With Apple Watch Series 3, $10 Ain’t $10

If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 with active LTE service, you’re likely in for a nasty surprise.

apple watch

Back when the Apple Watch Series 3 first launched earlier in the Fall of 2017, carriers promised that LTE service for your new Series 3 Apple Watch, would cost only $10 USD per month; and it does.

Sorta.

In the beginning, carriers offered three months of free service and waived the activation fees. At this point, everyone that got their Series 3 Watch on the day it was first made available at the Store, is likely being charged for service. However, as I mentioned earlier, $10 bucks isn’t always JUST $10 bucks. Both AT&T and Verizon are charging additional fees. So, your $10 bucks is likely closer to $12 to $14 bucks per month.

In California, Verizon Wireless users also have an additional $1.55 fee on top of their $10 per month, service charge. In North Carolina, AT&T users are being charged an additional $4.39 per month, bringing their bill near $15 for LET service on their Series 3 Apple Watch. These fees can be higher in other states.

If you thought you might try to avoid all of the fees by deactivating your service and then reactivating it when you need or want it, you’re also in for a nasty surprise. There are activation fees that come with this activity. You’re going to get hit with the standard $25 activation fee every time you go to bring your watch back on line.

For example, when you cancel and re-add a line, on Verizon, you’re going to get hit with that $25 activation fee I mentioned. Suspending your service will hit you with a $10 per month fee (what the normal service will cost – so you’re paying for it anyway).

Because Apple Watch Series 3 uses NumberShare on Verizon, it’s not considered a prepaid device, so you can’t skip a month of service. Per Verizon, you really have only two options:
1. Suspend your service for up to 3 months at a time; but this is going to cost you $10 a month. This is the normal service fee, so you’re not saving anything here. You’re actually giving them $10 a month to NOT use the LTE service on the Watch, which doesn’t make sense.
2. Deactivate the Watch completely. That’s going to wipe it from the account, but you’re need to restart everything over again if you want to bring it back; and that’s going to cost you at least the (previously waived) $25 activation fee. There’s also a recurring charge. This means that Vs. will basically charge you for two and a half months of service every time you turn the Watch off and on again.

There’s also a possibility that you’ll run into activation issues when you start and stop service. The Watch has its own number; but shadows your phone’s number when placing and receiving calls. Sometimes this whole process can create issues, as reported by some; but why that happened to those that bumped into that problem, isn’t clear.

If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch and have bumped into issues like this, reach out to me and help me understand what happened to you.

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Apple Watch can Save your Life

New studies suggest that owning an Apple Watch can identify potentially lethal health trends

I saw this, and I thought this was pretty cool.

I have an Apple Watch and have enjoyed using it for just over two years. I use it mostly for notifications and responding to text messages. I also use it to keep track of my physical activity, as well, such as it is. As a tech and software development geek, having something remind you to move and to move more during your day is important, especially when your job has you sitting on your tush all day long testing software. Some folks, me included, forget to move without being reminded. Having a subtle reminder to stand every hour makes it easy for me to take a break, move, and to refocus my thoughts, if needed. Apple Watch has made me more productive, as a result, believe it or not. It’s not been an interruption.

In a new development, it’s been found that Wearables can be used to accurately detect conditions like hypertension and sleep apnea in users that wear them. The research, conducted by health startup Cardiogram and UCSF, cited claims that data from heart sensors when combined with machine learning algorithms can identify patterns that predict if a person is at risk of certain health issues. The study followed more than 6000 subjects, some of whom were known to have been diagnosed with both hypertension and sleep apnea.

Cardiogram cofounder, Brandon Ballinger wants to “transform wearables that people already own – Apple Watches, Android Wears, Garmins, and Fitbits – into inexpensive, everyday screening tools using artificial intelligence” into tools that can not only help keep people well, but drive the growth of the market. The study is headed for peer review, according to Ballinger. This will hopefully lead to wearables being validated as a screening method for this and other major health care conditions, like pre-diabetes and diabetes, which, appears to be next on Cardiogram’s hit list

Cardiogram’s study lines up very well with the direction that Apple has been taking Apple Watch and the apps that are available for it in the App Store. Patents have been developed that involve both health related wearable technology by Cardiogram. Apple is also involved in a heart rate study partnership with Stanford University.

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Fitbit Looking to Acquire Smartwatch Pioneer Pebble

The fitness tracker maker is looking to acquire smartwatch pioneer Pebble

fitbit-to-acquire-pebbleIn what is being touted as a really, REALLY cheap deal, Fitbit is close to finalizing a deal with beleaguered smartwatch manufacturer Pebble for a reported $40M. If accepted, its understood that the deal will be for IP – intellectual property and software – only. The Pebble brand would be slowly phased out, with its all of its products shut down and discontinued over time.

Pebble laid off 25% of its workforce in March of this year. Pebble has also been having some very serious product issues during 2016. They’ve introduced three new smartwatches in July of 2016 – the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time 2 and the Pebble Core. In August 2016, they released a software update for their Pebble Health feature. None of these moves has helped them get past the product issues they’ve been having.

