Microsoft rolls out Surface 2 firmware updates, promises Wi-Fi update for Surface Pro 3

Microsoft may well be close to launching a new version of its Windows RT tablet, but it’s continuing to roll out improvements to its current one in the meantime. The company has today begun pushing out a bunch of firmware updates for the Surface 2, bringing a range of fixes and improvements.

Microsoft lists seven updates for the Surface 2 today, including, in its own words:

Surface 2 UEFI update (v4.22.500) addresses case where the battery drains under the 0% level and will not charge.

System Aggregator Firmware update (v1.0.51500.0) increases the overall reliability and compatibility with a Surface Pro Type Cover.

Surface Platform Power Driver update (v2.0.716.0) adjusts the minimum charge current to address the case where the battery drains under the 0% level and will not charge, and enhances the overall system stability.

Surface Accessory Device update (v2.0.671.0) enhances the user experience with a Surface cover.

Audio and Display driver set (v9.17.13.2822) improves sound and video display performance, and resolves the case where a display driver caused system instability on resuming the system from sleep.

Surface Cover Click (v2.0.643.0) update enhances the user experience when connecting/disconnecting a Surface Pro Type Cover.

Surface Type Cover Filter Device (v2.0.682.0) adds support for a Japanese Surface Pro Type Cover on non-Japanese Surface 2 models.

As with all Surface firmware updates, these are being pushed to devices in stages, so if you don’t see them available immediately, sit tight and give it a bit longer before panicking.

The Surface 2 was the only one of Microsoft’s tablets to get some love today, but the company has promised that it “will release an update for Surface Pro 3 in the coming weeks to further improve Wi-Fi connectivity and include other fixes.” The Pro 3 has endured numerous issues with Wi-Fi performance since its launch.

via Microsoft rolls out Surface 2 firmware updates, promises Wi-Fi update for Surface Pro 3 – Neowin.

Microsoft Surface RT gets $150 price cut worldwide

Update: Microsoft has made the Surface RT price cuts official. The base 32GB model is now $350, the 64GB variant will be $450, and either of them with an included Touch Cover will be $450 and $550 respectively. The new prices are in effect at retail stores worldwide as well as the official Microsoft Store. — Original story below.
Microsoft has been looking for ways to give its Surface RT tablet a little sales boost, partnering with resellers around the world and kicking off a limited-time offer for schools and colleges to get one at $199. Now, according to sources speaking with The Verge, the company is ready to cut $150 off the device at retail, effectively allowing anyone to purchase the ARM and Windows RT based slate for as low as $350.
That’s about $250/$80 less than the equivalent 32GB iPad/iPad mini. It also undercuts the comparably sized Nexus 10 by $150. But of course there are some differences to consider in terms of specs, and more importantly app library, where Microsoft’s platform still falls short despite moving to get all the big names. Adding to that, Microsoft will need to compete with smaller, more affordable options like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire range.
Although there’s still no official announcement, Engadget was able to obtain a Staples ad confirming the price cuts, which will come into effect starting July 14. Aside from the base 32GB model being priced at $350, the 64GB variant will be $450, and either of them with an included Touch Cover will be $450 and $550 respectively.
Microsoft hasn’t revealed much about its Surface RT sales, but they aren’t exactly flying off shelves. The move is largely seen as a way to clear up inventory ahead of a refreshed version. The company hinted at replacement Surface RT and Surface Pro models during its Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday, the former should be receiving a newer Haswell chip while the latter has been tested with a Snapdragon 800.
via Microsoft Surface RT gets $150 price cut worldwide – TechSpot.

Why Windows RT is crucial for Microsoft despite sagging sales

Don’t shed a tear for Windows RT, the neutered operating system cursed to be the red-headed stepchild of the Windows family (to Windows Phone’s great relief). While the OS’s rocky birth has since led to an even rockier childhood, its very existence is a clever ploy for the future by Microsoft—even though you can’t give Windows RT tablets away today.
Body blow after body blow
It’s all too easy to feel bad for Windows RT. Designed specifically for use with mobile-focused ARM processors rather than with the x86-based chips that traditional computers use, Windows RT devices can run only apps designed for the touch-friendly modern UI. Classic desktop programs simply won’t work on Windows RT.
But beyond those technical restrictions, the OS has suffered from an astounding level of neglect. The Windows Store—the very lifeblood of Windows RT and the entire modern UI—still fails to impress. With few stellar apps to attract users and no ability to run desktop software, Windows RT hasn’t been a hit with consumers. IDC estimates that just 200,000 Windows RT devices shipped in the first quarter, and most of those were Microsoft’s own Surface RT tablet.

