Well, I’ve been keeping quiet for a while, sitting on the side lines watching this techno gadget porno play out between the big three, Microsoft, Apple and Google. It all comes to a climax tomorrow, with Windows 8 officially becoming available to the masses and Apple opening their doors for the preorder of their newest tablets, the iPad Mini and the refreshed iPad 3 (or what some are calling the 3S). Not to be left behind, Google will make a move with their Nexus 7 next week, by offering a larger capacity Nexus 7 at a lower price. So, what’s to make of all this techno bliss? Let’s reflect on all this.
I’ve been playing with Windows 8 since the release version became available for developers back in August. Honestly, I’ve not had much time to develop anything, but the toolset is very promising, and I’ve enjoyed using Windows 8 on my Asus EP121 Slate. I purchased the Asus Slate last March, and it was a nice Windows Tablet, but alas, Windows 7 is not a Slate friendly OS, it tried, but the touch tablet features always felt stapled on as an after thought, and didn’t do the Slate any justice. With Windows 8, that all changed. It breathed new life into the Asus Slate, and it became a more useful machine. Making it more responsive and it even improved my battery life!
Given this experience, I feel that Microsoft has a winning platform and they, along with their OEM partners are about to usher in a new phase in computing. To prove this point, you just need to Google around for Windows 8 laptops or tablets and you’ll see a wide array of ingenious designs coming from companies like Lenovo with their Yoga, or Asus’s Tai Chi. The OEM’s can now start ditching the boring old standard laptop designs for clever implementations of touchscreen or convertible tablet hybrids. This coming year we’ll see a further aggressive melding of tablet and laptop computing into a single device, and ahead of Apple. Indeed, Apple’s been sneaking in IOS features into OSX, but they’ve yet to attempt to marry the two together. Microsoft has played a risky game by leap frogging them and is betting its future on this convergence.
What Microsoft hasn’t done well so far is make it clear what Windows 8 is about. Did you know there’s at least two versions? Pro and RT? What’s the difference? It’s subtle, but RT is aimed at a pure tablet experience while maintaining most of the laptop OS features – What does that mean? Well, simply put, RT is more iPad like. It runs on a less powerful processor than a traditional laptop and runs apps that only come from the Microsoft Store. So it’s a limited version of Windows 8. Even with that explanation it’s hard to say exactly what the experience will be like, but I guess the take away is RT won’t let you install anything you want. All apps are approved apps from Microsoft. The interesting thing I’ll be waiting to see is if someone will be able to root or jailbreak the device so you CAN install whatever you want on it. Tomorrow, I actually get a Surface! I was one of the folks that preordered the device, and even though Microsoft’s order fulfillment process was a bit vague, I finally got a delivery confirmation yesterday (took them long enough). I’ll be working this weekend on some videos and blog posts showing how it compares to the glut of devices I own, and weigh in on if it’s worth keeping. So stay tuned.
Onto Apple; this week they had their big announce of a refresh to their iMac desktops, a new Retina Macbook Pro, and of course their iPad Mini. The biggest surprise for me was their refresh of the iPad3 so quickly in its lifecycle. A little over 6 months in, and the iPad3 is now old, and obsoleted by this new refreshed version that has the new iPhone processor in it and their Lightning connector. A painful sting for those who just bought one this year (like me). The iPad Mini met with quite a bit of negative press, and it’s understandable. The iPad Mini is a small iPad2 that costs $30 more than their new iPod. Indeed, the Mini sort of awkwardly plays the middle step child in their IOS lineup. Many cried foul to their pricing of the 16 GB model at $330, comparing it to the Nexus 7, which is still cheaper and has more impressive specs. Once again though, specs don’t necessarily speak to the success or failure of a device. Apple still has a robust and very active development community, and therefore the availability of apps and user experience still makes Apple a winner. The iPad Mini’s build quality is something that also sets it apart from the Nexus, which is a bit more plastic than metal; granted, Apple’s metal has proven in the past that it doesn’t hold up as well as it should, so a case is probably still recommended. We also must remember that Apple doesn’t make devices for folks like me, so my thoughts and comments are lost on them, and even with all the negativity, they have no reason to distrust their decisions, since they make enough money to buy half the country. But it’s hard to deny that besides more horsepower and size, they don’t offer much else. It’s been over 3 years and Apple refuses to look at pen input as a possibility, an aspect that Android and Microsoft are not ignoring.
For Google, their in a good spot with the Nexus. It nicely falls into the $200 no brainer price range, and their Nexus 7 is a great small tablet. I’ll probably pick one up after next weeks memory upgrade, their 16GB version which is currently $250 is rumored to be replaced by a 32GB version at that price, dropping their 16GB model to $200! Making it a very attractive tablet indeed.
That’s it for now, I’ll follow up soon with my thoughts on the Microsoft Surface next week, once I get some playtime with it.
Here are some links to some articles I found quite useful regarding this weeks Techno mayhem: