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New Series – Application Reviews for Windows 8/RT

I am about to start a series of articles to review applications I have found to be useful and not so useful on my Microsoft Surface RT.

If you have any specific apps you would like to see reviewed, or if you are looking for an app to accomplish a specific task, let me know and I will see what I can do.

On my short-list, I will review the following applications this week and into next:

Touchdown – an Email application that replaces Outlook for Windows RT. Additionally, for organizations that need strict security around email, Touchdown is a really great solution. There are some problems, but for starters, it provides capabilities that should have been available from Outlook out of the box.

Note Anytime – This is a note taking app. It doesn’t have the full capabilities of Office Onenote, but it does have a string of features that make it a really great application. It includes software palm blocking and it includes the ability to seamlessly move from inking to using your fingers to adjust the page. Both are features that should have been included in Onenote, but no luck.

File Brick – This is a file management solution. It will pull together all of your cloud storage, local storage and network storage into a single solution. Truthfully, this app has gotten better since it’s initial release, but it has made it very possible to use a Windows 8/RT device without needing the to launch the old desktop app to manage the file system. Simply put, you can manage your files and move them from any location…

Youtube Downloader – This is a great app if you need to pull videos or music from Youtube. In fact, this app allows you to find any video and save it as audio only. More to come, but again, this is a really great app.

Douche bag writers, who pays attention to them?

You know, I am absolutely shocked by various douchebag writers that seem to get public press releases. I really don’t mean that they are personally moronic, although that may sometimes be the case. More specifically, I mean that I don’t know them, yet their arguments are so clearly riddled with intellectually lazy arguments that I struggle to understand how anyone reads their blogs with anything other than distrust.

As an example, Preston Gralla typically writes articles that are generally more than sympathetic drivel towards Apple. He will almost always rail on all things Microsoft even though his articles are factually incorrect and leave little doubt that he is not a real user of the products he ridicules in his reviews. This week, he has written an article which seems to be favorable of Windows Phone, although he appropriately points out that Windows Phone is roughly 3% market share worldwide.  

http://blogs.computerworld.com/windows-phone/21779/windows-phone-sales-skyrocket-124-should-soon-overtake-blackberry

In this article, Preston correctly shows some momentum and he suggests that while meaningless, Windows Phone is likely to become the third ecosystem for mobile phones. Here’s what I think is interesting. Windows Phone is growing nearly 124%. Additionally, Windows Phone has seen an acceleration beyond market growth which has been impressive.  Now the question is, does being the third ecosystem matter? We are talking about a mobile device market where about 90% is controlled by Android and IOS.

While I really dislike intellectually lazy writing, I have to admit that in this case, Microsoft needs to do something more drastic. Bringing together the ecosystem of Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone needs to happen with an increased velocity.

 

 

Microsoft Surface Pro – laptop replacement with a side of tablet

I had the opportunity to play with the new Surface Pro and I have to admit, it was very tempting to make the move. At the end of the day, it was thicker than the Surface RT, but not dramatically so. It didn’t feel that much different. However, there is no doubt that the speed improvement from RT to Pro was very clear (by miles the Surface Pro is faster than any other tablet offering out there iPad, Android, Windows RT).

For myself and probably many others, the deal breaker is battery life. That is to replace my tablet, I need a device that can go all day. At least that is my initial thought as I try to determine the best path forward. On the other hand, to replace my laptop, with this device, well, if I was in the market for a new laptop, I don’t know if I would consider any other device.

Therein lies the answer. If you are in the market for a new laptop, then the Surface Pro is not just a viable alternative, but a great choice. Consider this, you buy the Surface Pro to replace your existing laptop and at the same time, you can use the device as a tablet. My bet is if most people tried to do this, you would quickly find yourself using a single device all the time, for everything from serious computing to playing games or reading books. I am hard pressed to think of anything I do that lasts longer than 5 hours of contiguous time. Perhaps I am unique in this way? But, if you really look at what you do, perhaps you and I are in the same boat and a 5-7 hour battery life will be sufficient for just about everything.

Keep in mind the battery tests for the Surface Pro are conducted using video playback on continuous loop with 65% screen brightness. So, 4-5 hours of the most intense activity you could possibly do. Well, is that normal? What happens if you lower the screen brightness to 30% (my standard configuration for the Surface RT when not running on AC power)? My guess is with a few minor changes you could easily use the Surface Pro for 5-7 hours.

On the other hand, if you need or want or need to use handwriting, there is nothing better than using a Windows tablet with an active digitizer. This is definitely no different with the Surface Pro. I am not going to elaborate on this other than to say, nothing else even comes close.

