Archive for the ‘Smartphones’ Category

Elance Profile Pic - Hand on Chin  Green Jacket
“Some may contend no one wants a phone that big. This is true. But many people do want a tablet that small. It’s all about how this 7” Surface is positioned and marketed.” – Jason L Ward

Rumors, Rumors Rumors
Early last year rumors began to spill that Microsoft was soon to release a new entry into it’s now popular line of hybrid tablets. The productivity powerhouse “tablet that can replace your laptop” – the Microsoft Surface – would soon have a diminutive little brother, the Surface Mini. The Surface Mini was expected to release by the fall of 2014. But alas, Microsoft deemed that not all pieces were yet in place to ensure the proper positioning of this 7″ to 8″ note-taking focused device.
Size Matters

cortana greeting
Last night 1/26/15 at 5:55pm EST Joe Belfiore tweeted “8” (or) bigger for full desktop, going forward on new PCs. The one I showed was 8″”. This was in response to questions regarding what version of Windows 10 would be found on what device sizes. It is now clear that the form factor agnostic Windows 10 OS will be represented on 8” and above tablets with the continuum enhanced full desktop toting version while 7” and smaller devices (tablet and phones) will be sporting the full Modern UI sans the desktop.
We have been hearing that the RT ARM based SKU of Windows would be being replaced by a new ARM based SKU that would run phones and small tablets. It looks as if 7” is the threshold for this particular SKU.
Positioning

As noted above the Redmond companies initial plans for a 2014 launch of a Surface Mini were halted (or postponed) because not all factors were in line to ensure a distinct market positioning for such a device. So what’s different this year? In a nutshell Windows 10. As we know Windows 10 is a single OS that supports a family of devices. This provides users with a common experience across devices of varying form factors, from PCs, to laptops and even phones. With additional cloud based services that are built into the OS like Office 365, One Drive and One Note users are provided with a seamless experience for their personal and professional data and multimedia. A Surface Mini with Windows 10 fits well within this ecosystem paradigm. More on that in a moment.
The Surface line of tablets, which are positioned in the market as competitors to devices such as the MacBook have pioneered a path for Microsoft’s hybrid OS on an equally versatile piece of well-designed hardware. With the ability to function as a touch friendly tablet with access to thousands of Modern apps one moment, and with the snap of a keyboard, via continuum, transform into a productive “Ultrabook” with easy access to the legacy desktop and it’s host of millions of legacy software the Surface, particularly the Surface Pro 3, has carved out a position for Microsoft’s hybrid productivity aspirations.

