Do you hold or have any thoughts that if said would change the way people would perceive you?

Are you an atheist who thinks the world would be better off if there was no concept of God?

Are you a person who believes in marriage being between a man or a woman?

Are you a person who feels there is no real race problem only agitators waving a stick?

Are you a person who feel like gamers hate women, gays, and minorities?

Or are you someone who feels like its all too much? (which is what I feel like some days)

It does feel like some days the world is asking me to take public stands or simply respond in some Pavlov-ian way to some hot button issue. In a world where people want to be adjective-less we add a lot of qualifiers. Right now I am an African-American heterosexual cis-male I have to add other terms to describe my political and religious denomination.

We exists in a world where we have this tremendous technological lifestyle and it should be this freeing instrument. We now can communicate and see everyone but we choose to limit our interactions to those who share and reinforce our views. It isn’t just the FOX News or conservative Christian crowd who does it anymore. And when you combine this with social media you create this echo chambers of “Me Too”. Online it is so very easy to be a troll even when using your own name; responding to things people say and do without thought.

All this has left me thinking that I really want to find that rock everyone is supposed to be under.

I think we have come to a point where on some level we cannot live with the idea there are people who don’t think the way we do. We no longer can deal rationally with our differences so we’re building walls to contain us and keep out them. And I don’t know if that is ultimately good or bad.

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This week the minds in Redmond have decided to add to the flood of information that has been steady this month.

So after Mobile World Congress, GDC, and a renewed WinHEC the Internet Explorer team decided they needed to do something too.

Yesterday the IE team held a Developer Workshop at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus on Spartan for select developers, enterprises, and web tool makers. Like similar Windows 10 events the workshop provided an early look at Project Spartan. The event was a surprise and not live streamed so news trickled out through the usual Twitter stream.

The developer workshop coincided with news that Adobe was contributing to Spartan. Adobe is contributing assets in CSS gradients and an upcoming CSS image specification from the W3C (the web standards body). Adobe is part of a larger initiative to include more web developers and tool makers in constructing Spartan; it may even foreshadow Project Spartan being open sourced.

Another bit of information disclosed by Spartan’s project manager Kyle Pflug was a shifting policy on Spartan and IE.

With Windows 10 Microsoft will deliver two browsers, IE11 and Project Spartan. Originally both browsers would run a combination of Spartan Edge engine and IE’s Trident engine with the later only used when accessing legacy sites (sites built using old web technologies). The goal was to make the transition easier on businesses and users who needed legacy support but the matter muddied the waters.

That is until now.

Now Microsoft is drawing a line between Internet Explorer and Spartan. Starting now Spartan will run the Edge engine and IE11 will run unchanged to maintain commonality across Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. According to Pflug the reason for the separation was user and developer confusion and the need to make a truly forward facing browser.

The move simplifies the issue but it’s risky. Pulling out the legacy support from Spartan makes it easier for companies to hang onto IE (and older version of Windows). But the move also signifies that Spartan will be the future Microsoft browser going forward

This week Microsoft re-launched it’s hardware conference, WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Community), in Shenzhen China. WinHEC is aimed at PC and Phone makers along with companies working on software and drivers.

In the past WinHEC was a showcase for hardware collaborations between Microsoft and its partners and new initiatives that the software company wanted to push. WinHEC’s return comes as Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 10 across phones, tablets, and PCs and the company needs to get makers on board. Microsoft finds itself having to hustle in mobile and recalibrate in the PC market.

The choice of Shenzen is appropriate as its one of the key manufacturing hubs for almost all the tech we purchase. This conference will be one of four held across Asia aimed at getting companies on board for Windows 10. So what was shown at this WinHEC? Well here are the biggest stories.

New Hardware

At the opening session Windows chief Terry Myerson announced that Lenovo would be launching a series of Windows 10 phones later in the year. The phones will be sold in China as is most of Lenovo’s branded phones. The bigger news (which was tempered) was a pilot program between Microsoft and the hot Android maker of the Xiaomi. The two companies are working on porting a ROM of Windows 10 to Xiaomi’s Mi4 phone. Xiaomi’s VP Hugo Barra called the announcement an experiment between Microsoft and the Mi community. According to sources if this becomes popular Microsoft may offer this option to others. Either way running Windows on an up and comer like Xiaomi is a big deal.

Save the Date

So we now know when Windows 10 will launch; sometime this summer. Myerson revealed that summer is the end goal for the release. Windows 10 will launch in 190 countries and in 111 languages. The only question will be can Microsoft achieve delivering the new OS in time. Right now the company is in the middle of testing Windows 10 across phones and PCs taking user feedback and one has to ask if doing this will delay release.

