TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

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

New AT&T smartphone data plans will change the market

AT&T has announced new smartphone data plan pricing which could create a fundamental shift in the US smartphone market.

The new plans, due to take effect for new contracts starting on June 7th, offer a low usage 200MB monthly data plan for just $15 called Data Plus, and a second plan at $25 monthly for 2GB called Data Pro. Additional gigabytes cost $10 each if you have the 2GB plan. The 5GB ‘unlimited’ $30 plan is gone, unless you’re already on it. Tethering will also be offered for an additional $20 per month, as long as you have the 2GB plan – and importantly this option will cover the iPhone as well as other smartphones. The new 2GB plan will apply to the iPad as well, replacing its genuinely unlimited plan, unless you’re already on the unlimited plan or sign up before June 7th.

What does this mean? For low data users, who probably represent the majority of smartphone customers, the cost of running a smartphone on AT&T is about to get a whole lot more attractive. For example my wife, who has a smartphone and uses it for daily email, Google Maps and occasional surfing burns through a massive 50MB on a typical month. The new pricing will chop her monthly data plan cost in half. A different user who pulls a lot of video and busts through the 2GB ceiling on a regular basis would likely pay more than currently.

I expect that this pricing will attract a boatload of new smartphone customers to AT&T, due to the lower cost of entry. But hey, guess what? June 7th sounds awfully similar to the date of the rumored announcement of the new iPhone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually see Steve Jobs and AT&T announcing the lower cost plans on stage together. This would be a real coup for Apple as it would surely attract a whole new demographic to the iPhone, who previously rejected it due to the cost of the data plan. The same goes for AT&T’s other smartphones of course, but I just have a feeling that Apple may be the primary beneficiary of this new pricing scheme. Enterprises could also potentially save money by moving low data users to the new 200MB plan.

So I expect this to increase in smartphone market share at the expense of non-smartphones, since the lower cost entry point will encourage fence sitters to jump on the bandwagon. This is good news for AT&T because they should be able to increase average revenue per customer while adding people who will place minimal demands upon their data network. I also think the majority of mid level data consumers will be unaffected apart from enjoying a reduced plan cost down from $30 monthly to $25. The heavy users and those who use tethering will probably see an uptick in monthly cost.

I would expect other carriers to follow suit, although those choosing to continue offering an ‘unlimited’ plan could clearly differentiate themselves in this fiercely competitive market. I’m talking about you, Sprint 4G.

For iPad 3G owners, the situation is a little different. It would be pretty easy to go through the 2GB monthly limit on the iPad 3G if you enjoy Netflix and other data-intensive media streaming services on a regular basis. So if you fall into that category it might be worth signing up for the current genuinely unlimited plan before June 7th to get grandfathered in. Once that 2GB limit comes along, owning an iPad 3G could become a whole lot more expensive.

Wireless carriers and home broadband providers have been toying with the idea of scrapping unlimited plans in favor of charging based more upon usage. With AT&T’s new plans, this is becoming a reality, which will surely help smartphone adoption rates. If you’re a heavy data user however, prepare to spend a little more each month to feed your habit.

Neil Berman

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Jun 2, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appleiance is really happening

There’s all kinds of crazy talk out there today about iPads allegedly outselling Macs by almost two to one.

Two months ago I would have agreed that is an absurd idea, especially for a product without a proven market. After a few weeks of daily use with my iPad 3G however, I believe with more conviction than ever in my recent article The emergence Of Appleiance.

If the iPad really is selling so strongly, it all just makes perfect sense for Apple. While I won’t rehash the whole piece, which you can read at your leisure, I am pretty sure that in a few years the Mac will be a different beast compared with what we know now. There will likely be fewer in the range and those which remain will be at the periphery of the Apple world rather than the center.

Why am I so convinced? It’s simple; the iPad is now my main computer. Imagine that! Here I am, a total geek with an abundance of computing equipment and within a few short weeks the iPad has gone from being an object I viewed with cynicism to the one I use most of the time when not at work. I’m not a super-demanding user, but for my usage pattern of content consumption at home and on the move, the iPad is just great. It’s more appliance than computer – Appleiance – and for most of my use-cases I like that. In fact for the first time about an Apple product, I can genuinely say it just works…except for the times when an an app crashes; which happens quite a lot!

