back to article Microsoft's Surface proves software is dead

Did Microsoft finally get the memo on software licensing? While Microsoft's legal department continues to believe that software licensing is the industry's best business model, its mobile team now acknowledges that software is just one piece of an overall product, and not even the part that consumers buy. With the launch of …


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  1. the-it-slayer

    Software isn't dead...'s the fact Microsoft have done it so poorly for so long that these "free or integrated OSes" are coming out of the woodwork to solve problems they caused themselves. Too much emphasis in locking you in, countless price increases and now going from Physical CPU to CPU Core licensing; I'm not surprised people are annoyed.

    Anyway, it makes sense to integrate software into specialist products (such as mobile phones, tablets etc). You only enhance the experience by concentrating on how you use it rather than how it it works.

    1. Spearchucker Jones

      Re: Software isn't dead...

      Your complaint doesn't quite line up. You're saying software isn't dead, and then you have a go at lock-in, cost and licensing.

      Those things are separate. Outlook might tank at the things you mention, but given the dismalness of available email clients, is still, from a *functional* perspective, the best email client around.

      The business value of Outlook, both to MIcrosoft, and it's customers, is another matter entirely.

      1. Bakunin

        Re: Software isn't dead...

        "Outlook might tank at the things you mention, but given the dismalness of available email clients, is still, from a *functional* perspective, the best email client around."

        Outlook is one of the most awful email clients I've every had the misfortune to have to use. Its only saving grace is the fact that its calender and address functionality is compatible with most other peoples email set up ... because that's also Outlook. So that's pretty much on par with "I enjoy smoking because I'm a smoker".

        Whether software is dead or not, or whether that has anything to do with lock in I can't say. But the fact that Outlook is still alive and so prevalent entirely to do with lock in.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Software isn't dead...

          "Outlook is one of the most awful email clients I've every had the misfortune to have to use. Its only saving grace is the fact that its calender and address functionality is compatible with most other peoples email set up ... because that's also Outlook. So that's pretty much on par with "I enjoy smoking because I'm a smoker"."

          Possibly the most stupid comment I have read im many years - Outlook is a choice, other clients use the same protocols, you do not have to use it with Exchange, and you can also use it with other open standards compliant clients as an option.


          1. JEDIDIAH

            Re: Software isn't dead...

            Outlook is not a choice, it's something imposed upon you because it does more than just the little bits that involve real standards. The rest is highly proprietary just like the rest of msoffice is.

            Outlook is the perfect example of taking an open standard and perverting it with vendor lock.

            It's more of the same Microsoft proprietary lock-you-in-to-our products racket. iTunes functions in the same way.

          2. wayward4now

            Re: Software isn't dead...

            Looks like you got voted off of the island!

        2. asdf
          Thumb Down

          Re: Software isn't dead...

          To those young or lucky enough to never have the abomination that was Lotus Notes forced upon you for a paycheck count yourself lucky.

          1. Ron Christian
            Thumb Down

            Re: Software isn't dead...

            Agreed, Lotus Notes is an abomination, but that's not a good excuse to use Outlook.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Software isn't dead...

              Funny how no one has managed to point out how or why Outlook is apparantly so bad. You can read and send email can't you? Manage your calendar and contacts? It's nicely integrated with Windows and the Office suite. Where exactly does it fall short? Price can't be used to argue against use of a product. People choose to pay and if they are happy with it, they keep on paying. Nothing wrong with that. If there was a feature that was missing I would understand, but I've never found it lacking and the 3rd party add-on support is better than any other major email client. Perfect software does not exist and never will. Outlook has continually evolved to meet user requirements and keep up with business users. In my travels I'm seeing more businesses migrating away from Lotus Notes and Groupwise than migrating from Exchange/Outlook. Outlook's only real threat, IMO, is Google Apps Mail.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Software isn't dead...

                Outlook 2010 (at least in my workplace) takes about 5 minutes from launching to become usable, and in the meantime hogs so much CPU on the (dual-core, 4GB RAM) PC that you can't really do anything else with the machine. I shudder to think how many man-hours are lost our in (10,000+) organisation every single day due to this single piece of crap software. I know the tea lady makes a lot of money though.

                And even once you start using it, it's prone to hanging for no apparent reason - really, how difficult is it to program your software to paste a line of text from a Word doc? Why does this cause it to go blank and give me the egg timer for up to a minute? I've never met any other software that struggled so badly with such a simple task.

                Some days it's so bad I just give up and use the web client, which is generally fine, and the functionality that 99% of people use 99% of the time is in there, so actually there's very little reason to use Outlook itself.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Software isn't dead...

                  If your outlook takes 5 minutes from launch to usable across the organisation I'd say that's an issue with the mail/group/exchange server not the client.

        3. chris lively

          Re: Software isn't dead...

          You've obviously nevered used lotus notes...

      2. ManxPower

        Re: Software isn't dead...

        I disagree. Outlook is not a great e-mail client. The only thing it seems to do better than others is group calendar functions.

        1. Danny 14

          Re: Software isn't dead...

          4 minutes to launch? hogwash or misconfigured. I'm no real defender of MS (we use a lot of openoffice but outlook is the one app I cannot prise from people!)

          We run positively ancient gx520 p4 2.8's with 2gb RAM (and 80gb drives!) they have been recycled so many times it isnt funny, yet we still have about 40 of them on the network. They are still running XP (I refuse point black to upgrade them to W7 even though it works fine). They do run office 2010 though.

          From power on to logon screen is just short of 1 minute - assuming I have nothing in the computer GPO set to install. From CTRL-ALT-DEL to desktop is a mixed bag - student have mandatory profiles so they take 2 mins 30 to get to desktop (desktop being HDD light stopped not "first icons but im still running logon scripts in the background so you cant use me yet"). Office takes about 30 seconds on first launch then less than 5 for any app on the remainder of the log on session. I *do* replace templates from a central store on use so that is probably the biggest drain.

