The Microsoft Surface is (French) Toast

The Apology

Please allow me to begin by apologizing for the saucy language you are about to encounter. There is simply no way for me to tell the following joke without cursing. I really don’t like cursing (although, I do so love using it for effect), so I’m going to employ a substitute for the curse word. I trust that the savvy and discerning Techpinions reader will be able to pierce the veil and see through my little euphemism. Enjoy!

The Joke

On a Saturday morning, three boys come down to the kitchen and sit around the breakfast table.

Their mother asks the oldest boy what he’d like to eat.

“I’ll have some firetruckin’ French toast,” he says. The mother is outraged at his crude language. She hits him and sends him upstairs.

When she calms down, she asks the middle child what he wants. “Well, I guess that leaves more firetruckin’ French toast for me,” he says. The mom is livid. She smacks him and sends him away.

Finally, she looks at the youngest son and asks him what he wants for breakfast.

“I don’t know,” he says meekly, “but I definitely don’t want the firetruckin’ French toast!”

Excerpt from: “Jokes Every Man Should Know

The Analogy

• The mother in the Joke represents the computer buying public.

• The first two boys represent any one of the several PC hardware manufacturers who made tablets running the Windows 8 software but who have since been booted from the market.

• The youngest boy represents Microsoft.

Microsoft – like the youngest boy in the Joke – has gotten the reaction of the public (the mother) all mixed up. The boy thinks that the mother is upset about the French Toast, not the cursing. Microsoft thinks that the public is upset about Windows 8. So Microsoft has been quick to swear off (see what I did there?) Windows 8 and move on to the brand, spanking, new Windows 8.1. That’s going to fix EVERYTHING!

Or not.

‘Cause the real problem – the problem that Microsoft doesn’t see or get – is with Microsoft’s accursed tablet philosophy. Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a tablet is a PC. And Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a PC is Windows. Thus and therefore, Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a tablet is a PC that runs Windows – a hybrid, that does it all and is all things to all people.

Until Microsoft’s outlook (oh my, yet another obscure reference) changes – and I think it’s unlikely to change anytime too soon – Microsoft, like the youngest boy in the Joke, is going to keep on getting slapped around without a clue as to why it’s happening.

Paul Thurrott’s Analysis

Paul Thurrott, in his article entitled, “Can Surface be Saved?“, is seemingly critical of Microsoft’s tablet efforts but, in the end, he erroneously sides with Microsoft’s take on why Windows 8 tablets are failing in the marketplace.

The Surface Is The New Zune

The parallels with (Surface and) Zune are interesting. In both cases, Microsoft established a new (well, recycled in the case of Surface) brand for a new family of hardware products. In both cases, Microsoft adopted a coopetition model in which it sought to have it both ways by both supporting partner devices and then competing with them head-on with their own.

The fear at the time of the reveal event was that Microsoft would alienate these partners by making its own hardware. ~ Paul Thurrott

Microsoft’s move to “co-opetition” is quite interesting. When Microsoft announced the Surface, the pundits seemed to fall into one of two groups. The theorists suggested that by making their own hardware, Microsoft would harm their relationship with their hardware partners. On the other hand, realists looked at the market and concluded: “Harm their relationship? Nonsense. Where are the hardware manufacturer’s going to go?”

In a way, the theorists and the realists were both right. If the Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet program is the sinking Titanic, Microsoft’s PC manufacturers are the lifeboats and those lifeboats aren’t so much paddling toward anything as they are simply madly paddling to get AWAY from the sinking ship that is the Surface. ((Paul Thurrott: First, of the few PC and hardware makers that voiced support for Windows RT last year and the subset of those that actually shipped devices, virtually all have completely and publicly backed away from the platform. Indeed, the most successful Windows RT device, by all measures, is Surface RT. And that device required a nearly $1 billion write-off because of poor sales.
Second, more and more PC makers are turning to free Google platforms. Not just Chrome OS, which is a super-cheap/low-risk bet, but also now Android.))

Redefining “Superior”

Killing off Surface would just deprive customers of some of the only truly superior PC hardware out there.

And these devices really are superior. We can debate specifics around battery life, the keyboard choices, the number of ports, the non-adjustable kickstand, or whatever. But these are beautiful and well made products. ~ Paul Thurrott

Okey dokey then. Let’s take a step back for a second and examine that bit of analysis. I have no argument at all with the hardware quality of the Surface. Beautiful and well-made? Yes. But nothing is truly “superior”unless it serves its intended purpose.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker

The “Pro” Tablet

I previously described (the Surface) as what a “Pro” line of iPads might look like if Apple were to make such a thing. ~ Paul Thurrott

This is where Paul’s analysis and Microsoft’s tablet philosophy go right off the rails. They both think that what the world wants – that what the world needs – is a “Pro” line of tablets.

