Microsoft and Apple Events

My thoughts on the Microsoft and Apple Events this week.

So this week has been full of tech product releases from Microsoft’s Creative Update and Surface Studio to Apple’s MacBook Pro release. I’ve let a few days go by so that I wouldn’t be caught up in the moment toward one product or another.

Microsoft Creative Update

Majority of Microsoft’s event was talking about the creative update. This update comes in the form of some updated apps with the premier one being Paint 3D. Paint 3D is an application which allows users to create art in 3D. I covered this in a previous post. I still believe the play here is to simplify the creation of 3D assets for the holographic platform.

Virtual reality

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Microsoft also announced some virtual reality headsets from their OEM providers. The prices of these start at $299. There also was a demo of what it may look like in the holographic platform using these headsets. Although I was hoping for a tethered version of the HoloLens at a lower cost this might be a good option still. We still don’t know the minimum specs for the computers needed for the platform but my guess is it is lower than the Oculus and HTC Vive.

These headsets do tracking differently than the other headsets on the market. The headset the proposed are doing inside-out tracking vs. outside-in. The Headsets on the market today with room scale utilize cameras placed around the room in stationary locations to track IR markers on the googles or other devices. With inside-out tracking the camera system is typically on the goggles and IR markers are placed in stationary locations. I believe the difference though in Microsoft’s approach is more similar to the HoloLens where it utilizes IR and depth sensors to map the room.

I like this approach much better than any VR solution today. Setup would literally be just scan the room with the headset. This has a lot of potential for the future of both VR and AR.

Augmented Reality

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Microsoft briefly demoed the HoloLens again showing a creation made in Paint 3D. Another demo showed how looking at a website in Edge could potentially feed you 3D models of real items you could test out in your home to see if you liked them or not. This does show a new way of shopping and that 3D will make its way into our browsers in the future more prolifically then it is today.

I was a little upset to not see more information regarding the HoloLens at the event but I see the direction Microsoft is going and it does look like an interesting future.

Microsoft Surface Studio

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The premier piece of hardware that was displayed during the event was the Surface Studio. This is a 28” all-in-one PC that utilizes the Microsoft Pen and touch to be a massive creative workstations. The hardware looks amazing but comes at a high price point as it is targeted at the creative space.

If you look at other devices on the market that give you this capability you quickly see a high price as well. It is a niche market. The king of drawing tablets Wacom sells monitors and some smaller tablet devices. Wacom’s 27” Cintiq costs $2,799.95. This is a display only no computer so you have to fork out another say $1,000.00 for a decent computer with GPU. You are already up into the price range of the Surface Studio which starts at $2,999.00. Even the high-end model is only $4,199.00. Seems like a deal now…

To me the design is a very premium product. This is one I would personally like to own in the future. I occasionally dabble in videography, photography, and 3D creation.

Microsoft Dial

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The smallest piece of hardware at the event was the Surface Dial. The surface dial shows that Microsoft is looking to innovate. This device allows you to augmented your computing with a physical device. At the end of the day it is a dial which can be setup for different uses in software such as volume control, rotation, and other manipulations. The tricks really come out when paired with the Surface Studio though. When the device is placed on the screen not only does the dial still have a use but you get a contextual menu surrounding the device.

I can see this creating a new experience. Imagine if you could have a couple different Surface Dials programmed for your creative suite to do different interactions. You would grab the one you need for a color palette and place it on the screen. You could grab one for manipulation of objects. This could be an interesting play if Microsoft works that into the product. Today though I believe you can only have one at a time.

Apple TV Update

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So on to Apple’s event. Apple started out their event talking to changes to Apple TV. The specific focus was around video content both on-demand as well as live. What Apple has done is created a new app called suspiciously TV. Wait I’m going to launch the TV App on my Apple TV, or is it I’m going to my Apple TV to launch TV… Confusing as this is the basic functionality is some of your content applications are curated into one UI. No more hunting for your next show that could be in Hulu, or HBO Go, or the Showtime App. Interestingly Netflix was no where in their demo and my guess is people have to sign up or develop specifically for it. More details to come on that front.

Apple also had Twitter as a guest showing off a new version of their Live video platform. Besides Twitters approach Apple also showed how you could jump to live events via voice.

All in all not that impressed with where Apple TV is at this moment but in general I’m not happy where any Smart TV or other TV based device is at.

