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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface event

I’m pretty excited for Microsoft. I’ve been excited for what they’ve been doing as a company, on several fronts, for a few years now.

I won’t rehash all of the nice things I’ve been writing about them, but I can link to how I feel about Satya, the work they’ve been doing in open source and for developers, Surface, and Windows 10.

Yesterday’s Surface event was very good. I really like how Panos makes everything so dramatic. It is just more fun than how so many other tech companies present things. I totally understand if others don’t feel the same way. But I don’t think anyone has ever accused him of being disingenuous.

The updates to the Surface hardware were excellent. I think the 15″ laptop looks very, very good. And while I wish the Surface Pro was more of a direct competitor to iPad*, I don’t have any other wishes for their hardware. It is all very good.

The Neo and Duo products, both coming late 2020, are fascinating products. I have no idea if they will be successful or be hits – but I’m very glad Microsoft decided to make them.

Though I have to agree with John Gruber, they overshadowed the rest of the products that are available today a little. They likely knew they would though. So perhaps they are ok with it.

I have two quick I told ya sos, if I may.

In July Windows Central said they hoped someone at Microsoft was working on a phone, but if they were, they should keep expectations low. I vehemently disagreed with that sentiment. I wrote:

Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don’t make a huge bet?

[…]

I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels.

Guess which way they decided to go with Surface Duo?

I was wrong, though, they didn’t call it a Surface Phone. They are avoiding the word phone, which I think we all should as well. My Pixel is no more a phone than it is a book, but I can read and make phone calls on it.

And did they ever swing for the fences! A completely new form-factor, category of product, operating system based on Android. SWING!!!

The only thing Windows Phone was missing, you’ll remember, was apps. And now it will have that. Well, not Windows Phone. Android. Which I think is the right call.

I’d love to get one of these Duo devices, only to support bold vision and the stones to put them out into the world.

A few other random observations

  • Windows 10 X looks interesting. Could that be the new tablet mode?
  • The EarBuds look like a miss.
  • The way the Neo keyboard interacts with the device reminds me of the dial you can purchase with the Surface Studio. Microsoft should double down on this sort of thing. It really makes these devices truly like surfaces that you do stuff on. So, by next year we’ll have a Pen, Dial, and Keyboard. I say make a ton more of them.
  • I sort of think they could allow Android apps to run on Windows, this way Duo could still be a Windows computer. But there must be reasons that I don’t know about why they wouldn’t do this. Or perhaps it is still coming.
  • I think both the Neo and Duo will be very different by launch time. They don’t even have outward facing cameras on them yet.
  • Panos’ analogy of flow using his daughter at the piano is apt. When I’m in flow, it could be while I’m writing this blog post, writing code, editing a photo or video, etc I do feel like everything just disappears.

* Windows 10 tablet mode is simply no competitor to iPadOS in a tablet form factor. I’d go so far as to say it sucks in comparison. But, I’ve seen rumors that they’re working hard on this. So, we’ll see.

Microsoft invests $1B in OpenAI

Microsoft on the investment of a cool $1B in OpenAI:

The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust. This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together.

Don’t let the name OpenAI fool you, as there is no word from either company on whether their efforts will be open sourced.

However, OpenAI does publish a charter to which they say they hold.

Either way, it seems to align with Satya’s Microsoft that believes in empowering people to do their work and in doing it ethically and morally.

Nice partnership.

On a Microsoft Surface Phone

Zac Bowden:

It’s fair to say that in 2019, Microsoft is “all-in” on the Android platform thanks to its efforts like the Microsoft Launcher, Edge, and Office, all first-class experiences on Android smartphones around the world.

I’m glad Bowden wrote this post. I’ve been wanting to.

Longtime readers of my blog will know that I liked Windows Phone very much. I bought a Lumia for testing and immediately fell in love with the device and OS. If only it had apps! It was the only thing holding it back.

Today, if Microsoft decided to do what Bowden is suggesting, that wouldn’t be an issue. Android has tons of apps. And so many of Microsoft’s own apps are already first-class citizens on Android (as well as built to be cross platform from the ground up).

Bowden points out Launcher, Edge, and Office as Microsoft’s strongest efforts on Android. But that isn’t all of them. Your Phone, which he mentions later in his post, is also a big piece. Not to mention OneDrive, Skype, and a myriad of apps. They are all very good experiences on Android already.

