#1 Posted : среда, 14 февруари 2018 07:06:58(UTC)

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Are tablets the new netbooks – a flash in the pan? Or perhaps even the new picture frames - a one-season fad?I don’t think so, but sales are flat, and the numbers look ominous for any global technology company hoping they’ll provide a long-term money spinner. The numbers look particularly ominous for Microsoft, which paid the highest price of all with its response to the explosive growth in tablets.No other tech company compromised its existing bread-and-butter product in a demented dash to respond. Thanks to Steve Sinofsky, Microsoft ensured Windows was almost unbuyable. And in addition, it began to make hardware – at great expense - that nobody wanted to buy. Although Microsoft has since mended a lot of the damage, some really big decisions lie ahead. The decline in tablets makes the ruinous decisions made between 2010 and 2012 look even dafter now. Microsoft can’t avoid making these decisions for much longer.
First, the numbers. They surely now show a consistent trend. Overall, the volume growth in fondleslabs is tapering off. Apple’s figures show a year-on-year decline in iPad sales, even though Apple’s iPads have never been better. We also appear to have reached “peak Kindle”, at least for now, with falls showing a 47.1 per cent decline in first quarter. (Ebook sales were flat last year at $3bn – so it would appear anyone with an e-reading habit has already caught it).The explanations offered are all plausible. Once consumers have got a fondleslab, they don’t need to replace them very often. The gadgets rarely leave the house and so they break less frequently, and are shown off less frequently. Nor do you need to upgrade a tablet to the latest and greatest specs, if you’re using it mainly for Facebook and Netflix or iPlayer. The other factor is that smartphones have become bigger – with even Apple rumoured to be following suit.The Android flagships today – such as the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z2 – are not “phondleslabs” but all have fairly stunning 5-inch displays. And these are packed into smaller form factors – with smaller bezels than before.
What growth there is to come in tablets – as we suggested last week - will belong to no-name commodity manufacturers running bog-standard Android.This is good news for Chinese manufacturers (many of which we’ve never heard of) as they can crank out reasonable quality at rock bottom prices. But eventually, this is not a game an HP wants to be in, as the market becomes like the perfume market. The R&D spending on what’s in the bottle is minimal, but huge expenditures are required to maintain the brand. That’s how Casio stays in – by the skin of its teeth – and the tablet biz is soon going to look a lot like the watch biz.So much then, for the “post-PC” era. It’s really going to be a smartphone + PC era.What does this mean for Microsoft? Well, it might be time to hire an exorcist.
Microsoft put Steve Sinofsky in charge of making the company competitive in the “post-PC world” and his strategy now looks like criminal negligence. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the gamble of brute-forcing an app ecosystem into existence by plastering it on top of Windows didn’t look very clever at the time. It now looks like all cost, and no gain.Sinofsky borrowed the approach that radical environmentalists (and the Bush administration) had used: an existential crisis was upon us, and normal rules of engagement, such as rational cost-benefit analysis, were to be suspended. Apps were everything, and Microsoft needed to do everything to force developers to write to the Metro (or Modern) apps. That way, Microsoft would bludgeon its way to becoming the third ecosystem.Essential to this was turning PC Windows into a weird kind of hybrid. But in the execution, it was all about appearance, and developers needed to write an app three times for each of the three Microsoft Modern platforms.

