No converged MacBook-iPad? Remember small tablets, big phones, stylus denial?

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Tim Cook spoke recently with The Irish Independent and he gave his opinion on the chances to release a hybrid computer that would be a combination of a MacBook and an iPad

We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” said Cook. “Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways

Well, Apple said something similar about small tablets and about the validity of the stylus. Cook recently called the Surface Book a diluted product, when the iPad Pro is clearly following that concept and trying to convince everyone without actually succeeding.

I’m pretty sure that converged device will show up, and I’m confident the MacBook -or a derivative from this one- will probably use ARM processors in the near future. Maybe not in 2016, but 2017 seems feasible.

The big question is what OS will be used on that device. Is Apple working on OS X for ARM? It did the same when it had OS X running on Intel processors in secret during several years.

I see a pattern here.

Source: Tim Cook: Apple won’t create ‘converged’ MacBook and iPad

Apple ‘destroys design’, neglects its own software

For years, Apple followed user-centered design principles. Then something went wrong.

Deep, thoughtful article by Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini on Fast.co that explores design guidelines at Apple and specially on iOS. “Apple is destroying design“. Those are harsh words from Norman, one of the most revered professionals in design.

The problem lies not only in software design, but in software from Apple as a whole. This was discussed by people such as Marco Arment a few months ago in “Apple has lost the functional high ground” (he promptly wrote a follow up to that post). On that post he wrote:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has fallen so much in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future

And it seems those fears are shared by Chris Pirillo, who has written about this a few hours ago:

This is not a discussion over missing features that would be nice to have — it’s about glaring omissions in perfecting the features that are currently in place (designing a usable product from top to bottom, hard bits to soft bits). The shortcomings may never be addressed simply because it doesn’t seem that anybody at Apple has an eye for software detail, anymore.

The problem is clearly there. It’s not unique to Apple, though, but for a company that was so prevalent in good design, this is troublesome.

Source: How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name

HoloLens reminds us not only of Kinect, but of another big failure

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Dina Bass writes on Bloomberg about the slow demise of Microsoft Kinect and how this device was not well supported by the company, that should have bet on it from the beginning not only on the gaming side (Xbox 360, Xbox One), but also on the ‘serious’ software side (Windows).

While the technology captured people’s imaginations and provided some entertaining gimmicks, the Kinect failed to become the all-purpose computing device many inside and outside Microsoft envisioned. The company’s ambitions for the product started out too small, and by the time it was ready to go further, the different parts of Microsoft were unable to come together and create something with lasting appeal.

This is a valid point, but the problem is far simpler. Kinect didn’t succeed because Microsoft did too many broken promises. Kinect games were garbage too simple and too casual: Nintendo had been making those kind of games for too long, and the feature was not a differentiator. It should have been.

In fact, trying to compare HoloLens future with Kinect present is misleading. These are two different kind of devices, and I’d say that HoloLens is much more similar to Google Glass in every way.

The lessons Microsoft must learn should come from that project, not Kinect. We’ll see if Microsoft delivers this time, but pitching a $3,000 consumer device is pretty difficult.

Source: Kinect’s Rapid Decline Shows Microsoft How Not to Pitch HoloLens – Bloomberg Business

YouTube Music: try to compete with that, Spotify

The audio streaming services should be pretty worried about the launch of YouTube Music, a streaming service that goes beyond what Google Play Music offers, but also what Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, or Apple Music -to name a few- offer right now.

And that’s because for a similar price you are not getting just the audio, but also customized music video streams that you can enjoy both online and offline, mixtapes that refresh daily and, of course, no ads.

I wonder how Spotify or any other, can compete with that. The only thing missing: you can’t create your own playlists, a feature that is available on Google Play Music.

I’m expecting two things here: the extinction of Google Play Music (to merge with YouTube Music), and the dusk of this new streaming trend that will probably have only another guest star: Facebook.

