Microsoftware, definitely not hardware. LOL. Oops.

Microsoft is permanently closing its retail stores:

Microsoft on Friday announced it will permanently close its 83 Microsoft Store retail locations. It will instead focus on its online store at Microsoft.com, where customers can go for support, sales, training and more.

Microsoft said its retail team members will help on the website instead of in store. A Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC that all Microsoft employees will have the opportunity to stay with Microsoft.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter said in a blog post. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.”

Translation: Hardware is hard. We were a day late and a dollar short.

Also, alcantara was a really bad idea.

Categories:

Product, Technology

Surface Earbuds

Of course Microsoft would release the least sexy earbuds of all time:

Surface Earbuds via Engadget

You could say Microsoft has evolved over the last 40 years. Partilcularly within the last 8 years with the introduction of their Surface tablet, yet underlying all their facelifts and capped teeth, they’re still the company Steve Jobs accurately described as having absolutely no taste.

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Product

No, Adobe XD won’t kill Sketch and InVision. At least not this year.

As I sift through old links I had intended on posting to this site but never did, I occassionally come across links that got better with age, or at the very least got more amusing.

Will Adobe XD kill Sketch and InVision?:

Adobe XD’s future is looking very bright and will win over many Sketch users. InVision’s change of focus may ensure its survival but one thing is for certain, Adobe XD is here to stay. The Adobe powerhouse is strong, and smaller companies like InVision and Sketch will have to work hard to stay relevant in the future.

That article was written over a year ago. Ancient in Internet years.

From my vantage point here in May of 2020, I can attest to the fact that both Sketch and InVision are alive and well. I use both almost daily at my job at Grio.

Adobe XD is still in the game, though. One of my engineering managers DM’d me on Slack the other day asking me, “Curious whether Adobe XD is widely used?” and then shared an article about Adobe XD supporting Flutter.

The competition between design tools in the last 5-6 years reminds me of the competition between cameras on pocket computers. In the spring of any given year the Google Pixel has the best camera. Then in the fall the latest iPhone has the best camera. Then the latest Samsung Galaxy is on top the following spring. Rinse, repeat.

Without knowing the marketshare of Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD, I can say that at least from a mindshare perspective the main competition right now appears to be between the ‘Coke & Pepsi’ of the design tool world, which are Sketch & Figma. I know agencies that only use one or the other, as well as others that use both, depending on the client and the project type. While I know many people who use InVision for sharing work with clients and within project teams and developers, I don’t know anyone using inVision Studio to create designs with.

It will be interesting to see where these applications stand next year.

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Crownless

Tom Maxwell, reporting for Input Magazine, says Apple may lose the digital crown on next year’s Apple Watch:

While most rumors corroborate the idea that Watch Series 6 will be an iterative update, there’s also been talk of Apple making big changes with the next iteration, Series 7. It’s been reported by several outlets that Apple is considering bringing Touch ID to the Apple Watch so that users can unlock their Watch and authenticate purchases without an iPhone nearby. In one mock-up published by EverythingApplePro, the new Series 7 even sees Apple drop the iconic Digital Crown in favor of a touch-sensitive strip that accepts fingerprint scans and can also be swiped for navigation. With the Series 7 likely still a full generation out, though, we’re not going to hold our breath on that one.

Input Editor-in-Chief, Joshua Topolsky, tweeted out on April 13th, “Horrible”, in reference to the above article. Of course disgust, confusion, and anger are common responses to things people don’t (yet) understand.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Topolsky decried the removal of the Home button on the iPhone X. If Twitter had search functionality worth a damn I’d look.

The point is, don’t knock it ’till you try it. Until then, shut the fuck up.

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Product, Technology

Quibi and mindshare versus marketshare

Quibi, the newest video-streaming kid on the block launched yesterday:

Quibi, the oddly-named mobile streaming service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, was downloaded over 300,000 times on launch day, according to preliminary data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower. That’s only 7.5% of the approximately 4 million installs Disney+ saw when it launched in the U.S. and Canada on November 12, 2019. However, it was enough to send Quibi’s app to nearly the top of the charts on the App Store. Today, Quibi is the No. 3 app on the Apple App Store, but only No. 29 on Google Play.

The disparity once again highlights iOS’s mindshare versus Android’s marketshare. Sure, Android’s install base towers over iOS’s but iOS users spend more. How many millions of shitty, budget Android pocket computers are out there, not being used by people because they’re not fun to use?

Related news: This morning, Philip Elmer-DeWitt referenced a Piper Sandler survey revealing (not surprisingly), “A record 85% of U.S. teens own an iPhone, a record 88% want one.”

“such a tool is barely in its trial stages”

Gizmodo: Google Scrambles to Make the White House Seem Competent:

Google has announced that it’s partnering with the White House to create a national coronavirus website, which is totally related to whatever the hell the administration was talking about at Friday’s press conference. There, President Donald Trump vastly oversold and misattributed an upcoming, supposedly Google-run project to build a “nationwide” coronavirus screening site to direct people to nearby “drive through” testing depending on their symptoms.

In reality—as Google clarified in a frantic tweet just hours later—such a tool is barely in its trial stages at Verily, Google’s sister-company under the Alphabet umbrella, and it will only be useful for people in the San Francisco Bay Area for the foreseeable future. It purportedly wasn’t even intended to be publically available until White House staff dropped the ball.

A person familiar with the matter told the New York Times that Verily’s pilot program (not a website—that’s still yet to be announced) is planned to launch Monday and can direct Bay Area residents exhibiting flagged symptoms to a total of three testing locations. While still absolutely commendable, don’t get me wrong, that’s still significantly different and scaled-down from what Trump and co. were selling.

