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Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft CES 2011 keynote

Steve Ballmer was on stage tonight for his traditional CES opening keynote. Here are some of the highlights:

Netflix for Kinect is coming in Spring 2011. Hulu Plus for KINECT is coming too.

avatarKINECT: This looks pretty cool. The idea is that KINECT watches you and translates the face recognition and facial expressions it sees into an avatar, that you can use to chat with friends online. avatarKINECT is coming this Spring for free for Xbox Live Gold members.

There are now 30 million Xbox Live members, and a new member joins every two seconds. Microsoft has sold over 50 million 360s worlswide. Over 8 million KINECT sensors were sold in the first 60 days.

Fable Coin Golf is joining Halo Waypoint and Crackdown on Windows Phone 7.

Copy & Paste and app performance improvements are coming shortly. Sprint and Verizon will get Windows Phone 7 devices in the first half of 2011. Windows Phone 7 now has 5,500 apps, with 100 being added every day. There are also 20,000 registered developers for the platform. No sales figures were given for Windows Phone 7, make of that what you will.

Microsoft is selling 7 copies of Windows 7 every second. Windows Live has 500 million users and Hotmail is still the largest email platform in the world. A selection of funky new laptops and tablets were then shown off, which you can check out in the gallery below.  Microsoft had nothing significant to announce in the tablet space, that part of their strategy looks to be sorely lacking.

The next version of Windows will run on Intel, AMD, ARM, TI OMAP, Nvidia Tegra and Qualcomm architectures. We saw the 1080p Ironman trailer running on the next Windows on a Tegra System-on-a-Chip and it was buttery smooth, with the ability to instantly seek within the trailer.

There’s also a new Surface PC with a technology called Pixelsense that turns every pixel into a sensor. Surface is still just for commercial uses, but as soon as I can get one in my living room as a coffee table I’ll be a happier gadgetlover.

Neil Berman


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Jan 5, 2011 Posted by | CES, Microsoft | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010: The year that changed computers and TV?

Halo TV iPadHappy New Year to all of our readers!! If you’re already in 2011, what’s it like on the other side? On behalf of those of us still in 2010, we’re jealous of the cool fireworks that have been going on.

2010 turned out to be a pretty surprising year. Coming out of a recession it looked like the year would be a damp squib, but in fact consumer electronics spending held strong as we became ever-more obsessed with gadgets.

There were some technologies failed to make an impression, like 3DTV. I’m sure that next week I’ll see a whole new round of excitement around this technology even though consumers don’t seem all that interested in owning it at home. Even some of this year’s 3D hollywood blockbusters disappointed; Tron Legacy springs to mind, which asked moviegoers to pay 3D prices even though much of the movie was presented in 2D. The 2D parts of the movie were too dark with glasses on and more enjoyable with them off…but what’s the point in swapping them in and out for 2D and 3D footage?

The BlackBerry platform surprised us for an unexpected reason. While RIM’s smartphone strategy failed to impress with the disappointing Torch, the company surprised everyone with its PlayBook QNX announcement. I’m not sure if that’s enough to save the company long term though. I still believe that once corporates move away from the BlackBerry platform in larger numbers, the consumer market will choose to sustain the Apple, Google and Microsoft mobile offerings at the expense of RIM’s.

For me the most surprising aspect of 2010 was that the iPad really did turn out to be revolutionary after all. It completely changed the way we look at tablet computers and introduced new people to the computing world, both young and old. For kids aged 6-12 years, their most wanted gadget this holiday season was an iPad. Not a Nintendo DS, or a PSP, or a cellphone. They wanted a tablet computer; that’s how profoundly the iPad impacted the market.

Competitors weren’t ready for this. Microsoft thought they could pre-empt it by showing off the HP slate at CES 2010, and that product didn’t get very far in the consumer realm. Samsung got snubbed by Google for releasing the Galaxy Tab with Android 2.2. Even so, the Tab did put in a decent showing in sales volumes, although I’ve only ever seen one unit in someone’s hands outside of a store, review or trade show.

