Microsoft volume licensing customers get access to Surface devices


As reported by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft have made it a little easier for volume licensing customers to get their hands on the Surface RT & Surface Pro devices with a new website –

https://microsoftedweblive.com/sites/BHO/default.aspx

 

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Text from the site:

Welcome to the Surface commercial customer ordering site. Using the link for your country below, you can order Surface devices, accessories, and after-market service plans (availability varies by market).

Some important notes:

  • A valid Purchase Order (PO) is required for each order form submission
  • Lead times for delivery and order requirements may vary depending on inventory.
  • If you do not currently have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft, there may be additional processing time to setup account and credit terms

Protect your Investment

While Surface devices come with a standard one-year limited warranty, you may want to consider purchasing a Surface Extended Hardware Service Plan. This plan is available for both Surface Pro and Surface RT devices and includes an extension of the hardware warranty up to 3-years.
The plan includes shipping a replacement unit out prior to your product return to minimize downtime. The Extended Hardware Service Plan can be purchased up to 45 days after device purchase. For details on what is and is not covered in the Extended Hardware Service Plan for Surface devices, please see the Terms and Conditions.
The Extended Hardware Service Plan is priced at $200 per device for Surface Pro and $150 per device for Surface RT. At this time, the Extended Hardware Service plans are available only in the US and Canada and via direct purchase from Microsoft.

You need to log into the website to see the above screens and move through to the pricing & ordering sections. I’d expect that any login that can access the VLSC (Volume License Service Center) will be able to sign into this site.

This is an interesting move from Microsoft – still not involving their channel partners but at least making it easier for corporations to purchase these devices! It’s interesting to note that they’re not offering a discount via this new site – the prices are the same as those on the public website.

Also, the Surface Pro isn’t listed on the UK page but it is on the US page, so it conforms to the current availability schedule. No early Pro goodness, even for volume licensing customers Smile

HP Elitepad 900


HP announced the Elitepad 900 a little while ago and it didn’t seem to create that much buzz, with me personally or the tech-sphere in general really. The only thing I knew about it was that it doesn’t meet the 1368×768 minimum resolution to enable the “snap” feature in Windows 8. I’ve been concentrating on the Samsung & Lenovo offerings and that’s where we’ve been seeing the customer interest too (the still elusive Surface Pro aside); but having played with one today my opinion has changed.

It looks good. It feels good. It’s sleek. It’s light.

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You’ll notice as you admire those images that it’s sleek edges are uninterrupted by ports, of any kind – this is certainly odd. The HP ElitePad 900 has available for it a range of “expansion jackets” – the one I had today was the “Expansion Jacket”:

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The above jacket comes in 2 parts & clips around the device to offer a good range of ports:

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  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x HCSM/MMC card slot
  • 1 x Combo stereo/headphone port

It seems you can use the jacket as a form of easel for the tablet but that wasn’t apparent to me whilst handling it today.

That rectangle you see in the centre of the jacket (in the first picture) is an additional battery which adds around 80% to the battery life of the device – handy for long days away from chargers! It appears that the battery is not part of the jacket but rather an additional option (see this HP page here & the spec page here).

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Even jacketed, the ElitePad 900 still looks quite stylish and is still easy to handle and hold. As this jacket contained the additional battery it did add a noticeable amount of extra weight, making the device too heavy to hold for any real length of time. The jacket on its own is 260g while the battery is another 190g, so a total of 450g added to a tablet that weights 680g (1.5lbs) – making a total of 1130g (2.49lbs).

Another accessory available for this tablet is a comprehensive (and very well made/heavy at 1.48 lb) docking station, giving you those required ports when at desk.

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You get:

  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x powered USB 2.0
  • 1 x Combo stereo/headphone jack
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x RJ45
  • 1 x Smart AC Adapter

making it a very well connected device. You can dock it with or without the expansion jacket :

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but it seems i forgot to take pictures of it jacketed in the dock! You’ll notice the stylus pen in a couple of those pictures – this is also an additional option for the ElitePad, although sadly it wasn’t working on the unit I trialled. I find pen input on the Samsung 700t to be excellent and very useful so it’s good to see this as an option for business users.

I used the VGA port to connect the device to my monitor and use it as a second screen, which worked very well. Also, the snap feature is then available.

