Tag Archives: Microsoft

Will bringing Office to the iPad kill Surface RT?

Amidst all the talk of the Microsoft Office apps coming to the iPad, there hasn’t been much thought about what bringing the apps to the iPad means to Microsoft’s long-term future. Peter Bright of Ars Technica thinks that Microsoft is playing a dangerous game:

“Should this come to pass, Microsoft will not just be banging a nail into the coffin of Windows RT and, by extension, its Surface tablet. It’ll be digging the grave, tossing in the body, and then unloading a few tons of concrete into the hole to ensure that there’s no risk of reanimation.”

Peter does have a point. The unique selling point of Windows RT is that it comes with “real” Office apps, and in handing the iPad the keys to the Office kingdom Microsoft runs the risk of undermining its own competing product.

But there’s a few counterpoints. First of all, it’s unlikely that the versions of Office for iOS will include many of the features that Windows RT Office has. On Microsoft’s platform, Office has feature parity with the full Windows 8 version. On iPad, it’s much more likely to be closer to the web Office apps in features. You’ll be able to do basic edits, but that’s probably about it. 

Second, and more important in the long term, if Microsoft doesn’t produce apps for the iPad it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant on a platform that’s being widely adopted by business. If it wants to keep the rest of the “Windows/Office/Exchange” software stack intact, it has to be on iPad. Google, probably it’s biggest competitor at the moment in enterprise office apps, it already there and keeps adding new features to its iOS programmes. 

If Microsoft doesn’t eat it’s own young, then someone else will. Better to preserve two elements of Windows/Office/Exchange than lose them.

Microsoft Skydrive causes friction between Apple and Microsoft

Apple and Microsoft are going head to head over the future of Microsoft Skydrive, according to AllThingsD:

“Sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Apple and Microsoft tell AllThingsD that the companies are at loggerheads not over the 30 percent commission Apple asks of storage upgrade sales made through SkyDrive, but over applying that same commission to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which is expected to launch sometime next year.”

This makes much more sense than the two companies arguing over the relatively-small Microsoft Skydrive. But what I don’t understand is what Microsoft thinks it’s playing at: there’s simply no way that Apple is going to bend over this.

Why the Windows brand has been extended a step too far

Harry McCracken thinks that, despite the potential confusion, Windows is still the best name for Windows:

“But here’s the thing: Moving away from the Windows name, either swiftly or slowly, won’t fix any of these issues. Windows Phone has had the Windows name for three generations now; calling it something else would just muddle matters. (It would also ensure that every mention of the product for years to come would include a note that it was formerly known as Windows Phone, which would eliminate any theoretical benefit of a fresh new brand.)

Windows RT, meanwhile, has too much in common with Windows 8 to have an unrelated name. And Windows 8? Well, it is Windows.”

Up to a point, I agree with Harry regarding Windows CE/Mobile/Phone. But Windows RT? That’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Unlike Windows Phone, Windows RT actually looks like Windows. It even runs some (but not most) Windows 8 applications. It’s enough like Windows 8 to make a casual user believe they’re the same thing – and that means capable of running all the same apps.

But it doesn’t. Not even close, in fact. 

I sometimes wonder if Steve Ballmer’s experience as a marketer at Proctor & Gamble hasn’t ended up making him singularly ill-equipped to run a technology company. The classic marketing idea of brand extension – taking the name and core of a brand into different new products – doesn’t work so well with technology. Something called “Windows” ought to run Windows software. Windows RT, largely, doesn’t. 

Will someone come out and say they love Windows 8?

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

“A reasonable user might respond to this dog’s breakfast of a user interface by trying to stick with either the familiar desktop or the new tablet. However, this is not possible. Some functions, such as ‘start an application’ or ‘restart the computer’ are available only from the tablet interface. Conversely, when one is comfortably ensconced in a touch/tablet application, an additional click will fire up a Web browser, thereby causing the tablet to disappear in favor of the desktop. Many of the ‘apps’ that show up on the ‘all apps’ menu at the bottom of the screen (accessible only if you swipe down from the top of the screen) dump you right into the desktop on the first click.”

Windows 8 is quite possibly a bigger mess for Microsoft than was Vista. And Vista, at least, was relatively easy for the company to extricate itself from. 

Which way will Microsoft go? IBM or AT&T?

Techpinions’ Steve Wildstrom ponders if Microsoft will make a successful transition like IBM, or a failure like AT&T:

“The question is, which model will Microsoft follow, AT&T or IBM? Will it emerge as a chastened, perhaps smaller, but very competitive company? Or will it just slowly fade away? The money gives it time to fix things, but it has to make key decisions about what sort of future it wants soon, and whether the leadership the company now has can get it there.”

IBM, under Louis Gerstner, shredded many sacred cows and emerged leaner, stronger, and able to grow. AT&T made failure into an art form. Microsoft still has the chance to succeed, but it needs to start working hard: much harder than Windows 8 would suggest it’s capable of doing. 

Windows RT tablets aren’t suitable for the enterprise

Windows 8 Tablets and Email: A Disaster in the Making | TechPinions:

“This is an enormous challenge for ARM-based tablets running on Windows RT. because as of now, Metro Mail (sorry, I’m going to call it Metro until Microsoft gives us a real alternative) is the only mail client available for RT.