Netbooks also fell prey to the iPad’s assault. As iPad sales continued to increase throughout 2010, netbook sales suffered. Now nobody really seems interested in the sector at all, but that’s also because low priced ultraportables with decent processors are now hitting the market at under $500.

2010 also turned out to be the year that the mass market got excited about streaming content to their living room TV. With easy to use, high quality services like Netflix gaining huge popularity, Roku and Apple sold good numbers of their tiny set top boxes. Google had a different experience with Google TV, releasing a product that clearly hadn’t gone through a full round of consultation with TV networks, who promptly blocked the devices from streaming their online shows. But the overriding theme is that consumers definitely want to pull content directly into their living room from the internet.

The iPad changed the way we perceive computers and family-friendly content streamers changed the way mainstream consumers want to watch TV. Not bad for a year that was setup to be a “Meh” year in consumer electronics. Bring on 2011!

Neil Berman

Dec 31, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Rants | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kinect for Xbox 360 review

KinectArms a-flailin’, legs a-kickin’ and heads a-bobbin’. That’s the view that Kinect gets as you and your pals progressively lose your inhibitions.

The genre of action gaming, made groundbreakingly popular by the Nintendo Wii, has taken a while to migrate to the Xbox and PS3. Finally with Sony’s Move and Microsoft’s Kinect, the wait is over. So has the wait been worth it?

First impressions of the Kinect

The Kinect ships in a thankfully small box, which is easy to carry home for instant gratification purposes. Inside the box, the Kinect sensor takes up most of the space, with a setup guide, the Kinect Adventures game and a one piece cable with power and USB connectors in there as well.

The Kinect sensor is actually smaller and more premium looking than I was expecting. It’s a glossy black plastic affair, with a rubberized base that helps it perch on top of your favorite TV. The main unit is connected to the base with a little silver neck.

The setup guide is easy to follow and installation took just a few minutes as the Kinect progressed to calibrate itself by looking around and listening to ambient noise in the room. An automatic update was also downloaded during the installation process. After that I was all set.

Using the Kinect

When you start up an Xbox 360 with the Kinect installed, the regular dashboard appears and then the Kinect needs another few seconds to start up. You can then interact with the Kinect by waving a hand in the air or by talking to it. Both methods work well, but the voice control likes a quiet room to help the Kinect to understand what you’re saying.

The regular dashboard scoots away and the Kinect dashboard, or Hub as it’s known, appears. From within the Hub you make selections either buy holding your hand steady over a tile for a couple of seconds or speaking the name of the tile you want to engage. I expect most people will choose hand waving, unless you have a quiet room in which case vocal instructions are a viable option. The hand waving is intuitive and easy to use; the first time I tried, I didn’t hold my hand steady for long enough and the selection didn’t engage. But when you get used to sticking a steady hand in the air it becomes second nature.

Once you’ve engaged the Kinect into action, we hit the first hitch. Unfortunately only a few of the Xbox’s capabilities are available through the Kinect Hub. You can access the game disc currently in the drive, a very limited amount of DLC such as ESPN and some other video content, but that’s pretty much it. There’s no access to Netflix or the remaining bounty of good stuff we’ve come to love from the living room friendly world of Xbox.

I would expect that the Xbox dashboard and Kinect Hub will converge in time as more Xbox apps become compatible with the Kinect. But at the moment it feels like we are in the dangerous territory of having two parallel software interfaces coexisting on the platform.

I’ve been using the Kinect with two launch titles: Dance Central, which seems to have been the most popular title so far and Kinect Adventures, which ships with the Kinect. I’ll start with Dance Central, which is a dance game that fills the dual role of being both amazingly good fun and getting you in shape.

Dance Central includes a decent selection of songs that have their own dance moves. As you progress through the game learning the moves, the Kinect tells you how good your dancing is and is very responsive to your movements. You can slow down the action if you’re having difficulty nailing a particular step.

