When I embarked on my Microsoft-only journey, I was scared. After all, my professional life and career depends on my use of technology. By limiting myself to only one company and its products, there could be room for more harm rather than good. However, I was also excited to try something new and share it with you.
In reality, people will not purposely restrict their choice in computing; they will choose the devices they want, regardless of brand. Quite frankly, many people mix and match brands and operating systems -- Windows laptop with an iPhone, iMac with an Android smartphone, etc. While I was using a Surface 2 with a Windows Phone in my experiment, that is not necessarily a common combination.
It may be hard to believe, but OneNote was released in November 2003. To many mature users of Microsoft's Office suite, it still feels like a "new" addition. Sadly, many people do not use the note-taking, collaboration solution, likely from a lack of education on the software. I am only a few years removed from college and never observed a single student leveraging OneNote in the classroom; they all used Word. This is unfortunate as it is a great cross-platform solution -- Windows, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are now all supported.
To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, Microsoft is launching the One Notable Decade campaign. This should hopefully raise awareness of the powerful software. Today, Microsoft shares some examples of how OneNote helps people be successful in their lives.
Apple took center stage this week. At a special event the new iPad Air, iPad mini, Mac Pro and a raft of free software were all revealed, and we liveblogged through the whole thing. Not to be outdone by Microsoft, Apple decided to give Mavericks away free of charge along with iWork and iLife. But it was the iPad Air and mini that stole the show, sharing the same innards as the recently announced iPhone 5s, but boasting a redesigned exterior -- at least in the case of the Air.
Of course, no tablet launch would be complete without matching cases. There was also the interestingly designed Mac Pro which looks delightful and is a serious powerhouse, but has a price tag to match. After the big launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple showed off the latest addition to the iPhone range in a TV commercial.
When I attended the Surface event in September, I was very impressed with the hardware -- the tablets and accessories. While I was most enamored with the Blade concept, I was also interested in the Surface Pro Docking Station. I had some hands-on experience with the accessory and found it to be well-built and fun to use. It felt very futuristic and simplistic -- you press the sides of the dock into the tablet. It felt like playing with Lego blocks.
While the Surface Pro 2 was released on October 22, the docking station was scheduled for next year, in 2014. This was a huge blow to business users especially, as it enables the device to act as both a tablet and a desktop (perfect for an on-the-go executive). However, out of the blue, the docking station becomes available today. Pull out that credit card.
This past Tuesday, I announced my Microsoft-only experiment. My goal is to only use Microsoft devices for a week -- not easy for a Linux user -- and I have since followed through on that commitment. Armed with only a Surface 2 (Windows RT 8.1), Nokia Lumia 928 and a Windows 8.1 desktop, I managed to make the transition, although it was not all sunshine. More on that later.
As someone who writes a lot, a good keyboard is a must. Believe it or not, the Surface's on screen keyboard is simply brilliant. I can type better on it than the iPad or any Android keyboard. It is very responsive and the auto-correct feature works well. I even find the audio feedback to be oddly pleasing. On Android, I turn off the volume, as I find the clicking sound to be annoying, not here; it actually adds to the experience.
In early August, Surface Pro received a $100 price cut in an attempt to lure prospective buyers, following the less than stellar revenues generated by Microsoft's tablet lineup. The base model would run for a more accessible $799, with the flagship costing $899. Now, the software giant is at it again, slashing the price of its Surface Pro one more time.
The latest Surface Pro price-cut comes in response to the arrival of the new Surface Pro 2, that touts significantly better battery life and performance improvements and a price that kicks off at $899 for the base model. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft wants to give Surface Pro a real fighting chance at raking in more sales before pulling the plug.
When I got my first computer, a Packard Bell, it was running Windows 95. At the time, I was just happy that I could talk to girls on AOL. The political and religious nature of the operating system never entered my mind. This was because, at the time, Microsoft monopolized computing in America's households. Microsoft was computers to me and I was fine with that.
Fast forward to 2013 and we see a far different landscape in home computers. Heck, the idea of owning a desktop is foreign to many consumers as they instead opt for tablets. Shockingly, Microsoft is almost nowhere to be found in the tablet revolution. Yes, it was selling convertible, tablet-edition Windows devices years ago, but consumers weren't buying them. I should know, I sold them at the time -- well, didn't sell them, I should say.
The traditional telephone and email setup at many businesses is dying. This old-school approach is no longer efficient. As crazy as it is to call email "old school", that is exactly what it is. Many business users want the ability to reach out in real-time, with the option to escalate the interaction to voice or screen-sharing. Lync is the dynamic software solution which is trailblazing the corporate world.
If you aren't familiar, Lync is a business-focused instant messaging client for Windows. However, it is so much more than that -- it is a communication service that brings colleagues together. It provides VOIP, instant messaging, video chat and screen-sharing. The magic of the software is the integration with Outlook -- your status can be automatically updated to reflect your meetings and appointments. Today, Microsoft announces that adoption of the software is booming.
