Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Microsoft Pulls Off an Apple Event

Microsoft scheduled a release event yesterday.....and Apple showed up.

For me, it was an Apple fanboy-like experience, and over at Tablet PC Review I opined that we saw the "birth of the next Apple." If you haven't seen it, watch for the "reveal of the Surface Book" at the very end of Panos' one more thing moment. Perfect showmanship befitting the king of teh reality distortion field. 

After a little overnight reflection, I wanted to take a minute for a more serious thought about why I didn't pre-order yesterday, for the benefit of any newbies and lurkers who are hanging around here. 

Readers Digest version:

  1. Surface Book is stunning, but truly geared for those who crave a great laptop experience with occasional tablet functionality
  2. Surface Pro 4 - a nice evolution of the Surface Pro series, with great additions of 16gb RAM and 1tb SSD options, near perfect for first time buyers wanting a tablet that can stand in (pun intended) for an ultrabook
  3. Current Surface Pro 3 owners - not much reason to upgrade to SP4, especially if you have a higher end SP3 SKU (i5/8/256 or i7/8/512)

The details:

Microsoft held an Apple-like presentation yesterday and wowed the tech universe.

The "big surprise" and the star of the show was the Surface Book. The design is gorgeous; the specs are top of the line; the tablet alone is groundbreaking and adding the keyboard/base with discrete GPU is just brilliant. All of the specs and goodies of MacBook Pro, with touch, pen, and tablet built in. Apple has to be reeling a bit, especially the MacBook Pro team.

The Surface Pro 4 is a very good evolution of the Surface Pro line, especially the new top end SKU's (16gb RAM and 1tb SSD). A bit thinner, a bit lighter, and it looks to have much better cooling system between the fans and liquid cooling. Surprisingly, battery life is about the same as the SP3. The new "cabled" docking solution is a godsend, and it looks (and from reviewers, sounds) like it may be the best tablet keyboard ever. It is a great successor to the brand, but I just don't feel it is a compelling upgrade for SP3 users, unless you crave silence or more RAM/SSD space.


  • Microsoft NOT specifying the CPU's and GPU's it is using, nor the benchmarks or other standards for their hyperbole - ripped directly from the Apple playbook
  • No smart frame (guess we were all chasing ghosts)
  • SP4 screen size is less than 1/2" bigger, but has even smaller pixels (old eyes say "enough already")
  • No USB 3 Type C (really - there is plenty of room)*
  • No Thunderbolt 3 (the shame, the shame)
  • No optional LTE (really?)

The biggest downer was not replacing the mini-DP port with either a single Type C or Thunderbolt 3 port. Either could provide high quality external video PLUS a higher speed data connection. This is particularly a failure in the Surface Book where there is more than enough space for additional small ports. In fact, even Panos admitted that the SP4 was as thick as it is only for the need to keep a USB 3 port. I agree with that decision, but that doesn't excuse the absence of the better port - but his comment may be a mini-leak in itself that SP5 will be thinner because it can use thinner ports. Hope springs eternal.

The Net Result:

I stick by my emotional outbursts yesterday - we have witnessed the birth of the next Apple, but I am going to stand pat for now. 

With the exception of the phones, the product line is the highest quality, best made, visually stunning, and highly functional Windows product line out there - every bit as compelling as the apple lineup. Hopefully they will announce a Surface phone in the near future to complete the circle. Here's also hoping next year's event brings Smart Frame (especially with a 15" version of the Surface Book) and Thunderbolt 3 (maybe they are just going to skip Type C altogether).

For me, on paper (on screen?) the SP4 is not enough of an upgrade to warrant dealing with eBay for now. I have ordered the new Type Cover, dock, and pen, but it is likely the pen will go back if it just duplicates the SP3 pen on our older tablet. For me, I love the thinness of the SP line over the thicker SB package. However, it is still the Surface Book that holds the most attraction - it's design aesthetic; great keyboard (according to every reviewer I've seen); discrete GPU; and split personality.