Key Factors

For devices of a particular size (above 8” – ideally 10”- 12”), such as the Intel based Surface, where targeted productivity tasks would require a full workstation, the keyboard is an integral and powerful accessory. Microsoft has been deliberate in communicating this. Via early ads that focused on the distinctive “CLICK” of the keyboard when locked in place, to ads of exuberant dancers locking and docking the Surface keyboard in place Microsoft has made a point that the keyboard is key to the productivity purposes of the current participants in their Surface line of tablets. That is not to belittle the powerful position of the One Note initiating N-Trig pen, but as far as accessories and market positioning go for the larger precursors to the coming Mini, productivity means keyboard.
Enter the Mini
The Surface Mini I believe will fall into the 7” ARM based realm of devices running Windows 10. The SKU shared by what is currently called Windows Phone. At 7”, though possible to connect to a keyboard, this size is not ideal for keyboard intensive productivity tasks. The display is too small for long term typing and productivity tasks in a sedentary position. Microsoft already has that part of the market covered anyway, with devices well suited for such tasks via the Surface Pro 3. A device which has a pen (rather than keyboard) as its primary accessory and data entry method (beyond the finger) is not, however, a space Microsoft has filled.
This is where a 7” Surface Mini can shine. With a touch friendly version of Office set to debut as free software on all small tablets and phones the 7 inch Surface Mini will be a powerful tool for creating and editing full Word, Excel and even PowerPoint documents. With an accompanying digitizer pen the experience with navigating and annotating documents will be made even easier.
If the pen-centric Surface Mini is indeed on its way, I am sure that Microsoft’s Project Spartan browser with its touted ability to receive annotations directly on a web page, save them to One Note and easily share them with others was designed with this particular device and form factor in mind.
Additionally, One Note, Microsoft’s powerful and versatile cloud based note taking tool is an ideal application on a device that can easily slip into a large pocket (certainly a bag) which has as its primary input accessory – something as natural and intuitive as a pen.
Just a Tablet or Something More
Now I posed a question in the title of this piece, “Is a 7″ Microsoft Surface Mini Phablet on the Horizon?” Yes I am positing that Microsoft’s Surface Mini will not be just a tablet, but that it will be a true representative of that category of devices that has been dubbed phablets.(For the record I do not like the word phablet, however it seems that the term has taken hold in the industry). The word phablet has been used to describe large smartphones (approximately 5” and up) that approach the dimensions of small tablets, which are historically about 7”. It is a combination of the words phone + tablet, thus phablet.
My contention is that Microsoft will make the Surface Mini a true phablet. Rather than being a phone with a large display like virtually every other device on the market dubbed phablet, the Surface Mini will be a tablet with telephony functionality. It will be a tablet first, designed as a tablet, with the full functionality of a tablet and full range of capabilities of a Window 10 ARM based tablet, but will also be capable of functioning as phone. A true phablet, not just a big phone.
Some may contend no one wants a phone that big. This is true. But many people do want a tablet that small. It’s all about how this 7” Surface is positioned and marketed. A productivity tablet with software enhanced to take full advantage of a digitizer pen, full access to a host multimedia and leisure apps with the additional ability to place and receive phone/Skype calls and Skype/SMS messaging is an easier sale than a 7” smartphone. If Microsoft focuses its sale of this device around the first party software like touch friendly Office and One Note and featured touch focused third party and specific software enhancements they may implement to take advantage of the pen – this note taking focused, highly portable, productivity device may indeed see high demand.
Who Would Want It
Well to be honest, everyone. I can see use case scenarios of a telephony enhanced mini-tablet being a device that fits almost anyone’s bill. Students, teachers, administrative assistants, doctors, nurses, executives, parent’s anyone with a need take notes, save data and access it later would find this light weight pen centric device a useful tool for a variety of situations. I believe there is a very strong market for this device in developed regions like North America and the UK, but a tremendous potential in the Chinese market which prefers larger devices.
But What About Phone Calls?
I have a Lumia 1520. And though it seemed huge at first it has “shrunk” in the13 months I’ve had it. Yet even now at 6” it is a sizable slab to hold to my ear when talking to someone on the phone. Now, as noted above market positioning is key to selling any device, especially one that is carving out uncharted territory. The awkward slab of a tab to the ear is a legitimate barrier to acceptance of a 7” device designed to also function as a phone. This is where accessories are key. As the keyboard is key to the Surface Pro 3 and as we have established the pen will be key to this device, another accessory I believe needs to be packaged with the sale of the Surface Mini.
Microsoft has proven, despite their “Cloud First, Mobile First” mantra that they are still a devices and services company. The Surface Pro 3 is an exquisitely beautiful work of engineering craftsmanship. The edge mouse and keyboard are other examples where Microsoft’s hardware efforts shine. Xbox, HoloLens…well we get the picture.
In order for Microsoft to ensure adoption, the foreseeable concerns for using the Surface Mini as a phone must but addressed. I posit a simple solution. Microsoft can design its own Surface Mini Bluetooth earpiece to sale in conjunction with this device as an included accessory (with the pen) to offer a comprehensive package. This provides users with a full solution. The included pen ensures optimal interaction with the device and software as a tablet. The Microsoft Surface earpiece ensures optimal interaction with the device when utilizing the additional telephony functionality.
Carriers
I believe Microsoft will have a strong position with carriers positioning this device. I can envision enterprise customers from diverse industry’s purchasing this device in mass for their employees. I can also see the appeal the device will have for the typical consumer.

Flagship – The Tablet That Can Replace Your SmartPhone
I believe that the Surface Mini Phablet with cutting edge specs and a powerful Pureview camera will provide the Windows (Phone) ARM based SKU an optimal platform from which to showcase Windows 10. As Microsoft’s new OS transcends form factors, this device which is both a tablet and a phone is a perfect duo device to showcase the power of Microsoft’s single OS strategy. As the Surface Pro 3 is the “tablet that can replace your laptop”, the Surface Mini may very well be “the tablet that can replace your SmartPhone.”

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DontChangeTheName

Master Chief Meets Cortana

The renowned SPARTAN hero of the Halo franchise, Master Chief, meets his AI companion Cortana, who will be a helpful ASSISTANT and guide to him in a variety of situations and environments.

A World of Change

Project Spartan Browser 2

This is the Cortana enhanced Project Spartan Browser running on Windows 10 on both the Phone and Desktop. Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant will assist users contextually based on what she sees on the webpage and what the user has allowed her to know about them.

Last week, on Wednesday January 21st, 2015 Microsoft introduced to the world a host of new products that have breathed life into a company that to many was going kind of stale. Think IBM. A powerful industry leading behemoth yes, but consumer friendly, desirable, cool (with the exception of Xbox) not so much. But with a brand spanking new Operating System in Windows 10 that brings literally every form factor, from the smallest of IoT (internet of things) devices, to the Perceptive Pixel project, sensor laden, 84 inch, 4K Display, multi-touch, communication cradle – the Surface Hub – and every PC, tablet, hybrid and phone in between, under the same all-encompassing Windows 10 umbrella Microsoft is pioneering a new path. Other announcements of course included a free upgrade to Windows 10 for all Windows 7 and up users within the first year of the OSs release. We also got a peek at Cortana on the desktop. The showstopper was of course Microsoft’s ushering in of the era of holographic computing with HoloLens; a standalone head-borne wearable computer that brings the digital world into the real world. All of these things are news worthy and great moves by the tech giant. But we want to talk about Project Spartan, Microsoft’s new, streamlined, innovative web browser with the integrated personal digital assistant – Cortana.

