Category Archives: iPad Rivals

Surface Pro 3: Microsoft’s iPad Rival That’s not an iPad Rival

Surface Pro 3

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled their new Surface Pro 3 tablet. Or tablet / laptop hybrid. Or, in the words of their early ad strapline, ‘The tablet that can replace your laptop’.

I didn’t get a chance to see the Surface 3 announcement event live, but I’ve read quite a few of the reports from those who did attend and some of those who got hands-on time with the new device.Here are some quick thoughts on this from the perspective of the Surface as a (in theory) iPad rival and just from the perspective of a mobile devices junkie:

— It sounds like at this event Microsoft focused much more on presenting the Surface as a laptop replacement rather than a straight-up iPad rival. That’s probably a good call, since they’ve made just about zero impact in the tablet space despite massive marketing campaigns, many of them bashing the iPad.

— It’s priced much more like a laptop – starting at $799 and moving up if you go for a better processor or more storage – even though they still refer to it as a tablet. That’s likely going to make them even more of a non-factor in the tablet market.

— The new stylus pen with OneNote integration sounds slick, but it would be far more impressive if that sort of feature was available for Evernote or some of the other more successful mobile apps.

— The built-in kickstand now offers multiple angles. That’s a very good change.

— Microsoft still seems to be hell-bent on making a tablet / laptop hybrid device, and I think it still looks like they’re making a hybrid device that doesn’t excel at being either thing. But they want it to replace an iPad AND a laptop.

— It runs Windows 8.1. That may be a slight improvement over Windows 8, but it’s still a schizophrenic awkward beast of an OS to work with. I’d say that’s a big drawback right off the bat.

I really want to try the Surface Pro 3 out, and I may well grab one once all the models pricing is available. I currently use a Windows laptop at work and a Nexus 7 and iPad as well. So I’d be interested to see if this sort of hybrid device is a viable option for me.

What do you all think of the Surface Pro 3?

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Review: Tocomail for iPad – Kid Safe Email

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 18.20.43

Do you remember Clippy? He was a chipper guy, who when I first saw him in Windows as a spotty teen I thought “that’s cool, an interactive comic character who will help me use Office 97!”. Clippy was great, and then 2 minutes later I learned how to use Office properly and he quickly became annoying. I suspect his intention was to educate us in a fun and interesting way about Office 97 in those pre-web 2.0 days. Great idea, but we didn’t actually use it in practice.

This is how I feel about Tocomail. Great idea that works, but it fills a niche that probably doesn’t need to be filled. Tocomail is an interesting concept. It’s positioned as an app with e-safety at it’s heart by providing a controlled environment for children from the age of 5 to have their own email account. Signing up for a Tocomail account will give you as a parent the ability to set up an email account for your children. You can populate the address book with safe contacts, for example your family and friends, and your children can email these people from directly within the app.

The way the app is set up means that your child can only email these contacts and no one else. Likewise, only the people on the contacts list can email the child’s Tocomail account. If an email comes from an address not on the contact list then the email is put into a catch all account which the parent can log on and inspect, rather than going to the child’s inbox.   Setup is easy enough. You as a parent have to create an account with Tocomail, and then you can create an email address for your child (ending in @tocomail.com). You can set up multiple accounts for different children in the same app and switch between them. You then have two user interface options, both of which have a couple of differences.

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Saying Hello to My First Windows Tablet

Dell Venue 8 Pro

 

I’ve been wanting to try out a Windows tablet for quite a while now. I even once spent several hours at a local Microsoft store with every intention of buying one of their Surface tablets – and then just couldn’t do it after spending a few hours trying them out.

I’ve owned and used a couple generations of Kindle Fire, the sadly short-lived TouchPad Pro that ran webOS, a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and both the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 – so a Windows tablet is one of the few mainstream (ish) types I haven’t had a chance to get to know.

This week I’ve found a Windows tablet that looks like a better fit for me – the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It’s a better fit for me partly because it’s an 8 inch tablet and I am now solidly a fan of the more ‘mini’ tablet form factor. I also like that it is priced much more attractively than the Surface line.

