Microsoft Office for iPad

Microsoft Word for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft Word for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft Powerpoint for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft Powerpoint for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft Excel for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft Excel for iPad (Source: iTunes.com)

Microsoft released the Office Suite (three Apps, Word, Excel and Powerpoint) for the iPad today in San Francisco. Though pundits have been claiming that this is too late, the initial look and reviews are fairly positive, like this one from Paul Thurrott [ref]

It’s not happening in a half-assed way: This isn’t Office Mobile blown up to a big screen. It’s a full-featured Office suite—a real Office suite, not some sad third party imitation—designed for the constraints and power of the iPad. This is a release that should impress iPad users because it respects the device.
— Paul Thurrott

Apple's iWork suite works fine and probably more intuitive and easy to use for most of the casual users, but iWork lacks some of the more complex functions that Microsoft Office users, mainly enterprise users have been accustomed to and that is where this Office for iPad will make a big difference. Irrespective of the welcome this App suite for the iPad gets, it definitely takes iPad one step further in the right direction, to make it an even more productive device.

Tim Cook's Twitter account

Tim Cook's Twitter account

Even Tim Cook had to formally (when I say formally, I mean on Twitter of course) welcome the Office suite for iPad. Now, next up we need to get a better multitasking and multiple window operation on the iPad!

Switching iPhone(s) from AT&T to T-Mobile

Premise

I have been an AT&T customer for more than 8 years (from the time it was Cingular). My first iPhone was an iPhone 3G and then a 3GS, followed by 4S and finally an iPhone 5. However I was never too happy with AT&T's service plans. I was allowed once to upgrade from an iPhone 3 after 1 year of my contract for a partial upgrade price to iPhone 3GS. But then I was told that I was allowed early upgrade only once in every two upgrade cycle. Recently AT&T modified the upgrade policy further that prevented me from upgrading to iPhone 5S unless my two years  of the contract was over (previously it was 18 months). This was the tipping point for me, frankly. 

I understand the fact that the iPhone costs $200 after subsidy by AT&T and I have to pay them back the reminder of around $450 over the period of next two years of my contract. But the fact was that even if I had an un-subsidized iPhone, my service price was not any cheaper, until recently, thanks to the competition from T-Mobile's JUMP plan. So irrespective of if I bought an iPhone from AT&T for $200 or $400 (partial upgrade) or $650 (un-subsidized), my monthly plan pricing was the same. What sort of a trick was this to steal customer money! However since all the networks in US had the same plan, I had no choice but to stay put and endure this craziness. When I was growing up in India, the phone and the plan were different. You buy your own phone and pay for the service. Sometimes the carrier might discount a particular phone, but that would have no bearing on my service fees. This is how it should be if the carriers are not money minded and do not try to steal from their customers. 

Apple iPhone on AT&T or T-Mobile? (Source: Apple.com)

Apple iPhone on AT&T or T-Mobile? (Source: Apple.com)

T-Mobile - the game changer?

T-Mobile recently introduced a bunch of new Smartphone plans that separated the phone and the service plan for the customer. This is how it works. You pay for service (typically $50 for 1GB to $80 for unlimited 4G LTE) and you can either bring your own Smartphone or buy a Smartphone from T-Mobile. If you buy a Smartphone from T-Mobile, say the new iPhone 5S, 16GB for example, then you either pay the entire $650 for the new iPhone upfront and just pay $80 per month for the service or you pay $648/24 = $27 per month on top of the $80 service fee. So for a total of $107 per month, you get unlimited everything and a new iPhone 5S. A comparable plan on AT&T is more expensive, I say comparable because AT&T does not offer unlimited data with any of their plans. For a 6GB data on an individual plan, it costs around $100 per month for the service alone, that is $20 more than T-Mobile's unlimited data. 

So you may ask what happens when iPhone 6 comes out and I want to upgrade to the iPhone 6 on T-Mobile and it has been one year since I bought my iPhone 5S. If I had bought an iPhone 5S and paid for it in full during purchase, I just have to let T-Mobile know that I am buying an iPhone 6 and they will transfer my number to the new phone. That is it. Say I bought the iPhone 5S from them using their installment plan, then in 1 year, I would have paid half of $648 or $27 X 12 = $324 towards my iPhone 5S (no interest will be charge for the installment plan), then I will owe T-Mobile $324 towards my iPhone 5S before I move to the new iPhone 6. Fair and square. Looking at the resale values of iPhones, a year old iPhone 5S can easily be sold for $324 and hence I can move to iPhone 6 after a year at no additional cost (you have to pay sales tax of course)! No early termination fees, no upgrade pricing, no $36 activation fees that AT&T charges me every time I buy a new phone. Note that the 1 year time frame here is only an example, I can upgrade to a new phone anytime, either after 1 month (I will have to pay $621 in this case) or after 23 months (I will just have to $27 in this case). The phone and the service plan are separate and you can even track how much of the phone you have paid off anytime. 