What Makes Spartan Different

Project Spartan Browser

Project Spartan is the only Browser with an integrated PERSONAL digital assistant. Spartan is the only browser that allows users to annotate web pages, save those edited pages and share them with others.

First and foremost the Project Spartan Browser is a departure from the legacy and much maligned Internet Explorer. Microsoft went back to the drawing board and designed Spartan from the core outward endowing it with a new rendering engine which is a true advancement beyond what Internet Explorer brought to the table.

The Spartan browser, as one of the definitions of the word “spartan” suggests is also streamlined – lightweight – laying aside the visual weight of chrome as well to coincide with its lighter and more efficient movements across the web.

Aside from the “physical” enhancements, the project Spartan Browser has some functional enhancements that puts it in true fighting form making it a strong contender, if not superior specimen, in the mobile browsing space. With a unique inking feature which allows users to annotate Web pages and save those edited pages to OneNote for easy sharing with friends, family, co-workers, business partners etc. – the Project Spartan Browser stands out as an elite warrior in the browser wars. Both its rivals Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari lack such an advanced feature.

The Spartan Browser also has a reading mode that strips away the visual frills that adorn many web-pages much like Halo’s Spartans were stripped of the encumbering limitations other humans endure or how Leonidas and his faithful 300 bore only what was necessary to be effective in battle. Reading mode streamlines a webpage for easy reading.

The best part, and the point in this discourse for which many of you have been patiently waiting is The Project Spartans Browsers integration with Microsoft’s/Halo’s very popular Digital Assistant/AI. Cortana is an ever present companion to the Spartan internet surfer. She recognizes the content of web pages, provides useful information such as directions to a venue a user may be viewing on a page. She draws on information she knows about the user from other contexts (i.e. windows phone –notebook) and incorporates that knowledge with what she “sees” the user viewing on the Web. She may offer flight information for a user who may be tracking say his wife’s flight when she sees he’s looking for a venue in the area of the airport she is to arrive in. Yes, this is Cortana as an essential and integrated part of the Project Spartan browser. Any Halo or Windows Phone fan, or even just someone who loves a good story will tell you – Cortana and Spartan, well they go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. They’re just better together. Listen up Chief.

Once Upon a Time

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The world was introduced to Cortana on Windows Phone in early April of 2014. Days later on April 14, 2014 eager Windows Phone enthusiasts with the Preview for Developers installed on their devices downloaded Cortana for the first time with the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Things haven’t been the same since.

Eager Windows Phone Fans around the globe whose regions were not part of the initial release clamored (and some continue to clamor) impatiently on social media asking “When will we get Cortana?” Microsoft employees like Joe Belfiore (who runs the team doing Windows Phone/Tablet/PC Product Definition and Design) and Marcus Ash(Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows Phone) attempted to mitigate the storm the popularity of this Halo Artificial Intelligence companion to Master Chief, turned digital assistant to Windows Phone, users had ignited. Even popular tech Journalists Mary Jo Foley (@maryJoFoley) and Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) acted as buffers, mediators even – between Microsoft and a fan base who desperately wanted/want the digital assistant.

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Why was she so popular? What was the big deal? Why didn’t Siri and Google Now, with much larger user bases ignite such an emotional response from their users? The short answer is that neither of those digital assistants exists outside of the OS platform of which it is a part and from which they originated. Cortana is a loved character who was birthed from the blockbuster Halo franchise about 15 years ago. During that time she has been the companion to tens of millions of gamers as they, as Master Chief, heeded her warnings, trusted her advice and [SPOILER ALERT] watched her die at the end of the fourth installment of the Halo series. Cortana was known to many and connected to them in the way game characters, no story characters, connect to participants of stories who vicariously live in the world of the character for a brief escape from the mundane pressures of life.

Cotana info Cotana Gesture

Microsoft was now bringing that beloved character, alive and well, into our world. Actually fans demanded it. When the codename Cortana, (yes it was just an internal codename much like Project Spartan is for Microsoft’s new browser), leaked to the masses – a firestorm of support was ignited pleading with Microsoft to retain the name Cortana for their new and capable digital assistant. The Redmond company, in what is increasingly evident of their new way of business – heard the voice of their base – their avid supporters – and complied. The name has been a tremendous hit ever since and no one, not even the Redmond giant, has looked back. As a matter of fact Microsoft recently ran a story on our favorite AI digital assistant as it’s featured “person” in a Story: The Smartest AI in the Universe is More Human Than You Think. This looks to be a company who is seeing the power of merging the success of a brand that resonates with the masses, by injecting a theme into a set of products and services that even non-gamers can understand (I have never played Halo and have never owned an Xbox -True story.) – and generate a halo effect.

