The Hills Are Greener: Android as the Future of Laptops? But do Laptops Have a Future?

The Hills Are Greener: Android as the Future of Laptops? But do Laptops Have a Future?

Jul 1, 2013

Samsung has announced a new laptop that features an interesting form factor, albeit one seen before: Windows and Android hybrid devices. The Ativ Q is a convertible that can run in both Windows 8 mode and as an Android tablet. Interestingly, it is possible to share files between the two separate OSes, so ithis isn’t just a case of “two devices in one”, these are meant to be interoperable in some fashion.

However, there’s a very interesting side effect here of these moves: it’s manufacturers admitting that Windows 8 just isn’t a tablet OS. I own a Surface Pro, and more often than not, I use it as a laptop. Having the tablet functionality is nice periodically, but Windows 8 just is not a very touch-friendly OS when working with actual desktop applications, aka “the very reason one would use Windows for.” So having Android available is just a huge step forward for these devices. IS anything bigger than ~10 inches probably overdoing it for a tablet? Sure, but at least they exist.

As the Windows tablets start to enter the 7-8″ space that seems to have the most momentum for the tablet space at the moment, it will be interesting to see if anyone attempts dual-OS functionality as well. There are few laptop manufacturers even attempting to do the 10-11″ space seriously, so these devices may be just interesting curiosities.

Still, for hardware manufacturers trying to make their touch interfaces better, it’s interesting that there’s at least some movement in the direction of Android on PCs, and not the other way around. It’s easy to see where, as this expands, that Android could be powering a laptop at some point. There’s at least one example of a gaming PC that runs Android. So why not a laptop? It will be interesting to see where this goes. Windows is vulnerable, and it could be Android, not Mac, that is what ultimately destabilizes it.

Of course, in the world where iPad is still the accepted leader of the tablet market, what does this do? Bill GAtes said that people would be using Windows tablets down the road, yet they have little to no momentum. Perhaps the tablet future is doomed to be one where the tablet feels just out of reach of what the PC can do, or until the market decides that they need to truly adjust to what users do with their tablets. Something has to give, but when Android, once maligned for its incompatibility with tablets, is becoming a superior tablet OS to Windows, what does that truly say?

KickStarter Spotlight: FloJack

KickStarter Spotlight: FloJack

Nov 14, 2012

Near Field Communication. It is one of the biggest things that any Android fanboy will trump as the easiest bet for the future. Everything will be NFC-enabled and it could just completely replace credit cards as we know it. If I seemed a bit sarcastic in this onset it was completely by accident as I, myself, am excited as anyone for NFC to take off. In the very near future customers will be traveling the aisles of their closest grocery outlet and collecting coupons is as simple as tapping their phone up to a daily deal it is stored in their phone for checkout where another tap is all it takes to pay and the most efficient grocery run ever is complete.

The only problem with NFC is is it having trouble getting off the ground and the biggest anchor is the fact that there are still a very small number of devices that are NFC compatible. Sure the top flight Android and Windows phones feature NFC chips but until the current “legacy” versions of Android are phased out and Apple jumps on the NFC train this convenience will remain a nice service. While this will certainly happen it does not hurt to expedite the service some, right? This is exactly what the great minds at Flomio have done. Most companies have a dogged relationship to certain brands and further drive the wedge between Android users and iOS, but that is not the case here at Flomio; all they want is to simply unite the smartphone collective under one standard NFC flag. They do this by means of a detachable NFC dongle, the FloJack, that resembles Square’s card reader. This circular paddle can be used to interact with all the NFC goodies around our world now, but also to write data onto Flomio’s ZAPPS which are little NFC chips that might be the most intriguing aspect of Flomio’s KickStarter campaign. These small, domed plastic stickers are rewritable and can be used for almost anything. One could place a ZAPP on the car dashboard that would turn the phone into driving mode, or place one in each party invite that comes with an address link that opens the recipients map app.

The possibilities are unlimited and with a completely open developer program new ideas will be rolling in faster then they can be processed. By bringing NFC to the masses Flomio aims to remove one of the last excuses companies and local businesses have for not adopting NFC. What’s more, if funded successful, I wholeheartedly believe they can succeed.

Ericom’s AccessToGo is the Rare Free Remote Computer Access App

Ericom’s AccessToGo is the Rare Free Remote Computer Access App

Sep 5, 2012

Ericom's AccessToGo has a sweet deal for users looking for remote access to their Windows computers using RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol): how about a powerful, full-featured app that's free? Yes, this app supports the Windows remote desktop protocol, and for power Windows users this may be a great solution for accessing their computers from anywhere. The app supports both wifi and 3G/4G networks, and claims that when using Ericom's Blaze RDP technology, it offers up to 10x better performance than standard RDP implementations. It also supports Ericom's SSL Gateway for secure connections.

