Windows 10 Features – Much ado about… Nothing?

What’s all the fuss about Windows 10 core features..?

Windows 10

Over the past few days I’ve seen a few articles on Windows 10 cool and unknown features; and while I will spend a few moments going over some of the bigger stuff of note in the upcoming OS, quite honestly… I’m wondering what all the hullaballoo is about.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Microsoft’s marketing machine has to pump up the volume on Windows 10 somehow. Unfortunately, they can’t simply go with:

Windows 10 – It doesn’t suck like Windows 8 did.

So yeah… they have to say SOMETHING positive about it that doesn’t speak to just the code tweaks and optimizations that you’re going to find under the hood. Unfortunately, Windows 10 really IS all about not sucking like Windows 8…which, by the way only sucked because the UI – or User Interface – was so horrible. If you could get past that, Windows 8 ran well and would run on a LOT of budget class, legacy hardware.

The vision for Windows 8 was to be a bridging OS that got users used to the idea that computing was shifting away from a post 1990’s traditional, put a program in a movable box on a screen, metaphor to one that really tried to embrace tablet computing.

That’s one of the reasons why Microsoft Surface Pro exists – to help users find a way to have their tablet and [eat] it too. Microsoft’s thought was, “well, users want to compute on a tablet… we can give them a tablet form factor if they want one. We have the whole slate TabletPC thing that kinda tanked about 10 years ago; and THAT kinda looks like an iPad…just a lot bigger and bulkier… If we thin it down and shrink it down a bit and then MAKE a detachable keyboard that goes WITH it (one of the BEST ideas with Surface Pro, by the way…) we can pocket the 3rd party dollars there along with the device sale.”

Whaddya think Stevie B.?

It was a good idea, but unfortunately, the execution didn’t match the vision, and the whole bridging OS thing really went over like a fart in an elevator. In other words, it really stunk up the joint and people ran (not walked) and in some cases, pealed back the proverbial steel plating on the “elevator” to get off. Many of us in the tech sector had the words, “Metro Sucks” tattooed on the inside of our eyelids and spent a lot of time with them closed, shaking our heads wondering why Microsoft ticked off their established enterprise and consumer user bases with a confusing, UGLY and productivity shifting interface that not only made it hard to get anything done, but totally changed the way you HAD to work with a standard, desktop computer.

 But, again… I digress…

Anyway, as I said over the past few days, I’ve seen a few articles on Windows 10 features and while there’s some “nice” things in there, there may only be one or two of the 10-15 or so things that people are touting as awesome that may make ANY kind of a difference to anyone outside of the Microsoft Marketing department.

I’ve been running and testing nearly EVERY beta version of Windows on all of my production Windows machines since Windows 95 (so, for almost 20 years, now…) and I’ve seen stellar UI changes… I’ve seen great feature implementations… and I have to tell ya I’m lookin’ at all of this stuff in the Windows 10 Technical Preview and I’m thinking…

 Meh…

Some of what we’re seeing is definitely a rethinking or reworking of stuff that didn’t quite make the impact that it was intended to make. The Start Screen and the reinstated Start Button and (more importantly) reinstated Start Menu are some good examples. People absolutely HATED the Start Screen and DEMANDED their Start Button back. When they said that, everyone ALSO meant the Start Menu, but Microsoft decided to play stupid on that and only brought back the BUTTON in Windows 8.x.

When the world saw that, they called “bullshit” and gave Microsoft the big, “c’mahn…! You KNOW we meant MENU and not JUST the button..!” schpiel , but for some reason, all we got from Redmond initially was the big, wide spread armed, “WHAT?!? We gave you what you asked for…” response, which caused us to give Microsoft the “crossed armed, head tilted to the right, raised eyebrow silent treatment” that said, “Really..??”

So Microsoft is giving us the Start Menu back, but said, “okokokokokok… but you gotta give us a bit to put it back.” Its actually coming back as part of Windows 10. So, without any further kibitzing… here are the features and some of the hidden features of note <chuckle> in windows 10.

Improved and Expanded Start Menu

So, yeah… as I mentioned, the Start Menu is coming back; but its not the Start Menu that you remember from back in the day. Microsoft can’t seem to let the Live Tile thing go on the desktop, so they gimished the two of them together and we get an improved Start Menu (as you can quickly and easily pin, remove and customize items on it) but you also get the ability to pin Live Tiles to it.

