This Week in Computer Hardware 416: It’s Official, Liquid Cooling has Jumped the Shark

Surface Pro gets a Kaby Lake upgrade and optional LTE. Water cooled power supplies? Maybe liquid cooling has jumped the shark. Can an SSD upgrade speed up your PS4? Also, hey, go ahead and fly that unregistered drone! All that and more in TWiCH episode 416!

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Microsoft ships 3.9 million Xbox Ones, Surface revenue doubles

In the second quarter of Microsoft’s fiscal 2014 (the fourth calendar year of 2013), the company exceeded expectations to post a significant rise in revenue and profits over the same period last year. On $24.52 billion in revenue, Microsoft achieved $6.56 billion in net income, both of which are a rise on last year\’s $6.38 billion net income from $21.46 billion in revenue.

In the earnings report, Microsoft revealed that they managed to ship 3.9 million Xbox One consoles in the quarter, which is slightly less than the 4.2 million PlayStation 4s Sony shipped in 2013. The Xbox One was the top selling console in the United States in December, which could be due to low PlayStation 4 stock at many retail locations, but nevertheless the next-gen console battle remains quite close.

Revenue from Microsoft’s tablet line, Surface, more than doubled in the quarter, rising from $400 million last quarter to $893 million. Sales were likely boosted by the release of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, which featured similar designs to their predecessors, but packed more powerful internals and other refinements including Windows 8.1 out-of-the-box.

Bing income increased thanks to more users using the search engine over market-leader Google, and although Office and Windows revenues fell, Microsoft was glad to report 3.5 million Office 365 Home Premium subscribers. The “soft” PC market is having an effect on the Redmond company, but the diverse product range of Microsoft seems to be carrying it quite well.

via Microsoft ships 3.9 million Xbox Ones, Surface revenue doubles – TechSpot.

New Surfaces once again meaninglessly dissed for low repairability

If you want to know what’s inside one of Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 2 tablets, iFixit has published its teardown of the device. As ever, iFixit’s pictures give a nice look at what’s inside the machine, identifying all the major chips integrated onto its motherboard. There’s a lot packed into the svelte system.

The teardown also shows just how the device is put together, with a combination of both gluing and screwing. iFixit counted more than 90 screws. Just getting the thing open required unscrewing 52 screws of assorted sizes. This abundance of fasteners, combined with the use of glue, prompted the company to award the device with a repairability score of just one out of ten.

This seems bad, but it’s also essentially meaningless. It’s true that Surface Pro 2 isn’t particularly user serviceable. But that’s not because of glue and screws. It’s because it’s a highly integrated device, built using custom parts that aren’t available off the shelf.

The screen, for example, is a bonded 10.6-inch unit, with the touch sensor glued to the LCD. This construction eliminates the air gap found in unbonded devices, improving contrast and reducing reflections. If your screen is cracked, you can\’t just pick up a new display at Best Buy and swap it out yourself. They don’t sell ’em. It’s true that the bonded unit precludes a hypothetical independent replacement of the touch sensor and LCD, but that\’s not something that end users could ever do anyway.

Similarly, the motherboard is a custom design, shaped specifically for the Surface Pro 2. Even if the thing could be removed with nothing more than a single thumbscrew, it would be functionally irreparable, because you can’t just go out and buy a new one. The same is true of the CPU on the motherboard. It’s soldered, because that’s how Intel sells its ultraportable CPUs. That precludes any kind of trivial field replacement.

There are only two parts of the Surface Pro 2 that have any kind of reasonable claim to user servicing: the SSD and the RAM. In principle, both SSDs and RAM can be supplied as commodity components with easy retail availability. In practice, they frequently aren’t, as the quest for compactness tends to favor soldering instead of socketing. The Surface Pro 2 is fifty-fifty here. The SSD uses mSATA; the RAM is soldered.

It’s not impossible that somehow Microsoft could have made the SSD easier to get at or even used socketed RAM, too, but it’s not easy to see how this could have been done without also compromising the size, the weight, or both, of the device. The payoff for both Redmond and end users alike is unlikely to justify the decision. The integration used in the Surface Pro 2 is not arbitrary: it’s an essential characteristic of the form factor. Don’t like it? Buy a desktop.

On top of all this, Microsoft can, in fact, repair Surface devices. Crack the screen, and, yes, the company might just replace it when you take it into a store. But that\’s because it\’s a better experience (as the replacement is instant). The devices can be, and are, repaired. Microsoft has facilities to do this, and while getting into a Surface Pro 2 may be daunting for someone who doesn’t know how, that’s largely immaterial when there is staff trained in what to do.

via New Surfaces once again meaninglessly dissed for low repairability | Ars Technica.

Original Surface Pro gets firmware update to help with Windows 8.1 upgrade

Microsoft didn’t release any firmware updates for the original Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets in September, but this week the company made a surprise firmware release for the Surface Pro, outside of its normal schedule, to prepare the Windows 8 tablet for the upcoming free Windows 8.1 update.

The Surface Pro update history web page shows the tablet got some UEFI and System Aggregator firmware updates with this October release. It also got some driver updates that Microsoft claims will \”enhance the Windows 8.1 update experience”, although specifics were not mentioned. Finally, the firmware update adds optimization support for the upcoming Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 accessories.

