stupid NOT to buy one, if only just to have it, in case there’s a major breakthrough and we bump into a, “Hey, Mikey..! He likes it!” moment.

Windows Store Issues

A friend of mine is returning a Lumia 928 Windows Phone due to lack of app selection and maturity within the Windows [App] Store. Simply put, what little apps there are, suck; or don’t compare to the level of app quality in the iOS or Google Play App Stores.

The same can be said for Windows RT; but its problems are a bit more profound. There aren’t a lot of apps in the store, and what apps are there, aren’t great. Moreover, Windows RT devices can’t run Win32 apps. Despite the fact that it’s a “Windows machine,” Surface RT can’t run any of the ba-jillions of Windows apps out there.

The only way Microsoft is going to be able to address this, is to do its best to attract quality developers to its RT dev programs, and get them to start pumping out apps. However, tablet or mobile device apps tend to be less robust than, and priced well below, their desktop counterparts. Unfortunately for Microsoft, this is a long row to hoe, and is going to be a complex problem to solve. Unfortunately, the hardware is only as good as the software it runs.

Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft tried to build a hybrid OS to help the masses bridge themselves between the growing tablet trend and the public’s love for traditional computing.

Unfortunately, the results generally suck.

Windows 8.1 goes a ways to address this issue, but doesn’t resolve it. Bridging the gap between the computing trends in a single device isn’t working. Most people are used to the fact that their iPad or Android tablet doesn’t run the same kind of software as their Mac or Windows PC; and they’ve accepted it and they’re willing to live with it.

Microsoft needs to separate the UI’s and allow everyone to get back to work. Windows RT wouldn’t suck as an OS if MS would simply combine Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single effort, since they’re so close already. Leave MetroUI based apps to those devices and let the desktop folks get back to work with something that they’re more accustomed to…for now.

If we need to update the UI, let’s do it in an evolutionary, not revolutionary manner. The problem is that XP and its Start Menu have been around too long, and that paradigm of UI is available in Windows 7 as well. Windows XP is still used in the enterprise, and is slowly being phased out, not for Windows 8, but Windows 7. It could be 5 years or more before that UI paradigm is gone. One of the biggest reasons why it was so successful is because consumers were able to use the same UI at home and at work.

Adopting RT in the enterprise currently isn’t possible, as the device integration isn’t there. Home, as well as corporate users, are rejecting Microsoft’s new Start Screen, so, so much for MetroUI.

This is just me; but Microsoft MUST address all three of these issues as part of its reorg or its going to find itself taking additional write-off’s in the immediate future. It can’t afford to do it, and I really don’t’ want to think about a world without a Microsoft… that’s scary, and something that I really don’t want to deal with.

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Browse the internet with ease with Microsoft’s premier browser for Windows and Windows RT.

Windows is perhaps the most widely used operating system in the history of computing.  In the enterprise, you can literally accept no substitute.  Most people find it a must have in the work place.  With more and more applications for both home and work use shifting to mobile, online and touch-enabled applications, I’m glad that Windows’ default web browser, Internet Explorer is keeping pace. Its perhaps one of the most widely used Windows-based web browsers around.

With the implementation of Windows 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft has taken a different tact to computing. They’re embracing a new, clean and uncomplicated interface, and IE is following suite.  IE gets out of the way when you browse. Its controls appear when you need them and vanish when you don’t, giving you full screen browsing, allowing you to see the web, not IE. When you need the controls, an easy flick of your finger can bring them back.

Speaking of fingers, all of IE’s tabs are finger sized. You won’t have to fumble with on screen elements that aren’t tablet-centric or meant for interaction with a mouse. IE 10 is meant to be touched and interacted with.  For example, IE automatically detects which page is next so it’s easy to swipe from page to page with your finger. IE 10 is fast.  The browser is quicker to start and to render pages than previous versions.

With security being such a hot topic, especially for Microsoft, IE 10 has security measures built in.  It uses the leading malware protection, blocking up to 40% more malware than other, similar apps. If privacy is a major concern, IE 10 also supports Do Not Track as well as implementing SmartScreen filtering that helps keep your personal information hidden from the public.

The windowed version of IE 10 is decent.  The MetroUI version that comes with Windows RT is a bit difficult for some to get used to. Unfortunately, the full screen or tablet version of IE 10 breaks Microsoft’s previous Window paradigm, requiring most everyone to get used to a different way of viewing the web.  While Microsoft may tout this as one of its newer features, not everyone is going to see it as a value add.  The app’s web rendering engine though is pretty awesome; and its performance may help you push aside its UI or presentation layer and just concentrate on the web as opposed to how it displays it.

Download Internet Explorer 10

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Bring Windows 8 Metro Style in Windows XP, Vista or 7

If you are looking to turn Windows XP, Vista or 7 into a multifunctional interactive  information center that’s easy to use and attractive – such as Windows 8 Start Menu – then all of your dreams ‘should’ be brought true with Omnimo for Rainmeter.

