2015 Predictions

Here are my technology predictions for 2015…

Businessman Consulting Glowing Crystal Ball

If there’s one thing that you can count on every year, its that nearly every website and [tech] publication will have a best and/or worst of the [outgoing] year feature as well as a [my] predictions for the coming year feature. In fact, in many cases, it can be laughable. Many have come to expect both of these types of articles; and in fact its something that I’ve tried to embrace as much as I can, believe it or not.

While I haven’t done a best/worst of the outgoing year set of articles here on Soft32, I do enjoy making predictions for the coming year and then reviewing those predictions at the end of the year to see how I did. Those micro-look backs can be kinda fun. A lot can change in a year.

So without too much pomp and circumstance, here are my predictions for the coming year of 2015.

2015 Makes or Breaks Wearable Computing

A lot has been happening in the Wearable Computing category over the past 12 or so months. While there’s been little to no news on Google Glass and one can likely (thankfully??) declare it pretty much dead, wearables have taken off here at the end of 2014. There are a boatload of new fitness bands out there. There are also a great many new smartwatches hitting the market and while you can’t figure out what’s what without a program, its clear that something is about to happen.

2015 is going to be the year that either makes or breaks this computing hardware category. Period. This middle of the road, undefined but possibly probable burgeoning market gets defined in 2015. Remember, it’s the year that the Apple Watch is going to get released.

And that’s the lynch pin.

Apple’s Apple Watch is either going to totally set this market on fire where we see a TON of companies trying to jump on the me-too wagon, or I think the category kinda just fizzles and cools off. If Apple Watch can’t make it, I don’t think anything really will.

Wearable computing has been sorta hanging out in the background waiting for something to define it. Fitness bands like the Nike Fuel Band or any number of Fitbit bands, for example, have been out there for a while, and while the quantitative self is big in just about every mobile OS on the market today, if tools like Apple Watch don’t hit and hit big, then I think the whole category of computing devices just bombs.

Cost may be the biggest contributing factor to all of this, too. Apple Watch starts at $350 bucks; AND you have to have an iPhone to pair it with, at least in the beginning. That’s a big investment to make on top of your new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, or even iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s, the latter two, just now can be considered, “paid for” or fully depreciated. Spending an additional $350 bucks on top of either a subsidized or financed iPhone may be difficult for some to shoulder.

However, suffice it to say, that if Apple Watch doesn’t kill it, you can pretty much count on the rest of the market dying and this computing category fading away.

Phablets become more Relevant, but not in the US (yet)

Most computing users I know, want a bigger screen than what can be found on their phone or tablet. Maybe is the crowd I’m hanging out with as I *AM* getting a little older; but while tablets and smartphones are GREAT for computing on the go, most everyone that I talk to or associate with prefers having a bigger screen to compute on. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why phablets are becoming so popular.

Phablets are huge in the Asian markets. Many people there have one computing device and only one computing device, and having something WITH a big of a bigger screen is where they’re headed; but they still need a mobile phone. This converged device, if you will, or the phablet, gives them the [mobile] computing power they want and need; but also keeps it [mostly] affordable and provides that bigger screen.

In the US, while phablets are gaining in popularity, and I expect that to continue somewhat even here, many people consider them to be a bit too big. In those Asian markets I mentioned where a phablet may be a user’s ONLY computer, I can certainly understand their popularity. In the US, where most have access to a smartphone and a secondary computing device like a tablet, notebook or desktop PC, the urgency or need for a phablet isn’t as high as it is overseas.

I don’t see this trend taking any real hold, here in the US. Phablets are cool. Some of them are very usable, but I don’t see them eating too much more into the smartphone or tablet markets here. Phablets run in the 5″ to 6″ screen size range, and I don’t see users leaving their 7″, 9″ or 10″+ sized tablets for a 5″ or 6″ screen. Especially when we have access to another device, likely with an even bigger screen. We just don’t have the need. I don’t see those market conditions changing much in 2015, and such, the phablet, while an interesting and amusing dalliance here, won’t cannibalize the US tablet market too much more than it already has.

There is a possibility that this may change, as devices like the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note 4 gain in popularity, but I just don’t see it.

Mobile computing trends here in the States will likely stay the course in 2015.

Mobile Broadband becomes More of a Need than a Want

Mobile Broadband will see a HUGE gain in 2015. I think we’re going to see a big uptake on usage and you’re going to see carriers like AT&T and Verizon struggle to keep up with T-Mobile’s whole, no-contract, Uncarrier thing.

If Apple Watch takes off like I think it will – and I think it will end up being huge (and therefore the wearable market will also get bigger as everyone tries to jump on to ride the wave), you’re going to see more and more people need and want mobile broadband. I think we’re going to have issues going forward in this category. Mobile traffic is going to get congested, and there’s going to be an even bigger demand for additional mobile spectrum, beginning in 2015.