          Staff profiles are roaming, if they have logged onto that station before then under 1 min to usable desktop, otherwise its a mixed bag - depends on their profile size (docs and library redirected) but typically the same as students.

          Our newer optiplex 390 dual cores take roughly the same time , maybe up to 30 seconds quicker on a good day. This points to me being a network bottleneck (1gb throughout). Office 2003 was quicker to start first time but didnt cache as much it seemed, so switching from outlook to word to powerpoint to publisher was tiresome, 2010 seems fine at using all the apps at the same time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Software isn't dead...

      Like AL Capone and taxes, its the pricing not the products destined to be Microsofts downfall if current trends continue IMO.

      My wife is currently tasked in a public sector organisation with eliminating IBM product licensing because of the high recurrent licensing and support costs. At the moment Microsoft is chugging along although if the UK volume license increases coming in outside the public sector applied they would be next under the microscope.

      Microsoft need to be very careful in this area.

    3. tgm

      Re: Software isn't dead...

      Has it really done "so poorly for so long"? Last time I looked, windows was the dominant desktop OS. Apple's recent success isn't because it bundles the OS with the Hardware; it's *always* done that, and it didn't work out that well in the 80s/90s did it?

      Apples recent success is all about the AppStore.

      The lock-in that Microsoft had wasn't actually physical lock-in: you have always been free ditch windows and install linux, but people didn't because everyone else used windows and office. It was "lockin-via-annoyance". The same is now happening with iOS. Everyone has an iPhone/iPad because everyone else has one. Friend: "oooh, you should get this new app". Me: "oh, I can't, it isn't available on WinPhone7 AppStore".

      That's what makes people want iPhones, so they can have what everyone else has.

      1. asdf

        Re: Software isn't dead...

        A little dated list below but most still apply as well many of us are forced to use older versions as well. For me I agree the bloat has always been unacceptable but again still better than crappy Lotus Notes.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surface says nothing about licensing model

    I don't think anything about Surface changes the Microsoft position on licensing. Or necessarily yields any OEM issue (I worked for an OEM years ago personally involved with the MS licensing negotiations from a technical standpoint so thats not an uninformed moms basement remark).

    If someone buys a Windows RT tablet from HP, MS gets a profitable license fee, even accounting for long term after sales costs. If instead they buy a Surface, MS gets the same profit from license but has to carry all the overhead of sales and after sales associated with the lower margin on hardware.

    Apple indeed make a high gross margin on iPad thanks to sales volume and good systems management but nobody else makes those margins and likely Apple will see shrinkage as competive pressure builds (Android on tablet hasn't got far yet and Win8 only fully kicks in next year). Ultimately despite Apples brilliant handle on the supply chain, net effect is maybe a 10% advantage on BOM not enough to prevent a major OEM having a profitable business if everything else is done right.

    Licencing remains a far better business proposition for MS with higher margins, lower risks. The Xbox business model is entirely different as OEM wasn't an option. If Surface is a runaway success can see more happening but no reason to make OEMs feel threatened. I don't think we need look much further than the stated desire by Microsoft to boost the Win8 tablet concept and encourage OEMs to buy into the ecosystem and raise their game.

    Author seems to seen something where there is nothing.

  3. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being








    I could go on.

    1. Spearchucker Jones

      Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being



      ASP.NET Web API



      Windows Azure SDK

      Windows Phone Toolkit

      Silverlight Toolkit

      I, too, could go on.

      1. amehaye

        Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

        These only work on Microsoft platforms. Apple (and mostly other) open source projects work on any platform.

      2. Jean-Luc

        @SpearChucker Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

        >ASP.NET Web API

        >Windows Azure SDK

        >ASP.NET MVC

        "You are free to use the API to my proprietary product, therefore I am an open company"


        >Windows Phone Toolkit

        >Silverlight Toolkit*

        "I had the benevolence to provide developers with a tool to use to develop code for my platforms therefore I am an open company"


        >I, too, could go on.

        Please do. You might talk some sense at some point.

        * then again, "we provided devs with tools for a platform we dead-ended 2 yrs later" is closer to the truth, innit.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

      Two wrongs don’t give a shite.

    3. eulampios

      @Tom 38

      Most of what you have here was either used by Apple or bought with a free license, like GPL'ed CUPS.

      And you forgot GNU Bash (used on every Mac OSX), Darwin kernel, FreeBSD's userland and more

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Tom 38

        Darwin is the base OS. The kernel is Xnu, based on Mach 3.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

      Also putting lipstick on unix and charging double for the hardware !- Steve Jobs is a genius.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

        OSX is cheap and Apple hardware seems pricey but compare that to Sun workstations and it seems like a bargain.

        1. JEDIDIAH

          Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

          That kind of argument made sense in 1988, not 2001 or now.

      2. elderlybloke

        Re: Apple is more closed than Microsoft ever dreamed of being

        Re- Steve Jobs is a genius.

        AnonCoward 22 Jne 2012,

        is should be replaced with was, unless the Messiah has risen again.

        Peace be with you.

  4. a53
    Thumb Up

    Thank god someone finally utters this, I've been waiting so long long for a recognisable author to pen this point.

    As he says, Apple is a closed world. But that just makes people like me feel safer. I'm not capable of writing software, nor making my own devices. I buy what I trust to be safest for my use. Apple devices in general don't suffer from the same woes that beset those of Microsoft users, no matter which machine they buy. (I looked briefly at Linux but again got lost in the technicalities).

    Apple's devices suffer from attacks to software generally other than their own: usually Adobe's. But so do Microsoft users. In addition they (Microsoft users) have up till very recently, suffered from virtually every virus or worm going. This saves me a fortune in security software and on experts to resolve issues caused by the tons of malware out there. (99% designed for M.S. operating systems.) I do have a free AV programme to reduce the chances of being a conduit for less enlightened users.

