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In the Zone

Are 8K monitors ready for prime time?

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by Kevin Jacoby on 03/17/2020
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At first glance, the projected growth of 8K technology looks pretty compelling. A recent report by Mordor Intelligence estimates the 8K market will be worth nearly $16 billion by 2025, up from under $3 billion this year.

If that compounded growth rate of nearly 33% a year has you thinking seriously about bringing in some 8K inventory, you’re not alone.

That same report shows the Asia-Pacific region rushing headlong into the fray. Japan already has at least one broadcast channel dedicated to 8K content, and the country plans to broadcast the 2020 Olympics in 8K.

But don’t slide that corporate credit card out of your wallet just yet. If we learned anything from the introduction of 4K, it’s that the landscape will shift dramatically as 8K rolls out around the world.

Dell UltraSharp 32

Dell UltraSharp 32: 8K — but for $5K

New manufacturing processes will reduce prices. Standards will be established. And, as usual, a combination of business and consumer demand will ultimately decide how fast we make the transition.

What is 8K, anyway?

The bottom line of 8K comes down to one word: more.

8K delivers a screen resolution of 7680x4320 via a whopping 33,177,600 pixels. That’s double the resolution of 4K and 16 times that of 1080p (aka Full HD), the current standard.

The Consumer Technology Association has even created an official 8K Ultra HD logo. Here’s a look:

8K logo

To earn this logo, the CTA says, a device must meet the following minimums:

> At least 7,680 pixels horizontally and 4,320 vertically

> At least one HDMI input capable of accepting that resolution at either 50 or 60 frames per second (fps), depending on region, and with HDR (high-dynamic range) video

> The ability to convert lower-resolution signals up to 8K

> The ability to both receive and display 10-bit content

To buy, or not to buy?

That is the question. Whether to advise your customers to buy into 8K depends on how they plan to use it.

Currently, the only 8K content available on this side of the Pacific amounts to a handful of videos on YouTube and a few feature films, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Mortal Engines.”

Tell your customers not to worry, though. They’re not missing much. The human eye can only see so much definition.

To really appreciate the improvement 8K currently offers over 4K, you will either need a huge screen (way too expensive right now) or to sit way too close to a standard-size screen (totally impractical).

That said, for some vertical markets, 8K does make a lot of sense. Here are two:

> Healthcare: Surgeons and medical students practicing telemedicine rely on fast, ultra-high resolution pictures to get the job done right. Avoiding potentially fatal mistakes is key.

> Sports broadcasting: 8K provides 120 frames per second—double that of 1080p and 4K displays. This helps reduce motion blur caused by super-fast camera movements shot while attempting to follow game play.

Ready when?

Camera companies including Red and Sony have been making 8K-capable video cameras for years. LG last month introduced a smartphone that can shoot and stream 8K video. And the technology gets better every day.

So it’s safe to assume that 8K content is going to start showing up all over the place once prices become more accessible.

Bottom line, the writing is on the wall: 8K TVs and PC monitors will arrive en masse in the U.S. market over the next couple of years. They’ll come whether we need them or not.

Manufacturers always need some new thing to sell. And someone has to buy all this stuff so we can move on to 16K, right?


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In the Zone

Gaming keyboards & mice: a big win for tech providers

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by Kevin Jacoby on 03/05/2020
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Why, in this age of cheap technology, would your customers spend $110 on a PC keyboard and $150 on a mouse?

Because they’re serious gamers.

To be sure, in this age of mass-produced, practically disposable technology, you can find a decent wireless mouse for under $6. Keyboards can be had for just $13. That’s a whole set for less than $20.

Can this gear get the job done? Sure. But what you cannot do with $20 worth of plastic is win an eSports tournament.

So fierce is the competition, so valuable is each millisecond, that gamers have no choice but to suit up with the latest and greatest peripherals. The difference between winning and losing a multi-million dollar prize could be the time it takes your space bar to descend 4 millimeters.

Fastest keyboard in the west

The gold standard for gaming keyboards has always been high-performance mechanicals. One new example is the Alloy Origins gaming keyboard from HyperX, the gaming division of famed memory manufacturer Kingston.

Alloy Origins gaming keyboard

Alloy Origins keyboard: the latest mechanical monster

The Alloy Origins features HyperX Aqua mechanical switches. Not only do they feel good and respond fast, but they can also take a beating. HyperX says its keys can stand up to at least 80 million clicks.

Your gaming customers can pick up an Alloy Origins for about $110. But this keyboard still won’t make them the fastest gun in the west. To earn that title, they’ll need optical technology. Don’t worry, Razer has just the thing.

Meet the Razer Huntsman, a gaming keyboard that features super-fast optical switches. No longer must you waste precious milliseconds waiting for a key to travel a fraction of an inch before actuating the switch.

