Can Lean Back Devices be used for Lean Forward Activities

…or can you really do that with a tablet??

6a0120a805e490970b01538e1c68a3970bI saw an interesting article by Preston Gralla the other day about how productivity boosting tablets were the gift worth giving this year. Preston sites three in his article – one Android (the Nexus 7) and two Windows Pro (Surface Pro 2 and the new Dell Venue 8 Pro). The bent of Preston’s article is that while there’s a great deal of convenience and multimedia capability built into these, they also contain a great deal of productivity power, providing the user with a well-rounded computing experience.

In his mind, this combination of lean back form factor and lean forward productivity is what makes these types of devices a sure winner. Preston has a point, but I’m not entirely convinced. I think it’s this mixing of features and form factor that are causing problems for these devices.

Tablets were originally (re)introduced as relaxation, or lean back, devices that provided basic, essential computing power in a highly portable, light weight, performance minded form factor. They were small enough to take and use nearly everywhere from the bathroom to the beach; and they got you on the internet, reading and answering email and posting to your favorite social networks without requiring a lot of bulky, computing hardware. They did just enough just about everywhere, and that’s what made them successful. Taking the lean back out of the tablet has changed the dynamic of the device.

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device was a movement that BYTE tried to address between July 2011 and April 2013 over at InformationWeek.com I wrote many BYOD focused articles there and you can still find many of the articles I wrote here. The entire house of cards starts to crumble the moment you try to bring your iPad to work. I know, I tried to do it for 3 or more years. Part of what I wanted to do on the iPad – hand written notes – really doesn’t work well, due to the type of digitizer and touch screen the tablet uses. To this day, handwritten notes aren’t easy, despite the advances in processor, memory, etc.

I have found that both iOS and Android, while capable of running productivity apps, are more suited to handling content consumption focused activities. In other words, while possible, both mobile OS’ are really better at running entertainment software – audio and video players, book reading software, game play, etc. again, even with the enhanced hardware they’ve received over the past few years.

When you put a more productivity based OS on a tablet as well as add a keyboard, you get devices like the Surface/ Surface 2 series type devices that have more in common with an ultrabook or notebook PC than they do a tablet. While this has a bit to do with hardware, its really more pointed at the OS. Windows 8 is more suited towards full-blown productivity apps than entertainment software, though they also do exist on the platform.

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Interestingly enough, my son-in-law recently received a Toshiba Satellite Click 2-in-1 13.3″ Touch-Screen Laptop for his birthday from my daughter. The device comes with a detachable keyboard and Windows 8.1 Pro. He is using it as a productivity machine for school. I recently asked him how often he had used it as a tablet. He hasn’t. Not once.

He said while he can use the device in tablet mode, the device works better as a notebook. When I pressed him for an explanation, it was clear to him that Windows 8.1, despite its live tiles and ModernUI interface, is more of a familiar notebook OS than a tablet OS. Office works better while using the attached keyboard than the on-screen keyboard. Computing in general, worked better with the attached keyboard; touch pad and extended battery than simply with the tablet. So, he is clearly leaning forward rather than relaxing and leaning back with it. He also hasn’t used it as an entertainment device – i.e. to watch movies, listen to music or to read eBooks – though he can do all those things quite easily with the device.

I’m finding that is exactly the case with the Dell Latitude 10-ST2 Windows 8 Pro Tablet. Its all productivity and very impractical as an entertainment device.

You’re likely going to hear a great deal of advertising this Holiday Shopping Season on how Windows 8.x tablets are the perfect combination of lean back and lean forward – entertainment and productivity – devices. In most of the cases I’ve seen and in my personal experience, it just doesn’t work out that way.

The potential for having both in a single device is great. If it works out for you, you can obviously save a great deal of money. However, I’ve noticed that most people don’t actually take advantage of both in a single device. Their device gets “mentally tagged” with a single or main purpose, and using the device for something else violates that tag.

I’ve seen people do that with a number of things – cars, pens, clothing, AND computers. Its not that you can’t drive the sports car to the office, its that you’re saving it for the fun times. As a child, I had school clothes and play clothes. You didn’t mix the two; and I suspect that with many people, whether they do it intentionally or not, they aren’t going to be able to put a ton of movies and music on their work machines. Let’s forget about how most enterprise admins frown on stuff like that and just say that you probably aren’t going to want to give up all the space you might need for documents, spreadsheets and presentations to MP3’s and videos.

In the end, it’s a metal paradigm that I think many people won’t accept. Its not because they can’t, but because for them, the whole idea just doesn’t fit well.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.

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Apple’s Disposable MacBooks

I have seen the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, and I’m not buying one.

I really like Apple’s products. I do. Really; but I don’t like the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Believe me when I say, it’s not the display that’s the problem.

