How Apple’s iPad Disrupted an Entire Industry

“The Enlarged iPod Touch”

When Apple unveiled the iPad in January 2010, the first reaction from most of us was one of ridicule. “It’s only a bigger iPhone / iPod Touch” is what I first thought. In a way, I was right, but the iPad was much more for most of its target user base.

It was a huge hit; Apple has sold more than 40 million iPads to date, generating more than $25 billion in revenue from its tablet business. It revived the almost dead tablet industry, which many had tried and failed to do before. Scores of Android tablets have been launched since the iPad’s launch, but most of them have failed miserably. Android for tablets – Honeycomb – was a major disappointment. Other tablet platforms did even worse. HP was forced to discontinue webOS as no one wanted to buy the HP TouchPad, not at the price it was originally launched at. Even the Blackberry Playbook by RIM has been a failure.

With the iPad, Apple has offered the best tablet experience, at a surprisingly (by Apple standards) low price. For an entire year, no one was able to beat Apple on price, which enabled Apple to capture a majority market share in the exploding tablet market with virtually no serious competition.

The Winners and the Losers

Apple has been the obvious winner, ringing up billions of dollars in sales, thanks to the iPad.

ARM has been another major winner. With the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010, Apple redefined two industries – smartphones and tablets. Even the standard smartphones and tablets available these days are much more powerful than the average computer was a decade ago. We now have quad-core tablets and dual-core smartphones, all of which have one common factor – ARM.

Most desktop and notebook processors are based on the X86 architecture, and are made by Intel. However, Intel’s chips have traditionally been power guzzlers, which is something you absolutely don’t want in any mobile device.

Almost every mobile chip is based on ARM’s reference designs, and manufactured by Qualcomm, Nvidia or Texas Instruments. Intel hasn’t yet been able to crack the mobile processor market. Its Atom processors failed miserably when it came to efficient power consumption and performance. It’s working on a new set of processors for tablets, and is trying to push the Ultrabook onto consumers, as an alternative to tablets. It even launched a $300 million fund to encourage manufacturers to build ultrabooks.

Apple iPad

Microsoft has been another casualty of the tablet revolution. It was late to the smartphone party with Windows Phone, and won’t be launching Windows 8 until mid-2012, leaving the market open for Apple and Google to conquer.

It has also been affected indirectly by the growing popularity of tablets. Desktop sales in the last couple years have almost plateaued, and even notebook sales have slowed down considerably.

As Windows sales account for a major portion of Microsoft’s revenues, and are directly linked to global desktop and notebook sales, Microsoft has seen a slump in its revenue growth in the past few quarters, which is expected to continue until the launch of Windows 8, which will run on tablets as well as computers.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, even DRAM manufacturers have been facing losses as sales have decreased in lockstep with notebook sales.

On the other hand, flash memory manufacturers like Samsung have seen a jump in revenue, as flash memory is being increasingly used in tablets, smartphones and notebooks (thanks to the popularity of the MacBook Air, many notebook manufacturers have starting using SSDs).

Tablets may very well be the future of computing. Desktops are almost dead, and notebooks are becoming more and more like tablets – increasingly slim, portable and fast with flash storage and excellent battery life.

Winners: Apple, Samsung & ARM
Losers: Intel & Microsoft

Next-Gen Xbox Might Come in Two Flavors

XboxThe Xbox 360 is still selling like hot cakes, but rumors surrounding the next-gen Xbox console are coming in thick and fast. The media has even come up with a tacky name for the Xbox 360 successor – “Xbox 720″! With conflicting rumors and absolutely no concrete information, it’s nigh impossible to figure out exactly what Microsoft has in store for us. However, one thing that is almost certain is that the next-gen Xbox won’t show up before 2013. The 360, along with its Kinect peripherals, are simply selling too well for Microsoft to consider a successor. As Digital Foundry rightly argues, Microsoft will essentially be cutting its profits if it releases a new console in 2012. A next-gen console demands state of the art production facilities and often has to be subsidized during the initial years.

Nevertheless, whenever the Xbox successor shows up, it will probably come in two flavors. Digital Foundry believes that Microsoft will release a stripped down version of the next-gen Xbox that will essentially act as a set-top box and support casual arcade and Kinect games. The lower-end device will help Microsoft in tackling the challenge posed by WiiU. The second full-powered system will be targeted at hardcore gamers and compete with Sony’s PlayStation 4. It will feature an optical drive, a hard disk and backward compatibility with 360 games to entice the audience that doesn’t mind paying a premium.

Microsoft Office 15 Beta Planned for January 2012

Microsoft-Office-15The next generation of Microsoft Office, titled Office 15, is expected to be released towards the end of next year. However, we should be able to get our first taste of Office 15 a lot sooner than that. If WinRumours sources are correct, then the first technical preview will be released in early January at the CES, followed by a public beta towards the end of the same month.