With Huntsman your keystroke is recognized instantly by an optical light sensor inside the switch. As this Razer video on YouTube shows, the receiver is then activated by a light signal which actuates the switch at, well, light speed.

Razer Huntsman gaming keyboard

Razer Huntsman: a keyboard with super-fast optical switches

What would your customers pay to play at the speed of light? $300? $500? Nah, Razer is asking just $99.

That’s surprisingly close to the cost of the aforementioned bargain-basement keyboard. Yet it’s light years ahead of the competition.

While the cat’s away…

Once your game-crazed customer has the fastest keyboard, it’s only fitting that they should have a matching mouse.

So offer them a look at the $150 Logitech G903 Lightspeed Wireless mouse. This pointing device’s ace in the hole is an optical sensor rated at 16,000 counts per inch (CPI).

CPI measures the optical sensor’s tracking speed. The average $6 mouse delivers a tracking speed of about 1,000 CPI. In other words, each time the mouse is moved 1 inch, it also moves the on-screen cursor by 1,000 pixels.

Logitech’s G903 isn’t just 16 times faster than that, it’s also more accurate. Plus, it offers a load of other features that will come in handy when war breaks out in the galaxy.

Logitech G903 gaming mouse

Logitech G903 mouse: a bargain at $150?

Specifically, Logitech’s top-of-the-line pointer boasts 11 user-programmable buttons and a report rate of just 1ms. And it can run for up to 140 hours on a single charge.

What’s more, that charge can be delivered via the optional PowerPlay wireless charging mat. Not a USB cable in site. Can your old mousepad do that?

And the winner is: the channel

Gamers, whether weekend warriors or elite mercenaries, will always clamor for the next best thing. That’s how they keep an edge on the competition.

You don’t have to be a world-class economist to understand that the profit margin on a $6 mouse is paltry at best. But a $150 mouse? That’s a different kettle of fish entirely.

This is why this whole gaming thing should be a boon for tech providers in the channel. High-end gaming peripherals deliver higher average selling prices (ASPs) and better margins. Ready, set, win!


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In the Zone

Smartphone prices: 3 factors driving them up, up, up

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by Kevin Jacoby on 02/13/2020
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Smartphones are getting expensive. Just this week, Samsung introduced its Galaxy Z Flip phone, retailing for a cool $1,380.

Samsung is far from alone. Between 2016 and 2019, smartphone retail prices rose by as much as nearly 70%, according to CNET. And there’s no end in sight.

But hang on: Isn’t technology supposed to get cheaper over time? And don’t hard-won economies of scale result in lower retail prices?

Sure they do. But in today’s volatile smartphone market, those aren’t the only factors at play.

Let’s look at 3 others that are launching smartphone prices into the stratosphere.

> We’re upgrading our phones less often

In 2017, the average U.S. smartphone user kept their phone for 25 months, or just over 2 years, according to NPD. Just one year later, the average ownership term had increased to 32 months, or nearly 3 years.

That puts major players like Apple and Samsung in a difficult spot. They can either sell more phones or they can charge more per phone.

The former is not an option, not with smartphone sales in decline. So higher prices it is.

But this creates a vicious cycle: When vendors raise phone prices, consumers upgrade less often. And when consumers upgrade less often, vendors raise their prices.

Phone users are also increasingly satisfied with the devices’ quality and performance. We crave and seek out better, longer-lasting devices. When those devices meet or exceed our expectations, we have even fewer reasons to upgrade.

Sky-high prices have also strengthened consumer demand for phones that are used or refurbished. Market watcher IDC predicts worldwide smartphone sales will increase between now and 2023 due mainly to continued strong demand for used phones. These secondhand devices “provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money,” says IDC researcher Anthony Scarsella.

> We’re paying more for technological advances

Small speed bumps and slightly better cameras were huge draws when the smartphone market was new. But these days, those kinds of improvements are hardly worth mentioning.

A slightly bigger screen? *Yawn*. A slightly faster processor? *Sigh*.

So what’s a beleaguered, multibillion-dollar smartphone manufacturer to do?

According to Samsung, the answer has something to do with giant, foldable screens.

When Samsung’s Galaxy Fold ships later this year, it will be the first smartphone to offer a massive 7.3-inch folding screen. And the price tag? An equally massive $2,000.

Samsung Galaxy Fold phone

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold: big screen, big price

Compare that with a perfectly adequate PC such as the HP Envy Desktop. It retails for just $500. The price difference boggles the mind, no?

To be fair, Samsung took a long time to develop OLED panels that could fold and unfold hundreds of thousands of times without breaking. That R&D cost the company a pretty penny. Now it’s passing along that price to us.

