The Macalope Weekly: Beleaguered Microsoft

Oh, no you dih-unt, Macalope! Oh, yes, he dih-ud! Sssnap! How you like them apples, Redmond? Mmm-hmm!

Sorry about that—the Macalope’s been holding it in for, oh, 17 years. Yes, while the company’s still having good quarters, thanks to its enterprise business, some of its divisions are struggling, and questions abound about its upcoming operating system releases. Is it fair to use the b-word?

Maybe not, but who cares?!

Fire everything!

Look out, Apple! Microsoft’s gunning to take down the iPad!

Well, take it down below 50 percent market share, anyway. And how does it plan to do that? Well, remember at the end of the last Star Trek movie when the Romulan commander with the ridiculous backstory yells “Fire everything!”? Something like that.

“Intel/Microsoft aim to push down iPad global market share under 50% by mid-2013” (tip o’ the antlers to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes)

Now before we get our collective panties in a wad, we must first ask ourselves two questions.

First: Should we really believe a “report” from the notoriously wrong DigiTimes?

And second: Why are we all wearing one pair of women’s undergarments? That can’t be sanitary. Is it laundry day or something?

Intel and Microsoft have been keeping close cooperation with first-tier vendors developing new tablet PCs based on Windows 8, with a goal of decreasing the global market share for iPad from 70% currently to below 50% by the middle of 2013, according to Taiwan-based ODMs.

Um…OK. The Macalope supposes that’s possible, but with Windows 8 not even shipping until the fall it’s not going to be easy—particularly if ARM tablets aren’t coming until later than fall, as the “report” claims.

Read more…

DigiTimes’s “source” (really, there aren’t enough quotes in the world to make DigitTimes’s material look sufficiently questionable) further said that there would be 32 Windows 8 tablets on the market by the end of this year, with prices ranging from “below $300,” to compete with the Kindle Fire, to “over $300,” to compete with the iPad.

So obviously a really targeted launch that’s sure not to cause any confusion. Clearly both Microsoft and the OEMs have a well-defined strategy that hits what people really want in a tablet—not that compromised user experience that’s been foisted on them for the past two years. If the Macalope may be so bold, he believes their strategy can be summarized thusly:

“WE KILL APPLE! KIIIIILLL! RRRAAWWWRRRRBLOZZERFLAZZERBLOOZLIE!”

Look, iPads are popular. Very, very popular. People love them. Heck, even corporations love them. Microsoft seems to be trying a shotgun approach to finding the niches that are still left in the tablet market. Which seems like a tremendous waste—if one that isn’t out of character for Redmond.

Number 1 fan

Nathan Brookwood is here to prove that there are more Windows tablet fans than just the internal ones, struggling loudly to keep the devices cool.

“Why My Next Tablet Will Run Windows 8” (tip o’ the antlers to The Loop where Jim Dalrymple has a pithy and foul-mouthed retort)

Spoiler: Brookwood thinks the iPad’s just for content consumption.

I’ve been using Windows-based tablet computers for almost a decade. I was hooked the moment Bill Gates trotted out Microsoft’s first prototype tablets at a developer event in mid-2001.

Oh, my God, you’re that guy! You shouldn’t be out on the street. You should be in some sort of museum of cultural oddities.

Android and iOS tablets do a yeoman’s job when it comes to consuming content, but lack the software tools and hardware features needed to create content.

It seems that you are recycling an argument that has been debunked right in the face. Numerous times. The Macalope could search the Internet and find examples of people doing creative work with the iPad, but why should he? Everyone who has an iPad knows that your assertion simply isn’t true. The Macalope routinely writes his column and posts it to Macworld’s content management system with the iPad. And, look, he just drew a picture of a little kitty on his iPad. Isn’t that cute?

iPads and Android tablets work best as “companion devices,” and assume you have access to a PC or MacBook to handle everyday computing tasks. In fact, when I took my new iPad2 out of its box, it insisted that I connect it to iTunes running on a PC or Mac before it would let me do anything.

While the horny one is sure it’s easier to argue against last year’s facts, as of iOS 5 a computer is no longer required to activate an iPad. Thank you for calling.

Well, you mouth-breathing iPad content consumers are going to be breathing out of the other sides of your mouths when Windows 8 ships… uh, sometime late this year.

