Microsoft says everyone is switching, and no one is believing it

On certain ocassions, lately more often than not, we found clickbait on sites that we respected and trusted. Someone from those sites says something and we should believe it.

The problem is, we shouldn’t.

It’s dissappointing to see that mostly everyone has took the bait with the Microsoft post about its wonderful year with its Surface division:

More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.

Microsoft, could you please give some actual data? I can’t believe a word you say, and I certainly can’t not understand the scope of that statement if you don’t give me actual numbers. That post would be true if, for example, no one would have ever switched before from a Mac to a Surface, and now there was at least 1 or 2 people doing it.

We need to have context. What are you comparing, in which region, in which data range, and of course the real sale numbers. It’s not enough to insert a link to one switcher’s story.

I want to believe, Microsoft. Except I can’t.

Windows 10 on ARM could (should) be a game changer for Microsoft

Windows RT, the version of Windows with native support for ARM processors, failed miserably due to lack of support by developers. Other recent efforts to conquest the mobile space also came to nothing: Project Islandwood and Astoria (port iOS and Android apps to Windows) didn’t get the interest they requested, and it seemed that every attempt on this space was cursed from the beginning.

This situation could really change with the recent announcement from Qualcomm, who has showed how their ARM processors can finally run Windows 10 and Windows software quite well thanks to emulation.

We’ll have to see if this “quite well” is “really well”, but it seems clear that the latest mobile CPUs are really powerful. In fact, most of us underutilize that hardware, so taking advantage of it by supporting this platform could be specially interesting.

This support opens the gate to future smartphones that can become real PCs thanks to Continuum (the problem with Continuum on the Lumia 950/XL was similar to the one Windows RT had), but there are also a nice set of opportunities for new convertibles: a Surface Pro could last longer and include 4G/LTE connetivity for example.

That poses a real opportunity for Microsoft in the mobile space at last, and a real threat for its rivals, who had the software advantage and now could be competing in equal terms. It’s still too soon to judge the result, but this is one of the most promising things Microsoft has in its sleeve.

Let’s hope it’s not the last one.

Source: Microsoft now has the tools to make the Surface Pro the ultimate mobile computer – The Verge

Pebble: Requiem for a dream

Pebble Time 2, Pebble Core, and Pebble Time Round watches will never ship.

One of the latest and greatest market disruptions didn’t come from Apple, Tesla or Amazon. It came from a company you had never heard about, and it also showed that a good idea could also be the start of a revolution even if you had not the resources to make it a reality.

hype

Pebble started the smartwatch era, and it made everyone dream of the next step in the wearable and mobile devices. As with any other of the trends in the Hype Cycle (made famous by Gartner) the peak of inflated expectations led to the trough of disillusionment. Pebble, though, has not find an exit from that trough.

Others in the smartwatch market are trying to enter the next step of that cycle and enter the phase of ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ to end finally in that dreamed ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Apple is apparently doing fine with its Apple Watch, but interest in those devices and the ones based in Android Wear isn’t growing.

But whereas Apple and Google partners can survive —smarwatches were just a little part of their businesses—, Pebble can’t. It’s only mission was to make the smartwatch succeed. In fact, it was more than a mission. It was a dream. Their dream.

Seeing a smart, brave dream like this fail is a tragedy. But the market is right: smartwatches are just glorified smartphone accesories. At least for now.

Hopefully they will become something else in the future, but Pebble won’t be part of that future. If someone at the company reads this, I’d like to say: thanks for the ride.

Related (coincidentally, Fitbit bought Pebble assets): Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Google Pixel: a smart step for a smartphone

Jerry Hildenbrand on AndroidCentral:

Morgan Stanley analysts think the Pixel and Pixel XL are going to be really good for Alphabet’s bottom line with over eight million units sold and $6 billion in revenue.

Many consumers complained about the change course and the departure from the now almost legend-wait for it-dary Nexus family, but that affordable family now makes less and less sense.

Competing in the low spectrum of the smartphone market is getting more and more difficult, but the guys at Google know they can differenciate themselves from the rest of Android phone makers by integrating software with hardware better than anyone, à la Apple.

Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL seem to perform really well and their cameras are probably the best on the market right now. They’re on par at least with the ones found on the Galaxy S7/Edge and iPhone 7/Plus, but the inclusion of Google Assistant (still a little bit inmature) could mean a real new start from the hardware division at Google.

It’s weird: Microsoft and Google seemed to making some hardware products just for fun. Now they have showed they can make better (high end) products than the majority of their partners/rivals.

Google DayDream is more fashion than tech

Adi Robertson on The Verge:

It feels more like clothing than electronics.

That’s the perfect definition for Google DayDream, a product that is interesting in its own right as the evolution of Google Cardboard, but that doesn’t introduce much more in terms of technology.

daydream

This is another example of a tech product that falls more in the fashion category than on the tech innovation one. Google wants to earn money with this, and I totally understand that DayDream certainly is well designed and its remote can improve the experience.

Anyway, c’mon: $79 for a Cardboard made with fabric? One that isn’t backwards compatible? Thanks but no, thanks.

Source: Daydream Nation – The Verge

15 years later, was piracy good or bad for the Xbox?

When I got my first —original— Xbox in 2002 I bought it what already was a modified, pirated version of the console. It was ready to store game copies onto its hard disk and let players play them easily and with only one disadvantage (to the user): you could get banned from the Xbox Live service that was just starting to show its potential in those days.

When the original Xbox was launched, the PS2 had been already available for a year and a half, and that head start was a big obstacle for the Xbox, which nonetheless was able to gain traction and become a worthy alternative. The PS2 dominated that sixth generation of consoles, though: 150 million units sold as of February 2011, while the Microsoft Xbox had sold over 24 million units as of May 2006.

Both of them suffered greatly from piracy, and one could wonder if the impact of that piracy was bad or good for the original Xbox. The competition against the PS2 was really tough, but having access to an easy way to modify and take advantage of game copies downloaded from the internet may have had a positive impact for users that were debating which one of the two big rivals get.

The ability to run those copies from the hard disk and projects such as XBMC were specially interesting for certain users that understood that the console could be a great alternative as a Media Center. I used those capabilities too, and I can confirm that as far as I can recall the original Xbox was much more interesting than the PS2 for me.


So the question seems inevitable: did piracy —which was much more popular in audio and video— and homebrew scene help Xbox sales? Did it help competition against the PS2? It certainly did a lot of damage to other consoles such as the PSP, but the Xbox developers continued to make a lot of (many of them great) games even with this problem.

 

No one gets the MacBook Pro, and you probably won’t either

The MacBook Pro reviews are coming. Not the ones about the base model, but the ones that finally analyze the model with Touch Bar, that invention that according to Apple is the future of those computers. Well, not many seem to think likewise.

In fact, most of the reviews are just a confirmation of what people thought of these machines after being launched a few weeks ago. On ReCode Walt Mossberg has been unsusally crude with Apple, something that is really surprising:

The new 13-inch MacBooks — even the base model without the Touch Bar — are costly. And they may make pro users unhappy. But, for everyday Mac lovers — users of the Air or maybe the older low-end Pro — they are now your only thin, modern option with a full-fledged processor. The Touch Bar has potential, but it’s not magic. The battery isn’t likely to deliver on Apple’s claims. You can’t count on liking the keyboard. But, if you’re a Mac devotee ready to move past the Air — not back to a lower-powered MacBook — this is what Apple is offering. Take it or leave it.

There you go. It’s Apple’s way or the highway.

Same thing on The Verge. These guys have tested both the 13 and the 15 inch models, and the former has been rated with a 7.6. That’s the lowest score I’ve seen on an Apple product since The Verge was born five years ago. The two final sentences are again conclusive:

I have little doubt that in a couple years, the technology Apple has been waiting for will arrive and this vision, or something closer to it, will be complete. Apple just released this machine too soon, or was too aggressive in the decisions it made.

That future is almost certainly out there. But it’s not in this machine. Not yet.

