Yoga Book: Going beyond the tablet

The guys at The Verge have done a fine job by discussing how the new Lenovo Yoga Book came to life. This is a hardware device that, as Nilay Patel has said over at Twitter, is the first fascinating one in a long time.

The new and impressive Instant Halo Keyboard won’t be perfect for many people, but I’m sure the trade-off is worth it. Being able to type, write and draw on the same surface is a great deal, and not many hardware makers would have thought of an option as creative and bold as this.

In fact, there’s one company everyone would think of if asked which could be responsible of that innovation. That company, of course, was Apple.

It hasn’t been that one for some time now. The problem is, this is becoming the new normal.

Apple should have done something like this. Lenovo? Not in a million years.

And here we are.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Android N won’t be enough for convertibles

Latest data from IDC suggest that convertibles will transform current tablet sales: the current sales drop this year (5.9% from 2015)  will stop next year with “single-digit growth in 2017“. That growth will have a leader: Windows.

Microsoft’s operating system is leading this market now, but it will do with even more strength in the next few years, increasing the gap with iOS and Android.

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The latter will probably have the same problems on convertibles that it has shown on regular tablets. Not many applications take advantage of the tablet and that’s a real issue for users that can enjoy a better software catalog for tablets both on Windows and, of course, iOS.

But there’s another problem coming: productivity. Last year Pixel C showed promise, but in the first reviews  it was clear that Android was not a good match for a convertible. It wasn’t then, and it won’t be this year despite the current discount in price.

The reason is again clear: Android N is available for developers and supports several devices (Pixel C included), but the only real feature that will enhance that productivity scenario is the new multiwindow support. It’s nice to have that finally -one year after iOS introduced it-, but it’s far from enough. Again.

When you are in front of a convertible with a laptop and a touchpad (not in this case), you want a laptop experience, not a tablet experience. That’s the one we actually are productive with. So I’d ask Google why are they being so stingy and so shy in their convertible bet.

Considering the rumors about an Android and Chrome OS merger, these are not good news. I would expect much more from Google.

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

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

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 isn’t cheap, but it delivers a lot

I still have to read the full review, but on its final words Brett Howse explains clearly how everything in the Surface Pro 4 has raised the bars. The Type Cover is much better (keys and touchpad), the hardware is superb, and the execution is difficult to criticize.

But it is not cheap. At all. The “sweet spot” could be the SKU with the Core i5, 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM for $1299. That’s without the $129 Type Cover, of course. With that money you can find for sure other alternatives, but this is indeed a great machine:

If you are looking for a workhorse tablet that you can be productive on, I don’t think anyone else offers the build quality, performance, and accessories, compared to Surface.

Please have in mind that using this on your lap is not very comfy. The Surface Pro 4 and its predecessors are meant to be used on a table. If you plan to use it otherwise, consider other options.

Source: Final Words – The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review: Raising The Bar

Who are you Microsoft, and where have you left the old behemoth?

Microsoft has accomplished something extraordinary today. It has made people not to need their products, but to actually want them. The new Lumias 950/XL became a dream come true: real convergence for devices that can act as smartphones or as complete PCs depending on our needs.

But even more impressive is the launch of both the Surface Pro 4 (“the Surface Pro is leading Apple’s iPad instead of chasing it“, says Savov) and the amazing Surface Book. The event was fantastic in everyway, and even the closing remarks by Satya Nadella were thoughtful:

But the more important thing that Nadella noted was Microsoft’s emphasis on getting people to want its products and services rather than just need them.

This is indeed a new Microsoft. A very welcome one.

Source: Microsoft has warmed my cold cynical heart with hot new hardware | The Verge