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Microsoft just cut in half its orders to suppliers for the Surface RT tablet (qz.com)
33 points by donohoe 1640 days ago | hide | past | web | 55 comments | favorite

Totally offtopic, but please don't set the navigation on your website up like this. Scrolling to the top of the story begins loading other stories, and the navigation really seems to have a mind of its own.

I'm sure it's great for mobile, but on a desktop this site is nearly unusable.

This particular complaint seems always to be one of the top voted whenever a QZ story makes it to HN. It's certainly a breakaway from traditional nav and I understand its motivations...I wonder if it truly is a bad direction to go, or if it's a "you don't know that you want this yet" feature and if so, if it's just the kind of thing that the typical HN reader will never like (our moms and dads, however...)

The site looks gorgeous. Very pleasing.

However, on my computer I often scroll up and down with flicks just as often as I highlight text to focus. It's usually when I'm skimming.

Boy was I surprised when the article disappeared because I scrolled too far and there wasn't an obvious way to get it back. The subtle cues on the left side nav are not in my line of focus and I missed them, so the first time it happened I was really confused.

Scrolling doesn't seem like the right event to trigger the next article here. I don't want this feature.

I believe the failing in the UX is that you jump to the story above with little warning. You then have to scroll all the way back to the story you intended to read. It'd be much less annoying if the story loaded but didn't change my position.

Yeah, it really is almost unusuable on the desktop. The display jumps all over the place, and trying to find your way back to your story usually ends up loading more causing more jumps.

So I was in Best Buy the other day and asked a Microsoft rep who was there touting Windows 8 where the Surface tablets were. He said they only sell them online and through their store. Why is that? Perhaps they would sell more Surface tablets if they had them visible in a Best Buy where a good portion of middle America demos new electronics?

On another note, why is the Nokia Lumia 920 an AT&T exclusive? If they want their platforms to become more popular, why do they hamper their access so much (the same can be said for Nokia who are supposedly in trouble)? Most Windows phones available from carriers are pretty lackluster. The only ones that catch my eye are the Lumia 920 and the HTC One X.

I don't blame them. The presentation of hardware at Best Buy is absolutely horrible lately. It's all cabled down, price tags are often tattered or missing and most of the devices can't even be turned on to try them.

I'm sure they could stipulate presentation requirements to some degree, but the current state of affairs is not exactly how I'd want my hardware presented to customers.

I saw a geo-targeted Facebook post yesterday telling me (and everyone in Florida) to come to the Microsoft Store to check out the Surface RT. Problem is, the nearest store is a 4 hour round trip. They have exactly one store in Florida, in Orlando. (There are two temporary "holiday" stores in Miami.) It's hard to take a company seriously when they're so uncertain of their retail business that they won't even cover the top 30 U.S. markets with stores.

I thought their partnership with Barnes and Noble was in part to address this. It wouldn't take much to expand the Nook store-within-a-store to include Surface tablets. I've been moderately impressed with the Nook sales reps in their stores. Sure, it would create some conflicts with the Nook Android tablets, but money can solve that problem.

Perhaps they're trying not to compete with their OEM partners, but rather trying to set a benchmark to help their OEM partners compete with Apple.

Except, having used a bunch of Win8 touchscreen machines (desktops, laptops, and convertible/tablet formats) at local tech shops, the Surface RT still blows all of them out of the water in terms of "usual tasks" (emailing, surfing, facebooking, tweeting, etc).

If I were MS, I wouldn't be relying on OEMs to do anything except continue to suck.

Except Microsoft, at this point, has to rely on OEMs. They don't have a big enough foothold to get components as cheap as some of their OEM partners, which means their devices, on the whole, will be more expensive.

Plus, a major source of their revenue is OEM licensing, so like it or not, they still have to deal with them.

Coincidentally both strategies were implemented by Apple, or sort of. Anyway, seems like Redmond's photocopiers have been running like crazy lately.

It's a bit unfair to say that given that both the Surface and the Lumia are quite original.

He was saying they photocopied Apple's distribution strategy not their devices.

It's amazing to me how many companies fall for a strategy that works for Apple, and think that it could easily work for them, too. Apple has so many advantages that makes stuff like this work, that it would be almost impossible for anyone else to get it working without those advantages.

"If only we would get carrier exclusivity, too"

"If only we had our own custom proprietary OS, too"

"If only we created our own proprietary docks and connectors"

"If only we had our own specialized stores"

And many other such things. They copy all these things, thinking that it will work for them just like it did for Apple, without realizing that those work only for Apple, because they are Apple.

With a long term and rather singular/focused goal measured in years, not quarters, these probably would work for some other company. But, these elements are really the byproduct of the long-term goals, vs the goals themselves.

I don't see many companies willing to invest in a long-term and multi-pronged strategy. With most companies, one down quarter or bad gartner report and they'll revise next year's activities and products.

