Tablet Tuesday, full of hot ‘Air’!

Posted on October 23, 2013

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October 22nd will go down as Tablet Tuesday, as the big players in this space Microsoft, Apple, Nokia converged on this date to officially launched new product.

Instead of a big bang it was more of a one horse show with most attention captured by Apple, being the only one of the bunch to have maintain any secrecy about what they were launching. For Microsoft and Nokia it was little more than a formality as they released the details behind product that had already been widely seeded in the market already.

Microsoft

It was more of an interim device and software update, nothing seismic. Surface 2 Device reflecting more of what their original Surface device aspired to be and the Windows 8.1 point release more of a ‘patch’ update vainly attempting to address core issues with the new Operating System (OS). For more on Windows 8.1 see my earlier blog ‘Windows 8.1 – Loaded, aimed, fired …. miss!’ 

Then there was the demise of RT as a brand name at the device level. One assumes it will remain at the OS level or it is going to get very confusing. It is becoming a bit of a Microsoft trend, getting the naming conventions wrong only to have to enter a post release re-branding exercise. So at the Microsoft Device level we have:

  • Surface – That will run Windows RT.
  • Surface 2 – That will run full fat Windows OS.

There is a usability tweak that Microsoft has made to RT to try and put some additional clear air between it and Windows. They have removed the desktop Tile from the Start screen. A move towards the full relegation of the desktop at some point, something that I suspect will occur in tandem with the future release of a touch/tablet ready version of Microsoft Office. At which point any ambiguity between RT and Windows will be finally stripped away as RT loses any pretentions to a desktop.

Nokia

Or at least the Nokia mobile device division, it was a last hurrah before being consumed by Microsoft. It felt more of a flush out the cupboards than anything significant in product terms. That may be harsh but apart from the move to Quad Core CPU’s there was little genuine innovation. On this later Quad Core point a major U turn for Elop who had vociferously criticised the need for such horse power when challenged in the past.

As such I believe these products will do little more than put the Nokia Microsoft marriage into a holding pattern, I struggle to see them driving market share and in the absence of a booming and flourishing apps store to pull them along it will be little more than business as usual. Quiet possibly a write off at some point in the next fiscal to square the circle of the inevitable revenue underperformance. A loss that will get buried as an inevitable cost of the merger and messaged over with the future plans that Microsoft will have by then.

Elop’s legacy from Nokia is for me Mr.U’Turn. He seemed to spend all his time denying the inevitable, as with the Quad Core CPU he continued to deny Nokia’s sale to Microsoft even when it was so obvious to all in the industry. Not the stuff of CEO legends.

Apple

So to Apple, who in classic Apple style delivered a tempered performance, in the reserved way that we have become accustomed to. On the surface at least it was calm nonchalance as the presenters endeavoured to preserve a harmony with what was clearly a choreograph attempt to pump suspension in the audience. It has never really worked since Steve Jobs left this stage, and failed today. The wavering tones of the presenters exposing the nerves, and attempts at humour coming over stilted, and what about ‘Phil’? He came across to me like he was not that bothered if at all interested in the messages he was delivering! Some method acting required there to avoid the complete apathetic fallout I felt he delivered. I guess what I am saying is I found myself distracted from the messaging by the passé Apple performance.

Apples communication style aside the core messaging once you peel back the bravado was little more than a hardware release, a company launching some new tin. Don’t get me wrong it is superlative stuff, no other hardware manufacture can hold a light to Apple’s attention to detail and the aura they have achieved around their devices.

Throwing up the green build credentials was again a masterpiece of obfuscation. Apple product has become so limited in their expansion potential for end users that when there is a generational change of hardware it has to be swapped out in its entirety. If you don’t believe me just try and upgrade a Hard Drive or RAM in a new iMac or MacBook Pro. As such the reality is Apple is driving the disposable society faster than ever.

Then there were the software announcements. Or rather smokescreens. Giving away free what was largely of little cost to end users previously should be seen for what it is, a fig leaf in a battle they cannot win on the Desktop OS and Office Productivity suite. But of course it does not harm trying to stick it to the other guy. It was cringeworthy listening to their attempts to play up their software and collaboration offerings in the face of Microsoft mature market leading cutting edge software and service line-up. Speaking to a couple of the headline items Apple tried champion their products with:

  • Keynote – Referred to as the standard for presentations? Where have they been? PowerPoint IS presentation, its name synonymous. Sitting along side other great brands that have been adopted as adjective’s such as Hoover.
  • Numbers – Off the cringe scale ….. Does Apple live in an alternate reality? Just head over to Microsoft Power BI for Excel and Office 365 to see how to do proper data visualisation and collaboration. It makes Numbers look like a hand held calculator.
  • Pages – The big line here from Apple was its native support for all leading document formats and a show and tell of some cut and paste drag and drop? I was waiting for something new or original, but that was it!
  • Collaboration – iCloud, is all they have! Little more than an online data storage facility, OK it does sync desktop settings across devices. Don’t forget that once you have used your free 5GB data allowance you have to pay. Oh yes and iCoud runs on Microsoft Windows Azure 😮

Then there was Apple’s poke at Office365. BAD mistake, if anyone things this through it comes across as an own goal and self-defeating. If you look at what Apples is offering it is derisory and fragmented alongside Microsoft Office 365 which offers a integrated raft of rich business grade email and collaboration functionality not to forget Microsoft Office. So for the $99 jibe from Apple the reality is huge value for x5 user’s at that single price point for Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium AND it supports Mac OSX, and then there are the Microsoft Office 365 Business plans that scale from Small right up to Enterprise all in the same familiar genre.

I noted Apple do not highlight the ridiculous size of their pieces of software. I know Microsoft takes some flak for the size of Microsoft Office at @750mb but just look at the size of Apples individual pieces:

  • Keynote = 463MB
  • Numbers = 234MB
  • Pages = 266MB

and that is for the iPhone versions!!!  Apple is clearly NOT a bandwidth buddy.

In summary then, in trying to compare themselves with Office365 Apple have highlighted where they simply cannot compete and where Microsoft are delivery huge value an innovation across platforms.

As for giving their software away, Apple are frankly acknowledging it is the only way they will get it into wider circulation, not necessarily wider use, before Microsoft Office Touch generation hits the market. In the PC world we call such pre-pack free software ‘bloat-ware’. Software that is preloaded onto devices in a vain attempt to distract users from making a cognitive choice themselves.

In summary Apple have the upper hand in devices and the apps store, Microsoft have it in software and Cloud services. The worry I am sure Apple has is that now with the Nokia purchase Microsoft are going to be better equipped to take the device battle to Apple than Apple can ever do on the software field of play.

As for the Apps Store battle, I believe once Microsoft get their OS aligned and API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) integrated the current Windows ecosystem of software will ultimately steam roller the Apple apps store across all device classes.

Whatever happens it is going to drive some great innovation from these IT behemoths and I can see only one winner …. the consumer/business.

So bring it on guys 🙂

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