Competition is going to heat up and I think we’ll see the bigger carriers begin to shift away from prepaid and begin offering better postpaid (pay as you go) plans, as people find that they don’t want to be tied to contracts so much anymore.

Anyway you slice it, or how ever it happens, there’s going to be a huge push for bigger, better, faster, and MORE mobile broadband in 2015. Given the current spectrum allotments in the market that I’m in, I think mobile speed performance will also take a huge hit as a result. Its going to get slower before it gets faster with more available spectrum as the swim lanes get crowded with more devices and more mobile users.

T-Mobile Overtakes Sprint as the Number 3 US Wireless Carrier

I gave this its own prediction instead of piggy backing it on top of the last one simply because I think its big enough to deserve its own, separate prediction. T-Mobile is doing all the right things. I see them getting more and more popular in the bigger, more densely populated, metropolitan areas. As such, I see Sprint continuing to struggle to keep pace and T-Mobile will overtake the number three carrier spot, albeit, late in the year.

Microsoft Super Hypes Windows 10 Release, but it gets a Luke Warm Reception

It’ll be the thud heard ’round the world.

Microsoft is going to work their butts off unifying the Windows platform in 2015. There will be some really good things that will happen in the Windows 10 space before the replacement OS is finally released to the public in late 2015 (as in October – or Q4 – 2015).

I think Windows 10 is going to be a decent OS. I think its going to be better received than Windows 8 was. I think it will be preferred over Windows 8.x; but I’m not sure how much its going to matter.

Microsoft is making their apps and services available on other platforms – like iOS and Android – and doing so a lot quicker than on Windows. For example, Office for iOS and Android was available long before Office for Windows tablet or Windows Phone.

With Microsoft unifying the Windows Platform to include Desktop AND Mobile (Phone and Tablet) into one OS, I don’t see it being as relevant or as important as a Windows release may have been in the past. On the consumer side of the world, its not as critical as it used to be for me to have a Windows PC at home like I do at work. I can create and/ or modify documents for Work not only on my home PC, but on my personal tablet or smartphone, and those devices can be just about any device I’ve got. Microsoft no longer cares.

While Windows 10 is likely going to be a much better desktop OS than Windows 8.x, its not going to matter. IT departments are still not going to jump on the OS right away. They’re going to stick with what they have (most likely Windows 7) and continue to deploy that OS with new and existing hardware in the Enterprise. I also think Microsoft is going to unify development of Office versions for other platforms so that the same “version” is going to be available everywhere. It won’t matter what device or platform you’re on or using. Microsoft is going to have a version of what you’re needing to get work done on any and every platform so you don’t have to worry if what you’re updating at home is going to be usable or readable at work.

Computing is going to be a bit simpler as a result, and the emphasis is going to be taken off Windows as a platform. Windows 10 is going to be a good OS. Its going to be easier to use than Windows 8. Its going to have less issues than previous versions of Windows. However, its not going to matter as much, and as such, much of the thunder of a decent Windows 10 is going to be stolen by none other than Microsoft itself. When I say, “thud,” I don’t mean bad release. I mean, it ain’t gonna matter as much as it did in the past, because Microsoft is going to cannibalize their own market.

What do you think of my predictions? Am I on track, or off my nut? Will wearables fizzle out, especially if Apple Watch is a dud; or will it be a success even without Cupertino’s much anticipated contribution? Will Phablets be a big deal in the US, or will they continue to be a niche market here in the US? Are we going to need more mobile broadband beginning in 2015 or will usage remain flat? Will Sprint relinquish its number 3 spot in the Mobile Carrier market? Will T-Mobile become more of a success in 2015; or will things there maintain the status quo? Is Windows 10 going to be a big deal or will Microsoft sorta shoot themselves in the foot because they’re supporting all platforms, including desktop and mobile versions, of just about everything that matters to the world – meaning mostly Office in 2015; or will Windows 10 be a huge hit, breathing life back into the Windows PC market?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and any other computing trends you think are going to take off or die in 2015. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the year in tech to come?

 

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Microsoft to Release Another Browser

But it’s not all sunshine and daisies, like you’d think…

Microsoft to Release Another BrowserHonestly, I’ve struggled with this bit of news over the past couple of days. Initially, I wasn’t going to cover it, because there really isn’t too much to say about it. There aren’t any screenshots. There isn’t an alpha or beta version to play with; and knowing Microsoft, things could change long before ANYTHING is released. However, the latest scuttlebutt out of Redmond has Microsoft working on a new browser for Windows 10.

There’s good news and bad news related to this. The good news, obviously, is that Microsoft is leaving IE behind. The bad news is that they aren’t moving to WebKit. They’re sticking with Trident – IE’s current rendering engine – and it looks like even THAT engine is getting a rewrite; at least according to Brad Sams at Neowin.

