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Microsoft Surface Pro vs Macbook Air: Ready to Take on the iPad Corporate Dominance

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Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft is taking aim at corporate America with the upcoming Surface Pro tablet.  Currently, road warriors and frequent flyers make due with iPads or occasionally an Android tablet. I’m not saying the iPad is a poor choice,  it is the current market leader, but to use it as a desktop replacement takes some work.

Apple does not have a true Microsoft Office replacement and the 3rd party apps do not perform well for advanced Office work. CloudOn is one of the better options, but requiring a constant Wi-fi or cell connection makes it non functional at times. Quick Office and Documents to Go both offer an alternative, but it still isn’t the Office you are used to on the desktop. Trying to view and edit more than a single document at a time is cumbersome.

Many corporate types are using a remote desktop app on their iPad to get back to their desktop or docked laptop. If they are lucky enough to be using a host VMware or Citrix virtual setup, then the iPad works great. It functions like a touch screen Windows device for work and a regular iPad for everything else.  This system can be costly to setup at a business level; however, it is still bypassing the tablet interface to get to the Windows OS. These environments exist because it can be a major pain to not be using Windows or Mac OS X.

The Surface Pro will have a full version of Windows 8 like a desktop or laptop. Regular PC software will run native on the tablet. This is the game changer for Microsoft. IT staff and consumers will not have to worry about getting a 3rd party app or a file system to play nice on a network. You will be able to load that proprietary accounting program or the company ERP software, just as if it was an office desktop. Printing won’t have to bring worry about being iPrint capable or having a compatible printer with the ever changing 3rd party apps.  Google has the same issue and the Chrome cloud print option works well, but it still is not as easy as it should be.

The 64GB version will start at $899 not including the well received keyboard. Don’t allocate all that extra storage just yet. The OS will consume nearly 16GB  leaving the end user with around 48GB worth of usable storage. The 128GB version will be $999 and comes with the same surface pen stylus and no keyboard.

The other specs will sound very similar to a  low end laptop. The screen is a 10.6 inch 1920×1080 HD display that will have a 16:9 ratio. The 3rd generation Core i5 Intel processor is packaged with Intel HD Graphics 4000. 4GB of ram is included along with a Mini Display Port that can output a 2560 x 1440 resolution.

A final key spec is the included full size USB 3.0 port that can be used for printing, a mouse or a thumb drive for quick backup. Microsoft will not force you to save to the cloud or rely on email for sharing documents of any kind.

Price will be a big factor for the Surface. While specs and price are similar to Ultrabooks or the MacBook Air, it is still just a tablet. Recent desktop and laptop sales have been overpowered by the cheaper and less functional tablets. Microsoft’s Surface Pro appears ready to compete with the highly portable Ultrabooks.

The popular MacBook Air comes in at the same price as the Surface Pro with the added keyboard. The screens are within .2 inches of each other, but the Surface has a much higher resolution. Along with that resolution comes a full 10 point touch screen. Each pack an Intel i5 with 4GB of ram.

A MacBook air will get around 5 hours of battery life, but per a Microsoft Twitter account, the Surface should get around 4.5 hours of use. In addition to the fully usable USB 3.0 port, the Surface includes a MicroSDXC card slot for extra storage or reading camera cards.  Each boasts Bluetooth 4.0 and a stereo headset jack. A full feature operating system on the Surface could be icing on the cake to finally compete with Ultrabooks in a business environment.

It will all come down to Windows 8 performance for the future of the Surface Pro. If Windows 8 is another Windows ME or Vista, then the tablet could have a short life. Microsoft seems to be turning a corner with the looks of Windows 8, but how long will it be relevant?

Microsoft Surface takes on the iPad

Microsoft joins the tablet wars with the Surface and Google is next, we’ll show you some of the secrets in iOS 6, and is a Retina Display coming to the MacBook Pro 13-inch?

Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Announced

Microsoft has announced that their Surface tablet running Windows 8 pro will be hitting the shelves in January, with the device being priced in the US at $899. That’s $100 less than an 11in MacBook Air but a whole $400 more than the latest iPad.

Related Stories:

Microsoft Planning New Version of Windows 8: Windows Blue to be Released 2013
MacBook Pro Retina Display with 13.3-inch Slimmer Design Revealed by Apple
Windows 8 Release Date Set for October 26, 2012: Preview Video
Microsoft Steps into Uncharted Territory with “Surface Tablet”

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  1. John Brooks

    December 5, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Nice article Greg. I think you’re spot on in comparing this with the macbook air. Actually unlike the young girls posting on this site I believe that Microsoft really is trying to provide a more viable corporate product. Unbeknownst to the readers of this article I don’t sense a bias towards microsoft. Your thesis statement sets the bar and these n00bs haven’t been to college, just their mom’s.

