This week Microsoft will be holding a hardware event in which they are likely to reveal refreshes to their hardware lineup.
And possibly reveal some long rumored hardware and software.
(the later is honestly really overdue I mean seriously we are talking years)
Reading around the web and social media the consensus is this will be a big event. Unlike the recent launches for the Surface Hub 2, the Surface Go, and the most recent updates to the Pro and Book lines this event will be live streamed. I should note they do tape the announcements and release those afterwards.
It is somewhat interesting to note that the event was first thought to be a quiet affair until the streaming announcement. Then the rumors, leaks, and speculation went into gear. (I mean I am writing again)
So what are the rumors?
Well beyond the obvious refreshes and cries for USB-C and Thunderbolt there is new software and a dual screen tablet.
On tap are refreshes for the the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop with the laptop potentially losing its fabric keyboard top for a traditional one and gaining both AMD chips and a 15 inch version. The Surface Pro is looking at updated internals and an ARM based version.
The big potential reveal could be the combination of a dual screen device codenamed Centaurus and a new operating system Windows Lite.
Lastly Microsoft is rumored to be releasing a speaker aimed at enterprise and earbuds.
We will learn more in 24 hours.
So if you are reading this, welcome.
So its been a minute since I wrote on this little blog. I honestly stopped because it got boring for me. I mean this was my little corner to write out my musings mostly about Microsoft because I was reading news and screaming at my laptop. And I stopped because honestly I didn’t give a shit about covering a company retreating from consumer computing.
However I am tired of screaming at my laptop and talking to myself about technology.
SO I am going to do that again here.
Today marks the ten year anniversary of the launch of the iPhone. It is weird to think back to how different the mobile landscape was and is because of the iPhone.
For many people the iPhone is the first smartphone.
I know it was for me anyway.
Back in 2007 the launch of Apple’s kind of began and ended in the small backwater of the tech news section. There was no live stream or coverage beyond the handful of tech and smartphone websites.
Hell I don’t even remember how I learned about it.
Where I lived the big phone was Motorola’s Razr flip phone. I remember that because I had a neighbor that just kept buying them. The larger smartphone world was one in which Nokia and RIM (later Blackberry) were the big platforms in mobile. Then Steve Jobs announced a device that brought together, “Widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communication device”, into one form factor. And the world is still reeling.
The first device didn’t have an app store and was underpowered when compared to nerdier fare. See the iPhone wasn’t the first mobile phone, but it was the one to cross over. It was the first device to cross out the boardroom and power users to normal people. It opened the way for the modern computing experience we have now.
And it made Apple the Brand we know now.
The aftershocks from 2007 is still being felt. Services like Airbnb, Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber all sprang from mobile. Android was born in reaction to the iPhone. Companies like Palm and Microsoft redesigned their products to compete. It made a few companies retire. It retrained and changed user behavior and expectations. It created a whole new set of software and interface interactions.
It gave us the lines at the Apple store.
So as we wait for the inevitable event that will be the iPhone 8 let’s tip the hat to the OG iPhone.
Half of the time the inspiration to write a post begins out of the frustration of reading online commentary. Sometimes its an opinion I find intriguing; but sometimes its simply because I think someone else wrote some bullshit.
The day Microsoft decided to retrench its mobile efforts I wish I had honestly switched to some cheap ass Android device and called it a day. Because the community that is Windows Phone has descended into madness. There are a lot of angry users who are split between straight up anger and hostility that honestly Microsoft should address.
For example I read one guy just going off about Microsoft cheating users. I get the anger of his sentiment, but I also understand in the larger scheme his and others anger is moot because mobile is a black hole for Microsoft.
The problem for me is that I get and feel the anger, but I also understand why the retrenchment happened.
By the time Microsoft bought the Nokia hardware assets Windows Phone had only one phone maker; Nokia. Microsoft was keeping the company afloat by infusing it with cash. The Nokia deal damaged relations with companies like Samsung (who honestly Windows Phone needed as not if not more than Nokia). The mobile platform was failing to get and retain apps and Windows 8 meant a new and separate app store that competed for attention.