According to my friend, Mary Jo Foley, Trident’s rewrite is part of an effort not to (necessarily) replace IE; but to create a new, light weight browser, currently code named, “Spartan.” While Spartan isn’t IE12, it does seem to be a new animal all together. The new browser should look and feel more like popular WebKit browsers, Chrome and Firefox, and it will support extensions. All of this is going to be done as part of the work behind Windows 10.

Microsoft may or may not show off their new browsers on 2015-01-21 when the company reveals the Windows 10 Consumer Preview. It’s very possible that it won’t be in a state to show off until later in 2015.

What Microsoft decides to do with IE and the IE brand is also up in the air. MJF made no mention of Microsoft discontinuing IE or totally replacing it with Spartan or any other new or revised browser.

All of this is a bit annoying if you ask me. IE has been such a pain in the butt over the past 15 or so years. Its broken the internet a number of times, and has really created more problems for web developers than it solved during that time as well. Why Microsoft is hell bent on staying with their own, proprietary rendering engine, is also completely beyond me. If they’re going to write something new for Windows 10, and knows that their development community and partners (as well as the general public) has issues with IE and Trident, why not totally embrace their new philosophy of customer – not Microsoft – first, and dump Trident for WebKit?

I’m fairly certain that the world won’t see the new browser and kick their love of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and other WebKit compatible browsers to the curb. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to wait and see where Microsoft takes this new effort, and how it’s received not only by the tech press and tech savvy, but the general public as well…. and if there’s one thing I really HATE doing when it comes to technology is, “waiting and seeing.”

What do you think? Is a new MS browser a good thing? Is sticking with Trident good or bad, regardless of its pending rewrite? Is this something that you’re looking forward to as part of Windows 10, or is this something that just seems to be an unneeded, unwanted, or misdirected effort? Why not sound off in the Discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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Time with a Surface Pro 3

Introduction

A couple years ago, I bought a Microsoft Surface Pro 1. I got the big boy… the 128GB model with the Intel i5 processor. It’s been a good PC, and honestly, it’s probably going to be a decent backup device, unless I break down and sell it. Honestly, I’m still up in the air about that…and for good reason – I don’t know if I’m going to keep the Surface Pro 3 that I bought a couple of weeks ago.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is Redmond’s latest entry into the hybrid ultrabook market. It comes with Windows 8.x out of the box, and will also run Windows 10, if you’re on the Technical Preview, Windows Insider program. I haven’t put Windows 10 on it for a couple of reasons –

1. Build 9879 is really buggy
2. The Surface Pen doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to in Windows 10 right now (the pen’s top button doesn’t start OneNote, like it’s supposed to)
3. The Consumer Preview of Windows 10 should be out in about 4-5 weeks from this writing (I’d say, on our about 2015-01-21, the date of their scheduled announcement)
4. I wanted to see how the device really ran under Windows 8.x, especially compared to my Surface Pro 1.

I’m not going to turn this into a review of the Surface Pro 3; however, I did want to give some thoughts on it vs. the Surface Pro 1. I’m not too happy with the fact that there are enough issues with it and Windows 10 that I don’t have it on the new OS yet, despite its beta or Technical Preview designation. At least for this article then, the two devices would be on equal ground. However, as I mentioned above, there are issues with the device on Windows 10 (and enough with Windows 8.x) that I thought it would be prudent to leave it on the OS it came with…

Form Factor

IMG_0683 IMG_0682

As you can see from the photos, the shape of the actual Surface Pro 3 is very different from either the Surface 1/2 or the Surface Pro 1/2. The aspect ratio of the device has changed from 16×9 to 3×2. The 12-inch screen has a resolution of 2160 x 1440. This new screen size and, aspect ratio and resolution should make the inking experience a bit better (see below), as a 16×9 aspect ratio is GREAT for watching movies, but made for a very thin, portrait oriented digital sheet of paper.

But let’s get down to brass tacks here… usability and such.

Let’s get one thing straight first – even though the Surface Pro line comes in a tablet form factor with a magnetized, clickable and easily removable keyboard, they are NOT tablets. They are full blown Windows computers, and are officially categorized as an ultrabook. They are NOT a tablet, and shouldn’t be confused with one.

Tablets are small, easy to use devices with batteries that last for days while watching one feature length film after another without needing to recharge or put it down because it gets too hot to hold in your hands or your lap (I kid about the battery life thing; but you get my point). The Surface Pro line of devices have extended battery life, but they’re not anywhere near as long lived as your iPad, Surface or Surface 2, or any number of popular Android variant tablets. They also have cooling fans in them, as they can get rather warm.

I did not try to make use of either the Surface Pro 1 or Surface Pro 3 as a content consumption device for the above noted battery and heat reasons, but also because until the recent updates where the Xbox Music and Xbox Video services started offering movies and music and such to a larger crowd, Microsoft didn’t really have an ecosystem in order to hock their wares.