In both cases they talk about the #donglelife problem: you better buy adapters and dongles for all those non-USB-C peripherals you got around, but they also claim the battery is underwhelming. The Touch ID, though, is a nice addition.

Engadget is on that line too: they don’t seem to understand this MacBook Pro and the reasons why Apple has decided to go this route:

As I said, there’s ultimately a lot to like about the new MacBook Pro. But it’s designed for someone who I’m not sure exists outside Apple’s fantasies of how professionals use computers. The MacBook Pro I want to see is built around real people’s work habits. I still recommend it, and I imagine many of you who have been waiting patiently will indeed buy this. But I’d enjoy it more if it were designed for people like us.

There are lots of other reviews, but from what I’ve read they are all (with a few exceptions) almost the same. Nobody seems to get the MacBook Pro, and maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we don’t understand it because we aren’t looking beyond our current devices or our current workflow.

Maybe Apple has just got ahead of its time like it did with other products. Or maybe not. Maybe the MacBook Pro is a big failure everybody is trying to understand and accept because it’s coming from Apple, so it has to be thenextbigthing.

I assume the latter.

I do think that some of the ports we’re using right now have to dissapear sometime in the future, but not so soon and in such a radical way. I really thing the Touch Bar isn’t going to stay with us for much too long.

At least, it will have to evolve and be something that proves that changing our way to work is really worthy. The current Touch Bar doesn’t do that.

This is not looking good Apple. Not at all.

Google Daydream: good, cheap, and exclusive

When Google launched Cardboard in 2014 it surprised us with a simple, accesible way to enjoy Virtual Reality experiences. The experiment allowed everybody to experiment and get that first impressions with this kind of content. You didn’t have to invest a lot of money in some previous version of Oculus Rift to marvel at these virtual worlds: you could spend $10 dollars and feel that promise.

Google Cardboard democratized Virtual Reality.

Everything has changed with Google Daydream, the updated version of that first device that is radically different from the original idea. Whereas Cardboard was open to everybody and every device, Daydream is at the moment closed to just two smartphones: Pixel and Pixel XL.

The price goes up as well, and we don’t know for sure what are the specs needed by other hardware makers in order to make their smartphones Daydream compatible. The problem is, there’s no backwards compatibility, so what in the past was accesible to everyone now is just available to a few users.

So Daydream maybe a better product with a better build quality and maybe better content —still no killer app, it seems—, but it no longer democratizes Virtual Reality. Daydream instead goes the other way around..

And that’s a tragedy.

 

Apple, dongles and Macbook Pro

Phil Schiller, november 2:

We are proud to tell you that so far our online store has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before

Apple, november 4:

Apple is cutting prices for all of its USB-C adapters following a week of complaints about the MacBook Pro’s inconvenient port situation.

Something doesn’t sound right here. If the demand were so high, why cutting prices?

Will the Touch Bar save the MacBook Pro?

The new MacBook Pro is (again) what we expected after months of rumors: lighter, smaller, faster. And more expensive, of course. The main argument here is the shiny new Touch Bar, a customizable touch OLED display that supposedly allow users to access certain application functions faster and easier than through traditional keyboard shortcuts or mouse control.

I tend to consider the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro as an analogy to the 3D Touch support on the iPhone: something that looks nice on a demo, but that won’t be as revolutionary as it seems in real life.

3D Touch hasn’t been mentioned much by Apple in the latest months, and the problem with the Touch Bar is similar: developers have to enable that support specifically for MacBook Pro owners, who will be just a small part of the Mac user base. I wonder if that would be interesting enough for them given the effort that that kind of support could put to the task.

I found much more compelling the fact that the new MacBook Pro is lighter, faster and better connected. I miss the MagSafe, sure, but charging through USB-C isn’t a bad choice either.

The arrival of the butterfly mechanism to the keyboard is intriguing —although the result in the MacBook has been painful for some users— but the giant Force Touch trackpad is indeed interesting.

Oh, and we still have 3.5mm connectors on the MacBook Pros. Thank god.