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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Convert your DVD’s to any video format with TDMore DVD Converter

Convert your DVD’s to any video format with this handy Windows tool.
TDMDVD-11

I don’t know about you, but I have an absolutely HUGE DVD collection.  I’ve got DVD’s. I’ve got Blu-rays.  I’ve got movies coming out of my ears…and I absolutely love them all. All of them; but I have a huge problem. I’m running out of physical storage space for all of them.  Literally.  I’m really struggling to find a place to store even one more physical jewel case. Its probably for this reason alone that I really love applications like TDMore DVD Converter..  It’s a DVD converter for Windows, and if it can help me…it can help you, too.

TDMore DVD Converter is a versatile DVD converter and ripper that helps users quickly and efficiently convert DVD’s.  With it, you can convert DVDs to MP4, MKV, WMV, FLV, AVI, VOB, TS among other video formats.  You can also convert 2D to 3D video in MP4, MKV, WMV, TS, AVI formats.  If you’re into the audio tracks, you can convert your DVD’s to MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC, M4A as well as other audio formats.

The app uses some pretty advanced compression power to get the job done. It uses H.265 HEVC.  That gives it the ability to shrink both audio and video down to about 50% of its actual size without losing any quality during playback.  That means that the files should work very nicely on your smartphone, tablet, or anywhere else you have a finite amount of non-upgradable storage (like many of the more popular ultrabooks and other notebooks on the market today as well).  Speaking of working with today’s popular hardware, the app has integrated NVIDIA’s CUDA and Intel’s Quick Sync technologies to dramatically reduce conversion times without skimping on playback quality.

The new version of TDMore DVD Converter can provide amazing functions as other popular software with the most reasonable price. For more information, please visit official website.

TDMore DVD Converter is a decent app. Its easy to use and has supports some really cool technology built into it that allows it to create some really small video conversions.  The big problem with this app, however, is its non-standard user interface.  The problem here is PC based performance after the conversion starts.

The app does all right with its own functionality.  The PC does ok on its own, but not every PC will handle multi-tasks ok.  Now, that’s not necessarily a specific problem with THIS app on mid-range to high-end PC, but on low-end or budget based PC’s, it may be; AND the non-standard app graphical interface doesn’t help.

TDMore DVD Converter does a really great job converting movies. On my PC, it was fast and quick and PC performance didn’t tank; but then again, I have a quad-core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM. Other PC’s may not fare as well as mine; but the end result on the ripped movie will be really great.

Download

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Aereo – The Fat Lady has Sung

Aereo notifies customers of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Atlanta-Aereo

Over the past year, it’s been quite a ride for the little startup company that would. Aereo has been through a lot. Their past three years have been an interesting go – alternative TV watching with a rented antenna, a cloud based DVR… allowing you to watch all of your stuff over the internet from nearly anywhere in the world.

The world… LOVED the idea.

Networks and cable companies… totally HATED the idea.

They wanted a cut of Aereo’s business and took them to court to get it. In late June of this year, it was determined that Aereo DID infringe on the copyrights of broadcast and content owners.

That was a huge setback for them; and they didn’t have a “Plan B” to fall back on at the time. As such, after the SCotUS basically killed their business model, Aereo halted operations and took a brief “pause.”

Today, 2014-11-21, Chet Kanojia, Aereo’s CEO, sent a letter to their customers and supporters. The letter informs every one of the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing.

“…Accordingly, today, we filed for Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings. We also appointed Lawton Bloom of Argus to serve as Aereo’s Chief Restructuring Officer during this period.

Chapter 11 will permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts.”

The full letter to customers and supporters can be seen here at what’s left of Aereo’s home page.

Now, what they actually plan to reorganize into…? Nobody knows yet. Not a clue. The fact that they are filing for Chapter 11 (reorganization) though and not Chapter 7 (liquidation) says that they might have an idea of SOMETHING to build a business around. However, based on the court findings I wrote about earlier this year (links, again, are above…) I wouldn’t expect it to look ANYTHING like their “current” business model.

