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Showing posts from December 4, 2016

Windows 10 On ARM Suggests New Direction For Microsoft Surface

The Microsoft Surface means the Surface Pro if you speak to anyone about Microsoft's talented hybrid. However, there have been three different Surfaces, no Pro, and one of the upsides of Microsoft's announcement of Windows 10 on ARM with x86 emulation, is that Microsoft will almost certainly re-visit the tablet-first consumer device.
Having started off as an ARM-powered tablet, running Windows RT for two generations, the Surface 3 jumped to an Intel Atom CPU and full Windows 8.1. It was an inspired move from Microsoft, breathing new life into the Surface and meeting a consumer price point.
Intel's decision to kill the Atom processor had looked to be the end of the Surface right up until this week's news broke.
As long as the emulation is good enough and the new Snapdragon processor is reliable enough the two naturally debut in a new Surface 4. A device which marries a sleek build, awesome battery life and integrated LTE connectivity; to the power of Windows 10 and al…

Magic Leap Faked Video Demos

The Information has a piece alleging a less than subtle piece of mis-direcetion by Google-backed Magic Leap. The AR company apparently faked the impressive demo for its AR headset last year, using computer animators to fake the AR experience that Magic Leap was claiming.
It's alleged that this piece of chicanery was the driver behind around $1.4bn in investments.
The truth is the technology Magic Leap has developed doesn't appear to work properly, nor will it easily miniaturize to even the headset size that Microsoft's competing HoloLens is currently shipping to developers.
In fact the animation team responsible leaked details of a full head helmet-sized device requiring multiple connections to a PC. In other words a completely unusable AR experience.
Microsoft has undertaken a number of live demos of its products, including allowing customers and developers to experience the brilliance of the solution first-hand.
That's something Magic Leap is a long way from being ab…

Digitimes Thinks Apple Will Hit 11m iPad Sales This Quarter

If it's right Digitimes may just have sounded a clear warning bell for Apple. The research company claims that Apple is in line to rack up just under 11m iPad sales in the holiday season quarter, compared to the 16m that Apple reported selling for the same period last year.
That would represent a more then 30% drop in sales year on year, despite having gone all in on its new iPad Pro. Worse still it also represents a significantly larger fall than the tablet market as a whole, which is expected to be down around 25% year over year.
Now Digitimes may be some way from the truth (but its supply chain sourced figures have been pretty good in the past) and we know that Apple's big problem has been persuading contented iPad buyers to upgrade, but if Digitimes is right Apple will ship just 40m iPads in 2016, a fall of 20% from 2015. With sales shrinking faster than ever before Apple's failure to address the hybrid market properly looks ever more dangerous. 
Right now Apple faces…

Microsoft And Qualcomm Bring Windows 10 To ARM

Leaks recently told us that Microsoft would be delivering a Win32 emulator for its mobile devices but to day at WinHEC it unveiled Windows 10 on ARM. Windows 10 (not the Mobile version) will run natively on mobile processors - with a technical demonstration on the Snapdragon 820 - with full support for running legacy apps designed for x86 architecture via the emulator.

Microsoft is completing the vision that started off as Windows RT, but this time with sufficient power for real Windows functionality on a mobile device.

That introduces a real challenge for Intel, which recently canned its entry-level mobile Atom processor and pushes OEMs to an Intel Core m Y-series processor if they want performance and power management. The Snapdragon 835, where the first Windows 10 ARM versions are likely to land, will allow those OEMs to build cheaper Windows 10 tablets and hybrids with smaller batteries (and hence less weight).

That means devices like the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S and Huawei Mate B…

Please Samsung, Don't Ditch The Headphone Jack

It's not courageous, it isn't clever and it isn't going to win you any friends. So as your designers begin to lock down the specifications and design of your next generation of Galaxy phones please don't sign-off on any design that excludes a headphone jack.
Look, don't get me wrong, I use Bluetooth for audio as much as the next man - probably more in fact. And I've probably been doing it for longer too. I get that the future is wireless.
However I have a good selection of quality headphones that I'd really like to keep using with my new smartphone. Even if I can use some trickery to make them work without a headphone jack, I'd really rather not carry the dongles or Bluetooth adapters to make them work.
Don't give me any nonsense about audio quality either. At some stage that digital file which I want to listen to will need to be converted back to analogue so that a speaker driver can move air around and create sound. Making that digital to analogu…

Pebble Gets Dropped: No More Smartwatches, Warranty Support

It isn't just Google who is having a troubling time in the wearables market. Pebble has failed to turn its mainly crowdfunded business into anything approaching a viable business and today concluded its much rumoured sale of assets to FitBit.

The latter gains Pebble's IP as well as the watch platform its devices run on. The price has been rumoured to be in the region of $40m - an amount which fails to cover the company's existing debt. The remaining parts of the business (presumably manufacturing and design assets) will be sold to cover the remaining debt and then Pebble will be gone.

