Our Kickstarter Pick: Dart aims to be the world’s smallest laptop adapter

While laptops evolved for the need of portable PCs, the ultrabooks and convertibles have taken portability to the next level. Of course, you still have to carry the power adapter when you head out for work or are travelling. What you lug around is a power adapter with a hefty brick and a long cable that is anything but compact. Continue reading Our Kickstarter Pick: Dart aims to be the world’s smallest laptop adapter

OneDrive for Business Now Offers 1TB per User

OneDrive For Business
OneDrive For Business

On April 28, Microsoft announced some updates to OneDrive for Business, the service formerly known as SkyDrive Pro. According to the blog post on Office Blogs:

 

First, we will be increasing OneDrive for Business storage from 25GB to 1TB per user.

Second, all Office 365 ProPlus customers will get 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage per user as part of their Office 365 ProPlus subscription.

Third, we’ll help organizations migrate data from their existing solutions to OneDrive for Business

The first update is huge. Not too long ago, SkyDrive Pro was providing only 7GB per user. When Microsoft announced the standalone OneDrive for Business offering, they also bumped up the default storage to 25GB per user. Now perhaps based on pressure from competitors like Google, they have made the default to 1TB. As always when there is competition, we as customers ultimately win.

Office 365 ProPlus is a service that provides always-up-to-date Office software to customers on a subscription basis. Until today’s announcement, it was purely an Office subscription. Now, it also comes with a truckload of storage space and more importantly, a sync solution that ensures that files are always in sync across devices.

The third item was not detailed but I suspect Microsoft will have some utilities to help migrate data from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and others to OneDrive for Business. We shall see.

The blog post goes on to describe the benefits OneDrive for Business offers in addition to pure storage amount and sync:

Native integration with Office documents: Enables people to discover content and collaborate with others in real time with efficient synchronization of changes and real-time co-authoring using Office Online.

Connected to what you need, when you need it: As cloud services like Office 365 get smarter and more personalized with Office Graph, OneDrive for Business becomes part of a connected productivity solution where content is discoverable, sharable and personalized for individual users, helping to increase personal and organizational responsiveness.

A trusted service: OneDrive for Business provides enterprise content management, compliance and admin controls, financially backed by the industry-leading Office 365 Service Level Agreement. We’ve made investments in manageability, security, auditing and information protection including rights management, data loss prevention, auditing, eDiscovery, legal holds, etc. and more that can work for OneDrive for business but also across SharePoint and Exchange.

Deep investment in certifications and infrastructure: We’ve invested heavily already in areas that are important for doing business in major vertical industries and geographies, such as FISMA, the EU Model Clauses, CJIS and more, many of which are detailed on our Trust Center.  Microsoft has industry-leading, cloud reliability and security and has made a massive investment in physical datacenters around the world, enabling us to deliver high availability and robust disaster recovery capabilities.

Scale through partners: Our 400,000 partners around the world can help customers get up and running quickly with OneDrive for Business as a standalone solution or with Office 365.

As you can see, OneDrive for Business is not a “dumb storage” service but it is in fact the center of a collaborative solution that is protected by certifications and service level agreements. Along with the huge partner network, which enables building innovative solutions on top of the storage layer, OneDrive for Business is now a serious contender for businesses of any size to move their data into the cloud.

Review: HP Slate 6 VoiceTab

After flirting with Windows Mobile for their maiden foray into smartphones and then pinning hopes on webOS before it got killed two years ago. HP is taking another stab at the smartphone market with Android this time.

HP Slate 6 VoiceTab

HP VoiceTab series – Slate 6 and Slate 7 – hit the crowded phablet market in India intended for consumers who prefer to have one device for calls as well as web browsing, media consumption, and games. Also, Slate 6 is a dual SIM device, and that appeals to a lot of users in India.

Design

The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 is a surprisingly nicely designed phablet. It’s just 9mm thick, making it one of the slimmest device in the category. Also, at 160gm, it is surprisingly light for its size.

5

The slim chassis of the 6-inch device makes it easy to hold and grip despite the large size. Of course, phablets of this size aren’t made for one-handed operation despite what the marketing folks claim, but the Slate 6 is not unwieldy and is quite easy to carry.

The removable back cover has a grey checkered design pattern with matte finish that gives the device a premium feel despite being all plastic. The gold finish on the sides and the metal buttons also adds to the appeal.

While the build quality of the phone is pretty good overall, the plastic materials used are very average. When you hold it firmly and attempt to twist, you’d feel as you’d break it. The back panel too is pretty flimsy.

HP Slate 6 VoiceTab

Hardware

Powered by a not-so-popular 1.2 GHz Marvell PXA1088 quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and Android 4.2.2, the Slate 6 looks good on paper for a mid-range device. The 16 GB internal storage with microSD expansion is at par as well.

However, the overall responsiveness of the device is a let-down. HP stays away from heavy customizations and skinning, and runs stock Android, but the optimizations seem to be missing. The UI has a noticeable lag and apps take a few extra, I won’t say seconds, but maybe milliseconds. It wouldn’t have been annoying for most users, but the performance is inconsistent and apps like the default browser would sometimes hang and require a force quit. Casual games work all well on the Slate 6, but graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 obviously struggle at high graphic settings.

The HP Slate 6 features a 6-inch IPS 720p display. While the display is good enough and colors are accurately bright, the viewing angles are below average.

