An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including an Acer commitment to Windows 8 and touch-based computing, Fujitsu blaming Windows 8 for poor PC sales, whether Surface sales really matter, Google’s heavy internal use of Microsoft Office, Chicken Little baloney in wake of Netflix outage, Microsoft to skip CES, and Craig Mudie to retire but will hang out at Microsoft for the next year.
Acer: For Better or Worse, Windows 8 and Touch are the Future of the PC Industry
After spending much of late 2012 complaining about Microsoft’s entry into the PC market with its Surface lineup, Acer is finally coming around to at least accepting the way things are. Jim Wong, the president of the firm, said in an interview this week that its strategy is to focus on Windows 8, though it will continue to evaluate ARM and Windows RT and adapt if consumer demand ever materializes. “Companies must take risks when introducing innovations, and therefore it is still too early to say whether Windows 8 is a success or not,” he said, noting that pervasive multi-touch capabilities will help differentiate Windows devices from Apple’s Macs. “Since touchscreen notebooks are able to satisfy the consumer group that wishes to see a single machine for both work and entertainment, it is a market worth of investing in.”
Fujitsu Blames Windows 8 for Weak PC Sales Over the Holidays
Fujitsu president Masami Yamamoto said that demand for Windows 8 PCs was “weak” throughout the holidays and said that the firm would miss its 2012 sales targets as a result. And not just miss, but miss by a wide margin: In October, the firm expected to ship 7 million PCs for its fiscal year ending March 31, but Fujitsu now expects to ship just 6 million PCs. Coupled with an NPD report stating that US retail sales of PCs fell 21 percent year-over-year in the first four weeks of Windows 8 availability and we have a Vista-style emergency on our hands. In fact, web analytics firm Net Applications notes that usage of Windows 8 through December 22 was about 1.6 percent of all PCs, and compared that to the 2.2 percent usage that Windows Vista was able to obtain after a similar period of time after its own release in 2007. That said, Windows 8 is no Vista, not really. Unlike Vista, Windows 8 is well-suited for both existing PCs and a new generation of tablets and other computing devices, and it runs better on existing hardware than does its predecessor. I think the slow launch has more to do with evolving consumer needs, where PC upgrade cycles are getting stretched out thanks to very low-cost tablets that can fill the gaps.
Plenty of Kvetching Over Surface Sales
And while we’re focused on the negative, we may as well get this one out of the way: People can’t stop fretting and griping over Surface sales or, more accurately, the apparent lack of Surface sales. For example, Seeking Alpha (in a very poorly worded headline) this week tried to make the claim that Surface sales don’t matter, only Windows device sales overall matter. And Motley Fool opined that Microsoft simply needs time to get it right in the mobile computing world. I disagree with both of these assessments. Surface sales do matter and poor sales of the current device prove that Microsoft was wrong to bet so heavily on Windows RT and ARM, which kills off the number one benefit of Windows: Backwards compatibility. And time won’t cure the very real perception problem that Microsoft faces because it did bet so badly on the wrong Windows. And that perception, which one might contort easily into “the truth” is that Microsoft simply doesn’t make good decisions, even when its very future is at stake. I’ve already written about what it is that I think Microsoft should do to reverse its Surface tailspin in 2013: See Five Surface Devices Microsoft Should Make in 2013 for details. This can’t happen quickly enough.
Irony Alert: Google Uses Microsoft Office
I (rightfully) took the New York Times to task for a completely invented story about Google’s supposed inroads into Microsoft Office’s market this week in Fact and Fiction in Press Depiction of Google’s Office Ambitions. But I embarrassingly left out one juicy little detail: It turns out that even Google can’t stop using Microsoft Office. As Todd Bishop discovered, hundreds and hundreds of Google job postings note that Microsoft Office experience is a requirement because, get this, Googlers need to use Office to get their jobs done. Bishop’s conclusion is dead-on correct: “The real sign of Google Apps making a big dent in the business world will be when its own hiring managers are able to stop treating Microsoft Office as the de facto standard.” Exactly. And no offense to the Tinker Toy that is Google Apps, but that isn’t happening any time soon.
Chicken Little Ruins the Christmas Holiday
Reading of a Netflix outage caused by a disruption at Amazon’s cloud services over the Christmas holiday—ironically via a digital newspaper that was delivered wirelessly and automatically overnight to my Kindle Fire HD—I shook my head in resignation. Here it comes, I thought, the inevitable, total baloney “Chicken Little” stories that always follow this kind of event, describing in epic defeatism how, yet again, cloud computing will always fail us when it matters most. I wasn’t disappointed. ‘The Cloud’ Challenges Amazon, The New York Times nicely obliged, as if they have an article and headline template to warn readers about the peril of trusting the cloud. (The story includes an absolutely heartbreaking story about two pathetic navel-gazers who were trying to watch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” only to be thwarted and having to resort to, get this, playing Minecraft … online, of course.) Not to be outdone, the Wall Street Journal blurted out its own Chicken Little silliness in Netflix Amazon Outage Shows 'Any Company Can Fail'. What never gets reported, of course, is that this stuff just works most of the time, statistically “all of the time,” one might say. And while I share in the uniquely first-world pain that is the inability to watch any video content you want at any time for a few hours on a Christmas Eve—The horrors! The indignity!—I would also remind people that this event wasn’t particularly newsworthy, interesting, or reflective of anything other than how fricking stupid people are about the things that simply. Do. Not. Matter.
First CES Without a Microsoft Presence
The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show will kick off next month in Las Vegas as usual, but it will do so without Microsoft. Actually, Microsoft isn’t the only company that isn’t wasting a ton of time and money showing up at this epically pointless trade show this year, and in fact, the number of exhibitors is down by about 100 to 3,000 overall, while the number of attendees is expected to fall slightly as well. But Microsoft had for many years provided the primary keynote address at CES and was a prominent “anchor tenant” in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. One might make the argument that Microsoft’s shift this year to a “devices and services maker” would mean a bigger emphasis on the consumer electronics crowd that CES attracts, not less. But I suspect that Microsoft, perhaps correctly, simply wanted to announce and discuss products on its own schedule and is thus yet again aping a years-old Apple strategy: After appearing at the similarly ill-timed MacWorld trade show each January, Apple in 2008 decided it had had enough. Four years late to the party sounds like the typical Microsoft schedule, so this actually makes sense overall.
Craig Mundie to Retire in 2014, But is Checking Out Immediately
Craig Mundie, one of the few high-ranking and long-lived Microsoft executives not to mysteriously head for the door during Steven Sinofsky’s meteoric but ultimately aborted charge to the top … is now heading for the door. Mundie, a 20-year Microsoft veteran who most recently headed up Microsoft Research, revealed this week that he will retire in 2014. But he’s already checked out, from what I can tell: His new position, “senior advisor to the CEO,” in which he will work on key strategic projects within the company, suggests to me that he’ll be spending his remaining year or so browsing the web and playing Minesweeper. I don’t begrudge him that, I guess. But it seems like you either stay or you go. And if you stay, you do something.
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