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Microsoft's Surface RT Was Doomed From Day One 442

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-those-dancing-folks-in-the-commercials-seemed-to-enjoy-it dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Last fall, Microsoft launched its Surface RT tablet with high hopes. The sleek touch-screen ran Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 designed for hardware powered by the ARM architecture, which dominates the mobile-device market; it also included a flexible keyboard that doubled as a screen cover. Microsoft executives told any journalist who would listen that Surface RT would position their company as a major player in the tablet arena, ready to battle toe-to-toe with Apple and various Android device manufacturers. Fast-forward to this week, and Microsoft announcing its financial results for the quarter ended June 30. Amidst metrics such as operating income and diluted earnings per share, one number stood out: a $900 million charge (the equivalent of $0.07 per share) related to what Microsoft called 'Surface RT inventory adjustments.' Microsoft had already slashed Surface RT prices by $150, so that nearly-billion-dollar charge wasn't a total surprise — but it did underscore that Surface RT is a bomb. From the outset, Surface RT had an issue with the potential to mightily trip up Microsoft: While Windows RT looks exactly like Windows 8, it can't run legacy Windows programs built for x86 processors, limiting users to what they can download from the built-in Windows Store app hub. While the Windows Store launched with 10,000 apps, that seemed paltry in comparison to the well-developed Android and iOS ecosystems. There's likely nothing that Microsoft could have done about this—every platform has to start somewhere, after all—but the relative lack of apps put Surface RT between the proverbial rock and the hard place: it couldn't rely on Windows' extensive legacy, and it didn't have enough content to make it a true contender from the outset against the iPad and Android tablets. Then there was the matter of price. Microsoft could have taken the Amazon route and sold Surface RT at a relative pittance in order to drive adoption—something that made the Kindle Fire a sizable hit. However, that sort of pricing scheme isn't in Microsoft's corporate DNA: it only cut Surface RT's price several months after release, as a defensive maneuver, when it's likely to do much less good."
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Microsoft's Surface RT Was Doomed From Day One

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  • I'm glad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:41AM (#44328287)
    ..it failed. The last thing we need right now is more Windows.
    • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:04PM (#44328565) Journal

      It failed because Redmond was four years too late, and Android and iOS are so dominant at all price points that there is simply no room for a third competitor. Surface RT offers nothing that mid and upper end iDevices and Androids do not.

      In other words, Microsoft has been out-Microsofted.

      • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by evilRhino (638506) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:07PM (#44328617)
        This is an unfair statement. Microsoft has plenty of missteps/failures in the mobile/tablet market preceding Windows 8.
        • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Funny)

          by Linux User 95 (2989793) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:09PM (#44328631)
          What is this story even talking about? Surface RT was a massive success from the very beginning. I see people carrying Surface RT's daily and online comments have been very great. The only thing Microsoft failed with was that they manufactured just a tad too many of them. But overally Surface RT has been a great product and users are very happy with it. That's what ultimately counts.
          • BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!! They're going to end up dumping them on schools or burying them in the desert.

          • Re:I'm glad (Score:4, Funny)

            by bryan1945 (301828) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:44PM (#44329071) Journal

            Wow, you 'turfed so hard I have rug burn!

      • by rwise2112 (648849)

        It failed because Redmond was four years too late, and Android and iOS are so dominant at all price points that there is simply no room for a third competitor. Surface RT offers nothing that mid and upper end iDevices and Androids do not.

        So true. To make any impact they have to offer a device that is much better (which I don't even think is possible considering the current state of iOS and Android), or much cheaper (and it's really hard/impossible to beat the low end android tablets).

    • Re:I'm glad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:04PM (#44328567)

      Yes we want to stick in a world of Apple and Google to be controlling everything. Having more competition is a bad thing... Right?

      Most of this anti-Window nonsense, is decades old.

      • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Informative)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:11PM (#44328671) Homepage

        > Most of this anti-Window nonsense, is decades old.

        Microsoft is still up to the same kind of dirt tricks that earned them that kind of hatred in the first place.

        It's just that now people are beginning to see that they have alternatives.

        • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:42PM (#44329067) Homepage

          Microsoft is still up to the same kind of dirt tricks that earned them that kind of hatred in the first place.
          It's just that now people are beginning to see that they have alternatives.

