surface

Here’s a hardware feature that doesn’t receive much publicity but which I’ve come to heavily appreciate: the Surface Pro’s AC adapter. The main reason is the USB slot on the adapter itself.

Whenever I travel, I don’t like carrying more than one plug converter and feel bad asking for more from the hotel — the USB slot on the power adapter solves that. The AC adapter charges the Surface and the USB slot simultaneously charges my smartphone, and it seems to charge just as quickly as it would normally.

Genius feature! If it gets shouted about enough, hopefully other manufacturers will follow.

 

One of the best things about the Surface Pro 3 is its pen. It’s changed the way I take notes, brainstorm and review PDFs. As useful as the pen is, however, I can’t help but think its implementation in Windows is a half-measure.

Currently, the pen’s behavior is different depending on where you use it. In the operating system parts of Windows and in programs like Word, the pen is a mouse replacement. Then in certain apps like OneNote, it acts like a pen that you can draw with. You can mark up PDF files, but not JPG or DOC files.

This specificity is fine for knowledgeable users, but for casual users it’s confusing to remember what the pen can be used for where. If there’s no clear sense how a tool will be used, chances are it won’t be.

For the pen to ever have mainstream adoption, it should be used consistently no matter where you are, like the mouse or keyboard. Ideally, you should be able to write, draw and mark-up with the pen everywhere. The pen doesn’t ever need to be a mouse replacement.

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As expected, according to IDC, iPad sales declined 13% year-over-year while the tablet market grew 7%. That’s bad for Apple. Part of it is the longer replacement cycle; another is that iPads are not competitive with “good enough” Android tablets that cost substantially less. But this is a story we’ve explored before on the Cornerplay.

What’s more interesting is Windows 2-in-1 hybrid devices, which IDC reports at 4% of the market while pure Windows tablets are just 0.6%. That means 2-in-1s are 87% of all Windows tablets.

While those are tiny numbers, Windows tablets grew 67% in an environment where iPads actually declined. IDC expects this forward momentum to continue, and for Windows to achieve 11% market share by 2018.

What do we think? Predicting technology is like trying to thread a needle on top of a speeding train, but we’re up for the challenge.

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The Internet is in a tizzy now that editing documents in Office for iOS and Android is free for non-businesses. Remember when Microsoft finally made Windows Phone free for OEMs? We all thought, it’s about time, by which of course means it’s too late. The fact that people are surprised by this particular move means it’s not too late.

It’s actually not that crazy of a move. 90% of Office’s revenue comes from businesses (if memory serves me correctly), so there’s not much cannibalization at risk. Further, Microsoft was never been able to monetize Office on the web or on mobile.

People don’t get Office 365 just so they can edit documents on their iPads; they get Office 365 for the PC and iPad compatibility is just a bonus. Creating and editing Office documents on mobile remains a niche activity; and arguably one that average consumers aren’t currently willing to pay for.

Think of Office on mobile devices as an extension of Office on the web — something free for light users but not a replacement for heavy users, who still prefer PCs with large screens and keyboards to do work.

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Along with the Nexus Player, which disappointed, Google’s Nexus 9 was also recently released and reviewed. It’s been described as having an OK display; good but not jaw dropping performance; above average speakers; nice feel but with small, noticeable flaws; and generally not something that beats the iPad given its $400 price. Lollipop is awesome as expected.

That’s all well and good, but there are two things about the Nexus 9 I was particularly interested in from an industry point of view:

  1. The Nexus 9’s size and weight
  2. Its dedicated keyboard cover

Is the 9-inch display the best of two worlds, or the worst? Is the Nexus 9 an appreciably good productivity device?

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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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Microsoft released strong quarterly results, which showed good growth in cloud, server and devices.

Last month, we predicted that Microsoft sold about $2 billion worth of Surface Pro 3s at retail over the past three, three-and-a-half months. So the interesting number in the quarterly report is the Surface recording $908 million in revenue for Microsoft.

That may look like we’re way off, but it actually might be pretty close.

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