The State of Consumer Computing

I have NO idea where the industry is going with this…

consumer_computingOk, kids. Sit back. I’ve been cooking up a rant on the direction that consumer/ prosumer computing has been going for a while; and given that the Holidays are here, it’s time to let this one loose. There’s some background that I feel is necessary (nearly) every time I shoot my mouth off, so bear with me a minute…

I’ve been writing in the tech sector for almost 20 years. I’m a tech pioneer, as I got started in mobile, and consumer computing back in 1990-blah-blah-blah when computing and mobility was in its infancy. During this time, I’ve always seen a clear steady progression… a firm march towards what I would call a confirmed and clear vision of mobility and portability that enabled prosumer and hobbyist level consumers to be productive. Honestly, I don’t see much of that any longer. To be blunt – I have no idea where the heck industry is headed at this point, and it really concerns me.

Windows
I used to be a huge Windows proponent. I cut my teeth at WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group NETwork where I was their Senior Content Editor for approximately 10 years. I wrote – literally – thousands of Windows based tips for Windows, IE, Office 95 – 2007, and Hardware. I had a column in the Computing Pro Forum at AOL/ CompuServe, which WUGNET managed, called, “The Weekly Byte,” covering anything and everything computing and/ or Windows based, for just over seven years. I’ve also been on every technical beta of Windows since Windows 95. Windows is a platform that I know very, VERY well.

Unfortunately, I have little to NO idea where Microsoft is headed at this point, and quite honestly – though it may seem a bit harsh – I’m not certain they do either. Again, to be blunt, Windows 10 is a train wreck; but I’ll get to that in short order.

I’ve made it very clear that I’m not happy with the way things are going with Windows. To say I’m disenchanted with the state of Windows could be considered an understatement. Couple that with the prices for the new and still available, but previous, version of Surface Book; and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

It’s no secret to anyone that Windows PC’s are about half the price (or less) of an Apple computer. Which really makes Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book prices really confusing. Both Signature PC’s – meaning that they are Windows PC’s without any junkware, crapware or adware installed by the PC manufacturer – are priced as premium devices. Microsoft Surface Book ranges in price from $1499 to $2999 before tax. Surface Pro 4 is a bit more “affordable,” but also gets rather pricey. Prices for it range from $899 to $2699 before tax.

I have no idea why Surface PC’s are so expensive. Microsoft’s hardware efforts don’t have the clout to command such premium prices. In fact the history of both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have been riddled with HUGE driver issues. Microsoft has had huge issues related to both power and battery drivers as well as graphics driver issues that have prevented the convertible PC’s from sleeping and hibernating correctly as well as contributing to “hot bag” syndrome, where the PC overheats in a backpack or notebook carrying case because the device never shuts off correctly, burning out the device at worse or severely draining and damaging the battery at best.

Don’t get me started about the whole disappearing ink thing. Over a year later, its still not resolved. That bug effects ALL Surface Pro products, including older Surface Pro devices AND Surface Book.

Microsoft has over the past couple of years since the start of the Windows Insider Program at the beginning of the Windows 10 beta period, said that it would be forcing ALL Windows users to Windows 10 once the operating system was officially released; and they’ve stuck to that, too. Microsoft has been downloading Windows 10 to users PCs whether they want it to be upgraded or not, without their permission. At that point, Windows doesn’t ask you if you want to upgrade, but TELLS you that it’s going to update your machine. In fact, many Windows 7-8.x users went to bed only to wake up to a PC that was upgraded to Windows 10 without their permission. These strong arm tactics had many Windows users breathing fire in Redmond’s general direction. Microsoft seems to have crossed a line with this one, and they aren’t sorry about it either.

And I REALLY have to go into Microsoft’s mobile strategy or the real lack thereof?

It’s clear that Microsoft DOESN’T care about whether or not I want to upgrade or not. They’re taking everyone there, kicking and screaming if they have to; and they don’t seem to care about the fallout, either.

I don’t get it. Microsoft seems to have done a “Steve Jobs” and decided what was best for everyone whether they want it or not. This new attitude combined with their Surface based driver issues has me wondering who’s steering the boat in Redmond; or if anyone is really steering at all.

Microsoft has seemingly gone from a compassionate business partner strong arming business software dictator. Where the heck did they get the system level permissions to upgrade my computer without my consent? My good friend, Woody Leonard of Microsoft Office fame has a decent article, published earlier this year that provides some good information on this.

Needless to say, this and a Microsoft’s confusing hardware strategy has a number of people, me included, wondering just where Microsoft is going with all of this. They’ve burned a lot of bridges with a lot of folks. Some have sworn off Windows and have considered other OS options like machos or Linux.

Speaking of which…

Apple
I got into Macs in 2006 after Apple made the switch to Intel processors. In fact, I bought my first Mac with the intent of it being a Windows machine. An Intel based Mac runs Windows VERY well. The drivers that Apple provides via Boot Camp are really solid. In my opinion, Macs provide one of the best native Windows computing experiences around.