A tablet with the Windows Store open, sitting on a big, empty expanse—now there’s an appropriate visual metaphor.
Unable to sell Windows RT slates, many manufacturers have stopped making them altogether. Software developers aren’t exactly lining up to support the modern UI, either. Big-name game studios have turned up their noses at the Windows Store’s walled garden. Apple recently dismissed the idea of porting iTunes to Windows 8/RT. The OS was shunned at CES, Computex, and Microsoft’s own Build 2013 keynote.
The hits just keep coming for Windows RT. But here’s the thing: Even though ARM-powered tablets have flopped on the market thus far, they’ve already had a huge impact on Windows tablets overall, and their role can only increase going forward.
Full story: Why Windows RT is crucial for Microsoft despite sagging sales | PCWorld.

Why small screens won't cure Microsoft's Windows tablet blues

My, how quickly the tables can turn in the fickle world of consumer technology.
When Microsoft’s designers and engineers took to the drawing board to dream up Windows 8, the 9.7-inch iPad was the 800-pound gorilla of the tablet market, gobbling an insane amount of market share and laughing at Android’s attempts to break Apple’s stranglehold on slates. The future, it seemed, lay in big screens.
Then the Kindle Fire, the Nook tablet, and Google’s Nexus 7 appeared. Consumers fell in love with smaller, cheaper tablets overnight, and on October 23, 2012, Apple capitulated to popular demand and released an iPad mini of its own.
Three days later, Microsoft released Windows 8 to the public. With a design optimized for 10-inch-plus displays, it was already behind the times.
“”Although Office is a nice thing to have, it is not enough of a differentiator.””
Now, with Windows tablets struggling to catch consumers’ attention, Microsoft is shifting gears. The company has already paved the way for smaller Windows tablets, and Windows co-chief Tami Reller promises that the impending Windows Blue update will pack even better support for 7- and 8-inch slates. Asus and Acer have hopped aboard the diminutive display bandwagon, where other manufacturers are bound to join them.
Prepare for the deluge!
But before the floodgates open, I have to ask: Are small screens really the cure for Microsoft’s Windows tablet woes? Ehhhh…
Small screens, small price tag
Before we discuss anything else, we have to talk about price. Android is freely available to manufacturers (though many OEMs pay “don’t sue me” royalties to Microsoft). On the other hand, Microsoft makes a big chunk of its money by selling Windows, and that includes selling Windows to manufacturers. Basically, Windows tablets will always cost more than a similarly spec’ed Android tablet.

Windows tablet enemy, thy name is Nexus.
That alone could be a killer for small-screen Windows tablets. Paying $380 for an 8-inch Windows tablet (the price of the leaked Acer Iconia W3) seems crazy when you can pick up a Nexus 7 for $200.
Microsoft may be willing to compromise on this issue, however. Several recent reports have claimed that Microsoft is offering manufacturers steep discounts on Windows licenses destined for use on touchscreen devices with screen sizes under 10.8 inches. Pricing for those specialized devices is said to be as low as $30 per license.
Full Story: Why small screens won’t cure Microsoft’s Windows tablet blues | PCWorld.

Windows RT already needs an overhaul, analysts advise

One of Microsoft’s top Windows executives this week said the company remains bullish about Windows RT and has no intention of dumping the limited-feature, touch-enabled tablet operating system.
Analysts accepted that at face value, but remain suspicious of Windows RT’s chances unless Microsoft makes dramatic changes, including dropping the price of the licenses it sells to OEMs.
“Microsoft’s strategy to portray Windows RT as for both work and play is not working,” said Carolina Milanesi in an interview. “They need to change their tactics to position RT as the OS for consumption devices, to make the hardware a companion to the full Windows experience, not a replacement for it.”
Microsoft Defends Windows
Last week, Tami Reller, CFO of the Windows division, went on a mini-PR spree, granting interviews to several media outlets to tout Windows 8 license sales, talk vaguely of changes it will institute in the Windows “Blue” update slated for release later this year, and in some cases, offer mea culpas for mistakes the company made with both Windows 8 and Windows RT.
In one of those interviews, Reller defended Windows RT, the operating system designed to run on ARM processors. “We are very committed to the ARM platform,” she told the Geekwire technology blog. “We certainly know that’s a question in the marketplace. We want to leave no doubt about our commitment to ARM.”
Although some analysts have questioned Microsoft’s commitment to Windows RT—largely based on the tepid reaction it’s received from OEMs—others have said it would be too big a blow to the company to yank the OS so quickly, and that it would press on.
Reller signaled that Microsoft will do the latter.
“They will stick with RT for now,” said Milanesi, who nevertheless argued that without major changes in its strategy, Microsoft faces huge problems making Windows RT a successful alternative to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. “They were hoping that Office on Windows RT would be enough,” she said of Microsoft’s bundling Office RT, a scaled-down version of the suite, with the OS. “But it wasn’t enough. Not that many people want to run Excel on a tablet.”
Full Story: Windows RT already needs an overhaul, analysts advise | PCWorld.