Just about everyone with a desktop, laptop or even a Surface Pro running Windows 8 has been busy updating to Windows 8.1 over the past couple of days.
But things aren’t so rosy for anyone with a Surface RT. After a number of users took to Microsoft forums to complain about problems updating their tablet/laptop hybrids to the latest version of Windows, the update was pulled from the Windows Store.
This was another week in which Microsoft managed to steal the show, this time with the public release of Windows 8.1. Here at BetaNews we were fully prepared for the upgrade and showed off what's new. While we're generally impressed with the update, there's still a little room for improvement. Of course the Start menu (or lack thereof) is still a sticking point, but you can get this back. The operating system update was preceded by a raft of updates to Window's built in apps.
Windows 8.1 may be where it's at right now, but there are still plenty of people running Windows XP. Google announced that Chrome users on XP would be supported for a year after the OS is retired.
We all know the original Surface RT failed badly, and there are multiple reasons for its lack of success, including overpricing, poor distribution, commercials that revealed nothing about the product, and of course Windows RT -- the operating system that was a total mystery to consumers. No one knew anything about it. It came out of nowhere, hidden in the shadows of Windows 8.
What does RT mean? To anyone? (It’s just another in a long line of ambiguous Windows acronyms, joining the likes of XP, NT and CE). It looks like Windows 8, but it isn’t. It can’t run (most) desktop applications, despite having a desktop, and has other less than obvious limitations too.
One of the biggest problems I have with all those fancy iPad rollouts in corporate America is that they are merely patching a larger problem instead of solving it. Let's face it, nearly 60 percent of tablet buyers currently are not replacing their primary mobile devices -- they're merely supplementing them. Less than 9 percent truly see themselves replacing their laptops with tablets. If tablets are the future of mobile computing, there is a serious problem with their perception by non-consumption driven buyers.
When one of my customers approached us about helping them migrate an aging, near-crippled fleet of netbooks into modern tablets, I knew there had to be a better way than the "iPad standard". We initially toyed with the idea of getting tablets to use in conjunction with GoToMyPC or LogMeIn, but the recurring costs on such an approach started to balloon. Plus, a workforce that lives and dies by the full Microsoft Office suite would never adjust to a touch-only future.
Google is doing it with Android. Apple is doing it with iOS. So why shouldn't Microsoft allow its smartphone operating system to run on tablets? Obviously, the name would have to change, likely from Windows Phone to Windows Tablet. But would such a product be the right thing for Microsoft? One rumor points in the slate direction.
As with any Microsoft consumer operating system there is no easy answer. The best parts, that together would make the best OS, are scattered across a couple of products. And, Microsoft already has Windows RT which, even though it is not selling as well as the company had hoped it would (hence the $0.9 billion write-off for Surface RT), is quite competent in today's mobile landscape from a feature standpoint. Once we move past the silly one-sided preferences, it really makes little sense at first glance for Microsoft to drop its current tablet OS in favor of its smartphone OS. Windows RT is, dare I say, better. Yes, I have my flame suit on. But does that mean Windows Phone could not offer any value as a tablet OS?
For Microsoft, Windows 8 is a necessary evil. The operating system has two main purposes: to usher the software giant into the modern mobile computing era and, at the same time, to get existing users on board with the changes on the new platform. So far, it is not difficult to see how the OS (and, by implication, Microsoft) has failed on both counts: its tablet market share is low and the growth of Windows 7 is higher than its own. Remember that Windows 8 is close to being a year-old while Windows 7 will soon have its fourth anniversary.
Despite what some might believe, Microsoft really had no other option but to bring something completely new to the table. It does not take long to realize that Windows 8 has been a step in the right direction, as Windows 7 was primarily designed for devices prior to the tablet era. But despite being well-intended, Microsoft has been facing an ongoing backlash over the efficacy of the new approach, which has led to severely crippled chances for mass market appeal. That is a place where no company wants to be, especially in a period of transition. So, as a result, the software giant is responding to the criticism with Windows 8.1, that now has, among other purposes, a different task: to change people's perception of its predecessor.
Many people are settling into the idea that a 7 inch screen is the ideal size for a tablet. The extra screen space provided by a 10 inch model sounds great in theory, but it does result in a device that is slightly more cumbersome to take from place to place. Looked at in terms of portability, 7 inches is perfect -- large enough to make most tasks easy, but small enough to easily slip into a bag, if not necessarily a pocket.
The slightly smaller size also makes an important difference to the price tag, and there is a burgeoning market for tablets of this size. It is interesting to see that as the screens of phones gradually get larger and larger, the general trend for the tablet is to shrink -- the two are on a collision course!