My PC is good enough

Yesterday I wrote at Incognitosis (in Spanish) about the latest data that Canalys published about the PC segment. The numbers are crude but real: sales are down for all hardware makers, and even Apple is feeling the pressure.

Analysts from that firm suggested -not really a new argument- that the smartphone is guilty for that reality, but there is at least one more reason:

Your PC (or laptop) is good enough.

I made two polls that would be useful to confirm that idea, but the results were not so definitive as I would have thought. The first question, “How many years have you been using the same PC or laptop?” was pretty conclusive: 7 out of 10 users have a machine that is at least 3 years old.

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The second question was more interesting: “Are you thinking of buying a new PC or laptop?“. The answers were pretty different from what I would have assumed:

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As you may see there (although the poll is in Spanish) there are many people here who is thinking in buying a new desktop PC (around 40%) or a new laptop/convertible (46%) in the next three years. I think my audience is really tech related -the same happens here- so the poll isn’t that definitive in either case, but I would have thought of much more reduced percentages there.

After analysing the results, there’s an obvious fact: we updated our old PCs because we had to. If we didn’t, we were just missing the future. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy those exciting features Windows and its apps and games were giving us. We always want more, but in that case we also needed more in order to  avoid falling behind.

That’s not the case anymore. The market is mature and most people feels no need to upgrade or buy a new PC. Their machines are good enough, and Microsoft has made a big mistake with Windows 10, an OS that runs even better than Windows 8 or Windows 7 in old hardware. What happened with minimum requirements? Suddenly the equation didn’t work for us. And that’s a tragedy for Microsoft, Intel, AMD and all the rest of companies that once were successful thanks to that feeling of being compelled to buy a new PC.

Too bad.

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.

Razer Core is a great device with the wrong price

Razer Core

When we recently talked about the promising launch of Razer Core and AMD initiatives to push forward the use of external discrete GPUs for laptops we had only one question pending: the price of these devices.

Razer Core is the best example of the wrong pricing. The device is simply a box with a couple of PCIe slots and a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) connector. The metal chassis is nice, but I wonder how that can cost $500, which is enough to update your current PC with a powerful graphics card.

This is nonsense. Hopefully this kind of boxes will be made by small companies that have the interest to actually sell these peripherals. I wonder how many Cores Razer will sell -what Beats is for headphones, Razer is in the PC world- but they won’t be many at this cost.

Source: The Razer Core GPU box costs more than most graphics cards | TechRadar

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.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Pro is another testimony on why 4K is mostly useless on a laptop

We don’t need latops with 4K UHD screens. At least not yet. The benefits are minimal for most users, because you’ll end using scaled resolutions. That happens on Retina MacBooks since their launch, and for example the 15-inch Retina models have 2800×1800 native resolution, but you end using 1680×1050 or 1280×800 scaled resolutions.

With a UHD screen (3840×2160) you’ll end using 1920×1080 as the scaled resolution -unless you’ve got a really incredible eyesight. You’ll see beautiful detail and definition there, but the impact on battery is clear. The Toshiba Satellite P50T lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes on PCMark 8 Battery Life benchmark -3.5 hours on the Toshiba Radius 12 4K tested by Mossberg-, and although Samsung says this model lasts 6.5 hours, we’ll what’s the real number here. There’s an impact on performance too, although that is well managed by the GeForce GTX 950M included in the package.

The $1,599 price tag isn’t that bad for what Samsung offers in terms of specs, but if you value battery life, 4K laptops are not the way to go. In fact, the interesting one here is his little brother, the ATIV Book 9 Spin:

The $1,399 Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin has a 13-inch QHD+ display that can rotate 360 degrees, turning this notebook into a tablet.

Not bad for a convertible laptop that offers the same specs minus the discrete GPU and that gimmicky screen. The resolution here (3.200 x 1.800) is nice and the format, with a 13.3 inches diagonal, is much more interesting for users that demand more portability.

Source: Samsung Enters 2-in-1 Fray with ATIV Book 9 Spin

Dell buys EMC, a new IBM is born

 

Michael Dell

Dell has paid a staggering $67 billion for EMC, an enterprise storage solutions provider (oh, and that VMware thing). That could sound nice in the regular newspaper, but the deal is a little weird both for end users and for enterprise users.

End users don’t really know that Dell has been playing a prominent role in different enterprise scenarios for the last few years: they only know the company as a PC maker.

They were born this way, but they recognized long ago that the PC era wasn’t going to be eternal. The dawn of the smartphone has made Michael Dell change its focus, and now enterprise is what really matters.

It’s the same thing IBM did when they recognized that their business was not going to be in the end-user space: clones were threatening their IBM PCs, so they withdrew that market. The enterprise market was a safe bet.

Dell is doing the same. I wonder how many surprises we’ve got left from this company in the end-user market. Their Dell XPS machines have been a solid and interesting proposal, but they don’t seem to be able (or be interested, for that matter) to keep the pace of that Microsoft that is surprising us with the new Surface Book.

I guess the PC market is now a liability for them. The company is now more boring than ever, but this has been probably a good business choice.

Source: Dell Buys EMC For $67B In Largest Deal In Tech History

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

There’s no such thing as post-PC

Steve Jobs is famous for talking about the post-PC era. Tablets seemed then to conquer the traditional PC users, but five years after the launch of the iPad here we are, still using PCs like crazy although obviously smartphones are the devices that go with us everywhere. Tom Warren on The Verge:

As iOS 9 turns the iPad more into more of a PC, and Microsoft turns phones into PCs, the questions over which devices will be important in the future won’t be around their traditional forms, but their function. PCs will continue to evolve, as will the versatility of devices that are shaping the mobility of computing. Perhaps it’s time to kill off the idea of “post-PC” in favor of just personal computing. After all, smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all just PCs anyway.

Exactly.

Source: There’s no such thing as post-PC