Microsoft is the master of product placement. Watch almost any American-made TV show and at some point it’s likely one of the characters will whip out their Windows Phone, fire up their Surface, or use Windows 8.x. No one in those shows ever seems to own an iPad or an Android phone, which is odd considering that in the real world, most people do.
I caught up with the latest episode of CBS show Under the Dome last night, and for a brief moment thought I was watching an advert for Surface, so prevalent was Microsoft’s slate. The problem was… [spoilers ahead]
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.
Boneheaded. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about Microsoft abandoning its Surface branding in favor of Nokia Lumia.
You see, successful branding is a tricky business. Getting people to internalize your brand or product name as part of their everyday vocabulary is a herculean task. Coke did it. So did Xerox and Kleenex. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to "Xerox" something, or asked the person next to me to pass me the box of "Kleenex".
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, but I'm a bifocal reader now and wanted to reduce eye-strain. 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 reading ability. Windows' terrific graphics -- on the tablet and Nokia Lumia Icon smartphone -- are good for the aging eyes, too.
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.
As someone blessed with the opportunity to try the Surface Pro 3 early, I can say it is truly a game changer. It is very light, has great battery life and a big beautiful display. The tablet/laptop hybrid is far beyond offerings by competitors, including Apple. If you even consider buying a Macbook Air over this, you are arguably making a huge mistake.
With that said, the Surface Pro 3 will begin hitting stores this Friday, June 20th. While the computer is great out of the box, it is not complete until you install useful apps and programs. But wait, aren't apps and programs the same thing? Yes and no. They are both pieces of software, but apps run in the Modern UI, and programs run in the classic UI. While Windows RT variants of Surface cannot install extra programs, the Pro 3 can, since it has an x86_64 Haswell processor. Below is a list of my suggested programs, apps, games and hardware accessories.
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.
I love First-Person shooter video games such as Call of Duty and Quake 4. For that genre of game, my trusty keyboard and mouse is the optimal way to interact with my on-screen character. However, for all other games like fighting, racing and platforming, I need and demand a quality controller. While there are many to choose from, the Xbox 360 controller has proven to be the most reliable and comfortable for many. Drivers exist for Windows, so gamers can connect it by USB or buy a wireless variant and dongle.
Sadly, Xbox One controller drivers have been absent for Windows. This is puzzling as Microsoft is behind the controller and operating system. This new controller is wonderfully built and designed, so gamers have been eager to use it on their PC gaming rigs. Well, today the wait ends -- Microsoft has finally delivered the drivers we have been waiting for.
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...
You probably already know, but Microsoft is set to announce a new Surface product today at an event in New York City. The initial rumors suggested we would be seeing a mini version of the company’s flagship Windows slate (a conclusion jumped to because the invites mentioned a "small gathering"), but latest rumblings suggest the exact opposite -- with a 12-inch Surface Pro 3 now tipped to be the product revealed on stage.
While I personally would like to see a Surface Mini, a larger Surface Pro makes a lot of sense, and will appeal to power users. At the moment no one outside of Microsoft knows for definite what to expect, but it should be very interesting nonetheless.
Microsoft has a knack for losing money with its Surface tablet lineup, and it is now poised to do the same with the new phone-making business it just acquired from Finnish maker Nokia. Devices & Services generated a negative operating profit of €326 million in Q1 CY2014 (that equates to a $450 million loss) on sales of a mere €1.929 billion. What is the definition of wanting to lose even more money, on purpose?
The not-so-insignificant-loss has been caused by lower sales of phones and smartphones, the latter of which includes (mostly) Lumia Windows Phones. Nokia has not provided any numbers on the volume of devices it may have sold or shipped during the first quarter of the year, but suffice to say the bar was not high to begin with. In Q1 2013, the Finnish maker sold only 5.6 million Windows Phones, and this business lost a lower €120 million (while also posting €836 million more in sales).