What makes Dance Central so amazing is that I completely forgot that the Kinect sensor was even there. I felt like I was interacting with the game tutor in my own private dance class. There was nothing to hold or wave, no sensor mats to walk on, nothing strapped to my body relaying information. The beauty of the Kinect is that when games work well, they’re wonderfully immersive.

After a good shot of not dancing very well, but sweating profusely, I turned to Kinect Adventures. This bundled game is a collection of simple active games that do a good job of showcasing the Kinect’s ability to track multiple players with fun games. There are five mini games in Kinect Adventures that all require active play. Kinect Adventures is a mild to very active game; at the extreme end of the scale Reflex Ride will have you jumping constantly to propel a cart, while dodging obstacles in your path. It’s a non-stop sweat ride, in a good way.

Some of the games, like Rallyball, demonstrate how Kinect can sense the arrival of a second player and turn a game instantly from being a one player into a two player game. It’s seriously cool to see your avatar walking into the Rallyball court and just start to play alongside the existing player. You can then walk off and the game continues, but with one player.

Kinect Adventures lacks the depth of Dance Central, but is a more immediate and better party game. It’s also free with the Kinect, and plays better than you might expect of a free game.

Some Kinect downsides

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If you’re expecting the Minority Report experience (I wasn’t but I continue to live in hope), then brace yourself for disappointment. Precogs do not ship with the Kinect at this time. Joking aside, the hand gestures work well but lack the fluidity of the Minority Report aspiration. Ultimately the Kinect sensor has to be able to figure out if you just waving your hand or actually performing a gesture, so the couple of second confirmation period makes sense.

Occasionally the Kinect sensor became confused when two players were in the room. Sometimes it would give menu control to player one and on other occasions it would switch to player two. Not a biggie, but inconsistent.

Speaking of rooms, now we know why the early demos were done in such spacious environments. Kinect likes a spacious room. The setup guide asks for the Kinect sensor to be 6ft away from you for one player games and 8ft away for two players. That’s a stretch in my New York City shoebox, and it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re planning to buy the Kinect to use it in a small room. The distance from my TV to my sofa is just over 8ft and we were able to play one and two player games fine; although during two player games the Kinect occasionally asked one of us to move backward if we started edging forwards during the limb-waving hysteria.

Does Kinect raise the bar for action gaming?

Overall my Kinect experience has been hugely enjoyable. Aside from a couple of minor issues, I’ve been immersed into the game environment in a way that could only be bettered by Tron. Graphically we seem to be a little stuck in Wii-world, so I’d love to see a Call Of Duty for Kinect. That would take the experience to a whole new level altogether.

Neil Berman

Nov 22, 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , | Leave a comment

Er…is it meant to do that? (Windows Phone 7 edition)

image

Don’t y’all try using that WP7 home screen in landscape mode…

Nov 13, 2010 Posted by | Microsoft, Mobile | , , | Leave a comment

Windows Phone 7: Because we want to use gadgets less?

Windows Phone 7 in and out commercial

I’m clearly missing something with the Windows Phone 7 In and Out campaign.  The idea that we need a phone to get us “in and out and back to life” can only be aimed at non-participating consumers who get annoyed about how much time their friends spend using smartphones.  I say that because if you told an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry owner that there is finally a smartphone platform that will allow them to do things quickly, they would probably laugh in your face.  I’ve used all three and none is particularly slow or onerous to use efficiently.  There’s always room for a new approach of course, but let’s see some examples in the ads to show us how great life could be, rather than just words.  Of course, there is a huge group of consumers that has not yet committed to a smartphone.  So if Microsoft’s research is telling the company that those folks would jump in if they could have something quick and easy, then perhaps this is the right message.  Problem is, I reckon that when people think about quick and easy they think about iPhone.

