Posts Tagged ‘lumia 1020’

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.

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(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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

       

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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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First Things First

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The Magic is back. The week of September 9th was a monumental week for Apple. Actually it was a monumental week for the entire tech industry. Well, no, actually the world. The Galaxy. Universe. Ummmmm..Multi-Verse. Yeah. Whenever Apple hits one out of the park it’s a game-changer. CRACK! The Cupertino company hit another one of its iconic grand slam home runs. That’s right slugger. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were true game changers, showing that our beloved Apple can still innovate. Boy can they innovate! And it’s not over. Not by a long shot.

After seven years of pint sized piddling with sized challenged smart devices the Cupertino company finally graced we, the waiting world with not one, but two larger devices. Bigger than bigger! Yeah baby! The 4.7” iPhone 6 reaches the dimensions of the 4.7” HTC Titan that debuted in 2011. And it’s even bigger brother the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus pops the parameters of huge measuring in a half inch smaller than Microsoft’s nearly year old flagship phablet, the 6” Lumia 1520. Yeah, some may claim that these and other large screened devices like Samsung’s Note series beat Apple and created this market, and well they’d be right. But we’re not going to talk about that. (Let’s worship Apple instead.) The record sale of 10 million phones in three days show why Apple is indeed the center of the tech universe around which we all revolve.  All hail Apple!

But it’s not over, because two weeks ago, Thursday October 16, 2014 Apple admitted to us “That it’s been way too long” and then pulled another rabbit out of its magical hat. The iPad Air Pro. The tablet that can replace your laptop. Who would’a thunk it?  I was invited to the event. Let me tell you how it all went down.

 

My Struggle; Our Struggle

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Until recent events I have often found myself musing on the following.

It is no secret that the Cupertino company has been accused of losing it’s mojo since the loss of its iconic leader and visionary Steve Jobs. The company which introduced beloved and  now ubiquitous magical devices like the iPhone, iPad and the iPod which heralded in a revolution in how the world listens to music somehow became, stagnant, and responsive rather than innovative and proactive.  I almost choke uttering those words of the company that I personally have come to know as the innovator within an industry whose entire identity was reshaped by what Apple introduced to the world. Consider this, the MP3 was mainstreamed because of the Apple iPod. The tablet PC went from sci-fi nerd dream device to mainstream consumer product because of the Apple iPad. And the smartphone. Yeah, we know the deal. The iPhone put the “smart” in that little pocket sized phone, delivering to the masses a pint sized computer that has become a desired extension of us all.  The Apple iPhone is arguably the industry standard for the smartphone. We Apple faithful form and fill lines eagerly awaiting to acquire these magical jewels of innovation from the company that has changed the world.

Yet in the past few years it seems that my hero company has shifted its place with some of the new comers. I shutter to write these words, reluctant to add credence to rivals claims about the sole company that has forged a path in the industry with unparralleled consumer value. Yet,  candidly speaking it seems that in the game of follow the leader, Apple had somehow become the follower. Yes they have been accused of taking cues from companies like Microsoft,  continuing an age old rivalry reminiscent of the Capulets and Montagues. With their replacing of their skeumorphic laden iOS with the flattened modern flavors found in Microsoft’s Modern (Metro) OS Microsoft fans have cried foul. Calling the leader of the tech world a copy-cat for blatantly taking design cues from a company that they rival. Sadly though, I shutter to admit it,  but I had to agree. I even happened upon a concept by one Jay Machalani that reinvents the iOS home screen and makes it eerily reminiscent of Window’s Phone Live Tiles.  If this makes it to a version of iOS well…

They’re Back

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Ahhhh, but no more. If any thing could declare to a naysaying world and to the wavering faithful that Apple is every bit as magical, every bit as innovative as it has ever been, the companies introduction on Oct 16, 2014, of a device that defies classification does just that.  The category defying  iPad Air Pro shakes the tech industry to it’s very foundation. This device which Apple promises will be the tablet that will replace your laptop is the ultimate Post -PC computer. What magic or incantation was exercised to forge this technological wonder I don’t know but Apple is back.  By combining the convenience of portability with the sheer power required to be productive Apple has created a category defying device. Yes the magic is back indeed. And it’s back with a vengeance. Come on a journey with me and let me share with you the wonder that only Apple can provoke.