Now for the big upside. The Surface Pro has the accessory spine (where the keyboard snaps in). Well, it has additional connectors that will enable other accessories to snap in. This opens the potential to other accessories such as a keyboard with built in battery to extend life away from the power outlet. Admittedly, if this sort of accessory is released, I may be first in line at the Microsoft store to move to the Surface Pro.

Now before you question my motives, or before you say, “Russell, I thought you said the Surface RT does everything you need”. Let me stop you. It does. There is no real reason for me to make the switch. Except one thing, capabilities.

There is nothing on the market. No other device that has the same capabilities as a fully powered i5 laptop that can function as a great tablet. You can buy a MacBook Air and an Ipad. You can buy another ultrabook and a tablet. You can purchase a Chromebook (uh, never mind).

Here’s the thing, when you purchase a full Windows 8 device, you can also have one other big advantage. That is, you can run apps through virtualization technologies like Bluestacks. If you don’t know about Bluestacks, it’s an application that essentially enables you to run all Android apps on your Windows 8 device. If you have a big investment in Android apps, good news, use them on your Windows 8 tablet.

I will write more on the Bluestacks experience on Windows 8 pro. I think I am going to start posting some videos on how to get the most out of your Windows 8 device and any such reporting would be incomplete without including this capability.

Let me know what you think. Are you considering the Microsoft Surface? Have you had a chance to see it? Play with it? What did you think?

russellghall:

This is a really important subject as we head into 2013. I had several blog posts around the same time and this kind of got covered with other topics, so I am re-blogging it.

Originally posted on RGH Post-PC News:

The Post-PC era is upon us. It’s not something that is coming. It’s not something that may happen. It’s here! Guess what? Microsoft is leading the way. I know, I know. If you have been reading other blogs, you might say, “What are you talking about? Microsoft is getting killed! Windows Phone is a failure and Windows 8 is doing worse than Vista”.

To get things started, let’s look at the install base for PC’s, tablets and mobile phones. In the post-pc era we are saying that the PC market which has been running between 400-450M sales per year will be dwindling and the tablet market which is expected to be around 100M will grow significantly. At the same time, smartphone sales will also continue exponential growth in coming years. Over the past three years the recent Garner report shows the trends clearly.

If we look at the numbers for Apple devices…

View original 812 more words

Bing or Google – Bing It On

I had a very interesting experience today. I was having breakfast at my favorite local establishment. I had the Microsoft Surface on the table and after getting off a Skype call a gentlemen sitting at the next table saw me do a quick Internet search.

“You use Bing, huh?”, he asked politely.

“Yes, yes I do. I will sometimes use other search engines depending on the device I am using”.

He seemed to be getting a bit more involved in the conversation, “I tried Bing. I just didn’t care for it. I could never find the information I needed.”

This particular person didn’t know anything about me. He knew that I had a tablet/computer on the table. He knew that I just got off a call (assuming he saw I had Skype open in the same way he noticed Bing). That’s it. I decided to take a different tact on the discussion. So, I played along for a second.

“You know, I have heard several people make the same comment about Bing”, I kind of egged him on.

“To be frank, I really just didn’t like it. I mean, what good is a search engine when it doesn’t search the things you need?”

At this point, I had him hooked. “I understand completely. I have heard many people make the same comment. But check this out.” I casually turned my Surface to him revealing Bingiton.com. Then I went on.

“I have heard the same comments, but take a look at this”, as I moved my Surface in front of him.

“Go ahead, type in any search you want. Then, select which search provides better results. Here’s the deal, people often believe Google is better, but when compared side-by-side, well, let’s just say Google doesn’t typically compare so well.”

To make a long story a little less long. He joined other Google search lovers who found out, he’d be better off if he used Bing! He was shocked at the results. He wanted to give it another try and guess what? Yep. He should be using Bing.  

“You know sir, it’s really not shocking that you really like Bing results better. The truth is, when people do side-by-side comparisons, they will pick Bing more often than Google by about 2 to 1, just like you did.”

I had never tried that before, but it really was a funny experience. I don’t know that I caused substantial enough cognitive dissonance that his search behaviors might change, but nonetheless, my guess is he won’t have quite such a harsh feeling next time the topic comes up.   

  

Quarter results – Apple – What it means for Microsoft

Background

Recently the last quarter results have come in and Apple is seriously incredible. I don’t want to get into missing forecasts because, well, the projections were non-sense. The Apple is killing it for phones and low-end computers. You might say, wait, Apple is a “high-end” computer manufacturer and their computers cost $1500. Before you doubt what I am saying, look at the numbers, I found one point very clear from the quarterly report. I am not writing only to say, “I told you so”.