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Write once, run anywhere on desktop, RT or Phone was the goal. Many of us thought it was a bluff: that Microsoft wouldn’t actually ultimately launch a PC version of Windows whose user experience was so utterly awful. But Sinofsky, by now almost unmanageable, went ahead and tried it anyway. It didn't work.When Microsoft made Windows unattractive, the cost was immense. The company has lost billions in revenue by losing out on the upgrade cycles which power the PC industry. It lost billions more making boutique own-brand hardware which nobody wants. And its partners have lost twice over: by losing core PC sales and by making tablets which are even harder to sell.UK figures this week show Microsoft sold around 10,000 slate-style tablets last quarter, out of almost 600,000 sold overall. That’s the size of a rounding error – and comparable to the number of ruggedised PCs it was selling into enterprises before Windows 8.
If you want a practical demonstration of why the Sinofsky “hybridised” Windows is a flop, watch this nine-minute YouTube review of the Surface Pro 3 I caught recently.Do give it a few seconds to adjust to the presenter's whiny voice - it’s actually a well-observed and quite devastating review of why hybridised even with brilliant just doesn’t work. Even with sexy design and some really clever hardware engineering, it's cumbersome compared to a simple combo of laptop and smartphone. This is a hybrid the world just doesn’t need.Hopefully, a fresh reappraisal of the tablet market at Redmond will refocus the software strategy – and Microsoft is already halfway to ditching the Sinofsky Hybridisation Strategy completely. It already looks as if Windows 9 will restore some sanity. Universal apps are now a reality.One response is to continue to improve the tablet Windows (Intel and ARM) and give it away for nothing, as it’s already partially doing. (Microsoft already has zero royalty licensing for small tablets and Windows Phone). The fear was always that tablets would cannibalise Windows licence royalties, but there’s less to fear now. Continue Modern as a kind of overlay on Windows, but not one that compromises the experience.
Perhaps the one positive of the Sinofsky legacy – one that didn’t receive enough credit at the time - was porting a lightweight Windows to ARM. It created a bloodbath for ODMs who risked creating ARM Windows tablets running Windows RT – and several never even brought those to market.Only Microsoft and Nokia (now part of Microsoft) have released RT devices in the past year. Yet it forced Intel to raise its game considerably, and the downstream effect is that Windows laptops have much better low-power performance than they might otherwise have had. Late last year Microsoft acknowledged it had created “one Windows too many”. With phones becoming larger, it's more important that Windows Phone becomes richer, and that's where the focus appears to be going.So Microsoft should hire the exorcist and flush out any remaining vestiges of Sinofsky's hybrid strategy. Then, it should pour itself a large drink. The future isn't going to be as bleak as it thought. Perhaps the most notable difference is the visual changes, which see KDE embracing a more streamlined, flat interface, but it's also the first version of KDE to be powered by Qt 5 and the recently released KDE Frameworks 5.

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Qt was the interface development framework bought and then dumped by Nokia, whose mobile phone business is now owned by Microsoft.The visual changes and the polish that's been added to the default Plasma theme is welcome - frankly the default KDE 4 theme has been looking long in the tooth for a while now - but it's the under-the-hood changes will have a bigger impact on the future of KDE.Another big feature is a converged shell, which is an attempt to realize a unified desktop and device future very similar to the goals of Ubuntu's Unity shell. The idea is the interface adapts to the hardware - the shell would select Plasma 5 for a laptop but run it on a tablet and it would change to a tablet-based interface. The converged shell will be able to select a shell” as the device changes.The canonical example is a touch interface on a tablet that switches to a more suitable interface when you plug in a keyboard. It's a little unclear from the KDE docs what happens if you want to use the touch interface and a keyboard, but presumably that's possible as well.
For the moment there's only the Plasma 5 desktop anyway, so all we have is the vision. KDE developers are working on the tablet interface along with an interface for a media centre – but neither are available for general use.The release of Plasma 5 also completes the migration of the Plasma workspace to Qt 5 and QtQuick, which uses a hardware-accelerated OpenGL scenegraph to render graphics. That means KDE can take advantage of the powerful GPUs in today's devices and offload some of the more expensive graphical tasks to GPUs. On supported hardware this should give you a bit of a speed bump, particularly when doing other graphics intensive tasks like editing photos or video.The changes to the graphics stack and underlying Frameworks also pave the way for KDE to support Wayland, which will be part of an upcoming release.Plasma 5 also claims improved support for HiDPI displays, but I was unable to get this working in a virtual machine on a Retina MacBook. I've yet to determine whether this is a problem in Plasma 5, Kubuntu 14.04, down to the fact it's a virtual machine or some combination of the three.
I tested KDE with Plasma 5 in Kubuntu 14.04. When you install a fresh copy of KDE Plasma 5 on your favourite distro the thing that jumps out at you won't be better graphics or the potential to switch interfaces based on hardware. What will jump out at you is the new Breeze theme.Gone are the shiny, candy-like icons and darker textured grays in Plasma 4. Instead you'll find a lighter, brighter, flatter design aesthetic with a lot of monochrome icons, thinner looking type and frosted, slightly transparent windows.As with anything design related, some of the new interface's appeal will depend on your own aesthetic tastes. As someone who thought the Plasma 4 default had pretty much nowhere to go but up, I think that Breeze is a huge improvement.Compared to Plasma 4, Breeze is a giant leap forward, and not just visually, but functionally. The overall UI is greatly simplified – there’s improved spacing between items, making them less jumbled and easier to find and read. Most of the time anyway. Breeze isn't flawless by any means. For example, the window and overlay translucency is nice, until it isn't. Stacked windows and overlays often bleed through whatever is below them and look jumbled and sometimes hard to read.
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