Podcast: Qualcomm Tech Summit, Intel Analyst Event, Nvidia Robotics

on December 15, 2018
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the recent Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit event and its impact on 5G, smartphones and computing, discussing the importance of Intel’s recent Analyst Summit and strategy announcements, and talking about news from Nvidia on a new robotics platform update.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

News That Caught My Eye: Week of December 14, 2018

on December 14, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sundar Pichai’s Congress Testimony

 On Tuesday this week, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee

Via CNN 

  • The overall sentiment after the hearing was that, once again, Congress failed to ask questions that would have driven the conversation further. Most of all many of the senators failed to show a basic understanding of how the internet works or how Google’s business model works. So not much different to what we witnessed when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington.
  • We all understand that in these hearings, partisan arguments play a big role in the line of questioning and so it seemed that a lot of the questions were more focused on driving a political agenda than getting to the root of the concerns about Google overall.

What To Expect From the First 5G Phones

on December 13, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the next several weeks and months, the first ‘mobile’ 5G services will be introduced by AT&T and then subsequently by the other major U.S. operators. The initial devices will be 5G mobile ‘hotspots’ (or ‘pucks’), manufactured by Netgear and inseego. But during the first half of 2019, we will also see the first 5G phones from Samsung and Motorola, with several other leading Android OEMs expected to introduce 5G phones before the end of the year. What will these phones look like, and what should we expect?

From a design standpoint, there won’t be anything earth-shattering here. Since 5G will largely be in ‘experiment’ mode, given the early days of standards-based equipment and limited initial deployments, I’m expecting the OEMs to be relatively conservative with regard to their first wave of 5G-enabled devices. These initial 5G phones will look like many premium or flagship phones sold today. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor will be lightning fast, and the phones will undoubtedly sport high-end photo and video capabilities that will help to showcase 5G in some way.

The initial 5G experience will be sort of like ‘Super Wi-Fi’, in that there will be islands of 5G coverage within a city, with the phone then defaulting to 4G LTE when not in a 5G zone. 5G will be initially be available in a handful of cities (AT&T’s list here, Sprint’s list here), and we expect the 5G-specific coverage in those cities to cover a modest footprint, initially (the operators have been very cagey about specifying the extent of initial 5G coverage). When in an area of 5G coverage, there will be a special indicator on the device, and the speed difference will be noticeable. It will be sort of like the difference between a good 4G LTE connection today (~50 Mbps) and then getting home and noticing the speed and latency lift of a super speedy home broadband service (~150 Mbps or more). That type of experience will be available on ‘islands’ of 5G coverage within cities, again sort of like a super Wi-Fi hotspot. It will work best in a stationary situation, might work when walking, and will certainly switch over to 4G when driving.

There might also be a difference in the experience depending on the operator, though hard to peg exactly because deployments will vary by operator and by market, especially in the early days. But as one generalization, expect AT&T and Verizon’s mmWave-based 5G services to be speedier than their rivals, but coverage to be most ‘hotspot’-esque. Sprint’s won’t be as fast, but coverage within a city might be more predictable. T-Mobile is going for broader coverage by focusing on 600 MHz for its initial 5G service, but the speed won’t be as dramatically different than 4G. TMO is also a bit of a wildcard, on two fronts: the uncertainty of outcome and timing of the proposed Sprint deal, which has a huge bearing on its 5G strategy; and the fact that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip doesn’t support 600 MHz has certainly thrown T-Mobile a curve ball.

For those who recall the rollout of 4G LTE in the 2010-2012 era, there will be similarities. Even with all the hype around 5G, the 4G roadmap is pretty compelling. ‘Gigabit’ LTE is available in an increasing number of cities, as operators deploy a mix of 4×4 MIMO, carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and LAA. The Snapdragon 855 chip, in addition to its 5G capabilities, supports 2 gigabit LTE.

Remember that for a time, AT&T and T-Mobile marketed their 3.5G (HSPA+) services as ‘4G’, as they were arguably as fast as some of the initial LTE services (especially that introduced by MetroPCS using only a 5 MHz channel). We might see that playbook repeated, since the best of 4G LTE will be nearly as good as, or even better than, early 5G, in some instances.

There are some other quirks and question marks. All voice services, at least for the next few years, will use the LTE bearer (VoLTE in most instances). There’s no great incentive to migrate to “Voice over 5G” until 5G Standalone (SA) networks are built (DISH, anyone?). Handoff is going to be another interesting matter. Although the control plane is through LTE, it will be interesting to see whether inter-carrier handovers from 5G to 4G are handled smoothly. I’m most intrigued by what the experience will be going from a high-band mmWave session to LTE. I’m hoping the process will be smoother and more seamless than the earlier days of VoLTE/Voice over Wi-Fi. As another plot-thickener, add Wi-Fi to the mix here, and there’s likely to be some quirkiness moving between 5G, LTE, and Wi-Fi.

Battery life is another question mark. The big litmus test will be how phones deal with mmWave signals. We all know that battery drain accelerates when one is further from a site and the phone has to ‘work harder’ to get a signal. New methods are being employed to account for the shorter range of mmWave-based so as not to overly affect power consumption, but this nevertheless bears watching.

5G smartphones will become more differentiated and compelling in the 2020-2021 time frame, as coverage becomes more broadly available and we see some of the capabilities of the ‘next wave’ of 5G, such as ultra-low latency, introduced. This is when we’ll see the development of apps and content that harness some of the true capabilities of 5G, such as in the AR/VR and gaming spaces. One can also expect AT&T to increasingly leverage its DTV and Warner Media assets as part of its 5G strategy, for example offering attractive video bundles, HD content, and more generous allowances for rich media that reflect the lower cost to deliver data in a 5G world.

The expected availability of a 5G from Apple in 2020 will also galvanize the developer community to create apps and content that will showcase 5G phones and help create the justification for what will likely be premium prices for those devices.

What I Learnt about My Kid After a Week with a Phone

on December 12, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

My daughter is almost eleven, and she is yet to get her own phone. She really does not need one as she is homeschooled and we are the ones taking her to most of her activities. For work and play, she has both a Surface Laptop and an iPad. But last week was different as I was attending the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit in Maui and she came with me. I let her borrow an iPhone XR so she could keep me posted of her and my mom’s whereabouts over iMessage.

Electronics at home are an “earned privilege.” Most days we trade electronics time for reading, focus during homeschool time or outstanding behavior. Of course on holiday with grandma, while mom was busy in meetings, that earning factor went out the window and there was access to an iPad in the room and an iPhone outside.