Sure they are, and I actually like these devices. As a matter a fact I hope they do well in the market. However, my comment was not targeted at thoses devices. But was at their mindset, specially the MSFT's business people.

So many companies just do cargo culting when they imitate Apple without understanding :-(

When Apple makes a white and slightly rounded version of something that others made years ago, it actually turns out that they are inventing it for the first time.

It doesn't exist until Apple makes it.

It isn't about rounded corners.

It's about polished implementations that don't suck running on solid hardware.

Don't bother dude, you can't argue with haters. They're gonna hate no matter what.

Slightly tangential response: "Why Apple does not do concept products"


Competition from companies who continue to think Apple just took an existing phone, and made it slightly rounder, or took existing tablets, and made them slightly thinner, or took existing laptop designs, and made them slightly sleeker, is why Apple mercilessly dominates those industries.

When another company copies an idea, it is "cargo culting" from Apple. But when Apple copies an idea, it is doing exactly what it should be doing.

The reality is that lots of companies copy lots of ideas and that is normal. The exchange doesn't just go from Apple geniuses to everyone else. No company is an island

If Microsoft is netting $200 per unit, this represents only $400,000,000 of some net revenue projection (assuming the report is correct). Yes, it's more than a rounding error. But it's not going to have much impact on the bottom line.


Microsoft isn't betting the farm on becoming a hardware company.

Microsoft made a very large bet on Windows 8 for tablets, making trade-offs against traditional desktop users. You need to also take into account how Windows 8 impacts Microsoft's $20,000,000,000 in Windows revenue.

I wouldn't call this a death spiral either, but what you're seeing is a large bet not paying out as expected.

Microsoft sold 40,000,000 windows 8 licenses in 30 days. Those licenses carry very low manufacturing and delivery costs. Their tablets carry high logistical costs and the article suggests a change of about 2,000,000 units over 90 days.

Microsoft is not a hardware company. They haven't made a significant bet on becoming one.

When they piss off their OEMs with a little surprise, like the Surface was, there's more at stake than just whether that particular hardware succeeds.

I never bought into this. When the chief of Acer (was it Acer?) made veiled threats, I couldn't help but think, "What are you going to do?" Are they going to abandon Windows? No. The only position they're really in is to make even crappier products.

Abandon, no. But they can be expected to push back a bit more on decrees and pressure from Redmond that they not push Linux/Android as equal citizens.

Acer probably has less lattitude in this regard, but HP and Dell have non-trivial inroads to Microsoft's (very profitable) enterprise customers. And if they start building and shipping Linux-based servers that plug into the MS infrastructure they're already supplying, at massively less cost [1], Microsoft's entire fallback plan of milking the enterprise into the sunset (going IBM) is under threat.

[1] Consider an opensource Sharepoint replacement that has all the Exchange/Office/Active Directory integration. HP has the staff and resources to make that happen, given that they can deliver any and all windows plugins necessary to support the edge cases. Or even linux-based web and database servers that play well with an otherwise-MS enterprise.

Windows 8 is an enormous gamble and the firesale upgrade price reflects that MS sees it that way. They are all but bribing users to upgrade, and if you want the Windows improvements from the last 3 years, this is your only route. This is the first time there has been a serious discount for an upgrade license for Windows ever. (Although maybe the Win 3.1 upgrade might have been only $50... I don't recall any more, but in that case it was well worth it).

With Windows 8 Microsoft is foisting a whole new UI paradigm on desktop users who didn't ask for it and mostly don't want it. Yes, you can still use the desktop mode, but I'm betting a lot of non-techie users will just suffer with Metro because they have been conditioned to unquestioningly accept arbitrary awfulness from computer software. I doubt 95% of computer users ever go outside of the web browser and Office applications... and no matter how awful the Metro implementations of these apps are (I imagine IE in Metro isn't much different, but other apps?) they'll just deal with it. After all, they learned how to use Word, one of the most arbitrary and capricious pieces of software this side of Lotus Notes.

I've seen it in person too many times to believe that most non-technical people don't realize software could be a lot better and that it doesn't have to be the way it is. And in a lot of corporate environments, even if they know, they can't do anything about it.

And the only reason MS is pushing Metro on non-portable device users is to jump-start their own app store, because I'm sure they are drooling over the idea of taking a significant cut out of every software sale like Apple does. They are drooling so much that they are willing to risk antagonizing desktop users in order to get it, understanding that a lot of people will just think "this is the new normal" and go along with it, because they don't have the knowledge or experience to realize they have some say in the matter.

This is not a bash on users... a user should not have to be an expert unless he wants to be, but Microsoft is counting on being able to strongarm these users to suit Microsoft's needs, not the users'.