Even companies offering banal speed bumps and screen upgrades face rising costs. According to IHS Markit, back in 2010 Apple could build an iPhone 4 for just $190. But last year, Apple had to spend $390 — or more than double — to create its iPhone XS Max. Guess who ended up paying that extra cost?

> Our subsidies are disappearing

That $200 smartphone you bought a few years ago never actually cost just $200. In fact, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the phone’s true price tag — the 2013 average was about $650 — hid behind subsidies offered by Verizon, AT&T and other mobile carriers.

But in 2017, that all changed. That’s when most of us started renting — or renting-to-own —phones from mobile service providers and phone manufacturers.

Average fees now range from $30 to $100 a month, depending on the model and specs. And if you skip the upgrade, the phone is yours after 24 months.

Phone prices of the future

Market trends are a two-way street. Designers such as Apple and Samsung are the ones raising the prices. But in large part, they’re doing so in reaction to consumer behavior.

Consumers demand powerful devices with new features and unprecedented longevity. For that, they must be prepared to pay the price.

At least for the foreseeable future, that price is moving in only one direction: up.


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In the Zone

5G and gaming: here comes the revolution

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by Kevin Jacoby on 02/07/2020
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The 5G revolution is just ‘round the corner. Assuming 5G delivers on its promises, this new level of mobile connectivity will help to create a new era of software/hardware development — and bring AAA gaming to the masses.

Is that worth something to the channel? You bet. This revolution comes complete with its own army of mobile devices, PCs, network hardware, services and support.

Let’s start out with some numbers — BIG numbers:

> eSports sales are predicted to grow by an average of 23% a year through 2023, leading to a $1.15 billion worldwide market.

> Some 646 million people worldwide will consume eSports-related content in 2023, up from 454 million in 2019, predicts BI Intelligence.

What this boils down to is a staggering number of rabid fans. They want to not only watch eSports, but also participate.

Anywhere, anytime

We can’t all be an eSports champion like Faker, but that won’t keep millions of people worldwide from trying. And when 5G arrives in full force, they can try from wherever they are, anytime they want.

Gamers with access to reliable 5G networks will be able play like pros. They’ll be able to enter an alternate universe even while riding the bus or waiting in line at the grocery store. All they’ll need is a 5G-compatible device, a good network connection and a sense of adventure.

Also, 5G phones and tablets will begin to take over the job previously performed by expensive, high-performance desktop PCs. That should make gaming more affordable for more people.

Mobile 5G gaming

5G: mobile devices pick up where PCs left off

Low latency is the key. In gaming parlance, latency is the lag between a control input — say, jumping, shooting or blocking — and the resulting action in real-time game play.

High latency leads to slow game play, and as you can imagine, that’s incredibly frustrating. It also can make the difference between winning and losing a game.

Latency remains a big problem for mobile gamers. It wouldn’t be so bad if our mobile devices were as powerful as standard PCs. But we’re just not there yet.

As a result, mobile game designers are forced to dumb down their offerings to accommodate mobile-device performance. Instead, a remote server does the heavy lifting. That leaves the phone or tablet to perform the less resource-intensive job of providing a conduit to the network.

The trouble with this approach is a lack of bandwidth. Our current 4G networks can provide enough speed to play basic games. But they’re nowhere near enough for massive role-playing games (RPG) such as They Are Billions and action-intensive first-person shooters (FPS) such as Pointman.

Come the revolution

5G promises to change all that. It will provide wireless connectivity at speeds we’ve never before been able to realize. That means low latency and non-stop action — anytime, anywhere. That’s just what gaming fanatics crave.

Cellular network evolution

5G: enough bandwidth for mobile AAA gaming

You may be wondering: What’s in it for the channel?

Well, picture yourself standing on the precipice of the internet revolution, circa 1990. You’re thinking, “People are going to need modems, ISP subscriptions, desktops, monitors, joysticks…”

Now fast-forward to today. What will your customers ask for when 5G hits big? The answer is remarkably similar. Your customers will need 5G-compatible mobile devices, software packages and network attachments, to name just a few.

They’ll also start asking you things like, “Should I subscribe to a cloud-based gaming network from Apple, Microsoft or Google? And what about AR and VR?”

New network, new work

This is just the beginning. Once 5G is established as an indelible aspect of our digital culture, the next step will be ongoing service contracts, upgrades and education.

It’s a brave new world — if you’re brave enough. Investing in new technology isn’t for the faint of heart.

But if you’ve got the courage to skate down the learning curve and leap into high-speed mobile abyss, you just might find some gold at the end of that rainbow.

The adventure starts here. Good luck!


