Telecom NZ hotspot network points to Wi-Fi future. There’s going to be a lot more Wi-Fi in your future. Telecom NZ’s network of phone box-based hotspots is just one local part of a fast-growing international trend.
Vodafone executive Juan-Jose Juan was in New Zealand explaining how innovation is about more than just rolling out the latest gadgets.
Vodafone innovation chief: It’s not about gadgets - it turns out improving the user experience is the fastest track to higher productivity.
Telecom NZ 4G starts with 40,000 sim cards. Telecom NZ’s new 4G network got off to a flying start last week with 40,000 sim cards out in the wild on day one.
Android hits 81% smartphone market share, Windows grows. Change is on the way now that four out of every five smartphones shipped in the world are powered by Android.
iPad Mini with Retina display, New Zealand price details. Apple made surprisingly little fuss when it launched the iPad Mini with Retina display. We have the local price details.
Apple stack: A week of working with iOS and OS X. What’s it like to work exclusively with the Apple stack? Thousands do it every day, but is it a wall garden of earthly delight or a prison? I spent last week finding out how it works in practice.
It was a busy week with smartphone-related stories dominating the news agenda:
- Top billing goes to 2degrees gets the Google Nexus 5. The carrier may not have a 4G network or HD Voice, but it does have what many are calling the best Android phone on the market. Sadly the price New Zealanders will pay for the Nexus 5 is higher than it sells for overseas.
- How Android disappoints takes a look at why Google’s phone OS is the most popular, but by all accounts the least loved.
- How Vodafone improves call quality with HD Voice. Vodafone upped the competitive ante introducing higher call quality on suitably equipped handsets. You have to hear it to understand what a difference it makes.
- Mako Networks scores huge US deal with Sprint. It’s nice to see plenty of interest in a local company making it big in the USA.
- Apple, Microsoft and other Rockstars sue Google, Android phone makers – what does it mean for us? Another patent battle looms and the implications could be far-reaching.
Seven things I learned at IITP 2013. The summary of this year’s Institute of IT Professionals’ 2013 Conference was first published last weekend and was popular enough to qualify for the previous week’s top stories as well as heading this week’s list. If you missed the conference, it’s a quick wrap of the sessions that made the most impression.
NZ iPhone 5S plans compared. Vodafone and Telecom NZ now sell Apple’s new flagship phone. You can pay between $1050 and $1450 to buy a phone outright or you can pay less and get it as part of a plan. Here’s a list making it easy to compare your options.
Making sense of the 700 MHz spectrum auction. New Zealand’s 700 MHz spectrum auction turned out more interesting that expected. It also threw up some curly questions.
Pages update means better, free OS X writing tool. Some users don’t like Apple’s updated word processor, but for those of us who prefer simplicity, it’s a big improvement.
Telecom NZ data use up and the case for trans-Tasman cable. Video streaming took off with the America’s Cup boosting data consumption. Meanwhile Telecom NZ has figures showing New Zealand’s internet centre of gravity is moving from the USA to Australia and Asia.
There’s a different story with the tablet’s software. Scan the news feeds and you’ll find Windows RT 8.1 comes in for almost as much criticism as the original Windows RT.
Is this justified?
Windows 8.1 RT is a small update on the operating system that shipped with the original Surface RT tablet. For most of the time it looks and behaves exactly the same as Microsoft’s desktop operating system: Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 RT perceptions
This is where problems begin, because Windows 8.1 RT can’t do all the things that a desktop operating system can. More precisely, it can’t run full Windows applications. That means users are locked out of the Windows apps they’ve used in the past. It also means they no longer have millions to choose from.
You can’t run Photoshop or install the Chrome browser as an alternative to Internet Explorer. You can’t run some cloud services that have Windows clients.
On the other hand you can run any of the apps in the Windows Store. Some of the traditional Windows apps come in Windows Store versions for RT, but many don’t. It would pay to look at the store to check it meets your needs before plonking down cash for Surface 2.
The wrong Windows?
Microsoft has a product for people who want to run Windows apps on a tablet. It’s called the Surface Pro 2 – prices start at $1300, roughly twice the price of a Windows RT tablet.
At least part of Windows RT’s problem is confusion about the difference between the two product ranges. Given that the OS looks like Windows and acts like Windows, people expect it to do everything full-blown Windows can.
This is essentially a marketing and perception problem for Microsoft. It doesn’t help that the flip-side of the logic could be framed as ‘you pay less money and get an inferior experience’.
