Apple to Acquire Tidal?

Apple may acquire the streaming service to obtain exclusive content…

tidalstreamingmusic

I’ve seen a number of reports on the internet about Apple being interested or in talks to acquire the music streaming service, Tidal. For those that remember, Tidal was setup by Jay-Z, as in Beyoncé and Jay-Z, so yeah… Them.

The talks are reported to be exploratory and may not result in a deal; but Apple appears to be serious. It also doesn’t hurt that Tidal is in a huge money crunch, and Jay-Z may get his butt out of the financial fire if this turns out to be true and the acquisition goes through.

However, according to sources reported by the Wall Street Journal, a Tidal spokesman said that Tidal executives had not held talks with Apple, and the terms of any deal are unknown.

This would not be the first music company that Apple has purchased. They purchased Beats from Dr. Dre in 2014. However, Tidal is the first artist owned streaming service, and as I said, it has exclusive content from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Prince. Music from these artists was removed from Apple Music (and Spotify, for that matter) about a year ago in July of 2015. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers.

Apple is looking to expand its presence in the music industry. Since it acquired Beats in 2014, its launched its own streaming service in Apple Music and will be making important modifications to it with the release of iOS 10 later in the Fall of 2016.

Tidal has streaming agreements with Bea, J, and The Artist, as well as artists like Kanye and Madonna. Apple seriously wants a chunk of the streaming pie, and has been pushing to acquire rights to exclusive and original content for Apple Music and its 15M+ paying subscribers.

I’m not certain why streaming is the big deal that it is. There’s only one carrier that I know of right now that is offering a current, non-grandfathered unlimited data plan, and that’s AT&T, provided you have them for mobile service AND are also a DirecTV customer. If you are, AT&T’s unlimited everything, everything plan is truly the way to go. It makes everything way cheap.

However, unless you have that plan – and most people don’t – mobile bandwidth can be expensive, especially if you eat through yours streaming music and video content all day long. While Wi-Fi will help you here, Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous, and as such, you’re likely to burn through your bandwidth very quickly and get hit with overage charges unless, of course, you buy a big streaming package for your phone, and then… things can get expensive.

I don’t know why streaming is the thing. It might be because paid streaming subscriptions make finding new music economically affordable. However, after you find it and you download it, you’re leasing it. Once the subscription is gone, you can’t listen to it any more. You can’t burn downloaded subscription content to a CD, kids…

Are you a music streaming service subscriber? Do you have issues with your monthly allotment of mobile data every month? Join me in the Discussion area and let me know what you think of this deal and what it might mean to music streaming subscribers.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot – Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

This was the WTF on the top of my day…

I’ve been a LinkedIn member since the very early 2000’s. Back in the day, you had to be INVITED to join LinkedIn, and you couldn’t connect with just ANYONE. You really had to have done business with a person or had to have worked with them; and you had to know their email address, too. If you didn’t know them, LinkedIn wouldn’t let you connect. In situations like that, you had to have a common contact between you and your desired connection “introduce” you; and then the person you were trying to connect with would very often either ignore you, or decline the connection. Back in the day, actually MAKING a connection on LinkedIn was a BIG deal.

LinkedIn used to be… USED to be… VERY exclusive.

microsoft buys linkedin

Today, it was purchased in total by Microsoft (MSFT) in a $26.2B (that’s Billion with a “B”), all cash deal, that is likely going to be 2016’s most outrageous and totally over paid deal of the year.

If I were the guys at LinkedIn… I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. If I were Microsoft, I would be trying to figure out how long it would be before I’d totally call the acquisition a failure before writing everything off… and if I were a long time, seriously dedicated LinkedIn user (and I am…) I’d keep my eyes open for the next big professional, social networking site. If I were Lynda.com, I’d be doing my best to try to figure out the best way to buy myself out of this deal…

If it doesn’t sound like I have a lot of confidence in Microsoft, or this acquisition, you’d be correct. I don’t. Not one bit.

