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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

theonbutton.com

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

MSI X340

IMAG0093Hmm…the eagerly anticipated MSI X340; this one turned out to be a mixed bag.  Looks great, feels just OK to hold.  Keyboard is big enough, feels just OK to use.  Some reviewers have said the keyboard is horrific, it’s not quite as bad as that, but it does flex downward in the center more than it should.  The battery is replaceable but is outpaced by the Acer Timeline.

IMAG0100But for $899 it weighs under 3lbs, does HD video, has a bright 13 inch screen and a real-life-useful 1.4GHz Intel CULV processor.  That’s a tempting prospect…especially as many retailers are listing it at nearer $799.  If you like the form factor and can survive with less power the X320 sports an Intel Atom for $599, but also sacrifices the HD capable graphics chipset.

Crucially is the $899 X340 better than a $999 refurbished MacBook Air Rev A?  For HD video, connectivity and battery life I’d say yes; for coolness and build quality probably no.  Then there’s also the Acer Timeline series and the semi-light but powerful Acer AS3935-6504 with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo for $899.  It’s a difficult, but consumer friendly, choice.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jun 28, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update to ‘MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?’ Acer throws an $899 curve ball

Acer 13" P7350Wow this bout just got a whole lot more interesting.  After initially pricing the X340 at $1,099 MSI are now listing it at $899…and several mainstream e-tailers are taking orders for $799.  That kind of pricing makes the whole proposition turn on its head.  Even as a refurb, the MacBook Air Rev A looks too expensive in this company.

On the downside for the X340, initial reviews have been mixed.  Praise for its battery life and video performance have been tempered by concerns about chassis quality and a poor keyboard.

There is another curve ball mixing up the X340’s home run plans in the form of Acer’s recently released 13″ AS3935-6504.  At 1.3lbs heavier than the X340, it offers a full power P7350 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB RAM, DVD-RW and the same Intel GMA4500MHD 1080-capable GPU.  And the Acer looks and feels great.

At 2.9lbs and $799 the X340 would be my choice if running Windows 7 RC, but those needing more power or running the out-of-the-box Vista Home Premium I’d have to recommend the Acer for the greater horsepower.  Price/performance-wise the MacBook Air needs to do more to move out third place in this contest.  Especially as you could swap out the hard drives in the MSI and Acer with latest gen SSDs and still save megabucks compared to the MBAir.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

iMac Sales Plunge, Apple Slashes Refurb Macbook Air to $1,149

It’s been a week that Apple fans will want to forget.  NPD reported that Apple sales for November were flat year on year whilst Windows PCs gained 7%, iMac sales collapsed by 38% whilst Windows desktops fell only 15% and Apple announced that the company will stop attending Macworld after the 2009 show.  Apple laptop sales rose 22% compared to 15% for Windows laptops.

mb-air

What does this mean for Apple?  Most likely something needs to be done…and pretty fast.  Apple has responded by slashing prices of its refurbished models, a move likely aimed at removing the carrying costs of old inventory.  Macbook Airs are available for $1,149 on Apple’s US website at the time of writing.  Deep reductions are offered across other lines as well and online stores are offering serious discounts on new models.  After a while this discounting could erode the premium perception of the brand and hurt Apple retail store sales, which are typically made at full price.

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

This may be a short term band-aid to improve working capital, but Apple needs to look deeper at its product line and offer models at prices which relate to the current economy.  The company has been too late in coming to the Netbook market, which exploded with colossal growth this year following the arrival of the Asus EEE in late 2007.  Apple needs a Netbook quickly, and it will need to compete with the quality of the MSI Wind, Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE range, which all sell for around $300-400.

Steve Jobs said that “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”  Well Apple might have to learn how.  Five hundred dollars is now premium Netbook territory as prices have been falling throughout 2008.

I expect that if Apple enters the market they would choose the $600-800 range with a couple of configurations.  They need this because Macbooks are no longer the coolest laptops to pull out of your bag…Netbooks are.  A glance at the Amazon bestseller list shows Netbooks occupying slots which Macbooks used to live in. 

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

Whilst Macbooks used to be the laptop of choice for Manhattan coffee shop outings, Netbooks now get the curious admiring looks.  In an America looking to downsize cars, energy usage and spending, Netbooks are the Prius of today’s laptop showroom.

Clearly the slowdown in the economy has affected Apple as a seller of premium products.  It also seems that Apple’s negative advertising campaign throughout 2008 against PCs may have not had the positive sales effect Apple was hoping for.  In fact the plunging iMac sales figures indicate that Apple might have done better through a positive campaign promoting the benefits of the iMac compared to Windows desktops.  It may be that consumers simply were unable to identify a positive value of spending the extra bucks on an iMac, which is a classic outcome of a negative advertising campaign, unless the competing product is seen as truly worthless.  Clearly not the case in this instance as iMac sales plunged 23% more than Windows desktop sales.

Whilst I think Apple will pull through, it needs to revitalize its line-up to be attractive in today’s economy.  And hopefully that revitalization effort will give us reasons to buy Macs, instead of reasons not to buy PCs.  I want to want Macs for good reasons, not because I’m told the competition is bad.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 18, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking Of Glossy Screens…

Here’s one that got it right:

This, for all you daywalkers, is a MSI Wind in full-on sunlight.  And here is how it compares with a glossy-screened Acer Aspire One (which is switched on, honestly):

…and with some general non-sunny window reflections:

…and compared directly to the Wind below with non-sunny reflections.  It’s worth noting that the Aspire One actually has a really nice LED backlit screen, it’s just that the Wind has the best screen I’ve ever seen on a notebook.

