back to article Microsoft: That $900m Surface write-down is smarting

Microsoft will today kick-start commercial channel sales of the little loved Surface RT and Pro, as our sources predicted, but the move is being pushed through ten months later than it should have been. Redmond has already paid the price for its stubbornness: selling the device direct and latterly through a handful of …


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  1. Christian Berger

    The time when people bought anything are over

    The times when Microsoft's products were the "only" and default solution are fading. People now recognize other options.

    1. Alan Bourke

      Re: The time when people bought anything are over

      Unless you want to run business software or play games. Or do CAD. Or a load of other things.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The time when people bought anything are over

        CAD. On a tablet. Uh-huh...

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Restricted choice

        I use my Linux laptop for business software, games, CAD and a load of other things. A quick web search still does not reveal a way to install Linux on a Surface RT, so my choices are restricted to all sorts of things except Surface RT.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Restricted choice

          How well did the install work on your Nexus 7 and iPad?

          1. mraak

            Re: Restricted choice

            @AC: See that's the point, you DON'T install CAD on iPad or Nexus. You install it on the device where you can actually perform some work, hopefully with a 22"+ screen as well. You use iPad or Nexus to entertain yourself, read, view guitar tabs, have it as a juke-box, etc. You don't mix tablets and PC's for doing the same on both.

            1. mmeier

              Re: Restricted choice

              Why not? My T731 is both a powerful (if heavy) tablet pc and a full-powered workstation. If I want 2x24 inch - dock the unit and go. If I want a tablet - eject from dock and go. And in the rare case I need a notebook - take out of sleeve, swivel screen and go.

              Other units use different concepts (sliders and a USB-3 dock, fixed docks you put the tablet in etc) but they all work nicely. In some cases even for CAD.

              Btw: CAD and other design jobs and WACOM systems are not that uncommon. Granted, external units (Cintiq or Bamboo) but not uncommon

              1. mraak

                Re: Restricted choice

                @mmeier: Why not? Because I've seen it, used it, tried it for a while. Can't see myself using it professionally nowhere in the mid term future.

                1. mmeier

                  Re: Restricted choice


                  Tested CAD on a Fujitsu T-Series with docking station and had problems? What problems? Because those convertibles are using full powered core-i CPU and all the other workstation features. We are not talking touchy toys here. Same for Cintiq and similar systems.

                  1. mraak

                    Re: Restricted choice


                    No, not tested CAD. Just general usage and programming, the disgusting metro, switching back and forth, even Skype not working properly although MS owns it, strange new gestures and ridiculous navigation. It's like MS wanted to bring the worst of two worlds together (tablet + workstation). I returned the device, and so did my buddy.

                    1. mmeier

                      Re: Restricted choice

                      Well, my usage option is different, use it since last year on tablet pc, convertibles, desktops. Love it, works stable, fast and mature unlike Android (Note 10.1 - gone thanks to eBay) Quite a few customers and family use it "as is". Like it as well

                      But even if you insist on "the ways of grandpa Xeros" where is the problem. Win7 is an option on the T-Series. Not as good as 8 but still head and shoulder over the toy breeds

        2. h3

          Re: Restricted choice

          EDA is far better on Linux.(Or any other UNIX that is supported)

          I know a fair few places who have spent huge amounts of money trying to switch to Windows (Sometimes even more than once) and then switched back because of how much of a pita it is to have it working in a manner that is the same across a few different workstations.

          (Cadence uses the registry for everything in Windows. And when a configuration error is likely to cost a minimum of £100,000 then it is not worth messing).

          Specially as most of it is sh and csh scripts on the others so easy to deal with.

      3. Chemist

        Re: The time when people bought anything are over

        "Unless you want to run business software or play games. Or do CAD. Or a load of other things."

        All the more reason to explore the alternatives now before MS really let you down or turn the screw !