    So when I buy my desktop, laptop, or mobile phone then yes, it may cost me a bit more up front. But a damn sight less ongoing.

    If Mr. Balmer's company finally start to get this, it may drive down Apple's prices by giving folks like me a genuine alternative.

    1. Vector
      Big Brother


      That's it, just ignore the bombers flying over your tidy little walled garden...


      The tyrant is gratuitous

      You don't need the walled garden nonsense. Your false sense of security is equally attainable with Apple's computer products and they don't enforce any fascist platform restrictions. It's only the crapulence of Microsoft that makes the walled garden seem reasonable.

      ...and that's only if you forget all of those "I'm a Mac" ads.

  5. sandman

    Did I miss something?

    Somebody better tell the company I work for that software is dead - we sell nearly half a billion dollars worth a year. Selling software to consumers might be a little poorly, but that's only a fraction of the software market.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did I miss something?

      The point is that this is where the industry trend is.

      For every trend, there are those that buck the trend. The other side of the point that Matt is making is that software companies that sell very expensive software to a few customers are really selling support and services wrapped up with sale price. That is really what we do where I work, at a proprietary software house.

      Without the support, the software isn't exactly worthless, but the real value is the backup of the authoring company. So, in a sense, we are selling services disguised as software.

      The real losers, in the long term, are going to be companies that sell shrink-wrapped, lower cost software (like Microsoft). These are rapidly being replaced by open source alternatives and online services which have an ongoing service fee rather than a one-off purchase price.

    2. chris lively

      Re: Did I miss something?

      Yes, I believe you did.

      Watch over the next decade. That $500m in software sales is going to do one of two things. Either your company will change over to a service/cloud model or it will die.

      Best thing we did was stop selling software and instead sell service. And I don't mean service as in we'll charge you $x/hr for programming. I mean: we handle the problem for the client. No software means no tech people ( or at least far fewer ) are involved for the clients.

      Combine that with flat rate payment terms and they can focus on their core competences without worrying about backups, programmers, support staff etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Did I miss something?

        "Either your company will change over to a service/cloud model or it will die."

        Not so. Neither you nor I know what software their company sells. There are plenty of businesses - financial services (banks or funds) - that if you told them you were offering cloud only, would suggest where you could deposit your offering. Plenty of people that used specialised software like to keep a short leash on their data.

  6. steeplejack
    Thumb Down

    I bet Microsoft won't be giving-away Windows 8.

    The "OEM" 32-bit edition of Windows 7 cost £100 from Amazon. Does Matt Asay claim that something similar won't happen with Windows 8?

    1. P. Lee

      Re: I bet Microsoft won't be giving-away Windows 8.

      and you can bet Office won't be given away either!

      1. Danny 14

        Re: I bet Microsoft won't be giving-away Windows 8.

        companies dont pay that for licencing though. We pay about £3k per year for 300 W7 pro, 300 office pro. Sure we dont own it, it is rented but over 5 years lifespan that is 15k for 300 copies of XP and office pro so £25 per PC assuming I change OS and office version (which is about right i'd say).

        Filemaker pro is more expensive and dont get me started on photoshop.

        1. Danny 14

          Re: I bet Microsoft won't be giving-away Windows 8.

          I meant to say £25 for each os and £25 for office.

  7. Gordon 10 Silver badge


    Matt is obviously smoking the same crack as Microsofts Metro team.

    The middle market software vendors are thriving. The only reason they dont get any bigger is that they tend to get borged by one of the big guys. Its got nothing to do with the price of their software - just a reflection of market maturity.

    Google and Facebook grew big on the back of their software - they just choose to monitise it indirectly - its hardly free, just the cost is something intangible - your data privacy.

  8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    It's not free if it needs a dongle

    Software sold in a device is just using the device as a dongle. You can't say the vendor is "giving away" the associated software for free unless you can get a version 2 out of them a year later and upgrade your device for free. As far as I can tell, this is *not* the experience people are having with most hand-held devices (from MS or otherwise).

    Microsoft's new-found interest in making hardware is so that they can stop you running non-Microsoft software on your devices. It's part of the same strategy as "secure boot" on the PC and the restrictions on Windows on ARM.

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: It's not free if it needs a dongle

      With regard to free upgrades of software: "most hand-held devices" presumably isn't meant to include iPhones, then? Mine gets an upgraded software load every 2-3 months, I'd guess, and started on 4.something a-year-and-a-bit ago and is now on 5.1.1. And in money terms the upgrades themselves didn't cost anything, or nothing that can be separated from the price of the phone in the first place.

      In this respect (I know that MacOS upgrades are different here, thanks), Apple *is* giving away the software on the device.

      1. El Andy

        Re: It's not free if it needs a dongle

        "most hand-held devices" presumably isn't meant to include iPhones, then?

        So you got Siri when you upgraded your iPhone 4 then? Oh, no you didn't because oddly enough that "OS feature" actually required you to go out and buy new hardware anyway. Updating an iPhone and buying a new one isn't really on parity, even from a purely software point of view.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not free if it needs a dongle

          Software upgradability is just delayed obsolescence.

          For the past few decades the military has been dicking around with "software defined radios". The promises originally included all the lies about how such hardware could be SW upgraded endlessly. In fact, because they typically only mandate 50% spare CPU cycles, 50% spare RAM/ROM, etc. the hardware only supports incremental updates. They fail to notice that generational changes requires 20x more HW resources. End result is that SDR are a 'cure' that's clearly worse than the disease. The whole project has been a bit of a fiasco in my opinion.

          The correct approach would be modular hardware with a signal processing chain that was both based on SDR principles and designed to enable easy-to-swap hardware upgrades. Even this is risky as the waveforms have intense requirements on the linear circuitry.

