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Samsung, HTC, Sony and others debut brand new smartphones at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Best at MWC 2015
Samsung, HTC, Sony, Microsoft and others are using the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona to debut their latest smartphones and other gear. Here’s a look at the new Android and Windows devices.

Samsung Galaxy S6
The latest Galaxy Android phone swaps out its plastic frame for one made of metal and glass. The 5.1-inch screen size hasn’t changed since the S5, but resolution has been improved to 1440×2560. Other features: 5mp camera on front, 16mp camera on back; Samsung octo-core processor; 32/64/128GB storage options; 3GB RAM; integrated wireless charging. Missing: water resistance, microSD card slot and user-replaceable battery. Available globally April 10. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
This premium edition of the S6 has most of the same specs as the regular S6, but sports a screen that curves around its left and right sides.

HTC One M9
The company’s flagship Android 5.0 phone is based on a Snapdragon 810 processor running at 2GHz, includes 3GB of RAM and boasts a 5-inch screen. It features a 20mp front camera and 4pm rear one. HTC has partnered with Dolby to provide great sound. Best Buy lists a 32GB version for use on AT&T’s LTE network in the US for $650.

Silent Circle Blackphone 2
The Swiss company’s privacy-focused device will be targeted at enterprise customers in July, probably for about $630. The phone will have an 8-core processor, 32GB of memory and a 5-inch screen. What separates it from other phones is a hardened Android-based operating system dubbed PrivatOS as well as Silent Meeting, a secure conference-calling system, and a company-vetted app store. A new Blackphone+ tablet is on the way as well

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
This waterproof device is a midrange Android offering that will cost about $335 when it launches in Q2. It has a 5-inch, 720×1280 pixel screen, a Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor and integrated support for LTE. The phone has a 13mp camera on the back and a 5mp camera on the front. Sony boasts of a two-day long battery life, but didn’t get into anymore specifics.

Acer Liquid M220
Acer says its new phone will come with Windows Phone 8.1, but will be upgradeable to Windows 10 when the operating system is released later this year. This $89 phone has a 4-inch screen, dual-core processor, 4GB of storage, 512MB of RAM, two SIM slots, and 5mp rear camera and 2mp front camera. It comes chock full of Microsoft apps like Cortana and OneDrive. It does not support LTE.

ZTE Grand S3
The unique thing about this phone is its biometric authentication system, which enables users to log in via eye scanning using EyeVerify technology. Down the road, the feature could work with apps. The smartphone runs Android 4.4, has a 5.5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage that can be expanded to 64GB via a microSD card. The back camera is 16mp and the front one is 8mp. The phone is initially available in China for about $480.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and 640 XL
These midrange Windows phones have 5- and 5.7-inch screens, respectively, and are upgradeable to Windows 10 when it is released later this year. Other specs: 1GB of memory, a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.2GHz, an 8mp camera on the 640 and 13mp camera on the 640 XL. LTE support available on dual-SIM models. The 640 rolls out in April, the XL – a small phablet — in March. Pricing is expected to be in the $300 range for both.

LG Magna
LG revealed this new phone ahead of MWC, but gave people a first chance to play with it at the show. This Android smartphone has a 5-inch, 720×1280 pixel screen and 1.2GHz or 1.3GHz quad-core processor. It has an 8mp front camera and 5mp back one, plus 1GB of RAM and 8GB of integrated storage. Extended battery life and support for LTE are also touted by LG, which is expected to price the phone no higher than $250.

Lenovo A7000
This Android 5.0 smartphone has a 5.5-inch display, plus Dolby Atmos technology for audio. Powered by a MediaTek True8Core processor and supporting LTE, the phone has a dual SIM card slot for allowing use of separate phone numbers. The A7000 goes on sale in the US in March for $169.

Lenovo VIBE Shot
This is a camera-first Android phone that includes a 16mp rear camera with a six-piece modular lens and superfast shutter speed, as well as an 8mp selfie camera. Powered by a Snapdragon processor, the phone has 32GB of storage expandable to 128GB. It will sell for $350 when it becomes available in June.