T-Mobile introduced new Smartphone pricing plans, separating out the service fees and the phone's price (Source:T-Mobile.com)

T-Mobile introduced new Smartphone pricing plans, separating out the service fees and the phone's price (Source:T-Mobile.com)

For the JUMPer in you

T-Mobile has an even better plan for fanatics like me who need to have the latest and greatest phones right away and are lazy to sell the old phones on their own, called the JUMP. For an additional $10 a month, you get an option to trade in your Smartphone for half of its price to T-Mobile and upgrade to a newer phone anytime. So say after 10 months of buying the iPhone 5S, I decide to move to iPhone 6, I will have to pay ($648/2) - ($27 X 10) = $54 and trade in my iPhone 5S to T-Mobile to get a brand new iPhone 6, again no extra cost or change in monthly pricing. Obviously the best way to take advantage of JUMP is to keep changing to a new phone every 1 year, hence you will get a new phone every year with no additional one time or monthly cost. However note that you are paying a $10 more per month, so it is technically a premium of $120 per year, but its a choice to make if you are lazy (not to sell your old phone on your own) and if you want to have the latest phone always. This is literally like leasing a Smartphone and upgrading every year.  Another advantage of JUMP is that it comes with its own phone insurance, like Apple Care, actually like Apple Care Plus, as it also covers water damage. AT&T also came up with an 'also ran' plan called NEXT, similar to T-Mobile's JUMP, but is certainly more expensive than T-Mobile and slightly more trickier as well (of course it is... its AT&T!).

Family plans

In both T-Mobile and AT&T, individual plans are more expensive than family plans (as they should be). In T-Mobile if I need two lines, for example, one line with unlimited data and one line with 1GB data and both lines with unlimited talk and text, its a monthly price of $110 plus 2 X $27 (if you buy two new iPhone 5Ss), a total of $154 per month. Again since AT&T has slightly different plans, two lines in AT&T with a mobile share data plan of 6GB with two new iPhone 5Ss comes to around $190 per month! There may be slight differences in this pricing depending on how many months you want to pay off your iPhone in, with AT&T and if or not you choose JUMP plan with T-Mobile. But in conclusion T-Mobile is definitely cheaper than AT&T by $25 - $50 depending on your situation. 

An even better reason to switch 

Finally now is the time to switch as T-Mobile offers to take care of your Early Termination Fees (ETF) that AT&T will charge you if you break an existing contract with them (AT&T also has this by the way). For me it was almost $450 for two lines, that T-Mobile will refund via a VISA cash card. And with that I also have two of my old iPhone 5s that I was using with AT&T that are out of contract and I have to call AT&T to unlock them for me. So after this switch from AT&T to T-Mobile, my monthly price for two new iPhone 5Ss with one line having unlimited data and another with 1GB data and both having unlimited talk and text is $154 (plus tax) and I have two spare iPhone 5s that are at least worth $235 each (according to Gazelle), that I can cash out. In contrast, I was with AT&T with a so called unlimited data (grandfathered from my iPhone 3G days) that was throttled terribly after 5GB per month of usage with 450 minutes per month and no text plan and all this for $150 per month for two lines. So for me switching to T-Mobile was a blessing, at least financially. 

Miscellaneous stuff

T-Mobile has other small advantages over AT&T, like free roaming, texts and data, Internationally! You will be charged only for phone calls at some 10c per minute when you are roaming Internationally. Also since my house always has had terrible reception, I wanted a signal booster (AT&T calls it MyCell), but I had to pay $200 for it as if bad reception in the heart of City was my fault. I however called up customer care later and after a yelling match for about 20 minutes, I convinced a customer care manager to credit me the $200 back. It always is the case with AT&T, nothing is straight forward, it just felt gimmicky and dishonest. With T-Mobile I of course had the same bad reception issue at my house. All I had to do was call up customer care and after 5 minutes I was getting a signal booster for free (that I have to return when I quit T-Mobile). Another advantage with T-Mobile is that the unlimited data plan also allows up to 2.5GB of tethering per month at no additional cost. With AT&T I was told that I was supposed to forgo my unlimited data plan (and move to some 5GB data plan for a horrendous amount of monthly charge) if I wanted tethering and I chose to stick to unlimited data plan over tethering. Lastly T-Mobile has AAA and Costco discounts as well, on top of preferred employer discounts, make sure to check those out. I got a recurring 15% discount on my monthly bill thanks to my AAA membership! 