…I still believe that this kind of hybrid device—one that combines work and play thematically and tablet and laptop physically—is the future of the PC. Not just the Ultrabook, but the PC. The ability to use and travel with just a single device that does it all is still a dream today. ~ Paul Thurrott

Yeah, not so very much.

I can see the appeal of Paul and Microsoft’s “dream”. But – as Microsoft has demonstrated – merging a tablet with a PC is not a “dream”, it’s a nightmare.

Not One Hybrid, But Multiple Screens

Ironically, Bill Gates predicted the future of computing back in 2007:

I don’t think you’ll have one device.

I think you’ll have a full-screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that – yeah, I believe in the tablet form factor…

…and then you’ll have the device that fits in your pocket…

…and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine. And the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complementary–that is, if you own one, you’re more likely to own the other.

[pullquote]The one, unifying computer is not the hybrid, it’s the Cloud.[/pullquote]

What’s actually happening is that we’re moving toward owning multiple windows (Ironic, eh?) to view and interact with our centralized data in the Cloud. One screen for our pocket (smart phone), one screen for the desk (PC), one screen for the wall (TV) and one screen for walking and lounging about (tablet). The one, unifying computer is not the hybrid, it’s the Cloud.

So if Bill Gates predicted this so very long ago, why doesn’t Microsoft get it? Well, as Upton Sinclair so rightly put it:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

A hybrid computer that runs Windows is not the consumer’s dream, it’s Microsoft’s dream. And the bulk of the computer buying public is having none of it.

Black or White Thinking

Am I saying the the Surface isn’t good for anyone? Absolutely not. There are literally millions upon millions of users who will need it, love it, absolutely adore it.

But that’s not enough.

In today’s marketplace, millions of computers is a niche. The goal is to sell in the BILLIONS. And I’m not being hyperbolic. Android is closing in on a billion activations fast. And iOS isn’t that far behind.

The pertinent question isn’t whether Windows 8 tablets are good or bad. Like all products, they’re good for some people and bad for others. The pertinent question is one of proportion. Will enough people want enough Windows 8 tablets to make them a majority or even a plurality? All the evidence to date says that they will not.

The Surface Is Firetrucked

So let’s tie this into one nice, neat package and put a ribbon on it.

In the Joke, the mom’s problem isn’t with the French Toast. It’s with the kids’ cursing.

In reality, the public’s problem isn’t with the quality of the Surface hardware or about tweaking the Windows 8 software. It’s with Microsoft’s cursed belief that tablets really want to be PCs.

As long as the kid in the Joke doesn’t understand the problem, he’s going to keep getting smacked around by his mother.

As long as Microsoft doesn’t understand the problem, they’re going to keep getting smacked around by the marketplace.

If Microsoft doesn’t start getting the joke, instead of being the joke, their tablet ambitions are going to end up as (French) toast. ((Urban Dictionary: Toast – Destroyed, terminated, ceased functioning, ended abruptly by external forces.))

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

73 thoughts on “The Microsoft Surface is (French) Toast”

  1. Well, I certainly would very much want a productivity-oriented tablet for professional use. What I do NOT want is a software stack optimized for mouse, keyboard and a 40 watt CPU, running on a touch-device with a mobile SoC. Even if they could fix the mess that is Windows 8, what about Photoshop, AutoCAD, Illustrator, Maya, pSpice, visio, Excel, Matlab, Visual Studio and so on and on and on? All of these hyper-complex productivity applications needs to be redesigned from the ground up to facilitate a radically different workflow. That is simply a gargantuan task, and a quick metro restyling is NOT enough.

    Microsoft is wedded to a whole suite of important and higly valuable x86 desktop software. That has long been a great strength of microsoft. Now it is holding them back.

    If MS really wants a unified OS across all form factors, they need to do it from the ground up. Start on the phone. When you are settled there then extend that platform to tablets, then notebooks, and finally the workstation. It’s much easier to move a softwarestack upwards than downwards.

    Microsoft also needs to decide whether they want the amazing, carefree and refined experience that apple offers, or the more dynamic, powerful and flexible approach that android comes with. Doing both and then stitching them together is simply a disaster.

    1. “Well, I certainly would very much want a productivity-oriented tablet for professional use”

      Like the Ipad with a keyboard case and either pages/numbers/keynote or office2hd?