ElitePad 900 Specs

The spec of the device are reasonable:

  • Intel Atom Z2760 (1.5GHZ, “upto 1.8GHZ using Intel Burst & Hyper Threading)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB or 64GB Flash storage
  • 10.1” 16:10* 1280 x 800 Gorilla Glass 2 screen
  • 2 x cameras (1080p front, 8MP w/LED rear)
  • 9.2mm thickness
  • Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • HP hs2350 HSPA+ Mobile Broadband module w/GPS Support**
  • HP hs3120 HSPA+ Mobile Broadband*

*This gives users an extra 5% usable space over a 16:9 screen (according to HP)

**Not all models will have 3g capabilities.

 

Accessories and costs

The docking station is $149 (HP Site)

The expansion jacket is $99 (HP Site)

The expansion battery is $149 or $99, depending which page you look at (HP Site or HP Site)

The ElitePad case is $39 (HP Site)

There will also be a “Productivity Jacket” which gives:

  • integrated keyboard
  • “”several additional ports”
  • SD Card reader

and allows you to use the ElitePad like a clamshell notebook. I can’t find final specs or a price for this as yet. HP say it will be available “Spring 2013”, here’s a picture until then:

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The pen is an additional item but I can’t see a price for that either.

The full range of accessories is:

  • • HP ElitePad Productivity Jacket
  • •HP ElitePad Expansion Jacket
  • • HP ElitePad Rugged Case
  • • HP ElitePad Case
  • • HP ElitePad Jacket Battery
  • • HP ElitePad Jacket and Battery
  • • HP ElitePad Docking Station
  • • HP Tablet Stand
  • • HP Executive Tablet Pen
  • • HP ElitePad USB Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad SD Card Reader
  • • HP ElitePad Serial Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad 10W A/C Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad HDMI & VGA Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad Ethernet Adapter
  • • HP ElitePad Smart A/C Cable
  • • HP Multi-Tablet Charging Module

The multi-tablet Charging Module will be very useful for companies looking to have a number of tablets as pool/loan devices. This will give an easy, tidy way of keeping them safe and charged.

Conclusion

My biggest issue is the  lack of connectivity ports without the jacket; I find it far from inconceivable that people will leave the jacket at home when they set off in the morning, in the hotel room when they checkout, on the adjacent seat on the train etc. etc. and then you’re stuck. Yes, you can have additional jackets dotted around but that is an extra cost and certainly not ideal. That said, it’s been pointed out to me (by the HP Category Manager) that it does ship with a USB adapter. This means even without the jacket/s users will still have a USB port through which to connect peripherals.

Not having the snap feature is mildly annoying but I feel one would quickly get used to not having that at your fingertips, so no biggie there. Interestingly, HP’s line on leaving out snap is this:

Snap doesn’t currently work with Outlook – or some other business applications – which are pretty vital for day-today
commercial use. Here’s the thing: The ElitePad supports the Windows 8 Snap feature when docked and
connected to an external monitor. So, it’s a consumer-centric function that isn’t yet optimized for a business tablet.

I do think the Atom processor and 2GB RAM could give some organization cause for concern as to whether this will be powerful enough as a laptop replacement. Having plentiful and quick access to trial units will be the best/only way to get past this in many instances – letting customers trial the device in real world settings and see how it fares.

All in all I’m very impressed with HP’s ElitePad 900. It’s clearly aimed at businesses and they’ve done a good job of providing everything they will need, making this a real contender for large scale enterprise rollouts and laptop replacement efforts. I’m very excited to talk to customers about this device and get their feedback – that’s always the key part!

Nokia Music+: Nokia comes to the desktop


Nokia Music is a brilliant app included with Lumia Windows Phone devices, free of charge (see all about that app here) – and now Nokia are taking it further with Music+. Not just enhancing the mobile experience but also extending it to the desktop.

What’s it all about?

Unlimited Skips – The limited ability to skip songs is one of my main issues with the free app, but Music+ changes that – allowing you to skip as many songs as needed. Although the song selections are usually great, it’s good to have full control.

Unlimited Downloads – The free app lets you download 4 “mixes” to listen to offline, Music+ takes away that limitation.

Higher Quality – The paid for Nokia Music+ app gives you 8 x the quality when downloading tracks.

Lyric Streaming – Helps you make sure you’ve got that catchy hook right before you break it out in the canteen at work.

On the Desktop – This could be the biggest attraction, and also the part that most competes with Microsoft’s Xbox Music – “A web-app gives you the ability to play Mixes on your computer, smart TV or other connected screens.”

These are all excellent additions to what is already a great offering so the big question is:

How Much?

$3.99/€399 so I assume £3.99 too.

This makes it half the price of the Xbox Music Pass…and I can’t see a reason one would go with Xbox over Music+ once this rolls out over the next few weeks?