Live Tiles work VERY well on Windows Phone devices. In fact, some will argue that the Windows Phone UI, with all of its Live Tiles, is perhaps one of the BEST mobile interfaces available today. You get updates, information and what you need from it and all you have to do, really, is turn on the phone. (Honestly, this would work on a tablet device as well… IF Microsoft could have let go of the Desktop computing metaphor on their RT based tablets and just gone with the Windows Phone interface approach there, and then maybe they wouldn’t have taken the $1B USD write off on all those unsold RT tablets; BUT again… I digress)

So, yeah, you get the ability to have both Live Tiles and shortcuts on the Start Menu and can now easily customize it; and while this is totally cool, its nothing really to whoop and holler about, ya know?

Oh, you also get the ability to pin the Recycle Bin on not only the Start Menu, but the Task bar as well… However, in order to get it on the Task Bar, you have to first pin it to the Start Menu and then drag and drop it from there to the Task Bar…which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I’m also a bit fuzzy on why this is so important…or cool… In order to delete items from somewhere on the PC, you have to either drag and drop it to the shortcut on the desktop, or pick it in File Explorer and hit the delete key on the keyboard/ right click and choose delete from the context menu. I’m not certain how putting the Recycle Bin on the Start Menu or Task Bar gets you anything important… Maybe someone can pop a comment in, below, and share the cool factor with the rest of us who are scratching their heads…

Run Store apps and Desktop apps simultaneously

With Windows 10, all apps can run in a window, or can run full screen. This is much like what Stardock Software’s ModernMix does. Its been running MetroUI apps in a window for a few years.

However, now, you can do this and run those applications side by side, natively. Its nice, but quite honestly, it’s a small step for computing kind. Especially since the app from Stardock started allowing this to happen shortly after Windows 8 hit the market, making the transition to Windows 8 a bit easier than without it.

Task View Button

The Task view Button in Windows 10 is really a “view all the virtual desktops you have” button. I understand that its now removable from the Task Bar. I don’t like virtual desktops because I don’t like having to cycle through a lot of open apps. If I do, ALT-TAB has always worked for me and I’m really good with just that quick, keyboard shortcut and familiar tool. See… this is why Bill invented “minimize and maximize/restore” for program windows. You can pretty much clean and clear up your active desktop just by minimizing stuff you need open, but aren’t working with just now.

However, I know I’m not EVERY use case out there, and some people may find this feature of value. If you want to put your music apps on one, photography/picture apps on another, I get it. I get it… However, I wouldn’t call this an “A list” feature…ever.

Multitasking with Enhanced Snap View

Snap is a new feature as of Windows 8 that allows you to place windows side by side in a way that allows you to evenly tile windows on your display. In Windows 10, the number of windows that can be snapped has been doubled to four windows. Windows that are snapped are evenly and equally placed on the screen.

What’s strange to me is that you could always do something like this by tiling windows across your screen. I’ve been doing it since Windows 3.x… However Snap does it without having to execute any kind of strange command, and your Windows don’t start off unevenly proportioned. So, if you have a large enough display and up to four programs that you need to swap data in and out of, it can be a huge time saver, I guess.

Snap Assist

Snap Assist is used as part of Snap View. It helps you snap windows into place and then resize the windows that get placed on your screen. The problem with Snap and Snap Assist is that it doesn’t work well with small screens.

Continuum for Windows (2-in-1 devices)

Interestingly enough, perhaps the biggest and most interesting feature that Windows 10 is going to provide hasn’t hit the streets yet. Windows 10 will work on just about any device that was able to run Windows 8.x, and will especially work well on any and all Surface Pro devices.

With Surface Pro and similar devices, Microsoft is creating a new kind of mode that will allow Windows to function as both a content consumption device as well as a tablet. Its called Continuum; and what it does is allows Windows 10 to change UI’s when a keyboard is attached to a device like Surface Pro 1/2/3. When the keyboard is reattached, the UI switches back to a traditional desktop UI. ModernUI apps will function full screen as they do in Windows 8 when the keyboard is removed and then will function in a Window when the keyboard is reattached.

Next Page

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Apple DRM Antitrust Suite to Begin

A decade old lawsuit could be a huge problem for Apple…
image3014Back in the day – and I’m really referring to the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s – digital music was a total mess. There was no standardization in terms of file formats, desktop players or portable players. The only thing that WAS clear and pretty much standardized was that no matter where you turned, any digital music you didn’t rip yourself or pirate through tools like Napster, Limewire or some other torrent tool, were clogged with DRM. What that meant was that you couldn’t play it with the app or portable player you wanted to play it with…that is, without having to jump through some pretty nasty hoops.

If pirating wasn’t your thing – which in many cases turned out to be a good thing, because the RIAA is nothing but a group of money grubbing, ugly lawyers out to screw the American public… but I digress – then what you really had to do was buy your music, burn it to a CD and then rerip the songs. This worked with any and every digital music store you purchased digital music from, regardless of what your favorite or default store or app was; or what digital music player you carried. This effectively “stripped” the DRM out of the music, as the DRM didn’t transfer to the new CD you burned, and therefore, wasn’t on the songs you ripped from it. Life was a lot better for you AND the music you bought, as you set it free.