Anyone who works on websites and apps knows no one, not even Google, can launch a nationwide website in few days, or a few weeks. There’s many moving parts: design, development, databases, security, redundancy, HIPAA Compliance, and testing/QA to name just a few.

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Health, Product, Web Design

Solid State Watch

Currently on Kickstarter:

Solid State Watch is a Casio F-91W movement permanently cast into a transparent resin case. It’s in there forever. No buttons, no functions, no light, fully waterproof and no changing that 10 year battery.
It just tells time.

Solid State Watch

I love the idea, but as my friend Jory pointed out, the $160 price tag is hefty as shit considering you can buy a Casio F-91W for $11.

At the time of this posting, they have 308 backers who have contributed over $50,000 towards their $8,000 goal, so clearly there’s a market for this watch.

I can’t help but wonder when the project creators are going to grow tired of resin-coating and vacuum-sealing 300+ watches by hand? I think I’d grow annoyed after making ten.

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Crowdfunding, Product

I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen.

Android pocket computer manufacturers can’t hold back their excitement over folding screens. Samsung was so excited, it aired a Galaxy Z Flip commercial during the Super Bowl before it even announced the phone.

Motorola has taken the nostalgic angle with folding screens and reintroduced the RAZR. I remember when the original RAZR debuted in 2004. There was a ton of buzz surrounding it and its ~$350 pricetag (a hefty price for a folding phone at the time).

I know fashion moves in cycles, and old things become new again, but I’m not convinced the kids today are both nostolgic for a folding phone and really want a touchscreen that folds.

As far as other 40-somethings like me, I don’t see anyone rushing out to get either of these devices. After watching MKBHD’s unboxing and review video for the new RAZR, it’s clear Motorola put nostallgia and form ahead of function, doing everything they could to keep the same shape as the original RAZR in order to create a subpar device compared to other Android mobile computers.

I like seeing gadget experiments, but I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.

Not the Descendants of Cellular Phones

Geoffrey Fowler, in an article written for the Washington Post, considers the $1,000 to $1,400 price range of Samsung’s new Galaxy phones as, “hard to justify as much more than a luxury.”

John Gruber responds:

This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple’s phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that’s outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is ”hard to justify”? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary — usually only — camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600.

Gruber is correct, but there’s another problem I haven’t seen anyone address that’s been bothering me for quite some time, and that is: these are not phones, they’re pocket computers (feel free to come up with a better name).

If you look at a Galaxy S20 or an iPhone 11 Pro as the descendants of cellular phones, then, yes these are very expensive phones.

Now, on the other hand if you look at these as what they are: the evolution of computers, miniaturized, with the ability to shoot video, watch video, shoot photos, edit photos, map your trips via GPS, browse the Internet, send & receive email, send & receive text messages, read books, listen to music & podcasts, and maybe occasionally make & receive phone calls (to name just a few), then their price tags don’t seem that outlandish (whether or not most people take advantage of all these capabilities is another story).

As George Carlin said:

Because we do think in language. And so the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.

They’re pocket computers, not phones.

Categories:

Product, Technology

Essential Shuts Down

From The Verge:

Essential is shutting down less than three years after the startup unveiled its first smartphone. The company’s only complete product, the Essential Phone, sold poorly and received mixed reviews. A follow-up phone was canceled, and a number of other promised devices — like a smart home assistant and operating system — never materialized.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

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Product, Technology

To have a business you need to have more than a business?

The Verge has a profile on electric skateboard startup Boosted:

Born out of a Stanford startup incubator in 2012, Boosted pretty much single-handedly popularized the idea of electric skateboards — or, more specifically, remote-controlled longboards powered by electric motors. The company launched an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter that same year and started shipping in 2014. Co-founder and former CEO Sanjay Dastoor often talked about wanting to grow Boosted beyond skateboards into a company that made “last-mile” vehicles in other form factors. But it wasn’t until he stepped down and was replaced by fellow Stanford mechanical engineering grad Jeff Russakow in 2017 that Boosted tried to make that happen.

It seems that in today’s day and age it’s not sufficient to have a great idea and turn that idea into a business. There’s this urge to weaponize your company into something that can take on anything and everything. “No! We’re not an electric skateboard company! In a year we’ll be making autonomous cars and Mars rovers!”

Granted their entrance into the electric scooter market is a natural extension of their skateboard business, but shouldn’t you have success with your core product before expanding and diversifying?

It’s always about raising money, never making money.

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Business, Product

The iPad has fallen short.

Gruber feelings on the iPad:

The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one. To reach that potential, Apple needs to recognize they have made profound conceptual mistakes in the iPad user interface, mistakes that need to be scrapped and replaced, not polished and refined. I worry that iPadOS 13 suggests the opposite — that Apple is steering the iPad full speed ahead down a blind alley.

I agree with Gruber that the iPad has not lived up to its original mission, but don’t think the future is as dire as he paints it. Apple can still course correct things. The question is, though, whether they will.

Categories:

Interface, Product, Software

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Samsung. Fixing what’s not broken.®

Engadget – Samsung Galaxy S11 renders show an even more complicated camera array (my emphasis):

Reputed leaker @onleaks has unveiled new renders of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S11 that show the selfie camera shifted from the right side to the center. The images, created by 91 Mobile, also show a new rear camera array, a screen that’s more curved than the Galaxy S10, new button positions and more. The renders are based on a “very reliable and first level industry source,” according to @onleaks.

If everything is accurate (and that’s a big “if,” given that Galaxy S11 isn’t due to be released until next year), then the new camera position will likely be welcomed by buyers. As it stands now, taking selfies with the S10 can be a bit tricky due to the offset camera position.

Fragile, half-baked folding phones that don’t fit in your pocket, front-facing cameras that don’t point at your face.

What the fuck you doin’ over there in South Korea, Samsung?

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Product