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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Has Microsoft Given up on Sub-10" Devices?

Whither the Surface Mini?

What could have been...

Why was Office released for iOS, then Android, before Windows 8.x?

Why were both updated before the Windows version?

Why does everyone say it is still better on iOS and Android?

Why do so many other MS utilities debut on iOS and Android?

I think my questions actually answer the title question. Small Windows tablets suck;  the iPad and Android have an insurmountable lead and MS recognizes this, and has basically ceded the small  tablet space.

There is still a lot of speculation that the October event announcing the Surface Pro 4 will not only unveil the SPro 4, but THREE models, with 14", 12" and 8" screens. With Apple about to announce the iPad Mini 4, with split screen view, an 8" Surface Mini would be a good introduction, but I bet not. Like I said, I think Microsoft already believes the best Surface Mini is the iPad Mini. I hope I am wrong; I hope ALL THREE SIZES DEBUT, but my bet is on a Surface Pro 12" two-in-one, and a 14" ultrabook with MacBook Pro 15 specs...not too long to wait at this point...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Surface Pro 5...Anyone...Anyone?

Yes folks, I'm getting bored waiting for the Surface Pro 4, and the growing consensus of prognosticators is leaving me far less than impressed (of course, its the tock cycle, what should I expect). So folks, time to change the conversation to what WE WANT in the Surface Pro 5! Maybe, just maybe, they haven't already finalized the design (face facts, these things get pretty locked down LONG before announcement, much less release).

#1 - I'm going to start with something very controversial - DO NOT CHANGE THE FORM FACTOR. IF they can get an even more efficient fan-less design - STUFF IT FULL OF BATTERY. Really distinguish yourself from the iPad, and take note of what they've done on the Air and MacBook - tiny system boards and the rest crammed full of battery. We don't have to spend all our energy trying to invent the Twiggy of tablets/ultrabooks - some of us really do prefer Upton...

#2 - THREE Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports - very little space utilization; maximum throughput; excellent video and data performance - eliminate proprietary charger and us one of them for the dock! (See #7) Those three would barely require much more room than the regular USB and Mini DP. In fact, I am really hoping the lone Mini DP on the Surface Pro 3 gets a refresh with a single USB 3 Type C for now.

#3 - 8gb minimum and 16gb RAM upgrade - NO MORE 4gb. Offer 1tb SSD option.

#4 - NO MORE BEZELS! Make the whole screen THE WHOLE SCREEN. This is my pet peeve among everything else. You do not have to fear wanton thumbing - you can reject that in software (Apple does that in the iPad all the time). Imagine a Surface Pro 5 screen that looked like this.

#5 - PUT THE PEN IN A SILO - come on Microsoft, N-Trig has had that in development since 2012 - get on with it already. Then you can move on to a real Galaxy Note 5 competitor!

#6 - Type cover and mini-pen included in the box. Sick and tired of complaining reviewers; and a coupon to exchange an unopened keyboard for a colored model. We then have option to buy full size heavyweight pens for extended note taking.

#7 - Optional hard based (regular) keyboard with more battery. Make it a clamshell if you wnat.

#8 - Mini dock (to go with the Thunderbolt 3) so you could have expansion without the hulk on your desk - especially important for those of us that like to take notes on our SPro while still docked.

AND ABOVE ALL ELSE - fix connected standby once and for all. My Surface Pro 5 should NEVER use more than 2-3% of its battery overnight in sleep mode - I am sick and tired of battery drain in sleep mode!

OK - join the fun, or flame away for being an idiot when SPro 4 hasn't even seen the light of day yet. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Surface Pro 4 - October 4?

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors....

