Cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud. This fairly innocuous word has become one that is bandied around with abandon, often with the misplaced notion that it adds an element of 'cool' that was not previously present. But is working in the cloud all it's cracked up to be? Is it necessary? Should you care about it?
You don't have to think back all that far to remember a time when simply being online seemed like a fairly alien concept -- never mind actually working online. When the concept of Active Desktop was added to Windows 9x the notion of staying online throughout the day just to see the desktop update with the latest weather forecast, news, stock prices or other data was unimaginable.
Four months after Sony unveiled the Xperia Tablet Z, the Japanese maker announced that the fondleslab is now finally available to purchase worldwide through online and brick and mortar stores. Despite the fact that the Xperia Tablet Z hits the shelves later than initially planned -- March 1 -- the company says that this hasn't affected consumer demand.
"Xperia Tablet Z has received an incredibly positive response since it was announced and this is demonstrated by the strong pre-orders the product has received", says Sony's Tomokazu Tajima. The tablet touts some attractive specifications, namely the IPX5/7 and IP5X ratings for waterproofing and dustproofing, respectively, the low weight of only 495 grams and the 6.9 mm thickness.
Computer giant Dell has seen its net profits fall by 79 percent to $130 million in the first quarter of this fiscal year. This highlights the shift in consumer demand away from traditional PCs towards tablets. The company reports a decline of 9 percent in PC sales although revenue from software, services and new technologies was up by 12 percent.
Commenting on the results chief financial officer Brian Gladden says, "We made progress in building our enterprise solutions capabilities in the first quarter and are confident in our strategy to be the leading provider of end-to-end scalable solutions. In addition, we have taken actions to improve our competitive position in key areas of the business, especially in end-user computing, and it has affected profitability".
With Google I/O in full swing, and Glass a hot topic of discussion these days, two companies have revealed plans to release apps for Google's new wearable computing system. Social network Twitter and note-taking giant Evernote are both on board with the intriguing futuristic gadget.
Evernote's Andrew Sinkov announces that the company is "excited to unveil a first look at the Evernote experience on Glass". Sinkove goes on to explain "our current implementation focuses on two actions. First, you’ll be able to quickly capture a photo or short video and send it to your Evernote account from the Google Glass sharing menu. Second, you can choose a note from Evernote Web and send it directly into the Glass Timeline so that you have it available right in your field of view when you need it".
The white box battle is on, and laptops are losers. The big trend in tablets isn't iPad, contrary to public convention, but non-big-brand slates, which account for one-third of shipments, according to NPD DisplaySearch. Their success is good for Android, bad for Apple and worse for notebooks.
The early DOS/Windows PC market succeeded largely because of clones (like those from Compaq) and white label/box manufacturers and build-your-own enthusiasts. BYO isn't a tablet trend, but white box is, and its greatest impact is growth markets PC manufacturers count on -- or at least did.
Remember when Bluetooth phone headsets came along and suddenly there were all these people loudly talking to themselves in public? Schizoid behavior became, if not cool, at least somewhat tolerable. Well expect the same experience now that Google Glass is hitting the street, because contrary to nearly any picture you can find of the thing, when you actually use it most of your time is spent looking up and to the right, where the data is. I call it the Google Gaze.
Only time will tell how traffic courts will come to view Google Glass, but having finally tried one I suspect it may end up on that list of things we’re supposed to drive without.
Not every business embraces BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). The reasons for rejecting it are usually down to security concerns -- firms are understandably worried about their data falling into the wrong hands if the device gets lost or stolen once it leaves the building.
Security specialist Symantec surveyed 236 attendees at this year’s Symantec Vision, its annual user and technical conference held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, to find out how companies were handling BYOD, and despite the small sample size the results were interesting:
I own an iPad, which I love dearly. I use it for lots of things -- games, email, browsing the web, social networking, writing, viewing photos and video, and remote accessing my PC. The iPad, like all tablets, is a true jack of all trades and a master of some too.
But, try as I might, I can’t use it for "real" tasks. While it’s fine for writing small-ish articles on, I could never write a novel on it -- and I’ve tried. For some reason, I just can’t connect with typing on a touchscreen in the same way I do when typing on a proper full-size keyboard. And I could never imagine attempting detailed Photoshop work on a touchscreen either (well, not without a fine stylus at least).
"The era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is one of a variety of environments that IT will need to support", Van Baker, Gartner research vice president, says. The days of Windows as the applications and device hub are over.
The implications are huge for businesses, which must adapt to something else, too. While native mobile apps are all the rage today, their future is uncertain. Gartner forecasts that by 2016, more than half of those deployed will be hybrid, and that's good for any platform favoring HTML5, including Windows.
Microsoft's newest and oldest supported PC operating systems share some strange similarities. Windows 8 and XP launched during times of tepid computer sales, forecasts of low adoption and initially weak sales. Neither lifted PC shipments during the launch quarter. Yet the older software went on to be such a workhorse, as much as 40 percent of the install base clings to the OS -- nearly 12 years after launch. That's the future I see. Windows 8 isn't the new Vista, as so many pundits proclaim, but the new XP.
I am quite vocal about the changing of computer eras, a position taken up before Apple started selling iPhone in early summer 2007. But the change is a process gradual at first that accelerates over time. In the case of Windows or the typical personal computer set against cloud-connected devices there can be redefinition, and, with it, renewed relevance. No one should underestimate Microsoft or ignore the past when evaluating present trends. The PC and Windows died before and resurrected.
ServicePower -- a mobile workforce management software provider -- is seeing more and more companies turning to a workforce model that relies on a mix of full-time employees, third-party contractors, and independent technicians being brought together and managed seamlessly in one place using the power of the cloud.
I chatted with Mark Duffin, CEO and president of ServicePower, about the changes he’s seen recently, the data his firm collects, and why cloud deployment has become so important to his company and its clients.
In some alternate universe, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer slaps former Windows & Windows Live president Steven Sinofsky on the back for a job well done. The company's newest operating system is such a huge success that sagging PC shipments soared to record numbers. Our reality is something shockingly different. First-quarter declines are the worst since IDC started tabulating numbers in 1994 and surpass the worst estimates. You know things are really bad when even perennial gainer Apple sees a huge year-of-year fall off.
"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market", Bob O'Donnell, IDC vice president, says. Holy Moley, Windows 8 slowed the market? You want to know why Ballmer booted Sinfosky out the door? O'Donnell offers chilling indictment.
I am both a Microsoft fanboy and hater, depending on which day I read comments from our BetaNews faithful. The truth be known, I consider myself neither. I would say it this way: I am a fanboy of what works and is useful to me and hater of everything on the opposite side of that line. I use products from many manufacturers, but yes, Microsoft powers all of my home computers, save the server, which is FreeBSD. Google is also a big part of my daily life, as is Adobe and many lesser-knowns.
For two days now, debate rages across the Internet about an analyst's content that Microsoft could be irrelevant within four years. I could do nothing but laugh when I read this. This revelation derives from Gartner report that states: "While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device". Some individuals? By that, do you mean those who have jobs?
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.
IDC continues to send smoke signals that a blistering fire rages across the planet, sure to scorch the earth where PC manufacturers hoped to plant new computer sales. Emerging markets are engulfed in a blaze of smartphone and tablet adoption that leaves little hope for a desktop or notebook revival. I simply cannot overstate the speed this thing moves.
Eight days ago, the analyst firm revised downward PC shipment forecast for 2013, singling out changing buying patterns among emerging markets. Today IDC reaffirmed the forecast, while releasing final full-year 2012 PC, smartphone and tablet shipments. The data is grim pickings.