3 things to consider before ditching your laptop for a tablet

For a few years now I’ve been watching tablets develop into ever more potent machines, with an eye towards making the jump from a laptop to a slate for my mobile workstation. Sure, people have been working on iPads for years, but until recently it’s always seemed like a bit of a hack to me.

But between a legion of slimmed-down, powered-up Windows tablets hitting the streets and the increasing performance of the iPad, the day may soon come when I officially make the leap. And PCWorld senior editor Mark Hachman has already embraced the Surface Pro 3 for work and for play.

If you’ve been thinking about making the switch too, here’s a look at three features to keep top of mind when pondering the jump from a clamshell to a tablet.

What’s your platform?

The first thing you must decide on is which platform you want to use on your tablet: Android, iOS, or Windows. This comes down to a mix of personal choice and what you need your new mobile workstation to do. If all you need is Microsoft Office, for example, then a Windows tablet would suit you best—although the Office apps are also on the iPad if you have an Office 365 subscription. (Android tablet versions are not yet available.)

But if you work mostly in the cloud with Google Apps or something similar, then your choices get much wider since all you need is a modern browser.

At this point you can start to look at the app catalogs for each platforms to see what appeals to you.

But don’t forget about the power of the Windows desktop over mobile apps. If you’re buying an Intel-based tablet like the new 13-inch Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows, you can get the convenience of the traditional desktop OS as well as Microsoft’s new touch interface. Only Windows 8 tablets can run desktop PC programs, though they aren’t touch-optimized like Windows Store apps or the apps available for Android or iOS.

Try that keyboard, and maybe a mouse?

If you think the on-screen keyboard is going to be good enough for productivity you’re kidding yourself. The fact is you’ll need some kind of physical keyboard to get some serious work done.

Tablets like the Surface Pro 3 and the aforementioned Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 both work with optional keyboard covers, for example. If at all possible you should try out these kinds of keyboards before you buy to make sure they’ll work for you. A wide variety of third-party keyboard accessories with a far-reaching range of features are also available for iPads and Android tablets, however.

Also, if you’re going to need a mouse for your tablet, then you’re looking at a Windows slate.

All about storage

So now you’ve got your tablet picked out and the keyboard works, but what are you going to do about file storage? Do you even need additional storage? All tablets come with at least 16GB of storage and if you’re going for a Windows tablet then you’re often looking at about 64GB minimum, though some newer ultra-low-cost Windows tablets have only 32GB.

If you need more than that, then it’s time to look at pricier step-up models with increased onboard storage, or tablets with SD card slots so you can store your less frequently files on a small external drive.

Alternatively, tablets are a natural candidate for cloud storage where you can upload, download, and stream files at will. Microsoft recently announced that OneDrive would soon offer unlimited storage to Office 365 subscribers. With Office 365 Personal subscriptions priced at $70 a year that means you get full access to Microsoft Office on one PC plus one iPad or Windows tablet and all the cloud storage you could possibly need. Microsoft’s new unlimited cloud offering is still rolling out, so at first you may be stuck with just a measly 1 TB of storage, the current standard for Office 365 subscribers.

If you need access to your music library you could also augment OneDrive with Google’s free Play Music storage locker that lets you put up to 20,000 songs in the cloud for free. Both Google Drive and Dropbox have recently slashed the price of their cloud storage services, offering 1TB of Internet-based storage for $10 per month. Relying on cloud storage means you’ll need a consistent Internet connection, however.

Those are just the basics for the laptop-to-tablet switch. Windows tablet users may also want to consider the number and type of USB ports, and if you do a lot presentations then Lenovo’s Android flavor of the Yoga Tablet 2 and its built-in pico projector may be just the tablet you need.

via 3 things to consider before ditching your laptop for a tablet | PCWorld.

Rumor: New Google Nexus 8 tablet to launch in April 2014

Some new rumors are suggesting Google’s next Nexus tablet will launch at the end of April. Dubbed the Nexus 8, this new tablet will be an evolution off the Nexus 7 tablets from the previous two years.

