Rob Carney presents a mostly positive review of the new Surface Pro making special mention of the devices new kick stand, improved pen and extra battery life. Regardless of his positivity his article put me off from the beginning as he poses the question whether the new Surface can rival the iPad Pro for creatives. This one statement suggests a limited understand of the needs of serious creative professionals as the Surface Pro allows for the use of the full Adobe suite compared to iOS apps, this is a point Carney makes but he does not take it to the logical conclusion that creatives who use an iPad Pro would likely need a second device compared to Surface owners. In addition, the implication that the Surface Pro needs to rival the iPad Pro seems to suggest that the iPad is the leader in this convertible category rather than the imitation. Since it was Apple which copied Microsoft in developing a larger tablet with a fold out keyboard and pen input to revitalize its declining tablet sales. In fact, the two devices in some ways shouldn’t even be considered in the same category as the Surface is a true 2 in 1, laptop replacement compared to the iPad which is still a tablet courtesy of iOS.
Regardless of this I may have been able to overlook this ridiculous statement if it had not been later followed by another serious of simplified and flawed comparison. His assertion when you look at it on face value has merit hat for the price of a Surface $2699 USD + another $159 USD for the keyboard and $99 USD for the pen you could buy both the $1899 USD touch bar 13-inch Macbook pro and the 12-inch iPad Pro at $799 + another $99 pencil and $169 for the keyboard stand. However, once you look deeper it is quickly clear that you are getting more for the price with a Surface Pro as it firstly comes with a four core i7 processor with significant advantages in clock speed and cache memory before even considering hyper threading when compare to the MacBook’s duel core i5. In addition, the Surface comes with 16Gb of RAM, 1TB SSD hard drive and a screen with 267 pixels per inch compared to the Macbook’s 8GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD hard drive and a Retina display with a pixel density of 227 per inch but this isn’t even the whole story as Apple does allow uses to customise the top end 13-inch Mac to bring it in line with the Surface specs of course this option increase the cost to $2709 USD which means your no longer getting that iPad. Considering that the fact that the Surface still has the clear advantage over the Mac through form factor it represents better value for money even with the $250 for accessories. On the other side if we wanted to bring the Surface Specs down to match the Mac for an i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and sacrificing a little on the hard drive at 256 GB it only costs $1299, a good $600 less than the Mac. My point in giving all these numbers is to emphasis that price is relative and isn’t the clean comparison that Carney suggests simply you get what you pay for.
My final criticism of Carney’s review is he states that the Surface Pro “doesn’t have enough flexibility in its ports (there’s only one USB, a MicroSD slot and a Mini DisplayPort” in comparison to top of the range Macbook Pro which is a bit ridiculous considering the Macbook doesn’t have any flexibility. The newest Macbook Pro famously only comes with 3 Thunder bolt USB C ports which granted are the newest technology but it means that users need dongles for everything, even connecting you iPhone to your Laptop. In addition, it is unwise for people to play down the importance of a SD card slots since as it is the primary method of data storage for photographers and I believe it has been a gross oversite of Macs for some time to fail to include one. Still using my own Surface Pro 1 at home I have found the use of MicroSD’s has replaced my use of USB storage devices as I can easily transfer data from my desktop PC which has memory card slot to my Surface and then using an adapter which normally comes with the SD card insert it back into my Nikon D3200 but I guess I can always spend another $49 dollars on an adapter I only need if I brought a Mac which is more expensive than a USB hub for $30 that I could easily add to my surface if I needed more than one port. Granted the newest surface should have included a USB C connection since it is the future but it is hardly the deal breaker that Carney suggests it is since as at least for now nearly all accessories still require a normal USB port, even devices that have adapted USB C like my Galaxy 8 still use the old connection on the other end of the cord. This isn’t even considering an iPad which does not give consumers any form of USB connections to remain thin regardless of the fact that it has hampered its ability to become a Laptop replacement or an SD card slot since it would provide an option for people to expand the memory without paying more on the purchase price. Either Apple device Carney wants to compare the Surface to it is clearly a bad joke to suggest that they offer more port flexibility for the price.
Perhaps what is off putting is that from the opening it seems like another Apple fan is trying to seem un biased by writing a mostly positive review of a competitor’s product but ultimately it falls flat through his laughable attempts to dodge simple facts.
