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Google has given up on tablets again, is this time for good?

Google's relationship with tablets has always been contentious. Whether it be their bizarre tablet-focused Android Honeycomb or the incredibly expensive and underpowered Pixel Slate, tablets seem to constantly fight against Google. They did have success with the 2013 Nexus 7, but that device was not manufactured by the company, but instead by Asus. As far as the company's own tablet ambitions, nothing has worked.

According to a report from Computer world, Google was said to be exiting the tablet business once and for all, leaving the Pixel Slate as the company's final market tablet. This was far from Google going out on top, but likely a good decision. Following the report, Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh confirmed the rumor, saying,

Hey, it's true...Google's HARDWARE team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward, but make no mistake, Android & Chrome OS teams are 100% committed for the long-run on working with our partners on tablets for all segments of the market (consumer, enterprise, edu)

If you noticed that the tweet suggested that a dozen products had just been canceled, you were not alone. Questions came in about the future of products such as Google Home, Nest, Pixel phones, and more. Osterloh quickly clarified, saying,

this was meant to refer to future tablets only not a comment on other products. We are committed to our many other hardware categories. Writing too quickly - my bad!

Overall, this will likely be a smart move for Google. As the company's hardware division does continue to expand its reach, recently bringing Nest into the Google fold entirely, and breaking down the privacy firewall, and working to build and support other smarthome devices, dedicating resources to an underperforming product line is foolish.

The loss of Google hardware does not mean the end of Google's ambitions in the tablet space, however. Both the Android and Chrome OS teams will continue to produce tablet-friendly versions of the operating system for other manufacturers to use. While not many tablets have been produced running Chrome OS, Android is still a popular option for cheap tablets.

Apple's big day: The ups and downs from the WWDC 2019 keynote

Apple has a small collection of annual announcement events. In September, the company tends to show off consumer hardware, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook line. In June, however, the company holds its annual World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC, where they tend to show off software and professional hardware. WWDC 2019 was no different, with new operating system information, updated platforms, and a new Mac Pro model, plus a return to monitors. While the announcements received the mandatory applause from those in attendance, the general response was not entirely positive.

iOS (iPhone and iPod Touch)

The biggest change coming to iOS 13 (which is now only available on iPod Touch and iPhone), is not something that consumers will know about but is a big deal for developers: SwiftUI. SwiftUI is a replacement for the disastrous UI designer that app builders have had to contend with for the past decade. SwiftUI brings to the Apple development platform features that Microsoft developers have had for over a decade, whether building for Windows, Xbox, Android, or iPhone: a visual designer. Developers can now build interfaces and see what they will look like, and even make live adjustments directly in Xcode, which is Apple's development tool.

For consumers, the biggest change will be the addition of dark mode, another feature that has been part of the other platforms for years. For some, dark mode is an always-on feature, while for others it is a great way to ease the screen strain on their eyes in the evening. Either way, a dark background with light text is a feature that Apple fans have been asking for over the years, and they finally have it.

Another big addition that will make using iOS apps easier is multi-window support. The best example of this feature is being able to have more than one browser window open, each with its own set of tabs, or each with a single active tab. It is also a popular feature on other platforms for messaging, whether it be email or text. It will be interesting to see where Apple adds the feature, as well as where 3rd party developers see the benefit.

iPadOS (iPad)

Since its inception, the iPad has run on the same operating system as the other handheld mobile devices: iOS. Starting this generation, a fork of iOS will be used for the iPad, creatively called iPadOS. While nearly identical to the core mobile operating system, forking the development will allow Apple to more easily add features such as split screen on the iPad Pro, without having to worry about unintended consequences on the other devices. It's important to note that, as of today, it will not affect any app deployment, but it is always possible that this will change at some point in the future.

watchOS

The biggest change to watchOS is the ability to use it on its own. The App Store is now available directly on the Apple Watch, meaning that you can install apps without the need for an iPhone attached. This will make the untethered mode, such as when using it on LTE, far more useful. However, the biggest benefit for Apple Watch owners is not needing to clutter up your iPhone with apps, just because you want something on your Watch. Direct app installation will mean smaller, more focused Watch apps, and less clutter on your phone.

macOS Catalina

The next version of macOS, Catalina, will bring with it some new features. The most exciting is probably Sidecar. This feature allows Mac and iPad owners to use the iPad as an additional monitor for their Mac. This is not a new capability to the platform, as there have been a number of apps that have allowed for this feature for years. However, Apple's embracing of the technology likely means better stability.

Another feature is Find My, the extension of Find My Phone onto MacBooks. While a lost MacBook probably means that you should focus more on what you're doing, having this feature is a benefit for those who can't do that. It sounds like the feature works like Tile, meaning that other devices will report encountering the laptop, when and where.