Since the SCotUS classified them as a cable company, basically requiring them to pay rebroadcasting fees to networks and other content providers, their business model of working within the current confines of US copyright law have been quashed. Aereo didn’t want to have to pay the rebroadcasting fees because they are steep and prohibitive to the model they were trying to put in place. While their model SEEMED to work within the law, the SCotUS disagreed and the rest is history.

IF Aereo has worked out a deal with the networks and other content providers, I’d be interested to know what it might be… However, if you’re looking for something quick, cool, fast, and above all…cheap, I wouldn’t count on it… and you can totally forget the cloud based DVR thing, too. Yeah. that ain’t NEVER gonna happen…

Is Aereo something you’re interested in? Are the issues of Aereo’s case of interest to you? Were you a customer of theirs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue and this development. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts?

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Microsoft Borks OneDrive in Windows 10 Preview Update

Sometimes when it ain’t broke, you have to fix it…or not.

OneDrive_Sync_PC

I saw an interesting article on ITWorld by fellow technology journalist Gregg Keizer and it confirmed what I had suspected had happened in the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9879 – Microsoft changed the way OneDrive works.

With services like Dropbox and Google Drive – as well as OneDrive – files that you upload that you place in the service’s home folder on your PC, upload to the service. This is how everyone expects the service to work.

Files that you upload to the service via the website, are uploaded to the service; but may not be downloaded to every computer you have OneDrive installed. Believe it or not, this is how the service was originally designed to work, even in Windows 8.

In Windows 8.1, Microsoft used placeholders on your PC to represent files that you have stored in OneDrive. These files weren’t actually on your PC, but were effectively shortcuts to them, on OneDrive. When you searched your PC for a file, you found either the actual file because it was on the drive, or you found a place holder. Double clicking the file, obviously opened the file. Double clicking the placeholder downloaded the file to your PC, opened it in the default program and then kept the file on your PC. Users had to learn the difference between a place holder and a file, but it really only mattered when they were off line. When online, you may have noticed a small delay in opening the file because you had to download it; but depending on your broadband connection, it may not have been noticeable.

Users really didn’t notice the difference between a place holder and the actual file. The place holder looked like a file, had a thumb nail like a file and got you the data you were looking for when you double clicked it (if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…). While slightly different than Dropbox and Google Drive, it did save local storage space; and the whole thing was largely transparent to users.

In Windows 10, things are a bit different. OneDrive now uses Selective Sync, by default and has killed the place holders. Now…to be fair, nearly ALL cloud file storage services can use selective sync, or the process of ONLY synching the files that you actually want on your local PC, while everything else stays up in the cloud. The problem with this is that if you want to work on a file that isn’t on your PC, you first have to search your PC (to confirm that you do or do not have the data you want or need) and then go online and search your cloud based file store for the file you want.

All the other services have this Selective Sync as an advanced setup option. Microsoft has it turned on by default, doesn’t tell you, and then makes you search your online file store a second time for the data you’re looking for.

Microsoft also totally failed to tell anyone they were making this kind of drastic change to the way OneDrive works.

As you might suspect, users are a bit ticked off.

When users search for files in Windows 10 Build 9879 they may not find the file they are looking for and may not understand that the file is ON OneDrive, but just not ON their PC.

In response to the outcry, Microsoft’s Ning Jin-Grisaffi has responded to these concerns with both an explanation of the problem and a small description of the solution.

The problem as he describes it was that “[Microsoft was] not happy with how [they had] built placeholders, and [they] got clear feedback that some customers were confused (for example, with files not being available when offline), and that some applications didn’t work well with placeholders and that sync reliability was not where we needed it to be.”