The Invitation

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It was a Wednesday afternoon when I opened my email to find a very simple non-descript item which read “Join us for a small gathering, It’s Been Way too Long”. This simple announcement was followed by location, time and RSVP information. That’s it. Clandestine and secretive, typical Apple. This was going to be big. Really big. There was no way I was going to miss this. “Siri, set an appointment for October 16th, 10am PST.” Attend Apple event in Cupertino.” Siri confirmed the creation of the appointment. I was set. “Thanks Siri.” It boggles me that so few iOS users find Siri useful. Sure she often can’t connect to the internet. Sure she doesn’t have the advantage of her own search engine foundation like Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now. Sure she doesn’t proactively offer suggestions, or interests and isn’t capable of learning about a user over time like Cortana. But she’s an Apple product and she’s funny. That’s good enough for me. Hmmm…I’ll be traveling and my old suitcase was getting a bit battle worn I remembered. “Siri remind to get a new suitcase next time I’m at Walmart”, I said to my trusty digital assistant. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied. Hahahah. She’s so funny. Good ol’ Siri.

Let’s fast forward a bit. I won’t bore you with my sleepless nights of scouring the internet hoping to procure a tiny morsel, a mere tidbit of what could possibly be awaiting me at the “Small Gathering” event on October 16, 2014. I won’t wear your patience with the retelling of the how I placed multiple calls daily to (now former) contacts at Apple who spared me further rebuff by simply changing their phone numbers or blocking me from their email. No I’m not offended. I sincerely appreciate their dedication to Apple’s strict standard of secrecy. How else does a company rise to the heights of being one of the most powerful brands on the globe and grab the interests of dedicated, eh, and sometime over zealous acolytes such as myself. I do wonder however how I will continue my journalism career covering my beloved Apple after having scared off my contacts. Hmmm. Anyway I digress.

On My Way: The Hotel – “Trying to Keep it Together”

The day of the event. It had been way too long in coming. See what I did there? I’m in my hotel room. Time to gear up.

Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.

IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.

iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (I hope it doesn’t bend…gulp)

Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.

IPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.

I look at my beats audio headphones and ponder throwing them around my neck. I decide, nah, I don’t want to look like an over zealous geek. I shove the headphones in my bag. Check. Mac Book Air and power cord. Check. Check.

Hmmmm. Bags getting kind of tight. IPad Air. Hmmmp..sqish..move Dr Dre Beats headphones just a bit. Ahhhh.

Ipad Air. Check

Ipad power cord. Hmmmm. I can force it into my already bulging bag and risk looking unprofessional like I’m heading on a camping trip rather than a professional event of one of the most important companies on the globe. I choose to leave the cord. I had half a charge left anyway and I have the Macbook Air should I loose power in the tablet. I could get along surfing the web or doing any other menial tasks normally relegated to my iPad on the MacBook. It will just be a tad bit more cumbersome.

IPad power cord. Not Checked. Geared up and ready to go.

I head out of my room, down the hotel hallway, my heart beating literally twice its normal pace manifesting the excitement that I could barely contain. I pass by a mirror. Whoah, reel it in buddy. Is that how all Apple fans look when Apple is working its magic. The ear to ear smile I caught in the reflection looking back at me made me think of the Joker absent the white make up and cheery red lips. I make a conscious effort to tighten my lips as I continue to walk down the hall. Apple on my mind I pass another mirror. Ok I give. I resign to the reality that I’m destined to look like Bat-Man’s nemesis until the excitement of this event abates.

I reach the elevator. There’s an older gentleman standing there; waiting for the doors to open. He’s returns the smile back to me that I’m  beaming to the world. He seems a tad bit uncomfortable with the intensity of my expression. Try to reel it in, I think to myself. I catch a muted reflection of myself in the polished elevators door. My efforts to downplay my perpetual grin made me look as if I was having digestive issues. An inability to pass…well you know. Not a good look. I move my lips about trying to reposition my face.

I catch the gentleman at the elevator eyeing me. I feel a bit awkward and think he’ll understand if I just tell him why I’m so excited. I utter a single word, somehow unable to articulate anything else through my excitement, “Apple!” I squeal. That was bad. Definitely not how that went in my head.  Worse than you can imagine having only read it and not heard how my normally baritone voice uttered the single word in the screechy pitch of a pubescent boy.  Hmmm, yeah. I clear my throat nervously and debate inwardly whether I should make another attempt.