10/4 - Windows 10 and Surface Pro 4 - hmmmmmmmmmmm

Tom Warren, over at The Verge, has been Twitter teasing Surface Pro 4 for about two weeks, and is now quoting Chinese site WPDang for a blowout October hardware orgy by Microsoft. Warren's teases have been telling folks NOT to buy the Surface Pro 3 or there will be extreme buyer's remorse; better processors, screens, connectivity (USB C or Thunderbolt) may be coming - but here's what he said in the post above:

"Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 won't be a drastic change from the Pro 3 as the company has promised to keep the charging mechanism and overall form factor similar for businesses that have invested in accessories like the docking station. That doesn't mean Microsoft won't make big changes, though. The software giant can increase display size and resolution, while making the Surface Pro 4 thinner and lighter. Rumors have suggested Microsoft is planning Windows Hello support for the Surface Pro 4, but it's unlikely the company will fit an Intel RealSense camera into the thin device. Instead, a fingerprint scanner on an updated and refined Surface keyboard sounds more likely."

To revisit my thoughts about all this:

  • Same exact size (form factor)
  • Skylake upgrade across board (i3, i5, i7) with quieter fans (sorry, NOT fanless - that's Surface 3 territory)
  • USB 3 Type C replacing miniDP - you can still hook up DP, but you get a second USB this way, AND the dock gives you native DP out because of the bus connector
  • Improved keyboard cover (stiffer like Surface 3) with fingerprint reader
  • Will top out at 8gb RAM and 512gb SSD BECAUSE (wait for it)
I think there will be a surprise announcement of a 14"-15" 2-in-1 with a real (battery toting solid base) removable keyboard that makes it a true ultrabook/laptop, with XPS 13 type bezel-less screen - AND - will top out at 16gb RAM and 1tb SSD. Pure speculation, but I think a big surprise is coming...why

Surface 3 - rebranded Surface IK (for iPAd Killer)
Surface Pro 4 - rebranded Surface MK (for MacBook/Air Killer)
Surface Pro 14" - rebranded Surface MPK (for MacBook Pro Killer)



Hell HAS Frozen Over

James Kendrick "Windows 10: Pushing my MacBook and iPad aside"


OMG!



First - I like James Kendrick's column (I have been following him since the "JK on the Run" days). He is a true mobile computing expert, but he is a self-avowed Apple fanboy (he even says so in the article above). But he admits that not only have Windows 10 and Surface 3 taken over from his MacBook/iPad dynamic duo, but that he is developing a preference for them.

I do not want to try to convert the MacBook/iPad faithful - that's almost a religious conversion, but when reputable reporters like James give the Surface and Windows 10 their fair due, we have finally arrived. Tim Cook's "toaster and refrigerator" dig is going to go down in history with Ballmer's laughing/mocking of the original iPhone...

Thank you James...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I'll See Your iPad and Raise You a MacBook!

A MUST READ EVEN THREE MONTHS LATER!

Travis Pope wrote a great review of the Surface Pro 3 over at GottaBeMobile.com entitled Why My Surface Pro 3 is Better Than Your MacBook and iPad Air 2. This is a must read for all Surface owners, because it will help you explain WHY your Surface is the best hybrid device made. Travis distills it all down to a wonderful sound bite in the last sentence of the article:

"The Surface Pro 3 isn’t some device designed by someone who wants to tell me what it should be for. I bend the Surface Pro 3 to my will; I tell the Surface Pro 3 what kind of device I need and it obeys."

My point here is NOT to try to change the minds of the Apple faithful - that is as hopeless of a task as proving to a Hillary Clinton supporter why they should vote for Carli Fiorina (or vice versa). The issue is that there are millions of upgraders out there in the Windows world, a complete generation of high school, college, and post-grad users, all of whom would benefit with a hybrid; and the Surface devices are the best of the pack. But the mainstream tech media is rife with Apple sycophants. Just today, I called Galen Gruman at InfoWorld on lauding the laptop qualities of iOS 9, and denigrating the 2-in-1 experience in Windows 10 - and they DELETED my post.