On May the second Microsoft unveiled it’s new stream lined operating system aimed at the education market which requires more cost effective ICT solutions. The plan was obviously to create a product that could provide customers with the same experience as Windows 10 Pro but is capable of operating on devices with limited processing power and memory and therefore keep the cost down for the consumer. This consistency of performance has always been a problem for Microsoft as OEM’s have been making low cost laptops and more recently tablets running Windows with the minimum requirements further slowed by useless blotware for years. It is a problem that Google has avoid with Chrome OS and it’s reliance on web apps along with Apple whose clearly defined walled garden allows it to control the user experience yet Microsoft has to position Windows to compete at both ends of the spectrum. The release of the Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio has show that Redmond can mix it with Apple at the premium end but has done nothing to halt the advance of Chrome books in schools. The answer; Windows 10 S promises to open up the second front on the low cost end of the spectrum by primarily restricting third party applications that impact the overall performance of the operating system. Controversially the operating system achieves this by limiting the user to applications downloaded from the Windows Store similar to iOS.
It was a move Microsoft needed to make according to the analysts due to the success of Chromebooks in US schools and had the potential for leveraging a popular operating system in Windows 10 to break into a different market. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage seems to attack Microsoft for their approach to the problem and the limitation they have placed on the installation of apps. Typically everyone wants the result but don’t want to face the consequences and seemingly expect nothing to be taken away in order to facilitate the necessary improvements to performance. Yet, as anyone with some experience with PC’s knows the major factor impacting performance is third party applications or related processes running in the background. Unbeknownst to the everyday user popular applications like the Adobe suite, Dropbox and Google Drive have several processes that run at start up by default and continue to draw processing power away from the user. These can easily be disabled in Windows 10 but most PC users in my experience teaching IT at a secondary school and provided ongoing support to colleagues and family this is beyond the average user. While limiting the installation of apps to the Windows store does not necessarily eliminate background processes it does provide a level of oversight missing from the web and prevents third party updates which are one of the major culprits of draining processing power.
Instead of focusing on these facts the Media have instead tried to suggest that Windows 10 S is the second coming of Windows RT except there are important differences for instance RT could not run legacy or Win32 applications and was made specifically to run on ARM based devices. In addition Windows RT was released at the same time as Windows 8 which was a completely revamped operating system that meet with a range of criticism and limited adoption. This ultimately impacted the development of apps for the Windows 8 store and doomed Windows RT. However neither of these apply to Windows 10 S as it not only does run Win32 applications but it is also being introduced after the successful uptake of Windows 10 this simple fact means that the Store is already more useable than the variant available to Windows RT. In addition, last year Microsoft made an important step in the right direction by making sure Win32 apps run on ARM devices this decision in an of itself shows a progress from the days of Windows RT that has been ignored by so called exports and provides the new operating system a real chance of competing with Chrome Books.
Possible the largest noise surrounding Windows 10 S is the suggestion that it limits users to Microsoft own web browser Edge and prevents them from using Google Chrome. This is a matter of perspective as Windows 10 S does not prevent the user from installing a different browser and setting it to default it just requires the browser to be downloaded from the Store like iOS. It is as much Google’s decision to not support the Windows Store even though it doesn’t require them to write a new version of Chrome rather tweak the existing application and submit it to the store. The same could be said for Mozilla and Opera but no doubt as the Windows 10 Store continues to mature the will eventually appear, especially if the media puts pressure on them instead of Microsoft since Windows 10 S is the solution they have been asking for. Until than users may actually learn that Microsoft Edge isn’t useless since it now supports extensions, has a reading mode and renders Java script better than Chrome which still maintains an overall lead in performance with HTML 5. It is a competitive browser even without the unique ink mode which has the potential to really come into it’s own in an education setting with inexpensive tablet PCs, I can imagine teaching students to annotate opinion articles straight from the net or show them how to the can highlight while doing research for an assignment, even sending it easily to friends doing a group task. All it needs is someone with a little understanding and imagination to use the tools that Microsoft have tried to make available for education.