          Right! It used to be we were stuck with Microsoft and its anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior.

          But nowadays we can get the same sort of behavior from Google, Facebook, or Apple!

          No longer does Microsoft have a monopoly on screwing over its customers! Its facing some real competition these days by other companies who can match - and even beat - Microsoft with their own anti-competitive behavior!

          And I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords!

        • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Peristaltic (650487) * on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:57PM (#44329223)

          Microsoft is still up to the same kind of dirt tricks that earned them that kind of hatred in the first place.

          Doesn't MS scam an Android patent tax from most vendors? The last of that kind of thing I remember hearing about was that MS was going after Barnes and Noble's Nook, B&N decided to take them on, MS wouldn't tell them exactly what infringed and it looked good for B&N. Suddenly, MS made a "strategic investment" in B&N and I never heard another word about the litigation.

          They seem to prefer milking cash from consumers and other companies than consistently making good stuff. They have their moments now and then, but the moments are getting fewer and farther between. Must be easier to scam.

    • Re:I'm glad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:09PM (#44328641) Homepage Journal

      Completely disagree. A competitive marketplace is almost always a very good thing. Android has become the new destination for malware. I've been saying from the beginning that if Microsoft wants to play in the tablet/mobile market, they're going to have to effectively give the OS away. Some people might pay a bit more for the Apple experience. Microsoft doesn't have that sort of appeal. For everyone else, they've come to expect cheap hardware. Google and Amazon are making money from tying their tablets to other revenue generators - search, shopping, app stores. Microsoft has become so spoiled with the fat margins they get on Windows and Office, they don't know how to work a market where they don't have a monopoly.

  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:42AM (#44328293) Homepage
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:43AM (#44328307)

    At least that's they way it looks on the surface.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:45AM (#44328329)
    Assuming the price for the hardware continues to dive...

    .
  • Steve Sinofsky (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think Ballmer will be out by the end of Q1 next year and Sinofsky will be on the short list of replacements. Bill Gates doesn't want to be CEO of Microsoft again, and he's old and out of touch anyway.

    Microsoft should NOT be a devices and services company, it should be a consumer-facing OS and services company. Apple and Samsung are much better at consumer devices than MS will ever be.

    • Re:Steve Sinofsky (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:07PM (#44328607)

      I'd prefer Raymond Chen [msdn.com] as CEO, but I realize that's probably not a realistic option. What Microsoft needs to maintain its position is an obsession with backwards compatibility and not breaking anyone's workflow, and an understanding that they will never be hip or cool. They need to transition from a growth company to a dividend-oriented company.

    • Although the quality of Microsoft Products have risen after gates left. When Gates left XP was just released and getting hammered by security issues. Compared to say Windows 7 and even Windows 8 which runs very stable and is a lot more secure than ever.

      • Re:Steve Sinofsky (Score:4, Insightful)

        by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:22PM (#44328809)

        Although the quality of Microsoft Products have risen after gates left. When Gates left XP was just released and getting hammered by security issues. Compared to say Windows 7 and even Windows 8 which runs very stable and is a lot more secure than ever.
        A big part of that was the "trustworthy computing" initiative that Gates started though. Actually even Vista was very close to being released (Nov 8, 2006 [wikipedia.org]) when Gates announced he was reducing his day-to-day role at MS (June 15, 2006 [wikipedia.org]).

    • I think you've nailed it on the head. But there are deep systemic issues here. The failure of Surface RT (and, I would imagine, ultimately Surface as well, along with the deep unpopularity of Windows 8) is that Microsoft is a company who has seen its consumer market shrink catastrophically. In part I think it is just bad luck. For whatever reason Apple had Steve Job's Reality Distortion Field that made iDevices sexy must-haves that could be sold at a premium simply because there was an "i" at the beginning

      • I think it comes down to pricing alone... the RT tablets were quite a bit more expensive than most Android tablets, and didn't have near the appeal of the iPad... so pricing it at, or more, than an iPad was a stupid move if you're trying to penetrate the established tablet market. MS assumed they could get in like they did with XBox (a loss leader for years, and a much better development environment), vs the RT which was a marginally better environment, but priced themselves out. I think pricing alone was
      • Apple's glamor was down to the packaging. Think about it: Prior to the ipod, most digital music players were so clunky and painful to use, it just wasn't worth bothering with them. At best, they offered a marginally better user experience than portable CD players.