MacBook Pro

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The large part of Apple’s announcement was around their flagship laptops the MacBook Pro line-up. I’ll talk about their new control surface later but overall on the hardware it was bump in the CPU, bump in the GPU, Lower profile keyboard, USB-C everywhere, and goodbye every other port except the headphone jack. We are about to live in a dongle apocalypse until the industry switches over to USB-C. The one nice thing is that any of the ports can be used for charging. I’m not certain I like the fact that MagSafe has been abandoned.

Looking at just the base stats it looks like a nice computer but it doesn’t scream innovation to me. Yay we made it thinner again… Yay it comes in space grey/gray… Yay it has 25% more color…

Touch Bar

So let’s talk about that Touch Bar shall we. Apple’s biggest innovation is putting a bit of iPad in your keyboard? Apple removed the function keys from the top of the keyboard and replaced it with a retina touch display. They showed off a few integrations with applications and the platform which shows how it morphs into different control surfaces based on context.

I think there is potential here but it will take time for developers to fully figure out the right interactions for it. I can see how it could be useful to expose some controls when you are in full screen mode with some applications but I’m lacking a good understanding of how it will improve my life. It actually forces me to look at my keyboard area which I haven’t looked at in years.

Final Thoughts

Before I bust out my final thoughts on either vendor my initial though is that it is good to see Microsoft and Apple going up against each other at some levels. We need healthy competition to push the envelope.

The fact that both of these vendors are pushing the price point up tells us something about the computer industry. It is officially niche. The people that use full functioning PCs is shrinking in the consumer space. Enterprise customers definitely will continue with PCs for some time still as the tablet and mobile market does not meet all the needs of productivity in their current incarnation. The consumer market  on the other hand can live on their Android and iOS devices. The folks that need desktop or even laptop style devices are creatives, engineers, and power users only.

If I was going to declare a winner of Innovation I would say Microsoft won the battle. I see more promise in their direction at this point of where the future may be. Between Holographic computing and creative solutions to fill the world with content the hardware they are bringing in the PC market seems top notch.

As for Apple I think they own the mobile space with Google on their heels now. Microsoft’s only strategy in mobile is to deploy their applications and cloud services which gives them a piece of that pie.

We are still in a very big transition in the technology space. Only time will tell which group will own the new future of compute in our homes and in hour hands.

Pixel versus iPhone 7 plus – photos

So I decided to take a couple photos today to compare the quality of the images from both the iPhone 7 plus and the Google Pixel XL. The first shot I took was in low light early morning with high contrast.

My opinion is that both cameras did a pretty decent job. These are straight off the phones. The Pixel image is a little bit more rich color wise as far as I’m concerned. If you look in the sky you see the difference.

Lowlight – iPhone

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Lowlight – Google Pixel

 

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The next test I decided to do was to use the “Portrait” mode on iOS 10.1 and the “Blur” effect on Google Pixel. The “Portrait” mode on the iPhone utilizes the two lenses on the iPhone and merges the photos with some magic to create bokeh or as some people are calling it fokeh. The Google Pixel on the other hand has you take a picture and then slowly move the phone upwards, and again uses software to create the effect. In my opinion the Pixel looks better for some reason. One is color. I can say though that it is easy to make a mistake with the Google Pixel version.

Shallow DoF – iPhone 7 Plus

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Shallow DoF – Google Pixel

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I think both phones do a great job I’ll do more test shots will update this post with more comparisons via a gallery over the next week.

My google Photo Album: https://goo.gl/photos/PQkXxDCQ9QQPeZ5Z9

 

OK Google Pixel

So today I received my Google pixel XL. My first impressions are that the phone has a decent build quality. Interesting it is much lighter than my iPhone 7 plus. I still have not got used to the fingerprint reader on the back. I’m so used to unlocking my iPhone with the home button. This is the first product I’ve ever recorded an unboxing off too. Although my lighting sucked.

I was able to take a few photos and compare them with my iPhones. I do have to say the camera is pretty Sharp. Here are a couple examples photos taken in from both phones.

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iPhone

I did no editing or adjustments. The iPhone seems a little Overexposed in each photo.
There also are a couple Easter eggs in the new OS nougat. One of which I took a video of which was in Google Assistant. If you say “Ok Google I’m feeling lucky” it will launch you into a quiz show.