See more on this here:

http://conversations.nokia.com/2013/01/27/more-from-your-music/

Nokia Music: A look inside


Nokia Music is a free app that comes bundled with Nokia Lumia Windows Phone devices, and offers a wide range of music and services. I can see this being enough to swing some people towards a Lumia over any other WP device, but I’m not sure enough people know about it – so here’s a little run down.

Nokia Music gives you access to 100’s of hours of music, for free, across a wide range of genres. When you enter the app, you see a “most recent” screen next to a screen listing the available sections:

Nokia Music 9Nokia Music 6

Scroll across and you come to “Mix Radio:

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where you can choose from pre-made song mixes based on a variety of genres. Quite the collection as you can see:

 Nokia Music 5Nokia Music 12 Nokia Music 13

You can easily create your own mixes. It asks you to input 3 artists and then builds a selection around those:

Nokia Music 3

These can then be downloaded (up to a maximum of 4) so you can listen to them offline. This is a great and very handy feature, especially if your local music collection is limited and/or played out!

Nokia Music 1

Another neat feature is the ability to scan the music collection on you PC and build a music profile from that:

 Nokia Music 2  

Finally, the Nokia Music store allows you to purchase songs and albums to download and keep:

  Nokia Music 7  

I’ve been using it more and more over the last few weeks and I find it to be great. It’s brilliant for both discovering new songs and hearing those old songs you may have forgotten about. If you’re looking at Windows Phone but can’t decide which one, hopefully this helps gives you an idea of what’s available with Nokia Lumia devices.

Surface Pro: We have a release date


Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet will be released to the world (sort of) on February 9th 2013.

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I say sort of because that is the day MS stores (physical & virtual) will start to sell it, along with Best Buy & Staples in the US.

No word of other retailers in the UK and more importantly, no word on when/if it will be made available to the “Channel” – the network of distributors and resellers that makes up the vast majority of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

This to be is of utmost importance – we (my company and the channel in general) are seeing so much interest in this device that, if we are left unable to fulfil this for our customers, it will be perhaps the biggest run-in Microsoft has ever had with it’s partners.

We’ve had pricing for a little while now but still no answer as to channel availability…and I’ve been asking!

ZDNet’s Ed Bott has got more info on this, as well as news of new accessories here:

http://www.zdnet.com/microsofts-surface-with-windows-8-pro-to-go-on-sale-february-9-7000010107/

A problem with the Windows 8 ecosystem AKA All I want is a dock


Microsoft Windows 8 has many great things about it, and some things that could be better. It has as many naysayers as it does great features and, as you probably know, I’m certainly not one of them. I’m a fan of it’s new tile interface (matches my Lumia 920 very well), it’s new sync features, it’s inclusion of an “app store” and more…but I do have an issue with it, and that is is the ecosystem.

This is an area that Microsoft can’t directly control, however I feel they must surely be able to take action to improve the situation. The situation is this:

I’ve got a Samsung Ativ Tab, the Windows RT device released a couple of months ago. It’s a great device: it’s sexy, it’s light, it’s quick, it’s got Office – I’m a big fan. I love using it in it’s tablet form but the other week I noticed the dock connector on the bottom of the tablet and thought about all the extra things I could do with a keyboard attachment too.

Samsung Ativ Tab Connector Here’s the dock.

I got into work and emailed one of our distributor partners to find out how much the dock would be, it’s availability etc. – and this is there the story starts.

The reply was quick to come back that I would need AA-RD8NMKD/UK, but that’s listed as being for the “Windows 8 Pro versions only” so no dice. I pointed this out and waited for the correct part code to come back. I chased up a few hours later to be told that there isn’t a dock available because “the RT version comes with the keyboard” – which isn’t correct.

I also asked our Samsung account manager who came back with the part code for a generic bluetooth keyboard!

I’m now at a loss as to whether this dock even exists and if it does, how on earth one is supposed to buy it. This kind of thing is surely going to put consumers off moving to one of these devices – if someone with direct access to distributors and even the manufacturer can’t get a straight answer, how is someone’s mum/auntie/dad/niece/brother going to fare in PC World?! There will either be so much confusion they just decide not to bother OR they’re sold the wrong item, causing them inconvenience and giving a better experience of Windows 8. (In this scenario, it’s doesn’t matter if it’s RT or 8, Samsung or Microsoft – it will be seen as the fault of Microsoft and Windows 8).

