Posts Tagged ‘windows 10’

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“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

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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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The Microsoft HoloLens. Yes this was Microsoft’s surprise announcement that dripped icing all over a cake that already had onlookers salivating. What is the HoloLens? Well in general terms it is Microsoft’s harbinger and facilitator of what they have dubbed the “Era of Holographic Computing”.  In technical terms it is a standalone, wearable computer outfitted with cameras, speakers, a microphone and a host of other sensors designed to, via a Heads Up Display (HUD), project an interactive holographic virtual world onto the physical world we exist in.

Having only seen it demoed and not witnessed it in all of its immersive glory my excitement about this device, being a die-hard tech and sci-fi fan, is already a 10 out of 10.

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Here are some official descriptions about the device from Microsoft themselves:

“No cords, no phones, no wires, no tethers. Transparent lens and advanced sensors allow you to see your world and move confidently in it. Lightweight and adjustable to fit any adult head size. Work and play comfortably. Built-in spatial sound lets you hear holograms wherever they are in the room with pinpoint precision. Next-generation technology enabled by Windows 10.”

So the big question is this. Will a regular, working wage, family man Joe like myself be able to participate in the “era of holographic computing?” I don’t know. Microsoft conspiculously left that part out of the presentation. Or did they? Well, true they didn’t give an outright cost or say blatantly whether the Hololens was targeted at consumers or professionals. But they did say some things that lead me to believe that they want me and everyone like me to have one.

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Based on a statement shared by Mary Jo Foley the HoloLens was initially planned as a gaming accessory until Satya got a look at it and expanded its vision. It is therefore conceivable that the price(if the tech currently in this expanded iteration of the device is not vastly beyond it’s original hardware) would be nearer the $299 everyone can have one, rather than the $1299 price point more suited for a target market of professionals, enterprise and private sector.

Additionally given the diverse use case scenarios presented to the audience via the demo, it seemed clear that Microsoft means for the Hololens to be used by the regular Joe/Jane as well as professionals. Further supported by the shere ubiquity Microsoft seems to be aiming for with Windows 10(the OS running this device and the targeted 1.5 billion PC install base), coupled again with the diverse use case scenarios in the demonstration, bolstered further by the presenters pressing home of the point that all Windows 10 PCs(he may have even said all Windows 10 devices) are ready for developers to create apps using the holographic APIs, seems to really build a case, and an infrastructure, that Microsoft wants to introduce Holographic Computing to the masses. An accessible price point would be the final key to this scenario.

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This is my speculative, and admittedly hopeful, analysis based on the limited information Microsoft has provided. I believe with Windows 10 and the HoloLens Microsoft wishes to usher all of us into the “era of holographic computing“.  They  can do this if the price is right. I think it very well may be. What say ye?

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“While [Windows 10] will give developers the unprecedented ability to develop apps that work on PCs, tablets, and smartphones with a single application development effort, it does not show enough potential for a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and consumers away from iOS and Android,” Gillett said.

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BEFORE WE TALK TILES…

Ok. Here we are. It’s January 21, 2015. Big day. Huge Day. Well it is to Microsoft anyway; and to a horde of tech enthusiasts, investors and maybe even to Microsoft rivals like Apple and Google. To the regular Joe or Jane consumer, like my wife who had no idea of the significance of this day (seems this Windows Fan has work to do), the ramifications of what Microsoft presents today may not hit them until the product is in their hands, or on their desks, or in their internet connected devices. We’re talking about Windows 10 of course; Microsoft’s reimagining of Windows that will run across a family of devices from desktops, tablets, phones and Internet of Things devices. Yeah it’s a big deal, and interested or not, what Microsoft introduces to its 1.5 billion personal computer install base matters. Really matters.

What You Know

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If you’re reading this you’ve likely had an opportunity to read a deluge of articles leading up to today with titles like “What to Expect in Windows 10” or “Windows 10: Microsoft’s Last Chance to Make Windows Relevant.” And if you’re a news hound like myself you’ll probably be sniffing those articles out up until the 9am PST/12pm EST time of the announcement and live stream. Thus you are all probably well versed on “what to expect”. You know things like

    • Cortana, our favorite personal assistant making her desktop/tablet debut replacing search on the PC. Hopefully this also translates to some really magical interaction with Cortana across devices.
    • Spartan, the aptly named light weight, Cortana enhanced browser that seeks to take on Mobile powerhouses like Chrome and Safari.
    • Enhanced by DirectX 12, PC Gaming will apparently be aligned closer to Microsoft’s popular and cool Xbox Gaming.
    • A Single Code and Single Store will unify Windows across form factors providing developers with the tools to “write once” for various devices. Additionally With a single Store app purchases/downloads for consumers becomes a much simpler and efficient affair.
  • Continuum: Windows 10’s ability to “recognize” the type of device it’s on and conform accordingly to a desktop environment when a keyboard is detected, or launch into the finger friendly, Live Tile Start Screen, when in tablet mode. (I believe there is a prompt that requires user confirmation.) Continuum is also the cohesive experience of a user across devices; where “activity” exists in that ephemeral space between devices.
  • Windows Phone and Windows RT joining forces. Yes small tablets and phone will run the same version of Windows. This in my view gives a great opportunity to make Windows (Phone) a much more powerful device.

