November 28, 2010
Right before the Thanksgiving break, Acer was in town to talk touch. Android slates of various sizes and a 10” Windows tablet with keyboard dock were announced along with a 10” Windows tablet that will be accompanied by a keyboad dock.
But the signature product was Iconia, a dual-screen 14” Windows notebook that follows in the footsteps of such dual-screen devices as the Kno tablet and the Toshiba Libretto W105 that I got to try for a bit earlier this year. As with the Libretto W, I found typing on the Iconia’s lower display to be surprisingly comfortable. Of course, I didn’t get to type anything of great length on it, but even from my initial trial, I’d likely rather use its keyboard than the iPad’s keyboard for even a few hundred word. in fact, I didn’t make a single typing error. The one caveat was that I needed to take a moment to orient my fingers on the lower screen, but from there it was smooth sailing, as I imagine it would be for most touch-typists.
There’s still much that isn’t known about the Iconia, such as what its battery life will be or how much it will cost. Going with a 14” main display puts it in the heart of screen size volumes, but I still think that the limited nature of a display-based keyboard lends itself better to a smaller screen size — not as small as the Libretto W105, but something closer to a mainstream netbook.
Tags: Acer, dual-screens, Iconia, iPad, keyboards, new form factors, QWERTY, Toshiba Libretto W105, touch screens, Windows
September 12, 2010
Long before the launch of the iPad or the introduction of the smartbook concept, a client asked me what I thought about the idea of netbooks that didn’t run Windows. Versions of the ASUS Eee and HP Mini had been available with Linux distributions, but were ultimately cancelled in the face of consumers’ overwhelming preference for Windows on those devices. If it walks like a mouse being used on Windows, consumers expect to use it with a mouse being used with Windows. Now, SlashGear notes that Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs says that the iPad has delivered the concept of “always-on, all–day devices” that smartbooks had originally promised.
I read that comment as potential validation, but SlashGear frames it as a concession. If Jacobs has indeed taken up the white flag from Shantanu Narayen, It’s oddly timed given the barrage of ARM-powered Android tablets that are in the works. Archos, for example, just announced a whole family of Internet tablets (if you can call a device with a 3.2” screen a tablet as they do) and Samsung has announced the highest-profile iPad competitor to date in the Galaxy Tab (more on that name later).
So perhaps the term smartbook, like netbook, implies a keyboard – something that wasn’t the case in concept videos shown early on by Qualcomm. The Lenovo Skylight (pictured) was shelved, but promised to return one day running Android. Challenges abound. Not only is Android is not optimized for larger screens, but it needs a staple of applications to fill in the gaps with Windows (something Linux actually had for productivity in OpenOffice). Furthermore, channel, task and usage scenario overlap with Windows becomes more pronounced.
Over time, though, consumers may be more accepting of a keyboard-equipped smartbook. As the SlashGear post notes, HP and Toshiba have dabbled in the market. The paradox is that consumers need more successful non-Windows tablets like the iPad to understand such a device with a keyboard. Apple probably won’t produce one, but has opened the door to accessory makers to create an equivalent, and others will. The key for these vendors is to show consumers that even keyboard-enabled smartbooks are not neutered netbooks, but supersized smartphones.
Samsung appears to recognize that in using the “Galaxy” brand across its smartphones and the Tab, but it is both a new brand and one that has been subdued (at least in the U.S.) under the monikers that various carriers have given it. In any case, consumers have of course accepted physical keyboards on smartphones (with at least one successful clamshell feature phone that may be Android-bound).
Tags: Apple, Archos, ClamCase, Internet tablets, iPad, keyboards, netbooks, Qualcomm, SlashGear, smartbooks, tablets, touch, Windows
April 26, 2010
At Paul Thurott’s Supersite for Windows, Paul Thurott agrees with a recent John Dvorak column noting that Microsoft is losing the PR war by being quiet, that it should be raising the volume now in advance of Windows 8, that the successful response to the relatively quiet launch of Windows 7 happened only because Vista was a disappointment, that not every product should be kept secret until just before its launch in the way Apple launches products, and that not every product should be launched the way Windows 7 was launched.