          The next thing to point out is that the boundary between SW and HW is very fuzzy. VHDL code leading to a sea of gates spans the boundary nicely. It's a spectrum.

    2. Rambler88

      Re: It's not free if it needs a dongle

      Mr. Hagan and El Andy are right. Apple is an old hand at "dynamic obsolescence" for hardware--in a class with the Detroit auto makers in the 50s and 60s, and presumably with the same future. And the fanbois wouldn't have it any other way--if they didn't have a new latest thing every couple of years, they wouldn't know they were alive.

  9. Andrew Hodgkinson

    Uuuh, it seems to prove the opposite

    People don't buy hardware either. They buy a device, and the device is the integral, inseparable sum total of its hardware and software. Most people probably wouldn't even be able to precisely tell you which bit was which.

    Apple recognised that very well written, stable, easy to use, tightly integrated software was a key component in devices. The original iPhone was, compared to other contemporary leading smartphones at release, poorly specified and expensive. But it sold like hotcakes not because of hype, or clichéd notions of hipsters and stereotypes, but because IT WORKED. Other smartphones were a ridiculous, confusing joke of numerous GUI metaphors, design paradigms and serious bugs all wrapped up in one uninspiring package.

    Moreover, the iPad and iPhone are often touted as being *all about* the software. "The device gets out of the way". Microsoft "borrowed" this quote, along with several others, when talking about Surface in their launch event. They've realised that you need to have the most unobtrusive hardware you can, which presents the best possible software in the best possible way to the user.

    This is why there are app stores, and why app stores generate lots and lots and lots of money. Software is key.

    In summary, I can't imagine many ways in which Mr. Asay could have been more wrong in his analysis.

    1. daveeff

      Re: Uuuh, it seems to prove the opposite

      People buy "solutions" - h/w without s/w is a paperweight, s/w without h/w isn't even that.

      The change is h/w is now cheap & fashionable. Only geeks buy PC's because of the look & the spec, everyone else bought them because they needed them for apps (business, games, ...). People do buy handhelds / phones /laptops because of the look & spec so h/w has a mass market appeal it never had before.

      Apple made h/w a consumer product - blue iMacs, white phones, ... They also tied s/w to h/w making it expensive and reliable but the cost can be hidden in the packaged solution.

      However, there are plenty of business users who want beige boxes to run apps to do something.

  10. a53

    "Ken Hagan

    It's not free if it needs a dongle. Software sold in a device is just using the device as a dongle."

    Er, which browsers, applications, phone numbers will a dongle connect me to please ?

  11. robmccoll

    Billion Dollar Industries with Billion Dollar Companies are Dead?

    Apple's app store is pure software sales, so they must have recently announced that it's not making any money... oh wait app store developers made $3.4 billion last year ( which translates to $1.5 billion for Apple at their 30% cut. But its Apples' brilliant hardware that really makes these sales... which is internally identical to the same hardware you get everywhere else and is mostly differentiated by excellent aesthetics and EXTREMELY GOOD SOFTWARE.

    Surely this is just a fluke example case, I mean it's not like one company could make €3.438 billion dollars by itself on software like.... SAP did in 2011 (and growing).

    But that's enterprise software. Everyone knows that Microsoft's consumer-facing product divisions make the real money... or actually that Microsoft's massive software licensing for Windows and Office in the enterprise props up all of its consumer sales in divisions like entertainment that flip back and forth between small (by Microsoft standards anyway) profit and loss every quarter.

    Software sure sounds dead to me.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The open software model only works so long as the leaches don't significantly outnumber the contributors.

    While there are companies still getting 100% of the benefit of their 'closed source' investments they feel able to take the risk of new investment and thus provide some forward momentum. If 'Software was Dead' then why take the risk of new doing development, your competitors would just share in the rewards at no risk. If there is a bug just hope that somebody else fixes it.

    The selfish, but logical choice is to only do what makes you money. If somebody else does do some development then take advantage, but don't risk your own money if it doesn’t give you a competitive advantage.

    Of course the reality of the current situation in mobile is that there may not be a licence fee but you are tied in much more securely than previously. E.G. would you buy, or could you sell an Android phone that only worked with search, mail and app store provided by a company such as LG? This is not an open model this is a lock you in forever model, the free sample to get you hooked. And once everybody is locked in to either Android or iPhone what is the motivation of either side to offer new free services? It's too much of a hassle for most people to move when they have so much invested. There will always be a few floating voters but not enough to cause concern.

    You only need to look at the number of fans of each system and the aggressive posts that are made by them to see the the investments here are emotional as much as financial. Say, you've spent £500 on iTunes, are you really going to say I've been a fool I should have bought an Android (or vice versa), you are more likely to try talking yourself (and everybody else) into affirming your decision.

    The battle will continue for a time yet while there is still markest share to be gained in the developing world but ultimately It looks like stagnation to me. The example of Microsoft and Nokia may well yet be used as a reason why you shouldn't try and challenge this duoppoly.

  13. a53

    It's not a badly written argument

    It's a badly written title.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not a badly written argument

      Above a badly written argument

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software isn't dead

    It maybe more splintered but surely not dead.

    There are still major environments where OSS simply has no or a minor foothold. Note that I'm not talking quantity here but quality.

    Take for example sound / sound processing or sound synthesis environments. Or even multimedia programming environments. There are open source alternatives available but more than often do those lack features which have already become mainstream within the market.

    For example; a big player when it comes to multimedia programming is Max/MSP(/Jitter) which also has an open source counterpart called Pure Data. But although Pure Data is an excellent environment it also lacks features in comparison, even if we're talking set standards. For example; many of these environments support the so called "ReWire"protocol; this allows different environments to communicate with each other and exchange (audio) data.

    Pure Data lacks this for quite some time. Doesn't have to be an issue perse depending on what you're using it for, but in many cases it makes its usage harder than it should be.

