Microsoft wants in Handhelds, but how?

How do you merge an Apple iPad with Microsoft’s Project Natal? That must be what is going through the minds of Microsoft execs right now. More on that idea in a moment.

As many other media outlets have reported on potential shakeups happening within Microsoft, and ZDNet specifically reporting that J. Allard was leaving due to the cancellation of the Microsoft Courier, an iPad like device.

It seems likely, to me, that problems must have arisen from the Courier not being as user friendly as the Apple iPad, or as Microsoft would like. As the Zune trails behind the iPod, and even Windows Mobile cowers in a corner behind relative newcomer Google’s Android, Microsoft must be looking for a good IN to the handheld device market. But with the lackluster sales of the PSP in this country, wanting to do a handheld video game console to compete head-to-head with the Nintendo DS doesn’t seem like a smart choice, either.

The success, to me, of the iPad comes from the success of the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad commercials airing, which state “you already know how to use it” are true enough. The simple interface design makes using these handheld and tablet devices a breeze. With Microsoft set to fully reveal the details of Project Natal at E3 in less than a month, the discussion at Microsoft must be fast and furious. A phone simply isn’t powerful enough for gaming – not like they would like to do, not to make it run something as complex as an Xbox Live Arcade game. Having access to my LiveID on my phone will be a fun feature, touted in Windows Mobile Phone 7 Series, but the level of integration has not been explained.

So the question must be posed: if iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone can share an interface, and Android phones are starting to sweep the mobile phone market with a unified design, how can Microsoft make an impact? How do you make an easy to use, consistent interface across multiple devices, when you’re about to try and make a hands free interface add on for the Xbox 360? Do you force firmware updates to the Zune and Windows phones that give it an NXE like interface? Do you ditch the NXE and make the 360 look like a ZuneHD? There are a lot of questions to be answered. Unfortunately, I’m just a blogger who asks those, and an excited techno-geek who can’t wait to see the answers.

How Chrome OS Could Survive

A recent random blog was picked up by some major outlets, saying it knew Why Google needs to pull the plug on Chrome OS. The author feels that, if Chrome doesn’t do well when it debuts on Netbooks, it could spell doom for future Distributions of Linux ever standing a chance at replacing Windows.

While I am a huge Windows fan, I can see obvious benefits to letting Google ship an operating system on a laptop. As it’s been described, Chrome OS would literally be little more than a shell with a web browser out of the box. But therein lies the beauty – it’s nothing at all, it’s the blank slate the Windows users always want. My dislikes of Linux are often how hard it is to get something working, it always relies on me opening a command line to install a package of some kind. Even the easier download services that Ubuntu and others offer don’t seem easy enough. This is where Chrome OS has it’s chance to jump ahead of the curve. An “app store” for the operating system.

After Apple’s hugely successful App Store on the iPhone and iPod Touch, Google knew what they had to do to make Android successful, and quickly became the number 2 smartphone. Why Apple hadn’t put something like this on the Mac itself is beyond me (my largest complaint about the Mac is how little software there is for it, it’s one of the reasons I’ve never bought myself a MacBook). But imagine the Google Chrome OS having 2 icons on the desktop: one that takes you straight to the web, and one that takes you to a simple app-store for Chrome OS. It’s a very straightforward way for you to one-click download and automatically install software for anything from office productivity, to media players, photo editing software, to games. With the ease of a one click install, and with the resources of Google, a large catalog of software at launch, I can see Chrome OS, if done in a form like this, as hugely successful.

However, If Google is really going to rely on their web apps to be their saving grace, it is likely that Chrome OS will be a short lived soiree into the PC Operating System Market for Google. Using Google Docs is nice, but it’s no replacement for having the tools at my disposal. If an installable and local version of Google Docs is available for a one click install, Google will change minds about the complexities of Linux.

Why does the Adobe Flash battle matter?

All the geeks out there have been reading pro- and anti- iPhone and Flash battles. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, says Flash drains battery life on the iPod. He also claims that it’s the biggest cause of crashes on Mac computers. InfoWorld has even come up with a Peace Plan to try to settle the conflict. One of the thing’s I’m most curious about: why is Adobe so passionate about this battle?

Flash has always been a large part of their business, it’s true, but Flash has not evolved. Since Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005, I feel development from version to version has been fairly static. True, I’m no Flash developer, maybe there have been giant improvements in how it works on the backend, but from what I can see, it’s very stagnant. In 2007, when Microsoft released the Silverlight platform, I expected to see a big push from Adobe – but it never came. Microsoft and NBC (you know, MSNBC), cornered the Olympics and did some amazing things, showing several cameras at one time, in fluid motion. It’s got fantastic performance and it’s turning my regular internet connection in to something beyond magic!

After all of this, only one question keeps coming back in to my mind: why does Adobe care if Flash is killed off? Adobe is clearly losing ground to Silverlight, and, to agree with Apple and everyone else, HTML5 is coming, and you won’t need Silverlight, or Flash, or shockwave, or anything else to play videos, listen to music, or have great interactive experiences online. Why not work HTML5 into other Macromedia / Adobe web development products, such as Dreamweaver and Fireworks. You have a chance to streamline your business model, and make other products thrive, and you’re complaining that you might lose the foothold that exists in Flash. Adobe already has lots of other businesses cornered, like the Acrobat PDF. They have great software i nthe form of the former Syntrillium property, now Adobe Audition. Why focus on this one tiny platform whose days are clearly numbered?

If Adobe’s Dreamweaver & Fireworks applications are promptly and properly updated, I sincerely don’t feel that they should be too sad to see Flash go. While I understand Flash is one of Adobe’s most identifiable brands, but it has problems. In an economy where companies are downsizing for kicks, if you’re forecasters are expecting the Flash team to have a hard time, why not just kill it off?

I guess this whole post is just repetitive and doesn’t really clear anything up for anyone… but I just had to say: I don’t really care if Apple or Adobe wins the argument. But frankly, too bad, Adobe. Flash is on it’s way out. Now go make Dreamweaver better.