At that point, everyone DELETED the original digital music files they purchased and replaced them with the DRM free ones they just created. It was at THAT point that you copied or transferred them to your portable music player, because at that point…you could copy them to ANY player and play them with ANY desktop music app. Some people were really into WinAmp. Some really liked MusicMatch Jukebox. Some were into Windows Media Player or Apple’s iTunes.

That was a LOT to put on the consumer. It really made us jump through a LOT of hoops; and honestly, not everyone was happy doing it. I did it because it was easy enough for me to do. The only thing that anyone really needed was a blank CD and a bit of time to burn and rerip the music. The technical side of this whole story was wrapped up in the bit rate of the source music files vs. the bit rate of the files you ripped from the CD you burned – which was greater and offered the better quality? The big question for audiophiles here was, “did I just introduce distortion, his or other noise into the music I purchased in order to get around the playing limitations I feel I have?”

However, back in the day – and here I’m talking circa 2005 or so – a lawsuit was filed on behalf of many of the iPod owners, accusing Apple of violating both US Federal and California State antitrust laws by restricting music purchased via iTunes from being played on other digital music players or desktop apps. The suit also accused Apple of restricting iPods from playing music purchased from music services OTHER than iTunes.

Since the suit’s original filing in 2005, a number of changes have been made to the suit. Apple also removed DRM from all music sold via iTunes in 2009, effectively making the issue a moot one from that time forward. One of the major modifications of the suit was to restrict the case to iPods sold between September 2006 and March 2009.

The opening statements in the complaint reference the now defunct Tower Records,

“It would be egregious and unlawful for a major retailer such as Tower Records, for example, to require that all music CDs purchased by consumers at Tower Records be played only with CD players purchased at Tower Records, yet, this is precisely what Apple has done… Apple has rigged the hardware and software in its iPod such that the device will not directly play any music files originating from online music stores other than Apple’s iTunes music store.”

This largely came about because Apple was trying to protect its iPod and iTunes business from Real Networks and Real Player, MusicMatch, and others. Unfortunately for ALL involved, Apple’s iPod was a huge hit, bringing order from the chaos that was digital music at the time. NO ONE (really) wanted any other player, and so Apple did its best to protect their market, and they effectively created a monopoly as far as music and portable music players were concerned.

As I mentioned, the suit has been modified; and now, with its restrictions, is set to get underway on 2014-12-02. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with it. The plaintiffs are asking for $350M USD, though if found guilty and found to have willfully and purposefully violated the law, the award Apple could be required to put up could top $1B USD, according to current antitrust law penalties which specify triple the damage amount.

How does all of this make you feel? Did you buy an iPod between September 2006 and March 2009? Will you be joining this class? Do you feel you were inappropriately restricted in your choice of desktop music apps as well as portable music players? Did you put aside a desktop app or portable music player because it wasn’t Apple or iTunes compatible? Does this lawsuit, even with its modifications and restrictions have any real relevance? Does the burn and rerip option negate the whole suit because it provided for a reasonable work around? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts? I’d really like to hear what you have to say, as the right information to the right attorneys at this point, could make the difference between a simple settlement and triple the damages.

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Microsoft Acquires Acompli

…and now they have a cool mobile email app.

id392327

When a company doesn’t really have a US focused mobile device strategy – and let’s face it… Microsoft really doesn’t – things can get a bit stressful. Yes. You’re right… Windows Phones exist. Yes. I have one. No, it obviously ISN’T my daily driver; but you also have to understand one thing – Microsoft’s target market for all of its Windows Phone is NOT the United States (or other First World countries).

Microsoft isn’t making high end Windows Phones any longer. They have instead decided to concentrate their efforts on Third World countries. Very quickly, here’s why that’s very smart
1. There’s no way they are going to overtake Android or iOS devices in any kind of market share race. They just don’t have the legs to do it. Both Android and iOS are too firmly well established to nudge out of the way.
2. Microsoft’s Mobile strategy is still largely unknown. Without any real presence in the US, we’re left to people like Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott and to give us any kind of clue on what Microsoft is going to do with itself in the mobile space.

Let’s face it… even though the Surface Pro 3 may be an interesting ultrabook, Microsoft has no real content consumption device or smartphone that it can really point to or rely on in any of the markets that will either garner a lot of press or a lot of money via flagship sales. They want to concentrate on third world sales, and while that WILL perhaps produce a lot of global share, in the markets that really drive innovation and enterprise sales – First World markets – they’ve got next to nothing…

So, to help address that issue, early on during the morning of 2014-12-01, Microsoft announced it had acquired the email app developer Acompli for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200M USD.

