Posts Tagged

change

How COVID-19 should change laptop and browser priorities

Disclosure:  Most of the vendors mentioned are clients of the author.

This last week was surprisingly busy, given that most of us are locked in our homes, trying to recall what normal is like. Microsoft announced significant changes with its Chromium Edge browser that significantly addressed the problems we focused on before the pandemic, and both Intel and AMD drove laptop refreshes.

Still, those designs originated from conditions that existed before the Pandemic, not the world that now exists. 

So let’s talk about where I think the next security focus for browsers will be and what laptops post COVID-19 may begin to look like this week.

Browser user protection

The Chromium-based Edge browser is a wonder in that it combines the core code from Google with the unique user-oriented features from Microsoft.  It is my Go-To browser, and these updates include better password management (including Dark Web alerting) and far more aggressive privacy features eliminating tracking and history when needed.  They also include a whole host of productivity features like preserving formatting with copy and past and vastly improved favorites management. 

All of those things are still important. But with the COVID-19 outbreak, another more substantial threat has become far more problematic: false information.

 Atlas VPN research just released a study showing there has been a whopping 1,900% increase in scam websites from February to March – and as of April 2,  35,500 websites were pushing false information and products.  According to VPN Research, Interpol is reporting that people in Europe have been scammed out of $2 million, with individual losses as much as $100,000 each. And this is still just the start. 

So I expect that the next version of Microsoft Edge Chromium will have a feature that helps users identify scam sites and fake news, much as Microsoft addressed the threats from last year with the current release. 

Laptop evolution

The way we worked with laptops before the outbreak is that they generally went to highly mobile people; thus, the emphasis was on size, weight, and battery life, not performance or large screen size. The most common size was, and is, 13 inches, which is great for portability but not that great for productivity.  Now, while road warriors won’t go away, the demand is for a product that gives you a home office with full functionality, that can help you work where you need to be, whether that be in the living room or kitchen while you watch your kids. 

Performance becomes more critical because you’ll probably not only be doing more creative work; you are also going to want to unwind (with games) ­– making performance, screen size, and productivity more important than portability.  I’m going back and forth on battery life because, while that may not be critical in the living room or kitchen, it could be necessary on the patio and to avoid cord trip hazards. 

As I was thinking on this, HP sent over an HP Envy 17; I think it is an ideal configuration for those working from home than a 13-in. laptop.  It has a 17-in.  screen, the 10th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce MX330 discrete graphics system, Wi-Fi 6, 124GB of memory, and a 512GB drive.  It does weigh 6 pounds, and the four-cell battery will only give you a few hours of battery life. But that is adequate when you are mostly stationary and are rarely away from a plug. (It also appears to have decent Bang & Olufsen speakers in case you want to drown out the kids.)

Given the current-use model, this design makes more sense to me – though for a future product, I’d want a higher NIT screen so it would work outside better and some cosmetic changes that might make it easier to disinfect.  

I also wonder whether the market would now accept a 21-in. product, given the  changed usage model. For this kind of work-at-home model, a larger screen, more power, and a more easily cleaned format will – if this pandemic goes on for months – become a much more viable option. 

Wrapping up

We are going to see a lot of changes as a result of COVID-19.  I’ve focused on two in terms of browser security focus and laptop design.  We are working very differently, and until an anti-virus exists, most of us will likely still be working from home, avoiding travel, and keeping away from significant events.  I doubt CES 2021 will happen because we aren’t expected to have an anti-virus until at least next February.     

The related behavior changes also suggest that if you are buying a new laptop, you may want to adjust your priorities to take into account your current needs and not buy based on what they might have been the standard before the outbreak.  Consider something more substantial, with more performance over smaller designs because the size of the display does matter, and productivity, not portability, is what pays your bills.   

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

3 tech advances that will change PCs forever

Disclaimer:  Most of the companies mentioned are clients of the author.

With the impact of COVID-19, sales of laptops – particularly Chromebooks for education – have been going vertical, and several OEMs are reporting shortages. But the most common clamshell design goes back to the early 1990s, well before recent advances in processor technology, GPUs, memory, storage, operating systems, displays and even battery formulations.  We keep playing with different variants like the coming Microsoft Surface Neo, but they still fall well short of what you might have expected to evolve in the last 30 or so years. 

