So the new Surface tablets, Surface 2 replacing Surface RT (well, actually the original RT will stick around) and Surface Pro 2 replacing Surface Pro (duh). The Pro version looks like a powerhouse, awesome hardware with a few flaws (I would love to see a Retina like display on that thing and the price is REALLY high – get a high-end Pro 2, a battery cover and a dock and you are looking at $2,200 ffs) but at least batter life looks solid, which was my main complain with the original Pro.
The new Surface 2 though is interesting, since my previous post was all about my thoughts about that. Most of them were unfortunately not taken into consideration. The obvious ones that were actually done were the CPU power (the mention 3-4 times faster CPU but I have to use one to really see if that is the case) and mostly the don’t-throw-the-user-on-the-desktop-if-they-didn’t-specifically-ask-for-it with the 8.1 update since most of the settings are now on the metro environment. LTE is also supposingly coming early 2014.
The things they didn’t do from my suggestion list were kind of important too. Price seems in line with the previous Surface RT and no kind of keyboard is still bundled. Too bad, that would make the sale so much easier.
Another thing that I think should NOT happen is the availablity of the accessories which is all over the place. While the Surface themseves will be available on launch day, the docking station, car charger and power keyboard will not. Rather they will be available “early 2014”. Not cool.
In any case, the “blades” concept seems an awesome idea overall, with interchangable snap-on keyboard replacements for various functionalities, such as the music mix “blade” that was demonstrated. I hope they decide to open up the system for third parties to be able to develop “blades” for the Surface family.
This of course gave me an idea, for the ultimate “blade” that will end all “blades”. Please make it happen (click for larger):
After the latest results, clearly showing that the beginning of Windows RT was not as good as expected, one has to think what could be done to fix the whole situation. I hope Microsoft people are taking notes (and I am also available for consulting :-p), so here we go, let’s design Surface RT2 together:
-It’s NOT (only) about apps. Hunting developers down to write apps for the platform is not the way to go, if your platform lacks other stuff (see below). The apps will come if your platform and hardware are interesting enough.
-Put LTE in there. When I got my first iPad, I got a 3G version but never really used it. But talking with people, I discovered that mobile data is REALLY important, so make sure Surface 2 has LTE functionality. I know people can use a 4G USB modem, but they don’t. Of course, make it optional, not everybody really needs it.
-Never, ever release under-powered machines. Surface RT is nice and all, but even my Samsung ATIV Tab feels snappier. I know that Windows RT are optimized, fast and fluid and all, but if the hardware lacks behind, it reflects bad on the whole thing. Many people don’t care why this is true, they just don’t want it to be there. Find ARM chips that make Windows RT REALLY fast and if you can’t, build them. We know you got the resources.
-Bundle the keyboard (touch or type) with the tablet. Every commercial I’ve seen focuses on the keyboard only for people to decide that it’s a rather expensive add-on.
-Keep the price low. After recent price cuts, it’s more reasonable, but the initial pricing was just ridiculous. It was almost priced as high as the iPad without offering as much. I don’t know how you will do it, sell more XBoxes to cover the losses, but when you create a new platform, and this is what RT is, you HAVE to lure people in. Even if you take a loss at the beginning. It’s like letting people pirate the first versions of DOS, remember?
– I personally love the idea of a desktop-as-an-app where one can actually run full versions of Office 2013 when they need to. But when people pick up a tablet, they should NEVER EVER be dropped on a desktop environment unless they specifically request that (by tapping the Desktop tile for example). In that capacity, make ALL Office apps available in RT form, with limited functionality of course (at least as feature enabled as Pages and Keynote on the iPad if not more), but usable completely without a keyboard and mouse. The desktop Office and IE should be there as the “one more thing” the Surface RT can provide. The same goes for ANY form of Control Panel settings page. EVERYTHING should be on a familiar and consistent metro touch friendly environment. Right now, it REALLY shows that the product is half baked. You even left Windows Defender running for some reason, even though users cannot run ANYTHING that doesn’t come from the Store.
In conclusion, people just don’t get it. Naming the new platforms Windows anything is a classic mistake. You made the same mistake with Windows Phone. I know how much you love Windows, but the Xbox is successful partly exactly because it is not called Windows anything. When someone buys something that runs Windows something and resembles a computer, they expect it to be a Windows computer. Which Surface RT is not. When they buy a phone that is called Windows something, they might expect blue screens of death and drivers installations, even though that is not the case with the excellent platform that Windows Phone is. But me knowing that is not nearly good enough. In branding and communication, I would give you a low mark for the past 2 years, when it comes to the new platforms (Windows Phone and Windows RT). And if you don’t believe me, go outside and ask non-technical people what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they see a tablet-thingy that runs Windows something. Or a phone.