The acquisition is a good move for Microsoft on a number of different fronts. They acquired not only the app and its IP, but also the people that coded it. Acompli has a really good Exchange interface on both iOS and Android devices, and they plug a hole where something is CLEARLY missing from Microsoft’s mobile Office Suite – Outlook.

Microsoft doesn’t have an “Outlook Mobile App” to speak of on either iOS or Android before this acquisition. According to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Outlook and Office 365, “This acquisition brings us an app with innovative technology and a set of talented people who are passionate about reinventing email and communications on mobile screens. It will expedite our work to deliver the full power of Office to mobile devices.”

It’s clear that Microsoft is intending Acompli to be “Outlook mobile.” How the app is rebranded or actually integrated into their newly forming mobile suite for iOS and Android is yet to be totally understood. However, one would think that users would see something for those mobile suites sooner rather than later…if not before they intend to release the “touch” version of Microsoft Office for their Surface and Surface Pro tablets, currently codenamed Gemini.

This is a developing story, and I intend to follow up with either an update or a new post if something interesting comes to light. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, what do you think of this development? Do you use Acompli? How badly do you feel “Outlook mobile” is either missing or is needed on the iOS and Android side of the world? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and let me know what you think?

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Confusing Wearable Tech – Smartwatches and Health Bands

Does anyone know the difference between the two?  Does it matter..?

Check this Computer World article about apple watch

Ok… those who are confused, please raise your hand

That should be everyone, by the way…

Ever since the Apple Watch announcement, the tech world has been all , uh-hem, a-twitter with news and such on wearable technology.  Now that Google Glass is (nearly) officially dead – nothing has been seen or heard from Google on it in more than a year – the trend in the market is turning away from stuff you strap to your head to stuff you strap on your arm or wrist.

There are a number of different options out there and while I would REALLY love to turn this article into a roundup of smartwatches and fitness bands in time for the 2014 Holiday Season, I just don’t have enough money to go and buy those that are most compelling.  Unfortunately, most of them cost $199 to $349, and there are at least 4-5 that really should get looked at, including the Microsoft Band, the Galaxy Gear S, the Apple Watch, the Fitbit and of course the Nike Fuel Band SE; and I just don’t have the cash to buy them all and compare them, regardless of how much I would really love to.  Heck, the Apple Watch isn’t even out yet, and won’t be available for the 2014 Holiday Season, anyway…

The biggest problem I see with wearable technology right now is no one knows the difference between a smartwatch, a fitness band or any other electronic biometric sampling device you might strap to your arm or wrist. Without going into a huge litany of which devices have which sensors or have which processors, etc., the following chart may be of help in trying to tell some of these things apart.

tabel

There’s not a lot of information the specifics of Apple Watch. It should have most if not all of the same sensors as Microsoft Band, but I was unable to find specifics on every sensor it has.  Though introduced in September of 2014, I think more specifics will become available as its actual release nears.

So what’s all the hub-bub about?

The quantitative self.

Everyone wants to know how much they weigh, how much weight they’ve lost, how many calories they’ve taken in versus how many calories they’ve burned.  They want to know how often they exercise, how far they’ve walked, how much hydration they are replenishing, what their active and resting heart rates are, how many flights of stairs they’ve gone up and down, how far they’ve run, walked or spun on a treadmill or elliptical.  The whole sedentary American thing has finally driven many to get off their widening bottoms and eat less and move more; but like so many people wanting instant gratification, they gotta know where they are right NOW.

In the next few years, its obvious to me that first world consumers are going to see a great many wearable computing devices come and go.  The category is going to define and REdefine itself over the next three or so years in my opinion and unless the devices we buy today are 1) Made to last, 2) Upgradeable (via firmware or other software updates), or 3) Easily and cheaply replaceable, a great many consumers are going to be very upset (as well as have a boat load of unused, electronic junk in one of their desk or dresser drawers…).

As I said, some of the devices being introduced today are anywhere from $200 to $350 USD bucks a piece.  The Nike Fuel Band I bought in December of 2012 recently broke (the button doesn’t press any longer, so the display won’t activate when its pushed).  Its not quite two years old; and it was $150 USD when I bought it. I recently purchased a Pebble Steel in February of 2013, and while it still works and is in GREAT shape (albeit with some weird software based display problems…) there’s no doubt in my mind that its going to (or likely could) get left behind for something else in just a few short months by a Microsoft Band or Apple Watch for example, that will do everything that it does, plus a whole lot more; and THAT was $250 bucks…

So, what’s the difference between a smartwatch and a fitness band..?  Honestly, that’s a GREAT question.  Currently, there’s no real difference between the two.  The way both are being engineered, they pretty much have much of the same functionality. Things like Microsoft Band and the Nike Fuel Band SE are more of a fitness band only because they’re more of a ruggedized, rubber wrapped bracelet than a (sports, luxury, etc.) watch like Apple Watch or the Galaxy Gear S, though they do and track much of the same kinds of things and data, respectively.

