Microsoft is redefining Innovation and why it matters

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Introduction

For once, Microsoft skeptics was spellbound at the latest Windows 10 devices event. They delivered their most important and needed update with the devices that support the all new Windows 10 operating system. The entire event was a blend of cutting edge innovation and snake oil salesmanship. May be too much of the former as the event reached its mid-point.

Overall, I loved what Microsoft has delivered and is finally surpassed in terms of the innovation they brought to the table with superior hardware design & deep machine learning integrated to all their devices.

There were FOUR major announcements and here are my take on each one of them.

HoloLens

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When I mentioned cutting edge, this is what I was talking about. From an experiment to an actual tangible kit. Just like how Microsoft paved the way for multi-touch interface, HoloLens is going to take VR to a whole new space. I can foresee how it is going to change the way be not only game and work but also the way we interact with each other. If one day Microsoft decides to make this tech open, its going to take Oculus, HTC Vive to the next level. For just $3000, you can get hold of the untethered development kit early 2016.

Microsoft Band 2

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Microsoft Band was initially positioned as a Fitbit competitor but now with Band 2 they have stepped up the game. Now it comes with an array of sensors like barometer, track elevation and a deep machine learning platform that makes sense and gives insights that no one fitness band gives. With third party apps on the way the new Band 2 just cost $249 and will be available this October.

Lumia Phones

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The all new Lumia lineup is spec heavy and is on par with the competition on paper. It Windows 10 OS with Continuum bring full desktop experience to a bigger screen and the phone won’t break a sweat. Because the 950 XL comes with the all new liquid cooling tech which dissipates heat efficiently, this is a new in smartphone technology. With unto 2TB expandable storage and OIS, its set to be a power player this 2015.

But what it scores in hardware, it lacks in the design department. It felt as if they were reusing some left over Nokia designs. I wish they’d used some Surface-like design and I bet they will in 2016.

The all new Lumia will be released in November and will cost $649.

Surface Pro 4

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If its not broken, why fix it? Microsoft’s next iteration with the Surface pro 4 takes what’s already working to the next level. They’ve stuck to the same hardware design and made it thinner and lighter. They’ve increase display size without increasing the footprint, increased the storage to 1TB, battery life to 12 hours, increased processing speeds and RAM. They’ve also thrown in a new shiny keyboard which thinner, lighter and well spaced keys. On top of that they upgraded the Surface Pen and mocked the Apple Pencil while at it.

For $899, the Surface Pro 4 should be available in October.

Surface Book

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This was the biggest surprise from Microsoft to date. This was there moment and they sized it. With the all new hinge, graphics card and battery life, I was blown away. And then they said you can detach the display and was blown all over again. It supports the Surface Pen, touch input and has an amazing keyboard.

The weird part was they kept comparing it to a Macbook Air but spec wise it was all Macbook Pro’s standard. This is Microsoft biggest bet yet.

Conclusion

Similar to Google building the Nexus Phones, Microsoft too wants to help their OEM’s be pointed in the right direction. The only turn off was Panos Panay and Brian Roper who sounded very sales-y, marketing mumbo-jumo and lacked the earnestness.

May be that is exactly what Microsoft needs to stand out from the rest.

In defense of Evernote, the last great Unicorn

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I have been an using Evernote for the longest time. It has not only helped me digitize and archive my life, it has also helped me simplify many of things which would’ve ended up on a napkin years ago. It helped me revisit ideas and materials years later and helped me rethink of better solutions that I can bring about today.
Evernote which started off as a note taking desktop application moved into the mobile app business. With there huge success they started rolling out many other applications and services that centered around archiving basically anything digital that you come across. They once used to have a plethora of products that used their massive archiving backend but now they streamlined it to FIVE main products;
  • Skitch, which helped you to annotate images
  • Web Clipper, it brought in Pocket like web archiving functionality.
  • Scannable, you could virtually scan any document it would capture your document and archive it with no manual cropping needed.
  • Penultimate was an acquisition that led to archiving hand drawn or written notes into Evernote. These are just to name a few. They have gone through multiple iterations to nail the right user interface and boy! they have the best app designs in the market today.
They have also partnered with multiple hardware vendors like Adonit, Moleskin & ScanSnap and worked on building hardware solutions that enable us to incorporate Evernote into our lives in a seamless way. 
So the $1 billion question is;
Is note taking dead? The answer is No.
Is Evernote the current King of the hill, Yes
Can it remain to be the King of the hill? No
Will there be a new king, No

Here’s why…

With the success of Evernote, every tech giant and start-up wants a piece of the pie. Google started building Keep, Microsoft started building OneNote, Pocket focused on archiving and many many more. Some of the aspects Evernote pioneered while some Evernote played catchup like the latest feature to date, WorkChat. This feature was introduced after the huge success of Slack, Whatapp and Facebook Messenger. Even I tried to take a crack at it with Sermonotes.
What I am saying is, there won’t be just one King instead there will be many Kings.

Why am I writing this?

