We’ve covered the importance of Windows 8, the Windows 8 Store and Windows 8 apps before on Ultrabooknews. [Video and article here] and we’ll be bringing you more on software development, apps and opportunities in the future because we believe it’s one of the most important opportunities there is for developers right now. It’s also something we want to promote because for every Ultrabook and touch-enabled app that is launched, the Ultrabook product gets a little bit better. In an article over at the Intel Developer Zone you’ll find a great overview of the considerations you need to give when designing a touch-enabled application.
Asus was teasing with a countdown to the official reveal of their touchscreen Windows 8 devices and has finally gone live with some content that explains the rather confusing lineup. We’ve prepared a breakdown of the products, pricing, and release dates below.
All the teams have submitted their code for the Ultimate Coder Ultrabook Challenge, all the judges have set up their Ultrabooks with the same OS and drivers and we’re well into the process of final judging. I’ve tested all the apps and it’s now time to review them. Scoring will happen over the next week and then, we’ll have a winner!
I’ve had a chance to go hands-on with the slick looking Acer Aspire S7. Everyone loves the looks, the screen, the weight but I question the battery life. A sub 40Wh battery means 4hr average battery life. It’s mobile and fun, but the Acer Aspire S7 might be sacrificing too much battery life for the thin aesthetic. Video demo below.
Don’t expect touch to roll-out to the whole Ultrabook category but expect that Windows 8 will make manufacturers think about making touch-enabled options in their Ultrabook portfolios later in 2012. Sensors, on the other hand, could find themselves in most of the devices hitting the market. Location and context-sensitive applications in Metro apps could really boost the usefulness of an Ultrabook, especially with instant-on and smart/always connected features.
In a detailed Windows 8 post last week I outlined some issues around Windows 8 and mobility. One of the biggest issues is the resolution requirements. 1366×768 is going to he expensive to implement on 10″ and smaller screens. I also found a lot of issues with portrait mode. The apps included in the developer edition weren’t optimised for portrait mode at all. Fortunately most ofbthe problems lie in the applications and not the operating system itself. In the video below, Microsoft talk directly about portrait mode. It’s very much a promo video but its good to know that Microsoft are on the case. I like to think that the article and detailed comments helped. Keep thone thoughts flowing.
There’s lots to learn from the demonstrations and information on Windows 8 from the last few days. Not only from Microsoft themselves but through the reactions and thoughts of commentators. I’ve given it some time, made some notes and am ready to put my thoughts down.These are the thoughts of someone that’s used tablets in both the commercial and consumer world, someone that loves social networking but someone that also knows how important Windows is for getting things done.
First and foremost, we must remember how important the desktop is to Microsoft. We can talk about tablet and touch all day but the fact is that Microsoft need to deliver a backward-compatible operating system, somehow. Having said that, I’m surprised that Microsoft didn’t talk about splitting the old from the new and going along two tracks. Or perhaps they did…
Windows 8 has an overlay layer that will introduce a finger-friendly homescreen. My first thought was ‘oh dear’ but there’s one major major difference between what Microsoft have done and what others have done in the past by offering an overlay layer. Applications.
If you’re looking for a slim, touch-driven operating system Windows 8 is going to be frustrating on day 1 but on day 356, it’s going to be a different story.
Moving towards always-on
By the time Windows 8 is available, both ARM and Intel will have always-on mobile platform offerings. You’re likely to have always-on, sleep+poll and quick hibernate for month-long battery life. Finally the ‘lock-in’ features of phones and tablets will move to the laptop an maybe even the desktop. Fast-boot should also help mobile users.
Windows 8 is likely to cost a considerable amount of money over, say, a Honeycomb tablet or smartbook. Not only because Microsoft will charge a license but however much they try and slim it down, 32GB of fast storage and 2GB RAM requirements are likely to push up the hardware costs. Considering the amount of multitasking that goes on in Windows, fast memory busses and higher CPU requirements are also to be expected for the same end-user responsiveness. Platforms that run Windows 8 will be more complex and more expensive than what we see in the ARM-based tablet world.