Not that I planned on it, but this “experiment” of mine came on the back of the 60 minutes special on-screen addiction, which provided a lot of information of the impact of screen-time on young brains. If you watched that or just read through the summary here, you will think I am crazy to think that after a week try-out I still plan to give my child a phone. The core reason behind my decision is that I saw how the phone in the big-wide-world for her was a tool even more so than any electronics she uses at home.

Personalization, Mobility, and Camera

Despite knowing that the phone was a week loaner, my daughter took great care in making it hers. After using her Apple ID to log in and restore from her iPad backup, she changed her locked screen, her background, chose her screen brightness and sound – which to my surprise was not mute as it has been for me for years now. You could clearly see that personalizing the phone was a way to express herself.

It was also evident that the increased mobility of the phone form factor over her iPad got her to use it more across the board but also a little differently. This meant taking advantage of different features like maps to navigate our outings, nature apps to recognize local flowers and fish, and a translation app from English to Hawaiian.

The camera that at home is mostly used to have fun with stickers and silly videos became a tool to record fun moments with a friend or document local wild-life not for posting on social media but merely to make memories. Thankfully, aside from what mom posts, my kid has no social media presence, which for some parents, I know, is too much already!

Different Gaming

Seeing how my daughter can turn into a “gremlin fed after midnight” when at home she has to stop gaming, I was concerned that a phone would just make things worse. I was amazed to see that she was playing different games to what she usually plays on her iPad. Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox were put aside for Sonic, puzzle games, and brain training games.

It seemed as though, her iPad is her proper gaming device while the phone was indeed a mobile gaming device used more as gap filler with simpler games. The proper gaming session would return in the evening when the phone turned into her music player, and the iPad resurfaced for gaming.

While we have consoles at home, the time spent on them is somewhat limited mostly because my child is a touchscreen gamer by nature and the controllers, to this day, feel a little foreign to her. I do wonder if the success of the Nintendo Switch – which is on her Santa’s list – is due, in part, to its ability to bridge the console and tablet experience so well.

Obsession vs. Addiction

What transpired from the week was also the difference between obsession and addiction. There is no doubt that some games lead to behaviors that closely resemble addiction. For my kid Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox certainly show the dark side of her. Yet, what drives her is a little different for each game. With Fortnite it is about team play and not letting the team down in the game, Minecraft is about accomplishment and in Roblox is more about the social aspect of it, players are friends from school we talk to!

Outside of gaming though I feel that it is more about little obsessions rather than addiction. This is no different than discovering a book series and wanting to read the whole set in one go, or watch a movie like “Black Panther” enough times to know almost the entire script!

So in the week with her phone, I saw the current Avengers craze moving from the TV screen and comics to memes, a new vehicle for her obsession enabled by the internet. I am sure that in a few months we would move on to something else in the same way we liked pizza for the past six months and now we hate it!

My main issue with studies that look at screen time as a generic thing is that things are not as simple as that. So I do not dispute science. I am sure young brains are affected by what kids do on these devices, but it is precisely what they do that we need to look into. One data point mentioned in the program was that toddlers asked to return an iPad used to play an instrument in a game did so 45% if the time while toddlers who played a real instrument did so 60% of the time.  The key here is not the screen, but the app and the gratification the app gave through different stimuli. I am sure if you tested kids doing math with pen and paper and kids doing the math on an iPad they would stop at the same rate when asked!

My Key Takeaway

So what did we learn?

For my daughter, after a week in Paradise, the biggest sadness came not from leaving sunshine, pools, and turtles but rather from returning the phone to me.

For me, this week was key to understand that learning how my child uses technology is no different than figuring out what sports she wants to engage with, what movies are appropriate for her and to some extent what kind of human being she should be. Like anything else, kids need guidance on what is right for them and what it is not, but this has much more to do with how they engage with the screen than screen time per se. In other words, not all activities done through a screen are created equal, and it is up to me as a parent to guide her to those that enrich her life. Of course, guidance alone is not going to be enough, if you are a parent you know that, so having tools that help you monitor, set the right access and making sure your child is not taken advantage of are indispensable. Pandora’s box does not have to be ripped wide open!

Microsoft Browser Shift Has Major Implications for Software and Devices

on December 11, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sometimes it’s the news behind the news that’s really important. Such is the case with the recent announcement from Microsoft that they plan to start using the open source software-based Chromium project as a basis for future versions of their Edge browser. At a basic level, it’s an important (and surprising) move that seems significant for web developers and those who like to track web standards. For typical end users, though, it seems a bit ho-hum, as it basically involves under-the-hood changes that few people are likely to think much about or even notice.

However, the long-term implications of the move could lead to some profoundly important changes to the kinds of software we use, the types of devices we buy, the chips that power them, and much more.

The primary reason for this is that by adopting Chromium as the rendering engine for Edge, Microsoft should finally be able to unleash the full potential of the platform-independent, web-focused, HTML5-style software vision we were promised nearly a decade ago. If you’ll recall, initial assurances around HTML5 said that it was going to enable software that could run consistently within any compatible browser, regardless of the underlying operating system. For software developers, it would finally deliver on Java’s initial promise of “write once, run anywhere.” In other words, we could finally get to a world where everyone could get access to all the best software, regardless of the devices we use and own, and the ability to move our own data and services across these devices would become simple and seamless.

Alas, as with Java, the grandiose visions of what was meant to be, didn’t come to pass. Instead, HTML5-based applications struggled with performance and compatibility issues across platforms and devices. As a result, the potential nirvana of a seamless mesh of computing capabilities surrounding us never came to be, and we continue to struggle with getting everything we own to work together in a simple, straightforward way.

Of course, some might argue that they prefer the flexibility of choices and unique platform characteristics, despite the challenges of integrating across multiple platforms, application types, etc., and that’s certainly a legitimate point. However, even in the world of consistent software standards, there was never an intention to prevent choice or the ability to customize applications. For example, even though Chromium is also the web rendering engine for Google’s Chrome browser, Microsoft’s plan is to leverage some of the underlying standards and mechanisms in Chromium to create a better, more compatible version of Edge, but not build a clone of Chrome. That may sound subtle, but it’s actually an important point that will allow each of these companies (as well as others who leverage Chromium, such as Amazon) to continue to add their own secret sauce and provide special links to their own services and other offerings.

By moving the massive base of Windows users (as well as Edge browser users on the Mac, Android, and iOS, because Microsoft announced their intentions to build Chromium-powered browsers for all those platforms as well), the company has single-handedly shifted the balance of web and browser-based standards towards Chromium. This means that application developers can now concentrate more of their efforts on this standard and ensure that a wider range of applications will be available—and work in a consistent fashion—across multiple devices and platforms.

