Ho hum: Google I/O, Microsoft Build and Samsung deals

A little mellow dramatic I know but I’ve watched both the Build Keynotes and the Google I/O Keynote, and I’m greatly underwhelmed by not only the over the top fixation on AI but the fact that it appears to have come at the expense of getting the fundamentals nailed down – this goes for both conferences.

When it came to Microsoft it was still the same glorified train wreck that is Windows 10 where the engineers at Microsoft appear to be circling Windows like two sword fighters with the engineer refusing to make the first move so they’re forever in this dance where no one else makes the first move. This is the opportunity to announce a long term goal in terms of a unified UI and a coherent set of HIG to ensure that it doesn’t look like the hodgepodge mismatch of different UI principles spread over 30 years that resemble the early days of the Linux world where there was little or no harmonisation between GTK and Qt. You’d think that with the focus on trying to narrow that gap between Microsoft and its competitors given that ChromeOS is being transformed into a fully fledged operating system not to mention macOS continuing to gain ground that there would be some focus on fit and finish.

The last build that Microsoft has released (link) is just more of the same – did they actually replace Explorer with a ground up UWP making use of XAML which would address high-DPI crappiness on Windows? Nope, then grafted on ‘dark mode’ which has all the attractiveness of putting lipstick on a pig. If you want developers to use the great new features that you’ve spent many man hours on (as seen in the Flue Design: Evolving our design system session (link)) you’d think that you’d want to dog food it and demonstrate to third parties the benefits of using the framework because right now the lack of taking advantage of it outside rinky-dinky toy applications sends a message that you’re not confident in the frameworks you’re developing that you want third parties to take advantage of. The conspiracy theory side of me wonders whether Microsoft this given up on Windows and they’ve pretty much got it on life support or that they’re going to relegate it to a niche with the bigger focus being on Azure, Office 365, the cloud etc. where the end user platform is largely irrelevant as so long as it provides a browser that supports the latest open standards.

When it comes to Google I’m not as disappointed although I guess what I was expecting was something that, upon reflection, would be better suited to a more consumer orientated presentation where as Google I/O was more focused on the developer side of the platform. That being said I was disappointed that there was there was no movement in terms of improving the upgrade and update cycle given that even with the movement to the treble underpinnings that came with Android 8.0 it appears that we have OEM’s doing the minimum with very little being done in the area of Android 8.1 (see Samsung Galaxy S9 and the lack of communication by Samsung – something I would be happy to deal with if they said that they said publicly they were going to skip 8.1 due to it being a minor release with the focus going forward being primarily on getting Android P up to speed).

Samsung is working with carriers with the latest bundle where you get a free television set valued at NZ$1199 if you buy a Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ on 24 months interest free and on a $59.95 open term plan – the television running Tizen but all the information I’ve read says it is pretty damn good although it isn’t as feature rich as Apple TV it does serve as a pretty good platform for what I’d need it for which is watching YouTube along with streaming content from “Democracy Now!” and other alternative news outlets. It appears that Samsung is more willing to sacrifice margins for the sake of getting product moving so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next round of financials whether such a gambit has payed off. As for where I am sitting, it is very tempting given that I’d like to upgrade my television but my brain tells me that it is the novelty of having a new toy to play with rather than the result of a need having to be met. That being said, a more robust email system plus Chrome and uBlock would be a good step forward but I’m equally interesting to see what happens at WWDC this year because it is almost a certainty any move away from Apple will be met with bitter disappointment.

I was down at Noel Leeming to get some stuff sorted out and I had a look at the new Huawei P20 Pro and it feels like a very substantial phone specially given the price and quality of the device about the only thing that lets it down is the lack of consistent delivery of updates and upgrades. As I keep reminding people online, there is nothing magical about what Apple does other than getting the basics fundamentals nailed down rather than doing something extraordinarily well or having some silver bullet that put all other devices to shame. All the competitors have to do is provide a device loaded with a Qualcomm 845, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, pure Android plus exFAT support, an application that allows synchronisation of music/files etc. and updating on both Windows and macOS plus integration with both operating systems using the Bluetooth handsfree profile so that calls can be answered one ones computer along with text message replies straight from the phone. You’d think that that at least someone in the Android world would realise that beating Apple isn’t all that difficult but it appears that the marketing wonks at these companies are always looking for the complicated and elaborate feature set to wow consumers rather than wowing consumers but producing a solid product that ‘just works’ rather than projectile vomiting hundreds of features that all performance very average at best.

All in all it’ll be interesting to see where Android P goes to particularly when it comes to third parties and what we see for the platform given that part of the attraction isn’t just the platform itself but the developer features that Google providers which then are used to enhance those ‘must have applications’ that everyone downloads the moment they get a new mobile phone.

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