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Showing posts from July, 2015

Microsoft Ads Are Still Duff

When Windows 8 launched Microsoft never really produced a compelling set of ads that talked about the product. Looks like Windows 10 is coming out to the same fanfare. This ad, called 'Do' is a perfect example of 'doesn't'. Doesn't show off the features of the product, doesn't show cool people using the product, doesn't show ordinary people doing cool things with the product. Its not a bad ad per se, it's just not the right ad.

Complaining About Solitaire Pricing Is Insane

Microsoft re-introduced the classic Windows Solitaire game as part of the Windows 10 update. Or rather they introduced a new version, offering many features, upgrades and game types to the new OS. They also introduced advertising. Now at this stage nobody has paid a bean for Windows 10, it's a free update and will remain so for the next year. New PCs will come with a Windows license for which the OEM will pay a fee, but as none have got to retail as yet we can discount that scenario. Given that Microsoft has switched away from Windows 10 as its main cash cow and is now looking to push subscriptions to its various services and applications in order to make some money (as businesses are really supposed to do) it shouldn't be a surprise that there is an ad-free version of Solitaire which can be unlocked for a fee of $10 a year. That is making some people cross. They read the Daily Mail. They've been used to getting Solitaire free.
Seriously?
If you want the features that Mi…

Windows 10 Is A Great Desktop OS

I'm pretty sure I was in a tiny majority of people who really took to Windows 8/8.1. I'm sure that was in no small part to using it primarily on touch devices. Windows 8 was all about touch and tablets, it subjugated much of the past to the new dynamic and way of interfacing with a device. It felt natural and made perfect sense. Without a touchscreen that wasn't necessarily the case. The use of magic corners and mouse gestures was never really something that most people were going to adapt to, or have any desire to undertake the learning that could make such a system work well on the desktop. Personally I never had any problem with using Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard, all it required was the ability to let go of the past and go with the flow. Most people didn't. In fact if they were going to let go of the past they were going to do it properly and go and get a Mac. The problem for Microsoft was that they were spooked by the iPad. They weren't alone, the …

Ten Million Can Be Both A Small And Big Number

According to sources in the music industry, music website Hits Daily Double has calculated Apple Music's take-up in its first month at ten million subscribers.

That number probably gives it second place behind Spotify in the music streaming business, which is pretty good.

It's also pretty dismal.

Apple has over a billion iOS devices out there, with at least half of them in countries where the Apple Music free trial is available. That's a conversion rate of just 2% if we take the kindest cut of numbers. On a free service that Apple has launched heavily. To a loyal market and with no real entrenched competition.

It's less popular than a free U2 album.

So what has gone right and what's gone wrong? Plenty of bad publicity for a start, and that from loyal Apple hacks who usually turn a blind eye to the company's missteps.

Apparently you mess with a man's music library at your own peril.

Apple's demographic probably doesn't help. People who buy iPhones t…

Nissan Leaf: All-Electric Can Make Sense

Nissan used to be a byword for reliable but dull. Over the last few years cars like the GT-R, Qashqai, Murano and Juke have largely helped it shed that image. By selling the Leaf Nissan hopes to further move away from that image by becoming the first manufacturer to sell an all-electric family car which was also affordable. The Leaf cost NZ$39,990 - about the same as a premium brand car in its class. On top of that you'll need to consider the NZ$2-3,000 that your charging point install will set you back. Once its all done though you can say goodbye to the petrol forecourt forever. The Leaf's electric battery pack offers a 140-150km range when fully charged, more than enough for the average Kiwi commute. A full recharge would cost around $5 - although changes are you aren't going to be using a full charge in most commuter scenarios. Plugging in every night is a good idea though, you never know when you might need the extra range. At a cost of around 3c per kilometre it mak…

La Tour: A Name Blackened Forever

Doping has been the bete noir of cycling for as long as I can remember. Ever since the 1988 Tour of Shame, when doping really hit the front page, fans have never really been sure who is clean and who isn't. As testing became more rigorous so the dopers became more sophisticated and it appeared the real battle amongst the mountains and plains of France was between the chemist and the tester. Then Lance Armstrong happened. A seven-time tour winner, cancer survivor and high profile celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, Armstrong's continued and vociferous denial of doping was enough to convince his fans. Until the weight of evidence became overwhelming and Armstrong admitted to doping all along. As more and more former winners came clean on their enhanced performance, it became difficult to declare a winner for some Tours. The sport lost. It lost because those who cheated not only claimed the glory but also because good riders who were potential winners in a clean field were …