I’ve noted a number of times that I’ve been using the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 3 as a digital notepad, taking it from meeting to meeting so that I can take meeting notes with the included pen. I’ve noted one big difference between the Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 3 in this regard:

  1. The Surface Pro 1 isn’t Wide Enough – The Surface Pro 1 isn’t wide enough to be a truly effective digital notepad. The way I have OneNote configured, I have notes organized by Year, Month and then individual note, on a number of different tabs, usually organized by subject. Individual notes get indented as a sub-note or sub-sub-note, depending on if they’re organized under a month or a year separator. This requires me to move the right sided, note organizer out a bit from the right edge of the app window so you can read the titles of all the indented notes so you can find what you’re looking for This makes the actual writing area a bit skinnier than it really needs to be on a 16×9 formatted screen.
  2. The Surface Pro 3 isn’t Long Enough – While the Surface Pro 3 is definitely wider than the Surface Pro 1 or Pro 2, it clearly isn’t long enough. While the visible screen is physically longer than that of the Surface Pro 1 or 2, given the 3×2 aspect ratio, its functionally shorter. There’s clearly not enough writing space; and depending on how big you write, and what magnification level you have the screen at, you’re constantly scrolling the used “paper” up the screen, out of the way.

I’m not entirely certain what the right solution is here. The 16×9 aspect ratio of the Surface Pro 1/ 2 is better for watching movies and other video, but I don’t use the device this way. It is better for longer pieces of OneNote “paper;” but it clearly isn’t wide enough. While the 3×2 aspect ratio of the Surface Pro 3 is better for writing, it clearly isn’t long enough.

It’s clear to me that no matter what I do here, I’m going to be scrolling horizontally or vertically a lot. While speaking about this topic to someone, they asked why I just didn’t zoom the screen out a bit. There’s a really good reason for that, and its twofold:

  1. My eye sight is worsening with age, and I can’t see the smaller stuff as well anymore.
  2. The hardware of the Surface 1/ 2 and the Surface 3 clearly show me they don’t handle writing and zooming very well. While you can zoom IN to make the print bigger or zoom OUT to show more white space or ruled lines, digital ink doesn’t do well on zoomed screens smaller than 80% and larger than 120%. (and I’m being generous with the range, here…)

Display and Digitizer

I eluded to much of what I am seeing with the Surface Pro 3’s display, above; but I wanted to talk about the screen itself a bit more.

The screen is gorgeous.

It’s really nice to look at and very easy to read computer generated text on it. What video I have watched on it, in the form of either Facebook or YouTube videos, has been clear, clean, with little to no pixilation or artifacting, even with the low-end Intel i3 processor running at just 1.5gHz and Intel’s Intel 4200 graphics chipset. However, I’m not really trying to push this bad boy too much, either. I know what the hardware can and cannot do, and I’m not trying to do more than just type or use OneNote with it. It’s never going to run Photoshop (I’ve got a high-end MacBook Pro for that) and I’m not going to play movies on it. I’ve got an iPad for that.

However, I did want to spend a bit of time talking about the digitizer layer of the device (and not necessarily the touch screen, per se, unless it plays into this). I’m having an issue on both devices, with both Windows 8.x (SP3) and Windows 10 (SP1). I use both for OneNote and both in portrait orientation while inking. I’ve noticed a big problem with pen accuracy as well as a bit of delay in showing digital ink on the screen after its been drawn.

I’ve tried on many occasions to resolve this with recalibration of the screen on the Surface Pro 1 with Windows 10, to no avail. The digitizer is just… off. This wasn’t like this on Windows 8.x on this device. My hope is that it can be resolved when the Windows 10 Consumer Preview comes out. However, I’m not overly confident that it will be. The issue also presents itself when the device is used in its default landscape orientation; and I’ve noticed that getting the screen to auto-switch orientations – especially after waking from sleep – isn’t always easy.

I’ve noticed the same issue on the Surface Pro 3 while it’s in portrait mode, but isn’t not as advanced there. On the Surface Pro 1, the location of the cursor on the computer image and the location of the digitizer pen on the glass screen can differ by as much as 1/32″ to 1/16″ of an inch. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re writing on the screen and you touch HERE only to have it display THERE, things can look really strange; and it makes writing very difficult. Add to that a very slight, but noticeable delay in digital ink display, and things can get difficult, quickly. This is further complicated by the fact that neither device’s RAM complements can be upgraded.

In the end, I’m not entirely certain what is causing the issue, whether it’s a driver issue, an OS issue or if there’s some kind of hardware issue or defect. However, I’m seeing it on both devices; and the Surface Pro 3 is two years newer, so I’m going to give myself and my expensive, executive travel backpack the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a software issue and not the way I’m handling the device.