In fact, it’s for THAT reason alone that most of the tech sector – meaning those paid professions (like me) that cover technology developments via mainstream tech print or online media, use Macs. They’re really the ONLY computer on the market that can natively (and legally) run BOTH major, consumer operating systems out of the box. In fact, they can also run just about any Linux distro you throw at it as well. Since Macs can really be the anything and everything computer, spending the extra money to purchase one of them as a notebook makes perfect sense and is completely cost justifiable. With a Mac, I can cover any and every platform. I can review nearly every OS available. I can review just about any and every accessory for any operating system, provided I have the right port and/ or cable or dongle available or within reach.

Macs have also historically been supported by firmware and OS compatibility by Apple for a minimum of five to seven years, making these historically, premium priced, prosumer targeted notebooks and desktops easy to use, easy to justify and easy to maintain… that is, until recently.

With the release of the iPad Pro and the release of the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar I truly believe there are very few people outside of Cupertino that know where Apple is going with its computing strategy.

Many new Late 2016 MacBook Pro users have said that the form factor of the device is approaching that of the iPad Pro, with a keyboard. These same people have stated that the iPad Pro could be a MacBook Pro replacement… with the introduction of the proper software. Both devices seem to be hurtling towards each other’s users and towards each other’s form factors.

There are a number of reviews on the Late 2016 MacBook Pro that indicate that the device is more mainstream consumer oriented than a “professional” device. They have further said that the only thing that’s “pro” about the new MacBook Pro is its price. Its anywhere between $500 to $1500 more expensive than its immediate predecessor; and the only thing that it REALLY offers is a thinner form factor and a Touch Bar that many users are still on the fence about.

What remains adamantly unclear is where Apple is headed with their computing products. Apple recently got out of the wireless router business. Apple hasn’t updated the Mac mini since October of 2014; and hasn’t’ updated the iMac since October of 2015. While they’ve updated the iPhone and iPad regularly during the same timeframe, what IS clear is that their portable computing efforts seem to be edging closer and closer to their tablet based products and their tablet efforts seem to be edging closer and close to their portable computing based products.

But to WHAT end?

Back in the day, everyone clearly wanted not only better, faster, stronger, but lighter and more portable. With Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lines of notebook computers, we achieved that some time ago. All that Apple seems to be doing is making the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro more and more alike; and many are asking, “why?”

Unfortunately, no one from Cupertino is providing any kind of explanation; and I find myself trying to figure out a couple of things:
1. How in the world I’m going to afford a new MacBook Pro in 2-3 more years.
2. Is a Mac even the right platform to choose?

Both of these questions are equally important. I don’t want an iOS device to be my main computing device. The platform doesn’t offer enough software – or even the right software – for what I use a computer for. I don’t want all of my files pushed to the cloud, which is where iDevices really want all of your data to live – and to be very honest, iDevices don’t offer all of the peripherals and connectivity options I’m looking for. Connecting my Nikon D7100 to my iPad isn’t possible, for example; and likely won’t be. Yes, Apple has a dongle to connect an SD card to an iPad, but I really don’t want to have to remove it from the camera every time I want to transfer pictures from it to my “computer” for retouching and processing.

While I really don’t need more than 16GB of RAM on a computer at this point, my previous Mac purchase strategy was to buy the high end 15″ MacBook Pro with as big of an SSD as I could afford. In the past, that’s cost me approximately $3000; but it got me a Mac that has historically lasted more than 5 years, with the exception of my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, that is. My 2006 MacBook Pro lasted me until 2011.

Most folks who did what I did – bought big to ward off obsolescence – won’t necessarily be able to do that this time around. I bought the high end, Late 2013 MBP with the high end processor and 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. Which at the time, was as big and as bad as you could get.

If I were to spend the same amount of money with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro, the only thing I really buy myself is a technology refresh, as I don’t see any value in the Touch Bar given my workflow. If I add the Radeon 460 graphics card – a $100 upgrade that doubles your graphics adapter RAM, a decent upgrade for the price – I’ve priced myself $600 above what I paid for my Late 2013 MacBook Pro (before tax), and as I said, all I’ve really gotten is a technology refresh. I’d hardly call that a compelling reason to buy a new computer, especially since, at this time, there’s nothing wrong with my Late 2013 MacBook Pro.

Upgrading storage from 512GB to 1TB is an additional $400, which seems reasonable, given storage gain; but that brings the price up to $3499, or an additional $1000 above what my Late 2013 MacBook Pro cost, and again, before tax. After tax, the cost is $3718, or $933 more than I paid previously. That’s a lot of money for additional storage and a small graphics adapter bump.

The cost increase here is a huge surprise to many, given that Apple has a history of keeping the new price for new equipment the same as the cost of last year’s model. Here, it seems that there’s a $500 bump for the new models even before you get to customizing the base model’s specs.

AND it’s a lot of money when I have no idea where Apple is headed with their consumer/ prosumer computing roadmap. Are they truly ignoring the professional market? Are they going to push all consumers towards iOS? I have no idea.

Conclusion
Dude… your guess is as good as mine.

I have no idea where the hell Microsoft is going with Windows 10, its somewhat hostile upgrade program (now, seemingly toned down a bit…) or the fact that Microsoft can’t even get the drivers for their OWN signature PC’s coded and debugged correctly.