I made a recent trip to the Apple Store and was able to look at, handle, pick it up, etc. It’s very thin for a 15″ laptop. I was impressed with the build quality and the form factor. The display…was STUNNING. However, nothing is physically wrong with the PC…other than “once you buy the prize, it’s yours to keep.” In other words, you can’t upgrade it, in any way… EVER.

Due to a number of different tear downs that were performed on the device, it’s clear that the new notebook contains:

  • RAM soldered to a logic board
  • A Proprietary SSD
  • A unified display assembly
  • A battery that’s glued to the case

There are no user serviceable components. You can’t upgrade ANYTHING in this notebook. If you can’t afford to buy the max configured unit, which costs a max amount of $3857.00 USD, before tax and shipping, if you max out all components, including the processor as well as purchase a USB SuperDrive and Thunderbolt Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. If you add AppleCare to the package, which I would HIGHLY recommend based on how the PC is manufactured and the fact that nothing is upgradable, the price tops $4206.00 USD.

My Early 2011 15″ MBP is the top of the line 15″ MBP. It was $2799. The new MBP is $1058 USD ($1407 USD with AppleCare) MORE than the previous generation top of the line MBP.

Paying that is pure insanity unless you’re part of the so called 1%, here in the US.

The biggest problem with the device is not the price. It’s not the lack of end-user upgradable components, per se. It’s the fact that the devices really aren’t recyclable, despite what Apple says.

None of the internal components can be recycled, according to some articles I’ve seen. It may be possible to “shred” the device once it reaches end of life and won’t work any longer; but it’s unclear whether the refuse can be recycled. It depends on the resins and glues used.

When you combine the price point of the unit with the non-upgradeability and current recycling status, you get a disposable PC.

That’s sad.

A neighbor of mine is looking for a new MacBook and is interested in the high end 13″ MBP; but those units are currently only available in 4GB or 8GB RAM configurations. I called the Apple Store to ask them about this and while the PC’s (any of the new non-retina MBP’s) MAY be able to support more than 8GB of RAM or 1TB HDD/512GB proprietary SSD, Apple doesn’t support it, and may not honor warranties IF your PC comes in for repair with greater than 8GB of ram or the any other HDD/SSD configuration other than their configurator contains.

Apple simply doesn’t want to support non-standard configurations; and it appears that most users won’t care, as most just turn the switch on and use what they purchased. They don’t tweak or play with the hardware.

However, this is problematic due to the high price point of the laptops. You want to be able to grow the laptop a bit and at least upgrade the RAM and hard drive so you can store and do more over a longer period of time. The PC is too expensive NOT to do, or want to do, that.

I’m not going to purchase a new laptop for a while yet. The one I purchased last year should do me for at LEAST another couple of years. However, what to purchase after that isn’t as clear cut a choice as it used to be.

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Remember things big and small from your everyday life with Evernote

One of the most important things that you can do with your mobile device, your computer or laptop is take notes. If you’re a student, educator, or business professional, then you know what I’m talking about. Keeping track of action items, assignments, lesson plans, etc., is something that everyone has an interest in. That’s one of the reasons why I like Evernote. This multifunction tool has specialized functionality in order to keep you organized.

Evernote makes it easy to remember big and small things from your everyday life, using your computer, phone, tablet and the web. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use, anytime, anywhere. All you need is a connected device and available bandwidth. Evernote does the rest.

With Evernote, you can remember the things that YOU like. You can instantly save everything cool and exciting you see online. You can snap a photo, record some audio and save it to a note and have that note, with that cool content sync to every one of your connected endpoints. As such, you can take notes anywhere. If you’re always on the move, your notes and important information should be too. With Evernote, those important items are on every computer, phone and device you use.

Since notebooks sync instantly, Evernote makes it easy to work with remote friends and colleagues. You can share your notes and collaborate on projects with friends, colleagues and classmates regardless of their location, time zone, etc.  Evernote can be used to bring project information and teams together regardless of who is working on which parts, and can centralize all your information.

Read full Review | Download Evernote for WindowsDownload Evernote for Mac

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HP Envy Spectre – one of the best-looking ultrabook you’ve ever seen

Do you remember the teaser clip released by HP which showed a mysterious device dubbed Spectre ? Well, now we can be more accurate and tell you that the mysterious device is called HP ENVY 14 Spectre and it’s possibly one of the best-looking ultrabooks you’ve ever seen.

Sleek, midnight black glass on the outside and stark contrast silver glass on the inside make Spectre extraordinary, defying conventional notebook design,” said Eric Keshin, senior vice president, Strategy and Marketing, Personal Systems Group, HP. “We chose the Spectre name to evoke mystery, and we packed it with the best in entertainment technology to satisfy those who expect the unexpected.