So, what do you get?  What do you wait for?  How do you tell them apart?  Right now, without any real market, design, or engineering differentiation, its really up to you and what kind of thing you wanna strap to your wrist or arm.  Do you want something sporty like the Microsoft Band, or do you want something sophisticated and elegant like the Apple Watch or the Galaxy Gear S?

Right now, it really doesn’t matter.

However, in the next few years – even by THIS time NEXT year – there may be a huge differentiator out there that may make a great deal of difference to you and what you’re interested in, want or need to buy based on what you want, what your family can afford and what your doctor wants you to track and maintain.

AND…!  That’s ANOTHER thing…

Don’t even get me started on how accurate or viable your heath care professional(s) will feel about all of this data.  They may think it’s the most accurate stuff in the world, and actively encourage you to get one and compile data with it. They may think it’s a bunch of crap – nothing more than a fad, really – using unreliable or unstable hardware, software and components (because who’s Bluetooth widget hasn’t dropped a connection with their smartphone in the past week..??) – and may not buy into ANY of the data it maintains, instead making you come in to their facility for specific exercising and health monitoring…

The market  has yet to address ANY of those issues; and the FDA has yet to chime in with what I’m certain will eventually become some kind of an addendum or an offshoot of the 21 CFR regulations on medical devices (though it isn’t right now…).

Conclusion & Buying Decision

With the start of the 2014 Holiday Buying Season officially on in the US as of 2014-11-28, the obvious questions are what should I get and should I wait until Apple Watch is available in 2015.

That depends.

As you can see from the chart I created, its going to depend on the depth of your pocket book and what your want to do with the device.  At a $350 entry point, Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S are both at the ultimate high end of the spectrum.

The Nike Fuel Band SE is definitely an activity tracker and NOT a smartwatch, though it tells the time. Time telling is a tertiary function on it, and honestly, the FuelBand SE does little more than track activity. However, at its current price point, it makes sense.  In fact, you can get a FuelBand SE for as little as $99 bucks.

The Fitbit Surge really seems to be firmly stuck in the middle. It wants to be a smartwatch, but Fitbit is so firmly planted in fitness that I think the organization would have a hard time producing anything that didn’t concentrate itself on fitness anyway.  This device is also not available yet. Fitbit notes it as “coming soon” as of the date of this publication.

The Samsung Gear S looks REALLY nice, and it’s the only device that can be its own smartphone, if it needs to at this time.  The Apple Watch is supposed to do this, but it won’t until some time in 2016, and then I don’t know if devices sold in 2015 will be upgradable to that new feature with a simple SIM card.  If not, it would be problematic, because $350 is the ENTRY point price.  The Apple Watch, Watch Edition device (with 18k gold) is likely going to be more than $1000 (depending on the price of gold at the time of release).

Microsoft Band is the only device left at this point, and the biggest problem with it is that Microsoft didn’t produce enough of them.  They are sold out online as of this writing.  There are SOME available at a Microsoft brick and mortar Store, but quantities are extremely limited, and sizing the device is going to be critical, as you’re going to need to have the device sit flush (but not gripping your wrist) so that all the sensors work right.

In my opinion, you can buy in now if you want, but you may want to wait. If you do buy in, and you want something more than just an activity tracker, Microsoft Band is probably your best bet, but you’re going to have a great deal of trouble finding one if you don’t live close to a physical, Microsoft Store.

Does all of this make sense to you?  Do you understand the difference between an activity tracker or fitness band and a smartwatch now?  Does it make a difference to you, this early in the wearables game?  Will you buy into Apple Watch when its released?  Is the Samsung Gear S something you’re interested in?  I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts on all of this.  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and tell me what you think and what, if anything, you’re going to chase after in this category for the 2014 Holiday Season.  I’d really appreciate hearing from you and getting your insight.

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Microsoft Surface Pro vs. the MacBook Air

The commercials just aggravate me to no end…

Microsoft has been televising a very interesting commercial comparing the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook Air. It shows the differences between the two computers features – touch screen, active stylus, detachable keyboard, etc. – and tells you in so many ways that you get the best of both worlds with the Surface Pro 3: an awesome ultrabook when you need it and a tablet when you want it.

