Over the holiday weekend, I started using the Moto 360, which user experience is way better than anticipated. For all the nutcases calling Apple Watch innovative and revolutionary—without there even being a device for them to test—Android Wear is, ah, timely. Google gives great utility that will be difficult for the fruit-logo company to match. Reasons are simple: Context, search, sync, UI design, and Google Now.
I resisted the smartwatch concept for having been there before. Few of the gadget geeks gushing about wearables are old enough to remember Microsoft SPOT. Mid-last decade, the company partnered with real watchmakers (Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch); the devices were as much jewelry as functional timepieces; FM radio delivered appointments, news, weather, and other alerts independent of cell phones; and battery life lasted three days or more (which wasn't enough). By these measures, SPOT watches were so much more and still failed. Hence, these are reasons why in past analyses I called the decade-later attempt dumb. But I was wrong.
Three weeks ago I asked "What tech changed your life in 2014?" You answered here and on Google+. As the new year starts, I wonder what will make all our lives better. Apple Watch? I doubt it. Shake me awake from the nightmare if the wearable isn't the most successful flop of 2015. Windows 10? Skipping nine is a good sign, but is giving users more of what they don't want to let go life changing? Eh, no.
At the precipice of looking ahead, this is a last look behind. Once Consumer Electronics Show leaks and early announcements rush the InterWebs, all eyes will turn forward -- blind to what many people have, focusing on what they want instead. That's because "aspiration" is the defining word of the technology era, and the promise if you buy newfangled This or That your life will be better for it. Sometimes the promise is true, but too often not, which is why I asked the important question three weeks ago.
Looking back on this last day of the year, I wonder how my daily tech changed so much since the first. On Jan. 1, 2014, my core computing comprised Chromebook, Nexus tablet, and Nexus smartphone. Midyear, I switched out to all Microsoft—buying Surface Pro 3 and Nokia Lumia Icon. While commendable the effort, Windows poorly fit my lifestyle. Today, I'm all Apple—13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display with 512GB SSD, iPhone 6 128GB, and iPad Air 128GB. I can't imagine using anything else.
Following the lead of my BetaNews colleagues Mihaita Bamburic, Ian Barker, Alan Buckingham, Brian Fagioli, and Wayne Williams, I review my year in tech, and unlike 2013 focus on products that released during the year. I present my 2014 personal tech alphabetically, from company name, rather than order of importance—because they all matter. Note: While the list looks like four, it's five because the first is two combined.
The Internet is buzzing about celebrity nude photos pilfered from iCloud. The problem is bigger than Apple's security, if breached, which I doubt. Behavior is the larger concern, and how people adapt during the contextual cloud computing era. If your phone automatically syncs pictures or videos to any cloud service -- Google Photos, iCloud, OneDrive, or another -- you must assume that nothing is private.
That personal nude video you shoot on the HandyCam is very different from the one taken on Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s, or another device. I should be stating the obvious, but given pervasive attitudes about the Internet -- where people feel safe browsing in the sanctity of their domicile or WiFi coffee shop -- carelessness must be the presumption. These leaked celeb nudes, if real rather than Photoshopped, are good example. Simple rule: Don't shoot any photos or videos on a cloud-connected device you don't want everyone to see.
Sixth in a series. On July 1, I officially started my "Microsoft All-In" summer sojourn. Surface Pro 3 is my PC and Nokia Lumia Icon my smartphone for the next couple of months. Google gets the boot -- at least for awhile. I now largely use Microsoft products and services and third-party apps available for the company's platforms. Many commenters wonder why, so let me explain.
I last used Windows as my primary platform in 2010 -- never for Windows Phone. Like other BetaNews reporters, I tend to write about products used regularly. Writing is more authoritative from experience, and often only long-time use reveals hidden problems or benefits. The reality, and it's something obviously seen in comments: Microsoft platform users largely make up BetaNews readership.
Colleague Alan Buckingham is on a summer sojourn using HP Chromebook 11. I took similar journey during August and September 2011, but the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook -- much as I liked the overall user experience -- couldn't satisfy my needs. In May 2012, with Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550's release, all changed. I started down a permanent path, looking back once for a few weeks. I am a Chromebook convert and eagerly watch to see where Alan will be when the summer sun fades to autumn colors.
"Can I use Chromebook as my primary PC?" It's a question I see often across the Interwebs. The answer is different: You can use Chromebook as your only computer. The only PCs in my home are Chromebooks. There are no Macs or Windows machines doing double duty. Chromebook is more than good enough. Most people will be surprised just how satisfying Chromebook can be -- and how affordable. For 96 cents more than the cost of one entry-level MacBook Air, you can buy from Amazon four HP Chromebook 11s -- the model Alan uses now. User benefits are surprisingly similar.
I spent time with the Ghost blogging platform today. I am intrigued by the visuals and promised simplicity. But I don't see the latter. At this stage, I just see complexity. Yet the whole premise is stripping back to basic blogging, rather than managing content as WordPress increasingly demands.
