Saturday, April 5, 2014

UPDATED Surface Pro 2 - The New Focus of This Blog


Since March 27 I have been flirting with the iPad Air again. Microsoft has done an incredible job of developing Office for the iPad. It is truly an iPad-centric App, with probably 20-30% of the feature set of Office 2013, but they are the 80% most users need on a regular basis. The iPad is a thin, light, beautiful fusion of glass and aluminum, with a wonderful 4:3 retina screen, with an incredible battery life and a vast catalog of high quality software...


Why? Well, I was explaining to another lawyer in the office today how good Office for iOS was:
  • It had "most" of the features of Office 2013. No, it couldn't compare drafts, but you could track changes.
  • No, it couldn't print (yet - I know this is coming). It had perfect file fidelity.
  • Of course, you have to use OneDrive for storing and sharing files, but you "could" use an App called FileBrowser to search the server files, "Open In" Word, then duplicate it to your iPad itself.
  • No, you can't open a browser and Word onscreen, but you could double tap the Home button and select between the two.
  • You can't just move files from the server to your iPad, but you could use that FileBrowser App again to "Open In" Goodreader or another App so they could be stored on the iPad.
  • Or you could always email the file to yourself back and forth to copy from and save back to the office server
  • Typing on glass is "OK" but you'll probably want a keyboard case for anything lengthy.
The more I kept answering questions, the more I realized I was going through a hell of a lot of work-arounds to do all of the things my Surface Pro 2 does natively - file browsing and manipulation; versioning file drafts; saving work product on our server; printing; saving files to different formats; work on multiple documents at the same time (I never do a Will without powers of attorney); have more than one document open onscreen at a time; hook up an external monitor (or two).

So I went back to my office and began to seriously consider what my iPad Air COULD do that my Surface Pro 2 couldn't...

Well, there is some software that is VASTLY superior on an iPad compared to a Windows device
  • Kindle Reader
  • WestlawNext
  • NextIssue (a great multi-magazine subscription service)
  • National Geographic
  • Zinio (another digital subscription service)
  • Proview (a Thomson/West Publishing book reader)
Hmmmmm...not doing too well defending my stunning, sexy, makes me look cool at Starbucks device...keep trying...

Lots of keyboard choices, and the best of the lot, the Zaggkeys Cover, is excellent, backlit, metal match to the space gray iPad Air. When closed, it looks like a MacBook Air cool... but...the iPad Air with Zaggkeys Cover weighs over two pounds; the Surface Pro 2 and cover about 2 1/2 pounds. It's still as little thinner and smaller overall than the SPro2, but not all that much.

CLINCHER(S):  For the SPro2
  • It is a full Haswell computer. 8GB ram; 512GB SSD
  • Add monitors (2 x WQHD), keyboard, and mouse and you have a real desktop
  • WACOM + OneNote - 'nough said
  • Full Office 2013 (if you pay, but you gotta pay for Office on iPad too)
  • Outlook - iPad Mail is good, Outlook + OneNote is stellar
  • Print anything anywhere - local, network, or wireless printer
  • File browsing, copy, move - on device, network, VPN (and side by side windows)
  • Offline files - you can keep mirrored copies of any network file or directory on your SPro2 for editing or reference at any time
  • All the legacy Windows software you could ask for
  • USB 3 port and mSDXC card slot
  • Sturdy kickstand - much better than Apple smart cover stand (don't touch or it'll tip over)
  • I can just keep the file on the SPro2 and carry it, rather than OneDrive-it
  • Did I mention the joys of having a real file system
And that just scratched the surface (yes, pun intended). Why is exactly that I need an iPad Air AND a Surface Pro 2?

Steve Jobs said there are trucks (PC's) and cars (iPad), and we are now post-PC. I feel the Surface Pro 2 introduces a third paradigm, a crossover SUV. Less fuel efficient, heavier, more passenger and cargo room, but not a Ford F150. So I've decided to stick with my two pound "porker" which is not as sleek and design-worthy as an iPad Air, and it won't turn heads and impress baristas at Starbucks, but maybe that's not what it is supposed to be all about.

Have I learned my lesson - no, I'm sure my head will be turned by the next pretty aluminum ankle, ESPECIALLY if it is an 8" glass/metal stunner with WACOM tucked into the frame and 10 hour battery life...