As if the decision were made for me, as if possessed by the spirit of my late idol, Steve Jobs, I fumble my iPhone from my right pocket, and show it to the gentleman like a traveler unaccustomed to the native language attempts to communicate a thought by pointing out objects and stuttered out the word’s “Apple” and “event”. Yeah. This isn’t going to work.  The man looked at me compassionately, the elevator doors opened, we both walked in quietly. The ride down to the lobby was awkwardly silent.

On My Way: The Cab Ride; “Confronting Cortana”

WP8.1 Cortana        cortana Face

After escaping the embarrassing shadow of my Apple induced mental block when I walked onto sidewalk on this sunny day, my previous unfettered elation returned to me and I nearly forgot entirely my embarrassing encounter. Almost.

I flag down a cab. The cab pulls up to me and I tell the driver where I need to go. “Sure thing buddy!” he replies. He then warns me there’s a bit of traffic backed up on the way. “Really?” I ask. How long before we get there. He lifts a phone from the seat beside him. It was bigger than my iPhone 6 plus! Wow. I didn’t really recognize it, not that it wasn’t a great looking phone or that the company that made it had not done its job marketing it. Frankly I didn’t recognize ANY devices outside of Apple devices.

Then I heard the driver say, “Cortana how long until we get to…”, then he said the address. Cortana, hmmmm. A very natural voice stated how far the destination was from our location and how long it would take to get there. According to Cortana, which I recalled based on the commercials was on Windows Phone, I would be about 5 mins late. Bummer. I said to the driver with a smile, “You know what would be awesome. If these digital assistants of ours could tell us proactively when to leave for an appointment, you know, accounting for traffic. We’d never be late! That would be some real serious tech! But that’s probably a few years away huh?”

“Cortana can do that now”, he said, with a raise of his eyebrows as he peered at me in the rear view mirror.

“No, no”…I said to him, trying to make him understand. Surely he misunderstood. “I mean, if I put something in my calendar, right? And without touching it, or anything, Siri would just “know” what the traffic conditions are around the time I need to get to my appointment and would just tell me when to leave so that I could make my appointment on time.” I was content that I had explained my idea sufficiently and the driver would be impressed with such a forward thinking premise.

“Cortana can do that now”, he said.

I was a bit frustrated. Maybe he didn’t understand me. He spoke the language well. As a matter of fact he looked and sounded as if English was his first language. Surely there was no language barrier. What was so hard? I said, “Maybe you don’t understand.”

He interjected and repeated back to me exactly what I had  said.

I said “yeah”, a bit excited, “now you get it!”

“Cortana can do that now,” he said.

He then passed me his phone. Wow. This Nokia (I saw the word just above the display), was bigger than my iPhone 6 Plus, but smooth, light, thin and incredibly well built, I thought. How could a non-Apple company design such a well-built device? And why hadn’t I heard of it? I was pulled from this heretical thought when I suddenly remembered who I was, where I was going, and who and what I was committed to. I chided myself for my blasphemous non-Apple thoughts. I’m sorry Jobs.

The screen on this what looked to be about a 6”display was black with a dim clock and it looked like a calendar event at the bottom. “Pretty poor display I said, with a grin.” Again secure in the inferiority of everything non-Apple.

“Tap it,” said the driver.

“Huh?”

“Tap the screen”, he repeated.

I obeyed, and the huge screen lit up into one of the most beautiful displays I had ever seen.  I had thought the previous screen was a lock screen. But it must have been some sort of low power consumption screen that displays desired info without killing the battery. Nice trick. I immediately felt condemnation for that thought. Sorry Jobs.

“Slide the screen upward,” said my driver, “clearly pleased with sharing the merits of his device with me.” I did as I was instructed. It’s ALIVE! My eyes widened with wonder as I saw a display full of tiles flipping about displaying all sorts of information.

My driver, instructed me to a specific Live Tile, which was actually a webpage which he shared was “pinned” to his Home screen. Wow. The pinned web paged tile displayed live updated information just like an app tile! I touched it as instructed and it I was met with a YouTube page for a Siri vs Cortana commercial.

“Play it,” said my driver.

I watched the video, Siri’s and Cortana’s voices filled the car as the driver and I heard the words that educated me on just how capable his Cortana was.

I bowed my head lightly in embarrassed silence after I handed him back his phone with a reluctant “Thank You.” With compassion, he allowed me to make the rest of my ride in silence.