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In the Zone

High-end audio: PCs gain the sound of excellence

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by Kevin Jacoby on 01/15/2020
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While PCs aren’t often lauded for their spectacular audio, every once in a while an exception emerges.

The latest exception is the new HP Envy 32 All-In-One PC. This system reminds us that high-quality sound can make just as big an impact as do stunning visuals and lightning-fast response rates.

For once, let’s gloss over the 9th Generation Core i7 processor and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU. They may be impressive, but no more so in this case than in any other PC.

The Envy 32’s audio system, however, isn’t something you’ll find in most AiOs. Earlier this month, when HP introduced the Envy 32 at CES 2020, a great many eyeballs swiveled downward to take in the angled speaker array nested below a gorgeous 32-inch screen.


HP Envy 32 AiO: with audio co-developed by Bang & Olufsen

Behind the acoustically transparent mesh cover sits a formidable collection of speakers. These combine to form a 2.1 audio subsystem co-developed by the legendary Bang & Olufsen. The HP Envy 32 features 2 tweeters, 2 midrange drivers, and a center subwoofer flanked by 2 passive radiators to increase bass response.

What’s more, users can connect to the impressive speaker array from any Bluetooth-enabled device, even when the computer is turned off.

Sounding out the competition

Plenty of PC designers pay lip service to high-end audio, but very few actually deliver. One system that does deliver is Dell’s XPS 27 all-in-one.

Introduced back in 2017, the XPS 27 is a veritable dinosaur by PC-market standards. In fact, this AiO is no longer offered directly by Dell. Yet it’s still available from select dealers, and it continues to make lists of the best-sounding PCs.

Dell XPS 27

Dell’s XPS 27: blast from the (recent) past

Dell went all the way with the XPS 27, endowing it with no fewer than 10 speakers. Nested in the PC’s slick, black chassis are 2 tweeters, 4 full-range drivers, 2 woofers and 2 passive radiators.

The XPS 27’s speakers are powered by a 50-watt-per-channel amplifier. Any way you slice it, that’s a metric ton of sound from a remarkably svelte chassis. Equally heavy, unfortunately, is the price tag, originally set at nearly $4,000. (That’s now down to around $2,350 – where you can find it.)

To search for a third runner-up is to be bombarded by myriad articles touting the brilliant sound of your average iMac.

There’s a good reason for this: the iMac sounds quite a bit better than your average AIO. The trouble with that argument? Your average AIO sets the bar for audio quality incredibly low. iMac simply wins by default.

The irony of high-end audio

Does the Envy 32 sound good? Yes. Does that make it perfect for audio production? Absolutely not.

Pro audio engineers use external analog-to-digital audio converters that can cost as much as ­– or more than – the computer itself. Combined with speakers and amps specially designed for recording, mixing, and mastering, these setups effectively bypass the PC’s audio system entirely.

Then who is the perfect customer for a PC like the Envy 32? Two types spring to mind:

> Business-class multimedia creators: Countless companies rely on in-house and agency creatives to produce custom audio, video and graphics. These projects find their way into advertising materials, presentations, corporate-branding elements and the like.

> Enthusiasts: Your average dorm-room dweller may appreciate the ability to use their computer as a TV, music system and gaming rig. The $1,899 price tag on the HP Envy 32 might feel like a hefty premium compared with, say, Acer’s Aspire Z 24, at around $900. But when you add in the price of a separate TV, speakers, streaming device and accessories, the gap narrows considerably.

Music to the channel’s ears

Sure, the target market for an AIO like the Envy 32 is smaller than that for a run-of-the-mill business PC.

But the average sale price (ASP) of a well-spec’d multimedia creation station can soar to well over $5,000. That makes it a potentially lucrative proposition for channel partners.

Sounds pretty good, right?


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In the Zone

Curved gaming monitors: the latest win goes to Samsung

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by Kevin Jacoby on 01/09/2020
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Samsung just threw down a big challenge on curved gaming displays.

At this week’s CES 2020 show in Las Vegas, Samsung lobbed a curvy bombshell at the gaming community: the new Odyssey G9. This big, curved screen creates a new standard for display technology, one the rest of the industry could find tough to live up to.

Samsung Odyssey G9

Samsung Odyssey G9 gaming display: curvy, fast and large

Curved displays are measured by the radius their curve would deliver if it formed a complete circle. The smaller the circle, the greater the curve.

For example, as the graphic below illustrates, a screen with a complete-circle radius of 1,800 mm (expressed as 1800R - R for radius) is much curvier than one with a larger radius of 4,000 mm (expressed as 4000R):

Curved monitor radius chart

Curved monitors get measured by their implied radius

In the case of the Odyssey G9, that circle would measure 1,000 mm (roughly 39 in.), or 1000R. Previously, Samsung’s best efforts produced a curvature radius of only 1800R. Again, the smaller the circle, the greater the curve. So this marks a big step forward.

