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How Ford plans to win the future like a software company
Ford has used technology to recreate itself as a 21st century car company. Now it wants to build new experiences and innovate like a software maker.
Lenovo are NOT getting out of the small Windows tablet market. New devices coming.

Lenovo Miix 2 8 _3_

I was very sad to read news on Friday that Lenovo was getting out of the small screen tablet market. It turns out, however, that it’s not true. Lenovo issued a press release yesterday stating that they  “are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business.” In addition to that they stated that they will have a new 8-inch and a new 10-inch Windows tablet ready for the holidays.

This is great news because it supports my theory that 8-inch Windows tablets haven’t done badly at all. While I believe that the innovation will be focused in the 10-13-inch tablet space over the next years the Dell Venue 8 Pro popularity, recent announcements from Microsoft and my own experience tells me that the 8-inch tablets aren’t bad at all. At $225 the Dell Venue 8 Pro is an absolutely brilliant tablet and as I cycle through them in my daily use, I can’t say that any of them are bad.

Lenovo Press release.

While new models are in the pipleline Lenovo did say that the Thinkpad 8 is now longer for sale in the US. The Miix 2 8 is out of stock right now too so let’s hope we get that one back on the shelves soon.

So let’s continue to think about low-end, mid-range and the high-end ultra-mobile PC space.

Info via GigaOM

High-end 8-inch Windows tablets – Where do we go from here?

I recently wrote about what a late-2014 high-end 8-inch Windows tablet could offer. I talked about Intel’s Realsense camera technology, 3G, USB3.1, 1080p screens and AC WiFi. A digitizer and additional access security could be interesting too but is there a market for these high-end features in the 8-inch sector? Could Microsoft create a market with a Surface Mini and a really special technical feature?

Toshiba Encore 2 10 38-inch tablets are bobbing-along at the $200 price-point now and the excellent Dell Venue 8 Pro is just $224 today at Amazon.com.  At the high-end the Lenovo Thinkpad 8 is still $413 which is nearly double the price for very little more in terms of speed or power. The Dell VP8  is the #43 best-selling computer, tablet or accessory at Amazon.com which is pretty impressive. The Lenovo Thinkpad 8 is at #1828, which isn’t that impressive.

Clearly there isn’t a huge audience for high-end 8-inch tablets with a lot of bells and whistles so is there any reason to make one?

The Surface Pro 3 appears to have launched well and it too is a niche, high-end product but it’s getting a lot of traction in terms of search traffic, news and review articles and good feedback from owners. After one month on Amazon.com there are 23 customer reviews with an average rating of 4.3 and It’s the #154 most popular computer, tablet or accessory which is really very good for what is a niche product. Why is that?

Firstly the Surface Pro 3 has set a new bar in terms of engineering. They’ve cracked the 800 gram mark, reached an impressive level of thinness and still managed to design a tablet with a good battery life, at least for a powerful tablet like this. Secondly, it’s a Surface. Surface has become a quality brand and is getting netter all the time. Microsoft continues to market the brand and products heavily across many types of media. Could the same engineering, branding and marketing make a Surface Mini a success?

A Surface Mini, or indeed any high-end 8-inch Windows tablet, will have to fit with a high-end brand so it doesn’t have to be cheap. It also needs to match that higher price in terms of perceived quality, more importantly, in terms of breaking new ground with a new feature. That ‘new feature’ could be an issue in the 8-inch space because smaller tablets are bounded by tighter pricing.  Then there’s the question of limited physical space in which to innovate.

Brand + Quality + Feature

We know Surface has the brand quality and that Microsoft can give us some great engineering but what can they pull out of the hat in terms of new features. I’ve done some brainstorming and come up with a set of features that could be possible given pricing and sizing constraints. Not many of them are really that interesting from a marketing perspective but some are worth further consideration.

  • Battery life – There’s very little scope for a unique feature here in 2015.
  • WiDi – It’s useful but there aren’t many people that even know what it is and how it can be used.
  • USB3.1 – A point upgrade, as seen by the customer.
  • AC WiFi – Not exactly a deal breaker if it’s not there at this stage.
  • Type cover keyboard –  There’s little scope or demand for creating a good typing experience within the limited space.
  • Super-thin design – Sure, shave 0.5mm off but it won’t look much thinner than a Lenovo Miix 2.
  • Screen size. Do users want a 5 or 7-inch Windows tablet? Given the huge competition in this area it’s a risk not worth taking.
  • Digitizer – 8-inches is not really the best place to put a digtizer, adds thickness and reduces space for battery.