There are three coming technology advances that will dramatically change not only how we work, but what we use – changes some of which are currently accelerating thanks to the ongoing pandemic. 

Let’s talk this week about what’s coming and the future of PC hardware.

5G and Virtual Windows

I’m going to start by blending two technologies that together should drive a massive change in what goes into future PCs.  With 5G, we get near wired fiber-like performance that isn’t just related to bandwidth but to the AI technology surrounding the modem, which further optimizes the data stream and makes it both higher performing and vastly more reliable.  To make a virtualized Cloud experience work, you need a very robust connection, and 4G just doesn’t get us there. But, according to Qualcomm, 5G hardware will directly address this issue and provide a way for those with 5G hardware to have a virtual terminal with hosted workstation performance. 

This advance wouldn’t work unless Microsoft stepped up, and it has  with the Microsoft Virtual Desktop. The combination of these two things means you don’t need the processing power required to run applications locally. Instead, you’ll run them in the Cloud, shifting the performance emphasis from what we currently think of as PC technology (processor, GPU, storage, memory) to the modem and the Cloud itself, where you then are likely to see bottlenecks. 

This change should provide substantially more flexibility in design then we currently have. 

Head-mounted displays

We have made a lot of advances in head-mounted displays over the last five years.   The coming HP Reverb 2 VR headset will be as much of a game-changer as the company’s high-performance first edition.   Current generations of VR headsets have cameras so you can still effectively see what is around you.  Coupled with imaging software that can incorporate what the camera sees, you could address the one sustaining problem with living with a head-mounted display: the inability to see a keyboard for finger placement, and being isolated from the things around you. 

The use of a very high-resolution head-mounted display would address one of the biggest problems with current laptops, the limited size of the screen.  With a very high resolution, you can effectively make the virtual display you see in a head-mounted display any size you want, making large monitors redundant by providing a far more portable alternative. 

This change also frees up designers to get more creative with laptop case designs because the size of the display will no longer constrain them.  They might even break out the keyboard and come up with wearable designs that plug into or wirelessly connect to the head-mounted display, keyboard, and pointing device which, could be modular as well. 

Battery breakthroughs

It may be hard to get excited about battery tech because we’ve had so many promising battery breakthroughs that never made it to market.  Part of the problem is that for decades we didn’t focus much on batteries; only in the last few years have we started investing in battery R&D again.  While this delayed approach did result in a lot of false starts and disappointments, someone was eventually likely to get it right. A company called Echion Technologies suddenly looks interesting. 

This company, spun out of Cambridge University, has created a high-performance battery that can reportedly recharge in just six minutes at nearly any size.  This advance would not only revolutionize laptops, it would dramatically overcome the big refueling negative for electric cars. 

What makes the technology promising is that Echion Technologies was designed not to develop the technology but to commercialize it.  While its one-year time frame to bring the technology to market was too aggressive (given that it’s now been around for more than a year), it still appears to be far closer to success than other technologies ever got. 

Another emerging technology is Supercapacitors, which many thought would replace batteries last decade. Supercapacitors not only charge far faster than batteries, but they also don’t wear out, making them ideal for both personal electronics and cars.  Shortcomings have been energy leakage, energy density – and cost.   While farther out than Echion’s battery, this group involving Duke University and Michigan State appears to have a viable model that seems to be within five years of being ready for market.  If it makes it, this new battery alternative would massively change the power dynamics for PC and other personal currently battery-powered tech. 

Since most of the articles I’ve seen showcasing this Supercapacitor capability tie into wearables, the idea of a small wearable PC becomes far more viable once this technology becomes real. 

The impending birth of a broad market wearable PC

We’ve had wearable PCs since the early days of this century, but they’ve tended to be very limited and focused on tasks where a user is working, needs a PC, but also needs to work hands free. These were historically used for things like taking inventory, and more recently, as high-performance VR platforms (HP’s wearable PC comes to mind).  But they tend to be large, heavy, and impractical as a day-to-day PC solution. 

However, if you were to shrink them down, make them more affordable, give them a far better mixed-reality headset that better integrates the user into both real and virtual worlds, and use Cloud resources to boost performance, I think you’d have something that has the potential to obsolesce everything currently in the market. 

