Can HP’s Elite x3 change the size and shape of computing?

Keith Hartsfield may well have the toughest sales job in the tech industry.

The corporate vice-president in charge of mobility products at HP, he’s the man in charge of HP’s ambitious re-entry into the mobile phone business.

On the face of it, that’s a tough job as it is. When HP’s Elite x3 Windows 10 Mobile device goes on sale some time between now and September, HP will essentially be trying to sell a Microsoft-powered phone at the very time Microsoft itself appears to be backing away from the idea.

In May, Microsoft said it would sell its Nokia phone business to the Chinese phone maker Foxconn, a deal which directly affects only its low-cost “feature phones”, but Microsoft officials have also said they are no longer focusing on high-end Windows 10 Mobile phones, at least not in 2016. With Windows 10 Mobile capturing only a tiny fragment of the market in most countries – Windows accounted for just 2.8 per cent of Australian phone sales in the three months to April this year, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, and in the US that figure was just 1.3 per cent – the software giant is believed to have narrowed its focus to Windows 10, which has been far more successful and has now been installed on more than 300 million PCs, laptops and tablets around the world, according to Microsoft.

But selling Microsoft-powered phones when Microsoft seems to have given up trying is not even the toughest part of Keith Hartsfield’s job.

No doubt to distance itself from Microsoft’s mobile phone troubles, but also to capitalise on HP’s position as the world’s number one maker of commercial PCs, HP plans to pitch the Elite x3 not as a mobile phone, but as a “next-generation” computer for businesses, designed to free up workers from having to carry around notebook PCs.

A PC replacement

Hartsfield doesn’t just have to convince people to replace their Android or Apple phone with a Windows 10 Mobile phone. They have to replace their PCs as well.

“If I tell you that we’re releasing a Windows phone, you’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, why would you do that?’,” Hartsfield told The Australian Financial Review.

“But if I tell you that as leaders in the commercial computing space we’re going to redefine computing [with a device] that happens to make voice calls and sit in your pocket, that’s something different,” Hartsfield says.

HP says it won’t be selling the device though mobile phone carriers, but rather through its regular computer resellers and integrators. And nor will it be sold just as a phone, Hartsfield says: customers will only be able to buy it bundled either with a “Lap Dock” – a laptop-type device that has no computer power of its own, but which connects to the Elite x3 and supplies it with a big screen, a keyboard, trackpad and an extra battery – or a “Desk Dock”, which connects to phone to desktop devices including a screen, keyboard, mouse and extra storage.

Pricing for the bundles has yet to be set, but HP was aiming to make the Elite x3 and Lap Dock bundle “significantly” cheaper than it would cost to buy a phone and a regular laptop.

Second display

The strategy is based around a feature in Windows 10 Mobile known as “Continuum”, which allows the operating system to create a second display on an external monitor, a display that looks and acts more like a Windows 10 PC than a Windows phone. Many of Microsoft’s own business applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, have already been rewritten to work in Continuum, providing users with a phone-like experience when they view the app on the phone’s own screen, and with a PC-like experience, replete with keyboard and mouse control, when they open the same app on a second, larger screen.

“We’re probably leading Microsoft a little bit on Continuum, because I think we’ve had a lot deeper thoughts about how powerful the features can become for next-gen computing. We’re pushing really hard and I think we have a deeper vision of where Continuum should be in the market,” Hartsfield says.

That thinking has been informed by research HP conducted into how people used mobile phones.

Millennials, Hartsfield says, already use their phones as computers anyway, so coming up with a computer that actually is a phone is not as big a stretch as it might sound to older generations.

Personal device

“I would consume media on a phone, but I would never create a spreadsheet on it,” he says. “But the data says that millennials don’t share that opinion. Independent of computing task, almost two thirds of the time they reach for the one-handed device.”

And even for older generations, the phone has begun to replace the PC for certain tasks. HP’s research found that more than 40 per cent of the population of any age will use their phone to reply to an email, even when they’re sitting right in front of a PC with their email app on the screen.

“That’s amazing to me,” Hartsfield says.

“The phone is a very personal device. It’s the only device that you typically hold against your face. It’s the only device that people will take with them almost everywhere.”

Part of HP’s pitch to business will simply be that it’s easier for organisations to manage one, universal device – a phone that doubles as a PC when you attach a screen – than it is to manage both phones and PCs.

“The beauty of the solution from an [IT manager’s] perspective is, there are fewer endpoints. The phone is the only device that has a brain and gets managed. The Lap Dock and the Desk Dock are just dumb peripherals. They’re accessories. There are no brains in them, so there’s nothing to manage.”

Just how many brains there are in HP’s attempt to reinvent computing seems to be something of an open question, though.

Foad Fadaghi, managing director of the telecommunications consultancy Telsyte, says the strategy does present HP with a way to “outflank” competitors in the mobile phone space by harnessing HP’s strength in the enterprise market. However, it faces two significant challenges.

Own device

One challenge is that it relies on enterprises buying the HP phones for their workers, at a time when it’s more popular for workers to supply their own phones. Forty-six per cent of Australian enterprises support the so-called “bring your own device” method of rolling out technology, but only 29 per cent support the “choose your own device” method that HP would rely on, according to Telsyte figures.

The other challenge is that Windows 10 Mobile in Continuum mode simply isn’t as good as Windows 10 as a computer platform.

If workers don’t want to use Windows phones as phones, and if they’re not as good as PCs at computing, then why bother?

For his part, HP’s Keith Hartsfield admits his next-generation computer revolution is still in its early days, with problems that need to be ironed out.

