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The Engadget Podcast Ep 12: Surface Envy

Transcript of this episode:

Terrence:
Hello nerds, and welcome to a special, spooky edition of the Engadget podcast. It is Halloween weekend-ish. Right? I am your host, Terrence O'Brien. Joining me this week is Devindra Hardawar, senior editor in charge of ...
 
Devindra:
Zombie reanimation. I'm dead right now.
 
Terrence:
That works for me. Also joining me, editor in charge of distributing candy corn to reporters who miss their deadline, Dana Wollman.
 
Dana:
If you missed your deadline, you get candy corn and like a penny for your UNICEF box.
 
Devindra:
Candy corn thrown at you, though.
 
Dana:
If I like you, I'll give you a mini Twix.
 
Terrence:
I could go for some mini Twix right now. A little candy to start my day, that's breakfast of champions, right?
 
Devindra:
Candy and coffee.
 
Terrence:
Candy and coffee. How you guys doing?
 
Devindra:
Doing okay, been a lot of news this week.
 
Dana:
I'm great, I was telling Terrence, I slept nine hours last night, so I'm feeling great. You had a busy day yesterday.
 
Devindra:
I did, a lot of fun stuff.
 
Terrence:
We'll get into that a little bit later. It is Thursday morning when we're recording this, so by the time this goes up, there will have been a big Apple event and there will be some news from that, which we clearly don't know at this moment in time. Yesterday was a big Microsoft event, this morning was Twitter earnings, which we're going to dig into a little bit later. It's just been a crazy, crazy week. Hopefully, Dana doesn't have to throw candy corn at anybody.
 
Dana:
Don't get me started.
 
Terrence:
Do we want to jump right into it?
 
Devindra:
Sure.
 
Terrence:
Start things as we do every week with flame wars? You guys know how this works. You're going to debate the biggest stories of the week, you get 20 seconds to make your opening statement. If you go over your time I give you one of these. I'll allow you time for a brief rebuttal, at the end of that, I will decide who has the stronger argument and award you one point. We're going to do a thing at CES on stage, live, to punish the loser and reward the winner and then we'll start this whole thing over again.
 
Devindra:
That's just going to CES, that's the punishment.
 
Terrence:
The punishment is we send you to CES to cover it all by yourself.
 
Devindra:
I've done that, so that's fun.
 
Terrence:
So have I.
 
Devindra:
It's not great.
 
Terrence:
One of the worst things to ever have to do. Let's start with Apple. Again, this will probably be confirmed by the time this podcast goes live, but right now, as of this recording, we do not know for sure whether or not this is true.
 
Dana:
Except Apple leaked it itself.
 
Devindra:
It's in their own documents, yeah.
 
Terrence:
It's probably going to happen, but it looks like the new Mac Books are not going to have an escape key. I'm going to hold back on my opinion on this, but Apple just loves to get rid of things sometimes.
 
Devindra:
There will be that OLED touch bar, potentially, right?
 
Terrence:
Yes. My question is, is this the sort of thing that's essential, that Apple's going to get a lot of blow back for, or is the escape key an obsolete thing that probably needs to die, much like the caps lock key should? Dana, you can go first.
 
Dana:
I'm preemptively annoyed by this whole magic tool bar thing in general, but the escape key, getting rid of it, I think, is an act of hubris. I think it sucks for programmers and I think it sucks for really anyone who considers themselves a keyboard power user and there are some people out there, don't mess with their setup that they use all day, every day.
 
Terrence:
In right under the wire. Devindra?
 
Devindra:
The escape key doesn't really do much though, even for programmers, and Apple is adding, potentially, what we're hearing, this OLED strip above the keys and you could easily put an escape key there, or a cancel key or something temporary there for full screen video. You'll never buzz me, Terrence.
 
Terrence:
I don't even know why I let you do this segment, Devindra. Let me go back to you real quick, then. I'm going to throw it out there that I am currently using an X1 Carbon from Lenovo, which it doesn't have an OLED strip but it has one of these magic key strip things.
 
Dana:
Context aware strips.
 
Terrence:
As much as I love my Think Pads and I love this laptop, that thing is garbage. Why should I believe that Apple would do a better job with this?
 
Devindra:
In general, Apple, their whole thing is taking ideas that have already been tried and refining them. Honestly, I'm not too excited about the OLED strip either, it's just I am surprised by the push back against removing the escape key compared to removing the headphone jack, which is a fundamental feature for many people.
 
Dana:
We're talking about the usefulness of the escape key, but I'm also just annoyed by Apple's hubris. This is a standard, American layout, QWERTY keyboard; who is Apple to mess with it? I'm annoyed by it's hubris here as much as I am the removal of a classic, long standing key.
 
Devindra:
I'm a little more open to changes. I've been a big fan of Microsoft's natural keyboards for a while, those have the split decision and that has saved my hands from all sorts of carpel tunnel injuries so I am fine with people experimenting.
 
Dana:
Microsoft didn't take a button away or move the Q to the right side of the keyboard.
 
Devindra:
You use the Q, you never use the escape key.
 
Dana:
I do sometimes.
 
Terrence:
I use it fairly frequently.
 
Devindra:
For what? You just want to escape life, Terrence. It doesn't work that way, okay?
 
Terrence:
I definitely do, I do get frustrated occasionally and just slam the escape key in hopes that it gets me out of my day. Even something simple, if I'm watching a video on Youtube and I want to exit out of full screen.
 
Devindra:
Contextually aware OLED script cancel button, boom.
 
Terrence:
Here's the thing is I don't know that I trust that contextually aware thing.
 
Devindra:
It will be in the same spot [crosstalk 00:06:01].
 
Terrence:
The operating system needs to be contextually aware for a variety of different media plug ins, a variety of different browsers. It sounds like the sort of thing that's going to be so reliant on developers and websites and all these other services to do the work for Apple, which always seems like a bad idea, to put that brunt on somebody else.
 
