back to article Forgetting Microsoft: How Steve Ballmer's Surface could win

In a Windows world we bought the product. In Google's world we are the product. Judging from market share trends, we apparently don't mind being bought and sold. At least, so long as the price is right. Yes, Apple gets all the news (and profits), but it's Google Android that is set to displace Microsoft Windows by 2016, …


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  1. FartingHippo


    So Microsoft might come back. Or they might not.

    They might have to change to do it. Or they might not.

    They might shift to a hardware/software ecosystem manufacturer. Or they might not.

    What an informative article.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Re: Confused

      It might be informative, or it might not be. The only thing not in doubt is how fucked microsoft are.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        Microsoft are far from fscked - they are going to be one of the most valuable companies in the market.

        With $150Bn in cash, once they divest themselves of this silly little software sideline they can become a very sucessful hedge fund.

      2. Mark .

        Re: Confused

        Yeah, wake me up when your ipad finally has copy/paste and maps that actually work.

        Now I like Android myself, but the arguments against Windows as a whole being doomed make no sense. If it's true that the Windows tablets are doomed because people like their PCs to stay as PCs, then so what - sure, the Windows tablets are doomed, but MS will carry on selling Windows on those PCs that people still buy, and ipads will stay a niche fad.

        OTOH, if tablets are the future, then it's not true that Windows tablets are doomed - even if they don't retain their 90% share, MS will still continue to grow in sales. Apple manage to get lots of love even when their share is often a pathetic 10%.

        Personally I'm not giving up my keyboard anytime soon, but that also means I'm going to continue buying PCs, not oversized feature phones.

        Unless you're suggestion that both Windows is doomed because people don't like touchscreens, but also everyone will throw away their devices for touchscreen-*only* devices. That are far more locked down than MS. Then, I just know you're an Apple shill.

    2. ratfox Silver badge

      Ok ok, since you want to know, I'll tell you.

      Microsoft 8 will be a failure.

      Steve Ballmer will eventually get kicked out, but only after a long drop of market share.

      Microsoft will never have so much influence as it did, though it will keep a niche business for corporate solutions.

      Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

      Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.

      You will also meet a dark stranger under the influence of Saturn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I thought that the relevant part of the spell for the Surface was...

        Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—

        Make the gruel thick and slab:


        Re: Ok ok, since you want to know, I'll tell you.

        Microsoft become niche?

        Nah. It'll bounce right back with a Windows 9 that's not anywhere near as shit as 8 is. Just like they did with Vista -> 7

      3. Anonymous Coward


        Maybe the whole CEO cycle works the same way as the "Windows cycle". You know: Good version, Bad version, Good version....

        I think Gates wasn't all too bad as a CEO. Now we have Ballmer who likes throwing chairs; who knows... Maybe the next one will actually have a good feel for technology again.

    3. Steve I

      Re: Confused

      It's not supposed to be 'informative' - it's someone thinking out loud, mulling over the possibilities as they see them.

      It's written by someone who doesn't get upset if they're not spoon-fed 'facts', but likes think for themself and try to foresee where the future is going.

      It's aimed at people who will say "Interesting; I hadn't thought of that." or "Yes, that makes sense, but perhaps you also need to consider..."

      Maybe it's not for you.

      1. FartingHippo

        @Steve I

        "It's not supposed to be 'informative'"

        Don't be such a pompous wally, this is a tech news and comment site. The former should be informative, and the latter informative and lay out a writers opinion. Both should obviously entertain. The job of a decent journalist is to synthesize the facts and, if writing a comment piece like this one, provide a reasoned opinion one way or the other (note: you can still lay out both sides of the argument). The reader can then assess the facts and either agree or otherwise. Simply presenting a list of things which may or may not happen is sloppy, amateurish, and rather dull.

        It's far more interesting to be presented a point of view on a topic, even if you disagree with it. See also every newspaper columnist since time began, or look at the vibrant discussion generated on one of Lewis's or Andrew O's articles.

      2. O RLY

        Re: Confused

        It's written by someone who doesn't get upset if they're not spoon-fed 'facts', but likes think for themself and try to foresee where the future is going.

        The author's name and sex are clear. There is no reason, at all, to use the emetic and appalling construct "themself" to attempt gender-neutrality. Ever.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Confused

            "Also in english the indefinite gender is always male..."

            Was. At least where I live, I'd say the usage changed about a generation ago. The first stage was an insistence that plain "he" should be avoided, but nothing terribly pleasing was offered to replace it ("one" had disappeared about a generation earlier still, being considered too posh for the cool people who were about to inherit the Earth) and so we laboured under the aesthetic dead-weight of "he or she" for a while. More recently, "they" has become pretty much standard and it has dragged "themselves" in its wake. However, in my experience people nearly always use "they" with plural verbs, so "themself" is still an abomination.

            1. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: Confused

              > "one" had disappeared

              Bring it back. It is both elegant and correct.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Confused

            Also in english the indefinite gender is always male... [and further rubbish]

            Nothing shows false pedantry like an unqualified prescriptivist generalization about English usage; it instantly demonstrates both an utter refusal to acknowledge how language works, and a glaring ignorance of how English in particular is currently and has historically been used. And, of course, it is a favorite stomping ground of the schoolmarmish sort who are always ready to declaim "facts" but not so ready to think critically.

            That's literate English.

            No, it's ignorance masquerading as fact.

            Out of curiosity, what are your credentials for lecturing us on what "literate English" might be? I admit I don't work in the "literate English" industry myself, but I do hold a B.Sci. in the subject, and I'm ABD in English Literature, and I'm on the verge of completing my MA in Rhetoric. I've given a dozen or so presentations at language-related academic conferences and I have a handful of academic publications in the area. My wife is a professor of literature and rhetoric, and the chair of the major US national organization of college-level English teachers. So I'll admit to a certain familiarity with the subject.