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft’s track record for integrating businesses into its core hasn’t been a huge success. They bought Nokia and burnt it to the ground. They’ve totally screwed up their ENTIRE mobile strategy as a result, and I think I can say with 100% certainty that they have totally ruined their chances of EVER having any kind of meaningful presence in the mobile computing space.

On top of this, I have no confidence that OneNote is EVER going to work right on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4.

Speaking of the Surface Pro… don’t even get me started on this thing. As much as I like it – and honestly, I really do – it’s not a tablet. It’s not. It’s an ultrabook. At best, it’s a slate computer with a removable keyboard…

THAT’s not a tablet, folks.

That’s a really thin PC with an even thinner keyboard. It runs desktop Windows. It doesn’t run Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. (and a UWP – Universal Windows Platform – does NOT a unified OS make… Just because the same version of Notepad that runs on desktop Windows will also run on Windows Mobile, doesn’t mean that Windows Mobile and desktop Windows are the same operating system. If they were…the same build would run on any Windows compatible device, regardless of form factor, and that’s simply NOT the case…)

Getting back on track… If I can’t trust Microsoft to not screw up my productivity software or produce an ultrabook that doesn’t have ENDLESS driver problems, or to not totally obliterate a mobile platform that, quite honestly should be ruling the world (because it outlasted Blackberry and had THE most universal mail platform that during 2009 – 2011 simply EVERYONE was using and interoperating with), or to not totally cannibalize and destroy THE single, most prestigious name in mobile handsets on the entire planet, how the H3LL am I – or anyone for that matter – going to trust them NOT to screw up the BEST – and really ONLY – professional networking site on the internet?

I have ZERO confidence in Microsoft when it comes to LinkedIn. I mean… when they integrated Skype into their productivity model, it didn’t screw it up at all, did it…?? It took me years to build and curate the pedigree that is my LinkedIn profile.

Quite honestly, LinkedIn is how I landed my last two jobs. If LinkedIn goes sideways, the entire way people look for jobs and network with coworkers and potential, professional network contacts will need to change. This may sound totally cynical, and it likely is, but I don’t have the time, patience or desire to completely rebuild that wheel; and based on what Microsoft did with Surface Mini, has been doing with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Windows Phone, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, I have zero confidence that they will succeed with LinkedIn on their watch.

I think my former coworker, Paul Thurrott said it best, “So let’s see. Microsoft is spending four Nokias for a company that will it treat like Skype. Does that sound like a recipe for success to anyone?”

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Microsoft is Under the Antitrust Microscope in China

Apparently, China has “major issues” it wants Microsoft to explain…

chinese-flagIn July of 2014, China raided Microsoft’s local offices and confiscated a lot of data as part of an antitrust investigation. On 2016-01-05, Chinese regulators demanded that Microsoft explain “major issues it discovered with that data”. This was the first time in over a year that China gave any indication that their antitrust investigation would be moving forward.

Microsoft has publicly stated that it is “serious” about complying with Chinese law and to addressing SAIC’s (China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce) concerns.

At the beginning of the investigation, China said it was interested in information on how both Windows and Office were bundled, about compatibility between the two and other unnamed concerns.

China’s most recent demands haven’t been clarified or spelled out, but SAIC has asked Microsoft to submit their “defense in a timely manner.”

God knows what they need to defend, or what Microsoft needs to respond to.

Some are speculating that this is retaliation due to Microsoft retiring Windows XP and discontinuing support for it to any and all customers – including the Chinese government and its citizens. China had asked Microsoft to extend XP’s lifespan. Microsoft refused. China said, “pretty please;” and Microsoft STILL said no. China has banned the use of Windows 8 on any government computers.

Microsoft is heavily pushing the adoption of Windows 10 around the world, and China is no exception to this marketing strategy. A short while ago, as of this writing, Microsoft expanded a partnership with one of China’s largest defense firms where it would license Windows 10 to government agencies and some state owned corporations in the energy, telecommunications and transportation industries.