I agree with Thurrott that Microsoft has turned down the bombast and advance exposure to many of its key products, some good recent example being Windows Phone 7 and Kin devices, but not that it is out of the conversation. It is difficult to say if the “new humility” – or a convincing impersonation of it — has resulted in warmer receptions by the media, but I believe it has. More significantly, Microsoft is paying more attention to the user experience across its products in general. This doesn’t mean that Microsoft is trying to emulate Apple, although like Apple Microsoft is increasingly speaking through its products. Putting up and shutting up are not mutually exclusive.
Incidentally, it is quite amusing to read in the piece that, when it comes to promoting Apple’s products such as the iPad, according to Thurrott, “the press markets it for them, and makes people believe that this is somehow a big deal. It’s a self-replicating back-patting, buddy system, plain and simple.” A few dozen pixels to the right of that statement is the site’s tag cloud, which includes, among the most frequent terms, “Apple” and “iPhone.”
Tags: Apple, John Dvorak, Microsoft, Paul Thorrott, secrecy, Windows, Windows Supersite
September 19, 2008
Now that I’ve used a bit of parody to point out how some of Microsoft’s challenges with Vista aren’t really its fault, I’m again addressing Microsoft’s Vista commercials. I didn’t find the second Gates-Seinfeld spot to have as pronounced a latent message as the first, although I defended both ads’ general direction in a podcast discussion with Gene Steinberg this week (iTunes link here, MP3 file here).
The new “I’m a PC” commercial, Web presence, and what Michael Gartenberg points out to be the social aspects, though, take things in a different direction and is doing unto Apple what Apple did to Vista, mischaracterize it. As I said early on in the Get a Mac campaign, one reason the commercials worked was that they avoided the bad taste that the Switcher campaign left in many PC users’ mouths. The “Get a Mac” ads don’t really stereotype PC users, they stereotype the PC (although Hodgman’s behavior has become more bizarre as the campaign has progressed.). Reassociating the person and the platform again portrays Apple as the snide PC user-mocking company of yore. However, with Apple’s surge over the past few years and Apple stores opening their doors to millions of PC users, can that label stick? And are even satisfied PC users offended by the “Get a Mac” campaign?
The ad also evokes recent Microsoft advertising history as this notion of the PC as an empowering tool sounds very similar to Microsoft’s messaging in the “Wow starts now” ads that ran at he launch of Vista, with the new twist that acknowledges Windows’ ubiquity (which Get a Mac has also done in an ad in which PC says, “I’m still the king.”) . But that’s not necessarily bad. It reinforces that — while there may be more cause to grumble than on a Mac — the vast majority of the vast array of Vista users are being productive on the platform.
Tags: advertising, Apple, commercials, Microsoft, Windows
September 5, 2008
It’s a bit out there — particularly with the ethereal music and outtakes of shoes in the shower and Spanish-speaking onlookers — but I give the first Seinfeld commercial for Microsoft a thumbs-up for a few reasons.
We often think of Microsoft today as a sprawling entity which, even in the consumer market, fighting three fronts online against Google, in videogames against Sony, and in the MP3 market versus Apple. Gates, however, is strongly identified with the PC, and reintroducing him to the public after all the media around his retirement brings back some of the lightheartedness associated with his public persona. The club card is probably the funniest part of the ad and maybe a bit of a nod to Jerry’s old Amex commercials. (That said, I think some of Gates’ CES videos were funnier than this commercial.)
It’s a good teaser, and the talk about cake at the end creates an intriguing positive association reinforced by the word “Delicious.” But the commercial is more than a teaser. The whole “shoe that fits” scenario is a clear lead-in to finding the right PC for you, which brings a fresh and more relevant spin to the old arguments of Windows offering more choice.
