Category Archives: Operating Systems

Yoga and weight loss

Fear not, dear readers. Techspressive has not become a fitness blog.

They say that we don’t see many big announcements at CES anymore, but that hasn’t been true for Lenovo, which has shown off a string of interesting form-factor PCs at the last several shows that captured attendee attention. These include, in reverse chronological order, the Horizon table PC, in 2013, the Yoga in 2012 (since discontinued but followed by Intel-based successors), and the U1 Hybrid in 2010 that never shipped.

The Yoga in particular was arguably the first PC of the Windows 8 era that got people thinking about new form factors and kindled a fascination with PC hinge design. It’s nice to see Lenovo apparently ready to give it a spin with the IdeaPad A10, which appears as if it will sell for about $250 — or about half of what HP is charging for the Tegra 4-bearing Slatebook X2 detachable. But where is it written that all Android clamshells much be detachable? And while an exposed keyboard might have been a bit uncomfortable in a Windows convertible, who cares at this price point?

Recent Chromebooks such as the 11″ HP model continue to claim the netbook legacy. While they are simple, consistent devices when used in a Wi-Fi area, offline app implementation continues to be varied, inconsistent and confusing. Android hybrids may be limited ot a niche market for the foreseeable future, but they’re highly functional and Android apps know how to seamlessly work offline.

A big week for ecosystems

In the lull following the shipment of the Galaxy S4 and before Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in June, two former market share leaders will reveal their next move in contending for establish the #3 smartphone ecosystem. I’ve written before about the contrasts between Nokia and BlackBerry, nee RIM, in their battle for the bronze.

BlackBerry has already says that its Z10 and Q10 will be their flagships for some time while it fills out the lower end. This would be in keeping with the R10 rumors that have been circulating. However, at the launch of those handsets, the company said that it was committing to the screen resolutions on those devices to facilitate development and that it wants to aspire to be an aspirational brand, so it will be interesting to see where the cuts go downmarket.

On the other hand and from half a world away, Nokia will be throwing its own party rivaling the BlackBerry Live confab being held in Orlando this week. Given that it has been nine months since Nokia’s last flagship, the Lumia 920, was introduced In New York, and that the company has just rounded out the low-end with the 520 series, we may be seeing a new assault on the high-end.

Both companies barbs against the current shortcomings of Android may be short-lived, however, as Google will almost certainly reveal details about Key Lime Pie, the next version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system, later this week.

Keeping Chrome and Android separate is the right move

SiliconAngle reports on Eric Schmidt’s debunking of the notion that Google’s two operating systems — Android and Chrome — would be converging any time soon in light of both teams now reporting up to the same executive, Sundar Pichai. And, no, he’s not bluffing. The three big ecosystem players today each have two operating systems that are split either on optimization for keyboard and mouse or form factor.

Google’s line in the sand is not as defined as its competitors. It has recently added touch capability to Chrome (on its own hardware, no less) and supports keyboard and mouse input well enough to inspire a kid-friendly desktop.) But while Chrome will probably one day support native code as HTML 5 evolves to accommodate it, Chrome OS is a statement in the belief of the power of the Web and that it is the ultimate destination for app functionality. While the temptation to infuse it with Android’s market momentum may be great, Android plus Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser on Android. And that’s already here.



BlackBerry 10: Moving on from PlayBook

Roger Cheng at CNET:

You can’t accuse RIM of rushing out BlackBerry 10. If anything, the operating system is way overdue. But the company has clearly spent the time to work out the kinks, and the early experience with the software has been pleasantly surprising.

RIM isn’t aping a trend or trying something completely new with BlackBerry 10, it’s actually focusing on its core smartphone product.

Absolutely, BlackBerry 10 is no PlayBook because the former is software and the latter is a device and that pretty much ends any debate from the literal perspective. But points taken: the PlayBook was rushed (although it was also late) while BlackBerry 10 has not been (we hope). Further, while the PlayBook was a one-off in an incremental market for RIM, BlackBerry 10 is a foundational technology for the company that it expects will last the next decade the way OS X has (and iOS is on track to).

An even greater issue for the PlayBook than those that Roger cites, however, including carrier acceptance, was developer acceptance (the two are of course related).  As a technology underpinning, BlackBerry 10 is, in fact, an evolution of the PlayBook OS (somewhat like OS X was an evolution of the Darwin project). However, BlackBerry 10 will, as Roger notes, enjoy the advantage of being on RIM’s higher-volume handsets rather than breaking into a new category.

With the Android market coalescing around Samsung with some HTC and Windows Phone doing the same with Nokia and HTC, certainly there will be at least one domestic carrier willing to give the new devices a try. Still, no matter how successful RIM’s developer evangelism is, there are bound to be many gaps at launch as there was for Windows Phone.The nightmare scenario is not that BlackBerry 10 will be the PlayBook, but that it will be webOS.

Microsoft may roll back Start menu

Byron Acohido in USA Today:

Sinofsky successfully argued that it was crucial for the company to orient Windows PC users toward the look and feel of the all-new Windows 8 Surface touch tablet and the latest Windows Phone 8 smartphone models.

He might have won the internal debate. But convincing millions of home and workplace users of Windows that the switch was for their own good hasn’t gone well.

