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In the past 48 hours I have done a lot of thinking about the Microsoft Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S. I have also read a few opinion pieces and watched video hands on. There is a lot of opinions about the device and how it fits within the Windows ecosystem; about how it changes or doesn’t changes things.

So I thought I put in my 2 cents.

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The Surface Laptop on first glance looks like a matchup of the Surface Book’s screen and a Surface Type Cover. The Laptop’s profile and body has these angles that work to hide the lower half given the allusion its just a screen and keyboard. The colored versions only come with middle tier models; that may upset some. The lack of USB Type-C or the Thunderbolt connector of the same shape will be one the major dings facing the Surface Laptop. The argument being these things are the future (even though it is not the case now).

The Surface Laptop’s profile when open really reminds me of the profile of the Surface Pro. The device’s screen is incredibly clear. You know it’s a good, crisp screen if it works well on camera. In terms of the Surface family the Laptop is quite conservative. It doesn’t fit into the tablet PC mode of the Pro or Book, but it does fit the name Surface. The colors chosen for the Surface Laptop are a good balance; they aren’t too bold to be considered toy-like but aren’t so muted as to be barely there. As interesting as it would be to see this notebook as one those 2-in-1 devices that flips, it’s intriguing to see the Surface team’s take on the clamshell design. It sort of like watching a comedian in a dramatic role; they are following the script but bringing another perspective.

For example the last few years has seen a number of thin and light designs for PC laptops that have pushed the boundaries. From Lenovo’s Yoga and its jeweled hinge to Dell’s XPS 13 and its near bezel-less screen to Hewlett-Packard’s svelte Specter. PCs have been getting better designs across the board. The Surface Laptop isn’t as flashy. The laptop’s most daring features is the Alcantara layer sitting on top the keyboard and the fact it runs Windows 10 S. Of course there are innovations such as putting the SSD on the same motherboard as the Intel chip, but where Surface excels at is in eliciting a response. With Surface Microsoft built a brand; they built something that works on an emotional plane. I mean for me the Surface devices have been coveted items. There is something to buying a device built for the software it runs. Inherent in buying a Surface device is buying into the design; into the notion of a tablet that can replace your laptop.  Its buying a device from people you think give a damn about you loving what they made.

The Surface Laptop is a desirable object; I want but I can’t afford it and its quirks I gladly try to fit in my computer usage.

There are some issues. Like I wished Microsoft would have made a fan less Core M version. I know there are power freaks out there, but I’m all about no fans. Secondly I was thinking the device would be smaller. Like 10-11 inches. Lastly I’m surprised there was no talk of an LTTE model. The USB thing to me is not a big deal and this running Windows 10 S isn’t a hurdle either. Actually the other thing is I wish colors were available for all models.

And that’s about it. Hopefully I will get a hands on (aka playing with the demo model at a Best Buy).

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So it has now come to the point where Microsoft’s silence on Mobile has become this cancerous spot affecting coverage around Windows.

Did it have to go this way? No.

To recap: On Thursday, Microsoft released its earnings for the quarter and the phone sales were null. So the  last nail was pushed into the coffin of Windows Phone (with weird glee by some Windows watchers).

Anyway, Peter Bright of Ars Technica wrote about the Surface (Redmond’s computer brand) and how the company was repeating the same mistake it did with Nokia Lumia. Basically ignoring momentum  for sake of alienating OEM partners.

 

Bright argued that Microsoft needs to decide if it’s serious about devices because the hemming and hawing dooms the effort. It was a very alarmist peice which was followed by a more reasoned one by Paul Thurrott. Thurrott countered by saying the Surface brand wasn’t in trouble because Windows Phone was doomed from birth (paraphrased to retain content saltiness).

The thing is both are right but that’s beside the point. The point is silent treatment going on is hurting the Windows platform; and from this enthusiast’s slash armchair analyst perch will only cause more problems.

The last Windows 10 Cloud post (for now)……….

So Windows 10 Cloud; runs only apps from the Store, can be upgraded for a fee, and most likely will be revealed on the 2nd of May. Target market at launch looks to be education. We may even get a new Surface for our troubles.

Okay got it?

Good.

So what is the benefit of this thing for you, me, and the guy playing Solitaire on a netbook from 2000?

