HP will soon release a special Star Wars edition laptop it says will allow you to “Unleash your inner Sith”.And no, it's not making that claim solely based on the presence of Windows 10. The machine boasts styling based on the Lucasverse and is pre-loaded with oodles of Star Wars content including “rare wallpapers, screen savers, concept art, and original trilogy storyboards”. Plugging in a USB device apparently produces a burst of R2-D2's trademark clicks and whistles. Other actions result in the clash of lightsabers ringing out from the machine's Bang & Olufsen speakers.“The Galactic Empire lives on in the battle-worn design of this unique special edition notebook”, HP gushes, as it extols the virtues of the “dark side inspired” machine.There's even a font for “Aurebesh”, apparently the Lucascerse's Galactic Base Standard language, presumably for those tired of learning Klingon.When HP announced it would split into enterprise and printer/PC entities, it promised the latter entity would deliver “new computing experiences - inventing technology that empowers people to create, interact and inspire like never before.”
Is a Sith-inspired laptop delivering on that promise? Or just a way to make a US$699 laptop with specs that won't excite serious gamers (Core i5, 12GB RAM, GeForce graphics, a DVD reader/writer) a little bit more interesting? The buttons, labelled with emojis, cover common feelings such as excitement, sadness, anger, and so on and will be made available first to users in Spain and Ireland. Facebook will look at feedback and decide whether to roll the feature out further.The company's chief product officer Chris Cox posted a video to his public Facebook feed to show how the process would work on a mobile phone.While Facebook's response is a novel one and more expansive than simply providing a "Dislike" button that people have been bugging the social media company to roll out for a number of years, some feel that the new emojis are a little too restrictive.While fun, the new options are unlikely to capture the most frequent responses that Facebook users wish to append to their friends and complete strangers' posts, depending on their privacy settings and whatever Facebook has decided it wants people to see that week.
Such is the importance of Facebook to society's well-being, however, that we at The Register decided to carry out extensive research and customer modeling using the most recent techniques in cutting-edge design fabrication to provide an enhanced experience for users – and provide the results of that work, for free, to Mr Zuckerberg and his glorified curtain-twitchers.Comment The days of the massive standalone storage company are coming to a close, as the public cloud and myriad storage startups drive cumulatively fatal wounds deep into the heart of the one-supplier-does-all-your-storage business model.The all-you-need, best-of-breed storage supplier days are ending as enterprises realize they can get better or cheaper or simpler or more integrated storage, or several of these attributes, by revolutionizing their on-premises storage and moving some or all of it to the public cloud.All mainstream storage suppliers are affected though, not just the stand-alone ones.Traditional, on-premises storage costs and over-consumption of limited enterprise IT resources are being seen as unbearable yet fixable problems, with the fixes tearing the heart out of traditional, mainstream, on-premises enterprise IT suppliers' businesses.
The idea of EMC merging with HP or Dell or selling its VNX line to Dell is only the latest manifestation of this.A problem for these suppliers is that many changes are going on at once, some short-term and some long-term or secular. The biggest secular change is the rise of the public cloud with three giants emerging: Amazon, Azure (Microsoft), and Google. Each is reporting growing customer usage of their clouds for compute and for storage.There are vertical application clouds as well, such as Salesforce.com and, much lower down the scale, ambitious file sharers like Dropbox and Box.
Some of this public cloud-use is cloud-bursting – the temporary use of the public cloud for one-off, short-term needs – but the rest is pretty permanent. Most Salesforce.com customers intend to carry on using it and no longer have on-premises IT resources for their CRM-type applications.
That is the simple public cloud threat; on-premises IT is hollowed out, leaving desktop, laptop, and hand-held endpoints behind, accessing remote, in-cloud IT resources. Off-premises IT is not supplied by mainstream, on-premises IT suppliers. But this is extreme and will take years to come to pass, if it does, with on-premises IT being a multi-billion dollar market for decades yet.In the on-premises storage area, there are many many changes too, some of them totally focused on-premises, such as the move to all-flash arrays, a trend to detach storage software from hardware, newer hybrid arrays with much better software, and converged and hyper-converged server hardware and software/storage/networking systems.But these replace legacy products in what is looking like a slowly growing pool – the on-premises IT market. As the myriad storage startups grow, they will eventually face the same problem as the mainstream suppliers are facing now: the business system they pitched for last year has either gone to the public cloud or to a newer start-up technology and the opportunity has vanished.Once the startups have collectively taken all the business they can from the existing vendors, and exist in a state of stable competition with them and their uprated product (think EMC and XtremIO, for example), then they could be playing public cloud musical chairs.