It was a mess.
Was it fixable? Possibly but that isn’t what happened.
Should Microsoft had been clearer to users? Fuck yes.
Microsoft is considering a return to the phone market. And the device they may return with is a dual screen device that can be used as a tablet. Looking at patents the dual screen will provide a continuous screen when in tablet mode. Microsoft detailed a number of sizes for the mobile device in both phone and tablet configurations. They even experimented it seems on a three screen foldable device; but the final version looks to be a dual screen.
This year Microsoft received patents for a series of technologies that together may provide a glimpse at a future device. The patents cover the screen, a hinge mechanism, and two cover the device itself. All patents point to a mobile device that is a combination of a smartphone and a tablet. While patents tend to obscure specific information the accompanying images provide an idea on what Microsoft is considering.
On the surface, this device looks a lot like the ill fated Microsoft Courier. Both are dual screen, touch devices but the Courier screen was separated by a large hinge and was more of a digital notebook.
This new device is a mix of tablet and phone; also the device minimizes the hinge between the screens to create a seamless screen when used as a tablet.
Between the first filled patent in 2011 and the most recent filling, Microsoft has seemingly changed the design of the hinge mechanism. In earlier designs the hinge allowed for a device that opened flat 180 degrees or close. The latest design seems to use a combination of magnates and a flexible hinge to improve usability. In the patent they discuss the various positions which now allow the device to flip the screen 360 degrees.
While this is exciting news it should be remembered that these are patents and companies file them all the time and don’t mean a device is incoming. But based on this and other information we may see this soon.
Last week Microsoft announced a number of new features for the next Windows update and in time I will get to them; but right now I want to the public reveal of Project Neon.
Fluent Design System
Starting with the Fall Creator’s Update Microsoft will be shifting Windows away from the flat, minimalist world of Metro to the third dimension known as the Fluent Design System (FDS).
Fluent Design is an expansion on some of the ideas Microsoft started playing with in Metro, but it is also is the opposite of it. FDS caries on the ideas of the use of colors and for apps to be digitally native, but it’s not the strongly flat thing Metro was. FDS is also not as stringent as the guidelines for Metro was. FDS still draws inspiration from the same sources as Metro did but the world FDS is built for is far different.
Designed for the Surface and Mixed Reality
One of the interesting things I learned about Fluent Design is it was partly designed around the fact Microsoft makes hardware. The obvious one was HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality headset. FDS takes clear inspiration from the device with a focus on depth and materials and scale. But I think one of the other sources is the Surface.
Put bluntly Fluent Design is about creating appealing software and experiences that will make Windows devices desirable. The Surface team has been pushing the hardware envelope but the software has largely languished. FDS potentially fixes that.
Right now FDS will not be a one and done affair, but instead release as a series of waves. Wave 1 is already out with a number of applications using aspects in their apps.
So this is the end of part one. I’m going to post up a series of various images showing the future of Fluent Design soon.
I feel very conflicted about this year’s Build conference. Build is the annual developer conference covering Azure and Windows. This year Microsoft unveiled an ambitious goal for itself along with a new design language; but I’m a bit sour about it.
The fact Microsoft is embracing iOS and Android is not the problem it is the lack of resolution for its own mobile platform. It is clear Microsoft is done with Windows 10 Mobile but it won’t come forward and make the formal statement. It has moved Mobile to a separate branch and the new features from the upcoming Fall Creator’s Update are not planned to appear.
The fact that Microsoft is shifting focus and changing tactics is one thing; not communicating the change is another. I mean at this point the people left using Windows Mobile in the company’s Insider program are wasting their time because their input is irrelevant. And that is a real disappointment.
And I like that Microsoft is embracing all platforms, but I don’t know how to feel about the fact they treat a set of users like non-entities. And it is made all the worse because Microsoft acts like they are doing all these users a favor.
So for me I am only left with questions.
Like does the new design language come to small devices?
Is Microsoft working on a new type of mobile device; and if so who will trust Microsoft to actually buy it?