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Microsoft faces lawsuit over Surface RT struggles as company preps Oct. 17 launch of Windows 8.1

post #1 of 41
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Even as it prepares a critical update to its Windows 8 platform, Microsoft has become the target of a lawsuit alleging that the software giant misled investors regarding both Windows RT and the Surface RT device it released last year.



The lawsuit [PDF via TechCrunch] is a class action complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The complaint alleges that Microsoft violated the federal securities laws with the way that it handled informing investors of the progress of the Surface RT tablet it released late last year.

The filing claims that Microsoft "led the market to believe that [its] launch of the Surface RT had been executed in a measured and conservative fashion so that it could observe and understand its progress and outcome." Instead, though, the suit calls the Surface RT launch "an unmitigated disaster, which left it with a large accumulation of excess, over-valued Surface RT inventory."

The suit goes on to claim that Microsoft issued "materially false and misleading financial statements and financial disclosures" regarding the real financial impact the Surface RT's underperformance was having on the company. Microsoft finally wrote down $900 million on the failed device at the end of the most recent quarter, and the company's stock plunged $4.04 per share, or 11.4 percent, eliminating roughly $34 billion of Microsoft's market value.

The suit also names a number of Microsoft's executives as defendants, including CEO Steve Ballmer and CFO Peter S. Klein. According to the filing, those individual defendants "are liable as participants in a fraudulent scheme and course of conduct that operated as a fraud or deceit on purchasers of Microsoft common stock" due to their sharing of information the suit deems "false and misleading," as well as their alleged "concealment" of other information.

Windows RT, a pared-down version of Windows meant to run on ARM-powered devices, was meant to give Microsoft a foothold in that low-power device market and serve as a bulwark against Apple's dominance in the segment. The operating system, though, debuted to consumer yawns and confusion, and Microsoft has been struggling to generate interest since.

Windows RT's full-powered counterpart, Windows 8, has seen little more luck as consumers are increasingly opting for Android and iOS-powered phones and tablets instead. Microsoft announced on Wednesday that a long-awaited update would arrive on October 17 under the moniker Windows 8.1. That update will give consumers the option to bypass Microsoft's "Modern" touch-centric interface in favor of the more familiar desktop layout.

The failure of the Surface RT is similar in some ways to that of Research In Motion's (now BlackBerry) PlayBook tablet. After the release of Apple's iPad in 2010, RIM attempted to roll out its own tablet device in order to capture a portion of that segment. The PlayBook sold just a half-million devices in its first quarter of availability, a quarter-million in the quarter after that, and 150,000 in the quarter following. RIM eventually took a writedown of $485 million on unsold inventory, and the company has been reluctant to re-enter the tablet market since.

Microsoft is thought to have sold a bit over 1.5 million units in total of its entire Surface line, which includes both the Surface Pro and the Surface RT. While the software giant hasn't released a detailed breakdown of Surface device sales, the majority of that 1.5 million figure is believed to consist of Surface Pro sales.

The lawsuit, filed on August 12, seeks class action status and unspecified compensatory damages.
post #2 of 41
Isn't this lawsuit saying Microsoft knowingly created the Surface RT to fail? Is that what the plaintiffs allege? Or that they failed to accurately gauge demand?

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post #3 of 41
OS Microsoft, by the way is it me or does apple have a lot better (more features) updates to its desktop OS? Also just wondering will this 8.1 come to there phones as well?
post #4 of 41
I wonder if this will cause them to drop the RT altogether? EVeryone was assuming they would be doing that and then recently they came out with a statement to the effect of "hell no" and that there would be a Surface RT 2.0 but this makes me wonder if the project gets axed at the last minute.
post #5 of 41
A Hail Mary - gone worng !
post #6 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Isn't this lawsuit saying Microsoft knowingly created the Surface RT to fail? Is that what the plaintiffs allege? Or that they failed to accurately gauge demand?

 

I think the thrust of the argument is that Microsoft concealed the scope and nature of the failure from shareholders.  

 

From what I understand, they inflated the sales numbers and hid the unsold inventory (because if that got out it would be a PR disaster), but that they actually have a contractual and legal obligation *not* to do that in regards the shareholders.  The shareholders are saying they had a right to know there were multiple millions of unsold units instead of the half million that MS said there was. 

post #7 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Isn't this lawsuit saying Microsoft knowingly created the Surface RT to fail? Is that what the plaintiffs allege? Or that they failed to accurately gauge demand?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I think the thrust of the argument is that Microsoft concealed the scope and nature of the failure from shareholders.  

I don't think either of those is correct.

What the lawsuit alleges is that Microsoft promised shareholders that they were going to enter the market with very measured, conservative, small steps. When you do that, you minimize the risk of failure, although you may not be able to respond fast enough if the product catches on quickly. The lawsuit then alleges that even after telling investors that they were proceeding slowly, they actually proceeded rapidly, investing in enormous amount of inventory.

If they had TOLD investors that they were gambling on a big success, it would not be an issue - whether it failed or not. The issue is rather that they didn't do what they told the investors they were going to do.
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post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



I don't think either of those is correct.

What the lawsuit alleges is that Microsoft promised shareholders that they were going to enter the market with very measured, conservative, small steps. When you do that, you minimize the risk of failure, although you may not be able to respond fast enough if the product catches on quickly. The lawsuit then alleges that even after telling investors that they were proceeding slowly, they actually proceeded rapidly, investing in enormous amount of inventory.

If they had TOLD investors that they were gambling on a big success, it would not be an issue - whether it failed or not. The issue is rather that they didn't do what they told the investors they were going to do.

In other words investors were misled which is what the articles states in black and white.

 
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post #9 of 41

Might this bring a push to get Ballmer out? Will be interesting to see if any details come out on what went on "behind the scenes" at Microsoft regarding this.

post #10 of 41
So they made a few too many--honest mistake. Just give every investor a free Surface and recycle the rest.