      Seriously, while on the one hand, Microsoft seems to have totally missed the whole point of why Jobs introduced the Ipad from a lounge chair (the surface’s kickstand, keyboard dock, MS’s whole marketing campaign that basically seemed to think that the way you want to use a tablet is on a table top). But on the other hand, thousands of techie people like you seem to have noticed the lounge chair and totally missed that after a while Jobs got out of the lounge chair and showed us a full suite of productivity apps, a keyboard dock, and a bluetooth Ipad keyboard which were all made to be used with the Ipad and introduced at the same time as the Ipad.

      The people who look at the keyboard cases and the productivity apps that are available for the Ipad and still insist that it’s not a “real” productivity device (and who are not just reflexively filing the Ipad in their mind under “toy, not for work”) mostly focus on the lack of multitasking and how you can’t drag/drop content from one app to another app like you can on a desktop or laptop.

      To which I say, first, different form factors require different work flows. You can’t work on a 10″ Macbook Air in the same way as you do on your 20″ desktop monitor. Likewise with the Ipad, the form factor doesn’t prevent you from getting work done, but it does require you to change how you do things. And second, maybe what you need if you really absolutely must have multiple apps on the screen at the same time is a laptop. Apple isn’t preventing you from doing split screen multitasking on the Ipad out of meanness, they’re not enabling it because doing that kind of thing on a 10″ screen powered by a low power ARM CPU would suck. And third, there is almost certainly an app for that. I can’t point you to it because I had no need for it so I didn’t pay attention, but I remember seeing a mention of a productivity app (probably as a sponsor on The Loop or Gruber’s blog) whose focus was enabling you to easily import various kinds of rich content into a single document, without the need for split screen multitasking.

      1. Well, I certainly disagree there. I think that sticking a keyboard onto an ipad just makes a very good tablet into a sucky netbook. This approach does not solve anything it just stitches thing together.

        It’s the same with Windows 8. It is not really a unified platform, it is two different platforms stitched together. In order for a hybrid device to be truly succesfull, it needs to give you something more than the combination of a good dedicated laptop with a good dedicated tablet would give you. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the Surface simply falls short.

      2. Or to put it in another way: In order to make a true productivity touch-device you have to solve the fundamental and hard problem of how such a device should interact with the user. It’s not about where you stick the keyboard, or about flat design, or about x86 vs arm

        You need to figure out what role touch has when editing video, creating graphics, making circuit diagrams and so forth. And is not merely about software design. It requires deep insight into the workflow of graphics artist, writers, CAD designers, usw. And that is just very, very hard. It is also a golden opportunity.

      3. “MS’s whole marketing campaign that basically seemed to think that the way you want to use a tablet is on a table top”

        Especially while dancing on that table top.


    2. “…or the more dynamic, powerful and flexible approach that android comes with.”

      I can see the “dynamic” or “flexible” approach of Android, if you are talking about tweaking what you see on your tablet or phone. But, “powerful”? That remains to be seen. Android and iOS are quite different in character and approach — Android taking the more java-type approach. Not to mention, through vertical integration Apple is achieving more power through its use of custom SoC’s, the use of GPUs to do a lot of heavy lifting, power management, custom batteries, etc.

      Already, quite powerful apps are to be found on iOS: ones that enable quite a bit of creation, and do some of the very things those traditional creative pro apps in your list do. Among other things, there are on iOS quite sophisticated drawing and paint programs, video editors and audio apps with multiple tracks that have a lot of depth and power. It’s just that mobile apps tend to specialize in one or two things instead of being a swiss-army-knife.

      The sophistication achievable and very evident in iOS apps shows that “amazing” and “refined” really equals “powerful”, and your distinctions between modifiers of iOS and Android are a little arbitrary. Let’s talk about “dynamic” again when we see iOS 7.

  2. Secondly, Microsoft needs to play their own game: Neither Google nor Apple really understands or values the enterprise. Google seems to especially clueless about this.

    Microsoft has wasted billions making hardware and search engines, trying to be both Apple and Google at the same time. Microsoft needs to focus on being a better Microsoft. I think Azure is turning out pretty neat. Make more of that.

    1. Wrong. Apple is selling millions of iPads and iPhones to the enterprise. I have worked at multiple companies as an employee or contractor that use Mac’s as standard issue laptops. Motorola, Google, Oracle to name a few.
      Google is too insecure to be used at most major corporations and they also have no enterprise management tools while Apple does.

