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Yes, readers, you read that correctly. I’m going to praise an operating system that I have historically bashed.

And yes, this is a new post. I have returned from wherever I’ve been to write something new for Brood Coffee Talk*. Actually, I’ve been wanting to do just that for quite a while now, but haven’t been able to find the time.

It’s been about a month since I took a day off from work to drive my–for all intents and purposes–wife to the airport, flying back East for her father’s funeral. Soon afterwards I found myself at a nearby Fry’s Electronics, and after taking a few minutes to peruse their newspaper ad (posted on a wall by the entrance), I headed over to the tablet area.

The actual details of how I arrived at the Android tablet I ended up with are best left for another post. Let’s just say that the store was advertising a tablet for $47, were out of that one, and after much deliberation I settled on another that I’m certain was the better choice.

I bought a Hisense Sero 7 (refurbished) for $69. It’s a 7″ Android tablet with 4.2 Jelly Bean…it has a nice bright and sharp 1280×800 display, a mini HDMI port, it accepts a 32GB (maximum) mini-SD card, etc. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, as someone who has used Apple products fairly exclusively (I’ve also owned a BlackBerry 8300 Curve, an HP iPaq x3715, a Handspring Visor, and a Windows Mobile phone), there was a bit of a learning curve. I have friends that have Android devices, and I’ve played around a little with them…but, just in case no one has ever told you, having such a device for your very own is quite a bit different than that. For one thing, you probably won’t have them at your side every minute of every day to answer questions for you. And, believe me, I had a LOT of questions, mostly of the “how-do-you-do-THIS?” variety. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to figure out. It wasn’t long before I had added some of my favorite apps from my iPhone: Dropbox, avast! and Evernote. The tablet has a lot of useful apps already included…I also added ES File Explorer, textPlus and HP ePrint through the Google Play store.

How do I like it? I absolutely love it! While I won’t be trading in my iPhone for an Android one any time soon, I was and remain VERY impressed with the Android experience. (One reason is that there’s too much integration between iOS and OS X for such a switch, which is only going to get better with iOS 8 and OS X 10 [Yosemite]).

I paired it with a low-cost ideaUSA leather-styled clamshell case that includes a built-in mini-USB keyboard…I am using both to compose this WordPress post.

One of the reasons I thought this might be a good idea was an Andy Inhatko column I read about a year and a half ago. He’s an Apple guy, been one for many years. That’s why I was very surprised to hear–in his three-part article–that he preferred an Android phone to his iPhone. I wrote about that here, in this Brood Coffee Talk post.

Inhatko is no dummy. He knows what’s good and what’s…better. And, apparently, isn’t afraid to come right out and say it.

So, I did it. I gave the other side–“the Dark Side”–a try…and, I was very impressed. You Android owners–you’re really on to something, here.

How many of you would join me? Show some, uh, stones and go to the other side…? Hmmm? Try an Apple/iOS product?

You never know, you might actually LIKE it. I know that I did.

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*(I suppose at least some of the reason I stopped was in large part due to a certain burnout factor. Those of you that post regularly have my admiration–it’s harder than it looks.)

Why the new BlackBerry Z10’s success is so important

In a recent post we discussed the BlackBerry Z10–five reasons you should stay with the platform, and five reasons why you should leave for greener, uh, smartphone pastures.

It occurred to me that many of you don’t know much about the new BlackBerry, or how important it really is to its recently-renamed parent (the former Research in Motion)…which, if there is ever going to be any more BlackBerrys, this one is going to have to do prey-ty well indeed.

It’s actually a very nice device…looks and feels good, has some very cool features, like the ability to keep your work data and personal data completely separate, yet allow some integration as well if needed.

And that brings up the problem with devices built to do one thing, but being adapted to do another. The BlackBerry is a business phone, a phone for the enterprise sector. The company started to lose its way when it decided it also wanted to attract consumers, which meant watering down or altering some of its better features.