 

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Will preview long-awaited touch version next month

Microsoft this week set a loose release date for its next iteration of Office on the desktop and announced that the long-awaited touch-enabled Windows apps will launch around the same time.

The touch-enabled apps will go out as a preview in February when Microsoft debuts Windows 10 for smartphones.

Office 2016, the moniker chosen for the next edition of the classic desktop suite, will launch in “the second half of 2015,” said Julie White, who heads Microsoft’s Office product management, in a Thursday blog.

The name was in line with previous labels for the bundle, which was last upgraded to Office 2013 in January of that year.

White gave little information about Office 2016, which will be the choice for Windows users who work with keyboard and mouse, other than the wide release window. It’s almost certain that Microsoft will offer a public preview of some kind, probably within the next few months, and start selling the suite at the same time it rolls out Windows 10.

Windows 10 has been tagged with various launch itineraries, including “early fall” by Microsoft’s chief operations officer, and most recently, “later this year.”

Nor did White discuss pricing or packaging, but Microsoft commonly defers those details until near the ship date. Microsoft has promised to continue to sell perpetually licensed copies of Office — those customers pay once and can use the software as long as they want — so the dual models of buy-once and Office 365’s rent-not-own will continue.

Office 365 subscribers can upgrade to Office 2016 free of charge when it appears.

Last year, Microsoft also teased a new Office for the Mac, which has not been named — and said then that it, too, would go on sale in the second half of 2015. Microsoft has already previewed Outlook, the email client for the new Office on OS X, to Office 365 subscribers, and updated it earlier this week.

It’s probable that Microsoft will start selling both Office 2016 for Windows and the new, still-unnamed edition for the Mac at the same time, which would be a break with precedent. In the past, the Mac edition has followed the Windows version by several months at minimum.

But White used most of her post to trumpet “Office for Windows 10,” a suite of touch-first apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. The latter will sport both email and calendar functionality, as does the desktop version.

Office for Windows 10 will be pre-installed on new Windows 10-powered smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 8-in. It will also be available for larger-screen devices — tablets and touch-ready notebooks — from the Windows Store.

Sticking to its practice of dribbling out information to keep customers interested — and its wares in the news — Microsoft did not spell out whether the apps would be free to customers who already have a smartphone or tablet and who upgrade their devices to Windows 10. The company also did not say how much the apps would cost to install on larger tablets or touch laptops.

Unless Microsoft turns its Office business model completely inside-out between now and the apps’ release, it will give smartphone and smaller tablet owners Office for Windows 10 for free, perhaps limiting the apps’ features in some ways for larger tablets and touch PCs, and tie full functionality on the latter pair to an Office 365 consumer or corporate subscription.

Users who want to use the apps for business purposes — no matter the device — will need an Office 365 small business or enterprise subscription.

Those are the licensing terms for Office on the iPhone and Android smartphones, and for the iPad and the impending version for Android-based tablets.

Touch-based Office apps for Windows have been on Microsoft’s to-do list for years.

In September 2011, then-CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that the company was working on “Metro-izing” Office, telling Wall Street analysts, “You ought to expect that we are rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style.” Metro was the brand that Microsoft once used to describe the tile- and touch-based interface that debuted on Windows 8 in 2012.

More than a year ago, Ballmer — by that time on his way out — promised “what I would call not just a touch-enabled, but a touch-first user interface … for Windows 8,” and set the release order as Windows first, iPad second. Ballmer’s replacement, Satya Nadella, flipped the order when he introduced Office for iPad in March. Since then, Windows users have been waiting for word on something similar for them.

Microsoft’s White said that a sneak peek of Office for Windows 10 — not Office 2016 — would be partnered with a Windows 10 Technical Preview update “in the coming weeks,” which fits with what operating system chief Terry Myerson said Wednesday was a February timetable for a first beta of Windows 10 for smartphones.


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Microsoft and Apple will ship fewer devices in 2014-2015 than earlier estimates, while Android will ship more
Gartner today scaled back its forecast of Windows’ near future, saying that while Microsoft’s operating system will power an increasing number of devices this year and next, the gains will be smaller than it projected six months ago.