(I assumed from first glance at the headline that Microsoft was being sued over Surface ripping off Logitech's Ultrathin iPad keyboard covers. Then again, Logitech's actually work in your lap.)
post #11 of 41
what went on behind the scenes was this:

"Have you seen the latest "sold" sales number - oh Frack we are screwed"

"Don't worry we will hide the truth by telling them we have sold millions like everyone else, we just won't say its to the sales channel"

Perhaps lying about sales numbers will actually become a criminal offense and we can finally base our investment decisions on real numbers? Don't hold you breath
Edited by Paul94544 - 8/14/13 at 1:28pm
post #12 of 41
Can't wait to see their ad blaming Apple for this fiasco. Another iPad in a hurse maybe? :rotfl:
post #13 of 41
This is where Tim Cook really shines. His knowledge and expertise in the field of supply management is so valuable.
post #14 of 41
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Don't get him fired yet, we need to wait until MS is making a solid loss each quarter on severely reduced revenue and market share before they bring in the Hatchet man CEO. Hysterical how ads about Apple's Ipad on a hurse came back to haunt them ! Just can't make this stuff up the reality is way funnier. As an aside its so sad we now have a President who can string a sentence together!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post

Might this bring a push to get Ballmer out? Will be interesting to see if any details come out on what went on "behind the scenes" at Microsoft regarding this.


Edited by Paul94544 - 8/14/13 at 1:35pm
post #15 of 41
Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post
Might this bring a push to get Ballmer out?

 

Sure hope not.

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post #16 of 41

Read the lawsuit, The suite claims a $34 billion drop in stock value when the financial cover up became public. 

 

Microsoft is being sued for Securities fraud. They allegedly misrepresented the sales volume of the new Surface to investors. They are accused of factually lying about their economic performance to protect Microsoft's stock price from losses. Whether or not the Surface is a worthwhile product is not the issue. The issue is a corporation fraudulently misrepresenting information that is critical to investors decision to invest money in Microsoft via stock. Microsoft has built an empire on selling copycat, second rate, deeply flawed products via market manipulation. They have left a mile-wide swath of cheated companies, intentionally ruined to fuel Microsoft's profits. 


Investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission have good reason to hold Microsoft responsible for allegedly lying to investors for profit. 



From the Law-suite: 

9. Unbeknownst to investors, by the end of its March 31, 2013 quarter, Microsoft had amassed a large excess of Surface RT inventory. In violation of the Company’s publicly disclosed inventory accounting policy, generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) and SEC rules and regulations, Defendants caused Microsoft to issue materially false and misleading financial statements and financial disclosures for the quarter ended March 31, 2013. These false and misleading statements materially misrepresented the true financial effect that Surface RT was then having on the Company’s operations. 
10. Defendants’ materially false and misleading conduct enabled Microsoft to forestall Surface RT’s day of reckoning and delay what would be tantamount to an admission by the Company that its all-important entry into the tablet market had been a failure. 
11. Saddled with bloated inventory of unwanted Surface RT tablets, Defendants, in the Spring of 2013, hopelessly tried to spur market demand. First, Microsoft gave consumers a free magnetic cover that doubles as a keyboard – a deal that amounted to a $100.00 discount off the combined $600.00 price tag for the cover and Surface RT. Later, Microsoft slashed the price of the Surface RT tablet by 30%. Neither of these initiatives generated meaningful sales of Surface RT. 
12. Then, on July 18, 2013, Microsoft issued a press release announcing that its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2013 had been adversely impacted by a $900 million charge related to a write-down in the value of its Surface RT inventory. In truth, however, the value of such inventory was materially impaired by March 31, 2013. 
13. On this news, Microsoft common stock suffered its biggest price decline in more than four years, plunging $4.04 per share, or 11.4%, on very heavy trading volume to close at $31.40 per share.

post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Isn't this lawsuit saying Microsoft knowingly created the Surface RT to fail? Is that what the plaintiffs allege? Or that they failed to accurately gauge demand?

Re-read the article and read SLOWLY.  You may have to actually read the court documents since things get twisted up by journalists with no legalese background.

post #18 of 41
post #19 of 41

The fact that they named Ballmer et. al. personally in the lawsuit is pretty meaningless, this effort is unlikely to succeed. Corporate shield, and all that. They'd have a steep slope to climb and would have to allege pretty much criminal conduct. And I don't think this is Enron. 

 

Officers get named personally in lawsuits all the time; it doesn't mean it's going to succeed. 

post #20 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

The fact that they named Ballmer et. al. personally in the lawsuit is pretty meaningless, this effort is unlikely to succeed. Corporate shield, and all that. They'd have a steep slope to climb and would have to allege pretty much criminal conduct. And I don't think this is Enron. 

Officers get named personally in lawsuits all the time; it doesn't mean it's going to succeed. 

That actually has very little impact on the lawsuit and is rarely grounds for having the entire suit dropped. Rather, the individuals will file to have their names removed - and probably in. The suit against defendant Microsoft will probably be allowed to proceed.
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post #21 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

The fact that they named Ballmer et. al. personally in the lawsuit is pretty meaningless, this effort is unlikely to succeed. Corporate shield, and all that. They'd have a steep slope to climb and would have to allege pretty much criminal conduct. And I don't think this is Enron. 

 

Officers get named personally in lawsuits all the time; it doesn't mean it's going to succeed. 

Are you an attorney that specializes in this type of law?

post #22 of 41

I think what the attorneys that are suing Microsoft are probably just upset that Ballmer kind of misled people as to the actual sales and that they didn't really indicate how bad things really were.   I remember seeing initial articles saying how some of the products were sold out quickly, etc.  leading people into thinking the products were selling well.   But what happened is that Microsoft didn't have large inititial shipments, so it would be easier for them to claim they sold out.  Apple sells out because they have people lined up around the corner at their 300 to 400 locations waiting to buy the latest product.  But Apple typically says how many they actually sold in the first week/weekend.

post #23 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I wonder if this will cause them to drop the RT altogether? EVeryone was assuming they would be doing that and then recently they came out with a statement to the effect of "hell no" and that there would be a Surface RT 2.0 but this makes me wonder if the project gets axed at the last minute.