I've now had an i5/256 or i7/512 Surface Pro 3 since release day. Travis is so right - it becomes the device I need at the moment. Is it the thinnest tablet - definitely not. Is it the best laptop - definitely not. Is it an infinitely expandable desktop - definitely not. But it is the best computing device I have ever owned, going back to my first laptop, a Toshiba T1100 Plus, in 1986.

I don't even complain about the lack of tablet specific software since installing Windows 10 - it truly makes staying in the desktop mode, even for tablet use, a gem. In fact, I have DISABLED tablet mode. If I want to consume content, Edge keeps getting better; Reading mode makes web content fun to read; and iTunes/Netflix/Amazon/Next Issue, and a handful of other applications have me covered.

Keep swinging folks - we are right, and don't be deterred by the Apple suck-ups.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oh Where or Where Has Surface Pro 4 Gone...

July 29 Looms and Still No Surface Pro 4
 
 
I have no doubt there will be a Surface Pro 4, but I am beginning to think Microsoft is about to crib another page from the Apple playbook (for it's MacBook lines), and the Surface Pro 4 won't appear until next spring/summer with the next Surface 4.
 
Here are my data points: (a) unending rumors of no SkyLake until fall; (b) super speed Samsung SSD's coming "second half 2016"; (c) commitment to make next iteration compatible with current peripherals (pen, dock, keyboard); (d) not even Thurrott has inside info on a Surface Pro 4 - in fact he said it is the FIRST model he has never heard anything about; and (e) recent addition of another SPro 3 sku. My take on all of this
  1. This fall (probably October's rumored first major update to Windows 10) we will get the Surface Pro 3s, with the same form factor, same screen, Broadwell processors (sorry folks #1), up to 16gb ram and 1TB ssd (mSATA - sorry folks #2), and all the same peripherals. Basically an Apple MacBook-like chipset rev.
  2. A 14" SPro 3 sku added to the device list
  3. Next spring (with early summer release) we get the all new Surface Pro 4; thinner and lighter; SkyLake processors; the new super-speed Samsung ssd; less bezel; and a built-in capacitor based "stick" pen with the full size pen as a $50 accessory.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Little Surface Pro 4 Speculation

ANYONE STILL OUT THERE?

Oops, I did it again (or something like that). Another four month gap, with lingering personal and business issues, but we're going to give it one more try before the Surface Pro 4 "surfaces."

So on with the speculation!

Build 2015 came and went, and nary a mention of the Surface Pro 4. Well sports fans, that's the way it was last year, with Surface Pro 3 getting its own debut slot in an intimate little stage presentation. That is likely what is in store for the SPro 4, which is going to be the SPro 3s in effect:

PREDICTION 1 (and 1a) - debut will be in the next two weeks. With all the speculation of a July release for Windows 10, Microsoft will need to roll out it's flagship convertible for distribution with the new operating system.


PREDICTION 2 - only one size, a 12" tablet in the same physical dimensions as the SPro 3, with only the addition of another USB 3 port to the mix. No one will be able to tell if you are behind in your technolust.

PREDICTION 3 - Haswell mobile (not ULV, not Core M) i5 and i7. No Core i3 parts this time, that's the territory for the upper end of the Surface 3 line. THERE BE FANS HERE CAPTAIN! (sorry folks).


PREDICTION 4 - Storage - here's where we'll see the boosts. i5 with 8gb of ram and 128gb, 256gb, and 512gb options. i7 will have 8gb of ram with 256gb and 512gb ssd options, with a Cadillac model (and price) for a 16gb ram/1tb ssd model, which will be in extremely short supply. NO MORE SURGERIES:


PREDICTION 5 - ALL of the peripherals (power bricks, pens, Type Covers, and docks) will be the same as gen 3 - but you will get to order different color pens though (how sweet).