While this is a serious issue, and while Microsoft is giving this issue the appropriate level of priority, it seems as though Microsoft could make all of this go away if they simply provided continued Windows XP support to the Chinese government.

I’m pretty certain, however, that capitulation isn’t a consideration for Microsoft, for a number of different reasons, the most important being

  1. Microsoft isn’t providing preferred XP support to anyone
  2. Microsoft is pushing the world’s Windows users to Windows 10
  3. Windows XP has been heavily pirated in China

Given all of this – and especially the last two points – Microsoft doesn’t really have any incentive TO capitulate. I know I wouldn’t want to if I were Satya Nadella.

Until SAIC can specify what they want Microsoft to respond to, I’m not certain how anyone would reasonably respond to this – in a timely manner or not.

What do you think? Is China’s SAIC just ticked off that their XP PC’s are unsupported? Does Microsoft have anything tangible to worry about in China? What do you think the final outcome will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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Microsoft Changes OneDrive Storage Options

Now this truly sucks, as it was one of the reasons why I bought Office 365 in the first place...

In a surprise move that took many off guard, Microsoft has announced sweeping storage changes to its OneDrive online storage product, which is similar in function and scope to both Dropbox and to Google Drive. Users will now be limited to 1TB of storage. Here is the complete list of changes that users can find on the OneDrive Blog.

  • We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • 100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.
  • Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

Microsoft is taking the following actions to help users make the transition:

  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and have stored in excess of 1 TB, you will be notified of this change and will be able to keep your increased storage for at least 12 months.
  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and find that Office 365 no longer meets your needs, a pro-rated refund will be given.
  • If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.

onedrive-logo-microsoft-212x212Like all things in life that get ruined, Microsoft is blaming a “small number of users” who had more than the “average” of 1TB. In these cases, it was found that these users had pushed over 75TB of space (or 14,000 times the normal user). These users pushed files like PC backups, DVR collections, or their entire digital movie collection up to OneDrive.

And who could blame them – Microsoft had PROMISED, and users had paid for (via their paid Office 365 subscription), unlimited storage. I’m not certain why Microsoft seems to be taking this retaliatory step against its users. Isn’t unlimited, unlimited??

To be honest, I never saw unlimited storage. To be honest, I called Microsoft and they ASSURED me (after unlimited storage was announced earlier this year) that I had unlimited storage space. I didn’t buy it then… and I’m OBVIOUSLY seeing the end results very clearly – NO UNLIMITED STORAGE FOR YOU!

I honestly do NOT think that this is a case of a few bad apples (spoiling the whole bunch girl). I honestly think this is a case of someone finally waking up and having, what I like to call, a V8 moment.

If you offer unlimited (and people have purchased it) people are going to make use of unlimited . It’s stupid to think that someone would not put all of this content in OneDrive if they could.

I mean, is “unlimited” unlimited or not?

It’s a simple yes or no question. One year ago, the answer was yes. Today’s move seems to say, “Psych! We weren’t really serious. Did y’all think we were serious?!”

While I’m being, perhaps a bit sarcastic and maybe a bit callous, the move to unlimited storage was a huge benefit for Office 365 Home and Business users (users of Office 365 Personal got only one (1) account with unlimited storage, even though they could share their subscription benefits). As I mentioned earlier, it’s what finally pushed me over the edge and made me bite. It was a better deal than Dropbox (still is) and a better deal than Google Drive.

I’ve been reading and researching information on this on and off all day. The biggest possible reasons behind a change in product alignment may be

  1. The marketing promotion on OneDrive and Office 365 that offered unlimited storage may have ended.
  2. Microsoft may have realized that they can’t sustain an “unlimited storage” offering. It may be too costly or too unwieldly to manage (or both)
  3. With the 2015 Holidays on the horizon, they may see a wave of new, potential Office 365 subscribers coming, and may not want or be able to provide unlimited storage to existing and new customers.

