No Derp Intended – What Apple Might be Doing with iWork

There may be madness to the method…

Apple’s iWork has been causing a ruckus. As I mentioned the other day, angry users are ditching iWork for Office. Microsoft fired back in the resurging Office Suite War without even loading their guns. Apple seems to have shot themselves in the foot with the stripping down of iWork.

But consider this – Final Cut Pro. How familiar is this situation?

Didn’t the same kind of thing happen? Didn’t users wail and gnash their teeth? Was not the cry so loud that the SDLC gods moved Apple to pacify the natives before they revolted?

i dont workComputerWorld’s Jonny Evans seems to think so. He sees this not as a dumbing down of the software, bringing parity with iOS and iDevices everywhere, but as a way of leveling the playing field before reintroducing features and functionality in a way that will allow those things to be universal across the App Store.

He has a point. That’s sorta what Apple did with Final Cut Pro. Sorta.

Jonny’s point is – wait and see. And he may be right. For now, users who upgraded can look in a subfolder under the iWork app folder and they can run the OLDER version (ver. 4.x) of iWork that version 5 replaced. At least until newer versions are released that contain the features that users are screaming about. However… there is a catch.

Apple really has one chance to get this right, and while they don’t have to reintroduce ALL of the removed features in the next version, they DO need to communicate their intentions without it seeming as though they are caving to user demands and putting things back that they took out. It’s a little thing, but it’s going to go a long way to strengthening their credibility in the eyes of a user base that feels jilted.

The problem with that is that Apple – and for that matter Microsoft or any other software publisher – doesn’t make it public policy to publish the roadmap for every <widget> out there. Apple is one of the most secretive companies in the world; and I expect them to stay that way. However, part of getting this right is going to be Apple explaining what’s going on and not making everyone either guess or wait until pundits read the tea leaves just before or just after another update of iWork is released.

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From the Derp Department – Apple Screwed up iWork

OK… Maybe I spoke too soon. Someone pass me a fork for the crow pie I’m about to eat.

A few days ago I mentioned that Apple restarted and won the Office Suite War with its release of a new version of iWork and priced it for free, at least on new Macs.

I may have spoken too soon.

In an interesting development, a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth has been heard in the Apple Orchard after existing users upgraded to the latest version of iWork. Apparently, in order to insure cross platform compatibility, and have really one code base across iOS, Mavericks and the Web, Apple stripped a great many features out of the suite.

For example, Pages as had endnotes, outline view, selection of non-contiguous text, facing pages, saving files in RTF format, removed from the app. It also now contains significant limitations in automating workflow using AppleScript, and has lost more than 100 ready-to-use templates.

While Apple states this makes the software easier to maintain across platforms, most users aren’t going to care. It’s nice to be able to say you can use whatever device you have in front of you to do work, but reality is – most users do work on a specific device every time there’s work to do.

i dont work

For example – I listen to music and make calls on my iPhone. I watch movies and read books on my iPad. I write reports, columns and reviews on my Mac. While the new version of iWork will let me do that on both my iPhone and iPad, it’s not something that I’d do. Users just want the features back. Software upgrades are supposed to fix or enhance existing features and introduce new ones. They aren’t supposed to dumb software down so it’s easier for the publisher to maintain. That’s not a user’s concern and it will never be…

Unfortunately, Apple has a lot of fallout to address based on their 1000+ comments and over 50,000 page views of two threads in their Support Forums complaining about the mess that iWork has turned into.

So… what’s happening on the other end of the battle field? Quite simply, Microsoft is laughing all the way to the bank. Users who want to turn their Mac into a productivity tool can buy Office and get the features they want and need. They can also get an Office 365 subscription, work on their iPad via the online version.

So yeah… Apple may have restarted the war, but they didn’t end it like I thought they did because I didn’t think they’d be stupid enough to dumb the desktop version down so that both it and the iOS version could be compiled from a single code base. Microsoft fired back, and they didn’t have to make a single move. All they did was wait for users to discover how lacking iWork really is and then start laughing as they passed out trial versions of Office.

Now… if Microsoft wants to put this to bed for good… it will make the basic version of Office or Office 365 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – available to “switchers” for free, say for a year. 

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Who Designs this Stuff – Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Power Supply & Pen Connector

From the WTH department comes the easiest way in the world to lose a $30 Stylus

I am probably one of the most anal retentive people I know. I keep all of my computing equipment in pristine, mint condition as I never know when I’m going to put it up on eBay or Craig’s List and sell it because something else got introduced. Recycling computer equipment is something that is getting a LOT of press right now. Special nods to the iDevice for its rapid revision cycle and Apple’s high product quality levels.