Bowden says…

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people internally at Microsoft thinking about this very idea right now, weighing up whether it’s worth trying. Does Microsoft want to put money into researching and developing a new smartphone, while also maintaining its own Android ROM, updates, and paying Google for a Play Store license?

This is a given. They have already been doing this for years. Microsoft R&D is one of the largest, most expensive R&D departments in the world. Has been for decades. They shed off billions of dollars per year in R&D. And they aren’t slowing down.

Also, do you think Panos Panay hasn’t already prototyped 10 or 20 or 50 different designs of Surface Phone by now? Of course he has!

One other area I will disagree with Bowden. He writes:

This isn’t a bad thing, but an Android smartphone wouldn’t be the worst idea Microsoft has ever had, especially if it keeps expectations low and doesn’t make any huge bets on it.

Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don’t make a huge bet?

Steve Jobs passed away 10 years ago. Jony Ive is leaving Apple. Huawei has regulatory issues I can’t even dream of. Samsung’s devices are months behind on Android updates and one of their recent models exploded in people’s hands. And Google’s Pixel has yet to have a foothold.

I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels. That is; pumped.

Microsoft releases WSL 2

Lots of Microsoft developer related announcements over the last few days. Since I use WSL every single day I am really looking forward to this WSL 2 release.

Initial tests that we’ve run have WSL 2 running up to 20x faster compared to WSL 1 when unpacking a zipped tarball, and around 2-5x faster when using git clone, npm install and cmake on various projects.

Significant speed improvements. But this bit really takes the cake:

WSL 2 uses an entirely new architecture that uses a real Linux kernel.

WSL 1 used an entirely different approach. They described it like this:

It is the space between the user mode Linux binaries and the Windows kernel components where the magic happens. By placing unmodified Linux binaries in Pico processes we enable Linux system calls to be directed into the Windows kernel. The lxss.sys and lxcore.sys drivers translate the Linux system calls into NT APIs and emulate the Linux kernel.

WSL 1 is a light-weight emulated Linux experience that allows us to use things like Bash commands within Windows without a full VM. WSL 2 is full Linux kernel properly piped to use the Windows stack.

I’m no expert in these sorts of things but this work seems pretty amazing on the surface and using it every day has been great and it has gotten better very rapidly.

I’m calling it, Satya Nadella is Microsoft’s best CEO ever

Me, in September 2017:

I have the feeling we’re going to look back at Nadella as one of the best CEOs in the history of tech.

We’ll see how this bold prediction pans out but I’m ready to call Satya Nadella the best CEO in Microsoft’s history.

Microsoft reported a record-setting Q1. They are killing it in the cloud. But they are also doing very well in many other areas.

While I do think this performance speaks to Nadella being Microsoft’s best CEO it isn’t my only reason for saying so.

Microsoft now feels like it has an ethos I can get behind. While it may have had one under Gates or Ballmer it wasn’t a very attractive one to me. It now feels as though the company has a bright vision for the future not an overly technical (Gates) or competitive (Ballmer) one. Satya appears to care about customers in ways his predecessors didn’t.

Here are some things I’ve had the time to write about Satya (if I was a full-time blogger I would have written far, far more).

Me, in April 2016:

He’s only been in the CEO chair for a little while but I believe he has a vision for the future of the world and of Microsoft that is based on his core beliefs far more than his predecessor. I welcome it. And I like him.

Me, in April 2017:

Today, Microsoft is on the lips of nearly every developer I talk to. And the conversations are about building products using Microsoft hardware and software.

Relatedly, in May 2017:

I have no idea if I’ll ever be a full time Windows user or not. My lock-in on Mac may last another decade or two and by then who knows if I’ll even own a computer as we think of them today.

I’ve now been full-time on Windows 10 for over a year. And while I miss my Mac sometimes (but not all the time) I think this speaks volumes.

Me, later in May 2017:

Overall, I continue to be super impressed with Microsoft under Satya Nadella. Seems I’m not alone.

Me, in March 2018:

I’ve written a lot about Windows 10 here on my blog. It, along with WSL, Azure, Visual Studio, Xamarin, HoloLens and people like Satya and Panos have me extremely bullish on Microsoft. More than I’ve been since the 90s.