The Percision TouchPad

With Windows 8 Microsoft introduced native support for multitouch not just for screens but also for touchpads. A few companies got on board like HP to integrate it. The Percision touchpad was introduced with Windows 8.1 and added additional support. With Windows 10 Microsoft is going all in on making touchpads work like Apple’s with more options and gestures.

USB-C

There was a number of sessions on support for USB-C, the successor for current USB technologies. USB-C is faster than current USB technologies and also easy to plug in. USB-C has been in the news lately because it will be on the new adjectiveless MacBook and the refreshed Chromebook Pixel. USB-C is part of new docking initiatives that include Intel’s WiGig (a form of wireless docking).

Log On with your FACE

Last week, before WinHEC, Microsoft announced Windows Hello. Hello is a new way to login into Windows using facial recognition and (I think) fingerprint. Microsoft also announced Windows Passport which allows programs to use Hello as way to securely sign into websites and apps.

There was plenty more announced but for now these are the big headlines.

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This week Microsoft decided to profile a number of designers working at the company as well as do a podcast interview with Principle designer Katie Holmes and Principle researcher Bill Buxton. Given the dearth of info on what’s new in Windows 10 UI/UX I of course pounced on these posts.

Gang of Four

One of the interesting, and sometimes confounding things, about design at Microsoft is how communal it is. Whenever a designer from Redmond talks about design it’s never about a person but about a community of designers. This makes it hard to turn any number of people into a Microsoftian Jony Ive. However the consolidation of Microsoft’s products and groups has lead to veil being lifted so we no whom to praise (or blame).

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The designers profiled represent the hardware and software sides of the software giant. There is Kat Holmes who is Design Director, Operating Systems who worked on Cortana and is part of the team working on Windows 10. Next is Jonah Sterling, Azure’s Creative director and the guy I sort of wished would get a crack at Windows proper (I mean it the Azure web portal is sexy). On the hardware side is Yeongyku Yoo creative director for the Microsoft Devices team and Ralf Groene who is creative director for Surface. Yoo works on the upcoming HoloLens and for the newest hardware group, Devices, which is also working on wearables like the Microsoft Band. Groene, who every time there was a Surface video made me ask who he was, is part of the team that works on the Surface line of devices.

Each profile provides background on the designers and their various paths to Microsoft and their views on design. It’s an interesting mix because there is no lock step answer on what design means. Beyond these profiles was an interview on Microsoft and design done for the Next at Microsoft podcast.

Microsoft’s Five Burroughs

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Bill Buxton is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and someone who has done a lot of work on devices with consider commonplace. Buxton is also part of a larger movement to make design thinking a bigger part of Microsoft. In an interview with himself and Kat Holmes he discussed some of the issues Microsoft faces. One of the most interesting points was made by Ms. Holmes on where Microsoft’s interfaces are going. She described Windows and Microsoft services as being like the 5 boroughs of New York City; united but distinct. Buxton discussed the challenge facing technology was connecting devices and apps across their barriers.

And that is the latest in Microsoft Design news.

Next At Microsoft Podcast: Philosophy of Design

A Gang of Four: Holmes, Sterling, Yoo, Groene (Microsoft Stories)

images: Microsoft

What would happen if the Apple Watch failed as a product? I mean the smartwatch market, hell the wearable market as we know , was born on the back of a rumor that Apple was making a watch. Various companies have rushed in to make sure they had a spot before Apple stepped in. And now the Apple Watch is (almost) in stores and it got overshadowed by a MacBook. For the last few days I've gone back through the Apple presentation and the commentary around it. I've read some of the first impressions from the various bloggers and analyst and I can't shake the feeling like everyone is trying really hard to justify the Apple Watch.   The Apple Watch is the first product to be truly under CEO Tim Cook's reign. It signals whatever is supposed to be the next act in Apple's lifecycle. The watch looks to be beautifully designed with great care taken in the design and use of material. It looks like it will have apps from all the people you need to say you have apps. And yet there is something hollow in this Apple product.   I'm not going to say the Apple Watch or any smart watch is useless but they are niche. They're trinkets for gadget hounds that want more tech stuffed in more places. It appeals to the types that want smart homes and have multiple phones and devices.   The promise that this device that sits on your wrist will be transformational seems to be farcical. The phone is too burdensome and it lacks a way to quickly glance and respond, so here is a smaller device to lift this chore.     I want to believe but I don't the watch and wearable space is the market many hope it is. People are looking for the next big thing after mobile and it may not exist. I think people are looking for Apple to show them the next big market so they can go there; that's not how Cupertino works. Apple synthesizes; they meld products out of the chaos others make to create things we want.   The Apple watch is less about technology than it is about fashion. It feels like an exercise in tech as accessory which is fine as long as you know that's the goal. It's why no one has a clear reason for this thing to exist. I hate to say it but maybe the Emperor is ass naked and we're all trying to be nice.   I said all that to ask the question, what if this flops? This Watch is supposed to make a wearable market where once only Pepple, Android Wear, and Microsoft Band played. But what if the market is like the tablet market where everyone buys an Apple Watch and two-three years later doesn't upgrade and finds limited use? Or what if the worse happens and this sells but well below everyone's guesses? What if the Apple Watch comes out and it's just another smart watch but with an Apple logo? These scenarios are fine for a fashion product, but not a gadget.   I don't know. Yes in reality the Apple Watch will sell and in large numbers, but there is this nagging feeling that something just isn't there.