Microsoft’s bringing back of the Start button wouldn’t represent a retreat from the Windows 8-style touch interface or even have much practical benefit for Windows 8 users. This is a familiarity issue similar but perhaps more pronounced than the Apple Menu/dock controversy that surfaced at the debut of OS X. There are other ways that Microsoft could reconcile the desktop and touch interfaces of Windows 8 such as manually or automatically switching modes when using on a surface os opposed to on a couch or while standing.

The way Windows 8 works today, the default return to the Start screen is somewhat of an ad for the Windows 8-style interface. Don’t forget it’s there and hopefully developers won’t, either. The better way for Microsoft to push users to it, however, is to eat its own dog food and bring more settings and apps, especially Office, to that world. Engaging users with the entire screen would be much more powerful than dithering over a corner of it.

Acer updates Surface competition view

Who can really say what has led Acer to become Microsoft’s problem child with regard to Surface? The 85% tablet/15$ laptop hybrid represents a relatively high-end tablet offering (but not a particularly high-priced PC offering) that isn’t where Acer’s brand has been. Perhaps the PC manufacturer is miffed because it sees Surface occupying an aspirational position. But so would all of its competitors.

Still, Acer has now made a point of saying that it will sit out Windows RT until it sees how Surface (at least the current Surface RT flavor) is doing. That represents a somewhat more conciliatory tone that we’ve seen in the past, given that Acer had been more opposed to Surface after it had been revealed. It hardly signals an embrace. Perhaps, now that Surface is out there, Acer has moved into the “acceptance” phase of the death of the traditional OS vendor/hardware partner relationship. But, again, why say anything at all. HP, for example, is also holding back on Windows RT devices ;it’s just not publicizing that it’s doing so.

HP, though, seems like it would have taken the wait-and-see approach regardless of Surface wheras Acer had been ready to jump in. Postponing product plans is painful, but at least Acer will now have the benefit of some free market research courtesy of Microsoft.

Surface RT: Microsoft should have waited

The first reviews for Surface RT are in and, while there seems to be an appreciation for its hardware features, including its various keyboard covers, most reviewers are disappointed with its software selection, advising readers to wait or at even pass. As I noted in my most recent Switched On column, Windows RT is the tougher test of the appeal of the Windows 8-style environment as it lacks backward compatibility with most desktop-style apps.

Surface RT is making the same mistakes the HP Touchpad and BlackBerry PlayBook did.

One way to look at Surface is Microsoft trying to get ahead of the market and making a validation statement: “Windows RT is viable, and here is how we’re supporting it.” But perhaps Microsoft really expects Surface RT to have an impact this holiday season. In that case, the Surface RT paradox is that Microsoft, far behind in the tablet market, needs to make up ground quickly and that Surface RT is not yet a compelling option from a software perspective. Arriving before Windows 8 has an opportunity to build volume, Surface RT is making the same mistakes the HP Touchpad and BlackBerry PlayBook did.

The difference is that things won’t stay that way. Had Microsoft held off, say, a year on releasing an ARM version of Windows after allowing enough time for a critical mass of “Windows 8-style” apps to build on Windows 8, then Surface RT would be a much more compelling product; that will surely be the case next year.

Chromebook: Breaking through the clamshell mystique

An old Yogi Berra quote could be applied to the notebook market: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Microosft has subtly snubbed the popular clamshell with its first Windows device, Surface, even as it seeks to recreate some of the form factor’s advantages. I’ve ben writing for a while about the lack of interest from Apple and Android device providers in getting their mobile phone operating systems into clamshells. But despite all the challenges facing any new operating system, particularly one as unconventional as Chrome OS, Google and its partners Acer and Samsung had the courage to put it into conventional form factors like desktops (Chromeboxes) and notebooks (Chromebooks).

Indeed, Chrome has become a simple notebook OS alternative to Windows and Mac for consumers, a truer “netbook” than was ever produced by a Windows vendor, even more so than the original netBook from Psion. And in a time that even Microsoft is willing to throw out backward compatibility to take advantage of ARM processors, Chrome has found the mobile home it needs in the new Samsung Chromebook. The battery life may not be up to that of the iPad, but the 6.5 hours of battery life it delivers is at least in a user interface optimized for a keyboard and trackpad-driven form factor.

As James Kendrick points out in this ZDNet piece, Chrome is now becoming more functional offline. This is helpful because, in contrast to his rhetorical ending (“When was the last time your computer was offline, anyway? Probably doesn’t happen all that often.”), it’s still far too frequent. Worse, in at least some scenarios such long, sometimes international flights — it can be a prime productivity opportunity.

On Android’s tablet efforts

Consumers don’t care about how apps come to take advantage of their devices, but they do notice an experience that doesn’t measure up to what a device is capable of. Google must match its Google Play push with its Android app efforts.

My latest Switched On column discusses the various attempts Google has made to improve Android’s presence in the tablet market.

Reconciling the Windows brand

There’s not much said here that couldn’t have been said for previous versions of Windws, e.g., a window to the backoffice, a window to the future. But Windows 8, from a more literal interface perspective, is actually the version where the name Windows makes the least sense.