We reached our destination, I paid the man, glad I would never see him or that awesome stupid phone again. Cortana remind me…I paused…horrified with myself. Siri (Sorry Jobs) remind me to tell my boss that I would like to write an article entitled “All the Ways Siri is Better Than Cortana,” next time I talk to him. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied.  This isn’t funny.

Into the Sacred Hall- AHHHHHHHHHHH

iphone 5s

Ok. I’m about to enter this building and surround myself with the Apple-est of the Apple. I’m about to hear Apple tell the world about another magical device. So what Microsoft has Live Tiles and an awesome , (sorry Jobs), stupid digital assistant, and a really nice flagship phablet the Nokia Lumia 1520….arrrgghhhhh. Purge these Non-Apple thoughts from me!

I jog, walk, run, powerwalk…all of the above…into the building. I need – Apple.

When I stumble into the room, I see the event has already begun, several disgusted faces turn toward me. “I’m one of you”, I think, “forgive me.”  Though they were a bit upset with my disturbance it felt good to be among my own. The defiling events that accompanied my transit to this sacred place were almost immediately purged from me as I heard the magical words of the presenter unveil the iPad Air Pro as I took my seat.

The iPad Air Pro – The Magical Tablet that Will Replace Your Laptop

This is the tablet that will replace your laptop he said. I salivated. Literally. The woman sitting beside me moved over a bit. But gave me a reassuring understanding look.  I looked at her, said, “sorry”…and with a massive smile that I no longer cared was stretched across my face, (I was among my own now), whispered, “Apple.” She looked back at me, wiped the corner of her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt that had the Apple logo emblazoned on it and echoed, “Apple.”

I returned my gaze to the presenter. Onstage was a scale. The presenter placed a MacBook Air on one side and the new iPad Air Pro, (the tablet that could replace your laptop) on the other. The crowd erupted in rapturous applause as the weight of the MacBook Air lifted the iPad Air Pro high into the Air. Apple.

The presenter proceeded to wow us with the engineering ingenuity that went into creating this incredible magical device. If I were not a practical, purely empirical, data driven, analytical person I would contend that Apple had a wizard or sorcerer locked in the deepest, most secretive corners of their headquarters boldly implementing these incredible design features into this impossible device in bold defiance to all the known laws of physics.

Is This Thing For Real?

How else could a such a beautiful device encased in pure magnesium alloy, with a 12” display measure in at 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches, weigh 1.76lbs, and contain up to a Core i7 chip, 512GB Hard Drive, 8GB RAM, a USB Port, expandable memory, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, stereo microphones,  5-megapixel front and rear cameras, a digital compass, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer? This thing was a full computer with the form factor of a tablet.  We were floored. Every last Apple loving one of us. Pure magic.

I was frantically typing notes into my iPad, having pulled it from my bag after my late arrival because it was just a tad quicker than pulling out and setting up my MacBook Air. It was however a bit of a challenge trying to keep up with the presenter as he graced us with amazing detail after amazing detail as the onscreen keyboard was less speedy than an actual keyboard.

As if reading my thoughts the presenter then pulled out a cover. No a Type-Cover, to be exact. Oh my God. No he did not, just click the type-cover magnetically into the base of the iPad Air Pro. Wait…no…wait. This thing has a built-in kickstand too!

The presenter went on to show how the kickstand has a continuous hinge allowing for positioning the device at any point within a 150 degree range. He then demonstrated what he dubbed lapability. He placed the tablet/laptop on his lap and the connected Type Cover he then secured to the base of the device via an additional magnetic strip making the device even more stable!  In-stinking-credible! I want one. I want one now! The battery in my iPad died.  Arrrrgggghhh. Afraid of missing any detail, I quickly fumble into my back pack to retrieve my MacBook, shoving the now useless tablet back into the bag. Boot up. Boot up. Boot Up. I wait. And…action…

Good old MacBook…I look up to see that the presenter has detached the Type Cover from the iPad Air Pro and is holding it like one might hold a legal pad. He also has a pen in his hand. The screen on the tablet/laptop miracle device appears to be off. He clicks the pen. The screen comes to life and automagically launches OneNote. Holy practical application Apple! This is incredible. He scribbles a note on the screen, finishes up and viola it’s saved to the cloud accessible from any device. He showed some other amazing pen tricks like selecting text, handwriting recognition and the like. The weight and the feel of the pen were deliberately designed to feel like a pen. “The pen reinvented he”, he shared. Amazing.

