I’ve landed at Amazon Web Services as Vice President of Relational Database Services (RDS). And I’m hiring!
Please keep in mind that this is my personal blog and the content does not necessarily represent the view of Amazon!
I’ve landed at Amazon Web Services as Vice President of Relational Database Services (RDS). And I’m hiring!
Please keep in mind that this is my personal blog and the content does not necessarily represent the view of Amazon!
Microsoft is working on its next Windows release (isn’t it always) and most rumors point to it being a release code-named Threshold. The rumors also suggest developers may see Threshold before the end of this year, but general availability is sometime in 2015. I don’t know about the name or dates, but I do believe that whatever Microsoft does next is absolutely critical for its success or failure in the client OS business. That particularly holds true for Windows Phone. So I’m going to call the next release Threshold and discuss it, particularly in the context of Windows Phone but also a more generally.
The most recent bit of Threshold rumor is that Microsoft may make it available for free to Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8.1 customers. This is neither surprising nor particularly significant financially. Recall that the vast majority of Windows revenue comes from two sources, new copies of Windows licensed through OEMs for new devices and volume licensing agreements with enterprises. The Enterprise version of Threshold is unlikely to be free, unless of course you essentially already paid for it by having Software Assurance. And the OEM version is only free for small form factor devices that currently are not a material part of the business. So free upgrades is a nice way to encourage adoption, but its financial impact should be negligent in the short-term (and positive in the long-term if it does encourage adoption).
Throughout the rest of this post I’m going to merge rumors and my opinions of what Microsoft must do, and in many cases what I believe they are doing. Don’t get confused into thinking I have any contacts feeding me facts. It’s all speculation as far as I’m concerned. But I wouldn’t bet against what I’m about to say.
Threshold is clearly a release designed to (a) clean up the Windows mistakes of the past few years, (b) reposition Windows as a single platform across a wide variety of devices with experiences tuned for device classes, and (c) establish Windows as the platform for running apps of all types. A lot has been written about (a) and (b) already so I’ll spend most of my effort here on (c).
The main mistake to be fixed is Windows 8’s de-prioritization of the desktop user, but there are plenty of others. Even within the Modern user experience there are things that just don’t make sense. For example, even heavy Windows 8.x users struggle with having Print buried inside the Devices charm. Tweaks in 8.1, 8.1 Update 1, and in the apps design guidance (e.g., most print-oriented apps now expose their own Print menu item) have worked towards addressing these smaller items. In Threshold those shortcomings should become mostly a memory.
One of the mistakes for Windows 8 was the incomplete state of the Windows Runtime. Because the initial version was targeted at specific categories of apps, many developers wrote it off as a dead-end and stuck with their focus on desktop Win32 applications. Even Microsoft’s most critical application for succeeding in tablets, Office “Gemini”, is held up because the Windows Runtime doesn’t yet support everything it needs. Threshold will fix this problem, rounding out the Windows Runtime so that it is capable of supporting the vast majority of applications that developers would care to write. From the lightweight front-end kinds of apps generally found on phones and tablets to the heavyweight productivity and enterprise applications that currently call the Desktop home.
If you combine a fleshed out Windows Runtime with the recently introduced concept of Universal Apps you get a very powerful environment for addressing the app gap. The app gap is a problem both on tablets and phones for Microsoft, and the initial divergence in development platforms has only made it worse. Fitbit did an app for Windows early on, but only just released a Windows Phone (universal) app. On the other hand Yelp has an app for Windows Phone but not Windows. Add on directional changes in the app platform between Windows Phone 7 and 8 and Microsoft certainly wasn’t making it easy on developers. That’s already changing, and with Threshold developers should have a clear, complete, and more stable platform to target.
Unfortunately Windows Universal Apps and a stable complete Windows Runtime based development platform isn’t enough to save Windows Phone. As much as I’ve been a supporter and booster of Windows Phone since it came out, I recently left the fold. And I have one foot in the “Microsoft should just abandon Windows Phone” camp, because on current course, speed, and publicly visible strategy it will never break out of single digit percentage market share on a world-wide basis. And if that is the case then it isn’t clear what strategic value it has, nor is there any way it can yield a positive financial return. So is there a viable strategy for Windows Phone and how does Threshold play into it?
