Microsoft today announced a strategic partnership with Best Buy and Future Shop. The company plans to build Windows Stores in 500 Best Buy locations across the US and more than 100 Best Buy and Future Shop locations in Canada, launching from late June through September.
Seriously, what year is this? I don’t think it’s 2006, when Apple kicked off its Best Buy partnership because the retailer was kicking ass. I thought it was 2013 and Best Buy is decaying.
Microsoft probably should have done a deal to get into Apple Stores. That’s where the customers are.
Agam Shah reporting on the news that AMD is now committing to chips that will run both Android and Chrome OS:
“We are very committed to Windows 8; we think it’s a great operating system, but we also see a market for Android and Chrome developing as well,” Su said.
AMD previously said it had no interest in Android and that its chips would be exclusively tuned for Microsoft’s Windows 8.
Microsoft Communications Chief Frank X. Shaw on the trend he noticed at the D conference (that nearly everyone in the audience was using an iPad):
I actually think the PC is alive and well and thriving, it just comes in tons of different form factors. Many of those form factors are more mobile, and look different from the traditional desktop PC, but the same core idea drives it – personal in nature, used for work and for play, runs applications, connected to a network… etc. No matter what label you put on them, they are personal computing devices. Today, Sheryl Sandberg made a similar point when she noted that she had a computer in her pocket with more power than the computer that brought Apollo to the moon. And of course it was a phone. :)
As I wrote in September of 2011:
I don’t agree with the strategy for Windows 8 (at least what I’ve heard and seen so far). I think bifurcation will only confuse users and push more towards the iPad. But we’ll see. Metro looks good, there’s no denying that. I just wish Microsoft had the balls to go all-in on Metro.
Instead, we’re getting a lot of nonsense about how the PC isn’t dead, it’s just “evolving”. I’m now certain that Microsoft’s message when they do unveil Windows 8 will be how “everything is a PC”. Desktops, laptops, cellphones. It’s not about the hardware. Hogwash.
Yep. And to back up Shaw’s cause today, we have Paul Thurrott writing that “It’s Official: The iPad is a PC”.
For what it’s worth, I actually agree with many of the broader points both of them have about personal computing in general — and have for a long time — I’m just not sure why anyone defending Microsoft wants to push this notion.
I mean, I get that they’re betting big on Windows working on these new form factors. But this argument ends up highlighting the fact that the age of Windows dominating the personal computing space is over.
Continuing my thoughts from a September 2011, I noted why this semantics argument was a dumb one for Microsoft to engage:
Microsoft’s problem is that the public isn’t stupid. They see the computing world changing before them, and they want in.
People aren’t going to buy Windows 8 tablets because they’re just like the PCs they know and love. In fact, if anything, people won’t buy them for that very reason. Microsoft thinks people love their PCs. They don’t. They’ve been chained to them for years. They want to be set free. The iPad allows for that. Tying Windows to their don’t-call-it-post-pc strategy is dangerous for Microsoft. Disdain is starting to outweigh comfort.
Okay, fine, the iPad is a PC — it’s a PC that people actually want.
Or, as Thurrott concludes:
But man, are the next market share numbers going to be a blood bath.
It’s worth noting that game consoles always lag behind the PC in performance. That’s because console makers have to lock in on a design a couple of years ahead of the launch and then give that specification to game developers so they make launch titles. The custom chip takes a while to design, and it can be engineered better than a general-purpose PC to run games.
But PC makers have the advantage of just taking the fastest off-the-shelf graphics chip and marrying it with other state-of-the-art components. They can build a more modern machine that isn’t based on last year’s technology. So it’s no surprise that a new Nvidia graphics chip with expensive PC trappings will be able to run circles around game consoles that haven’t launched yet.
This highlights what I view as a fundamental problem with the console business going forward. While smartphones and tablets are eating into gaming from the low-end, Microsoft and the other console makers are aiming for the high end. But that high end already won’t really be the high end by the time the console launches because you’ll be able to get PCs that are more powerful.
Sure, such PCs may not be specifically tailored for gaming, but that gives the consoles maybe a few months — a year at best — as the pinnacle of high end gaming. Meanwhile, the smartphones and tablets will continue to evolve at a much more rapid pace.
Said another way: the last console upgrade cycle was 7 years. In 7 years, we’ll have seen 7 new iterations of the iPad. Does anyone think the 2020 iPad won’t stack up well against the Xbox One when it comes to specs? If so, you’re crazy. The 2015 iPad will probably stack up pretty well.
That means Microsoft will have to release another new Xbox much sooner than they did in the last cycle. But as Takahashi notes, the reason the hardware is already dated by the time it comes out is that it takes a lot of time to make these systems. And a lot of money. So…
Only three? They couldn’t squeeze a few more in there?
Seriously though, this part seems pretty key, as relayed by Sharif Sakr:
In terms of whether apps will be cross-compatible between the regular Windows Store and the storefront accessed by the new console, we’re told they won’t. Developers will have to do a bit of work to make a Windows app suitable for the Xbox One, not least in terms of tuning their UI for Kinect or the wireless controller. But Microsoft’s engineers told us that the underlying similarity between Windows 8/RT and Windows for the Xbox should make this a pretty easy feat for coders.
The long-term success of the Xbox One could very well ride on this alone. Third-party apps and games are something that all the console makers have dropped the ball on big time. And it’s not yet clear that they’re still not dropping that ball. But someone is going to nail this.