For 2013, Windows’ share of the operating systems on all devices — smartphones, tablets, PCs, ultra-light form factors, and PC-tablet hybrids — dropped 5.8% compared to the year before, an additional half-percentage point from the 5.3% the research company pegged in January 2014 for the year prior.

This year, Windows’ share of the device operating system market will grow 2.3% to 333.4 million devices, the bulk of them traditional PCs and what Gartner dubs “ultramobiles, premium,” or the top-tier notebooks. Windows’ growth, however, will come from smaller systems — smartphones in particular.

“Windows phones will exhibit strong growth from a low base in 2014, and are projected to reach a 10% market share by 2018, up from 4% in 2014,” said Annette Zimmermann, a research director at Gartner, in a statement Monday.

In 2015, said Gartner today, Windows will power 373.7 million shipped devices, a year-on-year increase of 12.1%.

Gartner’s numbers today were different than those in January, when it was much more bullish about Windows. Then, analysts projected that Windows device shipments would grow 9.7% in 2014, with another 17.5% increase in 2015. In the latter year, 422.7 million devices of all kinds were to ship that ran Windows.

Although Windows will continue to grow, Gartner’s estimates today were significantly down from those it made six months ago. Most striking was the downgrade of Windows’ 2014 gains to about one-third of the earlier forecast.

The revised estimates also mean that Windows will account for a smaller share in both 2014 and 2015 than projected previously. In January, Gartner said that Windows would capture 14.3% and 16.1% of all device shipments this year and next, respectively. Today’s numbers put Windows’ share at 13.7% (2014) and 14.4% (2015) instead.

The reason Windows forecasts were downgraded, said Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa, was twofold: a softening of tablet shipment growth and the continued reliance of Microsoft on traditional PCs for the bulk of its licensing sales.

“Microsoft will stay in the traditional PC market,” said Kitagawa.

Those systems will continue to struggle, with downturns in 2014 and 2015 of 6.7% and 5.3%; in January, Gartner said that the category would be down 7.2% this year and 3.4% next. Adding in its “ultramobile, premium” numbers, the total personal computer market is now forecast to shrink 2.9% in 2014 and grow by 2.7% in 2015.

Previously, Gartner had pegged ultramobiles to grow much faster, with the total personal computer market believed to be flat this year (0.3% growth), with a more robust 4.6% increase in 2015.

The expected increase in Windows phone shipments will not be enough to make up the difference.

Windows wasn’t the only platform that Gartner said would grow slower than it had believed before: Apple’s iOS and OS X combined number were also downgraded.

For 2014 and 2015, Gartner now forecasts that iOS/OS X will power 271.1 million devices in 2014 — most of them iPhones — and 301.3 million in 2015, for year-over-year growth rates of 14.8% and 11.2%.

Six months ago, Apple’s estimated shipments were more optimistic: 344.2 million and 397.7 million for this year and next, respectively, representing increases of 29% and 15.4%.

Not surprisingly, Android will take up the slack, said Gartner, which predicted Google’s mobile operating system will become even more dominant. Where six months ago Gartner projected that Android device shipments would grow by 25.6% and 13.8% in 2014 and 2015, today it modified those estimates to 30% and 17.3%, respectively.

This year and next, Android will account for 48% and 52.9% of all device shipments, Gartner forecast today, upgrades from January’s numbers of 44.6% and 44.7%.

Gartner is now pegging total Android device shipments for 2014 and 2015 at 1.17 billion and 1.37 billion, up from previous bets of 1.1 billion and 1.25 billion.

 


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Computex is a hardware show, but Microsoft was there to promote Windows as a platform, including recent developments like Windows with Bing, Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows universal apps.

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The keynote was presented by Nick Parker, Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for device partnerships, and Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing. The numbers they listed were impressive.

OK, so he glossed over a few problems. Windows Phone remains stalled at 4% market share, Windows 8.1 numbers were nowhere to be found, and he didn’t get into Xbox One, which is currently lagging behind the PlayStation 4.