The chairs are business applications, and each time the music stops another application has gone to the cloud and there are fewer chairs (sales opportunities) for the suppliers, so someone has to leave the game.For suppliers, the judgements they have to make include asking which changes coming are most severe for me? How fast are they coming? What is the impact on my business?Analysis “Someone out there must have a family,” Panos Panay remarked yesterday, surveying his audience of potato-shaped gadget bloggers. An optimistic view, I thought. Panay was presenting Microsoft’s Devices event in New York, an event designed to get bloggers’ juices running.Years ago, I was in a MacWorld audience for a Steve Jobs keynote, where the fans even applauded a price increase. But this was far more hysterical. I suspect Microsoft execs had prepared for the event by watching Team America World Police. Several times they told us how “pumped” they were. Thanks for sharing – we might have guessed by the veins throbbing, Hulk-style, on your temples. Maybe next year the Microsoft Devices Event will simply be called, “Surface, Fuck Yeah!” That’s really what this year’s should have been called, it was so aggressive, and single-minded.
Partly this is a function of changes in the tech media. 15 years ago the tech press attending Microsoft presentations wore the same generic uniform as the presenters: a regulation blue Gap shirt (no tie) tucked into Chinos. Now that so many publications have gone, taking the cooler and more analytical voices with them, the audience is predominantly poorly paid, hormonal and adolescent. Some even write for no pay at all – events like this are their big thrill. So the timbre has changed too.Let’s look past the chest-beating and testosterone, though, and see what we really learned.This was a hardware event, and it had an explicit goal and an unspoken one. The obvious goal was to showcase Microsoft’s hardware, not counting Xbox. The unspoken goal was to hide the software, which is in (to put it kindly) a stage of transition. Microsoft achieved both, managing to hide Windows 10 almost completely. Phew!Analysis If there's one message that stands out from Microsoft's big device day launch on Tuesday it's this: stop thinking about Redmond as the cheap option, because it wants to be seen as the premium brand.For years Microsoft has sold itself as the dominant ecosystem for computing that won't cost you too much. The device day focus, however, shows that Microsoft is intent on going after the big spenders in the IT industry.
Take the Surface Book, for example. Again and again Microsoft hammered the message that this was the ultimate laptop, with no expense spared. That's reflected in the price – $1,500 will get you the base unit but you can spent nearly three grand on a top-of-the-range system with dual graphics chips and a terabyte of solid state storage.That's a hell of a lot for a laptop. You can pick up a good-enough laptop for a tenth of the price of a top-of-the-range Surface Book running Windows. But there's a market for people willing to spend a fortune on top-spec hardware, both in the gaming market and also for the executive who likes to show off a bit.As for fondleslabs, the Surface Pro 4 is an expensive option for a tablet, which is why Microsoft has always billed it as a PC that just happens to be in tablet form. While $899 is the base price, when you add in the keyboard, a bit more storage, RAM, and the pen you're well into four figures.
The same is true for phones. The Lumia 950 and 950XL were promoted (and priced) to compete with the highest-end cellphones on the market and billed as a possible replacement for PCs. Buy a docking station to go with it and the phones can handle 90 per cent of the applications most people use most of the time.By contrast, the lowly Lumia 550 got little love from Redmond. It merited a couple of sentences in the long presentation and was reduced to a "if you want to try Windows 10 on the phone it's a cheap option."
There's just one problem with this strategy – other people have got there first and they'll be a bugger to dislodge.When it comes to expensive hardware, Apple has ruled the roost for a long time. The MacBook, iPad, and iPhone lines are pricey, albeit with a very high-quality build and the apps to match. Cook & Co have earned serious coin with high-end hardware and will cling onto the sector like rabid weasels.The Surface Book also takes aim at Alienware, although that's a longer-term play. The dual graphics capability of the laptop will match the Dell subsidiary's best laptops (once software that can take advantage of the hardware has been written), and gamers are notorious/beloved by vendors for being willing to spend big bucks on the right kit.
Microsoft wants a piece of both companies' markets, although the Apple bashing was more in evidence at yesterday's show in New York City – possibly because Microsoft has a financial stake in Dell and it's one of the firm's favorite partners.Engineers from Microsoft, Tesla, and Columbia and Massachusetts universities have teamed up to develop what on paper looks like a revolution in consumer battery technology that meets demands for fast charge, long life, and the ability to bend.The "Software-Defined Battery" system allows different batteries with different chemistries to be integrated into the same system. Fast charging and the ability to work for longer by adapting to different tasks are the result of the blended battery plan.Energy consumption rates can even be predicted, based on learned user behaviour.The team says these arrangements overcome current trade-offs in black-box batteries that mean no one single type can meet all common user requirements, such as the need for a laptop to last over long-haul flights or to deliver quick bursts of power in applications like starter motors or camera flashes.Delivering bendable batteries for us in wearables is also said to be possible using the new heterogeneous system.