I've read about theory where MS came out with ARM-enabled RT to force Intel into improving Atom platform. Of course this could be nothing more than half-baked conspiracy theory, but Intel did improve Atom significantly (over previous design) with Clover Trail, and is promising much bigger improvements AND price reduction with incoming Bay Trail.

But then, they should already be worried enough with growth of iOS and Android tablets - and low power x86 tech coming out from AMD - to reconsider their Atom strategy, without MS developing such elaborate scam in designing, developing, manufacturing and losing loads of money on RT software and hardware.
post #24 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikon133 View Post


I've read about theory where MS came out with ARM-enabled RT to force Intel into improving Atom platform. Of course this could be nothing more than half-baked conspiracy theory, but Intel did improve Atom significantly (over previous design) with Clover Trail, and is promising much bigger improvements AND price reduction with incoming Bay Trail.

But then, they should already be worried enough with growth of iOS and Android tablets - and low power x86 tech coming out from AMD - to reconsider their Atom strategy, without MS developing such elaborate scam in designing, developing, manufacturing and losing loads of money on RT software and hardware.

I don't think we'll get a straight answer from Microsoft on the REAL reasons.

post #25 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I wonder if this will cause them to drop the RT altogether? EVeryone was assuming they would be doing that and then recently they came out with a statement to the effect of "hell no" and that there would be a Surface RT 2.0 but this makes me wonder if the project gets axed at the last minute.

At this stage, I just cannot find a reason to get RT over x86 tablets (for those who do want Windows tablet).

The cheapest Windows tablet I can find in NZ shops is Asus VivoTab Smart. It is Atom tablet with x86 Windows 8 and 64GB storage. It is cheaper then any available RT here in NZ, comes with more storage than many, runs better under Metro/Modern, is compatible with loads of Windows classic (desktop) apps and has comparable size, weight and battery life.

True you have to purchase MS Office (comes bundled with RT). But even if you do so, you get more capable and compatible tablet for comparable price. Or you can just go for any of free MS Office clones.

If not completely killing RT, I would get rid off desktop mode, redo ARM Office to work on Modern GUI (it doesn't have to be fully featured, though Kingsoft Office has shown that you can get decent set of features for very compact code), bundle it with some exclusive B&N reader kit (software/subscription) and release it on sub-10" tablets for as low price as possible. In future, I'd be looking at fusing RT and Windows Phone into one OS, for smartphones and entry tablets/dedicated ebook readers.

But hey, I'm not overpaid MS executive. What do I know.
post #26 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

I don't think we'll get a straight answer from Microsoft on the REAL reasons.

That depends how serious this lawsuit turns out to be. Strange things used to pop out during some lawsuits in the past.
post #27 of 41

There were people who thought Surface RT was going to destroy iPad, obliterate it ... WINNINGG!!

 

Weren't there market analytic firms that predicted RT displacing iPad as the leader by 2016 or whatever magic date? Now even the investors are suing, (throws head back to laugh...) AHHAHAHAHAHahahah...

post #28 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by murman View Post

There were people who thought Surface RT was going to destroy iPad, obliterate it ... WINNINGG!!

 

Weren't there market analytic firms that predicted RT displacing iPad as the leader by 2016 or whatever magic date? Now even the investors are suing, (throws head back to laugh...) AHHAHAHAHAHahahah...

 

Well, there are still those that think the RT will displace iPads, and they are probably the same people that thought the Zune was going to replace the iPod.


Here's the thing, when people are given a choice, I think there is a MUCH larger percentage of those that would choose Apple over Microsoft in the workplace.  I'm not suggesting it would be an overwhelming percentage, but I think it would be a lot higher than Apple's current market share.  I think if people had the choice in the workplace, they would probably have more like 35 to maybe even closer to 50% market share in the workplace and then it would migrate over to what they chose for their home units.  But a lot of people get suckered into these ultra cheap consumer grade PCs/laptops that sell for less than $500 and it's mostly due to money or they are brainwashed into using Windows, because that's what they use at work.

 

Tablets? Since Apple is the number one brand for schools/colleges, enterprise customers and it's just got a LOT more attention in the 3rd party app, 3rd party hardware and customers that buy an iPhone are more likely going to stick with Apple for the tablet, since they already know the GUI.  Microsoft just screwed up with the RT and they need to admit it and dump the product and not worry about it anymore. 

post #29 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I think the thrust of the argument is that Microsoft concealed the scope and nature of the failure from shareholders.  

From what I understand, they inflated the sales numbers and hid the unsold inventory (because if that got out it would be a PR disaster), but that they actually have a contractual and legal obligation *not* to do that in regards the shareholders.  The shareholders are saying they had a right to know there were multiple millions of unsold units instead of the half million that MS said there was. 

You mean Microsoft used The Scamsung play book to describe sales?
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post #30 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I think the thrust of the argument is that Microsoft concealed the scope and nature of the failure from shareholders.  

From what I understand, they inflated the sales numbers and hid the unsold inventory (because if that got out it would be a PR disaster), but that they actually have a contractual and legal obligation *not* to do that in regards the shareholders.  The shareholders are saying they had a right to know there were multiple millions of unsold units instead of the half million that MS said there was. 

Yep. After reading the actual complaint (rather than the misleading AI synopsis which led to my earlier conclusion which wasn't entirely accurate), that's exactly the issue.

A company has a legal obligation to report numbers accurately. You don't have to report everything, but when you do report something, it has to be accurate. The complaint says that Microsoft did not report numbers accurately. Similarly, you can say nothing about some situations, but if you say something, it must be accurate. The complaint says that Microsoft made statements that were false.