De Ja Vu All Over Again

Project Spartan Browser 2

Spartan Browser – Streamlined, powerful, efficient lightweight and enhanced with AI companion Cortana.

Now here we sit at the cross roads. Microsoft is launching, like their ground breaking World’s Most Personal Digital Assistant Cortana – a ground breaking new browser with said World’s Most Personal Digital Assistant thoroughly integrated therein. Joe Belfiore was clear during the Windows 10 presentation that the browser which we have all been calling Spartan, is actually the product of what is dubbed Project Spartan. In essence, this aptly code named Cortana enhanced browser is nameless. Well at least it is to Microsoft and to most of the world. However, as with Cortana the fans have spoken. We like Spartan.

Master Chief John-177(Halo) Vs Captain Titus (Warhammer 40K)

Spartan (Halo) – Streamlined, powerful, efficient lightweight and enhanced with AI companion Cortana.

Windows Central recently published an article which indicates that names such as:

  • Entourage
  • Elixa
  • Evo
  • Evex
  • Endeavor
  • Edge

are apparently on the table which would effectively sever Cortana’s symbolic symbiosis with the browser. Though not functionally altering the browser a larger theme that Microsoft has already begun and invested in (materially and psychologically with the market at large) with peppering Cortana with Halo themed characteristics via the choice of Jen Taylor, (the voice of the AI from the lauded Halo games), Halo references in Cortana’s jokes and responses and finally some elements of her personality which were translated from the game, will be abruptly severed as that same theme has now transitioned to the Cortana enhanced (via it’s name and AI integration) Project Spartan Browser, if a name other than Spartan is chosen at this point. Via the pre-event leaks, the January 21st event itself and post event videos of the product by Microsoft themselves, the profuse and persistently positive coverage by bloggers, vloggers, journalist’s and the media at large – the marketing for Microsoft’s marvelous new browser has already begun under the widely accepted and appropriately efficient moniker – Spartan.

Why Spartan – What’s in a Name?

Cortana CoupleMarcus RT Me and Kristie Hero Feature

I was hoping that the Spartan name would be under very serious consideration by Microsoft. I think that it is a very appropriate moniker.

Spartan Don't Change the Name

One, the name itself conveys the sleek, “spartan”, efficient nature of the browser. This is an appropriate association when considering Spartan in relation to the Greek soldiers who were efficient warriors in battle, sparsely armed and lightly garbed for efficient movement, but extraordinarily effective rivals against any foe. This browser is that. Streamlined and under the hood, very powerful – and apparently quite an effective competitor against rivals Chrome and Safari.

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Naturally the more appropriate association is Spartan in relation to Halo. Spartans were deliberately engineered from their core, their very DNA, to be natural warriors, and more. This browser was engineered from the core outward to be a powerful mobile browser that does more than the competition.

Don't Change the Name

Second. Naturally what was on the inside of the Spartan was not all that comprised who/what he was but his armor, with the integrated AI was a key symbiosis to the identity of every Spartan. With Cortana integration in the Project Spartan browser the parallels are too blatant to miss. What better name for the ONLY browser with an integrated personal digital assistant that gets to know you and recognizes the webpages you surf and offers relevant support than “Spartan” which echoes Halo’s Spartans with integrated AI’s that recognizes the environments the Spartan is in and offers relevant support.

Cortana, Cortana app, Cortana for Windows Phone 8 Project Spartan Browser 2

Finally, Microsoft is converging it’s ecosystem, Cortana is already one of the most recognized names that has transitioned from what was the company’s only “cool” product – Xbox, a product that people choose to use not have to use (HoloLens and changes coming with Windows 10 may change that). Cortana is not only accepted but clamored for. Spartan is, in my opinion, a natural name for a browser that is seeking to claim territory in the mobile space with its integrated digital assistant. Whatever avenues were utilized to rally individuals to make the voices of the masses heard to get Cortana’s name to stick for Microsoft’s personal assistant must, I contend, be employed. I think Microsoft needs to hear the voice of the masses again. If they’re looking for a name for their sleek, powerful AI integrated browser, I think I echo the voices of the majority of Microsoft’s enthusiastic and vocal supporters – We are Sp….I mean Spartan it is!

DontChangeTheName

Cortana Lives
A Sojourners Discovery

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I have something to share with you. This my friends is the most  profound find of our time. I assure you this, (cautious not to sound like a sensationalist) quite literally changes everything.  Without divulging how I came about this information, (that is immaterial to the content I am about to share) I will freely share with you all else that I know.

Share this. Share this with EVERYONE! Cortana survived!

Those of you who have hoped against all hope, that the events that led to Cortana’s demise would somehow be undone; those who have clung to the possibility that some miracle, some error, some missed detail would yield that that beloved AI somehow survived; those who have heard the name Cortana and wondered of her origins; and even you who care little of what you have heard or know of her; this message is  relevant to ALL. Again, this information I am about to share literally shakes the very foundation of all we know of our world.