Heck, have you run Windows through Boot Camp on a Mac? Apple did a dynamite job of providing Windows drivers for all of THEIR hardware. If Apple can do this well, why can’t the maker of the operating system provide drivers for THEIR branded machines? This really seems kinda stupid… Microsoft can’t get this right, but their major competitor – who really doesn’t want to continue to provide Boot Camp, by the way – can. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, that’s for sure.

While it seems like the best thing to do at this point is to just jump to over to a Mac, the cost of any of their current “Pro” level notebooks, unfortunately make it exceptionally cost prohibitive. Buying into the Apple ecosystem as a new user is just too damned expensive at this point. Staying here means I either have to settle for a notebook I don’t want, or my kids won’t be able to go to college…EVER.

Even if it weren’t cost prohibitive, I have no confidence that Apple will be able to support me with the type of hardware that I want and need for my computing needs. Their current computing offerings seem to be hurtling towards each other, destined to end up in some sort of crammed, hashed together mess that combines both iOS and macOS elements.

Hey, Tim..! Keep your chocolate OUT of my peanut butter! I don’t want a notebook that’s more iDevice than notebook. I want a portable, desktop replacement that runs a desktop class operating system. And I don’t want to have to pay $4000 for it, either.

So… I have no idea where both Microsoft – whose software runs in nearly every office of every business on the ENTIRE PLANET – or Apple are headed. One seems to be unable to write drivers even for their own equipment, and the other seems to hell bent on turning their conventional PC’s into tablets.

Both seem hell bent on pissing off all of their users though.

Am I the only one who thinks this? Chime in folks. I’d really appreciate you giving me your thoughts on this.

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No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Get Your Free Windows 10 While You Can

Apparently, Microsoft was serious about Windows 10 only being free for a year…

windows10-ad

Sometimes I really have to wonder if the senior leadership team at Microsoft is asleep at the wheel or not; because this just seems stupid.

When Windows 10 was released last year on 2015-07-29, Microsoft said the upgrade would be free to all Windows PC’s running Windows XP and higher for a year. Well, a year will be up on 2016-07-29, and Microsoft is holding firm to that statement.

On 2015-05-05, Microsoft made the following announcement:

“The free upgrade offer to Windows 10 was a first for Microsoft, helping people upgrade faster than ever before. And time is running out. The free upgrade offer will end on July 29 and we want to make sure you don’t miss out.”

This caused a flurry of speculation on whether Microsoft was really serious about this and if they were, what Microsoft might charge for the upgrade.

Microsoft answered that with an additional statement:

“After July 29th, you’ll be able to continue to get Windows 10 on a new device, or purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home for $119.”

This is concerning to me, and to a number of other Windows pundits for one big reason – there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade SKU or price point for Windows 10 after 2016-07-29. If you miss the upgrade window, it appears that you’re going to have to pay full price for Windows 10.

The only good thing about this whole situation is that it appears that after 2016-07-29, all of the nagware that is (now) natively part of previous versions of Windows , will be removed. According to Microsoft,

[…the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends 2016-07-29.] “Details are still being finalized, but on [that day] the Get Windows app that facilitates the easy upgrade to Windows 10 will be disabled and eventually removed from PCs worldwide. Just as it took time to ramp up and roll out the Get Windows 10 app, it will take time to ramp it down.”

All this means is that the Windows Update that turns the nag off, may arrive on YOUR PC sometime AFTER 2016-07-29; but it will happen if you decide to remain on a Windows version that is not Windows 10.

So the upgrade nagging that Microsoft has been doing for nearly a year is going to stop; but the upgrade to Windows 10 is going to cost you more than $120 bucks if you decide to make the jump after 2016-07-29.

There are a few things here that bother me…

  1. It costs $120 bucks
    Really?!? One hundred and twenty dollars?!I can see this back in, like, 2004; but today? The price point is WAY too high. In all honestly, Windows 10 should be FREE, period. OS X 10 is free. Most – if not all – Linux distributions are free. Microsoft is the only major OS maker out there that is still charging for their operating system. At some point, this is going to come back and bite Microsoft in the butt. Windows 10 should be a free upgrade to anyone and everyone forever.I can see a charge for a new, FULL license (the kind you would use to install on a PC you built from scratch); but only at about half of what is currently being advertised ($119). In my eyes, the target price for this should be under $50, after taxes.
  2. Installing Post 2016-07-29
    I’ve been using Windows 10 since the very early Insider Preview Builds in late 2014. Nothing related to installation has gone well with this at all. I’m wondering how much of a problem installing Windows 10 will be post 2016-07-29? In other words, if you download the free update, but wait to install, what happens? It’s it still free? If you need to restore or rebuild after 2016-07-29 and have to start at with the ORIGINAL version of Windows that shipped you’re your legacy hardware, will Setup ask you for money? (It shouldn’t, by the way; but I’m just sayin’…) Speaking of which…
  3. Restore/ Rebuilds
    This process has NEVER worked right for me.Refreshing your PC is simply supposed to put all of the core Windows 8.x/10 system files back on your PC, in case a poorly behaved app or (ultimately removed piece of) malware changed or modified any of them; and you wanted to put everything back to the way those core system files should be. This wouldn’t/ shouldn’t affect any installed apps or (mostly) the way you have Windows configured. This has never worked right for me and always ended up with me Restoring my PC.Restoring (often called rebuilding) your PC is supposed to erase everything and will put the version of Windows 8.x/10 back on your PC that it came with. This is the same thing as wiping the drive, reformatting and starting from scratch… without the reformatting part.You’re going to be stuck redownloading all of the Windows Updates you previously installed all over again, and this is supposed to be the easiest way to repair something in Windows that is just buried too deeply, or is too difficult to fix. Unfortunately, this has never worked right for me either; and nearly almost always requires me to download and create (or in the case of my Dell Latitude 10 STE – buy) the appropriate USB flash drive that would boot the PC and then run it through the setup process.