        Then came the ipod, with it's slick user experience. Even with itunes, it was still a hundred times better than any product on the market ( which should say something ). They did the same thing with the iphone, then tablet.

        There's really no mys

    • Can you imagine the media frenzy of Bill Gates returning to helm Microsoft?

      If it happens, I hope the theme is the imperial march.

      That said, it'd probably do wonders for Microsoft. Bill Gates is kind of a bastard but he gets shit done

      • Re:Steve Sinofsky (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrDoh! (71235) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:00PM (#44329281) Homepage Journal
        Very much so. The stock in that first day alone would go crazy up, Gates could pump and dump himself to get even crazier richer for his other projects.
        I get a feeling it just needs Gates (or someone with his power) to sit in meetings and yell out 'THAT'S STUPID' when people do demos, something that I feel hasn't happened for the last 10ish years.

        "You want to dump backwards compatibility? Windows? Our core product we sell everything else on top of? THAT HAS TO BE THE WORST IDEA EVER"
        "We've spent 20 years nearly getting people used to the Start Button, hired the Stones to sing 'start me up', tied everything to that in training/promotional material, and now you want to get rid of it? HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO BREATH WITHOUT CONCENTRATING"
        "Our user studies for 30 years show to never use colour to denote function, too many people are colour blind/colours mean different things in different cultures (you remember we sell outside the US, right?). And now you show me something that looks like a kid who ate a pack of crayons has thrown up on the screen, and expect me to congratulate you? WHY ARE YOU EVEN IN THIS BUILDING?? WHO LET YOU IN?!??"
        • by Bryan Ischo (893) *

          I disagree. I don't think Bill Gates could change a thing about Microsoft's downward spiral.

          I've been around long enough to see the arc of MS's success since Windows 95 (wasn't paying close attention before that).

          I never saw a company that could really create products that consumers demanded on their own merits.

          What I saw instead was a company that got itself into a critical, un-dislodgeable, dare I say it - monopolistic - position in the PC market and milked that for all that it was worth.

          Now, finally, af

  • I've been running a few proper Linux distributions on the ARM Chromebook for about half a year now, and I though I would have this problem. But, thanks to Open Source, pretty much everything in the Ubuntu and Arch Linux repositories is now complied for ARM v7, so it's really not an issue.

    On the other hand, the stock ARM Chromebook is popular (best selling laptop under $300) simply because you can't install legacy apps on ChromeOS anyway (without going into dev mode).

    • Methinks the real issue would be having to deal with the Windows 8 interface. On my Androids I hardly use any obscure apps. The only ones I download are Kindle and Spotify. But you'd have to pay me quite a lot every month to have me use Windows 8's godawful mish-mash of Metro/desktop, no matter what apps it had.

  • Microsoft who initially got its foot in the door because it's OS can run across multiple manufactures and not just one. Now is having huge problems in writing cross platform OS's.

    They made .NET to compete with Java. However why doesn't .NET programs work for arm and Intel like java does, or even for 32bit and 64bit systems. Microsoft just hasn't kept up with cross system compatibility.

    • by Tridus (79566) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:53AM (#44328445) Homepage

      There isn't a technical reason why they couldn't have made .net applications work on arm, or Surface RT. In fact, you can build Metro applications with .net and they'll run on the RT just fine.

      The problem is that they only want Metro stuff on there (except for Office).

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        There isn't a technical reason why they couldn't have made .net applications work on arm, or Surface RT.

        Except they'll fail horribly if they call native code that isn't part of the OS. If you need .zip compression, for example, you're probably calling zlib.dll, which isn't part of the OS and won't run on ARM unless you specifically install the ARM version.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          Even in the best case, people have to be willing to recompile their apps.

          Windows is just not a historically multi-architecture platform like Unix is.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          anyways, you CAN make legacy api programs for windows rt.. they run just fine, there's plenty of apps available. you just need a jailbreak to be able to run them.. it is possible to make them, they are useful.

          but they wanted people to use the appstore. because they get cash from that. fuck practicality WE WANT MONEY!!!!!!! that pretty much is the long term plan with it. to create a separate ecosystem, so that because it's separate people don't question why 30% of their autodesk purchase goes to MS as tax..