Anyway…the problem usually wasn’t with the devices themselves, but the bloatware that got added to each phone by whichever wireless carrier you were purchasing it from. Except for that accursed nonworking trackball on the last generation of Curves that “featured” it, the machines were good quality. It was the company’s management decisions that eventually brought it to where it is today.

Which is to say, in life support.

Cue the excerpt from Matt Hamblen’s PCWorld article, “Can new smartphones rekindle the BlackBerry fire?”

(Please note that the article was published January 25, 2013. It makes reference to Research in Motion or RIM…since this article was published the company has officially changed its name to BlackBerry. Also, the new models were introduced January 30.)

“Not dead yet” could well be the new BlackBerry marketing theme, as the world prepares to hear about two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones to be announced next Wednesday.

Days before the announcement, there is fairly wide disagreement among analysts and developers over whether Research In Motion can stop the dramatic decline of its BlackBerry phones. The BlackBerry was the market leader until the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and Android phones after that. Its market share fell to 10% in 2010 and has dwindled to 5% today.

In advance of the event, specifications and photos have been widely leaked of the new touchscreen and QWERTY-keyboard versions of BlackBerry smartphones, but RIM hasn’t confirmed many of the details.

According to unconfirmed reports, the touchscreen version, dubbed the Z10, will have a 4.2-in. display, a resolution of 1280 pixels by 768 pixels and 16GB of internal storage.

It will also include a Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and Near-Field Communications technology (useful for mobile payments). Moreover, the models available from Verizon Wireless will be able to run on 4G LTE cellular networks.

Less is known about the smaller QWERTY version, known as the X10. With this model, RIM is acknowledging its loyal following of users, among 80 million overall globally, who prefer a physical keyboard.

Pretested smartphones

RIM officials confirmed that thousands of prerelease BlackBerry 10 devices have been tested by corporations, which have been the mainstay of the company’s customer base, even as BlackBerry’s global market share has dwindled to 5%, according to Gartner. Meanwhile Android has captured 65% of the global smartphone market and the iPhone has about 21%.

Analysts who have tried the devices offered some promising predictions. “The new BB10 offers the best [user experience] on the market—not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance,” said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman in a blog post this week entitled “RIM begins its comeback year with BES 10 launch.”

In an interview, Redman said that BB10 devices won’t surpass Apple or Android devices, but, he added, “I think they will beat Windows Phone.” Moreover, he predicted that RIM will “market this like nothing before, [with] much of the future of the company depending on the launch.”

In contrast, Citigroup financial analyst Jim Suva reminded clients in a note that the pre-announcement optimism for BlackBerry 10 devices is not necessarily an indicator of how well the phones will sell.

“We remind investors that actual sell-through matters to determine the true financial impact that the new OS and hardware will have on the company’s financials, especially in an increasingly competitive environment,” Suva said.

Michael Mullany, CEO of Sencha, a company that is an HTML5 development partner of RIM on the BlackBerry 10 platform, remains optimistic. “We think BB 10 has a good shot at re-igniting RIM sales,” he said.

In an interview, Mullany said the prerelease Z10 touchscreen model that developers have been testing offers “incredible performance for the browser inside—it will be a market leader for HTML5.”

Developer interest in apps

RIM also said it has seen heavy developer interest in building apps for BlackBerry 10, with 15,000 apps published in the BlackBerry World app store in two days.

Previous browsers in BlackBerry smartphones have been a sore spot for RIM, and Mullany remarked that the BlackBerry Torch smartphone, which was released two years ago was a disappointment. “When we got the Torch,” he recalled, “we scratched our heads and said, ‘Are they serious?'”

But Mullany also said that RIM has not “irreparably harmed itself,” because mobile consumers “have very short memories.” He said the Z10 has impressive speeds for scrolling content and responds quickly to touches.

Mullany said he’s not privy to RIM’s plans to market the Z10 or X10, but he noted that RIM has faced difficulties in the past in trying to attract consumers to BlackBerry devices after years of serving the needs of working professionals and enterprise IT shops.