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The time when people bought anything are over

        There are certain tasks (like designing ICs and space ships and stuff like that) that actually require the use of a computer. It's the remaining tasks where Windows used to excel - simply by virtue of being the cheap default solution. Until now.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. LarsG

    At least you gave it a go, not everyone can win the race you know.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Especially not when you glue both feet to the back of your head.

      Is it just me (it may be :-)) that finds it odd that a company would spend a fortune on advertising that could have been used to bring down the price of the product rather than a modest budget and let word of mouth do the work.

      Rt was dead in the water, not because it's bad but because it slaughtered the only outright reason to use windows (compatible software) on a tablet. They should have done surface pro only and knocked the price down a lot. If they wanted a tablet os what was the harm in using windows phone os instead? Why three os's, you already bodged a tablet interface onto the desktop os and started from scratch on the phone os so both would work well with touch. I really just don't get the thinking. Just being an option isn't enough these days, ios and android are pretty strong contenders, to get market share you have to compete on price and bring some serious features. I'm not anti ms, I just think they missed it entirely.

  3. Big_Ted

    Just because more people are selling a pile of dogs poo doesn't mean more will buy it.

    MS made 2 mistakes, one was not putting these out to more retail outlets etc from the start, but the biggest and still biggest mistake is the price, if they want these to sale they must at least be at cost price with free windows for a period to get people to buy. They are not as bad as many who have never held one think but for the price I would go for a good laptop and a good tablet instead of the pro.....

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Looking at the classical 4P's of marketing, they have quite a bit wrong:

      Product (ignore the OS, that's a different argument) - is confused. Is it a tablet, an ultrabook, or a laptop replacement? The two models confuse consumers further. It's trying to be all things to all men, so nobody knows if they need/want it or not.

      Price - waaay to expensive for a tablet, too expensive for an underpowered laptop. This is driven by the above

      Promotion - Despite the spend I see little of it, but anecdotes are not evidence. MS is confused, is it promoting Windows or the Hardware? So the promotion fails as it's too removed to make sense to consumers.

      Place - distribution is discussed in the article.

      Given it's the marketing guy in charge, you'd think they could get the basics right wouldn't you?

  4. FunkyEric


    Now there will be even more people failing to sell them!

  5. robert_raw

    We bought one direct as a Pool device running alongside our Ipads and Android devices. It was really well received at first as the best of both worlds, usefulness of a laptop and convenience of a tablet. As time has gone on, it is gathering dust and no-one uses it.

    1. andreas koch

      @ robert_raw -

      Let me guess why: No Angry Birds?

      1. cyborg

        Re: @ robert_raw -

        Unlikely - they made a big song and dance (almost literally for generous definitions of "dance") out of the fact Angry Birds: Star Wars is on Windows 8.

        1. mmeier

          Re: @ robert_raw -

          Win8 or Win/RT?

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: @ robert_raw -

            " they made a big song and dance (almost literally for generous definitions of "dance") out of the fact Angry Birds: Star Wars is on Windows 8. "

            " Win8 or Win/RT? "

            And right there is the problem with Windows 8. Three different versions, bodged to look the same, and utter shite communication about which can do what, run what, or even how they interact with each other.

            No wonder the 'consumers' are staying away in droves.

  6. Shannon Jacobs

    You'd have to pay me to use it

    I'm not joking. I wouldn't use it unless someone was paying me.

    Come to think of it, that pretty much describes all of my relationships with Microsoft products. If I had any viable choices, I would be strongly biased against Microsoft, but in every case I can think of, there was no choice. Microsoft's software was just there and I was being paid to deal with it.

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      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You'd have to pay me to use it

        I am a cheap bastard, so the only phone I use is company provided blackberry. Works fine for what I use it for. For work, it's calls and email, for personal, it's calls from wife, emails from wife (grocery lists), and endomondo to track my exercise.

        As far as RT tablets for work, it really doesn't matter as any remote access is done through Citrix, so the only thing running on the device is the Citrix receiver.