In addition, there are a number of app redesigns. As we reported last week, iTunes is dead (on Mac), being replaced instead by Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts. The Photos, Notes, and Safari have also brought about updates.

Mac Pro and Pro Display

The Mac Pro received a much-needed refresh. The new model uses Intel Xeon server processors, which is an interesting choice for a non-server device. However, what Apple has accomplished with the Mac Pro is truly impressive: rendering of 3 separate 8K video feeds at once, without the computer simply melting into a puddle is not something you would expect from a pre-built computer. However, for the estimated $45k for the top-level model, you could likely build several computers of equal or greater capacity.

The product that received the most coverage, however, is the Pro Display. This screen is equal or better than a $40k broadcast-quality reference monitor but runs only $6k. However, the real focus here has been the fact that this expensive display does not come with a stand. Instead, the company offers a VESA mount for $200, or a tabletop stand for $1000. Yes, you read that correctly: $1000 for a monitor stand, something that comes with monitors. Add to it that the monitor and stand carry with it the incredibly ugly cheese grater design of the new Mac Pro, and it has been met with a lot of negative sentiment, even from diehard Apple fans.

June 9, 2019 - Episode 529 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple announces a cheese grater, India tries to ban cryptocurrencies, and DirecTV might be on the chopping block.

US/China Trade War Impact - Episode 196 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses the impending impact of the trade war between the United States and China. The US imposed a 10% tariff on imports from China a while back, but a new and stronger tariff system is going into place now. The new tariffs will be 25% on billions of dollars worth of products, and will almost immediately be felt by consumers.

These new tariffs were felt in full force during Computex 2019. While it is not unusual to hear a company say that they aren't sure what the price point is going to be for a new product, this year the responses were different. Many companies said that they had a target retail price for their products, but that they weren't sure what the actual price was going to be, because they couldn't entirely predict how these taxes were going to affect the prices in the end.

Manufacturers are already beginning to look for ways to prevent these new tariffs. MSI CEO Charles Chiang spoke with Avram during Computex, explaining their plans. They and other larger manufacturers are beginning to look for new countries to manufacture their product in, such as Taiwan and Vietnam. While this would eventually represent cost savings, it is not inexpensive to move a manufacturing line, meaning that costs will still go up in the short term, but hopefully, less than they would with the tariffs. Not everyone can do this, though, so smaller brands might see big challenges in the upcoming months.

Another challenge to moving manufacturing to another country is infrastructure. Countries like Taiwan have a total population less than that of Shenzhen, the province of China where most manufacturing occurs. Add to that the need for roads, shipping, electricity, water, and more, and it creates hurdles that are not surmountable in the short term. The country could ramp up for production eventually, but it won't be able to handle a large influx in the next quarter.

June 2, 2019 - Episode 528 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, facial recognition goes to school, Xbox goes to the competition, and iTunes goes out to pasture.

Computex 2019 - Episode 195 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch is back from Computex 2019 in Taipei with some of the best technology he and his team from Tom's Hardware encountered. From processors to computer cases, Avram's got it all.

First, we've got the big announcements from AMD. In particular, the 3rd generation Ryzen processors. In addition to the Ryzen 3, 5, and 7, this year they have introduced the Ryzen 9, sporting a 12-cores and 24-threads. It will run $499 and compares to an 8-core processor from Intel. This new processor and the rest of the lineup will be available on July 7, 2019. In addition to the new processors, the new boards will support PCIe 4.0, which will allow for significantly faster SSDs. Current benchmarks top out at 5GBps, with future hardware expected to be in the 8GBps range.

In computers, he saw some interesting new products. In particular, is the MSI GT7600 Titan laptop. Rather than using a mobile processor, this beast uses a standard desktop processor and is overclocked to 5GHz. To accomplish this, the company designed special cooling to pipe out all of the additional heat that an overclocked desktop processor is going to add to a laptop. The drawback to this power, of course, is the weight; it comes in at about 9 pounds. If this is what you do for a living, though, the weight is not going to be a concern.

In addition, ASUS showed off the newest model of ZenBook Pro Duo, the laptop with a second screen above the keyboard. The jury's still out on whether this second screen adds anything useful to the experience, but a second screen is always nice. For those looking for a more complete monitor, they also showed off the ROG Strix XG17, a fully portable monitor that can connect to your laptop, or anything with HDMI, as a second screen.

As usual, unique computer cases were all over the floor, from the P200, a mostly open-air design from Thermaltake to a Heineken beer keg that can serve beer and computer power in one. There's a lot more to the Computex 2019 coverage, and it can all be found at Tom's Hardware.

New York school district is embracing facial recognition technology

Over the past few months, the public sentiment about facial recognition has shifted from neutral to against. This has been even more prominent in the public sector, as the public and employees alike have asked companies like Amazon to discontinue sales of their technology to the government. Despite these trends against trust in the government using facial recognition technology, Lockport City School District in New York has begun implementing facial recognition in their schools.

