Spring is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett
After what seemed like an interminable winter here in New England, and certainly one of the coldest, it’s April, and spring has arrived.
It’s time again to survey the technology landscape and key in on what’s trending or otherwise interesting.
Can Microsoft be saved?
If you have a pulse, you’ve probably used Windows, Office applications, and other products from Microsoft. The company has a huge installed base and has achieved a critical mass that would likely ensure its survival for years to come—even if it did nothing.
Of course, the company is not doing nothing. It continues to prosecute its many businesses aggressively. But it’s fair to say, as well, that the last few years have been troublesome for Microsoft. The overall PC market has been blindsided by Apple and Android tablet growth, and PC shipments have declined significantly. In turn, this has hurt Microsoft’s revenue in Windows and Office licenses, and recent efforts in Surface tablets and Windows smartphones have been money-losing propositions.
In February of this year, after a lengthy search, Microsoft named Satya Nadella as CEO, replacing Steve Ballmer. If the first 60 days of Mr. Nadella’s tenure are any indication, Microsoft is changing, and things could be looking up for the company.
Perhaps one of the most telling signs is Microsoft’s release of Office for iPad. This is Microsoft skating to where the puck is rather than continuing to pretend that others must skate towards it. There are some other signs of a Microsoft that is recognizing the world as it is, not as it once was. This is most assuredly a good thing.
Psst, hey kid, wanna see the iPhone 6?
Like a progressive JPEG, the shape, lines, and details of the mythical iPhone 6, are slowly coming into focus. Bigger screen? Check. Fashion model slender? Check. Other stuff?
Well…it’s all speculation until we get our eyes and hands on the real thing. Nonetheless, these renderings based on reportedly leaked detail drawings are tasty.
TV landscape gets more crowded
Amazon last week announced the FireTV, a small set-top box that enables streaming of movies and television shows to your TV. Amazon joins Apple, Google, Roku, Tivo, and others in this ever-growing arena.
We haven’t gotten our hands on the FireTV as yet, so this is not a review. While the device does not appear to be a game-changer, nor the answer to those folks looking to cut the cord from their cable TV providers, it does offer some interesting features, including voice activation and gaming.
If you are an Amazon Prime customer and partake of Amazon digital products—movies, television shows, and music—you might want to check out the FireTV. At only $99, it is almost an impulse buy.
Android Wear and not-so-smart devices
New technologies emerge all the time, but few lately have captured as much attention as so-called wearable technology.
Google recently announced Android Wear, a software development kit (SDK) for manufacturers looking to build Android into wearable devices—watches, bracelets, etc.
One thing that has come to light regarding Android Wear is that the devices that run the SDK require a smartphone to provide the intelligence. So, let’s see, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your smartphone, and now you can spend hundreds more for a device that you wear on your wrist.
Not to dismiss the concept of wearables…we’re only at the beginning of the journey, really. Microprocessors will get smaller, more powerful, and less power-hungry.
But what if today someone could make a new category of wearable devices that had built-in intelligence, compelling features, and didn’t need another device to power it? Now that would be something that would pique our interest.
Did you sense a segue coming? There are rumors galore that Apple is building some kind of wearable device, and it’s been dubbed the iWatch. Speculation abounds about the capabilities of this mythical beast—that it will be a standalone device, a health tracker, an exercise companion, and more. Apple has hired medical consultants, fashionistas, and has even been reportedly trying to recruit Swiss watchmakers to the fold.
Most recently, rumors have the iWatch costing thousands of dollars. For that price, It better make my morning coffee, clean my house, and manage my finances, in addition to everything else.
Could Apple market a successful new line of devices at those prices? It hardly seems credible, but if you look at Rolex and other high-end watch makers, a highly fashionable, meticulously designed iWatch that also did a host of other things must be feasible.
We’re skeptical, however. Apple doesn’t usually enter a market unless it believes it can sell a product in the tens of millions.
We wrote in these pages some weeks ago about the impending end-of-life of Windows XP, an operating system that has been out there some 12 years. To say XP is aging is an understatement.
Well, the time has come. Microsoft has officially ended support of XP.
Or have they? Turns out that Microsoft has negotiated special deals with the governments of both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to continue support until these countries have migrated to a supported OS.
But for us mere mortals, were we foolish enough to continue using XP, there is no longer support of any kind. What this means is that XP will very shortly no longer be secure to use. For you procrastinators out there, it’s time to upgrade. We suggest you consider a Mac.
Last week saw the introduction of Office for iPad from Microsoft. This week, Adobe brings another professional-grade application to the popular device—Lightroom Mobile for iPad.
Adobe Lightroom has been around for years, enabling professional and hobbyist photographers to touch up and organize their photos, applying filters and effects, and adjusting exposure and color.
According to Adobe, Lightroom Mobile now brings much of these capabilities to photographers on the go. Users will need Lightroom 5 on a desktop or laptop, Lightroom’s mobile service and Lightroom Mobile for iPad. Owners of non-Creative Cloud Photoshop or Lightroom will need to buy a subscription to a qualifying Adobe Creative Cloud product.
Adobe has had a storied, sometimes adversarial, relationship with Apple and its products. To our eyes, this most recent action is another example of companies finally coming to their senses and offering products for the most dominant mobile platform out there. And I’m not talking about Android.
It’s official—Comcast is the worst company in America
It’s not news that consumers are looking to cut the cable cord. Cable TV is expensive (some say overpriced), does not provide a la carte programming, is difficult to support, and by and large, cable providers are not well regarded by their customers.
Was it inevitable, then, that a cable company, in this case Comcast, would be voted the Worst Company in America in 2014? Seems so.
This was no small feat. Comcast beat out such stalwarts as Monsanto, AT&T, McDonalds, Walmart, and Bank of America for the Golden Poo award. This is Comcast’s second Poo award, having also won this annual consumer poll in 2010.
Are energy companies vulnerable to cyber threats?
It seems that at least one insurance industry company, Willis Reinsurance, thinks so. Energy companies have no insurance against cyber attacks, and the reinsurance company likens this reality to a “ticking time bomb,” according to a Reuters article.
Of course, insurance companies would have everyone buy insurance for everything, so it’s difficult to say how worried we should be about cyber attacks on our energy grid. A Wired article suggests that it would be extremely difficult to hack the power grid, and, for example, shut the lights off in New York City at a predetermined time and duration.
Apple v. Samsung—enough already
There’s a saying in intellectual property law that if you don’t vigorously defend your IP, you deserve to have it stolen. In this context, it’s understandable that Apple seems relentless in its pursuit of Samsung in court, and the two companies faced off again last week in a California federal district courtroom. Apple is seeking $2.2 billion in damages.
There’s no doubt that Samsung is guilty of copying Apple products. There’s plenty of evidence, the most damning of which, in our view, is the 132-page internal document from Samsung that dissects every design nuance of the original iPhone. Just nine months later, Samsung shipped mobile phone products that were remarkably similar in form and function.
Apple has won some judgements, but it’s clear that the litigation could continue for years to come. We have to say we’re tired of it and wish it would end. How about you?