Later this week I'll grade my predictions (witht eh exception of the missing smart frame, I think I may have gotten a B).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Final Prediction Time - What Will October 6 Bring? (UPDATED)


Steve S over at Tablet PC Review had a genius idea. What if the new Surface Pro 4 comes in two flavors - lowered priced SKU with no Smart Frame and an upper priced SKU with a nearly 13.5" totally bezel-less Smart Frame. Solves the "mystery" about Microsoft's two displays (12" and 14"); they both fit in the same chassis and all the same accessories. Just think

Surface Pro 4 - i3, 4-8gb, 128gb SSD, current 12" screen (fanless?)

Surface Pro 4 XL - i5/i7, 8gb-16gb, 256gb-1tb, 13.5" Smart Frame

Frankly, I would endorse this whole-heartedly over my predictions below.

Benedict Evans made a great (and sad) analysis of Microsoft's decline since the release of the original iPhone - the total market has turned to smartphones and tablets vs the traditional personal computing market before June 2007. Of course, when they are selling "billions" of smartphones between Apple and Android, this is definitely skewed (face facts, everyone over the age of 14 on the planet has a smartphone). It ignores the fact that Microsoft Windows still owns the desktop/laptop market, but it is clear that "mobile" is the space to be in.

Tomorrow will begin the return of Microsoft's relevance - here are my predictions.

Surface Pro

  • No more numbering of models (see below to see why)
  • SkyLake Core i3-i7 (sorry, no Core M)
  • Smart Frame - 13"(laptop) and 12"(tablet) mode screen - no 4k but a few more pixels for width
  • 4gb-8gb RAM options
  • 64gb- 512gb SSD options
  • Thunderbolt 3 replaces current mini-DP (not for power)
  • Optional LTE
  • Not changing
    • No change in dimensions
    • Still using fans (hopefully tuned to be quieter)
    • Still includes USB 3 port
    • No additional battery
    • No different pen, other than being "better tuned" for pressure/lag

Surface Pro XL (The Big Surprise)
  • 14" 4k display - with Smart Frame technology
  • SkyLake i5-i7
  • 8gb-16gb RAM
  • 256gb-1tb SSD
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports and 1 USB 3 port
  • System powered through the Thunderbolt 3 port
  • $149 Type Cover and $249 solid based "real" laptop keyboard (with additional battery)
  • Thinner than Surface Pro (0.30" or less), and with new keyboard under 0.7" and sub-3 pounds
  • Limited availability until Q1 2016

Lumia Smartphones
  • No need to comment here - Microsoft already leaked everything, but -
    • Will release with Windows Phone 10 - not 8.1 with "promise" of free upgrade
    • Will have same "meh" reception with journalists and public alike
  • Surprise Number 2, and bad news for Lumia - they will "preview" next Spring's Surface Phone (Behance concept phone at right - perhaps more wishful thinking on my part)
Band 2
  • Thinner, lighter, curved display (already pretty much leaked)
  • Better battery life
  • Better health related sensors
The Rest (Snooze Time)
  • Limited release Hololens support in the next Xbox - but VERY EXPENSIVE ($800 +/-)
  • Windows 10 Threshold
  • Windows Phone 10 release

Friday, October 2, 2015

What is the "Surprise" Coming on October 6?

Mary Jo Foley, among many others, has been reporting that her sources say there is a "surprise" in store at Tuesday's big reveal, beyond the "known" release of the Surface Pro 4, the leaked Lumias (950 and 950XL), and the Band II. My money's on a near bezel-free screen on the Surface Pro 4. WinBeta's mock-up is at the right, that shifts to bezels when in tablet mode (Smart Frame from the North Cape Prototype).

There are others who are betting on a 14" model with a more laptop-like removable keyboard for the full ultrabook experience. I have real doubts about Microsoft wanting to compete with its OEM's bread and butter devices. Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer all make high quality 14-15" devices, including the upcoming Dell XPS 15 Infinity. That's why I think squeezing a 13"-13.3" screen in that same Surface Pro 3 shell.