What these figures have in common is online/cloud. The OneDrive numbers are not a good measure because a) not every Windows 8 user is using it and b) other platforms like Windows 7 will account for some users. The Bing numbers are not too surprising; Microsoft is focused only on the U.S. for now. If the number was worldwide, that would be far more impressive.

Parker showed off more than 40 new Windows devices on stage, including all-in-ones, laptops, 2-in-1s, tablets, and smartphones, including new devices exclusively for the Chinese market. His talk focused on how Microsoft and its partners can build the next 1 billion devices together. This includes steps like no charge for Windows for devices smaller than 9 inches, relaxed certification requirements, the release of Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows universal apps.

Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia and distinguished scientist at Microsoft, joined the two on stage to discuss future computing and key areas of investment for Microsoft Research. They include Big Data, machine learning, datacenter, sensors, computer vision and natural user interface.

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Mandates Windows 8.1 Update to receive future patches; evidence of commitment to constant OS refreshes, say experts

Microsoft’s demand that Windows 8.1 users install this week’s major update was another signal that the company is very serious about forcing customers to adopt its faster release strategy, experts said today.

“Microsoft is going to drag organizations and users into this new world of faster updates kicking and screaming,” said Michael Silver of Gartner in an email. “Microsoft wants users to trust it to keep their systems updated. Maybe they figure forcing organizations to deploy [Windows 8.1 Update] will get them used to taking updates and keeping current.”

Earlier this week, Microsoft shipped Windows 8.1 Update (8.1U), adding that to obtain future updates, including fixes for vulnerabilities distributed each month on “Patch Tuesday,” Windows 8.1 users had to install 8.1U.

“Failure to install this Update will prevent Windows Update from patching your system with any future updates starting with updates released in May 2014,” Microsoft said.

May 13 is the first Patch Tuesday that will require 8.1U.

That requirement got the attention of users. And not in a good way.

“What happened to Microsoft’s Lifecycle policy with providing customers with a 24-month timeframe before ending support of a superseded operating system RTM/Service Pack?” asked a user identified as “wdeguara” in a comment appended Tuesday to Microsoft’s blog-based announcement. “By immediately withdrawing all future security updates for Windows 8.1 RTM, in the eyes of most enterprise customers you are effectively performing an immediate End-of-Life on Windows 8.1 RTM.

“I know that Microsoft wants its customer base to adopt updates to its Windows platform faster, but immediately dropping security patching on the Windows 8.1 RTM release is just plain crazy,” wdeguara added.

But to Silver, that is exactly Microsoft’s intent.

Others see similar method to Microsoft’s madness.

“The reality is that Microsoft is moving the OS toward a more service-oriented model,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in a Thursday telephone interview. “This reflects the fact that there are shifting sands, that Microsoft is trying to move toward one servicing model for a variety of platforms. They’re trying to harmonize Windows Phone and Windows with one servicing model that works for everyone.”

From Miller’s perspective, Microsoft was striving for a mobile-style model for Windows that would not only rely on more frequent updates, but one with a goal of getting the bulk of users onto each new this-is-current update or version.

Other Microsoft customers joined wdeguara to criticize the forced migration, which had not been announced prior to Tuesday and which they saw as a betrayal of the 24-month rule that has given them two years from the launch of a service pack to upgrade from the original, called “RTM” in Microsoft-speak to reference “release to manufacturing.”

“This is a massive shift from a patching perspective,” said Julian Harper, an IT manager, in one of several messages posted to the Patchmanagement.org mailing list on the topic. “For years, we’ve had [two] years to plan service pack roll outs and now we’re given one month. And this is on top of the fiasco that was Windows 8.1 for volume license customers.”

Previously, Microsoft had said that the 24-month rule for Windows, once reserved for service packs, would apply to Windows 8 and its successors, including Windows 8.1 of October 2013, even though the latter was not labeled as a “service pack.” Customers on Windows 8 RTM, which shipped in October 2012, would have until Jan. 12, 2016 to migrate to Windows 8.1. After that date, Windows 8 RTM will not be eligible for security updates and other fixes and enhancements.