In a world where remote computing apps tend to be the most expensive apps because they appeal primairly to business customers, free is a sweet deal. While the rub appears to be that it's designed to help sell Ericom products, it still supports the standard protocols and hey, remote computer access doesn't come cheap – until now, apparently. AccessToGo is available for free from Google Play.

OnLive Desktop Now Legal. Wait, It Was Illegal? Apparently So.

OnLive Desktop Now Legal. Wait, It Was Illegal? Apparently So.

Apr 11, 2012

One of the concerns so far with OnLive Desktop has actually been with the legality of the service. Apparently in offering a virtual Windows 7 desktop to users, OnLive did not consider the licensing issues. Microsoft even said that they would have to license each individual user of the service if they kept using Windows 7. Well, OnLive has responded by changing the backend of Windows that they’re using, shifting to Windows Server 2008 for the Windows software powering OnLive Desktop instead of the Windows 7 tablet interface.

Aesthetically, everything is the same, but two changes come from this. One: the simulated touch scrolling that could be used in the web browser is now gone, so finger scrolling of scroll bars is now widely in use. This is a problem for iPad users, but Android users who can use a mouse might be better off. Second, the software keyboard has been replaced with a new custom one that apes the design of the iPad keyboard. This is actually a slight improvement, though typing on a software keyboard with input lag is not a very good solution. Still, many of the natural issues that arise from using desktop keyboard and mouse emulation on a touch screen will always remain because of the different input needs between platforms. This likely will not affect serious users of the service, especially on Android where mouse control was possible. In fact, if they integrated with system functions like the mouse and used the Android device’s keyboard, usability could be dramatically improved.

There are connections between the head of OnLive and the Windows team as Brian Madden notes in his post here, but it appears as if those weren’t enough to keep the OnLive Desktop product exactly as it was initially offered, and it is to users’ detriment. Madden also notes that Microsoft’s licensing is not conducive to virtual computing. While tablets are not the same as desktop computers, and should not be treated the same, virtualization could be the key to making tablets more capable devices. It just may take some work on Microsoft’s end to make this more of a possibility.

BlueStacks Brings Android Apps to Windows PCs

BlueStacks Brings Android Apps to Windows PCs

Mar 29, 2012

BlueStacks has introduced a new tool allowing Windows users to use Android apps on their PC. No, this isn’t an installation of Android on Windows like the x86 Project, but an actual way to run Android apps on a Windows PC. By installing it on Windows, various Android apps and games can be played directly from any compatible Windows computer. No Mac version is currently available, though.

On the Android side, it’s possible to use BlueStacks Cloud Connect to sync up apps to the PC side of BlueStacks in order to easily use favorite apps on PC. This makes it easier to use apps like text messagers, or audio playback software, and games not yet available on PC.

Currently, BlueStacks is free to use while in beta. It’s using an interesting consumer-focused model in its early stages, with eventual subscription options that will be made available, bringing additional premium apps to BlueStacks‘ current offering. The BlueStacks Cloud Connect app is available from Google Play.

Theme Thursday: Launcher 7

Theme Thursday: Launcher 7

Feb 2, 2012

For this revival of Theme Thursdays I am going to take a look at a wholly different launcher theme. Really, it’s not a theme at all but an entirely different launcher that is a nearly exact port of the UI running on the current Windows Phone 7. Now, I usually am a Mac guy, and ask my PC toting friends I have been known to give Window’s some grief, but, as evidenced by my gushing review of the Zune-themed media player Uber Music, the Redmond giants have been making a style comeback. I was a big fan of the old Zune’s interface and was happy to see it brought over, conceptually at least, to Window’s line of smartphones.

For those out there not familiar with Microsoft’s Mango user interface, it replaces the typical sectioned, widget-based home screens that are customary on Android devices with one screen containing a grid of customizable tiles. These tiles can display web content and house smaller widgets and overall present a much simpler, cleaner display. The major drawback, especially with Launcher 7, is the lack of full widget support, which begs the question: how often are those battery draining widgets used? I would wager not as often as initially thought. Above, I said “full widget support” because Launcher 7 offers widgets within tiles and they work fine but they do appear stretched as to fit the tile’s limited size; therefore this works best on the smaller widgets only.

That aside, say cleaning up the home screen and trying something new sounds inviting, Launcher 7 is definitely worth the shot. I’ve had it on my phone for a while and it just get’s better with each update. The graphics and animations are crisp and excellent font choice adds a subtle grace. Launcher 7, like most custom launchers, is highly customizable, and playing with the tile color and transparencies with different backgrounds is a lot of fun. Beginners might have problems with a fairly steep learning curve, but this is nothing to be afraid of, as trial and error can sometimes be rewarding. Launcher 7 is split into two side-by-side panels, one containing the tiled home screen and the other is the app drawer. Like other launchers this app drawer is customizable and removing items from the list as well as adding them to the main panel couldn’t be simpler.

Overall, I would quickly recommend Launcher 7 to most Android users. Launcher 7 is a beautiful, professional launcher that is more than worth checking out due to its high level of quality and refreshing change of pace.