Microsoft

Apple Watch – or not?

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I am an Apple fan – I just don’t ‘get’ or enjoy using Microsoft products. I have to use their Software at work but I view it as a ‘necessary evil’. I will use a Mac in preference to any other computing device – period.

So I am obviously a definite candidate for the Apple Watch – but I have been using a Pebble Steel for the last 15 months and have grown used to its way of doing things and really rather like it. Now Pebble are also launching a new watch, the Pebble Time, which is an improvement over my existing one, so which way should I jump?

Pebble Time Steel
Pebble Time Steel

My Pebble Steel has been great and has proved to me that a smart watch really does work for me. Its battery life is great (7 days) – this was my biggest reservation about the Apple Watch.

Earlier this month I thought I knew which way I would go and I backed the new watch from Pebble on Kickstarter  – the Time Steel, it wasn’t going to be as beautifully made as an Apple product and wouldn’t link as seamlessly to my iPhone. But, I took the view that it would provide what I am used to from my current Pebble, with the addition of a colour screen in a similar sized body to the Apple Watch. More impressively the battery would last for 10 days and the screen is always on and very visible in bright sunlight. It is also cheaper…

The three Apple Watch styles
The three Apple Watch styles

However, after watching the launch of the Apple Watch I cancelled my Pebble order – why?

As I say the need to charge the Apple Watch on a daily basis was a concern for me, however Apple confirmed at the launch that the watch will last around 18 hours – I already charge my iPhone overnight so I can live with this.

More relevant to my decision is that I believe the Apple Watch will be much better than Apples usual first attempt at a product. I have previously worked on the basis that Apple hit the ‘sweet spot’ on the second or third versions of their kit, but in this case the gestation has been longer and more considered. The positives that caused me to change my mind are as follows;

  1. It will work seamlessly with the iPhone (and Apple may limit access to other smart watches in the future).
  2. It is just beautifully made (like all Apple products) and comes in 3 configurable styles.
  3. The screen will be great – worth the shorter battery life.
  4. The Apple Pay system adds another dimension to its use.
  5. The battery will be replaceable – via Apple stores (the Pebble one isn’t)
  6. There will be a plethora of apps made for it.
  7. Its operating system will be constantly developed and improved.

I accept it is expensive and a luxury, but my guess is that the Apple Watch will do for smart watches what the iPod, iPhone and iPad did for their respective markets – both lead them and also grow them massively.

I’m in the USA this summer and will definitely be purchasing one. The only issue is which one to go for?

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The end of an era…

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Those of us who are of a ‘certain age’ will remember their first mobile phone – it was probably from one of only two manufacturers – Motorola and Nokia. It was almost certainly quite large and had a pull out aerial!

Nokia_7110As time went on Nokia became the ‘king’ of business phones, the 6210 was the phone of choice for business. It was thin (by the standards of the day), had a battery that just lasted for ever (you could go away for a week without a charger!), and most importantly – it just worked. We now take for granted the things that a smartphone can do – but in the ‘good old days’ texting was a really neat idea!

I still have one of my old Nokia phones and can’t bring myself to throw it out – it is the Nokia 7110 which has a sliding from cover – it was I believe used in the film ‘The Matrix’. It is a lovely tactile thing, it hasn’t been used for years but still works and holds a charge in its battery. Much as I love my iPhone I’m not sure old iPhones will hold such memories for me in the future.

It is therefore sad that Microsoft, who acquired Nokia a few years ago – have quietly killed the brand name off. We will no longer see this icon of the 80’s and 90’s on phone shop shelves – I for one will miss them….

 

Our increasing reliance on Apps

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We are all becoming increasingly reliant upon the world of Apps – be it in the Microsoft, Apple or Google eco systems. We run our lives in the cloud on mobile devices and with total reliance upon various software, apps or similar.

I am an unashamed Apple fan, our household is now totally Apple based and my working life is only partially blighted by the world of Microsoft! The recent update by Apple to OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and its link to iOS 8 is brilliant so I am a ‘happy chappy’ at the moment.

However, what has become very clear to me in recent months is just how reliant we can become on certain apps on our phones or tablets, and what a pain it is when one (or more) stops working! Let me explain;

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I have for years run financial software on my phone and home computer, initially on Windows mobile and then since the dawn of the iPhone on that. I had to make a move when I swapped to an iPhone and had been very happy with a program called ‘pocket money’, it had a sister app called ‘mpg’ which allowed me to record my mileage and fuel economy and link fuel purchases directly back into pocket money. Sadly the developer of both apps died around 12 months ago, there was supposed to be a person taking on the development but this has not happened and now the apps are no longer bug free (or even available in the App Store).

So I have had to find alternatives – which you would think would be easy, but I can assure you it isn’t! Despite there being a huge number of financial apps available most are frankly poor, the same with mileage and fuel logging apps.