      3. Jean-Luc

        @Steve I & Re: Confused

        Yeah, call me a dumb, unimaginative, engineer, but this article lost me at :

        "Given Microsoft's continued reliance on an outdated, licence-based revenue model"

        Say what you will about Microsoft, but they do seem to make money. Despite their software. It is far from obvious that playing the Bing adsearch game would make them near as much. I think Matt would have fitted in very well in the late 90s and early 00s, with the "revenue is an outdated concept" crowd. I respect good imaginative marketing (and good accounting), it is a godsend. Sloppy build-it-and-they-will-come marketing? Less so.

        "Fortunately, Microsoft has plenty of experience playing Google's online game, what with Bing and Hotmail"

        That depends on how you define "fortunately" ;-)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: @Steve I & Confused

          Yeah, call me a dumb, unimaginative, engineer, but this article lost me at :

          "Given Microsoft's continued reliance on an outdated, licence-based revenue model"

          Say what you will about Microsoft, but they do seem to make money.

          Indeed, this piece seems to wallow about at Assay's usual level. I keep giving him another chance, and he keeps turning out mush like this - the sort of thing I mocked in the '80s when it was proclaiming "the death of the mainframe" (been a long time dying) and in the '90s when it was "the death of the fat client" (ditto) and so on.

          Microsoft is a huge business. Some of their size comes from the consumer end, true, and that is likely to continue to shrink for a while, because a portion of the market has found something else it's willing to buy instead. Some of their size comes from corporate desktops, and again a portion of that - likely a smaller portion - will defect to various alternatives. Some of the big business apps that drive Microsoft's server-side sales will migrate to (non-Microsoft) cloud platforms. But it will be a long, long time before businesses can unwind themselves from Windows - just as they're still using "legacy" platforms like CICS.

          And perhaps Microsoft will eventually dwindle and be bought out by someone else and disappear as the major industry force it is now. So what? Few companies last forever, and that's not going to happen anytime soon. So there's little to be said for predicting it (particularly in a maze of hedging). The simple fact is that Microsoft doesn't need to beat Google in consumer-device OS dominance. They'd like to, because they like to make money. But if they lose it, they'll just become smaller - and they'll still be important.

          It doesn't help to throw in banalities like "developers go where the volume is", either. Developers go where they think the money is. Some want to chase opportunities like Android; others are content to collect a steady paycheck working on software that may not be the flavor of the week, but continues to be used.

          Oh, and as for "the sexiest nun in the convent": hey, if it was good enough for Meg Tilly...

    4. Mage Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Confused

      They have Matt Asay because he is popular with all the other writers. Many may hate what Andrew Orlowski writes sometimes, but he can write coherently most of the time. When do follow what Matt is saying, is usually seems like nonsense anyway.

  2. hplasm

    We are not the product-

    We are the target.

    You can ignore an advert (GOOG )- you can't ignore an invoice. (MS)

    1. lauri_hoefs

      Re: We are not the product-

      Information about us is the product.

      1. hplasm

        Re: We are not the product-

        Demographics are worth nothing except to demographics companies that sell them :)

        Stupid consumers are where the money lies.

    2. Ant Evans

      Re: We are not the product-

      Agreed. I don't find Google's model compelling in the long run, because

      1. What I get from them is not only worth more, but costs more, than what they get from me, even at the margin

      2. Barriers to entry aren't any higher now than they were in 2001, at least in search. A Google was considered unlikely then, and it happened anyway.

      Barriers to entry are higher in the enterprise, where the money is. The Surface, and Win 8, don't matter when your customers are bleeding the same ELA subscription regardless.

      So is MS really in competition with GOOG? Everyone is afraid of Google because of their habit of loss leading markets away. But other than local search on Android, I struggle to see Google's stickiness.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Developers go where the volume is" is clearly a falsehood, as

    1. if this were true, Linux would not attract any developers at all, therefore there must be something else that draws them

    2. developers go, like everyone else, to where the MONEY is. That is why iOS still comes first, despite Matt's insistence.

    I read an articel today about how the new Nexus devices were supposedly an attack on Apple, but let's see, which other company has been trying to flog their new tablet-y devices this week?

    Google are indeed going after Microsoft

    1. Mark .

      Re: Tsk

      "if this were true, Linux would not attract any developers at all, therefore there must be something else that draws them"

      But it does get less. Of course not all developers go for the most popular platform. One key point ought to be the demand together with competition - so smaller platforms should still have some developers, but less.

      "That is why iOS still comes first,"

      Nope, why does it also get more support even for free stuff?

      It's nothing to do with share or money, it's just the same unfair support that Apple always gets, whilst more popular platforms that most people actually use are ignored.

      "which other company has been trying to flog their new tablet-y devices this week? Google are indeed going after Microsoft"

      I think timing is a poor argument, but what about ipad 4 and this "mini" that's finally stopped being vaporware?

      The Surface RT still has some relevance for those who want a keyboard, Office, or easier interoperability with Windows. Apple have just been smoked into irrelevance though, with their new device being poorer in specs and far more expensive than the Nexus 10.

      There's also the point that Google are targetting their device at media consumption like Apple, and not productivity like MS. Hell, they're even competing and way outdoing directly on the one spec that Apple focused on (resolution). Meanwhile, the ipad is Apple's flagship and one hit wonder, whilst the Surface RT is just a small part of MS. The Nexus 10 looks great, and makes an ipad irrelevant, but it's little competition for Windows PCs.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QOTW... already?

    I LOL'd, IRL even: "owning the desktop is like being the sexiest nun in the convent.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QOTW... already?

      Oh dear. Now I will have to Google "Nun on nun action".

      1. hplasm

        Re: "Nun on nun action"

        Penguin Wrestling.

      2. captain veg

        Re: QOTW... already?

        Funny thing is, my father was a nun.