Changes to Apple’s Model

In the tracing the money blog, I made the point that Apple is no longer a manufacturer of high-end computers, instead, they really are the market leader in a specific low/mid end computer. More specifically, they are killing it for smartphone/tablet computers. If you don’t believe me, consider this, in the last quarter, they sold 4.1M non-tablet computers. To put that in context, they sold fewer PC’s than Nokia sold Windows Phones (4.4M in the same quarter). My point is not to bash Apple. I like the company. I like many of their products. However, let’s be very clear. In the PC market which approximately equates to 500M PC/tablets, Apple will sell 100M devices, 98% of those devices will be low price tablets, not high-end computers. This really does signify a significant change to Apple’s business model

Future Trend

Where does that leave Apple in the coming years? They were dominant in the smartphone market. They are now down to about 30% worldwide. Android has eaten their lunch for smartphones. In the tablet market, they are clearly cannibalizing their own high-end PC’s with low (iPad) and lower end tablets (mini-iPad). It’s a sound business strategy to cannibalize your own, because otherwise your competitors will do it for you.

What does this mean for Microsoft?

I write this about Apple, because I see some trends happening that build a scary proposition for Microsoft. What if the low/mid priced PC’s Apple is selling is legitimately the new High-end pricing? On the low-end, Google doesn’t need to (and they don’t) make any money off their technology business because truth is, they are a marketing company. As a result, they can take the low end with no real need to drive profitability from their software development. On the other hand, Apple can charge a premium because they develop both hardware and software and theoretically everything just works. That strategy works great when you are selling 4M PC’s. But when you are mass producing dumbed down computers/tablets, what happens to the price point? If people perceive he high-end pricing is set by Apple products, where does that leave Microsoft?

I don’t have an answer

I don’t have an answer for this right now, but I am going to spend some time analyzing the strategic plays Microsoft can and should make to be competitive going forward. The best part is, I will try to write the next articles without regurgitating so many buzz words that you hear in the other blogs. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To Trade or Not to Trade: Microsoft Surface RT vs. Surface Pro

The decision time has come. In two weeks, Microsoft will release the Surface Pro, the big brother of the Surface RT released on October 26th. The new device will be packed with the core i5 or i7 processor ensuring that the new tablet, ultrabook, I mean desktop replacement can run anything and everything. With the new Surface, you certainly have the improved capabilities to run all legacy software along with everything from the Microsoft Store. Additionally, the computing power of the new slate is ample enough the most demanding apps. Of course, all the power comes at the cost of battery life.

Decision Point 1 – Battery life versus compute power

There you have it. The choice really is that simple. The Surface RT has widely been reported to get 10 hour battery life, whereas the Surface Pro will get approximately 5 hours. Though mileage may vary, that really is the decision point. If you are willing to sacrifice battery life for compute power then the Pro may be the right choice. If you need all day battery life, go with the Surface RT.

Winner – you pick it

Decision Point 2 – Application Compatibility

When it comes to application compatibility, the Surface Pro has the obvious advantage because it can run everything. One strength of Windows has always been the vast array of applications available on the platform. Obviously, we aren’t talking about simple fart apps, wallpaper apps and re-skinning websites. With the Surface Pro, you can run everything. As you know, the Surface RT only runs apps from the App store, or you have to use Remote Desktop to run legacy apps.

Winner – Surface Pro

Decision Point 3 – Price

The final decision point is price. Here, the Surface RT is the clear winner. The Surface RT starts at $499 compared to $899 for the Surface Pro. The Surface RT is priced comparably with the starting iPad. However, as outlined in my Surface RT review (http://rghnews.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/microsoft-surface-as-a-daily-driver/), with the Surface RT you get so much more capability than what you can get with the iPad.

Winner – Surface RT

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the real decision point comes down to the trade-off of battery life versus computing power. Heck, for me personally, I struggle to remember a time when I do anything for more than 5 hours consecutively. At the same time, my experience with the Surface RT and the battery life leaves me hesitant to consider any computer that can’t match the all-day plus experience. I am very anxious to get my hands-on with the Surface Pro because I suspect that just like the Surface RT, Microsoft may be under promising battery life on the Surface Pro.

At this point, you might be thinking, “hold on that can’t be it”. Make no mistake, people will over-analyze this decision, but it really it is this simple. There are other factors that simply don’t make or break the decision either way. Yes, the RT is lighter, but not significantly so. Yes. The Pro has the active digitizer, but if you ready my review of the Adonit Stylus on the Surface RT (http://rghnews.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/142/) you will see once again, that the active digitizer really shouldn’t make or break the decision for 99% of the population.

What will I do? I can truthfully tell you that I have fallen in love with the Surface RT. I can do everything. I can use Citrix to connect to and run all productivity apps from my work. I can run apps from the marketplace, use Skype for phone calls, surf the web, and be productive with Office 2013. In short, there is nothing I can’t do on my Surface RT that I can do on a Surface Pro, especially when I combine remote control capabilities with a cheap Windows 8 Pro desktop.

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