China Opens Way To Games Consoles

Having previously barred the sales of games consoles for over a decade, the Chinese government is opening their sale up across the whole country. This follows a small scale trial which played out in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone last year. For next gen gamers the console war has all been about Sony and Microsoft, with the PS4 and Xbox One going toe to toe with the Sony console generally ahead at this point. The opening of the Chinese market could see both platforms blossom, and for Microsoft its going to be hugely important to avoid the drubbing it has received in Japan, where its Xbox One sales are, to all intents and purposes, zero. Sony will be expected to do well in China, but I suspect the greatest beneficiary will be Nintendo, a product which has struggled elsewhere might just be a winner on the Chinese market and Nintendo is desperate for that result. For all three this is a golden opportunity to make it big in a market with huge potential, without the hovering shadow of Apple …

Goldmine Of Windows Phone Update Information Released

Want to know what's happening with Windows phones when Windows 10 Mobile arrives. You need to head over to Windows Central and read this post by Daniel Rubino, which reveals all. I won't spoil the impact of the article because it's clearly the result of significant research and tapping of sources, but I have to say the talk of the Cityman and Surface Pen compatibility, added to the Continuum features make for a properly mouth-watering prospect.

Sweating The Assets: Why The PC Market Is Shrinking

The PC market continues to shrink - alarmingly so if you are one of those OEMs that rely upon PC volume to maintain a viable business. That could be a result of consumers delaying upgrades to get a Windows 10 PC, but I very much doubt it.
Much more likely is that a PC duty-cycle has been extended significantly. Better hardware and software has meant that performance doesn't drop off until many years of usage have been completed.
As an example, the Acer Ultrabook I bought in 2010 and the MacBook Air I bought in 2011 are both still perfectly serviceable machines. The latest versions of Windows 10 and OS X run comfortable on them and but for the arrival of hybrid machines in the form of Microsoft's Surface I would be happily using one or the other of them.
For business and enterprise users there are taxation benefits to both three and five year life-cycles for computer equipment, but for home users there are no reasons to replace a machine which is working well. The net result? …

Account Management Challenges In The Living Room

PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox. The encroachment of technology services into the living room is more or less complete. I can't remember visiting anybody recently who wasn't rocking one of these devices in their home. Which raises some interesting questions about the balance between security and usability for a device and service for the whole family which is tied to one user's account. At the moment most of these devices rely upon you either giving any user carte blanche to purchase content with your account or being there to authorise each purchase by entering a password. That's not really useful in a context where we're more and more expecting these services to replace the broadcast media we've been used to consuming. There are shortcuts - an Xbox equipped with a Kinect sensor will see and recognise you; and sign you in automatically. Apple is rumoured to be adding Touch ID to the next Apple TV remote control and Sony.... For now separate user accounts and a st…

With $200bn In The Bank You'd Think Apple Could Buy Someone Who Understands The Cloud

Write a list of all the things that Apple is good at, what have they got in common? Absolutely no cloud service involved. For some reason Apple has the reverse Midas touch when it comes to cloud services, everything it does turns into brown smelly stuff. Latest example of this? Apple Music. Here's a service that Apple has spent a lifetime preparing yet still hasn't managed to get right. When absolute dyed in the wool Apple fans, for whom Apple can usually do no wrong, suddenly start moaning about a new Apple service you know something is very wrong. As it is, Apple Music seems to be randomly destroying customers carefully curated music collections. A similar theme has run through anything cloud since Apple decided to mangle photo collections with iPhoto. Right now Apple is sitting on a huge pot of cash and it has a technology that it hasn't been able to work out. The logical answer would be to find a company that 'gets' cloud services, buy them and use that expert…