Within the next five years, all of these parts should come together to create a PC revolution.  As I sit at my desktop working to finish this column so I can put on my own VR headset and play Half-Life Alyx (the first VR Game that could drive widespread VR use), I’m reminded how much better it will be when I can unplug and genuinely use a PC anyplace I am or want to go.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

How the Apple Car will drive IT change

Apple knows where cars are going.

A huge trove of patents, executive statements, leaks, sightings and informed predictions all point to a breathtaking future for the Apple automobile.

The problem is that large organizations aren’t thinking in the same way.

It’s time to shed our delusions, misconceptions and blind spots about the Apple car. Starting with the big one.

The Apple Car is not a car

We live our lives in four spaces:

  1. Home
  2. Work
  3. While in transit
  4. None of the above

Apple dominates spaces 1, 2 and 4 (the last one with its iPhone and Apple Watch).

Future cars will be self-driving, and therefore will exist for work, communication and content consumption. Apple intends to dominate that space as well. And that’s why Apple is aggressively working on Project Titan, it’s incredible car project.

Apple is the most valuable company in the world because it re-invented the music experience with the iPod, the phone with the iPhone, the tablet with the iPad.

These products — and certainly not laptops and desktops — won’t allow Apple to continue growing. Nor will “services” (although financial services will help in the next five years).

[ Related: How the iPhone 11’s U1 chip will change everything ]

No, in order to sustain growth, Apple needs to re-invent something that most people use daily. Something expensive. A car. And that’s what they’re working on.

Our instincts about cars are stuck in the past. We think about gasoline and pistons and steering wheels and trunk space — a business completely unrelated to Apple’s business.

The car of the future is totally within Apple’s wheelhouse. It’s an advance …. 

Log in or subscribe to Insider Pro to read the full 1,326-word article.

 

Apple knows where cars are going.

A huge trove of patents, executive statements, leaks, sightings and informed predictions all point to a breathtaking future for the Apple automobile.

The problem is that large organizations aren’t thinking in the same way.

It’s time to shed our delusions, misconceptions and blind spots about the Apple car. Starting with the big one.

The Apple Car is not a car

We live our lives in four spaces:

  1. Home
  2. Work
  3. While in transit
  4. None of the above

Apple dominates spaces 1, 2 and 4 (the last one with its iPhone and Apple Watch).

Future cars will be self-driving, and therefore will exist for work, communication and content consumption. Apple intends to dominate that space as well. And that’s why Apple is aggressively working on Project Titan, it’s incredible car project.

Apple is the most valuable company in the world because it re-invented the music experience with the iPod, the phone with the iPhone, the tablet with the iPad.

These products — and certainly not laptops and desktops — won’t allow Apple to continue growing. Nor will “services” (although financial services will help in the next five years).

No, in order to sustain growth, Apple needs to re-invent something that most people use daily. Something expensive. A car. And that’s what they’re working on.

Our instincts about cars are stuck in the past. We think about gasoline and pistons and steering wheels and trunk space — a business completely unrelated to Apple’s business.

The car of the future is totally within Apple’s wheelhouse. It’s an advance electronics device that competes on the quality of its digital technology: artificial intelligence (Cook described cars as the “the mother of all A.I. projects”) networking, spacial sensors, cameras, data processing, user interfaces (screen, gesture and voice), augmented reality, user-selected apps, digital security systems, hybrid cloud infrastructure and other technologies.

[ Related: How the iPhone 11’s U1 chip will change everything ]

From a data processing and security perspective, every future car in the fleet will be the IT equivalent of a large satellite office.

The car of the future is a next-generation PC, tablet, smartphone and augmented reality experience all in one highly mobile, wireless package.

Enterprises and other large organizations will own and operate fleets of future cars for all kinds of purposes. And the IT impact will be astronomical.

Why Apple is way ahead on cars

Even industry experts dismiss the idea that Apple’s Titan project as being way behind. And when it comes to the self-driving part, that’s true. But when it comes to envisioning the totality of the car and the experience of its occupants, Apple is light years ahead of everybody.

Titan disbelievers often cling to the baseless believe that Apple is working on the software only. In fact, they’re working on the navigation part, the interior part, the functional car body part — the whole car.