    • The fundamental problem with that statement is that Microsoft got their foot in the door by making an OS that could run across multiple manufacturers who were building to a common standard. There have been compatibilitiy problems irking consumers ever since Vista x86_64 hit the market. Now throwing ARM into the mix alongside x86 and x86_64, where you don't even have that convenient x86 compatibility? Not a good encore.

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Unless you're dealing with legacy 16-bit apps, the 32-bit to 64-bit transition on Windows has been largely transparent and painless to users... Can you name some compatibility problems that a typical user (emphasis on typical) might face?

      • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:16PM (#44328737)

        There have been compatibilitiy problems irking consumers ever since Vista x86_64 hit the market.

        What? I never ran Vista x64, but I did run Windows 7 and do run Windows 8 in 64-bit. The only compatibility problems I've ever seen are with 16-bit programs which I cannot run any more. XP 64 had more problems, but I've even had success with that. (Then again, I didn't have to set that one up.)

        I don't doubt that there were occasional problems, but there would also have been occasional problems with just Vista, regardless of bitwidth. Almost everyone who's talked about 64-bit Windows says that the issues were basically ironed out in Vista and 7.

        So what compatibility problems do you refer to?

        And because people on /. seem to "forget" their history, ARM isn't even close to the first non-x86 architecture that Windows has been available for; it's previously supported Alpha (NT 3.1-4.0), MIPS (NT 3.1-4.0), Power (3.51-4.0), and Itanium (XP, Server 2003, and Server 2008).

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:50AM (#44328395)

    Call me when they drop to $99.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I think the Surface RT would have done a lot better if the price would have been the same price as a Nexus 7, or at least kept it at $300 or under, and included the touch cover. Without the touch cover, it's basically like any other tablet, and they were asking $500 for it. You can get them a little cheaper now, but by time you buy the touch cover, which was the only original thing about the Surface, you are spending almost as much as you would have for an iPad, and more than Nexus 10.
  • good! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:50AM (#44328399) Homepage Journal
    Those stupid ads with college students dressed up like what art school students think office workers dress like and ecstatically breakdancing around on tables to the clacky sound of attaching a bluetooth keyboard to a tablet just creeped me the fuck out. WTF MS, why don't you just put BillG & Seinfeld in your fail-mercials like you did back in the day? Or just give me the money if you're just going to flush it down the toilet.
  • XBOX (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:53AM (#44328435)

    "..'that sort of pricing scheme isn't in Microsoft's corporate DNA..."

    Er. No. MS sold both the original XBOX and the XBOX360 at a loss to drive adoption, the exact opposite of what the author is saying MS will not do...

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      But they more than made up that loss on games sales. Consoles are traditionally sold at a loss.

      • But they more than made up that loss on games sales. Consoles are traditionally sold at a loss.

        And they were trying to get 30% of the take from Windows RT application sales. So they should have done it the same as the XBox rollout. Sell the hardware at a loss and build enough of a market so that developers are willing to participate int he Windows RT application store.
    • Er. No. MS sold both the original XBOX and the XBOX360 at a loss to drive adoption, the exact opposite of what the author is saying MS will not do...

      Whether they sold the XBoxes at a loss or not with respect to the cost of manufacture, they didn't set their price anywhere near the point where it could undercut the competition (or even match it, if you compare its cost to what you got, hardware wise, for the price of a PS3). And, really, that's what matters - how is it priced versus what's already out there?

      With Surface RT, Microsoft deliberately chose a premium price. The base tablet sold for exactly the same price as an iPad; but then the good keyboard

  • I can't wait for microsoft to pull a HP Touchpad firesale.
    Surface RT Tablets running android would be sweet.

  • They are caught in the mix of trying to be several things. Their bread and butter is enterprise and desktop. Why are they pushing into hardware? They really don't have the expertise to get into it - and with the Surface mess, it really shows. They need to pick their path and shed the silly ideas. Want to be a software company? Be the best you can. Don't half ass hardware - where you will get schooled by older venders.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      To be fair, Microsoft mice have always been pretty good.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      They have picked their path, ubiquitous computing. Microsoft on many of their products failed for year after year after year before they were successful. Word was way behind WordPerfect. Excel was in 3rd behind Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro. Windows was a dumb windowing system and everyone knew the future for desktops was OS/2. Etc...