  5. George 8

    Am I the opnly one...

    Who read this

    "Above all, it brings all of Google services, built straight into the device."

    and thought what would have happened if it had have read:

    "Above all, it brings all of Microsoft services, built straight into the device."

    I guess the EU/US administrators would be all over Microsoft. Lets have a fair playing field eh chaps... Why should google devices have the monoply of google only services?

    1. Tom 35

      Why should google devices have the monoply of google only services?

      I have a Nexus 7 and it did come with all the Google services. But I had no problem installing a different email client, video player, browser...

      I'm not locked to Google only. That's one of the big reasons why I bought the Nexus and not an iThing. It will take a while and maybe a service pack before I know if (not)WindowsRT is like Apple or not. Will it be IE only for example?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Gartner's predictions are meaningless

    Here's another of Gartner's genius "insights" in 2006 just before the iPhone came out:

    "Gartner Invest believes that it is time for Apple to license the Macintosh, and that Dell would be the best partner. Apple would benefit from expanded distribution, Dell would benefit from the differentiated products, and Intel would benefit from wider sales of a non-AMD platform."

    Better information - and cheaper - from any astrologist in the back classifieds

    1. Steve I

      Re: Gartner's predictions are meaningless

      At least they were prepared to make a statement about what they thought should happen. Where're your insights?

    2. Bob Vistakin

      Re: Gartner's predictions are meaningless

      Speaking of stunning insights regarding the iPhone from a visionary tech guru:

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Gartner's predictions are meaningless

      Gartner's actual claim is that Android will be "used on more systems" than Windows by 2016. I've heard similar claims for the keyboard controller chip on the original IBM PC. It tells you nothing about where the money is.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gartner advice to Apple

      "Gartner Invest believes that it is time for Apple to license the Macintosh, and that Dell would be the best partner. Apple would benefit from expanded distribution, Dell would benefit from the differentiated products, and Intel would benefit from wider sales of a non-AMD platform".

      Good advice from Gartner, if Apple had taken them up on it they would be number one on the desktop as well as everywhere else.

  7. Mike Judge


    "Microsoft has plenty of experience playing Google's online game, what with Bing and Hotmail and its other online services, coupled with associated online advertising. "

    Really? Did you just put Microsoft's services onpar with Google and Gmail, seriously????

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: Baahhhaaa

      I don't see a statement of quality, so effectively the answer would be "No". Recognizing that services compete doesn't equate any specific level of quality to the competition.

    2. Steve I

      Re: Baahhhaaa

      Yeah - that was funny. But he just laughed it out of town. Had he given some thought and reason behind why he thought it'd fail and explained those reasons, he wouldn't have looked so stupid.

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: Baahhhaaa

      "Really? Did you just put Microsoft's services onpar with Google and Gmail, seriously????"

      Bing and Google seem to return similar results to me. I use Bing because I prefer the layout. I only switch back to Google if I want to search newsgroups, which I haven't done in some time. Do you have examples of search terms that return relevant information in Google but not in Bing? If not, then your comment is mistaken. As to vs. Gmail. What makes inferior (genuine question)?

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Baahhhaaa

          "@harmony - You're using a different bing to the one I occasionally visit then. Bing is pretty awful at returning relevant results. All that's a failure given that all the SEO's are gaming google."

          You've skipped the part of my post where I asked for a few examples of search terms that returned relevant results in Google but not in Bing.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Baahhhaaa

            "You've skipped the part of my post where I asked for a few examples of search terms that returned relevant results in Google but not in Bing."

            Note also that to make that a fair comparison, we would need to use a system that neither Google nor Bing had ever seen before. Google certainly remembers what you've searched for. Presumably Bing does, too, so if you've been using Bing ever since it came out and let them accumulate everything, switching to Google for a day would be a dismal experience.

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: Baahhhaaa

              That's interesting. They certainly both remember some stuff. But do they actually use previous searches to influence new searches? Genuinely interested if so in how that works.

      2. JC_

        Re: Baahhhaaa

        Bing and Google seem to return similar results to me. I use Bing because I prefer the layout.

        I'd mostly agree, but google search has two useful features:

        * filter by date

        * decent shopping results

      3. phr0g

        Re: Baahhhaaa

        I say this as a fan of MS on many levels, and as a developer for serious stuff. ie NOT iOS or Android.

        I say this as someone who now runs W8 on laptop and desktop and wants a Surface and a Nokia 920.

        But when I did a MS C# course recently I went back to the office and needed to download the some extra course material. I inadvertently fired up IE9 and typed my search using the MS code for the course and some text relating to extra material. Bing gave me ZERO results. Fired up Google and it was the first hit, of many.

        Bing is crap, really crap, it can't even find Microsoft's own stuff!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I use Bing because I prefer the layout?

        > Bing and Google seem to return similar results to me. I use Bing because I prefer the layout

        Results from Googling and Binging (?) on "Matt Asay"

        [ Google]

        Matt Asay | LinkedIn

        Asay: Offline and Off-topic

        Matt Asay (mjasay) on Twitter

        8 Dec 2010 – Asay leaves Canonical to joining Strobe, an early stage open-source start-up.

        5 Feb 2010 - Open source industry veteran Matt Asay joins Canonical as chief operating officer


        The Open Road - The business and politics of open source

        Matt Asay | LinkedIn

        Matt Asay • The Channel

        Asay: Offline and Off-topic

        Matt Asay (mjasay) on Twitter

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: I use Bing because I prefer the layout?

          That's an interesting one. You quoted the first five links on each page. Three of the five on each side are duplicated on the other with two different in each case. I've just tried your search to see what the rest of the page is and one of the ones missing from the top five ("Assay joins Canonical...") is present in the other just

          not in the top five and one of the ones you list as not showing up in the top five actually does for me. Which might be regional differences (I'm in the UK for reference).

