Microsoft Edge efficiency isn’t (that) important: usability and options are

Chart showing average power consumption per browser (lower is better) based on aggregated telemetry. Edge on average consumed 465.24 milliwatts; Firefox, 493.5; Chrome, 719.72.

Microsoft has published a recent study about its browser capabilities and its power efficiency. The numbers don’t lie: if you want to maximize your battery life, you should use Microsoft Edge and forget Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

The results speak for themselves: Microsoft Edge outlasts the rest, delivering 17%-70% more battery life than the competition.

This is for sure interesting and important, but not so important to change user habits and convince him to switch to a new browser that basically wants you to perform the same tasks you do on your favorite browser in other way.

Usability and options are the key here.

I don’t use Edge because I don’t care about its ink option to mark pages -especially (and not too much) useful on tablets and convertibles- or its reading mode. I care about extensions and having the freedom to customize my browser as I want. I want to do the things I do in other browsers the exact same way I do them there, and I want things like my passwords, bookmarks and my history saved them.

Freeze frame from a video rundown test comparing streaming battery life on four browsers. Click to play.

I remember Firefox giving the option to import Chrome bookmarks a few versions ago: that was a dealbreaker to switch. Edge doesn’t take this into account, and I think they should focus on trying to convince users to switch offering them a better browser that they will find familiar.

Otherwise Edge is condemned.


4 questions about the troubling app subscription model

The news coming about the new App Store subscription model -that, by the way, will be applied to Google Play as well– are really interesting, but I find them troubling.

There is certainly content on which subscriptions make sense, but I’m not really sure apps and games can really benefit from this model. The questions arepretty obvious:

  1. Developers won’t probably give everything they have in mind in the first version to ensure they have something new to offer in future releases for their subscribers, right?
  2. Developers that offer the (near) perfect app -at first, or through several updates- will have a tough problem to justify new updates and the subscription model itself. What will users be paying then? New features they don’t need (that can spoil the original app)?
  3. Does this subscription model give the users more rights to ask for features? That’s not the case for video, music or “text” subscriptions, but again, the case is different.
  4. What about security patches? We took for granted that when we paid for an app we had some support associated to it. What will be the new terms of use on this cases? “Only critical updates are free“?

I’m sure developers like the idea, but hopefully this will be just an option for certain kind of apps that deserve that model.


Apple and the innovator’s dilemma

I’m sure many of you would like to see Apple hit the ground with a wallop. This is what happens when you’re so big: there are the ones who love you (very much) and the ones who hate you (very much). I don’t wish harm on anybody, but I must recognize that I made an evil chuckle when Apple published their latest financial results and we saw that money losses can beat up anyone .

Obviously those numbers could be seen from different points of view. Apple supporters quickly jumped to step pointing out that in fact the problem wasn’t that they sold too few (of everything) last quarter: the problem was that they had sold too much (of everything) on the previous quarter. If one looked at the overall picture, things were in fact pretty good. Maybe the quarter had not been so bright, but my evil smirk was responded by Apple with a powerful infernal laugh:


The vignette is funny and true, but the same webcomic would have been appropriate on other companies in the past. Companies that ended up being overtaken by those who did long-term thinking. Marco Arment wrote on Saturday his thoughts on the subject, and there he compared Apple to BlackBerry. He explained how BlackBerry smartphones were good on that moment because that was the concept we had about a smartphone. But they were wrong about the future, and like many others, they weren’t ready for what would happen after the iPhone’s launch:

No new initiative, change management, or acquisition in 2007 could’ve saved the BlackBerry. It was too late, and the gulf was too wide.

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are Placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping That These Will Become the next thing That our devices are for.

If they’re right – and that’s a big “if” – I’m worried for Apple.

The analogy is clear for Arment: Google, Amazon and Facebook -I wonder why he doesn’t mention Microsoft here- are making great investments in cloud services and technologies really promising like Artificial Intelligence. Apple has hardly done anything about this. Some people commented in HackerNews that this was not entirely true and that the company has made some recent acquisitions (Emotient, VocalIQ, Perceptio), but this is just makeup, because whhat Apple has not could be probably more important:


Apple is a company that has never placed special emphasis on collecting data, and that could be a decisive factor for its future because data allows to feed those IA platforms. Can the IA dig the grave of Apple? Well, I would say that if there is a candidate technology to transform our lives, that’s AI. In fact, it will also have a huge impact -if everything goes as it seems- in other promising fields, including self-driving cars, of course.

