Shira Ovide:

Microsoft had a tough first foray into homegrown computing devices with the introduction of the Surface in October 2012. Microsoft has recorded about $2.64 billion in Surface sales so far. Apple, by comparison, sold $7.6 billion in iPads in the past quarter alone. Nomura Securities estimated that Microsoft has accumulated roughly $2 billion in operating losses on the Surface.

While the two devices may be in the same category, they are not in the same league. 

Eugene Wei:

We now live in that age, though it’s not the desktops and laptops but our tablets and smart phones that are the instant-on computers. Whether it’s transformed Amazon’s business, I can’t say; they have plenty going for them. But it’s certainly changed our usage of computers generally. I only ever turn off my iPad or iPhone if something has gone wrong and I need to reboot them or if I’m low on battery power and need to speed up recharging.

In this next age, anything that cannot turn on instantly and isn’t connected to the internet at all times will feel deficient.

So true. After a week on the road, I just booted my my desktop computer — it boots pretty fast, under 20 seconds, but it still seems like forever versus just hitting a button to turn on the screen of my iPhone or iPad.

I still remember the days it would take several minutes to start up a computer. And when you were supposed to shut them down after using them. Seems like ancient history.

Anonymous asked:

I'm in the same place you are with my iPad Air (I really like the Logitech Fabricskin keyboard myself). My stumbling block is the need to refer to notes or other research material (a pdf, an article, etc.) while writing. I have gotten used to having them open and on the same screen at the same time, which is far less distracting than switching back and forth on a tablet. How are you overcoming this limitation?

Understood. The solution for me has simply been fast app switching. It’s not as fast, as screen-swiping on OS X (or having two documents open at the same time, of course), but the four-finger gestures for iOS work pretty well. Hopefully future iOS versions will address this further.

Habits & Tablets

As previously noted, I’m very close to being able to go with the iPad as my main computing device. Yes, as someone who writes quite a bit (both email and posts like this one), I prefer a physical keyboard — but I found one for the iPad that I quite love: the Logitech variety.1 So there must be something else holding me back.

One thing is specialized VPN access to certain things I need for work. But I suspect that sooner rather than later, that will be resolved. So what else holds me back? Well, habit.

While the physical keyboard aspect gets most of the attention2, I actually believe the tendencies many of us have formed using PCs these past 20 to 30 years are just as important when considering what is holding us back from entering the tablet-only world.

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Brooks Barnes on companies like DreamWorks working with partners on their own tablets:

Entertainment companies have been surprised at how speedily children have taken to tablets, sometimes forgoing TV sets altogether. As a result, DreamWorks, Disney and their competitors are searching for ways to make it easier for users to find their characters on portable devices.

It’s a smart thing to try, but:

The DreamTab is not a toy. Switched into parent mode, it provides roughly the same computing power as an iPad, the companies said.

This seems like a mistake. “Roughly”? I bet it’s nowhere near as powerful at those price points. And people, be they children or adults, will not be fooled. I think they should pick one market and go after it. This is not going to compete with the iPad as an all-around tablet.

Benedict Evans:

But there’s also another proposition, a $75-$150 black generic Chinese Android tablet, half the price of a Nexus 7. That proposition is also selling in huge numbers, but it appears to come with a very different type of use. 

Why are people buying these? What are they being used for? They’re mostly in China (that’s the pink bar above) and emerging markets and in lower income groups in the west. And it seems that they’re being used for a little bit of web, and a  bit of free gaming. Perhaps some book reading. And a LOT of video consumption. In fact, one might argue that for many buyers, these compete with TVs, not iPads, Nexuses and Tabs. But regardless of what they’re being used for, they’re not being used the way iPads are used. In effect, they are the featurephones of tablets. 

Fascinating to think that two products at opposite ends of the same category can be so drastically different.

Nick Wingfield:

For its full fiscal year, which ended June 30, total Surface sales were only $853 million, Microsoft said in its annual report. By comparison, Apple’s iPad sales during roughly the same time frame were $33.2 billion.

Yikes. But:

As before, the new Surface family includes two products, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. The Surface 2, called the RT in the first version…

At least they got the name right this time.

I still do not understand why the Surface (RT) line exists. I get the Surface Pro somewhat (though still don’t love its prospects long-term), but the Surface (RT) is significantly more expensive than any Kindle Fire, has basically no ecosystem when compared to any other Android tablet, and, of course, is no iPad.

I understand the desire to compete on the ARM side of the field, but they’re not really competing. They’re continually putting out a product that’s built to lose.

John Biggs on the new Kindle Fire HDX:

Amazon has also added Mayday, a 24/7 customer support solution that allows you to ping Amazon support people. The service is ingenious. Remote support folks appear in a little video window and can annotate your screen with arrows and even touch UI items. You can mute them so they can’t hear your discussion and block them from seeing your screen if something… untoward appears. It is a free solution to family tech-support problems, and as long as you’re online you can access the service at any time. It is, in a word, amazing.

Just to echo my comments last night, this sounds great for “normals” — it’s a remote, 24/7 Genius Bar. But I find it very hard to believe that something like this can scale. While it’s true that Amazon already has a robust customer support system, I assume these… let’s call them Fire OS Geniuses… are likely going to have to be a cut above typical support (in expertise, demeanor, and presumably pay).

And they’re just one button touch away. What if Amazon sells millions of Kindle Fire HDXs? Are they ready to have hundreds of thousands — or millions — of people clicking that button at any minute? Is there a notion of “Mayday Holding”? 

Of course, Amazon has thought about all this already. And if anyone can scale such a service, it’s them. I do wonder if this just means they don’t anticipate selling that maybe HDXs, at least at first. For now, I’ll chalk it up to Jeff Bezos’ latest brilliant chess move.

John Paczkowski:

Nasty allegations and a brutal condemnation of Microsoft’s tablet strategy, which Robbins Geller says has “eviscerated” about $34 billion of Microsoft’s market value. The suit seeks to recover damages on behalf of all purchasers of Microsoft common stock between April 18, 2013, and July 18.

Uh, what about those of us who actually bought the damn thing? I want a piece of that (class) action.

Susan Berfield:

The Nook looked good, worked well, and sold better than Barnes & Noble expected. “There was certainly a period when Nook was a real device leader,” says Mike Shatzkin, head of Idea Logical, a consulting firm. “But it was brief.” Three months after Lynch introduced the Nook to an audience for the first time, Steve Jobs held up the iPad.

Sometimes timing is everything.

Tom Warren:

It’s obvious Microsoft has made some mistakes here. The numbers speak for themselves. Overestimations on hardware, a strange marketing campaign, and a lack of retail presence are all part of that. You can’t help but feel the company knew it needed to be aggressive, and that it was — and still is — playing a tricky balancing game with third-party manufacturers in an effort not to damage its Windows 8 prospects. Microsoft seemed to be serious with the Surface RT in some respects, but it certainly held back initially.

Yeah, but why weren’t all those mistakes obvious nine months ago, at launch? Oh, they were.