Any way you cut it, though, this is not being received very well.

This doesn’t affect me much. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 35GB of documents and files on OneDrive. The new 1TB limit doesn’t affect me much, as I am not likely to put all of my photos or other media files on OneDrive, though I had been considering placing some of my unboxing videos there. That likely won’t happen now.

What’s still up in the air about all of this is OneDrive for Business.

At one point, Microsoft said they would extend the unlimited storage option to OneDrive for Business customers. That didn’t happen, and at this point, Microsoft isn’t saying whether or not OneDrive for Business will get unlimited storage or not. Their Office 365 roadmap still shows that offering as “in development.”

Users are truly up in arms about this , as Microsoft was effectively offering (depending on how you look at it) unlimited OneDrive storage with free Office 365 use for $11 per month or the other way around. That is huge compared to companies like Dropbox, iCloud and Google whose product offerings can be seen in the table below:

OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive iCloud
Free

5GB

2GB

30GB

5GB

30GB

N/A

N/A

Free

N/A

50GB

$2

N/A

N/A

$1

100GB

N/A

N/A

$2

N/A

200GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

$3

1TB

$7/ $10*

$10

$10

$10

10TB

N/A

N/A

$100

N/A

20TB

N/A

N/A

$200

N/A

30TB

N/A

N/A

$300

N/A

*Office 365 Personal is $7 a month, and gives a single user access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage. Office 365 Home is $10 a month and gives up to five (5) users access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage.
All costs are rounded to the nearest US Dollar, and are charged monthly.

These are the big storage players out there. Given that OneDrive was really the one to start the cloud storage war, their retreat back to such a small product offering seems a bit strange. Given the costs outlined above, Google Drive is back on top as the most cost effective STORAGE plan out there. However, Microsoft still offers both Office 2016 (or the most current version) plus the online/ cloud based storage amounts I’ve noted. How that plays out and what that might actually mean to you in terms of monthly cost, clearly falls under the “your mileage may vary” category.

What does this actually mean for Microsoft??

That’s a very good question. At this point, it’s all up in the air.

However, you have to think of a few things, here.

  1. Microsoft realized they bit off more than they could chew with unlimited storage and decided that the bad PR was worth what they estimated they could save in storage costs
  2. Bandwidth and enterprise storage is expensive, even for someone like Microsoft who decided to get into the storage business, when they started offering what is now called OneDrive a few years ago
  3. Microsoft has focused the identification of their target customer as either an Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal customer who isn’t storing more than 1TB of data (obviously) in the cloud.
  4. Microsoft is likely fine/ ok with losing customers who do not fit this mold and doesn’t seem to be concerned about
  5. Microsoft doesn’t seem concerned with the bad press they are likely to get as a result of these decisions
  6. Given Microsoft’s track record in the “bad decision department,” I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see them reverse this decision within the next week or so

What do you make of all of this? Are you an Office 365 Home or Personal customer? Are you one of the naughty users who had more than 1TB of data in OneDrive? Are you a OneDrive for Business customer? Do you expect Microsoft to make good on the unlimited storage offer still on their roadmap, or will that also fall victim to this new product refinement?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.

EVER.

Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.

WP-01

I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.

WP-02

After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.

WP-03

The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.

BUT..!

What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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What’s in a Font?

Google unveils new logo – Internets burn down (story at 11..?)

Normally I wouldn’t comment on a company’s logo change. I mean, it’s not normally news or anything of importance. Unless of course, that company is Google, and then just about every time that company burps, its important. And honestly, that’s about what this logo change from most recent to new looks like.

It’s a font change.

That’s all… just a font change

Google changed their logo from this

Old Google

to this

New Google 02

They moved from a serif based font to a sans serif based font.