We have been tracking the development of Office 15 for more than a year. However, we still have very little concrete information about Microsoft’s market leading productivity suite. Microsoft is widely expected to adopt the new Metro interface, which has already impressed us in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. Office 15 should also play better with touchscreen devices like tablets. Earlier in the year, screenshots of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook leaked out, followed by a M2 build. The leaked build included a new tile-based gallery app called Moorea that is showcased below.

The first beta of Windows 8 is also expected to be released at the next CES. Windows 8 will be Microsoft’s first operating system that has been designed from the ground up to work in multiple form factors and even multiple hardware architectures. Office 15 has the potential to become one of Windows 8’s biggest unique selling points as far as tablets are concerned. However, the million dollar question is, can Microsoft successfully make a traditional desktop app like Office usable and intuitive on smaller resolution touchscreen tablets? Come January, we should have the answer.

Microsoft Giving Away $25 Worth of Apps with Every New Windows Phone

Microsoft launched Windows Phone more than a year ago, and despite getting rave reviews from almost every reviewer out there, hasn’t been able to sell a lot of devices until now.

According to a recent report by Gartner, it accounted for only about 1.5% of the total smartphones sold worldwide in Q3 2011.

However, Microsoft is trying to do everything it can to make Windows Phone a hit. Thanks to Nokia’s support, and the backing from almost all major device manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, I expect it to become one of the top three mobile platforms in th next couple of years.

Today, Microsoft announced yet another incentive for consumers to buy a Windows Phone – it is offering everyone who buys a new Windows Phone a prepaid app card which allows them to buy paid apps worth $25 for free.

The offer is valid only in the U.S. and Puerto Rico for now, but it may be extended to other countries as well.

Here are the complete details: Buy a new Windows Phone, get $25 worth of apps

While it seems like a good offer, I doubt it will be very effective in helping Microsoft lure away Android or iPhone users.

Microsoft Socl to Go Up Against Facebook, Twitter and Google+

Microsoft is apparently working on its own social network – It was first revealed earlier this year, when a teaser page appeared at the site, revealing Tulalip, Microsoft’s latest attempt at social.

We hadn’t heard about it since, but the guys at The Verge seem to have gotten an early look at the site, which is still in private beta.

It looks similar to Facebook, in terms of the interface and has some of the same features as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

With Socl, Microsoft may be trying to integrate the search and social experience for its users. It allows users to post two kinds of updates – a search update and the traditional status update.

When you do a search update, it also adds Bing results to your feed, which you and your friends can then interact with.

It also comes with a “Video Party” feature, which allows users to watch videos online with their friends.

It may be launched soon, but there is a chance that it may not even see the light of the day. In any case, It’s going to have a hard time siphoning users away from Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It is very likely that it may end up with the same fate as Apple’s Ping.

Socl may be another drain on Microsoft’s coffers, and a public launch may mean that Microsoft’s Online Services division, which is losing billions of dollars every year, may not become profitable for another couple of years.

Rumors suggest that Microsoft may launch it publicly soon with an invite-based system. Stay tuned, we will keep you updated.

Microsoft Socl

Microsoft Intends to Inspire Artists with ‘The Art of Touch’

Microsoft is inspiring artistic creativity through the launch of an international project called The Art of Touch. The campaign provides a free digital toolset and canvas to easily create, save, and share digital artwork.

The Art of Touch

The Art of Touch app is inspired by the natural movements of the Microsoft Touch Mouse family of products. The Arc Touch Mouse is the first mouse designed to flatten for portability and pop up for comfort. The app pushes modern browsers to their limit and the canvas feature of HTML5 is combined with JavaScript libraries to draw the strokes and computer-generated animations in real-time to the Web browser. The app is quite different than a traditional drawing program and requires you to anchor your creativity around the intelligence and style of the tool.

The project invites artists of all ages using a modern HTML5-capable browser to use the digital palette and canvas. The Art of Touch site,, transforms a visitor’s mouse into a paintbrush to allow them to paint using six different effects to create their artwork, and show off to their friends online and through Facebook where they can earn votes to win prizes in The Art of Touch Sweepstakes. The top vote-getter will be showcased on The Art of Touch site as a featured artist.

Microsoft India Offers Free Windows Phones to Developers and Students

Windows-PhoneThanks to the availability of cheap Android handsets, smartphone usage in India has exploded over the past couple of years. Now, Microsoft is looking to make its presence felt. As a starter it is trying to woo the developer community, who are often the early adopters and opinion makers. Earlier today, it announced the new I unlock Joy’ initiative under which developers and students can win free Windows Phone handsets and other gifts.