The Wind works if you’re a daywalker – and it’s also a little cheaper than one particular newly-announced-glossy-screened laptop.  Ye pays yer money…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Oct 15, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netbook market grows further, has Aspiring winners and falling Stars

A glance at Amazon’s top 25 bestsellers gives a window into today’s netbook market.

The recent $100 price drop of the Asus EEE 1000H has it selling strongly, Acer’s Aspire One Linux is sitting at number 11 and the pre-order XP version is at 14. Various other EEEs make up much of the middle groung and Micro Star International’s Wind is caught up in turbulence at 24.

Given its $399 price tag I expect the 3 cell XP Aspire One to climb that chart, although hopefully they won’t suffer from the quality control issues which sent my Linux One back for repair only days after its unboxing.

Lenovo announced its entries, the S9 and S10, a few days ago. Only the S10 will be coming to the US and will bring a ten inch screen, Atom processor and XP starting from $399 in October…and it looks great.

An unfortunate characteristic of the Wind since its missed launch date of mid-June has been rumored, and now official, price hikes. The 3 cell XP model is now at $499, which looks forgettable compared to the pricing of the One and S10. This Wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

We’re still waiting to see what Dell’s E is going to throw at us, shouldn’t be too long now. Their rumored $299 entry price will ruffle a few feathers and their marketing might will ensure a sale or two.

Then there are still more models expected to launch in Q4 with VIA’s celebrated Nano CPU, just to make buying decisions that little bit harder.

If I was a betting man I’d say that Acer’s Aspire One and Lenovo’s S10 are set to be strong sellers in XP guise. Dell won’t take any prisoners either when they launch. So within a year I expect the Wind and Mini-Note to be shaken out of the market or forced into price cutting. Perhaps the savior of the Mini-Note will be if HP can swap in the Nano for the C7.

For the Wind, price cutting alone may be too late for mainstream buyers. If broad stock fails to arrive soon then how will they break onto retail shelves which already have Acers, Dells and EEE on display? It may end up being too little too late for this great product.

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Aug 9, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aspire One still sick

…after three recoveries and two support calls, my One is definitely screwed. Anytime I turn on the wifi it goes nuts, nukes the screen and crawls into a corner until you force it to power off.

It’s going back to Acer on Monday, my fourth laptop to have problems in the last couple of years. Here’s the honor role in ascending order of annoyance:

4. eMachines AMD Sempron WinXP: f, g, h and j keys failed unless pressed really hard, went back for a new mobo, now happy.

3. Everex Intel Core Duo Vista: Resume failed sporadiacally, got annoying and went back for a new mobo, now happy.

2. Apple Macbook Intel Core 2 Duo OSX Tiger: Fails to switch on if warm, need to wait for it to cool down (known in Mac support circles as ‘The Oven‘). Basically I can only switch it on once per day. Crashes if you plug a USB device into the ‘wrong’ USB port (discovered in a M-Audio support call after getting multiple OSX crashes). Never sent it back cos I was lazy and now out of warranty.

1. Acer Aspire One…sick and about to be medicated.

Neil Berman
www.neilberman.com

Aug 2, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It was love at first sight but Eee’s not the One.

A few months with an Eee 701 have taught me one thing. It’s not the one. It was one heck of a first breed of ultralight laptop and it was fun while it lasted. But three days on since Acer’s announcement and my One is in the mail. That’s the Acer Aspire One.

It’s fair to say that it would have been the Wind if anyone was actually selling them…The Wind forums are full of people saying they’ve just ordered a different machine out of sheer frustration.

In only nine months the Netbook market has moved so far, there’s no room for supply chain slip-ups. I’m looking forward to seeing how the One performs: Atom processor, near full size keyboard, webcam, 8.9″ LED backlit screen and as light at my 701. It sure does sound promising.

Best of all it’s real and is in a UPS truck right now heading for chez moi. Full review to follow…

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Jul 26, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini laptops = mini prices?

Don’t you just love market forces? Only a week after it’s launch at $649 and the Asus EEE PC 1000 is already down to $549 at NewEgg.

Part of the greatness of the original EEE was its price tag, and sales figures were through the roof. As everyone else caught up with models from HP, Acer, Dell and MSI all announced or launched, Asus’ pricing seemed off the pulse. So it’s good to see this correction, but more is still needed especially for the EEE 901 given Acer’s 8.9 inch Atom powered Aspire One is retailing for $379. By comparison the 901 is over $200 more expensive!

Now spare a thought for MSI’s Wind. The Wind is a great product ‘almost’ competing with the EEE 1000. I say ‘almost’ because although the Wind was due to rock the market over a month ago, the only model released was a low capacity battery version which had reviewers telling everyone to wait until September.

I expect by then the 10 inch early adopters will have bought the reduced price EEE 1000 and the Wind will be scrapping in the trenches for leftovers in a price-cutting market.

Did I mention the Dell E will be launching around then starting in the region of $299…?

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Jul 21, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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