  2. Justin

    December 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The article fails to point out that the Surface does not come with a touch or keypad cover for those prices. Since that will cost you $100 it’s not really cheaper than a Macbook Air. At $1100-$900 why wouldn’t you just buy a laptop that can run any version of windows? Seems like a hard sell for most enterprise folks.

    • AbeTheBabe

      December 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Did you not read? It says it will not include a keyboard at least twice.

  3. Jet Lee

    December 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    That dude is funnny.

  4. Josh

    December 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This article reads as if you are grossly in favor of the surface, made it hard for me to make a direct comparison of the two, you stated the battery life for the macbook air at 5hours, which is a nice real world number, some downloading,video, high brightness, but your number for the surface is a hope to be guess, these are not apples to apples. In a real world test you will see that the battery life for the surface, under a comparable workload will be less that 50% than that of the macbook air, after all it is a full bodied laptop. You should have used the “stated” specs for the macbook, not the real world numbers we haven’t been able to collect about the surface pro yet.

    I happen to think the surface is a great step for microsoft, and the whole portable device category, but compare it to the ipad and not the macbook air.

    • AbeTheBabe

      December 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm

      What are you talking about? The 5 hours for the Macbook Air is what is stated on Apples website, has nothing to do with real world use. Obviously you are grossly in favor of Apple because you are trying to say that the Surface will get less than half the battery of the Air, but you, nor anyone, has ever used the Surface. Lastly, you completely missed the point of this article if you think this should be compared to an iPad. This is a laptop replacement in tablet form, not a tablet.

  5. Robert

    December 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    “Currently, road warriors and frequent flyers make due with iPads or occasionally an Android tablet.”

    The correct phrase would be “make do”. Spell checkers can’t replace editors.

    And actually, I do a lot better than make do with my iPad. It is an adjunct to my notebook computer and as such, I have no need to its storage to be in any way secure. Encryption, BitLocker, central management? No, thank you.

  6. Nokuteshimo

    December 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    How much did MS pay you for this piece?

  7. NovaSean

    December 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    You also forgot that most major businesses and government agencies have a requirement of drive encryption… The Surface RT and SurfacePro both have TPM security chips. The SurfaceRT ships with its drive encrypted with BitLocker on. The SurfacePro can be managed just a Windows 7 laptop and BitLocker can be managed by an organization’s IT group.

    Unlike the MacBookAir.. SurfacePro has a digitized screen.. So with SurfacePro, an artist could run most windows based creative software and draw directly on it…

  8. Steve

    December 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    FWI: you made a pretty large mistake. The Surface Pro is available in 64GB and 128GB models, and therefore the lower tier model will NOT lose 50% of it’s space to the OS.

    • Greg

      December 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks for catching that Steve. It’s been updated.

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Gaming

Behold! Minecraft Earth Will Take Over This Summer

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How will the app work in the real world, how today's society will perceive and use it and why it's making a difference in today's generation.
Minecraft Earth. Photo From: Minecraft YouTube

If you have a kid, there’s a possibility that you spent little over an hour scolding him for spending way too much time glued on his phone, tablet, or computer’s screen. There’s an even bigger possibility that it’s because he’s been playing Minecraft.

Minecraft is the younger generation’s version of Pokémon. As a kid myself, I spent hours and hours a day trying to catch little creatures and trying to win badges at gym battles. Today, kids are spending their days in a more creative and constructive way, in my opinion, by building structures forged from their imagination.

Personally, I have played Minecraft for several nights straight, trying to complete my dream fortified mansion-slash-city-slash-world. There’s no limit in what you can do in the game other than yourself. A few hours will fly by quickly as you see your imagination come to life, at least virtually. Think like an architect seeing his designs being built.

Microsoft Today revealed a teaser into how they’re reintroducing Minecraft to the world. From the idea that built the phenomenon of Pokémon Go comes Minecraft Earth.

However, it is quite easy to say, based on reports, that Microsoft is taking an ambitious leap from Pokémon Go.

Comparably, like Pokémon Go, Minecraft Earth is built on the foundation of augmented reality. You will get to experience the world of Minecraft through your mobile phone’s camera. Moreover, users will get to interact and establish relationships with other players.

But where Minecraft Earth stands out is that its a world where multiple players can create along the way. It’s not like Pokémon Go where Pokémon are left conveniently along sidewalks or parks for players to find. Microsoft takes it further by allowing users to define and decide how their own Minecraft Earth will look like in the end.