Mr. Moorthy Uppaluri, General Manager, Developer Partner Evangelism, Microsoft India said, India is a vibrant developer market, and we see a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around the availability of marketplace for customers in India. We believe that opening up this marketplace will provide the developer community in India with an opportunity to showcase creativity. He added, The best part about Windows Phone Marketplace is that developers will be able to use familiar development tools and technologies. They create global market opportunities for themselves and reach out to a large user base.

This program is already available to developers and will conclude on March 30, 2012. The main offer has three categories:

Submit and Receive: Developers get a chance to receive a Windows Phone by submitting three distinct, original and non-trivial Windows Phone applications.

Port 2 Apps and Receive: Developers submitting two Windows Phone applications that are ported from existing Android and iPhone applications will get to receive a Windows Phone.

Women Special: The first hundred women developers to submit one Windows Phone application will qualify to receive a Windows Phone each. The applications can be based on entertainment, fashion, leisure, sports, recreation or travel themes.

In addition to these categories there is also a special offer for students. Each student to submit a Windows Phone application will receive a Merit Certificate, a Windows Phone T-Shirt and a 2GB USB flash drive. Students submitting four apps will additionally receive a Windows Phone. Submissions for the student category will close on December 18, 2011. Any app submitted under this initiative will be considered as a valid entry only after it passes Windows Phone Marketplace certification testing.

Microsoft Raking in 100k Users a Day from Easier Hotmail Setup in Windows Phone 7…err in iOS 5

You would think that Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 would be bringing in a massive amount of Hotmail users on a daily basis, but it turns out…wait for it…wait for it….iOS! In iOS 5, Apple added an easier Hotmail setup in the Mail app, which has led to a massive increase in activations for Microsoft. Shockingly, Microsoft is seeing almost 100,000  new iOS 5 devices logging in to Hotmail every day.

Microsoft’s Chris Jones published an official blog post on Wednesday that over  2 million iOS 5 users have connected their Hotmail accounts to iPhones or iPads, and that number isn’t slowly down. In fact, the number continues to increase rapidly, at the rate of nearly 100,000 iOS 5 devices a day! Dang.

iOS 5 Hotmail 100k

What’s ironic is that the majority of these devices are iPhones. How about that Windows Phone 7? 40 percent are using the iPhone 4 to log in, while 24 percent are using the iPhone 4S.  Another 12 percent of Hotmail connections to iOS 5 come from the iPhone 3GS.

Hotmail users have been able to set up Hotmail before iOS 5, but it was a little bit complicated because the process required a Microsoft Exchange setup.

Isn’t it funny on how Microsoft won’t release the number of Windows Phone 7 devices sold, but will boast about how well their own service is doing on another platform?

Microsoft’s HoloDesk Lets You Play and Interact with Virtual Balls

Who said Microsoft cannot invent? The Microsoft Research team is making use of most interactive and favorite interactivity solution, Kinect, in a research project that will definitely “wow” you. The project is named “HoloDesk“, which allows users to play or manipulate with virtual 3D objects, in an aim to bridge the gap between the real and the virtual world.

The project (system), built by Microsoft Research in Cambridge, is made up of an overhead screen, which has a cabinet like structure, and projects a 2D image through a beam splitter to measure the depth. It uses a combination of projectors, Kinect technology and webcams to read the user’s hands and face. Several custom algorithms are used to calculate the object size, color, distance, and so on, in order to bring everything together in real time.


With HoloDesk you can pick virtual 3D objects, place them on top of the other or even shoot them. For instance, a virtual 3D ball can be picked and placed in a real cup, whose existence, position, size, and other details are recognized by the system.

The Microsoft Research team gave a more scientific explanation –

“A virtual image of a 3D scene is rendered through a half silvered mirror and spatially aligned with the real-world for the viewer. Users easily reach into an interaction volume displaying the virtual image. This allows the user to literally get their hands into the virtual display. A novel real-time algorithm for representing hands and other physical objects, which are sensed by the Kinect inside this volume, allows physically realistic interaction between real and virtual 3D objects.”

The user looks through a transparent display, which is the cabinet like structure, in which holographic objects can be picked up andMicrosoft manipulated with. At present, one can do all these interactions with virtual and real objects within the small cabinet only. However, as technology advances, this limitation could possibly be removed in future.

The HoloDesk project comes from the brains of the folks at the Sensors and Devices team at Microsoft Research Cambridge. However, the technology for sensing motion and displaying images like this isn’t new. An Israeli company called Lumio demonstrated a similar working for virtual keyboards almost a decade ago. But what sets this virtual 3D experience apart from others out there? Here’s what the research team had to say

“For the record, the HoloDesk isn’t the only 3-D interaction experiment out there. But what sets it apart from the rest is the use of beam-splitters and a graphic processing algorithm, which work together to provide a more life-like experience.”