“Microsoft has the most generous and transparent support policies, but everything depends on what they call the new code,” said Silver. “A ‘service pack’ has a support policy. A ‘version’ has a support policy. Something with a different name, well, Microsoft can do what it wants.”

Miller wasn’t shocked at the complaints from enterprise IT personnel, like Harper. “It bothered me, too,” Miller said. “The support lifecycle page doesn’t reflect this, and it absolutely should,” he continued, referring to Microsoft’s support timetable for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. “Customers need to be able to keep track of what they have to do for support.”

Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at CloudPassage, a San Francisco-based cloud security firm, acknowledged the historic nature of the Windows 8.1 Update’s deployment requirement.

“What was surprising to me was that there was no prior notification from Microsoft,” Storms said. “But what was not so surprising was that they made this decision. The number of SKUs that they support is getting out of hand. Microsoft can only support so many products. At some point, they just have to cut it.”

Storms sympathized with corporate IT administrators nervous about the rapid release pace.

“Given the environment they’re in, the complaints were well justified,” Storms said. Traditionally, that has been an environment where companies downloaded an update, tested it for weeks or even months, then slowly deployed it to devices.

“That’s an ongoing process that’s constantly in motion,” said Storms of the practice. “But we know everyone needs to move to [a process] where you have to take the updates as they are. So this really calls for a new way of thinking. IT must rethink the environment that they’re in.”

In other words, enterprises may not like Microsoft mandating 8.1U but they’ll have to learn to live with not only that, but future demands, too. “If the [software vendors] are moving faster than you can keep up with using the traditional methodology, you’re going to have to just take [the updates],” Storms said.

Microsoft did not reply to questions, including why it mandated 8.1U and whether it believed the requirement is a change of its 24-month rule.


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Microsoft and its hardware partners really, really want everyone to abandon Windows XP by April 8. But the world won’t end if you don’t.

It’s the end of an era at Microsoft. No, I’m not talking about CEO Steve Ballmer retiring and being replaced by Satya Nadella, though that also qualifies. I’m referring to the imminent “death” of support for Microsoft’s long-running Windows XP operating system.

Microsoft — and its hardware partners like HP, Dell, and many others — really, really, really want you and everyone else to upgrade to Windows 8.1, or at least Windows 7. In hopes that Windows XP upgrades will save the PC industry, they’re pulling out all the stops, from warning of potential security catastrophes to offering discounts and special financing on new hardware, along with a wide variety of assessment tools and migration services designed to ease the process. They’re even inviting small groups of journalists to dinner to discuss the issue!

Is April 8 the new Y2K?
The efforts seem to be working for enterprises. Jordan Chrysafidis, Microsoft’s vice president of OEM worldwide marketing, said that only 10% of enterprises in the developed world still use XP exclusively — although he also said that 24% of small businesses don’t even know that XP is reaching its end-of-service date. Either way, though, its pretty clear that not everyone is going to upgrade by the April 8 support cut-off.

Like other tech scares dating back to Y2K, that may not cause an immediate disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally behind the upgrade push. Windows XP is ancient, and no longer delivers a state-of-the-art computing experience — it was designed long before touch and the cloud and mobility and virtualization and modern management techniques took center stage. XP users can’t hope to take advantage of modern trends and cope with today’s threats.

But that’s the point. Failing to upgrade from Windows XP is more about forgoing the advantages of modern technology than it is about some arbitrary doomsday. Things aren’t going to be dramatically different for XP users on April 9 than they were on April 7 — though they’re likely to get worse over time. It’s just that XP users will be leaving the promise of the 21st Century on the table.

According to Chrysafidis, for example, one recent study showed that upgrading to Windows 7 or 8.1 can save $700 per year per user — one more argument for using a modern OS. But it’s also hardly an imperative to make the switch by any specific date, or for every machine in every application to be instantly upgraded.

