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Windows 10 is coming mid-2015 with Continuum and Unified apps store. (Event precis.)

At last. Microsoft have just announced the name of the next version of Windows and to everyone’s shock it’s going to be called Windows 10.

Windows 10 Logo

Windows 10 Logo

I’ve been following the live blog at The Verge and hundreds of tweets coming out of the event and it’s already clear that Microsoft is going to be focusing on business with Windows 10. A familiar look, security and management is being promoted which, for those of us into touch, is a worrying start.

As was previously rumored, Store-based Universal apps will be sandboxed and will run on the desktop. At this point we’re getting a little bit more worried about the touch UI that was Metro.

Microsoft appear to have implemented a new multi-desktop feature which allows the user to grab apps from another desktop and there’s an unexpected update to the command line. You can now CTRL-C, CTRL-V among other keyboard shortcuts

Touch users…

“We want to support those Windows 8 users who have touch machines and getting a lot of benefit out of them.”

Some edge swipes are still there, there is scrolling and pinch support. The charms bar was shown in a demo but apparently that might change.  The task view (swipe from left) will be removed and replaced with a desktop-style task switcher.

2-in-1 users can benefit from a new feature that Microsoft are calling Continuum which changes the look based on the input method being used.

Touch users can now breath a sign of relief. Here’s the Start screen on a touch-enabled device.

Windows 10 Start screen for touch users.

 

Above image via The Verge

Preview versions of Windows 10 under the Windows Insider Program  will appear at http://preview.windows.com

Windows 10 is said to be shipping “later in the year” 2015 which is later than expected. “At our Build conference in April, we’ll share more about Universal apps.” Of course we already heard about universal apps at this years BUILD.

Finally, in a Q&A it was confirmed that the new smartphone operating system from Microsoft will also be called Windows 10 but won’t have a desktop.

That wraps-up the first information we have about Windows 10. More will filter through over time so stay tuned!

HP Stream to join the confusing low-cost Windows Tablet party.

The HP Stream 7 and HP Stream 8 have been launched and the cheapest version will cost just $99.Both models come with just 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage . That’s all I’m going to tell you right now.

Hp Stream 7 advertising

Above: HP Stream 7 advertising

What can I say? Having had a bad experiencewith 1GB RAM on the Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 I just can’t get excited. I’m also confused about why manufacturers think this is a good idea? The platforms are likely to have been developed, tested and approved by Intel leaving HP and others to build the casing but there are major issues that will affect user perception of Windows tablets. Windows Desktop will slow down to a crawl after you’ve opened a number of browser tabs and a few apps as the Pagefile works overtime to switch data to and from memory. 16GB of SSD be become a major issue after a short time unless you know all the tricks that can help keep it in order.  Without a microSD slot though some of the tricks won’t even be possible.

Thank goodness there’s a 1280×800 screen with wide viewing angles on both of these tablets but that’s not enough for me to recommend them.  Yet…

Will Windows 9 bring cheap Windows tablets to life?

Windows does need a cheap tablet option but it won’t happen with Windows 8.1. Late today Microsoft will be talking about Windows 9 and we hope to see better support for small form factor devices and low-end platforms. The ability to turn off the desktop and have an RT-style default might be a help too and if we could just have support for Windows Phone 8 apps, that could solve the problem.  The Cortana assistant and a notification center will help too. Windows 9 should be a free upgrade on small-form-factor devices (it’s already free) so here’s hoping.

Until then, unless you have a specific need, a specific single task or RT-based need, be careful with these low-end Windows 8.1 tablets.

More information:

Mike Cane often highlights low-cost Windows tablet news on his blog.

HP Stream 7 site at HP.com

Hands-on with the Stream 8 and Stream 7 by Liliputing.

Wait! 13.3-inch, Full HD IPS and SSD for $329? (…and it weighs just 3 pounds!)

This, my lightbook-loving friends, is going to be a big seller in Q4 of 2014. The Toshiba CB35-B3340 is a 13.3-inch laptop with a full-HD screen, SSD, Skull Candy speakers, a 51 Wh battery and it weighs just 3 pounds – 1.36KG. The price? $330. It’s a nice product for entry-level consumers but it’s a problem for Microsoft.

Toshiba CB35

 

The Toshiba CB35-B3340 is a Chromebook and Chromebooks based on a Baytrail-M SoC with just 16GB of SSD are cheap to produce but this one from Toshiba is well-designed, has a good keyboard and is the best I saw over the last month of  touring IFA and IDF events. Skull Candy speakers hint at a consumer-focus and not classroom-focus but Toshiba hasn’t cut corners on battery life or ports. This Chromebook will give you 9 hours of usage, say Toshiba. I understand it has a 51Wh battery inside so I don’t doubt that. In fact, i’d expect over 10 hours of offline video viewing.