They can accomplish this by playing the regular Minecraft game whether individually or with friends connected to the same Wi-Fi, or through a server that lets you play with an even larger group of 50 people or more.

Minecraft Earth proposes to completely break the dogma that has lived with us in computing since the beginning: this idea of a single person that holds a single device to create a single experience,” Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s HoloLens and Kinect creator tells The Verge. “With Minecraft Earth, that’s no longer the case. The content is in the real world.”

Microsoft says that the mobile app will be like playing the original game since it’s highly anchored by the basics to easily resemble the game we got so used to. They wanted to preserve the spirit of the game that’s all about creating and collaborating.

Minecraft Earth will not be a player versus player kind of game. You cannot kill other players and claim their resources as that’s not how Microsoft intends the game to be. But you can technically steal from other players when they allowed you to enter their builds, but you won’t be doing it anonymously behind a computer but besides the person that you’re stealing from. A little mischief to spice things up.

Just like the original, you will be spending your time chopping down trees and collecting resources that you can use in Build Mode to create your fortress. But with a real-to-life version of the original, you can scale your builds into actual size reaching to 200ft x 200ft. If you spent hours building it on your phone, I wonder how long Minecraft Earth will take you.

Moreover, you can have your builds stored personally by leaving it at the desired spot. From there, you can decide to share it with other players for them to help or collaborate on your work.

However, don’t expect that every single tree or plot of land can be harvested. This is where the concept of Pokémon Go comes in, in order to collect resources, you will need to walk around the neighborhood or to the park to see ‘tapables’ that you can collect.

“We have covered the entire planet in Minecraft,” Tori Olafsson, Minecraft Earth game director explains “Every lake is a place you can fish, every park is a place you can chop down trees. We’ve actually taken maps of the entire world and converted them to Minecraft.”

There are also adventures in Minecraft Earth that vary from easy to difficult. Easy where it can take you by surprise as you fall into a castle filled by skeletons attacking you or difficult where you are knowingly entering the challenge risking all of your resources.

Definitely, Minecraft Earth is bringing a lot of things in the table, with augmented reality along its side, it will take over the world by storm and start a whole new phenomenon alongside its 91 million active players across the planet.

Minecraft Earth will be available in iOS and Android via beta on summer.

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Microsoft

Microsoft Gives Grants To 7 Startups As Part Of ‘AI For Accessibility’ Program

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Annually Microsoft grants startups with tech focused on ai that helps bridge the gap between people with disabilities. Talk about the newest 7 startups microsoft has chosen this year

As part of Microsoft’s philanthropic mission, it launched AI for Accessibility in 2018 which is a $25 million project that would last for 5 years. The program determines which organizations are eligible for a grant that supports their mission towards bridging the gap between the rapidly evolving technology and people with disabilities closer.

AI for Accessibility is second to and modeled after Microsoft’s AI for Earth, which provides training and resources to organizations tackling problems relating to climate, water, agriculture, and biodiversity through technology. Both of which are under the AI for Good project.

Microsoft says that the AI for Accessibility program provides businesses, individuals, and organizations access to their advanced Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources. Specifically, projects that aim to develop on Microsoft’s Cognitive Services and Machine Learning technology for accessible and intelligent AI solutions in its three main areas of focus: Employment, Daily Life, and Communication and Connection.

Last year, a total of nine organizations and projects were given grants including Zyrobotics, iTherapy’s InnerVoice, Present Pal, Equadex’s Helpicto, Abilisense, Timlogo, the University of Iowa, the Indian Institute of Science, and the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation.

The Washington-born company announces grants to different organizations all throughout the year. Today, as part of celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Microsoft announced 7 new efforts to be part of the AI for Accessibility program.

Our Ability | New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) 2018 Winners

New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) 2018 WinnersOur Ability is an online based platform founded by John Robinson, who was born without complete limbs. As a person with a disability himself, he knows how hard it is for people like him to seek out job opportunities. He says that for people like him, unemployment rates are twice as high compared to people without disabilities.

Although Robinson still notes that there still are job opportunities for people with disabilities, they’re just hard to find. Through intuitive chatbots and AI tech, Our Ability is able to put businesses and employment seekers in one platform. In turn, businesses and organizations looking to hire people with disabilities can actually find the ones who are willing and ready to be part of the workforce.

Another startup, Pison Technology from Boston, Massachusetts is developing a wrist-wearable technology that’s meant to be handy, quite literally. Founder Dexter Ang’s idea came when he saw his late mother’s physical abilities deteriorated under the effects of ALS.

The goal is for people to have a fallback option when they’re struggling with making actions on digital platforms due to ALS or because of other neuromuscular disabilities such as MS. The supposedly easy thing as a trackpad or a mouse is failing them; technology shouldn’t fail its user, technology needs to adapt.