    And as far as hardware and free software go... A lot of these company sell software, and have recently started to produce and sell hardware (controllers) to enhance their software as well.

    So quite frankly; I'd suggest to look around further than merely some players on the market. The software market is much more extensive than merely Microsoft or Google, especially when you're looking at specific segments.

  15. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Surface has *nothing* to do with software

    It has to do with Microsoft getting it's lunch eaten by Apple who have control over the software *AND* hardware, while Microsoft's partners keep turning out the same bland crap that barely works, with no support.

    I bought an HP laptop and I had to fight to get the OS disks, then I had to fight to get recovery disks, then I had to fight again to get recovery disks THAT WORKED, all the while putting up with a support site and phone support system that mostly didn't work. I don't wonder why some of my friends, who are Apple fanatics, laugh at me and tell me to buy Apple.

    This is why Microsoft brought out Surface... to jolt its partners with "either you make better stuff or we will"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surface has *nothing* to do with software

      True. For example I always rated sleep on my PC are very poor and blamed Microsoft. Then for other reasons I changed my motherboard from an ASUS one to a Intel one and used the same OS version, hay presto it works. I hardly ever fully power down the PC now and it always wakes from sleep without any glitches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surface has *nothing* to do with software

        Just FYI, Asus M4A78LT-M sleeps and wakes very very nicely, in addition to the various other interesting motherboard features. I'd try the Intel ones, but I've always been something of an AMD type of guy as far as CPUs go.

        Even the Linux installation sleeps and wakes properly. Now that's amazing.

      2. kain preacher

        Re: Surface has *nothing* to do with software

        When I did warranty work for HP they would tell me that there is a bug in windows that makes it not sleep right. There was nothing that HP could do. With BS answers like that no wonder people hate PC.

  16. Kheldon

    The ignorance displayed in this article is astonishing!

    Apple sell Iphones, not IOS? Since when? Apples WHOLE marketing strategy is based around iTunes and the integration of IOS across devices! One of their major selling points is you are paying above the odds for the tech, but with a promise of free IOS updates.

    They take a small cut of apps sales..... Given Apples figures for 2010 as a net $4.1 billion from iTunes and the app store, this is the MAIN part of Apples business model, not something tagged on!!!

    I’m not even going to START on major players entering hardware/software and both markets in the last 22 years - that's possibly the most ludicrous statement I have ever read!

    1. Colin Millar

      Re: The ignorance displayed in this article is astonishing!

      Yep - it is up to his usual standard.

      Matt Asay seems to think that some grand convergence of market modelling is somehow inevitable in the it/software/tech industries without a shred of evidence to support it - indeed the long-standing diversity of succesful business models in the sector suggests completely the opposite.

      "Everyone is going to have to go the Apple way" (or the Facebook way if there isn't an "r" in the month) seems to be the standard line. Usually supported by quotes from "market analysts" (aka stockbrokers fluffers) who have an interest in talking up the market and evangelising the one true path to $$profits.

      Still - it usually makes for a good laugh on a slow afternoon.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The ignorance displayed in this article is astonishing!

      > Apples WHOLE marketing strategy is based around iTunes and the integration of IOS across devices!

      Erh, if you read Matt's article (properly this time rather than reading just the title) then I think you will find that this is exactly what he is saying.

      iTunes is a service and that is where Apple make the bulk of their money. Selling hardware and software is just a means to an end. Services is where the future is.

      Apple could release the source for their iTunes applications tomorrow (if they weren't so damn secretive) but they would still make their money from the services it provides. And that is access to their music catalogue.

      1. Sil

        Re: The ignorance displayed in this article is astonishing!

        The business model of Apple is full control over itunes.

        Of course it will never open source it, the success of itunes (from the point of view of Apple, not the consumer) is 100% control of the distribution channel.

        Had Apple opened itunes to competitors, or had Apple opened the iPhone/iPad to other non-itunes distribution channels, it would never have had the financial success it enjoys with what can only called abuse of monopoly power. And that's what everybody else is trying to replicate: Google (store), Amazon, Microsoft Marketplace, ...

  17. 404

    Kill it with fire...

    ... ya'll fanbois have your fun,,,

    ->biding my time with Win7Pro until Win8SE comes out, maybe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: fanbois

      Are you responding to some imaginary comment, or could you translate that into English please?

  18. Stephen Channell
    Thumb Down

    “Software is dead” line is twaddle

    Apple pretty much own the tablet market with huge economies of scale and scope to halve the price and still make a profit; but they have a weakness: iPad “is” just software and marketing with the hardware done by Foxconn in China.

    Too take-on Apple at its weak point, you need to be able to prime the actual hardware manufacture with a compelling prototype and a huge order.. and this is where MS Surface comes in: If Foxconn take the MS prototype and make it into a real product, it will have all the quality and finish of an iPad, but different software.. with plenty of scope for OEM to undercut on price, or simply stick a different label on the box.. in short “the Nexus play”.

    Too conclude that “Surface” -> “software dead” is both absurd (Apple hasn’t been a hardware company for a long time), and misguided: “Open Source” doesn’t mean there isn’t any money in software anymore, but the days sitting back on fat licence fees are gone.

  19. dlc.usa

    Libre? What About The Appliances?

    The GPL is all about not restricting the source code. If you modify it and distribute the modified binaries, you must also distributed the modified source under the same GPL you got it under. However, "appliance" computers need not distribute the source code used to compile the binaries that run inside them. This is believed to be within the letter of the GPL and apparently the FSF has no truck with this PoV. But most certainly the spirit of the GPL is, ah, compromised. Even IBM is guilty with the HMC and SE managerial appliances that control zSeries CECs. They are so unauditable the customer doesn't even know what packages are onboard. The boxes are fully networked and only the IBM Support Center can perform software maintenance upon them. The customers must take IBM's word that the appliances are completely secure and nobody on their support team can subvert their computational integrity--there is no way to audit them. But they have the connectivity to peruse and possibly interfere with just what exactly is going on in the customers' LPARs without the customers' technical staff having any way to determine if that processing has been compromised.

