Apple, Microsoft, and the future of convertibles 

Paul Thurrot reflects on the convertible/detachable market:

One might argue, correctly, that the iPad Pro is not exactly a full-featured productivity machine today. But the key word in that sentence is “today.” Apple will evolve the iPad Pro and improve things on the productivity side of things. But I don’t see how Microsoft or any PC maker can turn a Surface or other PC tablet into a great consumption tablet. The apps and ecosystems just aren’t there.

And that’s the bit that Microsoft needs to figure out. Surface can see a certain level of success … as a PC. But if Microsoft wants to expand this product beyond that niche usage, it will need to fix the entire Windows ecosystem, a daunting and perhaps impossible task. But all Apple needs to do is keep chipping away at iPad Pro, which already outsells Surface. Imagine how bad it will get when the functionality catches up.

I’d say that for many people productivity equals -right now- a desktop operating system. Microsoft leads the way right now on the convertible market because they didn’t have to change really that much to their Surface line in terms of software. These devices work well as laptop replacements and you can expect to do your job nearly as  efficiently as you would on a laptop or on a desktop.

On the iPad Pro front the problem is exactly the opposite: it works really well as a consumption device -like the iPad has always done- but it doesn’t do that well on the productivity front, where things like a more powerful multitasking, window management or even a file explorer (that’s right, iOS, you don’t have one proper file explorer) are several elements that the user identifies with a productivity environment.

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The question is, which one will perform the other task better and before its rival. The Surface can work as a consumption device, but tablet Mode in Windows is not that good in apps or user experience.

iOS, on the other part, is advancing on the productivity issues and it is becoming clear that software developers will be far interested in taking advantage of the device capabilities becausethe iPad Pro user is a paying customer, one that will probably pay for a good productivity app in order to expand the versatility of that convertible.

I suspect Apple (and Google) have an easier path to conquer the perfect detachable. Remix OS has shown us that. Kids don’t grow using a PC anymore: they grow using a smartphone or a tablet, so Android and iOS are too familiar to them. If those platforms solve the gap to become productivity platforms as well, Microsoft will have a tough battle ahead.

Counter Strike and the defining purpose of a smartwatch

This Android Wear port is actually just an extension of the main Counter Strike port to Android shown last week. While you’re still going to be crammed for space compared to a real PC version, that version is at least more usable. And yes, that one supports multiplayer.

Nice gimmick. Now move on and try to get something running here that is really useful. That’s what smartwatches need: a defining purpose, not some fireworks to get a headline.

The quest for the real Apple Watch

Comparing launches can deceive anyone. That’s what The Wall Street Journal has made speaking about the Apple Watch, which is supposed to have sold around 12-13m units on its first year.

The iPhone sold 6.1 million units in the 12 months after its launch in June 2007.

Both devices had clear limitations, and in fact the iPhone 3G was a clear advance but not that much in hardware: the App Store was the thing that changed that phone -and the rest of the market- forever.

With the Apple Watch, everyone is expecting a change as big as that one. Daisuke Wakabayashi writes about an important possibility in the future Apple Watch 2:

Apple is working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to its next-generation Watch, according to people familiar with the matter.

That would make the Apple Watch really autonomous, but will be that enough? Other smartwatches had that feature before and sales and functionalities haven’t been really convincing. At least, not according to sales figures. Samsung Gear S was a good example of this, and the Gear S2 has a version with an embedded SIM (eSIM) as well, although it’s not available yet.

It would be interesting to see if that autonomy can push smartwatches forward, something that I suspect will have to do much more with software (again) that with hardware. The smartwatch can certainly be more useful with that kind of option, but the smartphone is clearly the perfect fit for the world as it’s designed today.

Opera and the new generation of browsers

Most people doesn’t have the technical prowess to use a VPN or an ad-blocker. Many don’t take care of their privacy, but a new generation of browsers can do for them.

First we had the Incognito mode on browsers, and it was widely accepted. Then we started to see ad-blockers integrated on several browsers (Safari on iOS and Brave on Android).

Now we’re seeing a browser with a free, integrated VPN, something that again solves a problem most people wouldn’t solve by themselves.

This is the way that tiny but important revolutions happen to be. Creators make them seamless, almost invisible. And that’s the reason most people accept them: they don’t impose a change. They suggest it.

We are witnessing the birth of the new generation of browsers. A generation that will help us to protect a privacy we weren’t capable of protecting by ourselves.

The new MacBook is a new test to our patience

Apple has just announced the new MacBook (2016), a refresh that comes short of what we were expecting in almost everyway. The design is unchanged except for the new rose gold color option, and on the inside we’ve got some shy improvements.

Yes, there is new Core m3, m5 and m7 processors with new integrated GPU (25% faster according to Apple’s data), a somewhat faster memory and PCIe flash storage and one hour of extra battery life.

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These are nice but expected improvements, but what was most expected was the changes to its design: one unique USB-C port. Again. Doubling this would allow us to connect more than one device at a time without further peripherals or even give us access to Thunderbolt 3 devices. That’s extremely weird considering that Apple was a bit supporter of this technology back in the day. This move from Apple only serves to give more credit to the new HP Spectre.

Dissapointing. What’s the reason behind this stingy upgrade? Does Apple want us to buy the iPad Pro instead? Or is a new superpowered Retina MacBook Air (I’m dreaming now) coming at WWDC?

We’ll have to be patient.

Again.