Apple hired a hardware engineer from Tesla named Doug Field to head the Titan project. Field’s job at Tesla was to oversee Model 3 production before being assigned by Elon Musk to head vehicle design.

A German publication called Manager Magazin last year reported that their sources claim Apple is working on a sort of van, rather than a sedan type car. That’s consistent with envision the future car as an office or living room on wheels.

The company also owns patents for using sensors and computers to boost stability while driving based on sensor-based analysis of the road surface, as well as a suite of technologies (including haptics) for generating a smoother rise. They’re also looking to innovate through new technology for shock-absorbing bumpers.

[ Related: Why Apple beats Google in the smartphone ‘radar wars’ ]

Apple is even working on a wireless charging system for cars, according to patents like this one.

Other patents point to Apple’s intention to create a car with high structural integrity, low weight and aesthetic minimalism.

One patent for how Apple Car doors could work and a patent for how the base of a car could be constructed reveal an extreme level of detail about the realities of car aesthetics, impact during accidents and manufacturing.

Apple would also replace side mirrors with cameras that project side-view information on the windscreen, which both eliminates unsightly mirrors, and also eliminates blind spots.

Apple has other patents that could re-invent sunroofs, seatbelts and other components.

One could assume that Apple would launch an all-electric car, like Tesla cars. But in fact Apple has patents that keep the door open for gas/electric hybrid cars.

One of Apple’s specialties is user interfaces. Apple has wild patents for lighting the interior of a car with fiber optics on the other side of transparent and translucent polymers, as well as being embedded in windows, the windshield, the head and tail lights and other elements. These would create customized moods, and also convey information.

The company has also done extensive work on using in-the-air gestures and Siri for controlling a car.

Apple has even developed patents for a new kind of car seat.

Cook himself told Bloomberg in a public interview that Apple is “focusing” on self-driving autonomous systems.

An Apple research paper outlines a system called VoxelNet, which uses lidar combined with cameras for high-performance detection people and objects.

Apple’s lidar rigs have been spotted on top of Lexus SUVs driving around Silicon Valley.

Last summer Apple acquired self-driving car startup Drive.ai.

Other reports indicate that Apple is looking to innovate in lowering the cost of mass-producing lidar equipment.

Yet, other Apple patents point to human driven cars. One patent, for example, envisions remote-control systems taking over when the human driver has to be driven to the hospital. In other words, if a human driver can’t drive, another human in some remote control room somewhere takes control of the car.

Cook also said explicitly that Apple is working on the cars themselves, and also an Uber-like ride-sharing service.

When cars are self-driving, there will be nothing to do except for consume content, work and communicate. It’s a combination of an office and play room.

One Apple patent reveals how advanced Apple’s thinking on this has been. The company developed a method for designing a car to minimize nausea while using virtual reality headsets.

Will Apple really build and make cars?

In the summer of 2018, Forbes Transportation writer David Silver correctly pointed out that an Apple car would “require an automotive Foxconn.”

For years, Apple worked with what at the time was the world’s only automobile contract manufacturer, Austria’s Magna Steyr, which is a kind of Foxconn, but for cars. It’s not clear if Apple is still working with Magna Steyr.

But the “automotive Foxconn” might be Foxconn itself. We learned last month that Fiat Chrysler is talking with Foxconn about forming a joint venture to build electric vehicles for the China market.

Regardless of whether the deal happens or not, iPhone manufacturer Foxconn says it wants 10 percent of their future revenue to come from the contract manufacturing of cars.

Apple is way ahead on its vision for the car of the future. It’s coming, probably as early as 2026.

It’s time to start thinking about the Apple Car, and cars of the future generally, as IT challenge that it will become. Tomorrow’s cars are not just about transportation, shipping and delivery. They’re about terabytes of data generated daily that will have to be managed, provisioned, processed and secured.

We’re at the point with cars that we were with phones in 2005. Nobody knew how they’d be used. Nobody thought Apple would define the space. Nobody thought they’d big a big deal for IT.

It’s time to come to terms with the fact that, for IT, cars will be the new smartphones.