AT&T's superior 4G LTE coverage is definitely a plus over T-Mobile (Source: AT&T.com)

AT&T's superior 4G LTE coverage is definitely a plus over T-Mobile (Source: AT&T.com)

Conclusion

Everything in life comes at a price. T-Mobile's coverage is not as good as AT&T. Though when I am in a good coverage area, the 4G LTE speeds of T-Mobile and AT&T are comparable, T-Mobile's LTE coverage is average at best compared to AT&T. Other than this down side I haven't faced any so far. 

In conclusion this article might sound like it was written by a disgruntled AT&T user, and the reason for that is because it is true. I have been really unhappy with AT&T for a while now and thanks to T-Mobile for initiating the much needed change in US Smartphone plans. AT&T has lost my trust and though they might not care, it is going to take a lot for me to even consider them for any service in the future. Next up, will someone please overhaul the greedy cable service system here in the US, so I can write up my next great article on how bad Comcast is!

Note: The estimates of prices in this article are only approximate and are very specific to Smartphones in USA and can vary depending on the situation and hence do not hold me accountable for an inaccuracies. As an informed consumer do your due diligence and use the above pointers, more as guidelines than rules. 

500 millionth iPhone sold?

Forbes [ref] recently noted that based on Apple's Q1 2014 iPhone sales numbers (of around 51-52 million iPhones) and on analysts estimates of around 38 million iPhones sold in Q2 2014, the cumulative sales of iPhones (all iPhones sold since 2007) should have crossed 500 million units! This is indeed a significant achievement by Apple, considering the negative sentiments that surrounded the iPhone when it was launched and the extent to which it was ridiculed. It just goes to show that sometimes collective knowledge is wrong and it takes guts to stand up against the majority. But if your product is strong enough, you will eventually succeed, no matter what the so called 'critics' and naysayers called your product (ya am talking about Ballmer here). This number might be slightly off or might not have touched the 500 million mark yet, but it should be in the vicinity. 

It is interesting to compare other iDevices' sales from Apple. Here is my plot on this. The plot shows the cumulative sales (in millions of units) sold by Apple since the respective product was launched. Note that 2014 has had only two quarter completed and hence the slight flattening of the iPhone curve. Also notice how the iPod curve changed slope around 2007-08-09, whereas the the iPhone curve is almost exponential, showing no signs of saturation yet. The iPad curve does not seem to have an exponential slope at all, it seems more linear. Either way the iPhone clearly is a runaway hit for Apple, whether or not Apple can match it with any other product in the future (in terms of sheer volume) remains to be seen! 

Cumulative sales (in millions) of iDevices sold by Apple (Source: Apple.com)

Cumulative sales (in millions) of iDevices sold by Apple (Source: Apple.com)

Android v/s iOS global usage share

I am big fan of usage share data compared to market share data when it comes to Smartphones. It is well known that though Android has almost 4-5 times the market share of iOS globally, the usage share data is almost exactly opposite, with iOS smoking Android. The argument on which is more important depends on a lot of factors, including who you are, whether a consumer or an App developer or an Advertiser. 

iOS devices dominate browsing in 34 countries, while Android is the leader in the remaining 67 nations that it tracks. Importantly, though, iOS maintains the lead in key Western markets like the US, UK, Canada, France and Japan... Is there any hope for other ecosystems? In a word, no.
— dotMobi via TheNextWeb

A new analysis from dotMobi (via TNW) shows the usage share comparing iOS and Android across the globe. In summary iOS and Android pretty much rule the Smartphone market, that's no news nowadays. It also re-emphasizes the fact that iOS tends to dominate in Western countries and Android in the developing markets. One point to note here is that a 20% share (Market share or usage share), say in India for the iOS is equal to or better than its 70% share in Japan, remember the population difference between these countries! So iOS's 20% share in India, where the Smartphone market is filled with ultra cheap 'Smartphones' [ref] is huge for Apple and a few % points gain should mean a lot in terms of market penetration. 

iOS v/s Android global usage share (Source: dotMobi)

iOS v/s Android global usage share (Source: dotMobi)

What is the deal with an 8 GB iPhone 5C?

