The Advantage Microsoft has over Apple

I was catching up on the returned (excited for James's return to this venue), and I came across his post about Apple's Continuity features in OSX and iOS.


I started a comment but it got a little long, so read his post, and come back over, I'll wait.


Microsoft does have several of these features, in some form. Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 when paired with Windows Mobile 8, 8.1, and 10, share the same WiFi hotspot capability.


Windows 8 and 8.1 enabled profile syncing (start screen, colors, and apps) across devices - this was unfortunately deprecated in Win10 for reasons unknown, I'm hoping it returns. There were also (more limited) syncing capabilities across Windows and Windows Phone.


The Windows app platform enables apps to sync settings across devices, so you only have to configure once and they "just work" on other devices.


Where these and Apple's continuum fall short is cross platform - fact is most people have Windows PCs, and Android, and then iOS devices.


Over the last couple of years Microsoft has done a great job here - for years OneNote has been cross platform, and it has gotten better with deep OneDrive integration over the past couple of iterations. I can now pick up literally any device I own and access any of my notes.


Same goes for any file on OneDrive - and with unlimited storage as part of Office365, that's where all of my files live. Including photos - which are automatically backed up from my various Windows, iOS, and Android devices.


In the last year (with the long awaited release on Windows) Microsoft has also brought this convenience to Office. Your recent files lists are synced in the current Office apps across devices. So I can at ease puck up whichever device, and not have to remember whew that file was stored (OneDrive, SharePoint, etc.)


Microsoft has done a great job of integrating within their ecosystem, and more importantly (I suspect largely die to their weak position in Windows Mobile) across platforms as well.

Microsoft Surface - Early Impressions

I was having an e-mail dialog with a few folks, and thought I should get this out to a larger audience.

I wrote this after a few days of using the Surface for play (weekend) and as my only  active device for work.

What are your thoughts?  Have you used a Surface, are you interested in a Surface, are you interested in Win 8?

Purchase Story:

After seeing the pricing I hesitated, especially after seeing the report about how much space the OS took, and how little that left for local storage, then I remembered the micro-SD slot.  By the time I submitted my PreOrder they were sold out of Friday delivery.  So I ordered with the expectation of being able to go pick one up in person on Friday and cancel the online order.

Friday I called Best Buy – I thought they were going to have them in stock, but no one other than MSFT stores is selling them at this point (interesting since it’s in the Win8 picture on Best Buy’s website).

So MSFT has a store way out in one of the Western Chicago suburbs, but they opened a “Holiday Pop-up” store in the mall on Michigan Ave. - Michigan & Grand.  So, I swung by there Friday AM to pick up a 32GB model with Touch keyboard.  The “store” is really just some tables and a counter with cash registers.  Looks like an apple store in the middle of the mall.  There were a good number of folks there, however it was hard to tell how many were actual consumers.  There were store employees. MSFT Event staff, and press, as well as some local MSFT employees in plain clothes.  They had mostly surfaces setup – around 50-60, and a couple of touchscreen laptops running Win8 (saw 3 Sony Vaios).  Almost every seat was filled with people playing in the machine.  As I got in line after talking to one of the reps who pulled the hardware for me, there were 3 cashier lines, each with about 2-3 people waiting.


As I was waiting in line one of the employees asked if I needed help getting the device setup before I left, I declined I was trying to get in and out before my day of meetings started.  When I got there and tried to just get in line one of the employees told me they were still giving away a year of XBOX Music (Zune Pass replacement) to the first 100 people who purchased that day.  So, if they were sticking to only 100 of those they’d sold less than 100 units by 9:45AM.

I ran home and got on the phone, I was able to open the device – premium packaging if you haven’t seen it -very Apple like unboxing experience.

The first boot-up wasn’t bad, pretty quick, the biggest lag was actually after I logged into my MSFT Account, I assume that’s because I’ve used it on other Win8 machines, so it was syncing over preferences – sure enough, the colors, background, and accounts were all there for me after login, just like they are on my Win8 (MacBook Air) laptop.

 In typical MSFT fashion (boo) there were 15 of the pre-installed apps which needed to be updated, plus the Office apps needing to be updated.  That took longer than I would have liked, but I chalk that up to my terrible internet access at home.


