Category Archives: Technology

Microsoft Surface Studio: Retrospective

 Image courtesy: Microsoft.com
Image courtesy: Microsoft.com

With the dust settling from last weeks Microsoft (MSFT) press conference, it’s time to look back on the Surface Studio with clear eyes. To call the Surface Studio an “iMac clone”, is not only stupendously inaccurate but misses the mark who this product is intended for. The Surface Studio is aimed at business professionals such as architects, creative designers, magazine editors etc… Where the iMac has long been used by creative professionals it is also has low end options that are perfect for everyday users browsing the web. The Surface Studio starting at $3000 dollars is not the machine you want to buy to browse Facebook. It’s for those who want to “Do More” with their products and get the most out of them. 

It’s easy and lazy to compare the two. They’re both all in one computing machines, the display is the prominent feature, use a stand and have the brushed aluminum look. Apple (AAPL) may have popularized the all in one but Microsoft is taking it to a new level. Targeting the creative professionals is a bold move from Microsoft. Aligning with their strategy of devices that “Do more”. The Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 have long been targeted at those who need more from their computing devices. Business and tech press have taken notice of the Surface Studio and touted Microsoft’s bold take on an all in one PC. Where Apple is removing headphone jacks and claiming courage the Surface Studio delivers a new way of thinking about the desktop. The iMac which was once the pinnacle of all in one personal computers and the crown jewel of a desk, now seems outdated. Competitors from the likes of Dell, Hp, Lenovo, and others have competitive or better specs and are not bad looking designs. Though none of these devices have the look and clout of an iMac, they offer distinct features, cheaper prices and better hardware in most cases. The saving grace for iMac’s are the incredible 4K and 5K screens which come at a considerable cost. Apple is still great at industrial design, but has clearly shown they have no interest in making a touch screen iMac. The omission of a new iteration of iMac’s at Apple’s event was disappointing for fans. Apple is very diligent in the markets they enter. If the Surface Studio starts chipping away at Apple’s high end creative professional market, expect to see a reaction from Cupertino. While the Hp’s and Dell’s are not battling it out in the high end Microsoft has changed the game with the Surface Studio and it’s gorgeous 4.5K display, discrete graphics and unique “zero gravity” hinge. Which lays the device down at a 20 degree angle and functions much like a drafting board. The one way Microsoft has learned from Apple is how to make compelling videos that elicit emotion from their audience. This incredible reveal of the Surface Studio and its features paired with an incredible rendition of “Pure Imagination” hits all the right notes of how to deliver a message. 

Enthusiast will point out the high starting price for the Surface Studio. Though as stated Microsoft has chosen to focus on the higher end and target creatives, going so far as to name their next Windows 10 update the “creators update”. A graphic designer who would usually purchase a Wacom tablet for digital inking plus an 4 or 5K iMac for the computer side of things has a legitimate new option. A 13in Wacom cintiq tablet cost 800 dollars to start and clearly states it must be connected to a computer to work. Pair that with a $1600 iMac or PC of your choice and a 28in 4.5K Surface Studio that can do all that is looking a lot more appealing. The Surface Studio is not without its faults. It would be nice if the base hardware specs were an intel core i7 processor and a slightly beefier graphics card at a 3000 dollar starting price but what you’re getting in one device makes up for the cost of multiple devices. For a first gen model it’s pretty incredible what the folks at Redmond have come up with. The Surface Dial while not officially a part of the Surface Studio delivers another unique way to interact with the product and it does come free with all initial pre-orders for the time being. Contextual menus on the screen, color palettes, scrolling, zooming, volume controls etc… It’s nice to see a new way of thinking to interact with our devices.  

Microsoft has its work cut out for itself. Windows 10 the operating system which all this fancy hardware exist still has some issues with updates botching systems, rendering web cams unusable and the overall growing pains of switching Windows to a delivery service with constant updates as opposed to major 3 year cycles. Apple has long been known for its computers “just working”. If Microsoft expects creative pro’s and business’ to invest in these high cost machines it better make sure the ugly issues with their previous Surface devices (pardon the pun) don’t resurface. Despite these harsh critiques Windows 10 is a great operating system and Microsoft has the extra burden of supporting thousands and thousands of different configurations of computers that Apple does not have. But with a high point of entry comes high expectations. Microsoft can ill afford another “Surfacegate” with Surface Studio. With Microsoft swinging for the fences and pushing itself to deliver impressive products and new categories of computing it’ll help push its competitors to innovate in new and exciting ways. If they can correct their past sins with new hardware launches, Microsoft can position themselves as the haven for creatives it envisions. 