One of the things that makes this difficult, however is poor design. Case in point – Microsoft Surface RT/2 and Pro/2 devices use a magnetic charger just like most of Apple’s laptops; but there’s a subtle difference – the Surface devices use the same port to dock its stylus when the charger isn’t connected.

surface pen connector

The problem is that the magnet that holds the stylus isn’t strong enough to hold it in place. It’s easily knocked off and you might not notice that it’s fallen off and no longer there for quite a while.

Losing the stylus is a huge problem. The magnet that holds the pen in place isn’t strong enough. The port that holds it also sits against the angled side of the device at a 45 degree angle. The wall isn’t flat. The stylus is difficult to dock and often doesn’t sit right in the magnetic well. The weak bond makes the stylus fall off very easily. If you don’t hear it fall, you won’t notice it’s gone until long after you’ve lost it. Then it costs you $30USD to replace.

As I mentioned earlier, the stylus docks in the same spot as the device’s charger is placed. As the side of the device is at a 45 degree angle, and the charging port is long, stiff and exact fitting, it’s difficult to place into the port due to the size, shape and angle of the side of the device. The charger often doesn’t make full contact with the charging plate, and then… doesn’t charge the device.

It’s the 45 degree angle that prevents the charger from sitting correctly. The charger cord also doesn’t like being twisted enough to face the charging plate.

SurfacePower

What does this all mean – besides the fact that the guy that designed these features should be found and shot? It means that you’re likely going to need to buy a few extra styli or hope someone designs an affordable or reasonably priced, 3rd party keyboard that includes a built in stylus that’s either tethered to it, sits in a silo or both. Unfortunately, Surface 2/Pro uses the same stylus and AC adapter, so no one addressed this design flaw in the new hardware release.

If you’re considering a Surface 2/Pro, you’ll need to be aware of this issue. There has to be a better way of keeping track of these styli without buying a pencil cup full of them for if and when you lose them. There should also be a better way of charging and powering the device. There are other design issues with the AC adapter (charging indicator location) that I also really haven’t touched on that should be resolved. Again… who designed this and/or approved the designs?

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Microsoft Rereleases Windows RT 8.1 Update #2

Ok… this time they REALLY mean it…

surface_largeThe other day I mentioned that Microsoft’s Windows RT 8.1 Update was discovered to brick some devices. Additional information, as well as a release of an updated install file, has been made available, and I wanted to update everyone on the situation.

First of all, I reported that the cause of the update was a corrupted recovery image. That was inaccurate. The issue only effected Surface RT tablets. It did not affect other OEM’ed devices. The cause of the issue has been identified and traced back to firmware updates that did NOT get applied to certain Surface RT devices.

While Microsoft indicates that it only really effected 1 out of every 1000 Surface RT tablets – MAYBE – the update did cause a noted number of units to become non-functional.

That issue has now been resolved. You can find additional information on how to unbrick your Surface RT tablet here. However, you’ll need to be careful.

The recovery process requires that you be comfortable working with the Command Prompt and are able to insure you have Administrator rights to the device. It’s a bit involved, so if you have problems, AND you have a Microsoft Store within driving distance, you might want to take a trip there and have them help you.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Microsoft can least afford issues like this, especially with their mobile devices. After Apple made Mavericks, iWork and iLife free and gave everyone an even more compelling reason to stay, switch to, or upgrade their mobile products to something they made, its blunders like this that make you wonder if Microsoft knows what it’s doing.

It’s a tough question, I know…but it’s something that I’ve heard at least 2 people ask in separate, non-connected conversations today.

What do you think? How damaging is this for Microsoft, especially in light of the Apple announcement on 2013-10-22?

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The Biggest News at the Apple Event – Microsoft and Google cut to the Core

Guess what kids – iWork (Pages, Numbers, and KeyNote) is FREE and available in the App Store right now.

It was over a LONG time ago. Microsoft beat out both WordPerfect and Lotus SmartSuite back in 1990-blah-blah-blah to win the Office Suite wars. It was hard fought. It was a bitter victory, especially for me, as I used to be a WordPerfect 5.x for DOS and 6.x for Windows instructor. I made money teaching people how to use WP5.x 6.x for DOS and Windows. That is, until Microsoft’s Office 95 hit and changed the world forever.

What was the death blow? That’s simple – integration with other apps. You could write a report in Word and include “live” spreadsheet data or easily import graphics and the text would all just flow around everything… it was so beautiful, it made me cry. It was a paper-jockey’s dream; and the closest competitor, WordPerfect, had a release of WordPerfect for Windows that was SO bad, the CEO of the organization recalled the app (which was already over a year late to market) and made the development team start from scratch.

and Microsoft has dominated the Office Suite world ever since. Hands down. The end. Game over…

Today… at the theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Apple not only restarted the war, but it ended it in a single move. They win. Hands down. The end. Game (now really) over.

iwork vs office

How did they do it? That’s simple.