    This process works well for me on the Apple side of the world, but I’ve never had a Restore on the Windows side work from the device’s recovery partition. Any time I have tried this from the PC’s recovery partition, setup always ends up crashing or in some other error loop that is unrecoverable. I’ve always had to boot from a USB drive to get it to work.

My friend and former coworker, Paul Thurrott has an interesting article regarding whether or not the 2016-07-29 date is a hard and fast date or not. He seems to think that Microsoft will keep offering the free upgrade as long as it’s helping Microsoft migrate legacy PC’s to Windows 10, in pursuit of their 1 billion Windows 10 devices goal and not a day longer. By his reasoning, if Microsoft can get there within two to three years, they will have achieved that goal. Right now, that “last day” is 2016-07-29.

I think that Microsoft should extend that date indefinitely, even if they hit 1 billion Win10 devices within two to three years. Keep it free.

What do you think? Have you upgraded to Windows 10? If not, why not? Will you download the upgrade and install it before 2016-07-29? Do you foresee any issues with this offer ending on 2016-07-29? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Microsoft Releases Surface Hub

The long awaited update to Microsoft’s Perceptive Pixel PC’s has finally shipped.

Surface-hub-1

This is a huge deal for the enterprise…

One of the things that I like the most about my current job and role in IT is that my company has a Windows 8.x powered Perceptive Pixel PC.  It sits in one very specific conference room, and quite honestly, I tend to live in that room, mostly because of this particular PC.

Perceptive Pixel is Surface Hub, before it was Surface Hub.  The update and launch of this device has been a long time coming, and Microsoft’s General Manager of Devices Marketing, Brian Hall said, “… our Surface team works together better because we have Surface Hub.”

The difference between Perceptive Pixel and Surface Hub is that PP is really a giant Surface Pro 3 styled touch screen.  Surface Hub is really more of an interactive whiteboard. It’s really designed to take advantage of Windows 10 and incorporates collaboration tools like Skype for Business, Office, including OneNote, and Windows Universal apps (if any of note actually existed…but I digress…)

Surface Hub can be mounted on a wall or movable stand and resembles a flat screen television but with a touch screen; and really has little to no difference than Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.  Microsoft is targeting the device for the enterprise in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, consulting, defense, finance and education.  However, it’s really going to work well in any corporate setting.  Not only does it allow physical attendees to interact with it, but via Skype for Business, even remote meeting attendees can use its interactive and collaboration features.

In today’s fast paced business environments that often include distributed teams, having the ability to have everyone see what you’re seeing at the same time as well as collectively and collaboratively interacting with meeting resources and files – sometimes at the SAME time – is going to be a huge productivity boosting benefit.

Surface Hub is said to come in two flavors – an 55″ model and an 84″ model.  Prospective pricing was announced for the devices about this time a year ago.  The 1080p equipped, 55″ model will cost $6,999 USD and the 4k capable, 84″ model will cost $19,999.  The devices actually started shipping in March 2016 (as opposed to the original September 2015), and have also seen a price increase over their initial pricing.  The 55″ device cost $8,999 and the 84″ device cost $21,999.

Now… I wonder how easy it will be to upgrade our Perceptive Pixel PC here in the office…?

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Initial Impressions of Windows 10 Mobile

Well… I’ve upgraded my BLU WIN HD LTE handset…, and… yeah.

Introduction

Ok… I’ve got a few thoughts on Windows 10 Mobile, and I need for everyone to understand the justification behind them, so… bear with me a moment.  This may sound a bit critical, but in the end, I don’t think anyone can blame me…

Windows 10 MobileI started my mobile Windows journey in 1997 with the Casio E10, a WindowsCE powered handheld device that had a 320×240 pixel, 4 grayscaled LCD that received electrical power via 2 AAA batteries.  WindowsCE itself was released by Microsoft in 1996 at COMDEX.  The OS was meant to power handheld computers and act as an embedded OS for other industrial applications. Comparatively speaking, while the devices weren’t really cutting edge, even for the day, they (and the Palm Pilot) were an advancement in computing technology that were the precursors to all mobile devices including all smartphones on the market today.

