Anyone innovating?

1 10 2015

First off, I’ve been a bit quite on the blogging front for a little while – sometimes real work takes over and it’s hard to get motivated to post a meaningful blog….

So, I’ve sat through two rather dull technology events the past few weeks. First off Apple really did disappoint with their new releases, nothing new there at all. No, tell a lie, I did quite like the pressure sensitive screen feature on the new iPhone. It’s quite innovative, but its value is really hard to justify. Would I upgrade to the new phone because of that? Nope, but that doesn’t mean millions of “fans” wont, quite the contrary really. The second event was that of Google. Now this was awful. Dull devices and nothing new at all….

One thing though that I did notice in both events is the desire to copy innovation from a company that apparently is uncool and hasn’t innovated since the late 90s…Yeap, Microsoft. It seems that Microsoft new approach to a single OS across all devices is starting to pay off. Mix that with the Surface Pro range of devices, and there is a real movement in the market towards “hybrid” tablet/laptops. This is clear to see by the launch of the iPad Pro and some new Google option (its name is awful and reminds me of a fax machine). The Google copy though is blatant. The device looks like a Surface Pro all day long….

Why copy?

It seems that people are starting to realise that they can have a single device that acts as their tablet, but can also be their tool of choice when it comes to productivity. Business IT departments have started to realise this and now it seems are some of us consumers. I myself use a Surface Pro 3 to replace my laptop and my work desktop PC. It works brilliantly in both environments, especially with the Docking station. I also use it as my “tablet” machine that does find its way to the sofa – where it is of great use like most tablet devices.

With this in mind, both Apple and Google have to be aware that maybe “mobile” only tablets have a shelf life, after all, can both companies really expect businesses and consumers to continually shell out for multiple devices when one could do the job of three? I think there is an awakening that actually, Microsoft has been the innovator in the past 18months, and with its Windows 10 OS and launch of Surface Pro 4 coming any day now, that there could be a real market shift away from dumber tablets towards tablet/laptop hybrids. If that’s the case, Microsoft is a long way ahead of the game here, with both Apple and Google only offering lightweight mobile Oss on their devices.

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Windows 8 for business and for home

10 04 2013

I know most organisations are either stuck on Windows XP or migrated a short while back to Windows 7. Typically (or should I say historically) organisations seem to embrace every other version of Windows, which puts them on a 4-5 year upgrade cycle. So any ideas that businesses are shunning Windows 8 because of it new tile start screen isn’t quite accurate.

What is true is the fact that no matter what Windows 8 was, businesses wouldn’t look to update until Windows 9 was released, and most of us thought that would be approximately 2 years after the release of 8, so September / October 2014. However, with Microsoft’s recent announcements of Blue being available at the end of the year, it seems that Microsoft is now looking for annual releases of its OS, and since that OS is now essentially across all devices, that includes mobile, tablet, laptop and good old desktops. So this new release cycle from Microsoft will no doubt have an impact on how businesses look to their upgrades.

 

Give it a short amount of time and you come to love the start screen in your business

Give it a short amount of time and you come to love the start screen in your business

 

Windows 8 now

My own company, CloudZync, is using Windows 8 for the majority of users (though I will be honest, some are on Windows 7 still) and I must say, having both operating systems in the organisation hasn’t caused a single issue. But, I have noticed that when I move back to Windows 7 I’m starting to get a little frustrated. It seems the start screen has become something of a blessing, even though I spend I would say 85%+ of my time on the desktop side of the OS. I really wouldn’t listen to those who say the OS its jarring and moving between “Metro” and “desktop” is confusing, because it simply isn’t. Sure there are some things you need to learn but they are so easy, like just put your pointer in a corner of the screen, that pretty much sums up what you need to know as the rest is very intuitive (well I think – especially when compared to other operating systems out there). Sure there are some things that frustrate me with Windows 8, but that’s true of every single OS and piece of software I think I have ever used.

I’m glad we have Windows 8 now in the organisation as with Microsoft’s new OS releases being mainly “upgrades” I think moving between Windows 8 and newer releases will be quite a seamless and painless experience.  I expect Blue to be more about upgrades to Windows 8, addressing some of those user frustrations and bringing even more seamless experiences between the OS and the cloud.

 

Intuitive

I do find I get very frustrated with peoples take on what intuitive is. I’m sorry, but something isn’t un-intuitive because it doesn’t work like something else you are used to. That means it’s just different. Intuitive for me means I should be able to logically understand where something maybe. When moving to iOS I have to say I found it very un-intuitive, yet most people say it’s an easy to use OS, which it is, once you know all the little oddities of it. That doesn’t make it a highly intuitive OS. If I handed iOS to my Dad for example he would hate it, and moan like hell about it. (He recently looked at the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Nokia Lumia devices, he went with the Lumia as he said that one made sense to him how to use it, the others would require him to learn the UI). Likewise, things on Windows 8 are different to 7, and many of us at first think “wow 8 is so un-intuitive” because it’s different to what we have learnt. But if you come at with no expectations, and don’t think it should be the same as something else, you soon find that actually, it’s a very intuitive OS. Sure there are some odd things that aren’t intuitive, but just like iOS, once you know them they seem brilliant and then obvious.