While Fitbit has emphatically stated that they are unfazed by Apple’s dominance in the smartwatch space, Apple’s sales of its Apple Watch has declined 51.6% as of the third quarter of 2016, according to the IDC. Unfortunately, this development hasn’t helped Pebble sales one bit.

Fitbit’s reported acquisition of Pebble seems to be signaling their desire to move beyond the fitness tracker designation that most of their wearables have been labeled as. The company has introduced new leather bands and other premium accessories alongside two new smartwatches, the Charge 2 and the Flex 2. After announcing mixed third quarter results and a projected weak forth quarter, the company’s stock took a 30 percent hit.

If you remember, I reviewed both the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time as part of my larger, year long, smartwatch roundup last year. I took a very quick look at both and gave the Surge to my daughter (who put it on for all of 5 minutes before telling me she’d never wear it…) and the Time to a friend at church (who wears it every day). However, I know both of these devices have struggled to make any kind of showing in the smart wearables market.

While Fitbit is truly only looking at a technology purchase, I don’t see why they would want to chase after Pebble in the first place. Pebble didn’t really concentrate on the Apps market with its smartwatches. Their apps and app store never really took off, and the resolution of their displays really didn’t make for anything that looked any better than what you saw on an Atari 2600 back in the day. In other words, their graphics and their displays suck. Fitbit doesn’t have an app store, and even if they did, their perception by the market as a fitness tracker only wouldn’t draw any of the premier developers to their ranks.

I really don’t see the purchase of the technology or intellectual property doing anything for them.

What do you think? Is this a good mashup? Will Fitbit’s acquisition of Pebble’s assets provide anything of value, or are they just wasting their time and money? Talk to me, kids! Meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think!

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Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

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Apple Releases iOS 9.0.2

Apple continues to swat at bugs with its latest iOS release

ios9

Wednesday 2015-09-30 saw the release of iOS 9.0.2, Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system.  Released a week after iOS 9.0.1, this latest update comes just two weeks after the initial release of iOS 9.

IOS 9.0.2 is another minor update – a bug fix, really – and also addresses other performance enhancements.  The following were called out in the release notes for this update:

  • Fixes a screen lock vulnerability that allowed Siri to be used to bypass the lock screen to access photos and contacts on a locked device
  • Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage
  • Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users
  • Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup
  • Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications
  • Improves the stability of Podcasts

IOS 9 focuses on productivity and performance, with some major updates to both Siri and Spotlight.  Notable among its new productivity enhancing features is a split-screen multi-tasking view that allows more modern devices, like the iPad Pro, to share and pass information back and forth between apps (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other productivity apps)  iOS 9.1, also due later this year, and anticipated during the month of November with the general availability release of the iPad Pro, is meant to focus on productivity for the new enterprise capable tablet and the AppleTV.

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The Biggest Thing Missing in the iPhone 6S

Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer… Honestly, its missing on every new mobile device you buy.

iphone-6s-rose-gold-vs-nexus-5-20154

Working with mobile devices as long as I have, you get to learn a few things about how things really should go. I’ve been writing for a long time, and honestly, I’ve reviewed a great many different mobile handsets. Some of them have been PocketPC’s/ Windows Mobile devices. Some of them have been Palm devices. I’ve also reviewed Android, Blackberry, and of course iPhones.

In fact, I’ll be doing an unboxing of the iPhone 6s Plus as well as writing a first impressions document on it based on my wife’s personal interaction as well as my own when it arrives for her on 2015-09-25.

Funny thing there – I ordered my wife’s iPhone 6s Plus on Saturday 2015-09-12 at approximately 11:30am, well after the early rush after the Store opened online at 12:01am PDT. My initial ship WINDOW was between 2015-10-06 and 2015-10-26. As of Wednesday 2015-09-23, I was still looking at waiting about another two to four weeks before the device shipped. Surprise, surprise… I got a note from AT&T this morning indicating that it would arrive on iPhone 6s Day, 2015-09-25. (I got her the standard yellow gold tone model, by the way.

So now, the point of this column is even more spot on. The iPhone 6s – and every other new mobile device – is missing a huge, HUGE “thing.”

A “How to use all the new hardware and OS features” document.

Now, I know I probably lost a few of you there, and you’re likely looking to jet… but stick around for a sec. You’ve come this far. Its not gonna hurt you to see it all the way through at this point….

There are a lot of new features in iOS 9.x, some of which you get with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, a lot of them you DON’T get unless you get an iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus. However, without knowing what ALL of the new hardware is, AND without knowing what all of the new features are, AND without knowing what requires what AND how to use them, you’re kinda left to figure it out yourself.

Some people rise to the occasion and figure it out. However, most people, don’t even know where to start and a lot of what makes a new device new and great, gets ignored.

It’s a shame, too.

Most people will get their new iPhones and fumble around with the new hardware and with iOS 9, and try to work it out; but they won’t get it all. They’ll get some of it. They may even look to the web and find something about what they’re interested in, but they may not find it all.