Surface RT can still succeed (and I am not the only one that says so). Just make sure you fix the important stuff first and fast so that you can save it on round 2. Because otherwise, I don’t see a round 3.
I was asked the other day to contribute to an article by 148Apps.com about my angle on the Apple App Store. The App Store has recently turned 5 years old, and it was where it all started for indie developers on mobile. Myself, I have not been on the App Store from the beginning, but opted to focus more on the Windows Phone Marketplace, which I never regretted as I have said in previous blogs. This does not mean that I have not published on other marketplaces and that I don’t have an opinion about them of course:)
You can read my thoughts, along with fellow developers thoughts about the App Store by heading to the 148Apps article page and reading the article itself, titled “App Store Fifth Anniversary: The Ups and Downs of iOS Publishing”.
After their announcement and launch late last year, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 RT now seem to grow up with the 8.1 update. Microsoft did go to great lengths to innovate on the tablet side, with a whole new platform-within-a-platform, the Metro (yes I think I will call it that thank you very much) interface, alongside the traditional Windows desktop. Windows 8 RT is a subset of the whole Windows 8 Pro experience, with certain advantages and disadvantages, and this is what I am going to focus on today. Many people I’ve talked to recently, don’t even realize there is a difference between the 2 versions of the OS (a communication fail for Microsoft this one), so I think I will start by pointing them out.
Windows 8 Pro is the whole package. You get everything you had with Windows 7, the desktop running all apps you used to run, including your Photoshop and Illustrator, Visual Studio and all Windows games. On top of that, the start menu has been replaced with a whole new platform, Metro (ok ok, aka Modern UI). It’s not just a start menu replacement though, it has its own ecosystem with full screen apps, available to every user through a centralized market place (the Windows Store). Windows 8 Pro, being a full version of Windows, requires the usual suspects when it comes to hardware, x86 processors and traditional PC hardware. The advantages of this version are of course full compatibility with everything Windows and even better performance than Windows 7 while running them. The disadvantages are hotter operation and lower battery life compared to a “traditional” tablet as well as much higher prices (since we are talking about full blown PCs).
Windows RT is a subset of the whole package. It focuses on the Metro platform and can run essentially only apps downloaded from the Windows Store. This is closer to the experience you would get with another platform running on a tablet, like the iPad or Android tablets. On top of that, it provides several advantages compared to them. It always includes a free version of the whole office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint 2013 and with the 8.1 update, Outlook 2013 is also included), running on a traditional desktop environment. The desktop also runs the usual tools, like the file explorer we all know and love. While the desktop exists, in practice the user is limited to the apps listed above and cannot really install any new desktop apps. Other advantages of using a Windows 8 RT tablet instead of the iPad is the openness that naturally comes with Windows, like USB ports that can connect to any printer, mouse, USB stick, external USB hard discs etc. Thankfully, the Windows ecosystem provides excellent driver support and the multiple hardware manufacturers that create Windows 8 RT tablets provide different options covering every need. There are Windows 8 RT tablets with keyboard attachments, with SD card slots, with 3G or 4G (and even if they are not, the solution is a 4G USB modem away – do that on an iPad) etc. This version os Windows does not run on “traditional” PC hardware architectures, like Windows 8 Pro, but rather on ARM based architectures much like the other tablets on the market. The advantages of using Windows 8 RT are much longer battery life, much cooler operation, much lower prices and usually a much thinner and lighter package. The disadvantages are of course lack of compatibility with Windows desktop apps.
The Windows Store has recently surpassed 100k apps, which shows that the platform has a future. The main disadvantage right now are not the apps though, but the relatively slow devices and the still-optimizing RT OS. The 8.1 updates shows great promise, and even the Preview which I installed on a Samsumg Ativ Tab RT device nearly transformed it, both in term of functionality (hello Outlook 2013!) and responsiveness. The constant updating of the OS as well as new devices with much faster ARM processors (where are you Surface RT 2?) will remedy these issues and I expect great things from this platform. It is not for everyone though. People who love their iPads because all they need is Facebook and Angry Birds, may not care much. But having travelled with my Surface RT, I can tell you that having the option to run Office on your tablet, with a real keyboard and mouse to match, gives a totally different value to the device. Also, the full external hardware support (including the 360 controller, printers, 4G modems etc.) opens up all kind of possibilities. Not to mention the integration with Microsoft’s ecosystem, which I have talked about before.