      They keep showing and they keep plugging away. They are pushing into hardware to push their OEMs to get on board "you do it, or we will" is the message and it had some impa

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:57AM (#44328489)
    I remember developing on a PowerPC 601 box for Windows NT. Then... nothing. Abandoned. Wasted effort.
  • Marketing fail. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Picass0 (147474) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:58AM (#44328509) Homepage Journal

    I've said before the Surface marketing was one of the nails in the coffin. The TV ads mostly featured hipster dambasses dancing and hiphoping while spinning the Surface tablet. Very little if any product knowledge is communicated.

    MS has to tell people WHY they should choose their option over iPad and dozens of Androids, Kindles, and Nooks. There are tablet for all price points. Some offer decent performance and graphics. Others are affordable. Surface is.... from Microsoft. I guess that's all you need to know.

    Then there's the Metro GUI fiasco. MS basically appologizes for Metro on Windows 8 and offers a Metro-less option on the new betas. What does that tell a potential tablet buyer?

    I think this thing will be discontinued within a year. If I were a Surface owner I'd be hoping for an Android or Linux port right about now. Can you root a Surface??? I guess I'm lucky I don't need to worry about that one.

    • by v1 (525388)

      I've said before the Surface marketing was one of the nails in the coffin. The TV ads mostly featured hipster dambasses dancing and hiphoping while spinning the Surface tablet. Very little if any product knowledge is communicated.

      I find it ironic that Apple gets accused of having the biggest fanboy/cult following, and yet always advertises people using, enjoying, and having fun with their products, and then MS gets billed as the "serious" technology company whilst showing hipsters flashing, dancing, waving,

      • Re:Marketing fail. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MachineShedFred (621896) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:28PM (#44329697) Journal

        The difference is that the only ads that Apple runs that simply showed people dancing around, were ads for a music player with the iconic white earbuds and music playing in the background. Everyone already knew what an iPod was by the time this campaign hit TV and print advertising, and everyone could mentally draw the connection between the earbuds and the product without one single word having to say it. That's brilliant advertising.

        When it came to iPhone and iPad, their ads showed very little except the device, and what it could do, and how easily it did it. And, more importantly, showed how different the experience was from the shitbox computer that the target audience bought from Best Buy a few years back that everyone in the family universally hates. Also brilliant (and effective) advertising.

        Microsoft showed a bunch of assholes dancing around clicking magnets together. It didn't tell you anything about what the product was, what it could do, and why you needed one. Then, they followed it up by showing the word "Surface" and the Microsoft logo - as if anyone would actually say "Oh, it's Microsoft, so it must be a good quality, feature filled, easy to use, and stable product that I need to know more about!"

        Microsoft doesn't know what their own brand represents, and this ad campaign illustrates that. Microsoft is not "hip" or "cool." Microsoft absolutely does not "rock." Even with the Xbox brand, Microsoft is only tolerated because the only other player worth mentioning is Sony, who is just as bad if not worse. People get excited about Microsoft the same way that people get excited about their vacuum cleaners - it's a product that serves a purpose, and is mildly annoying when it doesn't work right, which is often. It hasn't been 1995 for a long time.

        If they want to right this ship, they need to embrace who they really are - the engine of business. They are the new IBM that they mocked and ridiculed in the 90s. They need to stop fucking around with trying to make consumer electronics where they have little experience, and instead extend their successes to the new platforms that people are using. Get Office onto iOS and Android. Go whole hog on integrating iOS and Android MDM into Active Directory and cut that new market for management tools off at it's ass. Get a true Exchange client onto iOS and Android, and stop relying on a generic ActiveSync API that is poorly implemented on all sides of the equation.

        These are core competencies that Microsoft could do properly, but refuses to because of "Not Made Here" syndrome. And it has to stop if they want to live.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Friday July 19, 2013 @11:59AM (#44328511) Homepage

    Microsoft has never made a case for why people would want to buy a Surface RT. What does it have going for it that makes it stand out against the competition? Lets take a look:

    iPad - The brand name that made tablets mainstream, and that's a big help when selling a product. Also works well and has a ton of apps.

    Android (Fire, Samsung, Nexus, etc) - The most popular ones seem to all have price going for them: they're the best game in town if you want a $250 or less tablet. Lots of people fit into that category. Has lots of apps.