But this also risks over-crediting the Odyssey G9’s most obvious feature — its super-sexy curve. That would give short shrift to the display’s other specs, which are frankly staggering: a 49-inch, 1440p viewing experience with a 1ms response time and a refresh rate of 240Hz.

However, very few  gaming PCs today can push that 240Hz on the latest competitive gaming titles. So until PC tech catches up, what Samsung is offering here is mostly potential. But you can bet that will change soon.

Worth the extra cash?

Samsung has been tight-lipped about the Odyssey G9’s retail price, as well as the prices for its smaller brethren, the 32-inch and 27-inch G7 monitors. That makes it hard to determine whether you should go into debt for one of these things.

Or does it?

Circling back to the ever-present gaming maxim that “faster equals winning,” does it even matter what Samsung charges for the Odyssey? Let’s face it, the pros will pay whatever it takes to get an edge on the competition, especially with their multimillion-dollar budgets.

Gamers will tout the Odyssey G9’s industry-leading immersion as an aid to their peripheral vision, needed to spot an oblique attack angle before it’s too late. And they’ll justify the extra expense by imagining the 7-figure prize money in their pockets, having trounced the competition by receiving and reacting to information earlier, if only by milliseconds.

How the curves curve

How do these curved screens work, anyway? Well, originally, engineers tried to simply bend a standard flat screen. A nice idea, but just try to bend the screen you’re reading this on now, and see how well that works. Needless to say, this approach didn’t last long.

The real breakthrough came with the advent of flexible glass. Engineers figured out how to apply LCDs to its curved surface, and without producing picture distortions. The rest, as they say, is history.

As with most tech, the curved-monitor game is all about better, faster, cheaper. To wit: Samsung’s Odyssey G9 actually offers better visuals via its ultra-high resolution, curved surface. And at CES 2020, it delivered every pixel far faster than the competition.

How about cheaper? Well, not quite yet. New tech costs more to develop and manufacture.

However, new tech has a way of becoming old tech very quickly. And old tech costs less to produce as designers push past their initial R&D expenses and realize manufacturing economies of scale.

Coming soon

Samsung’s monitor is here now to dazzle your high-end customers — and give your other customers a glimpse of the future, once prices come down.

One day, we’ll wake up to realize flat displays are a thing of the past, like CRTs and VHS tapes. We’ll be surrounded by 360-degree displays that respond to our touch, our eyes movements, perhaps even our thoughts.

That future is coming sooner than you think. See you there.


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In the Zone

Hybrid CPUs are coming. Get ready for the mobile revolution

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by Kevin Jacoby on 12/20/2019
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Intel’s new hybrid CPU and 3D stacking technology will transform PCs and mobile devices forever. This combo will bring unprecedented power, battery life and flexibility to future generations of mobile phones, tablets, 2-in-1 convertibles and even traditional laptops.

We don’t yet know when hybrid processor technology and 3D architecture will be ready for prime time. That’s because we’re talking about the epitome of cutting-edge tech. It’s going to be a while before we see this tech in our everyday-carry devices.

But we certainly do know the what. We also know the name: Intel Lakefield.

Lakefield is Intel’s mobile client platform that combines a hybrid CPU and the 3D stacking architecture called Foveros (Greek for “awesome”).

Powerful pairing

Intel’s hybrid CPU pairs at least one powerful core — in this case, a Sunny Cove 10nm chip — with multiple smaller and more-efficient cores to handle communications and background processing.

While the hybrid CPU will likely be seen as the sexy blonde arm-candy to Foveros’ noble-but-invisible dinner date, it may be the latter that makes the bigger impact. Foveros will combine a hybrid CPU with other components — such as onboard graphics, integrated DRAM and I/O connections — to create a remarkably small System on a Chip (SoC).

Intel Lakefield SoC

Intel's Lakefield SoC: just 5 quarters long

When Intel showed Lakefield at CES 2019, the audience ooh’d and ahh’d over the SoC’s diminutive stature. The chip takes up only as much space as 5 U.S. quarters lined up in a row.

This tiny footprint is a big part of what could make Lakefield such a smashing success. A line of 5 quarters can fit inside a cell phone. That means your handheld mobile device could soon have as much power as a full-sized laptop. It boggles the mind.

5 for the price of 1

The first hybrid CPU to hit the market will probably be the same one Intel showed at CES as part of the Lakefield platform. This design combines a single 10nm Sunny Cove core with 4 low-power Atom cores.

We can expect to see Lakefield show up soon in Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Neo dual-screen device. Indeed, Lakefield was under the hood of the Surface Neo that Microsoft recently previewed at a launch event in October.