Big Trouble, Little Samsung

 image source: Samsung
image source: Samsung

Samsung has been in the news a lot lately, and not for a good reason. The mainstream media has jumped at every opportunity to ravage Samsung over every report of exploding phones; often without verifying the source. A new report from China where a man claimed a “safe Galaxy Note 7” exploded while charging, damaging his Macbook Pro and injuring two of his fingers.  The man Hui Renjie was visited by a Samsung representative but declined their offer to inspect his phone because he does not trust them to reveal the true nature of the fire, so he decided to publicize the issue (bloomberg.com)  Now as much as Samsung has botched the recall thus far of the Galaxy Note 7, the media is quick with headlines of “Supposed safe Galaxy Note 7 explodes”. At this point we don’t know whether Mr. Renjie was telling the truth or exactly what occurred. What we do know is these serious accusations can cause irreparable damage to a business. We at Dinosaur Spaceship are not apologist and are beholden by no corporation. But these serious allegations and the media is failing with its shotty journalism. In this age of click bait headlines, media companies and blogs are more concerned with clicks then actual reporting. So instead of using terms like “alleges” or “possible” they simply state “explodes” then as you read along you find more facts about the case. Whenever someone decides to publicize an issue, in this case Mr. Renjie; it is a journalist job to examine the issue more closely. 

So why so much scrutiny into exploding phones to verify validity? The answer is Huawei. The biggest competitor to Samsung in China is Huawei. With constant damaging reports Huawei has much to gain from the demise of Samsung in Huawei’s home country. Now again, that’s not to say Samsung is without fault. Their manufacturing process let them down immensley. If reports are true the issue was caused by a desire to outspec the iPhone 7 then people must be fired. Accountability, must be taken. It is time for an independent party to come in and inspect these phones. Samsung previously stated a third independent party had already verified the safety of the new batteries. Samsung also claimed Chinese Galaxy Note 7’s were not affected because they used different batteries than the models deployed to the United States and other countries. At this point let a third party take control of the inspection of all phones that have reported issues. Mr. Renjie’s decision to publicize the issue instead of having Samsung look over the case is his choice, and his distrust in the company is well founded. But what other steps has Mr. Renjie taken to validate his claim? Corporate sabotage is a real thing and with journalist quickly trying to push out article after article to generate hits they fail to do their jobs properly and lead to a distrust with companies. 

 image source: samsung.com
image source: samsung.com

Though mostly known for their Galaxy line of phones, Samsung is much more than just a smartphone company. Making everything from smartwatches, fitness wearable’s, televisions and even computer chips. Samsung employs thousands and thousands of individuals and is a big part of the South Korean economy. Sympathy for the “corporate overlords” is not what we’re preaching. It’s about remembering the ethics lectures in college, it’s about signing that ethics agreement of doing your research and upholding oneself to higher standards. So while yes this is yet another article on “explode gate” or whatever the media is referring to it as, it is more than that. The death of journalism has long been touted and while that may seem like hyperbole it is not far from the facts. How many websites do you visit that have sourced exterior stories without citations? While we rant on think about that fact more closely. Now most individuals will have no issue with these types of click bait stories. It is our mission here at Dinosaur Spaceship to uphold those ethics college courses installed in our brains. Not solely for the sake of journalism but for those individuals whose livelihood depends on Samsung performing well. We should all want Samsung to bounce back from this catastrophe. Samsung is Apple’s biggest competitor. If Samsung were to exit the smartphone industry innovation would stall and we would be left to hope Apple has the courage to innovate. Though we’re not discussing Apple here, competition fuels innovation, in this case it seems the desire to compete was Samsungs’ Achilles heel. Heads must roll for this colossal error, investigations must be made but most importantly “explode gate” must be resolved. When the safety of consumers is jeopardized authorities need to step in and take the reigns from Samsung. If this was as Mr. Jenjies’ intention all along than kudos. But shame to media for capitalizing on this “opportunity”, though if this past election cycle has taught us anything, it’s that the media has no shame when it comes to ratings. 