Apple recently introduced a 8 GB iPhone 5C model in five countries (U.K., France, Germany, Australia and China and not in US) for a slightly lower price than its 16 GB counterpart [ref]. Now many of the blogs and analysts in US are bewildered by this move from Apple and have deemed an 8 GB memory capacity as too low to be of any use. While I completely agree with their thinking if you are used to American living and markets, it is totally a different world if you are in say some developing countries like India or China. There are a lof of reasons for this and as somebody who was born and brought up in India and still have parents living there, I have the advantage of first hand experience in this field. Here is my take on this move from Apple.

Indian smartphone market like many other countries around the world, unlike USA is a contract free post/pre paid market. You buy a phone for its full price (that includes discounts and promotions) and then choose your carrier to pay a monthly post paid fee for usage or use a prepaid account  with that smartphone. When I was growing up it was normal to pay around Rs. 3,000/- (approx $50) to buy a Nokia phone like 1100 and eventually some phones like Sony Experie costed around Rs. 4,500/- (approx $75), all contract free. This was around 8 - 10 years back. My parents still live in India and during a recent visit earlier this year, I found out that my dad had paid around Rs. 10,000 (approx $180) for a Samsung 'smartphone' (not any of the Galaxy ones). He had another similar cost 'smartphone' six months back and recently purchased this one. So he had spent close to Rs. 20,000/- (approx $330) in the last year on smartphones and still was unsatisfied with his experience so far using a smartphone. 

Now the first thing he mentioned to me about this phone was that it sucked, only after a few months of buying it. The reasons; bad battery life, frozen while making a call, bad reception, etc. And worse he did not even know that there was Google Maps service on his phone, though his company was paying him for unlimited data usage, he had not once used the 'smartphone' to browse the Internet. The reason is because the phone had a paltry 2" - 2.5" screen with really bad resolution. His previous 'smartphone' was pretty much the same. When I first showed him the iPhone 5 (that I was using) he was astonished at how big the phone was, how light it felt, how fast the response time was and most importantly how easy and intuitive it was to use. Ok then, I thought I just have to convince him to buy one. 

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

It was not as easy as I thought it would be as the price of an unsubsidized iPhone 5S in India is Rs. 54,000/- (approx $900) and an iPhone 5C is Rs. 42,000/- (approx $700). His laptop costs less than that. So the other alternatives are used iPhones and even older generation iPhones, like the iPhone 4s and iPhone 4. Also notice the difference between the iPhone 5S and 5C is around $200, whereas in US it is only around $100 (more than that with more aggressive discounts towards iphone 5C, apparently due to lower than expected sales [ref]). Also a 32 GB iPhone 5C costs the same as 16 GB iPhone 5S (similar to its US pricing). So though the 8 GB iPhone 5C has not been released in India yet, let us do this math for India as I am more familiar with the market situation there. Going by the pricing Apple has traditionally followed in India, the 8 GB iPhone 5C will cost around Rs. 32,000/- (approx $530). Also a lot of sellers in India are pitching for a lot of discounts for iPhone 5C than the 5S, like 10% off on Credit Cards from certain banks and more cash back, etc. Let's say all that brings the price of the 8 GB iPhone close to Rs. 27,000/- (approx $450). Now that is twice more than the price my Dad had paid for his 'smartphones', each of whom costed his around Rs. 10,000/-. However he had terrible experience with them and he had to buy two of them for Rs. 10,000/- each within a year. So say if I can convince him to pay more than twice the cost of what he used to pay for a smartphone, but end up with a more satisfying experience using it (after all user experience is one thing we can count on Apple for!) and have it for potentially more than two years at least, I would say it is a win-win situation, wouldn't you?