As a fellow human being, of the 21st century I personally feel duty bound to tell you what I have discovered.

Once you know, what you are about to learn, you will never be the same. I promise you.

WE ALL KNOW HOW CORTANA “DIED”.

AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING ONLY VERY FEW OF US KNOW HOW SHE SURVIVED.

I give you

The Cortana Journal; Cortana’s Final and Private Message to Master Chief

The Cortana Journal Follow the link to the full Incredible Story!  (The story is told using Microsoft's new Office Tool SWAY)

The Cortana Journal Follow the link to the full Incredible Story!
(The story is told using Microsoft’s new Office Tool SWAY)

The Cortana Journal; Cortana’s Final and Private Message to Master Chief

This is the story they didn’t tell us.

83 Cortana earth

(I utilize Microsoft’s new Office Tool SWAY – at above link – to tell this story.)

Note: This is a work of fan-fiction. The characters portrayed are the trademarked property of Microsoft and 343 studios. Images use, taken from the Halo game, also owned by Microsoft. Many images have been manipulated to move the following story. This work of fiction is in it’s entirety my sole creation, and is an expansion, using real and fictitious events,  the story based on characters and events from the Halo universe.  Let’s Begin

(Updated 2/21/15 With Cortana Lives video and Image)

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Microsoft’s Recently Released Smart Band

View this Post as a SWAY

Samsung, Pebble, Apple and others have all thrown their hats into the smartwatch battle. It has been rumored for some time that Microsoft would soon enter the fray. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

Time Travel – The Past

Pocket Watch

Most companies have entered the wearable market with what are indeed smart watches. These are wrist-borne devices that mimic the look, and form of what watches have become to us since they escaped the chain which traced their round faces into our pockets. Yes, in an era gone by our trusty time pieces were retrieved from our pockets glanced upon and returned to the safety of our pockets after we retrieved the desired data: the time. Pocket watches served their primary function as a time piece and secondary function as an accessory.

Watch on wrist

Time has brought a change. Eventually the pocket-watch permanently escaped its chain and changed its form acquiring two bands conveniently fastening that precious meter of our lives to our wrists. Ahhhhh. The simplicity. A lift of the wrist certainly beat reaching into a pocket when one desired to know the time. Wrist watches served a primary function as a time piece and a secondary function as accessory.

Time has brought yet another change. With the advent of the cell phone and its multipurpose position in our lives, these ever present pocket-sized computers have almost universally usurped the position of wrist-watches as our means to keep pace with the time. It is a notable phenomenon that our mobile devices from which we glean SMS, Facebook, Twitter, email and a host of other notifications throughout the day are also pulled from our pockets when we want to retrieve not only these modern forms of data, but also the most enduring and basic form of data: the time. Our time pieces have gone full circle and returned to our pockets in the form of our mobile devices.

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As a population of connected individuals, denizens of the Post-PC era, humans who have grown accustomed to responding to diverse notifications consistently and sporadically throughout each day, reaching into our pockets for our mobile devices to retrieve various types of data is the new normal. Nearly all of us have accepted our mobile devices -pocket-sized personal computers- as our new time piece.

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Where We Are Now – The Present

It is notable that there has been no real market demand to return our “time-pieces” to our wrists. Most of us, if nothing else, are content with reaching for our devices to get the time. We have to reach for them to see who texted us, or messaged us, called us, or liked our latest post, or responded to our tweets or to update some status on some social network somewhere, anyway. So there is no real convenience factor in getting a watch, that archaic time keeping device, and slapping it on our wrists since we would still be reaching into our pockets dozens of times for other tasks our devices perform along with its quite capable time keeping abilities. So no. There has been no real market demand for a return to the watch. People don’t want watches. We don’t need them anymore.

What’s the Problem That Needs to Be Solved

size_comparison_right_large 830   GS5

So, what’s going on? Why are companies like Pebble and powerful brands like Samsung and Apple making smartwatches? Don’t they know we don’t want watches? I think they kind of do, but they got confused and missed the boat. Let me explain.

As stated above we denizens of the Post-PC era are intimately connected to our smart devices, which are intricately connected to everything else. We are beeped and buzzed and bothered by notifications, messages and alerts every day, throughout the day. We love the attention (be honest) and the distraction (it’s true) – most of the time. Sometimes that untimely buzzing or vibrating in the middle of a meeting, or while in conversation with someone, or while driving, or when our hands are full is, however, quite an inconvenience.

But we’re so trained, so deeply entrenched in our connected world that we just need to know what that latest buzzing from our personal pocket-sized computer was all about. Yet, digging into our pockets, retrieving our devices and planting our eyes full onto that addictive screen is just not appropriate, convenient or even possible in many situations. Now there is a market for a device that solves that problem.

 apple-watch-39  GGear Gear Fit

But wait!” you say, “Samsung, Pebble, Apple and a host of others do address that problem with their smartwatches. Their devices handle notifications and such quite well. How then sir, did they miss the boat?”