Technology and the dangers of oversimplification

I was reading another thoughtful piece by Vlad Savov at the Verge and I thought I could write a comment there. Quoting Savov when he was explaining the current trend in launch events:

I think we lose something (maybe not entirely tangible) when we adapt the presentation of technological products to the lowest-common-denominator audience. Apple obviously doesn’t agree, and it set the tone for simplifying technology and making it seem less daunting — but maybe we’ve overcorrected.

That’s one of the big ideas I really agree with, so the initial comment at The Verge grew, and it has become what I think could be a post here. There it goes:

I write about tech for a living too and the dicotomy is there: I love tech spechs and I can really appreciate that tech evolution you have talked about. The problem is, not many people can. The Verge readers and my readers can, of course, but this is the exception that proves the rule: that my mother, or my neighbour, or my friend just want to know if the device feels right.

This is something I’d say you own Walter Mossberg understood a lot sooner than many other tech journalists that focused too much on specs. Fortunately we can have the best of both worlds as tech readers: we can enjoy both a Mossberg review but also a more technical one here and there by other editors. AnandTech usually fits there for me, for example, but there are even deeper resources for each category that can really get even more technical that we’d love to.

Launch events have become a show. And lately not one for nerds. The oversimplification is also dangerous: I like the first Jony Ive videos when they started to be included in Apple launches, but I’ve started to hate them. My impression now is that Ive (and Apple) is even laughing at me and other technical users. They’re not, of course. They are just selling their products.

The problem is, they’re not selling them to me, but to “normal” (I’m sure you get me) people. It’s quite difficult to find certain tech details for some products (the RAM included on the different iPhone models is a good example), and that’s another showstopper for people that love specs, and benchmarks, and that kind of data that really puts that part of the equation in context.

Dual-camera smartphones are just the beginning

Vlad Savov reflects on the new trend that both LG and Huawei have established with their new dual-camera systems. Since smartphones are are thinner and thinner and the integration of better sensors and lenses is becoming quite complex, it seems the solution is to combine (at least) two of them.

The result seems promising on both phones, but if rumors are correct we’ll see a final confirmation of this trend with the future iPhone 7 Plus:

Rumors about Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus have included the suggestion that it would include a dual-camera system much like Huawei’s. If that scenario comes to pass, Apple’s substantial influence will serve to accelerate the trend and stimulate others to try it, too. But even without the iPhone’s endorsement, the addition of extra cameras is already proving itself valuable to the user

Indeed. The battle for the resolution or the pixel size could soon be forgotten. Maybe we’re starting to watch the battle for multi-sensor smartphones. An idea that isn’t new at all:

Light L16: multiple images from different lenses combine to give wider dynamic and focal range than ...

Interesting, don’t you think?

It will be a lot harder to criticize WhatsApp now

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Yesterday WhatsApp announced the final step of its strong encryption effort. Millions of users will finally have access to one of the most important features WhatsApp lacked: privacy protection.

Wired has published a longform on that subject, and it is strange to find there much more appraisal to WhatsApp founders -Jan Koum and Brian Acton who, by the way, look far different to the typical super-billionaire- than to the real responsibles from the actual magic.

That magic comes from Open Whisper Systems, who have provided the tools and protocols that allow that end-to-end encryption to finally be there for WhatsApp users. As Forbes has put it:

All of this is now coming to a billion people’s pockets without them having to do anything about it

Exactly. And that’s how technology really changes lives.

 

Origen: Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People

The HP Spectre is everything the Macbook is not

HP has surprised us all with its HP Spectre, a laptop that is just a laptop in spirit -no convertible mumbo jumbo here, thank god- but that gives the conventional segment a real spin.

First, of course, is design. Last year Apple launched the MacBook, a new concept that was right in several ways -ultrathin and ultralight- but that was wrong in so many more. It was underpowered, had just a USB-C port and had a keyboard that made not many fans.

spectre3

HP has take all those hints and have made them their strengths: there are 3 USB-C ports (two of them with Thunderbolt 3), a promising keyboard (1.3mm of travel) and touchpad, powerful Core i5 and i7 CPUs, and an intriguing cooling system. The non-multitouch screen is also a great choice, because the 1080p resolution allows to save battery without compromising too much the pixel density.

This is a really well balanced spec sheet, but it is impressive to find it inside on such a thin device. Putting all that technology in just 10.4 mm is really a wonderful feat. The new HP logo for its premium products is also a nice addition, and although I’d like to have another color combination -silver instead of gold- I think HP has really made something great here.

spectre2

Surpassing Apple -which seems to be a little bit unimaginative these days– in design, specs and price wasn’t easy a few years ago, but we are seeing how more and more makers are showing their capabilities here. And that’s absolutely fantastic. Kudos for HP.

What is the difference between 16 and 64 GB on an iPhone SE? $10 for Apple, $100 for you

According to IHS, “the iPhone SE (16 GB version) smartphone costs about $160 to build” whereas the 64 GB version comes at $170. This sales technique that forces iPhone users to jump to the 64 GB versions of its smartphones has been critiziced before, but still:

The company still aims to get consumers on the lower rung of the Apple-product ladder with the more affordable 16 GB Apple SE, knowing that many consumers will opt to pay for an iPhone with more memory. In fact, IHS estimates that Apple makes approximately $89 in incremental profit for each iPhone SE 64GB sold when compared with the iPhone SE 16GB.

Smart… and deceptive. That upgrade costs the user 10x what it costs to Apple.

And nobody seems to care, even if those new phones that start at 16 GB can now record 4K video. That is not recommended if you want to have some space for installing apps or taking a few photos, of course.

Bad move, Apple. Bad move.