Tim Culpan and Dina Bass from Bloomberg have got a scoop – Microsoft Said to Cut Windows Price 70% to Counter Rivals:
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is cutting the price of Windows 8.1 by 70 percent for makers of low-cost computers and tablets as they try to fend off cheaper rivals like Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Chromebooks, people familiar with the program said.
Manufacturers will be charged $15 to license Windows 8.1 and preinstall it on devices that retail for less than $250, instead of the usual fee of $50, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public. The discount will apply to any products that meet the price limit, with no restrictions on the size or type of device, the people said.
It won’t require products that use the cheaper licensing to complete logo certification, a process that verifies hardware compatibility, one of the people said. Devices aren’t required to be touch-screen compatible, they said.
While the regular Windows list price was $50, some of the largest global computer makers paid closer to $30 after incentives such as marketing funds provided by Microsoft, the people said. Products that receive discounted license fees won’t be eligible for such marketing support and incentives, one of the people said.
Free always beats fee as long as the free product is good enough and Chromebooks are evidently good enough for a lot of folks. Microsoft could try to appeal to the carriage trade like Apple but are way behind on both low end apps and cachet. I don’t really think a price cut is going to give Microsoft much more traction.
Microsoft today unveiled Windows Phone 7 (formerly Windows Mobile 7) and while it is chockfull of new goodies to keep them in the race with Apple’s iPhone and Google Android, do not expect to see any phones using Windows Phone 7 until the holiday shopping season:
Today at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the next generation of Windows Phones, Windows Phone 7 Series. With this new platform, Microsoft offers a fresh approach to phone software, distinguished by smart design and truly integrated experiences that bring to the surface the content people care about from the Web and applications. For the first time ever, Microsoft will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience on a mobile phone, exclusively on Windows Phone 7 Series. Partners have already started building phones; customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores by holiday 2010.
Some of the new features:
Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:
People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user’s photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person’s entire picture and video collection.
Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user’s PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world’s leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.
And the vendors on board:
Partners from around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans. They include mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc. The first phones will be available by holiday 2010. Customers who would like to receive additional information about Windows Phone 7 Series and be notified when it is available can register at http://www.windowsphone7series.com.
So will it be enough to get Microsoft back in the smartphone game? That’s the rub and it is a bit hard to say since the only available demo devices are pre-production, development-only handsets. One key point is that "manufacturers will not be able to make massive modifications to Windows Phone" or to the fairly rigorous hardware specifications which sounds more than a bit like Windows with all its good and bad aspects for the end-user and the OEMs. At this point all I can say is that Windows Phone 7 seems quite ambitious, but it is certainly late.
Today Microsoft announced an alliance with OpenX, the vendor of an open source Web ad server and proprietor of a Web advertising market for smaller publishers. The objective is for
… the companies to cross-market and promote products to their respective publisher bases. Under terms of the multiyear agreement, OpenX becomes a preferred partner to publishers for enterprise ad serving solutions. In addition, OpenX will promote Microsoft’s Content Ads monetization products — as well as other products that may be developed in the future — to its existing base of Web publisher customers.
OpenX and Microsoft will each enjoy significant benefits from the partnership. Most notably, Microsoft will have a major distribution channel for its monetization products through OpenX’s community of more than 150,000 Web sites that serve more than 300 billion ads per month. OpenX will, in turn, gain access to a new base of potential customers — via referrals from Microsoft — for its enterprise advertising technology and services.
The Content Ads component of the agreement follows a successful trial Microsoft and OpenX began in August 2008, during which OpenX provided invitations to its publishers to test the product. Content Ads matches ads to relevant editorial content, allowing advertisers to increase campaign effectiveness, which can allow publishers to achieve a higher yield on certain types of inventory. As part of the agreement, OpenX will promote Content Ads in two ways. First, OpenX will integrate Content Ads so that it can be used by publishers who sign up for OpenX Market to better monetize their pages. The company will also build a plug-in to OpenX Ad Server so existing publisher customers can more easily sign up for Content Ads and implement it on their Web site(s). OpenX is the first reseller approved by Microsoft to build a plug-in for Content Ads.
Content Ads is Microsoft’s competitor for Google AdSense and this agreement is an easy way to add ad volume among third party publishers. It is a natural alliance, since big dog Google has their own free in-house competitor for (hosted) OpenX functionality in Google Ad Manager which naturally provides easy serving of Google’s own AdSense ads.
Bigger publishers would probably set their sights higher than either of the above solutions by using Microsoft’s aQuantive products or Google’s DoubleClick. Still the small publisher business is lucrative and not to be disdained – a view that Microsoft only slowly adopted.
Microsoft announced yesterday that they had started a limited beta test of an online version of Microsoft Office:
Microsoft today announced the start of the Microsoft Office Web Apps Technical Preview program for consumers. Beginning today, a limited number of invitation-only participants will receive access to lightweight versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the Web through Windows Live. The Technical Preview is available in English and Japanese, with additional languages to be added later this fall.
Microsoft is also announcing the formal names for the Web-based applications. Together, the applications are called Office Web Apps. Individually, they include Word Web App, Excel Web App, PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App.
Office Web Apps are the online, lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. With Office Web Apps people can access, share and work on Office documents from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection — making it easy to bring ideas to life at home, school or work.
From what we’ve seen so far, people love that Office Web Apps offer a consistent and familiar Office experience, and that documents retain fidelity while working in the cloud or offline.
Starting today, a limited number of invitation-only participants will receive access to the Word Web App, Excel Web App and PowerPoint Web App through Windows Live Sky Drive. These Office Web Apps are part of the Office Technical Preview program, which means they aren’t feature-complete yet. The OneNote Web App and additional Office Web App features, including further integration with Microsoft Office 2010, will be available at a later date.
The great integration with Office gives people the ability to quickly and easily save and open documents from the Web, directly from Microsoft Office 2010. Seamless integration with Windows Live lets people access, edit and share with friends, family and co-workers anywhere.
Back in July, the beta program had been promised for August so Microsoft is a bit late. Note that Office Web Apps aren’t tied to Office 2010 (or even Windows) and Ed Bott notes that "Users will be able to upload, edit, and share files created using Office 2000 and later versions on PCs and Macs."
Also interesting is the branding and delivery:
PressPass: Why are you offering Office Web Apps through Windows Live? What does this mean for Windows Live customers?
Schultz: More than 500 million people around the world use Windows Live, giving our customers a powerful hub to organize their lives. With Windows Live, people can store and share information such as photos, contacts, calendars and documents, all in one place on Windows Live SkyDrive. With the addition of Office Web Apps, people will soon be able to go to Windows Live to create, edit, share and collaborate on Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, OneNote digital notebooks and Excel spreadsheets — online, with high fidelity.
In addition to Windows Live, businesses will be able to get Office Web Apps through volume license agreements and via subscription offering through Microsoft Online Services.
In case this isn’t clear – this means that Office Web Apps are free to any personal user just like Google Apps, the primary Web office application competitor. Sure, you can pay Microsoft for a business subscription (just like Google) and there is undoubtedly added synergy for paying Microsoft Office customers, but there must be a bit of fear and trepidation in Redmond over this self-created threat to one of their cash cows. The only question now is just how worthwhile are the applications that Microsoft is giving away for free and for that we will have to wait for user feedback to leak out.