8 GB (of which 4-5 GB is user accessible) is more than sufficient for majority of the users a ‘lower cost’ iPhone is targeted for

Now coming to one last point about 8 GB being unusable, it is just a first world problem, believe me. My dad never stores anything on his phone (like music or any other data intensive Apps like games) and he hardly takes pictures with his smartphone. So leaving alone the fact that iPhones generally have more usable memory space in them that any other phones [ref], 8 GB (of which 4-5 GB is user accessible) is more than sufficient for majority of the users a 'lower cost' iPhone is targeted for. All my dad needs from a smartphone is a consistent experience while making calls, messaging (including Facetime), Google Maps navigation, occasional Internet access (while waiting at the Doctor's office for example) and probably use one or two Apps for playing his favorite card game - Bridge. And for all this 8 GB iPhone will be more than a blessing for him and many tens of millions of new smartphone users like him in India and other developing markets. However I do agree on one thing, though Solid State memory prices are not scaling as much as processor or mechanical memory prices, they are scaling down and Apple needs to one level up its Memory for the cost it is charging for, i.e. price the 32 GB iPhones on par with the current 16 GB ones. 

Apple might have disappointed the market and some of the 'traditional' ill-informed (about Apple at least) analysts when it did not release a 'cheap' iPhone, but is definitely thinking about that market, just in its own way! I am not definitively saying that this is what Apple had in mind (it could be other reasons like having a more affordable LTE enabled iPhone [ref]) when they released an 8 GB iPhone 5C (it is not even available in India yet), but there is definitely a case to be made here. 

Apple might have disappointed the market and some of the ‘traditional’ ill-informed (about Apple at least) analysts when it did not release a ‘cheap’ iPhone, but is definitely thinking about that market, just in its own way!

What is ethical Journalism?

The close relationship between Android licensees like Samsung and journalists covering the consumer electronics industry has grown increasingly sketchy. During this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, non other than the Associated Press inked a deal with Samsung that allowed the Korean conglomerate to tweet out sponsored messages as part of the official Associated Press news stream... CNET reportedly accepted funds from both Samsung and Microsoft to republish and promote positive reviews of their products, including a gushing CNET ‘editor’s choice’ that called Samsung’s Galaxy S4 the ‘everything phone for (almost) everyone.’
— AppleInsider

AppleInsider posted a long but in depth article on why in the recent years, Apple has been bashed shamelessly by a lot of news companies. The article cites a lot of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, like Samsung cheating in benchmark tests and getting caught, CNET trying to trick users into reading sponsored reviews, by placing them in between real product reviews and many more such instances. While this report is very disturbing if any of these are true, it also does bring to light the sad state of affairs of the technology industry where technology journalists (not all, but quite a few) in general and online tech writers in particular have starting stopping to new lows! In this age where anyone and everyone can write anything online (and get paid by the number of Ad clicks), it is very important to be judicious in ingesting any information you get online. 

At the same time, while all those promotional expenses are allowing Samsung to take the lion’s share of Android sales, they don’t seem to actually be helping the company make any progress in its battle with Apple over the lucrative high end of the smartphone market, given that Apple continues to sell 50 percent more high end smartphones (and far more tablets) than Samsung does, despite a significantly fewer carrier partners than Samsung... It appears that Apple’s Tim Cook is not only choosing to spend his company’s money with more integrity, but is also doing so more effectively. While Samsung pushed 68 percent more phone shipments (unofficial numbers say 86 million phones, versus Apple’s 51 million iPhones) and spent much more on advertising and promotion, Apple earned nearly twice as much money in the quarter... That’s something the tech media didn’t even seem to notice.
— AppleInsider

All in all, hope truth survives in the end, because as a customer I do not want to fooled by fake reviews, benchmarks, etc. and end up buying a phone that I will regret paying hundreds of dollars on! 

Samsung announces Galaxy S5 or rather the new iPhone 5.5S

Samsung announced their new Galaxy S5 smartphone today (via The Verge) and guess what the signature new feature of this smartphone is? It is an integrated fingerprint sensor on the home screen. Oh come on Samsung, at least the other Android Smartphone manufacturers were less discreet in their ripping off Apple's iPhone 5S, by putting their fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone (MacRumors)!

