Posts Tagged ‘launch’

Microsoft: What’s in Store?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I stopped into the brand-new Microsoft Store in Atlanta on opening day last Friday. On the whole, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of unifying hardware with Windows, but I wasn’t totally sold on the execution.

What could have been better

Remind you of anything?

Boy, were they trying hard. Even down to individual elements, design inspiration from Apple was very obvious. Pricetags next to each machine looked very similar to the inclined plane-esque placards that used to grace the Apple Store (before the iPads), and the screens wrapping around the wall were probably the exact same dimensions as their upstairs counterpart. I could go on about the similarities – everywhere you look, the physical design screams Cupertino.

The music inside was also a little too loud; I couldn’t hear much outside of the blasting of Ke$ha. Hopefully that was just a little first-day overzealousness, but that extended past the decor. The employees were really aggressive in approaching people; walking in felt like being in a gauntlet of being asked how I’m doing, if I needed any help, or if I knew that “this computer is touchscreen!”. At the Apple Store, the employees are bombarded by the customers, but at the Microsoft Store, the customers are bombarded by the employees.

What they got right

Even if the idea was far from original, there’s an interesting twist on the wraparound wall displays: they’re actual screens, not just sheets advertising products. Information about different products is rotating marquee-style, and even cooler, Xboxes are connected in certain areas and can be played on the screens.

Two Microsoft Surfaces were also sitting out - if nothing else, this is the one element that makes the store unique. Most of the people that’ll come in from foot traffic will likely have never seen a Surface before, so at least for a while, it’ll be a good way to generate buzz.

Big picture

Over time, the idea of the store will come to settle with people, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy a PC, it’s one of the better environments for buying a PC that I’ve seen. I doubt it’ll convert many Mac users, but it’s a great option for the existing base of Windows fans who are itching to buy a new machine.

Facebook Places

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

It’s been interesting to see the progression of Facebook’s strategy over the past few years.

First, they began emulating Twitter with statuses and redesigned feeds, now location-based services are being integrated with the rollout of Facebook Places.

I’m curious as to whether they’re “following trends”, or simply copying everyone else. Facebook started as an easy way to keep in touch with people you know, yet they’re straying more and more from that core competency.

Foursquare and Gowalla serve very small niches, in that everyone I add or accept is there solely for the purpose of sharing location. However, when you bring the massive amounts of Facebook friends into the loop, you run into an issue of not only privacy, but also relevance.

I check in quite frequently, so my (currently nonexistent) use of Places would quickly become annoying to friends, somewhat akin to linking all Twitter posts to Facebook. Plus, I’d rather check in on Foursquare, where I can earn points, mayorships, badges, specials, and other cool schwag.

It’s also strange that the outrage surrounding this launch isn’t near as bad as the blowup a few months ago. I’d think the average user with the notion of “Facebook knows my location” would raise a lot more red flags than a few tweaks here and there. Just goes to show how much of an impact bloggers have on public perception.

The big picture

Places is taking location to the mainstream. We’re seeing the same trends repeat themselves as with the shark-jumping of Twitter. Depending on opinion, this could be seen as good or bad, but, from a somewhat selfish perspective, I think it’s more of the latter.

I remember when none of my non-tech friends were on Twitter, and to be honest, I kinda liked it that way. Twitter was my happy place. Now it’s location apps.

Oh, wait.

Do you use Facebook Places? Is the mainstream push of location good or bad?

iPad

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Launch Day

I’ve never been to an Apple product launch before, and was excited about experiencing the unique culture surrounding Cupertino’s releases. I arrived at Atlanta’s Lenox Square to be 16th in line – not too bad, considering the hundreds of people that showed up. At first, I was a little hesitant about having to wait a few hours for the doors to open, but the time passed really quickly, fueled by great conversations with Mark Bowling, Taft Watson (the first one to get the original iPhone in Chicago), and other like-minded technology enthusiasts. At 8:30, the doors to the mall were opened, and we were herded to the outside of the Apple Store until 9:00. Right after 9, the lights were turned on, followed by all the store employees running from both directions – clapping, cheering, and high-fiving. It’s about as close to sports and tailgating as I get.

The crazy thing is that very few of the customers were chiming in, but it still felt like a huge deal. Geniuses held HD cameras high above the crowd as the first group of us were filing into the store, scrambling to get a look. I first played with a demo unit, went to grab a case, and then was approached about my reservation. For as many people that were there, the entire process was surprisingly smooth. After getting checked out, I headed home to unbox and start using the device.

Impressions

Unboxing

As with any Apple product, the unboxing was an phenomenal experience. The iPad sat atop a USB cable and power adapter, separated by a few foldout documentations. When first powered on, an iTunes connection was required, although the presence of a full charge got me through the day. There’s been some buzz surrounding issues with USB charging, but I don’t see it as a pressing issue – especially considering the fact that the iPad’s battery life is excellent. I went ahead and synced my music library, podcasts, movies, and a selection of apps I downloaded the previous night. After making sure all content was synced cleanly, I went through the Settings menu to personalize everything to the same configurations as on my iPhone, as well as to enable MobileMe syncing.

Apps

There’s a few great apps for the iPad, a solid amount of good ones, and a lot of bad ones. The majority of the outstanding ones are a bit more expensive than their iPhone counterparts, but (especially with games) the prices aren’t terrible considering the amount of development work involved. My wish list’s currently at around $150 worth of apps – something that’s not happening anytime soon. Here’s a few favorites that I’ve already installed:

  • NetNewsWire
  • Evernote
  • WordPress
  • Twitterific
  • Pandora
  • Netflix
  • Fieldrunners
  • Tap Tap Radiation
  • RealRacingHD

NetNewsWire is much faster than the iPhone version, and Netflix’s streaming capabilities are pretty cool. But as great as the first iteration is, it’d be nice if Netflix would offer a richer experience than just a site-specific-browser.

Running iPhone apps, however, is an overall bad experience. When scaled down, I feel cramped to use the app with the presence of a large screen surrounding it, but enlarging the app yields to pixelation. As suggested by Ajai Karthikeyan, antialiasing would be a great solution.

The Big Picture

The iPad will succeed in extremely general and extremely specific uses. There isn’t a better device for surfing the web on the couch; the same goes for using Twitter at a conference or doing a one-on-one presentation with Keynote.

But when it comes to day-to-day use and significant productivity, there’s still a huge need for the form factor of a desktop/laptop, not to mention their distance from the technical specifications of the iPad. In short, it’s a luxury item right now. Yet the tablet sector’s really starting to take off, and following the release of devices such as the HP Slate and JooJoo, the luxury factor will begin to decrease.

What’s your opinion on the iPad?