I won’t belabor this.  As everyone has said the hardware is great.  Battery life seems pretty on par with my iPad 3.  The touch cover lives up to the MSFT hype.  Without any practice I’m exponentially better at typing on it than on glass, not mention that means the entire screen is visible.  I’m not as good as typing on a real keyboard, largely because I miss some keystrokes – have to hit a little harder/more on center than on physical keys, and I’m a bit lazy I guess,  I’ve been quite impressed.  AutoCorrect is also much better than iPad, but that’s not saying anything.  I will say autocorrect is approached like a PC not like a mobile device – in that when you’re using the physical keyboard it won’t autocorrect, it will spell check, when you’re using the on screen keyboard it will allow auto correct.  Ideally there’s a setting to change that (and ideally it’s syncing my autocorrect across my MSFT account (i.e. from my phone) – but I haven’t seen that.  The soft-keyboards are both (split and full) much better than the iPad - not a surprise given how good the keyboard is on WinPhone


I read several of the reviews that came out last week, from folk who had been using demo units and waiting for embargo to pass, before purchasing – mostly what I expected.  I’ve read several more from folks who have been using theirs like I have since getting a unit with the unwashed masses.

I used it off and on over the weekend (not all that much really as we went to a wedding in the suburbs and stayed at a Sheraton and I don’t have status so I wasn’t willing to pay hotel prices for internet (and can’t tether to my phone since tethering isn’t compatible with the international data plan).  But used it a bit on Sunday to catch up on personal e-mail, and RSS feeds.  The mail program needs work, I still find it exponentially better than the Mail app on iOS – which is beyond terrible. Mail would be ok for personal if I didn’t use Gmail to manage that account – they need a GMail app.  For Exchange e-mail it lacks some basic stuff – I’ve been a WinPhone user for over a year now, so I expected at least that level of capability, but it doesn’t even support flags (or at least not that I’ve found), and forget about Categories and Smart Folders.  Huge problem – I’ll have to change my workflow, I rely on flags, due-dates, categories, and smart folders to manage what’s where in requiring my attention.  This simply won’t work for that.  I can either change how I work or use OWA, or RDP into my laptop to use Outlook.

For RSS feed I use Google Reader – their native web interface leaves a lot to be desired, on the PC I use Feedly in Chrome, and on the iPad I use Mr. Reeder – which truly is the best App I’ve ever used, to the point that I’m more productive on my PC because I’ll wait to look at RSS feeds until I’ve got the iPad in front of me.  Mr. Feedly is iOS only.  I use Wonder Reader on my phone, but as of now there’s no PC/RT version of it.  So I’m using the aptly named Feed Reader.  It’s pretty good, but a bit slow, not quite as good of an experience as Mr. Reeder. Since I first wrote this I've picked up NGReader, which is much faster than Feed Reader.

I thought the form-factor (clearly designed and optimized to be used largely in Landscape) would be a big problem for me, but I like it. the kickstand I great when sitting, and it feels much more balanced in the hands than the iPad ever has. 

Productivity & Office -

The Office support is excellent!  It’s real office, none of this hoping documents will open and disply correctly, like on the iPad.  SkyDrive integration is stellar, and the default behavior, SharePoint integration is good, but not as seamless.  There’s a SkyDrive app, but no SharePoint App.  The individual Office applications remember the various SharePoint locations you’ve visited, so you only have to enter them once, but it would be ideal to have an app where I could enter the multiple SharePoint’s I regularly use, ne enable me to browse their file structure and open documents directly from there, rather than going to Office.

As such, I would rate SharePoint as very good, but not excellent.  Due to the app I would rate SkyDrive as Excellent, but not Perfect.  It lets you browse, but does no offline Syncing.  I should be able to define some or all of my SkyDrive to sync offline (this applies to Office, Music, Photos, Videos, etc.).  I should have an easy way to ensure I have offline access so I can both have fun and be productive when I don’t have internet access.  You can do this with SkyDrive on the PC via their application, but this application is x86/x64 only right now.  hopefully there’s an update to the SkyDrive app for RT/Modern.

Snap or Split-screen is awesome.  I’ve rotated between having People hub (Twitter & Facebook updates), Mail, and OneNote up in the small side as I’ve worked or played.


Probably my biggest complaint, all of the current Windows (Phone, RT, Pro) need a centralized notifications center  things get lost too easily in the Live tiles, or popping on screen and disappearing if you ignore.

Also high on the list is input selection when not using a keyboard.  There’s no magnifying glass like in iOS to go back and define right where the cursor needs to be – or at least not that I’ve figured out.

Lets talk about apps – there weren’t a ton of apps I use on my iPad regularly, I mentioned RSS readers and Mail already.  There are a couple of nice to haves which are missing, but the workarounds do work quite well.