[UPDATE] While at Best Buy today I did a little keyboard case comparison shopping between the Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2, and various iPad Air keyboard covers. Excluding the Zaggkeys Cover (which only cover the keyboard, but is a near perfect match for the design and shape of the iPad Air), ALL of the keyboard covers are as thick, if not a little thicker, than a Surface Pro 2 and TC2. A bit of an unfair comparison, because there is no protection for the back of the SPro 2, but enlightening in itself that I am only saving about 3/4" length in that briefcase over the SPro 2/TC2 combo. Maybe I'm just reveling in Jeff Goldblum size "juicy rationalizations" (all you millennials need to go rent The Big Chill right now if you don't know what I'm talking about), but I keep wondering why I keep trying to go even smaller than this full feature workhorses.

PS - the iPad Air is resetting for its return to Apple... 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend...

So - Who's the Sharpshooter?

Actually, more like who ARE the sharpshooters? This morning's entry is clearly a case of speculation, but I see the fingerprints of Cook and Nadella all over this issue. Android is running wild in the phone and tablet markets; Google advertising is like printing money; and they still rule the cloud - so who is a bigger "enemy" for either Apple or Microsoft. Remember, Jobs said Microsoft doesn't have to lose for Apple to win, and yet he also said he would go all nuclear over Google.
Microsoft has now released a top flight office suite for the iPad; their Office for Mac 2011, although dated, is still better for professional quality desktop work than iWork, and MS is promising a new Office 2014 for Mac this year. In fact, Office for Mac and iPad affords Apple the opportunity to minimally upgrade iWork for the truly faithful (who will NEVER understand what Jobs was getting at) and rely on Microsoft to do the heavy lifting on professional grade productivity tools for Apple's power house tablet and desktop operating systems.
Although they compete as if at war in operating systems, there is no doubt that no hardcore user of OS X or Windows 7-8x would dare consider flipping to the other side. So what to do about this interloper disguised as a search company - make common cause where reasonable and pinch them from both sides. Did you really think the Apple-Samsung war is about a "me-too" smartphone - no, it's aimed at the heart - Android. This is all going to be fun to watch...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

[UPDATED] Meet Office for iPad!

Yes - it is real.

Yes - you'll have to have an Office 365 subscription to edit or create documents.

Yes - it is MUCH MORE full featured than we all imagined.

Yes - fidelity with docx, xlsx, and ppsx formats (even document markup - YES!)

Yes - it is truly an iPad-centric app; not just a lame conversion of Windows Office.

Yes - it makes the iPad Air a compelling companion device.

See the demo and then check out the early reviews by Thurrott and Ulanoff:

Microsoft Webcast - iPad for iOS

Paul Thurrott - An iPad Skeptic is Impressed

Lance Ulanoff - Microsoft Got a Lot Right

(Screen captures courtesy of Supersite for Windows - who else would get it right)

[UPDATE]  The holy wars have begun, with fanboys on both sides throwing tactical nukes; the Apple iPad faithful being much more strident in "how dare they charge for this" and "too little too late" and "we have better/cheaper/free alternatives" - then I ran across this comment to the CNet review of Office for iPad by reader oxtail01 which summarized the situation perfectly:

Let's get one thing straight here. This announcement is not for a small minority of "see how smug I am that I don't use MS Office show-offs". It IS about a large number of users on iPads who sees this as a positive announcement and which most of the tech world seems to consider as "big news". Please, all you numb nuts who declare your "freedom" from MS are like those nerds who just have to point out they turned a perfectly fine computer or tablet into a Linux or Ubuntu kaka. HELLO, you don't have to shout your ignorance for the whole world to see - it's not about YOU!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

BRILLIANT IDEA - Microsoft Should Buy Wacom!

Props to Christian Matthew for what he called an "Epic Rant" over at WPCentral, with a simple but absolutely brilliant idea - Microsoft should buy Wacom:
I've ranted here numerous times that OneNote is Microsoft's greatest software development and the secret sauce for tablet dominance, and the recent release of a free version of OneNote for OS X, to go with Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android, places it in the perfect position to dominatet eh note taking space (look out Evernote, here comes the 800 pound gorilla).
The logical next step, as Christian points out, is to snap up Wacom and make it a free add-on for Microsoft users. While you're at it Satya, tell Elop to double-time it and get us a Nokia Lumia 1020H (for handwriting) and bake that ink support into RT and Windows Phone 8.1 so we have ubiquitous note taking across the platform...THAT would be a much better hostage to hold people in the Windows fold than withholding Office from iOS ever was.
As for his toss out add-on about Adobe...likewise brilliant but a real stretch. Cost would be astronomical, and PDF is a universal standard across all OS platforms, a real burden to bear for would be too close to open source to be workable.