Intel hybrid CPU

Intel’s first hybrid CPU: 1 Sunny Cove core + 4 Atom cores

This design takes into account common device usage by combining a fast and powerful core such as Sunny Cove with a number of smaller, higher-efficiency cores.

The former is there to do the heavy lifting required for resource-intensive tasks such as multimedia editing. The latter takes care of the rest — and without the battery drain and heat signature that makes traditional processor designs a poor choice for mobile devices.

Computing’s hybrid future

This Lakefield chip is just the beginning. To fully appreciate the potential impact of Intel’s new design, think of hybrid and Foveros as the tip of a very big iceberg.

What can we expect? Here are a few possibilities:

> All-day batteries will become commonplace, followed closely all-week batteries.

> Pro video editing on a tablet will become the new normal.

> IoT will enter a bold new era of smart devices capable of doing far more than just turning on the lights and adjusting the living-room temperature.

Intel’s rival AMD is working on hybrid and 3D architectures, too. That pretty much guarantees a new chapter in the two companies’ titanic battle of one-upmanship, which has been raging for years.

While these two tech giants go blow for blow, it will be consumers who benefit. You and your customers will be able to pick from countless devices offering truly next-generation features.

Are you prepared for the hybrid-processing revolution? Now’s the time to get ready.


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In the Zone

Bye-bye, Windows 7

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by Kevin Jacoby on 12/17/2019
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For the world’s diehard Windows 7 users — of which there are still a great many — January 14, 2020, is a day which will live in infamy.

That’s when Microsoft officially takes Windows 7 off life support. After Jan. 14, Win7 users will be left to fend for themselves without free security updates.

Those still running the decade-old PC OS can either upgrade to Windows 10 or take their chances with the black-hat hacker community. (There is a third option, too; for details, keep reading.)

Win7: PC heaven

Those millions of Win7 users have good reason to hang on. Back on October 22, 2009, the computing world breathed a huge sigh of relief that sounded suspiciously like the words, Thank goodness we don’t have to use Vista anymore.

Windows Vista, the much-derided follow-up to Windows XP, had PC users up in arms. This was due to its myriad performance issues, poor software and hardware compatibility, and other shortcomings. Microsoft had dug itself into a deep hole.

Yet from the deepest part of that hole, Microsoft built itself a new OS, Windows 7. This version, unlike Vista, launched to critical acclaim and broke sales records worldwide.

In just its first six months, Windows 7 sales passed 100 million copies. By July 2012, roughly 3 years later, more than 630 million licenses had been sold. In some countries, Win7 achieved a 60% market share.

Oops, another hole

Perhaps Microsoft lacked the institutional knowledge required to keep the company from repeating its own doomed history. Or maybe then-CEO Steve Ballmer took his eye off the ball when he tried to out-Google Google with the ill-fated Bing search engine. Or maybe his attempt to out-Apple Apple with the Zune music player.

Whatever the reason, in 2012 Microsoft once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by announcing Windows 8. Unfortunately, for all the good Win8 did the company, the OS might as well have just been called Vista II.

Some said Win8’s tiled interface, called “Metro,” was a great idea that was poorly implemented. But others thought the Metro interface seemed unceremoniously bolted onto a leftover Windows 7 desktop. Others accused Win8 of having a steep learning curve with very little payoff.

Windows 8 tiles

Win8’s 'Metro' interface: the source of much resistance

In the face of all this withering critical vitriol, sales of the Windows 8 OS languished. By 2013 Windows 8 sales totaled around 60 million, less than a tenth of Windows 7 sales by that time. And so it went until 2015.

Win10 is a 10

In July 2015, The House That Gates Built begat Windows 10. The digital sun rose once again, and smiles adorned the faces of PC users worldwide.

All the lessons forgotten between Windows XP and Windows Vista (and again between Windows 7 and Windows 8) were remembered to great effect.

Windows 10 start screen

Windows 10: improving on the best parts of Win7

Today Windows 10 enjoys continued critical acclaim. This latest Windows OS boasts an installed base of more than 800 million devices, and a nearly 60% market share.

Ain’t over ‘til it’s over

For some, upgrading to Windows 10 is simply a matter of grabbing the credit card and waiting for the download to finish. But for others, such as large-scale enterprise installations and governmental institutions, a PC OS transition is as fraught as it is expensive.

Microsoft understands this all too well. That’s why the company’s Jan. 14 absolute, no-way-around-it, must-upgrade-or-else deadline comes with a giant caveat: Windows 7 users can still get security updates for the foreseeable future — they just can’t get them for free.

If your customers absolutely cannot make the switch to Windows 10, but also absolutely cannot stomach the security risks that come with an unsupported OS, Microsoft will consent to sell them some peace of mind after all.

