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.

ipadpro

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 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.

macbook1

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.

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.

Split-screen feature for Android is coming, but that’s far from enough

Google’s sleek new Pixel C tablet has already gotten dinged in initial reviews for missing a basic productivity feature that is available in comparable gadgets, like the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4: the ability to run multiple windows at any given time. Now we know for sure that the feature is coming to Android.

We talked about this yesterday. A split-screen feature to be able to have two windows at the same time in your screen in nice, but the problem is the software catalog itself.

mash

You can’t not be that productive when the apps look like scaled, giant versions of the ones you’ve got on a phone. Android has never had a good tablet catalog of apps, and work must be done there.

Look at the iPad Pro. The split-screen feature hasn’t saved it from “just decent” reviews.

Source: Google is working on a split-screen feature for Android, always-on ‘OK Google,’ and DisplayPort support for Pixel C

The Pixel C is just and oversized phone

The new convertible tablet from Google is available at last, and reviews came as expected from different big media assets. Ars Technica, Engadget or The Verge (in two ocassions, this one and this one) speak about the device and mostly arrive to the same conclussion, expressed very well by Walt Mossberg on The Verge:

Without a decent selection of true tablet software, especially for productivity, it’s just an oversized phone

That’s why Pixel C is another attractive device no one would really recommend. Google’s proposal follows the ones made by Apple (iPad Pro) and Microsoft (Surface Pro 4, Surface 3) but fails at the software part. Android is not ready for that multitasking features we get on these other platforms. Even iOS 9 has included a dual-window mode, and reviews weren’t that nice on that front either.

We’ll have to wait for that hybrid between Android and Chrome OS, I guess.

Follow-up (12/11/15): This new report from Ars Technica shows that Android was probably a last minute solution to launch a product that was meant to be based on Chrome OS and that will probably was affected by the decission to merge Chrome OS with Android. Interesting.

Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 is a promising cheap alternative to Surface Pro 4 & iPad Pro

You don’t need much more than that to work on the go. A 7.9 inch screen (2048 x 1536 resolution), a quad-core Atom X5-Z8500, 2 GB RAM and 64 GB of internal storage make this Windows 10 tablet a surprising cheap alternative to the new breed of expensive convertible tablets.

This is exactly what Microsoft should have announced in addition to Surface Pro 4. A cheaper, smaller version with similar capabilities. You’d only need a good “Type Cover” for this (Logitech Wireless All-In-one Keyboard TK820 seems like a good fit, but there are other options) and boom, you’re there.

I’d say the complete pack will cost around $300, which is a fair amount to spend on that occasional replacement to a real laptop. Not bad at all. Beware, Microsoft (and Apple).

Source: Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 is an iPad mini that runs Windows 10 | The Verge

iFixit: Apple Pencil is a little technology marvel

I remember Ken Shirriff’s article about the Apple iPhone charger teardown. On something so seemingly unimportant, Apple showed their capabilities. Design was important, but execution was critical.

Something similar has happened with the Apple Pencil. We can laugh about Apple admitting finally that the stylus can be useful on certain scenarios. What we can’t do is ignore what the company has accomplished withe the Pencil in terms of technology integration again.

Wonderful.

Source: iFixit Apple Pencil teardown reveals twin emitters to measure angle & orientation, logic board folded in half

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

ipadpro1

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

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

ipadpro3

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.