Joe Wilcox

When size matters, Acer Chromebook 15 is big [Review]

Acer Chromebook 15

I am not a fan of overly-large laptops, but if I were to buy one, Acer's 15.6-inch monster would be among my top choices. The Chromebook packs in lots of value, which first and foremost is 1080p resolution to match the large screen, a benefit that is atypical for the price and size class. Screen brightness is no match for the Toshiba Chromebook 2, but the matte finish compensates for dimness by dramatically reducing glare. Meanwhile, the IPS display gives great viewing angles.

The point: Acer doesn't just offer bigger, but better, among the overall Chromebook category, where  dim TN screens are standard fare. That also can be said of competing Windows laptops, where with same size screen in the price range, or even more costly, resolution typically tops out at 1366 x 768. Chromebook 15 is 1920 x 1080. By more than size, the display is a big benefit.

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Why would Dell sell a business Chromebook that competes with Office and Windows 10?

huh what

The strangest, and largely overlooked news, coming out of the tech sector this week is Dell's Microsoft betrayal. This isn't the first time that the PC maker strayed. Linux joined the product stable long ago, and last year an educational Chromebook debuted. But this newer and larger model, which will be available September 17, raises question: WTF?

Dell's core PC market is business—small, large, and everything between. Windows, and that smattering of Linux, is core, and longstanding loyalty to Microsoft's application stack. But the Chromebook 13 announcement, as positioned by the OEM and Google, is all about the competing cloud app stack. Interestingly, selling prices rival Windows laptops, which is another head scratcher: $399 to $899, depending on configuration.

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Yikes! Apple laptop revenue share exceeds Windows PCs

MacBook Pro 2015

Measured as sales through the U.S. consumer retail channel, Macs reached rather shocking milestone during first half 2015, according to data that NPD provided to me today. Yes, you can consider this a first, and from lower volume shipments. By operating system: OS X, 49.7 percent; Windows, 48.3 percent; Chrome OS, 1.9 percent. That compares to the same time period in 2014: OS X, 44.8 percent; Windows, 53.1 percent; Chrome OS, 2.1 percent. So there is no confusion, the data is for U.S. consumer laptops.

While data junkie journalists or analysts often focus on unit shipments, revenues, and subsequently profits, matter much more. Looked at another way, Mac laptop revenues rose by 10.9 percent during the first six months of 2015, year over year, while Windows PCs fell by 9 percent, and Chromebooks contracted by 9.5 percent.

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Alphabet's ABC is Google's XYZ

ABC XYZ

I predict that the innovation of the year will go, not to a tech product, but to Google's creation of a new company: Alphabet. The search and information giant that disrupts so many other companies on and off the Internet essentially disrupts itself. By doing so—divesting the core, established business from future research and inventions—cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin unshackle weights dragging growth.

To recap: Page announced the dramatic change after the market closed yesterday. Google becomes secondary to Alphabet, which will hold a collection of related entities. Page hands over Google chief executive reigns to Sundar Pichai, while becoming CEO of the new entity. Brin is president. Can we call him letterhead instead of figurehead? :)

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iPhone 6 Plus balances benefits [Review]

iPhone 6 Plus and Neko

Sometime within the next few weeks, Apple should announce successors to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and my review of the latter device is long overdue. Let's get to it finally and present the key finding first: If size matters, as in you want a phone with larger screen but that doesn't feel humongous, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is a worthy choice. By measures that matter most—benefits from apps, calling, camera, data, performance, screen, and storage—the phablet is best of class.

As expressed in my iPhone 6 review, I regretted not buying the larger device after handing it. The Plus is big, but not overly large for my tastes. Hell, I bought Motorola-made and Google-branded Nexus 6 in January 2015 to replace iPhone 6; the screen is even bigger than Plus, at whopping 6 inches. I gained great value using either of the larger handsets, but gave up one for the other.