Pricing starts at $50 per installation for the first year. That price goes up to $100 per machine for the next year. Then, after that, it doubles again to $200 per seat per year.

The end is nigh, the time is now

You may have had this particular conversation with your customers before. Perhaps you continue to have it ad nauseum. But you’d be doing your customers a disservice if you didn’t take every opportunity to help them upgrade to a stable, well-supported OS they can rely on.

The clock is ticking. So go out there and preach the gospel of Windows 10. In the long run, your customers will thank you.


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In the Zone

5G laptops coming soon, changing the world (really!)

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by Kevin Jacoby on 12/13/2019
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Relations between your customers and their laptops are about to change — for the better.

That’s because 5G connectivity is coming on mobile PCs. Once mobile 5G goes mainstream, a brand-new culture of convenience and productivity will emerge.

And the world will never be the same.

Hard to believe? Believe it. When describing to the virtues of 5G, your favorite next-gen tech clichés are totally justified.

Overused go-to’s such as “game-changing,” “revolutionary,” and “cutting edge” might be begging for retirement. But with mobile 5G, it’s worth calling them into service one last time.

5G: Gee whiz!

Once a given continent is bathed in the invisible glow of 5G multi-band coverage, we’re all going to become addicted to the always-connected lifestyle in a whole new way.

Never again will your customers have to ask for the Wi-Fi password at Starbucks. No longer will they toil on commuter trains, chained to eyestrain-inducing cellphone screens.

Instead, 5G will invite them to cast open their laptops, convertibles and tablets through which untold gigabytes of speedy data will flow. Wireless, high-speed and hella reliable — that’s the future of 5G computing.

Intel x MediaTek: defining the new standard

When the history of 5G is written, the Intel/MediaTek partnership won’t go down as the first 5G laptop solution. But it may end up as the first name in 5G laptops just the same.

Thanks to Intel’s bold initiatives, including Project Athena and the vPro platform, no one will be surprised if Intel continually sets the standard for next-gen mobile computing.

MediaTek 5G chip

Intel & MediaTek: pointing to 5G’s high end

Sure, there are other players on the field, and more will come in droves as 5G goes mainstream. But someone has to dance on the cutting edge, take uncomfortable chances and push the envelope. Intel’s partnership with MediaTek looks like a broad enough set of shoulders to carry that burden.

Intel says its partner OEMs, including Dell and HP, will introduce their first 5G lappies in early 2021. But increasingly, it seems likely these OEMs will pull the trigger on their initial offerings long before then. They don’t want to cede too much ground to the competition.

Hear that, Lenovo? They’re coming for you!

Speaking of Lenovo (and Qualcomm)…

As alluded to above, Intel has lost its chance to be first on the scene with a real 5G laptop. Instead, that honor goes to Lenovo.

After Intel was seen canoodling with MediaTek behind the bleachers after school, a red-faced Qualcomm contrived to intercept Lenovo, Intel’s on-again/off-again main squeeze. You might say Qualcomm fetched Lenovo a warm beer in a plastic cup, and off they went to make a 5G laptop.

The 5G laptop in question is called Project Limitless, and its coming-out party was held at COMPUTEX in Taipei earlier this year. No, Project Limitless is not for sale just yet, but it’s an actual laptop. So far, that more than Intel can say.

Lenovo 5G laptop

Lenovo & Qualcomm’s first 5G laptop, set for 2020

At the core of the Project Limitless machine is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem. It’s designed to jump on any low-, medium- or high-band 5G signal, and do so anywhere on the planet.

Of course, that’s assuming you can find a 5G signal. The U.S. and Europe haven’t gotten the whole 5G coverage thing together just yet. But they’re working on it.

Lenovo says its new, ever-connected gear will meet the needs of highly mobile users. That means people who need multi-gigabit data speeds, long battery lives, enterprise applications and security-rich capabilities. Sound familiar?

A race to the starting line?

5G tech is on its way to mobile PC platforms, of that there is no doubt. The question now: How fast can our tech benefactors run with the ball? And what does the end zone actually look like?

All will no doubt be revealed soon. Meantime, one thing’s for sure: The time to start talking to your customers about a 5G PC upgrade is now.

A bold new computing experience is on the way, and there’s gold in them thar hills. No time like the present to grab a pickax and start prospecting. Good luck!


The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

A few of our favorite things: Gift Guide 2019

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by Kevin Jacoby on 12/10/2019
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It’s that time of year again. You and your customers need gift ideas. We’re here to help!

Our picks for the year’s best gifts fall under the heading of super-cool, high-tech things you don’t need but want anyway.

And why not? ’Tis the season, after all.