Starbucks And NYT Offer A Glimpse Of One Possible Future

How do content creators get paid on the internet? Right now there are two options: advertising and subscriptions. The former is disliked by users, can be intrusive and damages the browsing experience at many sites. On the other hand the latter is incredibly difficult to get right and by limiting access to your content hurts your ability to grow. Starbucks and the NYT have announced a partnership which may offer a third way. In future Starbucks loyalty card members will get access to NYT articles (and other news sources further down the line) whilst NYT subscribers will get credits to their Starbucks accounts. By tying a content product and a physical product together both companies hope to profit. For Starbucks it means more reasons to join its loyalty program and, once you're in, more reasons to choose Starbucks for your regular caffeine hit. For the NYT it means a funding source for its news service which isn't actually obstructive to users. This kind of arrangement does ra…

Xbox One On The Verge Of Mouse And Keyboard Support

In a Twitter exchange discussing the potential of streaming Windows 10 to Xbox One - the reverse of the service that Microsoft has recently enabled - Phil Spencer let slip that mouse and keyboard support is on its way for Xbox One, and presumably with it a whole range for additional capability that these new input devices enable. There's no question that some games lend themselves more naturally to mouse and keyboard control and it has been one of the strengths of PC gaming in the past. By adding that capability to the Xbox One Microsoft is greatly expanding the realm of games that game be played on the system, not least because once the Xbox switches to a Windows 10 codebase, games written for Windows 10 will be relatively easy to release for Xbox too.

There's Probably Something Inherently Wrong When You Need Tinfoil On Your Phone

Several sites are reporting on efforts by XDA Developers forum member schecter7 to improve heat dissipation and reduce the resultant CPU throttling on the Xperia Z3+ using a tinfoil heat sink. It's a pretty good hack, if the figures are to be believed, but seriously, if your phone needs this treatment then its time to switch to something else. The Snapdragon 810 CPU is at the heart of the Z3+ and has had some pretty bad press around its thermal performance - notably from Samsung. On the evidence of this hack it seems to have been justified. However part of me wonders whether the real problem isn't Android and the way that its loading of features and design elements makes greater and greater demands on hardware. We're seeing 4GB of RAM becoming the new benchmark for Android phones, on top of CPUs that would do reasonable duty on a desktop PC. Doesn't stop them stuttering or feeling sluggish in use. Google needs to address this at source. Slimming Android down and worki…

Some PC Manufacturers Are Doing Okay In A Shrinking Market

Against a backdrop of a PC market that shrank 12% year on year a couple of names you might have heard of made good progress this year. In Apple's financial call Tim Cook reported Mac sales up by 9% to 4.8 million units. That gave Apple a notable 7% share of the PC market last quarter. More impressively Microsoft grew its Surface revenue by 117% - I've discussed what that means in terms of unit sales elsewhere. Suffice to say that from a standing start less than three years ago Microsoft's computer division is now shifting between one-third and one-fifth as many PCs as Apple sells Macs. The introduction of the Surface 3 in May won't have had a full quarter effect for Microsoft, so expect the cheaper Surface to potentially drive Microsoft hardware growth even higher next quarter.

Apple Results Give Clue To Apple Watch Sales

How well is the Apple Watch really doing? I've covered this before, however detail from Apple's financial call yesterday allows some educated guesses at numbers and performance. First of all Apple has claimed that it isn't breaking out sales numbers because it doesn't want to provide competitors with information which may help them. I'll call BS on that straight away. Apple has never been shy about numbers when they have been good. Which means that the numbers for Apple Watch haven't been what Apple hoped for. Also Apple's claim that it's just catching up with demand is a bit smelly too, given that you've been able to walk in and buy one in store for a while and the market is being expanded to low volume countries like New Zealand next week. Lumping the Watch sales in with all of Apple's other orphan children (like the iPod) doesn't strike me as a particularly positive move either. However if we take some educated guesses around trends and …

Microsoft Selling More Lumias, But Only Cheap Ones

Microsoft's Q4 financial figures are somewhat confused by the massive write-down it has booked for the acquisition of Nokia. However for Windows Phone fans there are some positive signs. Year on year sales grew by an impressive 45%, however that was almost entirely achieved at the budget end of the market, with the average selling price per phone reaching just $89. That's an awful lot of cheap phones and probably not much else. From a volume perspective that's okay, however given Satya Nadella's recent positioning statement on the mobile platform it suggests that most of those sales are going under the bus in the very near future. Surface fans should be pleased. Surface revenue is up, suggesting that Microsoft has another billion dollar income stream on its hands. No idea of the ARPU at the moment, but with an revenue of $888m its likely that Microsoft shipped somewhere between one and one and a half million Surface's in quarter.