          I'm not sure if you were posting to agree with me or disagree with me or just for interest, but it seems for the top five results on a page, we get a a lot of duplication, which rises if you go beyond the first five results. For instance, all of the five you listed for Google show up on the Bing page (with the exception of a story about Matt joining Strobe) and Google has all of the Bing ones except for The Channel link which it is missing. Again, I'm not sure if you were making a specific point or just commenting, but it seems to demonstrate what I said: if I'm looking for stuff on Matt Assay, I get all the major links in both search engines' first page. Just not necessarily the same ones in the top five (though three of them are).

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "Apple is happy to occupy the premium segment of the market"

    An old phone and UI with limited features compared to todays offerings. And that's the premium segment of the market??

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Yep, seeing as what price they charge for it ;)

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        More importantly the fact that people are willing to pay for premium prices for it defines it.

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      It does exactly what it says on the tin...

      ... and does it pretty damned well.

      The only smart-phone device I've been asked to help decode for a relative is... an Android one. (Running one o the 2.x releases. It's a Samsung Galaxy Advance.) That device's GUI is such a godawful pile of shite, it completely explains why Apple's kit sells so well. It's exactly what's wrong with the old school approach of leaving design entirely to programmers with no imagination, creativity or design talent. Not for nothing were the first few major versions of Android referred to as a nasty iOS knock-off that completely missed the point. And the 2.x releases are still by far the most common.

      There is such a thing as "too much choice". Ask any good designer. There are textbooks and such explaining all the science behind it, you know. It's not as if Ive and his team just make this stuff up. You can even get degrees in design. It's a science, not an art. Cognitive Science really does exist.

      Reading the endless wanking here about how much "better" [INSERT PRODUCT OR OS HERE] would be if it offered millions of pointless options and features only a tiny, tiny minority would ever bloody use is shocking. This is supposed to be an IT site. You'd think, after nigh-on 15 years of companies like Apple proving the value of good design and integration, some of you would have grokked it by now.

      The days when the programmers and nerds who worship solely at the feet of the fallen gods of Technologis and Bulletpointia are over. Just deal with it and shut up, because you're not just wrong. You're not even part of the problem with the IT sector today. You ARE the problem.

  9. M Gale

    Apple never dominated anything.

    At least not outside of some graphic design and publishing businesses. They had a brief blip due to putting a proper web browser in a mobile phone and having a shit-ton of advertising done for free by fans in said design & publishing businesses. Now a less vertically-integrated (and mostly free) option is available, surprise surprise it's overwhelmingly popular.

    This is a good thing. Apple are worse than Microsoft in some ways. Two peas in a pod, I call 'em.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Apple never dominated anything.

      O So Wrong Mr Gale.

      They dominate the profits made in the mobile industry. They dominate the NYSE in terms of market cap.

      Ignoring those facts in an attempt to pander to your irrational hatred of apple is just sad.

      Im not a fanboi but credit where credit is due their approach has propelled them to the top of the mobile heap for longer than anyone except nokia and whilst all good things come to an end - I cant see it happening that quickly.

      1. M Gale

        Re: Apple never dominated anything.

        My dislike of Apple is far from irrational. If it was, I wouldn't mention "proper web browser in a phone".

        My dislike of Apple comes from their attitude of locking people into an expensive ecosystem, in ways that Microsoft only wish they could emulate. It's been going on for far longer than the iThings, too. Want a new power supply for that G3 power mac? Sure, that'll be a couple of hundred quid please. Never mind that it's a bog standard ATX power supply with the pins changed and a 21V line for some reason. The iThings with the curated app store, no other way other than Apple's of doing anything at all, and every chance a popular app could be emulated by Apple and then banned due to replicating functionality, is just a logical progression for this company.

        Ignoring that in an attempt to make me look irrational is, well, just sad.

        1. Sel

          Re: Apple never dominated anything.

          Apple do dominate a couple of things:

          1. (and I hate this word) Innovation in user interface, the iPhone was the first committed touch based device and UI. Yes others have copied that since but they didn't come up with a working product until they saw another one. I have stopped counting the amount of MacOS and OSX features Windows and Ubuntu have tried to emulate over the years. They really do make very sophisticated UI where the last word in sophistication is 'SIMPLE'. Making things simple should be the purpose of computers in most people's eyes. Nobody delivers on this like Apple do.

          2. Focus on a coherent end user experience. Other organisations have a tendency to focus feature comparisons (including the price). Getting a tick in the box is often missing the point.

          All that said they are or will become just as monopolistic in attitude as Microsoft.

  10. Rob Thorley


    by the thought of sexy nuns, I neglected to finish the article...

    1. Jediben
      Thumb Up

      Re: Distracted

      On a related note, Hitman: Absolution in 21 days!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does not account for the fanboy

    It is probably true that Apple could give away iPhones and iPods and still make a profit from their iTunes store. They choose not to because there is a general perception that something that costs nothing is worth nothing and something that is cheap is worth even less. The battle is not just on dollar is on intangibles like perception. The biggest thing that Winodws 8 has for it currently is the rather natty (or not) ad.

    1. Smallbrainfield

      Re: Does not account for the fanboy

      I think it's the other way around, old chap. Apple make their money on hardware. The iTunes store has a high turnover, but the profits are small compared to what they make selling iPods, iPhones and iPads.

  12. jubtastic1

    The problem with the 'give it away for free' model

    And even the 'sell it at cost' model, Is that your customers absolutly have to purchase your content and services later to pay for it, which means the hardware is going to have to be locked down solidly if you expect to stay in business, otherwise you'll be reading the news one day to discover that some enterprising bastard has created a cluster out of a million of your free tablets.

    I for one prefer the old school 'people get paid when I buy something and it's mine to do with as I like' model.