Devindra:
This is true. Although it's probably not that difficult to just detect when video is being played, even if it's from within a web browser, or something.
 
Terrence:
Dana, do you have any last?
 
Dana:
I would probably be slightly less annoyed about all this, if Apple hadn't dragged it's feet on updating the MacBook Pro's in the first place, but there are people who have been holding off on upgrading for a long time, and now their ability to get a new MacBook Pro with fresh technology and the most up to date technology hinges on their willingness to change their habits, which is annoying. I think I'd feel a little less annoyed if they had already refreshed it and people who just wanted faster performance or longer battery life could have done it already. It does sort of feel like, I don't know what verb I'm looking for here, I don't want to say shoe horning.
 
Terrence:
It's the opposite of shoe horning right, because it's retracting.
 
Dana:
Makes no sense.
 
Terrence:
I don't know. Not surprisingly, I'm going to give this one to Dana but I do want to explain real quick that this is less to do with specifically, I think, for me at least in terms of this argument, less about the escape key specifically and more I think about the point that she made about this standard layout and this is pretty universal and pretty used and I'm going to go back to the example I have in front of me of this Lenovo X1 Carbon that I love slash loathe, because it has one major difference on the keyboard, well, it has two differences. This did get rid of the caps lock key and instead you have to double tap shift caps lock, which I do constantly on accident.
 
Devindra:
That's terrible.
 
Dana:
Wait, so that's why sometimes when you IM me it's accidentally in all caps and I think you're shouting at me?
 
Devindra:
Sometimes.
 
Terrence:
The top right key instead of being the backspace key is the delete key. It's these small little tweaks really throw everything off.
 
Devindra:
That's understandably problematic. The escape key is like having a cut on your pinkie finger, it's annoying, and maybe you'll get used to it eventually.
 
Terrence:
I also think back to when I moved over to a MacBook for the first time and I didn't have a home and an end key and I went, "What is this world that I've suddenly moved into? I don't know how this works."
 
Devindra:
Right.
 
Terrence:
It seems like the sort of thing like I don't know why you would do it, it just doesn't seem to make much sense. I'm sure it's not going to be the end of the world, but it's going to piss people off for no good reason, it seems.
 
Devindra:
At some point we will have to rethink these keyboard, right, and how we use them. What do these things mean? What does escape mean, what does tab mean, what does shift mean?
 
Terrence:
Don't get me wrong, the entire keyboard is an anachronism at this point basically, none of these keys make any sense.
 
Devindra:
The only reason we have QWERTY is because of what, typewriter style, right? Getting those arms in place. At some point, all of this needs to be re thought. Maybe we'll just lose one key a year from Apple.
 
Dana:
I think the larger issue is Apple habitually telling people that their current habits are bad and that you're doing it wrong and that you should do it their way and their way is the right way. You're escaping it wrong.
 
Devindra:
I'm still more annoyed by the headphone jack than any of this stuff.
 
Terrence:
I think that's understandable, I am also more annoyed by the headphone jack. Let's move on to our second topic, though. We didn't really get to talk about this last week and I feel like we need to. Nintendo announced a new console. We kind of blew by it.
 
Devindra:
It was in the morning.
 
Terrence:
They were announcing it while we were recording the podcast last week. The Nintendo Switch, which is a combo home console slash portable console, and Devindra, you wrote this piece, right? About how the best Nintendo is a desperate Nintendo?
 
Devindra:
Yes.
 
Terrence:
I want to give you an opportunity to talk about why people should be excited about the Nintendo Switch and this is going to be a great console.
 
Devindra:
Mainly because it's intent of doing something different, in a way, just like they did with the original Wii and even some of their older consoles, right? They're not playing the same games everybody else, and combining their strength in portable with a decent amount of power, not the same as desktop power, but I think that will exciting, it will be a different way to do consoles.
 
Terrence:
Dana?
 
Dana:
I'm not even going to argue with the innovativeness, the uniqueness of it, but I do question whether it will be the best of both worlds. You can't pack as much hardware into the console itself, but it doesn't, from the photos, it doesn't look like it will be as comfortable to use as a truly portable or truly mobile console. I have questions about that.
 
Terrence:
Both keeping it real tight today.
 
Dana:
No buzzer for you.
 
Terrence:
I know. One of the things, do we know the size of the screen, Devindra?
 
Devindra:
No, we don't have any exact specs. The screen looks like it's about seven inches, because it looks very similar to the Wii U game pad, so I assume seven inches.
 
Terrence:
Question there is do you own a Wii U?
 
Devindra:
Yes.
 
Terrence:
That control tablet, what are the ergonomics on that?
 
Devindra:
It is not good. The control tablet is a huge thing, it has big curves, there's a lot of bezel around it, it looks like a Fisher Price toy. I kind of love it for Mario Maker and playing things away from the TV. My thing with the Wii U is that I want that, I want the ability to take the game away from the TV and just walk to the bedroom or walk outside and keep playing my game. That's exactly what they're doubling down on with the Switch. They're moving back from some of other ideas, like having a second screen. That was the big sell with the Wii U and nothing really took advantage of it, other than maybe Mario Maker.
 
Terrence:
Dana, doesn't the versatility of this do anything for you? I know you're not a gamer.
 
Dana:
It sort of does, but also I think one of the biggest things Nintendo has going for it is the social aspect, the thrill of gathering around a Nintendo and playing certain classic party games. It's not really a party if you wander off into the bedroom by yourself.
 
Devindra:
The thrill, what they're doing, is taking that thrill and letting you have it anywhere, because you can take this tiny console, pull off the controllers and give one to your friend, and you'll be playing Mario Kart in the park, or on the bus, or something. It's taking that living room experience anywhere, which I think I'll love.
 
Terrence:
I have two questions about that, for those who haven't seen the promotional video, reveal video, for the Switch, you should go watch it.
 
Devindra:
It's three minutes long.
 