Finally, it’s “getting people talking” and focusing attention away from the bad publicity around Vista that’s had fuel thrown on its fire by another pair of guys.
Tags: microsoft commercial, seinfeld, Windows
March 12, 2008
Ars Technica writes about an interesting new package being released by longstanding Mac and Windows developer Symantec that is surely a sign of the times. Symantec is bundling Windows and Mac versions of its Anti-Virus protection in one package for Mac users who are running virtualization software from Parallels or VMWare, One can now Seussically say that Norton clears for two.
I haven’t considered the ability to run Windows programs as a functional driver of the success behind in the wake of Apple’s Intel transition, (although the assurance that it can has probably removed some psychological barriers), pinning it down more to price/performance improvements. However, apparently Symantec believes that double-dipping Mac users will appreciate the extra, and perhaps proactive, security blanket even though, as Ars notes:
While we haven’t heard any reports of a virus striking a Windows VM and taking advantage of this Mac OS X directory access, it certainly is theoretically possible. There are also products like MacDrive which can grant read/write access of an entire Mac-formatted volume to versions of Windows from 98 on. Both of these situations could bring a Mac’s OS X boot volume into the sights of a malicious application.
I also continue to be surprised (but only slightly) that Apple has not included virtualization itself in the OS by simply buying Parallels or developing their own solution. Apple has supported other architectures before and advertised the Mac’s ability to run Windows on national TV (in two different commercials). Apple describes Boot Camp as an option that mazimizes compatibility, but the tradeoff in convenience is not worth it for most users. Besides, including virtualization software would allow Apple to make a stronger case for beefier Mac configurations.
Finally, speaking of Windows running on Macs, I seem to remember some statements from Microsoft that it would clarify its OS support of the hardware once Boot Camp became released code, which it now is. I suppose Microsoft has its hands full supporting Vista on machines that it has already certified, even those it perhaps shouldn’t have.
Tags: anti-virus, Apple, Boot Camp, Mac, Norton, Symantec, virtualization, viruses, Windows
January 29, 2008
Lifehacker has an update to its story about installing Mac OS X on a PC, creating what it calls a Hackintosh. Apple frowns on such a practice. Its tight control of hardware is part of what enables it to advance the platform with greater agility than Microsoft.
Comments to the story report generally good success with the hack. One commenter notes that he would use the technique to test-drive Mac OS X before buying a Mac.
With Apple taking the offensive against Vista, it might further entice Windows users to switch by allowing them to trial Mac OS X without having to buy into the hardware first. Like many Linux installation CDs, the Leopard trial DVD could run from the disc but not allow any modifications to the hard drive or allow consumers to save files.
On the other hand, there might of course be driver issues as well as sluggish performance coming off the DVD drive and the last thing Apple wants to convey to Windows users is a slow, unreliable experience. Insert your Microsoft OS joke here.
Tags: Leopard, Mac OS, switchers, trialware, Vista, Windows
December 19, 2007
For most of the time I’ve been aware of his platform proclivities, my cousin Alan, a cardiologist, was not much of a Mac fan. However, he recently purchased a MacBook Pro and is loving it. I think he is an interesting case study for how Apple is attracting more Windows users.
He first bought an iBook for his wife, a computer novice. Then he had interest in a way to run two computationally intensive Windows-only medical programs on a Mac. After debating Parallels and VMWare, he chose the latter. The result, he says, is just "amazing"; the programs are running well in VMWare’s "unity" mode which allows the running of Windows applications in the context of the Mac operating environment. He also praised the program’s automatic configuration for Windows XP.
He’s not blind to the Mac’s faults and still prefers the way Roxio dealt with rewriteable DVDs and CDs so he’s using that Wndows program under VMWare as well.
Tags: Macs, PCs, switchers, VMWare, Windows