MS is years behind in the tablet and phone markets and Surface doesn't look like the iPad-killer it needs to be to give them a foothold in a market where they are currently all but irrelevant. Ditto phones. MS can't coast on the biennial desktop/laptop upgrade cycle the way they used to because a huge chunk of money spent on computing devices is going to devices where MS doesn't (currently) have a decent entry.

Meanwhile, a lot of users will needlessly suffer with the angry fruit-salad of Metro and hate it, but just take it as the new "normal". If that weren't true, Office would have actually gotten better over the last 15 years.

"As a result, pundits are already declaring this the beginning of (or an important milestone in) Microsoft’s death spiral."

Really? So much of their business is relying on the Surface RT that it will spell doom for the entire company? Highly unlikely.

It's not that their other businesses are failing, but pundits are calling this the nail in the coffin in Microsoft's effort of breaking into the mobile market, and in a bigger picture, transitioning some of their aging business/product line to cope with the new consumer market. If you put it that way, then it does seem like a slow and long decline is what awaits Microsoft in the future.

A good thing for shareholders if they stop wasting money failing in the mobile market.

Pay no heed. There's no dearth of "The end is nigh" board carriers in these matters.

This is the 2nd qz.com link for me today that doesn't work. I just see a spinning circle in the middle of the page.

Had the same spinning circle in Chrome. Tried Safari and it worked.

Same here using Firefox on a Mac.

Semi-unrelated, but I really enjoyed the mobile optimized version of quartz. Intuitive nav header based on scroll gesture & pull to refresh and get a new article were a nice touch.

I found the desktop version of the site nearly unusable. While I was waiting for the Javascript mess to render the actual content I hit the scroll wheel, the screen flickered a bunch of times, and I ended up one a completely random article somehow. Horrible.

Edit: Scrolling up at the "top" of the page should do nothing, not go to some other page.

Fun juxtaposition of experience. Looks like the site is simply responsive, and I agree with you that the desktop version is too greedy with the actions that play in the favor of mobile.

Are we getting astroturfed here? This is the second 'qz.com' link I've seen here today.

Everyone is waiting for the pro version to come out...why buy this one?

I don't think the Surface Pro is going to change anything, nor do I believe "everyone" is waiting for the Pro. Perhaps the niche market of tech geeks who demand an ultra-high performance tablet, but the Pro is a very poor fit for the general mainstream market.

I mean, let's look at it this way - 50% thicker than the iPad and Surface RT. Nearly 40% heavier than the RT and iPad. Substantially poorer battery life (estimates are between 5-6h as opposed to the 9-10h demonstrated on the RT and iPad). Runs so hot that it needs to put a spinning fan in your hands.

The Pro is strictly a niche device. If the RT isn't doing well the Pro sure as hell isn't going to save it.

I was going to buy the Pro one until they announced the price. Now I'd just a Macbook Air or an Ultrabook instead.

Well, there are rumors about the price, but nothing has been announced yet.

How many people know the difference between Pro and RT? You should see the confusion in the comment threads (on hacker news, of all places!) when the original Surface came out.

My girlfriends mom was going to buy one but immediately realized she should wait for the pro...and she's as non-technical as you can get.

It's lighter. And I suspect it's not unconfortably hot either like a lot of Intel kit.

I am not so sure that the Pro tablet, given the current Intel stack, will be much better than what is available today. They are going to get a lot more heat pushing 1920x1080 and running an Intel chip instead of the Surface's ARM processor, and it will also require a larger battery.

Fitting that into a Surface like size will not be easy unless we see a component or platform that is yet to be introduced.

This one doesn't weigh 2lbs.

Perhaps they should cut the price in half.

And double the screen resolution.

at least cut the price.

I don't get why companies are keen to dump hundreds of millions in development, but don't want to cut price on something because they'll "lose money" on the product.

There's probably more accounting issues and 'predatory pricing' arguments and such that could be made, but at the end of the day, they've already spent the money on all the development of the mobile/surface/phone stuff. If more people aren't using it enough to be a serious long-term player, they've "lost" the money already. "Losing" a bit more by selling the hardware at cost or below cost to establish an installed base doesn't seem wrong. Don't console manufacturers do that, and it's accepted in that market?

Cutting the initial price near rollout sets a bar for every future iteration of that product. Just like how every iOS game has to grapple with the fact that Angry Birds is only 99 cents, and a load of other very popular games are "free". There are ways for higher-priced products to prevail against the expected price, but it's not easy.

But... they do it with xbox (IIRC), because everyone else is doing it. In the short term (next 2-4 years) no one is going to be able to compete with ipads in the $500 range. Kindle Fires have enough tie to Amazon to be OK there for a while. MS could fight better in that market. Or... goodness, just have shipped the $499 Surface with the keyboard/cover bundled, just so people are getting something "extra" with the $500.

Losing money on every unit and trying to make it up in volume is not a winning move! But doubling the screen resolution yes. Low-resolution screens don't cut it anymore now Apple has set the new standard.

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