Here’s a video of a user demonstrating the HoloDesk project –

From the video you can see that the interface has some glitches and turn jerky, and the system is far away from being perfectly functional. Nevertheless, it still is something really cool!

Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research developed an interesting proof-of-concept called OmniTouch, which is a wearable projecting and sensing device that turns virtually everything into  an interactive touch surfaces. For instance, you can dial a number by projecting a keypad onto your hand or on the wall or on your table. Looks like Microsoft is behind some serious innovations.

Windows 8 Developer Preview and Me

Based on the jungle news and the Windows 8 Developer Preview by Microsoft, we can expect Windows 8 to be released by Q3 in 2012. Start getting used to terms like “Live Tiles”, “Socialite”, “Tweeny”, and “Metro Interface”, to name a few. As it is with all things from Microsoft, this new vocabulary will most probably be assimilated into our lingo soon enough.

This post does not cover a lot of these new terms, but we will have a post on that soon.

Download the Windows 8 Developer Preview

At the Microsoft Build developer conference about a month ago, a demo and deck with the new OS in its current state was presented. Though the Windows 8 Developer Preview is targeted at developers, anyone can download it.

Out with the Old

Windows Vista support ends on April 10, 2012.  Windows XP, the most popular Microsoft OS, will no longer be supported after April 2014.

Use the same Hardware

Microsoft announced that it will maintain the same hardware-requirement level as Windows 7, but  jungle news suggests that Microsoft  may even  try to lower hardware requirements  for Windows 8.

Green is the new Blue

The first thing that struck me was the change in the primary color used in the Windows 8 Developer Preview from blue to a very soothing, hospital-curtain green. It does not scream inspiration at all.

Check the Slide Show  below for a look at this feature.

Faster Boot-Up Time

The Windows 8 Developers Preview boots up in just a couple a seconds. It is a definite improvement from Windows 7.

Microsoft has been quoted saying the following about the Boot-up time.

When it comes to talking about “fundamentals”. We want to start with boot time no feature gets talked about and measured more. We designed Windows 8 so that you shouldn’t have to boot all that often (and we are always going to work on reducing the number of required restarts due to patching running code). But when you do boot we want it to be as fast as possible.

No Start Menu

There is a Start button in the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which takes you to the “Metro Shell”. The Metro UI is believed to be in for a major upheaval. The good news is that if this new UI proves to be unstable or uncomfortable, you can always go back to the Classic Menu option.

Tiles are used very prominently. Personally, I think that Microsoft is trying to bring the tablet and desktop visual experience closer together.

Check the  Slide Show  below for a look at this feature.

Power-Saving for your Device

You can use your device for approximately an additional  hour with the Windows 8 Developer Preview. This may sound unbelievable, but it is completely real. This may be due to the decreased number of memory Read/Writes.  Also, when you are not viewing an application, the application suspends itself automatically. This saves your computing resources, which in turn makes your device consume less power. There is quite an extensive menu for power options too.

Lock Screen is inspired by Bing

A Ctrl + L will no longer be a show for your screen saver alone. Microsoft introduced the concept of a   Lock Screen for the Windows 8 Developer Preview. Why do we need one now? Because the new OS is touch-based.

There is a clear inspiration, from the visual perspective, between Bing and Windows 8 Developer Preview. A look at the Locked Screen can confirm that. Notice the icons for unread e-mail and chat notifications. You can add more widgets to the Lock Screen too.

Check the  Slide Show  for a look at this feature.

Task Manager has a New Look

The Task Manager in Windows 8 Developer Preview has changed, but not too much. It should not be too hard to get around it.

Check the  Slide Show  for a look at this feature.

 Windows Explorer has a New Look too

The new look for Windows Explorer uses the Microsoft Office ribbon. I am not complaining, because I believe that the ribbon is one of Microsoft’s better innovations. However, this look does not match with the green-Metro theme; this is a disconnect.

 Same Old Media Center

The new Media Center is not included in the Windows 8 Developer Preview. The Metro Shell already seems to be a media platform, so it will be interesting to see what the new Media Center brings to the plate.


The  legendary and  feared BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) has a new look. The use of the emoticon does soften the emotions I might have felt otherwise.

Skype and Lync Integration

There is some indication that Skype may be integrated with Microsoft’s Lync communication software.

Ballmer has been quoted saying,

“With the combination of the power of Lync and Skype under the same umbrella, we think we’re going to be able to do even more fantastic things together”

Here is a Slide Show that provides a peek at the Windows 8 Developer Preview.

Images used are from Microsoft-registered Web sites.