Since I’m now back at work as an IT consultant as my ‘day job’ I’ve been using a laptop running Windows 8 for a few months now. The Dell Venue 8 Pro runs Windows 8.1 – so it will be interesting to see whether this tablet can help be more productive and where it might fit in my work routine.

I won’t bore you with further detail here, since this site is all about the iPad, but I do plan to write up some first impressions and other thoughts as I spend time with the Dell Venue 8 Pro. If you have any interest in seeing those, check out my little baby site, Tech & Nonsense.

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Microsoft Ad Features the 1 Teacher in America with Surface Tablets in his Classroom

Surface Education Ad

The latest Microsoft TV ad for their clickety clackety keyboard wielding Surface tablets features a teacher talking happily about how all his students have the new MS tablet.

He emphasizes that the tablets have Office and a ‘real’ keyboard – ‘so they can do real work’. They doing real work is the recurring strapline for all of the Surface TV ads – because allegedly the silly iPad can’t do any.

A couple of  questions spring to mind here:

— When’s the last time you heard a young student say ‘Boy I wish my school would help me do more real work’?

— When’s the last time anyone heard of any major school or school district using Surface tablets? Oh, I know – never.

The iPad has recently been said to hold a 94% share in the education arena in the US. And I’d happily major that the vast majority of the remaining 6% is taken by Android tablets. Which would leave Microsoft and the Surface with a miniscule percentage at best – just as their overall market share for tablets is.

It baffles me that anyone at Microsoft thinks THIS is an area for them to try to brag about.

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Another Day, Another Surface Beats iPad Ad

iPad vs Surface RT

This week Microsoft have released yet another of their TV ads comparing the iPad to a Surface or another Windows based tablet. In this new ad it’s the Surface RT that’s pitted against the iPad.

The newest in this series of ads trots out some of the same supposedly killer advantages for the Surface over the iPad – like the knock on the iPad because it doesn’t include Microsoft Office.

Another advantage cited for the Surface is ‘integrated kickstand and keyboard’. Only in the very tiny fine print does it mention that the keyboard is sold separately. Sold separately for $100 if bought at the same time as the tablet and $120 if not. Pretty stiff price for something that’s ‘integrated’.

Despite every indicator showing that the Surface has had just about zero impact, Microsoft keeps pounding away with these comparison ads. Here’s this latest one, below. Does anyone believe these are having any effect?

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Now Microsoft Lowers Price on Surface Pro Too

Surface Pro

Following its big recent price cuts on the Surface RT tablet line, Microsoft has now dropped the price for its Surface Pro tablets by $100.

As The Verge reports, Microsoft has confirmed that customers in 5 countries – the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – will pay $100 less for the Surface Pro between August 4th and August 29th.

The price cut affects both the 64GB Surface Pro, which now goes for $799, and the 128GB model, which is now available for $899.

Given the Surface’s current status as a major flop, it will not be at all surprising to see these price cuts become permanent sometime soon.

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Microsoft’s Surface Tablets ‘Officially a Flop’

Surface tablet

Lots more bad news for Microsoft and their Surface tablets this week. Microsoft’s most recent financial results filing (for their fiscal year that ended June 30 of this year) show a total of $853 million in revenue from Surface sales – which some are saying is less than they’ve spent on marketing for the Surface line.

BGR, along with many others, have declared the Surface a flop when referencing the Surface revenue numbers:

That figure doesn’t include the $900 million write-down it took or the huge amount of cash it spent on marketing and advertising, so Microsoft has clearly lost a substantial amount of money on its Surface bet so far — yes, the Surface is officially a flop.

The latest estimate of total Surface sales, by GeekWire, is just 1.7 million units sold. That’s 1.7 million sold in the 8 months since the first Surface release. For a little perspective, 3 million iPad minis were sold in 3 days at its launch time.

Over the years I’ve seen many Microsoft fans argue that the success of the iPhone / iPad / Apple themselves was largely down to marketing. Well, Microsoft have marketed the hell out the Surface line. They’ve ripped the iPad in their recent TV advertising and painted it as a far less useful device than the Surface.