Neil Berman

Nov 8, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , | Leave a comment

Windows Media Center 7 crashing on Recorded TV scrolling?

Minor freak-out at theONbutton HQ today when Windows 7 Media Center insisted on crashing when trying to scroll through recorded TV.  A quick System Restore to a few hours earlier failed to resolve the issue and panic ensued.  Fortunately this thread at The Green Button suggested simply finding where the scrolling crashes and deleting the offending file.  Problem solved and calm restored :-)

Neil Berman

Oct 3, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft | , , , | 2 Comments

A new design for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft declared minimum hardware specs a while ago for Windows Phone 7 but the company also has a design opportunity beyond bits and bytes.

The look and feel of Windows Phone 7 is distinctive; its ‘Metro’ UI, carried over from Windows Media Center and Zune and augmented by the home screen tiles is modern, angular and sharp. Unfortunately the early prototype demo devices shown so far have failed to capture this exciting aesthetic in their hardware design. That’s ok for now of course; these devices were created to test and prove the software with reference internal hardware specs, rather than being intended for retail sale.

We’re constantly seeing that the bar is being raised in the smartphone space. Nokia, RIM and Microsoft have all been victims of the sector-leading hardware and software design combinations from Android and Apple. It’s only August, so there are still a few months to go until we see Windows Phone 7 devices hit retail channels. Please Microsoft, encourage OEMs to deliver us phones that go beyond the specs to look as stunning as the OS promises to be.

Neil Berman

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Aug 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Ballmer talks up Windows 7 tablets, devices still lacking

Steve Ballmer Windows 7 tabletIt feels like a long time ago that I was sitting in Microsoft’s CES keynote in January where Steve Ballmer showed off HP’s elusive Windows 7 tablet. That device is yet to come to market, while the iPad has walked off with over 3 million sales. It also seems that Android tablets are set to make a splash with companies such as Archos already at market, Samsung coming and plenty of others due to follow.  HP has intimated that it is concentrating on the Enterprise sector with its Windows 7 tablet and refocusing on Web OS for consumers.

So it was bizarre that Steve Ballmer’s press conference produced less certainty around Windows 7 tablet delivery than his CES keynote. At least in Las Vegas he was actually holding a tangible prototype device that seemed like to come to market. The message this week was that Windows 7 tablets are coming but we don’t know when.

To my mind this there are two things wrong with this message. Firstly, the lack of timeframe is severely problematic since the iPad holds the consumer mindshare in this sector. Android is poised to bite a chunk out of that near-monopoly as demonstrated by recent demand for the cheap (but unfortunately not cheerful) Augen GenTouch 78. Augen GenTouch 78So as consumers in this small market buy an iPad or Android tablet, Microsoft’s first generation sales become smaller by the day in this sector without a meaningful product. I mean when people need convincing to buy one first gen tablet, who needs two?

Secondly, as I’ve said before, Windows 7 feels like the wrong platform for a tablet and Windows Phone 7 feels like the right one. Just as Apple successfully ported iOS from the iPhone to the iPad, Microsoft should do likewise with Windows Phone 7. The OS is already touch optimized and is designed to run on low power touchscreen devices delivering sustained battery life and fun interactions.

Every Windows 7 tablet device I’ve used suffers from slow start-up times, poor battery life and has been challenging to use without a stylus. They’re essentially netbook-speed devices with a touchscreen and no keyboard; the Archos 9 is a case in point. The market has clearly demonstrated that this is not what it wants, as we can see from the success of the iPad.

Microsoft has admitted to missing a cycle in the smartphone market. It should review its tablet strategy to avoid missing another one.

Neil Berman

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Jul 31, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 hands-on impressions

Kinext Xbox 360 bundleI got some hands-on time with Kinect for the Xbox 360 today.  Actually “hands-waving” is a more appropriate term than “hands-on”, since with Kinect you are the controller.  As a refresher or intro for the uninitiated, Kinect is an upcoming hardware release for the Xbox 360 that turns your body movements into gameplay inputs.  There’s been extensive coverage of the Kinect technology elsewhere so I’ll keep this purely subjective.