Beyond that, there's an obligation to inform shareholders of material matters. There is a bit of a gray area here and if Microsoft had said NOTHING at all, they might be able to argue that it was not material and therefore didn't have to be disclosed. It's hard to make that argument when a billion dollars is at stake, but at least it's a plausible argument. That argument does not, however, protect you when you make false statements.
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post #31 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Well, there are still those that think the RT will displace iPads, and they are probably the same people that thought the Zune was going to replace the iPod.


Here's the thing, when people are given a choice, I think there is a MUCH larger percentage of those that would choose Apple over Microsoft in the workplace.  I'm not suggesting it would be an overwhelming percentage, but I think it would be a lot higher than Apple's current market share.  I think if people had the choice in the workplace, they would probably have more like 35 to maybe even closer to 50% market share in the workplace and then it would migrate over to what they chose for their home units.  But a lot of people get suckered into these ultra cheap consumer grade PCs/laptops that sell for less than $500 and it's mostly due to money or they are brainwashed into using Windows, because that's what they use at work.

Tablets? Since Apple is the number one brand for schools/colleges, enterprise customers and it's just got a LOT more attention in the 3rd party app, 3rd party hardware and customers that buy an iPhone are more likely going to stick with Apple for the tablet, since they already know the GUI.  Microsoft just screwed up with the RT and they need to admit it and dump the product and not worry about it anymore. 

Yeah, but then - people who use Android phones should prefer Android tablets, since they already know the GUI and are familiar with apps ecosystem.

But then, people who use Windows PCs might prefer Windows tablets because of the same reasons.

And I can tell you with reasonable confidence - working in such environment - that IT admins and departments in general will and do prefer Windows tablets - x86 versions, of course, like ThinkPad Tablet 2 - for manageability and compatibility.

I will not be surprised if, in 2 to 3 years, Windows tablets don't have respectable market share, and more of it among corporate than home users. We already have customers who have tried and succeed replacing some of their PCs and thin clients with docking station enabled tablets. With docking station plugged large screen, desktop keyboard and mouse and lan port, such tablets can carry light office load on their own and be very capable RDS terminals, while doubling as tablets when unplugged and carried away from the desk (and still being fully compatible). They will handle group policies, domain logins, management/support software (like Kaseya) and everything else common IT department would prefer to see on any corporate computer, be it a tablet, notebook or desktop.

We don't have too many of them yet around as price is still to high. Decent thin client can be purchased for NZ$500-ish. TP Tablet 2 is around NZ$1000, plus additional NZ$100 and something for a dock (a must for above mentioned scenarios). Plus another NZ$100 for TP Tablet 2 BT keyboard which, again, most business users would prefer when on the go. For that price (or less), you can get perfectly capable (for business use) laptop like Lenovo's own ThinkPad Edge line, or some of HP ProBook S and B laptops. But... being part of Windows ecosystem, I'm expecting these Pro tablets to go down with price and up with performance - and quickly. In a year or so, today's experiments could become common practice.
post #32 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Well, there are still those that think the RT will displace iPads, and they are probably the same people that thought the Zune was going to replace the iPod.

 

And their tears and frustrations are such sweet nectar, mmmm ... mmm so fine, dork tears (giggles uncontrollably)

Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post


Here's the thing, when people are given a choice, I think there is a MUCH larger percentage of those that would choose Apple over Microsoft in the workplace.  I'm not suggesting it would be an overwhelming percentage, but I think it would be a lot higher than Apple's current market share.  I think if people had the choice in the workplace, they would probably have more like 35 to maybe even closer to 50% market share in the workplace and then it would migrate over to what they chose for their home units.  But a lot of people get suckered into these ultra cheap consumer grade PCs/laptops that sell for less than $500 and it's mostly due to money or they are brainwashed into using Windows, because that's what they use at work.

 

The biggest problem with Macs I think, and this depends on where you are, is that a lot of people (globally), still have not experienced a Mac. When people learn about computers, its typically on some HP/Dell Windows machine, so there are a lot on uncertainly about Macs. I still meet people who aren't sure if Macs have an MSOffice equivalent they can use. What company will let their employees choose between a Mac or PC though, given a free pass, I think people would be adventurous and try a Mac, and the typical result is people liking or becoming spiritually attached :) to OSX. The Mac experience starts before the computer is even turned on, it starts at the un-boxing, its hard to not be impressed.

post #33 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by murman View Post

The biggest problem with Macs I think, and this depends on where you are, is that a lot of people (globally), still have not experienced a Mac. When people learn about computers, its typically on some HP/Dell Windows machine, so there are a lot on uncertainly about Macs. I still meet people who aren't sure if Macs have an MSOffice equivalent they can use. What company will let their employees choose between a Mac or PC though, given a free pass, I think people would be adventurous and try a Mac, and the typical result is people liking or becoming spiritually attached 1smile.gif to OSX. The Mac experience starts before the computer is even turned on, it starts at the un-boxing, its hard to not be impressed.

While that may be part of it, I don't think it's the major reason. Consider that one report from not too long ago said that Apple had some large percentage (90%?) of the market for computers over $1,000. So people buying more expensive computers weren't turned off for the reasons you gave.

ISTM that a very large part of the reason is simply price. Most people buy computers on price. They walk into Best Buy and see a 15" laptop for $399 and a 15" MBP for $2 K and don't even seriously consider the Mac. In cases where the price is similar or where price is not an issue (MBA vs Ultrabooks where the price differential is small, for example), Macs get a much higher percentage - which suggests that a smaller number of people choose what's familiar.

If you want the obligatory car analogy, it's the same reason that people buy more Toyota Camry autos than Ferraris. Your logic would suggest that the people are turned off by the manual transmission. In reality, it's the price far more than anything.
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post #34 of 41
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Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


You mean Microsoft used The Scamsung play book to describe sales?