A Month With The Surface 3

When Microsoft launched the Surface 3 I was a little sceptical of the device. It was priced close to the iPad but without the huge range of apps; it was a low power Atom based device, but significantly more expensive than some other Atom devices.
As an iPad and MacBook Air owner you could say that I was slap bang in the middle of Microsoft's target market. As a Surface Pro owner my more natural upgrade path would seem to be the Surface Pro 3. The Surface 3 has proven capable enough to replace all three of those devices for me.
Its an easy device to live with. It's light and portable, has excellent battery life and great connectivity. The screen is a decent size, the keyboard is excellent and the trackpad is good enough for daily use. Performance turns out to be excellent, that Atom processor is the first quad-core 64-bit version of its line and turns out to be very capable.
What the Surface 3 does well is demonstrate how good Windows can be on good hardware. Which I guess is …

F1: Jules Bianchi, Maria de Villota And The Lessons To Be Learned

The sad news that Jules Bianchi had succumbed to his Japanese Grand Prix injuries at the weekend was not altogether unexpected, but that didn't reduce the shock at all. Just like in May 1994 a whole generation of F1 fans who had grown up in a period where the sport was practically injury free got a wake up call. Those heroes that we worship week in and week out are just one tiny alignment of bad circumstances from being taken from us in the most violent manner. As in 1994 those commentators who talked about Bianchi's death as being the first in the sport for over two decades gave no thought to a driver killed in testing. In 1994 it was Elio de Angeles, whose death was one of the most senseless in modern F1, this year it was Maria de Villota, who died as a consequence of injuries received fifteenth months previously in a 2012 accident that bore eerie similarities to Bianchi's. Both were driving for the Marissa team, both struck course vehicles and both suffered neurologica…

Cortana On Other Platforms: Missing The Point

Hands down the two best things about voice assistants are that they allow you to speak you query or instruction in the kind of Sci-fi computer interaction that 60s era Star Trek saw as the future; and that they are so deeply integrated into the phone as to make their use as friction free as possible. The best implementations require no physical interaction with your phone. The Motorola X, Lumia 930, Galaxy S4 (but not S5 or S6 bizarrely) and iPhone (when plugged in) allow you to call out to your locked phone and launch Google Now, Cortana, S-Voice or Siri. It is the future and when you've had that capability anything else seems kind of clunky. So Cortana will be making the jumps from Windows Phone to Android and iOS as part of Microsoft's strategy to be on everything, everywhere. Most observers agree that Cortana is the leading voice assistant in terms of capability. However distilled down to an app that needs to be manually started after first unlocking your phone it seems t…

Copyrights Rights In Performances Statute Struck Down

The Copyright Rights In Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014, to give its full title, was a landmark ruling which removed the grey area around UK users ripping songs from CDs and made it legal so long as you weren't then sharing those ripped files. A sensible decision based on logic and a fair regard for both parties. Not so apparently. BASCA, the musician's union, and UK Music, representing the rights holders, disagreed and challenged the ruling in the High Court. As a result it was struck down at the end of last week. The decision appears to have been made as a result of the way the law was passed rather than the validity of the argument that rights holders are due additional payments when you digitise your legally purchased music. This challenge by the rights holders is disingenuous, punishing those who support musicians by purchasing their music. Worse, its a blow against those who have always done the right thing and built huge collections of m…

Weak New Apple Watch Ads Do It No Favours

If further proof was needed that no sane human being has a reason for owning a smartwatch then Apple's latest ads in support of the Watch provides it in spades. None of the four spots says anything compelling about the device. And if Apple is struggling to find a reason to sell you one you can be sure that you really don't need one. Of the four spots this is the best, however it really only tells you that any fitness band can deliver the same experience

Marshall London Is The New Must-have Android Phone

Want a phone that's going to stand out? Then one from any of the big name phone makers is going to get you there. Now however Marshall, lord of all that is amplification in music, has given us a sneak preview of its upcoming Android phone and its a beauty. There's something very right about the way that it looks and if that translates into a similarly appealing tactile experience you'll forgive its mid-range specs to lay your hands on one. This is clearly the way forward for premium priced Android phones. The question is do the big Android OEMs have any idea how to achieve the same effect?