I got involved early, becoming quite the expert in nearly all versions of WindowsCE, PocketPC and Windows Mobile, prior to it being totally scrapped and changed for Windows Phone.  In fact, I became so competent, I was able to craft my own option ROM’s for PocketPC devices  to use after a hard reset (so all my third party apps would install, as hard resets were a common practice to resolve technical glitches caused by bad third party apps). I also got into flashing alternative ROM’s and OS builds on my Windows Mobile devices.  You couple that with a lot of my desktop Windows experience, and I feel I have a solid basis from which to rate an evaluatory impression on Windows 10 Mobile…

Here it is – meh.  And honestly, I’m being generous. Here’s why…

  • Universal Apps
    In short… where the heck are they? There may be some available and in the Windows Store, but they certainly don’t exist in the numbers and volume that Microsoft was hoping for this far into the release and support of Windows 10.The whole advantage to Windows 10, at least from  Microsoft’s advertised position to its developer community, is that you can write one (1) app, and it should work on every version of Windows 10 and every device that runs it, regardless of screen size or version.  That’s (supposed) to be the draw for developers and Windows 10, code once, run everywhere.  That’s a “universal” app.Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of universal apps in the Windows Store, and I don’t see a lot of developers flocking to the universal app banner.  With developers still ignoring Windows 10 and this new development platform, I’m wondering where the draw is for consumers to choose Windows 10 Mobile over iOS or Android.  Quite honestly, as a consumer, I don’t see it.Consumers want apps. We want games. We want utility apps or “task-oriented” apps (I want to do my banking, I want to buy something from <pick a store>, I want to play <a game>…) With Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile, there’s a really great chance that the app or tool you’re looking for, doesn’t exist on that platform; and won’t. PeriodHere’s the capper, though – according to an article published about a year or so ago on Business Insider, the Universal App platform has issue and problems.  Microsoft also hasn’t really given developers a genuine reason to build Universal Windows Apps (hence, the reason why, a year later, you don’t really see any in the Windows Store…)

    Universal Apps are really a boon for the mobile platform.  The idea here is that Microsoft gets apps for its mobile-powered devices when developers move to the Universal App Platform.  However, regular PC apps and PC development platforms like Visual Studio continue to work just fine, so, there’s no real reason for any developer to change what they’re doing.

    A year after its release, there really aren’t any Universal Apps to speak of, and with Windows 10 Mobile now released to the wild (as of this time last month), the absence of Universal Apps is a huge hole, and one that is made additionally glaring due to Windows Phone’s dismal, global market share of just 1.1%.

    (Interestingly enough, while doing research for this article, I stumbled on a TON of articles dated 2012 that had the IDC predicting that Windows Phone would surpass iOS in global market share by 2016.  Ouch.  That was a bit of miss, wouldn’t you say?)

  • Nokia Here Apps are Gone
    This is a crushing blow to the platform.  One of the biggest reasons why I really liked the Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile platform was in no small part due to Nokia’s Here apps.I used Drive (part of Here Maps) for my daily commute, as it memorized the commute route and then gave you traffic reports and guidance along it so that you could get to work on time.  The Windows Phone version is the only version that does this.  Other versions of Drive on other mobile platforms do the routing thing, but the Windows Phone version was the only one that did the route memorization and advanced alerts.However, with Drive and the rest of Nokia’s HERE Apps NOT coming to Windows 10 Mobile, this is just another reason, from a consumer’s point of view, to ignore the platform.By the way, according to Nokia, the reasoning behind this…  The Universal Apps platform, and the absence of a few key API’s no longer supported by Windows 10 (again, in favor of the Universal Apps platform).  Regardless of how much Nokia asked (dare I say, “begged??”) Microsoft NOT to deprecate these key API’s, Microsoft did it anyway, and hence… bye-bye HERE Apps.This definitely seems to be a case of Microsoft cutting off its nose to spite its face.  I also see this as a fatal move for the platform and is a certain sign that the end is near. If Nokia (of all companies…NOKIA!) abandons Windows Phone, then I have no reason to believe it’s going to survive much past 2017.
  • Windows 10 UI Advantage?
    Yeah… there isn’t any really.  Not on mobile, anyway.The UI on Windows 10 mobile is the tile interface, and that really dominates anything and everything on a Windows Mobile device and has really, since Windows Phone 7.  Microsoft really didn’t make any global UI changes of any note, in my opinion, except for what they did to Settings.On the desktop side of the Windows 10 world, they totally redesigned Settings and changed the way it looks on both Desktop and Mobile. While the mobile side of the world isn’t 100% identical to what you see on the desktop side (and vice-versa…) they’re similar enough for you to be able to not only see the similarities; but to use one vs. the other without any issues or problems.Other than this, however, I really don’t see a consumer based advantage to having the same UI on all Windows 10 devices.  From my perspective, a Windows Phone is still a Windows Phone; and as much as I may like the UI from a mobile perspective – and I do – it ain’t buyin’ me anything.  The Advantage to the same OS, regardless of platform was supposed to be Windows’ Universal Apps, and we all know how well THAT’S turned out (or do I have to go into it again..?  No??  Ok…)

Conclusion

Let’s face it bubba… Windows 10 Mobile is a total and complete bust.

There aren’t any – and in my opinion unless developers worldwide have some sort of, uh-hem, universal epiphany about Universal Apps – there won’t be any Universal Apps for Windows that will make any kind of difference, or lasting impression.  There certainly won’t be any that make Android or iOS users dump their devices for Windows Phone in general.

