Technology: Report from the Microsoft Showcase 2013

Originally published by entertainment.ie, Monday 7th October, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Microsoft’s Surface Pro

WHILE Microsoft’s shareholders may be lobbying for Bill Gates to step down from his position as chairman of the board, there was neither mention nor any sign of the rumoured turmoil in the upper echelons of Microsoft at Microsoft’s Showcase in Dublin, this week. Instead, the focus was very much on Microsoft’s much- needed catching up in the smartphone and tablets market. As Microsoft roll out the Surface Pro 2 and the Nokia Lumia 1020- a powerful smartphone that runs Windows 8 and boasts a 41 megapixel camera- the tech powerhouse was sparing no expense.

With a raft of celebrity names endorsing Microsoft products, the focus was very much on how busy and successful people in Irish life use Microsoft devices to keep their professional lives afloat and make their working lives that little bit easier.

Sport

Representing the sporting community, Bernard Dunne- former champion boxer, occasional sports pundit, the Dublin GAA football team’s performance and lifestyle coach and much else besides- shed a little light on how important Microsoft’s Surface Pro has been in his work life and his home life.

“I have to say, the Surface itself is great not just for me, but for my kids, too. They play a lot of the games on the Surface, but I’ve locked it with the child safety lock so that they can’t access my files and start deleting stuff!

“Between doing TV work, working with the Dubs, working as an ambassador for Microsoft and doing much else besides, I’m always on the move. I use OneNote quite a lot. I’ll speak into OneNote on my phone and, straight away, it updates my Surface. So when I log on to the Surface at home, I have notes on there that I could otherwise have easily forgotten.”

Dunne’s special praise for Microsoft’s Surface Pro gave an insight into how technology has advanced the work of any sports journalist, pundit or coach; all roles that the Dubliner has found himself in over the years.

“The Surface is also great for all work that I do with the Dubs. I could be on a bus on my way to Donegal and, straight away, I can look at videos of previous games and even look at video footage that I captured of the game that was just played and take notes for analysis.”

Though the self- described sports fanatic could talk all day about the All- Ireland winning Dubs and his return to the camp in January for next year’s campaign, Dunne reserves special attention for his first love: boxing.

“In boxing, technology has been a major game- changer. Boxing is so reliant on stats. Young boxers are now using technology- computers, tablets, smartphones- to keep diaries of what they’re eating, how hard they’re training, how they felt the next morning after a sparring session or a fight…athletes are now keeping track of their whole days with tablets, smartphones and computers.

“In fact, athletes can now keep track of what they’re eating for their dieticians on devices: they can go straight into OneNote, talk into their smartphone after having eaten a meal and log everything that they’ve eaten that day. And that’s it: it’s on your Surface when you go home and you can send it away to the dietician.”

Outside of sports, Dunne has also found use for the Surface, particularly for his love of the Irish language and top- notch telly.

“I also use it a lot for all the Irish language stuff that I’ve done: I use SkyDrive quite a lot for the Irish language stuff, so I can access my files on the move, wherever I am.

“It’s also great for watching TV in bed, too. I use the NetFlix app on the Surface quite a lot. I’m currently on season 4 of Breaking Bad. There’s just so much that you can do with it.”

Travel

The emphasis wasn’t just on sports, however. Travel was well represented by Webby award- winning video- blogger, social media marketer and travel addict Colm Hanratty. Singling out Nokia’s Lumia 1020 for special praise, the Drogheda man waxed lyrical about how the dynamics of travelling have changed beyond all recognition of the past 10 years and emphasized the power of the Windows 8- powered Lumia 1020. Gone are the days when the hapless tourist would be noticeable by their struggling to manage a large, fold- out map, a guide book nestled under their arm: smartphones, argues Hanratty, are now the ultimate all- in- one tool for travel addicts and tourists alike.

“The Internet has changed travel and the dynamics of travelling beyond all recognition. There’s still a market for your high street tour operator, like Sunway, or whomever, but I think that the Internet has empowered people to do research on destinations in a much better way that wasn’t possible 10-15 years ago. Back then, you were at the mercy of Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books; effectively the opinions of a handful of people. TripAdvisor is now taking over from Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books. TripAdvisor has got more user generated content, in terms of travel, more than anyone else, but what people can also do is can turn to their friends: a week or two before going to New York, a person can send out a tweet or a Facebook status update and appeal for recommendations for restaurants and bars…none of this was possible- on the scale that it’s now commonly done, every day- 10 – 15 years ago. Incredible changes have happened.”

Naming five essential apps that no- one now traveling or emigrating should be without, Hanratty mentioned Skype, Google Maps, Facebook, TripAdvisor and Instagram as must- haves for home birds and travel addicts alike.

Demonstrating the sheer power of the Nokia Lumia 1020, Hanratty hooked his device up to a projector and showed the files of two presentations that he was due to give in the days following the Microsoft Showcase. Like Bernard Dunne, Hanratty spoke glowingly of SkyDrive and OneNote.

