Did You Ever See Geordi La Forge With a Keyboard on His Tablet?

| Particle Debris

It's one thing to say your company is going to reorganize to meet the challenges of the marketplace. It's another to be able to execute. Our estimation of Microsoft's ability to execute rests in the current tablet efforts. Rocco Pendola of The Street says, "There's no evidence it can." I bring this up because of the recent Microsoft earnings report that included a US$900 million write down for Surface tablets. Here's Mr. Pendola's spot-on analysis. "Ballmer Will Drive Microsoft to Its Death."

Seriously, when you look at the difference between the approaches of Samsung and Microsoft, you have to give Samsung some credit. Samsung is basically admitting that we're in the tablet era, that soon tablets will outsell PCs, and that they're "all in" with that. That, of course, means meeting Apple in court, but at least Samsung sees the handwriting on the wall. Microsoft is acting like a race horse owner who knowingly buys an aging horse that looks great for his brochures but can no longer compete. Where is the hard-nosed decision making that will lead Microsoft for the the next 20 years?

Moreover, Microsoft has thrown sand in the face of the tablet meme that is pervasive in our culture. Think about Star Trek: TNG. Do you ever recall seeing Captain Picard, Data or Geordi La Forge handle a tablet with a keyboard attached? Of course not. The vision of how we use tablets was instantiated long ago. The key is to leverage from the meme, as Apple has done, not fight it for the sake of past glories.

Star Trek: First Contact. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

All one needs to do is look at the three charts in this article to finalize one's perspective of the future. "It’s not Windows’ world anymore."

Even Paul Thurrott, historically a die-hard Microsoft proponent, has a damning-with-faint-praise approach in his article, The State of Windows Tablets.

Everywhere I look there are Windows tablets that are simply too flawed to recommend. For this reason, I’d like to first throw you a bone before diving in. It’s clear to me that another Thurrottian outburst about the failings of anything related to Microsoft is simply too much for some of you to bear. So in the interests of empathy, I’ll give you this one:

While virtually all of today’s Windows tablets are worthless, many touch-based Windows Ultrabooks and other PCs are in fact quite excellent."

This is a good read. Want more? Why not? "Review: First 8-inch Windows tablet is a device that shouldn’t exist."


Technical News Debris for the Week of July 15 (and thereabouts)

The Verge has some sharp thoughts on AT&T's new "Next" upgrade plan. "AT&T's Next phone upgrade plans are a huge ripoff." The article's subtitle punctuates it even more strongly: "No no no no no no no."

After having briefly reviewed the Nexus 10 tablet last year, I must admit a certain affection for it. So I was interested to hear some rumors about what's next in the Nexus series. "Exclusive first look: Pics and video of the new Nexus 7."

Here's another terrific read from Ryan Faas, one of my favorite tech writers. "Why I bought my new iPad from the Apple Store instead of Verizon." Customers, myself included, appreciate the Verizon network, but Mr. Fass points to some really weird Verizon business practices that give one pause.

There was a time when when we would just sit back and appreciate the security features that Microsoft and Apple woud include in their OSes. But in 2013, with a heightened awareness of security flaws, backdoors, sophisticated intruders and technical gotchas, that's no longer sufficient. "Government Officials Bring in Security Experts to Test iOS 7's Activation Lock Feature."

Apple often stumbles through its technical documentation in fits and starts. Just when you think Apple has given up some areas, like Common Criteria Certification, Apple pulls it all together. But then, it's obscure and hard to find. For those who have an interest in Common Criteria Certification and FIPS 140 Conformance Validation and Cryptography, we have this recently published gem. "OS X: Security certifications and validations." Even if you're not involved with these technology areas, it's nice to know about Apple's support.

Finally, I present this treat. The very best writing is a synthesis of two ideas or two fields of endeavor. In this case, Edward Mendelson charmingly combines a bit of religion, something we Apple fans are familiar with, and AppleScript. The AppleScript part may not excite you. That is, until you come to appreciate the overtones of computing freedom. This is a Particle Debris Must Read. "Faith and Works at Apple."

You will smile.


Surface tablet image via Microsoft

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

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What long time Mac user could forget the Apple evangelists. Enjoyed the Faith and Works article; but I think he has the theologies mixed up in his analogy. Pure Protestant faith only theology includes the concept of salvation being predestinated by God. Thus it excludes any freedom of choice. Catholic theology includes the individual’s choices to participate in his salvation. Thus it includes some measure of freedom of choice, Theologically (small t) AppleScript is catholic and iOS is protestant. For the record I am a gospel preacher who is neither Protestant nor Catholic.