Technical support and software maintenance are gone, more importantly warranty coverage ends here too. Unless you bought your Pebble retail (in a country with appropriate consumer protections) that brand new wearable will be junk the instant it breaks.

Whether FitBit will use these assets to introduce more smartwatches into its products remains to be seen. More likely it will stick with its …

Android Wear Fighting Losing Battle

Motorola won't be making any more Android Wear devices, Huawei are unlikely to for the foreseeable future and the bulk of Google's wearable sales are likely to come from niche or specialist manufacturers for the short to medium term anyway.

Google has lost the smartwatch war, because nobody really wants a smartwatch and those that do want either an Apple Watch, due to tight iPhone integration; or a Galaxy Gear as a result of co-bundling promotions with Samsung's phones.

The only future for Android Wear is for a smartphone / tablet market-like realignment of pricing, with cheaper, entry-level devices driving the market based on price alone.

There is no cachet to wearing an Android Wear device - even the higher end devices are faintly ridiculous - and fitness trackers have the lower end of the market sewn up.

Right now Google has a wearable problem that is bigger than any being attributed to Apple. The fitness tracker / wearable market is pretty constant aside from the App…

Windows 10 Mobile All But Done, Latest Sales Figures Show

Kantar Worldpanel released its smartphone sales report for October today and in amongst the not unexpected Note 7 driven Android slump and iOS growth was further evidence of Microsoft's imolation of  Windows Mobile.
Year on year Windows phone sales were down 50% in Japan and at least 60% in every other territory. In China sales were down an epic 96%.
As support for the platform drifts away I suspect Kantar will stop breaking out Windows numbers in its reports very soon... consumer interest in Windows on a phone is dead and no amount of promises of fancy Surface Phones in the future will bring it back.

Samsung Earns Another Reprieve In Apple Patent Case

With the Apple - Samsung patent trial a distant memory for most, lawyers for the two firms continue to coin it in as they battle over the legitimacy and size of the award.
Apple's $1bn victory had already been pared back to a little under half of its original size and Samsung is gunning for more reductions.
The US Supreme Court handed it a win today by ruling that all of the profits resulting from the infringing phones weren't owed to Apple.
That's a significant saving if the new figure gets based on the relevance of the Apple design patent.
The case goes back to a lower court now, with a new damages figure to be assessed.
Whatever happens now the real victors will be the legal profession.

How Does Tesla Plan For The New World Order Under Trump?

The creation of a new administration packed with climate change deniers should have Elon Musk quaking in his boots. Especially when that administration will be led by a man who has been a vocal opponent of climate change veracity in the past.
After all, Tesla's business centres around products designed to minimize the human impact on our environment. That puts its US expansion at some risk.
On the plus side Trump has moderated his language on the subject in the last few weeks. A good sign, as is yesterday's meeting with Al Gore, the leading advocate for action on climate change. Apparently brokered by Trump's daughter lvanka the meeting apparently didn't end as acrimoniously as perhaps have been expected
In amongst all this good news, however, Tesla must be harboring some concerns about future business impact.
In order to secure itself a favourable position with the new administration Tesla needs to massively focus on exports. It may hurt a little, reducing the numb…

Windows 10 Back Into Growth As Market Share Hits New High

After a short plateau following the cessation of free upgrades, Windows 10 has pushed back into growth again, capturing just shy of 24% of active desktop activity, according to NetMarketShare. With a fall in Windows 7 usage bringing the two most popular versions of Windows within 20% of each other, and a net reduction in the gap between them of nearly 2.5%, Windows 10 may well be the most popular desktop OS by this time next year.
Which should be enough to get close to Microsoft's one billion installs target.
Meanwhile Apple and Linux both managed to stabilise their share of usage - Apple halting a seven month downward trend that has seen 50% of its users disappear.
The growth in Windows 10 usage did nothing for Microsoft's browser market share. Edge remains stuck at 5% of the market, whilst Internet Explorer is gradually fading away.
In the mobile space, Windows phone usage has started to show the effects of the collapse in sales, with 25% of Windows phone users leaving the…

HomeHub Needs To Be Windows' Headless Horseman

Microsoft will be including new functionality in the next release of Windows 10 aimed at competing with Amazon's Echo and Google's Home devices. The feature, to be called HomeHub, according to more than one source, will extend Cortana's under the lock screen feature to create a personal assistant for the whole family.
That's a nice idea, but Microsoft has some work to do to make this useful or even viable.
Currently Cortana on the Xbox One offers some of this functionality - you can turn your Xbox on, launch apps and perform web searches when the Xbox is sleeping. However Cortana on the Xbox is mostly mute, the strength of the Amazon Echo is that it has no screen and Alexa responds verbally to natural language queries.
HomeHub needs to be usable in exactly the same way. At the moment Cortana too often replies with a 'here's what I found' message and displayed results. That isn't going to be an acceptable alternative to what Amazon is currently offering…

