Andrew here, and thinking of the bigger picture.
The tech world took a back seat this week as the realities of our fragile existence on the surface of our little blue spaceship came home. Witnessing one of the world’s great metropolises set back on its heels by the fury of a hurricane, we are all reminded, I hope, of the enormous accomplishments of a civilization that allows us to live in such density, and how tenuous a hold it could be if we fail to pay attention to the warning signs of its possible demise. I hope that you and yours are somewhere safe, dry, and warm, that power, if it was interrupted, will soon be replenished, that communications, if it has been broken, will soon be restored, that transport, if it was stopped, will soon be back in motion.
Technology has been bound up in all of this tumult, from the peripatetic wanderings of the powerless in search of juice for their smartphones, to the bucket brigades of sysadmins carrying diesel fuel to their generators a few gallons at a time to keep their data centers alight. Text messages carrying news of loved ones, and Twitter carrying information to those who need it, through the tragedies and victories of the week, big and small, we’ve seen how technology has changed the way we respond to crisis even the few years since Katrina. And this week, the ceaseless wheels of progress moved on even in the face of this giant storm.
Google canceled its press event, but went ahead with the release of the new Nexus machines. We saw the release of the new Nexus 4 and Nexus 10, and new Nexus 7 units with cellular data modems and upgraded storage.
The Nexus 4 is an LG device, with some wonderful new features and one glaring omission. It has a beast of a processor, a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2GB of RAM, a beautifully etched back that compliments an understated but luxurious design, and Android 4.2. The newest version of Google’s OS includes a beyond-panorama camera mode called Photo Sphere that incorporates technology from Google Maps Street View, and new Google Now modes that will vacuum stuff like flight confirmations and package tracking numbers out of your e-mail and keep you notified of pertinent information.
All that said, the Nexus 4’s lack of LTE speaks volumes about the roadblocks Verizon put in place to shipping timely upgrades of the OS to last year’s flagship, the Galaxy Nexus LTE. Google was simply unwilling to allow Verizon into the gatekeeper role again, and so LTE had to go. It’s a difficult path for Google, and one that’s likely to render the Nexus 4 a niche machine for hardcore Android fans and the developers who need reference hardware. I will hang on to my Galaxy Nexus and hope that the vibrant hacker community that has sprung up around that phone will keep it up to date through to next year’s Nexus release.
The Nexus 10 is a fascinating new animal. It packs the same resolution as my 30″ Dell monitor into a gorgeous LCD a third the size – 2560×1600. It’s a screen with the same sharpness as a high-quality print magazine, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. I am a sucker for pixels, people, and this machine has my number in spades. I hope that the price point ($399, a hundred dollars less than the 10″ iPad) will jump-start the Android tablet ecosystem. It has the same Android 4.2 goodness as the Nexus 4, and a unique multi-user feature that allows people to share one tablet and keep their settings and data private.
All in all, an interesting haul for Google.
Microsoft had a kickoff for Windows Phone 8 on Monday, and the Surface tablets and Windows 8 came out late last week. I had a brief opportunity to work with a Surface, and it’s not bad. Well-made, and it really is Windows 8 in a hand-held format. The Touch cover is a usable keyboard, and the hardware has a lot to recommend it, kickstand and all. Microsoft has made a big bet here, that you will want the same tools and OS on your tablet and any larger machine you have. In a corporate setting, that may make sense, and make Windows 8 on an x86 the enterprise tablet of choice with Office, Skype, and a Remote Desktop client built in.
Windows 8 is another story. I have a lot of screen real estate and Metro is just hopeless on that much monitor. I say until they can come up with a way to run Metro apps in a window on larger screens, Windows 8 is giving up a huge advantage in multitasking and the familiarity of the installed base. The whole point of the thing is that the interface spans the phone, the tablet, and the PC, and if I have to avoid Metro apps and live in Windows 8 Desktop mode to get anything done, what’s the point?
Well, that’s it from the Tech Report for now. Give what you can to the Red Cross, both for US and international victims of Sandy’s wrath. You can text REDCROSS to 90999. Or click HERE.
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