First things first. Windows 10 Cloud is competing with Chromebooks chiefly which means this is the low end of computing. So budget to middle devices. This is not gaming rig or Adobe whatever material. It runs stuff from the Windows Store, so stop bitching about Chrome or Firefox (you can always upgrade to full Windows). So what we have is a slightly lightweight and appliance like version of Windows. The kind of device that would be used for light browsing and cheap enough that if lost it wouldn’t be a big deal.

So who would buy this? Potentially people who want a simplified computing experience. For every person who wants to tinker with the OS, there is someone who wants something that quick boots so they can go. Another customer are those who need a second device. Maybe you game but want a PC for non gaming stuff or you need a travel computer; this may be for you. Lastly you just need something with a keyboard to use the Internet on. Say a parent wants to give their kid a computer for college. Something durable to last the four or more years away. Or you’re a person that lives on your phone but sometimes needs a larger screen.

ITS A PC DO WHAT YA WANT

 

So I want to talk about Windows Cloud and what it means; but I want to start by talking about Microsoft’s loss of trust amongst Windows enthusiasts.

Microsoft is a software company. The bulk of its money comes from enterprise. Things like Azure, SQL, and SharePoint have way more impact on their bottom line than say Windows. In fact I would argue that Microsoft is far more comfortable and competent when it comes to services than it is on delighting the person PC buying at BestBuy.

Microsoft’s consumer facing products are a mixed bag; for every Xbox there is a Zune, or a Kin. Windows is their biggest consumer facing product but there are times when one wonders if its a stone throw away from mothballs.

Right now many are disillusioned with the company for a myriad of things that revolve around consumer. And a lot of it revolves around commitment.

Commitment to mobile (beyond making iOS and Android apps).

Commitment to gaming (in terms of first party and exclusive games)

And overall commitment to Windows as Microsoft’s platform.

Enthusiasm is waning because the feeling many, including myself, have is Microsoft has quit.

After a period in which it shifted to Windows Phone , premiered Windows 8 and RT, started the Surface line, and pushed out the Xbox One they seem to have hit a rut. Now don’t get me wrong there have been hits, but also failures. Microsoft’s failure to gain traction in mobile has seen them buy Nokia’s hardware unit, they take a write off because they weren’t going to turn into a phone maker. The Xbox One trails the PlayStation 4.

So now Redmond is scrambling and scraping initiatives that leave users and enthusiasts wondering if Microsoft’s product are worth the time. If Microsoft won’t invest in its platform why should anyone else? Microsoft of late acts like it wants to be an app maker for iOS and Android and not do anything with the mobile platform it owns.

And this raises questions for Windows Cloud.

How committed will Microsoft be with it?

In a period in which Microsoft is running silent in regards to the future of Windows Mobile you have to wonder. Will Cloud have the firm backing of Redmond or is it another flash in the pan.

 

 

Mobile is the fly in Microsoft’s ointment.

(I had intended this to be the point at which I ripped Microsoft a new one for its lack of mobile focus; but honestly it doesn’t really move me)

Anytime I prepare to write about Windows and mobile I always pause  bit. Do I write a history on where it went wrong? Do I chastise Microsoft for its lack of mobile focus? Do I rant about how Microsoft should just come out and say they have nothing for phones? Maybe I do the big overview where I read the tea leaves and tell you that there is a plan?

I have no clue.

What I know is that Microsoft’s current posturing on mobile doesn’t work for either the company, their hardware partners, or users. Also the deal with Nokia provided a temporary relief by providing hardware but it wasn’t backed up by Redmond (and hurt relations with other hardware makers).

I also know that Microsoft is committed to mobile beyond being an app vendor. I also know that the mobile world is made up of iOS and Android and that’s it.

Lastly, I also know that Microsoft is working on an update to Windows mobile and views it as vital.

The issue right now is Windows Mobile is a non-factor in mobile beyond a handful of enterprises, phone enthusiasts, and fans. Microsoft should be clearer and provide a real roadmap for where its mobile entry is going.

And honestly that is it; that is all.

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I loathe writing about politics, not because I hate it (I don’t and it was a major) but because stupidity it almost automatically generates. And this is no truer than in this election.

Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States and no one saw it coming. Oh I know one or two did, but most of us didn’t. And beyond the actual win was the way the map looked when it was all said and done. Basically it was these clusters of blue lining the edge of the country with the middle red as a red wedding.

This Presidential election was ugly. It was so ugly its primaries were ugly. And yes I am of the opinion that both the Democratic and Republican primaries were messy affairs that tainted the winners. The GOP’s base revolted from the kingmaker’s after years of the party playing it’s various cards and allowing political ideology to overcome common sense. That and a weak bench of candidates helped Donald Trump reach the convention podium.