Apparently.  LOL.

post #35 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikon133 View Post


Yeah, but then - people who use Android phones should prefer Android tablets, since they already know the GUI and are familiar with apps ecosystem.

But then, people who use Windows PCs might prefer Windows tablets because of the same reasons.

And I can tell you with reasonable confidence - working in such environment - that IT admins and departments in general will and do prefer Windows tablets - x86 versions, of course, like ThinkPad Tablet 2 - for manageability and compatibility.

I will not be surprised if, in 2 to 3 years, Windows tablets don't have respectable market share, and more of it among corporate than home users. We already have customers who have tried and succeed replacing some of their PCs and thin clients with docking station enabled tablets. With docking station plugged large screen, desktop keyboard and mouse and lan port, such tablets can carry light office load on their own and be very capable RDS terminals, while doubling as tablets when unplugged and carried away from the desk (and still being fully compatible). They will handle group policies, domain logins, management/support software (like Kaseya) and everything else common IT department would prefer to see on any corporate computer, be it a tablet, notebook or desktop.

We don't have too many of them yet around as price is still to high. Decent thin client can be purchased for NZ$500-ish. TP Tablet 2 is around NZ$1000, plus additional NZ$100 and something for a dock (a must for above mentioned scenarios). Plus another NZ$100 for TP Tablet 2 BT keyboard which, again, most business users would prefer when on the go. For that price (or less), you can get perfectly capable (for business use) laptop like Lenovo's own ThinkPad Edge line, or some of HP ProBook S and B laptops. But... being part of Windows ecosystem, I'm expecting these Pro tablets to go down with price and up with performance - and quickly. In a year or so, today's experiments could become common practice.

The problem is with Android and WIndows as tablets is the lack of 3rd party apps and 3rd party hardware.  iOS just has a big lead, especially in a lot of professional markets.

 

In some industries, like the music industry, 95% or more of the tablet and smartphone based apps and hardware is catering towards iPads.  If you go to NAMM show, you won't see hardly any WIndows tablets being shown to demo anything, and Android tablets are also pretty much non-existent.  I'm sure the same thing is happening to a lot of other industries.  For the professional crowd, security is an issue, enterprise management s/w to help with deployments is important as is not having malware issues, and having the plethora of apps/h/w to choose from pretty much aces out Android.

 

One thing you have to realize, when the PC industry starts dropping prices too much, they end up not making any profits.  There is basically no PC mfg that makes decent profits from that line of business.  ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell, etc. etc. make so little profits on the amount of business they do, that it's almost a waste of time being in that market.  The same thing is happening in the smartphone market.  The only reason why Samsung turns a profit is because they mfg many of the components and they spend very little money on after the sale support because they don't update the products OS.  Look at how many Android products Samsung makes and how many are going to be running 4.3 on them.  So far only the top of the line S4s, but if you buy even the S3 is just getting the 4.2.2 update. But they have a TON of product still running ICS, Gingerbread that I doubt they will bother pushing out a new OS update.  Which means, they do a piss poor job in supporting last year's flagship and lower.  I think they only really care about the current flagship model untll the next one comes out and then they kind of forgot everything else.  It's a way for them to force their users to a new device and they probably think that most people are dumb enough to get suckered into that mentality.  Sure, we'd all like to be running the latest and greatest, but sometimes it's just not affordable to do that.

 

I highly doubt Apple will lower the price of the MacMini.  I think they'd rather constantly update the product with better this and that, but I think they have  threshold of pain, if you will, on when a the product ceases to be worthwhile producing.

 

Ending up with 10% or less Net Profits to Gross revenues is unacceptable for Apple, but it's the norm for the PC mfg, which is why HP, Dell and others may have to end up doing what IBM, Compaq, and others have done.  Sell off the business or shut the doors for good.

post #36 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


While that may be part of it, I don't think it's the major reason. Consider that one report from not too long ago said that Apple had some large percentage (90%?) of the market for computers over $1,000. So people buying more expensive computers weren't turned off for the reasons you gave.

ISTM that a very large part of the reason is simply price. Most people buy computers on price. They walk into Best Buy and see a 15" laptop for $399 and a 15" MBP for $2 K and don't even seriously consider the Mac. In cases where the price is similar or where price is not an issue (MBA vs Ultrabooks where the price differential is small, for example), Macs get a much higher percentage - which suggests that a smaller number of people choose what's familiar.

If you want the obligatory car analogy, it's the same reason that people buy more Toyota Camry autos than Ferraris. Your logic would suggest that the people are turned off by the manual transmission. In reality, it's the price far more than anything.

I was just at Best Buy yesterday and cruised by the Apple Store just before. There was basically only 1 or 2 people at Best Buy in the PC area.    It was basically EMPTY from what I saw.  Apple Store?  Packed.   I see this all the time.  When Windows 8 came out, there was basically 12 people, I did count them, in the PC area at Best Buy and the Apple Store has at LEAST 75 people and Best Buy does have a little more square footage since they carry more brands, etc.  I saw only one couple that were actually looking a Windows 8 computers, the rest were playing around with tablets, and yes, Apple products.  in the 1/2 hour I was at Best Buy, only one person actually bought anything Windows.  Guess who it was?  A Mac user installing Windows on his MBP, and they sold him the wrong version of Windows that wouldn't install on a Mac, so they had to figure out which version that would.  It was kind of pathetic.  This was about 4 days after the official Windows launch. I rarely see ANYONE playing around with the Surface tablets at Best Buy and I go there every so often, sometimes on weekends when they get the busiest traffic. I actually saw someone looking that Chromebook.  Why? Probably because it was $250 for a basic needs laptop.  I don't know if he actually bought the thing.  But I rarely see people actually buying anything.  most are just browsing.  At the local Apple store there is usually a crowd of people getting their systems set up when they purchase a new computer/tablet/phone.  The local Apple Store could easily double in size, but I don't know how high up on the list they are for expansion since Apple is busy expanding the larger stores and opening up new locations.