Monday, March 24, 2014

[UPDATED] A New Direction - There is No Place Like Home (Surface Pro 2)

Bear With Me, This One is Going to Get Messy...

[UPDATE] Reader MDbulldog taught me that I am having to constantly re-learning "there is no place like home" again and again as if stuck with Bill Murray in Groundhog Day:

At the risk of losing the last of the credibility I have in the area of convertible tablets and the Windows 8 experience, I tacked and changed course...again...

I bought an iPad Air...

For the handful of masochists who are still reading, allow me to explain how this became a mistake and the lesson(s) I learned:

I have been running a parallel universe with an iPad Air and various Windows tablets at different times over the past few months. It started as lust and envy for incredible design and build quality that is an iPad. The thing "just works" exactly like so many fanboys claim. Jobs NAILED the aspect ratio. 4:3 is perfect for reading papers, magazines, web pages, almost anything. I am so tired for whiners complaining about black bars above and below their beloved movies; what a worthless complaint. Games are better; reading is better; even using it as a half-baked laptop replacement is better. I was growing tired of poor build (Asus, Toshiba, Acer), too small 8" screens, , "stuff" being in different places.

With the euphoria of last Monday's revelation that Office for iOS would be announced this coming Thursday (3/27), I even made an impassioned defense of the iPad Air in business over at Tablet PC Review. Microsoft's stock jumped 5% on Tuesday, almost exclusively on the news of a rumor of a release. So much pent up demand, so much desire for file level fidelity with doc, xls, pps; so much hope for us Office drones that live and die with Office every day...

And then today I came to my senses....

No matter how good the iPad Air may be, there is no ink support, and that's not something Microsoft can do anything about. Most users don't realize that the ink support is built into the Windows operating system itself.  I knew that going in, but I unrealistically underestimated just how much I would miss my note taking buddy. I miss my OneNote and Wacom pen beyond description.
Reality check number 2 - no matter how good Office for iOS may or may not be, it will never match desktop Office. Just look at OneNote MX, which on a Windows 8 tablet is a shadow of OneNote 2013, and OneNote for iOS is a subset of OneNote MX...go figure...
Reality check number 3 - that old nemesis of mine - the visceral desire to have everything in one place, on one device, and available all the time, got me again. This is where the circular (il)logic finally beat me down again. I wasn't happy with the two device juggling of the Asus and Acer Aspire V7...both good devices, but still not a unified whole. So I figured if I had to use two devices, why not give that sexy iPad Air another try. So then I had three devices - iPad, Asus, and Acer. Soon the Asus dropped by the wayside (terrible WiFi performance at home - wouldn't hold a connection after sleeping) and besides, the Air just looked so cool...

[UPDATE] Reality check number 4 - NO FILE SYSTEM - since everything is containerized (which is a good example, think of cargo containers) you end up with each file in multiple containers if it is touched by different apps for viewing, editing, annotating - WHERE WAS FILE EXPLORER WHEN I NEEDED IT!
For lawyers, there's a lot of interesting and useful software on iPad just for lawyers. Fastcase is a quick and handy Westlaw supplement (free); many different statute and case services; multiple different ways to open and annotate PDF's; file browsing on a network...but still, it was all a case of multiple work-a-rounds; using two and three different apps to accomplish one task; no way to look at more than one thing at a time. While Apple has nailed the reader/browser experience, it is just not up to the task of general office use, with or without the pending iOffice. So what's a guy to do?