And bless their hearts but the DNC doesn’t look better. Knowing Hilary Clinton was the preferred nominee is one thing; trying to play House of Cards while not being Kevin Spacey is another. Also Bernie Sanders did hurt Clinton by both: 1. staying in too long and 2. painting her into a corner as a corporate puppet. It did not help that Clinton is not personable in the way her husband or Barack Obama are. She is a wonk; she is built to be one who get’s it done and not the one to convey they feel your pain.

So we got through the primaries and ended up with the least optimal choices for the next leader of the free world. The Pussy grabber and the Crooked one. We operated under assumptions that there was no way in hell they’d elect him; I mean look at him.

Meanwhile Clinton spent part of the campaign dealing with one side that honestly thought they had been screwed and a coalition busy basking in the warm glow of Obama’s smile and pictures of him and Michelle. It became an election built around fear and anger and the deciding factor was a populist fuck you vote from people we discounted. So now we are here; except now it’s the America we were told we were becoming fearful of an America people thought died.

I’m getting to old to feign fear of the thoughts hidden inside other people. I’m getting to old to demonize people I disagree with. Life is too short. Right now people have gone from hand wringing to public outcry to attempting to move to Canada. We go online and wallow in information to shore up are choice or demonize others or gloat like pigs in a trough.

Maybe this was the right election and maybe Trump is the right man for the job if for nothing else we can stop lying to ourselves about the myth of America. Maybe it is the cynic in me but the glass at some point is half empty, not full. Sometimes we need the uncomfortable and the ugly to run around lest it fester. It doesn’t mean it won’t get better, but it does mean it gets more honest.

So I’ve been off; away from tech writing but still glued to technology. And while I have not been posting about the latest rumblings around it, I do have opinions which I now present to you. Apologies for the bad sentence structures beforehand.

 

Cook’s Apple

It’s hard to remember how positively received Tim Cook was as Apple’s CEO. His leadership was a major change of pace from the days of Steve Jobs. I’m reminded of those days again because now the chorus has changed. I’ve noticed in some of my reading around Apple a serious discontent on the part of longtime Mac users as well as professional Mac users feeling uncertain about it’s future.

The introduction of the latest MacBook Pro line has led to a bit of a social media backlash; with some seriously thinking of switching platforms or simply holding onto older Macs longer. To be honest to have such discussions being out there is weird giving the nature of Apple. Or maybe not.

Apple is no longer the company Steve Jobs founded in the seventies. It is not the company built on the back of the Apple II or Lisa. It is the Apple that he rebuilt in the late 1990s and whose fortunes can be tied back to the iPod and forward to iOS. This new Apple needs to maintain the iOS train while getting to the next big thing; unfortunately MacOS isn’t that and only exists until iOS can at least replace Mac laptops.

 

Beyond Mobile

Given how much disruption is supposed to be an underlying part of technology, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone asked what will disrupt mobile. In fact it’s hard to really look past mobile to any emerging or potential trend.

I mean tablets, smartwatches, and virtual reality have all been tied to mobile. Smartwatches are literally just there to be phone extensions. Media dongles like the Chromecast exist to extend the phone’s reach to your TV.

So what exists beyond mobile or is mobile so big we haven’t reached the edge yet?

 

Nadella’s Windows

This is something I will revisit later, but I want to start here. Satya Nadella’s time as head of Microsoft has been interesting to watch. He became CEO after what was largely a dark period for the company; maybe not in terms of profit, but in direction. Microsoft failed to successfully modernized its mobile efforts with Windows Phone and made missteps with developers. It made some moves to successfully move the company forward (Azure) and has seen success in the cloud while stumbling in the consumer market.

Much of the failings of the last decade were pinned to former chief Steve Ballmer who three years ago decided to retire and hand the reins to then Cloud head Nadella.

Now I’m not going to bore you with the overview; tl;dr of it is Nadella has been credited with a renaissance at Microsoft with new products and a rejuvenated workforce. For me the focus is on where Microsoft is going with Windows under Nadella.

Before recent reports; much of the news around Windows was about both the decline in the PC market and the innovation around Microsoft hardware. It’s weird but the PC’s decline has lead to a sort of resurgence. However for Nadella and Microsoft Windows and especially it’s mobile half are what keeps tongues wagging. And we may have an answer next year.