Source: YouTube Music is here, and it’s a game changer | The Verge

Follow-up: Gizmodo has a pretty different view.

iPad Pro review time: a great product that you shouldn’t buy?

Walt Mossberg on The Verge has written an impressive, sincere and up to the point review. Three problems arises according to that piece: it’s “too big and bulky“, the keyboard case (just one angle, no backlightning, not many shortcuts) is disappointing (“I kept wishing for a trackpad, so I didn’t have to keep reaching for the screen“, something that Lauren Goode, the other reviewer, also misses there), and few apps take advantage of the greater screen state.

The Apple Pencil is great but not perfect either according to Mossberg, who points out the fact that “there’s no place to store it, or even to magnetically attach it when it’s not in use

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Those reviewers agree on one thing: the hardware is there, the software not so much. That’s important: the apps are not ready for the iPad Pro. I guess they will be at some point, but that could be a problem for early users. The new dual-window mode seems nice but it’s not a real replacement for multi-window management on a desktop OS. Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica goes deeper on this and explains how many apps don’t render well on the new screen resolution, and reveals that “iOS 9’s multitasking still needs a lot of work“. The conclusions about the software are pretty evident:

There’s no exposed filesystem, no easy official way to install apps from outside the App Store, no iOS version of Xcode for developers. Connecting external accessories (cameras or SD cards, mics or audio interfaces) requires dongles and adapters and, occasionally, external power supplies. There’s no true multi-display support to speak of.

Cunningham goes further and tells us he feels the iPad Pro is a “sometimes computer“, which is probably a good definition of a product that wants precisely to be that. And although that could be enough for some people -artists and designers, for example-, I read the reviews and I can’t help but thinking about what a great product this seems and how no one reviewer really recommends it.

By the way, take a look at TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino review: he gives a different perspective, one in which he understands that Apple is just exploring the future with this device, as the company did with the MacBook previously this year. I’d say the former is the future for tablets, and the latter, the future for laptops. Fortunately, we’ll have many things in between.

 

Google Maps is at last useful offline: Goodbye, TomTom

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It was weird. Google Maps provided a great turn-by-turn navigation and search, but only if you were online. There were some methods to use it offline, but they were not really convenient, and it seems we’ve got finally what we needed:

Now you can download an area of the world to your phone, and the next time you find there’s no connectivity—whether it’s a country road or an underground parking garage—Google Maps will continue to work seamlessly

That’s a big win for users, and a big problem for companies that provided offline navigation apps on phones or dedicated GPS devices. TomTom, I’m looking at you.

Source: Google Lat Long: Navigate and search the real world … online or off

The new TAG Heuer smartwatch is just a coupon for a TAG Heuer mechanical watch

There’s nothing essentially new or different in the new $1,500 TAG Heuer Connected Watch just launched yesterday. It is based on the same Android Wear OS other smartwatches are using, and it has similar specs also (I’m curious about the Intel processor, though). No GPS, no heart-rate monitor, water resistant -but not waterproof.

It doens’t look too much like a luxury smartwatch besides the maker logos, and in fact it is surprinsingly light on the wrist according to the first early reviewers. So what’s the raison d’être on this smartwatch?

It seems it just gives a chance to TAG Heuer fans to test what a smartwatch can do differently, but the Swiss maker dismiss its usefulness in the long run.

Technology becomes obsolete every two, three, five, seven years, so it cannot be eternal“, says Jean-Claude Biver, CEO at this firm, who promises this users that once the warranty expires that device will still be worthy: you will be able to return it in, trade another $1,500, and get a brand new TAG Heuer Carrera traditional watch (prices vary).

So basically you’re leasing this smartwatch and use it as a coupon for a mechanical model that you’ll actually buy?

Clever, TAG Heuer, very clever.

Source: TAG Heuer, Google Release First Swiss Luxury Smartwatch: All the Details

Will the iPad Pro be able to save the iPad?

