All eyes were on Microsoft at the start of this week, as speculation ran rife about what the Redmond-based company might be unveiling at its mysterious LA event.
Apple is more renowned for its deft touch when it comes to hyped-up launch events, and few expected their main rival to deliver the goods; however, deliver they did, in the form of the Surface tablet.
Due out by the end of this year, the Surface surprised everyone by looking great, with a sleek design, a nifty cover/keyboard, and a cool kickstand that offers the kind of elegant, innovative touch Steve Jobs would have been proud of.
Of course, when expectations are low they are easy to exceed. The jury will remain out until we know details like pricing, and have seen how the device – or devices, as there’s one for ARM processors and another for Intel – perform compared with the ubiquitous iPad.
It’s not going to be easy, especially given that Microsoft can’t make the device too good without alienating its manufacturing partners. These companies aren’t going to put much effort into their own Windows 8 tablets if the Surface is seen as the operating system’s flagship device.
Make it rubbish, though, and people will associate that quality with the OS itself, also hurting the OEMs. Talk about a rock and a hard place.
Hey, at least they’re giving it a crack – indeed, as if all this wasn’t challenging enough Microsoft also announced this week that devices running Windows Phone 8 will be out by the end of the year as well.
Built on similar code as Windows 8, the mobile OS will have some cool new features, including a refreshed Start screen, and support for the latest handset tech advances. The problem is, those advances mean devices running Windows Phone 7.5 won’t have the specs required to upgrade.
Here again the company is treading on thin ice, needing to advance its technology but not wanting to crush the short-term hopes of partners like Nokia, who can’t afford a six-month wait period.
That’s why Microsoft will offer a bridge release, Windows Phone 7.8, offering all the updates it’s possible to deliver on handsets with older hardware. As with the tablet market, it’s a fine line; but hey, at least they’re not making their own phones - yet.
In local Apple news, licensed wholesaler Renaissance has sold its distribution division to Exeed, leaving the company with just its Yoobee retail and education divisions. Renaissance had a monopoly on Apple here for a number of years, but has struggled since the Cupertino company named Ingram Micro as a second distributor here in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see if the sale makes any difference to consumers.
Speaking of Apple, browser publishers Mozilla announced a new browser optimised for the iPad this week. Dubbed Junior, the browser offers full-screen browsing by substituting the navigation bar with semi-transparent buttons at the left and right sides. It’s a great idea from the Firefox publishers, and one we can’t wait to see in action – although unfortunately there’s no release date yet.
Over at Samsung, the company was quick to respond this week after a Galaxy S III buyer claimed that his device caught on fire while he was driving in his car. The owner posted photos confirming the damage, but also admitted that the device had been resting in a car mount, which may have been affecting the handset’s temperature regulation. We should note, a couple of similar incidents took place involving the iPhone 4, and the new iPad copped some flak for overheating as well. Samsung is investigating the incident, but the bottom line is, these devices pack a lot of processing power, and where there’s power there’s heat, so be careful where you leave them.
Finally, many of you may have seen the widely distributed online cartoon strip ‘I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened’, which has become a staple for defenders of illegal downloading. The strip’s author, Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal, has become involved in a legal stoush with content aggregator site Funnyjunk, concerning (ironically) copyright infringement. The spat led to Funnyjunk demanding US$20,000 in damages for defamation, which in turn prompted Inman to launch a campaign to raise the money, donate it to charity, then send the Funnyjunk team a drawing of one of their mothers seducing a bear, just in case they didn’t get the message.
Enjoy your weekend everyone, we’ll be back next week.