Another interesting feature I found out about is that it saying “Ok Google” unlocks the device if it determines it is your voice. One problem here is that you can cause your self issues if you watch a video of yourself saying the key words…

So far so good. I’ll post another review in a day or so after I get more time with the device. I’m still waiting on my Daydream VR as well to play with that.

Want to know something about the Google Pixel. Send me a comment and I’ll try to answer them either in the comments or via another blog post.

Oculus/Conn3ct

Between October 5th and 7th Oculus held their Oculus/conn3ct event. This covered where Oculus is today as well as where it may go in the future. Mark Zuckerberg jumped on stage and  even demoed some of their work. Zuckerberg made a comment that VR is a great platform to put “people first”. This comment is great for VR. My thought on this is everything with VR is about experiences. This comes in the shape of Social and even just Solo experiences where you have to put the user first.

Zuckerberg then jumped into a virtual reality demo showing of a social app. This included avatars with expressions and moving hands. The hand movement I easily understood since they were using the Oculus Touch. Even mouth movement is easy since it is off of audio. I’m not sure how they did facial expressions though. Unless there is a lot of extra features in the sensors that ship with it I don’t see how they pulled that off.

Some of the interactions shown in the demo were rather impressive. Through the use of context menus attached to the wrist of each hand a user is able to do things like answer a Facebook call or share something on Facebook. One example they showed was sharing a video. One could easily see this turning into a whiteboard and giving users a way to work remotely. This plays in very well to the vision Microsoft has showed for AR and VR working together. It will be interesting to see where this all ends up and when it is mainstream.

Hardware

Oculus launched a few new pieces of hardware as well as announcing some things they are working on. The first piece of hardware they launched is Oculus Touch which has been the missing component for Oculus. The HTC Vive and PlayStation VR both launched with controllers out of the gates. It seems like it has been forever for Oculus to launch theirs. Oculus also launched a in-ear headset for the Rift as well. The third piece of hardware is additional sensors. To get room scale with the Rift you will need three sensors. The Oculus comes with one and the Touch controls do as well, but for room scale you need to buy one more. As of today only two pieces of hardware are available: Oculus Touch at $199.00 US and the Oculus Earphones at $49.00 US. The Sensors haven’t seemed to hit the store for pre-order yet but are supposed to cost $79.00.

The Oculus team discussed working toward a standalone version of the Oculus Rift as well. They also talked about a future where we would be untethered from the PC and yet use a PC to power it. This sort of plays into my vision of where I think Apple may go with Augmented Realty.

Summary

It is awesome living in the tech world today. We are on the cusp of some great things in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and AI. I can’t wait to see where this all lands in the next five years. I really hope to be part of it for sure.

Google is becoming Microsoft

So earlier this week Google had their “Made by Google” event. I figured I would put down in writing my thoughts on the event and where Google is going. This post will be focusing on the transformation that Google is starting to go through. I also plan a post on the Pixel itself as well as Daydream but that will be a different post.

I’ve seen a number of posts floating around the internet that “Google is becoming Apple”. Seems like a bit of click bait to me. Google is by no means becoming Apple. They don’t fully control the Android ecosystem. What they are acting like is Microsoft. Let that sync in for a bit…..

Hardware

With this event Google announced their first fully designed by Google Phone. HTC happens to manufacture it but that is no different than the iPhone which is primarily built by Foxconn. Like Microsoft though Google will be competing not only against Apple but also against OEM’s that utilize the Android operating system. This to me is no different then Microsoft and they Surface Pro and Surface Book.

Apple is a pure Hardware company that controls its full ecosystem which Google will not be able to do with Android since they open sourced it. Google will never be a hardware company full stop. Their primary focus is on their Ad networks and they Google Play ecosystem. Apple is not and probably never will be at that scale. Apple will continue to be a hardware company for years to come, while Google will be a services company with hardware and OEM vendors.

Software

A lot of the event was talking about Google Assistant and AI in general. This play is very similar to Microsoft. At Microsoft Ignite Satya Nadella spoke about “democratizing AI”. Both Google and Microsoft have their own AI plays going on. Microsoft is approaching it with their Cortana Assistant while Google has built their own as well. Machine Learning and Deep Learning are being attacked directly by both Microsoft and Google. This is not a place Apple has done really well in. I personally use an iPhone and iPad but Siri is not as intelligent as either Cortana or Google’s platforms.