    Surface Pro - It runs x86 Windows apps. The market that really wants that in a tablet is niche, but still.

    Surface RT - Not cheap, not blowing anybody away in hardware specs, not boasting any interesting unique apps. Aside from really wanting a Metro tablet, what's the point? (And no, the average joe doesn't really want a Metro or Windows tablet.)

  • by intermodal (534361) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:04PM (#44328555) Homepage Journal

    There's a certain weakness this exposes in Microsoft's products: the fact that people stay with them because they have legacy programs they can't let go of. Microsoft products don't sell themselves. The programs people want to run on them do.

  • I love it how you guys linkback to your own articles when there have been so many similar submissions, and even more interesting that just disappeared
  • I'n my opinion it was these things in this order:

    1. Locked down OS. Windows is fairly open. RT was a locked down mess. If you wanted Android then make Android. Not Windows Locked-out edition with all the stuff we liked from past Windows blocked.
    2. The Windows 8 look. Again if you would have called it Window Mobile edition people would have been more willing to try it as a, well mobile platform. But instead you made a carbon copy of the Windows 8 interface that everyone hates and marketed it as such.
    3.

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:22PM (#44328807) Homepage

    The Surface RT hardware is pretty nice. I'm an iPad user, but playing around with the Surface RT in a Microsoft store impressed me. The kickstand is neat, and the keyboard covers work really well (especially the one with actual travel). The problem was software.

    People point out Metro as an issue, but that's not quite it; Metro is a travesty on the desktop (or laptop), true, but on a mobile touch platform it's very appropriate. The problem was lack of familiarity, lack of compatibility, and lack of marketing.

    For the first issue, what I mean to say is that Surface RT has a full desktop interface, but restricts it severely. Metro is much better suited to a tablet, but people are used to the desktop interface, and Surface RT can still make a decent laptop (plug a mouse in and use the keyboard cover). Had the desktop been unrestricted on RT (no side-loading restrictions, same as regular Windows), then people could have transitioned more gradually, at their own pace, or even stuck to the desktop entirely if they wanted. This would have let people use the RT as a tablet when they wanted to, or as a laptop when they wanted to.

    For the second issue, lack of compatibility, there is basically none. This ties in a bit to the third point, but the thing looks identical to normal Win8, so people expect it to run the same stuff. It doesn't. As has been pointed out, the architectural differences would not have prevented .NET apps from running at full speed on the RT (Microsoft just doesn't support it), and emulation of x86 code would have worked well for many apps, since any call to an OS function via Win32 would have resulted in native code execution anyhow. Depending on the application, that means that large parts of an x86 application would be running natively anyhow.

    The third issue is lack of marketing. Microsoft did a terrible job educating people about what RT is (and how it differs from regular Windows), or why they would want it instead of an ultrabook or chromebook or other tablet. Users who did buy the RT were likely confused about why it wouldn't run their programs.

    I think that a combination of an unrestricted desktop, compatibility with existing apps (via a native .NET environment and emulation), and better marketing could have made the Surface RT a success. Not necessarily a market leader, but at least it would have sold enough units to be considered successful. I know that I was personally tempted to get one to replace both my tablet and laptop until I realized how all the stuff that interested me would be disabled...

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      To be fair, there's a "jailbreak" that enables all of that. .NET apps do run, unmodified and un-recompiled. Open source Win32 apps are being / have been ported. There are a few specifically-for-RT native apps as well, including an x86 dynamic recompilation layer that allows running (some) x86 apps directly.

      This is all the work of a few volunteer devs on the XDA Developers forum, working for free on their own time. These efforts were made without MS support, just by public documentation and reverse engineeri

  • MyopicSoft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:26PM (#44328851)

    Microsoft could change their name to "MyopicSoft" and it would fit better. They sincerely believe that they are a popular company and that people cannot wait to get their hands on Microsoft products. Too many yes men. Too many marketing people drawing the wrong conclusions from their numbers. So they produced a high-priced product that was, frankly, pretty bland. And they tried to market this bland product as the greatest tablet ever, to a yawning generation that knows when they're being lied to. What a waste of time and energy.

