Happy February everyone.
It seems like it was only yesterday that we started 2013, and here we are, a full month later. Almost 10% done of the year already.
This week was mainly Blackberry week. RIM, now renamed to Blackberry, did its launch event for it's make-it-or-break-it Blackberry 10 line. Also hot this week, thanks to it's upcoming launch next week, is the Surface Pro from Microsoft, and new this week, for this newsletter that is, some politics as well.
I am currently spending the majority of my time on website-work to make things a lot easier to find, so this week I haven't spent much time on software updates.
Let me get started with this week's tech news.
* Senator Calls Video Games 'A Bigger Problem' Than Guns.
I'm not sure if this would be considered tech-news or more along the lines of lack-of-tech news, but politicians continue to look for something to blame rather than actually provide a solution.
When it comes to politics, I usually choose to ignore it. In my opinion, most of the higher-up politicians have no understanding about how the people who elected them live, or continue to hold on to ideas and ideals that are no longer relevant.
Understandingly after some horrific shootings recently, the politicians are trying to do something with guns, and quite a few of them are pointing the blame to "violent video games". When it comes to technology-related issues and concerns, I do try and pay a bit of attention. Not that it matters, but still, it is somewhat interesting to see them dance a bit.
One particular senator showed how far removed from the real world he actually is.
"I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people."
I don't know what world he lives in, but I'm sure that if he would have to choose between an angry person pointing an XBOX gamepad at him or an AK47, he would choose the gamer.
Looking at my own history of games, I have played some of the most violent games around. Carmageddon, GTA 1-4, but even some of the more obscure (and banned back then) games on the good ol'e C64, and I haven't felt the need to kill anyone.
I think that some games actually helped me, rather than messed up my mind.
When Carmageddon first came out, I had a daily commute of about 2 hrs back and forth in very heavy traffic. People cut in front of you left and right, people being slow, sharing fingers back and forth, you get the idea. Carmageddon enabled me to do what I wanted to do, but couldn't in real-life. For me, it provided the perfect cure to road-rage.
Of course everyone is different, but when I see politicians, it seems that the ones that have the biggest voice are also the ones that look like they were around when the wheel was invented, and seem to hold on to history rather than actually staying more in tune with more recent developments.
When I was a child, I played with plastic guns. Me and my friends played out battles out in the street, hiding in shrubs and ambushing each other. Is that really so much different from playing a Battlefield or Call of Duty game now?
* iPad 128GB
This week Apple announced the availability of an 128GB iPad. Double the storage capacity of the biggest previous model.
But, I think Apple is starting to lose its touch. The last few years, it has been putting a lot of focus on cloud-services. Redownload of iTunes purchased stuff, iCloud to use for backup/share of your pictures and documents, but now they are offering an iPad with bigger storage capacity. The thing is, it is getting so close to the $1000 now that to me it looks like Apple things more of the iPad than it thinks of its notebook line. For the price of an 128GB iPad, you can pick up a Macbook Air, or an even higher-specced ultrabook.
The last couple of years, Apple used March/April for new iPads, but last november the iPad Mini and the iPad 3.5 and now a 128GB one in January, I wonder what will be left for the upcoming keynote.
* Blackberry 10
This week, Blackberry finally lifted the curtain from their Blackberry 10 OS. A few years ago, RIM bought QNX, an operating system way ahead of its time, and they have been working on getting it working for their smart-phones ever since.
The Playbook was the first device they released that featured this new OS. While the Playbook is (in my opinion) one of the best tablet devices made so far (even to this day, 1 1/2 years later), it felt more like a beta-test rather than a fully supported device. On release, even core functionality such as email was non-existent, and of course apps were very minimal, so paying the full $500 for a 16GB version was laughable when compared to what else was out there.
Things have changed since. Blackberry continued to work on it, and of course a price reduction and various developer bonusses helped filling the gap, but unfortunately it is still not as popular as it could have been.
The OS itself, at least how it has been running on the Playbook, feels a lot smoother and more responsive than my Android and Apple devices, and using it is a lot more intuitive as well. In particular the border-swipe and the ability of all applications running in the background is something that is still not found in anything else.
This week, Blackberry showcased it's 2 new phones that will feature the same operating system. The Z10, full touch-screen, and the Q10, a classic Blackberry with physical keyboard.