Windows 10: Multi-device Cortana Needs Some Additional Smarts

With Cortana currently residing in my laptop, Surface 3, Lumia smart phone and Xbox One, a demand for action generally produces a storm of responses.
Microsoft presumably knows that I have Cortana installed on four devices, all of which are 'Hey Cortana' enabled, so it's probably time to start getting smart about the sort of device I want to respond to a request.
For example, if my Xbox is sleeping and I'm using any other device, I probably don't want the Xbox to respond to anything b at a 'Turn Xbox on' command.
On the other hand, if I'm using my Xbox that's probably the device I want a response from.
Applying some logic here could make Cortana much more useful around the home, especially given how well it responds to different members of my family.
With the imminent arrival of the Cortana powered Windows hub, getting this right becomes even more important

F1: The Whole World Wants Verstappen In A Mercedes Next Year

Actually, that's not entirely true. I'm pretty sure the Red Bull team wants to keep Max in their colours (although I'm sure Daniel Ricciardo would appreciate a rest) and Lewis Hamilton would most certainly like to see Bottas, Hulkenberg or Wehrlein in Nico Rosberg's recently vacated seat.
Everyone else with an interest in F1 wants to see Verstappen go up against Hamilton.
We need to find out exactly how good each man really is. Hamilton has had three very easy years in a Mercedes which has been the class of the field and then some. Partnered with a driver universally acknowledged to be in the middle of the pack, the only real question outstanding is how did Hamilton manage to lose to Rosberg so often?
Verstappen on the other hand has demonstrated incredible progress since promotion to Red Bull. He's quick, brave and, at times, reckless. He's prepared to step outside the rules and he's young enough to still feel invincible.
The two would guarantee real fir…

New Nokia Must Avoid Mistakes Of Old Nokia

HMD Global will launch new smartphones bearing the Nokia name early next year and the hype is already building ahead of the introduction. The general feeling is that old Nokia was undone by the decision to switch from Symbian to Windows Phone.
That's not the entire truth though. Nokia spent four years blowing its lead in the smartphone business. It failed to respond to the iPhone. In fact its response to the iPhone was the 5800. A phone so ridiculously bad its hard to believe that Nokia had a whole year from the launch of the iPhone to refine it.
By the time that Stephen Elop announced Nokia's switch to Windows Phone it was already in dire straits. That the announcement came so far ahead of the release of its first Windows Phone didn't help matters. Elop's burning platform memo arrived in February, the first Nokia Lumia phones were revealed in October. For the intervening ten months Nokia was getting by on selling technology so bad it had already announced its death.

F1: Nico Rosberg Bows Out As Champion

Having succeeded in his goal of becoming 2016 World Champion, emulating his father in the process, Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport with immediate effect. When the driver's line up on the grid in March there will be no defending World Champion amongst them.
This has happened twice before in F1 history - in 1993 Alain Prost retired after strolling to hos fourth World Championship in his Williams-Renault; whilst back in 1970 Jochen Rindt died at the Italian Grand Prix, clinching the title posthumously at the end of the season.
Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton over a season, despite the latter being universally accepted as the faster driver. Hamilton's complacency (Rosberg won the eight races on the bounce from Hamilton's title victory last season); poor starts and a couple of weekends where he was just woeful; meant that Rosberg's consistency and better technical understanding carried him through to the title.
The prospoect of having to do it all next yea…

New MacBook Pro Runs Hot

Not sure if this is an isolated set of circumstances relating to the arrival of summer here in New Zealand or a genuine concern for the new MacBook Pro range, but each model that I have tried has been noticeably hotter than the older MBP.
I assume this is at least in part due to the tighter packing of components and a smaller fan, but after a couple of hours use the area of, and  around the keyboard becomes noticeably warm to the touch. By lunchtime that's become more than warm and I would say is actually hot.
The same is emphatically not true of the older MBP (nor either of the MBA models I have access to).
Is this a result of Apple's 'slim is the most important feature of each and every thing we do' strategy? If it's something that others are reporting to it would be hard to avoid such a conclusion.

More Thoughts On The Touch Bar

Having previously tried the entry-level MacBook Pro, the only new MBP feature | hadn't been able to try was the new, function key replacing, Touch Bar.
Purely from an aesthetic point of view the Touch Bar is a pleasant addition to the MBP. The OLED screen is sharp and bright; it looks exciting on first acquaintance. Good thing too, because to use it you will be spending a lot of time looking at it. It isn't intuitive or natural to use.
By default the Touch Bar shows brightness and volume controls and the esc key. In the old Apple paradigm you pressed the F1 or F2 keys to change the brightness; F11 or F12 keys to change volume. That becomes a tap, finger move and slide in the new model.
The old way is better. Still, the ability to morph those keys must have significant payback, right?
Well possibly, but only when apps use the feature. Not all of Apple's do, never mind third-parties. Even when they do the benefits are hard to quantify. Safari, for example, offers the addr…