A Glimpse Into Microsoft’s Future

Future User Interface.

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week Of May 8th

The Need for Speed

The new Microsoft Laptop is a beautiful looking computer. It creates in the customer’s mind an appreciation for the practical, level-headed competition Microsoft brings to the table in an era when Apple isn’t updating its own laptops as often as it used to.

But just how well does the Surface Laptop stack up against Apple’s offerings? Jason Snell at Macworld looks at specs and prices of the various models of the Microsoft Surface Laptop and compares to Apple’s MacBook Air, MacBook and MacBook Pro. The results shouldn’t surprise us, but in some ways they do, especially in Apple’s favor. You’ll want to check out: “How does the Surface Laptop stack up to Apple’s notebooks?

Microsoft Surface Laptop
Surface Laptop. Great looking. But how does it stack up against MacBooks? Image credit: Microsoft.

Along these lines, here’s a sensible, sober observation from Dan Moren that echoes my own feelings. “Why Apple’s laptops could use a little less innovation at the moment.” Subtitle: “Apple should take a cue from Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop and focus on speed, not gimmicks.”

Dan makes some great observations. In my own experience, I agree that Apple got too immersed in design and the company lost sight of the fact they were locking their customers into an uncomfortable sales proposition. Packing great power into a mobile MacBook Pro is expensive. One can easily pay US$3,000 for a 15-inch, quad-core, top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. However, backing off to a less expensive 13-inch, dual core MBP, makes one worry. Is it fast enough to meet future needs? To be the only Mac?

With the Apple design advantage evaporating, competitors could turn their attention to an emphasis on performance. When a customer only has so many dollars to spend, performance often wins even if that means using Windows 10. Apple could address this issue with a newfound obsession for notebook performance. See: “With Mac and PC Designs Mature, Computational Power is Sexier.

More Debris…

Any computer historian will tell us that there’s been an endless succession of connected devices intended to sit on our desks and solve our problems. Where we (and the products) often go wrong is in the assumption that the product will last for a long time. That’s just not how technology works.

This is how I feel about the Amazon Echo and similar devices from Google and Microsoft. And maybe even Apple starting in June. See: “Apple employees are reportedly testing the ‘Siri speaker’ inside their homes.

These devices are just the beginning of voice assistants and the AIs that will weave themselves into our lives. If you’re optimistic about their longevity, however, take a trip down memory lane and recall the 3Com Audrey. “Amazon’s Echo Show stands on the shoulders of these failed internet appliances.

That’s not to say the Echo and similar products will fail. But they will evolve quickly. Even family service robots as mobile AIs won’t be the end point. The rapid evolution of this technology gives one pause about where it’ll all go next.

Meanwhile, it’s not too soon to reserve a place on the bookcase for one of your early voice assistant cylinders—so you can reminisce about the old days.

Apple Watch Status Icons
The Apple Watch has a staggering potential, yet untapped.

Finally, Jeff Byrnes looks at the Apple acquisition of Beddit, the sleep tracker and predicts that “Your Apple Watch Will Soon Become Your Favorite Sleep Tracker.” Previously, we’ve seen reports about Apple’s work to allow the Apple Watch to measure blood glucose. Add sleep tracking to the mix, and soon the Apple Watch will have the critical mix of capability that will make it a truly indispensable, and sales will then skyrocket. Apple’s plans for the Apple Watch shouldn’t be underestimated.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the tmo headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

6 thoughts on “A Glimpse Into Microsoft’s Future

  • @aardman: Agreed and thank for sharing those well-considered thoughts. IMO, Apple’s Mac UI has lost some of its simplicity and usefulness by hiding/obfuscating UI elements. Despite contrary statements by Apple executives, this feels like the groundwork for merging at least iOS and macOS, and such an overall goal might not allow the best user UI choices. Managing other UI bases ( like AR, 3-D etc. ) will be very challenging particularly when it needs to be accessible and simple. I’m hoping Apple will review and improve its 2D interfaces before merging them with others.

  • aardman: Thanks for that amazing, cogent, articulate reader feedback above. It’s one of the best I’ve received since I joined The Mac Observer.

  • It seems to me that most people, both laymen and experts, base (perhaps unconsciously) their predictions and prognostications about future devices on what Hollywood has envisioned in movies and television. So with home snoops/busybodies like Echo we probably have HAL and the Star Trek starship computer in mind. With gesture and holographic interface, Minority Report is the touchstone for most people. We have to remember one thing though, this is Hollywood imagining and their speculative portrayal of these technologies is skewed by the requirement to make it visually and aurally entertaining to the viewing audience. When Captain Picard talks to the onboard computer, the conversation has to be completely fluent and accessible to us, the audience watching the show. When Tom Cruise gestures in Minority Report, the director not surprisingly wants a visually appealing shot with large, crisp, screen-filling arm movements.

    In real life though, will people really want to talk out loud to a cylinder? Do they want their ‘conversation’ with Alexa or Siri to be audible to everyone else in the room? Will they want these snoops to be on standby 24-7 listening to every word said in the house (and relaying it to Messrs Brin, Page, Bezos and Zuckerberg)?

    How about gesture and holographic interfaces? Who will want to swing their arms about every time they need to work on the computer? In truth, don’t people want to be as economical as possible with their input gestures? Fingers only please, and as much as possible with the shortest strokes that I can get away with. And 3D images/icons floating in air in what can only be described as a patternless jumble. How does that make working on a computer easier? Isn’t the point of a computer to organize and systematize information so that it is easier to process and comprehend? Why is ‘ephemeral’ an adjective that anyone would want to associate with making information better organized and more accessible? I don’t want ephemeral, I want clear and concrete.

    Of course this is the Hollywood influence coming on in a full-throated roar when the designers want to impress us with their gee-whiz demos and simulations. In reality, after about 10 minutes when the novelty wears off, interfaces need to be as unobtrusive as possible, perhaps they need to be pleasant but they definitely need to get out of the way.

  • There will need to be a way to rapidly charge an Apple Watch if you are going to wear it day and night. Maybe the Night Watch will be a different gadget than the Watch.

  • Whether you like Microsoft or not, this proves that Apple has “won”. Steve Jobs was right. Technological “design” is just as important as the function. It didn’t seem that way in the early 1990’s, but now, everyone expects their computers and software to look as good as they function.

    This is to everyone’s benefit, and it was Apple, Steve Jobs and Jony Ive who should get most of the credit.

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