gadgets

Looks like this is a Microsoft week. The Redmond company just revealed the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health. I must confess the strategy makes more sense than I expected it to.

Microsoft isn’t competing with Android Wear or Apple Watch as much as it is with Google Fit and Apple Health Kit. The latter along with Microsoft Health are cloud platforms to make life easier for developers of health products and services. An operating system for health if you will. This benefits the consumer too as data is able to follow her no matter what device or operating system she uses.

For example, I might have regular walking data on my iPhone or Moto X; data from the day I played tennis with my Fitbit, without my phone; data from when I played golf with my LG G Watch. Right now, all that data is siloed — there is no one central place to collect and analyze everything. Obviously, that sucks. Google Fit and Apple Health Kit are meant to be a solution but only works for Android devices and Apple devices respectively.

Microsoft’s pitch is that it will be multi-platform so customers and developers don’t have to worry about whether it’s Apple, Android or Windows — their data will continue to be gathered in one place.

It could work.

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Microsoft made two important announcements recently. The first is about Office 365 being a game changer, which I covered yesterday. Today I’m talking about the $50 price drop for the Xbox One. Starting from November 2 to January 2, you can get any Xbox One SKU for $50 off, which makes the entry level version $350. That’s cheaper than the Playstation 4 at $400.

Microsoft is marketing this as a temporary promotion for the holidays, but that’s just marketing. I have a hard time believing the Xbox One will go back up to $400.

The price drop is long overdue. The Playstation 4 is outselling the Xbox One by a significant margin — Ars Technica estimated by at least 40% — and the entire gap can be traced to one crucial decision. That’s how thin the line is between success and failure is in the console market. You can have a fantastic brand, recruit third party support, obtain exclusives, introduce innovations, ensure wide distribution, spend a lot of money on marketing…and still fail because of one bad decision.

Can you guess which? It wasn’t bundling the Kinect, though that was quite bad because of the $100 price premium. It wasn’t the DRM policies or the always online requirement. No, Microsoft was able to reverse out of those decisions early enough.

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I previously wrote how Microsoft and PC makers should be concerned about Mac computers, which saw record growth the previous quarter and will likely see continued growth. However, there’s chatter on the blogosphere that is taking the “Mac is destroying PCs” narrative too far.

Charts like this get posted:

Provocative, but very misleading.

This is probably more representative of the big picture:

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Now that I have the Surface Pro 3, my Surface 2 has been gathering dust. So it is with sadness that I finally put it up for sale. The Surface 2 was a wonderful device that exceeded my expectations.

It got me thinking about the Surface line. It’s a great device, yet did so poorly in the perception game. What could Microsoft have done differently with a mulligan?

When the Surface RT was announced, hell had frozen over. Microsoft haters and fans actually agreed on something, that the Surface had no future because of Windows RT. What’s the point of a device that has the limitations of Windows (no tablet apps) and none of its strengths (no PC apps)?

So I got the Surface Pro. With time, however, I realized I only did three things with it: 1) browse the Internet, 2) play media and 3) work with Office. If not for Office, I wouldn’t even need the desktop. Moreover, the Pro was just too thick and heavy.

That’s how I arrived at the Surface 2. The Surface 2 fulfills those three needs well and in an amazingly portable form factor too. It was also a lot cheaper!

What if Microsoft had just branded the Surface as an Office device? Office was (is) the only reason to get a Windows RT device, so why not just go all in on that fact?

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According to Forbes, Microsoft will launch its wearable device in the coming weeks in time for the holiday season. It’s a health focused device and will work with Android, iPhone and of course Windows Phone.

I had written my concerns about the viability of a Microsoft wearable device before, and now that I’ve used the Moto 360 daily the last few weeks and the Pebble before that for over a year, my skepticism has only increased.

Let’s first examine the upside. Assuming Microsoft can pull off a great product and generate lots of interest and sales, it could undercut Android Wear and Apple Watch. Why develop (hardware and/or software) for a restricted platform, when there’s a successful multiplatform-platform available?

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If a PC company had flat sales, you might think its CEO would go, “Phew, not bad when the overall market is declining.”

Not really though: Lenovo, HP, Dell Acer and ASUS all increased sales the past quarter even though the overall market declined. Apple too. It’s not clear which PC company is suffering, but the strong get stronger while the weak exit.

So flat iPad sales — despite whatever Tim Cook may say — is alarming to Apple and Apple watchers. Moreover, now that Apple is selling larger phone sizes, people are finally realizing that you don’t need a big phone and a small tablet. The bigger iPad will need to grow a lot faster for the overall business to grow.

The iPad may not be one of the weak, but it is not one of the strong either. What should Apple do? The company has two possibilities: 1) make the iPad more appealing to a new market segment, and/or 2) deliver the same proposition to the existing market segment better.

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