Performance

The Surface Pro 3 comes in a few different flavors with a couple different options. In the end, there really are only three different tiers with a couple different variations per tier. You have three processor choices and four storage variations.

surface3

On the low end with 4GB of RAM, you have both 64GB and 128GB storage options. On the high end, you have 8GB of RAM and 256GB and 512GB storage options. Prices vary from $799 USD at the low end to $1950 on the high end; and it’s clear that the device was designed as a direct competitor with the MacBook Air and Microsoft is working hard to get switchers to switch back.

The Surface Pro 1 that I have has a 3rd generation, Intel i5 processor. While the i3 processor in the Surface Pro 3 is at least two years younger than the i5 in the Surface Pro 1, it’s clear that the SP1 has a bit more punch than the Surface Pro 3. It’s understandable, too. Despite the 2 years technology advantage on the SP3, the i5 in the SP1 is still an i5; and my daily usage experience with the SP3 clearly shows that the SP1 has a clear performance advantage at times.

At the end of the day, performance wise, this is a clear toss-up. On one hand, the current Intel i3 vs the two year old Intel i5 will and won’t make a difference unless and until you become processor bound or close to it. IN cases like that, the beefier processor is likely going to win out, despite its age, simply because it supports a turbo mode and the i3 does not. In most other non-processor intensive use, the SP3 is a clear winner as its newer, more efficient and faster components can clearly be seen. The problem is that it’s easy to become processor bound on a machine that only has – and only will have – 4GB of RAM. Neither the storage nor the RAM on the Surface Pro line of ultrabooks is upgradeable.

Conclusion
It’s clear – Microsoft has a winner in their Surface Pro line of ultrabooks. Both the Surface Pro 1 and the Surface Pro 3 are decent performers and will provide most Windows enthusiasts or users with a highly portable, highly usable ultrabook PC. If you’re in the market for a new Windows computer, then you owe it to yourself to give the Surface Pro 3 a long look.

The fact that it can shed its keyboard and also be used as a tablet is an interesting option, but not one that I see getting used very often. The problem is that its ecosystem is still disjointed, especially under Windows 8.x, and I don’t see that getting resolved until after Windows 10 is released, at the earliest. There is some consolidation of environments and operating systems that would give most anyone hope that Microsoft sees how its screwed up on the mobile side of its world, and they’re hoping that Windows 10 will right that part of the ship. How and if that happens is still up in the air and depends a great deal on how the company approaches mobility and content in late 2015 after Windows 10 is released. They have at least nine months to figure this out… if they don’t have a handle on it before June, you can likely count on it being screwed up for a good long time…at least that’s what I think.

The Surface Pro 3 is easier to write on, easier to read and in many ways easier to carry from place to place. This may be in some small part to the Maroo cover that I got with the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft is offering a free cover (up to $50 value) as part of the purchase of every Surface Pro 3 PC.

The Surface Pro 3 comes in many more variations and configurations than the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2. Its enhanced screen make it easier to read and to work with. Its improved processor (when comparing like versions…) are clear improvements over their previous generations. The device has clearly grown up and come into its own.

If you’re in the market for an ultrabook and you aren’t a Mac, then you need to take a serious look at the Surface Pro 3. The device is light, easy to carry, performs well and runs the software you’re wanting for home or business. Once Microsoft gets the digitizer issues worked out so that the device is more accurate with inking and ink placement, it’s going to be the hit that I always knew it could be.

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2014 Predictions Scorecard

I made some predictions back in early January 2014. Let’s see how well I did…

Predictions

The end of any year always has us taking a quick look back to see where we’ve been to help us figure out where and how far we want to look ahead. 2014 was no different; and in fact, after I assess my awesome skills of prior, predictive, prestidigitation, I plan to make additional predictions for the new year. Stay tuned to Soft32 for my technology predictions for 2015.

So, I found my predictions for 2014… and again, you have to understand that many of these are nothing more than a SWAG – a silly, wild, <beep!> guess. Technology is like water – it flows where it wants, and predicting just where and what gets wet is more of an art than a science. You’ll need to have a couple different browser windows open for this, for everything to make sense. To get the best idea of how I did, you might want to have this column in one window, and last year’s predictions open in another.

I’m going to run down how I did on a scale of 1-5, 1 being low, 5 being high. The best score I can get is 20, as I only made four predictions for 2014. Let’s take a quick look at how I did.

1.   Wearable Computing Still Doesn’t Take Off

Yep. This WAS an easy one; and I’m going to give myself 5 points here. While the Pebble Steel finally did make its appearance in 2014, it was 3-4 months behind schedule; and while it may be timeless, I’m certain many will agree that it didn’t hang the moon. The Apple Watch won’t be released until sometime in 2015; and with a $350 entry point, I’m not certain how many people will jump at the opportunity to own one. Other smartwatches like the Galaxy Gear and the Galaxy Gear S, again while nice, are also expensive and a bit too restrictive – you have to have a specific kind of Galaxy S smartphone for these to work. The Moto 360 also hasn’t sold well. Most everyone , I think, will agree that wearables are still, unfortunately, confusing.