With Nokia HERE apps – and especially the Windows Mobile specific version of Here Drive – taking a powder from the platform completely by the end of June (meaning that they’re going to stop working for Windows Phone 8.x devices, too), one of the biggest draws to the platform is now totally gone.  Nokia is recommending that all former HERE Maps users on both OS versions look to Windows Maps (a horrible mapping, solution, BTW… Same maps, but rotten UI) for all future mapping and navigation needs.

Finally, without a real compelling UI advantage over Windows Phone 8.x, I not only don’t see the real need or desire for current users to upgrade existing devices; there’s no real drive for new users to make Windows 10 Mobile their OS of choice over an Android or iOS device.

I mean, Windows 10 may be familiar – and that may be a good thing from a desktop computing experience point of view – but from a mobile computing perspective, familiar isn’t compelling.

Its familiar.  That’s it; and familiar is boring.  Familiar isn’t going to make people drop their iPhone or cutting edge Android FLAGSHIP phone for what really only appears to be a mid-range Windows 10 Mobile device (as there really aren’t any compelling Windows 10 Mobile Flagship phones available, despite what Microsoft may have released with Nokia branding…)

I don’t mean to be down on Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile.  I really don’t. As I said at the beginning of this whole hullabaloo – I cut my teeth on Microsoft Mobile Devices.  This is really my platform.

The problem is, not only is Microsoft a little too little, a little too late; they’re really just in the way now.  They’re noise… they’re an annoying gnat that you’ve been trying to swat out of your face for a while now, and just won’t go away or die.

It’s sad really, but like Blackberry – who once totally OWNED the mobile device market 10-12 years ago – Windows Phone just needs to go away so that the rest of us can just move on.

It’s over kids.  These really aren’t the Droids you’re looking for…

Agree or disagree with me?  Am I missing something that really needs to be brought to light here?  Are there other nails that need to be jackhammered into the Windows 10 Mobile coffin?  Have I missed the mark, if even by a little bit..?

If so, I would REALLY welcome your input and your comments in the Discussion area below.  This has been a bit painful for me to write and to admit to not only myself, but to say out loud to all of you as well.

I really don’t want to be right on this one, man; but I can’t help but think that I am.  I mean , I know I predicted  the demise of Windows Phone just over six months ago; but predictions can often be wrong and miss the mark. The more that I look at all of this – all of the evidence – I can’t help but think that I’m right; and I really don’t want to be.

As I said, meet me in the Discussion area and give me your thoughts…or at least pass me a box of Kleenex…

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Uninstall QuickTime for Windows – QUICK!

That is, if you want to remain virus free…

Uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit absent from Soft32.com, not because I wanted to and not because there wasn’t cool stuff to write about, but because real life intruded.  It’s always an interesting time when real life gets in the way, especially for those of us that have routines.  Thankfully, though, I didn’t have THIS problem to deal with – more malware.

However, if you’re an iDevice user on the Windows side of things, you’ll remember that iTunes historically always wanted you to install QuickTime for Windows. It used to play all video out of iTunes via QuickTime.

That, my friends, has changed.

Apple is no longer using QuickTime for Windows to play video in iTunes and apparently, has also stopped issuing security patches for it as well. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t tell anyone about this.  This was picked up and reported by Trend Micro and their Zero Day Intuitive; and has been making quite the stir ever since.

Trend Micro released the following statement on the issue:

“Apple is deprecating QuickTime for Microsoft Windows. They will no longer be issuing security updates for the product on the Windows Platform and recommend users uninstall it… Our Zero Day Initiative has just released two advisories ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242 detailing two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows. These advisories are being released in accordance with the Zero Day Initiative’s Disclosure Policy for when a vendor does not issue a security patch for a disclosed vulnerability. And because Apple is no longer providing security updates for QuickTime on Windows, these vulnerabilities are never going to be patched. We’re not aware of any active attacks against these vulnerabilities currently. But the only way to protect your Windows systems from potential attacks against these or other vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime now is to uninstall it.”

While nearly everyone should have seen a number of third party reports to this effect, there’s no information on Quick Time for Windows’ demise coming from Apple.  They just seem to have flushed it, and moved on.

Those Mac users in the audience don’t have anything to worry about. Apple doesn’t seem to be deprecating or ending support of Quick Time for Mac, just the Windows variety.

It is highly recommended to everyone who uses Quick Time for Windows, to remove it from their Windows PC’s immediately.

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Windows 10 – Where Are We?

It’s been six(6) months since its initial release.  How is Windows 10 shaping up?

windows-10 were are we

Introduction

My good buddy Ed Bott recently published an article on the state of Windows 10 from an industry perspective and it got me thinking of my OWN experience with Window s10, now that it’s been out for six or so months.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies.  In fact, there’s a lot that needs to be fixed and changed.  Here’s where I think the new OS stands at this point.