My final frustration is the reception of Microsoft newest member of the surface family, the Surface Laptop. The hardware itself has been well received but as usual the tech media can be positive with presenting a negative. In this case you guessed it the focus on Windows 10 S as most exports don’t really understand while Microsoft first Laptop comes preinstalled with the slimed down version of the operating system. This is obviously more of a marketing opportunity as the Surface Laptop tries to convince people of the value of the new operating system with the lore of attractive hardware. Even if people aren’t happy with Windows 10 S the consumer can easily upgrade to Pro for $49 considering the entryy model comes with an i5 processes the device is configured to run Microsoft’s full OS without any drop in proformance The other area that has been a point of contention is the price point starting at $999 US or $1499 AUS it can hardly be called a budget device which seems counter productive considering the purpose of Windows 10 S to compete at the lower end of the market. However, this follows the same principal that Microsoft have followed with the Surface Pro building premium hardware to lead it’s OEMs to start investing more in design and providing them with the opportunity to under cut their prices and offer consumers a cheaper option. This has been successful with the 2 in 1 market as the Surface Pro is viewed as the premium device and has inspired numerous knock offs from Lenovo, Dell, and Samsung among others. It doesn’t really matter for Microsoft which option the consumer buys since their all running Windows 10 ultimately bringing people to the ecosystem which in turn helps Microsoft encourage developers. The same principal is behind the pricing of the Surface Laptop as it still positions Microsoft as a premium hardware manufacturer and will no doubt inspire OEM’s to improve the quality of their low cost laptops to prevent consumer’s from shelling out a little more for a better product. Again either way Microsoft wins.
It’s about time the tech media started playing fair with the truth and compared apples to apples rather than making connections that don’t make sense based on the changing landscape.
Samsung and LG may have captured the attention of most the tech world at the start of MWC but they weren’t on their own. The HP Elite X3 made more than a few people take notice thanks to its high-end specs and the decision to embrace Microsoft’s unpopular mobile OS. It was undoubtedly a headline act of a successful show for the boys at Redmond with more phone makers jumping on board the 2 in 1 train, some specialised heavy-duty devices and even a nice shiny reward.
HP Elite X3
The stats on HP’s first foray into the phone market for two years match anything offered by Android manufacturing. A snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM, expandable memory, 16 megapixel camera, 2HD 5.96 inch display and water resistance maintains the same standard set by Samsung and LG. Yet the Elite also packs in a massive 4150mAh battery which even outpaces the G5 with the additional modal and an iris scanner for windows hello.
The numbers are impressive but what makes the Elite x3 standout is the Continuum feature of Windows 10. This allows the phone to act as a desktop PC with mouse and keyboard support with the help of the HP Desk Dock which also provides USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Microsoft’s own Lumia 950 and 950xl have shown of this versatility before but HP have taken it a step further with Mobile Extender which turns the phone into a laptop. Using the power of Windows 10 HP have created a phone which could conceivably replace your computer, at least in a casual sense. Unsurprisingly the Elite x3 is aimed at enterprise but hopefully we will see a commercial release as it appears to be the high-end flagship that Windows Mobile has been screaming but is it enough. Check out the hands on from Techradar from the show floor and make up your own mind.
The other major Windows 10 hardware announcement was a portable 2 in 1 Surface inspired PC from this notable phone manufacturer. Huawei is not the first to jump from the unprofitable and bleak pack of Android tablets as Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab Pro S last month at CES. If anything was obvious at MWC it’s that the future of tablets is the PC and consumers will see more competition between phone makers and traditional OEM’s.
As you might expect the MateBook is a 12 inch tablet with detachable keyboard and stylus in keeping with the Surface formula. Users have a choice of Intel processors up to the m7 and 4 or 8 GB of RAM with a whole day of battery life. This makes it slightly less expensive option compared to the Surface Pro but the MateBook doesn’t offer the same performance as the more expensive Pro 4 configurations and is probably more suited to casual PC uses. Looking at the price breakdown in this Gizmodo review it seems that Huawei may have got ahead of themselves as the Matebook doesn’t come in too much below the entry-level Surfaces but we will just have to wait and see.
