Microsoft is one of the giants of the software industry and there is no dispute there, but like all giant companies there are people who always hate them. Initially I went with the flow, and also was just a hater, because everyone thought it was evil and so did I. However what I did realize a little later, was the fact that they were trying to do what today seems normal in the Online world, gain some sort of extra market share. However, their methods were the ones in question and it seems to be the same. Google is now facing similar music especially for privacy issues and competition from Apple and such. The point is even through the time that everyone hated them, Microsoft managed to provide the world with some of the most used software on the planet from Windows, to the Office Package. I became a follower of the work and the style of operation of Mr. Gates. He showed that some marketing concepts can be applied in most industries. However, the past few years Microsoft has been slipping on the innovation front and are losing ground. In the darkest of the dark their courier project seemed like a beacon of innovation for the ageing Redmond Giant.
[tweetmeme] One of the biggest giants of the software industry alongside Google is Microsoft and unlike Google which relies on fans and partner companies to do most of the innovation in relation to hardware, Microsoft is taking on the task by itself. Against, a common competitor Apple and the iPad. Sometime earlier we looked at how the tablet industry is shaping up across the world, especially since Apple announced the iPad. It was more than just disappointing to see that Apple did the intro of the device which was not really great, however world over people seem to think that Apple has the right pulse when it comes to handhelds especially after the tremendous success of the iPod and the iPhone. So, without really performing any sort of sanity check all companies seem to jump on to the Tablet bandwagon, maybe through direct involvement or indirect. Today lets see one of the offerings that will be available just after the iPad.
Definitely one of my favorite devices in the list. Why ? well it embodies the concept of a hand held notebook (quite literally). I guess I might be speaking too soon, but the demo’s and concept photos that have surfaced recently, including windows mobile 7, seem to show Microsoft’s intent to start from scratch to make their offering better. Some of the pictures below here might just show how good this device might turn out to be, and a video showing how Microsoft thinks we will use this device.
The below video highlights the usability and how we might use it as a true journal.
I believe that we might really use this device and it is a lot more practical than the iPad.
Like a lot of people on the planet, I started off as someone who hated Microsoft and its products because at the core of the software itself, it is very “buggy” and not very flexible to users. Microsoft had become synonymous with the “Blue Screen of Death” and they have been working for the past 10 years to break from that image. And yes they have covered some ground with Windows XP which I really love, and now Windows 7. All this from an end user perspective. Your average geek will still hate it with an enthusiasm of a 4 year old. I am nobody to tell them that they are wrong, in fact most of the reasons that people hate Microsoft are right, and people are right in hating them. There is however one thing which Microsoft has done for us, bring the computer into our homes and lives. I think Microsoft hate is an excuse for a lack of introspection, and credits Microsoft with far better execution and strategy than it actually possesses.
Whatever the reason may be, most of us used a computer which ran a Microsoft Operating system, use Office Productivity suites from Microsoft and also the spotlight of hate Internet Explorer, which was most of our first portal to the amazing world of the Internet. I say this despite liking the graphics calling Bill Gates an Evil Master, but he is a good person ( Think Bill and Melinda foundation).
Over years Microsoft has tried hard to get into different streams of our lives competing with other silicon valley giants, paid up for law suites, made plans to take over the world, and somewhere in between Innovate. Some of the concepts that Microsoft has bought up have been giant “FAIL”s. Examples of some would be the Zune (Dubbed iPod Killer), Windows Mobile (Dubbed the Nokia Killer) and Microsoft SPOT (Dubbed the future of communication before 3G and Wi-Fi). However they have also given us gems like the OPC, OLE for Process Control, which is now out of Microsoft’s control and is one of the standard protocol in the Automation Industry or trying to bridge the computer TV divide with Windows Media Centers which I thought were ideal as a Home Automation platform or the Xbox 360. Agreed that the first XBox Sucked, but with the next release Microsoft outdid the platform that everyone said would change the future of entertainment, the Playstation 3 with its infamous ‘Cell’ Processor. Well this is still debatable.