The latest update of iWork, their office suite which contains a word processor (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers), and presentation creator (Keynote) is available today, and it’s free.

iWork is cloud enabled. All of the documents that you create and edit can be saved to iCloud, Apple’s cloud sync service. It can be used on the desktop or in a browser. It can be used by Mac or PC users. Documents can be started on one platform and edited in another, at the same time.

Did I mention that it’s cross platform and it’s free?

Both Microsoft and Google charge subscription fees for their office suites. Microsoft’s Office 365 has a number of different subscription tiers and the monthly fees aren’t bad. However, you’re still paying a lot for a set of apps that Apple is now giving away for free.

Oh… and by the way, Apple is also giving away OS X 10.9 Mavericks – the latest full version of their desktop operating system – for free. This really makes life difficult for Microsoft whose main revenue streams have been not only Office but Windows as well.

Apple’s new iPad announcements don’t mean much in comparison. Don’t get me wrong the iPad Air looks compelling and the new iPad mini has a retina display. Both hardware updates may be enough to get those still outside the tablet world or waiting for a reason to upgrade from an iPad 1 or an iPad 2 a compelling reason TO upgrade; but the big story from San Francisco today – free software from Apple. If that’s not a reason to give a longer, harder more serious look to computing platforms and ecosystem, then I’m not certain what is.

The war is over, my friends. And whether you think so or not, Apple really cut both Microsoft and Google to the core. They’re now going to have to rethink a lot of their mobile strategy and price points in order to combat this latest development after Apple’s announcement today.

iwork

I’d love to hear what you have to say about all of this. Why not join us in the discussion, below and tell us what you think?

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Bricked WinRT Devices Causes Removal of 8.1 Update #1

Microsoft is just NOT having a good go of things…

surface_largeWindows 8.1 hit the streets a few days ago and there are a number of people who are having problems with both the Windows 8.1 RT and Windows 8.1 Pro updates not entirely working right. Things are so bad on the Windows RT side of the house that Microsoft has pulled the update from the Windows Store until further notice. The update has been reported to brick some windows RT devices.

The problem doesn’t occur with every Windows RT device, but there really isn’t a way to know if your device will brick or update correctly. The official statement from Microsoft attributed to a “Microsoft Spokesman” indicates,Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.”

The problem seems to be wrapped around a BSoD connected to the recovery image that gets created on the device. When the device tries to reboot, many users get the following error message: “Your PC needs to be repaired. The Boot Configuration Data file is missing some required information.”

Microsoft is still working on a permanent fix for the problem. They’ve posted a Surface RT recovery image to the Microsoft Download Center that is supposed to help users with this problem unbrick their device. However, there’s still no official word on when the final fix and the Windows RT 8.1 update will be made available in the Windows Store again.

read Update #2

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Apple OS X 10.9 Mavericks

The Year of the Cat is done. Surf’s up, Dude!

Mac-OS-X-10.9-Mavericks-System-Compatibility-ListIntroduction

There have been a lot of changes at Apple since Steve Jobs passed a couple years ago. While the iPhone 5/5S/5C may be the last iPhones that he actually had design influence over, there have been changes not only in the mobile space, but on the desktop as well. Apple is continuing is annual update cycle with OS X; and its anticipated they will release version 10.9 to the general public on or around 2013-10-22.

Code named Mavericks, after a favorite surfing spot in California, Apple has run out of cat names. While that may make many meme lovers a bit sad, OS X users shouldn’t be too upset. Mavericks sports a number of back-end updates that make it largely a maintenance release. However, there are a number of new, end user based features that many may find useful or more useful now that they’ve been improved.

Mavericks-03

As a long time Windows user and recent (within the last 5 years) Switcher, there are some really nice enhancements here that should make most Mac users want to upgrade. Let’s take a quick look at all of them and see where the ups and downs really are.

New Features

Maps

After starting Mavericks for the first time, this is the first change that I noticed to the OS, as the program icon for Maps is in the dock by default. It was new, and very obvious to what it was.

I’ve been writing about Apple Maps for quite some time. In fact, GPS apps are a bit of a specialty of mine. I love using them, partially because I’m so directionally challenged, its laughable.

There’s been a lot of “room for growth” in Apple Maps since its introduction. Apple’s done a decent job of fixing some of its bigger problems and in keeping it OUT of the lime light. However, with the introduction of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple Maps has matured to a point where Apple is introducing the app to the desktop as a direct competitor to Google Maps’ desktop browser interface.