June 2018, when MSFT bought Github:

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years you’ll know that I’m rather bullish on what Satya Nadella has been doing within Microsoft. Today’s Microsoft is one that embraces open source, contributes heavily to it, allows developers to use any language and platform, etc.

and…

Keep watching, I think we’re going to be seeing a Microsoft that none of us would have ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

Reid Hoffman in June 2018:

Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has re-invigorated itself with an exploratory, future-oriented, and developer-focused mindset.

I named Microsoft best company in 2018:

In my opinion, Microsoft has been firing on all cylinders for nearly the entirety of Satya Nadella’s lead.


To sum up, Microsoft:

  • is setting financial records each quarter
  • is growing their customer base on products they’ve had for decades
  • is arguably contributing to open source as much or more than any other company
  • has one of the best, if not the best cloud services suite available
  • is manufacturing the best hardware available for Windows computers
  • is leading the way in nascent fields such as AR, ML, AI, IOT

I don’t know how long I’ll be a full-time Windows 10 user. This year’s WWDC will likely have a significant bearing on that. However, to have seen this run and been some small part of it has been fascinating. And I’m still surprised that Microsoft is even a choice for me since it wasn’t for nearly two decades. I’ll continue to watch closely.

My interpretations of announcements by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter

Apple pre-announcing something: “We’re excited to get this in customer’s hands late next year”. My interpretation: “We never pre-announce things. Why are we doing this? We’re terrible at it. In fact, we make fun of other companies for doing it! Steve Jobs would never allow this! (mostly) We must be doing this because some group of people is really angry with us. Oh, and this product will likely never ship and we’ll tell you about it after the market closes on a Friday”

Apple reassuring their customer base of an upcoming update (read: late in whatever next year is) to a beloved product by a small set of people: “We love the Mac”. My interpretation: “Crickts.” (E key didn’t work)

Apple announcing something that is available today: “We think our customers will love it. Available today. $PremiumPrice”. My interpretation: “Yes, other companies have tried to build this. Yes, our’s is much better in nearly every way. We’ve perfected it. And it is made of diamond and leather and unobtainium. Hence the price. Enjoy.”

Facebook, calling a mea culpa: “We didn’t intend for this to happen. And it happened only to # of users.” My interpretation: “We totally intended for this to happen. We just didn’t intend to get caught. But I don’t know why because we ALWAYS get caught. Oh, and it actually happened to many multiples of # of users. You’ll find that out in a few days.”

Facebook announcing something: “We are connecting people all over the world.” My interpretation: “Our massive drones are really to collect even more information about people than we already collect and sell to that information to people we say we won’t sell information to. Oh, and to misinform people about just about every topic possible.”

Google announcing something: “Here is our brand new cloud-based service that is free to use” My interpretation: “Here is our thing. We consider it beta but it is actually pretty good. Go ahead and use it. Fall in love with it. The moment you come to depend on it we’ll shut it down because we only make money on Google Ads. But you knew that and you fell for it anyway!”

Bonus: Microsoft, announcing a new cloud-based service. “Containers! Buzzword acronym, buzzword seamless integration acronym, buzzword, Kubernetes Docker.” My interpretation: “There are organizations in the world that pay Microsoft incredible amounts of money to license Windows on sub-par hardware, to use Windows Server to manage web applications and services that use far too much RAM, and to use Azure (which is actually quite amazing) to do literally anything they ask it to do.”

Bonus: Twitter announcing a much needed feature. Wait, Twitter hasn’t built any much needed features since 2008.

Microsoft open sources Windows Calculator

Microsoft:

Today, we’re excited to announce that we are open sourcing Windows Calculator on GitHub under the MIT License. This includes the source code, build system, unit tests, and product roadmap. Our goal is to build an even better user experience in partnership with the community. We are encouraging your fresh perspectives and increased participation to help define the future of Calculator.

This is a trend I’d like to see continue.

Microsoft is the MVP

Raymond Wong:

The seeds Nadella’s been planting since he hopped in the chief executive seat blossomed in full this year. Looking ahead, Microsoft’s future looks bright so long as it doesn’t drop the ball.

You already know where I stand on this topic.