There are some concerns that this shifts too much power into the hands of a single standard and, some are worried, to Google itself, since it started the Chromium project. However, Chromium is not the same as Chrome (despite the similar name). It’s an open source-based project that anyone can use and add to. With Microsoft’s new support, they’ve ensured that their army of developers, as well as others who have supported the Microsoft ecosystem, will now support Chromium. This, in turn, will dramatically increase the number of developers working on Chromium and, therefore, improve its quality and capabilities (in theory, at least).

The real-world software implications for this could be profound, especially because Microsoft has promised to embed Chromium support into Windows. What this will do is allow web-based applications access to things like the file system, being able to work offline, touch support, and other core system functions that have previously prevented browser-based apps from truly competing against stand-alone apps. This concept, also known as progressive web apps (PWA), is seen as being critical in redefining how apps are created, distributed, and used.

For consumers, this means the need to worry about OS-specific mobile apps or desktop applications could go away. Developers would have the freedom to write applications that have all the capabilities of a stand-alone app, yet can be run through a browser and, most importantly, can run across virtually any device. Software choices should go up dramatically, and the ability to have multiple applications and services work together—even across platforms and devices—should be significantly easier as well.

For enterprise software developers, this should open the floodgates of cloud-based applications even further. It should also help companies move away from dependencies on legacy applications and early Internet Explorer-based custom enterprise applications. From traditional enterprise software vendors like SAP, Oracle, and IBM through modern cloud-based players like Salesforce, Slack, and Workday, the ability to focus more of their efforts on a single target platform should open up a wealth of innovation and reduce difficult cross-platform testing efforts.

But it’s not just the software world that’s going to be impacted by this decision. Semiconductors and the types of devices that we may start to use could be affected as well. For example, Microsoft is leveraging this shift to Chromium as part of an effort to bring broader software compatibility to Arm-based CPUs, particularly the Windows on Snapdragon offerings from Qualcomm, like the brand-new Snapdragon 8cx. By working on bringing the underlying compatibility of Chromium to Windows-focused Arm64 processors, Microsoft is going to make it significantly easier for software developers to create applications that run on these devices. This would remove the last significant hurdle that has kept these devices from reaching mainstream buyers in the consumer and enterprise world, and it could turn them into serious contenders versus traditional X86-based CPUs from Intel and AMD.

On the device side, this move also opens up the possibility for a wider variety of form factors and for more ambient computing types of services. By essentially enabling a single, consistent target platform that could leverage the essential input characteristics of desktop devices (mice and keyboards), mobile devices (touch), and voice-based interfaces, Microsoft is laying the groundwork for a potentially fascinating computing future. Imagine, for example, a foldable multi-screen device that offers something like a traditional Android front screen, then unfolds to a larger Windows (or Android)-based device that can leverage the exact same applications and data, but with subtle UI enhancements optimized for each environment. Or, think about a variety of different connected smart screens that allow you to easily jump from device to device but still leverage the same applications. The possibilities are endless.

Strategically, the move is a fascinating one for Microsoft. On one hand, it suggests a closer tie to Google, much like the built-in support for Android-based phones did in the latest version of Windows 10. However, it’s specifically being done through open source, and is likely to leverage its recent Github developer resource purchase to make web standards more open and less specifically tied to Google. At the same time, because Apple doesn’t currently support Chromium and is still focused on keeping its developers (and end users) more tightly tied into its proprietary OS, Microsoft is essentially further isolating Apple from key web software standards. In an olive branch move to Apple users, however, Microsoft has said that they will bring the Chromium-powered version of Edge to MacOS and likely iOS, essentially giving Apple users access to this new world of software, but via a Microsoft connection.

In the end, a large number of pieces have to come together in order to make this web-based, platform-free version of the software world come to pass, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see roadblocks arise along the way. Still, Microsoft’s move to support Chromium could prove to be a watershed moment that quietly, but importantly, sets some key future technology trends into motion.

VR Begins Transition From (Failed) Next Big Thing to Sustainable Business

on December 7, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The ongoing theme in the media for much of the last 12 months has been that Virtual Reality (VR) as a technology is a bust. And from a pure headset shipment number perspective, it’s been hard to argue against that narrative. But as with most thing in this world, the reality is a bit more nuanced than that. Further, I would argue that VR is now poised to move from a technology burdened with unrealistic expectations to one that will enable smart vendors engaged in the space to build out more modest, but profitable and sustainable businesses going forward.

The Headset Decline
At IDC we track three categories of VR headsets: Screenless viewers, such as Samsung’s Gear VR, Tethered, such as HTC Vive, and standalone, such as Oculus Go. (We exclude Google Cardboard-based products from our numbers.) If we look back two years, to 3Q16, we see that the entire market shipped 2.4M units, and that screenless viewers constituted over 2M of those units. And more than half of those units came from Samsung. As it often does, Samsung was moving to establish itself in the new category by leveraging its strong position in smartphones, often bundling its Gear VR screenless viewer at low or no cost with its high-end Galaxy phones. The company continued this practice for some time, but that 3Q16 number was the high point, and by 2018 it had all but given up on the Gear VR. In 3Q18 Samsung shipped just 125K of its screenless viewers.

Samsung’s early push and later shift away from the screenless viewer category caused the overall VR market to appear to grow fast (from a small base) and then fall off a cliff. But inside the bigger numbers, the other two headset categories were continuing to evolve. HTC and Facebook lowered the price of their headsets, and later HTC launched a Pro version of the Vive. Sony launched PlayStation VR. A number of vendors launched products using Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform. And Lenovo, Vive and Oculus launched standalone products. All of this led to some notable ups and downs along the way, but here’s the bottom line. In 3Q16 tethered shipments totalled 372K; in 3Q18 they hit 1.1M. In 3Q16 standalone headsets were at 30K; in 3Q18 they grew to 392K. So, yes, the total market in 3Q18 was down versus the same quarter in 2016 (1.9M versus 2.4M), but the product mix shifted dramatically and revenues grew substantially.

Early Adopters Are Happy
So the headset market itself has been a wild ride over the past two years. During that time, we’ve seen a substantial build-out of the existing platforms and the content available on then. The challenge, when it comes to pleasing consumers, is that the type and quality of content out there seems to please current owners, but it doesn’t excite non-VR headset owners enough to buy. We recently surveyed over 2,000 U.S. consumers, and among the small subset of that group who currently owned VR headsets, most are happy with both the hardware itself and the content (especially those who own tethered and standalone products). However, when we asked non-owners about their interest in VR, the response was tepid at best. The clear challenge here is that to date there’s been no specific application or type of content compelling enough to drive more mainstream users to deal with the cost and hassle of acquiring the VR hardware. This obviously creates challenge for the market: How do you incentivise developers and content producers to create better experiences without a large enough installed base? How do you grow the installed base without better content?