Luckily I have found two good ones; Account Tracker for my banking, and Road Trip for my mileage, but the upheaval of transferring data and setting it back up has been quite disruptive – not something I want to repeat in a hurry! We are about to have a move to the cloud at work, hopefully I am now well prepared for that as well!

Social Media – the importance of a good data connection…

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There are certain things in life that we take for granted – the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, England disappointing us at football – you get the idea. And as the world changes our expectations change also, who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would all expect to be able to access mobile data where ever we are to interact with social media (and collect email etc).

The smart phone has become an essential part of so many people’s lives now and we expect it to work all of the time 100% effectively. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have done their best to facilitate this with their hardware and software – all of which still never ceases to amaze me with what it can do. However there is a weak link in all this…… and that is the networks.

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You can have the best bit of hardware in the world, but if you can’t get mobile data it is about as much use as a brick! My experience at the Test Match at Trent Bridge this week was a classic example. I was intending to twitter via the @InnesEngland twitter account from the match, and I did, but not to the degree I wanted to due to a lack of 3G signal from our carrier Vodafone. I know it wasn’t just me because my colleagues were having similar issues with data as well.

This is not a new phenomenon brought about by the increased use of mobile data, I have found Vodafone wanting on their coverage for many years. They have made some minor improvements, I actually got 3G in my home town of Malmesbury recently for the first time ever. But generally they lag well behind the other networks EE and in particular.

There was a time when the enterprise user was the most important user to a networks data provision, that may still be the case but for different reasons as Social Media usage explodes into that market. Perhaps it is time for the various networks to share their masts and provide the sort of service the rest of Europe already experiences.

Microsoft and touch….

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One of the things I managed to do while in America last week was to visit a Microsoft shop (it was next door to Apple so I didn’t have to go far out of my way) – I was interested to have a look at the Surface – Microsofts take on a tablet. It runs Windows 8 (in two forms) but with touch rather than using the non touch version of Win8 that does not appear to have been received with much enthusiasm anywhere!

20130727-220239.jpgIn the UK I had failed to find a working surface in any store, so I was interested to see what it was like – and to be fair it’s not a bad piece of kit, although even with the recent price drop it is still rather expensive (and quite chunky). Also the keyboard cover (which is clever) is an extra and adds to the cost). What was more interesting however was the fact that in the Microsoft store – which was quite large – there wasn’t a single non touch screen PC or laptop on display (and there were a lot)!

Now if you take it that probably 90% of PC’s are traditional non touch units you have to wonder quite what Microsoft are up to? Do they expect all their users to replace their machines as well as their software when they update to Windows 8.

I actually think windows 8 looks and works OK (much as Windows Phone does), but do they really think they can ignore the non touch market?

This did make me laugh!

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I am an Apple fan – anyone who reads this blog will be aware of that already. I do however like any tech – if its clever and works I don’t mind who makes it. My first entry to ‘gizmos’ was British – Psion PDA’s, they were fantastic and at the time world leaders, sadly time moves on….. and Apple make the best tech currently.

I have looked at the new Microsoft entry20130106-094322.jpg to the tablet market – the surface – it looks OK but the only time I have managed to actually get my hands on one in a store (John Lewis in Nottingham), it didn’t want to work properly! The much vaunted keyboard / cover didn’t seem to work very well at all – now this was probably a one-off, but how many not working iPad’s have you come across in a similar situation?

So I suppose the attached press clipping didn’t come as a great surprise to me – someone breaks into the Microsoft campus and steals Apple gear only! This does sadden me as Apple need some competition to keep them sharp, currently this is only coming from Samsung it would appear. Perhaps Microsoft will eventually move back into a ‘good place’, it just doesn’t feel likely at this time.

This isn’t how it should be!

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20121106-205827.jpgSince Apple launched iOS6 the press has been full of the problems people have been having with the Maps app – until iOS6 was launched the maps (and aerial images in particular), on iPhone and iPad were provided by Google, and they were superb. At work we have all used the maps to great effect – finding properties, and getting an idea of the surrounding area was so easy. It was without doubt one of the ‘killer’ apps on the iPhone.

20121106-205852.jpgSo the change to the current poorer mapping was a great disappointment, it also caused heads to roll at Apple, so they are obviously aware they have screwed up – but are they improving it?

Well today I looked at the aerial photos on my iPhone for the first time for ages (I stopped when I upgraded to iOS6) – and they were good again – almost to Google standards!

I was so surprised that I told colleagues at work. But, and here is the weird thing – on getting home I decided to show my wife (sad I know) on an iPad, but they were as poor as before! I checked on my iPhone and they were still good. And yes, both devices are running the latest OS, so it appears that Apple are running two versions of the map data (the aerial pictures are different – see the screen shots here) – now that is so ‘un-apple’ and perhaps shows why they have changed things at Apple headquarters.

Now all I need is good aerial coverage in maps on my iPad – will Jonny Ives sort this now he also has responsibility for software at Apple – here’s hoping!