HP Spectre weighs less than 4 pounds and uses lightweight, scratch- resistant glass on the lid, display, palmrest and HP ImagePad and a full 14-inch screen HP Radiance Display which offers higher resolution, richer color, better brightness and wider viewing angles than traditional notebook displays.

HP Spectre is equipped with a matching audio-grade speaker mesh and Beats Audio, an exclusive, high-performance technology developed by HP and Beats by Dr. Dre, the HP Spectre boasts an aluminum analog volume dial that acts as a visual design to precisely adjust audio levels.

HP Spectre features built-in HP Wireless Audio that can turn your home into a concert hall, allowing you to stream uncompressed audio to up to four external devices or directly to any KleerNet-compatible device.

The HP Radiance Backlit keyboard provides really cool illumination using individual LEDs dedicated to each keycap. The keyboard works with an advanced proximity sensor to intelligently sense a user’s presence, lighting up when a user approaches and dimming down after he or she leaves.

Talking about performance, HP Spectre is powered by an Intel Core processors (i5 or i7), solid state storage (128GB or 256GB) and 4GB (or 8GB) of RAM. Moreover, the ultrabook features Intel Rapid Start Technology and support for two ultrafast mSATA solid state drives allow for quick boot and resume times. Also, it comes loaded with HP CoolSense technology, which automatically adjusts performance and internal fan settings for a noticeably cooler PC. In addition, the HP ImagePad provides precise multifinger touch navigation and the HP TrueVision HD Webcam provides brighter, cleaner HD images.

Additionally, the Spectre offers a performance-tuned software image, full versions of Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements, two years of preinstalled Norton Internet Security and a concierge phone line for technical support that is dedicated exclusively to HP ENVY users.

Envy Spectre is expected to be available in the United States on Feb. 8 with a starting price of $1,399.99.

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Alienware M18x – the first notebook PC to feature fastest GPU in the world

Did you ever wonder which is the most powerful Notebook for gamers? Looks like we have a winner: Alienware M18xequipped with the fastest notebook graphics processing unit (GPU) yet, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M.

The  new GPU seems to set new standards in benchmarks (and games performance) and yes, the first notebook PC to feature the powerful GPU is the Alienware M18x. This notebook which offers the option of two GeForce GTX 580M GPUs in one system for up to double the gaming performance, using NVIDIA SLI technology.

Not to be outdone, the Alienware M17x (the version of M18x but with a single video card) will offer the GeForce GTX 580M along with NVIDIA Optimus technology and will deliver 5 hours of battery life in Facebook, and 100 frames per second performance in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Gamers aspire to experience games at their highest settings,” says Eddy Goyanes, product marketing manager for Alienware. “Alienware activates the technology designed to enable those aspirations. With the launch of the GeForce GTX 580M on the Alienware M17x, and a dual card option on the M18x, that synergy continues — Alienware delivers the ultimate gaming experience.

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Google launches Chromebooks with Samsung and Acer

Yesterday we announced that Google was getting ready to announce a “student package” for its Chrome notebook. Well, shorter than expected, Google officially unveiled its first Chromebooks. Google has partnered up with Samsung and Acer to deliver the first models, which are slated to ship on June 15.

Let’s take a look at the main features of Chromebooks…

Instant web
Chromebooks boot in 8 seconds and resume instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash. In fact, Chromebooks are designed to get faster over time as updates are released.

Always connected
It’s easy to get connected anytime and anywhere with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G. As your Chromebook boots up, it quickly connects to your favorite wireless network so you’re on the web right from the start. 3G models include a free 100 MB per month of mobile data from Verizon Wireless so you can keep working around home and on the go.

Same experience everywhere
Your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log in to another Chromebook and get right back to work.

Amazing web apps
Every Chromebook runs millions of web apps, from games to spreadsheets to photo editors. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many apps keep working even in those rare moments when you’re not connected. Visit the Chrome Web Store to try the latest apps, or just type in a URL. No CDs required.

Friends let friends log in
Chromebooks are easy to share with family and friends. They can log in to experience all of their own Chrome settings, apps, and extensions, or use Guest Mode to browse privately. Either way, no one else using your Chromebook will have access to your email and personal data.

Forever fresh
Your Chromebook gets better and better over time, unlike a traditional PC. When you turn it on, it updates itself. Automatically. All of your apps stay up-to-date, and you get the latest and greatest version of the operating system without having to think about it. Annoying update prompts not included.

Security built in
Chromebooks run the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses. They employ the principle of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot.

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MSI Also Announces FX420, FX620DX Performance Notebooks

MSI FX420 Notebook

If you’re looking for superior performance and the ultimate multimedia experience—and who isn’t?—look no further. The new MSI FX420 and FX620DX not only pack Intel second generation Core CPUs, both of these mean machines sport high-end discrete graphics cards to meet the needs of extreme gamers. The FX620DX, in particular, comes with the nVidia GeForce GT540M discrete graphics card and Intel Core i7 quad core processor for adrenaline-pumping speeds.