WHAT WE WON'T SEE -

  • No SkyLake chips (Apple would never let Intel upstage them with Microsoft)
  • No Type C reversible USB (too new for business)
  • No 14" model (yet)
  • No fanless model
  • No solid form factor base (like a real laptop would have)
  • No LTE
  • No pen silo with rechargeable pen
  • No unicorns
NOW FOR THE "YET"

I think (RANK RUMOR AND SPECULATION) we will see a Surface Pro 4xl this fall. 14" with SkyLake (after Apple gets them first for the redesigned MacBook Retina 15). This one will get the USB 3.1 Type C treatment (at least 2, with one being for power as well) and I believe they will make the power supply a mini-hub with more USB 3 out form it. This will be aimed at graphic designers and the arts folks, but will also be a hit in business as a MacBook Retina lite.

It will be a fun second half for 2015.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Keep Trying to Put the Square Peg in a Round Hole?

FIRST - AN APOLOGY
My prolonged absence was not intended as an abandonment. Family medical issues, the holidays, water floods at work (both before and after Christmas), all put a crimp in my usual chippy posting schedule. It's now time to get back to work, and try to change the direction of this blog a bit.

 
 
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!
 
I have spent the last few months "Settling in" on a one device solution. That is still a work in progress, but the centerpiece is the SURFACE PRO 3. It will also the reason for the title of this post.
  • I have seen and read about so many folks out there trying to take notes on iPads and other pure tablets.
  • They are in an endless quest for "the best" keyboard/case to make these tablets "more like a laptop/netbook."
  • They bounce between iWork and Office for iPad/Android desperately trying to turn those tablets into laptops
  • Endless experimentation with usb/lightening to video output adapters to hook up big screens
Why? Because a laptop is not as convenient as a tablet, and a tablet is NOT a productivity device. So they continuously (I was one of them) work to drive that square peg in a vastly smaller hole. Why keep fighting an impossible battle. Just get the Surface Pro 3. Yes, it is Windows (relax and breath all you iOS/OS X fans). No, it does not have hundreds of thousands of tablet only apps (and correspondingly, hundreds of fart apps). Yes, it is heavier (and a little thicker/larger) than the lighter-than-air iPad, but I have the FULL library of Windows applications (not Apps) at my fingertip.
 
WHAT A MARVEL IT IS! It truly is a cross between the MacBook and iPad Airs, with an active digitizer thrown in for good measure. The dock lets me connect TWO WQHD (2560x1440) 27" monitors, and have THREE high resolution screens to work on. Slide open the dock, slap on the keyboard cover, and it is the best mobile experience out there, and not significantly larger or heavier than the iPad Air with a ZAGG or Belkin keyboard/case.
 
For you Windows 8.x deniers (clinging to Windows 95-Windows 7), the * version is more stable, lighter on the system, and faster. When coupled with a great touch device, it is a dream. And quit pooh-poohing touch - it is ANOTHER great input method to use WITH a keyboard and mouse. It is vastly quicker to touch links, scroll screens, and pinch to zoom than ANYTHING you can do with a mouse or trackpad.
 
So strap on your helmets (Surface Pros) fans and lets dig in to a great new, and productive, 2015!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Quest is Over - Now the Real Work Begins

I didn't know John Legend was writing about my Surface Pro 3 in "All of Me:"

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You've got my head spinning, no kidding, I can't pin you down
What's going on in that beautiful mind
I'm on your magical mystery ride
And I'm so dizzy, don't know what hit me, but I'll be alright

My head's under water
But I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

As the clock runs down on my return window with Microsoft for my Surface Pro 3, I have finally found the Windows 8x computer/laptop/tablet/device I have been looking for since the beta release days of the Samsung Series 7 Slate.
 