    3. Nigel 11

      Re: You'd have to pay me to use it

      It's not quite that bad. If I couldn't buy a Logitech mouse, I'd pick a Microsoft one.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    > custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support

    kitting = "putting next to cat's pictures on facebook", I am sure?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: kitting



  8. Phoenix50

    Another day...

    ..another article that works in the $900 million write-down.

    You f*****g love it, don't you?

  9. John P

    I'd definitely have a Surface Pro if they were cheaper, but I just couldn't bring myself to be in the same vicinity as the current generation of Surface RTs. One of the big issues of the RT is that it doesn't run desktop apps while simultaneously giving you a desktop, thus falsely raising your expectations until you realise that the desktop is there only to serve Office, it has no other use.

    Ditch the RT but keep going with the Pro, It'd be nice to pick up a Gen 1 in a year or two for a knock down price.

    1. Wade Burchette

      I think the RT would have more success if it wasn't called Windows RT. When you think of Windows, you think of a start menu and multiple windows open. And why choose RT? I know it stands for runtime, but does the target audience know that and know why Microsoft chose that? Does Microsoft know why they choose RT? The whole world isn't a tablet. Leave the tablet UI on a tablet and give it a different name. You could have called it Tiles. Like the original Windows name, it well describes what is going on. Or even Windows Tablet. Something, anything other than Windows RT would have been better.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good Luck

    You would have better luck trying to sell bacon sarnies in Jeddah.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Good Luck

      mmmm bacon...

  11. Tsung

    Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

    I wish Microsoft would do two things..

    1. Stop selling Windows 8 RT tablets; the reason they didn't sell well was they were no good. It also adds a layer of confusion when purchasing. Drop them, they didn't work, it just confuses the market.

    2. Redesign/Update the Pro with the new Intel Haswell chipset which I believe draws less power and runs cooler than Ivy Bridge.

    I know people who like the ideal of the surface pro but are put off by the fact this newer & better chip set is out there (or will be soon) . They would rather wait for that than buy early and end up with an out of date piece of kit. Who can blame them when the tablet is more expensive than the most expensive I-Pad?

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

      "I wish Microsoft would do two things..

      1. Stop selling Windows 8"

      Fixed that for you.

      1. WylieCoyoteUK

        Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

        Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

        "I wish Microsoft would do two things..

        1. Stop trying to sell Windows 8"

        Fixed that for you.

    2. mmeier

      Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

      My guess is the S/P2 (Haswell) is just around the corner, likely October. That fits nicely with the US "return to school" actions with reduced S/P1s.

      OTOH comparing a touchy-toy with attitude (iThingy) with a Wacom equiped Ultrabook (S/P) is like comparing Trabant 501 with a Ford Galaxy.

      1. hplasm

        Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

        The Trabant is cool and the Ford is boring?

        1. mmeier

          Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

          The Trabant is a piece of plastic crap (Hey, just like most Androids) while the Ford is a sturdy, useable vehicle (like Windows tablet pc)

          I take the Ford and run over the Trabbi. Heck, some Win8 tablet pc can emulate a Fragmentdroid or (in theory due to lack of OS image) iThingy with a single core. Running in powersafe mode. While doing Word on the other half of the core.

          1. hplasm

            Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

            Ha. *Car Analogies?*

            If MS made a car there would be a horse on a treadmill under the bonnet (hood for left-pondians) to make it go.

            1. mmeier

              Re: Maybe when Pro 2 is available..

              At least there would be a horse and not a hole in the floor (iOS) or a gerbil (Android). And you could shoe the horse (and even insert a new one in some models) unlike Android

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  13. Mage Silver badge

    Do MS "get it"?

    The Andriods and Apple and Kindle are in Tesco.

    Where are the supermarkets on the list? If they are only aiming at offices they have missed the point. Ordinary office users are not going to use a Tablet at a desk all day. Screen too small. Also loads of other issues.

