At an internal meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that the company overproduced the Surface RT tablet, leading to its recent $150 per unit price cut. As quoted by The Verge’s Tom Warren, Ballmer plainly explained that the company “built a few more devices than [it] could sell.”
But we already knew that.
In its most recent quarterly earnings release, Microsoft took a $900 million charge relating to the Surface RT tablet line, essentially admitting that the inventory that it has on hand was not worth its previous internal valuation; you can’t cut the market price of a product that you have in a warehouse and not lower its value on your books. The write down cost Microsoft $0.07 per share. It missed expectations for the quarter.
Microsoft has been on a mission to clear Surface RT inventory for some time. As I wrote earlier this year, through a combination of giveaways and discounts, Microsoft was moving to liquidate what appeared to be mountainous superfluous unit volume of its ARM-based Windows tablet hybrid.
At that time, Microsoft released a bland statement, saying that the offers and handouts were in “response” to the “positive reaction” Surface had enjoyed since launch. That felt a bit backwards: If response had been so strong, why give away a single device or discount? Wouldn’t organic demand be sufficient? Well, as it turns out, reaction hasn’t been overly positive, so the entire argument was logically moot.
Ballmer said something else during the meeting that is a non-surprise: Microsoft is not selling as many Windows devices as it would like. We knew that, too. The figures released quarterly that describe the PC market are brutal – and dropping. Even Apple is suffering from declining Mac sales in the face of nearly insurmountable headwinds that it helped to create with its leadership of post-PC product categories.
Next-generation Surface devices are being designed and tested. I suspect that Microsoft learned its lesson regarding production volume: Prove product-market fit first, and then kick the afterburners.
Top Image Credit: BUILDWindows
Xbox One owners, start your streams – the Twitch app’s broadcasting support is now available, just in time for Titanfall’s launch on March 11th. As promised, you can share live gameplay sessions with viewers around the world. You can use your Kinect to chat with any fans, although any interaction is strictly optional. As long as you have a Twitch account and a willingness to show off, you can fire up your console to get the necessary app update and start playing in the public eye.
Read the full story at Engadget.
This is a very big week for the Xbox One.
We’re four months into the new console generation, which means two things:
- It’s too early to tell who’s “winning,” but …
- … we still have a good idea of what’s going on.
I’ve been meaning to re-visit the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 since I first reviewed them at launch. But I haven’t had much of a reason to, since little has happened with either console since its launch. That’s understandable, though – almost every console experiences a lull in the months immediately following launch. There’s fanfare and tons of new games, then a quiet period while we wait for new releases.
We’re done waiting. Titanfall is here.
Say what you want about the Xbox One’s launch titles, but Titanfall is the first game that will make you want to go out and buy an Xbox One (if you haven’t already). Dead Rising 3, Ryse and Forza 5 may be great, but Titanfall is a system-seller. Microsoft knows this: meet the Titanfall bundle.
Microsoft is also making sure the rest of its ducks are in a row to make this launch as smooth as possible. Two major updates have made their way to the console in the past five weeks, as a custom-built Twitch app. (The PS4 has had a Twitch app since launch, but Microsoft’s version offers more functionality.) Oh, and if you get tired of playing Titanfall, Microsoft just launched an Xbox One Media Remote, which will make watching anything and everything on your console much, much easier.
Everything seems to be coming up Microsoft this week… but it sort of has to. Why? Because Sony is “winning the console war” (at least for now), even if we’re only a few months in. The PlayStation 4 is out-selling the Xbox One, it’s still $100 cheaper and PlayStation Plus has given us a handful of awesome games for free (well, as long as you pay for Plus).
Sony’s also got a killer exclusive of its own on the horizon. Infamous: Second Son launches next week (on March 21). It’s not as massive – or important – a title to Sony as Titanfall is to Microsoft, but it’s a system-seller in its own right. Infamous is one of the most popular and established franchises exclusive to Sony, and only the second (aside from Killzone) to make its way to the PS4.
It’s still too early to truly handicap the “war” between these two consoles. I’d say that Sony is leading, but there’s not much of a sample size. If something disastrous happens with Titanfall’s launch, it would mean big trouble for Microsoft. So far, there have been hiccups, but nothing more severe. I haven’t played Titanfall yet – the beta came and went in the midst of my Olympics obsession, and I just got the game in the mail an hour ago – but I’m expecting great things.
(And if you want to watch me play very, very poorly, you can. Thanks, Twitch!)
Microsoft today released its developer preview version of Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) for those devices running its Windows 7 operating system. In doing so, the company seeks to show developers that apps produced for its latest browser will work across many different devices while also showing that its browser is very scalable.
While Microsoft touts IE11 s ability to offer improved browser performance such as faster page load times and new standards support for websites, this release also include a completely revamped F12 developer tools.
Opening IE11 to more people
IE11 first hit the scene at a reveal during the company’s Build conference in San Francisco. Until today, it was only available with Windows 8.1 – and only to those users who feel the risk to upgrade is worth checking out the upgraded OS. The latest version of Microsoft’s browser is billed as a platform to help create “the best experience on the Web” and the company states that browsers are no longer a simple commodity – rather, they’re key platform differentiators.