Ideally, the goal of the wrist-wearable device from Pison is to be able to make actions in digital platforms by sensing a person’s microgestures and for AI technology to make desired actions for them.

Another startup on this list is Voiceitt from Israel, which is similar to Google’s Project Euphonia that was announced during this year’s Google I/O. Both of which aims to use AI technology to comprehend a person’s voice and translate it for others to understand in real-time scenarios.

Particularly, people who suffer strokes, for example, can significantly affect speech that often becomes hard to understand for people around them. It’s often hard to engage in a conversation when you’re hardly understood and can affect morale. With Voiceitt, it can be a live translator that could actually push people suffering from this disability to speak and to be understood, improving the overall quality of life.

Here are other projects that were also given grants as described by Google:

  • University of Sydney (Australia) researchers are developing a wearable sensory warning system to help the 75 million people living with epilepsy better predict and manage seizures to live more independently.
  • Birmingham City University (United Kingdom) researchers are developing a system that enables people with limited mobility to control digital platforms using voice commands and the movement of their eyes.
  • Massachusetts Eye and Ear (Boston, MA) researchers are working on a vision assistance mobile app that offers enhanced location and navigation services for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • University of California Berkley (Berkley, CA) researchers are creating a mobile app for individuals who are blind or have low-vision to provide captions and audio descriptions of their surroundings.

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Microsoft

You Can Now Activate Alexa Hands-Free

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Alexa is hands-free on Windows 10 PC

The rise of voice assistants has been a pivotal upgrade on the day to day living of most people. It adds convenience and portability for services that usually take time to finish. From only getting the latest news or booking your lunch, voice assistants have been of great significance for an on-the-go lifestyle. From the likes of Alexa, Cortana, Bixby, Hound, and Lyra, voice assistants have grown into a massive mobile service in the convenience of our voices.

In April 2015, Gartner, a research firm predicted that 30 percent of interaction would be done virtually through conversations with smart machines powered by our voices. True enough, this year, the widely known Alexa has moved from push-to-talk service to a now hands-free virtual assistance. With just your voice, Alexa can now be activated on any Windows 10 PC.

The latest version of the Amazon-powered voice assistant still allows you to set alarms, book dinners, check the weather, get news and control your home. But this time, these can all be done by only using the “Alexa” wake word. Whether the app is running on the background, on the foreground or minimized, Alexa can easily be activated to do your bidding.

Alexa for Windows 10 app has been launched already since last November for only specific compatible PCs, but it has now expanded its reach to any Windows 10 PC. The push-to-talk feature is still functional for all users by pressing the button within the app or hitting the keyboard shortcut. But Windows 10 PC users can also switch between two modes of activating Alexa either by the button or through the wake word.

On the initial launch of Alexa for Windows 10 PC, it was not able to support control on any music streaming app, but the recent update now carries music streaming on Pandora, allowing users to listen on their favorite Pandora stations and control their playlist.

This recent update on Alexa is only a part of the ongoing collaboration between Amazon and Microsoft and the integration of their voice assistants on an Alexa app for Xbox One. Along with the new diverse avatars, Dolby Vision support for Netflix, the Alexa skill app enables users to summon Cortana from Alexa and vice versa. The feature on the Xbox One also allows users to turn on their console, adjust the volume and even launch a game which means you would be able to start your game by simply saying, “Alexa, launch Assassin’s Creed.”

When the hands-free Alexa was officially launched available for download through the Windows Store, users have immediately claimed that it will be the end for Cortana. However, despite offering the same service, Microsoft says that it sees Cortana rather than a competitor but as a compliment to the other voice assistant. Microsoft’s Jennifer Langston explains, “the goal is to have two integrated digital assistants who can carry out tasks across different dimensions of daily life.”

Despite the integration of the two virtual assistants, this recent update on Alexa has made Cortana fallen behind from both Alexa, and Google Assistant added to the fact that Cortana was removed from Microsoft’s Skype and had Alexa in its stead. However, The Verge CEO, Satya Nadella said that Cortana should be available for Microsoft 365 subscribers. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like you use your apps on Android and iOS so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go,” explains Nadella. But you can still command both Alexa and Cortana on Windows 10 PC by simply saying, “Hey Alexa, open Cortana,” or “Cortana, open Alexa.”

According to research, almost 10 percent of people who do not have a smart speaker will be most likely to purchase one. With these additional updates, it would not be far from the reality since these voice-powered virtual assistants whether they will last for long or will slowly disintegrate, this specific digital service has changed the game for day to day living of convenience and efficiency.

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