    1. M Gale

      Re: The problem with the 'give it away for free' model

      Upvoted, because I've been downvoted a few times for stating facts.

      For "sell it at cost" model, see Playstation, Xbox and Wii. Oh, and Geohotz.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: The problem with the 'give it away for free' model

      It doesn't have to be locked down if you provide the best buying/usage experience.

      Apple need lock-in because while itunes is nicely integrated with your credit card and ipod/phone, it doesn't match the value for money, nor the breadth of products for sale that amazon has. You don't look on itunes for a new computer and it probably isn't the first place for books either.

      It is much easier to say, "we have great stuff for you, use this device to get it," than, "We have this great device, please buy whatever we want to sell you through it and only use it for what we want you to."

  13. h4rm0ny

    What an enormous pile of unsupported conjecture.

    Statements that would require a bit of support in any essay.

    "But owning the desktop is like being the sexiest nun in the convent"

    Global PC shipments were 351 million per year in 2010 according to Gartner. And it had been rising year on year up to that point. Has it abruptly nose-dived in the last two years, then? Probably not. So actually owning the desktop is less like "being the sexiest nun in the convent" and more like "being the provider of hundreds of millions of products to enterprise and home use every year." I feel that the original analogy therefore doesn't quite work.

    And note that whilst laptops have been increasingly taking away from desktop machines, that's not yet been the same market segment as the tablet market (as tablets haven't yet filled the productivity requirement for most people). So if you want to extend the discussion to laptops, it doesn't really take away there either as MS have the lion's share of that market too. So a nun that is sexier than it's non-nun friend as well, I suppose. Analogies are not an argument. Particularly bad ones.

    What else ? This :

    "Microsoft put on a good show last week at its Windows 8 launch, but the only thing that really matters is how well Windows performs in mobile device markets."

    The only thing? Hardly. MS are establishing an integrated ecosystem both in business and in the home. Success with home gaming and media, e.g. via the Xbox, obviously matters because this provides a big incentive to people to go down the MS route with their mobile devices. Smartglass is really impressive. MS's presence in the corporate market also provides a big enticement to go down the MS route with mobile devices. Everywhere you read "SkyDrive" you can substitute your corporate cloud service if you choose. MS have a really strong business set up for BYOD which is one of the next big things with this. Both of these areas feed in massively to the success of mobile devices. And that ties directly into the success of the Surface and OEM Windows 8 / RT devices too. What the Hell does "only thing that matters is... mobile devices" mean? Desktop, entertainment (games, music, movies), MS Office, services (Azure, Office 365, Sharepoint), server market (Server 2012) all matter enormously to the success of MS and also stimulate the mobile devices market. The "only matters" statement is worthless.

    "Given Microsoft's continued reliance on an outdated, licence-based revenue model, Microsoft may have an uphill battle winning in mobile"

    Outdated? It makes them over fifteen billion annually. It works and will continue to work for a long time. And what's the replacement models? Software as a service? Okay... Office 365, Azure... MS are doing this already. Or is Matt Assay arguing that the revenue model is outdated by Google's ad-based model. Riiggght. I can see Google out-fitting and supporting a massive IT roll out through ad-supported. Matt talks about selling devices "free hardware") through selling of content. Great - I'll have a five-hundred touchscreen laptops for my company, please. I can't promise that they'll be used to buy many ebooks or games, though. You're alright with that Amazon and Google, yes? Matt's statement shows a staggering lack of contextual awareness.

    "And when that happens, Microsoft (and, eventually, Apple) can kiss goodbye to the developer ecosystem critical to winning over users. Developers go where the volume is, and that volume is Google's to lose."

    Again, unsupported and lacking in understanding of basic market economics. Sellers (developers in this case) don't go "where the volume is", they go where the sales are. Different things. Matt should look up "market segmentation". There is a massive install base of Windows - their mobile device ecosystem overlaps with their entertainment and corporate presences which is hardly the case with Google and Apple and they have the resource to stay the course for decades to come. MS isn't going anywhere as a market. Even if MS only got 30% of the market, that would be more than sufficient to provide an incentive for developers. Even 10% would.

    Vegetarians make up approximately 4% of the UK population. By Matt's logic, supermarkets would not sell specifically vegetarian-marketed food because "they go where the volume is" and yet I see shelves of Quorn, meat substitutes, vegetarian cheese. Garages would not stock parts for porsches. By Matt's logic, Android could never have got off the ground because at the time it appeared, the "volume" was iOS. A market doesn't have to have more than 50% to make it profitable to exploit. If you can see the flaw in any of my examples, then you can see the flaw in Matt's logic. I use the word tentatively.

    "Microsoft could pull an Apple and sell a consolidated device like the Surface. I mean, really pull an Apple and dump its hardware partners."

    No they couldn't. Doing this would immediately drive their partners to embrace Android and Linux en masse in sheer desperation. MS loves its partners, is tied to them, and quite frankly wants them to do well. That's obvious from their behaviour with the Surface.

    "Apple is happy to occupy the premium segment of the market, even as Google's Android takes the mass-market lower-end"

    You can buy high-end non-Apple devices. Always have been able to and they sell well enough. And as seen with the Surface, MS can produce something just as high-end as Apple. As to the low-end, MS are happy to compete there too. I have the Lumia 710. Got it for £160 SIM-free and it's even cheaper now. Great litle device and cheaper than many Android devices. And there are still WP7 devices being released so it's not cheap because it's old, it's targetted at this segment.

    Almost nothing in this article is actually supported. It's just random statements, usually in contradiction to the actual facts or history. How can the author of this essay be "Vice President of Corporate Strategy". I think he actually just writes these articles in order to pick up clues from all the better informed people who respond. If that's the case, then clever, clever Matt. You can hire me as an actual consultant directly if you like. This post is a freebie.