Many commentators have said that the iPad is a spare device; a discretionary device. It no longer is for me. I still need my Windows 7 Media Center hooked up to an unreasonably large screen and I need a laptop for work. But for almost everything else, my iPad rocks.

Neil Berman

facebook.com/theonbutton

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May 20, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple | , , , , | Leave a 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

Nokia store New York

If you live in the USA, a Nokia cellphone can be hard to find.  That’s because Nokia phones and American cellphone carriers don’t go together as naturally as, say, Nokia phones and European carriers.  So if you’re a Nokia fanboy in America you’ll definitely want to head over to the company’s flagship store off Fifth Avenue in New York City.  But hey, this ol’ country is vast and it sure is cold in New York these days.  So to save you travelling all the way here, or perhaps from just leaving your warm shoe-box of an NYC apartment, here’s a walkthrough of the store in glorious HD.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

Feb 20, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, Video Features | , , , , | Leave a comment

BlueAnt Q1 review

The bluetooth headset market is crowded these days with top brands putting out some great designs. BlueAnt thinks it has something special to offer with the Q1, which won a CES 2010 Innovations Award and boasts voice control.  We put it through its paces to see if it could talk us into setting it above the pack.

What’s in the BlueAnt Q1 box?

The Q1 comes in a smart display case, which BlueAnt ecologically mention can be re-purposed into a vase or other container.  Nice touch.  Inside the box is the headset, a brief guide, earhook, USB cable and charger.

The Q1 feels smart and solid with a brushed black metallic finish.  It may not have the design exuberance of Aliph’s Jawbone, but it still looks sleek and expensive. Read our full review of the BlueAnt Q1…

Feb 18, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Android gets Flash

The Apple Flash issue came to the fore recently when  Steve Jobs announced the iPad and today Google dropped a flash bomb on Cupertino by adding Flash to Android.

As we and much of the world noted recently, the iPhone and subsequent Apple devices running its OS such as the iPod Touch and iPad do not support Flash.  This means that they need special apps to access certain internet media content like YouTube videos and many websites just don’t work on those devices.  Windows Phone 7, announced on Monday, will also initially ship without Flash support.  Today however Google announced that Flash 10.1 will be available for Android, setting up the platform to offer a unique feature set in the smartphone market.

We know that Flash can be a resource hog on full power computers, sometimes causing Macs to crash, so I was curious to see how fluid the experience would be.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find this demo of a Motorola Droid running Flash videos on YouTube in a browser perfectly, and even managing to switch from portrait to landscape without missing a beat.  Can iPhone and Windows Phone 7 really afford to sit this one out?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 17, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, News, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 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

YouTube Speed Dashboard tells you if you’re getting what you’re paying for

Google has been aiming to get us going full speed on the Internet and its latest initiative on YouTube is another part of that effort.  YouTube Speed Dashboard analyzes your download speed over time and shows comparatives to other users of your ISP as well as cohabitants of your city, state, country and planet.  It’s certainly interesting to see how download speed can fluctuate between different days, although we don’t know too much about how the analysis is being constructed.  For example what happens if you don’t watch any YouTube videos on a given day; is that day recorded as zero MB/s or hopefully just discounted from the analysis?  Judging by the chart above we clearly have no such worries as it looks like we watch plenty of content!  So do our readers in fact, who just hit 40,000 views of our videos.

In any case it’s really cool to see how you’re doing, and gives you some firepower to use in a phone call to your ISP if you believe you’re being shortchanged.  Check out your own results at YouTube Speed Dashboard.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Computing, News, Software | , , , | Leave a comment

Skullcandy creates one-offs for NBA All-Stars

Skullcandy has come out with some tricked out cans in commemoration of Sunday’s NBA All Star game.  The personalized headgear, which feature one-touch muting, left or right side cabling and a closed back design was handed to each player.  So if you’re reading this wondering where to get a pair, you’re probably not in the game line-up.  No word yet on whether these will go on general sale, but it sure would be cool to see them on the shelves of my local electronics emporium.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | 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

TEKNICA: Episode 1

Welcome to our new video podcast, TEKNICA (Tech News I Care About).  We’re planning for TEKNICA to be a weekly super-concise roundup of tech news and we want to make it great for you.  Tell us what you think…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 18, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , | Leave a comment

Acer 1410 review

P1020390Here it is: Acer’s very own netbook killer. Hmmm…that doesn’t sound right, after all Acer is the number one seller of netbooks globally. Nevertheless that’s what I believe we’re seeing here and kudos to Acer for giving consumers more options, although to be fair at $449 the 1410 is pricier than a typical netbook.