So there you have it. These are most of the highlights of what we’ve all read we should expect. So I’m not going to waste your time with echoing what you already know. Instead I’d like to venture down another path. A road less travelled if you will. Frank Gillett, an analyst for Forrester Research had this to say about Windows 10:

  “While [Windows 10] will give developers the unprecedented ability to develop apps that work on PCs, tablets, and smartphones with a single application development effort, it does not show enough potential for a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and consumers away from iOS and Android,” Gillett said.

What Windows 10 Won’t Do

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Yep. Windows 10‘s unified front may indeed draw developers in to cater to Microsoft’s tremendous PC user base in time. But if the only achievement is that now the slow moving underdog finally has the app selection the entrenched rivals with committed and locked in users has then there may be little appeal for iOS and Android users to switch given that they can already do on their devices what Microsoft will be finally be making available for them to do on theirs.

See here’s the thing. Most people are not really that invested in their OS. You know the general public. Not we tech folks who can rattle off specs and features at a drop of a hat. You know people like your mom, grandmother, pastor, kid, spouse – frankly anyone who is not a tech head. What the regular smartphone user cares about, is can this device do what I want it to do? That normally then translates into does it have the apps that perform the functions I need it to perform to help me accomplish the tasks I need to accomplish? The answer for about 97% of the smartphone market, about 90% android users and 17% iOS users is yes, my Android device and iPhone does exactly what I need it to do.

Add to that Apple’s proclivity for locking users in via proprietary hardware, accessories and software snares. And androids ubiquity which engenders support from a myriad of third party accessory OEMs and developers, that 97% of the market has a significant portion of that audience significantly locked in.

Ouch. That’s painful news for Microsoft and Windows fans who want to see life flow into the Live Tile adorned OS. Hmmmmm. And that may actually be the key. Live Tiles that is.

Live Tiles

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You see, at this point in the mobile era we have all become quite accustomed to apps. You download them to your device, tap the icon and voila the app opens and away you go using and interacting with the app and the content or people it gives you access to. Yaaaaawwwnnn. That’s so 2009. Microsoft in 2010 took another approach when it introduced Windows 7. Live Tiles.

Live Tiles take the best of an icon (unobtrusive) and widget (alive and able to be interacted with) to create a User Interface that provides users with access to content within the app without having to tap, open and use the app. The information you desire is right there on the Start screen in many cases. “Glance and Go” was Microsoft’s early Windows 7 tagline.

So what does this have to do with Windows 10 and the potential to grab some of those 97% iOS and android users? Live Tiles have been flipping and displaying information since 2010 and few consumers have barely even glanced.

Well the market in many developed countries is saturated with smartphones. That is to say, virtually everyone has one, is accustomed to them and is used to the, uh, archaic way we interact with apps. Download an app, place a “dead” icon on the start screen, tap it , it opens, we use it. Yes that model, anyone with a smidgeon of imagination knows must eventually change. I submit Microsoft’s Next Chapter is a good time.

Interactive Live Tiles

Before I proceed I’d like to acknowledge what some of you may have already considered. Android’s widgets. Yes android has interactive widgets, but not every app can be a widget and widgets don’t present the seamless unobtrusive flow of apps across a Start screen like Live Tiles do.

Now imagine a model where users can see and interact with content, data and people without launching an app. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Progressive even. Maybe even the next evolution in mobile computing. Microsoft Live Tiles, more than iOS’s static icons and androids widgets are positioned for this next step in the mobile user experience.

We have been introduced to this concept which Microsoft has apparently been tinkering with, that was to launch in the now defunct (or delayed) McLaren. Exploding tiles, where a user hovers their finger over a tile to initiate an “explosion” of smaller tiles from the main tile, each of which contains some content or means to interact with the app without launching it. Phenomenal! Alas, the McLaren did not launch accompanied with Microsoft’s claim that it was not prepared. The exploding tile implementation too was delayed. Delayed not canceled.

Reports emerged that that concept may still see the light of day, howbeit not in the “touchless” iteration that was planned for the McLaren. If implemented now at this stage in the mobile war, it may not be groundbreaking in the planned ways touchless interaction would have introduced but it could be the groundbreaking game changer Microsoft needs to differentiate a user app experience on its platform.

Better

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Why switch to Windows if my iOS or Android device has the apps that allow me to do what I want it to do. Answer: Microsoft’s Interactive Live Tiles does it better. In developed nations we (right or wrong) often subscribe to the notion that bigger and faster and newer is better. It’s true. That’s why two years after the fulfillment of a carrier contract we are dumping perfectly good devices for the bigger, faster and newer device. We’ve been convinced it’s better. Now with ATT’s Next, Verizon’s Edge and T-Mobile’s Jump programs our desire for the newer and fresher iterations of our mobile computing devices is satiated even sooner. What am I saying? We like new. And if sold to us properly – we buy it.