(Frankly, the first part of this, I consider BS. That last part, where apps didn’t work right with place holders, might carry a bit of weight though…”

The solution is a bit more complicated than just reimplementing or turning place holders back on. Microsoft is making a serious business change to OneDrive. They are combining the backend consumer service engine with the OneDrive for Business service engine, in part to insure that it can handle everyone’s unlimited storage from both sides of the service (consumer and business).

Microsoft is also adding in additional capabilities. In order to do that, they had to remake the service and had to basically tear it down to build it back up. According to Jin-Grisaffi, the OneDrive experience in Windows 10 Build 9879 is the first iteration of this redesign. Microsoft may not bring back place holders, but it he says they WILL “bring back the key features of place holders.” Eventually, you will be able to search your files and find both those that are and are not physically on your local hard drive. It’s just going to take time.

So, let me say this – hold your horses.

Apple did a similar thing with iWork when it totally killed all of its advanced features. If you recall, that caused a huge outcry, too. Like Apple, Microsoft WILL make sure that all of the capabilities that everyone was happy with will come back to OneDrive. Apparently, it’s going to take a few iterations.

If you want to see the improvements to the service faster during the Technical Preview, you can always choose to receive preview builds faster. To do so, follow these steps:

Open PC Settings
In the list on the left hand side of the screen choose, Update and recovery
In the Update and recovery section, choose Preview builds
In the drop down, choose Fast as your delivery method
Click the Check Now button.

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If a new build is available on the Fast track, you can download and install it. The build will download in the back ground, so you don’t need to baby sit it. You can go on about your work. When it finishes, you can come back to the Preview builds PC Settings page and tap the install button. Just make certain that your PC is plugged in during the install so that it doesn’t sleep or die during the update.

What do you think about the whole OneDrive system change? What would you tell Microsoft do to do change or improve the service? Why not sound off in the Discussion area below and let me know your thoughts?

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Winning with Windows 10 – What Microsoft Needs it to Do

After the mistake that was Windows 8.x, Microsoft has a few things to do with Windows 10. Here they are in a nutshell…

Introduction

07668051-photo-windows-10-logoWindows 10 is (going to be) Microsoft’s new desktop OS when its finally released next year. Currently in technical preview, Microsoft is giving it a test drive. I’ve published a couple of articles on Windows 10, letting everyone understand what they need to know about the new OS. I’ve been working with it for a while now and have installed two, new additional preview builds that Microsoft has quietly released.

Here’s what Microsoft ultimately needs the new OS to do if they want it to succeed better than its most recent edition, Windows 8.x.

Make us Want to Upgrade

In the enterprise, Windows 7 works. It’s the new Windows XP. While Microsoft SAYS it’s only going to last until 2020 and then everyone is going to have to move to Windows N(ew), XP lasted for so almost 15 years because it did the job, did the job well, and didn’t really make people want to leave. With XP now out of the way, for the most part… I’m certain some companies still use Windows XP at the time of this writing… Microsoft has to find motivation for people and companies to move away from their older computing operating systems and to embrace the newest platform.

From an enterprise perspective, this is REALLY hard. Companies can’t afford to have employees sitting on their hands because their stuff doesn’t work; or they don’t know how to use it. That’s one of the reasons why no one bought into Windows 8 at work…its UI is too different from Windows 7 and earlier to really invest in. It would take the average front line office worker three to six months to figure out where everything was, how the OS really worked, and how they can get all of their daily tasks done. Most companies don’t have the luxury of time to wait for that to happen. Nearly everyone experienced that with Windows Vista and THAT UI was still pretty much like Windows XP. It’s hard for anyone to get work done when the computing environment is so radically different.

As such, we’re all happy with Windows 7 at work. Now, Microsoft has to figure out how to get us out of that comfort zone without destroying our productivity; and THAT’S really hard. They may want or need to change the UI, but they must do so gradually without really making it too difficult.

