<IT WORLD> Microsoft gets
touchy By Martin J
HUA HIN, Thailand - Microsoft
introduced the latest iteration of its flagship
productivity suite, Office, this week at a
conference in San Francisco. Chief executive Steve
Ballmer touted "the most ambitious release of
Microsoft Office that we've ever done ... We
transformed in this process Office to embrace some
of the same design concepts and principles that we
showed you in Windows 8."
Many of those
concepts involve touch, so the new version of Word
will have a virtual keyboard similar to those
found on tablets. It also responds to a number of
swipes and gestures to open and close files. The
challenge will be whether businesses and
professionals will adopt this new touchy-feely
computing concept; envisions of productivity
losses may weigh heavily as it will take
some time for office
workers to start generating reports and documents
by swiping and tapping.
The keyboard and
mouse are far from dead, despite the efforts of
the world's technology titans to convert us all to
finger fanatics. Office applications such as Word,
Excel and PowerPoint have been designed for a
complex content generation that relies heavily on
input devices, specifically keyboards and mice.
There will be two versions of the
application suite - Office 2013 which replaces the
current 2010 version, and Office 365, a
cloud-based subscription service. Despite the
heavy focus on touch-screen capabilities, Office
2013 will still work in the traditional way,
albeit with another redesigned layout, which may
cause confusion for those familiar with previous
It will also be integrated with
Skype for communications and Microsoft's cloud
storage system, SkyDrive, giving users the option
of saving documents locally and online.
Microsoft also stated that Office 2013
will not be available to users of Windows XP or
Vista, so again the company has isolated over 50%
of Windows users who have yet to upgrade to
version 7. According to Net Applications, Windows
7 ran on 45% of all computers that went online in
June, Windows 8 has yet to arrive in the
The company also has yet to
officially announce the launch date, but it is
likely to be in October when Windows 8 hits the
shelves. The official release data for the new
operating system is October 26, almost exactly
three years after Windows 7 was launched.
The Office productivity suite is
Microsoft's cash cow, accounting for around 60% of
its profit. A huge gamble has been taken with this
latest release and the integration of traditional
productivity software and hardware with the push
to touch screen and cloud computing.
Hardware Google's Nexus 7 tablet
is selling swiftly and the company has already
started apologizing for delays in shipping. In the
United States, delays of between three and five
days for the 8 gigabyte unit are common and a wait
of up to four weeks can be expected for the 16Gb
device. Those in Asia will have to wait a lot
longer than that as devices ordered on Google Play
are currently only available to customers in
Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and United
Early reviews are largely
positive, with consumers praising the Google
tablet and claiming to be ditching their over
doubly priced iPads. The device has been compared
to Amazon's Kindle Fire, which weighs in at the
same price, US$199.
According to industry
analysts at IHS iSuppli, who dismantled the tablet
to examine its innards, the 8Gb unit costs $159.25
in materials alone and the 16Gb device $166.75.
After manufacturing costs are added this
translates to a break even on the lower spec
tablet and a modest profit for Google on the
higher one. Storage is the maker in this equation;
getting $50 more at retail for only $7.50 more in
hardware cost sends $42.50 per unit straight to
the bottom line.
Apple rakes in much
higher profits, putting their bottom line first.
According to iSuppli, a new third generation iPad
teardown reveals a bill of materials cost at
$306.05, for the entry level 16Gb WiFi tablet. The
device sells at $499 rising to $829 for higher
specification units. The teardown costs do not
include manufacturing or software licenses and
month rolls by and web pioneer Yahoo appoints
itself yet another chief executive officer.
Marissa Mayer is the fifth person in the past year
to take the helm of the struggling Internet
company, once valued at $130 billion. Mayer, 37,
leaves a senior executive position at rival
Google, where she was its 20th employee and one of
the company's most important public faces.
An uphill struggle lies ahead at Yahoo;
its quarterly financial report revealed stalled
revenues and advertisers seeking alternatives.
Another problem is its identity crisis, something
the last four Yahoo bosses could not come to grips
with. Is it a news, media and content company or a
search engine, an email provider or a sports
With 700 million users, Yahoo
still attracts one of the web's largest audiences,
but monetizing them the way Google and Facebook
has its users remains the challenge for the
incoming chief executive.
Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent
based in Thailand.
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