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So Apple revealed the Apple Watch, again, yesterday along with a price drop for the Apple TV and a new MacBook.

The Apple TV (Briefly)

I’m not going to go through the Apple TV news except to say it’s price has dropped down to $69 from it previous $99 price tag. Apple TV is also getting HBO Now, HBO’s new steaming service not tied to cable that will run you 15 dollars a month. No new hardware or services. And that was Apple TV.

MacBook, Slim and Plain

The most interesting device to come out of yesterday’s announcement in my opinion (and seemingly others) wasn’t the watch; it was laptop. The MacBook (just MacBook) is Apple’s first fan less laptop. Apple’s says it’s a reinvention of the notebook; with a 12 inch Retina screen powered by a Intel Core M processor and littered with batteries. The new Mac is thin, thinner than the Air and weighing 2 pounds.

MacBook

The keyboard is a new design that goes edge to edge on the device and is almost like the Microsoft Type Keyboard or the Dell XPS 11’s.The MacBook also comes with a new Force TouchPad that includes a form of haptic feedback and the ability to do a force click which brings out things like definitions and maps.  The MacBook comes in three colors similar to the iPad: Gray, Silver, and Gold. The big news about the device is it has one port, and that port is the not widely available USB-C. The new Mac is like a better designed version of 1st MacBook Air (that had more ports). The new MacBook will run you $1299 before tax. Personally I can’t wait for the PC clone of this thing.

And now the not iWatch

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And this is part of where the wheels go off. Let me preface this by saying I was an Apple user and I like Apple products. Many of the company’s products are lust-worthy (see new MacBook). Having said that I don’t get the Apple Watch. Apple left the Watch to the end and added two products that shouldn’t have been there to I guess pad the affair out. What we got was one celebrity endorsement in the form of model/activist Christy Turlington-Burns (who’ll be blogging about her experiences) and a demo session by Apple VP Kevin Lynch that was sort of awkward. It was interesting that the watch section of the program was the part Apple CEO Tim Cook had the most stage time.

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He tried very hard to make the case for the Apple watch and at best it seems its to provide glancible information without pulling out your phone. The Apple watch will come in three models: Sport, Steel, and Edition (Gold). The Sport is the cheapest starting at $349 and the gold Apple Watch Edition will run $10,000 on the low. Looking at the videos showing the process of making the watches its clear they were well designed; truly lovely pieces of wearable tech. The problem for me is the Apple Watch is more jewelry than tech. Beyond this being an Apple branded device I see no point why you’d buy it. It’s use cases are limited and niche. Like someone else said this will be bought so one can say, “I bought an Apple Watch”.

Maybe its me but the presentation left me feeling what I’ve long suspected; Apple is the Nike of technology.

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images: Apple

Tomorrow Apple is expected to announce its apple Watch to the world. This is largely due to the invitation to the announcement said “Spring Forward”. Recently there was also a rumor that the presentation may include a new MacBook Air with a Retina Screen (perhaps even the MacBook Air 12 since we’re speculating).

What is there to say? This is the apple Watch; the rumored device that made a number of device makers jump into making jewelry. It was announced and now it is finally here for us to covet. Out of all the gadgets dubbed the next big thing by pundits and enthusiasts, smart watches never made sense. I get the nerd-love, it’s a new technical toy to play with when the smartphone no longer tickles the fancy. Fitness monitors like FitBit, the Nike Band, and the Microsoft Band provide health information (and this is to me the big potential benefit of these digital rubber bands). However other than a niche use smart watches seem to be nerd jewelry. But hey, this is Apple the company that can do no wrong and it’s watch will sell like and it will disrupt everything again and we will all covet the timepiece whenever it goes on sale.

If you want to watch live (this requires you have an Apple device) go HERE.

image: Hardwarezone.com

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