Screaming system performance

Intel second generation Core i processors: MSI’s FX620DX and FX420 feature the Intel powerful Core i7-2630QM quad core processor (2.00GHz) and Core i5-2410M™ dual core processor (2.30GHz), respectively. Both support Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 to analyze processor workload and automatically allocate processor resources to throttle up core clocks to enhance computing performance.

nVidia and AMD discrete graphics cards: The FX620DX and FX420 come equipped with the nVidia GeForce GT540M and AMD Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics cards, respectively. Both have 1GB DDR3 of internal memory and support Direct11. Both support MSI GPU Boost which automatically kicks the system over to discrete graphics card mode when the CPU is processing high-load applications to give you superior graphics processing capabilities. When performing general word processing tasks or browsing the Internet, it cuts to the power-sipping integrated graphics chip mode, striking the ideal balance between performance and battery life.

Classically stylish, low power consumption

Perfect fusion of style and technology: The jet black lids of the FX620DX and FX420 laptops are sheathed in non-peeling raised texture seal coating to prevent scratching and smudging. The centers are graced with MSI’s glowing platinum logo and the palm rest areas with a soft raised checkered coating that not only pampers the hands, but adds a touch of class. In addition, the power button is encircled by chrome which does a beautiful job of setting off the cold, luminescent blue lights above the keyboard. The unassuming platinum trim around the speakers and body as well as the unmatched Chiclet keyboard and raised multipoint touchpad further underscore the tasteful class of these elegant machines.

Shortcuts: Located above the keyboards of the FX620DX and FX420 are six shortcut buttons. With just one click, you can eject a DVD, turn off the screen, or turn on the S-Bar, Turbo Battery+, or Cinema Pro, so when you’re going to be away from your computer for a few minutes, you can quickly shut off the display, so as to not waste battery power.

Latest USB3.0 ports: The FX620DX and FX420 come with USB3.0 which boasts transfer speeds of 4.8Gbps—10 times faster than USB2.0, so a 25Gb HD film transfers in just 70 seconds. It also provides 80% more power for vastly faster charging speeds for external hard drives, flash drives, and other handheld electronic devices.

ECO Engine: ECO Engine power-saving green technology lets you select from among five power management levels—Video Game, Film, Presentation, Word Processing, and Turbo Battery, to automatically adjust display brightness and processor performance settings to reduce power use and maximize battery use per charge.

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MSI Rolls Out Ultra Slim X370 Laptop

MSI has rolled out its new generation X-Slim Series X370 laptop computer which has a gorgeously slender body graced with flowing curves. Less than one-inch thin, it tips the scales at a mere 1.4kg. The X370 sports MSI’s etched checkerboard design and the cover is sheathed in MSI’s exclusive shimmering color film print to underscore the X370’s extraordinary style.

Eric Kuo, associate vice president for global sales, MSI Notebook, points out that the new generation X370 laptop packs AMD’s new generation dual-core E-350 processor, endowing the machine with powerful processing and display capabilities, but more importantly, it only uses 18 watts of electricity. Couple that with MSI’s own ECO Engine power-saving technology and the X370’s battery supplies up to ten hours of power per charge.

New AMD APU architecture processor: The MSI X-Slim X370 is equipped with AMD’s new generation (2011) dual core E-350 processor. In addition to packing the x86 architecture core, the APU (Accelerated Processing Units) processor sports the AMD Radeon HD 6310 discrete class display chip which supports DirectX 11, offering powerful processing and display performance on par with discrete graphics cards. 10 hours of battery power: The X370 not only offers the ultimate in high performance multimedia and processing capabilities, MSI’s exclusive ECO engine power-saving technology lets you select from among five power management levels—Video Game, Film, Presentation, Word Processing, and Turbo Battery. And the AMD E-350 processor uses only 18 watts of power. Together these give you to ten hours of extended battery life.

Feather pattern: The X-Slim X370 is less than one inch thin and tips the scales at just 1.4kg. The cover is sheathed in MSI’s own lustrous color film print with checkerboard pattern which is set off by the laptop’s silver trim and the metallic sheen of the borders around the power button, LED status indicator lights, and the touchpad as well as MSI’s Chiclet keyboard. All these details come together to form a stylish notebook that is elegant without being ostentatious.

SRS PC Sound: The X370 features the latest SRS PC Sound, so whether you use the internal speakers, external speakers, or earphones, this new generation technology can expand the overall sound field to reproduce a natural, true-to-life wrap around sound experience to satisfy the desire of consumers for faithful sound.

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