Microsoft Mobility – I Don’t Think They Get It…STILL: Part 2

I’ve quipped on leadership before, but fer cryin’ out loud – I’m DYIN’ over here

There’s a lot happening over here at Soft32.  I’ve been doing deep dives on both Apple and Microsoft operating systems and you should be able to see them on Soft32 shortly.  2012 is definitely the year of the new OS; and Soft32 is committed to keeping you up to date on all of the developments.

Last time I was talking about how Microsoft needs to severely clarify the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT.  Let’s get back into it and I’ll let you in on what I’m seeing out of Redmond with both Windows 8 and RT.

Microsoft is currently marketing Windows 8 and Windows RT as a tablet-based OS.  Windows 8 will run on Intel based machines and will include desktops, laptops (including TabletPC’s) and (slate based) tablets, similar to the iPad in form factor. Windows RT will run on ARM based tablets, and ARM based tablets ONLY.

Do you see the common element?  Tablets.  Both will run on slate based tablets.  An Intel based tablet will run the full blown version of Windows 8, which will include a desktop mode.  An ARM base tablet will run Windows RT and will NOT include a desktop mode.  ARM based tablets will support Microsoft’s new UI –  Metro – only.

The problem comes in from an end user perspective. Both Windows 8 tablets run, well…Windows 8; and I don’t think the average user is going to understand the difference between the two tablets.

What’s the difference?  Simple…Windows RT is a direct iOS, and therefore, iPad competitor. The two share the Windows 8 app store; and I don’t think users are going to be able to correctly distinguish between the two different tablets, OS’ and app versions.  It’s very likely that users will have a Windows RT tablet at, say, work…and a Windows 8 desktop/laptop at home.  The Windows 8  app store will sell both legacy desktop Windows software that will run on Windows 8 and Metro apps.

I’m certain that a Windows RT user is going to buy a Windows 8 app in the app store and then get frustrated when they can’t install it on a Windows RT tablet. The similarity between the two operating systems is going to create a huge amount of user confusion. Microsoft is pushing the perception that they are the same OS. Users will see this, and want to install apps from their Windows 8 machine to their Windows 8 tablet.

Windows RT is also not available for purchase or install, anywhere. The only way you get it is if you buy a device that has it on it. This will also confuse consumers, as some head to their local big-box retailer meaning to purchase it.

Windows 8 is great for mobile devices as touch is its focus, and that’s how users interact with those devices. The desktop experience hasn’t responded well to touch. If it did, PC’s like the HP TouchSmart, the Dell Studio One or Inspiron One or Lenovo Idea Center would be everywhere, and they clearly aren’t.

Microsoft needs leadership. It needs vision. It needs direction. It needs Windows 8 not to suck…and I am truly afraid that they are going to lose out on all counts…

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The Problem with Apple’s Secrecy

With WWDC just days away, there’s no shortage of Apple rumors…

I’ve been in the computing biz for a long time.  I began my freelance writing career back in 1996 CMPnet’s File Mine.  The site has long since disappeared, and CMPnet’s resources are now owned by UBM, which owns Information Week and BYTE (where I also appear regularly.)   Funny how some things go full circle.

Anyway, I’ve grown from a freelance review writer into a technology journalist over the years and if there’s one thing that anyone in this capacity will tell you, it’s that trying to figure out what Apple is going to do is hard…if not nearly impossible.

However, it does seem to be the national Geekdom pastime.  Everyone and their brother seems to be trying to figure out exactly what Apple has cooking and when it’s going to be released to the general public. During my time as a freelancer and technology journalist, I’ve learned one very important thing when it comes to prognosticating the Cupertino-way – Don’t bother.

Apple’s culture of extreme secrecy has in the past led to nearly every major site on the internet, both friend and foe to Apple, either supporting or discounting the latest rumor about iPad. While this perpetual rumor mill certainly helps generate hype and excitement, it often results in nothing substantial, except perhaps, the level of hype and excitement around a particular Apple product release or update.