While the industry ponders the consumer challenge, many vendors in the space have moved to embrace a near-term opportunity upon which they can build a business in the meantime: Business users.

I have talked about the opportunities for VR in the commercial segment in a previous column, so I won’t repeat the argument here except to say that since I wrote that back in April, interest from commercial has only grown. And vendors are moving to embrace this interest.
HTC’s Vive Pro is a great example of a company listening to what business users said they need. The hardware addressed business requirements, including a higher resolution screen, and HTC’s Vive Business Edition package rolled in a professional use license, commercial warranty, deployment options, and dedicated phone support.

Facebook has also been paying close attention to the commercial side of things and has built out business-specific bundles for both its Oculus Rift and Oculus Go products. Likewise, Lenovo is now offering its Mirage Solo VR headset as part of a bundle targeting education deployments.
As the business use case for VR continues to solidify, the biggest hurdle won’t be the hardware itself, but the need for more developers—and the tools they need—to build out both broad business VR applications as well as company-specific, proprietary ones. This will be a challenge, but there’s money to be made here, and it involves significantly less risk than trying to create consumer content that requires dramatically more scale to drive profitability.

Looking ahead, there’s reason for cautious optimism in the VR market. Early next year, Facebook will ship its Oculus Quest headset, a standalone product that offers significant performance gains for the category. I expect Facebook to tell a strong story about the use case for Quest in business. And we’ll see Facebook, HTC, Lenovo, and others continue to build out more interesting use cases for both consumer and commercial users. VR may not have lived up to the early hype, but the technology still has a role to play in our world. Companies who stay the course, and play it smart, should find a profitable, sustainable way forward.

Premium Silicon

on December 6, 2018
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This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.

Rushing to 5G

on December 5, 2018
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This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.

PC Users’ Smartphone-Envy

on December 5, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Millions of people rely on their smartphone every day for their on the go computing needs. For many, especially in younger demographics smartphones are their sole or main computing device. Whether it is email, social media or gaming consumers across the world have become highly dependent on their phones so much so that the whole tech industry has started to address screen addiction. Considering how much time users spend on these devices, we at Creative Strategies wanted to understand how smartphones fit in people’s workflows and to do so we conducted an online study at the end of November across 1000 US consumers.

The first interesting data point we found is that it 34% of our panel has both a work PC/Mac and a personal one while only 15% relies solely on a work PC for both work and personal computing needs. Forty-three percent of our panel only has a personal PC/Mac. This landscape is fascinating as it points at the opportunity there still is to reach consumers and not just IT departments when it comes to PC sales. While engagement on PCs might have dropped when smartphones first hit the market, it is clear that PCs and Macs still have a place in our homes.

That said, just the fact that 56% of users on our panel do not have a Windows PC with a touchscreen points to an installed base that is ready for an upgrade. This is even more obvious when we see that 61% of the PC users on our panel said their PC has no support for pen.

A Reality Check on How People Work

Before getting into what users want for their PCs, I think it is interesting to look at how they are currently using them as this will provide excellent insight into how to market their next upgrade. Among the people who are currently working 47% said they are usually working from their office desk and another 30% work at their home office desk making mobility not a high priority among our panelists.

Work and life balance is still a struggle for most as we seem to rely on our phones to keep us on top of things without being dragged into work more than necessary. And so 40% of our working panelists check their email, calendar and social media every morning before leaving for work. Twenty-seven percent keep an eye on things on their phone in the evening trying not to open their PC while 11% are always on their phone in the evening but uses their PCs to either binge watch or game. Only 17 percent of our working panelists never start or finish their working day at home which makes me feel somewhat better about my work/life struggle!

When it comes to how people work across devices, there was much less consensus than we had for where work takes place. Our working panelists are quite varied in their habits of working on one machine or multiple ones. Seventeen percent never work on multiple devices, 12% often start working on a work device to end on a personal one at home, 23% only use their work device while 25% pick up a phone or a tablet for a quick edit. Twenty-three percent work seamlessly across devices depending on convenience. What is interesting is that this number only grows to 29% among early tech adopters pointing to the fact that working across devices does not necessarily require tech expertise these days, especially when the multiple device mix includes a phone.

Top Asks from PC users

With the phone being the most used device by many people it is no surprise that there are features that users will want to see on their PCs too. This is not about being able to do the same things they do on their phones, but rather it is about benefitting from some critical enablers of the experience their phones can deliver. It was evident among our panelists that voice calls, messaging, and social media are best dealt on a phone than a PC.

So when we asked consumers which features their smartphone has that they would want to see on their PC the wishlist reflected all the key qualities of a smartphone. First on the list is long battery life (36%) Instant-on (29%) and cellular connectivity (25%).

Interestingly, the second highest feature was face-authentication at 30%. This reflects my previous comment that the PCs owned by our panelists seem to be on the older side and of course, it also demonstrates the lack of FaceID support on the Mac. Considering about 40% of our panelists had the newest Apple and Samsung’s smartphones which support face authentication this ask is not a big surprise and as more phone manufacturers embrace face authentication the need to support it on the PC/Mac will grow. For PC makers this is already an option as Windows supports Windows Hello, but it will be interesting to see what Google and Apple will do going forward.

Pain Points Are Not Always a Driver

In technology, I often find myself pushing service providers or hardware manufacturers to look at solving real-life problems to drive uptake of services or hardware refresh.

It is interesting how, when it comes to connectivity, consumers do not see it as a pain point, but they still want it. We asked our panelists how easy they feel it is to find an internet connection for their PC/Mac/Chromebook when they need it: 31% said it is very easy because they only use a computer at home on WiFi and 17% do the same at their office/campus. Twenty percent said it is not a problem as they mostly work from their desk where their computer is connected. Eighteen percent uses their smartphone as a hotspot and only 5% who are highly mobile users admit that finding connectivity is a constant challenge.

If this were the issue Always-on and Always-connected PCs aimed to solve it seems that the pitch to deliver the kind connectivity that only 6% of our panelists experience with their connected PCs would not lead to much of an uptake. Yet, it is clear to me from the fact that 25% said they would want a cellular connection that when we talk about connectivity, it is not a question of solving a problem but rather delivering a level of convenience we have got accustomed to with our phones.

