Microsoft unveils Windows 8, Surface tablet

NEW YORK, Thu Oct 25, 2012 – Microsoft Corp. launched its new Windows 8 operating system and Surface tablet on Thursday in a bid to revive interest in its flagship product and regain ground lost to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in mobile computing.

“We’ve reimagined Windows and we’ve reimagined the whole PC industry,” Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told Reuters Television early Thursday ahead of the launch.

Windows 8 devices and the company’s new Surface tablet, which aims to challenge Apple’s popular iPad head on, go on sale at midnight on Thursday.

Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft’s Windows unit and the driving force behind Windows 8, opened the launch event in New York in front about 1,000 media and PC industry partners.

He showed off Windows 8’s new look, but stressed that the system was built upon the base of Windows 7, Microsoft’s best-selling software that recently passed 670 million license sales.

The new design of Windows, which dispenses with the Start button and features square tiles for apps, may surprise some users. Initial demand appeared solid, but customers were wary.

Amazon’s new $199 tablet gets tepid reviews

SAN FRANCISCO, Wed Sep 12, 2012 – Inc.’s latest $199 tablet computer got tepid reviews from some closely watched gadget reviewers, a potential hiccup for the world’s largest Internet retailer as it tries to grab a bigger share of one of the hottest technology sectors this holiday season.

David Pogue of The New York Times said the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD has no camera on the back, no GPS navigation, no speech recognition, and trails Apple Inc.’s more-expensive iPad in thickness, screen size, screen sharpness, Web speed, software polish and application availability.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal said the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is not as “polished, fluid or versatile” as the iPad. After prolonged use, some apps and content took longer to launch and web pages loaded more slowly through the new Wi-Fi technology, compared to the iPad, he added.

Ads “assault” users every time they start the device or resume using it, Mossberg also noted. Amazon said this weekend that customers can turn ads off for $15.

How mobile devices and the cloud will converge

Toni Paoletta, IT Program Manager, Corporate College

Mobile cloud computing, where applications are driven from the “cloud” and not from the handheld device itself, is becoming a vital part of the business landscape. Is your company positioned to take advantage of this emerging and potent technology? Mobile apps powered by the cloud will include productivity applications that accentuate collaboration, data sharing and multitasking. Now is the time to adopt cloud computing strategies as there will be a seismic change in how information is distributed and applied.

“A lot of companies are dipping their toes into this new environment to see how their customers react,” says Toni Paoletta, Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. “Eventually mobile devices will replace desktops.”

Smart Business spoke with Paoletta about the shift to mobile and how business owners can take advantage of the new frontier.

What are some of the driving forces behind the shift to mobile devices?

Mobility is the key word. Mobile devices allow companies to take their products and services and place them directly at their customers’ fingertips. We have seen Internet-based tools and services reformulated to work on smaller devices. For example, customer relationship management and inventory control can now be managed remotely through the use of a mobile application on a smart phone.  In the past, you had to log on to an Internet browser, connect to a Web site and log in credentials to access a company’s services. Now you can have a mobile application on your smart phone that is able to access the same software, services and data instantaneously.

How big will the shift be?

The shift will be huge. Being able to control everything from the road is the wave of the future. The convenience factor of smart devices — they’re small, portable and have excellent battery life — will drive the need for customized mobile app development. The emergence of new smart phones and tablets has created a huge explosion in the mobile device market and a need for new, innovative apps that can function on these various platforms.

How does the mobility and prominence of the cloud impact the IT industry?

All IT industries will need to know how to deploy, support and maintain their company’s intellectual property that is made available through these mobile apps. Not only will companies have to support their current physical infrastructure, but they will also have to support and secure their cloud infrastructure. This will mean investing in increased storage and additional servers.

Besides infrastructure considerations, companies need to consider the deployment and sustainability of mobile devices and the applications that reside on these mobile devices.  If a company develops a mobile application for its customers, it must consider platform issues, interoperability, updates and security.

How does the shift towards mobile devices affect a company’s IT personnel?

IT personnel will need to become familiar with mobile devices and understand the capabilities of those devices, how to keep these devices updated and identify how they are going to fit within the company’s current IT environment. For example, an Apple iPad utilizes wireless Internet. If you have employees accessing data with an iPad from within the office you need a wireless infrastructure within your corporation that will support that access. Other considerations are software and operating system updates. How will your company manage these operating system updates on mobile devices? Are you providing a public cloud to your customers; meaning your software and services are available through a mobile app? If so, your security infrastructure will be critical to protect other applications, data or services available within the cloud. If you use a private cloud, how will you maintain access when there is a change in human capital within your organization and the app to connect to that private cloud resides on the employees’ personal smart phones? All of these questions need to be considered.

In order to address these issues, IT professionals need to expand their current skill set and become familiar with smart devices and how to access information in new ways.

What opportunities are available for application developers?

The sky is the limit for application developers as it relates to mobile app development. I think everyone who has a smart phone today has thought of an application they would love to write, whether it is a game they think would be cool, or a business app that would provide a solution to fix a problem. For instance, our college recently launched a mobile app called ‘Tri-C Mobile’ that provides students with information about courses, events, campus news, sports schedules and even the campus directory all through their smart phone. It is vital for people to start thinking about how they can transfer their business knowledge to a mobile device so people can access that information from anywhere.