What makes the 1410 (sold elsewhere as the 1810T) stand out from the netbook crowd? It’s running an Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processor giving superb battery life and decent horsepower, just like the recently released MSI X340 the Lenovo U350 and Dell Inspiron 11z (which actually has a weaker Celeron ULV) . Like those other laptops, the 1410 packs Intel’s GMA4500MHD graphics chipset which is HD capable. This new market sector of ultraportables is not yet named but I’ll call it DNP, or Darn Near Perfect, combining decent power, portability and great battery life.

P1020381Other notable specs include 2GB RAM (4GB max), 250GB hard drive and 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N WiFi. Including its six cell battery the 1410 weighs just 3.1lb and offers unplugged runtime of up to six hours according to Acer.

Look & feel of the Acer 1410

The 1410 sports an 11.6 inch screen so the laptop is pretty small, and although not super-thin at just over one inch thick, it feels slim enough. There’s the usual assortment of ports with the handy addition of HDMI, making it a snap to hook up the 1410 to a home setup for Netflix and the like, for those without an Xbox 360 or internet-enabled TV already serving that purpose.

The chassis feels just OK, with lots of shiny plastic covering the top surfaces. Overall it looks pretty nice. As with many of the recent slew of small plastic notebooks, if you treat them well they should stand the test of time.

There are accessible compartments beneath the 1410 which bodes well for tinkerers, just be careful of those warranty conditions!  I also liked the dedicated hardware buttons for turning wireless connections on/off, which is far preferable to the function-key or software implementation on some other laptops.

Playing around with the Acer 1410

The 1410 also sports Acer’s new Timeline style keyboard. The keys are big, although there’s not much travel and there is a fair amount of flex, but I found it easy to use accurately. The MSI Wind U100 still has the best keyboard feel in the small laptop sector in my opinion.  The 1410’s trackpad feels good, and the dedicated left and right buttons are a welcome addition compared to the single bar adorning some modern day laptops.

Unfortunately the screen is a glossy one, which annoyingly reflects light sources making the screen difficult to see sometimes. The 1410’s screen is bright and perfectly usable though as long as the screen is positioned to avoid reflections. I understand that glossy screens look shiny on store shelves, but I’ve never met anyone who liked using them. Hopefully one day they will just go away and we’ll be back to the good ol’ days of matte screens which don’t reflect light so much.

The 1410 ships with Vista Premium, which felt perfectly snappy when moving around the OS.  I detected no significant lag in general operation and Windows Media Center opened faster than my Windows 7 version at home on my (very old) living room Pentium 4 single core PC.

Multimedia comparison between the Acer 1410 and the MSI X340

P1020395The 1410 has speakers somewhere in that case…let’s just say they’re not the powerful kind. Whilst not entirely unexpected, headphones or an external connection are necessary to get the best out of the 1410. The MSI X340 has more powerful speakers from my time with that laptop.

One of the selling points of the 1410 is it’s GMA4500MHD graphics chipset which promises HD video playback. So I tried the Coral Reef Adventure clips from Microsoft’s HD content showcase. The 1410 handled a 720p clip with no problems, just like the MSI X340. It is really really difficult to see the difference between a 720p and a 1080p clip on an 11.6 inch screen, but for the record the 1410 played the 1080p clip of the same content perfectly. The X340 slowed to an unwatchably slow frame-rate on the 1080p clip.

Is the Acer 1410 a keeper?

My overall impressions of the 1410 are extremely positive. It’s netbook sized, but has the horsepower to handle HD video and the battery life to go the distance on a decent length flight. It’s the best of this new breed so far in my opinion; it bests the MSI X340 on video performance, the Dell Inspiron 11z on raw power and pretty much anything decent on price. I have a feeling this could be a big seller for Acer.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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

Neil Berman now also posting on BerryReporter

I’m now contributing to BerryReporter :-)

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jul 14, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton@CES – Images of CES 2009

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 10, 2009 Posted by | CES, Hardware | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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