  3. And as i little disclaimer: In my professional life right now, I develop android productivity applications for the desktop. Right now that market is practically zero, but we are some in the industry, who thinks this might be the next turn of the post-PC adoption cycle. We might be wrong on this. And I’m certainly not a neutral observer.

    1. Interesting work. I’ve ton quite a bit of analysis on this space for the OEMs and it seems there is little hardware interest in this at all, both now and in the future. I think a better focus for the long haul is to focus on Chrome OS and Chrome apps. If by chance, and its possible, that Chrome OS absorbs Android apps through the browser then you are good as well.

      But my guess is that the way this happens is through hardware like Chromebooks, rather than Android books for example.

  4. The one, unifying computer is not the hybrid, it’s the Cloud. John Kirk
    This my friend, is one of your best line.

    I do believe that the computer of the future will have less to do with tablet, notebook or laptop but
    the Cloud that will power them all.

    While Microsoft and Apple are busy trying to compete with Android, they forgot one of the biggest threats coming from Google which is: Chrome OS.

    Anyone who has used a Chromebook knows what I mean.

    With the amount of money that Google is investing in this project and the ability now to
    provided package apps that work like native application using chrome API and their
    acquisition of QuickOffice recently, it won’t be long before the Cloud revolution took off.

    Let’s Hope that Apple and Microsoft will not leave Google completely dominates this area.

    1. I agree with you Kenny, that is John’s best line in a good article. But I am not sure Chrome hits this target. Perhaps John will have another insightful article to clarify the different approaches that give a screen to your cloud data.

        1. Kenny, I am sorry that my post was not clear.
          I think a Chrome OS laptop is an interesting window to your data in the cloud. And I think Chrome OS makes more sense strategically for Google than Android does.

          But I understood John’s comment about the cloud being the one unifying computer to mean that whatever laptop, desktop, phone, tablet you desire is fine, the data is held in the cloud. Use whatever device is available and seems best for what you want to do. Most people will not have only one hybrid device to do everything they do with their data. (Thus Microsoft’s goal of a hybrid device creates a niche product not a solution for the masses.)
          Chrome may end up being an outstanding laptop solution (and perhaps as an OS to go on many other devices). If so, it will be a worthy competitor to Mac, iOS, Windows, Linux and Android devices. But it will remain the cloud that is the unifying computer of people’s data.

          1. thanks for your response.

            i completely agree with you

            Chrome is already an outstanding laptop solution despite his lack of powerful application and offline mode something that Google is trying to fix with they last Chrome API Update which support Package App that work like Native Application.

            I just hope that Apple and Microsoft will invest more in this kind of solution.

            Once Against Thanks for you reply

          2. Don’t worry, Apple is. Your big focus seemed to be on off-line work and interacting with different kinds of hardware. I don’t know why this would be an issue for iOS?

            Already it interacts with more hardware than people give it credit for — but everyone focuses on the single 30-pin or lightning connector. Already people print, use data card readers, credit card scanners, personal medical devices, barcode scanners, external keyboards, use it as a remote for cars and homes and toys…

            As far as interacting with my desktop, it’s great. I can open and edit all sorts of documents through iCloud. And I really like how I can find browsing tabs that I had open on my devices, that kind of thing.

    2. All you need to do is play around with Apple’s iWork suite online to realize that Apple is fully aware of the need for online Cloud based applications. I see little use for iWork in the Cloud right now but Apple is clearly trying to keep up Google on this front even if the result is less useful than their OS X and iOS applications at the moment.

      I also don’t really see the barrier to entry for a competitor to create their own Chromebook type of laptop. Apple owns all the software necessary to create a very similar device. OS X and Safari are equally as capable as Linux and Chrome as the basis for a Cloud OS device. If Chromebook ends up being successful, Google will have a handful of competitors very quickly.

      1. come on

        If you really believe that Apple can easily match Google service offering and Cloud solution including Chrome OS with Icloud and iWork suite, i have a Bridge to no where to sell you

        and just the fact that you think that Apple can easily build an OS that can rival that of Google Chrome OS, even though they spend almost nothing on R & D and close to zero Capex tell me that you either are in denial on don’t really know what you are talking about.

        Apple is not known for Service and cloud Solution which may explain why they have the worst offering of all major Tech company.

        they strength are and always will be Hardware and software integration, and for that to change a lot of what they do will have to change with it, which is very unlikely hence my doubt

        1. First separate hardware/OS from services. In what way is Chrome OS more sophisticated than OS X with Safari? What R&D needs to be done to create a SafariBook? Almost nothing.