Given that they can actually DO that, which isn’t an easy task, they have to find a way of making it easier to move from one major Window version to another without a bunch of hoops to jump through. In the past, you could move from one Windows version to another, provided you took every major version step along the way. If you wanted to skip a version or two, you couldn’t upgrade without completely wiping your computer of all applications and data; and no one wanted to do THAT either. Microsoft has to find a way to make upgrading from one version to another easy, even if you skip a version or three, without all of the in between steps.

The technology exists, the problem is, figuring out a way to do that without making it too big of a development task on their part. From what I know of Windows upgrades, while its painful for the end user, they don’t upgrade because for them, any pain is too painful. Microsoft may just have to eat the development costs and figure out how to move everyone from their current version OS (however far back that may be) to Windows N. It’s going to be ugly, but they may have to eat the end user’s pain if they want everyone to get and remain current.

Now… if you bring in the more popular computing concepts like cloud computing, mobile computing trends and BYoD, Microsoft still has a great deal of work to do and a great deal of consumer resentment and angst to get around (see my section on defining the difference between a desktop and a tablet, below). Cloud computing is something that Microsoft is still actively working on, and despite what they might think, they STILL don’t have a solid mobile strategy yet.

Make us [Totally] Forget Windows 8.x

Over the years, Microsoft has released some real turkeys in the Windows line – Windows ME, Windows Vista and Windows 8. Windows ME (for Millennium Edition) was an upgrade to Windows 3.11 that totally tanked. The UI added too much eye candy and glitz, moved some things around and broke a LOT of stuff. Microsoft made it go away with the release of Windows XP on the consumer side and Windows 2000 on the enterprise and power user side. It’s a good thing, too. Drivers for Windows ME were a mess.

Windows Vista was an upgrade to Windows XP, and was supposed to be Windows Blackcomb, but Blackcomb could never get itself together, and Vista was the cobbled together bits of what survived. WinFS or an update to the much outdated NTFS file system was supposed to make file and end point management much better than it was under the (then) current paradigm. When Microsoft couldn’t get it together, they abandoned WinFS. Unfortunately, they didn’t abandon the rest of the design of Vista which depended on WinFS to lower resource consumption by the OS. As a result, Vista was a bloated, glitzed up processor and RAM hog that killed most computers and made computing slow and difficult. There’s more to this, and Paul Thurrott from the Windows Supersite has a great deal more to contribute to this this particular MS debacle. There’s more to the Blackcomb thing, and more to the demise of WinFS that will help you understand exactly what went wrong. If you’re interested in the full and complete story that was the hockey puck that Windows Vista was, you can go there to find it…

Windows 8 was, quite simply, a mistake from the start. The split UI that no one understood and Microsoft’s insistence that everyone use MetroUI no matter what type of computer you were using be it a traditional laptop (both with and without touch), a convertible laptop (including things like the Yoga, a more traditional TabletPC AND the MS Surface Pro line) or a traditional desktop, just confused everyone. No one knew where MetroUI really fit. Microsoft’s lack of mobile strategy and confusion over what a tablet is and is not (see below) as well as them trying to put a full blown version of Windows on a device with GREATLT reduced specs to help manage battery life, really hasn’t helped.

Define the Difference between a Desktop and a Windows Tablet

This is probably the biggest hurdle that Microsoft has to resolve in the actual, PHYSICAL market place. After hooking us and getting us to go with Windows 10, and helping us to forget the total train wreck that Windows 8.x was (both of which are really going to be tough to do…) Microsoft has to define exactly what a Windows 10 tablet is, help us understand that difference and then show us how magical THAT device can be.