 

Windows 8 in your organisation

There are some real nice features when you start moving all devices to Microsoft’s latest OS. I have a Windows 8 phone, Windows 8 PC, Windows 8 netbook (which since I have had access to an RT hasn’t been used) and a Microsoft Surface RT. When switching between devices it’s amazing how much is synchronised and how easy it is to be working on one, then switch to the other. I would say improvements could be made for sure, but as a work environment, it really is second to none.

Yes I am aware of how improved Apple is in this department, but I too have an iPhone for testing our software on and our CEO uses his iPad consistently. What I’ve noticed is though anything that is a bit more work focussed or requires greater attention, he has to switch back to the desktop PC, while I’m equally happy on any of the Windows 8 devices (granted I don’t like editing office files on my phone but it’s not that bad).

Moving forward, Windows 8+ is a no brainer for me. Tablets that double up as real desktop, desktop and tablets seamlessly acting together and don’t forget a wide selection of Windows 8 phones that bring it all together on your mobile. For an organisation, it makes almost no sense to splash cash on anything other than Windows devices, all you do is add in another level of complexity that simply doesn’t need to be there, and worse, you have to spend much more money.

Think of this example, my sister in law is a sales rep. She has an iPad which she uses to show prospective clients items they can stock, great, it’s a nice experience. However, if the client wants to purchase or look at anything in real detail, then she has to get out her laptop and boot that up and use bespoke software on there to complete her sale. She is essentially carrying around 2 devices, one of which is being used as a glorified catalogue, something that just presents well. Now if her organisation had purchased a Windows 8 tablet then that’s all she would need to carry. She can replace the iPad delivering the same experience and then still have all the power of her legacy apps available on the tablet. It would have saved her company a tidy sum…

 

Organisation Upgrades

No matter your take on Windows 8, there is no doubt in my mind that come October 2014 we will start seeing mass migration of organisations away from Windows XP and 7 in favour of 8, Blue or whatever it will be called by then. What will be hard is how the media (especially tech bloggers) look at this, will they then say Windows 8 was a disaster like Vista but Windows 9 is amazing? Or will they finally grasp that their rather 90’s view of desktop computing is dead and that the desktop is very much on the same cycle as mobile operating systems and their wireless upgrades?





Microsoft Surface arrives

19 06 2012

Monday June 18th was a weird day in the tech world, for once Microsoft managed to create a buzz and a stir regarding an announcement they were to make, yet no one knew what that would be. This felt more like an Apple announcement than anything we have come to expect from Microsoft – which is a good thing and lead to a lot of speculation.  I too joined in with that speculation, believing that Microsoft was to announce a 7” eReader device with new partners Barnes and Noble, how wrong could I have been…

Microsoft Surface Tablet, showing off its built in stand and magentic cover that doubles as a keyboard

Microsoft Surface Family

We now know that Microsoft has announced a family of tablets named Surface. For those of you who keep up to date with technology, you would already have heard of the Surface name from Microsoft, that particular product being a multi-touch enabled table device that was highly focused and sold to businesses. Now though Surface is the brand name for Microsoft’s own made tablet devices, meaning Microsoft has gone into the tablet market in a big way.

This is a bold move from Microsoft and quite a break from tradition. Typically Microsoft doesn’t do hardware, rather it lets its OEM partners build the hardware and Microsoft focuses on the software. However, in recent years it seems the hardware that runs Windows just doesn’t look as sexy as anything produced by Apple, none of the devices have that wow factor which can only harm sales. The latest ultimate laptops are starting to compete, but it has taken a long time for many of the OEMs to get with the game and start designing good looking, light weight hardware. I can’t help feeling that Microsoft has been forced into delivering its own hardware for the tablet market, simply because it cannot rely on OEMs to deliver hardware that looks as sexy as that produced by Apple.

Microsoft Surface Devices

Essentially Microsoft has shown us two tablets, one that runs Windows 8 RT on an ARM based processor tablet, and the other, running full blown Windows 8 pro on a tablet powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge processor. Here is some information on the specs:

  • A full-size USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio angled at 22 degrees.
  • 10.6-inch, 16:9 widescreen HD Display.
  • Integrated Kickstand: Built-in kickstand lets users move Surface from active use to passive consumption.
  • Touch Cover: 3 mm pressure-sensitive Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures will come in different colors.