However, the commercial – and by extension, Microsoft – just don’t seem to get it. The Surface Pro 3 is NOT a tablet and is in fact, a poor, POOR excuse for a tablet. There are two very large reasons for this; and unfortunately for Microsoft, they just don’t seem to get it. Lets review them in the hope that someone will pass on the information and get it to someone in Redmond so they can stop the craziness…

pro3

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Surface Pro (1, 2 or) 3 is a great computer. My Surface Pro 1 is great. I use it mainly as a digital notepad, taking meeting minute notes. I also use it as an ultrabook PC to do work with MS Office when other PC’s are not available or don’t have all of the tools that I need. Its small, powerful, easy to carry and it does what it does very well. However, it is NOT a tablet or any kind of consumer consumption device. Here’s the specific why’s…

Microsoft Ecosystem – There Isn’t Any
Back in the days of Windows Mobile, Microsoft had the beginnings of an ecosystem – a way and method to sell and deliver consumer content. That content consists of music, videos (movies and TV shows) and apps.

Microsoft USED to have a store via Windows Media Player that allowed you to buy music. It had partner stores that also interfaced with WMP that allowed you to buy music. You used to buy apps from Handango.com or a few other online app stores. All of those stores no longer exist. They effectively died when Windows Mobile died and became Windows Phone.

Since then, Microsoft has been trying to get their mobile developers to embrace Windows Phone and selling apps through the Windows Store. Unfortunately, they haven’t been very successful. Windows 10 is supposed to provide a centralized store and app development experience, but I don’t know how well accepted it will actually be. Windows Phone and Windows Store apps are few and far between and with so much chaos coming from the Microsoft camp in the past few years, I don’t know many mobile app developers who are eager to jump into that swirling bowl of chaos. I know I would have serious misgivings about expending the resources and development costs for what has been until recently little to no return and at best is currently an unknown return.

On the Apple side of the fence, apps written for either iPhone or iPad will run on either device. That’s part of what the new Windows Phone and Windows 10 experience is supposed to provide, but I haven’t heard a lot of feedback from developers on that experience just yet. So far, developers have to code the same app for both platforms separately, and that double work is part of what is causing them to hold back. They also aren’t happy with Windows Phone 3rd party app sales or the mobile OS’ world-wide market share, either.

Microsoft Windows – A Full Blown OS on a Tablet Doesn’t Work
About 12 years ago, Microsoft introduce the TabletPC. TabletPC’s came in two different form factors – Slates and Convertibles. Convertibles are laptops with touch screens that swivel around so they fold back over the keyboard, covering it. Slates usually came with some kind of base station or other way to at least hold them in place while a keyboard and other peripherals were connected to it.

Unfortunately, for both, TabletPC’s were short lived. Convertibles were the form factor that lasted the longest, but at the end, they were really just too heavy and too bulky to be as portable and usable as Microsoft’s vision hoped they would be. Interestingly enough, Slate TabletPC’s were a TOTAL non-starter.

I find that kinda funny, because the Surface Pro line is not only the true evolution of Microsoft’s TabletPC; but it’s a slate. As in the form factor that failed. Interestingly enough, the Surface Pro has the same issues and problems that the previous TabletPC’s had; but it’s a little different…

If you can get past the fact that the Surface Pro is NOT a consumer consumption device due in large part to the lack of any ecosystem or content management app (like the iPad has in iTunes, for example), the Surface Pro line has another problem – its really NOT a tablet, or a slate PC. Its an ultrabook.

Microsoft’s commercials pitting the MacBook Air against the Surface Pro 3 infuriate me at the point when Microsoft starts (or implies) that the Surface Pro 3 is also a tablet.

A tablet is a computer, yes; but it’s a content consumption device that can be used to play games, play music, watch video and take pictures. Yes…the Surface Pro can do all of these things, but Android and Apple based tablets do all of that with an OS that caters to that functionality. Windows simply does and cannot.

Windows is all about computing and productivity, not about mobile gaming or content (music and video) consumption. This is a huge problem for Microsoft in a world that is all about tablets. Windows is still too heavy. Its slow, power hungry and totally decentralized when it comes to content. There are too many ways to play games, play audio, play video on the device. There are too many ways to obtain content and no simplified way to manage it on the device.

Because its more computer than tablet, its also not well utilized without its physical keyboard. While touch enabled, the UI (still) isn’t touch friendly; and the UI Microsoft tried to introduce to satisfy this need(MetroUI or ModernUI) was totally rejected by the public.

Microsoft still hasn’t cracked this nut. They still don’t have a tablet, a mobile OS OR a content delivery and management solution. If Microsoft wants to take a piece of this market away from Apple or Android, they will need to figure it out. Their time is almost up.

The Surface Pro is a good if not GREAT ultrabook. Unfortunately, Microsoft isn’t doing itself any kind of favors by trying to convince everyone else – as well as themselves – that the Surface Pro is a tablet. Just like the Slate based TabletPC, if they don’t get this right, they’re gonna screw it up.