          Services are Google’s expertise; no doubt. But the funny thing about cloud services is that they tend to be very cross-platform. What would prevent a SafariBook from accessing Google’s Cloud services? Again nothing much. Both browsers are based on the same original source. It will take years for Chrome to diverge much from Safari. The only way a competitor to Chromebooks would be locked out of Google’s services is if Google did it deliberately. That seems unlikely but I suppose it could happen.

          Have you played with the Beta of iWorks in iCloud? It is very good for a web app. It easily rivals anything Google has done. The fact that Apple needs to get better at services is probably one reason they did spend their development resources on making iWork for iCloud. I can’t really see any practical use for it currently.

          1. The Issue with Google Chrome OS is not really the OS itself, but the infrastructure that must be in place for a company to provide an effective cloud offering that can run even the most powerful application like Photoshop, video music editing 3D Game online or Offline. something that Google is trying to do with package App, and that take a lot of time and investment and even decade of expertise for it to be Fully reliable.

            You seem to think that Chrome and Safari are Alike, and that Apple can simply turn a Switch and put it in iCloud, and they will have a SafariBook to compete with Chromebook but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth

            Unlike Amazon Google and Microsoft with decade of expertise in the Cloud, Apple is very new in this Business and they do not have the Infrastructure necessary yet to match these company above. hence building a cloud OS wont be an easy task.

          2. Unless Google goes with their native client, then Safari and Chrome are very similar. They use CSS, HTML and JavaScript for their Cloud apps. These technologies are nearly identical in performance for both browsers.

            If Google does decide to focus on their native client they will likely alienate the rest of the web industry. Google won’t do it lightly but I suspect that they won’t have much choice if they are trying to compete with native applications.

          3. This is where you get it wrong

            Just because these applications are built on the same code does not mean that their functionality are similar.

            Unlike Safari Chrome is an OS disguise as a Browser. that is many time more powerful in capable than Safari.

          4. Chromebook uses Linux as the OS not the browser itself. I’ll have to take your word for it that Chrome is more than just a browser though I’ve never heard it described like that before.

          5. You need to educating yourself on what is an OS VS Chrome

            You can run Chrome ‘packaged apps’ even when the Chrome ‘browser’ is closed and the computer is not connected to the internet. Further, these applications are more powerful than web applications because they can access local hardware capabilities through Chrome APIs.

            Imagine if the Windows operating system were trimmed down and then distributed within Internet Explorer… so that if you installed IE on a non-Windows machine you could then run Windows applications. That’s Chrome. A browser allows you to send and receive information over the internet and display web pages. An operating system allows you to send and receive information from computer hardware and peripherals. Chrome does both.

            Put another way, you cannot run Chrome packaged apps from IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, or other browsers… because they aren’t web apps. They are applications ‘native’ to the Chrome operating system… which is installed on your computer under the guise of the Chrome ‘browser’.


            Now, that being said, Chrome OS is not as robust as OS X. It is more on the level of something like Android or iOS… though somewhat less powerful in that it’s application’s user interfaces are restrained to web technologies (e.g. HTML, Java, CSS) but also somewhat more powerful in that it has APIs for interacting with a much greater range of hardware devices. Chrome APIs for different devices and packaged apps are still in their relative infancy… most people don’t even know that they exist as something separate from web apps. You will soon start seeing apps which are better than, though not yet as good as Photoshop, but which only run on machines that have the Chrome ‘browser’ like an operating system installed. Chrome packaged apps can basically match Windows and OS X applications for all but the most advanced tasks as. video and sound editing, but they are much better than web apps for those and will continue to improve as the Chrome OS matures. These capabilities are still in the dev channel for the Chrome ‘browser’, but have been available on ‘official’ Chrome OS machines for a while.

          6. Google contributed mightily to this confusion by calling both the browser and the OS “Chrome” (and lets not even get into Chromium.)

            Chrome OS is a very lightweight operating system built, like Android, on a Linux kernel. Origianlly, it was designed only to support the Chrome browser, but increased functionality lets it run free-standing Chrome apps. Chrome OS is used to power ChromeBook laptops and runs on both ARM and x86 processors.

          7. Apple has little or no infrastructure, expertise or investment? Just several billion-dollar data centers coming online as we speak. Just iTunes that successfully serves billions of items…

            Certainly Google, MS and Amazon have infrastructure. The interesting thing to watch is whether this will serve them for the future, or whether there are some aspects that Apple can leap-frog over and disrupt. Don’t be too sure it could never happen — that’s why this article is discussing MS. Apple certainly has the cash.