2.  Blackberry Totally Folds – Sells off its Assets

Ok, I blew this one and take no points at all for it. Blackberry did fade, but didn’t fold. I haven’t heard or seen anything on it in the news in quite a while, and that may be their plan for right now – lay low. Regroup. Come back with a better strategy. I still think they should be looking for a buyer. Microsoft might be a good home for them; but I’ve also been saying that for a while, too.

3.  Apple and Samsung Still Can’t Get it Together

This is the love-hate relationship that everyone hates to love and loves to hate. These two still haven’t gotten it together, but tensions have at least cooled if not quieted down some. The trial isn’t over, the appeal is still up in the air; and while they may be resigned to working together, given the opportunity I think that there’d still be blood on the playground if left to their own devices. I’m going to take 4 points here, as I think I was really close, but not quite dead on.

4.  Microsoft’s Next CEO is

I had a bit more than half of this right. I had it down to either Allan Mulallay or Satya Nadella. I’m going to take 3 points here, as I couldn’t quite dope it all out, though I did pick Nadella as a finalist for the right reasons.

My final score is 12/20 or 60%. It’s not a great score… but it’s not a bad score either. The Blackberry thing totally did me in. Instead of dying, they kinda faded into the background. We’ll have to see where CEO Jon Chen takes them in the future. I still think the best thing for him to do is look for a buyer, and to look to Microsoft for that purchase. That might be a huge pill for Blackberry to swallow, however, as Microsoft and their Exchange ActiveSync has always been a huge competitor for Blackberry, and selling to a competitor may be seen as admitting defeat… I don’t know; but Microsoft’s money is just as green as everyone else’s.

Did you make any predictions for 2014? If so, how did you do? Did you bet on the wearables market taking off; or were you in a wait and see mode? Did you think Satya Nadella would be named Microsoft’s third CEO, or did you pick another candidate to take the helm? Did you think that Apple would not only release a larger iPhone, but release a complete phablet as well in the iPhone 6 Plus? There was a bit to choose from, and not everything came to light near the end of 2013 in time to actually make a prediction for the entire year.

How did you do on your predictions though? Were you close? Were you totally off; or were you dead on? I’d love to hear how you did with your 2014 predictions. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me how you fared?

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Over, Done with, Gone: Apple Anti-Trust – Not Guilty

Well… THAT was quick…

antitrustI’ve been looking for news on this since the jury got the case; and it finally came out – and a lot sooner than I expected it to, too.

This story broke during the day today and I’ve been struggling to get back to this so that I could find out more about what happened and what the next steps are for the plaintiffs. I have a feeling that as far as they are concerned, this isn’t over yet.

The long and the short of it, according to the plaintiffs, is that Apple improperly created a DRM system that prevented competitors, like Real Networks, from putting music from their stores on Apple’s iPod. This was really an issue between Apple and Real Networks who was feeling squeezed out of the business not only by the RIAA and the music labels who were trying to crack down on file sharing and piracy, but by a market that got out of hand quickly for them. They simply had bad desktop player software, and most everyone left for a system that had better support, better software and better hardware. You can’t blame the fish for following the ebb and flow of the tide.

But, I digress somewhat…

A federal jury in California, however, disagreed. They were able to determine after only four hours of deliberation that Apple did not violate any antitrust laws and did not harm consumers. While plaintiffs argued that Apple’s repeated updates to iTunes and its DRM were done explicitly to prevent competitors from integrating their own services with Apple’s iPod, Apple rebutted the article stating that any changes made benefited users and that competitors that may have been harmed were collateral damage.

With all the bad press that the case had, I’m surprised it got as far as it did. With all of their original lead plaintiffs dropping out due to ineligibility and the 10 years of dust on the case, I’m surprised it was heard at all. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision (no big surprise there), but all that seems to be happening now is that the lawyers are billing hours to a case that should have died and/or was already decided by a jury.

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What Windows 10 SHOULD Be

Windows 10 is supposed to be Microsoft’s future…

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I’ve been using Windows 10 on my Surface Pro for a while now.  While I haven’t had many of the Explorer.exe crashes that others have been having, I have been banging on it hard enough to develop an opinion or two.

To be honest, so far… I’m not that impressed.  I know that Microsoft REALLY needs to hit a homerun here.  They’re pretty much betting the [relevance] farm on it.  If it tanks, it’s going to be a really bad 2015 in Redmond.  But that’s just me…  There’s a lot going on with Windows 10, and (un?)fortunately, we haven’t seen everything.