For Apple, this is great. They get gobs of free advertising and lines of people outside their stores waiting for their chance to buy the latest product to come out of Jony Ivy’s design studio. It’s also a big problem for them, because they have people camped out in bars waiting for employees to misplace iPhone prototypes and such.

For consumers, it doesn’t do much of anything other than drive the hype. It can also lead to some big let-downs when a highly desirable feature for iPad isn’t implemented or isn’t implemented the way it was rumored, or to a user’s liking.  However, there is one last issue with Apple rumors…

The people starting them or spreading them are more often than not, wrong.

For someone trying to get a handle on the next best thing coming from Apple whether its iPhone, iPad, Macs or any other bright, shiny new toy (like their rumored, HDTV, for example), the best thing to do is just wait it out.  Don’t count on the information you’re getting being at all accurate. It likely won’t be.

Sure..! It’s fun to speculate.  The articles are fun and interesting to read and can be quite thought provoking at times.  It may give you something to talk about at work during a break, or at your friend’s desk. But understand it for what it is…noise.

Even industry analysts…the guys who do all the research and provide investors with predictions on what’s going to be hot or not… haven’t been able to get it consistently right when it comes to Apple; and those guys are REALLY smart and have deep, inside contacts at this, that or the other “trusted partner’s” installation.

Cracking the Apple nut isn’t easy. Its hit or miss at best. Those that have any success, in my estimation, are lucky; or… weighing in on what currently out there and playing the odds on what seems most likely to happen.
So what’s the problem with Apple’s secrecy?  Nothing much… Despite all the rumor mills, there aren’t a lot of people out there that seem to be getting through their “cone of silence.”

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Is Convergence the Way to Go?

Both Apple and Microsoft are bringing their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together. Is this a good idea, or a recipe for disaster?

Current rumor has Apple releasing Mountain Lion next month.  Windows is due to hit the streets outside of Redmond, likely in October 2012.  While considered polar opposites, these two new versions of OS X and Windows have one key ingredient in common – they are both trying to bring their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together.

Microsoft Windows 8
You can see Soft32′s Windows 8 deep dive, here.  In Windows 8, Microsoft is designing an operating system that can be used on either a desktop or laptop as well as a tablet.  Windows 8′s new user interface, Metro, is heavily touch based. It has the user physically interacting with the hardware and the computing objects on it via touch.  If the hardware being used doesn’t have a touch layer, then the user can use both keyboard and mouse to simulate touch.

As I pointed out in my review (URL), this doesn’t always lend itself to the best computing experience. Using the mouse to simulate a touch and swipe to scroll through a screen isn’t as intuitive as it sounds, and is really rather clumsy. I think I’ve established, with Windows 8, that having one OS for either hardware types or categories doesn’t create a good user experience. However, in my opinion, this is clearly in response to only Google’s Android (to an extent), but to Apple’s Lion and Mountain Lion releases of OS X.  Microsoft sees the movement towards a unified computing experience and has taken a unified approach in developing a single operating system to cover all computing hardware types.

Last time, we looked at Microsoft and Windows 8. Let’s take a quick look at how Apple has decided to converge iOS and OS X.  Mountain Lion continues Apple’s desire to blur the lines between the two…

Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Apple’s approach is much different.  Instead of putting OS X on your iPhone or iPad or iOS on your Mac, Apple is bringing specific iOS features to the desktop.  These mobile device features are adapted to the desktop or laptop for, what Apple feels is a better experience on the non (or not as) mobile hardware.

The difference here is approach and design.  Apple is taking specific features from iOS – Messages, Notifications, Reminders, iCloud Integration, etc., those that make sense to have on the desktop and are finding a way to implement those. The features are similar, but not identical, given the differences in the hardware.  Their addition is subtle, even elegant in some cases, as in the implementation of Notifications.  The point is though, that while both platforms have similar features, while they may share a similar look and/or feel, they are implemented and presented differently, taking advantage of the benefits of each platform.

