Jan 14

Bimodal tablets (Windows and Android). Remember them when they’re gone. Again.

I hope these rumors are wrong, but for some odd reason, the Web is full of rumors that this year’s CES will bring a glut of bimodal tablets; devices that are designed to run Windows 8.1, but also feature an integrated instance of Android. But why?

For years, Microsoft and Intel were seemingly the best of partners. While Microsoft had fleeting dalliances with other processor architectures, they always came back to Intel. There were clear lines in the sand;

  1. Intel made processors
  2. Microsoft made software
  3. Their mutual partners (ODMs and OEMs) made complete systems.

When Microsoft announced the Surface tablets, they crossed a line. Their partners (Intel and the device manufactures) were stuck in an odd place. Continue partnering just with Microsoft (now a competitor to manufacturers, and a direct purveyor of consumer devices with ARM processors), or find alternative counterpoints to ensure that they weren’t stuck in the event that Microsoft harmed their market.

For device manufacturers, this has meant what we might have thought unthinkable 3 years ago, with key manufacturers (now believing that their former partner is now also a competitor) building Android and Chrome OS devices. For Intel, it has meant looking even more broadly at what other operating systems they should ensure compatibility with, and evangelization of (predominantly Android).

While the Windows Store has grown in terms of app count, there are still some holes, and there isn’t really a gravitational pull of apps leading users to the platform. Yet.

So some OEMs, and seemingly Intel, have collaborated on this effort to glue together Windows 8.1 and Android on a single device, with the hopes that the two OSs combined in some way equate to “consumer value”. However, there’s really no clear sign that the consumer benefits from this approach, and in fact they really lose, as they’ve now got a Windows device with precious storage space consumed by an Android install of dubious value. If the consumer really wanted an Android device, they’re in the opposite conundrum.

Really, the OEMs and Intel have to be going into this strategy without any concern for consumers. It’s just about moving devices, and trying to ensure an ecosystem is there when they can’t (or don’t want to) bet on one platform exclusively. The end result is a device that instead of doing task A well, or task B well, does a really middling job with both of them, and results in a device that the user regrets buying (or worse, regrets being given).

BIOS manufacturers and OEMs have gone down this road several times before, usually trying to put Linux either in firmware or on disk as a rapid-boot dual use environment to “get online faster” or watch movies without waiting for Windows to boot/unhibernate. To my knowledge most devices that ever had these modes provided by the OEM were rarely actually used. Users hate rebooting, they get confused by where their Web bookmarks are (or aren’t) when they need them, etc.

These kinds of approaches rarely solve problems for users; in fact, they usually create problems instead, and are a huge nightmare in terms of management. Non-technical users are generally horrible about maintaining¬†one OS. Give them two on a single device? This will turn out quite well, don’t you think? In the end, these devices, unless executed flawlessly, are damaging to both the Windows and Android ecosystems, the OEMs, and Intel. Any bad experiences will likely result in returns, or exchanges for iPads.

Mar 13

Theology… theology… theology…

Feedback on yesterday’s post, both here and on Twitter, seemed to generally be relatively uniform.¬†Not so much divisive, but more along the lines of, “You think you’ve got it bad? Try bringing a Windows PC to a Mac environment.”

You all bring up a fair point. Personally, I find it amusing that I know of not one, but two technology journalists who at one time or another covered the religion beat on a local newspaper. Why is that amusing? Because technology isn’t really that different.

Think about it; in Windows, Apple, and Linux, we’ve got all the makings of three religions that can never be at peace with each other.

Each has fundamental belief systems, theological figureheads, and in Redmond and Cupertino, at least two of them have a central place where nerds of that respective tech cult frequently flock to.

Most significantly, though, each frequently brings with it’s theological belief system intolerance of the others. Each adopts gross generalizations about “how the other two-thirds live”. We’ve all heard it.

When it comes to non-tech theology, I have my own belief system. But you know what? When it comes to religion, politics, or technology, I’m a big believer that Wheaton’s Law still applies. Don’t be a dick to other people just because they do something that doesn’t mirror the choices you make.

Every technology (heck, every belief system) has pros and cons. Many of the pros one side will hold up are viewed by the other side(s) as cons. We don’t all have to agree on what technology is best. But can you imagine where we could get if we all could take a step back and observe the world from the perspective of other people who aren’t fanbois of our respective belief system (religion, politics, or technology? I think that could really take us beyond the angry comment troll realm to a world where we could actually move forward as a species.