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Outlook for Apple Watch is the future of Microsoft

Outlook for Apple Watch

Satya Nadella is a man with a formidable challenge. Microsoft CEO's predecessor, Steve Ballmer, squandered the company's mobile fortunes. From smartphone platform leader a decade ago, the software-and-services giant is a category also-ran in 2015. Microsoft has no independent mobile platform future. The war is over. There remains this: Making alliances with old enemies to preserve existing territory, while using the foothold to reach into new frontiers.

Made available August 5th, Outlook for Apple Watch is a very smart move and metaphor for what went wrong on Microsoft mobile platforms and what has to go right to preserve and extend the legacy applications stack. While Windows 10 makes its way to Lumia devices, the future is Android and iOS and how the company supports them with contextually meaningful cloud-connected apps and services.

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5 things I don't like about Apple Watch

Apple Watch Charging

About two weeks ago, I shared how Apple Watch tickles my fancy. From likes, we go to dislikes, and keeping with the other I purposely limit the number to five. Quick recap: I bought the aluminum model on June 18, 2015 from the local Apple Store. Seven days later, I exchanged for the stainless steel variant. Except to charge or to shower, I've worn it constantly since.

Broadly, my feelings about the smartwatch are mixed. The delivered benefits are excellent, but they aren't enough to justify the lofty price. If not for using MacBook Pro and iPhone 6 Plus this summer, Android Wear and iOS incompatibilities, or the promise of watchOS 2 coming early autumn, I would not have purchased the device. I'm not dissatisfied with Apple Watch, but want more from it. As I explained on July 18, the measure of success or failure isn't sales but returns. I kept mine. How many early buyers didn't?

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I bought a Windows 10 PC, but not for me

Inspiron 15 Touch

My brother-in-law's Dell laptop, so old it shipped with, and still had, 1GB RAM, died last week. He emailed asking my buying advice about a Windows 7 replacement. Reasoning: He would move up from XP. But his dad stepped in, offered to pay, and I, acting as agent (being the more knowledgable about computers), suggested $400 budget. By coincidence, shopping day coincided with Windows 10's launch.

Timing couldn't be better, with the rush of new 10s, discounts to clear out old inventory, and typical back-to-school season sales. I expected to grab good gear. Choosing for my brother-in-law is quite different than for myself. I prefer something smaller and lighter, with high-resolution screen. He wanted a larger screen (we agreed on 15.6 inches), full-size keyboard, DVD player, and WiFi. Meaning: Roomy and backward-compatible with what he has already. I confidently looked for something within budget.

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Will you upgrade to Windows 10?

Question

Microsoft officially launches its newest operating system tomorrow. OEMs like Acer, Lenovo, and Dell are shipping computers loaded with Windows 10, while some of you can claim free upgrades now. But will you? We want to know, as perhaps do other readers considering whether or not to make a go.

To be brutally honest, I seriously considered using headline: "Will you upgrade to Windows Death?" Because: if Windows 10 doesn't succeed it will be the last viable version given the success of Android or iOS; shipments of both mobile platforms either match or exceed Windows computers; and Microsoft's advancing cloud strategy signals the end of Windows as we have come to know it, as the operating system evolves and updates in a manner more like Chrome OS than the big release delivered every few years. Then there is the criticism, much of it in BetaNews comments, that makes upgrading to Windows 10 seem like Death.

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What did Tim Cook REALLY say about Apple Watch sales?

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Today's question: Is Apple's CEO hiding weak smartwatch sales or does he demonstrate transcending leadership by positioning for greater platform success—taking the long view? The answer lies perhaps in his comments made during yesterday's fiscal Q3 earnings conference call.

In data released today, Strategy Analytics puts Apple Watch shipments at 4 million for the April quarter. Yesterday, Canalys gave estimate that is 200,000 units higher. Posting to BetaNews just minutes ago, analyst Sameer Singh calculates 3 million devices shipped and 2.5 million sold. Apple doesn't share the real numbers that it surely has. In chief executive Tim Cook's remarks that follow, there are hints—but little more. Something he says later in the conference call is quite provocative; genius and contrary-logistics-thinking. Either he's hiding or abiding.

