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Computers With Foldable Screens Will Make Laptops and Tablets Obsolete

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At CES last week, Intel revealed its Horseshoe Bend foldable-screen computer prototype. Lenovo demoed another foldable-screen X1 laptop that it co-engineered with Intel. When unfolded, both devices resemble large tablets, but as you bend the screen upward, they feel much more like laptops.

This isn’t the first time companies have attempted to merge tablets and laptops — Microsoft infamously tried with Windows 8 — but with Intel and Lenovo’s new computers, the hardware is adaptable, rather than only the software. And unlike foldable phones, which are great marketing tricks with few realistic benefits, this new segment of computers will change how we use both laptops andtablets: They’ll merge the two categories into one.

Tablets and laptops have remained separate categories largely because their physical design simply can’t do both jobs well — tablets are usually all screen, and a laptop typically has a keyboard glued to the lower half that can’t be changed.

While laptop sales have slowed since tablets arrived, devices like the iPad, which has dominated the category, still aren’t perfect replacements. It’s awkward to hold an iPad and type on it for long lengths of time, so people often buy the keyboard case to make it act more like a laptop or relegate the iPad to watching Netflix. There’s simply no middle ground without awkward cases, attachments, or stands that end up making tablets more like a laptop in the first place, defeating the point.

Owning a tablet and a laptop will feel ridiculous, because a single device will do the job of both devices.

Meanwhile, laptops lack the magic of a tablet. While Windows supports touch and pen input, it’s a tacked-on experience at best, with few apps truly taking advantage of touchscreens. Laptops are also generally much bulkier and have a shorter battery life.

But a foldable tablet’s display size and shape no longer restrict how the device can be used. Adding a fold means you can prop up the device without a kickstand, for example. It also means you can fold it the opposite way to halve its size for use in tight spaces like airplanes or even safely fold the screen inside the clamshell when you’re not using it, like you would a laptop. When the device is folded open, it has a large, glorious screen — the Intel prototype measures 17 inches fully unfolded — with nothing else in the way.

The new generation of foldable-screen devices is a peek at a future where owning a tablet anda laptop will feel ridiculous, because a single device will do the job of both devices.

Naysayers will point out the benefits of keyboards and physical keys and that it’s more difficult to type on a flat display. While that may be true, the iPhone’s success shows that this is unlikely to be a problem; the adaptability and flexibility of virtual on-screen keyboards beat out the need for the physical keys found on the BlackBerry and ultimately opened up new opportunities for developers to use the screen real estate. And for those who remain attached to real keys, there will always be the option to attach a traditional keyboard.

Still, the success of truly foldable-screen devices is far from assured. Manufacturers aren’t yet committing to prices or availability. Lenovo provides just a vague “2020” timeline and says that it “expects” pricing to start at around $2,499.

New categories are risky, as Samsung discovered with the debut of its foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, which was discovered to break easily almost as it debuted. As manufacturers race to be the first to market, we may see one or two foldable-screen laptops become publicly available, but their longevity with remain a question.

And without fundamental overhauls to the way software is designed to adapt to constantly changing screen sizes and layouts, foldable-screen computers will fail. Every demo of a foldable-screen computer at CES was running Windows 10, which isn’t yet optimized for this new world.

Microsoft is building a new version of Windows, labeled Windows 10X, that will address some foldable-screen capabilities. It debuts later this year with the Surface Neo, the company’s own foldable-screen device. The software is specifically designed to adapt to devices that morph in shape and size, like the Neo and X1, but it’s not yet available to manufacturers.

The Neo, as well as larger devices from manufacturers like Asus, will likely arrive much sooner in stores than the CES prototypes since they are a different type of foldable. They sport two distinct displays with a hinge connecting them, rather than a single display that folds — a technology that is much easier to achieve.

Manufacturers of truly foldable screens still need to ensure the devices can reliably fold without breaking over the long haul — but their demos forecast a future where our devices adapt to us, rather than the other way around.