Best of the rest
These two announcements may have stolen the spotlight for any other windows announcements but they weren’t the only things on offer. Vaio showed off the 5.5 inch Phone Biz handset hat also supports desktop like functionality through Continuum but with a snapdragon 617 processor and 3 GB of RAM it’s more of a mid range option. Unlikely to be seen in western markets the Phone Biz is a well put together and sleek device joining the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL and Acer Jade Primo announced at CES showing support for Microsoft’s mobile platform. The guys from Redmond weren’t to be left out announcing the budget Lumia 650 which has a more premium look than other Lumia handset but with low end specs is only meant to be an affordable option.
Similarly the MateBook was not the only windows 10 tablet announced at MWC with Alcatel adding to its Windows lineup with the Plus 10, a 10 inch tablet with 4G LTE keyboard. These Surface like combinations are starting flood the market but the Alcatel is a little unusual as it has 4G connectivity built into the keyboard alongside extra battery life rather than the tablet itself. Personally this seems a little odd as the ideal time to rely on 4G would be when using the device as a tablet without the keyboard. Even so if priced right LTE connectivity is a rarity on windows tablets and it might bring strong interest. Another unusual device obviously designed for a niche market is the Panasonic Tough Pad FZ-F1 which is a 4.7 inch phone like tablet meant for heavy-duty environments. It’s a device created with a single focus in mind to replace the bulky hand help PDA used by postal workers and the like. A more mainstream announcement was the raft of yoga transformers from Lenovo which is using so many different numbers to distinguish the line it’s starting to have an identity crisis.
The icing on the cake
The highlight of Microsoft’s MWC may have been more symbolic as the Surface Pro went back to back winning the award for best mobile tablet and beating out all its fiercest rivals including the iPad Pro. It’s more than this victory however as it is clear that the slate has changed the consumer perception of what a tablet should be since everyone is coping the formula. Microsoft will be hoping that this success might be able to filter into mobile with new exciting hardware in the Elite X3 to get consumers interested. Who knows? Maybe the boys at Redmond might give us another surprise at Build which is now only about a month away.
I thought this was the perfect follow up to my last post about the tech worlds presentation of iPad Pro sales and market share. The main difference here is that the comparison isn’t based on hardware but software. This takes into account all of Apple’s hardware devices since they run iOS and recognises that Microsoft’s priority is Windows of which the Surface line is only one flagship device. It’s a comparison that is seen in the mobile market with iPhones (iOS) compared with all Andriod devices rather than just Samsung.
Personally I feel this is a more realistic measure of trends in the market place since it recognises both companies different strategies. Don’t just believe my opinion however read the article on slashgear and give it some serious thought. Especially since numbers can be used to say just about anything.
If you are a tech nerd like myself or an Apple fan boy you have no doubt seen today the latest sale figures of the iPad Pro in comparison to Microsoft’s Surface Pro. While the fan boys are busy celebrating the English teacher in me thought it was about time to give a lesson about how to debunk the tech and for that matter the business worlds continual desire to distort figures and create false perception. Just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about here are a few links to 9to5 Mac, softpedia’s and business insiders take on the latest sales news.
When creating market perceptions the best course of action is always to use statistics from a reliable source which these examples like others have done clearly by quoting IDC’s estimate of “2 million” iPad Pro sales compared to “1.6 million” sales of the entire surface line. Taken at face value this is easy to understand and is a clear win for Apple but the art of spin is about not giving context. Business insider is slightly different in this regard as it states that the iPad Pro was not available until the 11th of November, however again this is selective information. In this instance the information necessary to make an informed judgement is left out, for example that the iPad Pro is available in 40 countries compared to approximately 25 on last count for the Surface line up. These reports also don’t mention the very different retail presence of both Microsoft and Apple which undoubtedly impacted the availability of the newest Surface Pro 4 in many countries. It’s common knowledge that Apple has a well-established retail strategy with 481 stores in 18 countries meanwhile Microsoft has 116 stores in four countries including only 10 outside the US. The result of this disparity is that Microsoft either has to rely on their online store or secondary retail stores like JB Hi-Fi in Australia. My personal observation at several such stores in Melbourne has revealed that most didn’t release the Pro 4 until December and the Surface Book until January. In Australia, much like I’m sure other countries, it is common to get new technology significantly behind the US that is except Apple products which are conveniently available on a global launch day. Given this context the statistics emphasised in these articles has a slightly less impressive and clear conclusion. It is possible to ask why with a larger distribution and stronger retail presence Apple has only out sold Microsoft by 400,000?
