There are times when you need to stay strong, ignore the criticism and do what you know is right. Then, there are some times when the masses are right and listening is the smart thing. With Windows 8, Microsoft made many radical changes, not the least of which being the deletion of the fabled Start button. This week we got our first taste of that operating system's first major update, Windows 8.1, and it includes a number of notable upgrades and improvements. Perhaps the most notable? The return of a Start button. Well, sort of.
It's now called a "Start Tip" as it isn't a proper button, but you can click on it and bring up the tiled Start Screen interface. So, the Start button is back, but not the Start menu. That's fine by me, as I don't think hidden, contextual elements make much sense in a keyboard-and-mouse environment. And the other tweaks are nice, including a far more comprehensive Settings section, a functional lock screen and, finally, the ability to adjust the size of applications that you've snapped to either side of your screen. Maybe in Windows 8.2 we'll get fully resizable windows!
Samsung ATIV Book 7 reviewSee all photos
Huawei Ascend Mate reviewSee all photos
Tim Cook joined many other notables speaking at the D11 conference and, as he often does, dropped a lot of interesting sound bites and factoids. First off, he said that wearable devices are "incredibly exciting," but thinks that Google Glass is not something that will have "broad-range appeal." The glasses form factor, he thinks, will be something many users won't want to commit to. He then, coyly, went on to say that he enjoys the wrist-worn Nike FuelBand -- as if you needed any more indication of where Apple's own wearable will go on your body.
The phone is coming later this summer and will be called the Moto X, a name that gives me all sorts of wonderful ideas for an adrenaline-filled marketing campaign.
Cook also said that the upcoming WWDC would have a strong focus on iOS and OS X, the expectation being that we'll finally see the retooled mobile operating system. Who knows, maybe OS X will finally step away from the increasingly more obscure cat-based naming system, too. Finally, he indicated that Apple has sold a whopping 13 million Apple TVs, and that half of those have been sold in the past year alone. Maybe there's room for an actual Apple-branded TV after all.
Motorola is taking the unusual (but thoroughly commendable, in my opinion) step of building its next major smartphone here in the US of A. Fort Worth, Texas, specifically, at a factory formerly used by Nokia, making it the first Motorola smartphone built here. The phone is coming later this summer and will be called the Moto X, a name that gives me all sorts of wonderful ideas for an adrenaline-filled marketing campaign.
Lenovo, meanwhile, announced that it would finally be bringing its growing stable of smartphones to the American market sometime before the end of the year. It's a hugely competitive market, CEO Yang Yuanqing acknowledged to The Wall Street Journal, but with PC sales sliding, it's one that his company can't afford to ignore.
LG, meanwhile, finally showed off its white Nexus 4 officially -- a phone that we unofficially got our hands on at I/O two weeks ago. It launched this week and it might just mark the company's final Nexus device. For now, anyway. European VP Kim Wong said LG "does not need such a marketing success again," which we'll take to mean that the company thinks it can do just fine with its own custom skin. Stock Android, we're told, is unfortunately not in the immediate future for devices.
With the buzz surrounding the Xbox One settling down after last week, hype machines surely taking a bit of a breather ahead of E3 in a few weeks' time, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida decided it's a fair time to get people talking about the PlayStation 4 again. More specifically, about how it works with the PlayStation Vita. Games for Sony's next home console will all run on the Vita via Remote Play -- excepting those games that depend on Move or other specific hardware. Additionally, the Vita can be used to deliver a second-screen-like experience, a la the Wii U. However, since not every PS4 owner will have a Vita, we're dubious about just how well integrated that functionality will be.
In this week's Distro, I'm taking you inside the XPRIZE to show you how the philanthropic and forward-thinking organization decides what's worthy of its considerable support. We also have my interview with wearable-computing pioneer Thad Starner about just how Google Glass came to be. There's a pair of reviews: the Samsung ATIV Book 7 and Huawei Ascend Mate; Ross Rubin discusses the state of the BlackBerry keyboard; and TechShop CEO Mark Hatch sits down for Q&A. We hope you'll make us your primary screen for a little while and enjoy.
This piece originally appeared in Distro #93.
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