First let me restate the problem. On a world-wide basis Android has now achieved 85% market share, and its share is growing. It has achieved roughly the same virtuous cycle as Windows achieved in the 1990s. Most of the remaining market share accrues to Apple’s iOS, which increasingly looks like it has carved out the same high-end niche that it owns with the Mac in the PC business. In affluent countries the iPhone has a much stronger position than the world-wide numbers indicate, but the world-wide trends mirror what happened in PCs. There is, in essence, no room for a third player.
Being that third player means it is hard to gain and keep the attention of the channel (carriers, retailers) or garner the top-tier of OEM support. And most importantly, it means that Developers see your platform as having the worst return on investment of any they do, or might consider, supporting. That means they either never bring their apps to your platform, or treat them as second class citizens that are updated less frequently and receive mediocre support, or abandon the platform when they see it makes no financial sense to continue supporting an app on it. Windows Phone is having all three problems, and unless it gains share rapidly I think abandonments will accelerate.
So how can Microsoft work around developers’ barriers to supporting Windows Phone, and thus close the app gap? One that we’ve already discussed is making the overall market bigger by having the same apps target all Windows variants. But in the short run that strategy does more to attract enterprise, as well as more productivity-oriented, apps than the broader consumer app category that makes up the app gap. So Microsoft has been embarked on a mission of supporting multiple efforts around cross-platform app development.
Microsoft has only one play to really close the app gap in the next 12-18 months, and that is something they have to do that if they want Windows Phone to have a future. That play is make it easy for developers to port Android apps to Windows Phone, a capability I think is likely to be part of Threshold. It’s possible that Microsoft would simply choose to allow Android apps to run on Threshold, perhaps just on phones but tablets are also a possibility. There are a number of existing sources for technology to do this, but I suspect Microsoft is working with OpenMobile World Wide. Want a clue on this? Open the data sheet for the upcoming OpenMobile ACL for Windows and look at the picture on the upper right.
While being able to run existing Android apps on Windows Phone would close the app gap extremely quickly, it would leave a problem with the quality of the app experience. I suspect Microsoft is looking to take this another step, and use the opportunity to easily run Android apps on Threshold to convince developers to adapt them to the Microsoft environment. For example, first use it to encourage developers to support Microsoft services (when running on both Windows and Android). Then use it to convince developers to turn their Android apps into multi-platform apps, with customizations (to the user experience) when running on Windows. How far they will go is a big question mark, but I believe they will go beyond just wanting to run existing apps unchanged.
There are lots of risks around supporting Android apps on Threshold. The first one everyone brings up is that it would seem to discourage developers from creating “native” apps for Windows. In some cases this will be true, but as (and if) the Windows Phone platform grows in market share than user demand for a higher quality application experience will solve this problem. But I think a bigger issue is that the strategy doesn’t have a great history of success, at least on a cross-vendor basis. The analogy most people use is that the ability to run Android apps on the Blackberry hasn’t helped it, but I don’t think that the app gap has been their biggest problem.
I like the OS/2 example better than the Blackberry example. IBM kept OS/2 going after Microsoft abandoned the effort because (IMHO) they wanted a platform they could control even if its prospects for success on the desktop were virtually nil. To solve the app gap problem they included the ability to run Windows applications on OS/2, and even had a deal with Microsoft to run Office on it. It may have helped sell some copies of OS/2, but didn’t help OS/2 achieve anything other than a marginal market share followed by a trip to oblivion.
So the strategy of running Android apps on Windows Phone is risky, but when you have 3% market share how much risk is it really? And to be clear, closing the app gap is not all that it will take to grow Windows Phone’s market share. But failure to close the app gap certainly dooms the platform.
While press and pundits will focus on running Android apps on Windows Phone, assuming it is true that Threshold will support this, I think it misses the bigger point. With Threshold Microsoft may be completing the move away from the our way or the highway application platform to broad acceptance of multiple development technologies and runtimes. If you follow Azure you’ve already seen Microsoft do this in a big way. They’ll continue to offer their own application platform, and open source much of it to encourage broader adoption. But we are clearly in the waning days of Microsoft focusing intensely on a proprietary Windows application platform.
And speaking of thresholds, this is going to be my last blog post on Microsoft or any kind of IT industry analysis/commentary. There is a time to blog and there is a time to build, and I’ve decided it’s time once again for me to build. I’ll reveal my plans at an appropriate point in the future.