  14. Britt Johnston

    Cross-platform apps

    It is surely only a matter of time until someone has a cross-platform compiler, or at least an appsource converter, then we move on from asking who has the most apps.

    Microsoft might even be chasing that goal now.

    1. IJC

      Re: Cross-platform apps

      Obviously not a developer. All these things already exist. There are lots of reasons why they are not much used. Apple banned apps built with them, every platform has a different user experience and a native app out-performs a cross-platform one any day.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Cross-platform apps

      I thought that was the intent of HTML5 ...

  15. Daz555

    Apple hae surely already conceded the high-end of the mobile market to Android? As for iPad - again soon to be surpassed by uber-specced Windows 8 tabs? Yes, No?

  16. Chicken Marengo

    owning the desktop is like being the sexiest nun in the convent

    Ballmer in a wimple?!?!?

    That's my fantasy ruined forever.

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. IJC

      Re: Surface will FAIL

      Obviously a total lack of understanding of the market. Just because *you* don't use it or see it being used doesn't mean it isn't being used.

      Given that MS invented the tablet market with Windows XP tablets and invented the smart phone market with Windows Phone 6.5 its a bit difficult to see how they are copying Google and Apple. The fact that those products were too early and not very good doesn't mean they didn't create the segment.

      Given how MS build markets over many years, e.g. DOS, Windows, Word, Excel, Office, XBox, etc, none of which were firsts, but are more Last Man Standing, I would think Apple and Google should be worried not the other way around.

      I suppose you are too young to remember CP/M, OS/2, VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar, WordPerfect, Corel Office or all the others that have fallen under the wheels of the MS Juggernaut.

      Personally I've been watching this current strategy of PDA (Smart Phone) Tablet and Cloud develop for over a decade. Where did I first see is described? In a video from MS.

      The fact that MS are no longer operating under the DOJ consent decree mean that the gloves are off and MS is free to compete again. The last year has seen a huge amount of new MS tech. Seeing how it will develop will be interesting, and I for one won't right off MS until they no longer sit on a huge pile of cash that allows them to do whatever it takes.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surface will FAIL

          @Edon. The Newton pad (I was a user) was a PDA, not a tablet. You may as well say that a Palm Pilot or Psion was a tablet, if you're going down those lines and they definitely weren't.

          Win CE 6.5 was also not just a phone, it runs on many other devices.

          As for xbox being a photocopy of the playstation, you may as well complain that they copied the Atari 4bit console from the 80s.

          Now, you clearly hate MS, and if you're into hating that's fine, but try to make your arguments coherent and informed.

    2. Jess

      Re: Surface will FAIL

      Did Wince 6.5 really fail?

      I know it wasn't very good, and didn't beat Symbian, but it doesn't really compare to the rest does it?

      (Windows 7 not beating Symbian when Nokia were trying really hard to deliver the death blow is what I'd call a proper fail.)

      1. The_Regulator
        Thumb Down

        Re: Surface will FAIL

        Being that symbian no longer exists for new production devices who do you think has won.......

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. MIc

    I'm buying a surface.

    Quite excited to get it actually.

    Flame suit on.

    1. hplasm

      Re: I'm buying a surface.

      It must be better than being a dimensionless entity, I suppose...

  19. Another Reader

    I don't particularly care who 'wins'...

    Jim Zemlin: "For many years, I've been predicting that hardware will soon be free, subsidized by service providers who use open source software to build low cost devices optimized for their services."

    As long as this trend doesn't filter in to the desktop market and result in locked hardware.

  20. LeroyX

    Sexiest nun

    show the readers a pic of the sexiest nun in the convent, pls. I guarantee the article will get 50x more clicks.

    1. MIc
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sexiest nun


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Business business business

    That's where it's at for Microsoft.

    Despite the rather sappy consumer focussed Surface adverts - which had me somewhat confused about the direction of Microsoft - it's the business arena they will want to tackle with their mobile OS.

    When you tie Office into the mix, fling on detachable keyboards, you have a relatively cheap hybrid device.

    Apple and Google are currently targeting the consumer, as Matt points out, there's very little wiggle room in this market.

    The way I see it, they could tie-up the business market if they target it right. There's *plenty* of space to be serious in that area. Current tablets are still perceived as being somewhat of a frivolous 'toy' in the workplace, despite the fact they could be exceptionally well suited to so many business sectors.

    A serious tablet - forget the consumer targeted frills - a tablet for getting work done, presenting in a boardroom, sharing documents - *that's* where Microsoft *should* go.

    Tablets that are easy for IT departments to lock down to only being able to perform core tasks. Security is a *big* issue with mobile computing in the workplace, so that needs to be firmly addressed.

    I can't see Microsoft making serious inroads into the consumer space with the Surface - the price is just too high.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Business business business

      "I can't see Microsoft making serious inroads into the consumer space with the Surface - the price is just too high."

      I really don't think they want to. If that was the plan, they would have made more and would be more bullish about extending the line. The Surface is almost certainly focused on two main goals. The first is to provide an impressive demonstration platform for the new Windows 8 and Windows RT OS. The second is as a pace-maker to the OEMs to get them to raise their game. The real question is not really whether they make inroads into the consumer space with the Surface, but whether they make inroads with Win8 and WinRT in general. And this encompasses not just the Surface at their given price point, but all sorts of other products from Lenovo, Samsung, Acer, Asus, Toshiba... pitched at different prices and with all sorts of different capabilities. It's the biggest thing to shake up the hardware market in years. Looking at designs like Dell's hybrid (with it's weird but cool swivel screen), Samsung's Ativ Smart PC (awesome active digitiser from what I've read), Lenovo's Yoga, the Surface itself, it feels like we're living in the Cambrian era prior to the mass extinctions. A massive array of wildly different lifeforms all competing to see what works and what will take off. If Surface only sells out its first run and they never do a second, MS will probably still be fine like that. Unlike Google with the Chromebook or Amazon's device which subsidize hoping to lock people in to buying more content for a long time afterwards, MS are making a healthy profit on each unit, I should think. Total Surface sales numbers are a small part of how things play out.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Consolidated Microsoft?