Historically, Microsoft has been all about Windows and Office. Historically, this hasn’t been an issue for them, because they really had a lock on the desktop market and made businesses around the world run. Now, business models are changing and Microsoft has to learn to change with them. Windows and Office aren’t the cash cows they used to be, and Microsoft is switching Office licensing to a subscription model. Instead of paying $500-$600 per copy/ seat of office, you pay say, $7-$10 bucks and month and get nearly everything you need. This gets you Office at home, plus all the online storage you can eat (as OneDrive storage is now unlimited – or supposed to be – with an Office 365 subscription) for a year. The subscription auto renews, and you’re supposed to have access to the software on the platforms you need it on, be they Mac, PC or mobile device, plus all of the associated updates. MS still gets paid, but how and when they get paid changes a bit. I’m still not entirely certain (nor do I think, are they) if they’re making just as much on this model as they were before, BUT the way the world delivers retain software has changed, and Microsoft had to change too…

The change also came about because the WAY people are computing has changed. People don’t want to HAVE to work on a traditional PC any more. Most people often have to take work home with them, and as such, want to use the same tools at home as they do at work. While MS did provide a way to get office at a HUGE and DEEP discount, not every company took advantage of this, and not everyone got to buy Office for their home PC’s at $10 bucks a copy.

With the introduction of tablets and tablet productivity software – or at least the ability to run web based apps through a mobile browser, most people that don’t want to HAVE to work at a specific desk in their house can now come out on to the family or living room and instead of having a heavy and sometimes hot laptop on their laps, can instead work from a tablet or other mobile device.

Traditionally, Windows doesn’t run on these type of lean back – or more casual computing – devices, and as such, Microsoft has had trouble here. TabletPC’s or some sort of notebook convertible has worked in the past, but they’re now becoming too bulky and heavy to be used in these casual situations. Convertibles are also traditionally more expensive, and people have started shying away from these types of full-blown Windows machines.

This is where Microsoft has a huge problem – Windows doesn’t work well without a full blown computer. Microsoft’s foray into tablets – the Surface RT and Surface 2 – were a huge disappointment. Microsoft couldn’t break themselves away from the traditional computing model and failed to transition everyone away from Windows to a more tablet-centric version of Windows that should have existed without ANY traditional computing artifacts like the Desktop. People didn’t’ understand Windows RT, MetroUI (often called ModernUI), and they couldn’t get any of their developers to create applications for it. As such, the platform died, and Microsoft has still to really tell us if Windows RT is dead or just hibernating until they can figure it out.

The Surface Pro (in any of its carnations) isn’t a true tablet, despite its removable and detachable keyboard because it runs a full version of Windows. When you pull the keyboard, it’s still an Ultrabook, despite its now full tablet-like appearance, and regardless of how good the touch interface may be on top of Windows, you still need a keyboard and the on-screen version doesn’t cut it.

The problem here is that Microsoft still doesn’t have a clear mobile strategy yet. They’re taking their sweet time figuring this out, too. If they don’t do it, and quickly, they’re going to find themselves seriously wishing they had. At some point, they are going to lose their enterprise foot hold and will end up playing catch up to Google and Apple who are really trying to figure out how to best serve the enterprise with not only their desktop products (in the case of Apple) but their mobile products (both Google and Apple) as well. If they’re not careful, Microsoft may find themselves the Blackberry of the PC world – irrelevant and living off the glory of their past accomplishments. That only goes and lasts so far and so long…

Conclusion

Microsoft has a huge row to hoe here. They’ve been in the Windows and Office business for so long that I’m concerned that they know how to do much else. Despite buying Nokia’s mobile handset business, they still don’t have a clear mobile strategy that I or anyone else is aware of. They need to figure that out quickly or regardless of what they do with Windows 10 will make any difference…

Microsoft is unifying the Windows platform and Windows brand. That means they are putting Windows 10 on every compatible device, and it will only run what works. All apps developed for any version of Windows are SUPPOSED TO work on all Windows compatible devices without any kind of rewrites or recompiles. All of this is a huge what-if though, as no one has seen it all work yet.

I’ve been using Windows 10 now for about 6 weeks, and its ok, but really, it’s nothing more than what Windows 8.x should have been. It’s really more of Windows 8.2 than Windows 10 (or even Windows 9…) there’s nothing new and compelling in it yet that would make me want to dump Windows 7.

