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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.

msft_device

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.
Sketch_Hinge
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.
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neon

It’s April and we are slowly encroaching on Redstone 3 which means more information on Project Neon, the UI update for Windows 10, is leaking. To recap Neon will be an update to the existing Windows shell coming after the Anniversary Update (which seems to be coming fall 2017).

After the initial leaked info (and my nerding out) I have wondered how major an update this is. Windows 8 was major in that brought in touch/tablet elements. Windows Phone brought the Metro design language.

So what is Neon bringing?

I should also say I had started reading a lot of the commentators remarking on how Neon was a minor refresh adding minor features. So my enthusiasm waned. But then I got excited again.

For one Neon is bringing in a level of polish to Windows. It is something that honestly got lost on the platform when it started backtracking from Windows 8 and Windows Phone. It also appears like Microsoft is focusing on providing more tools and templates to create good designs out of the box. Also it new rumors make me think the overarching goal is to go the last mile in terms of delivering a consistent product.

A number of recent rumors will see features coming that bring real value to users and not just cosmetic changes. Things like in app tab support; for things like File explorer are welcomed productivity features.

Also it looks like Microsoft is working on having a consistent feel and behavior for the design. The rumored blur glass effects are being carried over to the Start Screen.

Now with my excitement I still have questions.

Like what changes are coming to improve touch. Will we see previews for other applications with Neon. The MSN apps need a new coat of paint. Also how does this translate to other form factors like phones (We hope) and tablets?

We may soon get the answers (because I finished this thing the month before Build).

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

How bout dem Ghostbusters, huh?

Not crossing that red line? Okay then what about Man from U.N.C.L.E.? No

Divergent?

The Golden Compass?!

The movie franchise, a trend that has once again found it’s niche in the box office. Every movie company worth their salt wants one and will dig for any comic, game, book series, or web series to turn into the next big thing. Now the problem for most studios they tend to shoot the pistol before they pull it out the holster. They already making the sequel before they make a single buck on opening weekend.

So the that end let’s me provide my .02 cents on how to make a movie franchise work.

Step 1: Make the first movie GOOD
Okay so you have the next Star Wars on your hands. You know it, the writer knows it, the toy company knows it, and best of all the Execs know it. They’re already talking sequel, and this is where you need to walk gingerly. The first movie needs to introduce viewers to whatever world you’re imagining. Do not make a film that is essentially a 2 hour preview for its sequel. Just because you think there is another story to be told will mean it will. So make the first tale a complete one and worry about the sequel when you get it.

Step 2: Make sure you do Step 1
Remember the Golden Compass and I am Number Four

Step 3: Find a good Cat herder
Okay let’s be honest Paul Feig was a bad fit for Ghostbusters 2016. In fact the entire premise was if looked at from the larger plan SONY had for the IP. Feig is a director of R rated comedies and he had to both tone his stuff down and work on a franchise with a fan base outside his comfort zone and that he ended antagonizing/being antagonized by. So on the company side you need at least one person who get’s the mechanics of the franchise, potential/existing fan bases, and can manage the director if needs be. Yes this kills creativity but it’s your money.

Step 4: Picking the right Franchise
Easier said than done. For every Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, there is an Earagon. A premise may look good on paper but on film it flops hard. Sometimes it depends on timing. The 5th Wave was part of the post Hunger Games crop of YA Dystopian series; but it came after the craze was over. Also you need to be sure to think about any potential controversies that could derail a series. The Golden Compass series was one of the highest selling children series and made a no brainer except for the seemingly strong anti-religious tone of the series. Lastly, if you pull from the nostalgia files make sure there is some fans left; then try not to piss them off. This is the thing I think messed up the Lone Ranger, John Carter, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E.. People have to have some memory of the thing you’re pulling out of the bargain bin. And if they do you have to treat it with a modicum of respect. No one wants to see characters they love shat on.

Step 5: Make sure you’re doing Step 1, then Step 3, then 4
GO CHECK

Step 6: Determine whether you have a Franchise or a Cinematic Universe
Cinematic Universes have been the thing ever sense Marvel translated the titles it owned the film rights to into blockbusters. Now everybody wants one. But the question is do you? See there is a difference(SONY). A franchise is about one person or group that exists in a world where their the main actors. A Cinematic Universe on the other hand are a bunch of franchises that exist on their own but also in shared space/universe with others; their connected. So for example Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner have universes; they have individual titles and characters who share a world and interact in it. Ghostbusters on the other hand is a franchise. You can spin off a franchise into a cinematic universe but that involves creating a series that separates from the main into it’s own thing. But saying you have a universe when it’s just one series does not a universe make.

Step 7: Make friends with the Geeks (but not THAT close)
see Paul Feig and Ghostbusters 2016 or go on Twitter

Steps 8-10: Be China friendly, get good writers, Have Fun (duh)

Apathy is sometimes the only true defense against madness….but only to a point.

Last night in Orlando, Florida a shooting happened. At the time I am writing 50 were killed and 59 injured when a gunman held club goers at the Pulse hostage. The club was a gay hotspot and the shooter was apparently an ISIS sympathizer committing the act in their name.

It was a heinous act we will add to list of acts that will be analyze for the next few weeks. So the story will go through the familiar beats: The killer, the victims, the outrage, the larger context, the handwringing, the posturing, the update, and the fade away. We will make statements condemning the attack. We will make statements how this act will be met with defiance, love is love, and how this will get better.

But will it?

Beyond gun control. Beyond closing down Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Beyond PSA’s and hashtags; what do you do to put the demon back in the pit?
We have this epidemic that is happening because the world is changing and some honestly are confused by it all. There is this new world being built that is different than the one we had and it makes some angry and some uncomfortable and other’s feeling disconnected. And that disconnect is slowly being filled by things that honestly are killing people.
I mean has anyone heard how we describe ISIS? It feels as much like a viral epidemic than a terrorist organization. The collection of mass shooters seemed to be bound together by this disconnect from the world that sees them try to reassert order by violent means. And these people are not strangers or freaks; they come from next door.
And every time this violence happens we examine what went wrong. We find people to blame; but we all forget about it afterward.
There is only so much that can be said before the words become meaningless because the ones that need reaching can’t hear. And until they can be reached the cycle will continue.

When was the last time you really talked to someone?

You know that deep conversation that got uncomfortable and messy that most likely end in tears or anger.

And when was the last time you tried you worked to actively listen to someone?

Even when you don’t care or think it’s stupid or you’ve heard it all before?

In 2016 we have a plethora of tools, services, and forums from which we can tweet, post, and upload every emotion and thought one can muster.

But why does it feel like it’s all being said in an empty room?

If you live on the Internet (or just make a lot of trips there) you see people communicating but only in enough for them either troll somebody or reinforce what they think and hope for kudos from the like minded.

It often feels like the whole purpose of modern communication is to be this weird combination of a virtuous cycle and a circle jerk for fellow travelers; with the occasional troll flare up.

I mean for every issue there is chatter but little clarity and less listening. It is call and response without a goal.

And as much as I would like to see it stop I doubt it ever will.

I mean we all do it and its fine because we’re doing it…right?