Terrence:
It's not particularly long, but there's several scenes, towards the end, especially, where they seem to be playing up the social aspect. There's a whole lot of stuff around the 3DS and the DS original where you could connect with other people, the Wii and the Wii U were very much built around this idea of party games. Mario Party, I spent so much of my high school years playing Mario Party that it's shameful. This seems a little bit different, because you aren't gathering around a TV, you're gathering around what essentially is a seven inch tablet.
 
Devindra:
A tiny screen, yeah.
 
Terrence:
Trading back and forth these tiny little controllers that ...
 
Devindra:
They look small.
 
Terrence:
They're tiny, they looked super [crosstalk 00:13:56].
 
Devindra:
They looked like miniature NES controllers with the maybe directional pad and two buttons. The ergonomics, yeah, we'll have to see how that works out but I love this idea of local, multiplayer. You can also bring two Switches and have them back to back and play a game so it will be four people playing on two separate consoles, that sort of thing seems pretty cool if they can actually make it work.
 
Terrence:
Four player split screen on a seven inch tablet?
 
Devindra:
Two players on one, two players on the other, playing a game across both.
 
Terrence:
I guess my last question for you Dana is a lot of people seem to think that we're coming to the end of home consoles as we know them, anyway. Is this just Nintendo getting ahead of the curve as mobile gaming grows, especially like casual gaming on the phone and we've seen the first non-standard jump in console generations.
 
Devindra:
This is a half step jump.
 
Terrence:
Which has never really happened before.
 
Dana:
Happened before for Nintendo, you mean?
 
Terrence:
For consoles in general.
 
Dana:
We're seeing plenty of half steps now aren't we?
 
Terrence:
We are now is what I'm saying is we've already seen some disruption in the way the console market works and we've seen this increased move towards mobile and towards a more uniform way of doing things. Is this just Nintendo getting ahead of the curve and going, "You know what the next barrier breakdown is? The difference between consoles and mobile."
 
Dana:
It could well be, especially the push toward casual gaming and this is a point that I do agree with Devindra on from his piece, which is that it could potentially be Nintendo learning from it's mistakes. I think one of it's biggest mistakes in recent years was missing the boat on mobile. It's trying to catch up now. This would mark a different and maybe better approach for Nintendo if it could be a little more experimental and I don't want to say on trend, but aware of how the market is changing.
 
Devindra:
They're always experimental, but those experiments don't work all the time. The game pad, the Wii U thing, was like a play towards tablet gaming, but they lost out on what makes tablets so useful for gaming is that you could take it anywhere, you could be in a car and play a game on a big screen and that was always the big appeal, not second screen stuff.
 
Terrence:
I am going to give this point to Devindra, I do think that if nothing else, Nintendo had to try something new and radical at this point to keep themselves relevant and they're doing that, whether or not it works is something else, but we'll see.
 
Devindra:
Based on the responses I've seen on Twitter, people are super excited about this. I've also been in a lot of arguments with Silicon Valley people who are like, "Nintendo should just go all in on the iPhone platform and just make games for that." That, to me, seems like Nintendo selling it's soul completely, so I never want to see that happen.
 
Terrence:
That worked so well for Saga.
 
Devindra:
Exactly, remember them?
 
Terrence:
Now I want to move on to our last topic of the week, I did this one just for you Devindra. This is my special gift to you. Netflix showed their first trailer for their resurrected Gilmore Girls series this week. I basically have two questions here that I want to get to. A, do we really need to bring back Gilmore Girls specifically?
 
Devindra:
Yes, we do.
 
Terrence:
Hold up, buddy. Two, isn't it time for Netflix to move on and stop resurrecting shows as a matter of business, at this point? I'll let you guys discuss this and obviously make your points, but it was something when they did it at first it seemed to make sense, and now they've continued it. They seem pretty unique in that respect. Devindra I will give you the first shot to defend the Gilmore Girls.
 
Devindra:
First of all, the Gilmore Girls is a fantastic show. As soon as it was put on Netflix, I saw it just rise in popularity. My wife, I showed it to, she got through the whole series in two weeks, that's like six seasons.
 
Terrence:
Wait. I'm going to pause your timer. You showed it to your wife?
 
Devindra:
Yes, I'm breaking gender norms left and right, Terrence.
 
Terrence:
Continue.
 
Devindra:
The show is great, the show is fantastic. It makes sense for Netflix to really invest on one of it's most popular series.
 
Terrence:
I got to buzz Devindra, and I got to buzz you over the Gilmore Girls, it feels good.
 
Devindra:
It's great.
 
Terrence:
Dana?
 
Dana:
Gilmore Girls, I'm not a fan. I think it's overrated, it's certainly no Felicity, it's no Dawson's Creek.
 
Devindra:
I like Felicity, too.
 
Dana:
Netflix they need to just do something more original for their originals than bring back old shows. You're on my team.
 
Terrence:
I know, you still ran out of time and now we can deteriorate.
 
Dana:
The system is rigged.
 
Terrence:
The system is rigged, it's rigged against you Dana. Actually to be clear, it's rigged against Devindra, I've already got the point down for Dana.
 
Devindra:
This is all a losing battle, but Gilmore Girls is fantastic. Later seasons, not so much. Same with Felicity, by the way.
 
Dana:
We agree on that. I really do like that show, but I said it mostly to mess with you.
 
Devindra:
You won't mess with me, because I like Felicity. Also gave us J.J. Abrams who's now doing Star Wars, or who did Star Wars. To what you're saying, I get that Netflix needs to do more original stuff, but the thing is, they have been doing that, a ton of that. They've been bringing in shows from other countries and branding them as Netflix originals, but they've been doing their own content, too. With some of the Marvel stuff, I think it's a mix of things. This is definitely a nostalgia play, but I think an important one, because it will get those Gilmore Girls viewers to come back and check out this new stuff. It will also get more people in that loop of catching up.
 