While everyone else was scrambling to get stories written as quickly as possible following the Xbox One unveiling, Wired’s Peter Rubin got the “exclusive” early look. And Wired’s presentation is quite nice.
I’m still not sure what to think of the new Xbox. Certainly, Microsoft did a better job presenting it to the world than Sony did a few weeks back with the Playstation 4. But even Rubin’s thoughtful walk-through makes the whole thing sound fairly complicated. I’m still just not sure that tablets and smartphones haven’t changed the gaming and living room space more than any of the old guard in the console arena cares to admit. (Though it’s looking like Nintendo will have to sooner rather than later.)
I had both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. Overall, I found them to be solid systems with a number of UI/UX frustrations that I simply don’t think I have the patience for anymore. And then, of course, the red ring of death. Maybe Microsoft has greatly improved the experience here. We’ll see.
Certainly some of the new Kinect stuff sounds interesting. But the “wow” factor of the first Kinect seemed to subside faster than anyone thought it would. Just like the Wii before it. I’ll take simplicity and great user experience over something that gives good demo any day.
With that in mind, I’m still more optimistic about whatever Apple brings to the table here whether it’s later this year or early next year. Surprise, surprise, I know. But there is zero chance I’m going to deal with IR-blasters to have a “seamless” experience.
Speaking of blues… “Schumpeter” of The Economist has this to say about Microsoft and Windows 8:
This is why Windows 8’s poor performance matters. It was an attempt to solve the innovator’s dilemma by creating an operating system and a user interface for both PCs and mobiles. Mr Ballmer hoped that consumers would want to move effortlessly from PCs to tablets to smartphones—and that Microsoft would be able to invade the mobile markets while simultaneously reigniting demand for its core PC products. But so far the reverse has happened: Microsoft has reinforced suspicions that it does not understand hand-held devices while simultaneously alienating its core PC users. It is possible that Microsoft will be able to solve this problem with future iterations of Windows 8. But it is looking likely that the two types of device need different operating systems. Microsoft’s biggest rival, Apple, has kept the two devices separate. That bodes ill for Mr Ballmer’s strategy. The comparison with New Coke actually understates Microsoft’s problem. Nothing forced Coca-Cola to introduce New Coke: tongues and throats do not change much. And all the firm had to do to rectify its error was to bring back the old version. Technology firms, in contrast, must innovate to survive. Restoring the start button will not restore Microsoft to its former glory.
It’s not that Microsoft isn’t trying to innovate, it’s that the type of innovation they chose to move forward with was ill-conceived. And this may well end up hastening their long-term woes. It’s the proverbial “rock and hard place”. It’s a textbook example of why innovators have dilemmas.
Some design agency spent a lot of time coming up with a rough concept of what iOS 7 probably isn’t going to look like. But let’s just say it looks kind of cool.
Some good stuff, some awful stuff. Overall, a “B”. Expect about 1,000 more of these as we inch closer to WWDC.
Update: John Gruber has some good thoughts on the video:
The shape of app icons is not going to change from round-cornered squares to sharp-cornered ones (or any other shape for that matter). Apple owns this shape; this shape says “iOS app” in everyone’s mind. It’s even printed right on the hardware home button of every iOS device. In fact it’s the only thing printed on the front face of every iOS device.
It’s not clear why so many people seem to think “flat” equates to “square”. Because Windows Phone tiles are square? If that’s the case, chalk something up to Windows Phone — while they may not be doing well in market share, they seem to have a pretty good presence in mind share, at least from a “flat” design perspective.
Great profile of Reed Hastings by Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg Businessweek. Three standouts:
The master copies of all the shows and movies available to Netflix take up 3.14 petabytes of storage space. (In comparison, Facebook uses about 1.5 petabytes to store about 10 billion photos.) Hollywood studios used to send individual films and shows to Netflix on a disc or thumb drive; now they use a Netflix system called Backlot to send encrypted files via the Internet. Netflix then compresses the files and creates more than 100 different versions, each tuned for the varying bandwidth, device, and language needs of its customers. (An hour of video for the iPhone would be about 150 megabytes.) This compressed catalog comes to about 2.75 petabytes.
Wow — also, Pi.
Netflix began to experiment with cloud services from Amazon and Microsoft, where Hastings served as a board member. In 2009 he bet his company’s future on Amazon. Up to that point, nothing the size of Netflix had placed so much of its crucial technology on Amazon’s systems. Hastings sent an e-mail to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announcing his plans. “I asked him if he was comfortable with that idea,” Hastings says. “If not, there was no point going forward.” Bezos gave the go-ahead.
That seems like a pretty large diss of a company where he’s a board member — especially when you consider that Amazon is now a very direct rival.
And finally, the best for last:
Qwikster was a fiasco, but far less threatening than a debacle that preceded it. In August 2008, Netflix’s technology infrastructure melted down. This was when the company was still known for DVDs-by-mail, and for three days it could not send discs because a crucial Oracle database kept malfunctioning. Reporters and customers took notice. Netflix traced the problem to an expensive, third-party storage system that went haywire after a software update. The incident still annoys Hastings. When the subject comes up in the watchtower, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt, who’s also gathered at the table, suggests they not mention the storage-system vendor by name. Hastings responds, “Let IBM have it, baby.” (An IBM spokesman declined to comment.)
Said another way.