I went ahead and replaced my Nokia Lumia 1020 with an LG G3. I selected the G3 over a Samsung or Sony device for a couple of reasons, one being stronger recommendations and some of the reviews I read, but also because AT&T was offering a G Watch at half-price if you bought a G3. And given the Samsung Galaxy S5 is more expensive than the G3, I basically got the G3 and G Watch for just a few dollars more than the S5 alone. AT&T may (the signage had disappeared) also have had a deal on a Gear purchased with the S5, but it was for a Tizen-based watch and I wanted Android Wear. So, after 72 hours how do I feel about my choice?
Well to start with, Android is Windows. I mean, I joked back in the early days that Android was Windows 3.1. Ok, its more like Windows XP. In all ways, good and bad. The UI with frequently used apps on the “desktop” and then there is “All Programs”? Check. The OEM model leading to a broad variety of hardware? Check. The UI that is customized by every hardware vendor and every device is laden with crapware? Check. The unbelievable breadth of applications coming out of the ecosystem? Check. The complete randomness of app quality and UI consistency coming out of the ecosystem? Check. The OS vendor leaving what its competitors have cleanly integrated into the platform to third-parties, resulting in more powerful but poorer quality solutions? Check.
As an example of that last point take Windows Phone 8.1’s Quiet Hours and Inner Circle features. I’ve been using it for months and it works perfectly. Now, try to do the same thing on Android 4.4.2 (KitKat). It has a Quiet Mode, but no ability to schedule when that should be turned on or off or a provision for designated family and friends to break through it. Getting alarms during quiet mode requires that you know to go into the settings in the Clock app and enable alarms breaking through. Not very functional or user-friendly.
But of course we have third parties to the rescue and there are a variety of apps that do everything from give you a simple widget to toggle quiet mode on/off to complex scheduling of when to turn it on or off and creation of multiple groups to whom you can allow breaking through. The latter gives you a much more powerful capability than Windows Phone’s built-in feature, except…. If you read the reviews of these third-party apps they all appear to have reliability issues. The scariest one, because no amount of testing on your part will let you trust it not to happen, is that at some unknown point in the future the breakthrough capability will stop working. No doubt when some critical phone call or text comes through. Scary!
Otherwise it’s just a computer. Or phone. Or whatever. No I don’t particularly care for Android’s UI, I think both Windows Phone and iOS are better phone user interfaces. They certainly are better for 90% of users out there. But does this really matter? How many people will argue that the Mac had a better UI than Windows during most of their lifespans to date? Most, including many who were on the Windows team! Yet Windows won.
But the apps I want are all available and I’m having a blast no longer feeling like the cobbler’s kid with no shoes. And that is also the main reason Windows won in the PC era.
But actually the surprise here for me was the G Watch. I’d told friends that I was holding off on my next phone until later this year when I could see what the best smart watches were and which ecosystems they worked with. I was hoping I’d get to compare, at least, Google Wear devices, a reported iWatch, and reported Microsoft smartband. And then I’d go with the phone that could support the watch. My Total Connect 2.0 problem accelerated the phone decision and the G Watch deal accelerated my initial smartwatch decision.
I like the G Watch. I’m amazed at how useful the small screen actually is. Do I wish I could do even more? Sure. Am I disappointed? Not at all. The G Watch has cut the frequency I need to pull the phone out of my pocket by at least 60%. For example, I don’t pull the phone out of my pocket to check email until I see notification on the phone that something important has come in. Or my favorite, touch the watch and say “Remind me to…” rather than fishing out the phone to do that. I was thrilled with my Lumia 1020 and Cortana making that scenario work, but being able to do it through an interface that is always a fraction of second from being ready is amazing. And having the reminders always there at a glance is equally amazing. There is more to the G Watch and to Android Wear, and this isn’t a review. I’m just saying the device is not only useful, but something I’m actually willing to wear.
And now to do something I almost never do, give Google credit. For a V1.0 product they’ve done a great job on Android Wear. I thought it would take Apple to make a smart watch capable of going mainstream, and they may yet leapfrog Google, but Google certainly got there first with a decent platform. With this good a first pass the OEMs are going to be pumping out devices. The LG G Watch isn’t a bad attempt at all, but others (such as Motorola) have more fashionable devices coming.