Dana:
It's good for business for Netflix, I don't actually think the content is the same, it's not the same when you bring back a show like Arrested Development or Full House, it's never going to be the same when you bring it back. I think in a way it's better for business for Netflix than it is for the nostalgic viewer who just wants a good show to watch.
 
Devindra:
It depends on how it's done. Arrested Development was kind of experimental in the way they brought it back. Didn't quite work, I know a lot of people hate that season. There's a lot to like about it.
 
Terrence:
As a guy who who was a big fan of arrested development, it was fine. It wasn't great.
 
Devindra:
It wasn't amazing. They were trying to go for this weird, nonlinear narrative thing where you could watch any episode and just know the story, and they did pieces of character stories throughout all the episodes, didn't quite work. It's all up to the writers, it's up to the creators. They're getting Amy Sherman Palladino back, so that's all great.
 
Terrence:
Arrested Development was the first of those big names that they've brought back, right? That was the first big show they resurrected?
 
Devindra:
Yep.
 
Terrence:
Since then, they've done it countless times.
 
Devindra:
I don't know who Fuller House was for.
 
Terrence:
I don't know who Fuller House was for, either. In preparation for today's episode I sat down with Dana and we were looking over the entire list of resurrected or re-branded.
 
Dana:
In theory, Fuller House was for me, I used to look forward to watching Full House as a kid.
 
Devindra:
Me too.
 
Dana:
On Friday night, but I actually would be too embarrassed to watch it now. Not embarrassed in the sense ...
 
Devindra:
It's a terrible show.
 
Dana:
Not embarrassed like I worry about what you think of me, but embarrassed, like I cringe at bad TV and bad movies. I don't like watching people embarrass themselves.
 
Devindra:
Along with doing this, Netflix is doing things like BoJack Horseman, a show which directly comments on that whole Full House genre, and is so weird and depressing and hilarious that I don't think any other network, I can't imagine anywhere else, maybe HBO, that could run something like that.
 
Terrence:
Here's my question, then; they have things like BoJack Horseman, which I haven't watched, to be honest. I know I need to.
 
Devindra:
Terrance, that show was made for you.
 
Terrence:
I'm sure, I've heard this. Doesn't doing things like bringing back The Gilmore Girls, which is, personal opinion of Gilmore Girls aside.
 
Devindra:
Have you actually seen Gilmore Girls?
 
Terrence:
I have seen every episode of The Gilmore Girls at least twice.
 
Devindra:
You were tortured by The Gilmore Girls.
 
Terrence:
I loathe The Gilmore Girls with every fiber of my being.
 
Devindra:
It's so good.
 
Terrence:
It's all of the things that I hate about [inaudible 00:22:26] fed through.
 
Devindra:
We're going to fight.
 
Terrence:
Fed through a lens of waspy New England women. I have no interest, it does nothing for me.
 
Devindra:
We're going to have a fight on the podcast right here, fists going across the table.
 
Terrence:
A fight almost broke out in the chat room the other day over this. Doesn't doing things like this water down their brand, at some point? Netflix is trying to make this play for being a home for great original content, pulling people away from cable, and all that stuff. They're spending so much time and effort and money doing things like Degrassi: The Next Class. I love Degrassi. The Next Class is garbage.
 
Dana:
I think that ship has sailed. Netflix, to the extent that it's a modern day Blockbuster video store, has tons of crap on it that Netflix itself didn't produce. Also, some of the stuff it does produce is also crappy. House of Cards, I love it. I'm addicted to it, is still a crappy soap opera.
 
Devindra:
I gave up this season.
 
Terrence:
I stopped watching it, too. The first season was very, very good. I loved it. The second season ...
 
Dana:
This idea that Netflix only does and airs high quality stuff, that ship has sailed a long time ago.
 
Devindra:
It's more like, how long have we spent talking about Netflix on this podcast? That's why they do it. Get their brand out.
 
Terrence:
They want people to yell about The Gilmore Girls thing and get excited about it.
 
Devindra:
Also, a point I see made quite a bit too is when they have original series, those can go in any territory. Now that Netflix is global and all over the world, they don't have to pay rights to bring those shows there. They want as much original stuff as they can, even if it's a reboot.
 
Terrence:
As we established earlier, the system is rigged, and I am awarding Dana the point just because my hatred for Gilmore Girls.
 
Devindra:
I wish I had a Bernie Sanders voice. I won't do a Trump voice.
 
Terrence:
That's okay.
 
Devindra:
I'll have my Gilmore Girls, and I'll be happy.
 
Terrence:
You've won plenty before. I'm just scoring personal points here.
 
Dana:
I could use a few wins, I don't usually win on this show.
 
Terrence:
It's true, you do need a healthy bump so that you don't end up at the bottom of the pile for CES.
 
Dana:
No.
 
Terrence:
You don't want to be the one who gets tortured on stage.
 
Dana:
No, leave it to Valasco.
 
Terrence:
He'll be all for it.
 
Devindra:
That man has no shame.
 
Terrence:
It's true. Nothing wrong with not having shame.  


Terrence:
Now it is time to move on to our next segment in open sourced and dig into the what goes into a lot of our coverage here and I want to talk about Microsoft. Yesterday, Devindra, you spent some time at the big Surface event, so why don't you tell us a little bit about it.
 
Devindra:
I spent the whole day with Microsoft, a lot of stuff happening. I'll save the most exciting stuff for the end, but they announced the Windows 10 creator's update, which is going to be coming in Spring and has a couple nice changes. Paint is now going to be called paint 3D, I think it's going to be, I don't know if it's replacing paint, but paint 3D is a new app, just like paint, that will let you create 3D objects, and they're really aiming it at kids because a lot of kids paint, Microsoft paint is one of the first things they end up playing with. You'll be able to create 3D objects, bring in stuff from Minecraft which is pretty cool, do some edits there, and straight from there, 3D print it. Microsoft has the whole cycle of building and creating and producing 3D printed objects. That's kind of interesting and probably the most fascinating thing about this update.
 
