More Surface give-aways, Andy Lees on leave and other Microsoft news of the week

More Surface give-aways, Andy Lees on leave and other Microsoft news of the week

Summary: A quick round-up of Microsoft-related news of the week, with the latest on Surface, Microsoft reorg rumors and more.


Here's a quick round-up of Microsoft-related news of the week from here, there and everywhere.


Microsoft's channel-clearing on Surfaces continues: The Redmondians seem to be trying to move as many of their current-generation Surface RTs and Pros as possible. As GeekWire noted this week, Microsoft is offering to give away free Surface RTs to 10,000 teachers attending the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference later this month. Meanwhile, around the same time in Madrid at its TechEd Europe conference, Microsoft is going to offer a steep discount on the price of Surface RT and Pro, similar to the one it recently offered TechEd North America attendees. At TechEd Europe, attendees can buy one each of a Surface RT 64GB standalone (with FREE touch cover) for €79.99 for EU customers and £69.99 GBP for UK customers, and Surface Pro 128GB standalone for €349.99 for EU customers and £299.99 for UK customers. Is Microsoft emptying its Surface cupboards ahead of an introduction of new (hopefully Haswell-based) Surfii? Still no word from the company on that.

What about Microsoft Build attendees? Will they get Surface discounts, too? I've had more than a few readers ask whether Microsoft also plans to offer attendees of its Build conference in late June a similar Surface RT/Pro discount deal. The Softies aren't sharing about what kind of swag paying Build attendees will get. One of my contacts said he's heard attendees will get a free Surface Pro plus a free Acer Iconia W3 8-inch tablet. I wonder whether a Nokia Lumia of some kind might not be part of the grab bag, too — along with various software development kits and other software/service goodies.

Andy Lees goes on leave: Microsoft veteran Andy Lees, who most recently served as Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development, is going on sabbatical and back to the U.K. Supposedly, Lees isn't permanently leaving the company and will take on a new role, which Microsoft will announce later this year. Replacing Lees on the Corporate Development front will be Marc Brown, while Charlie Songhurst will remain head of Strategy. Lees is leaving his current role as of July 1, the start of Microsoft's new fiscal year. Lees seemingly played a role in Microsoft's partnership/investment deal with Barnes & Noble after he left his position heading Windows Phone in late 2011. Is Lees' departure prelude to the rumored cross-company reorg? We might find out soon...

New Office 365 password sync tool: I mentioned this briefly on Windows Weekly this week, but if you've been having trouble syncing your Active Directory and Office 365 passwords, this tool might be for you. As of June 3, 2013, password sync is included as part of Office 365 mid-size and enterprise subscription plans. Officially known as the Office 365 Directory Synchronization tool (or "Dirsync" for short), the tool allows organizations to sync users' Active Directory passwords with their Office 365 passwords. Before this, the only option for doing this was to implement single sign-on with Active Directory Federation Services or by purchasing a third-party password sync tool, according to Microsoft execs.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Microsoft Surface


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Can't sell them...

    Can't even give them away...
  • Is it possible...

    ...that there's a connection between the failure of RT and the reassignment of the head of Corporate Strategy?
    • Lees

      Hi. No... Lees didn't have anything to do with Surface. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • Well, I want one!

    If there's a way to get a free Surface RT or one with a great discount, I'll take it!

    Sorry that mexican teachers as me doesn't have opportunities like these".
  • Microsoft Surface

    Surface RT is a great tablet for students to learn and play with, but Surface Pro 128 GB is the best I've owned so far, bar none!
    • Surface RT works perfect me.

      I have a still pretty powerful gaming/server tower (2yo. i7 Sandy Bridge), so the Surface RT was a perfect solution for me. I just use it for streaming Pandora and surfing the web at work and home, and playing some light pastime games, usually TapTiles :) I haven't traveled recently, but I am sure it would be perfectly fine for what I would need it for since it includes office, especially once they release Outlook on RT, but even that is not a problem since I can use our corporate webmail they have set up. Not to mention the good battery life and it was $500. No need for the Surface Pro here. At least not at the moment.
  • Surface RT

    Surface RT feels like a dead man walking. You wonder how much longer Microsoft will support Windows on ARM. Which is a darned shame. Because let me tell you: I got a $99 Surface RT thanks to a hookup who was going to Tech Ed and let me tell you: this thing is absolutely brilliant. I can't speak too highly of this machine. The polish of the OS is an absolute marvel. When you're on the desktop it feels just like you're using a traditional windows laptop. Internet Explorer is super fast, super smooth and compatible with pretty much everything. 'Till two days ago I was using a n ASUS Transformer TF300. It's a really nice machine that works very well for what I do, but the Surface really does it one better, IMHO.