  • LastPass – no plug-in support, but it has a built in browser or easy search allowing copy/paste of passwords into IE.
  • Mint – Their website works better in IE than on Safari on the iPad, but would be nice to have native app
  • TripIt – My usage of this can be largely replaced by getting the iCal feed to sync to my calendar, but when traveling for leisure it is nice to have the native app which has an offline consolidated version of all of your itinerary, any additional items/notes you’ve added.
  • Office – I am a bit disappointed MSFT wasn’t more aggressive in updating Office to “Modern UI” although I do get it, if I’m just viewing something – the new reader view in Word is great, PPT presentation mode is perfect.  If I’m actually creating content I’m going to need a keyboard anyway, so why do I need the touch/Modern UI?  It’s quite interesting they did it with OneNote, but nothing else.  and PS OneNote Modern actually works, unlike on the iPad where it would crash nearly every time I synced, and would only display half of my notes due to formatting or unsupported features.
  • Lync – It lets you attend IM, voice, and video calls.  It lets you view some sharing, but not share your own desktop.

As you’ve seen in the reviews there are some occasional funkiness with UX and all that, but I haven’t had much challenge, probably because I used Win8 every day for 2-3 months.

The speakers are too quiet, much like the iPad, but they’re stereo, so still better.  The Magnet power supply isn’t as good as the Mag-Safe on my MBA, but still better than a traditional plug (although the cord is too short).

I haven’t experienced any performance issues, until now when I pulled up XBOX music in the small panel to the left, and started streaming an album – there’s now some lag in typing in Mail.  However, when I take music off screen (continuing to play in the background) the lag disappears, so I can’t blame that on streaming, it’s the visualization in Music, tsk tsk MSFT, this was always a problem in the Zune application.

Bottom Line:

I’ve used this thing exclusively for the past 2 days. Now, to be fair, I have had to "cheat" here and there and RDP into my PC (local files not on SP, Lync for desktop sharing, finding e-mails I’d flagged & categorized) but even when I’ve done that it’s been RDP an controlled via the Surface, I haven’t picked up the laptop.  I will admit the past two days have been mostly e-mail response, but I’m going to continue on, I’ve got a decent amount of content creation I need to crank out in the next couple of days.

For personal/play – i.e. the stuff I use the iPad for, the only inkling of missing the iPad is Mr. Reeder app for RSS, but the other benefits have far and away out weighed that.  The integration with Xbox Music is great, which has gotten better than Zune Pass – they’ve rolled out Pandora like free streaming.  They’ve rolled out iTunes (and Google and Amazon) Match like cloud matching (I pointed it at my local collection, and they’re now all matched and available on whatever machine I want), playlists are synced to the cloud.

It’s everything I like about Windows Phone, but on a Tablet, also how I feel about Windows 8 on my PC.  The problem with that is that windows Phone is something people don’t love instantly upon picking it ups, however it doe have the highest satisfaction of people actually using it.  I think Win8 will help this overall, that 90% market share will be a big boon to RT and Win Phone.

First Impressions - Nook Color running Honeycomb and Froyo

First, I would like to thank Apple for not having enough iPad 2s in stock, otherwise I would have had one of those, and never embarked on this little experiment.

Over the past several months I've read the reviews (Kevin Tofel, James Kendrick, Engadget) and experience on the web from people picking up a Samsung Galaxy Tab and loving the form factor.  I resisted, because I don't need another wireless contract (already have a phone and a Sprint Overdrive 4g hotspot), I was very interested for a wifi only model to come out.

Well flash to iPad release day.  Last year when the first iPad came out I had no intentions of picking one up, until I read Walt Mossberg's review while eating breakfast in the hotel lounge a couple of days before release.  It sounded very intriguing, still I'm far from an Apple fanboy, and would not be standing in any lines for it.  Conveniently I live right across the street from a Best Buy, so on release day around lunch time I called over to see if they had any in stock.  I expected an answer of no, all sold out and that would be that.  Well, they weren't so I ran across the street and picked up the 16GB wifi model.  I have to admit (aside from being forced to install iTunes and plug it into my PC to turn it on) I was very impressed.  The only time I've attached it to my PC since was to upgrade the OS to gain "multitasking" - I still have not put 4.3 on it (though I need to because I want the physical screen rotation switch back).

All the hype around iPad 2 I thought was mostly hype, but it was very thin an sexy looking, that combined with speed, incremental thinness increase, and the smart cover made me very interested.  When I saw was offering $300 (+ 5% if you opt for gift certificate) for my first generation I thought that was a great deal.  So flash to release day, I was working from home, kept seeing the posts about how crazy the things were selling, I confess I didn't make the long treck across the street on Friday, I waited until mid-day Saturday - surprise surprise they were completely sold out.