    So leave libre out of this opinion piece, please.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As usual in this column, there's too much gibberish to be bothered objecting to it all, but how do you convince even yourself that the following is true?

    "Microsoft has declared what much of the rest of the industry already knows: software is dead.

    ... "The market has not generated a large technology vendor oriented around selling software in twenty-two years," as Facebook, Google, Red Hat, and more have learned to sell services based upon or built around software. But the software itself? Free."

    For a start, software is not dead. The quote is in no way trying to say "software is dead", it's saying the top grossing software vendors have been around for some time. This is hardly surprising really, is it?

    Further, Facebook, Google, Red Hat and more have learned to sell services ... have they? Anyone paid Facebook or Google for their services recently? I've not. I was under the impression they made their money from advertising, and what they sell is knowledge of and access to market to their users.

    Does Red Hat make more money selling services than Microsoft make selling software?

    Does it fuck.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comments from the Metro hater.

    My daughter's on the Iconia right now. Playing games. Almost total instant addiction. This is good, because anything that f*cks Steve Jobs is good for me, because I hate the way he treats his customers. (Or put more accurately, it's embarrassing that members of my own species are so stupid as to let themselves be so used.)

    I'm going to have to buy three windows 8 tablets for my kids.

    Naturally this makes no difference whatsoever on the work front, as I really want Windows 8 as it's so fast, but want Metro dissolved because it's shit.

    Ps. all the people who can't get their Iconia 3g working. Download the Huawei drivers from the ASUS website instead.

    1. Jean-Luc

      Re: Comments from the Metro hater.

      >My daughter's on the Iconia right now. Playing games. Almost total instant addiction. This is good, because anything that f*cks Steve Jobs is good for me

      Wow, interesting parenting and incisive, relevant comment. I mean, you could replace it with

      "anything that f_cks %s..." % random(["Steve Ballmer","Sergei Brin","Richard Stallman",....])

      and it would be a fail as well.

      Plus, wasn't this article about the Windows tablet?

    2. A Long Fellow

      Re: Comments from the Metro hater.

      AC @ 17:35 writes...

      "Ps. all the people who can't get their Iconia 3g working. Download the Huawei drivers from the ASUS website instead."

      And THAT, in a nutshell, is how Apple has succeeded in a world where most people don't want to screw around with drivers...

  22. Rodrigo Rollan

    Gentlemen , choose your poison

    Don't get me wrong. I love The register. I love the comments section. I've learned a lot reading other people's comments and made a few contributions myself. But i am more and more often picking a trend that is starting to become an annoyance: the never ending feud between faction A and faction B (for variable values of a A and B, mainly Apple iOS-Android, Apple-Google, Apple-Microsoft, Linux-Windows, etc.).

    I know, people tend to be hot blooded (I love a good OS Bashing amongst friends) but seriously, I cannot but shriek when I see that some people defend brands or business models as if their lives depended on them. Like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM or whatever ? buy their products. They are all imperfect, prone to fail and will disappoint you eventually, because believe it or not even though they make your life easier than ever, provide you with countless features and are beautiful to the eye (of the beholder) they are only things made by a company to make money. That is it. And believe it or not, those companies will go out of their way to deprive you of your joy if that is what makes their bottom line blacker. So be kind, rewind and stop killing each other over utter bollocks.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Gentlemen , choose your poison

      holy wars /n./

      [from Usenet, but may predate it] /n./ flame wars over religious issues. The paper by Danny Cohen that popularized the terms big-endian and little-endian in connection with the LSB-first/MSB-first controversy was entitled "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace". Other perennial Holy Wars have included EMACS vs. vi, my personal computer vs. everyone else's personal computer, ITS vs. Unix, Unix vs. VMS, BSD Unix vs. USG Unix, C vs. Pascal, C vs. FORTRAN, etc., ad nauseam. The characteristic that distinguishes holy wars from normal technical disputes is that in a holy war most of the participants spend their time trying to pass off personal value choices and cultural attachments as objective technical evaluations. See also theology.

      1. Rodrigo Rollan
        Thumb Up

        Re: Gentlemen , choose your poison

        @Destroy all Monsters : indeed. But if my memory serves me right, the REAL Holy Wars never ended well , if indeed they have ever ended..... So this is another Really smart reason to fight right ? RIGHT ?!

  23. Charles Manning

    An un-shipped product proves nothing.

    Until this Surface thing has shipped and been responded to by the market it proves nothing.

    It is not even as relevant as Zune or Kin.

  24. Jean-Luc

    >Software is dead

    Quick, someone get on the phone and tell Larry Ellison Matt said he can't afford his new island anymore.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do vmware know this?

    Pass them the memo, I could do with some decent free virtualisation software!

  26. Sil
    Thumb Down

    Highly irrealistic

    Sounds seducing, is completely irrealistic.

    First Microsoft makes most of its money with software, and its profits dwarfs those of most internet companies - probably combined- even Facebook, and this for decades. As does Oracle, SAP and many others.

    Second Surface proves nothing. It does not exist economically it's vaporware until it is available. As many told, it is probably more a strategy to motivate its partners than really getting into the very low margin business of tablets. What Microsoft wants is to replicate Apples' success in taxing every piece of software - yes software, not services - with a monopoly-like 30% cut.

    Third nobody gives mountains of code. The contributions of Google or Facebook are absolutely dwarfed by what they earned with free software and of course what they open source does not bring any competitive advantage. The interesting code, such as many c++ uses @ facebook are highly not open source.

  27. Paul Hubert 1

    Even Microsoft Techs?