…Aaaaand again, the Internets lost their mind and burned down. Everybody is talking about it. Google’s perspective on this is that their new logo really spells out their mobile strategy. The font is easier to read on a mobile device. The four dots, four colors and four colored microphone speak to what you can do with Google on the desktop, on your phone or on your tablet with Gmail, Chrome, Docs, Maps and any of Google’s other cross platform, cloud based properties.

New Google 03

Where they get all that, from a font change is a bit of a stretch on my part, but hey… that’s just me, maybe.

However, I can’t doubt or make fun of the impact that Google has had on nearly EVERYONE in modern history in ITS 17 years of life. Their company’s name is now a recognized verb. It’s the biggest search engine on the planet. It powers more email than just about any other non-ISP based email provider, including Microsoft; and it has the number one mapping solution in both the desktop and mobile spaces in Google Maps.

Let’s face it – nearly everybody uses both of these tools. I’d be lost without both of them; and literally in the case of Maps… As computing has evolved over the past 25 years, Google came into being and then has changed with it to make computing more value added than you’d think.

And speaking of evolution, you really need to take a look at what Google has done over the past 17 years. This is one cool little movie…

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Amazon Releases Prime Music

Amazon jumps into the streaming music business with the release of Prime Music.

Amazon Prime

The world of digital music is complicated.  With the RIAA still occasionally chasing after folks for illegally sharing copyrighted files, and artists complaining of poor pay-outs when it comes to pay to play rates on their songs that are actually streamed on the service in question, Amazon has decided to throw their hat in the ring and offer a streaming music service to its Prime members – Prime Music.

The service, which is free to Prime members (which costs $99 USD per year for Prime 2 day shipping, Prime Photos, Prime Instant Video, Prime Music and Kindle Lending Library)provides over 1 million songs instantly available for streaming, via the web, your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone, as well as clients for Mac and PC. The service is ad-free, and you can skip as many songs as you want, two huge plusses for Prime customers, as the service is funded by your annual Prime membership fee.

With Amazon’s Prime Service now offering these 5 distinct and different services (shipping, photos, video, music and Kindle Library), the value of the service has (at least potentially) increased. While most streaming music services cost $120 USD per year (or $10USD per month), Prime gives you all five services for $100 USD, a $20 savings. If you order ANYTHING from Amazon during the year you have the service, and you stream music on a regular basis, you’re going to benefit from the service.

I’m a prime member and I have used Prime Instant Video along with two day shipping for years.  I likely will not use Music, unless I’m connected to a Wi-Fi network, if at all.  Call me old school if you must, but I don’t like using ALL of my mobile bandwidth for streaming services. While I do have AT&T with Roll-Over data, I share the account with my wife and daughter, and we do not stream music at all. Most of the bandwidth we use is used for iPhone data or hot spot services. Until Wi-Fi is available everywhere (if it ever is), and mobile data is much cheaper than it is now, I’m not going to blow it all listening to music I likely already have in my iTunes Music Library…AND on my iPhone. It’s why I bought a 64GB iDevice, and why I sync my entire music collection to my iPhone (and by the way, I still have over 20GB of free space…).

While this may not make a lot of sense for me (except over Wi-Fi, and then maybe only at work, if I don’t get busted for using a streaming service there), it may be very compelling for others that are looking for a streaming service and who are already Prime members or are considering Amazon Prime.

Interested parties can checkout Amazon Prime for more information.

The email that I got announcing Prime Music can be seen below:

“As a Prime Member, you now get unlimited access to Prime Stations — an ad-free, internet radio service you can enjoy at no additional cost to your Prime membership.

With Prime Stations, you can find a genre or artist you like and hit play to hear a continuous stream of music that you can pause, replay, or skip as many times as you’d like. As you listen and give songs a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, each station will adapt to your music tastes.

Prime Members can stream Prime Stations and over a million songs for free with the Amazon Music App on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire HD/HDX, Mac, PC, and the web.”

 

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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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