Conclusion

Microsoft still has a lot of work to do. They need to figure out a mobile interface that works on a device with a display larger than 4.7 inches. They need to figure out a method of delivering controlled content – apps, music video and books (and please…do everyone a favor and make it MS Reader compatible. I had a lot of books in that library…) – that allows them and their content providers to make money. They also need to figure out a way to manage that content on those devices. It used to be Windows Media Player, but it isn’t any more. That’s sort of evaporated and unfortunately, the Windows Store doesn’t handle media, only apps.

Until then, that commercial I mentioned when I started this whole thing… yeah, its just gonna continue to piss me off. Microsoft can’t have it both ways. The Surface Pro isn’t a hybrid of any kind. Its just a very portable ultrabook. Period.

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Keep your Mac running at peak performance with MacKeeper

Keep your Mac running at peak performance with this must have all in one utility.

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If there’s one thing I know, its that actually using your computer causes it to be cluttered with junk that can really bog down its performance. Junk files, duplicate files, internet cache and expanding log files can really cause problems over time. Unfortunately, all of this garbage is usually flung all over your Mac, making it very difficult to get rid of. This is where MacKeeper comes in. It’s a really great all in one utility that not only cleans your Mac, but makes certain that it runs as well as it can, all the time.

MacKeeper is an essential Mac utility that provides an easy way to manage routine tasks and keep your Mac secured, clean and running fast. It’s a bundled utility, meaning that it has modules that clean, secure, optimize and control your data; and it does it all in one, single utility.

Identity fraud is one of the worst crimes in the world. When someone steals your identity, its hard to buy things or to keep your credit clean (so you can buy something later, like a car, house, or other big purchase. With MacKeeper, real time, safe browsing allows you to surf the internet and make online purchases without worrying about malicious websites. They’re blocked automatically. The app also provides built in anti-virus protection. This protection also extends to VM emulators running Windows through Parallels or VMWare. You’re Mac is kept safe regardless of what OS you happen to be using on it, which is pretty cool.

Further security protection is provided by MacKeeper’s Anti-Theft module. If your Mac is ever stolen, Anti-Theft can track its geographical location based on Wi-Fi and IP address; and then report its location back to you. It can also then use the iSight camera to take a picture of the thief. This is some of the most thorough computer security available for your Mac.

MacKeeper’s data control features also provide you with protection features to help keep your information private. If you like, you can use its Data Encryptor module to hide your files using a password so that the data can’t be found using either Finder OR Terminal. Its going to require some major hacking to get past that level of security, without the password, that is.

For data that gets accidentally deleted, you can use MacKeeper’s File Recovery module to scan your hard drive for deleted files that can sill be recovered (provided the disc space they were using hasn’t been overwritten with other data, that is). For when you need to truly erase data and make certain that it can’t be recovered, MacKeeper’s File Shredder can make certain that the files and folders you delete can’t be recovered. The one thing that you need to be aware of here is that shredding files with a military style wipe can take a lot of time. Be ready to commit to that; but if you need the files securely wiped, MacKeeper can do a really great job of insuring that they are truly erased.

MacKeeper can also help you optimize your Mac. Update Tracker analyzes all of the apps you have installed on your Mac and then checks to see if an updated version is available. If found, MacKeeper can download and install the new version for you. In order to help you keep your Mac working at peak performance, MacKeeper can analyze which apps run as login items and then allow you to control which apps do and do not start up with the system when it boots.

However, I think the best part of MacKeeper is its Geek on Demand Service and its new, Human Assistance. With Geek on Demand, you get expert technical assistance and answers to your computing questions within 48 hours. Human Assistance gives you instant access to a live tech. I wish I had more information on it, but all that is currently available is a teaser on their current website. There should be more information available as soon as their new site hits the ‘net.

MacKeeper really sets the bar for Mac cleaning and all in one utilities. It pretty much handles everything that you’d need an all in one utility to handle and it does it fairly well. The one thing that is both good and bad about the app is that the only module(s) that come activated are the cleaning apps, and then only the basic ones. If you want to use some of the other utilities – Internet Security or Backup – for example, , you’re going to have to install the utility. I guess this is a good thing, as you may already have an internet security product installed, and installing another by default with MacKeeper may really make a mess of your Mac.

Initially, I had almost 7.0GB of junk files on my Mac. While this gave me 7.0GB more space, the deletion of all of the cache files slowed some browsing functions down, as Safari and Chrome had to redownload some things again to speed the browsing experience back up. Its give and take with some of this stuff, and cache files, while potentially space hogs can really make your computer run faster.