Windows 10 will definitely make me want to dump Windows 8, because its more Windows 7 like, plus all the “improvements,” so, the cleaned up UI on my Surface Pro makes a great deal of sense. With the ability to run all MetroUI apps in a movable, sizable Window, you don’t have to worry about things acting “stupid” on you. Windows just works like it always has, which is both good and bad.

Its good because now you can get work done again without worrying about MetroUI, or the Start Screen. The Start Menu is BACK, and it can function just like its Windows 7 counterpart if you so choose. It’s bad because, there really isn’t much of anything new that I’ve seen yet. I say “yet” because Windows 10 isn’t feature complete yet. There could be SOMETHING that Microsoft hasn’t shown us or announced yet that would make things a bit more compelling; but I have no idea what that might be.

I will say this for it all though – Microsoft better really wow the crap out of us, or there’s going to be a huge enterprise shift over the next 5 or so years to other platforms. Microsoft’s floundering won’t be tolerated as businesses look for stable, mature platforms that will help them move forward, make money and succeed in their business goals. Microsoft seems to be walking in circles with one foot nailed firmly to the floor, and most organizations won’t tolerate that for long.

What do you think? Is Windows 10 going to bring Microsoft out of the Age of Confusion? Will it set them back on the course for success; or are they headed down the same road as Blackberry is? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below and let me know what you think.

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So… Now Net Neutrality is In??

All of a sudden President Obama is jumping on the Net Neutrality band wagon?

I don’t get politics.

I really don’t. Perhaps it’s because at the core of everything in me, I think that (most) people are generally good and don’t want or have any desire to screw over the person sitting next to them. Maybe I’m naïve… or just stupid. Who knows.

A few years ago when SOPA had the internet up in arms, everyone was screaming about the internet, content rights, and net neutrality. Its counterpart, PIPA was just as bad; and thankfully, both of them died in committee. Through all of this, though, lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Time Warner and every other cable provider have been spending big… and I mean BIG… dollars in Washington trying to keep the FCC from applying Title II telecommunications reclassifications to ISP’s.

Effectively, Title II classification would make all ISP’s a broadcast service and therefore, a utility, falling directly under the governments regulations. However, there’s a catch..

The problem is that the internet is both a telecommunications service and an information service. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 covers both, but there’s a huge loop hole. While the act does make provisions for the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunication – and includes electronic publishing – it does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service. The distinction comes into play when a carrier provides information services. A carrier providing information services is not a ‘telecommunications carrier’ under the act.

Over the past few years lobbyists have been throwing money at law makers, trying to get them to allow for HOV lanes on the internet. For example, a few years ago, Comcast wanted Netflix to pay a premium to have their content streamed over the internet or Comcast would throttle Netflix content.

Netflix said, “no.”

It didn’t want to pay for a virtual HOV lane on the internet. So, Comcast followed through and throttled their traffic, making the service pretty much unusable. This caused a huge problem for Netflix. Their stock tanked as users complained and left. In the end, Netflix relented, and paid for their HOV lane, and Comcast stopped throttling their traffic. The stock recovered and all was right with the world.

Net Neutrality would make this type of extortion illegal; and would require ISP’s like Comcast, Cox and Time Warner to treat all traffic like the 1’s and 0’s that they are.

President Obama appointed the most recent FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler hasn’t had a great deal of success in addressing Net Neutrality. A federal appeals court struck down the previously proposed rules for net neutrality in January of 2014. The FCC has been trying to play politics since then and really hasn’t wanted to touch the hot potato that this has become.

In the end, both sides of this issue – the lobbyists opposing net neutrality and the content providers and the public who laud it – are pushing the FCC to make a decision. As Sean Connery said, “in the end, there can be only one.” At the end of the day, someone has to make up their minds – is everything just ones and zeros – or is some internet traffic more expensive to transmit?

At the end of the day, it’s really all about money.