Less successful is Samsung’s take on the fingerprint-unlock system made popular by Apple with the iPhone 5S. Like the 5S, the S5’s home key features an integrated fingerprint scanner, which can be used to unlock the phone or authenticate purchases online (Samsung is partnering with PayPal to enable this feature, though it doesn’t validate purchases from the Google Play Store). Samsung’s version requires a vertical swipe over the home button to activate the scanner, and we found it to be quite unreliable and virtually impossible to activate when holding the phone in one hand. It can store up to three different digits, but it was very particular about the speed and orientation of the swiping motion used — if we weren’t doing a perfectly straight swipe down, it would refuse to unlock the phone.
— The Verge

It doesn't end here. Samsung's primary push and focus for this 'new' smartphone is 'health' Apps, gear and an ecosystem. Yeah you guessed it right, this is exactly what Apple is rumored to do with its iPhone 6 (9to5Mac). There seems to be no stopping the CTRL+c & CTRL+v machine, called Samsung and no wonder the patent dispute between these two companies is never ending (The Frustum). And this new Galaxy S5 is a definite iPhone 5.5S, only that the 'S' here stands for Samsung!

Samsung is making a huge push into fitness tracking this year, and the Galaxy S5 benefits from a revamped S Health app and new heart-rate sensor on its back. The new S Health app can sync with Samsung’s Gear line of wearables, including the Gear Fit fitness band, and it offers guided coaching and feedback while you work out. Developers will be able to tap into the data offered by the service through an SDK that will be out later this year.
— The Verge

Wassup with WhatsApp's success story

WhatsApp for iPhone (Source - Apple App store)

WhatsApp for iPhone (Source - Apple App store)

Wired released a mini version (with excerpts) of an interview it did with WhatsApp's founder, Jan Koum last year, BEFORE THEY WERE ACQUIRED BY FACEBOOK and there are some really interesting points to note, regarding everything from rags to riches story to business models to acquisitions. First of all WhatsApp is a great success story for its founder in particular as he was literally living on food stamps as a teenage immigrant from Ukraine.  

When he was living on welfare, Jan Koum’s family collected food stamps a couple of blocks from the unmarked Mountain View office that now houses his messaging company, WhatsApp.
— Wired

Some of our personal experiences are what makes us what we are and influence what we deliver. And similar to that growing up in a Communist country with no privacy, even while talking on the phone (Hmmm... this is just a not a problem with Communist governments anymore, is it? cough cough NSA), he had three most important principles (below) before starting WhatsApp from the money he earned from Yahoo. Wow I don't know which one of the three points to appreciate more, all three are super important in this day and age and no wonder with his privacy concerns for his users, he chose iOS than Android (The Verge) to make his App. 

His service would defiantly not carry advertising, an experience satisfyingly absent from his Soviet upbringing; it would not store messages and thus imperil individual citizens’ privacy; and it would maintain a relentless focus on delivering a gimmickless, reliable, friction-free user experience.
— Wired

I use WhatsApp daily to message my family and friends and mostly to message people living abroad and those living local but do not have free messaging service (I pay $5 for SMS from AT&T, sounds ridiculous doesn't it). I think the $1 per year that WhatsApp started charging recently is nothing and as a satisfied user, I would have been willing to pay much more than that for the security, lack of irritating Ads and most importantly a simple working App. Finally on being asked about potential acquisitions, he did say that he is skeptical about being bought by a bigger company and feels that it might be ethically wrong towards his customer base. I am really curious, so as to what changed his mind now with Facebook acquiring his App. But at least thank god it was not Google that acquired WhatsApp!

We worked in a large company and we weren’t that happy. Facebook Google, Apple, Yahoo — there’s a common theme. None of these companies ever sold. By staying independent they were able to build a great company. That’s how we think about it.” Brian Acton adds: “I worry about what [an acquiring] company would do with our population: we’ve made such an important promise to our users — no ads, no gimmicks, no games — that to have someone come along and buy us seems awfully unethical. It goes against my personal integrity
— Jan Koum via Wired

Two ways of making a tablet computer

Its a known fact that Apple and Microsoft approached the tablet market differently. Though Microsoft was first with its Windows tablets, they were basically full desktop Windows OS running on huge rectangular panels of glass, which had to be used with a stylus and these 'tablets' never took off. Then came Apple, that famously thought of an iPad first, much before the iPhone, but due to market forces and technology limitations was forced to release the iPhone first. This turned out to be a surprising success story for Apple. We have heard multiple times (though not record) that even Apple was surprised by the amount of success and popularity of the iPhone. So technically Apple reached the tablet (iPad) through the iPhone and iOS, that had the basis of Mac OS X, but was significantly different. 

