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How Windows, OS X, and Ubuntu are slowly turning your PC into a smartphone

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The glorious era of PC stardom is over. Once the belle of the technology ball, desktops and laptops now share the spotlight with smartphones and tablets, and the embrace of mobile devices by consumers has provoked deep changes in the computing landscape.No, PCs aren’t dying out, but they are shifting form to more closely resemble the Hot New Things. And there’s good reason for it.

“Consumers are mainly driven by simplicity and familiarity,” says Carolina Milanesi, Gartner’s research vice president of consumer technology.

In a word, people yearn for consistency. And as the industry struggles to satisfy that demand, mobile design is bleeding over to the desktop—though the Big Three PC operating systems are approaching the convergence in drastically different ways.

“Microsoft’s philosophy is ‘Okay, we want to be consistent across our operating systems,’ and the way it worked in their brains was to just make one,” says Ben Bajarin, the director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies. “Whereas Apple said, ‘Well, we’ll make two [operating systems], but we’re going to have gestures and some UI consistencies [across iOS and OS X] so that you have a consistent experience.’”

And that’s not even getting into what Linux is doing, via Canonical’s audacious Ubuntu for Android. But let’s get into it! Follow along, dearest desktop diehard, as we examine how mobile elements are creeping into Windows, OS X, and yes, even Linux.

Windows 8

Dell’s XPS 27 AIO.

C’mon now, you know where we had to start.

Determined to jump-start its mobile ambitions, Microsoft infused Windows 8 with tablet-friendly modern apps, gesture controls, and the Live Tile–infused Start screen. But hey! The traditional desktop is still around for PC aficionados. It’s the best of both worlds, right? Not quite.

Designing a single operating system to run across multiple hardware form factors has led to some glaring usability problems. Rather than feeling like one OS, Windows 8 is more akin to a patchwork Frankensystem, with the traditional desktop and the modern UI awkwardly bolted together instead of working together as a cohesive whole.

“When Microsoft first started talking about Windows 8…there was a lot of optimism around it, because we’re a mobile-first generation and mobile computing is important, and Microsoft was trying to bring unification with that to the table,” says Bajarin. “The problem is they failed at the implementation.”

Having one UI to rule them all has spurred the creation of hybrid-style Windows 8 devices, but as yet none of them have been truly compelling.

While desktop jockeys can get by in the modern UI, its large buttons and vast empty spaces were clearly built more for swiping and prodding than for keyboarding and mousing. All of that wasted space requires a ton of extra scrolling, and the relative dearth of onscreen information requires a ton of extra menu clicking—two burdens that are anathema to traditional PC users. Likewise, while hidden menus and charm bars work wonderfully on tablets, they’re far less natural-feeling on desktops.

The problem isn’t limited to PCs proper. Trying to use the Windows desktop on slates is an exercise in frustration, given the small fonts and even smaller menu buttons of classic desktop software (the millions of programs built with a mouse in mind).“Part of the problem when you use a touch device is, the second you leave Metro, you can’t even use touch,” says Bajarin.

Look at all that wasted space! (And Package Tracker Pro is one of the least-egregious offenders.)

Some crucial settings and programs work only on the desktop, and some work only in the modern UI. Because of that, Windows 8 has a bad habit of ripping you out of one UI and dropping you into the other—a jarring experience, to say the least.

On the plus side, once you’ve overcome its substantial learning curve, Windows 8’s consistent experience permits you to jump in and use any hardware the OS calls home. (Windows 8.1’s usability improvements will help.) And don’t forget—the (cough) relatively few (cough) apps available in the Windows Store work just fine across the wide spectrum of Windows 8 devices out there.

In the long term, those benefits may outweigh today’s rough patches. But in the short term, Microsoft may be forcing its desktop customers to bite off more than they can comfortably chew.

OS X

The MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

On the flip side of the convergence coin is Apple. Given the company’s strength in mobile devices, you might think Apple would be rushing to merge iOS and OS X, but thus far it has taken a fairly cautious approach.

The extensive reach of the iPad and iPhone is definitely affecting Macs, but in a much more subtle way. OS X Lion introduced iOS-like elements such as the LaunchPad, the Mac App Store, and full-screen and sandboxed apps. OS X Mountain Lion added a wider range of multitouch gestures, a Notification Center, iCloud, a Messages app that plays nice with iMessages, and some native apps that first appeared on iDevices. The upcoming OS X Mavericks drags Maps and iBooks along for the ride.