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Lightroomapps brings big improvements to their GoDocs for Google Docs

Lightroomapps released the third version of GoDocs for iPhone and iPad. This latest version brings major changes to the application including an improved interface and no synchronizing limitation. The reading part was brought to the next level by improving the loading speed of large files you are now able to open pdf links, go to specific page and even read pdf files in two dimensions.

With GoDocs you are able to search for text in documents. Therefore, finding specific paragraph or line is easier than ever before. Now, you have the opportunity to switch between the mobile and desktop editors. More than that, we optimized the editor so the entire process is streamlined and easy.

With Push Notifications service you will receive push notification when a new document has been shared with you or when a shared document has been changed by someone else. There are a lot of innovations in the revisions. While preserving viewing of specific revisions, now you have the ability to open them in other applications, send revisions by email or print specific revision.

GoDocs 3.0 has a refreshed and even more user-friendly interface. The app looks amazing on the iPhone and now supports iPad Retina Display.

Pay attention that you have to re-add the account after updating. This is required for Push Notifications to be set up properly. Also it will prevent any problems with synchronization.




buy GoDocs

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Apple iPad & Samsung Galaxy Note – The Great Stylus Debate

I have seen both sides now, and still somehow, I have stylus illusions, after all.

Steve Jobs was adamant – “This,” he would say holding up his index finger, “is my stylus.”

Steve had seen Microsoft’s TabletPC’s as well as Pocket PC’s, Palm Pilots, etc., and he wasn’t impressed with the styli that he had seen tethered to them. In fact, he hated the dependency that those designs had on such an easily misplacable accessory. Steve vowed that the iPad would never need one.

However, the finger as a writing instrument leaves a bit to be desired. It works…but it isn’t optimal, and people don’t write their best or most legibly with just their index finger. It doesn’t offer the fine point or accuracy that some writing or notations really require.

Microsoft’s TabletPC’s have a truly wonderful pen experience. With the right handwriting recognition software, their Pocket PC’s and later Windows Mobile devices (prior to Windows Phone) also had a truly awesome handwriting experience. I really miss this at times…even today.

I have both an Apple iPad and a Windows 8 TabletPC (netbook). I’ve owned many a PocketPC and have used Phatware’s Calligrapher on nearly all of them. The experience was really very satisfying.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note is a tablet/handheld hybrid that attempts to bridge the gap between the two device types; and while the writing experience may be just as satisfying as my Windows 8 TabletPC or the PocketPC’s of old, it does bring up a huge question:

How do you satisfy end user needs to use their tablet or handheld as a digital notepad?

Further, how do you REALLY give them the ability to take handwritten notes in meetings without having to awkwardly hover your hand over the screen so nothing but a compassative stylus touches the screen?

From Apple’s perspective, the design question remains. How do you do all that without killing the current user experience; and requiring the use of a passive stylus to do all screen touch and navigation?

The answer is in there…somewhere, but the issue has yet to be resolved. I want to take handwritten notes. I want to use digital ink, so I can save a tree, and use my tablet as the digital notepad it was intended to be. However, I want to be able to swap between passive and compassative modes on the fly. There are times when I’d rather touch with my finger than with a stylus. The technology doesn’t exist yet where the iPad oror even the Samsung Galaxy Note, can distinguish between the two. The Galaxy Note comes close, but the stylus free experience isn’t as fluid as the stylus-based experience…and then (Steve’s standard complaint) what happens when you lose the stylus (and at some point, you likely will)?

This is the great debate. This is the enterprise issue that has yet to be resolved. There are many executives who would drop their PC’s in a heartbeat for a tablet if they could do this with their iPad or an Android tablet. I would, at the office at least.