Now this was the turning point in the revolution of tablet computers, though there were a lot of critics when the iPad was released, calling the iPad as a bigger iPhone and nothing else. The consumers however proved that they needed exactly that, a bigger iPhone in their tablets, by making it a category defining success story. The advantage of the iPad evolving from the iPhone was that it was designed from ground up and did not require Apple to make any compromises in terms of user experience. In the sense that the touch targets worked well for mobile Apps and Apps designed for the iPad and hence the iPad did not face the problems that the older Windows PCs faced, while running the desktop Windows OS on them (like small targets to touch or rather poke with a stylus). However it was not that Apple did not make sacrifices with the iPad. It was still not a full fledged computer, it even today cannot do things like multi-tasking the way a laptop or a desktop OS can do and it still cannot run full fledged powerful software on it. However Apple chose to make the right compromises and targeted the iPad the right way it should have been, i.e., more productive than a smartphone and less productive than a computer. 

Now coming to Microsoft, as this article on TechPinions points out (and is well know by now), was pretty late to embrace the mobile revolution (yes if Apple with its mobile devices can out-sell Microsoft's entire device sales, then the mobile revolution is already here). They missed out on the smartphone (Windows mobile is a distant third to Android and iOS) market, but wanted to get in on the tablet category pretty desperately. But their tablet approach was to cram a toaster and a refrigerator! This article has a good point on why Microsoft might have chosen to go this route and apparently it was not with the user experience in mind and more driven by money! Now money can never be a pathway to success, can it?  

Microsoft certainly had the power to decide which way it wanted to pull tablets, whether towards the smartphone model or towards the PC model. And it clearly decided that its future depended on applying the PC model, rather than the smartphone model, to tablets. A PC model applied to tablets would allow it to continue charging high licensing fees for Windows, make Office applications easily available on the devices, and make them compatible with existing Windows applications from third parties. But it’s important to note that this was a decision driven entirely by what was perceived to be best for Microsoft, but by what would be best for the actual users of the products
— TechPinions

Read through the entire article to find some interesting tidbits, but what caught my attention the possible courses of action for Microsoft to take to redeem themselves (see below). Yes you read it right, that is exactly what Apple does, that is exactly what Google tried to do with its Nexus devices through Motorola, that is exactly what Samsung wants to do with its Tizen OS! Basically the formula that Apple invented, i.e., of making its own hardware, software and services and integrating them seamlessly is the only formula that has proven to be successful in the post-PC market. And Microsoft has to embrace (or rip-off) this to be even remotely successful. Now, it won't be the first time that Microsoft tried to 'emulate' Apple, so it should not be that hard!

Merge Windows Phone and Windows RT, mirroring the existing iOS and Android structures, and rename Windows RT as Windows Tablet... Make both flavors of the merged mobile OS free for users and OEMs, eliminating licensing fees... Do much more to promote consumer services, notably Microsoft’s own Music, Video and Gaming stores and offerings, across its consumer devices (smartphones, tablets and Xbox)... Continue with Windows 8 as a separate operating system, making Metro an optional overlay UI for touch-screens, but allowing users to choose the old-fashioned desktop UI as their primary or only UI if they so choose.
— TechPinions

iRing gets revealed in an Apple patent... not what you think

AppleInsider reports today on an extensive patent, titled 'Magnetic attachment unit' filed by Apple last year on connecting external accessories to iOS devices (typically the iPad), through magnets. This is similar to what the smart covers and cases do now, but this patent is an 'omnibus' in the sense, it covers everything from iPad cases to wrist straps to even other iPads connected to an iPad! Remember that this is just a patent application and very few or none of these concepts might see the daylight. But going through the list of applications Apple cites as examples, like connected touch covers, keyboards, car and treadmill mounts, etc., definitely makes it an interesting read (USPTO). 

Apple's patent titled 'Magnetic attachment unit' (Source: USPTO via AppleInsider)

Apple's patent titled 'Magnetic attachment unit' (Source: USPTO via AppleInsider)

Oh by the way, as AppleInsider points, out towards the end of the patent application, there is the mention of the 'iRing' or a ring that could modify or add specific functions while swiping over an iPad like device, using 'Hall's effect'. This might not be the mythical iRing that was rumored as an Apple iTV accessory, sometime back (TheFrustum) and though Tim Cook joked about a high tech Ring made by Apple (AppleInsider), this patent suggests that this concept has at least (theoretically) crossed Apple's mind!

Apple's patent titled 'Magnetic attachment unit' mentions a Ring like controller (Source: USPTO via AppleInsider)

Apple's patent titled 'Magnetic attachment unit' mentions a Ring like controller (Source: USPTO via AppleInsider)