The ISP’s want to be paid for the kind of traffic that flows more often over the internet – streaming audio and streaming video – from services like Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio, Hulu, and Netflix. They see users moving all of their entertainment needs and wants to the internet as hard wires have a much farther reach than signals broadcast over the air. In other words, the change in infrastructure, equipment, type of traffic and the supply and demand for it… the entertainment and telecommunications lobbies want to be compensated for all of that. They want to tax the users and make them pay for their habits.

I recently saw an article that showed a Tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. He called Net Neutrality “ObamaCare for the Internet.”

I disagreed and tweeted back that Net Neutrality is really the internet’s Declaration of Independence.

net neutrality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [internet traffic is] created equal, that they are endowed by their [content] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are [equality], [perpetuity] and the pursuit of [unmetered Bandwidth].

I’m willing to give a bit on the “unalienable rights,” part. If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I really did that off the top of my head, but the point is clear – all internet traffic should be treated the same, and none of it should be throttled or metered based on what kind of content it comprises.

Now, what Tom Wheeler decides to do… no one knows yet. I think I see him sitting on the sidelines watching which way the wind is blowing. He is clearly either a professional politician or is just afraid of standing up and making a decision.

The country – no… the WORLD – is watching Mr. Wheeler. What you decide will likely shape the next century or two. I know you want to get it right and you don’t want to create issues or problems for yourself, but it’s time to do the right thing. Put your big boy pants on and take a stand for Net Neutrality.

Do the right thing.

While I tend to be a conservative politically, I am not rich. I don’t want to pay MORE of a premium for the content I am already consuming. As entertainment – music and video – moves from broadcast and cable TV to the internet via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other on-demand services, I don’t want to have to pay more than I already am (which, by the way, is as much of a premium as it really needs to be for all of the movie channels, on demand channels and pay-per-view channels that are available and are used) for the stuff I ALREADY HAVE. In the end… the content providers are going to pass the cost of the HOV lane on to the consumer…

I work for a living! Cut me and my checking account a break and say yes to Net Neutrality!

What do YOU think? Am I too invested in this? Am I right about content being all ones and zeros and all ones and zeros are created a like? Is your internet bill really a UTILITY bill as defined by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Why don’t you chime in, in the Discussion area below and let me know what you think? Anyone who surfs the internet likely has some kind of opinion about this. I’d love to hear yours…

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What’s the Big Deal Around Streaming Services?

For artists, labels, and the service itself it’s about monetization. For consumer’s it’s about something else entirely…

Recently Taylor Swift announced that she was taking ALL of her music off of Spotify. To put it bluntly, she wasn’t happy about how she was getting paid for people listening to her music. With a new album coming out, I don’t blame her. She’s got a lot of work put into her music – a lot of feeling, blood, sweat, TEARS – and she’s not getting compensated for much of it. The labels usually take most of the money when it comes to album sales, and artists like Taylor, really only make pennies per play from a streaming service.

streaming

I was listening to MacBreak Weekly and they started talking about Beats Music and Apple, and of course, the whole issue with Taylor got brought up and NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE on the show understands why streaming services are having such a hard time getting off the ground.

First they thought it was pricing… they chewed on that for a while and then touched on ownership of the actual songs or downloaded music… when that didn’t produce a definitive answer, well, unfortunately, I arrived at my appointment and had to turn the car radio off and didn’t get to finish the show, but no one gets why consumers are jumping all over this, and to me, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Hello…?! Mobile broadband consumption.

The issue on the consumer side has nothing to do with the labels, has nothing to do with the artists and has absolutely nothing to do with the streaming service. Honestly, they’re just like any other content store. You can pretty much get the digital music you want and like there like you can on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. In the end, it really doesn’t matter WHERE you get it.

The big problem isn’t even ubiquitous connectivity. No one cares if the Cloud evaporates or not in this case. When you combine mobile broadband and Wi-Fi together, you’re pretty much gonna have an internet connection, especially in urban areas like New York, Chicago, L.A., or any other big city. The problem is mobile bandwidth… It’s not free like (most) Wi-Fi is.