The question is, why can’t this be a Windows laptop? Well, Toshiba have a similar product in the CL-10B (video) but at 11.6-inch it’s not the same. The reason could be that a lot of similar-sounding products in the Windows laptop market are selling for $700 or more. Given that a Windows with Bing license costs nothing I can’t see any reason that this can’t be a Windows laptop other than product separation. That could be an issue for Microsoft because Chromebooks just took 18% of the sub $300 laptop category. In the $300-$400 space this Chromebook is a bargain.

Windows 8 tablets are racing to the bottom in price and specs, Ultrabooks are fading away and cheap Windows laptops have positioning to contend with. The 2-in-1 segment will get a boost from Core M soon but it won’t take effect until 2015. With no word on Cherry Trail products, it looks like it will be a very very tough quarter for Microsoft.

Analysing the next Surface Pro platforms.

Surface Pro 3 is an amazing piece of engineering. Even with the keyboard it’s one of the most powerful self-contained PCs by weight and with 5-6 hours of working battery life, fast storage and a digitizer it doesn’t cut corners. We’d all like to see a full SD card slot and for it to run a little cooler under load but unless you’re really doing a lot of ‘lapping’, it’s a true notebook replacement. Now that the Intel Core M has been launched we have an idea of what’s possible for 2015. Core M or Broadwell-U are highly likely to be in the Surface labs already as Microsoft try to work out where the next super-tablet should be positioned but there are other options too. Could Cherry Trail play a part in Surface Pro’s future?

Wistron-Core-M.jpg

 

Mini or Maxi?

Intel Broadwell and Core M architectures bring improvements in efficiency, better Turbo Boost and power control (to allow a reduction in device thickness) if required. There’s a new GPU (Generation 8) and improved support for 4K video workflows. New audio hardware with post-processing capability improves battery life and features. If you want more details, check out my overview and product previews at Ultrabooknews.

What can Broadwell do for Surface Pro?

At best, Core M (AKA Broadwell Y-series) can only match the performance of U-series SoCs found in a Surface Pro 2 and 3 so although it would allow a lighter, fanless design, or a 13.3-inch screen at the same weight, it wouldn’t offer the same long-term performance.Where it might fit is in a 7mm thick 10-inch tabletweighing just over 1 pound, A good design upgrade to the Surface 2 Pro.

A true Surface Pro 3 laptop-replacement upgrade, a Surface Pro 4, would need Broadwell-U series but at 15W TDP (rumored) that wouldn’t enable any fanless or lighter designs. A faster GPU, and improved media hardware codecs might be interesting, but not groundbreaking. Surface Pro 4 may have to wait until Skylake, the next generation, available at the end of 2015.

Cherry Trail is Lite

The third option would be an updated Surface 2 (an upgrade from the ARM-based Surface 2)  based on Cherry Trail  where designs could range from 8-inch to 11.6-inches and stay light and fanless. Processing power would not be laptop-class but the improved GPU on this platform could offer some gaming possibilities. The problem here is that ARM-based tablets would compete. Cherry Trail and Windows 8/9 would need to offer significant advantages. If it could, it would fit very well if the Surface Pro 2 was discontinued. It would also clear  space for a 7-8-inch Lumia. Windows 9/RT phablet or Surface Mini. Let’s take a look at the available X86 platforms (where only Intel is offering leading-edge technology today) and consider where they might fit across three different types of Surface Pro.

Core M Llama Mountain

Potential Surface Mini platforms

  • 7-8-inch ARM based RT/Phone 9. Could also be a Lumia-branded tablet.
  • 8-inch Cherry Trail (Atom) – Lots of competition. 8-inch Windows segment trending to lower-cost  and quality.

Potential Surface Pro 2 platforms. (to replace Surface 2 and Pro 2.)

Naming could be difficult here. A Surface Pro 4 would imply better performance than Surface Pro 3. A Surface Pro 2 Plus, or Mini, or Light perhaps?