PEDDY Pet-Sitting Robot

> Perfect for: Petfams with fur-babies

> Price: 279,500 South Korean won (approx. $234)

Is there a co-dependent pet owner in your life? We’re talking about someone who spends every minute of their much-anticipated vacay wondering what Fluffy is up to at home.

Are their sofa cushions in tatters? Did someone leave an unwanted gift on the living-room floor? Inquiring minds want to know.

Well, now they can know, assuming said inquiring minds can wrap themselves around the $234 price tag. If so, IoT appliance designer Guru IoT offers PEDDY, a mobile phone app-attached robot that will keep Sparky company while the kids are at Disney Land.

Peddy pet-minding robot

PEDDY Pet-Sitting Robot: for pet owners with separation anxiety

PEDDY can also doll out up to two days’ worth of kibble. And provide audio/video stimulation for the “Home Alone” family mascot.

This robot also offers peace of mind. PEDDY will alert you via its mobile app if it detects smoke, unexpected loud noises or excessive barking. Plus, it’ll back up its hypotheses of disaster with real-time videos, pictures, even meteorological readings.

Ambassador Real-time Language Translator

> Perfect for: International globetrotters

> Price: $119

Waverly Labs cordially invites you to obviate the endless hours of high school Spanish class you suffered through. Rather than dust off your all-but-forgotten conjugated verbs, their theory goes, why not just slip on these curvy earbuds and make life a little easier?

Ambassador’s Star Trek tech isn’t quite ready for prime time yet. But it’s scheduled to be here in March 2020 — long before we get warp drive, transporters and tricorders.

Ambassador language translator

Ambassador language translator: ¿Habla what?

Once Ambassador is linked to your phone and dangling just below your hairline, 20 different foreign languages spoken within 8 feet of the mic will end up in your noggin as the King’s English. Haza!


> Perfect for: Aspiring auteurs on a budget

> Price: $1,149

Are drones ubiquitous yet? Not quite. Will they soon be? Bet on it.

But there’s a problem: Drones are loud, the battery runs out just when you’re getting the hang of it, and the camera tends to be an afterthought.

Mavic Pro Platinum drone

MAVIC Pro Platinum drone: less noise, more resolution

DJI has the answer. Notable features of its MAVIC drone include a 4dB reduction in mind-numbing engine noise, 30 minutes of flight time on a full battery, and a 4K camera just begging to grab the bird’s-eye view of your next epic battle scene.

Sonos One SL Smart Speaker

> Perfect for: Tech-savvy music lovers

> Price: $149

A great deal of digital ink is spilled daily regarding smart speakers. The ink tells you that Alexa is best at controlling smart appliances, that Google Nest makes the best digital assistant, etc. Okay, those things may be true. But doesn’t anyone care about how the music sounds?

If your answer is yes, then take a look — and a listen — at the One SL by Sonos. In fact, take a look at two. Its best feature is being able to sync a stereo pair.


Sonos One SL smart speaker

Sonos One SL smart speaker: take two, they’re small

Sonos also built in Apple HomeKit, added Alexa, and stuffed Google’s tech in there, too. But when all’s said and done, the real brilliance comes when you shut your mouth, open your mind, and conjure Jimi Hendrix’s screaming Strat at max volume — which, apparently, is considerable. Are you experienced?

Porsche Taycan Turbo S Electric Car

> Perfect for: The tech mogul who has everything

> Price: $185,000

It wouldn’t be our annual year-end gift guide if we didn’t include a car that costs as much as a house.

So here it is: The dual-motor Taycan Turbo S electric car by Porsche.

Porsch Taycan Turbo S

Porsche Taycan Turbo S electric car: like a rocket with cupholders

If Tesla’s Model X is the modern soccer-mom, and Nissan’s Leaf is your fastidious-to-a-fault 9th grade biology teacher, then the Taycan is your crazy, meth-snorting, rocket scientist uncle. You know, the one who drops in unannounced at 2 a.m. on a random Tuesday to wake you up from a truly great super-hero dream, just so he can pedantically impart his latest theory about how cold fusion gets produced.

But seriously, there are a great many numbers associated with this car: 750 horsepower, 2 electric motors, a 250-mile range, blah, blah, blah. But only one number really matters: 2.4.

That’s how many seconds it takes the Taycan to go from a complete standstill to 60 mph. It’ll snap your head back, shoot your spleen into the trunk, and spill your grande macchiato all over the custom leather interior.

But three days later, when that grin is still plastered on your face, you’ll know you’re alive.

Go forth and bolster the economy

Consider it your civic duty to put food in the mouths those robot pet-sitter designer’s children. We’re all going to do it. We do it every year. So why not have some fun?

Ready, set, shop!



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