Ninth in a series. User experience is an ongoing series of surprises -- discovery of something unexpected and useful when positive and discovery of annoying glitches when negative. Both evoke emotional responses. The latter is devastating as little frustrations build to crescendo. That's the state I near with my "Microsoft All-In" experiment. Dissatisfaction grows.
I started this journey on July 1, after buying Surface Pro 3. The tablet-hybrid promised so much, and my overall experience with the hardware is excellent. I can't say the same about the operating system, web browser, or supporting services. Clunky is good word. Think old car that runs well on the highway but sometimes stutters and stalls at stoplights. The overall UX is nowhere as smooth as Chrome OS or OS X.
I understand that it's the dog days of summer, when news is light, readers vacation, and writers struggle to produce current content. So I'll forgive colleague Mihaita Bamburic, for his misguided attack against Surface Pro 3. He asserts that Microsoft markets the computer to the "wrong crowd". If that would be tech writers, he gets a nod. Otherwise, I shake my head and point a finger.
I've read this misguided diatribe before, from tech reviewers switching to the Microsoft PC from an Apple, but never expected it from him. As someone who has bought and paid for MacBook Air and Surface Pro 3, I say that Microsoft's marketing is spot on target. The problem isn't the potential consumer buyer but geek writers, particularly those already using Macs.
My colleague Joe Wilcox is currently entrenched in an all-Microsoft lifestyle and I am enjoying reading about it. I too have been using Microsoft's products lately, including the wonderful Surface Pro 3 and Nokia Lumia Icon. The combination of that tablet and smartphone create quite the awesome experience.
One of my favorite things about Microsoft's desktop and mobile operating systems is Bing Apps. It keeps me in touch with things like news, weather and sports to name a few. While that is nothing unique, it is the overall fluid design that makes it a treat to use. Today, Microsoft announces that it is updating Bing Apps for Windows Phone, but there is a catch -- it is an 8.1 affair only.
Fourth in a series. Before adopting the Chromie lifestyle and declaring independence from Apple two summers ago, I primarily was a Mac user. I wrote most of the so-called anti-Apple stories (so some commentary say) on the company's laptops. Chromebook still warms my heart, but for the summer -- and likely longer -- we part ways. On June 20, I walked out of Microsoft Store San Diego with a free Surface Pro 3. But I am accidental thief; that story later.
In April, I wrote about "My two years with Chromebook", giving loads of praise. I might still use Chrome OS as my primary platform today, if not for sudden partial loss of vision -- non-diabetic macular edema in both eyes. The ailment compelled a reevaluation of my computing needs. I purchased a refurbished Surface RT preinstalled with Windows 8.1, because of the free Word, which will ease ebook publishing. I really enjoyed the user experience, much more than the Surface Pro reviewed in February 2013. Updated operating system is major reason. Also, Microsoft's ClearType improved my diminished reading ability.
Third in a series. In business perception is everything. Many companies succeed or fail not because their products are great but their brands are perceived to be that way. Apple is a remarkable perception manager. Consider iPhone 5s, which features and benefits fall far behind many competing devices. Rather than innovate, the fruit-logo launches an evocative marketing campaign -- "You're more powerful than you think" -- that makes the smartphone look better. Improved. The ads are compelling because they communicate: Your life will be better, you shall achieve your dreams, by buying iPhone 5s.
Meanwhile, competitors like Microsoft truly innovate and take the kind of risks that once defined Apple. Last year I asked: "Will 2013 be another year of Apple iteration masquerading as innovation?" Yes, and halfway into another year, little is changed. The answer is the same. Last month I explained "Why Apple no longer innovates". OS X Yosemite and iOS X 8 are prettier, but so what? Meanwhile, Windows 8/8.1 is a radical rethinking of the platform -- as is Surface, which delivers refreshing change to computing. What's that long-forgotten Yellow Pages tagline? Let your fingers do the walking. They do on Surface.
This is the week of the Surface Pro 3. Brian had already attended the launch event earlier in the month, and has provided an essential list of hardware and software purchasers need to grab for the best all round experience -- he even goes as far as suggesting that it's better than a MacBook Air. Even before launch there was an update available for the tablet-cum-laptop, and there was also news that the Intel Core i3 and i7 models would be shipping earlier than previously expected. But not all of the products we looked at this week were quite so "every day". There was the wifi doorbell complete with camera, and also the prospect of charging your phone wirelessly with your pants -- yes you did read that correctly.
The Windows Phone market is dominated by Nokia, but a new batch of handsets has been unveiled by Indian manufacturer Micromax. If Android is your mobile OS of choice, you may be thinking about venturing into the rooted world. This week a new tool was released that makes the process as quick and painless as possible, opening up a whole new breed of apps and options. Joe decided to take a walk on the wild side and adopt the Nokia Lumia Icon as his phone of choice. In the Android arena, a new contender entered -- the Amazon Fire Phone. Will a kill switch be added? Microsoft and Google have agreed to add it to their mobile operating systems.
First in a series. My preference is to write about tech that I use -- an attitude shared among BetaNews reporters. We like to get hands-on and write with authority, from experience. That's one reason I write so little about Microsoft now, not being immersed in the company's products. Lately, mine is the Google lifestyle.
But yesterday I started using the original Surface -- the one frequently maligned by critics for so-called limitations associated with Windows RT. This is my first experience with the tab, although I reviewed and frankly loved Surface Pro. Out-of-the-box impressions are great. This is a hugely satisfying tablet, and surely the experience is better with its successor. I was right to ask 5 days ago: "Why not Surface 2?"
