Thursday, February 6, 2014

Boot up: Windows ahead, Android PCs, CES on ChromeOS, and more

Thermal image of a poorly insulated home A thermal image of a home. Photograph: Home Heat Helpline/PA

A burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

HP clearly still believes that business-class touchscreens will be hot. And now HP is trying to make Android the new operating system for businesses.

Yes, Android — not Chrome OS.

At CES this week HP showed off the Slate 21 Pr0, which uses Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and will be available on March 6, starting at $399, a price point that includes keyboard and mouse. HP the device in June and gave it a coming out part at CES, along with two new Windows 8 PCs.

For an alternative point of view, read on...

Brad Sams:

The idea of running Android apps on a Windows machine is somewhat logical as Android now has a massive footprint in the mobile segment. What doesn't seem to make much sense is that mobile Android apps are designed for mobile devices not PCs with a mouse and keyboard or even a touchscreen laptop as the resolution in the displays are dramatically different. And if you are going to argue that Android tablet apps would be more relevant, can you name a killer Android tablet app that doesn't have an alternative in the Windows store or heck, any application that will run on Windows?

Paul Thurrott:

At the BUILD developer conference in April 2014, Microsoft will discuss its vision for the future of Windows, including a year-off release codenamed "Threshold" that will most likely be called Windows 9. Here's what I know about the next major release of Windows…

In some ways, the most interesting thing about Threshold is how it recasts Windows 8 as the next Vista. It's an acknowledgment that what came before didn't work, and didn't resonate with customers. And though Microsoft will always be able to claim that Windows 9 wouldn't have been possible without the important foundational work they had done first with Windows 8—just as was the case with Windows 7 and Windows Vista—there's no way to sugarcoat this. Windows 8 has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good.

This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

From 2008. But they haven't moved since then. You never know when you might want to know.

Andrew Cunningham:

That's what bothers me the most about Chrome OS. It's not that you can't do a lot with a Chromebook. It's not even about getting used to different tools. It's just that the operating system works so differently from established desktop operating systems that you'll have to alter many of your normal workflows. No one's saying it's impossible to do, but for people used to something else it can be a laborious process.

All of these complaints aside, I was able to cover the majority of CES with the Chromebook 11. I had one full cheat day on Monday, because I need Windows or OS X to run our image uploading tools for liveblogs and I didn't want to carry two laptops around all day. Even the biggest sticking point—importing and manipulating images—could have been circumvented in part with a card reader dongle (or better yet, a Haswell Chromebook with an SD card slot integrated). Even during the few times when I was without a reliable Internet connection throughout the show, Google's apps and the Outlook Web App's offline modes are robust enough that I could still get things done.

One of his biggest complaints was that he couldn't edit RAW files from his camera, or edit video. Commenters then pointed out that he could have handled RAW with an iPad app. And maybe edited the video.

LG&E and KU Energy LLC, Kentucky's biggest electric utility, shows how Apple gains a foothold inside companies, and then expands its reach.

The utility, a subsidiary of PPL Corp, approved the iPhone for employees in 2010. It then introduced iPads, and built apps such as one to help its helicopter patrollers survey 5,500 miles of high-voltage power lines. Using an iPad's global-positioning system, patrollers can pinpoint the location of a problem and select from a menu of common issues, such as a damaged pole or an overgrown tree.

"For years, we looked for some way to automate this and we heard all sorts of fairy tales, but we could never find anything," said Robby Trimble, LG&E and KU's manager of transmission-line services.

Now, the utility's engineers who run power plants use iPads to record how much electricity is generated. Warehouse managers use the tablet to scan bar codes and track the utility's tools and materials.

"People start with the iPhone. It's the tip of the spear," said Chip Pearson, chief executive of JAMF Software LLC, which helps businesses deploy Apple products. JAMF says its software manages five times as many as Apple phones, tablets and computers as three years ago.

At Cisco, which in 2009 let staff choose their laptop, a quarter (about 35,000) of the company-provided laptops are Macs. Why? The network effect of needing Windows to run Windows software is weakening.

Christopher Budd:

As we outlined in our predictions for 2014, "Blurring Boundaries: Trend Micro Security Predictions for 2014 and Beyond", when it comes to Windows XP and Java 6, we really do have unprecedented conditions coming together for a perfect storm for attacks against these legacy platforms. The coming end of support for Windows XP combined with Java 6 (which is already out of support) and the issue of how broadly these legacy platforms are deployed means we are likely looking at the largest number of unpatched and attackable vulnerabilities in history. If that doesn't describe a perfect storm, I don't know what does.

For those tempted to write this off as "crying wolf", remember that as many as 2m Windows PCs running Java may have been infected by malware via ads on the Yahoo homepage in Europe over the new year.

[New chief executive John] Chen says the main market for BlackBerry, at least in places like the US, is as a tool for businesses, particularly those in heavily regulated markets such as the financial industry. BlackBerry isn't going to win by competing for the latest games and apps, but instead needs to focus on being the best at getting work done.

It also helps explain why BlackBerry sued Typo, the Ryan Seacrest-backed startup that makes an add-on keyboard for the iPhone.

And while Chen says BlackBerry is sticking with the device business (albeit with Foxconn as a manufacturing partner), he said the company needs to first shore up its core product for businesses — the server software used to manage mobile devices.

If keyboards are BlackBerry's future, why is it understood to be getting Foxconn to make a non-keyboard BB10 phone for release in Indonesia?

FLIR ONE™ is a non-contact device that detects infrared energy (heat) and converts it into an electronic signal, which is then processed to produce a thermal image on your phone screen and perform temperature calculations. Heat sensed by an infrared camera can be very precisely measured, allowing you to use the FLIR ONE™ in a variety of practical and fun ways by revealing a thermal world not visible to the unaided eye.

Shown off at CES. You can't think of many consumer uses for a thermal camera, but the commercial applications are plentiful; another example of the way that smartphones are becoming the universal tool.

Airlines are putting tablets in the cockpit, replacing heavy flight bags and saving on fuel in the process. But while American and other airlines are using iPads, Delta went in another direction: the Microsoft Surface 2. Bloomberg's Olivia Sterns hits the flight deck to find out why.

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