Another technique used by spin doctors is to establish credibility by seemingly providing some form of positive information against their established contention in this instance that most of the Microsoft sales were the more expensive Surface Pro models or that the guys at Redman have experienced ‘29% year-over-year growth’. Notice none of this information detracts from the idea that Apple has sold more at least not without further data and analysis but does help to present the writers of the articles in question as unbiased and reliable sources. Unsurprisingly they do not expand too much on the price of the more expensive Surface Pro tablets as it could easily explain the disparity between the sales figures and offer more comfort for windows fans. In Australia the Surface Pro 4 retails from between $1348 ($899 USD) to $3398 ($2199 USD) depending on the hard drive, memory and processor while the Surface Book starts at $2297 ($1499 USD) and increases to a whopping $4197 ($2699 USD) with a dedicated graphics card while the iPad Pro is more affordable in the $1248 ($799 USD) to $1698 ($1079 USD) bracket. This brings up two very interesting points to consider when thinking about the basic economics of supply and demand since demand will be greater in general for cheaper products yet companies will only be able to set high prices if there is sufficient market willing to pay otherwise they risk creating a surplus of stock, Microsoft found this out the hard way with the original surface running Windows RT. Overall this means that 1.6 million Surface sales has likely created more revenue (not necessarily profit as the overhead for both products isn’t actually known) than the iPad. It is also possible to conclude that consumers are willing to pay more for a Surface Pro rather than settle for a less powerful device in the Surface 3. Not only does this additional detail help explain the sales figures but it also raises a question about their actual importance especially since as all the article have had to admit the overall iPad shipments have fallen by 24.8% from last year.
Possibly the most obvious attempt at miss direction is the reliance of weighted comparisons that do not fairly represent similar products. Most people would not try to compare apples to oranges but in the tech world this seems to be common practice as to attack Microsoft’s significance digital trends compares the Surface line to more affordable tablets like the Amazon fire $115 ($50 USD) that can only do a small fraction of the tasks of a traditional laptop. Unfortunately, this is not a onetime phenomenon as 9to5 Mac also highlight a table showing tablet market share this is incredibly rich since they quote IDC’s comments about transitioning to “detachable tablets” and has little relevance on their actual contention about the iPad Pro as it uses existing iPads to inflate market share and utilised the plethora of chip Android tablets to push Microsoft off the list. Unsurprisingly these articles also fail to mention that most market research firms like Gartner don’t actually categorise the Surface Pro let alone Surface Book as a tablet instead it is often labelled a hybrid or ultramobile and counted in the PC numbers. In this context what would be relevant would be a comparison between high end ‘detachable tablets’ or hybrids although an argument could easily be made that the iPad Pro does not belong in this category since most reviews agree that it can’t replace a laptop due to the limitations of iOS.
I hope a few of you have found this a little bit of a learning experience and maybe it transported you back to an English class at school were some teacher was prattling on about persuasive techniques (some of mine are a bit obvious). These types of tech articles are just a perfect example of how we experience subtle manipulation on a daily basis and just proves one of my favourite sayings, knowledge is power. My point although it may not seem like it is not to persuade nor even inform but to encourage you all to think critically and make your own judgement as unfortunately sometimes it’s about choosing which ‘truth’ you want to believe.
It’s been nearly 3 years since Microsoft first released the Surface Pro to champion it’s new look OS Windows 8 and it was meet by ridicule, scepticism and projected failure, who can forget Apple’s fridge and toaster analogy. The tech media was a bit more reserved with most pleased at the overall performance but critical of the poor battery life, weight and extra cost for the type/touch cover. Then came the $900 million write down for the Surface RT and many were ready to forget about the potential of its more powerful younger brother. Not one to follow trends I was never really a fan of early tablets due to their inability to run any of the software I used on a daily basis so I jumped on board once Microsoft changed their strategy in Australian and released it through retail stores. Ever since then I have never regretted a second as for the last few years it has been my major computing device alongside my desktop, I even convinced my Dad, Girlfriend and some random at Harvey Norman to buy one. Sure the battery life still sucks but the pen input was a revelation for teaching whether taking notes or modelling annotation skills while it also allowed me to keep my excel student planner close at hand. This is all ancient history but it’s worth remembering the humble beginnings of the Surface Line as the idea has always remains the same, a tablet that could replace your laptop, we just needed technology to catch up before it became a reality with the Surface Pro 3. The new design increased the screen size but made the tablet lighter and more streamed line with improved battery life yet still a significant power boost. Finally, people started taking notice from students to enterprise Surface Pro become the ultimate hybrid device and turns into a neat $1b profit making machine. That’s enough for the industry to take notice and even Apple was quick to try and copy this new formula in the iPad Pro but without the silver bullet, a desktop experience. So this brings us to today and the 4th generation.
