On walkabout in life and technology

Apples and Rotten Oranges

So Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft wrote a thing called Apples and Oranges in response to the Apple Laptop, iPad, iWork, iLife and Mac Pro event yesterday, and sadly, it got a lot of coverage.

So I put my snark hat on and decided to throw darts at his piece (almost completely reproduced here). The text in grey are his words, the rest is me attempting to be humorous, ridiculous or just plain snarky. Take it all with a grain or two of salt. This is the Internet after all

So let me try to clear some things up.

Translation: Testing, 1, 2, 3, Is this thing working. Turning on the FUD machine and cranking it up to level 9.

Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world’s most popular, most powerful productivity software…

It also contains Windows 8, nuff said.

…for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively.

Um, dude, there is no price point below free. Unless you pay people to take the products off your hand.

Making Apple’s decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal.

Ain’t no better deal than free. So how is Apple’s free software a worse deal than Microsoft’s free software? And how is an easier to use touch optimized iWork not a big deal to users of a touch-based tablet?

Since we launched the Surface line of tablets last year,…

And what a launch it was. Then we sold so few of them that I won’t mention sales at all.

… one of the themes we’ve consistently used to talk about them is that they are a terrific blend of productivity and entertainment in one lightweight, affordable package. In fact, we’re confident that they offer the best combination of those capabilities available on the market today.

No-one was listening. But do go on.

That’s not an accident, it’s exactly what we set out to design.

And then compromised the gezundheidt out of it. (See Daring Fireball’s summary at The C Word).

We saw too many people carrying two devices around (one for work and one for play) and dealing with the excess cost, weight and complexity that “dual carrying” entails.

I live in New York and see lots and lots more people carrying one device for work and play, an iPad. They also carry phones, handbags, umbrellas, briefcases and pens. So it’s really “multi carrying” (and they have to pay for their pens here too).

We believed…

but no longer believe, note the past tense here.

… that there was another, better way: A tablet built to offer great touch-based entertainment activities combined with a productivity powerhouse that helps people crank through the stuff they have to get done before they watch zombies or flick birds.

I have been told that performing “touch-based entertainment activities” makes one blind and should not be performed in public while wearing nothing but a trench coat and fedora.

That’s what Surface is. A single, simple, affordable device that helps you both lean in and kick back.

Since it violates temporal theory to be in two places at once, leaning in and kicking back are separate activities. Or maybe he means leaning into the back of a chair and kicking back. Just try to use a Surface on your lap with the keyboardy covery thingie. Hilarity ensues.

Let’s be clear – helping folks kill time on a tablet is relatively easy.

And Microsoft does it so well, making them wait to boot, wait to log in, wait to launch apps, wait to scroll, wait to browse the web, and wait for apps that will never appear on the device to be not written. Yep, very good at killing time.

Give them books, music, videos and games, and they’ll figure out the rest. Pretty much all tablets do that.

You mean make them buy books, music, videos and games, that stuff ain’t free.

But helping people be productive on a tablet is a little trickier.

No, it is not tricky at all, heck even the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Kindle Fire show how easy it is.

It takes an understanding of how people actually work, how they get things done, and how to best support the way they do things already. The good news is that Microsoft understands how people work better than anyone else on the planet.

If Microsoft understood how people worked, they would have created the iPad.

We created the personal computing revolution by giving people around the world a low-cost, powerful, easy-to-use device…

Er, IBM did that.

… that helped them accomplish an unbelievable array of tasks.

Er, Apple, Lotus, Adobe and lots and lots of others did that.

And together, Windows and Office ended up reaching every corner of the globe and powering every academic institution, industry and profession. Of course both Windows and Office are evolving all the time – to reflect the way people work today – more social, more mobile and connected through the cloud.

And so he downs a yard glass of the Kool Aid.

Did not Microsoft force PC makers to sell Windows, made the Office file formats proprietary and undercut all competition price wise to get all corporates to use it (thereby killing WordPerfect and Lotus), and made out that users chose to work this. You sure that’s just tobacco in your pipe?

We literally wrote the book on getting things done.

Er, no, that was literally David Allen.

And that’s how we knew that Surface needed to include three things to help people do their best work:

1. The gold standard in productivity software – Office.

Slow, bloated, non-touch, software that most people have moved past. Oh, I see, Outlook is not yellow, it’s gold.

2. Faster and more precise input methods like keyboard/trackpad.

Because fingers, pointing and touching, skills humans have had for thousands of years are so imprecise we cannot indicate direction or place food in our mouths.