Apple doesn’t want to kill the user experience. The right technology doesn’t currently exist to allow for a combined experience. The right solution has yet to be identified, but its sure to be interesting no matter what it is.

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What’s hot in the second edition of the iPad 2

The new iPad 2 has arrived and ”redefines the category Apple created less than two years ago, delivering the most amazing experience people have ever had with technology,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Let’s take a look at the most important improvements.

First of all, there is a gorgeous high-resolution (2048 x 1536) Retina Display which  makes web pages, text, images and video look incredibly sharp and realistic and with 44 percent increased saturation, the colors are unbelievably richer, deeper and more vivid.

Second, the new iPad has a new A5 chip (A5x) with quad-core graphics which makes the iPad faster and more responsive to enjoy the benefits of the stunning new full 1080p HD-resolution.

The camera has been also improved (5MP) and it can now record full HD video and take better picture in low-light conditions. There is also a new video image stabilization feature which  removes the bumps and shakes typically seen when filming with a hand-held device.

iPad Wi-Fi + 4G has built-in next generation 4G LTE  for fast networks worldwide including HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA, and now both CDMA and GSM iPad users have the ability to easily roam internationally.

About battery life,  Apple announced that the new iPad will have 10 hours of battery life, same for the iPad2, and 9 hours when being used on AT&T’s or Verizon’s 4G LTE networks.

Pricing

The new iPad Wi-Fi models will be available in black or white on Friday, March 16 for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16 GB model, $599 (US) for the 32 GB model and $699 (US) for the 64 GB model.

iPad Wi-Fi + 4G for either AT&T or Verizon will be available for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16 GB model, $729 (US) for the 32 GB model and $829 (US) for the 64 GB model.

One more thing, the first edition iPad 2 is now offered at a more affordable price of $399 (US) for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model and just $529 (US) for the 16 GB Wi-Fi + 3G model.

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iPad 3 Rumor Roundup

After months of speculation, it’s looking likely the third generation of the iPad is imminent. Here’s your guide to what’s known and rumored about what will likely be the hottest gadget of 2012.

What’s the timetable and how do we know?

Apple has just announced a press event for March 7th, teasing journalists with the line “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” If this is the launch of the iPad 3, the device would likely be on sale within a few weeks.

 

Is this definitely a new iPad?

That’s the most likely explanation. It’s unlikely to be a new iPhone given the last model only came out a few months back. One other possibility could be a rumored new device that’s around the five to seven inch mark, though most analysts believe this would be a poor compromise between a smartphone and tablet.

What are the most likely changes in the new iPad?

One likelihood is a quad-core processor. That means a chip that can literally do four things instantaneously. This means the device will be able to do a much better job of carrying out demanding tasks without slowing down other features. For example, the iPad could use three of the cores to carry out video editing while still letting the user access the web. Quad-core would allow more intensive gaming and other tasks previously thought of as restricted to full-blown computers.

Another expected change is a screen with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, nearly double that of a full-HD screen. Taking account of the bigger screen size, this would be similar to the “retina” display on the latest iPhones. Apple uses this name with the argument that, at an ordinary viewing distance, such a resolution means the human eye can’t distinguish individual pixels, effectively making the image identical to reality.

What other new features could debut?

It’s thought the US model will support LTE, one of the new generation or 4G mobile data technologies. When it works to its full potential, 4G allows users to get the same speeds as home broadband from anywhere with a good mobile signal. Unfortunately LTE is still in the test stages in the UK.

The new iPad could also have a Near Field Communications chip, a technology similar to Bluetooth that only works over a few centimetres but connects almost instantly. It’s mainly used for contactless smartphone payments at the moment, but it could allow quick wireless syncing with compatible computers.

Less likely-sounding rumors include a 128GB model (double the current highest capacity) and a change to the Apple-specific charger and data socket.

How certain is all of this?