I’m blind to adjectives (and quotations) in press releases. That’s part of my education as a tech journalist, so I must really pay attention to read words like epic, groundbreaking, gorgeous or stunning.

But Apple and others have to try. Their mission is to make the world a better place sell products, and you often can’t be neutral when you do that at your company. Apple must do something else with the new iPad Pro: revive the category that’s suffering a lot.

The iPad Pro is a niche product. It escapes from that family target and identifies itself as a very special laptop replacement. One that is really a tablet, but that can outperform real laptops. The trade-off is evident, and there are three letters that define it:

iOS.

The strange thing about the iPad Pro is that it validates what Microsoft did with the Surface, but it does with that significant change. You can be quite productive with iOS, I guess, but that stubbornness is irritating. Apple, you’re competing with your own MacBook and MacBook Air (both on price and/or dimensions), so why would I decide an iPad Pro is better than that?

I guess the Apple Pencil is the only good answer for that.

I don’t know if that would be enough to save the iPad, but I predict the rest of the models will follow. Why do the Apple Pencil makes sense in the iPad Pro and not in the rest of the iPad family?

It does, and even the Smart Keyboard applies to that idea. But paying $799 for the ability to draw in a powerful tablet is something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone but artists and design professionals.

The rest will do far better with a laptop or a tablet. Or a smartphone, for that matter.

Source: Apple – Press Info – Epic 12.9-inch iPad Pro Available to Order Online Wednesday & Arrives in Stores Later This Week

Ubuntu convergence has its own pace 

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Canonical wants to get thing right before releasing it

Your next PC will be your smartphone.

That’s the idea Mark Shuttleworth – creator of Ubuntu and founder of Canonical- sold us on October 31st, 2011. The convergence dream was very real, but the plan failed.

Ubuntu didn’t deliver that promise on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (April’14) as expected, and we’re still waiting for them to show what’s their real proposal. There are some early demonstrations of how Ubuntu will work on your smartphone to deliver a desktop experience, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

That’s exactly what Shuttleworth explained recently on a Google Hangout in which he told us to avoid impatience:

I think that it’s important we carefully shape the emergence of Ubuntu so that it goes to people who are going to love it and contribute to it and be part of the ecosystem. I think it would be a mistake for us to try to go too fast because if we put it in the hands of people who don’t care about Ubuntu and don’t want to be part of it, right now they would be disappointed, we would be disappointed and the whole thing would be a mess. I think that the steady growth is clear.

That’s probably a wise position, but since Windows 10 is copying providing exactly that kind of dream with the exact same features Ubuntu wanted to deliver, one could think Ubuntu will arrive too late to the party. In fact, anyone who has tried Ubuntu Touch can confirm that this approach, although original -The Scopes are weirdly original and bold-, tries to distract us from the fact that the platform has almost no relevant mobile apps. And the ones they have aren’t really well done either in terms of design, usability and swiftness.

Let’s hope Ubuntu can really deliver what we all expect from them. We have to be cautious, though: Microsoft is a behemoth and even with their resources they will have a big challenge in the mobile space with this new philosophy. It’s probably their last chance to gain significance here, and Ubuntu is still far from what Windows 10 has accomplished.

Source: Ubuntu Touch on More Phones Would Be a Mistake Right Now, Says Mark Shuttleworth

The Unicorn Sect

I’d just wanted to share here an amazing post written by David Heinemeier Hansson (@DHH), creator of Ruby on Rails and founder & CTO at Basecamp.

On that post at Medium, entitled “Reconsider“, he writes about that startup rush we’re living in:

Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to fucking own the universe. It’s not enough to be in the market, they have to dominate it. It’s not enough to serve customers, they have to capture them.

It’s probably easier to say this once you are that succesful, but even taking that into account, the thoughts are exactly mine -and I’m part of that press that evangelizes about that cult, my fault-.

So true. Please read it.

Source: RECONSIDER — Medium