The plan is to use the recognition tech to identify issues before they arise, such as child predators and potential attacks. The district is the first in the country to implement the tech in schools and recognizes that, despite the possible benefits, there are some drawbacks, as well. Superintendent Michelle Bradley, said,

I would say for the Lockport City School District, while it's controversial, it's not prohibited and the most important thing is we believe we've established boundaries in the use of this. We have a policy that intends to protect privacy. We have identified a small group of individuals who will be placed in a database.

She is taking her guidance not from public opinion or potential social or legal obstacles, but instead from the fact that it is not expressly prohibited anywhere. Of course, despite not being prohibited, the technology allows for a lot of problems. The largest, of course, is the security of the database itself. For the technology to work effectively, it would require a whitelist of people who are permitted. That means a database of faces of children in the school district. A database like that, especially attached to controversial technology, is like a welcome mat for hackers and hacktivists.

There is also the issue that facial recognition technology is far from infallible. Apple and Samsung technology have been tricked by photos. In response to this criticism, the district's director of technology, Robert LiPuma, said,

We did have one incident where the board member came in and was identified on the first camera as the teacher and then it made a mistake, but it was an odd angle picture. But the second camera picked her up as who she actually was. It was actually a good test for me.

So, a single test was conducted, and it was tricked by a twin. Not a great start to the usefulness of this particular system. In addition to the privacy issues and technological hurdles, there will be legal issues to contend with. The New York Civil Liberties Union has already responded to the move, with education counsel Stefanie Coyle saying,

Facial recognition technology does little to protect students and poses serious risks for both privacy and civil rights. It is a shame that Lockport school administrators have decided to deploy this technology regardless of these concerns, making their students, parents and faculty into guinea pigs to test the use of this software in school contexts. We continue to believe that this type of invasive and inaccurate technology does not belong in schools.

April 28, 2019 - Episode 527 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Samsung's postponing its launch, PC gamers are switching platforms, and Sinemia is leaving the country.

New Computer Components from Intel and NVIDIA - Episode 194 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses some of the new computer components that were announced this week. Starting off is Intel's 45-watt 9th generation H-series processors. The Core i9 (9980HK) now features 8 cores, which is more powerful than any mobile processor in history. The Core i5 and Core i7 feature 4-cores and 8-cores, respectively. These procs are still running on the 14-nanometer architecture that we've had for a few generations and is not running on the 10-nanometer design that the industry is waiting for. The difference between last year's processors and this year's processors is likely marginal.

Any time there is a new generation of processor, there comes a collection of new laptops that use them. This announcement is no different, as many of the major players announced new laptops that feature the new generation of processors. ASUS, for example, has announced new ROG Zephyrus laptop models. While the newer processor is nice, the real winner in these models is the 240-hertz refresh rate. That is an amazing accomplishment on a laptop screen.

In addition to Intel news from ASUS, we also have some AMD news. The company has announced a new AMD-powered gaming notebook, the ROG Zephyrus G GA502. This is the first AMD-powered gaming notebook using the new high wattage Ryzen processor, with NVIDIA graphics. They are running as low as

NVIDIA has also announced a new mobile video card: the GeForce GTX 1650. This new card is not a high-power card but is instead designed to be more of a mainstream card.

Samsung's Fold troubles seem to be a repeat of past mistakes

Unless you've been hiding from the internet, you've likely heard that the Samsung Galaxy Fold has had a rough go of it leading up to its public release. It all started when Samsung sent review units to a handful of publications. Many of these reviewers discovered very quickly one vital flaw: the glass breaks within a few days. In some cases, it was a crack across the seam, while others lost most or all of the LCD panel in the process. Following the problems, Samsung recalled all of the review units, leaving zero units in the wild.

Or so they thought. Through "a trusted partner," teardown website iFixIt received a unit and worked their usual magic. As part of their review, they discovered what was likely happening to these review units. An apparent shipping screen protector turns out to vital to the structural integrity of the phone. It is also surprisingly easy for something to fall behind the screen, making a full-screen crack unavoidable. When Samsung discovered the teardown, they asked that iFixIt remove their piece, and the website complied.

With that, the best bit of information about the Galaxy Fold has disappeared. This is important because the Galaxy Fold is not going anywhere. While the launch is delayed, it is not delayed enough to build a whole new collection of devices or to do any major fix to the existing design. This is a $2000 phone which has proven itself to be nothing more than a public prototype without the label.

The other problem is that this is not Samsung's first disastrous device launch. The world all remembers the exploding Note7 devices. Samsung never got their hands around the message, and it nearly destroyed their reputation. Almost exactly a year ago, we had a discussion about Samsung's focus on deadlines over quality, and here we are once again. At least this time they're trying to control the message, but with such a heavy hand, it might backfire on them.

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