In recent years, RIM relied on rock star Bono and the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas to promote the BlackBerry brand among consumers. But even stellar marketing could not correct a problematic product like the Torch.

“I feel this [Z10] is a very robust consumer device,” Mullany said. “It’s not a business-only device for sure. It will do well in the consumer and prosumer market.”

There’s more to this story found here.

I’d like to see the new BlackBerry Z10 do well. I think the smartphone industry could use a few more companies bringing great products to market (notice I said “great,” with new ideas and innovations). I’ll admit that I like Apple products and use them daily…but I’ve had a Windows Phone and a BlackBerry, and I’ve had access to and used an Android phone. Each and all of those had individually good and bad points.

You should be able to purchase a smartphone–or any product–because you like it, not because it’s the lesser of what you perceive to be two evils. Perhaps that’s what the Z10 will be–a choice for those who don’t like either the iPhone or Android, and can’t figure out the Windows 8 phone.

Finally, good news for Microsoft: Surface Pro 128GB sells out within hours

It has finally happened–Microsoft has a hit, a device that consumers can’t wait to have, something that’s as much in demand as, say, the initial releases of the latest iPad or iPhone models.

On Saturday, the 64GB and 128GB Surface Pro went on sale for the first time. Within hours, the 128GB model sold out online, according to PCWorld.com:

Shoppers for $1000 tablet [sic] at the online outlets of Best Buy and Staples, as well as Microsoft’s own web store, began seeing “not available” or “out of stock” notices just hours after midnight Eastern Time when the Windows 8 slate went on sale.

“Checked BestBuy: Surface Pro unavailable online, no stores within 400 miles w/ 128GB model in stock,” tweeted technology writer Ed Bott.

Although the 128GB edition of the Surface Pro has sold out online, that’s not the case with its $899 sibling, which has 64GB of solid state storage.

Addresses storage issue

Surface Pro 64GB sales  may be suffering from criticism it has received for the actual amount of storage space it provides for user content. Of the 64GB of space on its SSD, only 23GB (36 percent) is available to a user. By contrast, the 128GB Surface Pro has 83GB available to users, or 65 percent of the drive.

Microsoft has been a little slippery on the actual amount of space available on the slates. Just before the tablets went on sale, Redmond recanted its initial numbers and bumped up the available space on the 64GB Surface Pro to 29GB and on its bigger sibling to 89GB.

As news of the Surface shortages spread, Microsoft issued a statement to the press:

“Customer response to the launch of Surface Pro has been amazing. The Microsoft Online Store is currently out of stock of the Surface Pro. Our priority is to ensure that every customer gets their new Surface Pro as soon as possible. We are replenishing our supplies as quickly as possible.”

Would-be buyers grouse

Microsoft’s miscalculation on the 128GB Surface Pro didn’t win them any kudos from discomfited Surface seekers on Reddit.

“We were first in line at the nearest Best Buy this morning and it seems that Microsoft only shipped enough devices to fulfill Best Buy’s pre-orders and one extra 64GB model,” lamented one Surface Pro 128GB shopper.

“There’s not a single 128 unspoken for in the country,” another wrote. “I don’t know how they could have grossly underestimated the demand like this.”

“All of the Best Buy stores in my area were only given one 128GB,” a disappointed Surface seeker noted. “The two Staples in my area that I went to weren’t even supplied with the 128GB. Microsoft has a large enough marketing and research company that they should know better.”

Microsoft isn’t used to having a hit product on the scale of an iPhone or iPad. If the Surface Pro is such a product, let’s hope it can show the Redmond faithful that it knows how to handle success and fill the pipeline with more Surface Pro 128s quickly so that Surface fans unable to buy a unit Saturday won’t have long to stew in their juices of disappointment.

Ah, there’s the rub. Let’s say you’re Microsoft, and after much hand-wringing and anxiety   you’ve finally scored with a device that people are clamoring for…and, you sell out within hours of its release.