  • 10-inch Cherry Trail (Atom) – lots of competition at this CPU performance level. 10-inch not ideal for productivity or high mobility but this is a big improvement over the current Surface 2 and leaves Surface Pro 3 as the flagship laptop-replacement.
  • 10-inch Core M – Potential to be the most powerful 10-inch tablet in the market. Laptop-replacement CPU performance. Fanless. Could be expensive for the 10-inch category. Untested market. Not as powerful as Surface Pro 2 or Pro 3 but close. Would be a great Windows 9 showcase.
  • 11.-6 inch Cherry Tail (Atom) – Relatively unique product. Could be very light  and fanless  (<600 grams) and compete on price in this segment.
  • 11.6-inch Core M – The first fanless 11.6-inch tablet PC design with laptop performance.  Not as much performance as Surface Pro 3 but close, so it might compete unnecessarily.
  • 12.5-inch Core M – Would compete directly with Surface Pro 3. Not expected.
  • 12.5-inch Cherry Trail – Surface Pro 3 Light would not be a laptop replacement but would support the accessory ecosystem of the Pro 3 and serve as a lower-cost Pro 3 and flasgship for light and fanless tablets with good-enough processing power. Would be a flagship Windows 9 product. Weight must be kept to 600 grams / 1.3 pounds.

Potential Surface Pro 4 platforms.

Given that the Surface Pro 3 appears to be selling well and that it launched in May and is only just available in many countries a replacement would have to wait until at least Q2 2015. Waiting until Q4 2015 would open up options with the next generation Core – Skylake. Here are the options.

  • 11.6-inch Broadwell-U – Performance boost and battery life improvements over Haswell-U but not a huge change. Smaller screen might not fit customer expectations.
  • 12.5-inch Core M – Performance boost and battery life improvements over Haswell-U but not a huge change. Lighter build. Cheaper cost might not be enough for a flagship model.
  • 13.3-inch Core M – A bigger Surface Pro but with no CPU performance improvement over Surface Pro 3.
  • 13.3-inch Broadwell – Too heavy for a tablet with a 15W TDP Browdwell.
  • 12.5-inch Skylake – A significant performance improvement over current Surface Pro 3. Could offer a fanless version. Not enough is know about the platform at this stage.

We’ll all have our personal favorites but in terms of broad appeal the 11.6-inch or 12.5-inch Cherry Trail tablet (fanless, very light, lower cost) Surface Pro could be the best option if the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 is phased out. It would not directly compete with an existing Surface Pro 3 in terms of performance and could be cheaper, lighter and fanless. In a 12.5 inch version it could be the a Surface Pro 3 ‘lite’ and use existing peripherals.

In terms of Surface Pro 3 replacement, it’s a difficult choice and I don’t see any obvious option. Waiting until Q4 2015 might give Microsoft a Skylake (6th generation Core) option

Toshiba’s Encore Mini is too cheap. (Hands-on Video)

There’s ‘value’ and there’s ‘cheap.’ The Toshiba Encore Mini falls into the latter group and even at $119 it’s got too many issues to be recommended for most types of user.

en-INTL-PDP-Toshiba-Encore-Mini-WT7-C16MS-16GB-CWF-01825-Large

The Toshiba Encore Mini was one of the first devices I got hands-on with at IFA earlier this month and although it was an attractive size it was immediately clear that it had cut many corners. The screen, a non-IPS panel of just 768×1280 resolution, is terrible. Even my eyes, old and tired, saw jaggies and poor viewing angles.

And then there’s the specifications. The Z3735G CPU is acceptable but it’s coupled with just 1 GB of RAM which might work OK for the RT/Modern environment but you’ll run into problems as soon as you attempt to used the desktop. Given the low resolution and the RAM issue the Encore Mini might as well have desktop disabled so that RAM can be saved for the Modern environment. In fact, perhaps this should be a $99 Windows RT device? The 13 Wh battery is the smallest I’ve ever seen on a Windows PC.  This is a 5-hour tablet, not a 10-hour tablet.

On the positive side the Encore Mini is just about the cheapest Windows PC in the world and comes with one year of Office 365 and 1TB of One Drive storage included. You could potentially run a DisplayLink monitor from the USB port, connect a keyboard via Bluetooth and charge it from a solar panel. Products like the ASUS Eeebook X205  and the Acer ES1/E11 notebook are cheap but consider that these $199 options are 66% more expensive and that could be the difference between having a PC or not.

I’ve got a set of images on my broken Ultrabook that i’ll recover next week but you can watch the video below and see everything you need to know. The price will make this a stand-out offering as one of the cheapest ‘PCs’ on the market but please, check out the video before buying. Rarely am I so negative about UMPCs but there’s no place for this tablet in the developed Western markets and even in developing markets I would suggest caution.

Ultra Mobile Reporting Kit #13 – Unlucky for some.

It had to happen on #13 right? On my recent 14-day tour of IFA and IDF (Berlin, San Francisco) I prepared myself with four devices. One Windows laptop. One Chromebook. One smartphone and one featurephone. What I didn’t plan for was a total failure of the main Windows laptop. Chromebooks don’t work as a fallback laptop.