Windows 10 Goes RTM, Heralds A New Dawn For Operating Systems

Twenty years ago Windows 95 launched and dragged the whole world into the modern age of computing. Whereas what had gone before was either complex and difficult to manage (Windows 3.x) or limited and poorly conceived (Macs OS 7) Windows 95 was simple to use and took a large leap forward in insulating the user from the technology. It was hugely successful and its legacy has been an almost totally homogenous computing landscape built around Windows. A feature of Windows (and all other operating systems) since then has been the new release. That is a concept that ends (for Windows users anyway) when Windows 10 ships to consumers. Microsoft is talking about Windows 10 as Windows as a service. So in the same way that Office 365 continually receives new updates and features so Windows will do the same. One note of caution however. For those users who buy machines that have been sat on a retailers shelf for several months the application of all of those updates just after buying a new machi…

Six New Lumias And Windows 10 Mobile In September

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference is happening in Orland right now and as a result we're beginning to see more information leak about Microsoft's mobile strategy and future plans for the Lumia line. First of all we have a rumoured date of September 24th for the launch of Windows 10 Mobile, the replacement for Windows Phone 8.1. This was reported on Mobileburn's website so may be taken with a pinch of salt. That date would fit with comments made by Terry Myerson, VP of the Devices Group, confirming new premium handsets for 'later this year'. With the IFA event in Germany set for the beginning of September that would be a good place to launch new handsets and pin a date on the release of the newest version of the mobile platform. Any later than September and Microsoft would miss the key holiday season sales it desperately needs. With the estimated launch set to include six handsets (two premium, two business and two consumer to match the announcement of a…

Microsoft Needs To Do More For Surface RT Users

Windows 10 is just over two weeks away and with it will come lots of new features and improved UX elements that should fix some of the issues that dogged the reputation of Windows 8. For some users though its the end of the road. Microsoft has killed Windows RT by denying it a version upgrade to Windows 10 and its likely that we'll see no more PCs running the ARM-friendly OS. For Surface RT and Surface 2 users Microsoft has promised that they will see an upgrade to the OS which will bring some of Windows 10's features to their devices. The last time Microsoft made such a promise was when Windows Phone 7 users were thrown under a bus ahead of the Windows Phone 8 update. The result was the Windows 7.8 release which was a pitiful replacement for an upgrade path. I wonder how that particular incident affected long term Windows Phone sales, given it was the second time that Microsoft has pulled that trick on its phone customers. Realistically Microsoft can't win by offering us…

Apple Owns 92% Of Smartphone Profits

Anyone surprised by the news that Apple makes almost all of the profit in the smartphone market? I can't say I am, although basing it on a number that subtracts other company's losses makes the number look even larger than it really is. Its easy to see why. The average selling price of an Apple iPhone is three to four times that of the industry average, despite costing little, if any, more to make. Those sky high profit margins ensure that Apple takes 92% of the profits despite selling only around 20% of the handsets. There are other OEMs making profits, Samsung notably, but also Huawei and other smaller brands. Even Sony has managed to eke out profits from its Xperia smartphones. The profits might be small in comparison to Apple's, but they are profitable. For most OEMs these profits are being generated by selling lots of cheap phones at razor thin margins. For Sony it comes from selling fewer phones at better margins. Whatever the case, if you aren't Apple - and to …

What's Happening To Apple Watch Sales

Reading the news over the weekend you would definitely be under the impression that the Apple Watch has been a complete disaster and you should sell your shares in Apple immediately, pausing only to demand the heads of Cook and Ive on a silver platter. That's complete nonsense and probably evidence of wholesale attempts to manipulate Apple's share price for significant profit. First of all the numbers. They've been culled from a dubious source, but lets go with them. Slice claims that since launch Watch sales have fallen off a cliff, dropping from 200,000 a day to 20,000 a day. Doesn't sound great? How about we round those numbers for a year of sales? Assuming the 200,000 holds true for week one only, and there's an immediate drop to 20,000 to give us an absolute worst case scenario, that amounts to more than eight million units in the first year. If you then add in the one and a half million sales that were made in the pre-order period you're looking at a ove…