Xbox - nah...more Hololens news - nah nah. My dark horse for the surprise is a Surface Phone - a truly Surface inspired Windows 10 Phone bringing Continuity goodness to Windows Phone fans. I have real doubts about this - it would crush sales of the new Lumias, but in the same breath, how pissed off would you be if you bought a Lumia 950 XL and next spring Microsoft releases this:

Check out the concept designer's site at Surface Phone. That design and feature set would push the iPhone 6s Plus out of my death grip, even if I have to give up my music collection and FaceTime with the family. Still, my money is on the Smart Frame addition to the Surface Pro 4 as our "surprise of the day.".

Surface Pro 4 - Is a "Smart Frame" in Our Future?

The rumors are running rampant that the Surface Pro 4 will come with near bezel-less borders, in something they describe as "Smart Frame" which enables larger bezels when disconnected from the keyboard or dock. CAN YOU SAY HALLELUJAH! 

WinBeta citing W4pHub (be sure to translate the later site). The mock up at the left is here for your enjoyment, but I have to smile about my speculation about this, based upon the Intel North Cape prototype from CES 2013 that I discussed in an earlier post. Obviously the WinBeta folks haven't seen that, as they feel it is technologically impossible, but of course Intel already proved feasibility two years ago. I just sure hope this is for real, and not based upon rank rumor and speculation.

Anyway, this would not only be a game changer, it would solidify my comments about Microsoft 
dropping the hammer and running up the score. Only the most staunch Apple sycophants could continue the gibberish about the superiority of the iPad XL design, and pity the poor fools who fall for the Pixel C. Here's hoping that October 6 is a kick-ass day for Microsoft (and us users).

One more thought - Mary Jo Foley, on Windows Weekly yesterday, reiterated that her sources say there is one more "big" surprise coming on October 6, and I think this is it; at least I sure hope so...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Time for Microsoft to Run Up The Score!

This video explains EVERYTHING - Apple fanboyism; tech journalist adoration for Apple; tech journalist excuse-making for Apple; the routine reaction that "Apple invented ________" or "Apple made the first true usable _________." The current gaga over the iPad XL just continues the insanity. 

If Jobs taught us nothing else, it was that perception is even more important than reality. This is the case with every Apple "re-invention" where whatever they copy and modify becomes "the best" in the public's mind regardless the reality. In fact, MP3 players did not exist before iPod (Rio?); there were no smartphones until the iPhone (poor poor Treo); tablets sprung fully formed from the iPad (sorry Microsoft); no ultrabooks until Microsoft Air (Toshiba Portege anyone); and now it is the hybrid device category with a blatant Surface rip-off called iPad XL and it's $99 pencil (for shame they admit it is a pen or stylus).

Microsoft needs to crush it on October 6. WE all know (and in their hearts, all the reviewers know) the iPad XL and Pixel C can't even match the Surface 3, much less the Pro model. But for Microsoft to win the battle, they need to win by more than a couple of touchdowns - they need a blowout, where the only thing the critics can hang their hats on will be "gee, it sure is expensive."

This is no time for little league mercy rules - run up the score and smile big while you do it. Especially against the iPad XL, which is aimed at only two fields, one of which Microsoft will never win, artistic designers, and the other, enterprise, which Microsoft needs to continue to own. You've got a lead now Microsoft...slam dunk the damn ball!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015



But the real question - will it be nirvana or disappointment? In the last ten years of ceding tech leadership to Apple and Google, Microsoft appears to be on the edge of greatness again. The lame knock-offs from Apple and Google just PROVE how superior the Surface brand is - with the exception of screen resolution (which is a red herring at 10" and below*), neither the iPad XL nor the Pixel C can carry Surface 3's spit bucket, much less coming close to the Surface Pro 4. Windows 10 is, and has an even greater potential, to be the "best Windows ever."

* I am so sick and tired of the screen resolution war. Granted, I have old eyes, but from 10" on down (to your cell phone for that matter) 4k screens are not only unnecessary, but create infinitesimally small text to read. The Surface 3 handily matches the higher resolution of the iPad Air and Pixel C.