How Apple deals with this
You could ask yourself why Apple doesn’t face exactly the same problem. The iPad’s operating system is equally limited when compared to the Mac’s operating system.
There’s a clue in the names. Apple calls its tablet OS iOS, while the desktop OS is called OS X. If Apple had launched iPads with OS X RT, it may have run into similar problems.
Which brings up to an interesting point. How does Windows 8.1 RT compare with iOS 7?
It’s certainly a different experience. You may find cast iron reasons why you consider one better than the other, but most of that is a matter of taste and need.
Where Office fits
Windows 8.1 RT comes with plenty of software. There’s a version of Microsoft Office which looks and behaves just like the desktop version. Not so long ago, you’d pay more for a single copy of Office than you pay now for a Surface 2 with the software installed.
Office works with Skydrive, so you can work with files on the move, then make changes to the same documents from a desktop computer later. Or on a smartphone. The new version of RT comes with a full copy of Outlook, an important productivity tool for companies committed to Microsoft’s technology stack.
Overall Microsoft Windows 8.1 RT works well. I found the touch controls in Windows 8 were clunky and awkward on a desktop, on a 10-inch screen they make perfect sense. Everything is well signposted with big clear buttons to tap and lots of navigation help.
There’s a cognitive leap you have to make – particularly if you’ve used other tablets – because many screens are quite minimal. This keeps things tidy and uncluttered. What isn’t immediately obvious is that there are screens and menus behind these screens which you get at through swipe gestures from the edge of the display.
Once you grasp this, you’ll find Windows 8.1 RT can be as productive as any tablet. Possibly more so. I wouldn’t describe it as intuitive. I would say that finding your way around isn’t hard.
Multi-tasking is much improved over the original Windows 8 RT. It’s now practical to have two windows open at the same time, making it easier for tasks such as cutting and pasting between apps.
Where’s the desktop?
Long-time Windows 8 users will notice there’s no desktop button on the 8.1 RT start page. That’s because you mainly don’t need to go there. However, the one aspect of Windows 8.1 RT I dislike most is that the Office apps all work on the desktop. So there’s a jarring transition between what was formerly known as the Metro interface and the old-school Windows desktop when you switch to Office.
Personally, I would have been happier if Microsoft had created Metro-style versions of the Office apps. I don’t know whether the company chose not to to maintain full compatibility with the desktop version or whether Microsoft just hasn’t got around to modernising the apps yet. Either way, this discontinuity is annoying.
So to answer my original question, is the media criticism of Windows 8.1 RT justified? We certainly need to stay critical but some of the negativity is overstated.
Work needed on sales and marketing
Microsoft and the people in retail stores selling the Surface 2 could do a better job of managing customer expectations. I heard a sales person, wrongly, tell a customer an earlier RT device had a full copy of Windows. That really doesn’t help. More retail training and clearer advertising may help.
The switch to desktop when using Office is not enough to dismiss the OS. For people who don’t need powerful desktop apps like Photoshop – let’s face it, that means most people – a Surface 2 tablet will be all the computer they need. RT’s limitations are not such a big deal for 90 percent of the population.
What steps can government take to kickstart global success for New Zealand’s technology exporters? Moderator Lance Wiggs put the question to a panel of politicians and business leaders at the IITP 2013 Conference in Tauranga.
Catalyst IT director and Open Source advocate Don Cristie wants government to recognise that buying from New Zealand suppliers is a way of helping companies export. He says we have to show confidence in our industry and not spend money with French companies: “If we do, that’s where our children will go to work”.
Labour associate technology spokesperson Clare Curran agrees that changing government procurement would help boost the industry. She also wants to establish New Zealand as a data haven – a move she says needs a new government approach to privacy.
Speaking for the National Party, Paul Foster-Bell says that investing in projects like the government-sponsored UFB fibre network and taking part in trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are paving the way global export success.
Gareth Hughes from the Green Party say: “I want to see an ICT sector that gets a much government support as the oil industry”. Hughes wants government to invest in a new submarine cable, he says without a new link the fibre network could end up being the world’s fastest intranet.
New Zealand ex-pat Ed Robinson, who founded Aptimize, says having many more bigger IT companies in New Zealand will make it easier to export our technology.
Robinson says the government could help by making compliance simpler. He says he is a big fan of trade trips lead by senior government figures that open doors and make introductions in key markets.