            (BTW, the reason their R&D is so low is because of their focus, and saying no to a lot of ideas; they also tend to buy small teams with new ideas and innovations when they think they need them; in fact they just bought someone with a search algorithm they can use in their cloud services. When Apple decides to move, it does so quite quickly — or reveals it has been laying the foundations and working on something for several years, with a ten year plan. It’s really not Apple you have to worry too much about.)

          8. (BTW, the reason Apple’s R&D is so low is because of their focus, and saying no to a lot of ideas; they also tend to buy small teams with new ideas and innovations when they think they need them; in fact they just bought someone with a search algorithm they can use in their cloud services. When Apple decides to move, it does so quite quickly — or reveals it has been laying the foundations and working on something for several years, with a ten year plan. It’s really not Apple you have to worry too much about.)Kizedek

            it’s always better to inform yourself before saying something, instead of repeating the non sense that some Fan love to say.

            the reason Apple’s R&D is so low it’s not because of their focus, and saying no to a lot of ideas;, it is simply because they are primary an Hardware company who licences the majority of the part that goes into create the majority of IDevice hence they don’t have to innovate it themselves.
            it was a business strategy of Steve Jobs after his fight with many companies that stole his ideas and innovations in the past.

            contrary you the popular believe Apple have said yes many time to a lot of Lousy Products and Ideas and that failed ( e.g, Ping, iAds, Map etc.).

            Unlike Google, they rarely succeed at integrating small start-ups they acquire into existing product.

            artificial intelligence and cloud solutions are not something that you can build in secret in then introduce to the public as an Iphone. they are solution that you have to build and improve upon everyday,
            in some case it can even take decade of accumulation of data and knowledge before it became reliable for people to use.

            last and not least

            i am not worry about Apple, they’re still a very successful company, with all the mean necessary to succeed.

            as i said on another post
            people who spend a lot of time together often end up thinking a lot alike.
            The death of Steve Jobs, the maps debacle, stiffening competition, slow pace of innovation and complaisance give ample room for doubt.

          9. Sorry, but you are wrong both about Apple innovation and its success at incorporating small acquisitions. In fact, a great deal of its innovation was purchased in the form of fairly small strategic acquisitions. For example, For example, Apple bought a company called PA Semi. The chip design expertise it acquired allowed it to customize iOS systems-on-chip, beginning with the A5 and its SOC’s, while still fabbed by Samsung, are very innovative Apple chips. Similarly, Apple’s acquisition of Fingerworks brought in the expertise needed to make the iPhone’s multitouch interface work. We may see the fruits of the AuthenTec acquisition in the next iPhone.

          10. Thanks for you reply
            you’re right about that, however i did not said that they never succeed at incorporating small acquisitions. what I said was they had more failures than successes especially with software and service Statup acquisition

  5. I’m going to disagree. The main reason I haven’t purchased a tablet is because I want something for more than consuming. I want a tablet I can work on when I’m on the road. It doesn’t have to be as powerful as my desktop or laptop, but it has to enable me to be productive.

    Maybe I’m the exception here, but I feel that my phone is an adequate device as far as mere consumption goes. Anything else has to have a productivity side before I purchase it.

    1. “The main reason I haven’t purchased a tablet is because I want something
      for more than consuming. I want a tablet I can work on when I’m on the
      road. It doesn’t have to be as powerful as my desktop or laptop, but it
      has to enable me to be productive.”

      In other words, what you want is a tablet, plus a keyboard case, plus an app like Office2HD. Somewhat lighter than a macbook air, much cheaper, and enables you to get all your work done. You’re welcome.

      1. The problem is the software I’m needing to run is more resource intensive music production software. It’s currently not available on iOS or android, that may change in the future, but for now it’s not a workable solution.

        I have nothing against tablets, they just don’t fulfill my needs right now. The surface pro is the closest, but the low storage space and battery life make me less interested.

        1. Media production os one of those tasks that belongs on conventional PCs, whether Mac or Windows. It’s work that involves multiple large files and requires all the processing power you can give it. To go back to Steve Jobs’s original analogy, that’s truck work.

          1. “That’s truck work”

            At least for a few more years; as tablet CPUs move to more efficient process nodes, the number of “truck” jobs that they become competent to do will gradually increase.

          2. True, but mobile devices will always have limitations of procession power (dictated both by thermals and power requirements) and storage. Plus I want a big monitor–more than one if possible–for serious media work.

            Garage Band an iPad is amazing. But it’s not a replacement for Logic Pro on a Mac.

        2. Maybe the upcoming Haswell versions of the Surface Pro will change your mind as far as battery life goes. I think this will allow Microsoft and it’s partners to come up with compelling devices without compromising hardware.