 
Beyond that, there's going to have built in game broadcasting, too, which is kind of cool, although I think people who are doing this are already doing it on Twitch or something. There's a new sharing feature which puts your closest contacts in the task bar, so you can quickly share files with them or send them messages. I'll have a longer story on that coming soon.
 
 
Beyond that, Surface Book is getting some new hardware; more battery life, faster processor, faster graphics, and the Surface Studio, which is Microsoft's Surface All in One, which is gorgeous, it is a beautiful machine.
 
Dana:
Which was rumored, but I think somehow managed to be surprising and impressive to you guys, even though you've kind of went in thinking you knew what you were going to see.
 
Devindra:
We thought, the rumors were there were going to be multiple all in ones, with some sort of rotating display, but seeing it in person, it's a 20 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, it's 4500 by 3,000 pixels, so higher than 4k, and the key feature is that the screen floats down, you can push it down to a 20 degree angle, which is about the same as a drafting table. Seeing that in action, it's just gorgeous. Moving it yourself, it's so easy to move. They made it so that even a five year old could do it. It also, the screen can be in any angle, in between being straight up and 20 degrees. It's pretty solid there, too. It's basically a mini PC with a giant screen. It has a Intel 6th generation processor, decent Nvidia mobile graphics, not desktop graphics, but you could plug in up to 32 gigabytes of ram, a lot of storage. Basically, the ultimate computer for professionals, and starting at 3,000 dollars, too, so those are going to be the people who are going to be buying it, like MacBook or Mac Pro users, potentially.
 
Terrence:
That's not a small price tag. They also have a bunch of accessories and stuff too, right?
 
Devindra:
They have this new thing called the Surface Dial, which is, think of the best audio amplifier dial that you could think of, it has a great feel to it, you can put it right on the Surface Studio screen and it opens up other options depending on the app you're using. In Photoshop, it will let you actually change the color of the palette, or change the size of the brush, you can choose how it works. Basically a way for you to use both of your hands at the same time to create and get in the creation zone. It's pretty cool, and it's something I haven't seen before, and it will also work with other Surfaces, although not on their screens, you'll have to keep it on the desk.
 
Terrence:
Does it also have a pen input?
 
Devindra:
Yep, and it has a Surface pen, too. I think it's slightly improved, but it's basically the same as we've seen before. Also, not as exciting, there's a new wireless keyboard and mouse. I'm a big Microsoft input device fan, so that looks cool to me. They're going to have a Surface ergonomic natural keyboard as well, which I cannot wait to test.
 
Terrence:
Which we've already established you're a huge fan of those things.
 
Devindra:
Yes, so good.
 
Terrence:
I don't get it.
 
Devindra:
It feels great.
 
Dana:
You had fun yesterday.
 
Devindra:
As much as I could have fun, getting up early, waiting out in the cold for an hour. Getting to play with this hardware was pretty cool, I got to talk with some Microsoft folks about how they did it. This device is just really intriguing. You look at it, there's only one cable coming out of it, that's the power cable. Everything else, the display cables, the audio cables, they're in the hinge. They're actually in the hinge that's bending up and down. It's a very clean looking device, I've honestly never seen a desktop that looks like this. It's so different from even the iMac.
 
Terrence:
They're pitching it, it seems like, Microsoft's whole big pitch now is pitching it at the people who would normally buy an iMac.
 
Devindra:
Very high in iMac's, like the 27 inchers, or even, I think, the Mac Pro's, and those professionals are people that Apple has honestly ignored for the past couple years. The Mac Pro is an aging machine with old hardware. It was a cool design, but a lot of people didn't like it because it's not very upgradable, you can't do much with it. Same thing here, you can't really upgrade this, but it's a really nice, compact way. The screen is just a new form of interaction we just haven't really seen before. Microsoft showed off a couple apps, I think the Sketchable which is sort of like a drawing app. Another one is a motion comics app, I forget the name of that. Anybody who's drawing, drafting, doing architecture type stuff, there's a company that builds architecture software that's been using it, too. All very cool, very useful, people who really want to get their hands dirty with it, could be a good thing.
 
Dana:
It's funny to see us come full circle, because the first Surface, even before the first commercialized Surface product came out, it was that big Surface display.
 
Devindra:
It was the big coffee table, wasn't it a CRT? I don't even think it was LCD at that point, it was huge.
 
Terrence:
It wasn't CRT, I think it was rear projection.
 
Dana:
It took a while, but we've finally come back to this big, expansive canvas of a display that people can use.
 
Devindra:
The Surface Hub is a thing that's out and being sold right now, too.
 
Dana:
Not for consumers.
 
Devindra:
8,000 9,000 dollars, yeah. That's for businesses, this is more for professionals. Honestly, I don't even think with Surface 2 it was really for consumers, like typical consumers.
 
Dana:
Rich, curious, early adopters, maybe.
 
Devindra:
Those people, yeah.
 
Terrence:
Here's the thing that's sort of interesting to me and Robbie, one of our editor's wrote a piece about this yesterday, is like you were saying that Apple has kind of ignored this professional class for the last little bit and they've pushed more towards targeting your average consumer, and now Microsoft has said, "We've owned this productivity, this Office thing for so long." Now they're making a really explicit play for the creative types that Apple has always had cornered.
 
Devindra:
Making the play for creatives is kind of new for Microsoft, but it kind of goes down to the way [inaudible 00:31:49] has been pushing the company. He's been positioning Microsoft as a company for people who get things done. It's a very pragmatic philosophy, but it works. Microsoft products have not always been pretty, but I've always been a Windows user because I've been able to do more with it, it's always been more flexible than Mac OS and definitely more than Linux for me. They're honing in on that philosophy, and it kind of makes sense. Hearing [inaudible 00:32:18] was there at the event, whatever he says, I don't know who writes his speeches, it could just be him writing it himself, but he is so inspirational in everything he says, and Microsoft is really hammering down the idea of creativity and believing in creators and makers and things like that. It's just weird, that's normally stuff you'd hear from Apple.
 