If I am right, what PC makers, Qualcomm, and carriers will be able to offer in terms of plan activation and compelling data pricing will be the key to the success of the Always-on, Always-connected PC. Offering that convenience for a free trial period will get users to never want to give it up, setting the bar for what the next computing experience should be like.

The Connected PC

on December 4, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sometimes it takes real world frustrations before you can really appreciate the advances that technology can bring. Such is the case with mobile broadband-equipped notebook PCs.

Before diving into the details of why I’m saying this, I have to admit upfront that I’ve been a skeptic of cellular-capable notebooks for a very long time. As a long-time observer of, data collector for, and prognosticator on the PC market, I clearly recall several failed attempts at trying to integrate cellular modems into PCs over the last 15 years or so. From the early days of 3G, and even into the first few years of 4G-capable devices, PC makers have been trying to add cellular connectivity into their devices. However, attach rates in most parts of the world (Western Europe being the sole exception) have been extremely low—typically, in the low single digits.

The primary reasons for this limited success have been cost—both for the modem and cellular services—as well as the ease and ubiquity of WiFi and personal hotspot functions integrated into our smartphones. Together, these factors have put the value of cellular connectivity into question. It’s often hard to justify the additional costs for integrated mobile broadband, especially when the essentially “free” alternatives seem acceptable.

Despite all these concerns, however, we’ve seen a great deal of fresh attention being paid to cellular connected PCs of late. Specifically, the launch of the always connected PC (ACPC) effort by Microsoft, Qualcomm, and several major PC OEMs (HP, Asus, and Lenovo) this time last year brought new attention to the category and started to shift the discussion of PC performance towards connectivity, in addition to traditional CPU-driven metrics. Since that first launch with Snapdragon 835-based devices, we’ve already seen second generation Snapdragon 850-based PCs, such as Lenovo’s Yoga C630, start to ship.

We’ve also seen Intel bring its own modems into the PC market in a big way over the last few months, highlighting the increased connectivity options they enable. In the new HP Spectre Folio leather-wrapped PC, for example, Intel created a multi-chip module that integrates its Amber Lake Y-Series CPU, along with an XMM 7560 Gigabit LTE modem. Conceptually, it’s similar to the chiplet-style design that combined an Intel CPU and AMD Radeon GPU into a single multi-chip module that Dell used in its XPS 15 earlier this year, but integrates a discrete modem instead of the discrete GPU.

Together these efforts, as well as expected advancements, highlight the many key technological enhancements in semiconductor design that are being directed towards connectivity in PCs. Plus, with the launch of 5G-capable modems and 5G-enabled PCs on the very near horizon, it’s clear that we’ll be enjoying even more of these chip design-driven benefits in the future.

Even more importantly, changes in the wireless landscape and our interactions with it are bringing a new sense of pertinence and criticality to our wireless connections. While we have been highly dependent on wireless connections in our PCs for some time, the degree of dependence has now grown to the point where most people really do need (and expect) reliable, high-quality signals all the time.

This point hit home recently after I had boarded a plane but needed to finish a few critical emails before we took off. Unfortunately, the availability and quality of WiFi connections while people are getting seated is dicey at best. But by leveraging the integrated cellular modem in my Spectre Folio review unit, I was able to do so no problem. Similarly, in a long Lyft ride to an airport on another recent trip, I leveraged the modem in the Yoga C630 for similar purposes. Plus, in situations like conferences and other events where WiFi connections are often spotty, having a cellular connectivity alternative can be the difference between having a usable connection and not having one at all.

Admittedly, these are first-world problems and not everybody needs to have reliable connectivity in these types of limited situations. In other words, I don’t think the extra cost of integrated cellular modems makes sense for everyone. But, for people who are on the run a lot, the extra convenience can really make a difference. This is another example of the fact that many of the technological advances that we now see in the PC market are generally more incremental and meant to improve certain situations or use cases. Integrated cellular connections are in line with this kind of thinking as they provide an incremental boost in the ability to find a usable internet connection.

In addition to convenience, the increase of WiFi network-based security risks has raised concerns about using public WiFi networks in certain environments. While not perfect, cellular connections are generally understood to be more secure and much less vulnerable to any kind of network snooping than WiFi, providing more peace of mind for critical or sensitive information.

Of course, little of this would matter if network operators didn’t make pricing plans for cellular data usage on PCs attractive. Thankfully, there have been improvements here as well, but there’s still a long way to go to truly make this part of the connected PC experience friction-free. The expected 2019 launch of 5G-equipped notebooks will likely trigger a fresh round of pricing options for connected PC data plans, so it will be interesting to see what happens then.

Ultimately, while some of the primary concerns around the connected PC remain, it’s also becoming clear that many other issues are starting to paint the technology in a light. Always on, always reliable connections are no longer just a “nice to have,” but a “need to have” for many people, and along with the technology advancements, increased security and lower data plan costs are combining to create an environment where connected PCs finally start to make sense.

When Companies Don’t Know When to Stop

on December 3, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’ve been wondering whether some of the major high-tech companies among the FAANG gang, don’t know when to stop their “continuous improvement,” a term revered by the Japanese in the 90s when they continually improved their products. My observation is we are seeing “continuous degradation” instead.

It seems these companies might have too many engineers spending too much time on the wrong tasks, continuing to invent after the products have reached a level of excellence. I see one example after another and imagine how it might come about. Perhaps these companies have engineers that need to justify their high pay, so they do what comes naturally, keep coming up with new ideas. But in doing so, they run the risk of making their products worse.

Take Facebook, for example. When it allowed us to share vacation photos and updates with our friends and relatives, it was fun to use. I’d be able to see my daughter’s photos when she was vacationing in Hawaii every day, providing peace of mind along with a smile. It was much more effective and less intrusive than phone calls. But over time we all know what happened. Facebook added news that was full of fake and incendiary stories. It took more time to digest them than just looking at a photo, so Facebook figured out that news was better because we spent more time with it. And every change Facebook made was to extend our time of engagement. They took a delightful, pleasing experience and turned it into one that created anger, frustration, and was just no longer fun.

Another example is what Apple has done to its MacBook line. Five years ago, they had some of the best notebooks in the industry, far ahead of the competition. If you compare today’s MacBooks to those of five years ago, they’ve regressed. They have far fewer ports, no memory card slot, no headphone jack, no longer the beloved MagSafe power connector, and have some of the worst keyboards in the industry. While they attribute some of these changes being needed to make their products thinner and lighter, that’s not true, because many Windows notebooks are just as thin and light in weight, while still retaining the ports and excellent keyboards. The engineers should have left well enough alone.