    This was some time ago, about 2002, when I reached MS 2nd level support for a virus on my Windows 2000 Pro box. The guy I spoke with told me he was building a hundred boxes a year "for friends and family" - all running Linux.

    I've only converted one person so far, but am likely to convert more.

    There IS an answer to oppressive use of proprietary licenses.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft hankers after openness?

    "the truly impressive thing about the launch of the Surface tablet is, as Reg-correspondent-turned-Bloomberg-hack Ashlee Vance writes, that Microsoft would finally risk annoying its OEM partners to build a holistic product that embeds software but doesn't attempt to sell that software".

    I thought MS launched it's own tablet as the iPAD was cutting into the virtual monopoly in its own OEM channel. As in MS can't dictate and play-off-against-one-another the major players in the mobile market.

    As for Microsofts conversion to open-source licensing, is this the same company already taxing Android developers through the aggressive promotion of its vast patent portfolio. We can assume such strategy will continue into the future and be extended to other licensees.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Massively overstating the case

    There are plenty of companies doing very well licensing software, like Oracle, SAP, IBM... and, most notably, Microsoft. They made $23.15 billion in profits last year, so they are not exactly dead. Licensing is still the predominant model.

    The mobile market has never been based upon software licensing to OEMs. Nokia, BB, Motorola, and the other mobile kings of the past never followed that model, so it is hardly anything new. Microsoft has never been able to compete with their model in mobile. Microsoft's major problem is just that their software has never been able to compete with Apple, Android and, in previous generations, BlackBerry. It is all about the software. No one buys a product for the case. No one cares what sort of processor is in their phone. Google is actually doing well with Microsoft's distributed OEM model although they chose to take their cash in ads rather than licenses. It is really the first time that an OS provider has been able to push their OS across all sorts of OEMs in mobile. If anything, that would indicate that the trend is toward the distributed (rather if it is licensed or not) model in mobile.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Massively overstating the case

      "There are plenty of companies doing very well licensing software, like Oracle, SAP, IBM... and, most notably, Microsoft"

      (27:16) "Most of hardware is software", Larry Ellison

  30. johnwerneken

    PROPERTY is what is dead

    The whole idea of being able to build something, charge for it, and then charge for it again, is WHAT IS DEAD: PROPERTY. Creators may get a kiss for the creation but tomorrow will need to serve or create again. "What have you done for me lately" and TOTAL economic insecurity is the future. Those who adapt will enjoy it; may the others please starve or go broke quietly lest civilized people have to nuke em.

  31. Joerg

    Nonsense. Without iOS apps Apple wouldn't be selling hardware at all!

    What made iOS the huge success it is among common people (not programmers nor power users) that then made it a success for developers, because common people owning Apple iOS devices are willing to spend a few bucks on the apps they like, it's just the Apps that mostly freelance developers created and keep creating for iOS. And although some Apple policies for apps are some times dumb negating good apps to be allowed in the iTunes App Store, that still gave an higher qualtiy control level and there are more quality apps on iOS than on any other platform.

    WindowsPhone is plagued by the mess that MetroUI is all about, just plain unusable.

    Android is a Java Virtual Machine over Linux mess on its own and Google doesn't care about quality at all. And Android customers don't want to pay for apps, they want everything for free.

    1. M Gale

      "Android customers don't want to pay for apps, they want everything for free."

      My hundred-odd pounds worth of paid apps stands in stark contrast to your statement.

      Android "customers" just have a much larger selection of adware than on iOS.

  32. kiwi13

    "At long last, Microsoft is a poised to be a competitor again"

    Yes but this time they have zero chance of destroying all the competition.

  33. GitMeMyShootinIrons

    "The market has not generated a large technology vendor oriented around selling software in twenty-two years,"

    Never heard of VMware?

  34. LDS Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Asay shows once more he has not a clue and his agends is not the world agenda

    MS has only understood that if it has to wait for HW manufacturer to deliver a decent Windows tablet they had to wait forever. And they plan to sell **more** software licenses on their store, exactly how Apple does getting a 30% fee on every license sold - even those of software not made by them.

    Hardware without software is just an expensive piece of junk. Developing software costs, good developers cost, and not everybody can sell his customers' data to pay for that.

    Moreover there's not only "consumer" software, there's professional software and server software, and there people pay as long as software is good and what they're looking for.

    I've just paid over €40 for a plane add-on for Flight Simulator X (the new RealAirSiulation Lancair Legacy). Why I paid when there are free add-ons? Because that's a great piece of software, developed by great developers and much better than most of what you can find around. They can' make money selling "services" or "support", nor traking your "flights" and selling those data to marketing lusers.

    Software is not dead. Crappy software is dead. Whatever is payware or open source. And Asay's agenda is not the rest of the world agenda.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software is sort of ead

    Platform services is the future is for the big enterprise type applications so big software is certainly dead or dying. However, little software, mobile apps, will be here for quite some time yet until they too can be shifted to the could.

    Cloudified software services is the future, we all know this and everything else is transitional, just a stop gap to where we WILL be ultimately. That might take 10 years or it might take 20 years, but it is happening already. There isn't a business in the world that would not love to get rid of its IT operations - note I say IT operations, not the whole of IT, elements such as IT strategy are essential to business development. Even software companies want to outsource their IT operations (I work for a large software vendor and we do just that because IT operations is not core to us, it's an overhead).

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Software is sort of ead

      "There isn't a business in the world that would not love to get rid of its IT operations". There's no **bad** businnes that would not love to get rid of its IT operation. Why don't they outsource management, sales, HR, marketing, lawyers? IT is today **the foundation** of every business. Outsource it and you're outsourcing your whole business - all the relevant data are in someone's else hand who has very little interest in proper management but money. IT is still perceived as a "cost only" by executives who have not a clue about their business is run.