The background processes in Windows aren’t there just for fun or because of sloppy programming. Windows is a complex operating system with an amazingly rich out-of-the-box feature set. Just think about simple things like multi-user support, file sharing, multiple input device support, the IP routing subsystem, multiple audio device support and the many layers of security that are included. Windows 8 will be a rich, professional-level operating system out of the box with a unique feature among tablets. As with previous Windows versions, you’ll be able to run multiple apps on the same window but Windows 8 has built in an easy way to slot in a ’tile’ application alongside a traditional Windows applications. Neat.
Handwriting support. Critical in many vertical markets, education, health and other.
Hover support. Hover is a core feature of the desktop internet and application experience. Windows needs to continue to support this through various input mechanisms. Apps and web pages are unlikely to migrate to ‘hover-free’ any time soon.
App support for ARM-based devices. There’s no getting round the fact that applications will have to be recompiled for ARM-based devices. That effort translates into a barrier.
Small-screen support. With a recommended screen size of 1366×768, will we see support for smaller resolution screens that are common in 7 and 10â€ form factors?
What about the cruft? Will Windows 8 come in ‘mobile’ versions for mobile hardware? E.g. Will it run on systems without PCI, BIOS, USB for example.
Windows 8Â could enable HDR Computing
Again, we must not forget that Windows is primarily a table-top mouse-and-keyboard operating system and will remain so for a very long time. What Microsoft is doing it introducing a way for developers to enhance a touch-layer for a time when tablets could be critical to revenue. If the touch-layer develops well over time (say 5 years) it could become a standalone user layer but for the time being, what we’re seeing is a good start and way more than ‘overlays’ that we’ve seen in the past. With improvements in sensor support, always-on ( I truly believe that a Windows 8 ‘ultrabook’ could idle down to 7 days of Wi-Fi-on, screen-off battery life) and fast start, fuzzy (widened or ‘snap-to’ ) touch areas that are critical for hyperlinks, and an easy and quick app store, Windows 8 will address some of the core issues of Windows 7 when used in a mobile or tablet setting. Microsoft needs to take care of sharing subsystem and sensor support and exposure to the touch UI layer though to complete a nice recipe for a high-dynamic range operating system. Windows 8 was one of my 5 operating systems to watch for HDR-Computing, it looks like it could be the first to achieve it.
We were lucky enough to get a few days with the Aava / Intel / Meego phone earlier this year and our tests with the handset UX showed that there was a lot of work to do. In a presentation at the MeeGo onference in Dublin today, we saw progress, a good working demo and future planning but still, there’s so much missing. Granted, these user-experiences are just baseline builds to show how the core features can be used but still, it seems to us there are some hooks that need to be added.
With no active icons support (showing number of unread emails for example) and a single homescreen with no widget support it means that product developers will have a lot of work to do to implement these features. On the other hand, the notifications subsystem looks good with support for multiple notification types triggering multiple different notification methods including notification lights, haptics and of course, dialog boxes. We didn’t see any dialog box handling mechanism though so we’re hoping this will be well controlled when it gets implemented.
The demo was done on a Moorestown based Aava Smartphone platform.
“But Ben, my iPhone already has Bluetooth!”, I’m sure you are saying right now. Thanks to Apple, you can barely use it for anything, and support for A2DP audio streaming and AVRCP is definitely not included. Luckily there are ways around this. Take the wiRevo Stereo Bluetooth Adapter for iPod and iPhone, which you can buy today on Woot.com’s Yahoo partner site, sellout.woot.com. For anyone who has managed to avoid hearing what Woot is, it is the most famous deal-per-day site on the interwebs. They offer one item per day with a limited stock, and when it sells out, it is gone for good (translation: if you want one of these, buy quick!).