Can I just say that these “experts” don’t seem very expert to me at all. It seems they thought about how to discourage mobile phone theft and come up with the idea of a “kill switch”. Then they concluded that since that is their idea, that is what needs to be done. In practice, a “kill switch” has huge problems - especially the problem that it is very annoying if you thought your phone was stolen, used the kill switch, and a week later you find it in the boot of your car.

But since Apple’s much more practical solution is not a “kill switch”, it must be bad according to these experts. I would suggest that Tim Cook should invite them, make a call on his iPhone, hang up, wait until the screen lock kicks in, and hand it over to these “experts”.


“The key is to leverage from the meme.” I think Apple goes well beyond that, into inventing the meme. I mean, the iPhone is arguably more whiz-bang than anything on Star Trek. I do agree with your point about Microsoft being backwards looking though. It’s as if they tried to enter the tablet market without really understanding how people are using those millions of iPads that have been sold. Tablets are primarily used for media consumption. There’s nothing wrong with this. We consume a lot of media these days, and its nice to have a small lightweight intimate computing device for this purpose. Microsoft simply does not understand how people use these devices.

Steve Ballmer said “How many of us have gone to a meeting with somebody who brought a tablet and then when it comes time to actually take notes, writes them down on pencil and paper. Or can’t get at the spreadsheet…or try to use it in terminal emulator mode…or take [a long time] to set up and turn their tablet into something that approximates a PC.”

Um, none of us, because people don’t do that. If that’s what you’re up to, get an ultrabook or whatever…. and “terminal emulator mode” REALLY? What decade is this guy living in? So, Microsoft serves up a “tablet” with a keyboard and a stylus (“yuck!” - SJ) that runs Windows, and calls it innovation. It’s funny, but it’s also painful.



Your analysis of MS’s vision of the tablet, certainly their actual product response to it, is spot on, in my opinion. As a race, we have oftentimes had a vision of how things ought to be, such that we project that vision in our art, which subsequently influences both culture and, later when the science permits it, the technology and consumer product. Intuitively, a tablet should not only be an ultraportable device, just like on Star Trek, it should be self-contained and, just like on Star Trek, wireless and without a gaggle of ports for physical media. Not only do we never see Geordi using a keyboard with his padd, we never see him attaching a flash drive to it to upload data, either.

MS’s attempt to recast the tablet image in a Windows-centric motif is not merely late in the game, but flies contrary to racial consensus on what a tablet should be, and hence, in my view, has next to no chance of success. The only way this ends well for MS and the Surface, barring a concession on their part to humanity’s vision, is for MS to hold such mindshare over a critical mass of humanity, or at least its leaders of thought, that they could alter that vision by redirecting hearts and minds in an, ‘Aha! That’s what we’re after’ moment. MS haven’t that mindshare, neither do they have so much as a compelling rational argument for their vision. Theirs is a bald attempt at preserving their cash cow, pure and simple. Worse still, they wish to do so at our expense, specifically by robbing us of the vision that we, as humanity, have of our future, and the role and function of our tech within it. As Brad Reed’s piece graphically illustrates,  we are no longer is a Windows world, and there is no incentive for us to make such a visional and/or directional sacrifice on MS’s behalf. Windows no longer provides us with sufficient motive, as it is progressively relegated to a lesser role and to our past.

As for Windows tablet offerings, MS’s or any of their OEMs, I commented on this in Bryan’s $900M write-down piece, so will not belabour the topic here.

As genuinely regrettable as I do find MS’s inability to find an ultraportable response to the post-PC era, even more do I muse in wonder at a company like MS to have so dominated the PC landscape as they have in the face of a company like Apple, given their limited repertoire of products with their level of consumer satisfaction. However, my conclusions about this phenomenon is that such PC dominance had less to with (and yes, I deliberately use past tense here) with the calibre of MS’s products than it had to do with the simplicity of that PC era, commingled with the naiveté of both the law and the consumer. Both of these have changed and evolved into more discerning forms of themselves, which in turn, has raised the bar on performance for not only MS, but any company that dares to compete henceforth.

That should serve as a stark warning, but more importantly, a stirring challenge to any company that wishes to compete in the 21st Century.


Used to be an assembler programmer in the ‘70s.  Must check out apple script.

Thanks for this.


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