But here’s where the story gets ugly: you can’t produce more units fast enough, and weeks go by before you’re able to replenish your supply. However, during this time, consumer demand has cooled towards your product, and potential buyers appear to have found a suitable replacement in Brand X. You’ve lost your chance to cash in big with that hot new product consumers would have stood in line to get.

For Microsoft’s sake, let’s hope that’s not the final chapter in this tale. But it very well could happen.

Multipixel still/video cameras are the ‘Next Big Thing’ in smartphones

What new technology is secondary to the rest of the device, but is evolving at a rapid rate? So much so that it’s actually a threat to the rest of the existing technology in its field?

Any answer that is not “smartphone camera” would be incorrect.

Sales of point-and-shoot cameras have been slowly sliding down ever since the first good-quality multi-megapixel camera appeared on a smartphone. Think about it: you almost always have your phone with you–that’s one less device you have to remember to bring along to special events.

What’s interesting is that this feature is about to cause an entirely new round of competition in the smartphone world.

PCWorld.com has more on this more subject:

HTC and Nokia are preparing to go head-to-head with new cameras on upcoming smartphones, as they hope to steal market share from Apple and Samsung Electronics.

This year will once again see the camera become a key feature as smartphone vendors try to differentiate their products.

“Differentiating your device on looks alone has become almost impossible, which has resulted in manufacturers looking back at some of the other features on the phone as a way to differentiate what a consumer gets and give salespeople some hooks, and the camera is a very, very useful vehicle to do that,” said Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight.

The importance of cameras in people’s daily lives has grown exponentially because of social networks like Instagram and more people using the phone as their primary camera, according to Wood.

Already this year, vendors are focusing more on the camera and video capabilities of their smartphones.

At International CES, Sony announced the Xperia Z, which uses HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology when shooting video and still images. The Android-based smartphone also has a burst mode that can take 10 pictures per second at a 9-megapixel resolution until there is no more storage.

Meanwhile, the BlackBerry 10 operating system has TimeShift, which takes a rapid series of images and lets users choose the best facial expressions in each one and then combine them [in]to one picture.

The rest of the article focuses on what former industry leaders HTC and Nokia will be offering up with their new models.

Both companies have been in considerable financial trouble ever since smartphones by Apple (iPhone) and Samsung (Galaxy S III, Notes I and II) have taken the top spots in sales volume. Nokia has staked its future as a manufacturer of devices designed and built for Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, but so far sales have been very slow.

Macworld article: ‘Why I continue to jailbreak’ iOS devices

A few days ago we talked about how it’s now illegal to jailbreak your iPhone. A recent article in MacWorld by Senior Editor Chris Breen serves up a confession, of sorts: he’s been jailbreaking phones for years–he’s a veteran of it. And, he’s already applied a new jailbreaking procedure to both his iPhone 5 and his iPad.

(In the previous post I said the term was used to remove the electronic binding that ties a phone to a single cellular service provider. In actuality, Apple’s iOS devices are more properly the target of jailbreaking.)

Wikipedia defines it this way:

iOS jailbreaking is the process of removing the limitations on Apple devices running the iOS operating system through the use of software and hardware exploits – such devices include the iPhoneiPod touchiPad, and second generation Apple TV. Jailbreaking permits root access to the iOS operating system, allowing the download of additional applications, extensions, and themes that are unavailable through the official Apple App Store. Jailbreaking is a form of privilege escalation, and the term has been used to describe privilege escalation on devices by other manufacturers as well. The name refers to breaking the device out of its “jail”, which is a technical term used in Unix-style systems, for example in the term “FreeBSD jail“. A jailbroken iPhoneiPod touch, or iPad running iOS can still use the App Store, iTunes, and other normal functions, such as making telephone calls.

Unlike rooting an Android device, jailbreaking is necessary if the user intends to run software not authorized by Apple. The legality of jailbreaking depends on countries and conditions.

Now, before you think poorly of Mr. Breen, he provides a valid argument for his illicit activity:

Much as I think of myself as an honorable person, I admit that I occasionally break the rules when I believe that doing so harms no one and enhances my life. Take jailbreaking—the process of getting complete access to an intentionally hampered device—for example.