I’m sticking with the Microsoft ecosystem. Fortunately Microsoft has OneDrive, Outlook.com, Xbox Music, and other apps for Android. Oddly the Play Store won’t offer me OneNote or Office Mobile because it thinks they aren’t compatible with the G3. It isn’t known if this is an actual application problem, or a problem in the metadata that Microsoft supplied to the Play Store. And most speculation is that the problem is with the G3’s unusual QHD screen. Whatever, I hope that this gets solved soon as I do depend on OneNote.
Google of course did coax me out of my attempt to totally avoid its ecosystem, and so I do now have a Google Account. And that includes Gmail, although I plan to use it for a very narrow set of things. Of course using Google Now means I’m sharing a lot of information with Google. And I can certainly see myself drawn a bit more into Google’s world over time.
There isn’t much else to report at this point. I’m really liking being able to run all the apps I’ve always wanted, but I do miss Windows Phone. Hopefully in another year or two the app gap will truly have closed enough that I can go back. But I’m not holding my breath.
I’ve been using a Windows Phone since Windows Phone 7 shipped, and for many years before that (with the exception on 1 year on the iPhone 3GS) I used Windows Mobile. Indeed my history with Microsoft’s mobile offerings goes back to the original Handheld PC followed by a number of Pocket PCs. So for the last few years, with the occasional complaint , I’ve worked around Windows Phone’s so-called App Gap. It hasn’t been pleasant. And now I have hit an app requirement that doesn’t appear to have a workaround. One that might drive me to Android, if not back to an iPhone.
There is no Windows Phone application for the Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 security system. There is one for the iPhone, Android, and (get this) Blackberry. The website requires Apple QuickTime, so that isn’t an answer. In fact if you go to the website with WP8.1 it thinks you are on a Blackberry and tells you to download the Blackberry app!
There is a third party app. Many users report trouble getting it to work, and even those who rate it highly say it has very limited function. Basically you can arm or disarm. But that isn’t the only reason I need to access my system, so the app (even if it works) is inadequate. Further, it costs $2.99 and there is no trial. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered downloading it, but I wanted to see for myself. So now I’m down $2.99. The app works, but won’t do what I need. So I’m S O L.
Of course moving off Windows Phone would bring other benefits, like being able to control my SONOS (another case of inadequate third-party apps not really filling the gap) or sync my Fitbit without using my wife’s iPhone. Or actually get a smartwatch. Or run a dozen or more other apps where I’ve resigned myself to struggling with a website for the last few years.
Of course some of these things are coming to Windows Phone. Eventually. Maybe. I mean, Uber finally made it this week. Finally. Are the other things imminent? Who knows. They could appear next month, or I could get someone pregnant and see my child graduate high school first. Someone said that to me recently and I thought they were joking, now I’m not so sure.
So I’ve finally fallen into the app gap. And as long as I stay on Windows Phone it seems I can’t get up. I’m done fighting, tomorrow I’ll probably get a Samsung Galaxy S 5. Lemming seems like a fine label to wear right now.
I’ve started blogging at CITEworld. I’ll keep blogging here as well, so watch this space :-)
Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 has received a large amount of good press, and the occasional negative (usually liking the hardware but disliking Windows 8.1). But today’s piece on The Motley Fool warranted a response. The problem with the article is that the author appears not to get “it”. When it comes to form factor, Microsoft’s Surface line is about being a Tablet and a Notebook while detachables like ASUS’ T100 and the new T300 Chi are about being a Tablet or a Notebook.
Anyone who has ever owned any Surface variant prizes the fact that you carry it around as a tablet and then, whenever you need a keyboard, you just use the cover. You never have to think “should I take just the tablet or the tablet plus keyboard dock with me today”. You don’t pay a noticeable weight or thickness penalty with the Touch Cover, and with the Type Cover it is still so minimal as to not alter the usage pattern. You can use the device while in motion, with the keyboard cover folded out-of-the-way, which is the ultimate test of if a device belongs in the mobile category or not. In other words, Microsoft has targeted and achieved a unique balance that is lacking from other devices. It is a balance that is unique across not only all Windows 8.x devices but across iOS and Android devices as well.
