Microsoft’s first Windows RT-powered Surface tablet wasn’t the rousing success the company had hoped for, but that won’t stop it from trying again with a second-generation model. Following reports that Microsoft slashed Surface pricing for schools in a likely effort to clear out inventory, Bloomberg has reported some details about an upcoming refreshed Surface RT tablet. The report claims Microsoft will go with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset to power the next Surface RT, though NVIDIA will supply chips ”for some versions” of the new Surface. It is unclear how many versions of the slate there will be, or what the differences between them might be. Microsoft’s Surface sequel is expected to launch later this year.
In what appears to be a desperate attempt to clear out inventory buildup, Microsoft will offer its Surface RT tablet to educational institutions at shockingly deep discounts. The tablet is available to schools and universities from now until August 31st starting at $199 for the 32GB model. The touch keyboard cover will add $50 to the price, while the type keyboard cover brings the total up to $289. The Surface RT comes bundled with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, and the tablet runs the Windows RT operating system, of course. Critics have blamed the watered-down Windows RT operating system, the tablet’s limited storage and high price for the Surface’s lackluster sales performance, and this current promotion could be an effort to clear excess inventory.
The video game industry continued its downward spiral in May. According to research firm NPD Group, retail sales of hardware, software and gaming accessories in the U.S. fell 25% to $386.3 million last month, their lowest level thus far in 2013. Hardware and software sales fell 31% year-over-year to $96 million and $175.1 million, respectively, while sales of gaming accessories declined 6% year-over-year to $115.3 million. Including sales of used games, rental and digitally delivered content, micro-transactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and social network games, consumers spent a total of $787 million on video games in May. More →
In addition to criticisms about the Xbox One’s connectivity policies, its used game policies, its supposedly invasive Kinect sensor and its policies toward independent game developers, Microsoft has also had to deal with criticisms that the Xbox One is overpriced at $500, which just happens to be $100 more than what Sony is charging for the PlayStation 4. Gamespot U.K. has spotted an interview that Xbox boss Don Mattrick had with Bloomberg TV last week where he defended the $500 price point and said that it was cheaper than many analysts had been expecting. More →
In addition to all the other controversies surrounding the Xbox One, we’re now hearing grumblings from independent developers who are unhappy that Microsoft is telling them that they need to have a publisher to sell their games on the Xbox One marketplace. Eurogamer last week talked with Lorne Lanning, the head of independent game developer Oddworld Inhabitants, who said that Microsoft’s new restrictions on independent studios mean that his company won’t release any new games for the Xbox One or the Xbox 360. More →
Microsoft doesn’t exactly need any more negative publicity for the Xbox One, which is why the company was eager to quash rumors that it would start charging more for games on its next-generation console. A Microsoft representative told Polygon late last week that it will sell new Xbox One games for $60 each, the same price that it charges for Xbox 360 games and the same price that Sony will charge for games on the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One has generated quite a bit of controversy in the gaming community for its connectivity and used games policies, and it has also been criticized for being $100 more expensive than the Playstation 4 because of the mandatory inclusion of its next-generation Kinect sensor.
Yes, Windows users will get some variation of the Start button back with Windows 8.1, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft’s big update to Windows 8 will be catered more toward traditional desktop users. ZDNet’s Ed Bott has a sharp piece of analysis explaining why the most important features to Windows 8.1 will be geared toward making the operating system run better on tablets than on non-touch PCs. In particular, Bott notes that Microsoft has eased up its display resolution guidelines with Windows 8.1 to pave the way for smaller tablets that can nonetheless be used like traditional PCs with full access to Microsoft Office. More →
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter has long been very bullish on Microsoft’s chances for success with the Xbox One and earlier this year projected that it would dominate both the PlayStation 4 and the Wii U in overall sales. But Barron’s reports that Pachter went on CNBC on Friday and was seemingly baffled by some of the decisions Microsoft made with the Xbox One, particularly its insistence that you have to log onto the web at least once a day to play games. More →
Microsoft apparently thinks that its Siri-mocking strategy is a winner because it’s come out with yet another ad that cleverly uses Apple’s voice-enabled personal assistant to bash the iPad. The ad takes the iPad to task for not having a zoomable home screen, for lacking an SD card slot and for not being able to multitask as efficiently as Windows RT. As 9to5Mac points out, that last claim is somewhat misleading because Apple has added more robust multitasking capabilities in iOS 7, although those won’t be widely available to iPad users until the fall. All the same, the new ad isn’t as misleading as Microsoft’s earlier effort that bashed the iPad for lacking access to Microsoft Office even though Microsoft itself was primarily responsible for not offering an iOS-compatible version of its popular productivity software. The full video is posted below. More →
The Xbox One’s $499 price tag might not just be a lot to ask of gamers eager to embrace the next generation of video game consoles, it might be flat-out “dangerous.” Microsoft has had a rough couple of weeks following the debut of the Xbox One. The console’s controversial game-sharing and used game policies have drawn a great deal of criticism from bloggers and gamers alike, and even Microsoft’s exciting new Kinect sensor is drawing fire. But everything else aside, one industry watcher believes it’s the Xbox One’s price tag that will scare away a large portion of Microsoft’s potential customers. More →
As BlackBerry and Microsoft scramble to catch up with iOS and Android’s hold on app developers’ attention, it’s become clear that Microsoft has a distinct advantage that BlackBerry simply cannot match: Lots and lots of cash. Both Bloomberg Businessweek and Business Insider report that Microsoft is paying developers up to $100,000 to bring their applications over to Windows Phone 8. While this might seem like a lot of money just to convince developers to create apps for Windows Phone, Business Insider’s Julie Bort notes that it’s a relative drop in the bucket for Microsoft, which is also paying Nokia “$1 billion a year to make Windows phones.”
The Xbox One has been a public relations nightmare so far for Microsoft. The console’s debut was marred by unclear policies and misinformation, and gamers haven’t been shy in letting Microsoft know how they feel. But it’s not just the used game policy, game-sharing limitations and connectivity requirements that have people up in arms — some gamers are absolutely outraged at one of the Xbox One’s most innovative new features. More →
Microsoft executive Andy Lees has stepped down from his new corporate development role at Microsoft. Lees plans to go on sabbatical and return to his home in the U.K., AllThingsD reports, and he will reveal his new position at Microsoft sometime later this summer. It is unclear when Lees plans to return to work, however. Lees had previously led the Windows Phone team before climbing to his new role as vice president of corporate strategy and development just seven months ago. This was apparently not a good fit for Lees. Managing director Marc Brown will now assume Lees’s corporate development responsibilities, according to the report.