XP is everywhere
Windows XP was incredibly popular and remains deeply ingrained in machines of all types used for all sorts of purposes. (Heck, I’ve still got an old netbook running XP.) XP is found in millions of small business, retail outlets, and factory floors, and the upgrade usually isn’t just swapping in a new operating system. In many cases, you’ll need brand new hardware and have to upgrade proprietary apps that don’t work on other versions of Windows (most packaged apps are compatible). That’s simply not top of mind — or budget — for many users and organizations. Again, the new hardware is going to be way better, cheaper, and more reliable than the old XP boxes it replaces, but you already own the XP machines, so that’s not always a useful comparison.

As Chrysafidis pointed out, upgrading from XP is a great opportunity to remake outmoded business processes as well as replace hardware and software. But that’s a big deal that requires serious planning — it doesn’t make sense to tackle a major project like that on Microsoft’s timetable. Waiting carries risks — security breaches or aging hardware giving up the ghost at an inopportune moment — but so does rushing into an upgrade process you’re not ready for or can’t afford.

No excuse not to upgrade
Yes, you’re going to have to upgrade from Windows XP, and sooner is better than later. But if you ask me, it’s more important to do it right than to do it fast. Far better to leverage the opportunity to truly take advantage of what modern technology has to offer than scramble to meet the April 8 deadline just to end up doing the same old things on a shiny new PC with a shiny new operating system. (As long as you don’t get hacked in the meantime, of course.)


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After Microsoft policy change, illegal downloads are the only way for developers to get their hands on the near-finished code

Windows 8.1’s RTM, which Microsoft announced on Tuesday, has leaked to file-sharing sites, according to numerous forum postings and blog reports.

Leaks of unreleased Microsoft products, especially Windows, are commonplace, and as in this case, often occur just hours or days after the Redmond, Wash. company ships code to its partners.

Microsoft may have contributed to the interest in Windows 8.1 RTM — a term that represents “release to manufacturers” — because of a change in a long-standing policy that gave developers and IT professionals access to the official code weeks before the general public.

The leaked builds of Windows 8.1 RTM may have originated in China — home of most of the companies that build the world’s personal computers and tablets — because a Chinese-language edition was the first to appear.

Within a short time, however, English editions of the RTM also popped up on file-sharing websites.

While at one time Microsoft tried to stamp out such leaks, it long ago gave up and switched to warning users that unauthorized builds, including counterfeits circulating long after a product’s release, often contained malware.

Microsoft will officially launch Windows 8.1 on Oct. 17 in the U.S., the first date that current Windows 8 users can retrieve the free update from the Windows Store. Hardware that relies on Windows 8.1, as well as retail copies of the operating system, will go on sale Oct. 18.

Microsoft has not revealed the price of the retail copies of Windows 8.1 aimed at customers still running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7.

The company has enraged developers with its decision to not publish the RTM on MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) and TechNet, the subscription-only sites aimed at developers and enterprise IT personnel, respectively. Previously, those subscribers could download RTM builds about two weeks after computer makers received the code, and weeks before the software went on sale.

Microsoft said the change was necessary because RTM is not a finished, polished product, but will continue to receive fix bugs between now and October. MSDN and TechNet subscribers must wait like everyone else for the official debut.

“How on earth can a developer deliver a quality app and not be able to test in on production grade code from Microsoft?” asked someone identified as “mirronelli” in a comment appended to a Microsoft blog that advised developers to test their work against the two-month old Windows 8.1 preview.

Some were even angrier.
“This is insanity. What possible justification could you have for not releasing the RTM code to developers ahead of schedule?” wondered “sognibene” today. “You want to know why you don’t have apps in the [Windows Store] without paying developers to make them? THIS TYPE OF NONSENSE IS WHY!!!”

 


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Retailers share part of the blame for poor Windows 8 sales and the ensuing decline of PC shipments, analysts contended today.

Microsoft’s radical overhaul of Windows has been cited by some to explain plummeting PC shipments, but the very organizations whose best interest is served in selling those systems were at least partly at fault.

“Windows 8 brought a brand new UI [user interface] that had not fundamentally changed since DOS,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in a blog post Tuesday. “[So] how did big-box retail respond? The same way they have for the last 20 years.”

Moorhead was critical of big retailers — Best Buy is the largest in the U.S. — for not modifying how they sold PCs when Windows 8 landed on their stores’ shipping docks.