Maps-03

Introduced as an app rather than a website or web service, Apple Maps is an Apple exclusive tool. With your Thunderbolt, Retina or HD capable Mac display, the app can display images in 100% HD clarity. Because it makes use of your Mac’s graphics adapter, zooming is smooth and responsive and text and details are HD crisp. Maps’ hybrid and satellite displays via Flyover are photo perfect; and its 3D capabilities give you the feeling as though you’re seeing your chosen location first hand.

Apple Maps’ navigation is greatly improved; and the best part about Maps on your Mac is that you can now plan out your trip – including all of your side trips – on your desktop and then send all of your destinations directly to your cellular capable iDevice where Maps will provide turn-by-turn, voice guided navigation.

This is a HUGE improvement in Mavericks and iOS 7, as it makes the app that much more credible and reliable. What Apple needs to do now, is insure that that message is successfully delivered and appropriately socialized to current and potential users.

Next Page >

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What Comes After Windows 8.1? Windows 8.2? Windows 9?

Windows 8.1 arrives soon. I’ve seen a couple things on what comes next. Here’s my take on what Microsoft needs to do.

Let’s face it. Windows 8 was a mess. The user interface was/is so different from the Windows XP/Windows 7 paradigm that most users I know either won’t use Windows 8 or have switched to Mac or Linux. For Microsoft, this is a huge issue. Aside from Windows Phone, which by all accounts has a great interface, but a microscopic user base, Live Tiles don’t work well on a traditional PC, and THAT my friends, is where Microsoft makes their living.

So what’s Microsoft to do? I have a couple of ideas…

 

what windows next

 

Ditch the Tiles on the PC Side

Surface RT and Surface 2 are Microsoft’s tablet products, and honestly, the Live Tile thing works and does an OK job on a tablet, which is much like a phone. Live Tiles have been received very well on Windows Phone, so keeping the same UI on their tablet line makes a world of sense.

Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro are really ultrabooks, not tablets. They’re really an – uh-hem – ultra version of a slate-based TabletPC. The only real difference there is that they’re much smaller, much thinner and much more portable. I have one. It’s a full blown PC and definitely not a tablet or lean-back device. It’s for serious work. The Start Screen simply does not work well here, even though I can take my hands off the keyboard, away from the touch pad on a Type or Touch Cover or even a mouse and manipulate the device with touch. It just doesn’t work well. It’s why touch-based CRT’s and LCD’s never really caught on in any other setting other than retail.

 

Merge the Tablet and Phone OS and Software Stores

You know, I really like Mary Jo Foley. She’s got some really good sources over at Microsoft, and some of them are really VERY accurate. According to MJF and her source, by Spring of 2015, Windows RT and Windows Phone will be a single, merged OS. In my mind, that’s a year too long. It needs to happen before June 2014.

I agree that’s a lot to get done in less than 9 months; but its overdue now as it is. Microsoft’s mobile strategy sucks, and has for well over a decade. Ballmer just didn’t get mobile devices OR mobile computing, and as such, they lost the position of power they had back in the 2000-2004 time frame.

Merging Windows Phone and Windows RT is the right thing to do, but they need to make that happen NOW and not later. That will likely mean bringing on a huge amount of contract labor and developing a very aggressive schedule. If they can get the mobile OS standardized and have all of the software for that single platform also exist in a single store, then like iOS and Android, they’ll have a unified platform they can then get behind and push with an aggressive marketing machine.

surface-2-2

More Frequent Updates

According to MJF and her source, there should be an update to Windows 8.x before June 2014. However, it’s not known if that’s going to be a formal release or simply a service pack or update of some kind. Microsoft is shooting for the April-May-June time frame to be their formal annual release time, but if that’s the case, then they need to hit this next release window with a formal Windows release and not a service pack. If they want to appear as though they are turning around major releases quickly in the Spring, then they need to do so in 2014. Waiting until 2015 to provide the next major update will make them appear to have reverted back to the service pack model they said they left behind with Windows 7.

 

Clear, Decisive Action from a New CEO, NOW

I know Microsoft is actively looking for a new CEO; but they need to get someone with a clear vision of where to take them at the helm quickly. Steve may be a great guy, but he blew it with Microsoft’s mobile strategy and that’s where the market is currently headed. They are very weak in this area and need to find a way to demonstrate a clear position of strength and direction quickly, or they may as well forget it.

Frankly, I don’t care who the new CEO is; but they need someone who is product oriented, with a clear mobile vision, and who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. The market isn’t going to wait on them. This isn’t 1990, and they clearly aren’t the only player any longer. Move. Move quickly and hit a home run. Microsoft can’t afford any additional misfires. If they have one, the world – and the mobile market – will move on without them.

I’m working on a Delta Review of Windows 8.1 and will have it ready shortly. Please continue to watch Soft32 for it. In the meantime, why don’t you join us in the discussion below and give us your take on what Microsoft needs to do after Windows 8.1.

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