Their reputation is that, in the fast moving technology world where Augmented Reality and Ubiquity rub shoulders the Redmond Giant might be caught napping. However, its not really the case, they are working on some beautiful concepts which are as revolutionary as they are unique. Well I will not just talk about them, but rather show them, So here goes :
One of the first to make a concept of border less sharing between devices and seamless interaction between the virtual world and the real world was the Surface. The Microsoft surface as showcased here is a table top computing device which with the help of more cameras and intuitive software makes out touch screens and existing laptops look like stone age technology. Most of us would have at some time seen demonstrations of this, as this is being already used in trials for over a couple of years.
With QR codes and the like making it into the realm of next generation interaction with digital devices, Microsoft have tried to make something of a colorful barcode called the Microsoft Tag. How much of it might be really successful is something for time to tell, but for the time being I believe that Microsoft has taken a step in the right direction in introducing more standards, trying to give developers more flexibility to experiment with. You can checck out Microsoft Tag here. Oh yes, it also links the physical world to the Internet just like the QR Codes, but this is more colorful.
I already spoke about this at length in the post about the tablet wars. However here is another video to remind us all about the vision of personal computing from Microsoft.
In my last post about the iPad I showed my disappointment at the device and what is greatly missed in the iPad. What it could have been is not just my vision, it’s the vision of Mac Funamizu who made the concept photos for a hand held iPad kind of device which could change the way tablets would have been viewed (Petit Invention). I think in a move of premature ejaculation from Apple, the iPad was launched. Not because it was ready but more because of the pressure or 2 years worth of rumors. However, historically Apple have improved features on the future upgrades and releases of their devices in the past. We hope that they will do something like that for the iPad, because I believe it can be made awesome with some tinkering. i.e. 2 cameras.
So what could it have been, some application examples here definitely make the vision clear so to speak. So instead of text I will let you feast your eyes on these pictures for an application called the looking glass on the device. If at all the iPad had a camera, someone would have made one of these, or at least some of these functionalities could be added. All courtesy of Petit Invention.
Integration with Maps would mean information about locations in a blend of “street view” type functionality
Integration with Maps would mean information about locations in a blend of “street view” type functionality.
On further exploration it could even provide details of people you are following, on your friends list, or twitter feeds etc.
Or just accepting meeting requests it can guide you to that location
Just looking at monuments or tourist destinations providing information about the place.
Linking with Google sky it could chart out constellations in the sky or identify planets based on your geo location.
Real time information from Wikipedia for anything that the ‘Looking Glass Sees’
Nutritional value of foods that you are eating, such that the Diet freaks are always pacified.
Information about general foods that can be added by people all over the world, making the database better
Access to translation of languages, Thesaurus, Dictionary while reading making the experience even better
Sharing digital photos etc a breeze, as it just connects to other known devices remotely, Bluetooth, wireless or something else that has not been invented yet.
Imagine an IKEA catalog and checking if furniture ‘fits’ and how it looks before buying it
Real time and predicted weather information
As street view changes and grows, it can add historical information about a place, like what a place looked in the past.
To be able to ‘listen to conversations’ and convert it to text is an awesome application for the hearing impaired, don’t you think.
It could do interpretation of multiple people
Or just sounds
Even directional text for conversation outside the ‘looking glass’
The inclusion of one piece of hardware into the iPad can introduce immense possibilities into the device. Considering that this was a post made by in January 2009, Apple had over a year to think about including this. Mr. Jobs if you are reading this, please note it, since tones of people are also writing about this, blogging about it, sharing it, including myself. You know what people want. I guess now it the turn of the Microsoft Courier to work on some of this, hello…… if you are listening, this is what I want !!
By far the most exciting technology release that has happened this year is the Apple iPad, but in my verdict it’s all just the hype and no meat within. Just like my college professor used to say, “All fart and no Shit”. Just like thousands of people, I was really looking forward to the release of the then iSlate the device which would revolutionalize the way we from the physical world interact with the digital world. In the end its more of a glorified eBook reader and game player. Looking for the next game changing gadget like the iPod and the iPhone Apple has blurted out the iPad. And I think Apple has missed an exceptional opportunity to make another landmark in the history of technologies.