    Microsoft Surface Magnetic Covers that are keyboards

Surface for Windows RT

  • OS: Windows RT
  • Light(1): 676 g
  • Thin(2): 9.3 mm
  • Clear: 10.6″ ClearType HD Display
  • Energized: 31.5 W-h
  • Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Office ‘15′ Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 32 GB, 64 GB

Surface for Windows 8 Professional

  • OS: Windows 8 Professional
  • Light(1): 903 g
  • Thin(2): 13.5 mm
  • Clear: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD Display
  • Energized: 42 W-h
  • Connected: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Productive: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
  • Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Configurable: 64 GB, 128 GB

    Microsoft Surface with its own stand

From the specs I would suggest that Microsoft is going after the business user and home users who like to do more / want to do more with tablet devices. I think this is a wise move as Apple devices still have a very long way to go to get real market share in the enterprise. For any business looking into tablet devices, Microsoft Surface has just made their choice a no brainer. Get Surface for Windows 8 professional and you get the best world of a fully blown ultimate laptop, combined with the flexibility, portability and battery life of a tablet – not to mention the capabilities to hook the device seamlessly into your network at work and run legacy applications if needs be. Why would any business opt for an iPad now?

With regards to home users, Microsoft has really only targeted those users who want a tablet in place of their laptop. Until now, the problem has been for many users (including myself) is that I would love the flexibility of a tablet device, yet I potentially want all the power a laptop provides, meaning I would need to purchase both. Microsoft Surface has changed that, and with the neat magnetic cover doubling as a real keyboard, Microsoft has basically removed my need for a netbook or laptop. For me, and I am sure many other users, Microsoft has moved us to a desktop and tablet only world with the laptop for some acting as a desktop.

OEMs

One of the reasons I personally didn’t think Microsoft would build their own tablets, was that of Microsoft’s relationships with OEMs such as Samsung, Asus etc. It does seem harsh that Microsoft now will actually compete against them in the tablet market, but after spending some time thinking about this move, Microsoft may actually be helping them.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe some of the OEMs will be a little annoyed at Microsoft Surface, however Microsoft is in a far better position to get marketing and the tech world reviewing Windows 8 by having their own hardware. In addition, Microsoft is actually setting the bar quite high in terms of design, and what consumers will now expect from a Windows 8 tablet device. Let’s look at Windows Phone as a comparison.

When Windows Phone launched there was quite some anticipation, however the devices launched by the OEMs (Samsung, HTC etc.) actually were not that attractive to look at. The hardware specs were not that great, and compared to some Android devices and the iPhone, the Windows Phone looked quite underpowered. What is the saving grace is the actual OS itself; however, many people base their phone purchase on how the device actually looks. Only now with Nokia Lumia devices are we seeing some aesthetically pleasing Windows Phone devices, and with that, a little more marketing and market traction. With Windows 8, Microsoft cannot wait for one of the OEMs to finally get their design act together, Windows 8 in many ways is already a big enough risk. Here with Microsoft Surface, Microsoft are showing OEMs what can be achieved, and almost saying “go out there and do better!”. That’s a good challenge to set, one I’m sure will lead to many more Windows 8 tablet devices turning up that a) look stunning and b) contain some real punch.

By Microsoft only announcing two higher end devices, I feel we can read that Microsoft is not wanting to be the biggest hardware player in the tablet market, rather they are showing the way for their OEMs.

Marketplace

One of the main concerns many may raise is the lack of apps available for Windows 8 at launch or the marketplace ecosystem. I personally don’t see this as a problem at all. We have already seen in the past couple of weeks numerous reports about how developers and software companies love developing for Windows phone, how simple it is and how important they feel developing for Windows 8 will be. Attracting developers is not a problem for Microsoft, so getting the “apps” available also won’t be a problem for Microsoft (Windows Phone now has over 100,000+ apps all of which will be available on Windows tablets).

We must also remember that the Windows Marketplace will also allow older software to be sold, which means that on a Windows 8 pro surface tablet, the user has access to any software ever written to run on Windows. They also have access to the complete windows market place for metro based apps too.

I know that Apple has a great ecosystem, but you cannot deny that the Microsoft ecosystem is its equal if not better.

Conclusion

Windows 8 is a big release for Microsoft, and it’s quite a gamble, so much so that I feel Microsoft couldn’t leave it to OEMs to deliver sexy tablet devices when Windows 8 launches. If the OEMs failed, then Windows 8 could possibly fail in this market place, something Microsoft obviously doesn’t want. By producing their own Microsoft Surface tablets, Microsoft has ensured the tablet market has some wonderful Windows 8 tablets available when the general public can finally start purchasing Windows 8 tablets. If anything, this reduces the risk associated with Windows 8 and tablets for Microsoft a little, and ups the potential profits for them at the same time.

Microsoft Surface also sends a message to OEMs, that they can build sexy devices that rival and beat the iPad in terms of design, and with Windows 8 they will have an OS that beats iOS in terms of user experience and productivity, not to mention flexibility in how the user works.

Android has been the OS of choice for most tablet makers, probably because there wasn’t a viable tablet option until Windows 8. Microsoft may have in one swoop confined Android to just the mobile phone world, which makes it quite isolated when we think of how users want to share content across all their devices. That isolation could really harm Android in the smart phone arena in the long run.

Microsoft has come to the tablet market with a bang (this time round) and has actually delivered something special…I for one never doubted them….