“There exists a massive disconnect between what consumers want to and need to know about the latest generation of PCs” and what retailers did, and continue to do, to sell those PCs,” Moorhead argued, ticking off a list of retailing blunders, such as tying down devices so that they can’t be hefted for weight, PCs that can’t be turned off and on again to gauge boot speed, and a lack of touchscreen displays.

“The stores just do not provide, for many, the environment that meets the needs of someone trying to buy a new Windows 8 notebook,” said Moorhead.

Stephen Baker of the NPD Group, and an expert in technology retailing, agreed. “Nothing happened at launch,” Baker said of in-store changes when Windows 8 hit. “Everyone treated it as if was another Windows 7.”

And the same old-same old was definitely not what was necessary. “Does the in-store experience need an upgrade [because of Windows 8]?” Baker asked. “Absolutely. Are the in-store mechanisms up to snuff? Absolutely not.”

But Baker disputed the idea that retailers alone were to blame for how they sold Windows 8. The operating system was so different, he said, that retailers were either unprepared or unsure how to merchandise the goods.

And in some cases, they didn’t even have the goods — and largely still don’t — to sell.

“Part of the problem was driven by lack of product,” said Baker. “There weren’t very many high-quality products available. At launch maybe four out of 40 SKUs [stock-keeping units] in retail were touch. That’s headed north. By back-to-school and the holidays, it’ll be 15 out of 40. But we need to see an upgrade on that, too.”

Microsoft must assume some of the blame for the poor retailing, Baker implied. But rather than directly criticize Microsoft, he simply noted, “They did not do anything different” at Windows 8’s launch to prepare retailers or assist them. “But hindsight is really easy six months later.”

The bold direction of Windows 8, with its emphasis on touch as a selling point, presented retailers with problems they’d never encountered — detachable displays for example — a core feature of the so-called “convertible” devices that morph from a notebook into a tablet by swiveling the screen to a new position or removing it entirely. “That isn’t the norm of what we’ve had in the market before,” Baker said, referring to retailers’ confusion over how to secure those detachable screens or show the mutating nature of the device in the absence of a salesperson.

Baker highlighted the end-cap — one of those displays at the end of an aisle — that Lenovo and Intel created for the former’s IdeaPad Yoga as an example of a top-notch retail presentation for a Windows 8 device.

“You can’t go to market with the same old stuff,” he asserted.

Moorhead cited Apple’s retail stores as the right way to promote and sell today’s computers — and other computing devices, like tablets. “Interestingly, I never see the [retail problems with Windows 8 notebooks] at an Apple store. Never, ever,” Moorhead said. “I can sit at the Apple store there for hours and literally do a test drive like I would a car.”

Microsoft, of course, has its own, albeit much smaller, chain of retail outlets, designed in Apple-esque fashion and staffed with many more salespeople than a big-box store. Even so, Baker downplayed their impact.

“They face the same challenges [with Windows 8] as most retail stores,” Baker said of Microsoft’s outlets. “They may have more people, but they have the same challenges. And they’re not a unit volume driver.”

He did have hope, however. “Anything Microsoft does learn about what can be successful, I expect they’re trying to port as quickly as possible to the retail industry overall,” Baker said.

And retail, while contributing to Windows 8’s problems, perhaps even to the drop in PC sales, is the least of the industry’s worries at the moment.

“I really don’t think that [Windows 8’s slow uptake] has had a lot do with merchandising,” Baker said. “It’s far more to do with the trajectory that the marketplace was already on.”


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Despite an unending stream of FUD being hurled at the Surface tablet, people who have bought it seem pretty enamored with their purchase, according to reviews piling up on BestBuy.com and Staples.

Microsoft launched the Surface tablet in its retail stores, all 65 of them, before expanding to Best Buy (1,900 stores total) and Staples (1,400 stores) earlier this month.

So far, sentiments for the device are fairly positive. On Best Buy’s website, the Windows RT tablet sports a 4.7 out of 5 rating, based on 28 customer reviews. Only one customer was unhappy with the device and rated it one out of five stars.