I’m confused as to why the item I was originally given is listed as “only for Windows 8 Pro devices” – what’s the difference? A hardware manufacturer surely isn’t going to incur the extra cost of changing the manufacturing process for two such similar devices? I can’t see that it’s an OS level issue either?

After much searching I’ve managed to find comparable pictures of the 2 devices:

Ativ Tab

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Ativ Smart PC

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The top device there is clearly designed to have the ability to dock – so why can’t I find one anywhere?! Is it that they share the same dock? Is the Ativ Tab add-on simply not released yet? So many questions!

A “regular” consumer would have given up on this about a week ago and at best decided to get a different Windows tablet (be that RT or Pro) or, at worst, gone and bought an iPad.

If anyone reading this can shed some light, that’d be great 🙂

Windows RT tablets, Reviews & iPads


I had a Twitter conversation with a couple of bloggers from ZDNet today and don’t feel that it was resolved. I don’t know if I’m wrong, if they didn’t understand my point, if they just wanted me to leave them alone or a bit of all three…but here’s the gist.

Matt Baxter-Reynolds (@mbrit) posted a review of the Lenovo Yoga 11 (see it here) which included the following:

“It can’t be a tablet because it weighs too much. It comes in at 1190g (2.6lbs). (For comparison, an iPad mini with silicon case weighs 376g — meaning a stack of about three of them weigh the same as the Yoga”

Now I don’t see how this is a true/fair comparison. The Yoga is almost 50% bigger than an iPad mini (11” vs 7.9”) AND includes a keyboard. I find it very doubtful that any consumer will be tossing up between these 2 devices…one is a small tablet and the other is a small laptop that converts to a tablet form factor. This was the first point I made on Twitter…it feels like the iPad comparison has been thrown in there more to further the “ipads are better than Windows tablets” cause – even when they’re apples and oranges. (No pun intended).

The conversation then moved onto the fact that the Yoga is, at 2.8lbs, too heavy to be a tablet. Now that I agree with…if you’re looking at it being used as a tablet 100% of the time. However I don’t think people will be using it like that. If you want a Windows RT tablet, that will be a tablet ALL the time, there are plenty of other choices…get a Surface or a Samung Ativ Tab; these give you the same OS in a much lighter package.

The most common usage scenario I see for the Yoga (and other convertible devices of this ilk) is 80/20 – a laptop 80% of the time and then being converted to a tablet ~in certain scenarios ~ when required. Thus users get all the benefits of having a full keyboard (a big reason for the extra weight) when working in Office etc with the flexibility to switch it up when needed.

 

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I made the point that there ARE cases where it’s ability to transform is useful without it’s weight being an issue – these are primarily desk based scenarios. James Kendrick at this point said:

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Now this I don’t agree with at all. You’re in a meeting with a colleague or two and you want to review some documents on your device…is it only me who would prefer to do that in tablet mode, echoing the more natural feeling “looking at paper documents”, rather than all 3 people huddling round a laptop screen?

You’re in a larger meeting, say 8 people around the boardroom table, and have PowerPoint slide you’d like everyone to take a look at. It’s going to me MUCH easier to flip your Yoga into tablet mode and pass that around than a full on laptop.

I think it’s quite widely felt that, in a meeting setting, the screen of a laptop makes an effective barrier between the people involved. Again, flipping your Yoga into tablet mode allows you to negate that, hopefully making everyone feel more comfortable and keeping them engaged etc., and the weight won’t matter because you’re not carrying it.

The feeling that a tablet is only of use if you’re carrying it is, in my opinion, missing part of the picture.

My initial point was that comparing the Yoga to the iPad Mini is not a true comparison, perhaps a little disingenuous and done to tap into that Apple vs Microsoft battle so often prevalent with tablets – even though it’s not really part of the discussion. I re-iterated that point, to which James Kendrick replied:

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Which doesn’t really make any sense! The above is not the same as comparing an 11” convertible laptop with keyboard to a 7.9” tablet without a keyboard.

I’m keen to understand if it’s just me who sees it like this or if there’s anyone out there that agrees with me, so I welcome your feedback!

Surface Pro Pricing Announced


Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet has been out for just over a month and is generating a lot of interest from business customers. However, due to RT’s inability to run legacy software (non-RT versions of Office, Adobe Acrobat, LOB apps etc) the general conversation has gone like this:

 

“Wait for the Surface Pro”

“When’s it out”?”

“January”

“How much is it?”

