Microsoft Is Not Going Away / Surface 2 Might Challenge Apple To Stay On Top

Contact Me: Avi Learner alearner@mac.com

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While Apple fans anxiously await new iPad models to be announced at the Oct. 22, 2013 Event, with updated screens and faster processors from Apple, Inc., Microsoft is not sleeping. The MS Surface is alive and selling to Windows customers.  Apple’s lead in the phone and tablet market may soon be threatened not only by Samsung, a formidable adversary, but by Microsoft, apparently moving more into the consumer hardware market with a range of new tablets and accessories,  with it’s new Surface 2 line.

…quoting a controversial report from Julienne Pepitone at [CNNMoney NEW YORK]
“IPad sales are slumping, and Apple’s share of the tablet market is in a tailspin. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) is hoping to reverse the trend on Tuesday. The company is expected to reveal its first revamped iPad in a year during an event in San Francisco.”

Supporting Apple products over the years, has been a privilege and my vocation. Apple respected independent contractors to help service it’s products in the field, even though Apple retail stores have proliferated in major cities around the world with “Genius Help Desks” and one on one training and troubleshooting. There was a void in Apple Support that we consutants filled in the field servicing computers of individuals and corporate installations. They had very stringent qualifications requiring training and passing pretty tough tests, in order to become “certified” and part of the Apple Consultant’s Network.  These are people that Apple would list on it’s website and an end user could find to provide onsite support for individuals or corporate Apple customers.

Mostly all of the current models of Apple’s products are extremely difficult to “field service or upgrade” and laptops are now “glued together”, making it difficult (but not impossible) to get them apart. Expect more of the same closed, “non-upgradeable” systems to come. RAM sizes are fixed and soldered into the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air and expect the new line of Macbook Pros along with the processors, hard drives, even the batteries. Not that many of us want to fiddle with the tiny innards of iPhones or iPads, but there are some field repairs that some guys are able to do, like repairing a broken iPhone screens. And why isn’t there ram options with removable cards? But a great deal of what I used to call “a job” has just vanished.

Apple stock lost some value and the stock actually fell after the release recently of it’s flagship iPhone 5S and a new line the 5C with it’s colorful array of plastic cases at a “cheaper” price”, offering it as an “entry” level model.  However, the 5S is outselling the 5C even in third world markets and in China, a market Apple desperately wants to dominate as well. Samsung’s Galaxy S line has the majority of the Chinese smartphone market, but there is still demand for the MORE EXPENSIVE iPhone, even though not officially sold directly by any of the Chinese telecoms (yet). Apple still has yet to seal the deal with China Telecom.

Many pundits are saying the iPhone 5C is not really that affordable, although many US Telecoms are offering the 5C for $0 with a two year contract. Anyone with a brain can figure out that with a two year contract at a $100/month for unlimited service, the telecom is making far more that the phone really costs them. I expect to see Apple cut the price of the 5C and perhaps even cut the FULL RETAIL price to gain market share in China with a much cheaper, true “entry level” model phone.

Adding more memory or larger storage capacity, has never been part of the iPhone/iPad design. Now even the new 21.5″ iMacs have fixed memory with no slot to upgrade but the 27″ model at least has expandable memory.  It is a major disassembly hassle to change ram or replace a hard drive in any of the iMac line. The 27″ are monster performance machines with heavy duty processors, storage options and lots of available ram options, no doubt.  They could fill many professional needs. (I’d like one if someone will buy one for me!).  

Also to be announced on Tuesday (possibly) the availability date and pricing for the new Mac Pro with what is not only a size and case redesign, it has some brilliant, powerful potential for the professional Graphic Artist, Scientific, and Video Editing end users.  However, it is a complete redesign like a fifth the size of its predecessor. Unlike the previous Mac Pro Towers (left) they have no ability to provide additional inside storage (except you can change the SSD drive to a larger one as they become larger and readily available – Currently 1gigabyte SSD drives are being readied for the market, (560 gigabyte seem to the largest available at this time).

The current Mac Pro has storage bays for several Terabytes worth of swappable hard drives. Based on what the expected cost of the CPU alone in the new Mac Pro, the entry level cost will be considerably higher than ever before.   I could see a fully loaded Mac Pro with RAM and Large SSD and the fastest processor and two large 2G Graphics Cards offered, pricing near $12,000. I don’t see an inexpensive “entry level” model being offered at all.

So what is Microsoft up to with their Surface 2 line?

There have been reports of problems with the Surface 2 and a software release immediately pulled for undisclosed reasons, according to a report on Engadget that claims there is much confusion over the several different versions of the mobile OS and models that are available.  Typically Microsoft releases so many options to their new OS and now are selling hardware trying to emulate Apple’s success.  Microsoft is now only 33% of the overall value of Apple that reached the number one status as the worlds most valuable company when it’s stock peaked last year at over $700 a share. Today Microsoft stock is $39/share, Apple is over $500/share.
The Microsoft Surface

The surface line while lagging behind a bit in sales and experiencing early release problems, might pose a serious threat because mobile versions of Microsoft flagship “OFFICE SUITE” will be available and I think Windows users will like it. MS claims seamless syncing between desktop, phone and tablets.That is if it actually works!
Plus I think the snap on specialty keyboards, built in stands, USB3 ports and Micro SD slot to expand the memory will prove to be features people will like.

Apple wants everyone to use “the iCloud” instead of relying on internal or removable storage.That is all well and good if iCloud was infallible.  I have recently lost several notes or reminders that supposedly were all safely synced in the cloud. but nowhere to be found.  And I am not the only one reporting stuff just disappearing from their iPhone or iPad unexpectedly, even after saving “backups” to their local Macs.

Personally I am not convinced or that comfortable I can trust Apple with my personal “Keychain Password” data in iCloud (coming in OSX 10.9 Mavericks, also expected to be released Tuesday) but there is now an option to sync with a Mac via Wifi. 1Password a really great password storage/keeping utility, can also be set to sync locally to your Mac rather than the cloud.
I’d much rather have my passwords only sync and backup on nice old fashion, local hard drive.  

In closing I would hope Apple might want to wake up and notice the Surface and start adding keyboard acesories and removable memory chip options that integrate perfectly with their iPad line that should have the new 64 bit A7 processor, enhancing the line and to rival Surface and Galaxy tablets.  Sure there are third party keyboards available for the iPad, but it would truly excite users to have these Apple integrated keyboard and protective case options.  The Zagg case and keyboard I have is kind of clunky and doesn’t always shut the iPad off correctly when closed.  It was cheap and on sale, so I suppose better ones are available.  I was not able to complete this post through my iPad with IOS 7 version of WordPress. I get an update for that software every couple of days, so I’m guessing they are trying to fix it, But it does make it difficult placing images, much easier accomplished on my laptop.

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