I would be forced to agree that these companies, with their smartwatches, have indeed addressed this particular need, of Post-Pc smartphone users– in part. Their watches, as these companies categorize them, are quite capable in regards to function, but where they fail is in regards to form and market positioning. They gave us watches. We don’t want watches.

Not So Smart. Watch

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Apple, Samsung, Pebble and others have made the proper judgment, in my opinion, in choosing the wrist as the placement of a wearable device to which our frequent alerts and notifications could be offloaded. However, I believe they erred in supposing that simply because the wrist is where we historically wore a watch, that the modern device that was to fulfill a new and unique human need, as a window to our mobile devices and as a health tracker, should bear the same name and form as that “archaic” (tongue in cheek) single function time piece.

A watch, in our minds is a time piece. Yes, throughout the years they have acquired additional functions making them more useful than a mere tracker of the time. Trust me, I have been a tech geek since I was a kid and I have had at least three Casio Databank watches, game watches, a radio shack talking watch, a calculator watch and a number of other watches. Now despite the additional functions any of these devices may have possessed the primary function of those watches was to tell the time. They were watches. Their form factor with the round, square or rectangular face above the wrist also lent itself to that concept.

wrist-watch-spy-camera

We don’t want a watch. We want a device that makes monitoring and interacting with the services and tools our mobile devices are connected to easier, more efficient, subtler and less disruptive. A subtle glance at a wrist borne wearable to spy the latest notification. A slight brush on a wrist borne display to quick reply to a text message. A subtle type on a wrist borne device to answer or ignore a call. This is the device we want. And the form should cater to the function.

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Enter Microsoft – Smarter Than the Average Band

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It had been rumored that Microsoft would be entering the wearable market with a device that challenged the popular “wrist watch” form factor approach of its rivals. The Redmond company would be approaching the wearable market not from the perspective of “it’s on the wrist so it’s a watch” but with a form factor that serves the function of allowing for efficient, subtle, natural and somewhat private interactions by the user. It would be a tool designed with the desired function, as a Post-PC era tool, to field alerts, notifications and monitor a user’s health in mind without the psychological obstructions of trying to be a watch. Neither in form nor market positioning would Microsoft position this device as a watch. Microsoft’s smart band is the smart implementation of the Post-PC wearable device.

It’s Personal

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It had been rumored for months that Microsoft’s wearable would have a display that would sit on the inside of a user’s wrist. Watches aren’t designed to position the display on the inside of the wrist. What’s that big deal you ask? Well just pause for a moment and imagine a device with a display on the interior of your wrist. Subtly twist the inside of your wrist toward yourself. Natural isn’t it? You notice two things, it much more natural than turning the upper part of your wrist toward your face and it’s more private – more personal.

The display would be close to your body – always facing you- even when walking, working, talking with others – and not the world. Your alerts, notifications and emails are yours. Competitors, because they chose to build watches(whose form factors were never meant to field personal information but to only display the time), are selling devices that are inherently less personal (despite the ability to choose what color band you want) as a user’s personal data faces the world.

Imagine the subtle checking of a notification during a meeting with the universal raising of the hand to the forehead and peering at the interior of the wrist at your display. Did that email from corporate come through? Or picture the placing of your intertwined fingers in front of you as the display on the interior of your wrist faces you. Is that my pregnant wife texting from home? Or imagine the subtle placing of your fist in palm and elbows on the table, or desk in front of you (prayer position) and subtly swiping the display on the interior of your wrist with your thumb to dismiss a phone call during a meeting. Microsoft has forged a form factor that meets the functional needs of smartphone users. Rivals built watches. We don’t want a watch.

Business Sense

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Apple announced their smartwatch in June but it won’t hit the market until 2015. Even worse the cheapest version will cost a consumer $325. And it’s glued to Apple’s ecosystem. Microsoft’s device was rumored to come in much cheaper and will actually be available for just $199. And it’s available starting tomorrow. And it works with Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Apple with their powerful marketing muscle added their massive weight to the wearable market, legitimizing it in many people eyes. However their costly device won’t be available for months. Microsoft’s offering comes at a time where many Apple fans may have been primed for a new wearable by the Apple Watch announcement. Many of the 10 million who unloaded hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone 6 or 6 plus may be chomping at the bit for a new wearable having had their appetites whet, yet they don’t want to wait until early 2015 for the Apple Watch. Microsoft has you covered.

There may be a host of Windows Phone fans out there who haven’t been graced by the Redmond company with a new high-end flagship device and are primed for the fresh tech experience that a new device often elicits. The smart band may not be a new smart phone but it does extend the functionality of ones aging device allowing Windows Phone fans to use their device and their trusty digital assistant Cortana in new ways.