I know you've heard this before, but the SPro3 is the best computing device I have ever owned, warts and all. For the first two weeks it couldn't hold a WiFi signal for more than 10-15 minutes; always disconnected coming out of sleep; and ate batteries while in sleep like my grandson goes through M&M's (between 25-35% during any 8 hour sleep cycle; as much as 4% in 30 minutes of sleep). The July 8 driver updates came and went, with significant improvement in WiFi connectivity (although still dropped out on random occasions) but still no battery drain relief. Some good folks over at Tablet PC Review recommended a complete reset and reinstall of the new drivers, and as much as I DETEST having to do that, I did, and guess what -

IT WORKED IN SPADES

Very few network dropouts and battery drain during 8 hour sleep cycles from 3-6%. So, as they say on Do You Want to Be a Millionaire - Regis, final answer - I'M KEEPING IT:

I think he means it this time.

This was still a tortured decision.
  • First - should I wait for the i7/512GB mini-beast?  Microsoft helped out a lot with this decision, with the impending upgrade of OneDrive to 1TB, and the fact that I am up and fully running with 152GB left on C: and 59GB on D: giving me a lot of confidence that my general cruft and detritus can RIP on the internet, and still have all the room I need on my SPro 3.
     
  • Second - what about next Spring and Broadwell? Whataboutit? In a nutshell, I don't believe we'll see much more than the Surface Pro to Surface Pro 2 "tock" of the upgrade cycle - marginally faster and more power efficient processor, perhaps a move to USB 3.1, perhaps a 512GB i5 option, but nothing that would shake my confidence in the SPro 3. It will be the Model 5 (if we get that from Microsoft) that will bring on the next bag of tricks.
  • Third - Should I stick with a full size laptop and a small tablet - NO - SPro 3 finally relieved that angst once and for all. No more fruit envy in this corner!
  • Last - All the warts. Of course it's not the perfect device. It needs TWO output ports - Thunderbolt would be fantastic; USB 3.1 (with the new connector that goes either direction - like a Lightning connector); full SDXC; 512GB option in the i5 line; magnets at top edge of screen and Type Cover so it stays shut; more control over the power profiles; LTE option for god's sake.
So what next? I plan to do a "capping" entry at this blog to talk nostalgically of my path to the SPro 3 from the groundbreaking Toshiba T1100 Plus in 1986...a real snoozer I'm sure but I'll enjoy it. Then it will be time to start my new blog - one geared towards just the Surface Pro 3 and making it useful to lawyers and other business professionals. Help ferret out the driver issues; software for the professional; integrating it into daily workflow; and of course a compendium of tips and tricks I run across on the net.
 
See you on the other side... 

 
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

UPDATED: Musings on the Morning After - Surface Pro 3 is Great



[Updated Below]

Well, so there seems to be a little bit of "first date remorse going on around the Internet this morning. Not to be unexpected when we have such extreme expectations, and it turns out our dream date has a few zits...For me, nothing of any real concern until I got here to the office for the first time. Here's a few "morning after" musings:
 
Concerns

Displayport: The old DP connector problem of the SPro 1 and SPro 2 raised its ugly head. Finally got all three screens running (super), but then if I so much as breath on the SPro 3 they all flash off and everything goes back to the SPro 3. That beveled edge, no matter how "cool" it looks, and I'm sure it helps with the illusion of being even thinner than it really is (they DEFINITELY learned that from Apple), it makes for a really crappy DP connection. I've literally cut the front edge of my plug off in an attempt to get a better connection, but that's not helping. it's as if the connector is too shallow - it sure doesn't fit in as far as it does on AcerBeast... However, I fully expect the dock to help in this regard where it won't be plugged and unplugged continually in this port.

Type Cover: A few times it "clicked in" but was not fully connected on the left side (when facing tablet) and had to be wiggled. It also seems to fall away from the tablet at the top when placed in a briefcase - be sure to secure it or your battery life will suffer (they need to add magnets to the top edge as well). More of a concern is that the new design does truly stabilize the laptop feel, but it flexes too much while typing. It "springs" when typing - perhaps I hammer too hard - but it does give when attached to front edge of tablet. These are not major concerns, however, as I intend to use the cover only when mobile and necessary, not as a full time typing solution. Besides, I secretly hope they will consider Touch Cover for an overall thinner experience.