Surface Pro 4
As it was expected the latest version of Microsoft’s innovative hybrid was all about refinement. The slate boasts a slightly larger 12.3″ screen with an impressive 267 ppi and Microsoft’s new PixelSense technology to take advantage of o.4mm thick cover screen to bring improved contrast. For the most part the SP4 keeps the same dimensions as the SP3 to maintain backwards compatibility with existing accessorises. Even so the tablet is a little bit thinner and lighter while still maintaining all the necessary ports. The main improvement is under the hood with Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors giving a significant power boost that really put the spring in Panos Panay’s step as he could brag about a 30% increase and a 50% advantage over the MacBook Air. It was hard to remove the smile from his face as he joked about the fridge and toaster analogy or alluded to competitors making tablets with larger screens.
To read an in depth comparison between the SP3 and 4 click here.
It wasn’t just the tablet itself that got an upgrade as the new Type Cover offers an improved typing experience with an island style layout and increased depth similar to what is found on most laptops. A new glass trackpad offers five touch points and should provide a smooth experience while an optional finger print scanner will give SP3 users with access to Windows Hello. Likewise, the Pen has been given the once over as well increasing to 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity to further push the boundaries between computer experience and writing on paper. In addition, the top of the pen acts as an eraser something normally, associated with a pencil, which adapts to applications while still providing a quick launch button for OneNote and Cortana. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have also introduced a range of colours and interchangeable tips so uses can adapt their experience. Finally, Microsoft has gone back to the original design of the Surface Pen by providing a magnet dock on the side of the tablet, at least this time it doesn’t cover the charging port.
Overall the SP4 is a noticeable improvement and gives fans what they wanted faster performance and a more elegant user experience. It has definitely been worth holding off upgrading if only for the boost from the 6th generation Skylake processor. In terms of the competition the iPad Pro can’t measure up as it still lacks the proper experience to replace your Laptop and for the price is an expensive secondary device. Meanwhile the MacBook Air which Panay admits is a great product has an outdated processor and lacks the same convertible experience. However, Apple is not the only copycat trying to capitalise on the Surface design with other PC makers implementing kickstands, removable keyboards and pen input in an effort to keep up but the SP4 which just raised the bar again. It will be interesting to see in the next few weeks with Microsoft’s major OEM’S also hosting device announcements if they can follow the standard that’s just been set.
Microsoft’s big surprise came with only the slightest gossip in the lead up to the event with rumours of a Laptop or a larger Surface but no specs, renders or patients. The Laptop is elegantly designed with a unique look due to the visible gap between the keyboard and screen. The way this comes together reminds me of an empty folder and fits well with the name. The soon to be iconic hinge is where the Surface Book’s design really captures everyone’s attention. It runs out like a carpet to extend the base and give the device balance while the contrast between the magnesium and aluminium gives it a distinct shine that catches the eye. You might think that it’s a bit sad that the tech world has gone into overload over a fulcrum hinge but it truly is a master stroke of engineering. It solves the ever present weight distribution problem with this type of device and allows the two parts to meet perfectly to give the unique shape.
Check out Mashable’s inside with Panay and design chief Ralf Groene about the development of Microsoft’s first Laptop.