3. The ability to use apps and documents side by side, allowing the comparisons, analysis and synthesis that happens frequently during content creation.

Walk around any office or coffee shop and see how many people use Microsoft Windows with only one app open in full screen mode. Yep, all of them.

That’s what we delivered. And it’s why the Surface is the most productive tablet you can buy today.

Unless you have an iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Kindle Fire or any other tablet that exists on the market.

We also knew that it would make our competitors take notice.

They did, ridiculed it (See Microflops: Microsoft Surface RT and 8 tablets) and got on with their lives.

That as consumers got a taste of devices that could really help them get things done, they would see alternatives as being more limited.

So they saw the limited alternative, being the Surface, and bought the alternatives, being iPads.

And so it’s not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much “work” you can get done on their devices.

People are talking about getting work done on their devices for a simple reason: you can get real work (without scary quotes) done on tablets, and they do.

Adding watered down productivity apps.

That do the 15% of the product that everybody needs and works well on touch enabled devices without delays and bloat.

Bolting on aftermarket input devices.

Instead of clicking-on aftermarket input devices.

All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

Which they are, since all of the Fortune 500 use iPads. But ah, the iPad is for consuming content only, that old hoary thing, sigh.

In that spirit, Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their “iWork” suite of apps.

Ooh, scary quotes around iWork (but then not used before or again in the post, even in the next sentence).

Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought,…

And since Microsoft charges for Office like a wounded bull, and does not want to lose that revenue.

…it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn’t change the fact that it’s much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking.

You are right, touch enabled large buttons are so hard to prod with fingers designed to do aforementioned prodding. So Microsoft left them small in Office and needs a trackpad for a touch device.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading some of the coverage I’ve read today.

I’m guessing you were reading about the launch of the Nokia tablet, because the iPad event was all about productivity.

Perhaps attendees at Apple’s event were required to work on iOS devices that don’t allow them to have two windows open for side-by-side comparisons,…

Yep, the big bully Apple forced people to use iPads, whereas the nice Microsoft never “embraced and extended” a whole bunch of companies into dust.

… so let me help them out by highlighting the following facts:

Starting with the F in FUD ain’t for ‘Fact’.

• The Surface and Surface 2 are less expensive than the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively, and yet offer more storage, both onboard and in the cloud.

They have to be cheaper, even people with IQ’s lower than the thickness of a Surface won’t pay more if they can get a real iPad for less.

• … come with full versions of Office 2013, including Outlook, not non-standard, non-cross-platform, imitation apps that can’t share docs with the rest of the world.

So, standards-based IMAP email clients on all other tablets that use open protocols, well known MIME formats and send emails using public and free services reliably is worse that a bloated, buggy, proprietary email product that sends emails via an even more expensive and complex server (that Microsoft just happens to sell and wants to make more money on).

• … offer additional native productivity enhancing capabilities like kickstands, USB ports, SD card slots and multiple keyboard options.

If your number one differentiation feature is a stand to make the tablet stand up (and which is totally useless when actually holding the device or resting it on your lap), you have a problem. Oh, and like there are no keyboards or keyboard support for iPads. Really?

• … include interfaces for opening multiple windows, either side by side or layered to fit the way most people actually work.

Back with the multiple windows thing that no-one ever uses. The donkey died, stop beating it. (and no, I am not referring to performing “touch-based entertainment activities”)

So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up.

Yep, Apple would love to catch up, er down, to the sales of Surfaces. Looks like this is the part of the post where the FUD dredged up is from the bottom dregs of the FUD wastebasket.

I think they, like others, are waking up to the fact that we’ve built a better solution for people everywhere,…

No-one, ever, woke up and imagined the Surface to be a better solution (see the compromised link above and any, and I mean any review of it).

.. who are getting things done from anywhere, and who don’t have hard lines between their personal and professional lives. People who want a single, simple, affordable device with the power and flexibility to enhance and support their whole day. :)

Yep, like iPad users, Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire users. Or iPhone and Android users. Heck, even Blackberry users have “a single, simple, affordable device with the power and flexibility to enhance and support their whole day.”

Ok, one final dart: The whole day? A day is 6 hours? Really? According to Zdnet

The Surface Pro 2 trails behind competition in both the web browsing and video playback battery life tests, achieving a runtime of 6.68 and 6.65 hours respectively. Compare this to the Nvidia Shield, which ran for 13.53 and 18.63 hours in the respective tests, or the iPad 4 which could manage 9.48 and 13.45 hours.


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