Earlier this week, evasi0n, an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6 and 6.1, was released. (This is the first iOS 6 jailbreak that “sticks” after you restart your device. Previous jailbreaks required that you cable your device to your computer to rebreak it each time you restarted the device—thus the “tethered” versus “untethered” designation.) And, once again, I weighed the benefits and risks of jailbreaking my current devices.

A necessary evil

I’m a veteran jailbreaker—stretching back to the days when the term had yet to be coined and you hacked into the original iPhone via the Mac’s Terminal application. My friend Ben Long and I broke into the phone for one simple reason: to capture screenshots of the iPhone’s interface for a book I was writing. Years later, Ben and I used available tools to jailbreak an iPad so that we could project its entire interface for a Macworld Expo session we were conducting. In each case, a jailbreak was necessary because Apple didn’t provide the features required to accomplish these perfectly reasonable tasks.

That said, it would be inaccurate to claim that I stopped at these purely necessary uses. In those earlier days, people developing apps for jailbroken iOS devices had some terrific ideas—enabling you to do things such as tether other devices to the phone for free, block unwanted SMS messages, remotely browse the contents of your device, and perform tasks over a 3G network that were normally restricted to Wi-Fi. Jailbreak apps also provided features such as an endless supply of themes, a single drop-down menu for configuring common settings, and notifications. And although jailbreaking is not the same thing as unlocking, a jailbreak was necessary if you wished to unlock your iPhone (a process that the Librarian of Congress recently determined to be illegal). When I found a feature helpful, I adopted it.

Breen says the main reason for his original jailbreaks were to provide the iPhone and iPad with some features he needed in the course of his work as a Macworld contributing writer and editor. He adds this:

Yet when I saw that evasi0n was in the wild, I didn’t hesitate to jailbreak my iPhone and iPad. Why?

I’m now too old for the leather jacket and hipster language that would define me as a rebel. And I don’t hold any truck with those who think they’re sticking it to The Man by skirting a device’s protections. I jailbreak to gain features that make my iPhone and iPad more useful. Specifically, I jailbreak to add a couple of forbidden apps.

The first is Ryan Petrich’s $4 DisplayOut (available through the Cydia store). This is the app I once used to project a device’s interface when Apple didn’t provide that functionality. Although I no longer need it for that purpose, it offers one feature that I can’t live without when I’m giving an iOS-based presentation: the ability to display finger taps.

My iOS devices are not jailbroken, nor do I foresee them becoming that way any time soon. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I am the holier-than-thou morally upstanding do-gooder sort. I’ve just never seen a need to do it, never even gave it much thought…unlike Breen, who has real reasons to need to do that. And, if the legality was all that was holding me back, I’d point out that it only became illegal last month. I’d had plenty of time before to do it.

Breen closes with these thoughts:

In August 2010 I considered the pros and cons of jailbreaking your iPhone, and my feelings on the subject have changed little in two and a half years. As I’ve described, doing it has clear benefits for me. But clearly this is edge-case use, and jailbreaking isn’t for everyone. When you jailbreak your iOS device, you void your Apple warranty, you have to be more careful about the apps you install, and you risk a less stable device.

My most fervent hope is that iOS (and media license agreements) will evolve to the point where I find jailbreaking entirely unnecessary. Until that time comes, however, I’m a jailbreaker.

Holiday sales of Windows-based notebook PCs actually decline, despite (because of?) Windows 8

Meanwhile, in the “More News Microsoft Didn’t Need to Hear” department: sales of Windows-based notebooks actually declined 11 percent for the eleven-week holiday shopping period, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The period is designated from November 23 (Black Friday) until December 22,  and the decline is measured against last year’s sales during the same period.

The report is based on weekly data gathered from large consumer retailers such as Best Buy Co.,Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and retail websites, but it excludes sales of the company’s Surface tablet computer and other devices sold at Microsoft stores and websites.