Colleague Wayne Williams is right to call out Surface Pro 3 hidden costs necessary to make a reasonable laptop replacement. There is another choice, which geeks often overlook. Surface 2 is a great value for the price, and everyone considering Apple iPad Air as a laptop replacement should look to Microsoft's tab first.
Before explaining, I start a diatribe that will continue to future posts. Geek reviewers hung up on specs and the fanciest features missing what matters more: Benefits -- to whom they are important and in what circumstances. Not everyone needs the fastest, coolest thing, or can afford it. Lower-cost is a benefit, too, and it's one too often ignored by fanboys and tech reviewers. Wayne gets it. So should you.
It should come as no surprise that this week's big news was Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 unveiling. Brian had been looking forward to the NYC event and was at the event to get hands on with the new device. There's certainly a lot to love about Microsoft's third generation tablet, but there is that price to consider. If you like the look of what you see, the device is available for pre-order right now -- and if you're undecided between the Surface and a MacBook Air, Mihaita compared the two. Maybe you're one of those who thinks it’s a niche product.
The Surface Mini failed to make an appearance, but there are still lots of other tablets to choose from -- although they are yet to make much of an impression in higher education, unlike Chromebooks which have found their way into Welsh schools. Will Microsoft's tablet manage to attain the longevity of Apple's iPad? You'd be forgiven for thinking that hell itself had frozen over at the news that work is underway that will make it possible to run Android and iOS apps side by side on the same device.
I have no problems with touchscreens in general, no problem at all. I can't imagine using a non-touchscreen phone any more, and I have tablets of all shapes and sizes coming out of my ears. Touchscreens make sense, they are intuitive, they are fun to use. In the right situation, at least. I bang on about being a very happy Surface Pro owner (not as yet a Surface Pro 3), but how often do I take advantage of the fact that it has a touchscreen? Very rarely. I might jab the screen every now and then to switch apps, I may even mess about with handwriting recognition from time to time, but despite my love of the device, a keyboard/trackpad/mouse combo is my preferred choice.
I use my Surface Pro as a laptop, and perhaps this is where my issues stem from. To me it makes little sense to reach over the keyboard to interact with the screen when a far more energy and time efficient trackpad flick does the job just as well. Used as a tablet, it would be a different story, but to me the Surface Pro range is not about amalgamating the best of laptops and tablets, it's about having a fancy laptop. But I digress. My point is that I have yet to be convinced of the value of touchscreen laptops (when used as laptops), and the idea of touchscreen monitors for desktop computers just seems like a step too far.
Today's Microsoft event in New York City was something of a mixed bag with its fair share of highs and lows. There was an obvious highlight -- the Surface Pro 3. It was a highlight for two reasons. Firstly, despite expectations to the contrary, this was in fact the only device to be announced today. Secondly, at least in terms of looks and specification, it's bloody amazing. But there were at least a couple of low points. No Surface Mini, and the frankly bonkers, nuts, crazy, mad Surface Pro 3 pricing.
The Pro side of Microsoft's Surface range has long been criticized for being a little on the pricey side, but the third generation takes things to the extreme. At the top end of the scale -- a rather juicy sounding Intel Core i7 device packing 8GB RAM and 512 GB of storage -- you'll need to save up an astonishing $1,949. Panos Panay made a great deal of noise about how this is the tablet that can replace your laptop. For that price, I should flippin' well hope so. For that price I can buy a top of the range laptop and still have enough left over to buy a decent tablet. I could even venture into Apple territory if I was feeling a little saucy...
Say what you want about the Surface line of tablets, but they are very functional, well-made devices. Microsoft's videos simply show-off the tablet's potential, which is sometimes lost in the tech community. Let's be honest, many people have dismissed Surface, unfairly. Today, the company unleashes another video, highlighting how a wedding planner named Ashlee uses Surface to be succesful.
When you think of tablets, the iPad and Android variants seem very hip and sexy. While I love the Surface 2, it conjures images of nerds editing spreadsheets. As an owner of a Surface 2 (and spreadsheet-loving nerd) I know there is much more to Microsoft's tablet -- it is great for games and media too.
However, it seems Microsoft is intent on changing the public's perception of its awesome Surface 2. In a new video, the company features a hip, young, bakery owner named Loren Brill. Microsoft's tablet helps her bake yummy treats. Does she change the way you think about Surface?
Build 2014 has seen lots of revelations already -- a free version of Windows is on the cards, universal apps for different devices will make the lives of developers rather easier, and a raft of new Windows Phones are just around the corner -- but there is one that is particularly intriguing.
During the keynote speech today Microsoft also revealed something else. That it is changing its bloody mind yet again. The Start menu is going to make a return. Yep. The Start menu that was shunned is coming back.
I have no idea what 12-year old kids are interested in -- I am guessing Justin Bieber and Instagram; lord only knows. However, as a tech-guy, I always have my eye on what smartphones and tablets people are using in public. From my observations, iPhones and iPads still reign supreme for tweens. And so, it is not surprising that 12 year old Victoria asked her dad for an iPad Mini.
While many kids are whiny brats nowadays, she took a more responsible approach and created a presentation as to why buying it is a good idea. Her father, rather than simply giving in and buying it, instead tweeted Microsoft to give it a chance for rebuttal. Microsoft responded to her presentation in epic fashion.