Disk Space: This one is most definitely a personal problem, not a fault of the SPro 3 (well, it kind of is - WHY no 512GB i5 model?), because I am a terrible packrat, but I am working on it. Added a 128GB mSDXC, moved all media folders and OneDrive to the mSDXC, and am trying to move all picture archives to OneDrive.
 
Surprises (Good):
 
Now, for a few really good discoveries which some have commented on but strike me as being above and beyond....

N-Trig: I never thought I'd ever say this, but it is GOOD. Since I'm not an artist, not missing the real drawing experience of Wacom, but for note taking and simple drawings (like I would do while taking notes) it is every bit as good as Wacom was on the SPro 2.

Screen: Bigger is better - and 12" is near perfect for laptop use, yet not too big for effective tablet use. Couple with the game changing 3:2 design - now that is a bit (really?) of hyperbole, but it is so much better than 16:9 that I can't contain my enthusiasm for this one change.

Kickstand: The 150 degree angle is a note takers dream. Anyone can stand or sit and hold the tablet to take notes, but If you have ever sat at a conference table and tried to take notes it would drive you nuts with the screen sitting flat on the table. Pop the SPro 3 into the lowest kickstand setting and note taking becomes effortless and truly usable!

Overall Size and Weight: Is it "iPaddy" as Pogue referenced in his potshot against Apple, no, it is not. Is it too heavy or large to be an effective tablet - DEFINITELY NOT. I think, however, Microsoft got it backwards:

It is NOT the tablet that can replace your laptop...

IT IS the laptop that can replace your tablet...

A very subtle distinction, but I feel a real difference in how this should have been marketed. Despite some whining about needing a "true" keyboard dock, it is the best ultrabook on the planet - ARE YOU LISTENING MACBOOK AIR. What is does do is afford you the opportunity to shed the iPad Air/Galaxy Tab of choice. I realize they are shooting for those folks that are always snapping a keyboard on their iPad, but they should be focusing on down-marketing rather than up-marketing.
 
What Next:
 
I'll continue to exercise this thoroughbred around Churchill Downs for a few more weeks, but after only two days I am more impressed than with any device I've tried in the last two years. it is definitely the best Windows 8.x device on the market, and makes the two headed dragon have a real purpose and design logic.
 
What I really need is a 5" Lumia 1020+ with N-Trig support for OneNote. Actually, the SPro 3 has focused me onto the need for an ultralight, ultra-mobile, ultra-connected ALL THE TIME with me device.  Even when I had the iPad Air and the iPad Mini, I never carried either all the time, and I have suffered with the 4: iPhone long enough. The short stint with the Galaxy Note 3 showed me that a big(ger) screen phablet is what I need for full time, always there, use (despite my dislike of Android). I don't want a 1520 or Magnum, just a 5.x" always there, always connected, smartphone to act as the tether for my SPro 3!

UPDATE:

Before anybody gives up hope on the SPro 3, check out Anand's full review at:

AnandTech Surface Pro 3 Full Review

I particularly like Anand's conclusion - honest and to the point: "Personally I'd still rather carry a good notebook and a lightweight tablet, but if you are looking for a single device this is literally the only thing on the market that's worth considering. I don't know how big the professional productivity tablet market is, but it's a space that Microsoft seems to have almost exclusive reign over with its Surface line. With its latest iteration, Microsoft is serving that market better than ever."

There are two reviewers I rely on implicitly:

Anand Shimpi for the best technical review (anandtech.com)

Lisa Gade  for the best user oriented reviews (mobiletechreview.com)

Between these two, you will get the best, most even-handed and unbiased information on ANY device.

And if I want a mercurial "I either hate it or I love it" review, I go to Paul Thurrott (winsupersite.com) because it matches my temperament.