 

Not everyone that buys an Apple product is buying a $2K MBP. They sell a LOT of MBAirs.  I sense some jealousy on your part because maybe you can't afford an Apple. but I've gone through price comparisons of what I would consider a product equal to a MBP and the PC equivelent isn't that much cheaper for a brand name product with similar specs.  Those $399 laptops aren't the same specs as a $2K MBP so don't even go there.   A $399 laptop is going to have an i3 or Celeron chip, 4G RAM, a crappy hard drive, plastic case. and a $2K MBP is going to have a decent amount of SSD memory,  i7, 8G RAM, so you are comparing the cheapest POS PC Laptop with a fairly high end MBP.  So get off your soapbox.   You sound very jealous.

 

I'm sure after the warranty period is up on the $399 PC laptop, the mfg probably lost money due to support calls, replacing defective product....   How much do you think it costs in just mfg costs to make a $399 laptop?  And they are selling the unit to Best Buy are probably around 25% off List. So Best Buy probably pays $300 for the thing and makes $100 gross profit for Best Buy. I'd be willing to wager that that $399 Laptop probably costs Dell, or whomever around $175 to $200 in total mfg/shipping costs. Trust me, one or two support calls per computer, and there goes the profits right down the support drain.   $399 laptops are POS shit that won't last long.  They use the cheapest grade hard drives they can find.  Seriously, companies can't survive selling a box for $399 list for $300 to the reseller and the company itself makes about $100 gross profit, if they are lucky.  It costs as much to support someone that buys a $399 laptop as it does a $2K laptop and in Apple's case, less.  Apple will more likely sell an extended warranty contract for a $2K laptop where someone will use it and keep it for a number of years than a $399 throw away laptop.  It wouldn't surprise me that many of the laptops being sold by Dell, HP, etc. actually lose money.  Isn't Microsoft losing money on each XBox they sell?


Edited by drblank - 8/14/13 at 11:13pm
post #37 of 41

Microsoft jumped the gun by thinking Windows 8 was the reason people would want a Surface tablet, and it just isn't working out that way. There were many companies and consumers still working their way into Windows 7 when 8 was released. What MS should have done was create a "metro-like" UI for 7 as an update that could be turned on or off by the user, iron out the kinks and get the users comfortable to the change. Don't force people to lose a feature like the start menu, only to realize they have to bring it back a year later. That's why the iOS like interface on OS X  (aka Launchpad) is an option. This is why Apple OS updates are better received; Apple doesn't completely ditch successful UI designs every couple years with drastic changes..instead they add features that only improves on the current success of the OS. Vista was the OS of doom for MS, and the Zune was the device what pushed more people into the iOS and Droid market. What Microsoft has yet to learn in the tablet market is that they don't have a good app store like Apple does that makes people want to continue buying newly updated products that support newer apps and technology. Let's face it, MS doesn't do particularly well with making good PC devices and accessories (Xbox being the only exception, but it's a gaming device). We all recently read anti-Apple comments and threads about Apple not innovating quickly enough under Tim Cook's leadership, but the iPod was released in 2001 and Steve Jobs didn't do anything drastic with that device until 6 years later when the iPod touch and iPhone was released, shortly followed by the iPad. MS doesn't appear to have a good R&D department anymore (look at the ribbon toolbar in MS Office that people hate), and their innovation is next to zero these days. I'll wait until MS has a fire sale at $99 like HP had with the Touchpad in 2011 before I get a Surface RT, otherwise China will need to dig another big hole for the Surface funeral. If I was an investor in the Surface tablet, I'd be suing too!!


Edited by ALR26 - 8/14/13 at 11:55pm
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post #38 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

The problem is with Android and WIndows as tablets is the lack of 3rd party apps and 3rd party hardware.  iOS just has a big lead, especially in a lot of professional markets.

In some industries, like the music industry, 95% or more of the tablet and smartphone based apps and hardware is catering towards iPads.  If you go to NAMM show, you won't see hardly any WIndows tablets being shown to demo anything, and Android tablets are also pretty much non-existent.  I'm sure the same thing is happening to a lot of other industries.  For the professional crowd, security is an issue, enterprise management s/w to help with deployments is important as is not having malware issues, and having the plethora of apps/h/w to choose from pretty much aces out Android.

This is undeniably true (for NAMM and other creative professional segments), but boring old grey-suite corporate market is much bigger than creative pro market such as music. You also don't need so many peripherals - as long as you can use standard IT gear. I think Lenovo played well with ThinkPad Tablet 2 - they released good keyboard base with pointing device, couple of sleeves and carry cases, and docking station - which is extremely useful and extremely rare among non-Windows tablets. HP did the same with their ElitePad 900; tablet itself is of lower quality (my personal opinion) than Lenovo, but dock supports 2 external screens.

While all this can sound trivial to some people, it is of huge importance in corporate environment, as the trends are now. Majority of the kits my company has been selling (and upgrading existing equipment) ends up with 2 monitors for desktop users and 2 monitors plus dock for laptop users. This is not something that we enforce on our customers; this is something that customers demand from us.

Software wise, Windows marketplace for Modern GUI is above 100000 apps, last time I checked... which is not stellar, but not too bad either, considering platform's age... but much as corporate customers are concerned, most if not all of software tools they require already exist on Windows classic desktop, and most of them will work on x86 tablet. Of course you will not run Adobe Premiere or 3D Max on dual core Atom with 2GB of RAM, but most corporate software tools are nowhere close in resource requirements and actually will work fine on low end x86 tablets, starting from MS Office.