Windows 8 “did little to boost holiday sales or improve the year-long Windows notebook sales decline,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group.

Microsoft declined to comment. In late November, the company said it had sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses, which included those sold to hardware manufacturers and consumers.

Notebook unit sales fell about 11% over the Black Friday shopping weekend and remained at that level through the period ending Dec. 22. Average selling prices for Windows notebook PCs were $420, up $2 from the same period a year ago.

Unfortunately for the PC industry, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. All that’s required is a Google search for “Windows 8 disappointing” to see all the stories about how the new OS had failed to grab users the way previous ones have.

For example: within that search there’s an in-depth story in The New York Times called “No Sales Pop for New Version of Windows” that goes into some detail:

It used to be that a new version of the Windows operating system was enough to get people excited about buying a new computer, giving sales a nice pop.

Not this time. Windows 8, the latest edition of Microsoft’s software, failed to pack shoppers into a Microsoft store in a mall here last week, at a time when parking lots in the area were overflowing. The trickle of shopping bags leaving the store with merchandise was nothing like the steady stream at a bustling Apple store upstairs.

Claude Ballard was among the customers at the Microsoft store who tried out Surface, a new Microsoft-designed Windows tablet. Mr. Ballard, who described himself as a “semiretired” computer systems manager for a real estate firm, said he was intrigued by the eye-catching design of Windows 8 — but not enough to scrimp to buy a new computer this year.

“It’s economics, really,” he said. “It’s going to be a better year for my mechanic than it is for me.”

Weak PC sales this holiday season suggest that the struggles of Microsoft and other companies that depend heavily on the computer business will not abate soon. Plenty of consumers already own PCs and seem content to make do with what they have, especially in a shaky economy in which less expensive mobile devices are bidding for a share of their wallets.

I think there should be a sense of perspective added here–which doesn’t mean that the situation is any better for PC makers, but maybe another view will help.

I believe that Apple CEO Tim Cook is correct, that we are entering a Post-PC world. In this new era, fewer and fewer computers will sit dumbly on desks. Nearly all will interact with the user in some way, even if it’s just as a touchscreen device. Perhaps there will be tablets not unlike what are being sold today that can be carried along with the user, then upon a return to the home or office, could be connected or synchronized to a larger device. Most of this exists today, but we are still a bit away from when it becomes commonplace.

In this atmosphere, current PCs cannot survive. Imagine a carriage maker in 1930 introducing a new six-wheel vehicle designed to be pulled by two horses. While it might contain every passenger comfort available at that time, and could be an enviably fine and elegant machine–it’s not an automobile.

To some degree we can thank television and motion pictures for this technological unrest. When the original Star Trek series debuted almost 50 years ago in 1966, viewers were treated to a world where fantastic devices (at that time) were commonplace. Things like tiny communicators, electronic tablet devices and medical scanning equipment were just some of what the future offered. In a bizarre twist of life imitating art, we now have all those things (at least, to some degree), perhaps because mankind saw, liked and demanded them.

Most people don’t want what’s perceived as yesterday’s technology, and Apple has succeeded largely by not copying but by innovating. Despite what one might think of the company, the fact remains that there was nothing like the iPod, iPhone or iPad until Apple invented them. Perhaps the problem many PC makers have is that there is innovation–but more from a common theme, not groundbreaking products like the Apple devices I’ve just mentioned. An example are early tablet computers made by the likes of Toshiba and HP which failed to catch on in 1999, amongst other things because they weren’t marketed properly. No need was established for them.

Apple’s products have sold well, despite their generally higher prices and even through the recession of the past five years. Unemployment is up, automobile and other companies go bankrupt, and people struggle to pay their bills. Through all this, Apple sets sales records on the way to become the world’s most valuable (and valued) company.

The point to take from all this is, simply put: if you give people a product they want, they will buy it. Something that exploits a need, perhaps one that they don’t even know they have.

Few people knew in 2007 that they would want an iPhone. Apple was successful in getting people to understand why they would want one.