Ultra Mobile Reporting Kit

Everything had gone very smoothly with my Haswell-based Ultrabook. The platform has great battery life (in this case, all-day working without a charge) and 1080p video editing and rendering for my (admittedly basic) YouTube videos. Photo editing (for blogs) is easy and there’s enough space in a 128GB SSD for a two-week session. When your Ultrabook fails, however, you’ll need a backup. I’m usually equipped with a second, lower-powered Windows laptop or tablet but this time I only had the Lenovo N20p Chromebook. While that has battery life, a quality browser, good WiFi and a keyboard that won’t drive me crazy it can’t handle video editing. When you’re producing up to 15 videos for YouTube per day you need local processing.  Lesson learnt. A Chromebook is not a fallback solution.

The silver lining to this story is that Intel helped me out at the last-minute with the loan of a Surface Pro 3. The back-story is that I was sponsored by Intel to go to IDF so Intel Germany stepped in. I thank you! While the Surface Pro 3 doesn’t have an SD card slot (so annoying) and isn’t a ‘lapable’ solution (it works, but it’s not easy) and the keyboard feels a little bouncy it’s the lightest Core i5 PC I’ve ever used.  2.45 pounds for a Core i5 ‘laptop’ with backlit keys and a 42 Wh battery. Wow! That’s some engineering. It’s an ultra mobile desktop-capable PC!

The 12.5-inch screen wasn’t a problem although I did notice some desktop apps having tiny text due to the high PPI. It was a little stubborn with returning from standby though and got extremely hot when rendering videos. Connected Standby is out-of-spec too. Microsoft want to see less than 5% drain over 16 hours in CS mode. The Surface Pro 3 was returning 5% in 5-10 hours although I admit I didn’t reset it to factory settings before starting to use it.  The keyboard is perfect…for what I was doing. It’s a little bouncy but I got used to it and felt comfortable after a short time. I was using a German layout which has a tiny left-shift key and it kept catching me out but I see that the QWERTZ layout doesn’t have that problem. I can’t complain. The only think I will mention is the hinge. It looks complex and it looks very vulnerable. It works, but for how long?

Moving on to the Nokia Lumia 1020p I have to give it 10/10 for casual photos. I picked up the excellent  Shoulderpod S1 while I was at IFA and I was planning to pick up the Lumia 1020 grip case too but on the third day of the event I dropped the 1020 and the screen smashed. It’s limping along now until I decide whether to stay with Lumia (830 perhaps?) or move to Android where there’s some very interesting progress being made in smart photography.

broken lumia 1020

 

The Lumix FZ150, now nearly three years old, still does a great job as an all-round blogging camera. The OIS is stable, close-up video works well, an external mic helps in loud situations, the zoom helps in press conferences and the swing-out screen is something I couldn’t do without. I tested the FZ1000 at IFA and wow, that’s #1 on my list as a camera upgrade. I also tested a cheap LED lamp. This CN-160 (aff.) is available under many brands and having tested it (thanks to broadcast journalist Guy Degan) I’ve ordered one. Update: it just turned up in the post.

Summary

The Ultrabook platform (Haswell  U-series CPU with SSD) is superb and every mobile reporter working with media should use it. Quick-Sync video processing will save you time and battery life and a 50+ Wh battery will give you all-day action. The Surface Pro 3 with Core i5 and a Surface Pro Cover keyboard, and a good USB3.0 SD card adaptor is one of the lightest options. I’ve used the SP3 for a week and I’m impressed although the lack of SD card slot is a real pain.

Chromebooks work well as companion laptops and I will continue to use my Lenovo N20P around the house but I won’t be taking a Chromebook as a backup laptop again. It’s got a keyboard, yes, but it hasn’t got the capability you need if you’re working with digital media.

As for the Lumia 1020, recommended! Great photos, videos and audio are possible and it processes media well for online use (it’s not the best at natural colours but it ‘pops’ well online) although I still reach for my bridge camera when I’ve got an event to cover. The Lumia 1020 also has a little problem in that it’s reached ‘peak effectiveness’ for social photography and videos. Where does Microsoft go next with Lumia because if they don’t add a zoom soon, devices like the Lumix CM1 could take over.

Did I use the Nokia 808 on this trip? Yes, as an audio recording device, MP3 player and backup phone and cameraphone. I suspect it will stay in the kit bag.

Mobile Reporting Kit #14 will be assembled in early 2015 for CES, MWC and CeBIT. I have a feeling that the Surface Pro 3 will be replaced by an Ultrabook (I’m looking at that ASUS UX305)  and I’m hoping I can get hold of a Lumix FZ1000 camera which would be a big improvement on the 3-year old FZ150 I have. As for the phone, I’m remaining open-minded. While the Lumias are fantastic cameras and mapping devices, there’s still a lag in choice of applications. I will be working with Android on the Dell Venue 8 7000 next month so I’ll make a choice after I’ve used Android again.