“It won’t be all things to all people, but it will be meaningful for a significant number of people in the beginning,” he says.

John Davidson was flown to Singapore by HP for this story

By John Davidson
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Microsoft using ‘nasty trick’ to force Windows 10 upgrade

Once again, Microsoft has been caught out putting the security of its users at risk, by employing what has been described as a “nasty trick” to force an upgrade to Windows 10.

A BBC report said that the company had now changed the functionality of the pop-up that was used to encourage users to upgrade to Windows 10.

The red X at the right-hand top corner is normally used to close the pop-up, but the BBC said now clicking there activated the upgrade, rather than closing the pop-up.

One can only avoid the upgrade when another pop-up appears at the time scheduled on the first pop-up. The instructions provided by Microsoft are not exactly simple and will take up a fair amount of time.

Note that the instructions blithely say: “When you close this pop up, your PC will upgrade at the scheduled time,” as though closing a pop-up normally results in the activity specified therein running to conclusion!

The BBC said Brad Chacos, a senior editor at PC World, had described this latest Microsoft move as a “nasty trick.”

The only way to avoid an upgrade to Windows 10 appears to be by setting one’s PC which runs Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, to use manual updates, as iTWire has outlined.

And this means one has to be vigilant about checking manually for updates every now and then in order to avoid being caught out when a serious vulnerability is patched.

By: Sam Varghese
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Why the iPad Pro could be good for Microsoft

Apple’s new iPad – though not expected to sell like crazy – could lift the entire market for large, touchscreen tablets, boosting the fortunes of Microsoft, Dell and several other hardware makers.

Going on sale in November, the iPad Pro comes with features and accessories designed to make it more suitable as a work machine than the first nine iPad models. Its screen size is just a centimetre less than the MacBook Pro’s 13-inch display, and it weighs half as much as the laptop. It supports running multiple apps at once and works well with speedy Internet connections.

In fact, in introducing the iPad Pro at an event in San Francisco on Thursday, Apple stated that the processor and display on the iPad Pro were superior to many popular laptops. Most demos focused on using the iPad Pro to create, edit and calculate, a stark leap from five years ago when then-Apple chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the iPad as a thing to read, watch and listen.

Hardware analysts say the new capabilities along with a stylus and keyboards sold separately should instantly make the iPad Pro attractive to workers in health care, construction and other industries. They could find the new device more tenable to work on than a big-screened smartphone and less clunky to lug around than small laptops.

But because many companies remain tethered to programs that work only on Microsoft Windows, corporate equipment purchasers aren’t likely to jump for the $US799 iPad Pro let alone the $US1079 high-end option with a cellular chip.

Apple is closing that gap by having vendors such as IBM, Cisco, Adobe and even Microsoft make their technology work well with iPhones, iPads and Macs. The recently announced deal with Cisco, for instance, means iPhone users will enjoy higher-quality video chats than Android users when in offices powered by Cisco networking equipment.

The deals are significant, but not enough for the iPad Pro to become the device of choice inside businesses, said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at consulting firm Forrester Research.

“Companies have invested lots of money into legacy software not available or not effective in iOS,” he said, referring to the iPad’s operating system. “That’s going to make it very challenging to move your workforce to the new device.”

What the new iPad does do is give credibility to more laptop-like tablets, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets at IDC.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of big tablets, first unveiled three years ago, only recently started to catch on. Now, as people buzz about the iPad Pro and possibly buy one and bring it to work, more corporate technology managers could be forced to give the Surface or newly announced competitors from Dell, Toshiba and Lenovo a second look, analysts said.

Dell’s decision this week to sell and provide technical support for the Surface Pro 3 to businesses “will further turbocharge the energy” around the iPad Pro’s Windows-based rivals, Gownder said.

That momentum is why IDC estimates shipments for larger, so-called two-in-one tablets will expand by 80 percent in the U.S. next year, while purchasing of traditional, smaller tablets drops 11 percent.

The iPad Pro is “a refresh for my old iPad and a refresh for my laptop,” Bouchard said. “It might be a way to not get both.”


By: Paresh Dave
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Microsoft backtracks on free Windows 10 for early testers

Must stay with Insider program to get activated releases.

Microsoft has changed tack after it indicated last week that millions of participants in its Windows Insider program could obtain a licensed and activated copy of its upcoming Windows 10 operating system for free.

The company’s general manager for the operating system group, Gabe Aul, has now apologised for the confusion caused by his initial blog post and scotched the notion that triallists would get a genuine Windows 10 copy simply by taking part in Windows Insider.

He made it clear that Windows 10 had to be installed on “Genuine Windows” devices – requiring either an OEM or retail Windows 10 licence, or an upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1.

If not installed on a Genune Windows device, Windows 10 will go into what Microsoft calls a non-genuine state, and display a watermark, encouraging the user to obtain a licence.

Aul said if users opt out of the Windows Insider program, they will be subject to the same upgrade offer as those who possess a valid Windows 7 or 8.1 licence.

If they install the final release of Windows 10 when it lands on July 30 Australian time, it must be done over a genuine copy of Windows 7 or 8.1.

“This is not a path to attain a license for Windows XP or Windows Vista systems,” Aul wrote.

Should Windows Insider participants agree to stay within the program, they will continue to receive pre-release software activated with pre-release keys, Aul said.

The pre-release builds will expire as new software appears, and Aul said Microsoft will provide ISO disc images for recovery purposes if significant problems strike.

By Juha Saarinen
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