Yes, an OK, free Wi-Fi connection is likely available on nearly every street corner in a big city or other urban area. And you may be able to survive on free Wi-Fi between Starbucks, AT&T, Xfintiy free Wi-Fi access points; or any other store, or retail POS location that offers unsecured (or known, connectable) Wi-Fi access points. The problem is that THEY aren’t ubiquitous.

Which brings us back to the whole mobile broadband thing… Streaming services rely on an internet connection to provide you with music. It used to be, back in the day, that your place of work didn’t mind you playing a WinAmp station on your PC as long as you had a set of headphones. You could listen to music at your desk at work all day long. It was great! That is, until the IT department caught wind of how much bandwidth everyone was using up while listening to music all day; and then they blocked the service… No more music for you!

…and that pretty much killed it for every other music service you might want to listen to at the office since then, too. As soon as packet sniffers at the office alerted the network admin that someone was listening to streaming music or audio, it got cut off; but again, mobile broadband fixed that…and it was ok until the Cloud Computing trend started to get real popular and mobile carriers did the same thing that the office did – started sniffing packets to see what was eating up all of the bandwidth on their network.

Once they figured out that people were streaming audio, video and other consumer content through their networks, they didn’t cut us off like the office network admins did… No, no, no… Please! This is America…

No, they did what any good and greedy company would do – they decided to kill all of the unlimited data plans and started charging users based on bandwidth limits. Then when you reached that limit, they’d either cut you off, charged you overage fees or shuttled you to a different network that throttled your service speed and you couldn’t stream content as well.

See… the problem with streaming services isn’t that consumers don’t like the content, or that they don’t like paying for it. The problem is that mobile bandwidth is expensive and your monthly allotment is extremely limited.

For example, I have 15GB of mobile bandwidth; but that allotment is shared between three different numbers on my mobile, AT&T account. Mobile streaming services use a LOT of bandwidth and pump a great deal of data over the network. Any time someone starts pushing a lot of audio or video through their handset, I can tell. I usually get a text message that I’m running low; and then, I usually call my daughter and tell her to find a Wi-Fi network to connect to or to stop listening to iTunes Radio or to Spotify or whatever else she might be doing.

My wife usually doesn’t bother with streaming content, and neither do I… I’d rather use the bandwidth or FaceTime calls or for data intensive applications like Facebook (uploading and downloading pictures and videos of my granddaughter, for example…) or something else; and then, I’m going to do my best to find a usable Wi-Fi network with some decent through-put.

So, let’s get this into some real perspective – the reason why music streaming services are having problems – at the heart of it all… the lack of customers – isn’t an issue with the artist, labels, content or even the price of the service. It has everything to do with the fact that mobile broadband is expensive and that the mobile carriers are screwing the day lights out of their customers when it comes to paying for it.

If the RIAA, MPAA and any other annoying lobbying organization wants to do the consumer a favor (so that in the end, THEY (the lobbying orgs) make some real money), have them go after the mobile carriers. They could use some pressure to either lower the price of their data plans, or perhaps they can cut deals that would make streaming audio and video free on a mobile network… I can guarantee the American consumer won’t complain about that…

That is, until they realize that the amount of money flowing back and forth between the mobile carriers, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. could resolve the National Debt inside of a couple of weeks…

So what do you think? Are music streaming services like iTunes Radio, Spotify, Beats Music, Tidal, or Google Play Music something that you’re interested in? Do you think they are the future of the music industry? Will the music industry be able to find a consumer pricing friendly model that allows labels, artists and the streaming service to make money without pissing off the consumer because of the amount of mobile data it uses? Will they be able to find a way to make the mobile carriers cooperate, or will everything revert back to playing music from a local copy on either a PC, Mac or mobile device?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts. I know that there are a LOT of differing opinions out there, and I’d love to hear them. If you have a compelling question or point, I’d love to develop another article around it, so speak up and let me know what you have to say!

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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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