Microsoft is reinventing themselves, and using Apple as a blueprint in some ways. Today's news has them making Windows 10 a free upgrade, albeit for a year, for existing Windows 8 customers. Even users of pirated copies of Windows, which are reportedly 75 percent of China's Windows users, will be allowed to upgrade for free. Apple also does this, but they make money on all of the Mac hardware. Microsoft needs to keep Windows' market share high, and fight off Chromebooks on the low end and gain inroads against Android tablets and iPads as well. Plus Microsoft is now in the hardware business and has been for some time. So they can afford to make less profit on the operating system.
Every year, analysts predict the Apple TV will offer a la carte Cable TV channels, and every year they are wrong. Sure, some channels like HBO and ESPN have added "apps" or buttons to the Apple TV, and the HBO NOW announcement, during Apple's Watch event, help Apple inch along towards a set top box replacement. This year is no different, as the Wall Street Journal is getting a little more specific and stating Apple could add about 25 channels and could do so this fall.
I had the chance to try the Pronto Smart Remote ($49.99). It's a nice, affordable way to turn your iPhone into a universal remote control, and it will get better when the Apple Watch is available. The makers promise to make the app work with the Apple Watch, so you can control your TV and A/V equipment from your wrist! How cool is that? The Peel iPhone app also works as a TV guide, but it would be nice if it could leverage the full screen of an iPad. The app talks to the Pronto base station that sits within line of sight of your A/V equipment.
I saw Fugoo's speakers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Recently, Fugoo gave me the opportunity to try its Sport Wireless Speakers ($199). Fugoo offers a wide variety of speakers, with different materials, textures, colors and capabilities, but they all have one thing in common. They are substantial both in weight and sound quality. And these speakers are waterproof, not just splash proof. At CES, Fugoo drenched their speakers in water and they kept on rocking!
The Apple Watch will be available in a wide variety of configurations, but there is one more way to personalize your Apple Watch that Apple didn't even mention. If you purchase the Sport version, and pick up a second Sport band in a different color, you could mix and match and have a band that is part green and part blue for example. You could use any combination of black, white, pink, blue, and green, perhaps to reflect your favorite sports team or college colors. (I can't do that for my college, since Carnegie Mellon's official "colors" were plaid!) I put together an animated GIF showing the possible color combinations.
Before the Apple Watch was announced, when we learned that Nike was abandoning its Fuel Band, there was speculation that the Apple offering might be more of a fitness band and less of a miniature iPhone. However, that didn't happen and the Apple Watch is indeed bulkier than most fitness bands. Potential customers looking for a smaller band may want to consider the Microsoft Band. Not only is the Microsoft Band smaller, but it's cheaper too, at $199.
Are you chomping at the bit to get an Apple Watch? Are you the type that can't wait for access to the next version of iOS or OS X? Well, you can't get an Apple Watch yet, but Apple is letting the general public gain access to beta versions of their operating systems. Apple started this early access program last year, and it is a way for them to test features in the real world before it is considered FCS (First Customer Ship) ready.
Apple has given us so many choices when it comes to the Apple Watch. The case comes in three metals, each with different shades and a wide assortment of bands, and two sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm. The potential downside is known as paralysis of indecision, or analysis paralysis. I can't even decide what to call it, that's how tough it can be to make a decision!
At the Apple Watch announcement, Apple didn't spell out the differences between the 38 mm and 42 mm versions of the Apple Watch, but we are learning now that the larger device has a larger battery. It makes sense, from what we learned about the new MacBook. Apple loves to cram batteries into every nook and cranny. There is a precedent, as the iPhone 6 Plus has a larger battery than the iPhone 6 (but it also needs a larger battery to power the much bigger screen.)
I've been a big fan of the Apple TV for a while. In addition to Netflix and consumption of various forms of media, the AirPlay feature is a lot of fun. I can wirelessly project my iPhone or iPad's screen to a big screen using the Apple TV. There are even games that take advantage of AirPlay to project a different view to the public. Our family likes to use Party Doodle which works like Pictionary, and the iPad screen shows the clue while the Apple TV only shows the drawing in progress. Games like Real Racing let you use your iOS device as a controller and see a different view of the track, and fellow racers, on the big screen.