    2. “Maybe I’m the exception here…” – tesla3090

      First, many people have found tablets to be far more productive than expected.

      Second, as per my section entitled “Black And White Thinking”, there are literally millions of people who will prefer hybrids. It’s the perfect tool for them. But what we now know is that they are the exception to the rule, not the rule.

      1. On the point about being the exception, you’re probably right. As for tablets being very productive, in my experience tablets haven’t quite lived up to laptops as far as productivity tools. iOS needs some form file management system and more interoperability between apps to really reach the goal of being an efficient productivity device. Android is much closer, but lacks in fulfilling my specific need, which is high end audio software. Android doesn’t handle low-latency audio very well and lacks app’s that compete with professional DAW’s (digital audio workstations).

    3. The main reason I haven’t purchased a tablet is because I want something for more than consuming.

      Then don’t buy a tablet. Buy a laptop and stop having this conversation. You are under no obligation to buy a tablet of any kind if it does not suit your needs.

      And none of this changes the article. The demographic that Microsoft is attempting to sell to does not exist in the numbers it believes it does. Their product is not wanted, and other products more than adequately fill the specific roles Microsoft is insisting on smashing together.

      1. “The demographic that Microsoft is attempting to sell to does not exist in the numbers it believes it does.” – His Shadow


  6. The biggest mistake Microsoft has made over the last 13 years has been the belief that the world is still tied to Windows ’95 or Windows XP. Microsoft continues to live in the world that the company dominated early 21st century. For Microsoft nothing has changed, the tragic fate of some of their products that attempted to enter the consumer market prove it: Windows Phone, the Zune, the Kin, etc.

    But the bad thing is not Microsoft’s refusal to accept the reality, the really bad thing is that, in the twisted mind of its leaders, it is not Microsoft who is wrong. No. To Microsoft, who is wrong is the market, consisting of a public incapable of understanding what is good for itself. The market just can’t understand… but Microsoft can. That is the arrogant and twisted mentality of a company that got used to crush and annihilate any attempt to competition. But things are not like that anymore.

    The 21st century world is a strange and unfriendly space to people like Steve Ballmer, his folly to continue “leading” a giant like Microsoft only shows his inability to understand what is happening around him, he does not realize that all he has accomplished is hurting the company, placing it far behind Apple and Google. Microsoft’s days are numbered if Steve Ballmer continues as CEO.

      1. “…Ballmer has to go.” – arrow2010

        The fact that the board just allowed him to do a major reorganization makes me think that he has their support. If they had any doubts about Ballmer, they certainly would have brought in a new man BEFORE doing such corporate overhaul.

        1. Ballmer possesses the single most important qualification to be Microsoft CEO. He was Bill Gates’ college buddy.

          1. “(Ballmer) was Bill Gates’ college buddy.” – aardman

            Yeah, Ballmer certainly seems to have Bill Gates’ full support.

  7. Google’s android activation numbers are basically made up. They count things having nothing to do with Google, upgrades. etc. Google has been caught in alot of bold faced lies lately but they have sen lying about activation numbers for a long time.

    1. “A productivity-aimed tablet is a nightmare?” – arrow2010

      Not what I said. I said “…as Microsoft has demonstrated – merging a tablet with a PC is not a “dream”, it’s a nightmare.

      “I suspect the author holds Apple stock.” – arrow2010

      I suspect you own stock in straw men. 🙂

  8. John,

    Another gem of an article. If the concept “won’t fly” even the finest feathers won’t get it off the ground.

    I agree with your observation, MS is off base starting at the Conceptualization stage.


    1. “If the concept “won’t fly” even the finest feathers won’t get it off the ground.” – pawhite524

      Well put.

  9. “A hybrid computer that runs Windows is not the consumer’s dream, it’s Microsoft’s dream. And the bulk of the computer buying public is having none of it.”

    I think this is the exact point that Microsoft doesn’t understand. However, I’d say that the reason for this goes back to Bill Gates’ “Windows Everywhere” fantasy. This assumes that no matter the device, users want the same (Windows OS) interface. As Apple showed, this is completely wrong. People want interfaces that match the product. I don’t want to be reaching across the keyboard and desk to a monitor with a touch screen just to select a word to underline. That’s insane. Keyboard and an input device associated with the keyboard (mouse, touchpad, trackball, etc.) are the current tools of choice. For a tablet or phone I want to have a touchscreen. That’s the way people function. That’s why Apple’s model is working. That’s why Google stole it and Samesong copied it.