Terrence:
Do you think there's a lot of money to be made there, though, or is it purely a status play? I think Apple had that market cornered, they had if you were a designer or you were a writer or whatever, you used a Mac. Even with that market cornered, Apple barely survived the 90's. For Microsoft, do they actually think there's this big untapped market that they're going to make a ton of profit from, or are they just like we want to have Surface Studios on TV?
 
Devindra:
I guess it's a bit of everything, right? It's a status thing, it shows that Microsoft can build a giant, all in one sort of PC like this, but in some ways it also shows the future of desktop computing too, you're not just staring at a monitor, you're maneuvering it so it's more flexible for you, you're painting on it with a stylus. You could do a lot more than you could with computers in the past, and the industry is so different now, so I think there is a decent market here. Mostly, it's for Microsoft to say, "Hey, we can do this." The Surface has always been an ideal for other PC makers, so maybe it will push others to be so creative, too.
 
Dana:
I think this is, I don't want to call it a hobby, I think it really is a real business for Microsoft, I just don't think it's going to be their bread and butter. In a way, I think Microsoft is in a similar boat as Google. You could take away both of their device businesses and they'd still be fabulously rich, big companies but I think similar to what [inaudible 00:34:01] was saying, it's helpful for a company like Microsoft to have a flagship device, that is not only a beacon for other device makers, but really puts the software in it's best light. I think this is great exposure for Windows itself, even if not that many people need Surface Studio, or end up buying one.
 
Devindra:
You'll walk by it in a store and just be like "Wow." That idea is [inaudible 00:34:25] in your head that Microsoft makes products that make you say wow. I think that's the big thing. We saw last year, the Surface business overall has surpassed a billion dollars for Microsoft. It's probably not making much profit, but the business is growing, very quickly.
 
Terrence:
It's done better, at least in terms of pure revenue, than I think a lot of people expected.
 
Dana:
Early on, wasn't there a quarter where they actually had to write off?
 
Devindra:
The Surface RT, it was basically almost a billion dollars, like seven hundred to a billion, they had to write off.
 
Dana:
Now that it makes any money at all is an improvement. It doesn't mean it's going to pay all their bills, but they won't say no to more money.
 
Devindra:
For sure. One thing we didn't mention on the Surface Pro 4, not changing at all. Same hardware as last year, same price as last year. That's kind of annoying to me, I've argued for a long time they should be including the keyboard in the price of the Surface's, that's another 130 dollars you'll be paying on top of the 899. At this point, it's a year old, just throw that in, make that clear. Every time I talk to people at Microsoft, they keep saying, "The Surface is a great value." That was true last year, less true a year later.
 
Terrence:
That was one of the biggest stories, actually, from yesterday, which is weird that this no news is news, somehow. I was surprised that it didn't even get a minor spec bump, or a price cut, or anything.
 
Dana:
We've been saying the same thing with Apple when they failed to update the MacBook Air, I think when the Surface Pro, one of their flagship products gets long in the tooth, you have to point that out also.
 
Terrence:
I think it's a thing of we've grown accustomed at this point to really reliable upgrade cycles, and when all of a sudden a company skips one, even by a couple of months, everybody loses their shit and thinks the world is coming to an end.
 
Devindra:
I'm fine with skipping it if you give us something back in return. Maybe the people who are waiting for the Surface Pro 4 to come down in price get a deal, something like that, that would be nice.
 
Terrence:
Not that this will likely happen, but who knows, maybe next week Microsoft will quietly release an update to the Surface Pro 4 and just be like, "Yeah, we didn't feel like taking time up at the event."
 
Devindra:
I expect some decent Black Friday deals, maybe that's what they're waiting for.
 
Terrence:
Although, the chances of them updating it in the next couple of weeks are pretty much nonexistent since they wasted time on the Surface Book I7 which is perhaps the worst named device Microsoft has ever released.
 
Devindra:
Is it that the official name, it's just the I7 version of the Surface Book, so kind of what had already been there.
 
Terrence:
I thought that was the official name, I might be wrong on that, we might have to double check that one but I was pretty sure the official name was ...
 
Devindra:
Surface Book I7.
 
Terrence:
Which was terrible, you don't want to name things after processors.
 
Devindra:
At least you have 16 hours of battery life, so they claim even with the usual overestimation, that if they get at least 12 hours, that's a good number for a desktop like that or a laptop like that.
 
Dana:
Thank goodness we have a battery test that can time itself, so that I don't have to sit next to it for 16 hours while I'm reviewing it.
 
Terrence:
I'm going to throw it out there right now though, if they successfully make a laptop that lasts 16 hours on a charge.
 
Devindra:
With that power.
 
Terrence:
I will buy it. Without question, trade in my Think Pad, I become a Surface guy.
 
Dana:
That's not saying much, you've already made clear on this podcast you don't really like that thing.
 
Devindra:
You're cursed with it.
 
Terrence:
I am cursed with it. This is really off topic, but I love my Think Pads. I've always been a Think Pad guy, I've had great experiences, there are things I love about this machine, I just think they made several mistakes with the keyboard.
 
Devindra:
Have you seen the Think Pad OLED yet? We reviewed that, I'll show the [inaudible 00:37:58] after show. OLED.
 
Terrence:
I don't know, I just want a mechanical keyboard on my laptop, I just want to go back to the old school Think Pad. I'm going to break out my whatever, I think the last one I had was the X200.
 
Devindra:
That was great.
 
Terrence:
It still works, it's still fine, it's just the battery doesn't last anymore. Any last thoughts or anything on Microsoft before we move on?
 