Microsoft gives up on EdgeHTML

Chris Beard, CEO Mozilla Corporation:

Microsoft’s decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us.

From one point-of-view this move by Microsoft might seem to make total sense. They spin this as “it will be easier for web developers to target one less browser engine”. However, this is exactly what web standards are supposed to afford – developers target the same set of standards and the browser engines, however many there are, target the same set of standards. In theory, having multiple engines shouldn’t make it too much more difficult for developers. In practice, however, it has. But most developers would agree that to avoid a monopoly in the browser market we’d take on the added complexity we’ve had for years. In fact, having multiple browser engines has made browsing on the web better since the competition has led to faster load times, less battery drain, and less computer memory usage.

Beard’s take is right on. Google has not shown themselves to be the best steward of privacy, of web standards, or of leading the most popular browser engine. In fact, they routinely build web applications that only work using their engine. This is the exact antithesis of the web. And giving Google even more power is obviously not a good thing.

Microsoft, though, can do whatever they’d like. It is just unfortunate they’ve decided to go this route.

I switched away from Chrome in 2017 for good. I’ve been using Firefox on every device I own and while it is a little more work to do so on iOS I will continue to.

Beard’s call-to-action is to use Firefox. I think you should too. But I would simply say use anything but Chrome for a while just to swing the market in more directions.

My opinion of Microsoft Surface, 6 years later

Me, in 2012, writing about the first time I saw a Surface device:

I could have played with it longer. But I wouldn’t want to. The Surface is terrible. Even if you’ve never picked up an iPad or an Android-powered tablet you would think the Surface is pretty slow, hard to use, and heavy; three things a tablet device should probably never have said about it.

I’m writing this on a borrowed Surface Pro (using it until my Dell XPS comes in) and last year I spent a lot of time on a Surface Book (a review that I wrote 2,100 words on and never published).

Today I’d be willing to say that the Surface line from Microsoft is very good and only getting better. The Pro, Laptop, Studio, and now Go are excellent computers, well-built, and worth investigating as your next computer.

A lot can change in 6 years. I wrote this paragraph 2 years ago already:

I’m keeping an extremely close eye on all things Microsoft lately. I’ve even stated, publicly, that I think if they continue on their current course they are going to be beating Apple on several fronts within half a decade.

They are well on their way.

Reid Hoffman on Microsoft

Reid Hoffman:

Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has re-invigorated itself with an exploratory, future-oriented, and developer-focused mindset.

Microsoft buys GitHub

Satya Nadella:

More than 28 million developers already collaborate on GitHub, and it is home to more than 85 million code repositories used by people in nearly every country. From the largest corporations to the smallest startups, GitHub is the destination for developers to learn, share and work together to create software. It’s a destination for Microsoft too. We are the most active organization on GitHub, with more than 2 million “commits,” or updates, made to projects.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years you’ll know that I’m rather bullish on what Satya Nadella has been doing within Microsoft. Today’s Microsoft is one that embraces open source, contributes heavily to it, allows developers to use any language and platform, etc.

The news that they’ve agreed to acquire GitHub later this year is not surprising at all. I’ve tried to find public evidence where I’ve stated that Microsoft should buy GitHub but for the life of me I cannot find it. I would go so far as to say that Microsoft was the best possible exit for GitHub.

Given some of the negativity I’ve seen around this news, it is my guess that MSFT is going to go out of its way to make sure the community knows they will be good stewards of GitHub. So prepare to see them invest rather heavily on the platform, features, team, and community-related initiatives. Which are all very good things.

Keep watching, I think we’re going to be seeing a Microsoft that none of us would have ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

Terry Myerson leaves Microsoft

Terry Myerson, on the success of Windows 10 under his watch:

Today, we are now approaching 700 million active Windows 10 users, commercial usage is growing 84% year over year, Xbox One is running a Windows 10 core, Surface is leading PC innovation, HoloLens is bringing breakthroughs to computer vision, our universal Microsoft store enables Xbox GamePass, Azure reserved instances, and Office distribution, and the OEM ecosystem is revitalized with profitable growth. Last year, we finished the year with over $8B in operating income from our segment.

I’ve written a lot about Windows 10 here on my blog. It, along with WSL, Azure, Visual Studio, Xamarin, HoloLens and people like Satya and Panos have me extremely bullish on Microsoft. More than I’ve been since the 90s.