Once I learned how to control menus, which is not immediately intuitive, I had a blast with Kinect.  The Xbox 360 responded to my movements instantly, and there was no perceptible lag at all.  After an energetic session my previous concerns about Kinect remain that we might all be too lazy to turn it into an enduring success.  However, just like with the Wii Fit under my sofa, plenty of us will buy one.  I can see Kinect being a big hit for parties and fitness, sports or dance aficionados though.

The Kinect is due to be released on November 4 in the US and is available for pre-order now for $149.99.  The bundle pictured above will sell for $299.

Neil Berman

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Jul 24, 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Kin destined to become MBA case study

Microsoft Kin One Kin TwoThe Microsoft Kin…

a.k.a. The phone that’s so cute it took me five minutes to figure out how to make a call;
a.k.a. The teen phone that’s as expensive to run as an iPhone;
a.k.a. Right product, wrong price: MBA case study…

…is on it’s way out.

This is really sad. Kin is an exciting product marred by pricing that just doesn’t make sense for its target market, and that’s a shame for all those who have invested their blood, sweat and now tears in it.

Neil Berman

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Jul 1, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , | Leave a comment

Fix Dell Latitude Intel 5300 WiFi connection issues

Intel 5300 Connection ProblemI’ve been enjoying a frankly awesome and outperforming Dell Latitude E6400 ATG for some time now.  A review is on its way, but in the meantime one issue I’ve encountered is frequent WiFi connection dropouts when using its Intel 5300 AGN WiFi card.  The Intel 5300 is remarkable for its theoretical ability to catch a signal at 450 meters from the source, but this counts for nothing if the connection keeps dropping ten feet from your home router.

I narrowed down the issue to being a power management problem and by disabling the power management features of the 5300, my faith in the Latitude E6400 ATG’s general awesomeness was restored.  I’m assuming that the card was being too aggressive at saving power and, by entering a low power state whenever possible, it was inadvertently disconnecting from some routers.

My Latitude E6400 ATG is running Windows Professional 32-bit and here are the changes to the settings I made to resolve the issue, your mileage may of course vary:

Dell E6400 ATG 31. In the Change Advanced Power Settings within the Power Options section of the Control Panel, I set the Power Saving Mode of the Wireless Adapter Settings to Maximum Performance for both On Battery and Plugged In.

2. In the Properties of the Intel 5300 AGN in Device Manager I went to Power Management and un-ticked the box next to “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.

3. In the Advanced tab of that same Properties window I also changed the 802.11n mode from 20MHz to Auto.  This allows for faster connections if your router supports them.

The steps resolved the connection dropping issue for me, if you’re experiencing something similar I hope this helps you too.  As a more severe solution, I have had a good experience with a Dell 1510 WiFi card in my Latitude E4300, so I was about to try that card in the E6400 ATG.  Fortunately following the steps above made that unnecessary.

Neil Berman

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Jun 27, 2010 Posted by | Guides, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The dilemma of Xbox Kinect

KinectThe Nintendo Wii took the casual gaming world by storm with its motion control, against most predictions around the time of its launch. With the benefit of hindsight, many now are forecasting huge success for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect, which brings full body motion control to the Xbox.

That’s a fair and logical assumption to make, but here’s the thing about the Wii. After a few weeks most gamers seemed to retreat to the sofa, realizing that standing up for prolonged periods is tiring and the Wii could be enjoyed sitting down with wrist flicks. Let’s not forget that the more sensitive and active Wii Motion Plus never really caught on.

So while I love the idea of Kinect and am guaranteed to buy one, I’m curious about how often I will reach for a Kinect game above a more sedentary experience. That might be a poor reflection upon me, but I reckon that playing a full soccer game using Kinect might just get a little tiring.

