Thursday, December 6, 2012

On the Surface, things look bad

Earlier in the year I blogged about my hope that the (then) yet to be released tablet by Microsoft would be a worthy competitor to the iPad.  Not that I would instantly go out and buy one, mind you, but at least the competition would be good for improvement in the overall landscape.  If you're an Apple user like I am (unless forced to use a PC), you haven't seen much "revolutionary" product coming out of Cupertino as of late.  Rather, all we have been seeing are "evolutionary" developments in existing products.
  • The iPhone5 gives us a thinner, bigger, faster phone that finally has 4G.  Nice, but Samsung had that in 2011.
  • The new iPad ("3" & "4") give us 4G as well as some screen improvements.  iOS and maps took a step backwards, though.
That's about it folks, which is pretty disappointing considering what we saw from Apple late last decade.  What about improvements in user interface (virtual keyboards?) or some new cool type of form factor change?  Well, there is the iPad mini but we'll get back to that in a minute.

I've had some time to look at the Surface and Windows 8.  All I can think to say is, "Really?"  I can't tell if the Surface is a laptop, a "laptab", or some new mutation.  Windows 8 is so confusing that I'm not sure if I'll have the patience to learn it.  From a corporate perspective, I can see the possibility to put W8 devices on the shop floor because of the touch screen capabilities.  But I can tell you as a CIO that I'm going to be really, REALLY cautious about trying to introduce W8 into the office environment.  Not only will I have to train employees on a whole new interface, I'll also have to make a renewed commitment to high-priced Wintel equipment.  Right now I am very sold on the new Citrix XenDesktop virtualization solution and how it will free me from specific hardware platforms altogether (bad news for Dell, HP, and Lenovo).  Since the Surface tablets are going to be at least as expensive as the iPads, I have little incentive from a cost perspective to want to adopt them.

Forgive me Microsoft and all you Balmeristas.  Your products, with the exception of XBox and maybe Office 10, are really not getting the job done.  Earlier in the year I tried to make a major commitment to your new Cloud-based Exchange service delivered through the "Office365" brand.  Boy did I take a beating on that decision.  It wasn't until I migrated half an enterprise to O365 that I discovered your non-published throttling process.  For the lay user, Microsoft put my email on the same servers as other companies and then limited how many messages I could send and receive in a given time span, I'm guessing per hour.  My reward for committing to O365 was having to back out of the solution, in shame, because I could not have "throttling" that delayed my email service.  And it didn't help that the highest levels of Microsoft support, the vaunted Tier 3 escalation, could not or would not help me. Folks, believe me when I say that email is the most important application in your whole company.  If it goes down or even gets "throttled", you will hear about it *instantly*.

No the Surface tablet, if that's truly what it is, fails to impress.  Even the commercials where a bunch of trendy looking people are swapping keyboards are irritating.  Didn't you learn your lesson with the Seinfeld bits a while back?  Of all the people in my company that I've given a choice to have either a Surface or iPad, over 95% of them have backed away from the Surface and Windows8.

I really hoped that you would get it right this time, Microsoft.  But you didn't - in fact, a recent article by Computerworld (http://blogs.computerworld.com/windows/21456/windows-8-tablets-will-lag-far-behind-ios-and-android-years-says-idc) says you'll be lucky to get to a 10% market share by the end of the decade.

Both Apple and Amazon are now taking the next step with miniaturization (iPad Mini and Kindle Fire).  How are you going to shrink the surface and still use Windows8?  I'm not sure how you will but I am sure of one thing.  The Surface is not going to penetrate the corporate arena.  Why couldn't you have made it at least a cheaper alternative?  That means my dreams for competition to drive greater innovation will stay just that - dreams.  Darn it.

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