Source link

Coronavirus (and 5G) will boost telecommuting, change our tech future

Disclaimer: Most of the vendors mentioned are clients of the author.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) seems to be doing everything it can to keep from naming the coronavirus a pandemic, we are likely already past that point.  The combination of a long gestation period, where people are contagious but not showing symptoms, and a fatality rate that is too low to burn the virus out but too high to treat like a cold, will change behavior.  As I write this, Facebook has canceled F8; this follows the cancellation of Mobile World Congress and increasing speculation that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be cancelled, too. With no immunization process yet available, we’re months away from when this illness will peak, suggesting that companies need to rethink travel, telecommuting, and even how we hold meetings on-site. 

Now is the time to start rethinking how companies provision workers, both to telecommute and to avoid group meetings where viruses could spread. Maybe it is time we started looking at converged communications platforms so that our employees can far more easily collaborate without physically coming into contact with each other. 

Let’s talk about how a pandemic is likely to change what we use for personal technology and how that intersects with work needs.

The evolution of personal tech

PCs and Smartphones evolved very differently.  We started with typewriters, which became electric, then became connected (teletype), then got screens (as terminals), then added computing capabilities (PCs), and finally, became portable. That evolution was tied to advances in technology, not necessarily to productivity or an initially defined human need. For example, had we been more focused on productivity, we would have changed the QWERTY keyboard layout – it arose from a need to keep typewriter keys from getting tangled – and used a more efficient design. 

Smartphones came from wired phones, evolved into wireless phones, then merged with two-way pagers to become smartphones focused on business. Then, thanks to Apple and the iPhone, they made a hard pivot to entertainment. (It’s a pivot that a lot of industries like defense, healthcare and finance would like to see pivot back.)

There was an effort to tie the phone and the computermore closely  together on the desk with the old AT&T/NCR and IBM/ROLM Systems efforts; that largely died out with the PBX market.  Now, the closest thing we have to a unified communications solution is the smartphone.  Both Dell and Microsoft have created applications that better tie the phone and PC together. While both applications are handy, neither effort has yet forced a change in a blended solution. 

The rise of telecommuting

At this point, telecommuting has seen varied acceptance. It generally works well for people who are self-starters and enjoy working alone, who have a job that doesn’t require constant collaboration or physical proximity to some types of work product. (Manufacturing, for instance, would require a lot more robotics and remote viewing capabilities to make telecommuting viable; these options exist, but haven’t been consistently applied to the problem). 

There is a bigger concern with employees: when it comes to raises and promotions, the belief is that remote workers are disadvantaged. A lot of managers and executives still believe that remote workers waste time and don’t focus on work. As a result, some companies will talk up telecommuting when the job market is tight to attract new talent, then curtail it when there is a labor surplus for a perceived gain in productivity. 

Recent studies have shown that there is no career disadvantage to working remotely, particularly when it is common company policy.  It is interesting to note, however, that when telecommuters increased face-to-face contact, either in person or through teleconferencing, they saw faster salary growth. 

5G, the cloud and ‘holoportation’

One of the things Qualcomm demonstrated recently with 5G and the latest Lenovo/Microsoft “Always Connected PC” device – the Yoga 5G – is that portable workstation-class performance is achievable. And with 5G, you get latency and performance capabilities that potentially exceed what’s now available in the office with a hard-wired network connection. 

This cloud capability means you can use relatively inexpensive hardware connected to the cloud to give a remote employee more scalable performance than they’d have in the office, short of their high-end workstation hard-wired into the network. 

Another thing coming with 5G, and this was demonstrated with Facebook’s Oculus effort, is the ability to have an untethered Extended Reality headset and use it for telecommuting. Microsoft has been demonstrating interactive Telepresence (Holoportation) with Hololens. When you realize that even on-site meetings are likely to be a thing of the past shortly, it’s one way to keeping people isolated from each other and slow the progression of illnesses like coronavirus to manageable levels.

When you make an Extended Reality headset part of the solution, you should be able to lose the display on the laptop and smartphone and use only the head-mounted display instead.  The device, if used consistently, can put you in a virtual cubicle, an office – or by a canal in France, depending on where you’d like to be working. 

Wrapping up:  The blended telecommuting solution of the future

The main elements for a not-too-distant telecommuting system include a comfortable Extended Reality headset like the current generation Hololens or Occulus; a computing device that is 5G connected (likely your Smartphone); a keyboard; a portable pointing solution (which could be your finger); and an integrated cloud solution that unifies your communications, blending visual and audio capabilities.