And then, there is part about manageability and device's integration in existing corporate IT infrastructure. If you are working in IT department of large corporation, or are outsourced support of one, you know it well. Many things can be made to work on ARM tablets, but many of them will require extra workarounds and effort in general. With x86 tablet, you are at home. Or, to quote Apple themselves: It just works.
Quote:
One thing you have to realize, when the PC industry starts dropping prices too much, they end up not making any profits.  There is basically no PC mfg that makes decent profits from that line of business.  ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell, etc. etc. make so little profits on the amount of business they do, that it's almost a waste of time being in that market.  The same thing is happening in the smartphone market.  The only reason why Samsung turns a profit is because they mfg many of the components and they spend very little money on after the sale support because they don't update the products OS.  Look at how many Android products Samsung makes and how many are going to be running 4.3 on them.  So far only the top of the line S4s, but if you buy even the S3 is just getting the 4.2.2 update. But they have a TON of product still running ICS, Gingerbread that I doubt they will bother pushing out a new OS update.  Which means, they do a piss poor job in supporting last year's flagship and lower.  I think they only really care about the current flagship model untll the next one comes out and then they kind of forgot everything else.  It's a way for them to force their users to a new device and they probably think that most people are dumb enough to get suckered into that mentality.  Sure, we'd all like to be running the latest and greatest, but sometimes it's just not affordable to do that.

This is true as well. But hey, if average OEM cannot pull complete ecosystem that will be desirable for sustainable number of customers (like Apple does), they will have to accept being me-too in a pool of Windows or Android manufacturers. They can still find a way to differentiate themselves and get a slice from premium market - look at Lenovo and Asus, for example - but they must accept that big chunk of their profit (low as it is) will come from low end hard competing equipment. Since most of them cannot achieve what apple did anyway, this is still better then non-existence.

I'm not saying that every Windows tablet should be and must be bottom-feeder, but a tablet based on Atom hardware should not compete with middle-class laptop price-wise. Back in the days, Atom netbooks were available around NZ$400, maybe even less. Asus VivoTab smart tablet is around $600, which is acceptable as you get 2nd CPU core, more RAM, 64GB SSD and touch screen over typical netbook... but when you take exactly same hardware and add digitiser/pen, a bit better enclosure and docking station port for almost NZ$500 more, that is not really realistic. That price will go down, and soon.

Of course Lenovo and others will try to milk new trends, but they can try it only that far. Lenovo Helix comes to mind when I'm speaking of that. It is convertible laptop/tablet with hardware behind screen and dockable keyboard with 2nd battery. Docked you can close it as laptop. You can also turn screen 180 degrees to point outside. Or you can undock it and use as tablet. Machine has 11" 1080 screen, dual core ULV i7, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD and integrated graphics. Lenovo proposed N$3500 for dealer-buy price, and almost NZ$4500 for end-user price. I believe that was before tax, so add extra 15% for NZ GST.

MS Surface Pro, with comparable specs (a bit slower i5 CPU but rest is there) with keyboard smartcover can be purchased for NZ$1500 including GST.

For NZ$4200 including GST you can get 15" Retina MBP with 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB flash storage.

I'm not saying Helix should be NZ$500, but. If they cannot offer it in vicinity of NZ$2000 (and still make decent profit), it is pointless.

Quote:
I highly doubt Apple will lower the price of the MacMini.  I think they'd rather constantly update the product with better this and that, but I think they have  threshold of pain, if you will, on when a the product ceases to be worthwhile producing.

Ending up with 10% or less Net Profits to Gross revenues is unacceptable for Apple, but it's the norm for the PC mfg, which is why HP, Dell and others may have to end up doing what IBM, Compaq, and others have done.  Sell off the business or shut the doors for good.

Apple is in good spot for having their own closed system and not really being just another Windows OEM (and competing with all of them). They can choose not to accept 10% net profits; good for them. But then, I don't see them gaining any significant ground in PC market either. For majority of people, computer is not much more than a pen - more versatile, but eventually just a communication tool. Check around, how many people are using CARAN d'ACHE pens versus cheap disposable BIC pens. And it is not only down to being able to afford one or not. It is down to people having different priorities, and computers not being too high on their priority list. End of the day, you don't need $1000 pen to sign something. And you don't need MBP Retina to check your email and FB.

But even then... now that you have mentioned IBM. Lenovo did take over their Think... business, and is currently No.1 Windows PC vendor. According to some sources, only them and Asus actually had growth last year, compared to year before. This not because of freaking Helix experiment, but because of making good and reliable machines for the money. They do not enjoy financial benefits of Apple's calibre nevertheless, but they are proving that computer company can be successful even in these trying times... while giving people who cannot spend more (or like spending elsewhere) good, reliable devices and service.
post #39 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Not everyone that buys an Apple product is buying a $2K MBP. They sell a LOT of MBAirs. I sense some jealousy on your part because maybe you can't afford an Apple. but I've gone through price comparisons of what I would consider a product equal to a MBP and the PC equivelent isn't that much cheaper for a brand name product with similar specs.  Those $399 laptops aren't the same specs as a $2K MBP so don't even go there.   A $399 laptop is going to have an i3 or Celeron chip, 4G RAM, a crappy hard drive, plastic case. and a $2K MBP is going to have a decent amount of SSD memory,  i7, 8G RAM, so you are comparing the cheapest POS PC Laptop with a fairly high end MBP.  So get off your soapbox.   You sound very jealous.

I know that you didn't reply to me, but this (highlighted part) is one of the most ignorant arguments I have heard around here - and much to often to my liking.

It is really not hard to accept that different people has different priorities. How much money one has is less important than how one wants to spend money. I just happen to know a girl - a professional, working in accounting for large financial organization - who is crazy about Prada purses. Guess what? Her laptop is crap. You only need that much for FB, some browsing (often Prada related) and occasional email, and that is what she needs.

But some of her purses alone are worth MBP.

Speaking of priorities, my own brother is still using my old HP ProBook 6730b I gave him back in 2011, but travels to Paris at least once a year. Man likes to travel and loves Paris. He also likes buying quality suits and ties, old single malt whiskies and good wines.

