Welcome Surface Book

Welcome Surface Book

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Microsoft held a hardware event today. I completely forgot about it and it looks like it was a doozy.

Wearable HoloLens

If I had to choose between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, put me in the Augmented Reality camp. Using technology to enhance our day to day lives is much more appealing to me which is why HoloLens is intriguing than the Oculus Rift to me.

Microsoft demonstrated wearable hologram technology with their “Project XRAY” game which was unlike interactions using the Wii Remote. It looks interesting but certainly not interesting enough to plop down $3000 for a HoloLens Development Kit.

The kit will be available in Q1 2016.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL

Oh look! More Windows Phones. The highlight feature for these phones is the ability to dock the phone to a Microsoft Display Dock and use it like a lightweight PC with familiar Windows 10 interface.

It’s the Microsoft take on the Motrolla Atrix 4G. Who knows? Maybe Microsoft will be the ones that will make this idea stick.

Surface Pro 4

I was tempted by the Surface Pro 3 and it continues with the Surface Pro 4. It’s an evolutionary release but that’s fine by me. Further refinements are a good thing. I just hope all the little refinements add up to a clear step forward in all areas and not the mixed bag that was the Surface Pro 3.

It starts at $1179 but that’s for the low-end Core M model but the one I would get costs $1679. 16GB of RAM is costly.

Surface Book

The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro has new rival. The Surface Book is aimed squarely at Apple’s MacBook and it looks like it can take it to task. Microsoft is claiming their new machine doubles the performance of the 13″ rMBP but that’s not that difficult when you consider the fact that Surface Book has a dedicated GPU and the Intel’s Skylake processor. The Surface Book’s ability to detach the screen and use it like a tablet and the ability to use a pen is an attractive feature though.

As for build quality, I hope that it’s rock solid and precise considering the asking price starts at $1949.

With all that ind mind, I still have a few questions:

  • Where’s does the dedicated GPU reside? I’m assuming it’s with the keyboard half.
  • How much battery life is in tablet/clipboard mode?
  • How’s the performance of the device in tablet/clipboard mode?

I look forward to AnandTech’s in-depth review on this.

Beginning of the Last?

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The Last Version of Windows

Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows and I’m not surprised. Apple has been stuck on OS X for well over a decade and have been iterating and refining that version over time. Microsoft is just finally getting on board with the whole “operating system as a service” thing.

Now instead of waiting for tentpole releases in 3 years time, Microsoft will roll out updates to functionality on a regular basis. From a consumer perspective, it’ll be nice knowing that Windows Updates will now be more than just a security updates and bug fixes.

But what about for enterprise clients? Giant IT departments won’t be as keen on regular functionality updates. Will Microsoft utilize a different release schedule? Will it be up to IT departments to decide which updates to install? Linux distributions have frequent updates as well but they usually have a long term support branch that favors stability. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles all of this.

Another Assassin’s Creed Unveiled

Unsurprisingly, there’s another Assassin’s Creed game coming this year. This time Ubisoft is continuing the hot trend and bringing us to Victorian London. Unlike Windows, this doesn’t seem like it’s going to end any time soon and I doubt I’ll be picking one up any time soon either.

I skimmed through the 9 minute walkthrough but didn’t see anything of note. It looks gorgeous and I enjoy the cutscenes but the gameplay sends a shudder through me like the thought of eating a cockroach.

 

Looking Good on the Surface

Looking Good on the Surface

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Surface 3 Unveiled

Microsoft unveiled the Surface 3 today. It’s powered by Intel’s Atom line-up and features a $499 USD price tag which seems like a incredibly bad deal at first glance but I’m warming up to it.

  • Display: 10.8″ 3:2 ratio 1920 x 1280 touch screen
  • CPU: Intel’s quad-core Atom x7-Z8700
  • Memory/Storage: 2GB/64GB or 4GB/128GB
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours (video playback)
  • Camera: 3.5MP front facing, 8.0MP rear facing
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Weight: 1.37lbs
  • MSRP: $499 USD for 64GB & $599 USD for 128GB

And all of this comes with Surface’s trademark kickstand. It’s also compatible with their pens and keyboard covers.

I paid $750 CAD or so for a 64GB iPad Air 2 and I love it for media consumption and the occasional iOS game. At $599 USD for the 128GB model, this could be a very compelling product for that exact use case. The Surface 3 also has the added of advantage of running a real operating system that can run full blown applications like Office. It’s not as light and I’ll likely miss out on great iOS only experiences but if I wasn’t into mobile gaming and was looking for a tablet for light work and media consumption, I’d consider the Surface 3.

