Home » Cloud client SW platforms » Microsoft betting on boosting Windows RT demand with top level ARM SoCs from its SoC partners, Windows 8.1 enhancements, Outlook addition to the Office 2013 RT and very deep tactical discounts to its OEM partners for tablet offerings of more value and capability

Microsoft betting on boosting Windows RT demand with top level ARM SoCs from its SoC partners, Windows 8.1 enhancements, Outlook addition to the Office 2013 RT and very deep tactical discounts to its OEM partners for tablet offerings of more value and capability

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Core information:

… especially valuable for small businesses, and even enterprises of different, larger sizes thanks to new enhancements in manageability, networking, and security announced at TechEd North America 2013 (see “Cloud first” from Microsoft is ready to change enterprise computing in all of its facets [this same ‘Experiencing the Cloud’ blog, June 4, 2013]).

Relevant excerpts from Nick Parker, Tami Reller, Antoine Leblond and Steve Guggenheimer: COMPUTEX 2013 Keynote Transcript [Microsoft, June 5, 2013]

The full record of the keynote from Notebookitalia which contains the below excerpts between [10:49] and [19:50] as indicated.

Tami Reller, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Windows:

[10:49] Bringing the power of Windows to tablets is a really big part of the vision of Windows 8 and of Windows RT, really a new class of tablets that offers more value and capability than today’s tablets. […]

[15:00] Windows tablets are an important part of the Windows 8 vision, and Windows tablets do more.

Completing that promise of do more, I’m pleased to announce that starting with the back-to-school lineup, and in some cases even earlier, Windows x86 tablets will come with Office. That’s Word, that’s Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote in the box. We’re making that possible through new OEM offerings that were introduced earlier this spring.

Even with the value of Office built-in to these Windows tablets, these new offerings are going to allow our partners to build opening price point tablets, as well as great premium tablets.

Additionally, we’ve opened up support for small tablets with Windows 8, and we’ll do more with Windows 8.1. You’ve seen the first of those tablets here at COMPUTEX. Congratulations to Acer on their announcements earlier this week.

And coming with 8.1, building on our support for small tablets, we’re really committed to completing the scenario, including full portrait support.

One of the top requests from Windows RT customers has been Outlook. I’m very pleased to announce that with the Windows RT 8.1 update Microsoft Outlook will be in-box.

With 8.1 we’re again embracing the very latest technology, and the very latest on the silicon roadmap. Specifically this includes Bay Trail-T, Qualcomm 8974 [one of Snapdragon 800 SoCs coming in commercial devices of H2 2013, see more details in Snapdragon 800 Product Brief], and NVIDIA T40 [or Tegra 4 first in the already announced HP SlateBook x2 to be available in August 2013].

And we’re expanding our ARM program to provide more component flexibility, creating more opportunities for partners to build competitive ARM tablets running Windows. [17:15 …]

[19:10] Windows 8.1 is easy for our customers to get. It’s free to Windows RT and Windows 8 customers so that whether a customer has Windows 8 today or is buying a PC or a tablet or any other device in the near future, it will be one click away and very easy to get Windows 8.1. We’ll deliver it through the Windows Store, including the preview, which will come at the end of June. And the final product will be available later this calendar year. [19:50 …]

New ecosystem opportunities, Windows 8.1 updates shared at Computex [Blogging Windows from Microsoft, June 5, 2013]

Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows program management joined Tami and other top Microsoft executives on stage to give our very first public demo of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update – touching upon many of the exciting improvements Antoine highlighted in his blog post from last week. You can see some of the highlights of what to expect in Windows 8.1 for yourself in this short demo video featuring Jensen Harris from the Windows User Experience Team:

Jensen Harris from the Windows Team shows some highlights of what to expect in Windows 8.1 coming later this year as a free update for Windows 8 customers. http://bit.ly/10OM2Th

Additionally, Tami announced that Outlook 2013 RT will be coming to Windows RT tablets as part of Windows 8.1. Windows running on ARM architectures has enabled an exciting new category of mobile-first, instant-on tablets that are thin and lightweight, with amazing battery life. We know that the addition of Outlook for those using ARM-based Windows devices such as the Surface RT, Dell XPS 10, Lenovo Yoga 11, and ASUS VivoTab RT as well as new tablets to come in the future has been a popular request from consumers and businesses alike. As Tami said in her keynote address, we’ve listened and Outlook will be joining the other Office applications currently available on Windows RT, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Our commitment to Windows on ARM doesn’t stop with the addition of Outlook 2013 RT. We announced a number of other enhancements with Windows 8.1, earlier this week at TechEd North America, including new manageability, networking, and security capabilities that will make Windows RT an even more compelling option for enterprises.