Maybe they should focus more now on making a tablet that actually lives up to their hype.

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Latest Tablet Market Share Report Shows Android Way Ahead

Tablet Market Share Q2 2013

The latest report on the global market for tablets, from Strategy Analytics, shows that Android leads in shipments and market share – by quite a big margin. As The Next Web reports, these figures for Q2 of 2013 show Android shipments at 34.6 million – well ahead of Apple iOS shipments at 14.6 million.

In market share percentage, Android registers a huge 67% while iOS is at just over 28%.

I know that many Android zealots will hail these numbers as a sign of the iPad losing momentum (or worse) and ‘Android winning’ and so forth. I’ve seen a fair bit of that already on Google+. I think there a a few things worth considering along with these numbers though:

— There’s the ever-popular shipped vs. sold subject. The Q2 numbers for iOS tablets are the actual number of iPads sold, as announced by Apple on their Q2 earnings call last week. Many of the leading Android tablet makers never release sales numbers. Amazon never does, Google doesn’t, and Samsung only talk about shipments to distribution channels. Microsoft’s recent writedown of nearly a billion dollars for unsold Surface RT tablets shows how worthwhile those sort of shipment numbers can be.

— iOS tablets means iPad. There’s only one iPad, though with a few different models available, as compared to the myriad of Android devices from numerous vendors. None of the individual vendors or tablets have been shown to be close to iPad in sales or market share.

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Someone Should Explain to Microsoft How Trash Talking Works

That’s Microsoft’s latest Siri-mocking, iPad bashing, Surface RT bragging ad shown above, released yesterday. Pretty ballsy stuff when you consider they literally just announced a huge $900 million writedown due to unsold Surface RTs, and various reports have shown that their tablet has had just about zero impact with consumers or with the enterprise.

I think somebody needs to explain to Microsoft how trash talking works. Revenge is a dish best served cold they say, and trash talking is not too effective when you are right smack in the middle of getting your ass kicked. Just a thought.

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How’s the Surface RT Doing? Microsoft Writes off $900 Million for Unsold RTs

Surface RT

Wow. Just when you think the news can’t get much worse for Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, it does. Yesterday TechCrunch reported that Microsoft has reported a huge writedown for unsold Surface RTs in its latest earnings report:

The company took a massive $900M writedown last quarter because of unsold Surface RT’s. Even more telling is that Microsoft actually revealed this loss. It’s that big. The company had to tell investors why it didn’t meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Just last week Microsoft slashed the prices of Surface RT models by nearly 1/3, and last month we saw that Microsoft tablets are almost invisible on the latest tablet web usage charts, with a less than 1% share; and that Surface tablets don’t even make it onto a chart showing the leaders in enterprise tablet activations.

Despite all of that, I’ve seen recent rumors that Microsoft will be releasing new Surface RT tablets early next year. They’ll need to be much lower-priced and have an operating system that’s not schizophrenic and downright painful to use, otherwise they might as well start planning for the next billion dollar writeoff.

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Microsoft Slashing Price of Surface RT Tablet

Surface RT Price Cut

It looks like Microsoft is about to slash the price of their Surface RT tablet line. As The Verge reports, the price for all models of the Surface RT is set to drop by $150 starting this Sunday, July 14.

With the new price cut, the price for the entry level 32GB Surface RT will come down from $499 to $349.99, and the 64GB model will be available for $449.99. The Touch Cover keyboard is still a $100 add-on.

This is yet another bad sign for the Surface line. Lowering the price by nearly 1/3 looks like a bit of a desperate measure, or maybe even a sign that the RT won’t be around for that much longer. This follows on the heels of a report last month showing Windows tablets had less than 1% adoption rate in the enterprise and a tablet web usage report that showed Surface tablets with a less than 0.5 share.

I think both Surface tablets have been hugely overpriced, especially as the latecomers they are to the tablet market. I’ll be shocked if we don’t see a similar price cut for the Surface Pro line soon.

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