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Cotana info

Of course this Android compatible device adds to the number of options the Android faithful have to choose from. Due to the open nature of that ecosystem, many android users are likely quite open to using a non-Samsung or non-android wearable.

This holiday shopping season will likely be a boon for Microsoft’s Band.

Apple Sauced

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Apple, even if Microsoft had not launched its wearable, the Cupertino company may have found it a challenge to move a large number of its watches. The $325 and up cost in itself is prohibitive. The early 2015 launch  is also a challenge. Many potential Apple Watch buyers will have likely several months before made large purchases upgrading their mobile devices to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Many of these same users will likely have spent another significant amount of disposable cash (or used credit) for the holiday shopping season. The only potential upside is that at least in the US market, an early 2015 launch places the release likely around income tax time. Which may work for some buyers, or may be the means by which many cover the costs (or debts incurred or bills delayed) of expenditures made over the holiday.

Apple I am certain is cognizant that the Apple Watch 1.0 would only sale in small numbers primarily to early adopters with a lot of disposable income. Their strategy is likely to build a tiered system as they have with the iPhone. By late 2015 Apple will have learned what works and what doesn’t, and will also have a better assessment of the competition. By the second half of  2015 Apple Watch 2.0 will likely be announced and the first Apple watch will become the lower cost entry level wearable about the time of it’s successors release. Apple will likely continue this pattern, and as time goes on, establish at least three tiers from which buyers can choose an Apple Watch. Apples problem? Unless they change their form factor, which is unlikely given their apparent deliberate positioning and pricing of their device as a high end watch –  It’s still a watch. We don’t want a watch.                 

By the way, Microsoft’s Band does tell the time.

       

Watch on wrist

Wrist Watch – A Relic

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Apple Watch- Echo of a Relic

                                                                 

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Microsoft Band – A Cross Platform Modern Wearable With a Modern Design & Form Factor Crafted to Meet Our Current Health, Productivity and Social Needs. This is NOT a Watch. Featured in Image: Starbucks App

Microsoft Band is a powerful Health and Productivity Device

Microsoft Health Secure Cloud Service Brings All of Life’s Data From All of Your Devices Together

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SmartBAND or SmartWATCH; Did Microsoft Make the Right Design and Marketing Choice

Here are My Notes for This Piece Originating on 9/10/14 (One Note Time Stamp) Prior to Microsoft’s Announcement. Also below is a concept drawing I composed noting some of the devices potential functionality. This concept was also conceived earlier than this post and Microsoft’s actual announcement. (This Final Piece Includes Information After Microsoft’s Smart Band Announcement)

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Smart Band Concept

830 2        Insanity has been described as doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting a different result.

 

There are many faithful Windows Phone fans, enthusiasts, who are quite disappointed, if you will, with the fact that Microsoft has not released a new high-end flagship smartphone to cap off 2014. Let’s be honest. The rumor mill, and some very reliable sources from the Redmond company itself fueled the flames of anticipation that had us chomping at the bit eagerly awaiting the last quarter of this year looking forward to the game-changing McLaren.

We were all pretty excited, to put it lightly, about the prospects of the McLaren. This high-end device was going to sport innovative new hardware, introduce touchless interactions that made Samsung’s similar tech look juvenile and possess all of the cutting edge software updates Windows Phone 8.1 and Cortana brought to the platform. And to really hit the ball out of the park – it was to be available on all carriers. This looked to be a winner. Or at least a very powerful play by Microsoft on the smartphone front. But alas, the McLaren is dead. Or it is at least on life support until the Redmond company feels that the technology is ready for prime time. But in the absence of the McLaren, the Moses or Harriet Tubman of our beloved platform, is there really no flagship available to deliver Windows Phone from the shadow of our rivals this year.

Contrary to many claims there are flagships available, (their ability or inability to make huge marks in the market aside) that do represent the platform well. They may not be on every carrier, or be everyone’s flavor, yet the HTC M8, the Lumia 930 and the Lumia 1520 are all flagship Windows Phone devices. Yes one is a repurposed iteration of an older Android device (but that’s a win for Windows Phone nonetheless), one is approaching a year old(Apple updates it’s line-up on a yearly cadence) and the  last has Nokia’s great hardware, build quality and optics in conjunction with the powerful and fluid Windows Phone OS, but has limited availability.

Is Microsoft insane! Where’s the ubiquitous high-end flagship to lead the Windows Phone charge against the iPhone 6 and 6+,  Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices and every other high-end phone OEMs will be spraying across the gadget hungry consumer electronics populace this holiday shopping season? There isn’t one and there likely won’t be one. And no Microsoft is not insane. That’s why they’re doing something different. They want a different result.