These are all baby steps, rather than a single, traumatic, Windows 8-style leap into the new and unproven. And each step of the way, Apple has tried to integrate the iOS features fully into OS X’s desktop context, rather than simply forcing a round mobile peg into a square desktop hole. The OS X Notification Center is not a mirror image of the iOS version, for example—though it feels largely the same.

The updated Notification Center in the upcoming OS X Mavericks is really, really like the one in iOS, but different. (Click to enlarge.)

The downside to this approach, of course, is that Apple doesn’t have the exact same apps and UI across all hardware, unlike Windows 8. Experts argue that that’s a good thing, though.

“[Windows 8] just feels like two drastically different operating systems and two drastically different UI paradigms struggling over the same thing,” says Bajarin. “Apple lets a PC be a PC, and a mobile device be a mobile device. Shared similarities and consistencies exist, but they’re not breaking the paradigm.”

“I like that Apple was more gentle about the ‘phasing in’ [of mobile elements],” says Wes Miller, a research vice president at Directions on Microsoft. “I’m not going to say there will never be a touchscreen Mac—but if there is, I think Apple’s going to make sure the App Store’s there, first.”

Apple
Apple’s Magic Mouse and glass-coated MacBook touchpads set the touch-enabled standard.

Both experts admired the way Apple integrated multitouch elements into Macs via the touchpad, rather via than actual touchscreens. Touchpads let you use gesture controls in a way that feels much more natural than lifting your hands from your keyboard or mouse to poke your monitor, thereby minimizing the physical impact of touch on your PC workflow. (Windows 8 technically offers the same, but most laptop touchpads just plain suck.)

Don’t expect the Mac/iPad convergence to stop with OS X Mavericks, either. As Miller points out, the iCloud website was recently updated with “a very iOS 7 look and feel. That makes me think we can expect OS X in 2014 to have a flat, new look.”

Baby steps.

Ubuntu Linux

Canonical
A mockup of the Ubuntu Edge running Ubuntu for Android.

Put down your pitchforks! I know Linux is a complex and varied ecosystem woven from a near-endless number of distributions and interfaces. But for the purposes of this article (and my sanity), I have to focus on just one Linux iteration—and that one is Ubuntu, which is making headlines with its audacious (and doomed) Ubuntu Edge crowdfunding campaign.

If anything, Ubuntu for Android and the Ubuntu Edge smartphone are even more forward-looking than Microsoft’s and Apple’s ecosystems. Ubuntu for Android functions pretty much like any other smartphone when you use it as a smartphone—with apps, gesture controls, all that. But when you connect a phone running Ubuntu for Android to an external monitor and mouse, the device seamlessly switches to the full desktop Ubuntu Linux distribution, sudo apt-get and all.

Rather than trying to merge portable and PC operating systems, Ubuntu for Android adjusts to offer the best experience for your needs, with the help of some hefty internal hardware. Contacts, photos, videos, and other files are accessible from either side of the OS wall. It’s insanely ambitious—a glimpse into a future where one device can handle all our computing needs. But it faces two problems.

Canonical
The Ubuntu Edge: Imagine a future where your smartphone is also your PC—and your socks are also your shirt.

First and foremost, no hardware manufacturers have stepped up to actively use Ubuntu for Android. And the reason they haven’t is likely tied to the second issue: We aren’t living in a one-device kind of world just yet.

“That’s a very future-centric [UI] paradigm,” says Bajarin. “I don’t think it’s something we’re going to see go big right away…I can see someday, when we’ve got so much processing power in our phone or tablets that there’s no reason why it can’t power all these other displays and be all these different PCs. And I think what Ubuntu’s doing with the dual-modal software is very interesting.

“It’s a very intriguing concept, and one could make a could case that over the next five to ten years, all the technological bits will be there to make that an equally good experience as what you get today with a notebook or a desktop.”

But again, today is not tomorrow, and it’s no surprise that the Ubuntu Edge campaign floundered.

To infinity, and beyond!

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

Don’t let Ubuntu’s jumping of the technological gun fool you, though. Like it or not, we’re on the cusp of something different, as the computing industry struggles with a titanic shift that’s dragging the monolithic PC into a future where multiple screens and consistent, cohesive multidevice experiences are the norm. And man, has that shift come quickly!

“If you look back five years, we’re in 2008, and the iPhone is still this young thing that people aren’t sure is going to take off,” says Miller. The first iPad was still two years off at that point. “Technology is shifting so incredibly fast that the form factors [and interfaces] we’ll be using in five years we may not even think of right now. We’ll just look back and laugh at what we were using in 2013.”

Change is a-coming, friends, and while Apple’s kiddie-glove approach to merging mobile elements with desktop operating systems may be the most comfortable for consumers in the short term (sorry to break it to you, Microsoft), don’t be surprised to see Macs and Windows PCs end up in similar places a few years down the road. The strategies differ, but the goal remains the same: consistency.

Who knows? Microsoft and Apple might even wind up where Ubuntu is trying (and failing) to go today.

 

source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2047067/how-windows-os-x-and-ubuntu-are-slowly-turning-your-pc-into-a-smartphone.html#tk.twt_http://www.pcworld.com/article/2047067/how-windows-os-x-and-ubuntu-are-slowly-turning-your-pc-into-a-smartphone.html

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TODAY’S TOP TECH NEWS, NOV 29: EX-LAZADA EXECUTIVES’ STARTUP EASYSHIP RAISES US$4M

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Easyship’s platform plugin and integrations enable stores to print labels, automate international paperwork, and display real-time courier rates

Hong Kong-based Easyship raises US$4M Series A [press release]

Easyship, a shipping platform for active SMBs to simplify and automate logistics, announced today it has raised a US$4 million in Series A round of funding from a slew of investors, including Maximilian Bittner, ex-CEO & Founder of Lazada and Senior Advisor of Alibaba Group; and Richard Lepeu, ex-CEO of global luxury giant Richemont and board member of Yoox Net-A-Porter Group.

Existing investors Lamivoie Capital Partners and Richard Lepeu, as well as Rubicon Venture Capital, One Way Ventures, Kima Ventures and Picus Capital, have also co-invested.

The startup was founded in 2015 by Tommaso Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac (both formerly worked at Lazada), and Paul Lugagne Delpon. Easyship’s cloud-based platform helps e-commerce merchants ship worldwide. Its platform plugin and integrations enable stores to print labels, automate international paperwork, display real-time courier rates, and offer their customers dynamic tax and duties at checkout.

The startup has offices in New York, Singapore, Netherlands, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Singapore’s GIC backs EV charging network ChargePoint’s US$240M funding [DealStreetAsia]

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC has joined a group of investors backing the US$240 million Series H funding in ChargePoint, a California-headquartered electric vehicle charging network, according to an announcement.

ChargePoint claims to have more than 57,000 independently owned public and semi-public charging spots and thousands of customers.

Other investors in the round include American Electric Power, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Chevron Technology Ventures, Clearvision and Daimler Truck & Buses. Quantum Energy Partners was the lead investor.

Korea’s blockchain casino project MECA Casino raises investment from ICON [press release]

South Korea-based blockchain project ICON has made a strategic investment in MECA Casino, a blockchain casino project.

MECA Casino is a DApp (Decentralised Application) of ICON and it is a reverse ICO project by Crypto Meca. MECA Casino has been developing casino games for more than three years and is ready to launch blackjack and baccarat table games. MECA Casino plans to open ‘the largest decentralised casino platform’ including sports betting solution by Q4 of 2019.

‘Master System’ of MECA Casino enables users to become ‘master’ who is an operator of casinos to be profitable from casino operation. ‘Masters’ can upgrade their casinos to attract more players, gain higher profits, and trade casinos with other potential Masters. Players can exchange MECA Coin (MCA) with MECA Chip (MCC) to play games in MECA Casino or trade casinos.

Revolut is ready to launch in Singapore and Japan [TechCrunch]

Fintech startup Revolut has been teasing Asian market expansions for more than a year, but it sounds like it might finally happen. The company has secured licenses to operate in Singapore and Japan. It now expects to launch its service in Q1 2019.

In Singapore, the company was granted a Remittance License by the Monetary Authority and a Stored Value Facility approval — these two things combined let Revolut users hold money as well as send and spend money. In Japan, the company has been authorised to operate by Japan’s Finance Service Agency. __ yahoo news

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MICROSOFT WINS US$480MIL ARMY BATTLEFIELD CONTRACT

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Microsoft Corp has won a US$480mil (RM2.01bil) contract to supply prototypes for augmented reality systems to the Army for use on combat missions and in training, the Army said.

The contract, which could eventually lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 headsets, is intended to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”, according to a government description of the programme.

“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defence to this new area,” a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The US Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft’s HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward.