Quick Benchmarking session with the Core M 5Y70

In an Intel-led Core M benchmarking meeting today I saw a set of controlled benchmarks from a 6W TDP Core M product. The tests were performed in an 685 gram 12.5-inch Llama Mountain reference tablet with a machined aluminum rear casing that is optimal for this design. We also saw a copper-based rear casing that can handle a lot more thermal energy but you won’t see that happening in consumer products. The benchmark scores we saw were more than I had expected.

P1200986

Three benchmarks were run, once, on a rested system in a warm room.

Sunspider: 119ms at 2.8 Ghz.  (Surface Pro 3 with Core i5 is 245ms at 2.4Ghz Turbo)

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3DMark Icestorm unlimited: 48230

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Cinebench R11.5 – 2.65 (Surface Pro 3 with Core i5: 2.77)

P1200973

 

Note that these are the scores from a high-end 6W TDP Core M 5Y70. The 4.5W TDP Core M SoCs won’t perform this well and in a product with a less-than-perfect thermal design there could be heat issues that prevent Turbo Boost reaching these high levels.

GPU performance needs to be further tested and long-term gaming could impact Turbo Boost capability.

This is the best you’ll see from Core M at 2.8Ghz but it’s important to remember that this is best-of-Core M right now. I’m going to be pushing to get the new Lenovo Helix 2 in for testing so at that point we’ll get our first real-product results.

Tip: Check out the Surface Pro 3 review at Notebookcheck.net for a controlled set of performance figures.

Disclaimer: Intel have paid for my attendance at IDF this year.

Dell Venue 8 7000. Hands-on and Realsense Snapshot demos

I was asked for my opinion on the price of the Dell Venue 8 7000 just after it was announced and all I could think of was the nice looking Lenovo Tab S8 which is very similar, for about $199. After handling the Dell Venue 8 7000 I now see a product worth much more than that. The amazing OLED 2K screen is punchy and sharp. The 6mm thin design is light and stylish and the 3 additional Realsense snapshot cameras offer some interesting options for photographers. In this video you’ll see some of those features being demonstrated.

P1200852

After talking to a number of people about the Dell Venue 8 700 I know know the following.

  • It will be available in November.
  • There will be an LTE version. (Intel 7260)
  • It runs on Merrifield (Intel |Z35xx-series)
  • The screen is  2K resolution OLED
  • The base configuration will be 2GB RAM and 16GB storage
  • An SDK will be released but it’s looking like early 2015 before developers can create apps

 

Youll find out more in the video after the images…

 

Dell Venue 8 7000Dell Venue 8 7000 (1)Dell Venue 8 7000 (2)Dell Venue 8 7000 (3)Dell Venue 8 7000 (4)Dell Venue 8 7000 (5)Dell Venue 8 7000 (6)Dell Venue 8 7000 (7)

Dell Venue 8 7000 3D photography video

Mobilegeeks got the best video of the Dell Venue 8 7000 at the Intel Developer Conference today. (This Android tablet launched earlier today, here’s my coverage.)

dellv87000

 

A reminder of the specs.

  • 2K resolution screen (Ultra HD(

  • Edge to Edge screen.

  • 8.4 inch screen

  • 6mm thin.

  • 2GB RAM

  • MicroSD

  • 16GB SSD

  • Realsense ‘snapshot’ capability

  • Early November availability

I’ll write no more. Please just watch the video.

 

Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet with Realsense launches at IDF14

From the Intel press release.

Michael Dell and Krzanich previewed an upcoming Dell tablet with first-of-its-kind photo capabilities. The new Dell Venue 8 7000 Series with Intel® RealSense™ snapshot is the world’s thinnest tablet and will be available in time for the holiday season. Intel RealSense snapshot is an enhanced photography solution that creates a high-definition depth map to enable measurement, refocus and selective filters with a touch of a finger. It will introduce new capabilities and new ways of using the tablet, opening up a new creative horizon for developers to come up with apps that change how consumers engage with their photos.

 

Blackburn_wide_nr

Updating from the keynote, live.

This 8-inch Android tablet will come with Realsense and a context sensing SDK from Intel which includes cloud-based context services.

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Prototype shown on stage (see below for live images)

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  • 2K resolution screen (Ultra HD)
  • Edge to Edge screen.
  • 8.4 inches. Re
  • Early November
  • 6mm thin.

Given the dimisions this has to be a Baytrail –based tablet.

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