Myerson spent 21 years at Microsoft. I recommend you read his post as he reflects over two decades.

Microsoft for Startups

Microsoft:

We’re excited to announce Microsoft for Startups, a new program that delivers access to technology, go-to-market and community benefits that helps startups grow their customer and revenue base.  We are committing $500 million over the next two years to offer joint sales engagements with startups, along with access to our technology, and new community spaces that promote collaboration across local and global ecosystems. Startups are an indisputable innovation engine, and Microsoft is partnering with founders and investors to help propel their growth.

In addition to the $500M commitment MSFT is making, once a startup is in this program they’ll have access to numerous other benefits including a huge salesforce to leverage, Reactor, ScaleUp, and Ventures.

I’ll be watching this closely.

Microsoft Office now shares a common codebase

Erik Schwiebert:

Mac Office 2016 version 16 is now live! For the first time in over 20 years, Office is again built out of one codebase for all platforms (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)!

MSFT is dog fooding big time with this latest release of Mac Office. I’ve been enjoying my work within their frameworks and products that allow cross-platform mobile app development.

Developers, Let me tell you about Microsoft (audio)

I’ve been writing about Microsoft’s moves for the last three years. This week everything has come together and I’ve been writing my first multi-platform application using C# and Visual Studio. In this long rant I go on and on about how Microsoft needs to spread the word about what they are up to.

Links for this bit:

Download.

GeekWire Summit: Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Satya Nadella in a video interview on YouTube at GeekWire Summit:

By the way, all of these efforts didn’t started three-and-a-half years ago. It was Bill [Gates] who started MSR and Steve [Ballmer] who started our cloud push.

A sprawling, candid interview with someone who may end up being Microsoft’s best CEO. I love that he doesn’t take sole credit for Microsoft’s most recent successes. Only a few hundred views on Youtube.

Microsoft releases Edge on iOS and Android

Joe Belfiore:

Introducing Microsoft Edge for iOS/Android and Microsoft Launcher for Android, two apps designed to make it easy to move what you’re working on between your phone and PC.

Great move. Likely tons of Surface users that also have iPhones and definitely have Android devices.

The Launcher is an interesting move. I’m anxious to see if they continue to improve it. Facebook made one years ago and gave up on it in very short order.

Microsoft holding Surface Keynote in October

Tom Warren for The Verge:

Microsoft’s Surface chief will hold a keynote speech in London at the end of October. The software giant is holding its annual Future Decoded event in London from October 31st to November 1st, and Microsoft revealed to The Verge today that Panos Panay will be speaking. Microsoft typically launches new Surface devices in October, and sources familiar with the company’s plans tell us to expect at least one new device at the event.

I sincerely hope they launch a Surface Phone. I want more pressure on Apple and I’d love to see Windows Phone (which I thought was fantastic) return to the battle of mobile OSes.

However, I don’t think it will happen. If this was a possibility I think (knowing Microsoft) they would have tried to build up more hype around this event than they are. They likely wouldn’t hold the event in London either. But, I can hope.

Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality

In this video Tom Warren of The Verge uses some mixed reality headsets for Windows. Watching them I’m reminded just how far this industry has to go. I’d call much of what I see in this video very much beta-level hardware and software.

It has only been 5 months since I wrote the aforelinked piece and we’ve seen some major, major movement in this space during that time. Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all thrown massive amounts of resources into mixed reality. I feel the pace of updates will only quicken over the next 24 months. By 2020 everything we see in this video will look ancient.

/via Dan Kimbrough on Twitter.

How Microsoft is doing

Fred Wilson:

Even more impressive in many ways, is what Satya Nadella has done at Microsoft. He slayed the Windows Everywhere albatross that was holding Microsoft back for most of the post Gates era and has made Microsoft relevant again in the world of tech. Windows is enjoying a resurgence, the Office app suite is finally and successfully moving to the cloud, and Microsoft’s cloud offerings are strong and getting stronger.

Five years ago you’d walk into any developer conference and all you’d see were Mac laptops. If you saw a Windows laptop it was either running a distribution of Linux or that developer’s company didn’t have the budget to afford company Macs.