Beyond the design the Surface Book boost a 3000 x 2000 13.5″ PixelSense display which means it shares the same 267ppi as the SP4, more than the retina display found on the MacBook Pro. At the entry level the laptop packs a 6th generation i5 processor and 8GB of RAM but at the top end it is a beast which is why Microsoft has labelled it the ultimate laptop. The addition of a dedicated NVidia GPU makes it easily beat out the competition available in comparable form factors and will allow professionals and gamers to render complex 3D imaging more familiar to desktop PC’s and larger laptops. In addition, the ability to upgrade to an i7 and 16GB of RAM makes the top end configuration an expensive yet enticing proposition. Like the Surface Pro’s new type cover the keyboard has been carefully engineered to provide the best typing experience possible. Running Windows 10 the Surface Book performs as you would expect any high powered PC being able to easily run demanding applications like the Adobe suite with no troubles.
It wasn’t all specs however as Microsoft engaged in its own brand of theatre with Panay directing his audience to re-watch the opening promo in order to give us one more thing …
The screen detaches and it becomes a full Surface tablet, surprise. Just at that moment Panay must have been on cloud nine as the crowed whooped and gave a standing ovation. After all he says this is Surface, this is innovation. Now some people might be thinking what’s the big deal there have been 2 in 1 devices that have a detachable keyboard since Windows 8. If you watch the demo its clear Surface Book is different as it is first and for most a laptop and the muscle wire mechanism is nearly as well conceived as the hinge. Relying on a metal that contracts when placed under current it secures the two sections so that Panay is confident waving the laptop around by the screen. Personally the other similar form factors I have played with in stores seem flimsy and didn’t inspire me with a lot of confidence so this is a big change.
Practically the Surface Book provides three possible uses the laptop, tablet or “clipboard” and the canvas. All provide uses with different possibilities to be productive. The “clipboard” is not marketed as a standalone tablet but a portable extension that could be removed when you need to show something to a few colleagues to pass around or take a work through the factory. In addition thanks to the hinge (Simpsons moment of the rod) the screen is able to reverse and lay down over the keyboard to provide a tilted experience for writing and drawing which has access to the GPU and 8 hours of battery life stored in the base. This flexibility alone regardless of any power advantage provides a clear source of difference from the competition which shouldn’t be ignored.
By the end of Microsoft’s event it was clear that they have stopped following with HoloLens, Surface Pro and Surface Book their ready to return to the lead. The company not only has built serious momentum this year through a series of announcements including backwards compatibility for the Xbox One but they now have a confident swagger brought about by a clear vision thanks to Satya Nadella. Unfortunately, this has left me with an annoying problem, which do I purchase they Pro 4 or the Surface Book. Price might have a lot to do with it as here in Australia it seems that the major tech companies feel like we should pay more meaning the top end Surface Book comes in at $4100 while the i7 SP4 is a bit more affordable at $2700. If only money grew on trees and I could get both.
Check out the full Surface announcement here.
August was definitely dominated by Microsoft with the increasing downloads of Windows 10 and GamesCom providing plenty of tech news to talk about. September has always been Apple’s time to shine and they did not disappoint their die hard loyal fans. The mid cycle update to the iPhone, a new iPad with some accessories and finally an improved version of Apple TV gives us a lot to cover.
It’s Apple’s long established custom to provide a one year update on thier current handset and keep the existing body. This year the iPhone 6 and 6+ get the S treatment with the addition of new features and upgraded spec. Most notably is the new 3D touch technology which reacts to the pressure being applied by the user. Internaly it comes with an A9 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 12 mega-pixal camera which should all give users an overall improved performance. On top of these updates to the existing specs is the introduction of a new rose gold handset. I doubt any of these changes will intice existing iPhone 6 users to upgrade prematually but I’m sure Apple will stiĺl experience good sales as more iPhone 5 user decide to take the plunge.
A larger screen iPad has been rumoured for a while so Apple’s announcement suprised nobody. It’s clearly built to impress with a 12.9 inch screen, 2732 x 2048 resolution and four built in speakers. It also has a clear performance boost over the existing iPad Air with a A9X processor and 4GB of RAM in order to capatilise on iOS9’s new side by side multi-tasking. Beyond the tablet itself Apple have shown off a couple of key new accessories in the Apple Pencil and attachable keyboard. On paper it looks like a powerful device for those poeple who like using iOS but it is still unknown whether it’s the device that will reinvigurate Apple’s tablet sales.