That's right sports fans BACK TO THE SPRO 2. Circles seem to be my favorite geometric pattern, because every rabbit trail I travel leads me right back to Microsoft's flagship tablet-laptop-desktop whatever it is, device of choice.
Is it too fat?  Yes by about 0.2"
Is it too heavy?  Yes by 0.75#
Is it to narrow?  I would kill to find out who decided 16:9 is a good aspect ratio - AND choke them!
Is it my device of choice...yes again. Cohesive; fast; large storage (for an outrageous price); and the best keyboard/cover combination of ANY tablet device. So my wife, and American Express, have pleaded - no demanded - that I get off the merry-go-round and stick with one device, any device, longer than its return period. In fact, I may lose all buying privileges with Best Buy, Microsoft, Apple, AT&T, and my office manager, if I keep this up. So Surface Pro 2 - 512GB it is...again. This time it is for keeps (or until MS releases the Broadwell SPro 3 in the Surface 2 case with 16:10 and LTE).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

[UPDATED] Back to Two Devices - Asus May Have A Winner on Its Hands

ASUS VivoTab Note 8 - 64GB

[UPDATE] - I originally proclaimed that Asus has winner on its hands - which has now become a qualified "may" - apparently others would differ, especially users over at Tablet PC Review (check the "Owner Lounge" and "Reviews" threads for more details) and yours truly, with various pen and wifi problems - Caveat Emptor!]

[UPDATE 2] - I returned mine. WiFi rarely recovered from sleep mode (would have to stop and restart WiFi whenever it woke up) and the pen intermittently quits as well - what a shame...

Well, we are back in the companion device camp again thanks to my pals over at Tablet PC Review's Asus formula and member Ionaysta, who pointed us to the short-lived link at Microsoft Store to buy the Asus Vivotab Note 8 - 64GB model. Like all of these new 8" Windows 8.1 tablets, it has a handful of compromises, BUT IT HAS WACOM! It's like having a Galaxy Note 8 with Windows 8.1. It is a note take's dream - BEHOLD MY NEW WORKSPACE:

Yes, I am a big screen PIG. Beast [the Acer Aspire V7 582PG-6421 - Haswell i5, full HD IPS, 8GB ram, 1TB SSD (my upgrade)] drives two 27" 2560x1440 WQHD monitors (an Asus PA with pass through to the old Auria on the right), with Mini-Beast filling the note taker position (AVN8-64GB). I will begin a new series of posts this weekend explaining how I got here, WHY the Mini-Beast has already survived 9 days on my 30 day return window, why this is working so well for me - and above all, the need for EVERY Windows 8+ user to become familiar with OneNote!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The REAL Failure of Windows 8.1

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Microsoft is coming to the rescue of cheap device manufacturers and will only charge $15 for licenses on sub-$250 devices, but is STICKING to its $50 license fee for plus $250 devices.


I'm as much of a capitalist as anyone could be, but I can't see why every OEM doesn't just throw up their hands and customize their own Android tablet and call it a day. No wonder Samsung leaves us hanging out there with the best S-Pen Wacom experience but only a minuscule handful of "me-too" devices instead of Windows 8.1 versions of the Note 10.1, Pro 12.2, and Galaxy Note 3. 

So this means what was supposed to be the $299 Asus VivoTab Note 8 (32GB model) turned out to be $329 because Microsoft gets $50 off the top? Even at the $30 "large global computer incentive" price, that EXACTLY explains the up-charge from the announced to the actual selling price. Windows 8.1 OEM's don't stand much of a chance with BOTH hands tied behind their backs.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Didn't He Just Say He Was Through With Surface???????

Yes, he did, and then he went to a guardianship hearing....

In my practice, I don't go to court often. More of an office practitioner. Then last week, among several "deal closings" I had to shuffle between client offices and a guardianship hearing for a long time, now elderly, client. And guess wasn't all there on that itty-bitty Asus VivoTab Note 8. Again I was stymied by "settling" for a multi-device solution.

Now, the remaining six readers I have left should recognize that I have not given the in-depth review of the AVN8 that I had promised. Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Very small, light, and mobile
  • Mediocre screen - major league fingerprint/smudge magnet
  • Screen also has "rough patches" which can't be seen but felt with pen while writing
  • Pretty good Wacom performance; weak within 1cm of edges
  • Plastic casing is nothing to write home about
  • Good WiFi performance
  • Speed and responsiveness very good
  • It's going back to Microsoft
Why is it going back - because the 8" screen is just too small for fast paced note taking during a meeting. I felt I was scrolling around a lot like you have to do on an iPad. Plus, 32GB, even with 64GB mSDXC, is not sufficient for all the junk I keep finding I need whether or not I have internet access.