Since then I've been looking around the web for an alternative, the rumors about the Tab wifi edition (a little pricey still I think), and the HP 7' tablet in theory coming later in the year.  I'd heard about the Nook Color, and the online rooting community.  I did a couple of google searches and discovered there was a ROM out there enabling you to boot your Nook Color into Honeycomb directly from a SD card.  How easy is that! 

I'll admit that in my old age (and relative financial comfort) I've become lazy, and had held off from the Nook because I wanted something that "just worked."  but if it was as easy as formatting an SD card, and the device only costs $250, seems like a no brainer to me.

So I stopped at Best Buy on the way home Tuesday and picked up the Nook Color.  I did ask if they had any iPad 2’s in stock, of course “no, and we have no idea when we’ll get more” didn’t even offer to let me “pre-order” one like they had over the weekend.  For the first time, I did pick up the display device just to see about the weight/thickness difference.  My perspective was, you can tell the thickness difference but not the weight, without having a first generation there to compare it too. 

I tried a Honeycomb build, but it’s not ready for production yet (no calendar, no you tube, no flash to start), it’s based on a beta developer release from Google, not even the final code drop.  I echo the reviews of the Xoom it’s not ready yet.  And I’m sure the performance is even more sup-par on this cooked ROM than the legit on from Moto.

Yesterday I found another SD enabled ROM that runs Froyo, so I grabbed that.  I found a couple of Gingerbread ones, but they seem to require rooting, and putting on the actual device’s memory, not up for that.

I’m loving the form factor, it’s lighter (I think it clocks in just under a pound), and the size is just much more convenient for handheld operation.  I think that even if the iPad was the same weight it would be still be harder to operate hand held – just from an unwieldy perspective relative to the size of your hand.  This you can hold in one hand, or very easily hold in 2 and thumb type on.  I’m completely sold on the form factor.

The current Froyo build I’m using is pretty solid (calendar, you tube, flash support), about as quick as my phone (Moto Droid X), which is impressive since the Nook’s processor is 200MHz slower than the phone.  The experience isn’t as fluid as the iPad, particularly the screen isn’t as responsive.  I’d say the screen is slightly less responsive than my phone, but no where nearly as bad as my old WinMo 6.5 Resistive touchscreen phone.  I don’t know how much is hardware, OS, or just the fact that it’s a baked OS running on the hardware from a SD.

Best Buy has 30 day return policy (and apparently they’ve done away with restocking fees – or so the clerk told me).  So I’m definitely keeping it for most of that time.  I’m 80% sure I’m getting rid of the iPad.

This isn't the perfect device, there some compromises to get this form factor.  With the rumor mills put the wifi only version of the Tab on the market in early April, and price it at $400, that’s $150 more than this, not sold yet.  What I really want is a 7’ tablet, running a stable Android build, with a dual core processor, and operating on 4G that enables hotspot functionality, then I’d ditch my Sprint hotspot card and use that… But I don’t see any of those announced on the market yet.  Rumor has it HP will release a 7’ version of their WebOS device in September, but I don’t know that it’s 4G…  Maybe the HTC Flyer...

More to come!


Travel Log

I just fired off an e-mail to some colleagues I haven't seen since 2007, I was trying to put together the high level Travel Log since we'd last seen each other and came up with the following list of countries visited by year.

  • 2007 – UK, Canada, Italy
  • 2008 – Czech Republic, Austria
  • 2009 – Italy, Portugal
  • 2010 – Spain, Italy, France, UK, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico
  • 2011 – Canada - doesn't really count.

Not a bad list considering I'd never left the country prior to 2004 (here's the breakdown prior to 2007).

  • 2004 - Canada, Spain, Italy, France, UK, Czech Republic
  • 2005 - Italy
  • 2006 - UK, Germany

 I had to go back to the passport and do some recon to piece some of these back together.  I don't think I missed any.

This really makes me want to plan a trip abroad.  Too bad I have something scheduled for 2/3 of the weekend between now and August.

I can't break the streak, at least one country every year since 2004, and at least two every year since! Where should I go? Maybe just a long weekend!

What about Chicago?

Agree!  Good article - and be sure to check out Girl & The Goat!

"The bottom line is, New York City is over-crowded, over-priced and, generally, over-hyped. Although I have to admit that Chicago’s sales tax is a whopping 9.75%, while New York City is a bit lower at 8.75%. Chicago and New York City are essentially the same type of city; Chicago is just the cleaner, smaller version." | Move over NYC, make room for Chicago