Beaver County Times, Pa., Michael Pound column [Beaver County Times, Pa.]
(Beaver County Times (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 29--I'm not sure that two weeks after an Apple keynote -- and just a few days after the release of a new iOS and two new iPhones -- is the best time for Microsoft to host an event to discuss upgrades to its Surface tablet line.
But Microsoft's timing -- especially where mobile devices are concerned -- has been off for a few years now, so yeah, bring out the new tablets.
On Monday, MS said we'll be getting two new Surface tablets in October, the aptly named Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Here's a quick look at the new stuff:
Surface Pro 2
MS pitched this as a laptop replacement, and it's priced as such, at $899. It will ship with full Windows 8.1, which will have been released just a few days before; that means it will run any app designed to run on the OS. MS stressed improved battery life at its keynote on Monday; it'll be 75 percent better than the original version, thanks in part to a Haswell chip from Intel, which is stingy about energy consumption.
The consumer model, priced at $449, also will have improved battery life, by about 25 percent we're told. The screen will be upgraded and its included Office software bundle will also include Outlook. That's good, but there are sacrifices as well. It'll run Windows RT 8.1, an operating system that will work only with apps designed specifically for it. MS says it now has 100,000 of those, ten times the number of apps available when the original Surfaces were released a year ago.
This is what Microsoft has to do to regain a foothold in a market that is for more interested in mobile devices than it is big beige boxes. But I'm not seeing anything in the new announced Surfaces that would take my eyes away from an iPad or one of Google's Nexus tablets.
The high-test model has to find space in a market when corporate clients are still worried about expenses; the consumer model offers a scaled-back version of an operating system that most of us didn't like in the first place.
If Microsoft can't deliver on its promise to make drastic improvements with Windows 8.1, these tablets aren't going to do much to change the company's mobile fortunes.
For about 15 percent of you, this column means nothing.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project released results of a study last week that says 15 percent of Americans ages 18 and up don't use the Internet. I am absolutely flummoxed when I try to imagine what my world would be like without computers and the web, but the study's results show a wide ranges of reasons that people maintain the Luddite Lifestyle.
Thirty-four percent said the Internet is not relevant to them. I struggle with this one a little bit; I tend to think that there's something for everyone out there and if you think there isn't, you haven't really looked.
Thirty-two percent said the Internet is too difficult to use. Learning new stuff is hard, and I remember trying to wrap my brain around how the web works back in the early 1990s. It's a lot easier now than it was then, but still -- the tech world can be daunting.
Nineteen percent said they're skipping out on the Internet fun because of the expense of buying a computer or paying for an Internet connection. Both of these concerns -- especially the latter one -- are legitimate. Me and my print-journalism salary do our best to keep current by buying iThings that are a generation behind the newest iThings, because that's what we can afford to do.
And the price of bringing Internet into your home is frankly outrageous; American consumers are gouged every month by their local cable companies for what has become an important service.
Seven percent said they don't have access to the Internet. This is the most outrageous thing of all. That there are places in this country where people can't access the web, even if they want or need to, is disgraceful.
The study's demographic breakdown, particularly in respect to age, is interesting as well. There are economic reasons and perhaps problems with access in rural areas, but of the 15 percent who don't use the Internet, well over half of them -- 61 percent -- are ages 50 and up.
I don't want to be dismissive here. I get that learning this stuff can be difficult and even scary (especially with the overly shrill tone that tech coverage in the media can impart).
My 47th birthday is rapidly approaching, so I'm solidly outside the age range that we'd consider mostly likely to be tech-savvy.
But then, I consider my parents. Sure, they're retired professionals who don't have to deal with the economic or access barriers that many do. But they both not only get the Internet, but they're good at it.
My mother's interest in photography -- everything from wildlife to her grandchildren -- means that she knows Apple's iPhoto software better than I do. My father's love of Dixieland jazz and old blues means he not only knows how to work iTunes occasionally baffling interface, but he's also become pretty good at tracking down digital versions -- audio and video -- of music that was recorded in the '30s, '40s and '50s.
And there's my point: if you have access, try. There are dangers on the Internet, sure, and there is an awful lot of garbage to sort through as well but once you've figured out the basics, you will find things that can -- and will -- change your life for the better.
(c)2013 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)
Visit the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) at www.timesonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]