    If Microsoft had been smart, they would have realized that people want the ability to have tools with appropriate interfaces that easily and effortlessly interface with each other and easily and effortlessly allow users to exchange data across devices. Microsoft’s networking skills should have made them the leader in this. Instead, they’ve got a .9 billion dollar write off. Apple’s iCloud is still not transparent and needs lots of work to do this efficiently. If Microsoft jumped on this they could be the cloud of choice. Instead, they’ve just piled the Surface RT on top of the Kin on top of the Zune and are letting Bob recite the eulogy.

      1. And in my use scenario – it does match. I understand the issues with the RT version but with my 128GB (64+64) Windows 8 Acer Iconia W510, I really can’t see the reason for the hate towards Windows 8 non-RT tablets.

        This is how I use my tablet:

        Scenario 1: On my small desk, docked, connected to my 1080p monitor, with blue-tooth keyboard and mouse, MS Office apps. Desktop mode.

        Scenario 2: On my couch, watching TV, surfing the web, playing Wordament in between sessions of Alpha Jax. Metro mode.

        One device for work & play with working UI. And for $400 CA, life is peachy.

        1. If you only have a hundred million friends who feel the same way, then life will peachy for Microsoft as well.

          1. If people truly analyzed their needs, there would probably be a hundred million who do feel the same way. Still peachy.

        2. “I really can’t see the reason for the hate towards Windows 8 non-RT tablets.” – kongqueror

          It sounds like the Window 8 tablet is the perfect tool for you, kongqueror. (Nice handle, by the way.) But for most people, the Windows 8 tablet is more of an Ultrabook competitor than a tablet competitor.

          1. Thank you, it is a remnant of my MMORPG playing days long gone. Which just reminded me now of my old gaming desktop, a Pentium D 3.8GHz Dual Core 2GB DDR2 machine powered by an ATI X1900XT video card. When I look at what I hold in my hand right now, I am amazed that outside of gaming and transcoding, my experience with this tablet is much more pleasant. Granted, I am comparing this to a high capacity storage capable PC several generations old with an OS to match. But outside of power users and “serious” gamers, I think there really isn’t a need for more power and the cloud can service your storage needs.

            “But for most people, the Windows 8 tablet is more of an Ultrabook competitor than a tablet competitor.”
            I do agree because it is a PC in tablet form which just so happens to be a perfectly serviceable, if not outstanding, tablet when used as such. However, when I hear Ultrabook, I see a premium devices at premium prices, not $400 devices. With Haswell on its way I think the technology that will trickle down to the Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets will make it even more compelling vs. a dedicated tablet/os device or even vs. the traditional desktop pc.

          2. “I do agree because it is a PC in tablet form which just so happens to be a perfectly serviceable, if not outstanding, tablet when used as such. However, when I hear Ultrabook, I see a premium devices at premium prices, not $400 devices.” – kongqueror

            I probably should have said “notebook”, not “ultrabook”. I was thinking more in term of size and weight rather than in terms of price and quality.

          3. Microsoft is not the only company that is stuck in the past, the same issue exists with Intel. Chances are that the commercial guys at Intel will demand that Atom not compete with Haswell; or conversely that high powered mobile CPUs must cost $150+. With Intel pulling its punches, CPU intensive software (and OSs) will have a hard time taking off.

    1. Even scarier for Microsoft’s stockholders is that Microsoft, to this day, still thinks that people Luuuuuuuv Windows because we bought billions of it the last 20 or so years. Nobody, okay nobody except Thurott and Wilcox, loves Windows. We bought it back then because we had no other choice.

      This is how establishing a successful monopoly eventually kills you. You think you are this hypercompetitor that makes unparalleled world-beating products, but in fact any capabilities you ever had to do that had slowly dissipated as you grew fat on your monopoly profits, selling a lousy, overpriced product to customers who had no other choice. Along comes a nimble, market-savvy competitor and you think all you need to do is to marshal your troops and have them crank out the usual mega-hit product that they come up with year in year out and they come back with a tablet that wants to be a laptop that nobody wants. Monopolists Karma, I call it.

    2. I fail to see why the mantra was “Windows Everywhere” rather than “Microsoft Everywhere”. Perhaps they wanted to own the term “windows” to preclude competition – most ironically, from themselves. If another Microsoft product could compete with & usurp the Windows hegemony, then one from a competitor could be seen as a possibility, too. The golden goose, indeed.

  10. Great analysis, though for a lot of folks, Windows 8 is, in fact, the problem. But I think your analysis explains why Windows 8.1 (or even Windows 9, however that looks) want solve the Surface problem.

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