Microsoft's Purchase Of Nokia Was Defensive

The news that Microsoft is going to write-off its purchase of Nokia and make even more staff redundant has sealed the popular view that Steve Ballmer didn't know what he was doing.
I suspect the truth is rather different. When Nokia announced that it was abandoning Symbian and switching to Windows Phone it changed the mobile market forever. Giving Nokia most-favoured status had the effect of decimating sales of other Windows Phone OEMs. This made sense for both companies so long as the partnership were able to drive growth from the platform. Nokia accounted for greater than 95% of the Windows Phone market, however the decision to abandon Symbian for the Windows platform hadn't produced and upswell in sales, and there was a rising faction within Nokia that wanted to switch tracks to Android. There is no doubt that the Android X phones were the thin end of the wedge as far as both Microsoft and Nokia were concerned.
For Nokia it was an opportunity to have a greater say in the c…

Apple - Spotify Competition About To Get Messy

Apple Music has Spotify firmly in its sights. It's one of the few areas where Apple isn't number one and the company invested $3bn in Beats to ensure that it is. Streaming is the future and Apple is determined to put Spotify in its place. Spotify hasn't got where it is without being a fighter and yesterday the company landed the next blow in its battle to retain its position, attacking Apple's App Store based revenue stream. Specifically the fee that Apple charges for in-app purchases of subscriptions. For those who don't know, buying anything in-app on your iOS device means handing over a 30% fee to Apple. For developers who publish apps with app related purchase options - the freemium model which has proved so popular - that seems like an entirely reasonable thing to do. For publishers who charge a subscription for a service delivered which has nothing to do with the App Store its just outrageous. Spotify has dealt with this by loading the Apple tax onto the cus…

Where Now For Windows Phones?

Microsoft's announcement yesterday that it was writing off its acquisition of Nokia and laying off thousands of staff marked a watershed in the decline of the once mighty phone business. Having already seen massive workforce cuts as part of the attempted turnarounds under Nokia and subsequently in Microsoft's ownership this latest blow is a big one. For Windows fans there are two things to take away from the announcement. Firstly, that Microsoft will continue to deliver phones with the Lumia brand, although without the confusion that sees too many phones fighting for too few users. It is likely that there will be only three Microsoft Lumia lines going forward: a flagship device, a business focused device and an entry-level device for emerging markets. It's a strategy that appears to be designed to encourage the growth of third-party OEMs in the Windows mobile space. It remains to be seen whether that's an achievable ambition. Until Microsoft can show that it is tempti…

Sony In The Smartphone Business For The Long Haul

Good news for Xperia fans, Sony has made a long-term commitment to its smartphone business which means the brand and its high quality, if niche, devices are going nowhere. Sony Mobile's president Hiroki Totoki told the Arabian Times that the road forward would be about cutting costs and headcount, suggesting that the company is either going to go for volume by delivering lots of cheap, low risk devices or play for profits by delivering fewer high end devices instead. Hopefully the company will go for the latter. The low-end market is awash with OEMs building off cheap reference designs and as a result profits are dangerously low. Sony has one of the few brand names capable of pulling off a high end only strategy for Android. Fewer phones at higher margins certainly works for Apple. Now that there is a clear message that Sony is staying in the smartphone game it's time to get behind it with a big marketing push. The rumours of the death of the Xperia must have hurt consumer co…

Surface 3 v MacBook: Battle Of The Laptops

Microsoft is telling us that it's Surface range is the tablet that can replace your laptop. I've already looked at the Surface against the iPad Air 2 here, now it's time to compare it with its closest rival from Apple's laptop range, the MacBook.

The question is which MacBook? Price-wise the MacBook Air is the more appropriate comparison, however in terms of concept and execution the MacBook is the closer match. I'll base this around the MacBook, however as you'll see in the conclusions, the comparison is somewhat flawed.