It may be the case that Apple doesn’t need to invest in AI, or in those cloud services that remain untapped. It may be the case that Apple is just waiting: someone gets the next big thing in a rough way, and then they come, and then they pull off an enhanced version of it and they show it to us in a way that suddenly we recognize as the one we needed and then we all want to be part of that revolution. That happened with the iPod, of course. And it happened again with the iPhone.

It hasn’t happened again.

It may also be the case (too many ‘mays’) that Apple has not the resources to innovate in this area, and in this regard the solution would be relatively simple, of course: use their  checkbook. I don’t see them moving on that direction, but if someone has deep pockets, that’s Apple. A company whose most high-profile acquisition was Beats, a company for which they paid $3B and has allowed them to become a ‘me too’ in streaming services.

The bottom line is clear. Apple is doing really fine, but if you had to bet on a company that in 10 years had not only survive, but triumph, would it be Apple? I don’t think so, especially since Apple just seems to look short term. Others try to look beyond, and I like that. And this is the reason I think that sooner or later Apple will have a really big problem. Unless they wake up, of course.

Suddenly, Chrome OS makes more sense

Chrome OS wasn’t mentioned once at yesterday’s Google I/O keynote, but there was a big update coming: Android apps will be part of that experience in a move that proves that the ‘merger’ between the two platforms was indeed a reality.

Google waited until day two of its I/O developer conference to announce what might be its biggest and most impactful news. With the Play Store, Chrome OS is suddenly a lot more compelling to users who might have shied away from using a device that could only use the web and web apps.

That’s the real story here: Chrome OS users will be capable of running lots of Android apps on their Chromebooks thanks to the arrival of the Google Play Store to this operating system. In fact the integration of the two OS’s seems pretty natural:

Apps show up as fully independent, separate, resizeable windows, instead of inside some weird Android zone. Their notifications appear inside Chrome OS’s own notifications area

What is more interesting here is that there’s no emulation or virtualization here: Android runs almost natively thanks to containers and has “full access” to resources such as Wi-Fi, processor or RAM -and of course, to the touch screen-. This move won’t make Android a desktop operating system at last by itself -and the approach is different from Remix OS-, but its combination with Chrome OS seems to make sense.  This feature will be available for every certain Chrome OS user in the fall; it will be interesting to see what’s improved in that moment.

Source: Bring Your Android App to Chromebooks | Android Developers Blog

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.


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.

On AlphaGo and sadness

AlphaGo won the last game against Lee Sedol and has completed a near perfect score of 4-1 in the match. That has proven how incredible what Google DeepMind team has accomplished with this AI system and paves the way for future applications of this engine.


As I wrote this morning commenting at Slashdot, this is impressive and somewhat sad. I’ve been following the matches with the same expectation and anger I felt in 1997 during the Kasparov & Deep Blue rematch.

The final result has been similar, and although it has been well reasoned that chess and go are pretty different games and Deep Blue and AlphaGo are pretty different machines, the bittersweet sensation is identical. I had a naive hope in the human superiority just for a little more time, but I was pretty sad after the final game: Lee Sedol seemed really disappointed and sad himself.

I can’t imagine the pressure he’s felt throughout the event, and his face -that’s my impression- seemed to tell us “I’ve failed you all“. He later told in the press conference that he felt he could have done more in the games -I’m sure he’d like to play more games to test himself again- and I wonder what could have happened if the matches would have been played without general knowledge.

Feeling that kind of coverage must have been really stressful. If you ever read this, Mr. Sedol, thank you. And please, don’t ever feel disappointed, you’ve done a fantastic job.

The triumph of AI

AlphaGo has beaten Lee Se-dol, one of the best Go players in the world. A machine has showed us its superiority at something that during decades was dominated by human intelligence. And that proves once again that Artificial Intelligence has an incredible path ahead, one that is both incredibly promising and incredibly disturbing.


The feat was accomplished a few hours ago, and it really doesn’t matter that this is only the first of five games. The victory of the machine shows that AI can go beyond what chess programs accomplished in the 90s. Playing chess against a computer is useless even for grandmasters, because even a mobile phone with the right software can beat most professional players right now.


