tablet

Now that I have the Surface Pro 3, my Surface 2 has been gathering dust. So it is with sadness that I finally put it up for sale. The Surface 2 was a wonderful device that exceeded my expectations.

It got me thinking about the Surface line. It’s a great device, yet did so poorly in the perception game. What could Microsoft have done differently with a mulligan?

When the Surface RT was announced, hell had frozen over. Microsoft haters and fans actually agreed on something, that the Surface had no future because of Windows RT. What’s the point of a device that has the limitations of Windows (no tablet apps) and none of its strengths (no PC apps)?

So I got the Surface Pro. With time, however, I realized I only did three things with it: 1) browse the Internet, 2) play media and 3) work with Office. If not for Office, I wouldn’t even need the desktop. Moreover, the Pro was just too thick and heavy.

That’s how I arrived at the Surface 2. The Surface 2 fulfills those three needs well and in an amazingly portable form factor too. It was also a lot cheaper!

What if Microsoft had just branded the Surface as an Office device? Office was (is) the only reason to get a Windows RT device, so why not just go all in on that fact?

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Microsoft released strong quarterly results, which showed good growth in cloud, server and devices.

Last month, we predicted that Microsoft sold about $2 billion worth of Surface Pro 3s at retail over the past three, three-and-a-half months. So the interesting number in the quarterly report is the Surface recording $908 million in revenue for Microsoft.

That may look like we’re way off, but it actually might be pretty close.

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If you purchased a 5.5-inch smartphone today and don’t own anything else, the next device you buy simply won’t be a mini tablet. That money is better spent on other things, like a laptop or larger tablet. That’s why I believe the future of mini tablets is niche, and why larger tablets and laptops will ultimately converge.

That 5.5-inch device is good enough to be your daily device for personal consumption: browsing the web, reading books and even watching video. It’s still great for phone calls, photos and messages too. If you purchase a second device, it’ll be to do things you can’t do well on a 5.5-inch screen — like office work.

Despite most of Asia being clued into this for the past couple years, and despite large Android phones actually being popular in the US and Europe, the press there seemed largely unaware of this trend.

Until the iPhone 6 Plus.

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Google is a smart company and Sundar Pichai is a smart man.

When Android One was first announced at Google I/O, I didn’t fully understand what the program did. New details have emerged in a BBC article, and I have to say, it’s genius.

I’ve consulted for an Indonesian company before interested in launching its own tablet. It was not an easy process. They had to meet many potential vendors in China, test an endless list of components and spend a lot of time haggling over price. Even then, prototypes were often disappointing from a price-to-performance ratio point of view. It was a huge management challenge, especially for a company whose strength is marketing and distribution.

The Android One program makes all that easy.

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Some time ago, we wrote the following about the upcoming ecosystem war, which will be delineated by display size:

At this screen size, productivity is possible and most consumers will want to do some work with such a device. I’m seeing more people purchase keyboard covers for their iPads; and of course, 2-in-1 PCs address this segment as well. Going forward, no device in this [10- to 13-inch display size ] category will be purely about consumption or purely about work — consumers will expect to do both on a device this size. That is why Google acquired QuickOffice; Apple is rumored to debut a 12-inch iPad Pro soon; and why Microsoft is desperately courting developers to create for consumers.

Apple and Google seem to agree. With tablet sales leveling off; the 12.9-inch iPad Pro expected to launch soon; and Google and HTC developing a keyboard cover for the new, 9-inch Nexus; Apple and Google are moving into Microsoft’s traditional stronghold of devices designed for work.

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I’ve had the Surface Pro 3 for less than a week, but unless things change by the next, I will be returning the device. As you can tell from my first impressions post, I loved it, so what brought the change of heart?

Three things. First, the tablet gets unbelievably hot frequently and when it does it’s incredibly uncomfortable to hold. It’s not much of a tablet when you don’t even want to hold it. What kind of tasks, might you ask, was I doing while its vapor magnesium was brought to a boil? Intensive, taxing stuff like web browsing, email and OneNote of course.

Second, the battery life isn’t great. I’ve consistently gotten 6 hours of screen time. This is on a balanced power plan, 37% screen brightness and sleep after 2 minutes of inactivity. I was expecting 9 hours of battery so 6 is disappointing.

Third, there’s something funky with the WiFi. Sometimes the connection is just awful slow and it’s not the fault of my connection; a reboot fixes it.

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