HoloLens is one of the leading consumer-grade headsets, but a large consumer market doesn’t yet exist; a video made for the European Patent Office this spring said it had sold about 50,000 devices. That’s about half the number the Army expects to buy through its augmented reality programme, which is called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.

With the contract, the Army immediately becomes one of Microsoft’s most important HoloLens consumers. It expects devices to vary from their consumer-grade counterparts in a handful of key respects. In a document shared with companies bidding on the contract, the Army said it wanted to incorporate night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and “readiness”, monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection. It said the winning bidder would be expected to deliver 2,500 headsets within two years, and exhibit the capacity for full-scale production.

The contract went though a bidding process designed to encourage the Army to do business with companies who aren’t traditional defence contractors. Magic Leap, which makes the main competitor to HoloLens for the consumer market, also pursued the contract. In early August, the Army held meetings with 25 companies interested in participating in some way, including Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp, and Raytheon Co. The technology industry’s cooperation with the US military and law enforcement has become increasingly tense over the last year, with employees at companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc pushing back against government contracts.

Earlier this year, hundreds of Microsoft workers signed a petition criticising a contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Microsoft had originally said included some of its AI software. In October, a blog post purportedly written by Microsoft employees urged the company not to bid on a multi-billion dollar US military cloud contract.

“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war,” they wrote.

Later that month, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said the company would continue to sell software to the US military. Smith wrote that employees with ethical qualms with projects would be allowed to move to other work within the company.

“Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war,” he wrote.

But we can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation.” – Bloomberg

 

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TRUATA WINS PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL PRIVACY INNOVATION AWARD

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Truata, the Dublin based data anonymisation and analytics company, has today been awarded the 2018 HPE-IAPP Privacy Innovation Award at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Conference in Brussels.

Truata was founded in early 2018 by Mastercard and IBM to deliver next-generation data protection and analytics to the marketplace. In awarding Truata with this honour, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has recognised the service that Truata offers to companies who want to continue to leverage their data to innovate and grow while respecting and safeguarding the privacy of their customers.

The Truata Anonymisation Solution is designed to deliver actionable insights to its customers who operate in multiple industries including financial services, telecommunications, hospitality, retail and travel. Truata independently anonymises a customer’s data, giving that customer the freedom to carry out analysis while protecting people’s personal data. Running on the IBM Cloud, the Truata solution is specifically designed to fully meet the high regulatory thresholds for anonymisation as the original source data and the anonymised data will not at any time co-exist in one organisation. This ensures that analytics can be conducted across a customer’s entire data set while only analysing the fully-anonymised versions of that data.

Based on the principle of privacy by design, and using the latest data privacy technologies developed by IBM Research, the Truata Anonymisation Solution benefits from innovative technological, structural, legal and organisational safeguards. It enables companies to both maximise their data analytics utility and minimise their risk of non-compliance with privacy regulations.

On receiving the award, Aoife Sexton, Truata Chief Privacy Officer said, “The changing regulatory environment is bringing about a real challenge for companies to understand how they can use data to foster innovation but do so in a legally compliant and ethical manner. We have developed a solution that addresses this challenge by allowing companies to continue to use their data for analytics – but in a responsible way that is compliant with the GDPR, respecting both the letter and the spirit of the regulation. We are grateful to the IAPP for recognising this new innovative solution.”

Felix Marx, CEO of Truata, added, “Post GDPR, companies still need to generate value and insights from their data through analytics if they want to innovate and provide their customers the services and products they want. The optimal way to do this, while respecting your customers’ privacy rights, is to have your data anonymised by an independent third party as part of an end-to-end service including world class analytics. Truata is the first to market with this solution.”

“In today’s global digital economy, organisations will play a critical role in furthering innovation and convenience, while handling data responsibly and ethically,” said JoAnn Stonier, chief data officer for Mastercard and Truata board member. “At Mastercard, we saw the GDPR as an opportunity to enhance our data practices and—with Truata —help other businesses do the same. This award from IAPP is a terrific honour and validation of the importance of finding a path that enables both data innovation and stringent privacy protections.”

Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and issued by the IAPP, the world’s largest information privacy community and resource with more than 32,000 members in over 100 countries, the much coveted Innovation Award recognises unique programmes and services in global privacy and data protection across both private and public sectors.

“The 2018 HPE-IAPP Privacy Innovation Award is presented to Truata, an exemplar safeguarding tool built on the principle of privacy by design. This award spotlights unique programs and services in global privacy and data protection; we are honouring Truata for practising fine innovation,” said IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes.

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