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 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

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

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

Surface Pro 4 and the new Lumias are on their way: please Microsoft, get this right

On July 29th, Microsoft launched the final version of Windows 10 for desktop PCs and laptops, but that was only the first part of their ‘One Windows’ launch strategy. Now comes the hardware.

The event Microsoft has confirmed for October 6th is going to be a big one: the first high-end Lumia 950 / 950 XL made by Microsoft will  be cornerstones of their new, ambitious roadmap. Both specs and images have been leaked, and although the design is not that interesting,  the specs are. One of them is really interesting, in fact.

It’s not the screen, processor, iris scanner or even the 20MP camera that they will supposedly have. Not even the support for wireless charging. No. It’s the USB-C port that is specially exciting.

And it’s interesting because that port will be responsible for that bold behaviour of these smartphones that won’t be usual smartphones anymore. They will be, more than ever, pocket PCs. PCs that actually act as PCs.

That, my friend, is not your smartphone. It's your new PC. Get used to it.
That, my friend, is not your smartphone. It’s your new PC. Get used to it.

On one of the leaked images one of the phones appeared connected to some kind of dock, wich will for sure be crucial to offer the Continuum for phones feature. That is: you connect the phone to the dock and that dock to the monitor, and voilà: that smartphone is no longer a smartphone: now it’s a desktop PC. You will connect a Bluetooth/USB keyboard and mouse for sure, and then you’ll have your miniPC running from the new Lumias. Gorgeous.

That USB-C port the leaked information talks about shoud of course support the new USB 3.1 Alternate Mode, one of the main features of the new standard that will allow us to connect VGA or DisplayPort devices to the products using this standard. It won’t probably be a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface (10 Gbps) but maybe it will have Power Delivery too and will take advantage of this interesting feature of the new standard for fast charging. In that case, these Lumias would be the first devices to include such technology finally. That USB-C connector is indeed exciting.

And of course, we have the Surface Pro 4. Now that the convertible tablet seems to be a valid form factor -several models are available or will be in the next few weeks- it will be interesting to see if Microsoft can really leave behind other proposals due to its experience in this particular segment.

There are several improvements to be made. A UHD (not 4K) screen would give those users a screen that would be difficult to match (the new Dell XPS 12 is reportedly getting this kind of screen). There’s the processor, too. The new Skylake processors that Intel recently launched are going to be used, for sure, but the question, of course, is which one. I’m betting for the Intel Core m7-6Y75 on the top model, a CPU with a maximum TDP of 7W that seems perfect for this machine.

There have been comments about a bigger version (14”) and even a ‘lite’ edition (Surface 4, but I think it’s a little too early for that given that the Surface 3 was introduced last May), but I wonder if Microsoft will be bold with its new Surface Pro 4 as well. The new USB-C connector would be a nice option here, and I wonder if Microsoft will include the keyboard with the package (please don’t sell it only as an accesory), something that would allow Microsoft to give a sense of completion to the product and would for sure give some advantage over the iPad Pro, whose keyboard and stylus accesories are optional and, by the way, pretty expensive.

A rigid keyboard like the one Logitech has created for the iPad Pro would be nice to see as an option.
A rigid keyboard like the one Logitech has created for the iPad Pro would be nice to see as an option.

Let’s see if Logitech does the same that is has done on the iPad Pro and offers a CREATE keyboard, but with the edition for the Surface Pro 4. I’d love to be able to use a more solid, rigid keyboard on this device. This could be really a good option for users that are not comfortable with the Type Cover.

We’ll see what happens on October 6th. Can’t wait.

Source: Microsoft to launch Surface Pro 4 and new phones at October 6th event | The Verge