Today, Microsoft is on the lips of nearly every developer I talk to. And the conversations are about building products using Microsoft hardware and software. The languages and frameworks being used to build these products are ones that were traditionally a real pain to use on Windows like Bash, Rails, PHP, Apache, nginx, mySQL etc. etc. And today, its easy.

This trend has been building.

How is Microsoft doing? For the relatively small segment of the world that builds software products; I’d say they are doing extremely well. And with Surface Studio I’m guessing a huge number of artists are jumping from the Mac to PC. Now, can they recapture students and consumers and mobile? We’ll see. They have an awful lot of work to do there.

How Surface changed Microsoft

Jason Ward, writing for Windows Central:

Windows devices once perceived as low-end bargain basement devices are now seen as expensive cutting-edge hardware that rivals or exceeds Apple’s long-standing high-end market position.

I make this same point in my forthcoming review of the Surface Book and Windows 10. I’m so sorry it is taking so long to finish up this review. I didn’t want the review to be based only on first impressions but rather real world every day use.

Microsoft open sources .NET Core

Richard Lander on the .NET Blog:

We are excited to announce the release of .NET Core 1.0, ASP.NET Core 1.0 and Entity Framework Core 1.0, available on Windows, OS X and Linux! .NET Core is a cross-platform, open source, and modular .NET platform for creating modern web apps, microservices, libraries and console applications.

They said they would, and they did. Good on MSFT. Likely an incredible amount of work to get this out. And supposedly this is also a deep rewrite of .NET Core.

Google has JAVA (though, they didn’t make it), Apple has Swift, and now MSFT has .NET*. All fully open source languages, frameworks, and platforms backed by public companies. A good time to be a programmer.

* MSFT has had .NET forever, it is just that now it is open sourced.

Trying out Microsoft’s new iOS keyboard called Word Flow. It is eerily good.

Trying out Microsoft’s new iOS keyboard called Word Flow. It is eerily good. 

I’m looking forward to Microsoft’s Build conference today…

I’m looking forward to Microsoft’s Build conference today. Last year’s presentation left me with a completely different attitude toward the company. Let’s hope they keep up the momentum this year.

Microsoft is releasing SQL for Linux. I wish this also meant they were opening the source.

Microsoft is releasing SQL for Linux. I wish this also meant they were opening the source.

Microsoft Surface Book vs. Surface Pro 4

Lee Morris of Fstoppers sits down with the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 side-by-side in this video review. He also has a short write-up on their site when they compared the Surface Book to the MacBook Pro.

At the end of the day the Surface Book is an amazing achievement. I don’t understand how they made that magnetic hinge, it works so well that it’s a pleasure every time I detach the screen from the keyboard but the poor battery life of the tablet portion of the Surface Book makes it pretty useless to use without the base. It’s also not the power house that I thought it would be. 4k video footage is quickly becoming the new standard and the laptop was unable to edit it without rendering first, that alone would keep me from spending $2700 on it but I realize that the average Surface Book user, and even the average Fstoppers reader, does not edit 4k video footage. For you, the Surface Book may be powerful “enough” but that’s up to you to decide.

I’m glad to see this comparison done between the Surface Book and Pro 4. One thing I did not notice that Morris points out is that the Pro 4 has the kickstand and the Surface Book does not. I don’t know how I missed this. This is huge. This alone makes these machines wholly different.

Something I also noticed about all of the reviews I’ve read so far (and I’ve read far too many) is that everyone says the Surface Book is a technological feat, and one to be admired, but that the price, battery life, and need to keep the keyboard around soften the value. I agree.

I’ll be watching closely over the next few revisions of Surface Book as I think Microsoft is onto something both with this line of product and with Windows 10 being one OS for all devices. Something I think Apple will regret not doing themselves five years out.

I’ve tried multiple times to have Microsoft PR send me a few of these devices but I’ve been unable so far. I think I’m going to keep trying.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Vision Isn’t Simple

Cade Metz for Wired on Microsoft’s vision for Windows 10 to be on a billion devices and for applications from Android, iOS, and Windows all running on them “easily”:

But this kind of thing is never as easy as it seems. “I’m skeptical of anything that pretends to be the magic bullet,” says one coder, who requested anonymity because he works closely with Windows. In many cases, coders must manually modify their apps so that they run on disparate devices (these devices, after all, are quite different). And even if Microsoft’s tools provide an onramp to all Windows devices that’s as simple as promised, that’s no guarantee that coders will actually use them to build apps for things like Windows phones or Hololens—particularly if these coders are already focused on other operating systems.