This story comes via unnamed suppliers in Asia, which claim Google is slightly re-focusing its tablet efforts. The Nexus 8, as the name suggests, will feature an 8-inch screen a small bump from the previous 7-inch versions. This version supposedly comes due to increased competition in the 7-inch form-factor market, as well as ever increasing numbers of phablet-type devices in the 5 and 6-inch range.

Google’s switch to an 8-inch format would better differentiate it from other products and put it in the same class as Apple’s iPad Mini. It would also set its rumoured device in the mid-range of tablet sizes, giving credence to other rumours that suggest Google may be dropping the Nexus 10 line altogether, the bigger premium version of the Nexus 7.

There isn’t much info on what the Nexus 8 tablet may feature under the hood, but it’s valid to assume we’ll see the latest and most powerful CPUs, increased RAM size and better screens. It will, of course, also be running the latest version of Android. As for whose manufacturing this new device, Asus seems like the strongest contender, having manufactured the previous Nexus 7 tablets, but LG and even HTC are rumored to also be candidates.

If this rumor turns out to be true and the Nexus 8 does indeed launch in April, we’ll likely see many more leaks in the coming weeks as we draw nearer to the launch announcement.

via Rumor: New Google Nexus 8 tablet to launch in April 2014 – Neowin.

Microsoft ships 3.9 million Xbox Ones, Surface revenue doubles

In the second quarter of Microsoft’s fiscal 2014 (the fourth calendar year of 2013), the company exceeded expectations to post a significant rise in revenue and profits over the same period last year. On $24.52 billion in revenue, Microsoft achieved $6.56 billion in net income, both of which are a rise on last year\’s $6.38 billion net income from $21.46 billion in revenue.

In the earnings report, Microsoft revealed that they managed to ship 3.9 million Xbox One consoles in the quarter, which is slightly less than the 4.2 million PlayStation 4s Sony shipped in 2013. The Xbox One was the top selling console in the United States in December, which could be due to low PlayStation 4 stock at many retail locations, but nevertheless the next-gen console battle remains quite close.

Revenue from Microsoft’s tablet line, Surface, more than doubled in the quarter, rising from $400 million last quarter to $893 million. Sales were likely boosted by the release of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, which featured similar designs to their predecessors, but packed more powerful internals and other refinements including Windows 8.1 out-of-the-box.

Bing income increased thanks to more users using the search engine over market-leader Google, and although Office and Windows revenues fell, Microsoft was glad to report 3.5 million Office 365 Home Premium subscribers. The “soft” PC market is having an effect on the Redmond company, but the diverse product range of Microsoft seems to be carrying it quite well.

via Microsoft ships 3.9 million Xbox Ones, Surface revenue doubles – TechSpot.

Microsoft Surface RT gets $150 price cut worldwide

Update: Microsoft has made the Surface RT price cuts official. The base 32GB model is now $350, the 64GB variant will be $450, and either of them with an included Touch Cover will be $450 and $550 respectively. The new prices are in effect at retail stores worldwide as well as the official Microsoft Store. — Original story below.
Microsoft has been looking for ways to give its Surface RT tablet a little sales boost, partnering with resellers around the world and kicking off a limited-time offer for schools and colleges to get one at $199. Now, according to sources speaking with The Verge, the company is ready to cut $150 off the device at retail, effectively allowing anyone to purchase the ARM and Windows RT based slate for as low as $350.
That’s about $250/$80 less than the equivalent 32GB iPad/iPad mini. It also undercuts the comparably sized Nexus 10 by $150. But of course there are some differences to consider in terms of specs, and more importantly app library, where Microsoft’s platform still falls short despite moving to get all the big names. Adding to that, Microsoft will need to compete with smaller, more affordable options like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire range.
Although there’s still no official announcement, Engadget was able to obtain a Staples ad confirming the price cuts, which will come into effect starting July 14. Aside from the base 32GB model being priced at $350, the 64GB variant will be $450, and either of them with an included Touch Cover will be $450 and $550 respectively.
Microsoft hasn’t revealed much about its Surface RT sales, but they aren’t exactly flying off shelves. The move is largely seen as a way to clear up inventory ahead of a refreshed version. The company hinted at replacement Surface RT and Surface Pro models during its Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday, the former should be receiving a newer Haswell chip while the latter has been tested with a Snapdragon 800.
via Microsoft Surface RT gets $150 price cut worldwide – TechSpot.