From the images on the web, it looks like they just stuck the Playbook OS on these phones without modification, but based on some of the first impressions from tech websites on the web, it looks like they did quite a bit of work to it, so hopefully they deliver.
Monthly software subscriptions.
It seems 2013 is going to be the year of software subscription services. Rather than holding on to a fixed price for a product, companies like Microsoft and Adobe are putting a lot of focus on subscriptions.
Released earlier this week, Microsoft Office is now available for $10 a month (home premium version), offering access to the full range of Office products (Word, Excel etc) and additional bonusses such as Skydrive storage space and Skype minutes.
Adobe has been offering something similar for a little while now. At $50/mo, they provide you full access to all their pro-products, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After FX etc.
Of course the low price display for a monthly fee, rather than a full product purchase (similar to payment-plans on TV ads), and the ability to cancel at any time makes it tempting, but all these nickle's and dimes each month, it adds up quickly.
While for some apps, a setup like this works quite well, for other apps, I'm not so sure. I like what Adobe does. $50/mo, or $600/yr for the latest versions of all their apps, rather than paying that amount for an upgrade of Photoshop, makes a big difference.
For Office, I'm not too sure. Office Home Student 2010 sells for $140, and still works fine even on Windows 8 computers. Then, what more does it actually offer. I'm still using Office 2007, and it works perfectly fine, and I have no need or interest to upgrade, but if you look into a 3 years between version updates, with Office 2013, you end up paying $360 with it's $10/mo plan.
Then there is the XBOX360, $100 with a $15/mo, 2 year plan. (again) $360 in subscription fees on top of the $100 starting price, making it $460. If you purchase outright, and tack the 2 year XBOX Live on top of that, $299+120, you save $40.
All of this is understandable, and fair in my opinion, but what is happening now is that small-stuff is going the same route. Last week I had to upgrade a license for a software tool that I use. Rather than the $30 a year that I used to pay, now they only offer a monthly option of $2.99. Annoying. On the Android market, I see apps that are moving from a $5 purchase price to a free model with micro-transactions for each feature or option in there, many of them even recurring.
Like the smurfberries fiasco from 2 years ago on the iPhone, these in-app purchases are too easy to do and forget, and doing it with subscriptions makes it even worse. They are recurring every month, and are small enough to not be noticed, and of course quite tricky to remove/unsubscribe from, so companies that use them keep raking in the money from them, and since companies like Google and Apple basically require you to set up an account with a creditcard attached to it in order to use their devices, you are already setup for all this without even thinking about it.
Next week, Microsoft is releasing the Surface Pro. Finally a "tablet" that has the potential to become the iPad Killer that many have been waiting for. Microsoft has been pushing the Surface design in TV ads and even popular TV shows (this week's Arrow episode for example) are featuring the Surface in a fairly prominent way.
The Surface RT is a little different, and while cool and functional, the device itself is confusing. "It looks and feels like it, but it isn't" sums the RT up for me. I love the feel and how things work on it, but the inability to run standard apps on it basically diminishes its use for me. This week I've been doing quite a bit of website work, and for that the RT with its keyboard works fine, but this was just entering text in website forms. I would love the ability to be able to run full apps on it.
The Surface Pro would change all that.
Similar in design as the RT, but with a laptop-grade processor rather than a mobile-optimized one, making it an actual desktop/laptop replacement.
The last couple of weeks, I've been working with a similar-specced tablet, the Acer W700. While the physical design is considerably different, it's specifications, and thus it's performance and functionality are mostly the same.
The actual performance of the W700 is quite good. While I am still no fan of the operating system itself, Windows 8 actually runs smoothly on it, better than it does on my older laptop that I use for development tests, and it is even capable of running recent games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 with a good amount of detail and quality settings enabled.
But, if you are considering to pick up a tablet such as the W700/Surface Pro for gaming, keep in mind that there are very few games that are touch-enabled, so for gaming-sessions on the go, you will likely be using a keyboard/mouse combo of some sorts, or, and this is what I have been using, a USB-game-controller.
With the W700, my biggest gripe is the keyboard. I keep having connection issues, and whenever you stop typing for 5 seconds, it goes into sleep mode of some sort, and it takes another few seconds for it to wake up after a key-press, and that is, if it connects again.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter. Have a great weekend, and until next week.
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