This article is in response to an article i came across in the Business Insider called “Evernote, the first dead unicorn” written by Josh Dickson. In that article he discusses about how unicorn startups are no longer rare and are bound to be doomed, on how Phil Libin, Founder of Evernote is no longer passionate about leading the business and how Evernote tried everything and became the King of none.
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I read the article and saw how one dimensional his take was. He was hell bent on focusing on only one thing and that was Evernote was doomed and he would go to length to arrange half information to point in that direction. Here are a few such except was;

Evernote knows it. Late last year, the company attempted to roll out a messaging product, Work Chat. I reached out to a number of friends to ask if they had heard about it or used it at their company, with the answer being a resounding, “No and why is Evernote making a chat application?”

 

The product certainly seems to be a flop in the market. Many Evernote users want to remove it entirely from their note-taking software.

Me: OneNote has gone below the 100 mark multiple times while evernotes rankings looks like blips.
Looking at the Y-axis you can see its like comparing apple to watermelons
Showing reviews of evernpte versus snapchat…way to go!, basically reaffirming my watermelon statement above.
Is it really wrong to enter a new product late? Facebook entered the Messenger late, Google entered the note taking game late and Apple entered the TV console game late. How does one entering a new line of business amount to bad business? If I am using the logic of why enter the messenger business, then Apple wouldn’t have moved to the mobile computing business either.
He continues;
Evernote is in the midst of a sizable, prolonged decline in relevance in numerous areas.
On the product side, customers are slowly  beginning not to care about the product, while downloads slip and competitors offer better products, many of them, like OneNote, free.
Me: Classic example of a generalised blanket statement. I do not know where is it stated that customers began to ignore the product.
He goes on;
Glassdoors reviews of Evernote paint a picture of a company suffering internally from the things customers are seeing externally.
 
Me: What! Since Josh went to great length to look at Glassdoor he should might as well start looking at OneNote creators Microsoft’s ratings.

Josh decides to give advice

The lesson for management teams at other unicorns is clear from Evernote: Forget worrying about whether you’re going to be around in 100 years, and refocus on making products that people want that will make money.

Me: Yep! using that advise and hoping no one would innovate Microsoft and Blackberry still would be been a dominant force in mobile computing today. Its all about catching up and staying ahead of the game.

Conclusion

Phil Libin lost his passion and many founders do but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of something. Evernote build great products and is always first to show their presence, like how they were the first to launch their app for Apple Watch. That’s how cutting they are.
To me the whole article by Josh Dickson was very distasteful and felt as though he was with paid to write against Evernote or he wanted to use his write as content marketing for Syrah. I truly hope he he stops connecting the dots with a line while in fact it’s been a part of the curve all along. He needs to see the light very soon because he did try to milk the web stat cow with a Part 2 which no sign of repentence.
“No point trying to convince people who are hellbent on being misunderstood” – Dr. A. R. Bernard

Did Apple deliver on September 9, 2015

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Apple has finally set the rumor mill to rest.

There was so much speculation on the next iPhone that you could print all the blog posts and compile a thick book. But as the rumor for the next iphone was going on, slowly rumors about the next version of Apple TV started showing up. The writers wrote that Apple has a new streaming service lined up with some original content. It was soon followed by more speculations during the first week of September that the next iteration of iPad, the iPad Pro was going to be announced and that is the reason why the chose such a huge venue. Then came the leaked images of the Force Touch display, saying the device would be thicker than the previous version to accommodate this new tech.
Cult of Mac wanted to beat the crowd so they did on rumor on iPhone 7! Too soon?
You know what, now it’s all laid to rest. So this is what happened.

Did Timmy deliver?

The day came, saw and conquered every media outlet possible. Tim Cook was at his best. He was comfortable and knew where he was leading the crowd to. He took all the viewers through a great storyline and stitched it all up and ended the event with One republic singing “Counting Stars” which was a fitting end.
But let’s take a step back, let’s break it down and look at each product announcement objectively.

iPad Pro

Initial impression was it was a big iPad. But slowly it started to fade away when they showed the lengths at which Apple took to showcase iPad Pro beyond a consumption device to a creator device. Phil Schiller shared a lot of numbers and stats as to why this is a redefined desktop class device rather than your regular iPad. They showcased the ease of editing movies to music creation and even rendering on Autocad!
Man! I’e used Autocad when I was in school and even my PC couldn’t keep up with it.
So who was it made for?
I seriously am still confused on who is their target audience. Its a tablet and not a PC. Microsoft’s Surface has been there and done that. Only time will tell what is it finally going to be used for. So far, Apple has gained the support of IBM and Cisco as their Enterprise customers and that is a good thing.

With the iPad Pro, they introduced a sidekick called the Apple Pencil. I initially thought it was a joke and Phil kept his cool, then we knew it was real. Apple Pencil has a nice touch to the entire iPad Pro storyline.

I recently invested in a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 inch just to replaced by diary because I love to write. I love styluses because they take note taking to a whole new level.