At least not yet…

To be honest, even though I have been covering the Microsoft ecosystem since 1997, and I’ve written a lot for media organizations like AOL/CompuServe, InformationWeek, Computer Power User Magazine, WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group Network and LockerGnome, among other online and international print publications, I still haven’t broken into that “insider,” inner circle like Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott, even though Paul and I worked together at WUGNET in the late 1990’s.

So when it comes to the inside track, I trust Paul and Mary Jo explicitly.  Period.

So again, while I wasn’t impressed with the current state of Windows 10, what I’m hearing from both Paul and Mary Jo is to sit tight.  According to Paul, Windows 10 is coming into focus.  His recent statements reminded me of what most everyone in the Windows Insider Program heard from the very beginning – what you see now, isn’t the final state of the software.

This is a good thing, because as I said, Windows 10 currently has “work in progress” stamped ALL over it.  The last formally released build – Build 9879 – was pretty much a train wreck.  For many Insiders, the OS crashed all the time, requiring them to reboot multiple times a day.  When Microsoft did release a fix, it wouldn’t install for many; and in many cases, users wouldn’t know if the patch install had failed until they looked at the Windows’ Update History to see which updates had successfully installed or had failed. The fact that the patch was continually presented over and over again as an available update *did* tip most of us off; but to be honest, it could also have been Microsoft issuing additional, related updates.

So, what is Microsoft wanting Windows 10 to be?  That’s simple – the future of their desktop and mobile platform.  Notice… I didn’t say, “platforms.”

Platform… as in singular.

Microsoft is looking to completely unify its portable (meaning tablet), mobile (meaning phone) and desktop experiences into a single OS that will only install and run the bits that are appropriate for the hardware its running on.  This convergence is a complete departure from over 30 years of business practice; and as such, they’re having the problems that most everyone is seeing in the (tech) news.

In fact, Larry Seltzer has a huge article detailing some real Microsoft Update Missteps that is worth a read.  Things are changing at Microsoft, and what’s going on with Windows 8.x and with some of the official and leaked builds of Windows 10 speaks to the many development related paradigm shifts going on over at Microsoft.

At least they’re trying to change.

However, with everything that’s happening – the Windows 8.x Update missteps, the buggy internal and external Windows 10 builds, the Surface Pro 3 Wi-Fi issues, many – me included – are wondering who is steering the Microsoft Release Management Ship.  At the very least, I think most are chalking this up to a change of CEO, but honestly, by this time, most of those hurdles should be cleared.

So, what does Microsoft need to Windows 10 to be..?

They need it to be a success. Windows 10 needs to be a unifying platform that doesn’t require all of the “legacy related, DOS-world” tweaking. It needs to just work out of the box, regardless of platform – tablet, phone or desktop.

Windows 10, more I think than Windows 7 did, needs to be sexy. It needs to lure users back to a user experience that provides a known, familiar feel, while providing a unified, POPULATED ecosystem where users can buy not only applications, but media content – audio, video and apps – without being totally disjointed. It needs a developer community that embraces it, with support from Microsoft as well as hardware vendors, alike.

Windows 10 needs to run Office 2010 and later – including Office 365 – without any burps or issues, as not everyone wants to upgrade or wants to buy a subscription to the productivity platform.

More than anything… Windows 10 needs to be dirt cheap. On the consumer side, that means free… as in zero dollars and zero cents.  On the enterprise side, Microsoft needs to figure out how to sell OS licensing that makes sense for IT departments who don’t jump on the newest version OS because they don’t want new, untested bits to tank their company’s productivity and profits.

Microsoft needs to look at service and support on both the consumer and enterprise side of the equation, and they need to figure out a better life cycle that ends support and moves people to the most current bits in a manner that doesn’t cause a massive revolt.  The OS needs to be solid, stable, and near bug free for those folks so they move without worry, and with confidence that, again – everything just works.

THAT kids… That’s a big order to fill.

However, I really think that if Microsoft doesn’t do it, and do it quickly, decisively and without any of the current drama, at least at some point, they’re going to force users into looking into alternatives.  That means, alternative platforms, alternative productivity tools, and internal servers, middleware and other enterprise related software.

Microsoft is sitting on the edge of a very sharp knife named, “Change.”  If they don’t embrace it and do its bidding, I think they’re really risking a LOT.

What do you think?  Have you used Windows 10?  Are you a Windows 8.x user experiencing update confusion and issues?  Are you considering a move to Windows 10?  Will you stay on Windows 7 until they pry it out of your cold, dead fingers (or until you buy a new PC and HAVE to take it)?  Or, will you simply move to another computing platform like Linux or Mac?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on the whole thing. I’d love to hear what you have to say, and to see if I’m on target, or all wet…

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Get that iDevice for Cheap

Now I know why Gazelle has been hoarding mobile devices…

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Don’t get me wrong… I’m not one to push a particular web site on anyone or to provide any corporate organization with any kind of free advertising or free publicity. However, anyone who’s anyone that owns or has owned a smartphone or tablet and has replaced it over the past few years has run into the problem of what exactly to do with the old and busted once you’ve replaced with the new hotness.

