It's been months since Microsoft announced that it would be releasing its own line of Surface tablets with a handful of models that will be available for very different price points. The highlight was a model with a detachable keyboard/cover that runs the full version of Windows 8 and will probably cost as much as an iPad 3.
But while the tablets were generally well received in the tech world, the big question was always what other companies would come up with based on the Windows 8 platform — after all, Windows has always been a software company first and foremost, licensing its operating systems to other manufacturers.
Some of those questions were answered last weekend at IFA in Berlin with models on display from ASUS, Samsung, Dell, Sony and Toshiba.
What was interesting in Berlin was the fact that almost all of the new tablets on display were hybrids and will come with optional keyboard/trackpads that double as covers. One unit, the ASUS Taichi even had two screens — one on top to use the device like a normal tablet, and another one inside if you open it up to use the attached keyboard.
That's not to say Windows 8 couldn't function as a standalone tablet — the operating system and on-screen keyboard are apparently quite good on Microsoft's Surface models, and there's no reason you couldn't use it like an iPad or Galaxy Tab. The fact that so many companies are promoting the Windows 8 tablets with keyboards suggests that the system is being positioned for productivity rather than play.
The idea of an "enterprise" tablet has been scoffed at in the past, and a lot of technologists have already written off tablets as "toys." If my latest flight to Toronto is any indication, there's some truth to that — all of the tablets around me were being used to watch movies, play games and keep kids busy while people that appeared to be doing work clearly favoured their laptops.
Whether those productive people would leave their laptops at home for Windows 8 tablets with integrated keyboards — and the ability to integrate with the Windows environment on more powerful machines — has yet to be seen.
October 29, and the official launch of Windows 8, can't come fast enough.
Apple rumours abound for Sept. 12
Is it the iPhone 5? The 7-inch iPad? Some variation of Apple TV that can replace set top boxes? A new desktop that can actually compete with other PCs? All of the above?
Apple is pretty lousy at keeping secrets as developers seem unusually prone to losing prototype phones, but the Sept. 12 meeting is still a bit of a mystery. The tagline, "It's almost here," suggests that the iPhone 5 will in fact be announced, along with a release date in the next few months.
The buzz over this is insane, and Apple, as usual, will benefit from millions of dollars in free publicity as Apple fanatics salivate over the iPhone 5's every bevel and curve.
But will it be enough? An article at The Next Web reveals that Android is taking a huge lead while activating 1.3 million phones every single day. Prices and plans do have an impact on sales, and there are a lot of people still waiting to see Windows 8 phones before diving in. If anything, this will be Apple's hardest iPhone launch yet; the phone had better be great.
Bruce Willis vs. iTunes?
It turns out that Bruce Willis is not suing Apple over his digital rights, but the internet hoax did have a grain of truth to it.
Nobody really reads the small print, but in Apple's world — and the world of most other digital entertainment services — you don't really own the things you download, you're merely a licensed user.
That's a bit of an issue for some music lovers. In the past you handed down your record collection with the rest of your personal items, or divvied up your CDs in a separation or divorce. Music was personal property.
But what happens when music is digital? As the hoax went, Bruce Willis of Die Hard fame was reportedly of the opinion that his digital collection, thousands of dollars worth of music, should go to his children when he dies.
But while it isn't true, it's inevitable — one day ownership of digital media will go to court, and the result will be a precedent that would apply to all digital content — music, movies, games, etc. The entertainment industry would be very concerned about this because, let's face it, part of the industry's economic model is to get people to rebuy the same content in different formats over and over again — record, tape, CD and then digital for music; VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, digital download for video; floppy, CD, DVD and digital download for video games... There are some records that I've bought four or five times over the years, and will have to buy again because CDs are incredibly prone to scratching.
Maybe this is something Bruce Willis should take on. Judging by the success and reach of the hoax, it's an issue that people really do seem to care about.