While Microsoft is no longer selling the original Surface Pro in retail stores, the tablet, which launched less than eight months ago, is still being sold by via authorized commercial resellers.

Apparently the original Surface RT tablet, which Microsoft is still selling in its 32 GB version for $349, won’t be getting a firmware update for October. Its own software history web page states,”In preparation for the release of Windows RT 8.1, no additional updates were released for Surface RT running Windows RT.”

via Original Surface Pro gets firmware update to help with Windows 8.1 upgrade – Neowin.

128GB Surface Pro sells out: High demand, short supply, or both?

Almost as soon as it went on sale on Saturday morning, the $999 128GB versions of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet sold out. Whether buying online from Microsoft or from the Microsoft, Best Buy, Staples, or Future Stops bricks-and-mortar stores, the devices are unavailable, with no estimated availability. You can’t even put your name down for a pre-order.

Sign of a successful launch? That’s harder to say. Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet reports that some stores received just a single device to sell. With stock that thin on the ground, even idle curiosity would likely cause the Surface Pro to sell out. Other stores certainly had more stock: one Ars reader reports the Westfield San Francisco Centre Microsoft Store had dozens of 128GB units, with one person buying 23 of the machines in a single transaction. So Microsoft has certainly sold a bunch of the 128GB Surface Pros—but whether that represents thousands, tens of thousands, or even more, we don’t know.

We do know that 64GB Surface Pros, however, still seem to be relatively abundant, with stores still having stock and Microsoft’s online store still taking orders.

We also don’t know is whether this means that supplies of the 128GB unit are healthier, or that demand for the cheaper unit is lower. One would suspect early demand is tilted in favor of the more expensive device. 64GB just isn’t that much space on a new machine bought in 2013, especially for technically minded early adopters. Add to this the concern about the amount of disk space actually available on the 64GB Surface Pro and it’s plausible it’s simply not that popular.

We also don’t know why the 128GB units are so hard to come by. It’s possible Microsoft has been taken by surprise and is facing higher than expected demand; it’s also possible that its supply chain, which is still pretty new, simply couldn’t produce enough units to cope with even modest demand.

One thing, however, is clear: would-be buyers aren’t happy about it. The comments on Microsoft’s official Surface blog about the lack of availability are increasingly hostile. Commenters note the same low stock levels, with some claiming their local stores received not a single device. In the commenters’ views, Microsoft’s handling of the launch is nothing short of incompetent.

Even if the company has been caught off-guard by demand substantially higher than anticipated, there should at least be the ability to register interest and get in line. People could then know when new hardware does roll off the production line and buy systems on a first come, first served basis.

With Microsoft not taking pre-orders or giving any indication of when the systems will be back in stock, prospective buyers are already looking elsewhere. While nothing else on the market offers quite the same design approach or features of the Surface Pro, if you’re willing to accept slightly different form factors, there are viable alternatives from Samsung (the Ativ Smart PC Pro), Lenovo (the Yoga), or even Apple (MacBook Air). Microsoft can’t afford to leave potential customers hanging for too long or there’s a good chance they’ll go for one of these competing systems.

While the Surface Pro launch is proving frustrating to those interested in the product, there are, for Microsoft, worse outcomes. A glut of Surface Pros sitting unloved and unwanted on store shelves and warehouses would have been even worse than a shortage. Retailers may be frustrated at the lack of stock, but not as frustrated as they’d be with stock they’d have to give away at a knock-down price (as happened not so long ago with the HP TouchPad).

Microsoft could, and should, be doing more to keep potential buyers engaged, and the criticism on this point is well-deserved. But if the company opted to play it safe and go for a more conservative launch rather than flooding the market, that’s an understandable—and arguably even sensible—decision.

via 128GB Surface Pro sells out: High demand, short supply, or both? | Ars Technica.

Survey: 32 percent of IT workers want Windows inside their next tablet

Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Pro tablet, running on Windows 8 Pro, has now been reviewed a few days before its launch on Saturday. Many believe that the product will be used more by businesses since it will be able to run both Windows 8 “Modern” apps as well as programs from older versions of Windows, unlike the current Surface RT tablet.

This week, Forrester Research released the results of a new survey that shows IT works really want a Windows-based tablet over that of an iPad or Android-based tablet. ReadWriteWeb reports that the survey results, which came from polling 9,766 IT workers, show that 32 percent of them want their next tablet to be based on Windows, versus 26 percent who want an iPad and a tiny 12 percent who want an Android tablet.

Forrester’s report states:

For CIOs, there are three mandates that arise from this data: 1.) Apple and Android will be major suppliers to the enterprise. 2.) Microsoft has a fighting chance in tablets. 3.) The workplace of the future is multiplatform.

The news isn’t as good for Microsoft in terms of smartphones. The survey shows that 10 percent of those workers want a Windows Phone as their next smartphone, compared to 33 percent who want an iPhone and 22 percent who want an Android-based phone.

via Survey: 32 percent of IT workers want Windows inside their next tablet – Neowin.