Microsoft, the VW family sedan of IT, wants to be tech's new Rolls-Royce

But it has one or two problems – Apple, for starters


Analysis If there's one message that stands out from Microsoft's big device day launch on Tuesday it's this: stop thinking about Redmond as the cheap option, because it wants to be seen as the premium brand.

For years Microsoft has sold itself as the dominant ecosystem for computing that won't cost you too much. The device day focus, however, shows that Microsoft is intent on going after the big spenders in the IT industry.

Take the Surface Book, for example. Again and again Microsoft hammered the message that this was the ultimate laptop, with no expense spared. That's reflected in the price – $1,500 will get you the base unit but you can spent nearly three grand on a top-of-the-range system with dual graphics chips and a terabyte of solid state storage.

That's a hell of a lot for a laptop. You can pick up a good-enough laptop for a tenth of the price of a top-of-the-range Surface Book running Windows. But there's a market for people willing to spend a fortune on top-spec hardware, both in the gaming market and also for the executive who likes to show off a bit.

As for fondleslabs, the Surface Pro 4 is an expensive option for a tablet, which is why Microsoft has always billed it as a PC that just happens to be in tablet form. While $899 is the base price, when you add in the keyboard, a bit more storage, RAM, and the pen you're well into four figures.

The same is true for phones. The Lumia 950 and 950XL were promoted (and priced) to compete with the highest-end cellphones on the market and billed as a possible replacement for PCs. Buy a docking station to go with it and the phones can handle 90 per cent of the applications most people use most of the time.

By contrast, the lowly Lumia 550 got little love from Redmond. It merited a couple of sentences in the long presentation and was reduced to a "if you want to try Windows 10 on the phone it's a cheap option."

Follow the money

There's just one problem with this strategy – other people have got there first and they'll be a bugger to dislodge.

When it comes to expensive hardware, Apple has ruled the roost for a long time. The MacBook, iPad, and iPhone lines are pricey, albeit with a very high-quality build and the apps to match. Cook & Co have earned serious coin with high-end hardware and will cling onto the sector like rabid weasels.

The Surface Book also takes aim at Alienware, although that's a longer-term play. The dual graphics capability of the laptop will match the Dell subsidiary's best laptops (once software that can take advantage of the hardware has been written), and gamers are notorious/beloved by vendors for being willing to spend big bucks on the right kit.

Microsoft wants a piece of both companies' markets, although the Apple bashing was more in evidence at yesterday's show in New York City – possibly because Microsoft has a financial stake in Dell and it's one of the firm's favorite partners.

Next page: Race to the bottom

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022