“Erm…not sure”, we’re still waiting to hear from MS”

Well, now we’ve heard. Officially announced by Microsoft, the pricing is:

Surface Pro 64GB = $899

Surface Pro 128GB = $999

Converting them in GBP at today’s exchange rate gives:

Surface Pro 64GB = £560

Surface Pro 128GB = £623

but it is rare that costs of software & devices so truly follow the exchange rates, so it will be interesting to see the final UK price.

These are actually cheaper than those “leaked” from Germany a few weeks ago (Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Leaked) which is great, as many considered those leaked costs to be too low to be true!

The specs haven’t changed and are as detailed in this post (Microsoft Surface Pro), giving quite the bang for one’s buck.

One thing that hasn’t been confirmed today is Microsoft’s plans for the sale and distribution of these devices. Will the retain the “direct from MS” strategy of the Surface RT or use the more common model of selling via retail stores as well as via the “Channel”, the network of distributors, resellers, VAR and other partners. The latter is the current way that most businesses purchase their laptops (as well as other IT equipment) and if Microsoft choose not to let them into the party, that will be a very poorly received decision…both by resellers and their customers.

The majority of businesses are not set up to make multiple, sizeable purchases via credit cards on websites and they don’t want to change that – thus Microsoft could be losing sales to their OEM partners (which they will at least say isn’t a bad thing) or perhaps Apple. If there are businesses out there happy/prepared to purchase directly from the MS site, there will then be scores of distributors/resellers upset at missing out on potential sales to their customers.

I’m of the opinion that the Surface Pro must, and will, be available via the Channel and retail stores but it would be nice to see it confirmed by Redmond.

Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Leaked


Microsoft Surface Pro is the upcoming Redmond produced tablet that will run full Windows 8 Pro, and thus allow installation of legacy/LOB apps etc. We’ve seen recently the hardware spec for the device (https://richardgibbonsuk.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/microsoft-surface-pro/) and now, via Softpedia, we’ve got leaked pricing from Germany.

128GB Surface Pro = £729 / $1165 / €909

64GB Surface Pro = £648 / $1035 / €809

If those prices are correct (and there’s a high chance they’re not) then that is some quite amazing and aggressive pricing from Microsoft.

I can almost guarantee that all the customers I’ve spoken to about Windows 8 over the last few weeks would purchase those units with barely a second thought. Organizations are, in the most part, sold on Windows 8 and sold on the tablet form factor…it’s the £800+ price tag of many Windows 8 devices that causes them to pause. So a Core i5, 4GB RAM, Full HD, 64GB SSD device for £648 would be a real winner.

It is for that reason that Microsoft MUST ensure this device is available via “The Channel”, the network of distributors, resellers, VARs, LARs etc that make up 95%+ of their business. I’m seeing us lose sales at work, as customers are set on buying the Surface RT & so are going direct to Microsoft. In some cases, we’re able to cross sell to another Windows RT device such as the Samsung Ativ Tab but not always…and that’s to be expected. The Surface RT is such a great piece of hardware that people are bound to want that in a lot of cases. I’m sure this is the case for all the other resellers across the UK and indeed any other location.

Microsoft Surface Pro


The Microsoft Surface RT is making waves in the consumer space and, to some degree, the world of business too. It looks great and runs great…but it doesn’t run legacy software and doesn’t integrate into Active Directory managed domains. Due to this, many organizations are looking to wait for the Surface Pro which will run full Windows 8 Pro/Enterprise..

We don’t have a nailed on release date yet (other than at least 90 days after Windows 8 RT) but we do have specs:

  • Screen size = 10.6” ClearType Full HD, 1920×1080, 16:9
  • Weight = <2lbs
  • Storage = 64GB & 128GB
  • Memory = 4GB
  • Pen Input = Yes – pen included with purchase
  • CPU = 3rd Gen Core i5
  • Connectivity = Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports = Full Size USB 3.0, Micro SDXC slot, Mini Display Port

You can see the full spec here:

http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/7/A/37A9C06B-DB3D-4189-99EC-C1EE175234DE/SurfaceWithWindows8Pro_US_CA.pdf

The pdf does still mention the RT version of Office being included for free – I think someone might need to update that!

I like the spec of the machine, it looks decent but I feel the lack of 3g/4g is an odd omission. I read on the Reddit AMA that they had to choose between 3g and the Vapormg casing and that trade off, on a consumer device, makes some sense…but on a business device? I’m not so sure.

Even if people don’t really use 3g on tablet devices (and I’m sure MS studied/conducted research that showed this) it’s still the kind of thing that can put people off purchasing. If there’s another device with similar spec and a similar price AND offers cellular connectivity, I anticipate many would choose that.