Without doubt though it will be great for casual gaming, fitness and a new inspirational yet-to-be-invented gaming craze which I’m already looking forward to seeing.  Who knows, if it really picks us up off the sofa for good it might just fulfill the Wii’s initial promise as a panacea for obesity.

Neil Berman

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Jun 16, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Slate of the Tablet

Apple NewtonThe tablet market is moving fast this year and it’s hard to keep up. So here’s the State Slate of the Tablet.

Apple iPad running iPhone OS

Since the death of the Newton a long time ago there have been rumors that Apple was developing a new tablet. Steve Jobs finally announced the iPad earlier this year which, in case you’ve been on an extended remote vacation, is Apple iPad theONbutton landscapeavailable now running iPhone OS. It is available in WiFi only or WiFi+3G, the latter being a smart choice to get the most out of the iPad (pictured). The iPad uses the same App Store as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad can run iPhone apps but dedicated iPad apps look best.

We now either own one, want one or don’t know what it’s for. Personally I didn’t know what it was for, then wanted one and lined up on launch day to own one. I now know exactly what it’s for, which is around 75% of all my Internet and media consumption. The chances are that if a website doesn’t work on the iPad, I’ll find another website or better still, an app.

Limitations include the iPad’s lack of Flash support, no easily accessible file explorer and a beautiful screen which is difficult to read outdoors. Strengths include ten hour battery life, loads of great apps and the ability to enjoy good Internet content without having to trawl the whole Internet to find it.

PC tablets running Windows

Windows tablets have existed ever since the release of Windows XP Tablet Edition years ago. These early tablets were typically ultraportable laptops with touchscreens that swiveled to convert the device into a tablet. They used resistiveArchos 9touchscreens and required a stylus for input, or a very precise fingernail.

The current crop of Windows 7 tablets, spearheaded by the likes of the Archos 9 (pictured), are certainly far lighter than their ancestors but the weaknesses remain. Notably the resistive screens and stylus or trackpad input method. Unfortunately there are just too many aspects of Windows 7 usage that require precise interaction to allow tablets to really exploit the OS.

Multitouch gestures have been built into Windows 7 but as soon as you try using an application like Microsoft Office on a Windows tablet, it is beaten in usability by iWork for iPad which was created from the ground up for tablet usage. Battery life is also an issue on Windows tablets which mainly now use the Intel Atom processor. This is a very power efficient CPU but real life battery usage on these tablets tends to top out at 2-3 hours.

Android

The Google and Open Handset Alliance backed Android OS is making a big play for tablet market share. Or perhaps I should say lots of little plays, because like the Windows tablet market the Android one is made up of a gazillion of Dell Streakemerging models. Unlike the Windows market however, the Android devices we’ve seen so far are all running slightly different versions of Android.

Personally I feel that while Android will overcome the obstacle of fragmentation in the smartphone market, I believe it will greatly hinder the platform in the tablet market. Most users ultimately don’t care if they can’t run this or that app on their phone as long as the device runs a core set of important apps. With tablets it’s different because they are perceived as far more capable devices than phones due to their screen size. If a user tries to download an app which only works on Android 2.1 onto a 2.0 device she purchase that day, frustration will mount. The fragmentation of Android builds on tablets may hold back the rise of the platform if left unchecked.

In terms of actual Android tablet devices in the marketplace, we have seen the JooJoo come and be poorly received. That was the most high profile launch until the recent Dell Streak (pictured above), which is a small tablet and large smartphone wrapped up in a heavy, less than pocket friendly chassis. There was a ton of Android tablets announced at Computex last week running various builds of the OS, which seemed to reinforce the idea that fragmentation is the biggest issue facing this platform.

Palm Pre PlusWeb OS by Palm

HP recently acquired Palm and the jury is out on whether the HP Slate, which was due to be launched imminently running Windows 7, will be shelved in favor of a HP Web OS tablet. Those who have used a Palm Pre (pictured) or Pixi may feel that Web OS could be the foundation of a very useful tablet interface. We’ll just have to wait to see what HP has in store for us on this front.