Then there’s Google. We understand that their business model is to learn about us and direct more relevant advertising to us, and we agreed to have them track our travels in return for using Google Maps. We chose to use Gmail with its huge amount of storage and effective search in exchange for allowing them to scan email content to serve up more relevant ads. But now that they have perfected that model, they want to do more, that will make them evil. The group of engineers responsible for some of the Nest products was recently issued patents for putting sensors, microphones, and cameras throughout our homes to accumulate more personal information than most of us would be comfortable with. There’s no stopping Google until they know every tiny personal detail about us. They’re following the model of Facebook, and we know how that’s turning out.

Lastly, Amazon has created an amazing online store. While not the most attractive, it’s worked well. Rarely do we need to search for the right button, our choices are clearly laid out, and we can generally find things fast, read their reviews, and make a purchase quickly. But over the past year, they’ve not left well enough alone. Often now when searching for a product, you get the first page filled with paid ads, making it more difficult to do what you came to do. Some ads are even deceptive, as a recent article described, placing ads in the middle of a bridal registry, tricking buyers to purchase an item they assumed was requested by the bride. When making some purchases, I’m now constantly asked if I want a warranty or a subscription for much of what I buy; many times, those options are not even appropriate. And what once was simple shipping options have now become as difficult as choosing another product. Again, the engineers at Amazon seem not to know when they had a successful site and are now making it much more difficult to use.

I’m not against progress when it improves things that benefit the customer. But, in the case of some of these giants of tech, their greed seems to have taken over, messing up what once were excellent products.

Podcast: Amazon AWS reInvent, HP Inc. and Dell Earnings, Apple Music and Amazon

on December 1, 2018
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing multiple announcements from Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference, including the launch of several new custom chips, discussing the impact of HP’s and Dell’s earnings and what it means for the PC market, and chatting about the new agreement that will let Apple Music work on Amazon Echo devices.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Let’s Stop Politicizing the Data-Privacy Issue

on November 30, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This has been a year when significant light has been shed on how technology companies such as Facebook and Google leverage customer data for financial gain. Some of this should not be surprising, since little in life, after all, is free. The grand bargain has been that we get to use Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, in exchange for their accessing and using some aspect of our data – the modern day version why broadcast TV has always been ‘free’. Things went wrong when these companies abused that privilege, have not been transparent, and have been slow or resistant to implement change. At the least, the transgressors (a pretty long list) have shown remarkably poor judgment, with the worst offenders acting immorally and perhaps illegally.

That said, I’ve been bothered by how some of the companies who reckon themselves as the ‘good guys’ have been using this opportunity pile on their Silicon Valley brethren for competitive gain. Tim Cook has publicly vilified Facebook on several occasions, most recently in a high-profile speech in Europe. This week, Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, joined Tim Cook and others in criticizing some companies’ abuse of consumer data.

I find this behavior somewhat hypocritical. Google, Apple, Facebook, especially, are hugely inter-related. None of them would be what they are, and as profitable as they are, without each other. With so much that is politicized these days, I don’t think most of us are anxious to see Silicon Valley polarized as well. And while Apple hasn’t ventured into the same territory as Facebook, I can’t exactly see Tim Cook as tech’s White Knight, given Apple’s at the very least indirect role in fomenting the modern day near health crisis of screen addiction.

So here’s an idea. Rather than more useless Congressional hearings or the development of regulations that will take years to develop and implement (the debate about which will also be undoubtedly politicized), how about the Silicon Valley brain trust coming together to fix this? These are the folks who can be proactive in developing some ‘rules of the road’ that could protect consumers and mollify regulators, while ensuring that their primary means of making money is not significantly compromised.

It is not any one company that is going to fix this. We might be able to come up with some basic minimum standards regarding the use of consumer data. But there are many other elements to a successful implementation. One is transparency. This will go a long way in restoring trust. And by the way, part of this might involve tiers of relationships with consumers. For example, would some consumers be prepared to pay a modest fee to use some of these apps free of ads or data utilization, in the same way there are different subscription options for Hulu?

Another key aspect of this is defining a common standard for consumers to see how their data is used and settings for various levels of opt-in. Facebook has done some of this in reaction to all the hullabaloo this year, but the settings are still somewhat buried and the interface is not intuitive. It will not be helpful if the experience and UI is completely different from one company to the next. I’d love to see a common Dashboard that cuts across the major consumer applications. This could be a great output of some collective work by some of Silicon Valley’s leaders.

And here’s an opportunity for Apple, especially in the U.S., where they still own the majority of the smartphone market. They clearly have deep expertise in software and user-friendly design. The ‘screen time’ settings are a good initial effort at addressing that issue…why not offer to port that development to a ‘consumer data settings dashboard’.

If Tim Cook and Ginny Rometty want to be Silicon Valley’s white knights, why not stop vilifying their colleagues and, instead, say to their tech brethren: “Guys, we have a problem. Let’s use our collective resources (software, UI, AI) to head this thing off at the pass”. By heading this off at the pass, I mean not leaving it to Washington, and not developing something quite as overwrought as GDPR, which might not fully fly in the more market-oriented U.S.of A.

Several key tech company execs have already said they would be open to some form of regulation. So perhaps it would be more effective to initiate this from the Valley rather than the Beltway. Call it the ‘Consumer Data Privacy Task Force’, deputize a couple of senior execs from each of the major players, and have them come up with a plan to present to Congress. Address the three key issues: Rules for what consumer data can be shared, how and by whom; How this get communicated to consumers; and what’s the optimal way to give users some visibility into and control over their data in a standardized, intuitive fashion.

We’re at a fork in the road on this issue. It has become politicized, and is in danger of falling into the hands of regulators, who are ill-equipped, on numerous fronts, to effectively address it (see: Facebook Congressional hearings). The big question is, can Silicon Valley step up?

Two Tech Trends That Failed to Save My Black Friday

on November 28, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes

I make no secret that I love to shop. I like buying things rather than the actual process of shopping. Before I get out the door, I know which stores I will go to and have a clear idea of what I need or want to buy. While my outing might still take a couple of hours, it is a targeted and organized operation, despite what my husband and kid might say.

As I take pleasure in buying not shopping, I do a fair amount online. Amazon is my friend, but so is a long list of websites that carry my favorite brands, accept Apple Pay or Paypal and offer free shipping.