The UI

To say that the Windows 10 user interface is an improvement over Windows 8.x is a bit of an understatement.  The UI is a huge improvement and one that nearly everyone who used Windows 8.x is glad to see.  The Start Menu is back, and it’s something that nearly everyone is happy about.  This single most, familiar UI tidbit is something that’s been around in computing since the release of Windows 95 – nearly 21years – and it’s something that nearly every consumer and corporate user has used and identified with as the beginning of their computing experience that they just can’t seem to give it up. Honestly, seeing as everyone nearly lost their minds when Microsoft replaced with the Start Screen, it’s amazing that people were able to use Windows 8.x at all.  I mean, without a place to Start, how do you get work done?

The other, most noticeable change to the UI is the removal and death of Charms and the inclusion of the Action Center.  The Charms were the UI element that you saw when you swiped in from the right edge of the screen with either your finger or with your mouse cursor.  Those have been replaced by the Action Center, which is a general catch all for notifications and other items requiring… well, requiring user action.

The Action Center has been well received, in my opinion. It’s an easy tool to use, and gives you access to the system events you need to act on.  Charms never did anything of value in my opinion, and were very confusing.

The thing that helped Windows 10 out the most is that, in all reality, its UI is more Windows 7 like.  All of the ModernUI elements are gone.  The ModernUI apps have been changed to Universal Apps and have a totally different look and feel to them.  Isn’t it funny what a new coat of paint will do..?

The Update Mechanism

Microsoft seems hell bent on putting older versions of Windows out to pasture.  It’s a problem they created for themselves with the support lifecycle of Windows XP and the absolute failure and public rejection of Windows Vista. An operating system version should never be in active support for 15 years.

As such, Windows 10 is on an auto update trajectory with destiny.

(Provided you have a legitimate, REAL copy…) If you run Windows 7, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  …) If you run Windows 8.x, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  There is no opt out.  If you run an earlier version of Windows on your PC, other than a version of Windows 10, you’re going to eventually run Windows 10 on that PC.

Period.

Get over it. Stop complaining and just accept it.  Apparently, there’s not much anyone can do.  Microsoft is hell bent on getting all the world’s Windows users off of their older version of Windows and on to Windows 10… and apparently, they don’t  care who they upset or anger in the process; and it doesn’t matter if you have that version of Windows running on hardware that the OEM won’t support with Windows 10.

In and of itself, upgrading and updating hardware that is on and supports Windows 10, is very easy. All the updates are pulled down in the background.  You don’t even have to run Windows Update. It’s now a service that is run for you and all you have to do – at most – is simply restart your computer.

This is the cool part of the update mechanism.  In fact, you don’t even have to restart your PC. Windows will do it for you and then apply all of the outstanding updates it has downloaded.

It’s the most hassle free way to update Windows… provided you actually want or are really able to run Windows 10.

Recovery

I have yet to have Windows 8.x’s or Windows 10’s Recovery mode/ partition – whatever you want to call it – work correctly for me.  And trust me…. this is definitely NOT a PEBKAC issue (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair).  I know my way around Windows; and honestly…

The feature just doesn’t work.

Most often, the feature doesn’t boot into Recovery Mode. It simply reboots the device, which totally defeats the purpose of the recovery partition in the first place.

When the recovery partition does do something else other than just simply reboot the device back into Windows 10, things usually go very, very wrong.  Wrong to the tune of, “I need to download the recovery image from the internet, create a USB boot stick and try to run that to blow the device and start from factory fresh because my device is now hosed,” wrong.

And to be quite honest, I’ve had the same problem with the recovery partition in Windows 8.x AND in Windows 10.  If you’ve been successful with a restore or complete wipe with the recovery partition running off the device’s internal drive and not off a USB stick, I’d love to talk to you about the experience and the process.

Microsoft’s Signature Hardware

I don’t want to over play this too much. I wanted to start off this section by saying something like, “wow! What a train wreck the Surface Pro and Surface Book are,” but that really isn’t very fair.

Make no mistake.  Both of these devices have some very serious problems.  Both of them have graphics driver issues that (at the very least) are at the root of the disappearing ink issue I’ve been barking about for the past year or more.  The problem is so severe, that it’s also effecting the Surface Pro 3 (a problem, that I think many – including Microsoft – are overlooking).

The Surface Book as graphic driver issues but also has sleep and battery related problems. These problems are so severe that in many cases when users try to put the Surface Book to sleep, the device won’t sleep.  When users try to sleep their computer and then put the device in a backpack or laptop bag, they often get what has been dubbed, “hot bag syndrome.” This is when  the computer fails to sleep, continues to run, tries to “cool” itself with ever warming air (due to it being confined to the small, secure space of a laptop section in either a backpack or laptop bag), becomes overheated and the battery then quickly drops its charge to zero (0).

Having both the disappearing ink/ graphics driver issue along with these battery and sleep issues has made the Surface Book nearly unusable for many.  Thankfully, I haven’t  succumbed to any pressure related to making a Surface Book purchase. The device is simply too pricey to begin with.  To have these simple usability issues on top of it all is nearly unforgivable in my opinion.

While this doesn’t make Windows 10 unusable, it kinda does make you wonder why Microsoft is having issues that it can’t seem to fix with its own, native hardware running its flagship OS, and many OEM’s are not.

I think I’ll just leave that one there to fester for a while…

Conclusion

I’m going to make this short.  Windows 10 isn’t bad, but Microsoft has a ways to go yet, in my mind.