This month I put up a website for my personal independent publishing brand, and there are few posts, making it a good test case for migration. I easily used the WordPress plugin for exporting posts in Ghost format and imported them just fine. But I see too much trouble adapting themes, most of which look fabulous, BTW, or prepping other basic features.
Early this evening, I exchanged emails with someone writing a blog post about Chromebook. He seeks sales numbers that I doubt are available. Success is a difficult measure despite the hype. In January post "The trouble with new Chromebooks" here and "Twenty-Fourteen isn't Year of the Chromebook" on my personal site, I raise questions about the computer's future.
I extend reservations in the text of my email reply, which follows.
Like lots of other people, overnight I pondered Google's surprise sale of Motorola to Lenovo. The timing sure seems odd. Conspiracy theories abound. Among tech bloggers, Samsung ranks as top reason, given the timing, just days after the American and South Korean companies cut a lofty cross-patent deal that also turns way down the extent of Android customization. Certainly the latter agreement is important to Google, for reasons I laid out two years ago in post "Google has lost control of Android".
Some conspiracy theorists contend that Google always planned to sell Motorola and rebuilt the brand only to gain leverage against Samsung, which arguably exercises more direct influence over Android than does Google -- at least from a user experience perspective. But I disagree. The Motorola unloading is a lot more about the search and information giant's acquisition of Nest than anything Samsung does. My reasoning follows.
U.S. Thanksgiving Day comes late this year for retailers, but makes more time for Google to count its blessings and to offer gratitude for them. Oh, they are bountiful, and there is still another month of them to come. The year 2013 will be remembered as one of the finest in Google history. The company has so much to be thankful for, I could have trebled the list.
But for succinctness, I whittle down to those things that mean more than others or that otherwise would be overlooked in the typical yearly review. The list goes from that for which Google should be least thankful to most. Gobble. Gobble.
Developer Rudy Huyn has steadily improved his popular 6tag Windows Phone 8 app up to the point where an official Instagram client would struggle to compete with the former's feature set. The app has received frequent updates since its release, the latest of which just arrived sporting a couple of major new features.
Using geolocation, 6tag, which reached version 1.5, can now display a list of posts created in nearby locations. Users can select the covered distance (presumably the radius) through a slider -- the default value is two kilometers -- and see a map with the places where fellow Instagrammers have created the nearby posts.
I just have to ask, because the price irks me.
Late this afternoon, Guy Kawasaki, Motorola's chief evangelist, posted to Google+ that Moto X "Developer Edition now available". I've been waiting for this, being on T-Mobile, which doesn't directly sell the handset. But the phone isn't available for me, or likely you. Verizon model is $649.99. GSM X is "coming soon", presumably for same price. While the phone packs an "unlockable bootloader" and is contract-free, price busts my budget, particularly considering one major benefit -- personalized appearance -- isn't available.
Emergency surgery is the appropriate analogy for the firing of the iconic CEO. Yes firing. Microsoft announced Steve Ballmer's departure today, quite unexpectedly, and in his own words "within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen". Meaning: Soon as there is a replacement, he is gone. Vamoose. Adios. We'll send Christmas cards. Not!
Unless Ballmer is in ill-health, or something bad happened to someone he loves, he wouldn't just walk away whistling to the wind. The man is too passionate about Microsoft. There is but one interpretation: The board of directors gave Ballmer his pink slip.
Adopting Windows Phone 8, and ditching Android, was one of the most daring decisions that I have ever made in my entire tech life. I am the sort of person who does not warm up to major changes (not my strong suit), especially ones that involve transitioning between two polarizing mobile platforms. But, surprisingly, I gave up the flexibility and versatility of the green droid operating system for the glanceable information and simplicity of Windows Phone. Admittedly, it was not smooth sailing from day one.
The problem is that, in order to fully adjust to the change, something has got to give, namely features that I consider to be essential for a modern-day smartphone operating system. For some they may not matter as much, but others -- like me, and maybe you -- are likely to be left wanting for more. And, no, I am not talking about widgets, themes, root or Instagram (it, however, seems to be the tech media's favorite blaming toy even though there are good third-party alternatives), but rather more down-to-earth, mundane ones.
Today, Gartner offers grim prognostications for the PC's future, which is not surprising. That the analyst firm took so long disturbs and reveals much about how all these consultants seek to preserve client contracts before anything else. I've warned for years that connected-devices would diminish the personal computer's relevance, much like the mainframe's decline three decades ago. The PC era is over, as I asserted here 26 months ago. On Halloween 2008, I asked in a Microsoft Watch post: "Will your next PC be a smartphone?" What took Gartner so long? The "new device religion" analysis still misses the mark, too.
Following IDC's lead, Gartner now combines PCs, smartphones and tablets into a single forecast. By that measure, in 2012, Android worldwide device shipments (497 million) exceeded Windows (346.5 million) and will more than double (to 1.07 billion) by 2014. Analysts warn the operating system that defined the PC era will struggle with Apple iOS and OS X to be the second dominant platform. By many measures, the circumstance looks grim for Microsoft and Windows, and that's already the popular sentiment today among blog posts and news stories about Gartner's forecast. Don't believe them.