Dell remains committed to Windows RT

Dell remains committed to Microsoft’s Windows RT, despite the poor market reception to the OS and a decline in prices of related tablets.
The company has “future generations” of its XPS 10 tablet, which runs Windows RT, under development, said Neil Hand, vice president at Dell.
The upcoming tablets will be lighter and faster, though Hand did not provide any further details on release dates or specifications of the XPS 10 successor.
Microsoft shipped Windows RT for ARM-based devices and Windows 8 for Intel-based devices in October last year. The XPS 10 was released to positive reviews shortly after, with prices starting at $499. The tablet now starts at $449, and Windows RT tablets are offered by Samsung, Asus and Microsoft, whose Surface RT starts at $499.
At the time of its release, there were many questions on how users would adapt to Windows RT, which is a tablet-optimized OS, while Windows 8 provides the tablet and traditional desktop PC experience. Windows RT does not support applications that ran in old versions of Windows, which raised confusion among potential buyers on which OS to buy.
Hand acknowledged that the adoption of Windows RT had its challenges, but that the OS has a chance to succeed as users gain familiarity.
dell logo
“It’s turned slower than we were hoping at this point in time,” Hand said.
Helping customers understand the OS’s limits is an ongoing challenge, but Dell’s customers who have XPS 10 love the device, Hand said.
Improvements are being made to the OS, Hand noted. In addition, there are more than 50,000 applications available via Microsoft’s store for Windows 8 and RT, and the number is growing everyday.
“Over the long haul it shouldn’t matter if it is Windows on ARM, Windows on Intel, Windows on anything else,” Hand said.
Dell’s backing of RT is a glimmer of hope for the OS, which has been acknowledged as a failure by some hardware companies. Prices of RT tablets have been falling, and Acer executives have said that Microsoft has not pumped enough money into marketing the OS. Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said he was disappointed with the poor response to Windows RT.
Dell on Monday offers two business tablets with 10-inch screens, but is keeping the door open to releasing tablets with smaller screen sizes. The other tablet being sold by Dell is the Latitude 10, which runs Windows 8 and has the Intel tablet chip code-named Clover Trail.
“We’ll over time make sure we are strong and aggressive in the consumer price/consumption driven piece of the market,” Hand said.
The company is closely watching the response to Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming Slate 7, which will go on sale later this month starting at $169. But Hand declined to say if the company’s upcoming tablets would go in the sub-$200 range, saying it will respond to market needs.
The company’s focus right now is around 10-inch tablets, as they can accommodate a larger battery and be used in laptop mode with a keyboard attached. Dell is also focusing more on a bundling a strong software package in tablets with applications like PocketCloud, which provides access to files over the cloud.
Dell is currently on the block to go private. CEO Michael Dell and equity firm Silver Lake Partners on Feb. 5 offered to take Dell private for $24.4 billion, with the proposed deal including a $2 billion loan from Microsoft. However, counteroffers have been made by other investment groups led by Blackstone Group and Carl Icahn, respectively.
In response to customer concerns about the company’s direction in case of a buyout, Dell has said it will continue to invest in tablets and PCs. Dell in recent years has focused on enterprise products while moving away from low-end consumer PCs.
via Dell remains committed to Windows RT | PCWorld.