This set-up, coupled with the right software and communications technology, would better integrate a remote worker with his or her  increasingly also remote peers. And it would allow you to work anyplace you wanted with full computing capability – be that in a cubicle, at home, or in a bunker with a 5G signal. 

In the end, I think the coronavirus problem will force us first to reconsider telecommuting and then reconsider how we provision remote workers to take advantage of the technology of today. The days of the wired phone and typewriter are larehly gone. 

I expect most companies will be late to embrace change this time. But recognizing something like coronavirus is likely to happen again, the corporate world will be forced to change to avod damage from our increasingly hostile future. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

Microsoft retreats from scheme to change Chrome’s search engine

Microsoft today backed away from its heavily criticized plan to force Google’s Chrome to use the Bing search engine.

“The Microsoft Search in Bing extension will not ship with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus,” Microsoft said in an unsigned post to a company blog.

Late last month, Microsoft had quietly announced that it would change the default search engine of Google’s Chrome to Bing — Microsoft’s own search service — on personal computers running Office 365 ProPlus, the productivity applications that serve as the heart of enterprise-grade Office 365 subscriptions.

The swap of search defaults within Chrome was to begin this month and wrap up by July, the timing dependent on when corporate IT administrators had scheduled Office 365 ProPlus’ upgrades. “Starting with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus, an extension for Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed that makes Bing the default search engine for the Google Chrome web browser,” Microsoft said when it delivered the news. “This extension will be installed with new installations of Office 365 ProPlus or when existing installations of Office 365 ProPlus are updated.”

Microsoft also said that it would do the same to Office 365 ProPlus customers’ copies of Firefox, although it left the timing to an unspecified later date.

The reason for the forced change to search, Microsoft said, was that Bing was required to implement Microsoft Search, which when tied to an Office 365 account let users look up internal information — documents stored on OneDrive or SharePoint, for example — from the browser’s address bar.

Microsoft’s new Edge browser, which like Chrome is built from code produced by the Google-dominated Chromium open-source project, used Bing by default and so could search for and find such information. By adding the extension to Chrome, and later Firefox, Microsoft would put those browsers’ users on an equal Office 365 footing with ones running Edge.

In plainer terms, Microsoft was more interested in pushing a notable Office 365 feature, and thus Office 365, than it was in getting permission from users before switching browser search defaults.

Reaction to the announcement came fast and furious, with many tossing off comments such as “Are you out of your mind?” and “insanely stupid.” Virtually every remark seen by Computerworld was negative, with large numbers equating the move to browser hijacking. Many called on Microsoft to at least get prior approval from customers — make it opt-in — if it wasn’t going to outright cancel the project.

By all appearances, Microsoft has shot down the idea of serving the add-on to all Office 365 ProPlus users running non-Edge browsers, thus shutting down the initiative.

“The Microsoft Search in Bing browser extension will not be automatically deployed with Office 365 ProPlus,” the company said in the blog post, adding that enterprise IT staff would be able to opt-in from the Microsoft 365 admin center. “In the near term, Office 365 ProPlus will only deploy the browser extension to AD-joined devices, even within organizations that have opted in,” Microsoft continued, referring to Active Directory.

It also pledged to “provide end users … with control over their search engine preference.”

Yet users sought clarification of the company’s language, suspicious that the extension would still be pushed to some, if not all, users. “Can you clarify ‘will only deploy the browser extension to AD-joined devices, even within organizations that have opted in‘? Maybe you mean you will only deploy ONLY within organizations that have opted in?” asked Jonas Beck in a comment appended to the blog.

Meanwhile, another commentator simply wasn’t buying Microsoft’s claim that “We’ve heard from many customers who are excited about the value Microsoft Search provides through Bing and the simplicity of deploying that value through Office 365 ProPlus.”

“Where? Who? I have not seen one single positive comment about this change anywhere — not on Twitter, not as comments on your own blog posts, not in magazines or blogs, not on reddit, not on other forums. Show us one,” demanded Michael Smith. “This was just stupid. And enough to erase a LOT of goodwill you had been earning.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link