I am more and more convinced that Microsoft will be releasing a minimum bezel device (for laptop mode) with perhaps more bezel in tablet mode, although I personally believe that is not necessary - there just won't be that many unintentional touches. We will also see a very expensive 16gb/1tb SKU with Iris graphics to directly attack the MacBook Pro line.

A lot is riding on October 6, and the Surface Pro 4 will either seal the deal (with mind blowing specs and operational capabilities) or it will be a meh upgrade to the Surface Pro 3. My money's on the former, because I truly believe in Panos Panay Microsoft has found it's Jony Ives, but with TECHNICAL CHOPS as well. It sounds like hyperbole, but I feel that on October 6 Microsoft can, and should, take back the leadership role in the computer industry.

Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day in the Life of a Surface Pro 3 User

Sitting here like a stereotypical caricature at Starbucks on  a busy Saturday morning, I decided to do something a little more productive than surfing the week's news. Since I live in West Texas, our Starbucks are less trendy than most, and even the college crowd shows a healthy smattering of Dell and HP laptops, with less than half the computer users rocking Fruit gear (CAVEAT - they are 10:1 iPhone users, of all vintages, over any Android something).

Moving along - that picture I am sharing with you (several times on this blog) is my office desk. It is THE reason I am, and will continue to  be, a Surface fanboy. Currently a Surface Pro 3, i7, 8gb RAM, 512gb SSD in its dock (yes - cut a slot and lowered it into keyboard tray so I can still take notes), driving two Acer 2560x1440 display port monitors, USB speakers, Logitech Solar keyboard and mouse, and a 2TB portable USB 3 hard drive. In short, a FULL desktop replacement (absent high end gaming of course). In my legal practice, OneNote, Outlook, Westlaw, and Word are king, queen, and court jester at various times. With this setup you can edit two Word documents side by side on one screen, have Outlook and Chrome/Edge open on second monitor, and note take to your hearts content on the SPro 3.

In the morning, when I dock, it will start and recognize all screens and peripherals, but I need to set up the window locations on the various screens since they were minimized the night before. Many times, it will open an app in the intended screen, sometimes only on the Surface requiring dragging it where you wanted it to go. One thing Microsoft Windows 10 definitely needs in this modern era multi-screen pleasure is let you design desktop work spaces that can be assigned to a specific monitor for quick setup.

During the day, as I meet with other lawyers or clients, I just un-dock and go (well, not quite - I usually put it in sleep mode first, less hang ups than just opening the dock and going). When I finish note taking, back to my office and plug and go. Most times. I have yet to learn when it will happen, but occasionally (1 out 4 or 5) the windows will be minimized or need to be reorganized. I can't stress the value of note taking at your desk - reviewing documents or cases online while on the phone, taking notes as you go is invaluable.

And now here I sit using my Surface Pro 3 with its excellent Type Cover. It is equally adept at being a laptop (on the table) or in hand as a tablet. Remember, I grew up with the original iPad at 1/2" and 1.5 pound and thought it was a delicate feather of a tablet. GREAT JOB Microsoft! Battery life is good, not great, until you realize this is a full Core i7 beast, then it becomes outstanding. I would like to have LTE built in, but it connects well to my iPhone 6 Plus (yes, I still have a rebellious streak in me). I would KILL for it to initiate the hot spot like a MacBook does (or as it handles a Windows Phone) but I guess that is an iOS delight not shared with the unwashed.

Note to Dell - pay attention - ALL KEYBOARDS MUST HAVE DEDICATED direction keys (Home/End/PgUp/PgDn) not just cursor keys requiring a FN key to invoke directional control! It is an abomination that you guys build the HUGE Dell XPS 15 and don't include those.)