Eight questions about Windows 8 for Microsoft manufacturing chief Nick Parker [PCWorld, June 5, 2013] 

IDG: So you just announced you’ll be including Outlook with the next version of Windows RT, what was the thinking behind that?

NP: Outlook is one of those apps people love, and when you start thinking about RT in the small business environment, or for heavy email users, Outlook is one of those high value solutions. That was the one we got the most feedback about.

IDG: The reception for Windows RT has been a bit lukewarm, what are some of the reasons for that and to what extent will adding Outlook will improve the situation?

NP: If you look at what we did with RT—it’s completely new silicon, a new hardware platform, and Windows 8 is a new OS. So first you just have a natural growth curve when you’re starting at zero. Then you start seeing new apps appear, the killer apps that people want, like Outlook. And the ecosystem gets more familiar with it—they learn how to code to it and how to certify parts for it.

We get so used to the tremendous success we’ve had on PCs for years, you just think you can flip a switch and the platform’s going to change. I think it’s just the incremental growth of a new platform. And we should be a bit humble about how we go to market and talk about the new capabilities. I think we could maybe have inspired people a bit more with some of the RT devices and some of our marketing.

IDG: There’s a lot of downward pressure on tablet pricing—Asus showed an Android tablet this week for $129. Do you expect to see Windows 8 tablets getting down to those sort of prices?

NP: That’s a question to ask our OEMs [original equipment manufacturers, or basically PC makers]. I think people are prepared to pay for value and we see tablets with higher price points having better capabilities and features. I think buyers are getting smart about what’s good quality. But OEMs will choose their own prices.

imageThe Acer Iconia W3-810 tablet

IDG: We saw the first 8-inch Windows tablet launch this week from Acer. What are some of the things you’re doing to provide a better Windows experience on those smaller devices?

NP: For any device you can hold in one hand, one of the things you need is portrait mode—so, the ability for the apps to work in the same way, to move and to flow nicely. And for our OEMs, we’re giving them the ability to have buttons on the side of the device, because when you’re holding it in one hand you might want to push a button on the side. You have to make the OS extensible. So those are the types of things.

IDG: Will that all be part of Windows 8.1?

NP: Yes, we talked about that today.

IDG: I’ve never thought of Windows as being designed for smaller screens; the netbook experience wasn’t particularly great. What are you doing to improve the software experience?

NP: In terms of how the display scales up and down, and in terms of the zooming capabilities—as soon as the preview [of Windows 8.1] comes out you should play with it.

IDG: There’s a tremendous variety of form factors out there right now—all kinds of laptops and tablets and convertibles. When you look ahead a few years, do you expect them to coalesce around a few winning designs or will there always be that much variety?

NP: In terms of capabilities, I think touch is going to be the new standard. People aren’t going to want to carry around hundreds of devices. You’ll have a phone, and I think the phablet is an interesting space. But for two-in-one detachables—I’m seeing the interest in those ramp. People want the best of both worlds. You can have a tablet and sit there and surf, then you plug it into a keyboard and you’re off working.

IDG: Is the keyboard here to stay, or will people eventually get used to typing on touchscreens?

I think the keyboard is here to stay, you’ve got that physical feedback. You may see a lot of innovation around keyboards but I think they’re here to stay.

Google search on “Computex Windows ARM discount” between June 5 and 6 was yielding the following items:
One year after debut, Windows RT is a Computex no-show | The Verge | OSNews | I4U News
New ecosystem opportunities, Windows 8.1 updates shared at Computex | Blogging Windows [from Microsoft]
Microsoft to include Outlook app with update to Windows 8 RT | ARN [Australia]
Microsoft Aims to Lure More Users to Windows | WSJ.com
Microsoft To Give More Tablet Makers Windows 8 Discounts | NASDAQ.com | 4-Traders | Capital.gr
Microsoft to Offer Discounted Windows and Office for Small Tablets | AllThingsD | CELLIFONE.com
AMD breaks from Windows exclusivity, adopts Android and Chrome OS | Facepunch.com
Forget Haswell: Why tablet processors mean more to Intel at Computex | The USA News Online 
Computex 2013: low-cost tablets, high-res laptops steal the show | Techgoondu
Microsoft says Outlook is coming to Windows RT this year | ZDNet
Microsoft demonstrates Windows as a platform for small tablets, touch and mobility at Computex 2013 | Virtualization Journal [replica of Microsoft press release]

Windows RT is a Computex no-show:

Three days into Computex Taipei, Asia’s biggest computer show, not a single manufacturer has announced a Windows RT device. … The Computex show floor has been dominated by devices running Windows 8 on Haswell and other chips from Intel, but ARM-powered units have been conspicuous in their absence.