With detachables the device can’t be used as a tablet while the tablet is attached to the keyboard dock. It can’t (any more than a traditional notebook) be used while in motion while attached to the keyboard dock. No matter how thin and light the tablet itself is, when attached to the keyboard dock it is the weight and thickness of an Ultrabook-style notebook. And most importantly, when you do want to use the device as a tablet you need to have somewhere to put the keyboard dock, because it can’t stay attached to the tablet. Once detached you have no way to prop up the tablet, severely limiting the scenarios in which it can be used. With a detachable you are always stuck making the decision “do I want to carry a notebook with me today or a tablet”. If the latter, you leave the keyboard dock at home, in your office, or in your briefcase. And probably slip the tablet into some kind of case, both for protection and for a stand mechanism.
If you do take a detachables’ tablet and keyboard dock with you then don’t be fooled into thinking you are carrying around a tablet plus a keyboard, you are carrying around a notebook. As you are walking through the mall, or around the factory floor, or standing waiting to get on the airplane, or sitting in a coffee shop at a table barely big enough to hold your latte cup you aren’t going to pull the tablet off the keyboard dock so you can use it as a tablet. Why not? Because what are you going to do with the keyboard dock? When detached it is a boat anchor searching for bottom.
This is not to say that detachables don’t have a place. They are perfect if you 98% need a notebook but want a tablet option. You can leave the keyboard dock in your office and take only the tablet to a meeting for pen-based note taking (if it supports a pen), for example. Or leave the dock at home when you go on vacation and treat it as a traditional tablet primarily for content consumption. But detachables will never match the balance that Microsoft has gone after with the Surface family.
So now we have a situation where the Surface Pro 3 (SP3) will be compared with various detachables (and other 2-in-1s), with the ASUS T300 Chi being the most interesting contender so far. Of course the SP3 is available in a little over a week while the T300 is months away. The T300 had the option to use Intel’s upcoming Broadwell processor, and in particular the new Core M, while the SP3 is “stuck” using the current generation Haswell processors (probably so they could make the back to school shopping season). Is that really such a bad thing?
We don’t know the relative performance of the Core M vs. Core i3/i5/i7 within the Broadwell lineup. Or how the Broadwell Core M compares to the Haswell Core i5, for example. Yes it will use less power and generate less heat, but if you are looking for performance which will be the better option? The Core M allows for a fanless design, though Intel demonstrated you can get better performance with a fan (in their case, by having the keyboard dock include the fan and actively cool the processor in the tablet). So most likely a SP3 with Haswell Core i5 (never mind the i7) blows the pants off a detached T300 with the Broadwell Core M. Now circle back to my form factor discussion. With the SP3 you are always carrying around a full-powered device, not necessarily so with the detachables.
Or how about thickness and weight of the pure tablet portion of these devices? Yes some of the difference between the SP3 and T300 can probably be attributed to the SP3’s active cooling system. But of course the SP3 comes with a built-in kickstand while the tablet portion of the T300 does not. I will bet that most of the difference in thickness and weight can be attributed to that very unique, and generally beloved as a differentiator, kickstand. It makes the SP3, even without a cover, far more useful as a content consumption device (e.g., watching a movie on an airplane) than a detachables’ detached tablet.
There are numerous other differences of course. For example, the SP3 is featuring a new generation of Pen-based input and Microsoft is clearly aiming to add more inking features to its software. The T300 Chi appears not to support any form of active digitizer pen. These differences all add up to the SP3 and T300 Chi being aimed at very different, if significantly overlapping, usage scenarios.
Comparing the Surface Pro 3 and a detachable makes no sense outside of a discussion of the usage scenarios and which form factor is most appropriate for those specific scenarios. Microsoft is going for a unique form factor with the Surface Pro 3, one that says we compromised the tablet a little and we compromise the notebook a little and have this one device that can be both at the same time. Detachables are a device class that let you have a notebook or a tablet, but not at the same time. That’s a much bigger compromise than what Microsoft has done with the SP3, though probably a good compromise for many people.
It looks to me like the T300 Chi is quite an accomplishment and that ASUS remains one of the most innovative OEMs out there. I will likely be recommending it to many people based on their own needs. But comparing the T300 Chi to the SP3 is more about gaining press attention then accurately positioning one as better than the other. And using the T300 Chi as a justification for why Microsoft should not be in the hardware business just proves that financial writers don’t get it.