How can this be rectified? Its fairly easy, really; but then again, it requires that people actually use the tools that may be provided to them. Apple… Google… Microsoft… and every other hardware manufacturer that modifies or enhances a mobile operating system can provide a startup sequence or other getting started app or setup process that shows you the new stuff and is required to be reviewed before the device can be used.

Apple does something like this already, but all it does it configure the device. It doesn’t review the latest features and how to use them. It just runs through the required configuration settings. If however, it peppered new feature tutorials in between the configuration settings, it could inform as well as configure. That would be one of the best ways to resolve this problem.

However, I’m not certain that something like that is ever going to happen. If it was likely, it would have happened already. This isn’t rocket science…

I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus in the house. It arrived on 2015-09-25 – iPhone 6s Day – and I plan on building some how to’s and some fact finding articles on how to use some of its new hardware features and those of iOS 9.

So I invite you to do me a favor and stick around, close to Soft32 and give me a hand. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about with the new feautres of iOS 9.x. Let me know what you’re curious about when it comes to the new hardware of the iPhone 6x and 6s Plus. I’ll do my best to provide a good intro to the latest flagship iDevices and we’ll see what we can come up with.

So do me a favor, please… take some time and join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you’d like to know about first. I’d love to hear from you. Give me your thoughts, please. There’s a lot going on with not only the iPhone and iOS 9, but the iPad as well. I’m certain that everyone would love to hear about both. Wouldn’t you…?

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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

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

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

The reasons for this are four fold

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

EVER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of which…

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

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

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

I don’t think they will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT..!

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

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

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Next Generation Apple TV Details Leaked

Apparently, its $150 bucks…

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I’ve always been a huge fan of the Apple TV. Its saved my sanity while working in Nebraska in 2013 and 2014; and its always been a favorite way of watching streamed content, most of which in my case, comes from my Apple library or Netflix. Now, a new generation device is scheduled to be announced at the September 9, 2015 media event.

Details of the new device apparently were leaked by John Paczkowski of Buzzfeed. Some of the big features include (but aren’t limited to)

  • Universal Search – You’ll be able to search across service providers like iTunes and Netflix for content.
  • Siri Input – You’ll be able to ask Siri to play content. You’ll also be able to use her to search for stuff via Universal Search, too
  • Remote with Touch Pad and Mic – The Apple Remote is going to get a much needed update in order to support both Siri and Universal Search. At least now, it won’t be so easily misplaced or lost… hopefully. The new remote is also supposed to support motion sensors that will allow it to be used as a game controller.
  • Prices “starting” at $149 – I don’t know if “starting” means there’s going to be more than one model of the 4th generation Apple TV or if “starting” is just a marketing word, but expect to spend at least a bill and a half…

The higher price point is a surprise. Apple TV started out at $299 back in the day when it was first released, but then dropped to $99 and stayed there for the longest time. At that point, it was affordable by nearly everyone. When Tim Cook reduced the price to $69 in March of 2015, it became a no brainer to everyone with an Apple ID and a TV. At $150, it’s going to make many stop and consider the purchase before pulling the trigger.

Universal Search will be a welcomed addition to Apple TV. With the ability to search across multiple content providers like Netflix and Hulu as well as iTunes, you should be able to play nearly everything you would want and need through the device. While I’d really like to see support for Amazon Prime here, I’m not going to hold my breath…

The Search functionality is further augmented by an improved input system – Siri. You can use Siri to search for content on Apple TV and have multiple sources for the content displayed on screen. This will be a huge improvement over the current search service, which is currently for iTunes only and is text based, via the Apple Remote. Yeah… it totally sucks.

The new remote will be a nice added improvement as well. While the current Apple Remote is nice, it’s very easily lost or misplaced due to its small size. The new touch screen and mic are going to require a total redesign of the device. It’s also going to make it very easy to pair with your iPhone or iPod, allowing you to use those for your remote as well. In fact, using an existing iDevice as your remote with a revamped Apple Remote app makes a great deal of sense.

All of this, coupled with a revamped interface and new, advanced processors, is going to make this a compelling purchase. I know I’m interested in this, and will be looking to get a new Apple TV for the Holidays. Both my birthday and the Christmas Holiday fall very close together for me.

What’s going to be interesting is if and how a new interface will be reflected in existing hardware, meaning second and third generation Apple TV’s. While they will definitely not have a new processor, and may not get the new remote, some of the search could be done by an iPhone or iPod Touch and the results passed back to Apple TV via a Bluetooth connection. If Apple will allow or enable that, however is a different story, though it would be a very interesting development.

Are you interested in a revamped Apple TV? Is this something that you’re going to consider purchasing either right after the Announcement on 2015-09-09 or for the 2015 Holiday Buying Season? Do you own a second or third generation Apple TV? Did you buy one after the recent $69 price cut? Will you buy more of those or a new Apple TV? Is Apple TV even an option for you or do you own a competing streaming device like an Amazon Fire Stick or Fire TV? Do you own a Roku box or Sling TV? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and tell me what equipment you have and what you’re going to do with all of this new information? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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