However, the upcoming Windows 8.1 update and its RT counterpart could provide a shot in the arm to the fledgling OS. Qualcomm has pledged support for RT 8.1 with its new Snapdragon 800 processor, which president and COO Steve Mollenkopf described in a presentation today as offering “about 75 percent better performance than the S4 Pro.”

The Verge has heard that manufacturers may be holding back RT devices for Qualcomm’s new chip and the 8.1 update, which is also designed to improve the experience on smaller-screened devices.

include Outlook app with update to Windows 8 RT:

Outlook will be included with version 8.1 of Windows RT, previously dubbed Windows Blue, Microsoft announced at the Computex trade show in Taipei on Wednesday. The 8.1 update is scheduled for release later this year as a free update to Windows 8.

“We’re always listening to our customers and one piece of feedback was that people want the power of Outlook on all their Windows PCs and tablets,” Microsoft said. […]

Support for RT from hardware makers has been limited, however, with several PC makers, such as Acer, Asustek Computer and Hewlett-Packard, not yet supporting the OS.

Microsoft hopes to change that by addressing one of the criticisms of Windows RT — that it doesn’t include a version of its popular Outlook email client. Nvidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang has been vocal about the importance of adding Outlook to RT.

“If Outlook were to show up on RT, my life would be complete,” he said recently, lamenting the slow sales of Windows RT tablets. “I am one Outlook away from computing nirvana. Outlook god, please…”

Lure More Users to Windows:

Until now, people with Windows RT devices—which use different kinds of computer chips than those common in personal computers—have only been able to use a new type of email app that has been panned by users.

A Microsoft executive, speaking at the Computex computer trade show in Taiwan, also acknowledged the company is cutting the prices it charges computer makers for Microsoft software.

The executive, Nick Parker, didn’t detail the size of the software discounts. But people familiar with Microsoft’s pricing strategy have said for Windows RT devices, Microsoft is cutting by two-thirds the cost to license Windows and Office software, or roughly $100 before marketing rebates Microsoft offers to PC makers.

Microsoft’s discounts apply to tablets smaller than 10.1 inches, Mr. Parker said. The company said it started offering discounts to some tablet makers in April.

The discounts and addition of Outlook underscore how hard Microsoft is trying to boost the appeal of devices that run Windows RT, a product whose development marked a major break from company tradition. […]

“This is an exciting development that we believe will deliver a much more robust and full-featured experience to Windows RT users,” wrote Mark Aevermann, an Nvidia product manager, in a blog post.

Microsoft executives have said they would push harder to bolster sales by explaining more clearly the attributes of Windows RT and ARM chips.

We are very committed to ARM,” said Tami Reller, the Windows chief financial officer and chief marketing officer, in an interview last month.

Windows executives also recently suggested Windows RT devices might in the future lose the dual modes that have been a polarizing feature of the new Windows.

Windows 8 and Windows RT devices operate in both a traditional Windows “desktop” and a new mode that looks and functions more like a smartphone screen. The Windows executives, Jensen Harris and Antoine Leblond, suggested in a May interview that it might be appropriate to junk desktop mode entirely on Windows RT devices.

Windows 8 Discounts:

Nick Parker, vice president of Microsoft’s OEM division, said at the Computex trade show in Taipei Wednesday that the Redmond, Wash. company is now expanding its discount program to include tablets that run on Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 running on ARM Holdings PLC (ARMH, ARM.LN) chips. The discount will also apply to an upgraded version of its Windows 8 system dubbed Windows 8.1. The discounts will only apply on tablets that are between 7 and 10.1 inches. The executive declined to comment on the size of the discounts but Mr. Parker said they will come in the form of a cut in licensing fees and free Office software for hardware makers.

Microsoft said it started offering discounts to some tablet makers in April and there is no specific time frame for when the discounts might end.

The Wall Street Journal reported in early March, citing people familiar with the situation, that Microsoft had been offering price breaks on its Windows 8 and Office software to help spur the development of small, touch-enabled laptop computers.

In the latest discount program, tablets with screens bigger than 10.1 inches will not be eligible for the discount, Mr. Parker said. But he didn’t elaborate.

Analysts said the discounts could help bring down retail prices of smaller Windows tablets and help Microsoft better compete with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG).

Discounted Windows and Office for Small Tablets:

Second, Microsoft is cutting some sort of deal with computer makers that want to bundle Windows 8 and Office Home and Student onto a seven- or eight-inch tablet. Microsoft isn’t going into detail on what it is charging PC manufacturers, but it is clearly low enough to enable some pretty inexpensive tablets.

The first of these tablets to be announced, Acer’s Iconia W3, has a $379 sticker price. That’s pretty darn cheap for a machine that includes full-blown Windows and Office.

Microsoft isn’t saying which other computer makers may also be working on small tablets, but with the PC market struggling, it seems reasonable to think we will see a number of such tablets in short order.