Apple really is a hardware not software company. Just look at iTunes… They do great things with hardware but in the software world they just are not there. Google on the other hand is very well versed in software just like Microsoft. Both Microsoft and Google play in opensource quite a bit as well. Some can say Apple is going there with Swift, but it is still very early where Google and Microsoft have very mature software platforms.

Conclusion

Google is becoming Microsoft as much as Microsoft is becoming Google. The moves I’ve seen Microsoft in their new dedications to open source is much more of a Google style play. They are focused themselves on being a Cloud based company on every platform. Even Google does this with their applications on iOS. It is clear to me that Microsoft and Google are in a different category then Apple. I hope people stop comparing Google to Apple as they are two completely different things. I have no problem though with compairing Microsoft and Google.

Do you have some thoughts on this? If so reply and share your thoughts. Have a blog about it share a link as well. I’d love to hear what others are thinking.

What if…Apple Augmented Reality

So recently Tim Cook has spoken a lot about augmented reality and that Apple is heavily investing in it. Based on their new iPhone and some of the technology I have some ideas of how they potentially may approach AR.

How

What if Apples approach is not a fully encompassed device like Microsoft HoloLens but rather just a visor with sensors that talks to your iPhone as the central compute. How you say? Well they did launch a new wireless chip they designed.

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It may be feasible that they have some new secret sauce that would allow you to carry a light weight visor to experience augmented reality. I for one would love to have a light weight headset. One of the challenges with adding compute power to the headset like the Microsoft Hololens is that you are limited by battery as far as how long it can last as well as size. I think it might be feasible to have a light weight device that only does sensor input and display. This paired with your iPhone as the compute may be a very interesting combination.

What about power on the go?

What if the visor had a case that charged the visors when you put them away like the Apple Airpods?

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Again interesting concept. Maybe everything that is being done now is just steps to a AR visor from Apple.

I hope that some of my thoughts are true. I really want to see Augmented Reality mainstream.

P.S. Apple if you are looking for a developer to test out your AR let me know Smile

Welcome iPad Pro to the family

So I’ve added an iPad Pro to my portfolio of mobile devices. I decided to get the 128 GB LTE model since I really feel I need internet everywhere I am. I haven’t ever had an iPad without cellular data of some kind.

My first impression when opening up the iPad Pro box was “DAMN this thing is HUGE”. It is a really large device. I really started to fear I made the wrong decision by buying it without using it first. That first impression washed away in a matter of a couple hours. It definitely is a different device. I have an iPad Air 2 as well I have used iPad Minis. They all seem to have their own place.

My planned usage is both productivity and creative. I’d like to be able to use the iPad Pro on the road for photography as well as some limited productivity like coding via SSH sessions. That being said I’m currently writing this post on the iPad Pro.

Multi-tasking

The best iOS 9 feature that seems to really excel on the iPad Pro is multi-tasking. I thought multi-tasking was great on the iPad Air 2, but man the iPad Pro screen really shows off the power.

mutli-tasking Multi-tasking on the iPad Pro

The screenshot above is my layout with Safari, Apple Notes, and watching a podcast all at the same time. I feel like I actually have two iPads when I’m multi-tasking on the iPad Air 2. Some may ask why not just use a Macbook. Well actually I like having some constraints. I feel I open way more on my Macbook which actually doesn’t allow me to focus. Without multi-tasking though you couldn’t do research and type a document.

Keyboard

So I ended up ordering the Logitech Create keyboard for my iPad Pro. I also went to the Apple store to try out their Smart Keyboard. I will probably do a separate write up on the Logitech keyboard. I used the iPad Pro without a keyboard for a couple days. One of the issues right now is that not all apps are taking advantage of the new keyboard. Until all apps adopt it, you end up feeling a jarring experience. Below is an example of each keyboard.

NewKeyboardNew Keyboard OldKeyboard Old Keyboard

Pencil

I haven’t received my Apple Pencil yet but I played with one at the Apple store. I have to say that the Apple Pencil is amazing. I’ve used styluses across multiple devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I’ve even used the Surface Book. All of them have latency issues that bother me. I even have a Wacom Cintiq. The Apple Pencil seems to have zero lag. It feels really natural. I can’t wait to get more time with it. I feel it will unlock a lot of creative applications on the iPad Pro.

Summary

In summary I think this is a new classification of a device. If you are into creative or feel that you need more screen then an iPad Air 2 gives you then this might be the device for you. I’ll be back when I have some time with the Logitech Create Keyboard as well as the Apple Pencil.