The specifications of the iPad are anything but exciting, it’s just a glorified Phone / Netbook device and in the process of doing this they might be causing more harm to the gadget industry than any good. They are killing the market that existed for the eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle which although had limited features was made for a purpose. But the iPad does not fit in any of the categories and neither does it fulfill any requirements for a new category of device. Have a look at the specifications of the iPad, (source) A trying-to-be Jack of Many, and Master of None is what I would call it.
CPU: Apple’s custom 1GHz A4 SOC, manufactured by Samsung. And we can tell you, it’s blazingly fast.
Display: 9.7-inch, 1024 x 786 (132 PPI), LED backlit IPS with capacitive touch.
Storage: The iPad will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variations.
RAM: No word on this from Apple (just like with the iPhone and iPod touch).
Wireless: The devices comes standard with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1. You can also purchase a version which has 3G connectivity (UMTS / HSDPA 850, 1900, 2100MHz and GSM / EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz).
Sim Card : The iPad uses new micro SIMs.
Other sensors: The iPad has a digital compass, there’s AGPS on-board in the 3G version, and both versions have an accelerometer and ambient light sensor.
Battery life: Apple claims "up to" 10 hours web surfing on WiFi, listening to music, or watching video, and over a month on standby.
Dimensions: height: 9.56-inches, width: 7.47-inches, depth: 0.5-inches, weight: 1.5 pounds (1.6 for the 3G model).
There’s no question that much of what the iPhone and iPod touch do translates here, but nothing I saw during the online keynote or online made me sit up and think, "Wow, I need this." If Steve Jobs hoped to answer the question about why we need this third device, or how it’s better than a netbook, he didn’t make a compelling case. Where is video chat? Where is multitasking (honestly, only one app at a time for a device of this size and speed)? Why is the lock screen so embarrassingly empty? Why are there no active widgets to fill that huge home screen space? Where is the expansion of the multi touch user experience? These are things that you will really expect from a device from Apple. In case you can’t tell by looking at the thing, the iPad does — indeed — resemble a large iPhone (actually, more like an iPod touch). The front of the device is a large, smooth piece of glass with no buttons save for the familiar "home" button in a bottom center location. There’s no phone or SMS functionality on this device, and no iChat, though the iPad can run "almost" (Steve’s words) all of the 140,000 apps made for the iPhone and iPod touch. Besides the standard music and video partnerships Apple already has for its stores (and those aren’t changing yet), the company has teamed up with give publishing houses to start bringing ebooks to the iPad: Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachett. What does all this scream out, Apple is looking at the magazine / ebook market and it’s not a secret with all the partnerships and slightly larger than eBook readers sizing.
Although most of the software chunks that have been missed out are going to be definitely plugged in by the Army of private Apple developers, the main trick that they have lost is in the hardware. Not including a camera for the front and the back was a cardinal sin if any for a device this powerful. 2 Way video chat would be ideal on a device like this and also the inclusion of a camera at the back would have given a break to the frustrated Augmented Reality world. What could have been is something I will ponder over the next post. But for now, unless Apple really works towards providing some hardware / software fixes to this device I am sure it will just settle into the eBook reader category with very little success. Sorry Mr. Jobs, this was a bad Job.
Its competition that eventually makes a product good or bad. I say that with a sense of a consumer. As long as there is someone who is willing to challenge you with a great product and an attractive price package to match it, you will have great innovations and even better products to play with. The beginning of such battles were seen with the browser wars of the early 90’s down to the PC and computers race and mobile platforms. The latest entrant into the warzone is the tablet. I would have said tablet PC but that is a bit of a failure as such. Touch sensitive tablets who have the ability of connect to the internet, have larger screens than your traditional phones but lighter and more agile than a standard laptop, are features that the tablets offer to us, encouraging us to look at this new ‘screen’ among the others that take away our time like the TV, computer, Mobile, Gaming Device and Movies. I believe that the launch of apple’s tablet might have just sparked off one of the biggest tablet race yet.