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Apple withholds smartwatch sales data

Apple Watch in Apple store

All eyes turned to Apple this afternoon as the world's most profitable tech company announced the first full quarterly results that include its smartwatch. You could hear a collective pin drop across the Internet as U.S. stock markets closed and everyone waited wondering: Flop or Not?

We don't know. In the press release, CEO Tim Cook refers to the "great start for Apple Watch", but there's no data in the PR or in the 8-K filing with the SEC. The device fits into the "Other" category. During Cook's earnings conference call opening remarks hard data also is lacking.

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Apple Q3 2015 by the numbers: $49.6B revenue, $1.85 EPS

apple_building_logo

After the closing bell today, Apple announced results for fiscal third quarter, which largely is congruent with calendar Q2 (End date, April 27). Broadly: $49.6 billion in sales, $10.7 billion net income, and $1.85 earnings per share. Year over year, revenue rose 33 percent and EPS by 45 percent. Apple guidance before the big reveal: Between $46 billion and $48 billion revenue. Wall Street consensus was $49.31 billion sales and $1.81 EPS. The Street's estimates ranged from $46.9 billion to $53.64 billion.

Gross margin reached 39.7 percent compared to 39.4 percent annually and 40.8 percent sequentially. Company guidance: 38.5 percent to 39.5 percent. Once again, international sales accounted for most of the quarter's sales: 64 percent, which is up from 59 percent the previous year but down from 69 percent three months earlier.

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5 things I like about Apple Watch

Apple Watch and Sport

In another universe, I don't own Apple Watch. Either LG Watch Urbane or Moto 360 adorns my wrist. But in this one, I not only sold my soul to the bitten-fruit logo company but I grew to enjoy the servitude. Thirty-three days after purchasing the smartwatch, I can express satisfaction, even if sometimes muted, with the user experience.

I prefer Android Wear for its fantastic contextual utility, but find greater overall usability and positive emotional response from living with Apple Watch. As expressed in the previous post, I suspect that returns rates may be high for this device—at least compared to others that Apple produces. The real measure of any product's success is: 1) Did you keep it?; 2) Do you use it?; 3) Do you enjoy it?

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Did you buy and return Apple Watch?

Pig with Sungleasses

Apple announces on Tuesday quarterly results that will for the first time include its wearable. Already, ahead of the big day, speculation soars about Apple Watch sales. Expect drama for sure, as CEO Time Cook explains how supply shortages constrained availability, leaving investors with more questions than answers.

I am more interested in data the company likely won't reveal: return rates. I took back two. The first: I ordered online but sales started, after long delay, in the retail store before the device arrived. Rather than wait another week, I bought there and later returned the other, which the shop specialist sold seconds afterwards to a family that had come in looking for Apple Watch only to be told the Sport sold out. The second: A week later, I exchanged the aluminum timepiece for stainless steel. How many other people returned one for another because of taste or altogether because of dislike? The measure of Apple Watch success is percentage of returns.

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What did you buy for Prime Day?

amazon_boxes

Well, July 15th is behind us and Amazon's promise of deals bigger than Black Friday. If you were looking for Christmas in July, did you get it? I wasn't that impressed with the selection of Lightning Deals and exclusives, but perhaps you were. Or not. My purchase, and call me crazy (some commenter usually does): I plunked down $143.86 for two years of Kindle Unlimited, saving 40 percent off the $9.99 for each of 24 months. The bookstore will become my personal library of sorts. There are many books I would read and reference for my professional writing but not necessarily buy.

Briefly, Amazon offered the 32GB Nexus 6 for $399 and Echo for $129—that's $50 off. The smartphone sold out quick at that price but still remained available for $499 the rest of the day. The other device built up a waitlist before finally being closed out. The 6-inch Kindle sold for $49, discounted from $79, and was still available as Midnight approached here on the West Coast (where I live; BetaNews offices are Eastern Time).

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