The UI is pretty good, and a much better improvement over Windows 10.  I think Microsoft peaked in 2009 with Windows 7; but that’s my opinion. They haven’t always gotten things right, straight out of the gate.  Heck, it took them three versions of Windows before they got THAT right (Windows 3.0 was the first big hit for Windows, and then it took three versions of Windows 3.x – Windows 3.0, 3.1 and Windows 3.11 – before they got THAT right.

Their update mechanism isn’t bad, but they need to stop forcing the upgrade on users who don’t want it or can’t run it because their hardware isn’t rated for it.  If I don’t want Windows 10, please stop forcing it on me and my under rated hardware.

Their recovery mechanism needs a bit of work. I haven’t been able to make it work right.  Unfortunately, with the way Windows problems work, in many ways its always been easier to rebuild a system rather than troubleshooting it. That isn’t always the case now.

Finally, Microsoft needs to stop screwing around and needs to fix the driver problems in their Signature hardware.  If Microsoft can’t get this right, it’s hard to think that OEM’s and other PC manufacturers will.

Have you had issues with Windows 10?  Are you satisfied with the way it runs on your upgraded or native PC?  I’d love to hear how things are working for you.  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter.

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Here Comes the iPad Pro

A replacement candidate for the Surface Pro 3 has been identified…

iPad-Pro-Smart-Keyboard

Yes, yes, yes… I know.

Many of you expected this and are not surprised at all – the iPad Pro is going to get a chance to be my digital note taker in the office.

When I dumped my Surface Pro 3, I was pretty annoyed. Hell, let’s face it – I was really mad. The Surface Pro 3 has some real issues with Windows 10 and Microsoft OneNote 2013/ 2016.

It’s not pretty…

When I put the Surface Pro 3 head to head with the Surface Pro 4, I came away with some serious concerns and misgivings about where Microsoft was headed with the Surface Pro line (which, by the way, includes the Microsoft’s Surface Book).

Both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have problems with drivers, battery life, and in the case of the Surface Book, detaching from the native keyboard. These issues are so severe, in some cases, that people – including the friend I have in the office who lent me his SP4 to put head to head with my SP3 – returned them for replacement or refund. It’s a shame, too, as all three of these ultrabooks are really very nice… you just apparently have to use them for the right tasks, with power available, and without detaching the keyboard (in the case of the Surface Book), or you run into problems.

To be honest, it was the head to head article that I wrote that really pushed things over the edge for me and really prompted me to sell (read: dump) my Surface Pro 3. Windows 10 is problematic on it and OneNote is almost unusable, if you’re not careful.

So, enter the iPad Pro…

The office procured one for me, and I’ll be putting it through its paces. I’ve got the 128GB version on T-Mobile; and I’m using a instead of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. it’s a matter of preference, really… I’ve played with the Pro’s Smart Keyboard and I didn’t like the way the keys felt; or the way it worked (attached to the iPad and flipped around). I instead asked for the Logitech Create Keyboard, and though it adds a great deal of [overall] thickness to the device, it provides a much better typing and computing experience in my opinion. The keys have nice travel, and I’m able to touch type on it as I would with any other laptop or computer I work with.

The fact that it’s at least $20 USD cheaper than the Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is just a bonus.

Yes… I have an Apple Pencil scheduled to arrive in the next week or two. The fact that these things are hard to come by (I’ve been calling the local Apple Store a few times a week to inquire about buying one in store) isn’t helping matters. The iPad Pro really wants an Apple Pencil, despite the fact that taking notes in OneNote via the Logitech Create Keyboard works very, very well.

I’ll have a full review of the iPad Pro, the Logitech CREATE Keyboard and the Apple Pencil as soon as I’ve had a chance to spend some time with all of them.

At this point, I’m working on an opinion. If you just can’t wait and need something to chew on, you can go back and read this article on what’s going to make or break the iPad Pro. While it may have been a bit early on in the process for me, I really think the article speaks to some of the major hurdles the device is going to have to get passed in order to be the success that it wants and needs to be, especially in the enterprise.

In the meantime, just hang out…

I’ve got a few other interesting things that I’m working on that many of you might find interesting:

The Conclusion to the Smartwatch Roundup that I’ve been writing for (literally) the last year. While all of the principle players have been reviewed, I’ve got some issues that I’m still trying to work through with the Olio Mode One that have been keeping me much more occupied than I would like…
The review of the Hendocks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro 15″ Retina. While there are some issues to work through, I’ve been rather happy with the way things have been going; but I don’t want to ruin the review.
The Release of Windows 10 Mobile. Its rumored to be right around the corner. I’m hoping that the Windows Phone I have gets the upgrade sooner rather than later. If it does, I’ll have a full review, rather than just a news-based article speaking to the release of Microsoft’s mobile OS.

What about you? Did you get any new tech for the Holidays? Am I missing some big piece of gadgetry that I should follow up with an article or two or with a full review? Will wearables continue to be a big player in 2016? Is the iPad Pro JUST a bigger iPad or will it be as ground breaking as Apple hopes it will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your take on all of these and more? I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say!

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