Tablets are not new and have been around for a while, but the touch sensitive tablets with good processing power and a host of great features has been missed by all. The ‘iPad’ might be a device that is aimed at the normal person on the street, but with no multi tasking, no camera and other small features that could have made it better; has indicated that the tablet business will not get ‘swept over’ by Apple. So the next straight question would be, if not the tablet then what will. It is hard to tell, but if I were to put my money on it, I would point to the Microsoft Courier. It is not usually the case, where I point to a Microsoft product as a game changer or actually something that can make normal geeks go wow. But it is clear with an initial look at this device that it will take on the best, and might even make it as the favorite of many. Featuring a dual screen with a typical organizer type look and feel this tablet and some of the features that it packs might just revolutionalise how we interact with the digital world around us, more so enabling Microsoft to reach heights that others can only dream of. Their foray into the world of PC’s is legendary, Mobiles not so good. But this could definitely bring them to our palms soon enough. Gadget blog Gizmodo has uncovered a set of illustrations that make it clearer how you would operate the device, and what its mains functions would be. On paper, Courier looks like it would be an innovative device, with some killer features.
Based on what has already been reported, the rumored Courier tablet would have two 7-inch color screens, with a flexible hinge in the middle allowing the device to close like a book. The hinge would also have a home button, as well as indicators for wireless signal and battery strength. The two screens can accept handwriting from a stylus or multi-touch inputs from your fingers. Courier would not have any type of keyboard, and rely entirely on handwriting recognition for text input. Courier would also include Wi-Fi connectivity, and a camera on the back of the device. There’s no word on whether Courier would include extras like a Webcam for video conferencing or 3G connectivity. At the core of Courier’s functionality would be the Infinite Journal, which is exactly what it sounds like: limitless virtual pages where you can take notes, sketch, and store Web clippings. Gizmodo says the Infinite Journal would have page numbers for easier reference, and every page receives a timestamp and a location tag once content has been entered. It’s not clear whether the Infinite Journal’s location tag would come from automatic geotagging through GPS or wireless access points, or whether it’s just a matter of manually entering your location for each page. You can also mark Infinite Journal pages with keyword tags to make it easier to search for content. The Smart Agenda would essentially be a condensed version of your Infinite Journal pulling together day-to-day information for easy reference including e-mails, to-do lists, appointments, and recent messages. Clicking on any of these items in the Smart Agenda would take you to the page where these items are stored in your Infinite Journal.
Microsoft is all about the cloud these days, with company executives constantly referring to Microsoft’s three-screen vision (personal computer, mobile device, and television all syncing or pulling information from an online database). Courier is no exception, as it offers a function that allows you to share portions of your journal with colleagues and friends online. When your content appears online, the people you share your journal with will be able to make notes and comments about your content. Once the comments have been entered, they are automatically updated on your Courier device so you can see what your collaborators are saying. One of the most interesting functions of Courier is its ability to clip content from a Web site and allow you to store and manipulate that information any way you like. Called Clip, Tuck, and Paste, with this function you would be able to clip information from a Web page, and then ‘tuck’ it underneath Courier’s hinge between the two screens. Then, you can flip or search through your Infinite Journal until you find the page you want to store the content in, and then paste the Web clipping into your journal. According to the illustrations, there’s a lot more to the Courier, including a Web browser, camera, a file browser called the Library for a quick look at all your stored information, easy-to-use painting tools and more. These new details about Courier make it sound like a fascinating and innovative device. However, we also don’t know some basic things about Courier like how it would handle Web-based video or what kind of storage this device would have. I should also point out that so far we’ve only seen illustrations, and computer-generated videos of Courier in action. Hope we see a real working device of this and that would be something that I would buy, for the time being I would suggest to give the iPad a pass.