Wait There’s More

I was so full at this point. Apple had fully purged all of that Microsoft, Windows Phone, Cortana stuff from me with this amazing “iPad Air Pro, the Tablet That can Replace Your Laptop” presentation. I was sure that every trick had been presented and the close of this amazing show was upon us. Then the presenter said something that convinced me that there was indeed a sorcerer or magician serving Apple in the creation of its magical devices.  This tablet that was indeed a full computer that was lighter than a MacBook Air, that could replace your laptop, had a soundless fan that you would not feel getting hot. Holy incredible feat of engineering Apple! Apple had reinvented the fan! This tidbit of information excited us so that literally, everyone in the house stood to their Apple-loving feet, applauded continuously with their Apple-loving hands for a full three Apple-loving minutes. Everyone except me.

I applauded for four Apple-loving minutes.

Once Apple security calmly and compassionately sat me down the presentation was brought to a close. Takeaway? Suffice it to say that Apple has a winner with this device. The company decidedly, for this Oct 16th, 2014 event, bounded beyond the beaten path of the mundane uninspired modifications of a thinner, lighter and faster device with a better display. Blah, blah blah. BOOOORING! Instead Apple presented to the world, an impossible feat of engineering wonder, a magical tablet that could replace your laptop! In a word: Revolutionary! Indeed I was sold. Apple announced three different configurations. A Core i3, for the budget conscious, the middle range Core i5 and the highest tier Core i7. I am an Apple fan to the core, i7 I’m coming for you!

Apple

In the weeks since Apples iPad Air Pro announcement the typical avalanche of coverage commenced. News outlets, morning shows, radio programs, tech bloggers, programs from GMA to CNN couldn’t push enough Apple. And we the consumer public voraciously ate it up. News cameras around the country panned lines comprised of hundreds of eager Apple acolytes waiting to get their hands on Apple’s latest game-changing device.

Now here I stand 2 weeks after the event. I am about the 251st person in the line at my local Apple Store eager to pick up my iPad Air Pro which will go on sale in 4 more days. It has been a long time coming. Way too long. But now I’m here and geared up.

Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.

IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.

iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (Sadly it bent a little last time.)

Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.

iPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.

Beats audio headphones securely in place around my neck. This is a long line. Check.

Mac Book Air and power cord. Nope.

IPad Air. Of course not. I’m here to pick up the tablet that is going to replace my laptop.

I look at the guy sitting in his sleeping bag to my left, and the girl huddled in a small makeshift lean to on my right and say, “the magic is back!”, with a smile that would have hurt if my face wasn’t numb from the chilling rain. They each looked at me, offered their fists, each of which I bumped and in unison we each uttered, “Apple.”

Windows Onslaught

Three Hours Later:

Boy this is a loooong line. How about a little entertainment. “Siri, sing me a song.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.”

No this really isn’t funny.

Read This Other Fictional Piece

Cortana Lives; Her Final Message to Master Chief

Tshirt

Microsoft is dead set on making Cortana a key feature in its Windows operating system(Windows 10 mobile and desktop environments). Like the symbiosis between a coral reef and a clown fish Cortana’s success is dependent on the adapting of the other vital player within the Post-PC “ecosystem”. Us.

One thing to remember about the “gimmicky” stuff like speaking Klingon, rolling dice, singing, telling jokes, game references and other things that Cortana is keen to do is that the “system” needs to be trained.

I placed “system” in quotes because I am not referring only to the computer system that is Cortana, but also to the larger “system” which includes both a population of human users and the digital assistant. We human beings who (ideally) will increasingly be engaging Cortana, an Artificially Intelligent Digital assistant, in daily life likely pose the greatest challenge in this equation.

At these very early stages (about 3 years in since Siri’s debut), we humans are still uncomfortable engaging a voice assistant in some contexts. Public engagement (i.e. grocery stores and public transit, etc.) is likely very limited. Even around small groups of friends and family we may be somewhat reluctant to talk to our digital assistants.

My cortana

Engaging via voice, (which is a very human thing to do), a non-human “entity” within everyday day life “feels” unnatural. So if this new method of engaging our highly mobile computers (that’s what our smart phones are) is going to become the norm, which tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and others are betting on there needs to be a paradigm shift where we perceive such engagement as normal, or at the very least socially acceptable.

