Update: Upstream supply chain sees Surface RT orders cut by half [DIGITIMES, Nov 28, 2012]
The upstream supply chain of Microsoft’s Surface RT has recently seen the tablet’s orders reduced by half, and with other Windows RT-based tablet orders also seeing weak performance, sources from the upstream supply chain believe the new operating system may not perform as well as expected in the market.
Microsoft originally expected to ship four million Surface RT devices by the end of 2012, but has recently reduced the orders by half to only two million units.
Although Asustek Computer, Samsung Electronics and Dell have all launched Windows RT-based tablets, consumer demand for those devices is also weak.
The sources also pointed out that Surface RT is also unlikely to achieve great performance in the upcoming quarter which may force Microsoft to bring out its Intel-based Surface Pro tablet earlier in December.
The sources also noted that Microsoft may consider reducing its Surface Pro price to attract more consumers; however, such a decision may put the already awkward relationship between the software giant and notebook vendors in an even worse situation.
Something is indeed wrong to a certain extent with the Microsoft Surface as in an earlier report even Microsoft CEO Says Surface Sales Starting ‘Modestly’ – Report [Capital.gr, Nov 10, 2012]. It was the first report in English from the news in leParisien. The French headline is even telling that: Microsoft: Steve Ballmer announces “a new tablet upscale”. And indeed we find in the Capital.gr report that:
The CEO also said that in the three months following Surface’s launch, Microsoft plans to offer a high-end version of its tablet equipped with Intel Corp.’s (INTC) new processor and a higher-definition screen.
So I have investigated what users have found during this two weeks with the Microsoft Surface tablet.
My conclusion: some software, including parts of the Windows RT operating system need tuning! In certain scenarios Microsoft Surface is definitely underperforming!
Updates: providing additional evidence of the “under-engineered” character of the Windows RT software for the Microsoft Surface
- Technology explanation for lower software performance on ARM from here:
He explained that creating Windows 8 and its new tablet-friendly Windows Runtime has absorbed much of the C++ team’s energy.
“We’ve been really busy for two years with our biggest release ever. There’s an industry tsunami to the tablet revolution, the GPU compute revolution. Because C++ matters is why we’re at the centre of it. Now we can emphasise conformance again,” he said.
“We have a really mature compiler and optimiser. It’s been around for a decade or two, on x86 and x64. Then we have a version 1 release of ARM. You can expect that to get better.”
Note that people present on that BUILD 2012 session and even having an opportunity to speak to Herb Sutter the day before were not only confirming the importance of the above but even adding to that: “the Visual C++ team had the biggest pressure inside Microsoft in the last 2 years as everybody was relying on them”
- Patch Tuesday pushes out 7 updates to the Surface, including a performance update[Microsoft.News.com, Nov 13, 2012]
Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of the month, and the time when Microsoft pushes out software updates for their products.
On this occasion this includes includes Microsoft’s first ARM computer, the Surface, and the update is a “Cumulative Update for performance/compatibility” and another is a firmware update which hopefully addresses the same issue.
We noticed definite performance improvements, including in multi-tasking, text input, quicker loading times and improvements in IE, including in tab switching and closing.
Techtony • a day ago
Not only the Surface was updated, The Asus Vivo Tab RT was also Updated. New Firmware Message and a total of 8 Updates
RJD • 2 days ago Absolutely notice performance improvements across the board…loading apps, screen accuracy, word accuracy, IE improved to boot.
It is indeed faster. In some cases much faster. A Hungarian developer was measuring the improvement via the CPU usage with the Mandelbrot program as a benchmark: C#: +25%, C++: +110%!, C++ AMP (software emultaion): +72% improvements were found by him (see in this Facebook message in Hungarian).
End of updates
I’ve also found videos on YouTube which will prove my point accordingly:
iPad 3 VS Surface: Fruit Ninja – Gaming Performance [DarGdgtZ YouTube channel, Oct 28, 2012]
The historic cadence leading to Microsoft Surface:
Was there enough time to tune everything properly? I thinks so. Look at the following history of the Windows on ARM (Windows RT) evolution:
NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3 “Kal-El” quad-core processor demo blows us away [IntoMobile YouTube channel, Feb 15, 2011]
Who is gaining with that?
It is no doubt that Intel is the party gaining most with that!
Look at the stakes:
– Intel market capitalisation: US$ 103.50B which is critical for large investors because a collapse of Intel may cause an unprecedented upheaval on the stock market. Also note that Windows 8 is the last chance for Intel to prevent such collapse to happen.
– Intel fabs which are:
- Huge, numerous and most of them are representing the latest manufacturing technologies: see List of Intel manufacturing sites on Wikipedia
- Each representing multibillion dollars of multi-year investments:
see New $5 billion Intel facility planned for Chandler [AZCentral.com, Feb 19, 2011] as the latest example
- A tremendous effort made by Intel to outgun its fabless competitors exactly through such cutting-edge manufacturing. It is now described not only as leading edge in terms of smaller die sizes and thus higher chip volumes on the same wafers, better performance and/or lower power use, but also speed and agility with the time to manufacture a component halved in the past five years.
- Strategic for the US economy as whole to prevent its advanced manufacturing sector to go the way of its lower-tech predecessors – to Asia. See Insight: As chip plants get pricey, U.S. risks losing edge [Reuters, May 1, 2012].
- Entering into a critical phase against its major by far fab competitor, TSMC for whom the capacity shortage of its leading 28nm nodes will end by December, 2012. See my Qualcomm’s critical reliance on supply constrained 28nm foundry capacity [this same ‘Experiencing the cloud’ blog, July 27-Nov 8, 2012] post as updated just 4 days ago. Considering that the competitive strength of all of its fabless competitors depend on TSMC manufacturing capabilities this is the most critical window for strategic survival in Intel’s whole history.
A further evidence of why Intel’s survival might be behind that is the fact that the latest mobile SoC from Intel, so called Clover Trail will be in the Windows 8 tablets only in the later part of November. Even the first tablets based on that, the Acer Iconia W510 models are “Temporarily out of stock” on the Amazon while it was oiginally promised to be available from Nov 9 in the US and Canada. See: Acer Iconia W510: Windows 8 Clover Trail (Intel Z2760) hybrid tablets from OEMs [this same ‘Experiencing the cloud’ blog, Oct 28, 2012]. So the tuning was going on well after the “final” Windows 8 launch of Oct 26, and might continue even these days.
Another evidence is the fact that the x86-based version of the Microsoft Surface, Surface Pro will arrive just 3 month later as was pointed out in the leParisien interview of Steve Ballmer referred to in beginning of this post. Moreover when it was announced it was for the much better performing Ivy Bridge processor, not the Clover Trail we indicated here as available in a numerous products by the end of November. This could mean a delivery of Surface Pro as late as January next year! Plenty of time to make the new Windows software and the available applications performing well and smooth in all respects.
Other information on this blog:
– Microsoft Surface: its premium quality/price vs. even iPad3 [Oct 26, 2012]
– Microsoft Surface: First media reflections after the New-York press launch [Oct 26, 2012]
– Core post: Giving up the total OEM reliance strategy: the Microsoft Surface tablet [June 19, 2012]