The 97% of smartphone (android and iOS) users have been using a particular model of app interaction for almost eight (8) years now since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, then the first android device shortly thereafter. That’s an eternity in computer years! Yes iOS refreshed its UI ridding the OS of those skeuomorphic designs. Android Lollipop has moved things along with Material Design making an aesthetically pleasing UI. But the way a user interacts with the data, content and connections via apps has remained unchanged for iOS and Android users. They’re still using a 2007 model!

Microsoft has an opportunity to evolve its Live Tile implementation to the next level of app interaction. Imagine pinning a Contact to the Start screen and via multiple exploding tiles choose to view either Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates. Or select a call option that presents itself as an exploding tile. Or having the ability to filter what is displayed on their main tile. Suppose you want to see all of their Facebook photos, or Twitter posts, or Linked Updates, or maybe just their text messages or WhatsApp messages to you. Live Tiles.

Imagine being able to swipe through messages on your message tile, or your photos on your photo tile. Imagine a photos hub that is reconnected to social networks. If there is someone you care about whose photo updates on Facebook, Flickr, Tumbler etc. you’d love to see cycle through your Photos tile, Live Tiles can be enhanced to provide this option.

Imagine controlling Music via exploding controls on the music tile or advancing tracks with a gesture on the tile. Imaging viewing or previewing video on the video tile. Or imagine cycling through YouTube videos of your YouTube subscriptions and preview selected videos on your YouTube (third party I know) tile. Imagine liking a Facebook post or retweeting a Tweet from a Live Tile. The possibilities of app interaction via interactive Live Tiles is vast. Extraordinarily vast.

Microsoft is establishing the necessary foundation with Windows 10 to get developers on board with a unified code and a single Store. Live Tiles is their unique weapon in this mobile war that will allow them to differentiate how users experience apps on mobile devices. No one has done that since 2007. If Microsoft embraces this challenge they will be giving developers a new and vast landscape to pioneer new app user experiences. Users can then be courted with new, faster and bigger ways to experience apps on their mobile devices. Microsoft’s job will be to show them how it is better. If they’re successful – we will buy it.

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“A Windows Phone’s Fans Lament and Praise of Windows Phone”

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Allow me to begin this post with this. I think the Windows 10 name for Microsoft’s latest iteration of it’s popular and virtually ubiquitous Operating System was a great choice. The Windows 8 name unfortunately had/has a taint on it within the general public(like it or not).

Windows 9 would have definitely communicated a progression to the masses, but I believe it would have been perceived as only incremental(perception, also like it or not is important). Especially considering that there had already been steps beyond Windows 8, to 8.1 to 8.1 Update, none of which brought anything major in the publics eye.

The OS still, generally speaking, looked and acted very much the same . Consumers, enterprise and IT managers “perceived” this. To continue this perceived, non-consequential, evolution of the OS by calling the next iteration Windows 9, having already progressed partly toward that integer in the naming convention (8.1, then 8.1 Update) may not have signaled to all of Microsoft’s current and potential customers that this latest iteration of the OS was indeed what consumers/enterprise were asking for. They needed a name that signaled a LEAP rather than a small step toward the unified OS vision. Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update were names communicating minor numerical progression which accompanied minor steps in the OS’s evolution. Windows 9, as a name would have been less than a whole integer step toward that (beginning a 8.1), 0.9 to be exact.

What’s in a name? A lot! The perception, based on the name(if Windows 9 was chosen), and the recent history would have suggested that this was not a major step toward Microsoft’s vision of a unified OS.
By calling the OS Windows 10, there is the inherent suggestion that this is indeed more, than the incremental corrections we’ve seen since Windows 8 was released. There is also that sense of “completion” that the number 10 suggests.

When we first learn to count, or teach a child to count, we often have as a goal – reach 10. We have 10 fingers and 10 toes. We have a base ten number system. Some may think these points irrelevant. Yet marketing is fundamentally a psychological endeavor, attempting to appeal to the minds of those to whom one is trying to sale a product. More often than not, the seller is attempting to shape the thoughts of the potential buyer. What is communicated, and how it is communicated is therefore key.

Microsoft with calling this latest version of Windows, Windows 10, suggests that they have reached the desired goal of making the OS what they have been telling us it would be. Ten suggests a leap beyond previous iterations. It communicates a new base, or foundation, upon which Microsoft’s hardware products(and OEM partner products) will be built.

Finally once we all start using the Roman Numeral ‘X’ when we talk(or write) about this version of Windows, “Windows X” just sounds cool.
Think about it, an “X” often represents whatever something needs to be. Windows 10 is just that, whatever it needs to be on any form factor. I’m just saying. 😊