Every tech blogger started reminding us on how Steve Jobs hated styluses at the iPhone launch. But when you look at the context, he was referring to using a stylus for all touchscreen input. This was so common back then with the Windows touchscreen phones.

I think Apple was wise in introducing a stylus but does it justify the price and how does it affects the future of Adonit, Paper and Evernote is yet to be seen.

Apple TV

Finally, after so many year Apple decides to take on TV again. It morphed itself from a setup box to a fatter set top box with Amazon Fire like features. It didn’t feel ground breaking at all. Apple basically borrowed ideas from everywhere and created a hybrid device with a refreshed interface. Nothing new here.

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

As usual they stuck to the iPhone routine. Every “S” model would follow the predecessor in terms of hardware design and then would upgrade everything internally. This time with the “6S” they improved the cameras, processor, display and so on. The biggest announcement was the introduced of “3DTouch” aka “ForceTouch”.

They showcased mobile screen interaction to a whole new level. By applying a little bit pressure you could have a sneak peek into what was underneath and press a tad harder it will launch you directly into what you were peeking at. It reminded me a lot of Samsung’s Air view feature which was deemed a gimmick.

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I don’t know why whenever Apple does the same no one calls it a gimmick?

The question in every consumer head is, “Why should I buy this phone?”. Apart from 3D Touch, they have some neat features on the camera front. It was the 12 megapixel, 4K shooting, Live Photo holding phone was the one that made people go quite. It was beautiful.

There were surprises and it didn’t come form Apple.

Let’s just say Microsoft was invited. Apple has had a long standing love-hate relationship with Microsoft and this event seems to me that this was a sign that they have moved on and have buried the hatchet.

Even though Microsoft delivered a great product and a cringeworthy performance on stage, its good see them play nice.

Conclusion

Overall, it was a great warm fuzzy event but it lacked the “WOW” factor that I’ve experienced before. It was an update or “catch up” to times and didn’t feel revolutionary.

May be my expectations are high or may be Apple is saving it for something bigger for a better time.

Why I switched to DuckDuckGo and ran back to Google crying

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In the name of Proactivity

In this day and age of connected living, our lives have been radically changed for the better. But on the down side, our privacy took a beating. In the name of proactive services, tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft started creating services to “enrich” our lives with services like Facebook Advertising, Google Now, Siri and Cortana. Your behaviour online is fodder for these tech companies to create services, analyse future trends and monetize their ads network.

The last of the tech giants, Microsoft has now baked their cloud services extensively in the latest Windows 10 by collecting anonymous user logs back to its servers. This has been extensively covered by The Verge, click here for more.

If you use them, you will know how amazing these services are. These services made me feel like Tony Stark with my handy wingman Jarvis. These experiences were not only cool and got creepy at times in a good way.

Enter Super-Duck

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Here comes DuckDuckGo, founded by Gabriel Weinberg, He decided to take real privacy to a whole new level. DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t collect any user data. Of course, they don’t need to collect anything as they don’t have any other services to offer other than give you relevant search data. Fast Company magazine wrote an amazing article titled “Inside DuckDuckGo, Inside Google’s tiniest fiercest competitor“, click here to read more.

I got even excited when Apple made DuckDuckGo as an option to use as your default search engine for iOS. Apple during their 2015 WWDC announced that are taking strides in ensuring they are not taking the Google route and that privacy is a real concern and a matter of importance for their consumers. Click here to read more on TechCrunch

Embracing a bold new philosophy

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I bought into their philosophy and immediately started taking steps to ensure my data was iron clad. I changed my default search engine to DuckDuckGo, revised my privacy setting in Google and diversified my tech portfolio (yes, I started using Microsoft Services).

It was great at first, I searched on DuckDuckGo and I was pretty surprised with the quality of the search results it produced. The UI was familiar and navigating around the site wasn’t a chore. On the other hand, Google Services started acting out. To name a few, Google constantly reminded me on how great life would get if i enabled Google Now to how terrible it would be if I didn’t enable the search history on Google Maps. Facebook too kept on asking me to enable location, update my phone number, update about me and so on. The only winner in this period was Microsoft as I started using Outlook as my primary email driver.

The next phase of my life didn’t want change

Then I entered the next chapter of my life with the arrival of my baby girl. I share more about my experience on daddy hood on Daddylogs. I searched constantly on how to swaddled her, feed her and what each of her need meant. But frustration grew as the search results were not what I was looking for. I had to move around quite a bit and Google couldn’t deliver as I didn’t fully embrace their services. Thinking it was only a phase, I grew even more frustrated and I manually started typing google.com and started searching for results. Two weeks later, I threw in the towel and changed to Google and its services.

Conclusion

Google has immensely invested into refining its results and its technologies over the years. Even with the introduction of Alphabet, Google’s world class algorithm is still a force to be reckoned with. Changing a behaviour that has been engrained over the years is not easy and I didn’t want to reorganise my digital life just because of a new philosophy. Even though I do understand the gravity of privacy and the need to defend it, I am a firm believer that companies will eventually circumvent these issues and create new concerns.

Basically, its a never ending cycle of cat and mouse.