If PC makers can do the same, they will be successful again. It’s as simple as that.

A ‘problem-solving machine’ is not always the same as one that solves a problem

Consider this: when the modern electric refrigerator was invented, it solved the problem of food spoilage.

Before that, food had to be consumed very soon after it was purchased…this was especially true for perishables like meat and diary products. While the original piece of furniture that was known literally as an icebox worked better than nothing, it provided cold storage that was both too temporary and messy.

So, the refrigerator was–and is–a problem-solving machine.

You could go on and on with other modern appliances. Each solved a problem or problems that existed for its user, and was created for just that reason.

The modern computing device is also just such an appliance. But, here’s the difference–it solves many different problems, and does so in many different ways.

While it’s true that the basis of computer programming is no more than the solving of complex mathematical formulas, sometimes hundreds or thousands or millions of times, what results from those calculations and their answers? The software is designed so that certain tasks will be completed, tasks that before had to be done manually. Even me typing these words on this display is something that was done before on a typewriter…but the words could not be manipulated the way a computer can, be cut and pasted, or have their appearance changed…and so on.

It has emerged that there are two basic reasons for creating something: to solve a problem or assuage a need, or to copy or duplicate another device that does those same things.

Microsoft’s Surface does neither of these things, well or otherwise.

In an article that offers solid arguments and thoughtful consideration, Jim Darymple of LoopInsight.com suggests, “Microsoft forgot to solve a problem“:

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Microsoft Surface over the past few weeks, in an effort to figure out what the company is trying to accomplish. While I have given Microsoft kudos for not blindly copying Apple’s tablet strategy, what they released doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

What occurred to me is that Microsoft’s critical flaw is that they don’t solve a problem with the Surface. In fact, you could argue that the Surface actually causes more problems for users. That’s not a good start for a new product.

If we look at the iPad in comparison, Apple released a product that solved a number of consumer and business user’s problems. The tablet concept had been around for quite a while before Apple released the iPad1, but they never caught on.

The tablets of the day were big, heavy, ugly and relied on PC software2 to get the job done. It was like you were carrying around a PC. Clearly, this isn’t what the buying public or business people wanted.

Apple recognized the problem and set out to fix it with a sleek tablet that was light, beautiful and would have software designed and developed specifically for the device.

Apple developed gestures that would allow people to manipulate and navigate the iPad, giving the device even more power. It’s proven to be a hit among consumers, business executives, gamers and just about everyone else that wanted a tablet.

You could easily use those same points to show the success of the iPod and iPhone too. Apple saw a problem that needed to be solved and it developed a number of technologies and designs to meet the needs of the people it saw as its main market.

Which brings me back to the Surface. What did it solve? Microsoft loaded the Surface with a 16GB operating system that isn’t optimized for a tablet, but rather is a hybrid desktop/tablet OS that tries to do both.

The problem with that strategy is that you can’t do both successfully. One OS needs a mouse and keyboard, while the other needs touch-enabled and optimized software. These are fundamental differences in how people interact with the operating systems and the devices they are being used on.

They also loaded on a lot of software that also isn’t optimized for the tablet, further underscoring the problem for the people buying the product.

In his review of the Surface, MG Siegler said:

After using it for over a week now, it’s hard to come up with a lot of nice things to say about the Surface. Don’t get me wrong, there are some solid things here. But by and large, it’s a strange, buggy, and clunky product that I simply can’t imagine many people buying after the initial hype wears off.

Successful products solve a need or provide a solution to a specific problem. Apple has become quite adept at identifying those problems and designing products to solve them. Apple’s competition have become quite adept at copying those solutions.

Microsoft can’t seem to do either effectively.

_______________

1. Ironically, it was Microsoft and its partners that made the tablets before the iPad.

2. Instead of software specifically written and optimized for a tablet.

Interesting argument, and perhaps a good reason why the Surface RT isn’t receiving the acclaim and hefty sales that Microsoft had hoped for.