Unless some third party comes up with a more capable Metro mail client soon, I think RT tablets will effectively be disqualified for enterprise use. Yes, the Metro Mail app is an Exchange client, but it’s a wretched one, far worse than iPad Mail.”

So in other words, Microsoft has hobbled RT for use in enterprises, probably so business users will “upgrade” to the Intel version. Which means their tablet experience is likely to suck, thanks the Intel version’s inferior battery life.

Microsoft really never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Windows 8: A guide for perplexed Mac users

There’s been a lot of confusion about Windows 8 and all its versions, and particularly about Windows 8 on the ARM architecture. A lot of people seem to think that the ARM version is just the same as its Intel cousin, but in fact, the two are just a little bit more closely related than Mac OS X and iOS: siblings, if you like, rather than cousins.

First, there’s three members of the Windows 8 family: Windows 8; Windows 8 Pro; and Windows RT. The first two, which are identical other than some enterprise-level added extras, run on Intel processors (but not ARM). Windows RT, on the other hand, runs on ARM only. The first two can also be bought as upgrades for existing machines, while RT is only available to OEMs – and not even all of them.

The next thing you need to know is that Windows 8 supports multiple runtimes (a bit like APIs – so in Mac world, Carbon and Cocoa can be thought of as different runtimes). Win32 is the old, familiar runtime which pretty-much all the Windows applications you know and love (or loathe) are written to. WinRT, on the other hand, is new and is how you create applications which use the new Metro interface.

WinRT is the only way you can create applications which run on Windows RT – apps written for Win32 (i.e. everything you know as a Windows app) won’t run on ARM-based Windows RT machines. And, just to make it more like iOS, on Windows RT you can only install apps from the Windows Store. No more just downloading a binary and running it.

So far, so very like iOS and Mac OS X this is. But there’s a twist: while Windows RT machines can’t run Win32 apps, other versions of Windows 8 can run WinRT apps. So if you buy a copy of (say) a game on your Windows RT-running tablet, exactly the same software should also run on your Windows 8 desktop.

It’s basically as if Apple had allowed Macs to run iOS software in addition to their own OS X applications. Windows RT, which (remember) runs only on ARM, is Microsoft’s “answer” to iOS on tablets. Presumably – because it would be insane to do otherwise – one day it may also migrate down to mobile phones. And my gut feeling is that over time, Win32 will fade away and developers will be cajoled towards only writing WinRT apps.

There’s some question marks. For example, Windows RT includes built-in Office. But will this be feature-complete when compared to the Win32 version running on desktop machines? Or will it be more like the versions of iWork you can get for iOS, which are compatible but nowhere near as feature-rich? My gut feeling is the latter, at least if Microsoft wants to have something that actually performs well.

Why the Android ecosystem isn’t like Windows

One of the most often-repeated statements about the competition between iOS and Android in mobile phones is that Android is bound to win because it’s following the same model as Windows did in “winning” the PC market. An operating system, licensed to all-comers, with a range of hardware makers all competing should (the theory goes) drive down costs and increase innovation, just as happened in the PC market.

There’s only one problem: The way the Android ecosystem works is nothing like the Windows market.

In the PC market, Dell didn’t get to build its own customised version of Windows, then make its customers wait to get an update – if it supplied one at all.

When a new version of Windows came out, you didn’t have to rely on Dell to get it – you just bought it, direct from Microsoft. You might have to download some drivers, if they weren’t included (for generic PCs, they often were). But that was often from the maker of the particular affected components, not Dell.

In the Android world, if you have (say) an HTC phone you can’t get an update from Google. You have to wait for HTC to provide it – and they have little incentive to create it in a timely manner. Neither do they have the resources: they’re operating on slimmer margins than Google, and don’t have the software chops. They didn’t make Android, they just tinkered with it. And working out what breaks their tinkering in a stock Android update isn’t always trivial.

What Google has created is in danger of ending up far more like the world of Linux: disparate, fractured “distributions” which are semi-compatible as long as a volunteer geek has taken the time and trouble to port, test and package whatever software you want.

It’s not too late to change this, but Google has to take more responsibility if it wants Android to be a long-term success.

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The Windows Store Revenue Split

Daring Fireball on the Windows Store Revenue Split:

Another big difference from Apple. I wonder though, with the various antitrust agreements Microsoft has made around the world, whether they could even consider an Apple-style “if you use our store, all transactions must go through us” policy.

John’s on to something. Although Microsoft isn’t subject to the same kind of heavyweight formal consent decree that IBM once had, it’s experience with going through anti-trust issues in the past means it has to be particularly careful about what it does and how it does it.

Just how good a defence are those Motorola patents, again?

Susan Decker for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software maker, began arguing its U.S. trade case that Android- based smartphones made by Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. use technology derived from Microsoft inventions.

In a trial that began today before the International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of infringing seven of its patents and requested a halt to imports of certain Motorola phones. The ITC has the power to stop imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.

Lots of people seem to have missed this in the discussion of why Google bought Motorola: Motorola’s patent pool hasn’t protected it from being sued. There’s no reason to suppose that it will protect Google (or any of its other licensees) now.

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