No one was more disappointed by last week’s no-show of a Microsoft 8″ class Surface device than I was. At the same time launching such a device at that particular event would have been a disaster, as I’ll get to in moment. And the fact that Microsoft was willing to pull it from a launch event at which it was expected to be the star attraction is the best indicator yet of the care that Satya Nadella is putting into Microsoft decision-making. A lot of Microsoft watchers have noticed this, with Matt Rosoff and Paul Thurrott offering up particularly good commentary. I wanted to dig a little deeper on what could have been a disastrous launch.
As I discussed in my piece on what Microsoft needs to do for the Surface family to succeed, a so-called Surface Mini has to be a productivity-oriented tablet. But launching a productivity-oriented tablet last week presented a catch-22 situation. The software to really make such a device shine, particularly Office “Gemini” hasn’t been announced yet. So no matter how cool the Surface Mini hardware may be, it would have offered little useful differentiation from OEM Windows 8.1 tablets let alone non-Windows competitors. It would have come across has a case of another Microsoft near miss, strategically and on execution.
Of course Microsoft could have, and might have under the previous leadership, addressed that by launching Office “Gemini” at last week’s Surface event. That would have been a disastrous blunder. Office “Gemini” is something that all producers of Windows tablets desperately look forward to as a prerequisite to their success. Tying its launch to the Surface family would have been a slap in the face to the OEMs at the very time Microsoft is trying to reinvigorate their commitment to Windows.
Hence the catch-22, a Surface Mini can’t succeed without new software and new software can’t be introduced at a Surface Mini launch event. So while there may be other reasons that the Mini was pulled from last week’s launch, breaking the catch-22 seems like the most likely cause.
The right way to go about a Surface Mini launch, or any hardware launch that requires new (generally available) software, is to launch the software first and then launch the hardware. Take a look at the Windows Phone 8.1 launch. They launched the OS and as part of that they introduced new WP OEMs, briefly showed off some of their hardware, and had then OEM Nokia do an introduction of new Lumia family members. The real Nokia Lumia launch came at a separate event later in the day. Note that had another OEM had something new that was ready to launch they likely would have offered them stage time for a brief device introduction as well.
Office “Gemini” will most likely be introduced at a large Information Worker/productivity software event later this year. And once that is done then Microsoft can launch a Surface Mini. The launches might occur concurrently with something akin to what happened with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia introductions or, if Microsoft is taking advantage of the announcement delay to revise the Surface Mini hardware, at a later point. But I am picturing a Office “Gemini” launch where Microsoft asks a OEM CEO on stage, perhaps Michael Dell to introduce the next generation Dell Venue 8 Pro (something that has appeared in leaked roadmaps as being readied for later this year) as a great Office “Gemini” tablet, and then does the same with Stephen Elop and the Surface Mini. The formal Surface Mini launch would then occur at another time (on that day or soon thereafter). That would be an awesome way to introduce both Office “Gemini” and the next generation of Windows tablets.
How you message and launch products is one of the arts that deteriorated at Microsoft over the previous decade, and its clear that Satya Nadella is putting a renewed emphasis on thinking these things through. That was also evident in the launch of Office for iPad. Historically that would have happened as part of a bigger Information Worker event, perhaps with Office “Gemini”, that detracted both from the messaging that Microsoft is serious about non-Windows devices and the “Mobile First, Cloud First” philosophy that Satya is promoting.
Think about how launching Office for iPad and Office “Gemini” for Windows concurrently would have looked, based on the evidence that Office “Gemini” is a far more extensive offering that Office for iPad. The reaction would have been how Office for iPad was a brain-dead version of Office “Gemini” for Windows! By launching Office for iPad separately, and earlier, the reaction was around how rich the applications were, how well done the touch interface was, and how Microsoft had (surprisingly) not short-changed iPad users. It was “Microsoft gets it”. The reaction to Office for iPad was WOW! and the reaction to Office “Gemini” will (likely) be OMG! And then the Surface Mini will be “I WANT”. Whereas the same exact products launched carelessly could all fall flat on their faces and continue sending a message to users that “Microsoft doesn’t get it”.
So I’m disappointed the Surface Mini wasn’t introduced last week. But my disappointment is tempered by the fact that Microsoft is getting back to being masterful about how it brings products to market. Oh sure it will continue to make mistakes, as all companies do. But the days of Microsoft shooting itself in the foot (or often more like blowing its foot completely off) before its even out of the starting gate appear to be over.
And I still want my Surface Mini.