Neil Berman

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Jun 6, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Ballmer: Future PC competition will be from tablets, not Mac

I’ll admit I was pretty happy to hear that Steve Ballmer seemed to share my view on Apple’s strategy at D8 today. The Microsoft CEO declared that the PC’s biggest competition in three years from now would come not from Mac, but rather from tablets (he seemed to be making a reference to future evolutions of the iPad).

Nice one Steve, I’d love to think you enjoy theONbutton on a daily basis and that we’ve shared some IE9 screen real estate on the Windows 8 pre-Alpha we imagine you’re playing with on a mythical Core i7 ULV ultraportable. The reality, however, is probably just that you’re seeing things in a like-minded pragmatic, logical way.

We should bear in mind that such an evolution would not necessarily be a bad thing for Apple. I continue to believe that iPhone OS devices are a more profitable play for Apple than Mac. With the rumored update to Apple TV, which might see it reappear at $99 running iPhone OS, the company’s continued focus upon this operating system would give the App Store and iTunes even greater reach and profitability.

Of course this may all get turned shockingly upside down if Apple announces in its Q2 results that the iPad created a scintillating halo effect around Mac sales!

Neil Berman

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Jun 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MacBook Pro or a fully equipped entertainment apartment?

Mac vs PCWe all know that Macs are expensive, but just how much more expensive are they in real world terms?  This can be difficult to quantify.  In the Vista and XP days it was easier to justify a Mac purchase based upon the quality of its operating system.  That’s exactly what I did back in 2007.  With Windows 7 however the game has changed and while OSX wins on some aspects (prettiness, support, media apps), Windows clearly now leads on others (taskbar, multitouch, homegroup).  Overall it kind of feels like a tie at the moment.

So here’s the challenge: For the price of a decently spec’d MacBook Pro can a one bedroom apartment be kitted out with home entertainment tech including a similarly spec’d Windows 7 laptop?

First, the rules.  Pretty simple really, no refurbs, coupons or member-only offers.  We’ll also assume that in both scenarios we’ll buy the same wireless router.

The Mac option

MacBook ProLet’s start with the MacBook Pro.  We’ll take the 15″ with the standard Core i7 processor and 4GB RAM.  In fact the only upgrade we’d make is to dump the slow 5400RPM 500GB drive in favor of a faster 7200RPM unit, which we think should be standard on anything labelled “Pro”.  That’s a cheap $50 upgrade.

That gives us a grand total of $2,249 on Apple’s site.  Let’s see what we can get ourselves for that kind of money.

Our apartment has a bedroom and living room, so we’ll need to take care of both.  In the living room we’ll need a TV, surround sound audio system, something for gaming and of course Blu-ray.  In the bedroom a small TV would be nice along with a simple sound system.  And of course we need that Windows laptop too, so let’s start with that.

The one bedroom apartment

Keeping it simple we can pick up our laptop from the local Walmart.  They have the HP Pavilion DV6-2190US with almost identical HP Pavilion DV6specs to the MacBook Pro for $898.54.  There’s the Intel Core i7, 4GB RAM and 500GB 7200RPM hard drive, all being powered by Windows 7 Home Premium.  The DV6 packs a GeForce 230M in  place of the 330M on the MacBook Pro but in day-to-day tasks like surfing and typical comupting, Toshiba 40RV525R LCD TVmost people wouldn’t notice the difference.  The big 2010 performance leap comes from the Core i7.

We definitely need a nice big TV, so let’s go for a 40″ 1080p from Toshiba for $579.99.  It’s rated 4.6 out 5 from 91 reviews on Tiger Direct, so that’s a solid endorsement.

Xbox 360 ArcadeFor the games console we’d choose an Xbox 360 for $199.99, but a Wii would do just as well for the same money if you prefer it.