Camera

The 5MP rear camera of the Slate 6 is a decent camera in good light. The contrast isn’t right there and you wouldn’t have a lot of details in the photo, but they are pretty okay and sharp. In low light and outdoors in evening though, the camera app takes quite a while to focus, and there’s too much noise in the photos. The camera optics and the software disappoint overall. The 2MP front camera though works well for video calls and those selfies.

Summary

HP Slate 6 VoiceTab

The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 works, but does not impress much. The design is surprisingly sophisticated, but the user experience is listless and the camera offers sub-par experience. The 3000mAh battery last through the day, which is pretty good for a phablet.

At INR 22,990, the Slate 6 is not a bad device, but the performance issues make it hard to be recommended, especially in a crowded market. A software update could take care of most issues, but that’s shooting in the dark. The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 is well-intentioned, but an average comeback from HP.

Windows Phone 8.1’s Action Center is a Winner

On April 14, Microsoft made their latest update to Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8.1, available as a preview. I have been using it on my Lumia 920 since then, and definitely one of the top features I love in this update is the Action Center.

I recently gave up Windows Phone for an iPhone 5s, and one of the reasons was lack of a notification collection system, so it goes without saying that I am really happy to see it come to Windows Phone finally. Hopefully, being last to implement this feature means that the team at Microsoft is able to get the best of all the worlds. At its core, the Action Center is much like the notification mechanism found on Android and iOS. It resembles the Android implementation more because on iOS, the notifications are split from the “quick controls”. I like all of the things Action Center does (and can do, based on developer implementation in apps) and one big request to make it even more awesome.

Just Settings or entire Action Center: The way to invoke the Action Center is by dragging your finger from the top and swiping it down, much like Android and iOS. However, what’s cool with Action Center is that if you drag the finger slowly and stop about a third of the way down, you get access to just the quick settings area and not expose the entire notification area. This is cool, because if you just want to turn WiFi or Bluetooth on/off, you don’t need to necessarily open the entire Action Center. This is a good example of learning from the competition and doing better.

 

Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center: Quick View
Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center: Quick View
Windows Phone Action Center: Full Notifications
Windows Phone Action Center: Full Notifications
Windows Phone Action Center: Full Notifications (contd)
Windows Phone Action Center: Full Notifications (contd)

 

Settings are customizable: The quick settings area shows 4 (or 5 if you have a larger screen with 1080p, like a Lumia 1520) icons to represent settings which you may want to quickly access. You can change any of the icons to some other settings easily. So if you do a lot of tethering and are always on WiFi, you may not want the WiFi icon and may be better off with the tethering icon so you can turn it on or off quickly. Of course, there is also a link to open all settings, which nicely eliminates the need to have the settings app pinned to the Start Screen like I always have had to do.

 

Windows Phone 8.1: Quick Settings icons
Windows Phone 8.1: Quick Settings icons
Windows Phone 8.1: Quick Settings icons 2
Windows Phone 8.1: Quick Settings icons 2

 

Notifications can be dismissed individually or as a group: Another feature I like within the notifications area is that I can dismiss an individual notification without dismissing the entire group. So if I have received a few new email notifications, and I want to keep some in the notifications area as a pseudo-reminder but unclutter the area in general, I can dismiss some of the email notifications that I don’t particularly care to keep. This is not how iOS behaves, and I do think it is a good benefit to have. Of course, one can dismiss the entire group too.

Dismissing notifications resets the tile counter: I really, really like to keep my tile counter (or badges, in iOS) down to zero. So in iOS it annoys me that clearing a notification does not also clear the badge on the app’s icon. It is good to see that in Windows Phone 8.1, at least for the first-party apps like Mail, Messages, etc., clearing notifications also clears the tile counter. I know that third party apps like Facebook and Twitter don’t clear the counter, but I am hoping it is a feature that those apps need to implement and not private APIs that Microsoft is using in their apps. Assuming it is a feature all developers can use, I do hope that all devs take advantage of it and help obsessive-compulsive folks like me rest easy :-)

Developer choices: Another neat improvement over the competition in Windows Phone 8.1 is that developers have the choice of silently updating the notification center, without updating tiles or showing any banners or playing sounds. This is good because in some scenarios, just adding a notification to the notification area is enough and a user’s attention need not be taken away from whatever they are doing. Giving this choice to the developer and perhaps in turn, the developer offering these type of configurations to the user, means potentially more satisfaction with the device on the customer’s part.

 

Windows Phone 8.1: List of apps with notification settings
Windows Phone 8.1: List of apps with notification settings
Windows Phone 8.1: Tile count
Windows Phone 8.1: Tile count
Windows Phone 8.1: Setting custom notification sound
Windows Phone 8.1: Setting custom notification sound
Windows Phone 8.1: Notification settings
Windows Phone 8.1: Notification settings

 

Having said all that, there is of course one really important feature that is missing from Action Center, which does exist on Android. It is actionable notifications. This is where if there is a notification about a tweet reply, you could potentially reply to the tweet from the notification center itself, without having to open the app. If this choice is given to the developers, it would make the Action Center even more awesome.

Regardless though, this addition is immensely useful, and I am now seriously tempted to start using my Lumia 920 more than I use my iPhone 5s.

 

BoxTV: Great Idea, but Long Way to Go?

BoxTV, a Times Internet service, offers subscription-based on-demand video streaming of movies, TV shows, short films, and premium video content. The service is available in India, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States aimed at Indian users or the Indian diaspora abroad. The service is conceptually similar to Hulu and Netflix in the US and fills a gaping void in India. Continue reading BoxTV: Great Idea, but Long Way to Go?

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