Galaxy note 7 recall

 image source: samsung
image source: samsung

Samsung has stated that about half of Galaxy note 7’s with a potential battery cell problem have been returned. As you may now some devices have been known to catch fire, explode or swell upon charging. Though these statements have not all been verified. Never the less it is imperative if you are one of the consumers affected with this problem that you return the phone to place you bought it from and get an exchange or refund etc… Replacement phones have been in stores starting September 21st. 

Samsung has been doing damage control ever since the defect was discovered. It’s too early to see how it will affect Samsung long term. Shame on Samsung for taking so long to get replacement devices back to consumers with reports of customers having a hard time returning them. With airlines warning passengers not to use note 7’s and reports of passengers being warned to turn on any Samsung phones, Samsung has a way to go to restore its image. Not to mention the goliath that has just been released the iPhone 7 and 7 plus. Needless to say you would not want to be the CEO of Samsung in its current state. 

Cool new apps: Grammar Snob #grammared

Have you ever found yourself reading over a friends message wishing you could correct their grammar and punctuation? Now you can with grammar snob! The app was developed by John Haney. Thanks to him you can now correct your friends mistakes the old fashioned way with red ink. For instance your friend sends you a message stating “What time should I meet you their” You can then tap the right arrow key to access your stickers then hold and drag an x or squiggly line  directly on top of the error. Then drag “there” right below your correction. It’s an ingenious method that may cause you to lose friends or not have any at all. But for the sake of grammar we must prevail. 

Check out this video by Jane Jones demonstrating the app in action. As well as other cool stickers she likes to liven up your experience in iMessage. Also be sure to check out developer John Haney’s other apps. You can download Grammar Snob for .99 cents on the app store and it is well worth the price. 

Elon Musk: Our Next Potential Visionary

 source:  luxe.co
source: luxe.co

When Steve Jobs died in 2011, the tech community and consumers alike were in shock at the loss of one of our generation’s most prolific and recognizable tech visionaries. Steve Jobs launched products that both disrupted existing markets and created new markets alike offering up the sort of visionary genius we so rarely find in the world. Today, our generation of entertainers and technology figureheads are more likely to spout bombastic claims rather than backing it up with a list of ground breaking achievements. In addition to being a visionary, Jobs was an entertainer in his stage presence, conviction and showmanship.  The combination of these traits is what Jobs brought to the table and since his passing the tech community at large has continued a search for the next visionary leader. The type of leader people came to see in Jobs is rare but does exist and occasionally, we see glimpses of those qualities in the lesser-known and up and coming names leading industries into innovation and change. When they disappear, or leave us as Jobs did, it seems equally difficult to point a finger at the next big influence who might make the sort of disruptive waves we have come to expect. Elon Musk may be among this generation’s select few visionary leaders.

Last week at the Re/Code Code Conference 2016,the highly regarded head of Tesla and SpaceX took the stage for a one-and-a-half-hour interview to discuss both of his company’s endeavor’s. Musk shared his thoughts on Artificial Intelligence and space colonization to name a few key points. I found myself in awe while listening to Musk answer the many pointed questions hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher threw his way, as they pulled no punches in getting to the point. Part of the allure as a viewer was watching the slow and thoughtful responses Musk delivered, mostly with ease, as questions they chose were clearly on his radar. Through these types of interviews and his ongoing stage appearances, Musk has managed to create quite the name for himself in the tech-sphere in a fairly short time. If you asked someone ten years ago who he was it is unlikely the name Elon Musk would have rung a bell. This stands true today, even though Musk founded the currently well-known Tesla all the way back in 2003. What may be even more surprising is that his other company, SpaceX, was founded nearly a year earlier and continues to be a name that is slowly creeping into the spotlight. Though SpaceX is less commonly known than Tesla to the general public, it is certainly being followed closely by those more adventurous when it comes to seeking out tech news.

 source:  tesla.com
source: tesla.com

Tesla has been a vehicle (no pun intended) which has allowed Musk to define his place in our current realm of technology as an innovative and outspoken figure. He has done so particularly in the space of sustainable and autonomous transportation and more recently garnered much fanfare in disclosing his plans to build a Gigafactory for battery production – a move that will aid the rollout of the recently announced Tesla Model 3 car. He has ignited the internet with talk about space exploration and spent some of his time during the Re/Code interview detailing his thought processes around successful rocket launches and his future ambitions. Somehow, through what is both a combination of his actions, products and personality Musk has captured an audience that stands by his vision of the future. A vision that includes affordable autonomous transport, putting rockets into orbit and someday delivering humans to Mars for colonization. 