Windows 10’s Technical Preview Impressions

I’ve been running the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds on a work laptop. Normally I’d try this kind of thing at home but I hardly use my home PC for anything other than PC games.

If you’re curious, the laptop is an old Dell Latitude from 2008. I wish I could install an SSD in it but that’s the least of this laptop’s worries.

General Look & Feel

At a very high level, Windows 10 is a revised version of Windows 8.1. Anyone who spent time using Windows 8 will feel right at home. Anyone who rejected Windows 8 will notice this OS is Windows 7 with a funkier Start Menu. Windows 10 isn’t trying to force new concepts down people’s throats. It’s not hiding the Shutdown menu, the Start Menu button or the Search bar anymore; everything is visible and easy to understand.

There was serious identity problem Windows 8’s visual make up. The Modern apps and old applications often clashed with each other visually and philosophically. Modern Apps loved to occupy the entire screen and hide menus in Charms whereas classic Windows applications behaved like normal applications would. Windows 8.1 rectified some of those issues and Windows 10 completely fixes it.

Now Modern Apps behave like classic Windows applications with visible menus and resizable Windows. They continue to look a little awkward beside older applications but at least they behave the same. With menus returning to the forefront, the Charms bar on are dead on desktop. Now I’m wondering to myself how long before I stop running my mouse along the edge of the screen to shutdown my PC. Silly habits are still habits.

Cortana

I like the idea of Cortana/Siri on the desktop. I don’t need to launch an app or have the weather constantly displayed. I like being able to ask digital assistants what the conversion is between USD and CAD and Fahrenheit and Celsius. It seems like a no brainer for Apple that I’m surprised Cortana may beat Siri to the desktop.

Since this is a work laptop, I haven’t been able to use Cortana beyond the rudimentary weather inquiries. I also don’t want to be that guy who’s talking to his laptop all day in cubicle city.

I wonder if Cortana will be more of a laptop or Surface centric feature because I don’t know many people who have a standalone mics on their desktops. This may change for Windows 10 desktop PCs though.

Spartan

The latest addition to the Windows 10 Technical Preview is Microsoft’s take on the modern web browser codenamed Project Spartan.

It’s a standalone web browser with annotation capabilities. It also comes with a Reading Mode. I haven’t used it enough to formulate a real opinion outside of this simple observation:

The default tab and menu bars consume the most space compared to Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome 41 in maximized mode.

I hope there’s a way to adjust the icon and menu sizes in the final version.

Project Spartan is more of a work in progress than Windows 10 itself. There’s currently no way to change your default search engine or browse with Private Mode. Google’s websites don’t even recognize it properly and will frequently tell me to download a modern browser.

Solid Start

Apparently Microsoft are aiming for a summer launch and I can could certainly see the operating system meeting that deadline. Cortana seems ready for prime time but Project Spartan needs more time in the oven. Will it all make it for the summer launch? I think so. Microsoft have been releasing builds at a rapid pace with each build shoring up the operating system in noticeable ways.

So it shall be called Windows 10

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The next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. It was announced at Microsoft’s enterprise centric event and will debut in early 2015 with a Technical Preview starting tomorrow. (General public need not apply)

Despite the target audience, there were a few noteworthy consumer oriented tidbits including virtual desktops, the return of the Start Menu and the evolution of the “One OS, all devices” vision.

Developers who write applications for Windows 10 can easily target multiple devices from phones to desktops and everything in between. But it’s easy to be skeptical with Microsoft’s claim because their current line up (Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One) didn’t exactly pan out despite their best efforts. To validate the “One OS, all devices” nature of Windows 10, Microsoft announced Windows 10 will share a single app store across all devices. I really hope this pans out for them.

I’m also hoping Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for both Windows 7 and 8 users. It just makes sense to me.

These days, ecosystem loyalty is more important than nickel and diming consumers so it makes sense to give free OS upgrades. Get the OS — especially the new Windows Store — into people’s hands and they’ll be more likely to consider additional Windows devices in the future. If people knew their existing applications and services will work with a Windows device, they’ll be less likely to sever that bond for the sake of convenience and cost.

Everyone will ask why they skipped “9” but I want to know what they didn’t use X. I’m not as critical of Windows 8 as others but even I can see Windows 10 as the maturation of Windows 8’s vision. If Microsoft felt the need to distance themselves from Windows 8 by jumping a whole version number, so be it. They wouldn’t be the first one to do so.

At least they didn’t call it Windows One.

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