The wiRevo Stereo Bluetooth Adapter for iPod and iPhone supports A2DP and AVRCP, which roughly means that you’ll be able to listen to good quality stereo music through a pair of Bluetooth headphones. There is also a pass-through for your power adapter which means that you can charge your iPhone/iPod while the adapter is plugged in. It is sad that Apple couldn’t build this functionality directly into the iPhone’s bluetooth stack, but $9.99 isn’t a bad deal if you want to remedy Apple’s flaws, and an even better deal if you have an iPod that doesn’t have Bluetooth to start with. I’m not sure exactly which generations of iPod this works with so I’ll leave that little mystery up to you before purchasing it. Seems like this same accessory is selling for around $39 elsewhere on the internets.
I’ve been having a look (or should that be listen) to the music capabilities of the BenQ S6 MID device. With a stereo headphone socket and a music player as part of the built in software, the device can be used as a portable music player.
But is it any good?
A good music player needs to have a couple of areas where it has to perform. The audio quality, the navigation of music on the device, and transferring music from another computer.
Audio quality output is good, the speakers on the device happily fill my kitchen and taking it outside there’s enough volume to listen comfortably when in the park. It’s when you start listening on headphones that there’s a problem. The headphone socket (which also carries the microphone socket as well) is only a 2.5mm jack socket. The standard size on pretty much any consumer device is 3.5mm, and my favourite headphones (including my custom moulded monitors) are all that size. While you can get adaptors, I fail to see any design reasons to go for the smaller jack plug that benefits the end user.
Looking through your music on the device is not a pleasant task. Although all my MP3 files have the correct ID3 tags, with the artist, album, track numbers and album art, the S6 does not use any of that information. Once you open the media application and start navigating music, you are using the directory structure and filenames of the MP3 files, with little option to search through the meta-information.
The controls only show up on the screen when you tap the play icon next to a media file â€“ this places the controls over the the screen for a few seconds before disappearing again. It’s not at all intuitive. What’s more, once you switch away from the media player, there are no on-screen controls you can pop up to control the music.
Finally, transferring music to the device. I had to resort to using a blue tooth transfer from my PC to get a connection to the memory card or internal memory of the S6. While I know many people will be able to do this, it is not a consumer ready solution.
Compare the hoops you have to jump through when compared to the iPod Touch and iTunes, the ease of controlling the music, and searching through with your eyes or filters, and you realise that the BenQ has some work to do to make the S6 acceptable as a music player.
I’m sure we’ll see more pics of this over the next few days but this one (from a set at GottabeMobile) shows the slim casing, the low-profile keyboard and the hinge. The 9″ version of this is said to be under 1KG making it very interesting in my book. I guess it’s not carrying a 6-cell battery (It’s probably using flat Li-Poly batteries to help the design) but if it’s got a 30whr battery, it could be a 3-4hr device if it uses (as indicated by JKK) the Z520 CPU.
Update: Note that the 10″ version is shown as using the N270 (Diamondville) CPU.
Fear not, ultra mobile PC Portal isn’t going to start reporting on audio player news, instead we’re just mentioning the iPod Touch refresh as it pertains to the MID category.
That being said: Some of you may have followed the Apple event today. In a nutshell, they dropped some new iPods, iPod Nanos, refreshed the iPod Touch, and released iTunes 8. I’m actually pretty disappointed at the minimal updates to the iPod Touch. Oh well, if it aint’ broke, don’t fix it, right? The new iPod Touch is very similar aesthetically to its predecessor. The back is rounded and it is ever so slightly thinner. Nike+ receiver is built in (this is the accessory that you put in your shoe and it feeds running info to your iPod). Probably the biggest change is the built in speaker, and volume buttons on the side (just like the iPhone), no silent switch though.
On a related note, Apple also mentioned the latest 2.1 iPod Touch/iPhone firmware, which will come on the new iPod Touch, is currently available for old iPod Touchs, and will be rolled out to iPhones on Friday. Apple is apparently charging $10 for the update (if you are an iPod Touch owner), unless you are already running 2.0+, in which case the update will be free.