Category Archives: Mobile

The Post Function Key Era?

Almost every personal computer I’ve owned throughout the years has included “function
keys” on the keyboard. According to Wikipedia:

A function
key
is a key on a computer or terminal keyboard which
can be programmed so as to cause an operating system command interpreter or application
program to perform certain actions
.”

From my Commodore 64 and Amiga’s, every desktop and every laptop I’ve owned there
have been the familiar site of that row of keys. Even my MacBook has them, although
they try to hide but…. The function key has always been there through the history
of the PC.

Smartphones and their on screen keyboard have made us very familiar with a reduced
selection of keys. Windows 8 makes touch devices with no physical keyboard attached
are enabled for typing through an on screen keyboard which has a reduced number of
keys and modes that you can switch between to access additional characters, such as
numbers. Missing from the on screen keyboards are the function keys.

image

One of the most talked about elements of the recent Microsoft Surface unveiling has
been the keyboard cover, providing a physical keyboard for the tablets. If you look
closely at the top row of keys… you’ll see something different from the majority of
keyboards attached to PC’s today…

image

Those familiar F1-F12 function keys are gone, replaced by keys for volume, search,
and web.

image

Is this the end of the function key? As developer write Windows 8 applications, they
can no longer rely on the existence of the “F-Keys” for user interactions. Will other
keyboards follow along? Do we care? What will be the next key to go? Will the Post-PC
era also be the Post-F-Key era?

[Parting side note: Second to only the “Not enough memory to eject disk”error on early
Mac’s, by favorite BIOS boot error of all time is “No keyboard detected: Press F1
to continue”]

If You Want It Done Right Do It Yourself? Microsoft Surface

Today after much speculation and drama around a mystery launch event in Los Angeles,
Microsoft unveiled a Microsoft Tablet. It’s not the first time that Redmond has sold
hardware. I currently make use of a Microsoft mouse end webcam, and have a keyboard
or two around here somewhere. There’s also the Xbox 360 and Kinect. Then there is
also the Zune, ZuneHD, and I think at one point in time way back even a Microsoft
cordless phone along the way somewhere. So yes, they have seem some mixed results
in their efforts.

Microsoft relies heavily on partners to make their products a success. From building
the software to run on them to building the hardware to run on, partners have played
a key role along the way. HP, Dell, any many other computer manufacturers would be
very different companies today, or maybe not even exist if they had not been able
to build and sell product running Windows.

image

With partnerships playing such a key role, there is something to be said for not stepping
on the toes of those partners and turning them against you. Some have said that Microsoft
getting into the hardware game could have that effect, and turn manufacturers away
from building for Windows. I truly hope the opposite is true however, and hardware
manufacturers take this as an opportunity to raise the bar and deliver products above
and beyond what Microsoft has put forward here. I’ve long been a fan of Tablet PC’s,
going way back to my Toshiba m200 and Samsung Q1, but those devices have never truly
had the ideal combination of hardware and software to provide the best experience
possible.

I’ve felt as if many manufacturers gave into Microsoft and agreed to ship a couple
of higher priced models with “that tablet stuff” on them, but never really embraced
the platform. With iPad sales increasing and PC sales decreasing you wouldn’t think
that those manufacturers would need additional reasons to innovate to keep their marker
share in the “post PC era”, but apparently they do.

It’s a bold move, but I’m glad that Microsoft has put enough skin in the game to showcase
what can be done, and not just in a prototype but a shipping product. If Samsung,
HP, Acer, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, and others show up to the game with better products
that innovate in features and design the entire ecosystem will benefit. If they don’t
show up, and least there’s a serious product out there for running Win8 on a tablet.

For more, visit the Microsoft
Surface Website

Live Search for Mobile

Forget the iphone, the latest version of Live
Search for Mobile
is the killer app for mobile phones! This FREE program
is the ultimate tool for local searches, you know to find the closest coffee
shop, pub, dry cleaners, etc providing both the location and contact information.

hmpg_app_screenshot

It’s more than just a text search though, it’s mapping capabilities rock! Combining
search with Virtual Earth mapping. Paired with a Blue Tooth GPS receiver, the
application turns your phone into a turn-by-turn GPS routing solution.

hmpg_app_maps With
direct info on Traffic, Movies, and more – this takes mobile to a whole new level.
Great job!

If you have a Windows mobile phone, this is a must have! Check
it out
.

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T-Mobile Dash

T-Mobile has apparently release a very cool new Windows Mobile 5.0 device called the
Dash. I haven’t had one in my hands, but the device looks more natural than devices
like the Q.

Look like a nice form factor. More information is available here and here.

Samsung Q1 has arrived!

Last week the man in the brown truck brought me
a small black box with very exciting contents, my Samsung
Q1
Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC).

 

What a great little device! So far I’m totally impressed with it. The out of box experience
was excellent, getting me up and running in no time. As an existing Tablet PC user,
the Q1 was a logical choice for a mobile device, especially during my trip to Germany
later this summer. It’s light weight and small size will make it an easy addition
to gear. I’ll post more on the detail of the device, but for now I want to say thanks
to Samsung for making it, and thanks to Best
Buy
for selling it!