How can business owners take advantage of and plan for these developments?

They need to think about what work they wish they could do if they were stuck at home, in traffic, or waiting in a line at the airport. They need to ask themselves how they can take advantage of these smart devices — these mini-handheld computers. They need to find software developers with business knowledge that can translate into innovative mobile apps. Every day you hear about companies launching their new ‘app.’ Whether it’s American Greetings’ ‘Ecard’ app, or Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff and its ‘Benesch Apportunity’ app to recruit new attorneys, mobile apps are going to change the way we do business. Businesses across the globe are leveraging the cloud to bring their business to their customers via mobile apps. It’s time to say goodbye to being tethered to a box; and say ‘Hi’ to mobile computing.

Toni Paoletta is Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. Reach her at [email protected] or (216) 987-2962.

Amazon’s tablet serious challenge to Apple’s iPad, analysts say

SEATTLE ― Inc., which revolutionized reading with its Kindle e-reader, is expected to unveil a tablet computer this week that analysts say will seriously challenge Apple’s market dominating iPad.

Amazon on Friday invited media to a press conference to be held in New York on Wednesday, declining to provide further details.

But analysts were confident that the world’s largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.

“Wednesday is tablet day,” BGC partners analyst Colin Gillis told Reuters.

The tablet has been awaited as a strong competitor to Apple Inc’s iPad. Apple has sold about 29 million of the devices since its launch in April 2010.

“The real issue here is that, you know, it is likely going to be good for consumers; is this going to be good for shareholders?,” Gillis said. He wondered whether Amazon would price the tablet below those of rivals — and thereby do little to boost margins.

“Knowing Amazon, it is likely to be a very aggressive price,” Gillis said.

In much the same way Amazon’s Kindle e-reader was priced low to quickly get traction among readers the company is likely to keep the price of its tablet low to attract users and sell other content and services, one analyst said.

“It’s a marketing tool to build a relationship with customers and sell them cloud (computing) services,” said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.

While Amazon has remained tight lipped even about the device’s existence, the TechCrunch blog earlier this month said the Amazon tablet also will be called Kindle.

It will be a 7 inch device with a full color, touch screen, run on Google’s Android software and cost $250, the blog said, well below the price of the least expensive iPad.

Robert Baird & Co analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note last month than an Amazon tablet would be a “game-changer.” Sebastian forecast the device could sell 3 million units in its first year.

The tablet could pose a major threat to Apple because of the Kindle’s popularity and the movie and music services Amazon sells.

Forrester’s McQuivey said the device also takes aim at Barnes & Noble Inc’s. NookColor device, which hit the market last year and features tablet functionalities.

Several technology companies like Research In Motion and Samsung have introduced tablets that sold poorly. Hewlett Packard Co. announced recently it would abandon its tablet.

Amazon shares finished the day up 0.2 percent at $223.61 on Friday on Nasdaq. The stock had traded as low as $219.06, but rallied as invitations to the media event began arriving.

Intel unveils laptops that include tablet features

SAN FRANCISCO ― Intel unveiled a new category of laptops that it says will include the best features of tablets as the world’s top chipmaker struggles to find its footing in the exploding market for mobile gadgets.

Netbook pioneer Asustek showed its first new PC in Intel’s “Ultrabook” class, the UX series, on Monday at the Computex computer show in Taipei. Intel said models made by other manufacturers would go on sale by Christmas and cost under $1,000.

Ultrabooks will be svelte and lightweight but still pack high-performance processors. They should account for 40 percent of laptop sales to consumers by the end of next year, Tom Kilroy, a senior vice president at Intel, said.

“We’re shooting for ultra responsive. You’ll have always-on, always-connected, much more responsive devices, similar to what you would see with a tablet today such as an iPad,” he said.

Intel’s vice president Mooly Eden called the Ultrabook a “different category” from the tablet and notebook, hoping that it would appeal to a different category of consumers.

“There’ll be some confusion if you look at the fold factor; when you open it you’ll see a PC but if you’re on the go, just fold it and suddenly it’s a tablet. Is it a PC? Is it a tablet? I think it doesn’t matter,” Eden told a media conference.

Santa Clara, California-based Intel is eager to make laptops more attractive to consumers who are increasingly captivated by Apple’s iPad and other mobile gadgets.

Its processors power 80 percent of the world’s PCs but Intel has failed so far to adapt them for smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers like Motorola and Apple favor processors made using energy-efficient technology licensed by Britain’s ARM Holdings .

Commenting on competition with ARM, Eden said Intel is late in the tablet market but it is not a “failure.”

“We’re late. Today there are many tablets that don’t have Intel inside, but we’re putting in a lot of effort in order to catch up. And I believe we have caught up in tablets.”

This month, Intel took the wraps off next-generation “3D” technology that crams more transistors onto microchips, betting it will eventually become a significant advantage in tablets and smartphones.

Intel also plans to shrink the circuits on its mobile chips by three sizes within three years ― a faster pace than normal ― to make them much more efficient.