Camera

Given that Nokia camera technology is now under the control of Microsoft and that other companies, like Intel, are looking at depth-sensing cameras for new photographic experiences, security, gaming and gesture control there’s an exciting possibility that a high-end 8-inch tablet could break new ground by being the smartest camera ever.  The hard technology is there to make an optically-stabilized sensor that might even have some zoom capability but it would need some very special software to make it work well. Is this something that consumers would be interested in or is there too much competition in the established smartphone sector?

Screen technology

Isn’t it time to finally get an outdoor-readable screen with low-power properties in a reader-focused device?  8-inch tablets are great for reading both book and web-based content but the screens are terrible outdoors. Pump up the backlight and you’ll use your battery charge quickly too. I’m not aware of any screen technology that’s quite ready to transform the outdoor experience and battery life in 2015 so maybe it’s something that’s going to come with flexible or folding screens. While we’re talking about screens, how about some waterproofing too? There’s a lot of scope for change in screen technology.

Connector-less tablet / processor-less tablet.

Intel want to make a connector-less tablet after Broadwell products have launched. You might see something at IDF in September but it won’t be a final product. WiGig is the technology that would be used and it can enable remote docks that offer completely transparent local wireless experiences. Someone could even make the first procesor-less tablet. Instead of having the CPU in the tablet and the connectors in the dock, why not put the CPU in the dock and run the screen and touch layer over WiGig? This would completely transform the tablet design and enable incredibly light builds with extremely long battery life. They wouldn’t be usable without the dock but there’s nothing stopping the dock from being small too. It could clip on to the back of the tablet.

Give us your feedback in the poll below and if you think there’s a ‘feature’ just over the horizon that would be perfect for a high-end 8-inch Windows tablet, let us know in the comments below.

 

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Acer Aspire Switch 10 Review – Video Overview

What a pleasure it was to test and review the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for Notebookcheck.net over the last three weeks.  The Acer Aspire Switch 10 is a low-cost 2-in-1 that’s up against a product that has been selling like hot-cakes and yet it pulls through.

It’s cheap and capable and it’s a great showcase for Windows 8 and Intel’s Baytrail-T processor

Acer Aspire Switch 10 _31_

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 is essentially a Windows 8 tablet weighing just 580 grams (1.28 pounds) but for just 338 Euros / $380 it comes with a good dockable keyboard, a great screen, good speakers and enough processing power to enable real PC productivity.

The battery life isn’t as good as its main competitor  but with nearly 5 hours of 1080p playback and nearly 6 hours of good quality WiFi surfing it’s not bad.

If you’re looking for a low-cost 10-inch tablet that’s light and adaptable for simple productivity, entertainment and connectivity the Acer Aspire Switch 10 and the Asus Transformer T100 should be at the top of your list. My favorite is the Switch 10 but you should watch this video first…

Full Acer Aspire Switch 10 review at Notebookcheck.net.

The mad scientists of 3D printing: How MadeSolid is remixing the formula
MadeSolid is an Emeryville, California-based startup that is trying to bring 3D printing to the masses by creating high quality materials for the printers themselves.
Movie Edit Touch 2 on Windows 8 Tablet – Report and Demo

I have a history of testing simple, fast and efficient video editing software and two years ago I settled on an Intel platform with Quick Sync hardware. Quick Sync is simply a hardware acceleration layer for video encoding and processing and it works extremely well on Ultrabooks. It also works on Clovertrail and Baytrail-T Windows 8 tablets and 2-in-1s (also a few Baytrail-M processors) but the problem there is that the desktop applications are just a bit too heavyweight. I’ve tested a number of Windows 8 ‘RT’ apps but it wasn’t until last week that a re-tested Magix Movie Exit Touch and found a big step forward. Version 2 is fast, touch-friendly and works perfectly for YouTube video sequencing up to 1080p.

grafik-692-movieedittouch-en_04

The basic version is free but you won’t be able to title, trim with accuracy or output to 1080p but that’s OK because if it works well for 720p videos for you it’s going to be worth paying the 2.49 euros for the full version.

Features:

Import multiple clips, photos to a timeline. Apply various transition effects, add an additional audio track, stabilize videos, add title and export to 320, 480, 720 and 1080p in H.264 or WMV formats. Upload videos to YouTube. Use on-device camera or import videos from external cameras.