The tech industry, and those closely following it, haven’t always expressed this fondness for Musk. Early rumblings of Tesla’s aspirations have been met in the past with skepticism as a fairly new entrant in the automotive field offering high priced vehicles. Upon first watching Musk reveal the Model X in 2012 I didn’t see Tesla’s founder in the light of a visionary, rather I saw someone who occasionally stumbled over his words and didn’t seem to have the most compelling stage presence. However, I was quickly won over by his mission statement which was then, and still is, to solve the world’s fuel emissions problem with sustainable electric vehicles. Part of my reaction was based solely on his messaging, prompting questions around what the rest of the industry was doing and why there was no apparent cheerleader for electric vehicles elsewhereHis conviction and timeliness in delivering his mission statement was enough to win me over and has garnered more positive media attention in recent years as a result.

This speaks to the pervasive nature of the ideals Musk and Tesla have put forward. Notable not because Musk wants to sell us all cars, but because he is selling an idea people can align with. The idea is cleaning up our environment, creating sustainable means of transport for everyday people and pushing things forward for humanity at large.  There is no better proof that he is onto something than observing the rest of the automotive industry adapt to this change in how we power our vehicles. One could easily argue that the movement in this direction was alive long before Tesla started making big showroom announcements. The 2006 film, “Who Killed the Electric Car” chronicled the release and destruction of the 1996 GM release of EV1, the first consumer electric car. The film was aptly timed at the height of oil prices and helped spark an environmental discussion around gas emissions and pollution. Though the film alone was not a primary driver of change, it reignited questions and curiosity among the public and served as a precursor to conversations that would become ever more common in the coming decades.

While the rest of the industry has lackluster offerings and sub-par sales among the most eco-friendliest of cars, Tesla entered a market far outside the average purchase price and created a brand that was aspirational by most accounts. The messaging and brand was so clear about its mission that Tesla just needed a product that embodied their vision. When they announced the far more affordable Model 3 earlier this year, the response from the public was loud and clear with nearly 400,000 pre-orders to date. The true test going forward will be Tesla executing on the large-scale production of its more affordable vehicle and delivering the goods by late 2017.

 source:  bloomberg; Illustrations by The Red Dress
source: bloomberg; Illustrations by The Red Dress

In the interim, Musk and Tesla have struck the right balance between speaking to the desires of the potential consumer and vastly rethinking an existing market. Automobiles are not the only place Musk seems anxious to make an impact. Space is the next frontier as Musk expressed he will detail his plans to put humans on Mars later this September. The plan, which he calls the “Architecture for Mars Colonization” will see humans landing on Mars as early as 2025, complete with necessary resources and cargo. Musks’ plans for both companies are ambitious. When you look across the industry there is really only one other man who comes close when it comes to making bold business moves around products and jumping into the uncharted territory of exploration outside of earth’s atmosphere. That man is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The similarities between the two men are clear in that they are both entrepreneurs. Similar to Musk, Bezos also has aspirations that include space travel and has a company designed to do just that with his own side project, Blue Origin. The differences between the two however are much more nuanced to the casual onlooker. Where Musk plans a full-on colonization effort on Mars, Bezos looks to the stars to employ new distribution methods for solar power and industry. Bezos is without question the closest leading tech entrepreneur to parallel some of Musk’s vision. Though Bezos has arguably taken a more business-minded approach. Musk differs in that he embodies a position that speaks more to the dreamers out there.

When we think about leaders who have made ground-breaking achievements and done so exercising a personality rich with conviction and showmanship, it is Elon Musk who comes to mind. Musk has managed to capture the attention of both the consumer audience through his automotive products while simultaneously tapping into geek culture and dreamers in the world of tech. This is not to discount Jeff Bezos or any other significant leader of our time, but the media response to Musk’s presence is proof that at least for now, he’s got the spotlight. Musk may one day be considered among the great visionaries or our time as was Jobs. It will be a long road ahead for Musk to prove through his actions if this statement is accurate. Which will only happen through executing his ideas of grandeur with great success in the coming decades. The potential is there; we might very well be witness’ to something special. For Elon Musk, time and execution are the deciding factors.