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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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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

Feast your eyes on these stunning new iPhone 12 renders

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This year is set to be a major one for the iPhone, with the new iPhone 12 series poised to include 5G support, four phones in three display sizes, and at least some of the models boasting the biggest redesign the phone has seen over the last few generations. Among the tidbits that have leaked out, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max will feature a new rear camera setup though they’ll still have a notch plus flat steel all around the edges. The lineup will also include 5G support and come in 5.4-inch, 6.1-inch, and 6.7-inch variants that also feature OLED screens and 2mm bezels.

Along these lines, new iPhone 12 concept renderings have just been published that provide a better look at what we’re likely to see once Apple officially unveils the new iPhone series later this year. The renderings below combine publicly released leaks and rumors that have come out so far to result in these images, produced via a partnership between Dutch tech news blog LetsGoDigital and designer Jermaine Smit, aka Concept Creator.

Among the details reflected in these renderings, the smallest of the new iPhone 12 models is a 5.4-inch version with an OLED display and which also sports a dual-camera setup on the back. Also shown is a 6.1-inch OLED model with a dual camera, as well as a 6.7-inch version with an OLED screen and a triple camera setup with a 3D Time-of-Flight camera.

Image Source: LetsGoDigital

Thanks to the world’s top Apple insider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities, we already knew the iPhone 12 series would bear shades of the iPhone 4’s industrial design. Among the changes, the phones will have metal frame edges, with an emphasis on thinness apparently also reflected in the coming designs. For example, the Dutch outlet notes, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will only be 7.4mm thick — almost 10% thinner than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Sensors for both Face ID and the TrueDepth camera will also both still be housed within the phones’ notch.

Image Source: LetsGoDigital

In terms of camera features and changes, the handset at the bottom end of the iPhone 12 lineup will reportedly feature two cameras on the back, presumably a wide-angle and an ultra-wide-angle lens. Both Pro models should come with an additional third lens, likely a telephoto lens. Meantime, elements of the camera from the iPhone 11 series like Deep Fusion will most likely remain present here — Deep Fusion referring to the ability to take better photos when lighting conditions are poor.

Apple is also pressing deeper into augmented reality, with no less than CEO Tim Cook saying recently that he believes AR is the “next big thing.” Look for new AR-related features here to be announced, as well.

It will also be very interesting to get a look at the first benchmark results from testing the new A14 Bionic chip that should make these new phones pretty darn fast and more powerful. An especially valuable development, considering the advancements that will come with iOS 14 which Apple will no doubt unveil during its June developer conference.

Image Source: LetsGoDigital

Apple reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, and as always the iPhone will take center stage in both the presentation of the financial results as well as in the outlook from executives (in addition to the question-and-answer portion from analysts). As the renderings above show, details about the company’s newest iPhone models are already trickling out months in advance, though investors will no doubt also want to get a read on how well iPhone 11 sales held up during the just-ended, all-important holiday buying season. Phone sales that, of course, fuel the complementary sales of everything from AirPods to services like Apple TV+ which the company is increasingly trying to build support for.

Source:
https://bgr.com/2020/01/27/pixel-5-release-date-vs-pixel-4a-cheap-google-phone-to-support-5g/

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