Tap on the Desktop tile, and you are instantly transported to the familiar Windows 7 desktop. The applications you invested years learning to use are there in all their glory; not striped down [sic] versions that some guy in a marketing department thought were “good enough” for tablet users.

Except on ARM tablets, of course. Oh, and have fun running the “applications you invested years learning to use” with a touch-based interface.

They may be old fashioned, but after 30 years of development, the industry has refined these input devices to the point where they’re hard to beat for content creation.

Seriously, we reached the pinnacle of user interface design with Office 2003 on Windows XP, so why even bother trying to come up with new ways for people to use computers?

Microsoft’s Tablet PC software includes a feature it calls “digital ink” that allows users to write on the surface of the display the same way one writes on a sheet of paper.

Wow! If only the iPad had software that would allow you to take hand-written notes and drawings. OH, WELL.

Often, when I’m scribbling notes on my tablet at a conference, people sitting nearby will ask me what magical device I’m using. They’re amazed when I tell them it’s a five-year old tablet PC that runs Windows 7 and Office.

Amazed and possibly terrified.

Just smile and back away. Just smile and back away. Just smile and…

Brookwood’s obviously heavily invested in the Windows lifestyle, and good for him. If that’s your preferred device, more power to you (which, by the way, you’re going to need when you try to run desktop applications on a tablet). But please stop trotting out arguments against the iPad that are almost as old as your Windows tablet.

The problem for Microsoft is that the “slap full applications on a touchscreen and call it a day” experience has been available for ten years, and only diehards like Brookwood have bought into it. If the Macalope were a betting beast, he’d wager Brookwood that the most successful Windows 8 tablets will be the ARM-based devices that don’t run legacy desktop applications. But he’s not. Maybe we can just agree to check back in after Windows 8 tablets have been out for a while. Like, over a year from now.

Saturday Special: Winning the hearts and minds of consumers

Windows 8 isn’t the only part of Microsoft’s business line that’s got some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy. Not all is crystal clear in Windows (Actual Windows Not Included) Phone land.

Wired’s Alexandra Chang explains “How Upgrade Confusion Could Hurt Windows Phone Adoption”:

The Windows Phone platform just can’t seem to get a break. First, Nokia’s Lumia 900 had a difficult launch on Easter Sunday—bad news considering it’s the platform’s flagship smartphone. Now, rumors abound that current Windows Phones won’t be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, when it’s released later this year.

Now, the Macalope’s not a big-shot technology company executive, but it seems that if one were going to copy a single thing about Android, it probably shouldn’t be “lots of dead-end devices.” Although, he’s not really sure what you should copy from Android. Doesn’t it make more sense to just go right to the source and copy the iPhone?

(Zzzzzzzzing!)

This feels an awful lot like Apple rumor reports, where nobody knows the truth except the company itself.

Uh, kinda sorta, except without the “potential for awesomeness” factor.

“People like Microsoft because they’re more open. If they turn out to be the same as Apple, it’s unfortunate,” Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told Wired. “They’re really hurting themselves by not explaining what they’re doing.”

In general, what Apple doesn’t discuss are upcoming products. Everyone knows that the next release of iOS will be able to run on at least the current and previous generation hardware. Apple would never dead-end an iPhone like this, so the Macalope’s not really sure why the company is coming up here.

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told Wired this: “I don’t think it’s going to affect anything. This is inside baseball for technology writers and readers and enthusiasts. Consumers are buying based on today. People bought iPad 2s right up until the new iPad was released. In the end of the day, it becomes a non-issue.”

It’s probably true that the people who worry about being able to upgrade their phones to newer versions of operating systems are a smaller slice of the market. The slice that’s, you know, educated. It’s also the slice you want, because they’re probably the ones who buy lots of apps, are repeat customers and, if you’ll pardon the obnoxious expression, make a platform “cool.”

Well, the Macalope’s sure it’s hard to coordinate software upgrades with all those Windows Phone OEMs. Here’s an idea that the horny one will give Microsoft for free—one that’s sure to soften the blow on the company’s customers when they have to throw their old phones away: Windows Phone 8 new phone purchase party.

People love that stuff.

[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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