For that to occur the first barrier to overcome are our own personal reservations, our feelings of discomfort, regarding engaging our voice assistants. We, though excited about the prospects of imaginative technology like KITT (Knight Rider) and HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey), feel self-conscious when talking to our phones around others (the current limits of the tech contribute to those feelings – not quite KITT yet).

Cortanaa Tile

Microsoft has taken on the task of “training the system.” Microsoft’s goal is to “train” us to “feel” comfortable talking to our devices, while we are alone and around others; while also to training others to perceive that people talking to their devices is socially acceptable. Microsoft has taken on this monumental task of trying to direct and influence the social etiquette around engaging a digital assistant in society and to develop in us new habits and perceptions about how we feel about engaging our devices.

Susan 2

Human beings are creatures of habit. The more we do something the more comfortable we become doing it. The more we see something, the more comfortable we become in accepting it within our environment. Thus via Cortana’s “Chit-Chat” function, where users are drawn into “conversations” with Cortana, one is allowed to engage the digital assistant with follow-up questions in relation to a previous question proposed to “her”. This frequency of engagement lends to a greater degree of comfort over time as new habits of engagement are formed and seen within a social context.

Microsoft’s implementing of a users ability to ask Cortana to sing songs, tell jokes; their reaching out to specific sub-groups like 10s of millions of Halo fans with game related questions, millions of trekkies with her ability to speak Klingon and more, draw us into speaking to “her” casually, with the reward of being reciprocated with responses not only that we’d likely get from a human we would be engaging in conversation but also in the manner a human might deliver that information in a light, humorous and/or friendly manner.

It is certainly not uncomfortable hearing the responses Cortana delivers. Actually it’s engaging. The responses can draw us in to ask more, engage further to see what else we can draw out of “her”. Hmmmm. Kind of like we do real people. We often probe a bit deeper when we find a conversation with a person engaging. We reach to see what else can be drawn out.

Cotana info  Cotana Gesture

A derivative effect of our enjoying our engagement with Cortana is then to show others what she can do. Thus widening the breadth of the interaction. Bringing the engagement into a social forum. It will take time. But as Microsoft continues to imbue Cortana with engaging, some would call “gimmicks”, they are building the societal infrastructure, changing human behavior, developing new habits all directing us to become more comfortable talking to Cortana wherever we are.

MUSIC  Location Reminder  Interests

These consistent interactions, via the again some say gimmicky tools, allows the computer side of the system to be frequently engaged, “trained”, accumulating voice data, location data, metrics about what type of interactions take place, when, where, what time of day etc., thus improving the capacity and capabilities of the system.

Interests    Weather   Trip

Now of course it’s not all fun and games. Cortana is very useful now with providing time, location and people based reminders, setting quiet hours, sending text messages, curating interests, tracking flights, providing localized concert and app suggestions, proactive traffic data, learning about the user and more. As she gains more abilities like the imminent arrival of Active Listening(with the wide spread release of Lumia Denim), her efficiency will only grow.

One final note. Microsoft wants the world to know about their digital assistant. It is the Redmond based companies intent that she will be targeted at the 1.5 billion install base of Microsoft’s PC market. The phone debuted her, but the goal is to integrate her with their PC OS (Windows 10) as well. This will allow Microsoft to reach the mainstream electronics consumer audience where they are, most of whom have PC’s (few of us don’t). This is paramount. Tactics like attaching her to the Bing Prediction Engine and using her to predict the World Cup, NFL Games and most recently the very popular ABC program Dancing With the Stars have provided and continues to provide a venue to garner the attention of 10s of millions of people who enjoy those entertainment venues.

By the time Cortana reaches the PC in 2015 she will have achieved important mindshare which Microsoft will be able to capitalize on as she becomes accessible to 100’s of millions of PC users prepped to use her on traditional PC’s, laptops, Windows tablet’s, hybrid’s, and 2-in-1’s all of which will be unified by the form factor agnostic Windows 10 OS. With the onslaught of OEMs releasing and set to release low cost Windows computers(of various forms) and phones, this holiday season and beyond, Microsoft’s foundational efforts to shape user engagement and social etiquette of their Post-PC user interface, Cortana, will be rewarded as she becomes available to over 1 billion Windows users in one fell swoop.

Hey, and since Cortana is from 500 years in the future (there’s certainly no Siri or Google Now in sight in Halo), I think Microsoft’s plan will work out just fine. 🙂SavedPicture-2014714104050.jpg