This will happen too with Go, a much more complicated board game that relies not only on raw power to calculate future movements and positions: it relies on intuition. Google has given AlphaGo that intuition, and we must wonder what will be the next disturbing marvel we’ll watch in this area.

We should be amazed, but I can’t help thinking if we should be more and more worried about what this can lead us to. Coming from a computer nerd, the situation is more and more troubling.

Bumpy road ahead.

Microsoft isn’t more evil than Google or Apple

UWP first step towards “locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” says Tim Sweeney.

Microsoft and its universal platform goes beyond using your smartphone as your PC. It’s all about the one thing businesses want more than anything: control.

That’s what Apple has accomplished with its App Store, and what Google has accomplished with Google Play. If you want to install an app or a game, you must do that through the official app stores. There are ways to side load applications in both cases, but the methods are not straightforward for not experienced users.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games cofounder, has critiziced this kind of approach from Microsoft, but I wonder why he doesn’t compare that to what happens with Apple and Google:

With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” said Sweeney. “Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem.”

There are obvious disadvantages to that kind of control -lack of competition from other stores, for example- but no one seems to be crying out loud for the same situation on the most used Operating Systems in our planet.

The Universal Windows Platform is far from perfect and that kind of control is not desireable, but the problem has been real in Android and iOS for years now. Maybe users don’t have a problem at all with all their apps and games being distributed through just one platform, and I don’t see developers protest against the Apple Store, which for many is a great way to sell and distribute their products. The same goes for Google Play, of course.

Everyone is evil here, not just Microsoft.

The Google VR future is autonomous


Google took a big step forward with the first iteration of Google Cardboard: that simple solution was able to democratize VR and make accessible to everyone. It was, however, a flawed product: too limited and too toy-ish.

Weeks ago rumors started to pour in -we just talked about it a few days ago-, and now it seems clear that Google will soon reveal a new piece of hardware that will be far more advanced and ambitious than Cardboard. It probably will be also a new step between the Gear VR from Samsung and the HTC Vive Pre/Oculus Rift.

According to the WSJ, the new headset from Google won’t be tethered to a smartphone or a PC to work, and that’s something that makes everyone question where will it get its content from. I assume it will have WiFi support, so you’ll have to connect to a streaming server: some kind of ‘VR version of YouTube’, if you will, with some kind of VR Android on it. Uhm.

We’ll see if that’s the case, but that future of an independente headset is quite difficult to imagine: a good VR experience needs a lot of power, and streaming those experiences is for sure really demanding. Interesting times for VR, that’s for sure.

The challenge for Google’s next Cardboard 

The Google Cardboard project has been incredibly succesful on its primary goal: democratize Virtual Reality and allow nearly anyone to get a glimpse of what this trend is going to allow us to do.

Now that they have succeed in that, it seems Google wants to monetize that kind of market too. According to the Financial Times, Google will launch a new headset that will be similar to current Gear VR. That’s the right move for Google -given that they don’t abandon the current version- and will allow them to compete on  market that will for sure have associated many opportunities to earn some money.

There are doubts, though. How many kind of devices will we have?

  1. Oculus Rift: the most expensive and -supposedly- the best to get the richest experience. (Gaming PC required)
  2. HTC Vive Pre: from what people are saying, this one is really starting to be a serious contender to Oculus’s headset. (Gaming PC required)
  3. Gear VR: that’s the cheapest way to enjoy a quality VR… if you currently are an owner of a Samsung high-end smartphone. We already discussed what are the differences between this device’s features and the ones Google Carboard has. (Samsung high-end smartphone required)
  4. Google Carboard: cheapest, most affordable way to play with VR and test if it can deliver what we expect it to deliver. (Any (capable) smartphone required)

From what we see, there will be a high-end and low-end for both segments: PC based and smartphone based. I guess for the time being the VR experience will be similar to what happens with regular games on the PC and the smartphone. If you want to enjoy a richer experience in almost every aspect -mobile games can be really addictive-, you’ll have to go for the PC experience. Mobile VR will be more casual, more of a testing arena.

So Google going for the high end makes sense. Hopefully being able to enjoy a better, more comfortable experience with (almost) any Android or iOS smartphone will push this kind of content even more.

Interesting times ahead.