NOTES TO MICROSOFT (from an experienced user of every generation of Surface Pro):

  • Ditch the proprietary dock and adopt Thunderbolt 3 with a Lenovo-like cabled dock so I can recline the Surface for note taking, or pull it up for better third screen viewing when needed.
  • Replace the standard USB 3 with TWO Type C ports - your users will love you for it in the next few years.
  • Release a thin, internally stored, pen - make the big guy the $59 accessory it should be - I WANT A PEN WITH ME AT ALL TIMES!
  • Add optional LTE for heaven's sake, or at least crack the iOS mojo to invoke my iPhone when needed.
  • Stiffen the Type Cover even more (I really think the Surface 3 keyboard bounces less).
  • Ditch the bezels - use software (maybe sensors) to recognize you are holding it in tablet mode to eliminate unintended presses - you can EASILY get 13" in that frame.
  • As you continue to shrink components and fans, FILL IT UP WITH BATTERY - do not follow the Apple insane mantra of thinner is always better - IT IS NOT!
  • Beat Google to death until they release a battery sipping version of Chrome - better still, make EDGE as solid and smooth as Chrome. Even on my i7 EDGE can slow to a crawl at times.
  • Consider moving the keys a little closer to the screen, and replace the trackpad with a full width e-ink glass screen to add additional functions and act as an extra-wide trackpad.
ABOVE ALL ELSE - Do not fear iPad XL. Except as a potential Cintinq drawing pad alternative, it has NOTHING over the Surface Pro 3, much less the forthcoming Surface Pro 4. You guys will own the high end market for years to come!

PS - I would have KILLED to have the Surface Pro 3 when in college/law school. I really envy the students of today!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Best Comparison of iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 Ever!

I've been ranting lately about refusing to call the new iPad a "pro" and rechristened it iPad XL. Ramon Trotman of Lifestyles Defined did a point by point comparison of the iPad XL to the Surface Pro 3, and with the exception of giving props for the higher resolution screen, totally destroys Apple's reality field distorting marketing vs the REALITY of what a true "PRO" level system the Surface Pro 3 is. 

I CAN'T RECOMMEND THIS VIDEO ENOUGH. It not only defines what it really means to be a professional system, but hangs Apple out to dry for its deceptive marketing of what is truly nothing more than a larger version of the iPad Air. His description of "desktop-like" vs "desktop-class" is perfectly on point. Microsoft needs to review this video before the October reveal, because it is the blueprint for explaining to users the critical differences between these devices. They are in fact not even in the same class. Ramon brutally focuses on the weakest link in the iPad XL armor - lack of a file system. Look at Schiller's AutoCad and 4k video editing spin - that is a complete fail once you begin to wonder HOW you will get those massive files onto the iPad XL, and even more distressing, how many of those files can you squeeze into 128gb.

Above all else, Ramon makes a brilliant point that you SHOULD NOT COMPARE the low end Surface Pro 3 against the top of the line iPad XL (to make 128gb "even") - if they aspire to be "Pro" then compare top of the line to top of the line. That means A9X, 4gb ram, and 128gb iPad XL vs i7, 8gb, and 512gb Surface Pro 3. Of course, Surface Pro 4 will be shipping about the same time iPad XL does, so who knows how far that gap will grow! And we haven't even begun to discuss Apple's souped up mobile OS vs Windows 10, a real desktop class operating system

Best of all is a comment by Murani Lewis about Ramon's video, that Apple's fanboys are the only thing "pro" in this equation, as they are professional buyers of all things Apple - which, is great for Apple's bottom line, just like BMW and Mercedes thrive on their end of the market, but does nothing to advance computing:

"Good point, the iPad Pro is for the pro iPad user. The user who will wait to spend their money on whatever the next device is that Apple comes up with despite very good products already on the market that meets their needs. That is why Apple will sell a decent amount of them but won't take over the corporate market with them."

Well done Ramon - well done!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Is Microsoft Prepping a Surface Pro 4 With No Bezel?

"Some of us have been hearing Surface Pro 4 will be a faster, thinner and lighter update to the Surface Pro 3. It will basically be the same form factor, with a smaller bezel, making the screen feel larger, one of my contacts told me recently." M. J. Foley

How do you do that - with optional software/hardware bezels. Intel already demonstrated such a tablet at CES 2013 with its Haswell North Cape prototype.