Devindra:
I'm really looking forward to reviewing the Surface Studio that's going to be fun on my desk and I imagine a lot of AOL'er's will also be like, "What the heck is that? That is such a strange looking computer." It will be fun.
 
Terrence:
I plan on being in the office that week.
 
Dana:
That's what happened when I reviewed the Surface Book last year.
 
Devindra:
We'll have review of that at some point, too.
 
Dana:
IT, especially, will come by your desk and say, "Ooo, what's that?"
 


Terrence:
Let's move on to our big topic of the week in group chat, and that is Twitter. Normally, we don't like to talk earnings on this show, because earnings are boring. I do think there's quite a lot to mine with Twitter right now. Their earnings came out today, it was at best a mixed bag. We won't bore you with the specific numbers, also, I don't know the specific numbers off the top of my head, I don't really care.
 
Devindra:
It's the outcome that's important.
 
Terrence:
Devindra, why don't you just give us a quick recap of the last couple of months, at this point, for Twitter?
 
Devindra:
They've been trying to get bought and that hasn't happened. We've heard Disney was a suitor, we heard that even Salesforce was a suitor, and the Salesforce thing was interesting, because they very publicly said that they were just not interested in what they were selling there. Meanwhile, today, what we have, is after these earnings or with these earnings, they announced that they're firing 350 employees and that follows another firing of another over 300 people last year.
 
Terrence:
It was 320 something last year, or something like that.
 
Devindra:
Clearly they're trying to tighten their belt a little. They're still dealing with the troll problem and the abuse problem, which they can't even handle, but people are getting more and more vocal about it. A storm on all fronts for Twitter, and that's a shame, because it's still, I think, the social network I use the most.
 
Terrence:
Same here. We should be clear that 350 and 320 something layoffs doesn't sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, because most of the time if we're covering layoffs, we're talking layoffs in the thousands, more often, because we're covering these giant companies. Twitter is not that big of a company.
 
Dana:
It's nine percent of their workforce, so it's nearly 1 in 10 people will be losing their jobs, it's not good.
 
Devindra:
I have friends who've worked at Twitter, and everybody is super excited when they join in and after a while, everyone says they just have no clue what they're doing, there's no direction, they don't know how to manage their products in general.
 
Terrence:
I will defend Twitter slightly on that and say that is generally the reaction I hear from most people whenever they start any job, which is they get super excited that I'm joining this company and then 6 months in go, "They have no idea what they're doing."
 
Devindra:
"Everyone is terrible." This is true.
 
Terrence:
One of the things I do want to point out about these earnings, which I thought, we immediately, when they announced this, I at least, was like, "This is going to be terrible." They decided to bury their earnings and do it before markets opened, which is very rare for an American company.
 
Devindra:
7 A.M.
 
Terrence:
7 A.M. Eastern, and Twitter is a San Francisco based company, which means it was 4 A.M. local for them, which is basically just setting off alarms all over the place that earnings going to be really, really bad.
 
Devindra:
You're going to have some happy [inaudible 00:41:43] up in the morning to write that too, so.
 
Terrence:
Generally, the only earnings that come out at 4 A.M. ...
 
Dana:
If they could have announced their earnings as the Microsoft or Apple live blog was beginning, they would have done that, too.
 
Terrence:
It's about the only way they could have been more explicit about how much they wanted to bury this news. This sort of thing, not to get too [inaudible 00:42:06] that we when we found out were scrambling, we're like, well we expected somebody on the West coast to cover this, because that's when you do earnings releases is after the market closes.
 
Dana:
We assign reporters to these things and then we're like, "Oh, but you'll be asleep now when it happens."
 
Terrence:
It's generally like we don't want to give it to somebody on the East coast, because we don't want to make them stay late, so we give it to the West coast guy and they're like, "Oh, well we can't have you wake up at 3 A.M. that's just unfair." It turned the entire morning into turmoil, basically, because of it. Thanks for that, Twitter. Thanks.
 
Devindra:
Good job.
 
Terrence:
Let's go back to this whole purchasing thing. They were trying to get bought, that does not appear like it's going to happen now. When even Salesforce doesn't want you.
 
Devindra:
Honestly, that seemed like a bad fit. Salesforce had the money for it, but it seemed like them, and everybody else is getting scared off, even Disney, by this troll problem.
 
Dana:
The funniest part to me was Disney belatedly waking up and saying, "This is not family friendly, there are trolls here."
 
Devindra:
I like your Muppet voice.
 
Dana:
"What?"
 
Devindra:
"Whaa?"
 
Dana:
Delayed reaction on their part.
 
Terrence:
Disney has a lot of not so family friendly properties.
 
Dana:
That, too.
 
Devindra:
This is true. They own Marvel, and Marvel's producing these really, really adult superhero stories on Netflix.
 
Terrence:
They have plenty of adult superhero comic books. That's less weird to me. I honestly don't know why Disney wanted Twitter in the first place, if I'm honest. Who were the other potential suitors? We had Disney, we had Salesforce.
 
Devindra:
Apple. Google. Anybody who has enough money to buy a company like Twitter.
 
Terrence:
That was basically it, that was the only qualifier. Nobody thought about what they were going to do with it, probably, they were just like, "Can we afford it? Yes."
 
Devindra:
That's how I used to cover start ups and business deals more, and that's how a lot of these companies think. "Oh, this company is growing, we just get to buy them. Who knows what we'll do with them." That was the thing when Facebook bought Instagram, nobody knew what Facebook was going to do with Instagram, but Zuckerberg was like, "Hey, this is growing faster than our photos thing, so we got to buy this." Setting off a new standard in terms of how much people would spend on a start up, too. It seems like rarely is there a strategy to buying a thing like this.
 
Dana:
What if no one buys it? It's a public company, right? It's still [inaudible 00:44:28] to investors and if they're not making money, and they're losing all this money, it's a problem. My instinct, still, is we need Twitter. You can't just close down Twitter.
 