  • 1. No Instagram client. True, this means nothing to the Slashdot crowd, but even a 41 megapixel camera is worthless if you can't share them. I don't think that this alone would cause WinRT/WP8 to remain on the shelf, but if $499 tablet X has instagram, $499 tablet Y has instagram, and $499 Surface doesn't have instagram, it's going to help narrow down the purchasing decisions pretty quick to anyone who uses the service regularly.

    2. Too many migrations at once. Amongst the things that helped jump-start the iPhone back in 2007 was the fact that it integrated nicely with the iTunes library that people already had. Android integrated nicely with the gmail and picasa accounts people already had, and Google went to great lengths to simplify extending those services. Microsoft had hackneyed support for gmail (outlook.com is natively required), no official dropbox support (skydrive is natively supported), no support for iTunes (Xbox Music is natively supported), no drag-and-drop file system support; there's a fancy desktop client for it..but it doesn't work under Windows RT. Going the Microsoft route requires LOTS of changes for many people.

    3. The devices that require less migration of stuff frequently cost the same or less.

    4. Friends and family had iPads or Android tablets already. Easy ways to learn about new apps and figure out how to do some things are explained socially. If you're getting a WinRT device, you're standing alone. At some level, tablets are fashion accessories for many. This doesn't work when you're the only one with a tablet branded with a name reminiscent of your ridiculously locked down work PC or your slow, spyware infested home PC.

    5. Little incentive for devs to help change any of this.

  • The Real Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rssrss (686344) on Friday July 19, 2013 @12:50PM (#44329137)

    Steve Ballmer is not a good business man.

  • by sjames (1099) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:00PM (#44329289) Homepage

    The problem is that with RT, MS made a cheap knock-off of their own product. It looked a lot like the pro to the average consumer, but cost a little less and wouldn't actually do the things that the real surface would. But since MS doesn't know how to bargain price, it was an expensive cheap knock-off.

    Consumers felt just like the excited kid on his birthday anticipating his Transformers action figures he just knows he's getting, only to unwrap the present and discover his parents were confused by the 'Transmogrifiers' action figures that say 6 exciting phrases in Chinenglish.

  • by milkmage (795746) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:10PM (#44329439)

    have you ever seen one?

    the screen is good, the build quality is good, performance is decent.
    but add up all those parts, you end up with a device that's got a serious identity crisis.

    We have a pro in the office. I can't figure out what it's trying to replace. it's not quite a tablet (it's .5 inches think and has a fan).. and it's not quite a laptop - the keyboard cover (while it's a decent keyboard) is not as good as a true laptop.

    MS wanted it to do too many things.. it does none of them well. even at $150 off, they're still not selling.

    • by ljw1004 (764174)

      I've been using Pro as my sole development machine for six weeks, with the TypeCover. (I'm a dev on the MS VisualStudio team)

      It works GREAT!

      I've abandoned for good my previous ThinkPad laptop. The new surface pro is easier to take around wherever I go to develop (home, office, cafe). The touch screen is making everything easier than a touchpad, even easier than the track pad on my wife's Macbook Pro. Worse than a mouse for some tasks, better for others.

    • Surface pro is good for artists. Here is an example of a review [penny-arcade.com]. It's like a Wacom tablet that you can look at while you draw.
  • ONLY 10,000 apps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whistlingtony (691548) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:32PM (#44329751)
    I get annoyed at this app store comparison crud. It ONLY has 10,000 apps...
    • Lets see, I have:
    • a couple of chat programs
    • a couple of guitar tuning programs
    • a couple of music reading tutors
    • a few games
    • a couple of reference books
    • some plant ID apps
    • a banking app
    • a flashlight
    • a couple of music players

    And that's all I need. I think once you get past a certain number of apps, does it really matter any more?

    Tony

  • by alphabetsoup (953829) on Friday July 19, 2013 @01:39PM (#44329847)

    I am actually glad the Surface RT failed. I also wish the Windows Phone to fail, even though I own a Lumia and find it much better than similarly priced Android phones. I hate that I cannot write or run my own programs on a machine I own without paying MS 100 USD per year. That's beyond stupid.

    MS has probably the best dev tools in the industry; they even give it away for free. But if you want to actually run the program you wrote using these tools, you have to pay. What's the logic in that ?!

    I actually like the hardware, both RT and the Lumia. I just hate the walled garden crap. Let us write code for our own machines and you will definitely make a lot more sells.

    Besides, anybody who is okay with a walled garden already owns an iPad.

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