Source:
https://onezero.medium.com/computers-with-foldable-screens-will-make-both-laptops-and-tablets-obsolete-f4a6a48ece31

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The Future

A new iPad Pro refresh will reportedly arrive ‘around March’ 2020

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What you need to know

  • Apple is expected to refresh its iPad Pro lineup this year.
  • A new report has new tablets arriving as soon as next month.
  • But it also notes that manufacturing has been slow to ramp up.

Anew report by the reliably unreliable DigiTimes has Apple getting ready to announce new iPad Pro products as soon as next month. We’ve been hearing for months that new iPad Pro models will be announced at some point in 2020, but this is the first time a March time window has seemed likely.

Despite feeling a March release is in the cards, DigiTimes does also note that mass production of the new models has so far been slow to get going, a situation likely not helped by the ongoing coronavirus situation in China.

Apple is scheduled to launch its new ‌iPad Pro‌ series around March, with related suppliers already kicking off production for the model ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. However, their output has started growing slowly after the extended Lunar New Year break in China with shipments unlikely to peak until after April, according to industry sources.

If Apple is set to announce something in the coming weeks, March does fit with its modus operandi. Spring events do tend to happen in March, with Apple also heavily rumored to have a new iPhone 9 just waiting to be announced.

Source: https://www.imore.com/new-ipad-pro-refresh-will-reportedly-arrive-around-march-2020

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The Future

Google’s Live Caption could land in the Chrome desktop browser

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A recent commit on the Chromium Gerrit reveals Google’s Live Caption functionality found on the Pixel 4 could be coming to the Chrome desktop browser. This commit is for the Speech On-Device API (SODA) service, and it contains all of the necessary components to launch the service, though it still in its early stages of development.

SODA is a service developed by Google’s Speech team that enables live transcription. This commit references Chrome Live Caption directly, so it makes sense to conclude this could look very similar to what we see on the Pixel 4 today.

A comment on the commit directly compares this potential implementation to Android’s existing Live Caption feature, claiming the team “should use ‘Live Captions’ when using a name for the feature to match what’s done on Android.” On the other hand, another comment says this Chrome implementation could go beyond what Live Caption on mobile is capable of, suggesting this service should keep the name SODA since a different name could be useful.

Either way, if some form of Live Caption lands in Google Chrome, users should be able to transcribe audio on the fly from all over the web. This would be an incredibly useful browser accessibility tool for the hearing impaired or anyone who just wants to use their device without audio.

In addition to the Chrome news, Samsung’s brand new Galaxy S20 series will be the first non-Pixel phones to receive Live Caption functionality. Samsung said users should expect this feature out of the box.

Developing Live Caption was quite a feat in itself, so it makes sense Google would want to include it in as many places as possible. Working with Samsung to add Live Caption to their devices potentially puts it in the hands of millions of people around the world, and adding it to Chrome means nearly every Chromebook should get it too.

Not only that, but Chrome is far and away the most popular browser on the desktop, meaning the feature would be available to nearly everyone with a computer. It will be interesting to see where else Google might implement this functionality in the future.

Source: https://www.androidauthority.com/google-chrome-live-caption-1083395/

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The Future

MICROSOFT’S WINDOWS FUTURE IS NOW TIED TO HARDWARE

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If you’ve been following Microsoft’s Windows changes in recent years, then this week’s reorg inside the company won’t have come as much of a surprise. Chief product officer, Panos Panay, is now taking a bigger role that involves him leading a single group that combines the Windows Experience team and Microsoft hardware teams. It will be known as Windows + Devices, and it ultimately means that the future of Windows is now tied closely to hardware.

That’s a significant change for Microsoft, but one that it has been working towards for years. The company’s Surface RT tablet was originally developed in secret to launch alongside Windows 8, as a showcase for the new operating system back in 2012. It kick started Microsoft’s Surface hardware business, but the original tablet launched with a Windows RT operating system that didn’t really tie closely to the hardware. The Surface RT was slow, lacked apps, and the OS didn’t take advantage of the hardware in ways we often see Apple capitalize on with its tight iOS integration on the iPad.