When big sales days come around, like Black Friday, I prioritize online shopping, but I will go to some physical stores mostly for clothes and accessories. This year I found going to the local mall an excruciating process, more so than it usually is, and mostly because I saw all the different ways tech could have made it better but didn’t.

AI and Big Data

Let’s start with how stupid the shopping process still in. Both online and in-store there is little or no intelligence used by retailers to make your experience less painful and more rewarding for you and them.

This lack of intelligence starts from home where you are inundated by ads leading up to the big day that more often than not poorly reflect your buying habits. This is particularly ironic this year when both tech and politics have spent several months discussing privacy and how much information internet giants should have access to. Well, right now they, as well as most of the retailers I shop from, have access to a lot of information, but the targeted advertising I receive is still pretty dumb. The foot crumbs I leave as I go from site to site follow me with very generic suggestions but one has to wonder why those sites I trust, and I shop from more often do not have a profile for me.

Let’s take Amazon as an example of an online retailer as I shop with them consistently and I purchase a vast range of items for myself, my family, pets, and home. Amazon has the list of all my orders as well as everything I browsed and how many times I looked at an article without clicking “buy.” Why don’t I get an email with suggestions from the deal of the day that match my buying patterns? For instance, why don’t I get prompted for an item I looked at but did not buy? Chances are I did not do so based on price, so an offer might get me to finally purchase. Or again, why don’t I get offers on products upgrades? Say I bought a Ring doorbell two years ago and the latest model is now on sale. Why not send me offers for complementary products like what I might want to add to my smart home after buying several Echo products, a doorbell, and some bulbs?

Much of the same could be said for those brands I shop from on a regular basis and even more so those where I am part of a reward program. If I have a reward card in my digital wallet that pops up to tell me I am close to a specific store why doesn’t that retailer push it a step forward and send me relevant offers on what is available in store? Why aren’t traditional apparel retailer offering an in-store version of stitch-fix where based on your previous purchases and your body type they put together a number of outfits that on a specific date and time will be ready for you in a store changing room. You would walk in straight to the changing room you were notified on your phone as you entered the store, you try everything on, tap the RIFD tag of what you want to keep before you put it in a bag and walk out while your credit card is automatically charged. I give you that such a system might not be viable on a heavy traffic day, but hard to believe it would not work any other day.

I understand that much of the sales occurring on Black Friday end up being for items you had not planned to buy, but intelligent shopping does not mean that impulse shopping must die. It would actually mean you end up being more exposed to items you are likely to respond positively to resulting in more revenue for the retailer but also a much higher satisfaction on your part. At the end of the day, there isn’t much that is more satisfying than a successful shopping spree.

Mobility

Black Friday is such a big shopping day that stores have been opening earlier and earlier with some stores now starting their sales on Thanksgiving Day. I have gotten up earlier in the past mostly to avoid the crowds, but this year was not one of those times, and I had to make three attempts to reach the mall. That’s right only on Sunday I was able to get to the parking structure of the Westfield Mall in Santa Clara and park my car!! The first two times it was impossible to even get to the parking structure due to the high volume of cars.

So this begs the question: where were Lyft and Uber? In the land that invented ride-share and scooters, it seems to me that talking about the death of cars ownership was immensely premature. I understand of course that scooters might not be the safest choice when you are holding shopping bags, but why are people not relying on Uber and Lyft to avoid the pain of parking? I would guess that a lot has to do with how many of these malls treat rideshare services as second-class transportation providers and relegate them to drop off and pick up from locations that are less than ideal for both passengers and drivers. In my case a Lyft driver would either get stuck in the same traffic I was trapped in for over an hour or would have to drop me off miles away from the entrance.

Why are malls not keeping pace with what their customers want and offer preferential lanes and temporary parking spots for rideshare companies? Airports have adapted to this and while some airports still make you walk miles to get to a ride-share pickup location things are changing fairly quickly. Malls should learn from it especially in the US where parking is free. I can see other countries like the UK, where most shopping centers charge a fair bit to park, resisting such change as it would result in a loss of revenue.

 

What ruined my Black Friday could have been solved by technology today, not in some distant future. As I have often said though, technology might be ready, but business models and humans are not. Data and AI have the power to make my shopping much more tailored to my needs and ultimately more effective. This coupled with a pain-free rideshare trip to and from my favorite stores could have delivered a “shopping like a star”experience. But if the big parking structure that is being built next to the mall is a good indication of how quickly things will change I am sad to say it will be a while before retail catches up with what technology can already enable.

Robots Ready to Move Mainstream

on November 27, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are the robots coming, or are they already here? Fresh off the impressive, successful Mars landing of NASA’s InSight lander robotic spacecraft, it seems appropriate to suggest that robots have already begun to make their presence felt across many aspects of our lives. Not only in space exploration and science, but as we enter into the holiday shopping season, their presence is being felt in industry and commerce as well.

Behind the scenes at factories building many of the products in demand this holiday season, to the warehouses that store and ship them out, robots have been making a significant impact for quite some time. Building on that success, both Nvidia and Amazon recently made announcements about robotics-related offerings intended to further advancements in industrial robots.

Just outside of Shanghai last week, at the company’s GTC China event, Nvidia announced that Chinese e-commerce giants JD.com and Meituan have both chosen to use the company’s Jetson AGX Xavier robotics platform for the development of next-generation autonomous delivery robots. Given the expected growth in online shopping in China, both e-commerce companies are looking to develop a line of small autonomous machines that can be used to deliver goods directly to consumers, and they intend to use Xavier and its associated JetPack SDK to do so.

At the company’s AWS:Invent event in Las Vegas this week, Amazon launched a cloud-based robotics test and development platform called AWS RoboMaker that it’s making available through its Amazon Web Services cloud computing offering. Designed for everyone from robotics students who compete in FIRST competitions through robotics professionals working at large corporations, RoboMaker is an open-source tool that leverages and extends the popular Robot Operating System (ROS).

Like some of Nvidia’s software offerings, RoboMaker is designed to ease the process of programming robots to perform sophisticated actions that leverage computer vision, speech recognition, and other AI-driven technologies. In the case of RoboMaker, those services are provided via a connection to Amazon’s cloud computing services. RoboMaker also offers the ability to manage large fleets of robots working together in industrial environments or places like large warehouses (hmm…wonder why?!)

The signs of growing robotic influence have been evident for a while in the consumer market as well. The success of Roomba robotic vacuums, for example, is widely heralded as the first step in a home robotics revolution. Plus, with the improvements that have occurred in critical technologies such as voice recognition, computer vision, AI, and sensors, we’re clearly on the cusp of what are likely to be some major consumer-focused robotics introductions in 2019. Indeed, Amazon is heavily rumored to be working on some type of home robot project—likely leveraging their Alexa work—that’s expected to be introduced sometime next year.