The IE11 developer preview for Windows 7 is the first time Microsoft is opening up the browser to a large audience, hopefully recognizing that there are many consumers that don’t have Windows 8 installed. Those that install IE11 will receive all of the performance, security, and “under-the-hood” changes highlighted at Build.
Microsoft tells us how great IE11 is
We’ll save you the promotional information about how good Microsoft thinks IE11 is, but in short, the company touts that the browser is the first one to integrate the W3C Resource Priorities standard, which helps to determine what should be loaded first, thereby reducing load times.
Additionally, it supports HTML5 link prefetching and pre-syncing, processes that provide a measure of predictability the browser can use to anticipate where the user wants to go next.
With this release, in order to show how powerful and adaptable IE11 is, Microsoft has revamped its in-browser developer suite of tools. Available since IE8, the F12 toolset gives developers the ability to diagnose and optimize their apps quickly and efficiently. With today’s preview version, Microsoft has added three new tools to help streamline project build times and increase its efficiencies:
- User interface responsiveness and memory profiling: Developers can now look at a website and understand where pain points are in the UI, including if there’s a lag in responsiveness. It can detect where the issue is occurring and give the area to help developers make the necessary adjustments.
- Live DOM Explorer and CSS inspection tools: A feature that lets developers iteratively understand how IE is laying out and rendering web apps.
- Emulation tool: F12 now gives developers the ability to look at their site/app as it would appear on a variety of screen sizes, platforms, and devices – all without needing to leave the browser.
Updates to Modern.IE
On top of the the availability of IE11 s developer preview, Microsoft is updating its Modern.IE website, the suite of free tools developers can use to help them spend “more time innovating and less time testing.” These tools are a tad bit different than what developers would receive with F12.
Prior to today, Modern.IE offered three tools to help developers, including a ‘wizard’ to scan sites for problematic coding practices, three months of free virtual testing through BrowserStack, and an editorialized selection of best practices.
Today, the site is receiving several enhancements, including a 25 percent discount on the purchase of Parallels Desktop 8 virtualization for Mac software. The site’s virtual machine offering now includes IE11 testing on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 and the screenshot tool has moved to be open source – its code can be downloaded off of GitHub today.
Microsoft IE11 developer preview for Windows 7
Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
If you’ve never heard of ITG and their xpPhone before we don’t blame you. The device was launched last year in November and failed to create any waves, but it looks like they have not given up and will be launching the successor to the xpPhone – the rather uninspired xpPhone 2!
In terms of hardware specs, the xpPhone 2 appears to be more like a netbook packed into a smartphone form factor, and will feature a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor, 2GB of RAM, 112GB of SSD storage, a 4.3″ display and is said to be compatible with both Windows 7 and Windows 8. It also claims to be capable of handling up to 18.5 hours worth of talk time on a single charge.
ITG claims that they favor Windows over more mobile platforms, such as Android, iOS, Windows Phone, MeeGo, etc simply because a greater range of software is available, although with both the iTunes App Store and Android Market brimming with all sorts of apps, perhaps ITG is going with a more enterprise crowd with their xpPhone 2. No word on pricing but the handset is expected to be made available in January of 2012.
If you’ve been waiting for a price drop to buy a Microsoft Surface tablet, your time is now. Microsoft recently announced a significant price cut in its entry-level Surface RT tablets. These are the less powerful Surface tablets on the market, and don’t run the full version of Windows 8. However, the Surface RTs are decent in their own right, and are now $150 cheaper. A 32 gig model now runs $349, and doubling the storage to 64 gigs will cost $100 more at $449. The price cut was likely the result of a few factors, including poor sales numbers and new models likely to hit store shelves later this year. The line of Surface tablets has yet to truly take off, but Microsoft is rumored to be debuting new accessories for the Surface soon, including a battery-equipped keyboard cover. If you’re looking to try out a lite version of Windows 8 or are just looking for a mid-range tablet option, the Surface RT is now available at $349, its lowest price ever.
It has been just three months since the once email-centric file-sharing service YouSendIt changed its name to Hightail, but it sure feels like longer. When I spoke with him yesterday, CEO Brad Garlinghouse felt the same way. It has just been that kind of year for the company.
A new mission brought with it a new name that’s intended to better reflect everything the company can do. And now there are new investors, too.
Hightail said Tuesday it has raised a $34 million Series E led by Western Digital Capital, the investment arm of Western Digital, the hard drive manufacturer. Accolade Partners is also a new investor. Previous investors Alloy Ventures, Sevin Rosen, Emergence Capital, Adams Street Partners and Sigma Partners also participated.
It’s the first new funding for Hightail since 2010, when it raised $15 million in a D round, and it brings its total capital raised to nearly $83 million. During most of that time, the company hasn’t been hurting for money, running on cash from its operations.