Terrence:
If Twitter goes away, that's going to be a really sad day for me.
 
Dana:
Someone has to save Twitter.
 
Devindra:
The thing is, Twitter should be able to save itself, and it's just sad it hasn't. I think in an ideal world, it would be it's own independent thing, too. Honestly, it seems like something that should at some point just be like another internet service, Twitter to me is as useful as email or something like that. I would love for it to go open completely in that sort of way, but we'll probably never see that.
 
Terrence:
What do you think the value is in Twitter becoming an open communications protocol?
 
Devindra:
Monetarily? Probably not much. The thing is, when you create things like that, and we don't do that much anymore, right? Email was created, a lot of the earlier standards when they were building up the web, that was about building a community and creating something that everybody would use. That's here now already. How do you go about creating something open like that? I don't think you can do that today. The internet is all about people buying property and real estate now.
 
Terrence:
I guess that was sort of the point I was trying to make, is you say you'd like to see it become this open thing but nobody does that.
 
Devindra:
Nobody does that, it's impossible.
 
Terrence:
It's just never going to work, probably. I'm trying to think of the most recent example of something like that I've seen. I guess the best example I can think of is Jabber probably. They tried to build this open source instant messaging platform so that everybody can use it. Gchat was built on Jabber so that you could use it across all these platforms and make it ...
 
Devindra:
It just got absorbed.
 
Terrence:
Eventually, they realized this is too limited, this isn't going to work, this isn't what people want, and they shut it down. I don't even know what Jabber does anymore, is it even a thing?
 
Devindra:
I don't know. My dream for Twitter would be this pure, open thing. The way I saw Twitter early on, my first interactions with Twitter was just sort of like in the Matrix, when they start to see the weird code just falling down the screen, I was like, "Oh, I see how the world is built now." Twitter is like that stream of information at it's best, you see what's going on everywhere. I would love for them to really double down on that, but right now there are so many other problems they have to deal with.
 
Terrence:
The biggest problem is obviously, we mentioned it in passing before, the troll problem. They did say today that they have plans to do meaningful, in quotes, safety updates, but they didn't offer a lot of detail. I'm wondering what to expect. Does anybody have an idea how to fix this? I think it's clear Twitter doesn't.
 
Devindra:
There have been so many reports, too, about how endemic the problem is for Twitter, because they don't know how to deal with harassment, they've honestly have ignored it because some of those users do help their numbers, they help with engagement on the service, they give higher numbers of engagement and of users. If Twitter starts to take those numbers away, they look less valuable as a company, too. It's a shame, it's a shame that they've valued that more than protecting their users. Now things like the problems are getting more public. You have Lesley Jones talking about her issues with the serice, and everything. There was her SNL skit last week, I think. They can't ignore it anymore.
 
Terrence:
Any last thoughts on what Twitter needs to do next?
 
Devindra:
Probably laying off people is the best thing they could do to stay afloat and do their thing, but they got to refocus, they need new people.
 
Dana:
In terms of their business model, I don't know. I think so many of us have ideas for the product, but not how they should make money. Which makes sense, right? We're product users and critiquer's of product, we're not business people.
 
Devindra:
It's just weird how everything they do has started to fail. They hired a head of diversity who was a white dude trying to handle diversity. They hired I believe it was them, they tried to hire a VR guy, and that was problematic?
 
Terrence:
Wasn't he gone within 24 hours?
 
Devindra:
Yes, because [inaudible 00:48:52] story, because he had this whole thing, he had a railing post against homeless people in San Francisco that really sounded like an elitist thing against these degenerates. They can't do anything right.
 
Terrence:
No, they can't. I almost feel bad. It's not like Snapchat, where I feel like the people who run Snapchat are actively malicious people. I think they are bad humans. Hi, guys! I feel like Twitter just can't help but get in it's own way. It's, again, like the head of diversity thing, that was a really easy one to knock out of the park. How did you screw that up? I don't think it was a malicious thing, I think they were honestly trying to do the right thing, they just don't know what they're doing.
 
Devindra:
The thing is, too, is Jack [inaudible 00:49:44] is back in charge and leading Twitter. I think that guy has modeled himself on Steve Jobs, in so many ways, straight down to his behaviors and the way he's starting to act, but he doesn't have the substance beneath, he doesn't have that kernel of ingenuity or vision or anything.
 
Terrence:
We are out of time, though, so if the people out there want to continue this conversation about how Twitter is falling apart and how Snapchat is the worst and all that, hit us up on Twitter, or email. Devindra, where can the fine people find you?
 
Devindra:
I'm at Devindra on Twitter.
 
Terrence:
Not going to plug your other show today?
 
Devindra:
Yeah, I review movies at slashfilm.com. We've had a bad run of movies to review lately, so it's been rough.
 
Terrence:
You don't want to encourage [inaudible 00:50:28].
 
Devindra:
I did see Arrival, so that review is going to be a lot of fun.
 
Terrence:
Dana, where can the fine people find you?
 
Dana:
I'm at Dana Wollman on Twitter, it's my full name with no space.
 
Terrence:
I am at Terrence O'Brien, lots of e's, no a's. You can also hit us up at engadgetpodcast on Twitter, or you can email us podcast@engadget.com. Send us your thoughts, comments, questions, all of that stuff, we want to hear what you think. Also, don't forget to subscribe in iTunes or your podcast app of choice. Rate us on there, the more ratings we get the more people can find us, and the more people can hear our lovely voices and all of the things that we think because we're important enough to have a show.
 
Devindra:
Sure.
 
Terrence:
Thank you for watching and listening, don't forget to tune in next week but before we go, I want to leave you with the comment of the week, which comes from [inaudible 00:51:16]. "Gandalf for president."
 
Dana:
Sure.
 
Devindra:
The grey or the white?
 
Terrence:
He didn't specify, I'm sorry.
 
Devindra:
Damn it.
 

Posted 10.28.16

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