“No Outlook so not full MS Office, all other tablets have version of word, excel, and powerpoint, so very disappointing,” wrote customer gates77. He liked screen customization, but also noted “Battery life wasn’t to [sic] good and typecover isn’t as good as some logitech keyboards. Can’t load any of my windows 7 programs.”

The most popular feature about Surface RT seems to be Windows 8. “Windows 8 runs like a charm, the Windows Apps Store is growing by the day and I am able to use all my favorite apps such as iHeartRadio, NY Times, USA Today, Kayak, Netflix, Endgadget, eBay, ESPN…” wrote Cricketer from New York on Staples.com.

“The live tiles are a great innovation,” wrote Philipm785 of Atlanta. “They provide genuinely useful information without having to launch the apps and the multiple sizes and custom groupings that can be easily scrolled and zoomed are way easier to get around than the multiple screens of tiny uniform icons you get on iOS.”

The hardware is also receiving kudos. “It’s a perfect laptop replacement for those who don’t need lot of processing power. Don’t wait for the surface pro. The battery life is all day,” wrote desiboy of New York on BestBuy.com.

“I gave away my Android tablet after using this for a while,” wrote MZach of NC. “The keyboard and touchpad are unobtrusive but there when you need them and the keyboard has cursor keys!”

Even people giving 5-star reviews have complaints, include volume output, the “primitive” email app, lack of apps and x86 support, Flash support in IE10, and the price itself.

It’s encouraging to see, but I’m actually not totally surprised. Early adopters tend to be enthusiasts. As it moves beyond the early adopter stage and away from Microsoft enthusiasts into the mass market, that score will drop as more cons pile up. We’ll see what people say when the much more expensive x86 models arrive next year.

 


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Despite an unending stream of FUD being hurled at the Surface tablet, people who have bought it seem pretty enamored with their purchase, according to reviews piling up on BestBuy.com and Staples.

Microsoft launched the Surface tablet in its retail stores, all 65 of them, before expanding to Best Buy (1,900 stores total) and Staples (1,400 stores) earlier this month.

So far, sentiments for the device are fairly positive. On Best Buy’s website, the Windows RT tablet sports a 4.7 out of 5 rating, based on 28 customer reviews. Only one customer was unhappy with the device and rated it one out of five stars.

“No Outlook so not full MS Office, all other tablets have version of word, excel, and powerpoint, so very disappointing,” wrote customer gates77. He liked screen customization, but also noted “Battery life wasn’t to [sic] good and typecover isn’t as good as some logitech keyboards. Can’t load any of my windows 7 programs.”

The most popular feature about Surface RT seems to be Windows 8. “Windows 8 runs like a charm, the Windows Apps Store is growing by the day and I am able to use all my favorite apps such as iHeartRadio, NY Times, USA Today, Kayak, Netflix, Endgadget, eBay, ESPN…” wrote Cricketer from New York on Staples.com.

“The live tiles are a great innovation,” wrote Philipm785 of Atlanta. “They provide genuinely useful information without having to launch the apps and the multiple sizes and custom groupings that can be easily scrolled and zoomed are way easier to get around than the multiple screens of tiny uniform icons you get on iOS.”

The hardware is also receiving kudos. “It’s a perfect laptop replacement for those who don’t need lot of processing power. Don’t wait for the surface pro. The battery life is all day,” wrote desiboy of New York on BestBuy.com.

“I gave away my Android tablet after using this for a while,” wrote MZach of NC. “The keyboard and touchpad are unobtrusive but there when you need them and the keyboard has cursor keys!”

Even people giving 5-star reviews have complaints, include volume output, the “primitive” email app, lack of apps and x86 support, Flash support in IE10, and the price itself.

It’s encouraging to see, but I’m actually not totally surprised. Early adopters tend to be enthusiasts. As it moves beyond the early adopter stage and away from Microsoft enthusiasts into the mass market, that score will drop as more cons pile up. We’ll see what people say when the much more expensive x86 models arrive next year.

 


MCTS Training, MCITP Trainnig

Best Microsoft MCTS Certification,
Microsoft MCITP Training at certkingdom.com

 

 

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