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: Hotter, Thicker, Faster, Louder

Microsoft’s first ever computer, the Surface with Windows RT (or “Surface RT” as I will henceforth call it) is a mixed bag. The design and build quality both impress, and Microsoft’s twin typing solutions—the 3mm no-moving-parts Touch Cover and the 6mm real keyboard-equipped Type Cover—are remarkably effective.
Specs at a glance: Microsoft Surface with Windows Pro
Screen 1920×1080 10.6″ (207 ppi), 400 nit, 10-point capacitive touchscreen
OS Windows 8 Pro
CPU Intel 3rd generation Core i5-3317U
RAM 4GB (non-upgradeable)
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4000
HDD 64GB or 128GB solid-state drive (of which about 25 or 89 GB are usable)
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n with 2×2 MIMO antennas, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Mini DisplayPort, headphones, microSDXC, USB 3.0, Cover port
Size 10.82×6.77×0.52″ (274×172×13.2 mm)
Weight 1.99lb (0.903kg)
Battery 42Wh
Warranty 1 year
Starting price $899
Price as reviewed $1128.99
Sensor Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer
Other perks 48W charger with 5W USB port
The screen resolution, however, is substantially lower than those of its comparably-priced competitors. The touchpads of those covers are wretched (in the Surface review, having used them for a week, I thought they were poor; with several months under my belt, I now think they’re downright bad). The processor is underpowered.
But the biggest issue with Surface RT is its operating system: Windows RT. Windows RT can only (officially) run applications using the Metro user interface and the WinRT API. These were thin on the ground when I reviewed Surface RT, and they’re thin on the ground today.
Surface with Windows 8 Pro (hereafter known as “Surface Pro”) is Microsoft’s second computer. It is a straightforward proposition: take Surface RT, give it an Intel processor, a high resolution screen, and stylus support. Next, make all the requisite changes to cope with the greater power consumption and heat output that the x86 processor implies—and all the software compatibility and performance that x86 brings.
Full Story: Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: Hotter, Thicker, Faster, Louder | Ars Technica.

Samsung gets cold feet, won't launch Windows RT device in the USA

Samsung has blamed weak demand and confusion surrounding Windows RT as reasons to why they won’t be launching their Windows RT tablet – the Samsung ATIV Tab – in the United States. CNET heard from Mike Abary at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, who confirmed that the Qualcomm-powered tablet would not be showing up in American stores at all despite launching internationally last month.
There wasn’t really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8, that was being done in an effective manner to the consumer. When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was. And that heavy lifting was going to require pretty heavy investment.
When we added those two things up, the investments necessary to educate the consumer on the difference between RT and Windows 8, plus the modest feedback that we got regarding how successful could this be at retail from our retail partners, we decided maybe we ought to wait.
They also found that, alongside the money they would need to spend to educate users about Windows RT, the price of the ATIV Tab would not be competitive enough alongside full-blown Windows 8 tablets. Samsung understood that Windows RT tablets should be priced lower than their more powerful counterparts, however to do this they would have had to make too many trade-offs including lowering the available memory.
Abary noted, however, that Samsung would still be assessing the market in the United States and that they wont be “shelving permanently” the idea of bringing a Windows RT tablet to the region. It seems Samsung are hoping that Microsoft will put more effort into marketing of Windows RT as a whole (as opposed to just their Surface RT tablet) before returning to retail with a new product.
The news doesn’t bode well for Microsoft though, who seem to be struggling to highlight the advantages of a Windows RT machine to consumers. On the other hand, with the recent release of a jailbreaking tool there is a chance that Windows RT will become a new playground for avid homebrew developers.
via Samsung gets cold feet, won’t launch Windows RT device in the USA. | Neowin

2013: An exciting year ahead for Microsoft

2012 was an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft. From the launch of Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Windows RT, to the incredible buzz created by its Surface announcement, to the death of Zune, the birth of Xbox Music, the growth of SkyDrive and the genesis of, the entire year was packed full of news from Microsoft, as the company worked to bring all of its products and services together into a more unified, harmonious whole.
Even the old logo was consigned to the great Recycle Bin in the sky, as the once-disparate and disconnected portfolio of products was gradually updated into one big happy family of complementary brands.
After such a busy and hectic year, you might be forgiven for believing that Microsoft will be putting its feet up for a bit, if only to catch its breath. But the good news for us is that there’s every indication that Microsoft will be keeping up the pace of development in 2013. While much of what is to come remains the stuff of conjecture, hearsay and – dare we say it – wishful thinking, there’s plenty that we’re confident we’ll see from Redmond over the next twelve months.
So this isn’t an exhaustive or complete list by any means, but here are five products that we’re looking forward to seeing from Microsoft in 2013:

Full Story: 2013: An exciting year ahead for Microsoft. | Neowin