That first reason deserves a better explanation. I found that the 8" screen, even with Wacom goodness, is not enough real estate for my old hands when it comes to note taking. Plus, this tablet lives for portrait mode, but I take notes in landscape in order to get the "feel" of a regular sheet (width) of paper. For many people, this will be a good quick note taking option (think small moleskin), but for me, it was just too small, and just introduces a third device to my life for no good reason. I'm beginning to see why some of my friends swear by a Galaxy Note 3/Surface combination rather than three separate devices - a phone device for the pinch hitting duties when the real computer is not around. It seems like my smartphone (iPhone 5) is NEVER far from my side, and I could see how a little note taker like the GN3 would be handy - but it is ANDROID - no, not ANOTHER OS in my life...

As for that SPro 2 - thanks to Best Buy's overly generous 45 day return policy for tech addicts, it hadn't quite made its way back to hell as I envisioned in last week's post. I dusted it off, updated the display and USB drivers as my friends at Tablet PC Review recommended, and it has been clean and sober for 72 hours now. Somehow, I've got to develop a little patience (which may have come in the form of my office manager who informed me there will be no more returns/exchanges/upgrades or shenanigans on her watch!) - wait...this is me we are talking about...I seem to remember penning a blog post about patience not being a virtue...

So, I am going to refocus my attention, and this blog, on making the best case I can for Surface Pro 2 and the Windows 8.1 tablet experience in the business world. That includes shining a big spotlight on OneNote, Microsoft's unsung hero (or red headed stepchild).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Asus VivoTab Note 8 - In the On-Deck Circle


And the Merry Band at Tablet PC Review - Asus VN8. Over the weekend, news broke of the release of the Asus VivoTab Note 8 at the Microsoft Store (online and in the brick & mortar locations). Although it is only the 32GB version, by Sunday afternoon it was getting near impossible to get an order through, thanks to my eagle-eyed pals at Tablet PC Review I was able to snag one (at least according to UPS, the Microsoft Store is shipping something to me). 

Is this the Companion my Acer Aspire has been looking for? Sure hope so. Reports from Europe (who has had it for a week to ten days now) and the first brick & mortar purchasers at Tablet PC Review is that it is good - ESPECIALLY for OneNote addicts (YES!) - but it does have its faults/compromises (Wacom edge inaccuracy; no HDMI out; 32GB models only; screen a little "dull" compared to Dell Venue 8 Pro), but overrall, reviewers seem to hail it as the best student/business 8" tablet available, almost exclusively because of Wacom goodness stored INSIDE the frame in the form of a thin, lite, and perhaps less than satisfying Wacom "stick." Since I like the S-Pen, I think this is going to be just dandy, and I have several Wacom full size pens to go along with it as well. Best of all, it was only $329 (I say "was" because it was out of stock by Monday morning). Now we just need to keep our eyes peeled for the 64GB model...

Here's a little something to keep you entertained while waiting (From Chippy at UMPCPortal):

"The ASUS Vivotab Note 8 is now available in the US Microsoft Store [Update: Now out of stock] and that’s great news because the ASUS Vivotab Note 8 is turning out to be one of the best 8-inch Windows tablets there is."

Friday, February 7, 2014


Insanity Continues - I Am Through with Surface!

Regular followers (all six of you) know that it has been an insane twelve months since I bought that first Surface Pro (generation one) in the pursuit of a "one device solution." My last post explained that Microsoft "convinced" me to give the Surface Pro 2 another try....

Well, so much for that folly. I sit here typing away on my trusty Acer Aspire V7 ultrabook, pining for some sort of RELIABLE Wacom note-taking device, and trying to figure out how to get the SPro 256 going enough to send it back to hell (where it belongs). It too seems to hate display port, at least the two monitor rig, as it crashed and burned again this afternoon, losing USB as well. Had to uninstall both the video and USB ports, restart and re-install, but still no USB 3. It's looking more and more like another system reset, so it is going back to where it was spawned.

Maybe it's just me - I know a lot of folks love their SPro 2's, but it has been three straight disasters (three strikes and you are out). Since the Haswell based Acer Aspire V7 ALWAYS comes back to life right where I left it (2 weeks ago this time) with still more than half its battery life, maybe I should learn that sexy ain't all that it is cracked up to be.

So the journey continues unabated, this time without any backup Wacom device (sold the ThinkPad Tablet 2 to help pay for this fix). Have been keeping an eye on the Asus Vivotab Note 8, but reports from Europe (over at Tablet PC Review) are hardly encouraging. I won't buy another used Lenovo - keep losing money on the eBay flips, so I guess I'll just put away the stylus for a while until something really pops - ThinkPad Tablet 3 anyone...