Laptop does all he needs, and is still reliable.
Quote:
I'm sure after the warranty period is up on the $399 PC laptop, the mfg probably lost money due to support calls, replacing defective product....   How much do you think it costs in just mfg costs to make a $399 laptop?  And they are selling the unit to Best Buy are probably around 25% off List. So Best Buy probably pays $300 for the thing and makes $100 gross profit for Best Buy. I'd be willing to wager that that $399 Laptop probably costs Dell, or whomever around $175 to $200 in total mfg/shipping costs. Trust me, one or two support calls per computer, and there goes the profits right down the support drain.   $399 laptops are POS shit that won't last long.  They use the cheapest grade hard drives they can find.  Seriously, companies can't survive selling a box for $399 list for $300 to the reseller and the company itself makes about $100 gross profit, if they are lucky.  It costs as much to support someone that buys a $399 laptop as it does a $2K laptop and in Apple's case, less.  Apple will more likely sell an extended warranty contract for a $2K laptop where someone will use it and keep it for a number of years than a $399 throw away laptop.  It wouldn't surprise me that many of the laptops being sold by Dell, HP, etc. actually lose money.  Isn't Microsoft losing money on each XBox they sell?

Nah. With cheap machines, you get squeaky, shiny, easy to scratch plastic. Poor quality low resolution screens. Wobbly keyboards. Weak, crappy speakers. Slower spinning, low cache HDDs. Slower CPUs and integrated graphics only. But reliability does not suffer much. Problems do exist, but think of issues Apple had in the past with superdrives, HDD shock sensors, melting NVidia graphics, various screen coloration and flickering issues - you obviously get problems on high end too. In addition, most buyers of low-end machines will not even bother buying warranty over default 12 months. And most OEM supports are much cheaper than premium support (I am being told) that Apple has, and outsourced to cheaper-labour regions of the world.

They don't make much money per machine, but rest assured they don't lose money either.

Re Xbox 360, yep the story was that they were initially losing money per each console. But they were making sweet money on peripherals and games, plus of course Xbox Live subscription. That is a bit different model from PC business.
post #40 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

I was just at Best Buy yesterday and cruised by the Apple Store just before. There was basically only 1 or 2 people at Best Buy in the PC area.    It was basically EMPTY from what I saw.  Apple Store?  Packed.   I see this all the time.  When Windows 8 came out, there was basically 12 people, I did count them, in the PC area at Best Buy and the Apple Store has at LEAST 75 people and Best Buy does have a little more square footage since they carry more brands, etc.  I saw only one couple that were actually looking a Windows 8 computers, the rest were playing around with tablets, and yes, Apple products.  in the 1/2 hour I was at Best Buy, only one person actually bought anything Windows.  Guess who it was?  A Mac user installing Windows on his MBP, and they sold him the wrong version of Windows that wouldn't install on a Mac, so they had to figure out which version that would.  It was kind of pathetic.  This was about 4 days after the official Windows launch. I rarely see ANYONE playing around with the Surface tablets at Best Buy and I go there every so often, sometimes on weekends when they get the busiest traffic. I actually saw someone looking that Chromebook.  Why? Probably because it was $250 for a basic needs laptop.  I don't know if he actually bought the thing.  But I rarely see people actually buying anything.  most are just browsing.  At the local Apple store there is usually a crowd of people getting their systems set up when they purchase a new computer/tablet/phone.  The local Apple Store could easily double in size, but I don't know how high up on the list they are for expansion since Apple is busy expanding the larger stores and opening up new locations.

Not everyone that buys an Apple product is buying a $2K MBP. They sell a LOT of MBAirs.  I sense some jealousy on your part because maybe you can't afford an Apple. but I've gone through price comparisons of what I would consider a product equal to a MBP and the PC equivelent isn't that much cheaper for a brand name product with similar specs.  Those $399 laptops aren't the same specs as a $2K MBP so don't even go there.   A $399 laptop is going to have an i3 or Celeron chip, 4G RAM, a crappy hard drive, plastic case. and a $2K MBP is going to have a decent amount of SSD memory,  i7, 8G RAM, so you are comparing the cheapest POS PC Laptop with a fairly high end MBP.  So get off your soapbox.   You sound very jealous.

I'm sure after the warranty period is up on the $399 PC laptop, the mfg probably lost money due to support calls, replacing defective product....   How much do you think it costs in just mfg costs to make a $399 laptop?  And they are selling the unit to Best Buy are probably around 25% off List. So Best Buy probably pays $300 for the thing and makes $100 gross profit for Best Buy. I'd be willing to wager that that $399 Laptop probably costs Dell, or whomever around $175 to $200 in total mfg/shipping costs. Trust me, one or two support calls per computer, and there goes the profits right down the support drain.   $399 laptops are POS shit that won't last long.  They use the cheapest grade hard drives they can find.  Seriously, companies can't survive selling a box for $399 list for $300 to the reseller and the company itself makes about $100 gross profit, if they are lucky.  It costs as much to support someone that buys a $399 laptop as it does a $2K laptop and in Apple's case, less.  Apple will more likely sell an extended warranty contract for a $2K laptop where someone will use it and keep it for a number of years than a $399 throw away laptop.  It wouldn't surprise me that many of the laptops being sold by Dell, HP, etc. actually lose money.  Isn't Microsoft losing money on each XBox they sell?

You obviously don't know my history since you're making stupid accusations about my not being able to afford a Mac.

And you haven't disproven my statements, either.

There are a lot more PCs sold than Macs. The average selling price for PCs is much lower than for Macs. Macs have a dominant share in the higher value (over $1 K) segment. There are a lot of PCs for sale under $500, but no Macs. And in cases where Apple's price is closer to the PC price (MBA vs Ultrabooks), Macs do much better than their overall average.

So which of those statements is wrong?

The fact is that a lot of people are buying $500 computers where Apple doesn't compete. Are those computers a good deal because of quality and support costs? Maybe not, but that doesn't change the reality. Lots of people buy cheap computers. End of story.
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