Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas is coming - and tablet decisions as well

Now that full sized tablets are firmly entrenched in our personal and business lives, a growing crop of mid-sized devices are entering the fray. I mentioned this last month and now that reviews are in on the new Apple iPad mini it's likely many of you will take the plunge.The major choices are Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Barnes and Noble Nook HD, Apple iPad mini and Google Nexus 7. All but the iPad mini have base prices of $199 while the mini is $329.

When you do compare prices make sure you look at what you'll actually buy not just the base price. For example many tablets come with a wall charger but it's extra on the Kindle. The Google and Apple tablets are considered full tablets with access to their respective app stores but the Amazon and B&N tablets are a cross between an ebook reader and a tablet.

What's the deal with Apple Maps anyway?

Have you heard the one about the guy using Apple maps who walks into a bar, or maybe it was a church - or bowling alley? You've probably know by now that Apple messed up when it replaced its previous map app with a new version in September. In a nutshell, the previous version was based on Google maps and Google and Apple are fierce competitors so they had to do something. The Google version was crippled on Apple devices and did not provide turn by turn directions like it did on Androids. My only complaint is that everything in Bemidji is one block west and fifty feet north of where Apple says it should be!
The biggest complaint is that there is no "street view" as in Google. I can live without that considering how great the turn by turn directions work. However the most important hidden new feature is the significantly improved graphics engine. This new design uses vector graphics to drastically reduce the amount of data received which can be a boon on a limited dataplan. It also means you can navigate in areas with no phone service. That part is pretty amazing when you see it in action. As you zoom in and out - even in a remote area with no cell coverage - you'll see high resolution images at any magnification - no more reloading images. Google is reportedly putting the finishing touches on its own map app for Apple. More on that later. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Microsoft Crashes the Tablet Party

Will the recent twin announcements of the Microsoft Surface tablet and Windows 8 be game changers? An early adaptor I spoke with recently was thrilled with both the Surface tablet and the new OS. Certainly Microsoft is late to the touch screen tablet game but the Windows ecosystem and user base are both huge so maybe not too late. If you're not a pioneer, I'd advise waiting on the Surface till more reports are in. It's not likely there's a big penalty for waiting three or four months but a premature wrong decision could be painful. It so often comes down to "can I run Office on my tablet" - a subject I've discussed many times before. In summary you'll never get the full Office experience on a ten inch tablet no matter who makes it.

The reviews of Windows 8 have been universally bad and sales have reportedly been slow although no official numbers have been released by Microsoft. Their stats usually refer to copies delivered to resellers - not sold to customers. It's easy to try out Win8 now since PCs are widely available at electronics stores across the country and most have touch screens as well as a variety of tablet/screen/keyboard configurations. If you absolutely need a new PC and don't find Windows 8 appealing, check with the company before you buy to see what it will take to downgrade to Windows 7. Most new Windows 8 PCs come with advertising apps (bloatware) preinstalled; for a fee you should be able to have them removed.

You might want to check out this Windows 8 Cheatsheet. It's a lengthy discussion of some things you'll need to know as you switch to this significantly different version of Windows. And if you want even more information USA Today compared Lenovo and Toshiba hybrids (laptops with touch screens also called convertibles) running Windows 8 in this review.
In many ways the Surface doesn't seem to be a real threat to Android or Apple tablets since it costs twice as much, is heavier and has half the battery life.