And while Microsoft’s bundle program appears limited to small tablets, one could conceivably hook up the tiny tablet to a monitor and keyboard and use it as a home PC.

low-cost tablets, high-res laptops steal the show:

Since Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Asus’ Nexus 7 came out last year, the idea of a cheap, small tablet has taken hold like few expected. This year, the cheap is going to get cheaper, with Asus’ MeMo Pad HD7 starting from just US$129 for an 8GB version.

image

Now, this may not be as cheap as some models you’d find in Shenzhen, but this model from Asus will win over many users looking for an affordable but well-made tablet.

The new MeMo Pad HD7 also seems like an updated version of the successful Nexus 7. There is the 1,280 x 800 screen, now coupled with a quad-core Arm Cortex A7 CPU, and a microSD card slot to pop in memory cards, which the Nexus 7 did not have. No idea of when this is coming, but expect to save some money for a budget tablet this holiday season. […]

An interesting idea, which may not turn out to be a major trend, is small Windows tablets. Acer surprised many visitors with its 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, probably the first such mobile option.

The Iconia W3 runs an Intel Atom chip, has 2GB RAM and either 32GB or 64GB storage. The 1,280 x 800 resolution is not too bad on the small screen.

image

What’s a little hard to see is the Windows desktop, when you fire up your traditional Windows programs, like Excel. During a quick hands-on, I can tell that the screen was too small for serious editing. Don’t even think of sharing programs on the screen. It’s just too small.

Which leaves you in mostly the Metro touch interface on Windows 8. Sadly, there aren’t many apps here yet, compared to either an Apple iPad mini or an Android tablet.

Not just that, while the US$379 asking price isn’t unreasonable for the hardware, the question is on usage. If you’re using the machine mainly as a small tablet, Android tablets are getting cheaper all the time, as Asus’ MeMo Pad HD7 shows.

Outlook is coming to Windows RT:

Owners of existing RT devices will receive the updates for free.

Despite weak sales of its own ARM-powered Surface and even more tepid support from hardware partners, Microsoft doesn’t appear to be backing away from Windows RT. The addition of Outlook will undoubtedly convince some previously recalcitrant business buyers that Windows RT tablets make sense, as will the announcement at the Tech-Ed conference this week of management tools that allow greater control over Windows RT devices. And Microsoft also announced support for additional types of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on Windows RT.

But there are still dealbreakers that stand in the way of widespread deployments of Windows RT. Office 2013 RT has many of the same features as its x86/x64 counterpart, but it lacks the ability to handle custom macro code. In addition, some features are missing from the RT programs, including the ability to embed audio and video in OneNote notebooks.

And Office is the only desktop app that Microsoft has officially ported to Windows RT. Third-party developers don’t have that option, which means any business that requires a third-party desktop app or a browser plugin other than Adobe Flash is out of luck. Likewise, Windows RT still doesn’t support some widely used third-party VPN clients.

There’s also the pesky issue of licensing. The version of Office included with Windows RT is Office Home and Student 2013, which is licensed for noncommercial use only. If you want to stay in the good graces of Microsoft’s licensing agreement, you need to add commercial use rights, through a volume license or by way of a subscription to a business edition of Office 365.

Today’s announcement is also noticeably silent on the question of when Microsoft plans to release native tablet versions of its Office programs, for both Windows 8.1/RT as well as alternative platforms like the iPad and Android tablets. The fact that the desktop version of Outlook is a key part of this fall’s update suggests that Office for tablets won’t appear until 2014, and one recent rumor says late 2014 is the likely target date for those apps.

Windows as a platform for small tablets [Microsoft press release replicated]:

“We want to be the best partner to all hardware manufacturers, from the way we engage and invest on new product designs to the experience we jointly deliver to customers,” Parker said. “This new wave of Windows devices from our partners, combined with our software, apps and services, reflects that commitment.”

Most notable of the devices Parker showed were the new 7-inch and 8-inch Windows tablets: the Acer Iconia W3 that launched on June 3 in Taipei, and three other small tablets from top original device manufacturer (ODM) and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners expected to ship for the holiday season. These small tablets provide a Windows experience with Office Home & Student 2013 delivering even more options to experience all that Windows can offer in a smaller form factor. […]

Tami Reller, chief financial officer and chief marketing officer of Microsoft’s Windows Division, joined Parker onstage … “Windows 8.1 furthers the bold vision of Windows 8 by responding to customer feedback and adding new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing’s potential,” Reller said.

As part of this commitment, Reller announced that Outlook 2013 RT will be available on Windows-based ARM tablets with the Windows 8.1 update later this year. “Windows on ARM is a core part of our strategy today and moving forward, and the addition of Outlook further enriches this world of new on-the-go opportunities for partners and customers,” Reller said.

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