The Dell XPS 13 Infinity display proved you could shoehorn a 13" display in an 11" laptop footprint this past Spring, and I am truly hoping that Mary Jo's contact is correct - a Surface Pro 4, in the same casing as a Surface Pro 3, WITH A 13" SCREEN! The timing is almost perfect. In April 2013, Surface Pro 3 had to be in primary prototype stage for a release in May 2014. If that was the case, the designs for Surface Pro 4 needed to be on the drawing board, and this HAD to be on Microsoft's radar.

Soooooooooo...we get a 13" laptop replacement when the keyboard is attached, or in the dock, and 12" bezel-ed tablet when in tablet mode. This would explain several rumors such as: (1) there will be a larger (14") model - when in fact it was just more screen in the same frame; and (2) we'll see 4K resolution - don't think so, but definitely more pixels in full screen mode.

Now, if they could bring themselves to replace the mini DP port with Thunderbolt 3 (keeping the standard USB 3 port), it would not just be an iPad XL* killer, it would be a massive threat to everything from the MacBook Pro 13" on down the SKU list. Here's hoping that Microsoft chills Cook's and Shiller's spines on October 6.

* Ah yes, iPad XL you ask - I refuse to call the newest iPad an "iPad Pro" because it is not - it is simply a larger iPad Air with faster processor and pencil added - nothing more, nothing less. Don't believe me - just really (objectively) review the lineup from iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air 2, and iPad XL - they are merely size and speed updates from one to the next. Don't believe me, then check out the difference between the new iPad Mini 4 and iPad Air 2 (A8 vs A8X processor bump). There is no "Pro" there.

Friday, September 11, 2015


They are shills for Apple - there, I said it...

First - full disclosure - the only Apple device I now own is the iPhone 6 Plus, and I have had iPhones from day one in 2007 (and have owned iPads and MacBooks of various designs many times).

The entire mainstream tech press is guilty of Apple fanboyism. It can say or do anything negative about a competitors product; the mainstream tech press will fall right in line and complain about anything: Surface doesn't include keyboard in price; Surface doesn't have a solid keyboard; Surface has to use a pen; Surface weighs 1.75#; no one wants/needs/can't reach large screen smartphones; no one needs more than 8 mpxl camera because that's what we have. Here's what I mean:

Read this mini-review, then come back here:

I already registered my protest that the tech media is so far up Cook's @$$ that you have to wonder if he has an outie - so I'll let the first comment at that website speak for me:

"You gotta be kiding me? Ipad Pro offers a little more? All these media clowns cant figure out the differences between a Core I5 running WIndows 10 with A9X running IOS? Are you kidding me? This is not even in the same league.....despite the fact that a Surface Pro 3, soon to be Surface Pro 4 will be released at a cheaper price point.....What a joke of a comparison....."

Speaking of Cook, I guess it "ain't so" until Apple "invents it"

"I think anything can be forced to converge. The problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and yo begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but you know those things are not going to be probably be pleasing to the user," Cook told analysts during a Tuesday earnings call.

Of course, until APPLE INVENTS THIS:

WHAT I DETEST is the fact that reviewers get away with SLAYING one device for perceived deficiencies, while either IGNORING or even LAUDING the Apple decision afterwards which is EXACTLY THE SAME as the competitors. You can't have it both ways,

Go beyond iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 3 - Jobs proclaims that a large screen iPhone will NEVER BE MADE because you can't stretch your fingers that far in one hand mode - then Apple sells the iPhone 6 Plus "validating" large screen smartphones which had been on the market at least three years before the iP6+ (and I am an iP6+ owner). "You don't need 16+ megapixel cameras because we do it better in software" UNTIL we then adopt a 12 megapixel camera, with the dreaded SMALLER sensor pixel sizes (reduced from 1.5u to 1.2u) but that's ok because Apple "Does it better."

FRANKLY, I'M JUST SICK AND TIRED OF APPLE GETTING AWAY WITH EXCUSES for things Apple and the tech press castigated UNTIL Apple "invented" it for their devices!