Cooking

The culinary community was represented by American- born, Irish- based chef, restaurateur and foodie Katie Cantwell of KC Peaches. Speaking about her favorite app to use on her Microsoft Surface Pro, the Seattle, Washington native singled- out Saveur magazine’s app: “It’s awesome. It’s really dynamic, it does everything that the website does, in terms of recipes and ideas, but it’s much more dynamic than the website. I would use the website a lot for references, use ideas for recipes, cooking techniques, etc. So the app on the Surface is a lot more dynamic than that, I really like the experience of being interactive with the machine: it stands really well and it works at a angle that makes it easy to cook and pay attention to videos and recipes at the same time.”

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how technology has empowered those in the sporting, media and culinary elite in Ireland. Sure: technology, at the best of times, makes everyone’s life that little bit easier, though the common perception that those in the media and sporting elite are served best by a raft of PA’s and handlers around them, who manage every task, was immediately dispelled at Microsoft’s Dublin Showcase. And while things may not be as rosy in the offices of Microsoft’s Seattle HQ and with the tech giant still attempting to gain ground in the smartphone and tablet markets, the feeling all- round seems to be that Microsoft is on the start of a new journey: that the Surface Pro 2 and the Windows 8- powered Nokia Lumia 1020 might just save the day; something that should give those disgruntled shareholders in Microsoft plenty to think about.

Technology: Apps of the Week

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Friday 5th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

More apps than you shake a smartphone at.


IT’S FRIDAY 
and we’re feeling very appy. Geddit? Some new apps for you to download and play with over the weekend.

Hailo

On the week of its first anniversary of going live in Ireland, Hailo, the taxi app that is used by over 4,000 Joe Maxis in Dublin alone, has launched its Cork version this week, which will be used by over 200 taxis in Cork.

For this weekend only, Hailo are offering free taxi fares for Corkonians. All first time users of Hailo in Cork can get €10 off their first fare. Just download Hailo on your iPhone or Android, register an account with a credit or debit card, and add the promocode CORK01 to your account. To use your voucher, just choose ‘Pay With Card’ when hailing your cab. The voucher will be valid until midnight Sunday July 7th.

City- Socializer

This app is perfect for anyone going on weekend trips around Europe or city hopping over the summer. No matter what city you are in the world, City-Socializer is a social network that allows you to tap into any scene based on your own personal interests and hobbies. So if everyone is still hung-over from the night before and you’re itching to get to the galleries or to find a good place for the hair of the dog, City-Socializer will put you in contact with those in the know. A uniquely 21st century way of making friends and influencing people.


Pivo

Pivo is the app that we’ve all been waiting for our whole lives: the app that allows you to order a beer in a staggering 59 different languages – from German and French to Zulu and Catalan – through video tutorials. You can even order a beer in Arabic; try it and let us know if you get a beer in the end.

Technology: How Microsoft is regaining ground from Apple and how Google fell asleep at the wheel

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Monday 17th June, 2013. To read the original, please click here.

 

WITH Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 just out on the market, a fierce and strong tablet- PC that aims to take on Apple’s iPad, the race between some of the big players in the market enters another new chapter. With more choice now than ever, the question that people always ask themselves when new hardware and software comes on the market is “will I be using this in X amount of years? Will anyone be talking about it let alone remember it?” Microsoft’s latest addition to the ever- increasing market of tablet-PC devices and Ultrabook devices is a win for you and me in the sense that there is now more diversity, now, on the market than there ever has been for tablet devices.

More than anything, however, Microsoft’s recent tablet- PC is a reminder of how much Microsoft allowed Apple to dominate the market in recent years. True: the world still operates and relies heavily on Microsoft products, most notably Microsoft Office, but the tech giant lost out to Apple in recent years in terms of style, creativity and innovation. Apple made giant leaps in recent years with iPods, the iPhone, the iPad and OS X Mountain Lion, its operating system for Mac computers, to the point where its competitors were struggling to keep up. Microsoft also lost ground to Google, whose Chrome web browser, along with Mozilla’s Firefox, overtook the slow, unreliable Internet Explorer 10, which has been hugely improved on Surface Pro.

That said, Google also fell asleep at the wheel when it came to social media, particular the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Google+, Google’s social media application, hasn’t made the leaps and bounds that many expected and it hasn’t had the same brand strength and impact as Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I can’t say that I know people who actively use Goolge+ nor do I know of businesses who use Google+ to market their business as they do with Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, however, have made their own mistakes. Perhaps the leading social media platform of them all, Facebook has recently, albeit slowly, swallowed its pride and followed Twitter, Tumblr and instagram by featuring hashtags as way of targeting users with more personalized adverts for events and products.

It’s hard to know what’s next on the horizon for any of these players and this time next year, they could be either unrecognizable from each other, leading the way for new, younger players to enter into the market with fresh ideas. Whatever happens, the tech game remains one of the most exciting chess matches in business.