So how has business been since the name change? “Candidly, we were very apprehensive about the change. But within a month we saw traffic and activity up,” Garlinghouse told AllThingsD.
One reason for the new funding is expansion in international markets. Hightail recently opened offices in London and in Australia, and has been working furiously to localize its service for markets in Europe. In just the last month it has completed new versions in German, Spanish and Italian.
Hightail has also been quietly acquisitive. In September it acquired adeptCloud, a file-sharing and collaboration outfit that focuses on privacy. “They do some very clever things around key management and document control and watermarking,” Garlinghouse said. “There’s a lot more interest in privacy now. It’s the Edward Snowden effect.”
That’s on top of Found, a cloud-searching service Hightail acquired in January.
In its previous incarnation, YouSendIt, Hightail had built up a trusted brand name. It boasted a user base of 43 million people – free and paid combined – using its service in 193 countries and pretty much all of the Fortune 500.
File sharing is a tough space in which to compete. DropBox, Box and Microsoft’s SkyDrive are all fighting for the same enterprise users that Hightail is going after. But Garlinghouse’s hope is that Hightail’s historic relationship with a lot of those same corporate users will turn out to be an advantage.
There’s also more to it than storage. Garlinghouse is hoping that large companies will pay for enhanced services like access control, extra security and activity logs. “Anyone can offer file storage in the cloud,” he said. “Our way of differentiating is what you can do with those files after you’ve uploaded them in the cloud.”
If you talk to any high-ranking person inside Microsoft these days, a pretty strong scenario is trumping all others for who will take over from outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer.
And that is that Ford CEO Alan Mulally remains in the pole position for the job, with the idea that he will be more a “caretaker” type CEO, whose deep experience and inspirational charisma will get the company on the right path, while also training up a number of internal candidates to eventually take over from him.
The top pick among the possible heirs inside for that princeling role: Enterprise chief Satya Nadella.
Also in that mix: COO Kevin Turner, strategy exec Tony Bates and Nokia exec Stephen Elop. All of them, sources said, are considered by many internally to be not quite ready for prime time.
The plus for Mulally? An obvious ability to manage a complex organization, with many moving parts and masses of employees. The minus: He’s not enough of a visionary geek who can grok the massive changes moving through the digital landscape and also understand the complexity of the tech itself.
In other words: He can’t program. He doesn’t Snapchat. But he sure can give a corker of a speech.
Microsoft, many insiders said, might need such a leader as a temporary breather, as it moves away from its longtime leaders, Ballmer and also co-founder and chairman Bill Gates.
Gates, of course, is not going anywhere, and multiple sources said he has become re-engaged at the company of late. Ballmer is another story, as was clear in a recent Wall Street Journal piece, which finally confirmed an earlier AllThingsD story that I wrote about his departure announcement in August that characterized it as more sudden and also included a little push from the board, which Microsoft denied at the time.
In the WSJ piece, Ballmer came off as a bit feckless and a lot maudlin, although others decidedly did not.
That was clearly illustrated by the quotes of board search leader and loud talker John Thompson, who has emerged as a strong voice (too strong, some inside the company think) in the whole corporate drama.
Thompson did a nice bit of verbal jujitsu by noting that the board “didn’t push Steve to step down, but we were pushing him damn hard to go faster.” Also from Thompson, who seems to enjoy tough-love transportation metaphors when dealing with Ballmer: “Either get on the bus or get off,” and, “Hey, dude, let’s get on with it. We’re in suspended animation.”
Speaking of static danger, the board has its work cut out for it over the next weeks to decide on its pick. Directors are meeting in the midst of the company’s annual shareholders event, which takes place today, to cull the list of candidates to a smaller group, said sources close to the situation. The goal, as this site and many others have previously reported, is to name a new CEO before the end of the year.
While the list of names for the job has remained consistent since Ballmer announced in the summer he was stepping down, there are some within Microsoft who are also compiling a list of possible dark horses to ride the company into the future.
“There are a whole bunch of telecom execs all over the globe, who could suddenly appear,” said one, while another continued to hope for the reemergence of former Microsoft exec Paul Maritz, a sentimental favorite internally who has moved onto much greener pastures since he left the company.
I’ve mentioned Maritz before, but such a return seems unlikely, said many sources.
Microsoft is releasing another Office app for iOS, kind of. The new Office Web App for iPhone and iPad is designed for businesses who use Office 365 to access the full functionality of Outlook Web App. Although Microsoft has been supporting a web version of this previously, the software maker has packaged it up into a “native” app for iOS. If your work place subscribes to Office 365 then the benefits are clear, but if it’s not then it’s useless for those thousands of Exchange servers that run in enterprises today. The app does package together Mail, Calendar, and people into one neat package though. There’s also a navigation screen that includes Live Tiles of information. Microsoft has built in voice input too, allowing users to executive commands like “open Calendar for tomorrow.” Most of the UI is very similar to the existing Outlook Web App for Office 365, and apps for Outlook will work here too.
Read the full story at The Verge.