    Now, maybe I'm not your typical tablet user. I'm Windows Sysadmin, and what I look for ideally in a large form factor tablet (10+ inches) is day-long battery life, that I be able to remote into work when I'm on the road or from home, and that I be able to lie back on the couch with the screen in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, and surf the web when I'm relaxing. The Transformer worked well for this (thanks to Citrix) but minor annoyances, such as the lack of a hardware "escape" key (very convenient if you work from the Windows command line as frequently as I do) and the lack of function keys bugged me. The Surface RT solves all those problems. And I'm happy to say that I quickly adjusted to the 16:9 screen proportions. In fact, they're great for reading long newspaper columns.

    But as nice as RT is, the lack of consumer uptake is disheartening and it wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft killed it after the current, advertised support cycle ends. One look in the Windows store as compared to the Android Play store is enough to make you weep. Games are a big seller for tablets, but where are the 1st person shooters? Where are the tower defense games? And outside of gaming, one searches in vain for titles like Adobe's Photoshop Touch.

    So the verdict on RT: the hardware and the OS are excellent. I just wish there were more software to attract more users. I know it's the chicken and the egg, catch 22. But I hope it doesn't end because of it.
    • Metro

      It occurs to me that I said nothing about Metro or the "modern UI" as it were. Well, here I'll just state that it works just fine as a tablet UI. The simple truth is that tablet UI's are pretty basic. They're designed for one task primarily: to let you find and launch apps that pretty much monopolize the screen and that you interact with using your fingers. In all honestly, I think that iOS, Android and Metro get the job done. I'd be happy using any one of them (though I do wish Apple gave users the option of a less cluttered start screen).
    • The future might be brighter than you think...

      I think they will support Windows on ARM indefinitely, at least until Intel can offer a comparable solution. Will Haswell fit that bill? It looks like it could, but the next generation ARM chips are coming out also, so time will tell. It is in MS's best interest to make sure they offer their OS on any popular architecture, and right now ARM rules mobile. Also, Win RT, Win Phone 8 and full Win 8 now all run on nearly the same kernel. This makes it immensely easier to code for the differences. I think they worked very hard and spent an enormous amount of time and money on this, just so it would be easier for them to manage across the different architectures, as well as 3rd party developers. No other eco system really even comes close at this point. Linux would be the closest.
  • Doctor, doctor it hurts when I use Windows 8

    Doctor: "Take two tablets and call me in the morning..."
    • I have to admit I laughed

  • Surfii?

    Really? SURFII? No, Mary Jo. Just... No.
  • Surface RT = Failed to deliver the right product OR

    Microsoft couldn't see that Windows 8 was a Jack of all Trades and a Master of NONE and that is why its Failing

    End Of Story......Period
    Over and Out
    • Except....

      There are more Windows 8 users than all of Linux combined. So if you equate things, Linux is a bigger failure. Is it?
      And exactly why are you reading a blog about Windows? People interested in a product read about it. So when you getting your Surface tablet?
      • Re: There are more Windows 8 users than all of Linux combined

        Considering that "all of Linux combined" is currently outselling "all of Windows combined" close to 2:1...
        • lol!~!

          Sure. Source?
          • He's including android in that figure.

            You can argue either way whether that should really count as linux. Perhaps there should be two linux categories. Desktop linux and mobile linux OSes.
            Sam Wagner
          • Sam Wagner: Better terms: Desktop Linux and crippled Linux.

            More descriptive and closer to the truth.
          • Re: Better terms: Desktop Linux and crippled Linux.

            Still, doing better than crippled Windows, eh?
          • ldo17: Except that, you'd be lying if you mentioned crippled Windows,

            which is a full OS, and not a simple smartphone OS, which is what Android is, which then makes Android a "dumb" smartphone OS. ;)

            But, that would be too much logic for you to understand.