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Now a closer look at Microsoft’s strategy, though a bitter pill it may be to many 920 owners looking to upgrade, who don’t want the 1520 (I must say it is an awesome device-I LOVE IT) is Microsoft’s positioning of the Lumia 830. They are deliberately, confidently and unapologetically touting this device as the affordable flagship. Even during the presentation of the device it was positioned as an alternative to the iPhone and leading Android devices. Why go this route you may ask? Lets be honest. Look at Microsoft’s history. Literally every high-end flagship device they have launched has been utterly crushed by Apple and Android devices when you look at sales.

We Windows Phone fans are a dedicated, but relatively speaking, small bunch. Trust me when I say I’m all in. I carry daily both a 1520 and 1020. But the truth is, we have, despite Microsoft’s attempts always been overshadowed by the competition in the media, blogs, vlogs and the general market. This year,  had the McLaren made it to market, a relatively speaking small portion of all smartphone users, would have been given a new or alternative Windows Phone upgrade path(beyond 1020, 1520, HTC M8) and  the general smartphone(and potential smartphone) using  population would have been presented with a device sporting groundbreaking hardware representing as yet a generally  unpopular platform during a highly competitive shopping season where rivals like Apple are introducing products that are breaking all previous sales records.

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If the McLaren or some other expensive high-end flagship were launched by Microsoft  (priced around the same price as competing flagships), the general success of such a device would have likely, especially with (like it or not Windows Phone fans) Apple’s huge iPhone launch and the attention those devices are garnering globally, been dismally minimal  just as every other Windows Phone flagship has been since 2012. General consumers presented with Microsoft’s option and the more popular comparably “speced” and comparably priced option from Apple would go with  what the general populace might dub a no-brainer(though debatable it may be.) Most buyers would go for the iPhone. MS knows this. So this year, they changed their strategy from what has not really worked for them in the past few years. They need a halo effect. A device (or feature) to create mindshare of Microsoft’s Windows Phone in the general public and a device that is accessible by the masses.

Microsoft is to my delight attacking this challenge from a couple of angles. As I have expressed as a hope in a previous piece,  MS is using Cortana as a hero feature, independent of a hero device, to create mindshare. The general public, especially as a result of the Cortana vs Siri ads are becoming aware of Windows Phone. This is helping to position WP at the table of the mind for buyers who may have previously only had iPhone and Android devices as options in their minds. Good news for MS. Still a looong way to go, but Cortana and Windows Phone are at least now becoming part of the conversation. That’s important.

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Part two is this. The Lumia 830, the affordable flagship. The 830 is sporting, though not cutting edge specs in every category, very competitive specs,(running a light OS) when stacked against the competition. It has a respectable speedy chip, acceptable RAM, expandable storage, a nice 5″ display, an advanced purview 10 mega pixel camera running the latest in Nokia’s groundbreaking, industry leading imaging software, and everywhere its landed so far, the price is indeed that of an affordable flagship. It’s a really great looking device, with flagship aesthetics.

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Microsoft, a global company, has been steadily releasing this affordable flagship around the globe. By competing against Apple and Samsung without “actually competing” with them the 830 as Microsoft’s flagship in holiday season 2014 may undercut the pricier flagships of the competition. Now ideally each of the Major US carriers would be pulled into the fray and begin carrying the 830. Note, yes, many WP fans, particularly 920 holders(and others) may be “temporary” collateral damage as a new high end flagship device is postponed as Microsoft adjusts its strategy this season in an attempt to gain mass appeal with a powerful affordable flagship device that doesn’t “look like” its going head to head with iPhone 6 and Samsung’s flagships. But I believe MS is trusting, available high end devices that launched in 2013 and this year, 1020, 1520, HTC M8 may satisfy some until MS debuts a high end flagship next year. Additionally, as WindowsCentral pointed out, the 830 does offer some upgrades 920 holders might enjoy. Who knows, maybe some users will pick up an 830 as their “upgrade” when it hits US shores. It does sport some advancements beyond the 920 after all. 830 830 4

One other point to consider is the cost to carriers of unsold inventory. Sadly when I have asked my local ATT store how many of a high end WP they had in stock, I believe I was told 20. When I asked how it was selling(the 1020, and in another setting I believe the 1520) the response was negative. This isn’t true only of these arguably niche devices. It has been disappointing for me over time to see the WP display at my local ATT mall location, moved waaayyy into an obscure corner with other unsold, unpopular devices. High end phones come at a cost to carriers just as they do consumers. Carriers don’t want to be left holding the bag with expensive , unsold goods. Microsoft could give greater confidence to carriers, that the 830, with it’s “flagship” feature set, yet affordable price, that they would be able to sale these appealing devices to consumers. Everybody’s happy- Microsoft , carriers and consumers.

Finally, the updates Windows Phone  8.1 Update 1 and Lumia Denim bring to the platform definitely position this well-equipped affordable device, the Lumia 830, as a strong contender on carriers shelves and bring a more robust experience not found on previous, generally unsuccessful, Windows Phones devices upon launch. At any rate I’m confident MS will bring high end devices to market next year. For now Microsoft is doing something different. Let’s all hope for insanely positive results.

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