What Microsoft showed at Build is obviously not the best way to build an application for Windows. However, for now, for today, to get up-and-running, it may be the quickest way to get something on Windows so that you’re able to support the new Windows 10 users.

I hope developers port their apps to Windows 10 using Microsoft’s toolset to do so and then go back and rethink them from the beginning if they get any traction there.

 

Why I wouldn’t bet against Microsoft

If you follow me on Twitter you can probably tell that for the past 48 hours my brain is swirling around Microsoft’s Build conference and keynote.

In a lot of ways my brain is swirling in the same way that it did in 2002 when I saw Steve Jobs debut the 17” iMac. This was the moment I knew I was going to switch from using a PC and Windows — as I had for the majority of my computing for 8 years prior — to using a Macintosh which I have for every single day for the last 13 years.

And now my head is swirling with questions yet again. Is Microsoft poised to make a huge jump forward? Will they change from being a company that was afraid of innovating because Windows and Office was such a cash cow to one that innovates to save those cash cows? Will they change from a company that simply announces things to a company that launches things? I wouldn’t bet against them now that I’ve seen what they are up to.

In 2002 Apple was on their way towards figuring themselves out. They were starving for many, many years prior and if they didn’t innovate their way towards success we wouldn’t be talking about them at all today; let alone describing them as the most valuable company on the planet.

So why can’t Microsoft do the same? They certainly have the resources. If their attitude towards innovation does a 180 — where they go from innovating behind closed doors and simply allowing great ideas to die on the vine — to a company that finishes and polishes those ideas for the mass market… I’d say Apple, Google, Samsung, and even Microsoft’s own OEMs had better be concerned.

Notice this nugget from a piece in the New York Times by Nick Wingfield:

Founded in 1991 by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s chief technology officer at the time, as an early warning system for disruptive new technologies, Microsoft Research occupies a building that has a spacious, multistory atrium, filled with a swirl of employees in T-shirts, jeans and other timeless fashions of tech.

It is the biggest operation of its kind in the technology industry, with more than 1,000 scientists and engineers working in labs as far away as China and Israel. The company’s research-and-development spending last year was $11.4 billion.

Microsoft has had one of the largest R&D departments of any company for 25 years. I can remember conversations with many employees at Microsoft R&D over the years, one of them being none other than Ze Frank who was Microsoft R&D’s first Designer in Residence, about some of the fascinating things that MSFT R&D was toying with. Those conversations reminded me of Xerox, Kodak, and Bell Labs — the greatest R&D departments of the 20th Century.

So, why in the world did they end up with Windows Phone only having 1-5% marketshare? Why did we end up with the Zune? Why did they ever ship Microsoft Vista? I described Vista in 2007 this way:

I‘ve only got limited experience with Vista but from that limited experience I have drawn the opinion that if I were forced to use the operating system full time I‘d likely jump off of a bridge.

But yesterday Microsoft’s demonstration of their cloud computing services, Windows 10, HoloLens, and their jump towards a far more inclusive software development platform — has got me downright excited. I want Microsoft to do great things. I want Windows Phone to be as amazing as it is but with thousands more applications. I want HoloLens to exist. I want to see whether Microsoft’s unified Windows Platform will be a better idea than Apple’s bifurcated one.

It is going to be an exciting 5 years.

Now, which PC am I going to buy?

Microsoft’s Build Keynote

I just finished watching Microsoft’s Build Keynote from yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, and understand developer jargon, I recommend you watch it.

My takeaways:

  • Windows is about to get a lot more applications
  • Office is now as big a platform for MSFT as Windows is
  • Visual Studio Code is very good (I’ve been using it all day)
  • Azure is a beast

That first one is pretty important. Me, in August 2013 regarding Windows Phone:

Windows Phone is a much better competitor to iOS than Android currently is. It is clean, simple to use, vastly different than iOS (which is good since Android and iOS just bite off each other with each release), and really fun to play with. The problem? Official apps.

Yesterday Microsoft announced a slew of things that could change the only gripe I had with Windows Phone.