I tested Movie Edit Touch 2 on a Clovertrail tablet (Acer W510) and it crashed every time but when I tested on a cheap Lenovo Miix 2 8 I was impressed to see fast 720p rendering of videos taken with my Nokia 808. Using the Lenovo Miix 2 10 with five 720p clips, an image, crossfades and titling across 30% of the video I saw an export rate of 4X (50 seconds for a 200 second video.)

Screenshot (3)Screenshot (4)

The 720p render resulted in an H.264 file with a 197kbps 2-channel audio and a 9Mbps video rate which is a little high for on-the-go YouTube uploads in 720p but good for local playback. A 480p export was done in 37 seconds and resulted in a 2Mbps file rate which could be perfect for quick video uploads to YouTube while still leaving the option for a high-quality output at a later stage.

Using the built-in camera to record some 1080p clips I pasted 4 of them on the timeline along with 3 photos. Two titles and an audio mix were overlaid onto most of the video. The 90 second video rendered to 360p (1 Mbps rate) in 24 seconds,  480p (2 Mbps rate) in 28 seconds, to 720p (Mbps rate) in 34 seconds and 1080p (18 Mbps) in 52 seconds.

A stabilized 480p render took 6 minutes which is 4X longer than real-time.  Quality of stabilization is good although it’s unusable due to the introduction of black frames into the render. This must be a bug. The stability of the app is questionable too. We saw crashes on YouTube upload and crashes on rendering which appear to be random. The app re-starts after being sent to the background (project is saved.)

Screenshot (1)Screenshot (2)

Screenshot (5)

There are quicker ways to produce videos by simply taking a one-shot video on a good smartphone and uploading to YouTube. The iPad or iPhone is good too but if you want to sequence and title some higher quality videos from external sources and quickly publish a titled track with your intro and outro added to the timeline this is a lightweight, low-cost and fast way to achieve it. Given that it’s version 2 it also looks like Magix are actively working on it unlike other video editing programs we’ve seen in the Windows 8 Store.

At last there’s a good starting point for Windows 8 video editing that doesn’t require a desktop application. . Given a good quality internal cam the process is even quicker. Take a look at this video I (very) quickly put together using video captured, scene-by-scene, into Movie Edit Touch 2.

Improvements needed:

  • Stability (app does not run in background.)
  • Saving project can take a long time.
  • Audio annotation capability.
  • Import images direct from cam. (Currently only imports videos taken from built-in cam.)
  • Stabilization bug introduces black frames.
  • Ability to choose a rendering bitrate could help. E.g. 3Mbps 720p for a fast YouTube upload.

Note: All testing done with H.264 source files and H.264 rendering.

Have you considered using a Windows 8 tablet for video editing. At under $250 a Windows 8 tablet and Movie Edit Touch 2 could be an essential addition for anyone on the road, for journalists, bloggers and others that want a simple fast editing suite without external camera restrictions.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 Keyboard Battery Coming?

I’m testing the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for Notebookcheck.net right now and it’s going well. I prefer it to the ASUS Transformer Book T100 because of the better keyboard, mouse and screen but there’s one little issue – battery life. The Switch 10 has a 24Wh battery inside which is much less than the 34Wh battery of the ASUS T100 and less than half of what you got on the previous W510. Looking at the keyboard reveals that it’s quite light and has 8 exposed screws so naturally I took a look inside. What I saw was encouraging because there’s space, screw holes and an unused PCB header space.

2014-07-02-3965

The bottom casing has been designed to fill a space delimited by 6 unused screw holes. The red arrow points to an unused space on the PCB which has been designed to include a header connecter. The bottom case has about 3mm of space which is very tight, but not too tight for a slim 20-25Wh battery pack. There’s also the possibility that a slightly different bottom casing could be designed with another 1-2mm of space.

2014-07-02-3967
Con0701 – Unused, as are other positions on the PCB.

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 keyboard has been designed to include a battery option so the question is, will Acer use to offer a different product or is it an option that was canned in the design stage?

Acer Aspire Switch 10 (4)

Acer, if you’re listening, please take the option and provide us with that battery. The Switch is, in my opinion, better than the ASUS T100, but the small tablet battery is the Achilles heel.

How much would you pay for the battery option that would make it the true replacement to the Acer W510 and a unique product?

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