    The BYOD stuff is chosen and paid for by the employee, rarely from anyone on that list and is usually in addition to the Business supplied kit. Are call centres going to buy Surface RT or Pro?

    1. Chika

      Re: Do MS "get it"?

      I agree that Microsoft are targeting the wrong market. I also agree that Windows RT is wrong. The actual model they are trying to adopt is one of the reasons why even Apple are losing out in a number of markets to Android - the system lockdown.

      It doesn't have to be that way. Consider that we Brits were behind the ARM and we Brits had an OS that was just as open as Windows - these days even more so.

      The overall problem as I see it is the same one that has been responsible for the death of a number of other ideas, companies and so forth. In effect, the Surface is no longer a computer that you buy then run anything that you ant to. It's a piece of licenced kit which you no longer really own as it requires increasing amounts of interfacing with a company that attempts to control what you do and where. Microsoft aren't alone in this; just look at Google or Apple. When people realise this, they back away as it smacks too much of corporate big brother. It isn't just the machine, it's the whole ethos; cloud computing, internet connection reliance and so on.

      To be honest, I think that Microsoft do get it. But then I'm a cynic.

  14. IGnatius T Foobar

    Microsoft FAIL

    The problem with Microsoft's entire product line right now is that they insist on selling an "experience" when what people want is "software." They're still pushing this really hard even in their advertisements -- "one experience across all devices." Well guess what Stevie -- no one wants that! We want a touch-optimized OS on our phones and tablets, and a mouse-optimized OS on our desktops/laptops.

    Vista 8 and Vista 8.1 will continue to FAIL until Microsoft begins delivering something usable.

  15. James Pickett

    "hapless CEO Steve Ballmer"

    Isn't he always?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    corporate politics?

    To my mind, the Surface RT notion of tablet/netbook is good. I'd have bought one last Autumn despite the limited app store if the hardware had been comparable to iPad or the price competitive.

    However despite the lower res screen, poor rear facing camera, slower CPU/SoC some geniuses at Redmond decided it was ok to price the device the same as iPad all the same. Then to add insult to injury, sell the keyboard cover thats essential to make the most of the device at a massive profit. I'm guessing this nonsense was rationalized by the delusion that an expensive inferior product can be sold if theres a big marketing budget.

    This seems to be a major problem at Microsoft - corporate politics means the marketing people need to spend large advertising budgets and something as simple as making a product people want to buy at a modest margin just doesn't fit the egos and careers of those involved. Contrast with Nexus 7 from Google, a 2012 success that helped establish Android tablets as serious Apple competitors yet done on a much smaller budget than Surface.

    The price is almost ok now but the hardware is obsolete, pity the poor ignorant student who buys one before the new academic year. The new Nexus 7 is available. Apple are leaking specs of the new iPad models. What are Microsoft doing? Frantically trying to sell the old Surface RT stockpile at a discount before they announce the new models.

    As a software developer who works with the Microsoft dev. stack and who likes the way Surface delivers a hybrid format for tablets, that Microsoft have screwed up to such a degree that people like me are so negative about the Surface RT is quite an accomplishment!

    Fun in a cruel sort of way to see if the shambles continues with the new Surface models or if I'll be tempted to move some effort away from Android next year.

  17. Phil Endecott

    will provide "device recycling"

    I just love the idea that these middlemen will improve things because they can provide "device recycling". Sell it to the punters today, then go back tomorrow to and take it away for "recycling".

  18. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sale or Return?

    I really hope the Channel isn't actually buying this POS? Sale or Return to MS only....

  19. Richie 1

    Of course it didn't sell well...

    Everyone knows that you need to wait for version 3 before Microsoft make something useable. I'm sure the third gen Surface will be fine.

  20. N2

    Cant you just

    Admit that you fucked up big style, people dont trust MS any more & no one with an iota of common sense buys version one of anything.

    The sooner Balmer is ousted by the less than happy shareholders the better (for Microsoft that is)

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