      And software companies that outsource IT are giving away all their relevant skills. If you believe IT operations are an overhead, I wonder what kind of software you sell, because your losing all the skills related to IT and software managment. That's probably why I see software vendors, even large ones, sending us people that shows very little skills in whatever they should do wit the software/hardware they sell. Up to the point that ours sysadmins can do **their** work in less time and far better. Because I can control who's hired and why, and don't just look for "cheap" people, and who cares if they're not up to the task.

  36. Zed Zee

    Comparing apples with oranges.

    "companies like Facebook, Google, Red Hat, and more have learned to sell services based upon or built around software" - that's because their products are not good enough for enterprise-class solutions. So they have targeted social, search and companies that cannot afford business software. Microsoft has been a corporate stalwart since the dawn of the PC- where was open source during that time? This really is apples and oranges you are comparing here.

    "free as in freedom" - if by this statement you mean software fragmentation, then you're right.

    Regardless of the software that Apple uses, how it presents this software to customers is COMPLETELY and UTTERLY closed.

    "Apple sells iPhones, not iOS." But it has and still does charge for OS X, even though that might be perceived as being 'cheaper' than Microsoft. Do you really think every Microsoft corporate customer pays the off-the-shelf price for Windows? That's a naive.

    "Google has open sourced Android" - not quite. It's not a view shared by everyone, especially phone manufacturers. And besides, Android is so mobile-phone oriented, there's really no point in developing it for any other type of device. Some have tried to offer a desktop/notebook version, but come on, that is nowhere really, isn't it? All one has to do is type in "is android truly open" in (ironically) Google search and you'll soon find differing and contradicting opinions.

    "a holistic product that embeds software but doesn't attempt to sell that software." - well, the mobile phone/tablet market is different from desktop/notebook/server. Surely you didn't think that Microsoft would insist that customers pay for the hardware AND the WinPhone 7 as well, did you? I mean, who is doing that in this market? No one! So why would Microsoft shoot itself, so stupidly, in the foot? this is really common sense, it's not a revelation or something to write about; it goes without saying!

    Other vendors are just not as successful as Microsoft in the other industries, so people - like the author of this article - continue to attempt to compare apples with oranges. What's Google Docs' market share in contract with MS Office, in office productivity tools? How many corporates use Apple servers versus Wintel? How many people do you know that own a ChromeBook?

  37. Dropper

    Software Isn't Dead

    I don't think this proves anything except Microsoft have produced another shite version of Windows no one will be interested in. They've been doing this since the days of MS-DOS. Obviously this version has no place whatsoever in a work environment, the first then any IT department is going to do will be to wipe if off any PC that arrives and replace it with an operating system that makes sense.

    It's like that ribbon shite they put into Office, they've just changed things for the sake of changing something. Sure people who still use safety sissors might find this special needs interface necessary in order to load a program, but those of us who moved on from colouring books and crayons will probably not embrace it.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Innovation is dead

    Seems that everyone is following Apple these days and designing white and black tablets or phones that look very like each other.

    If you cut out the bullshit what is being sold is very boring hardware being tied to a service that is dependent on connectivity and what started that? Facebook.

    One of the reasons I loved the PC (and I'm talking about the hardware here, not OS choice) is you had so much room to customise your hardware (hard disk size, CPU, graphics, RAM, case and lighting) whereas what we are being sold now is boring to look at and difficult to use for anything meaningful, not all of us want one and I bet the apps aren't programmed on a touch screen.

    If MS walks away from the PC form factor I suspect a lot of system builders will go by the wayside too so the situation will be bad for Linux fans too.

    Modern culture is killing technology innovation.

  39. David Strum

    Microsoft or Motherspider

    In other words – the Mother Spider has worked itself to death, and now the little ones are eating her remains to continue the cycle. Microsoft has been a great driver in computer technology; but now that the idea of “Windowing” the computer screen is well established, the frontier has shifted to what is presented and by what hardware – not “what novel Operating System” does the presentation.

    But I disagree that Software is Dead entirely: it’s more like the novelty of the Operating System has lost its prime appeal. Who really cares if it’s Windows 7, 8, 9 or 1000? as long as we get our pictures, videos and emails sent! But applications and games will still be selling – even if they are just 10p each.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    App store?

    1 billion dollar Apple app store? Wouldnt Microsoft want to emulate this?

    Certainly not dead.

  41. Lamont Cranston

    I have to agree with Gordon 10.

    "Free" is a much abused term. I get a "free" phone with my mobile talk plan, expect that it's not really a free phone, no more than iOS is a free operating system - it's complimentary, if anything, but it isn't free.

    Likewise, I got Windows for free when I bought my first PC (no, I didn't, I paid for it, but it's all wrapped up in the same package, so the consumer doesn't notice).

  42. Steve Schmidt

    Software Value and Licensing

    Interesting insight into the holistic nature of Surface specifically, but the bigger picture is that software vendors need to understand changes in 1) the value of software in the whole solution and 2) the way software is being monetized. The value of the software is going up (not down), as it is the primary differentiator from one offering to another. This applies to the Apple ecosystem that was used as an example – being seen in both in the set of apps that are available for purchase, as well as the foundational components like iTunes and iOS. It also applies to numerous devices with embedded software in other vertical markets such as networking, medical, industrial automation, test and measurement, automotive, etc. Many hardware components are being commoditized, and the software on those systems delivers an increasing proportion of the benefits.

    The way the software is being monetized is often different than before, though. Software is still being licensed for use, but the license models are changing and delivery may be tied to the hardware and/or a service. In additional to traditional per-user or per-device models for packaged software, there are subscription models, freemium models, pay-per-use models, and others. Licensing models need to evolve to address the new customer expectations regarding mobility, hosting, and accessibility, among other requirements. It’s often necessary to offer multiple license models in order to address a broad customer base.

    Steve Schmidt – Flexera Software

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