So what is it, exactly? Well, what Omnimo for Rainmeter essentially does is to let people with older operating systems to give their computer the look and feel of the new Windows 8 operating system, even if it is void of certain new features.

It can be used to totally change the way that a computer looks (in terms of operating system, and considering it is completely free, this is a fairly cool trick. Using Omnimo for Rainmeter skin it is easy to make a few tweaks here and there and hey presto, you have the Windows 8 operating system, along with its Metro interface. Pretty neat, huh?

And this is a skin that goes beyond simply changing the color of your desktop, because it serves to enhance the usability of your desktop, also. The various tiles that it creates can all be compartmentalised so that each one gives you a segment of information that is available, as and when you need it, whether it’s stuff to do with emergency appointments, to-do list type info or simply updates on what the weather is going to be like when you go play golf on Sunday. In addition, these tiles can be used to quicken access to files and programmes, which serves to further the efficiency of the system even more.

Considering that all’s needed to take full advantage of this free skin is a free copy of Rainmeter, it is hard to come up with any negativities. If you are one of these people who’s easily awaiting the new Windows operating system, or can’t see yourself being able to afford it, then this costless alternative should serve you as a more than adequate alternative.

Download Omnimo UI for Rainmeter | Download Rainmeter

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Windows 8 – Dual Mode UI Dichotomy

Is the dual mode UI – Metro and classic Desktop Windows – realistic for today’s computing; or did Microsoft screw the pooch?

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 that I saw in my review here on Soft32, was Windows 8’s dual mode user interface.  The OS could easily be split in two between both its classic desktop interface and Windows 8’s new MetroUI.  There’s been a lot of debate over this lately.

There are two schools of thought on this – Microsoft should take MetroUI out of Windows 8 and Microsoft should kill off Desktop Windows.  Both represent challenges to the organization. Part 1 of this series will deal with Microsoft taking Metro out of Windows 8.  Part 2 will address what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Microsoft Should take MetroUI out of Windows 8
There are a lot of people that are Window experience purists and have been arguing that MS made a serious mistake when they introduced a tablet OS as part of their traditional desktop OS.  In many ways, with certain, realistic and reasonable modifications, Windows Phone can handle tablets very easily.

The OS is already optimized for handheld hardware. It works well on smaller screens. The MetroUI interface is already standardized there, and its users know and understand what it can and cannot do.  They’re used to Live Tiles. They understand what the apps look like and are used to task switching as opposed to true desktop multi-tasking.

I’ve heard both Leo LaPorte and Paul Thurrott speak to this in a recent episode of Windows Weekly.  Both are MS pundits and are on the inside with MS and came out in favor of the combined UI.  I disagree with them; and my review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview outlines why.  The two interfaces are in many ways totally disconnected and create a completely disconnected computing experience.

However, both Leo and Paul brought up a decent point, and I have to agree with them on this 100% – if you pull MetroUI and all of its components out of Windows 8, you kinda forego a reason to release an “upgraded” version of the OS.  In other words, if you pull Metro out of Windows 8, you remove the purpose for the new version.

While the optimizations in Windows 8 totally blow Windows 7 out of the water, if you release those by themselves, what you have is really nothing more than a Windows 7 service pack at best.  If I had my wish, this would be the way that I would go. MetroUI and Classic Windows Desktop are two totally different experiences, and don’t really belong together. Unless and until Microsoft kills off desktop Windows completely, I really don’t think combining the two user interfaces makes sense.

Color me too Apple influenced if you must, but forcing the two to live together is clunky. It creates a confusing end user experience. Developers won’t necessarily know or understand how to develop for the combined interface.  While I’m relatively certain that sandboxing requirements will stay in place regardless of interface, dual mode apps don’t work well and don’t share data very well, either.

Users are used to the classic desktop UI. They understand how it works, and they understand how to pass data to and from apps.  MetroUI is too drastic of a change and too limiting for the standard desktop crowd.  Leaving MetroUI in Windows 8 is going to confuse a great many people and slow its adoption.

In the next page, I’ll speak to what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Continue reading…

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Install Windows 8 UX Pack 2.0 for a little taste of Windows 8

In case you are anxious and cannot wait until the first beta version of Windows 8 will be released, try out Windows 8 UX. This good looking kit gives to any Windows 7 desktop the official look of the Windows 8.

In order to use it, just click the setup and watch the transformation. Before the installation process you will be asked what Windows 8 theme do you want to choose, including the logon screen wallpaper and the desktop wallpaper. In case you decide to give up using the Windows 8 look, the uninstall process is clear enough to restore your former state of Windows 7 on your desktop.

Windows 8 UX comes with three new main features: Taskbar User Tile (an additional taskbar which sits in the bottom right of the normal taskbar), the Metro user interface and Aero auto-colorization feature. The Metro user interface is a radically different approach on how to use the desktop, giving a high profile usage for the touchscreens systems. Along with the new Aero, both features will radically change the way the user will use the Windows’ desktop.

download Windows 8 UX

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