Unusally it hasn’t been all positive media for Apple’s latest tablet as most tech analysts and arm chair enthusiasts like myself have been quick to recognise the similarities with Microsoft’s Surface Pro. Many have even been bringing up Steve Jobs comment about inculding a stylus
which really has no relevence any more due to the developments of digitizers and the rest of the tech industry. In addition the promotion of Microsoft Office for iOS has got some attention, an inclusion that really shows both tech companies changing mentality. Firstly, Microsoft recognised that they can’t ignore iOS users and the value of tieing them to their services while Apple seems to have admited that thier own iWorks suite has trouble competing with Office in the professional market place.
So will the iPad Pro make an impact on the tablet landscape? Personally I’m not sure Apple have addressed the right aspects of the iPad to attract thier target audience. Since many of the drawbacks of iOS still remain as while it now allows multi-tasking it cannot run desktop applications. In addition the small 32GB internal storage on the base model will likely frustrate some users and may be a key limitation for those reluctant to invest more money. Finally, I think the iPad Pro could easily impact Apple’s other product lines as customers are unlikely to purchase a Pro and a smaller iPad, while others might decide to give up thier MacBook. Obviously, this does not take into account new customers so we will just have to wait and see.
The much awaited update to Apple’s side project has delivered a few key developments and makes Apple competitive in the living room space. Most notably is the new TVos which has an easy to use interface and connects to the apps store to allow users to download anything from different streaming services or games. This new operating system also brings Siri into your living room and importantly she comes with the ability to search content across applications. Apple’s personal assistant can be accessed from the new remote which also includes a touch pad for navigation and a Wii like motion tracker that when combined with the improved internal specs makes the new set top box capable of breaking in as a low cost gaming option.
These improvement makes the Apple TV a legitimate option compared to competitors but it isn’t necessarily a game changer with similar features already available. Despite this the added functionality of AirPlay and Apple’s legion of devoted fans combined with a sensible price tag means that I believe sales will show strong growth.
Overall Apple didn’t really announce anything new but rather refreshed and reinvigorated existing products. Of course the iPhone 6S and 6S+ will the usual landslide but the others are a bit harder to predict so we’ll check back in the next couple of months.
It’s taken some time but Skylake is finally a reality. Intel has been working towards this point since the development of the tablet market in and other chip makers started to muscle in on thier market. No one has ever question Intel’s ability to deliver the best processing power which is why Apple made the switch for its Mac computers. The problem has always been power consumption and heat which has limited there application in tablets.
Haswell released in 2013 after more then two years in development was the first step in Intel’s attempt to fix the status quo. It made it poosible to start putting Intel chips in convertable devices that were starting to become popular with Windows 8 it also brought a significant improvement to battery life as the Surface Pro 1 and 2 clearly demonstated. In the mobile market place Intel followed this up quickly with the release of the Broadwell Architecture and the Core M processor a lighter more power efficent CPU which achieved the same clock speeds on turbo boost as existing Haswell chips with a 4.5 W TDP ( Thermal Design Power) compared to the 15w TDP of a core i5. Suddenly, Intel had a CPU that could compete in the compact market and we saw an increase in hybrid devices in addition to a thinner MacBook.
It is this development that Skylake is set to continue. Firstly, by introducing sub-categries to the Core m line with m3, m5 and m7. Early test show the m7 can clock 3.1ghz at turbo compared to the broadwell core m at 2.9 and the old haswell i5 at 2, it also boast a better intergration of DDR3 memory. However that’s not all, Skylake promises to bring improved battery life with intel saying we’ll get 10 hours of 1080p playback on a charge and finally a 40% increase in graphics. This is definitely impressive progress since 2013.
This development means the next few months could be really interesting as we will likely be seeing a lot more Windows 10 tablets and hybrids, hopefully starting with a new Surface Pro. It’s also worth thinking about Apple’s expected release of an iPad Pro on the 9th and whether they have a skylake suprise or purhaps thier attempt to reinvigorate thier tablet sales may all ready be outdated. We may if rumours are true even see Microsoft announce a few flagship Windows Phones with an Intel chip to take advantage of Continuum in Windows 10. Maybe Skylake coupled with the successful launch of Microsoft newest OS might just return WinTel to the good old days.