Robotics is also a key part of the recent renaissance in STEM education programs, as it allows kids of many ages to see the fun, tangible efforts of their science, math, and engineering-related skills brought to life. From the high-school level FIRST robotics competitions, down to early grade school level programs, future robotics engineers are being trained via these types of activities every day in schools around the world.

The influence of these robotics programs and the related maker movement developments have reached into the mainstream as well. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Raspberry Pi development board and other robotics-related educational toys in stock and on sale at, of all places, my local Target over the Black Friday shopping weekend.

The impact of robots certainly isn’t new in either the consumer or business world. However, except for a few instances, real-world interactions with them have still been limited for most people. Clearly, that’s about to change, and people (and companies) are going to have to be ready to adapt. Like the AI technologies that underlie a lot of the most recent robotics developments, there are some great opportunities, but also some serious concerns, particularly around job replacement, that more advanced robotics will bring with them. The challenge moving forward will be determining how to best use robots and robotic technology in ways that can improve the human experience.

PC Market Resilience

on November 26, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

At the height of the PC revolution, the PC industry sold about 350 million PC’s a year. Those days are long gone, and unit sales of PC’s have declined ever since. But during the last 18 months, we have seen a slight uptick in PC demand, mainly from buyers looking for mid to higher priced laptops and Desktops. Some key industry players did not see this new demand coming, and in the case of Intel, they do not have the amount of mid to high-end processors available to meet the demand of some of their OEM’s this quarter.

While demand is slightly up, don’t be fooled by this uptick. Demand for PC’s continues to decline and will never really grow again and be as robust as it was a decade ago.

The chart below lays out the dim prospects facing the traditional PC market and shows by 2020 we will barely be selling 250 million PCs annually.

There are many reasons for the decline in PC demand, but two products appear to have had the most significant impact on many people, especially consumers.

Until the introduction of the smartphone, a PC was the only way people could gain access to the Internet, web browsers, email and any other type of digital material or apps they wanted to access and interact with digital content. And with the introduction of the iPad, the PC experience got even more portable.

It does not mean that demand for PC’s will ever stop completely. Indeed, it is still the most important productivity tool for business users and many consumers. But the smartphone and tablet can do about 70% of what a person can do on a laptop or PC in more portable settings, and these are becoming the most used personal computers people use every day of their lives.

What we are seeing is a lot of people using their PC’s for what we call “heavy computing” for creation, serious productivity and apps that want more horsepower and need a full blown PC or laptop to do specific tasks. A lot of people in business and some high-end consumers still need PC’s and laptops for the kind of job they do either daily or as the case with consumers, and whenever they need to do a task or project that requires more capabilities, then the can get with a tablet or a smartphone.

That is why, especially in the business sector, we are seeing a bit more of demand in mid to high-end laptops and computers and are willing to pay more for quality, speed, durability and with the goal of keeping them 4 to 5 years. High-end consumer demand somewhat tracks this same approach to buying more expensive laptops and PC’s, expecting to keep them for 4 to 5 years too.

But some of the OEM’s realize that users in business and consumer markets are using their smartphone more and more for productivity and see some of the new tablets, like Apple’s new 12.9” iPad Pro, even encroaching on laptop buyers who want performance but more portability.

I have talked to one major OEM who is thrilled that PC demand is slightly rising now, but their forecasters believe that within the next 2-3 years, we may be lucky if the PC Industry sells 225 million PCs by then.

But there is one buying group in the wings that are becoming a deep concern for traditional PC Vendors. That group is often called early Gen Z and ranges in ages between 14-18. If you have a kid in this age range, you already know that the smartphone is the center of their PC lifestyle.
These kids are highly tech literate and have even found out ways to be productive using just their smartphones.

While some of these kids have been using Chromebooks in their schools, others have used mainly iPad’s and tablets. But their primary computing tool is a smartphone. Even more important is their mastery of these smaller screen’s and its user interfaces. My two granddaughters school only uses iPads. They do all of their work assignment just on an iPad. I watched the kids in their school using the iPad to do their homework, read their textbooks, do presentations and fundamentally use it as their primary computing tool. Interestingly, in this case, since the iPhone mostly maps an iPad regarding UI and capability, some even do a part of their homework assignments on an iPhone.

With this in mind, I was privy to some early research on this issue with the goal of trying to find out what form factor this age group would likely demand when they enter the workforce. While the early research on this suggested they would not be opposed to using some form of a laptop, their preferred form factor is tending towards some tablet with keyboard design. It turns out, growing up using their smartphones as their most personal computer is influencing the type of computer they will want to use when they start their work careers.

Microsoft kicked off this concept with their original Surface tablet/keyboard product some years ago, and it turns out that the core buyers of this type of Surface computer are mostly people in millennial age ranges. Recently, Apple took a bold step to position their new 12.9 inch iPad as a potential laptop replacement. And we hear from ODM’s that at least two large laptop vendors have been asking for more Tablet Focused devices with built-in keyboards too.

While these 14-18 years olds are very smartphone-centric, I am sure you have seen kids as early as ten years old getting smartphones too. This entire generation will grow up using smartphones as their primary computer since it is the device they spend the most time with and use it for both consumption and various forms of productivity such as email, texting, and research.

PC vendors who only focus on laptops and even 2 in 1’s need to do more research on the younger Gen Z audience and study closely how they use their smartphones as their primary computer. My guess is that by the time they enter the workforce, traditional notebook designs will be their parent’s computer and they will want to use something very different than what is offered to most in the workforce today.

Podcast: Dell Analyst Summit, Citrix-Sapho, Nvidia Earnings, Dolby and Microsoft Headphones

on November 17, 2018
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing Dell’s Analyst Summit, the Citrix analyst event and their purchase of Sapho, Nvidia’s recent earnings, and the release of new noise-cancelling headphones from both Dolby and Microsoft.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

News that Caught My Eye: Week of Nov. 16, 2018

on November 16, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Citrix Acquires Sapho

Citrix announced on Thursday that it had acquired Sapho, a leading micro-app platform which it will use to enhance the guided work capabilities within Citrix Workspace, enabling people to work with even greater speed, intelligence, and simplicity.

Via Citrix

  • Sapho is very well known for delivering micro-apps for collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams
  • The micro-apps are linked to popular SaaS products such as Outlook, Google Drive, Salesforce, Concur and the allow for actionable tasks within those collaborations tools.