Microsoft Surface RT stock
Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet

Panay led the team that created the original Surface RT, but the secrecy around the product meant most people working on Windows had no idea Microsoft was building a tablet. He’s been on a mission to improve this software and hardware integration ever since. The first signs of Surface hardware and Windows software aligning were evident in the Surface Pro 3 stylus nearly six years ago. You could click a button on the stylus to launch OneNote and immediately take notes, but it was still fairly basic integration. Microsoft’s Surface Hub followed a year after the Surface Pro 3, and it featured a custom variant of Windows 10 built specifically for a giant 84-inch 4K display.

Microsoft then went on to launch its Surface Book with a detachable display. When I reviewed the original Surface Book I was surprised at how limited the note-taking experience was, especially as the hardware was designed so you could take the display off and use it as a digital clipboard. There was an obvious and awkward disconnect between the Windows side and Surface hardware side, perhaps in part because of secrecy or the separation of teams that were trying to integrate these features. Microsoft then went on to improve inking support in Windows 10 thanks to Windows Ink, but still to this day inking feels like it’s not fully baked into the OS so it can be used freely everywhere.

Microsoft Surface Laptop
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop

We’ve also seen Microsoft make some mistakes with its Surface hardware to push Windows initiatives in the past. Windows 10 S debuted on the Surface Laptop, and Microsoft later admitted that the variant, that locked the laptop to Windows Store apps, was a mistake. Microsoft then went on to shake up Windows massively with a reorg two years ago, that separated the core Windows engineering team from the “Experiences & Devices” group responsible for delivering the Windows client you use everyday to Office 365 and Surface hardware.

Panay will now assume control of the Windows client side, which essentially means the shell and experience that sits on top of the core part of the Windows operating system. Microsoft has been engineering Windows to run across a variety of hardware, and the core of the OS is now aligned to Azure and Microsoft’s AI teams.

In recent years, Microsoft has shown that it has the vision to deliver a combination of hardware and software that’s neatly integrated. “We always think of hardware as a stage for software,” said Ralf Groene, head of Microsoft’s hardware design, in an interview with The Verge last year. “Sometimes the stage can also influence the performance of the software, so there’s the back and forth of both of these elements.” Microsoft has also opened itself up internally, to allow designers from across the company to contribute to something it calls open design. The hope is that it will lead to a better combination of hardware and software that looks like it came from one company and is better for it, too.

Now that Panay controls Surface hardware and the Windows client that powers Microsoft’s devices, it will be an interesting few years ahead for Windows. PC partners will naturally be a little wary of Microsoft’s tighter integration of hardware and software inside the company, especially as Surface revenue continues to grow. But Panay revealed in an internal memo this week that Microsoft still thinks Surface and the tight integration of Windows will benefit all PCs.

“We believe this will make the Windows Client experience better for the entire PC ecosystem,” says Panay in his internal memo. “Designing hardware and software together will enable us to do a better job on our long term Windows bets (dual screen, silicon diversity, connectivity, app platform, etc.) and having a single point of Windows Client Experience leadership driving consistent priorities and resourcing across all of Windows client will help all of us accelerate innovation and improve execution.”

Panay also concedes “it won’t be easy” to more closely align Windows and hardware. We’ve already seen that Microsoft’s ambitions to combine hardware and software don’t always work out as planned. Microsoft revealed earlier this week that the company has canceled its Surface Hub 2X hardware cartridge launch this year, and will deliver a software update to existing Surface Hub 2S devices instead. Surface Hub 2X was supposed to showcase Microsoft’s modern Windows Core OS platform, but it appears the work to simplify Windows isn’t done yet.

Windows is certainly at a crossroads right now, as Microsoft increasingly looks to the web and the cloud it feels like its operating system is no longer as important for the company. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has pondered branding Windows as Azure Edge, and said at the launch of the Surface Duo (running Android) that “the operating system is no longer the most important layer for us.” He’s certainly looking in a logical direction for Microsoft’s future growth, but as Windows 10 approaches a billion users, it’s still hugely important to many that rely on it every day.

Panay could be the boost that Windows desperately needs, at a time when Windows 10X is being developed for dual-screen devices, feature updates are starting to look like Service Packs, and we’ve heard very little from the Windows leadership over the past two years. If Microsoft is serious about learning from the past to redesign its future then we’re about to find out if it’s truly capable of doing so.

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