    "Microsoft could pull an Apple and sell a consolidated device like the Surface. I mean, really pull an Apple and dump its hardware partners"

    I thought that's just what they've already done - dump its hardware partners or delivery people as they're known in Redmond. Reason being the ongoing shrinking market. When Microsoft is getting out of its own market - then the writing is truely on the wall. Perhaps Microsofts old hardware 'partners' may consider moving to the Android.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Consolidated Microsoft?

      "I thought that's just what they've already done - dump its hardware partners or delivery people as they're known in Redmond"

      You may not have noticed all the brand new devices and designs from Lenovo, Toshiba, Dell, Acer, Asus, probably others.You may also not have noticed that MS have produced a quite limited number of Surface devices. Just looking at devices like the Samsung Ativ SmartPC it's obvious that it's been developed in close partnership with MS - you can't roll out a device like that at the start of an OS release without long-term and very active support from the OS producer. MS obviously have not "dumped its hardware partners" nor is it in their interests to do so. Your impression is very much at odds with the facts.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After reading the article and the following discussions, I feel rather depressed. Tech used to be exciting. I'm off to homebrew my Nintendo Wii to cheer myself up.

    1. h4rm0ny

      "Tech used to be exciting. "

      It still is. It's just some here are more interested in hating company X or Y to see what cool stuff they are doing.

      1. The_Regulator

        Tech Is Exciting But Dumb Bloggers Love To Try To Ruin It

        The number of people who troll sites just to make dumb comments on how whatever other OS is better or worse is ridiculous, if moderators (on big sites at least) could delete the dumb comments the world would be a smarter place!!

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        > "Tech used to be exciting. "


        The exciting was that better tech arrived and got cheaper over time.

        Now there is little appreciable benefit to buying a faster CPU/GPU/disk, for most people, except to run AV faster. We've max'ed out the number of colours we can see on the screen, I don't know of anyone who's considering 128bit cpu's. While a larger-than-27"-screen is possible, it isn't easy to fit on a desk and becomes a bit overwhelming for normal work.

        We could get better GPUs for realtime photo-realistic rendering but that isn't needed by most people (at least, not to the point where they want to pay for it).

        It would be rather cool to get minority-report style hand-movement recognition in lieu of a large touchscreen for the desktop, but a mouse/keyboard is probably faster and easier. Mouse/keyboard would also cause fewer problems if you're inclined to gesticulate while talking on the phone or have annoying colleagues/children.

        Software is incredibly bloated. I downloaded MS' ATI driver the other day - 9MB. ATI's own download came in at 150MB and their "detect hardware" didn't work on an old X1600 system.

        Now the excitement is in cheap, less capable things - ARM chips and putting things in new places - phones etc. Even GPS and motion sensors are old hat.

        1. M Gale

          Re: > "Tech used to be exciting. "

          "Now there is little appreciable benefit to buying a faster CPU/GPU/disk"


          "I don't know of anyone who's considering 128bit cpu's."

          Only because it's not hitting the mainstream yet. When it does? Games.

          "We could get better GPUs for realtime photo-realistic rendering but that isn't needed by most people (at least, not to the point where they want to pay for it).

          Don't know many serious gamers, do you?

          I still remember a friend splunking five thousand pounds on a gaming rig. A grand of which was the cooling system. He was running Crysis at full tilt when magazines were saying it was impossible and marking the game down for it.

          Don't underestimate the power of shiny.

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: > "Tech used to be exciting. "

          "The exciting was that better tech arrived and got cheaper over time."

          Really? To me the excitement has always been to see our species push the bounds of what is possible and the amazement that such things can become commonplace where once they were science-fiction. But you think "better tech" is not arriving and getting cheaper? How much would a device like the iPad cost you ten years ago? What were touch screens like just five years ago? If you don't feel the excitement of progress then you need to wake up.

          "Now there is little appreciable benefit to buying a faster CPU/GPU/disk, for most people, except to run AV faster."

          What about how they get smaller, using less power, enabling you to do one a phone all day what you couldn't do on a Desktop plugged into the wall just twelve years ago? And what about those other than "most people". Isn't it cool that I can now run Postgres on a system with six cores and 12GB of RAM at home. Isn't it awesome that I can rent a few servers for hosting and modern virtualization technology integrated into the CPUs enables the company at the other end to just press a few buttons and create those instances for me, rather than actually needing a real machine? Leading to massive efficiency gains and far reduced maintenance costs and increased reliability?

          "While a larger-than-27"-screen is possible, it isn't easy to fit on a desk and becomes a bit overwhelming for normal work."

          Who cares? You can't look at something like the HP Z1 All in One, or the new iMac and not think: "woah". Not if you have any feel for technology or not.

          "I don't know of anyone who's considering 128bit cpu's."

          There's a lot more to CPU development than the size of the registers. And we're not just talking about CPUs any more. AMD is going down the APU route and these have positive implications for portable devices and cheaper graphics power with better efficiency. I've not much interest in games, but they continue to get more and more amazing with every year.

          "We could get better GPUs for realtime photo-realistic rendering but that isn't needed by most people "

          I don't think we could, actually. Real time photo-realistic rendering is way beyond current technology. But it is wanted by people - better graphics will be for a long time. GPUs get more and more powerful and games take advantage of that. Again - it's exciting just to watch the pace of development.

          "Software is incredibly bloated. I downloaded MS' ATI driver the other day - 9MB. ATI's own download came in at 150MB and their "detect hardware" didn't work on an old X1600 system."