It’s actually pretty easy; and it can provide some much needed extra cash if all that “old and busted” is gonna do is sit in a drawer or closet and collect dust. I’m talking about Gazelle, and like I said, if you’re replaced an outgoing mobile device, I know you’ve heard of it.

However, I’m not going to extol the virtues of selling your old and busted electronics to Gazelle. Everyone’s already heard that story and I’m not going to retell it. However, what I AM going to speak to today is how you can turn the tables and BUY from Gazelle as well.

Yes. You can buy from Gazelle just as easily as you can sell to them. Gazelle has been collecting older electronics for the last three to four years or so. Everyone – well, at least *I* – thought that they were going to sell the older devices in emerging markets (meaning smaller third world nations) where only the super-duper elite rich can afford the latest and greatest of anything.

Not so kemo-slobby!

Gazelle unveiled its used electronics purchasing arm a while ago, and I had the opportunity to use it recently, and I wanted to tell everyone about it.

I have been blessed. Truly blessed to be able to have a job that allows me to afford to purchase and review a number of different technology items over the years. Some I’ve passed to my daughter after a review period. Some have been sold through either eBay or Craig’s List. Some have been sold to Gazelle.

Recently, my wife and I decided to give our boys iPad minis for Christmas, but didn’t want to pay full price for them. I knew I wasn’t buying new, and after looking at and rejecting Apple Certified Refurbished deals as a bit more expensive than I wanted to pay, I decided to explore other options. I knew eBay and Craig’s List were out. I’ve not had great luck with either lately. Unfortunately, eBay has really lost a lot of is luster from its glory days of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Craig’s List never quite sat well with me, even as a seller.

I had heard that Gazelle was now selling devices, so I took a quick trip over to their Home Page and took a look around. I was very pleased with the results. I was able to find 16GB black iPad minis with Retina Displays for the boys at $209 USD a piece. After shipping and handling, that came to about $425 USD. So for less than the price of a new iPad mini, I was able to get two, shipped to the house for my boys for Christmas.

Services like Gazelle are very picky about the quality of devices they accept. They only want the best kept gadgets so that they appear as like new and/ or in mint condition when they are resold. That way, you feel as though you’re getting and/ or giving the best, especially around The Holidays.

If you’re looking for a way to afford giving a high end device for The Holidays and don’t mind buying used (as long as the device doesn’t LOOK or ACT used), then you might want to take a serious look at Gazelle. They’re likely going to have what you’re looking for without having Santa say, “Ho-Ho-NO!” instead of, “Ho-Ho-Ho!”

You can check out Gazelle’s Certified, Pre-Owned devices, including major carriers and unlocked devices via their home page (or use the above link).

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Convert videos for your Mac or favorite iDevice with MacX Video Converter Pro

Convert videos for your Mac or favorite iDevice with MacX Video Converter Pro

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One of the greatest things about modern computing is that the tools to create, transport and convert video – the kind that are of the quality that used to be available only to professionals – are now available to just about everyone. This is largely due to the fact that most of the hardware that common computer users now have access to, is professional grade. With that being the case, tools like MacX Video Converter Pro are a huge asset, as it provides professional processing with consumer level ease of use.

MacX Video Converter Pro is a general purpose Mac video converter that can convert video to any format. It supports MP4, H.264, MPEG, AVI, FLV, MOV, WMV, MP3, AAC, among others. It can also transfer supported HD video formats (AVCHD, M2TS, MKV) with flawless video quality. The app will also download YouTube videos. It will also record your screen, edit videos and allow you to make photo slideshows

The app supports a wide variety of formats and devices. You can convert video to and from iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Air 2/Air, iPad Mini 3/Mini with Retina, and Apple TV 3. The app supports files from iTunes and iMovie; and it will also support conversions to and from the HTC Desire 816, Galaxy S5 mini/S5, Galaxy Note 4/Edge, Galaxy Tab S, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX8.9, Google new Nexus 7, Surface Pro 3 as well as the Xperia Z1/ Z2/ Z3, and PS4.

MacX video Converter Pro is a decent desktop converter. Its interface is a bit disappointing to be honest, but its more than made of by the file formats and the the mobile devices it supports. The app works well with consumer based hardware, but is even better with high end hardware. The price is a bit on the high side for today’s desktop app market, but its performance is top notch. If you’re looking for a decent app that will not only download and convert YouTube video, but will also convert video to and from most of the popular mobile devices and video formats, you really will have a hard time finding a better app.

 

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