We definitely want to be watching that 1080p TV and playing our games in full surround sound, so how about adding a Sony Bravia surround system with speakers for $229.99 from Newegg.

We’ll pair that Bravia surround system with a Sony Blu-ray player for another $139.99 from Newegg.

Sony Bravia DAV-DZ170That gives us the kind of super duper living room setup that we’ll never want to leave, but that Mac Book Pro is so expensive that we still have $400 to burn!  So let’s go into the bedroom…

iPod TouchThe iPod Touch is a great device to have around as a flexible media player and second web device, so we’ll have one of those of Apple’s site for $199.99.

We need  to get some noises out of that so we need a dock.  Altec Lansing’s well regarded IM310 sounds good for $59 from J&R.

Finally we’ll complete the bedroom tech setup with a 15″ TV.  This one from Coby comes in at only $129.99 but still delivers 720p resolution.

That total home entertainment setup, all from major brands including a Core i7 laptop comes to $2237.49.  That’s still less than the MacBook Pro, but I think we’ve bought enough virtual stuff for one day.

So can you setup a whole apartment for the price of a MacBook Pro?

So one the one hand you could buy a HP Core i7 Windows 7 laptop, Toshiba 40″ HDTV, Sony BluRay deck and Bravia surround sound system, Xbox, iPod Touch, sound dock and a bedroom TV…or you could have a MacBook Pro.  The choice, as ever, is yours.

Prices accurate as of the time of writing, but as always in the tech world if you’re slow they’ll change!

Neil Berman

facebeook.com/theonbutton

theonbutton.com

Apr 16, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft, Rants | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today is Windows 7 RC shutdown day

Windows 7 RC shutdown dateIf you’re one of those smart people running Windows 7 RC then take note; today is the day your PC will start shutting down every two hours.  On June 1 that install will become completely unusable, so do what you need to do now to get your all-important files off that computer and buy a upgrade full version/new PC/new Mac/whatevs.  Perhaps you’ve been so impressed by Windows 7 RC that it’s reignited your love for the PC, perhaps you got a free flight to Tokyo because Windows 7 was your idea (link is to my personal fave), or maybe you were just in it for the free ride and you’re now reading this on your new MacBook.  Hey we don’t care what you choose, we’re not platform snobs, we just love good technology.  Whatever you do though, do it soon; the clock is a’tickin, your files are a’fearin and the economy is a’beggin for your hard-earned money…

Correction: there is no upgrade path from RC to retail, it’s a full version clean install or nothing.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Mar 1, 2010 Posted by | Microsoft, News, Software | , | 1 Comment

Tekinca episode 5: The state of the smartphone union

In this week’s Teknica we provide analysis on the smartphone market, as it exits one of the most significant Mobile World Congress show’s of recent times.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

Feb 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Microsoft, Mobile, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windows Phone 7 Series analysis vs iPhone, Android & BlackBerry (update: now with video!)

Windows Phone has been struggling in recent years.  Facing an onslaught from Apple, Google and RIM, many would say that the OS formerly known as Windows Mobile has not even been competing in the current marketplace.  Rumors have been flying around about Microsoft starting from scratch with Windows Phone 7 Series and that’s exactly what they’ve done.  And they’ve done it well. Continue reading our in-depth analysis…

Feb 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teknica episode 4: Windows 8 is going to be mind blowing

In this week’s Teknica we catch up on Mobile World Congress, get a glimpse into the energy around Windows 8 and find out how to check up on your internet speed with YouTube Speed Dashboard.  Plus, we reveal the ultimate Apple fanboy accessory.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 14, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, News, Software, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Windows Media Center HTPC

In January 2009 I started running the Windows 7 Beta followed later in the year by the Release Candidate on my trusty old Pentium 4 living room PC.  In October to coincide with the Windows 7 launch I brought that computer into the modern age but decided to wait a few months to collect my thoughts before sharing the experience. Continue reading about building a Windows Media Center HTPC…

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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