Tablets to outship desktops this year, notebooks next year

According to the latest data from IDC, global shipments of smart connected devices exceeded a billion units in 2012, an increase of 29.1% from the previous year and representing a value of $576.9 billion. Although plenty of smartphones and other “smart” electronics were moved last year, the researcher notes that the market’s growth was largely thanks to a 78.4% on-year boost in tablet shipments, which topped 128 million units.
That’s a pretty significant slice of the computing pie if you exclude smartphones from the billion devices and IDC expects interest in slates to continue for the foreseeable future. Tablets are due to outship desktops in 2013 and notebooks in 2014, while both of those PC segments will either lose ground or see relatively flat growth. The desktop market is expected to shrink consistently through 2017, when growth is expected to be -1%.
All told, IDC forecasts that companies will shift 190 million tablets worldwide this year, which would mark an annual growth of 48.7%, while smartphones shipments are expected to swell by 27.2% to 918.5 million units. Looking further ahead, the researcher says smart connected devices will reach shipments of 2.2 billion units and revenues of $814.3 billion in 2017, with tablet and smartphone growth tapering to 9.8% and 8.5%.
The analyst firm also touched on the latest market share rankings of Apple and Samsung. The iDevice maker is said to have “significantly closed the gap” with Samsung in the last quarter of 2012 after moving plenty of iPhone 5s and iPad Minis, which pushed Apple’s unit shipment share up to 20.3% — just behind Samsung’s 21.2% cut. However, Apple represented a larger slice of the quarter’s revenue at 30.7% versus 20.4%.
via Tablets to outship desktops this year, notebooks next year – TechSpot.

Samsung gets cold feet, won't launch Windows RT device in the USA

Samsung has blamed weak demand and confusion surrounding Windows RT as reasons to why they won’t be launching their Windows RT tablet – the Samsung ATIV Tab – in the United States. CNET heard from Mike Abary at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, who confirmed that the Qualcomm-powered tablet would not be showing up in American stores at all despite launching internationally last month.
There wasn’t really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8, that was being done in an effective manner to the consumer. When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was. And that heavy lifting was going to require pretty heavy investment.
When we added those two things up, the investments necessary to educate the consumer on the difference between RT and Windows 8, plus the modest feedback that we got regarding how successful could this be at retail from our retail partners, we decided maybe we ought to wait.
They also found that, alongside the money they would need to spend to educate users about Windows RT, the price of the ATIV Tab would not be competitive enough alongside full-blown Windows 8 tablets. Samsung understood that Windows RT tablets should be priced lower than their more powerful counterparts, however to do this they would have had to make too many trade-offs including lowering the available memory.
Abary noted, however, that Samsung would still be assessing the market in the United States and that they wont be “shelving permanently” the idea of bringing a Windows RT tablet to the region. It seems Samsung are hoping that Microsoft will put more effort into marketing of Windows RT as a whole (as opposed to just their Surface RT tablet) before returning to retail with a new product.
The news doesn’t bode well for Microsoft though, who seem to be struggling to highlight the advantages of a Windows RT machine to consumers. On the other hand, with the recent release of a jailbreaking tool there is a chance that Windows RT will become a new playground for avid homebrew developers.
via Samsung gets cold feet, won’t launch Windows RT device in the USA. | Neowin