          WinRT is customized to the hardware to an impressive degree from what I've seen. Same with WP7. Win8 actually runs faster and tighter than Win7 on my same system. And if you really want lean, run Gentoo or some other compile-your-own Linux distribution. You can strip it to nothing. And if you think download size equates to memory footprint, you're mistaken. A module installed but not loaded into the kernel to run has an almost impercetible difference on the size of the kernel and the running code. Just because you got a 150MB download (which is a tiny fraction of modern storage), doesn't mean 150MB is loaded and running in your system. Also, modern GPUs are massively more sophisticated than those of yore.

          "Now the excitement is in cheap, less capable things - ARM chips and putting things in new places - phones etc. Even GPS and motion sensors are old hat."

          You are so fucking jaded. Read into this stuff in more depth. Technology is amazing.

  24. Mark .

    "So much of the media's focus is on the battle between Android and Apple's iOS for the heart and soul of the mobile industry"

    Which has always been a myth. The number one smartphone platform was Symbian until 2011. And today, there is no battle - Android is dominant, way ahead of anything else.

    "we forget the meta-battle between both iOS and Android against yesterday's desktop market, still owned by Windows."

    And rightly so. Sure, we love our Android smartphones, but we're not replacing our PCs for phones (including oversized phones that some people call tablets), nor are most other people.

  25. trottel

    I have been predicting <x> for many years to happen soon...

    Does that not mean by definition of "soon" that you were wrong?

    I personally think there is nothing wrong with being wrong every now and then, but then i try not to make everyone painfully aware of it...

  26. johnwerneken

    another piece of Reporting or Research in the "DUH-blindingly obvious category"

    Yes. It's a big ask. Nice to see the Monster (Google) get some competition.

  27. csumpi
    Paris Hilton

    "Google's Android takes the mass-market lower-end"

    Looking at the wife's Samsung Galaxy S3, should this not read "mass-market higher-end"?

  28. ForthIsNotDead

    Short Microsoft

    See above.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Short Microsoft

      Interesting advice. Are you yourself risking your money by shorting MS or is this just advice for other people's money? Because if the former, I think you're rather brave given the continued positive sales of Win7 and general positive feedback and coverage of Win8, RT and WP8. And if you're not willing to risk your money on this, do you think it's good to advise others to do so?

  29. Petrossa

    Evidently MS's goal is to step by step phase out win32 from Windows 8 altogether and then lock in applets from MS store. First step has been taken, hide the desktop and get rid of start. Next step will be to restrict the OS to running fewer and fewer win32 applications till only MS certified win32 applications can run. Next will be to change the requirements and price for certification till most competition gives up and starts either building applets or just go bust.

    So Win 9 will be even less like win 7, win10 will be a locked system and they then hope to do an Apple on us. Business software will be transformed into applets format, which at 'the right price' a company can buy. With whole new service contracts obviously.

    That's how i see it being played out in the MS mind. Whether this succeeds depends on the gullibility of endusers believing that win 8 will be followed by a better win 7. It won't.

    Applet is here to stay, ModernUI is here to stay. Aero will be completely scrapped, desktop will be completely scrapped.

    Stick with w7, it'll run for years to come.

  30. Tom 13

    I categorically reject the "Mobile is All" meme and any articles based upon it.

    I've been in computers professionally since 1990 in one form or another. The meme has had many names including convergence, thin client, and cloud computing. It is always about the universal whatchamacallit. It's all horseshit.

    There are many markets in computers, and desktop will always be a critical one. Personally I've always found least useful is invariably the HPC with built-in gaming, streaming, and DVD library support mobile phone.

  31. Tree

    we apparently don't mind being bought and sold

    YOU might not mind Gurgle knowing all about you, but do not generalize that to mean that all of us want Paige and Brine to track our every visit, so they can help to blast us with the right ads. I recently searched for the word Google in all the places on my hard drive. You'd be surprised at how many programs and other things there are. What do they do on my computer and how did they get there? I decided to delete them all. No more tracking. Some web sites did not work properly. These are the ones that have a pact with the devil. The devil also claims not to be evil.

  32. ronindaosohei

    Google has a major problem with their strategy...most of their products suck. Aside from Google Maps, Android, and Search they produce garbage. GMail isn't an effective alternative to Outlook and Exchange, Google Docs isn't an effective alternative to Office (or iWork for that matter), Google Drive isn't a good alternative to Dropbox, Sugarsync or even Skydrive.

    Google's business model is better if all things are equal. But all things aren't equal. That's where Apple has been able to provide an advantage and Microsoft can as well. Until they bring their product quality up you're just not going to see a true competitor to Microsoft's dominance.

    On the question of whether Microsoft will ditch the hardware partners and become an Apple? No, they won't and they shouldn't for two important reasons. People who don't get business believe it's just a question of being both the hardware and software producer to be like Apple. The reality is it's not nearly so simple RIM, Nokia, Song, etc. have all done this and FAILED. Apple's success isn't just about being an integrated company, it's about a particular organizational structure and operational philosophy, as well as significant assets that allow them to do so. Microsoft can't reasonably replicate that, at least not anytime soon and shouldn't try. There's another more important reason though. Microsoft's partners are going to produce hardware with or without Microsoft so if Microsoft abandons them where will they go? They either create another software platform (more competition for Microsoft) or they go to Google and strengthen the Google platform (bad for Microsoft). So it's essential to their survival that they keep partnering with others. Eventually, an open system will win out, it just takes a lot of iteration to get there.

    Is selling licenses an obsolete business model? Not so long as there is a lot more value for the license (this is particularly the case for business users), right now in Android there isn't much to be argued in any platform over Android but in other spaces there are still huge advantages others offer so it still makes sense. However, in reality as Ballmer has correctly stated, Microsoft needs to shift to being a devices and services company, which they'll do, probably successfully, not because they've been so adept at it, it's been pretty messy actually, but because the competition at moving in that direction has been so bad!

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