You can never be 100% certain about Apple rumours. The company loves to keep an air of mystery about its plans and techies tend to get caught up in their imagination and dreams when predicting what’s going to happen, the most embarrassing recent example being when the widely-hyped iPhone 5 turned out to simply be the slightly tweaked iPhone 4S. That said, there are a lot of credible sources, including in the South East Asia electrical engineering industry where large component orders by Apple often uncover its future plans.

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iPad 3 Rumors & Thoughts – Part 3: Release and Model Designation

Over that past couple blog entries, we’ve been looking at iPad 3 rumors. There’s been a lot of chatter, and we’ve looked at both hardware and software related gossip.  In this last iPad 3 hub-bub blog, let’s take a look at when, what, and which tablets will be available when.

 

Release Date
Last year, Apple’s iPad 2 was announced on 02, March.  Since Steve passed away, rumors have been mounting that the upgraded iPad 3 will be released on his birthday, or somewhere close.

It seems that this year’s announcement will be made at around the same timeframe as last year’s announcement.  Apple currently has an event scheduled for the first week of March. While the company hasn’t come out and either confirmed it or set the ACTUAL date, clearly point to an event in San Francisco at the beginning of next month. AllThingsD isn’t always correct, but they do seem to have the inside track on many things.  This rumor also seems to be accurate, as no one has come out to shoot it down.  Look for one or two more developments in this area – an actual event scheduling, or a “mea culpa” from ATD.

Device Designation – iPad 3, HD, or 2S
This and the last rumor I’ve heard and give credibility to are closely tied together.  The actual product name for the next generation iPad hasn’t been announced yet, and a credible, “it’s definitely gonna be called…” rumor has yet to hit the airwaves.

As far as my thoughts on this..? Again, that depends on one or two major marketing decisions. I’ve heard additional rumors that due to space considerations the A6 processor that is rumored to be used in the iPad 3 won’t be quad-core. A quad-core processor would be too big to fit in the body shapes that we’ve seen hitting rumors sites. As such, the A6 will be dual-core.

If the A6 is just a revamped or upgraded A5 dual-core processor, look for the next generation iPad to be called the iPad 2S. If iPad 3 gets the upgraded screen we’ve been talking about, even with the dual-core A6, look for the next generation iPad to be called the iPad HD or again, the 2S.

Apple seems in love with its “S” identifier for hardware models that offer differentiation, but not enough to warrant a new model designation. While the iPad HD designation really sounds sexy and may be favorably received, they’ve not used this type of designation on any other devices that sport HD screens (like their MacBook Pro’s that offer HD screens).  So, I really don’t see them using it for iPad. However, you can look for the iPad 3 designation to be used on a chassis/ device form factor redesign, like the one between the iPad and the iPad 2.

Available Models
Here’s where things get interesting… if the A6 dual-core rumors are true, I really do think that the iPad 3 will be released as the iPad 2S.  I also think at that point, that we’ll see a similar marketing move with it as we saw with the iPhone 4/4S – the older model will be reduced in price, will be made available in a single connectivity (Wi-Fi only) and storage size option (likely 16GB); and be sold alongside its newly introduced sibling.

The iPad 2 is a strong seller, and more importantly is a very capable tablet.  It seems logical that Apple would greatly reduce the price and capture even more of the tablet market with an iPad 2, priced at say, $299-$349.  If that happens, you’ll definitely see me pick up an iPad 2. If not, then I probably won’t, as my iPad 1 works just fine for what I do with it (eBooks and movies on the commute to and from work).

Wrapping it all up
Any way you slice it, Apple Watching is an interesting sport. It’s very difficult to channel their marketing people, and their intended direction.  The one thing that I can say with 100% certainty, however, is that 2012 plans to be a banner year for the most valuable company in the world. With the release of both the iPad 3/HD/2S and the iPhone 5 almost a certainty, Apple stock will continue its upward climb.  The company will capture more tablet, smartphone and enterprise market share, as consumers continue to fall in love with its products.

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