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Windows 10 – If you Love it, Set it Free

Some thing that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade

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Over the past 20 plus years, Microsoft has made a great deal of money with both Windows and Office. In fact, those two products alone have given the company a great deal of freedom to pursue other products and technologies. Without either Windows or Office, Microsoft wouldn’t exist… Period.

When it comes to consumers, keeping everyone on the same page, has been a huge problem for Apple as well as Microsoft. Apple addressed their OS based issues and now has a plan to get their users on the latest version at all times.

Microsoft doesn’t have such a plan, and really needs a strategy. They may be doing that with Windows 10. Some think that they are planning on giving Windows 10 away to consumers for free.

If they do, it makes a great deal of sense. Many consumers NEVER upgrade their computer’s operating system. Their PC came with operating system N. It should always have operating system N, and they don’t want to change it. They purchased it because it has specific features and functions provided by hardware integrated with features in that OS. They may not have those features if they change their operating systems, and therefore, don’t want to lose them. They may also not be a big fan of change; or feel they are technically competent enough to upgrade or change the OS on their computer. Whatever the reason, many people don’t change their OS, which creates support issues for the PC manufacturer and (in this case) Microsoft.

While changing a computer’s operating system may not be at the top of every computer user’s list, keeping it current can make a user’s life a lot easier. Keeping current makes your PC more secure as well as better performing. So, its good for consumers.

Making updates and upgrades available to consumers free of charge can create a lot of difficulty, however, especially for hardware manufacturers who have historically relied on new OS versions to jumpstart consumer PC sales.

However, a free Windows is an idea whose time has come. The problem that they have is the frequency of updates. Most everyone is used to getting a new version of Windows on an annual basis. We’re also used to getting new updates or fixes from Microsoft every month on Patch Tuesday. For this to work, the frequency of updates has to be one that is palatable to the people receiving those updates.

Businesses don’t like monthly updates. Updates to business PC’s at that frequency create too much disruption. However, consumer PC’s represent a less disruptive path, and updates at that frequency are far less worrisome, if not desired. Consumers get everything that Microsoft releases every Patch Tuesday.

The enterprise, however, will have a bit of a different cadence. Enterprise customers will get all of the updates at the same time as consumer customers. They’ll have the ability to package all of the updates together and then release them at their convenience as a stake in the ground with a shelf life of 10 years. They’ll be able to use that stake in the ground for as long as they need or want. If they lock themselves in (to that stake in the ground), they’ll continue to get security updates, but their feature set won’t get updated unless and until they remove the stake in the ground.

In the end, though, support and the updates for corporate customers will cost them. In the end, support and updates for consumers – those that are using the most up to date versions of Windows – should be free.

What do you think? Should Windows be free for consumers? Should they be able to get all security updates as well as new features and functionality free of charge? Should corporate customers have to pay for everything? Why don’t you chime in the comments section below, and let me know what you think.

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Manage your Windows PC with GEGeek Tech Toolkit

Manage your Windows PC with this collection of technical apps and utilities.

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Windows is a great operating system that is riddled with opportunities for improvement. Historically, this is a great way of saying that the OS has serious issues. Its also a great way of saying that it needs help. Which is one of the reasons why utility suites like GEGeek Tech Toolkit is something that nearly every somewhat technical Windows user needs. If you have a Windows PC, you really need to do yourself a favor and check it out.

GEGeek Tech Toolkit is a complete collection of over 300 Portable freeware, tech related programs. All of them are all accessible from a single Menu Launcher Utility. The utility suite resides on a USB or flash drive, providing the user the ability to update the programs with little to no intervention. This insures that the apps are completely portable.

The app is a system tray tool that gives you access to its cache of tools and utilities. You run the toolkit main executable, and it puts everything on the flash drive at your disposal within a couple of clicks. It has apps like WinRAR, Chrome and Firefox, as well as malware removal and disk recovery tools. The apps are part of the download and included with the suite. Everything runs off the flash drive.

I’m actually afraid to run any of the utilities in this suite, but I was finally able to get the software to download and correctly decompress. It took me five timeDs to do it, but I finally got it to work.

Getting the software to download, however, was difficult. It would not download to my Mac either via OS X or Windows 7 via Parallels. The download kept getting corrupted just at the end. I was finally able to download the software on my Surface Pro, but after decompressing the downloaded file, Windows Defender identified at least 7 components as hacker software/malware.

Finally, the product website is a huge mess. There’s SO much information screaming at you when you visit the product’s website that its very difficult to process it all and make sense of it. Even I got lost in it; and I know my way around software and websites. Its in need of a serious overhaul as well.

While everything in this utility suite runs, I’m not entirely certain I can recommend the application to general users. Use this one at your own risk.

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