From the outside we find two devices made from premium materials that have great tactile qualities. The MacBook is bigger and heavier, even the Surface is sporting the Type Cover 3 keyboard attachment. Despite this, the MacBook offers less in the way of connectivity: one Type C USB 3.1 port. The Surface offers one full size USB 3 port, a MiniDisplay Port supporting three external monitors and a micro USB port supporting OTG. There's also …

Surface 3 v iPad Air 2: Battle Of The Tablets

When Microsoft announced the Surface 3 I was somewhat dubious about its competitiveness in a tablet market that was stumbling and where premium devices aren't making much headway. Even the acknowledged class leader, Apple, was seeing shrinking demand for its products.
What hope for a device from Microsoft priced at a premium and competing directly with the iPad Air 2? Now I've had an opportunity to put them head to head I find that my opinion has changed.
Looking at the physical aspects of the devices first and the Surface 3 is bigger in all directions than the Air 2. Its heavier too. To compensate you get a bigger screen, kickstand, stereo speakers and infinitely more connectivity than the iPad. Both are exquisitely put together from premium materials, Aluminium for the iPad, VaporMg for the Surface.
Now that the Surface has a 3:2 ratio screen the two feel similar in the hand, with the same balance whether held in portrait or landscape orientation. For consuming content the …

Android Sales Are Down, Samsung Suffering

It's not a good time to be anyone but Apple in the smartphone market. Whilst the iPhone 6 continues to set sales records it's looking like the Galaxy S6 has had a much rougher ride. As a result Samsung is expecting to miss it's sales estimates for the quarter - a seventh successive such failure.

Whilst many Android OEMs are suffering poor sales and falling revenues Samsung is the highest profile because of its position at the top of the sales tree and how quickly it rose to get there.

Personally I don't find the success - or lack of it - to be a big surprise. Samsung abandoned too many of the values that its customers held dear when it designed the S6. The expectation was that a premium product would result in Apple-like sales growth. As I pointed out at the time the Android premium market is small and Sony and HTC have loyal followings in that niche. The fact that both are struggling too just proves that the premium Android is only getting smaller.

If anything the An…

De-emphasising The Xbox Brand A Questionable Move

Microsoft has announced that Xbox Music will become Groove going forward, whilst Xbox Video will become plain old Movies & TV. The reasoning being that Microsoft discovered users who didn't have an Xbox thought the service wasn't available to them. I can't see this as a naming issue though. Dumping a strong brand like Xbox from its services doesn't make a whole lot of sense anyway, but doing it for a self-inflicted reason is a very bad move. Microsoft have all but kept the Xbox Music service a secret. Promotion has been non-existent since the Zune branding was stripped away. Whilst that move made some sense - the Zune's market failure was toxic to the associated music service's brand, the move away from Xbox doesn't have the same driver. A far more sensible option would have been to make a big splash about Xbox Music, perhaps matching Apple's three month free trial with a similar offer. Most importantly making people aware that the service exists a…

Poor OEMs Are Hurting Windows

If you've ever bought a consumer Windows PC from the bottom end of the market - one of the cheaper machines that are engineered to an incredibly low price point and usually shipped from a known brand OEM - you'll have experienced how bad Windows can be. A combination of bloatware and poor drivers doesn't do Windows any favours. My own recent experience with a cheap HP laptop would have put me off Windows for life, but for the fact that I knew this wasn't a representative experience. On the right hardware and without the OEM garbage Windows offers a great user experience. You just need to be careful about who you're buying your Windows machine from. Maybe the time has come for Microsoft to offer a certification process for PCs, one that guarantees a certain level of quality experience for end users. It would certainly go a long way to removing the stigma that Windows has (unfairly) picked up. As someone who uses OS X, Ubuntu and Windows 8.1 on a daily basis I'm…

Lumia, Surface, Xbox, Microsoft Does Hardware Very Well

Almost without a real plan for doing so Microsoft has built itself something of a hardware empire. Its acquisition of Nokia Mobile has given it access to a team responsible for some impressive hardware. Pound for pound its Lumia range offers unrivalled build quality when measured against its peers. In the rapidly evolving Surface line-up Microsoft has hardware that rivals Apple for its build quality and capability. Finally in the Xbox Microsoft has delivered three generations of first class gaming console and grabbed itself a handy position in the desirable living room space. So whilst Microsoft positions itself as a services company it turns out that it's building a promising hardware stack at the same time.