Surface Neo Camera Theory

Today, Microsoft previewed their re-entry into the mobile computing space by revealing the Microsoft Surface Duo, a dual screen smartphone that runs a Microsoft-skinned version of Android. The device was revealed after the unveiling of the Microsoft Surface Neo, a spiritual successor to the Microsoft Courier concept long revered by tech industry enthusiasts. The Surface Duo, originally rumored & rendered in nearly dead-on detail as the device code-named Andromeda, has also been previewed a year early by Microsoft in order to garner support from developers & to build up anticipation in a very busy consumer electronics market which has been lacking creative, ambitious innovation.

I’m sure I will write more about the Duo & its older sibling in the future, but for now, I want to address one very important thing that I observed from today’s Microsoft event: the Surface Neo camera. Cameras have become a vital measuring stick for mobile devices in recent years, with Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, OnePlus, and a host of other Android manufacturers all vying to have the best pocket-able camera experience in both hardware and software.

If you watched the Microsoft unveil carefully, you likely noticed there was no visible camera on the “back” of the device. The back of the device can technically be all four plains that exist on the hinged device, but only one was revealed to have had a camera: the right-side screen. The right-side screen of the Surface Duo, curiously also home to what appears to be phone call ready speaker grill, also had a clear, defined camera. In the animation showing the internals of the Intel-powered mobile device, the camera mount & hole can clearly be seen to the right of said speaker grill. Curiously, the area is rather large, along with the aperture of the camera. Much bigger than any normal forward-facing selfie/video chat camera.

The sole visible camera on the Surface Neo preview video, with a curiously large size for a selfie camera

The sole visible camera on the Surface Neo preview video, with a curiously large size for a selfie camera

My theory? That is truly a fully-featured camera that would be found facing outward on a traditional camera, complete with optical image stabilization & competition ready specs to possibly record 4K and take competitive pictures from a single sensor. Something Google proved is possible through the marriage of powerful hardware and well-defined software. Just look at the mounting area & surrounding electronics in the video (around the 1:21 mark), that looks like OIS to me. You could go from taking a selfie or video chatting to taking a picture or showing your surrounding just by flipping the device over or closing the hinge, screens out.

What do you think? Is Microsoft ready to re-enter the mobile hardware fray? Let me know on Twitter at @ghost_reiter!

Fitbit is Finally Buying Pebble

Valentina Palladino, reporting for Ars Technica:

"Pebble has been looking to sell for a while, likely due to these financial woes, but it has turned down offers in the past. Citizen offered Pebble $740 million for the company back in 2015. Intel also wanted to buy Pebble for $70 million earlier this year, but it would have required a delay in the launch of the Pebble 2 and the Pebble Time 2."

"The Information reports that the Pebble brand will likely be phased out after the acquisition since Fitbit is interested in Pebble's intellectual property and its operating system. This makes sense considering Fitbit has always been a fitness-focused company, whereas Pebble started in smartwatches and has only recently tried to make their products more fitness-friendly."

Fitbit is finally playing their card and has taken on the role of the bargain shopper. As early as last year, Pebble could have gotten $740 million in a buyout from Citizen. Instead, just a year later, they will be sold for scrap at last than 10% of that price because of how over crowded and competitive the wearable space has become.

Don't get me wrong, this is a win-win situation, which will prevent Fitbit from releasing another lukewarm smartwatch & keep Pebble's ambitious ideas from being lost in a crowded space. This will be a beneficial buyout for both parties, with many ideas that match up, but will likely come at the cost of the Pebble name and fun loving, Kickstarter loving, public ethos.


OLED Macbook Pro Function Keyboard Bar, Visualized

9To5Mac's Seth Weintraub writes what we are all thinking now:

"...One of our readers Cameron did a mockup that changed all of that for me and many others. Taking a look at the possibilities with Siri, many of our readers came up with excellent ideas for apps that would use the bar. 3D designer Martin Hajek has done a few better with some amazing renders that take the OLED display from gimmick to 'TAKE MY MONEY.'"

Go give the gallery Seth references a look, and tell me with a straight face you didn't immediately think of a dozen amazing uses for such a hardware feature on a Macbook Pro. Developer potential for a customizable OLED function key bar is highly potent, and will create an imagined modern experience on macOS.

The latest Macbook Pro is rumored to be released in August, which will likely be about the same time of a new macOS release, which would allow developers time to add their own spin to the new function bar. I for one will be curious if the OLED function bar will be open to all macOS applications, or if macOS applications offered on the Mac App Store will only be allowed to use the function bar. Martin Hajek's renders draw an amazing picture for interactive uses with media scrobbling, Siri voice search activation, and even a file copy progress bar. All the mystery behind the traditional collection of rumors will be properly paraded out on Monday as WWDC 2016 begins!


Presidential Candidate Twitter Sparring

After today's latest political Twitter spat between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Dara Lind at Vox humorously writes:

"You don't tweet "delete your account" in response to an outrageous or offensive tweet, because it's not a serious demand. So many of the things that Trump tweets (or retweets) wouldn't be appropriate targets. Rather, "delete your account" is used when someone has tried to be funny on Twitter — for example, by attempting to land a sick burn — and failed."

Without diving too deep into which candidate won the first Twitter fight of the 2016 Presidential General Election or who will win the election as a whole, can we all stop and talk about how insane such a concept is? One of these two people will be the 45th President of the United States, and yet, they are feuding on Twitter. At the very least save it for the debates. No one is going to take a politician seriously if they squabble on Twitter with their political opponent. I'm all for humor and joking, but the Presidential Office should be treated with respect, even during the election. Basically, entertainment value aside, is it necessary for candidates to spar on Twitter, or is there a more constructive use for social media in modern election politics?


Pebble's Pivot To Health

Since Pebble's latest Kickstarter campaign kicked off on May 24th, the writing on the wall for the smartwatch maker has been clear: we are a smart health wearable company now. No longer is Pebble framing themselves as a direct competitor to the more premium, feature rich smart watch ecosystems of Google and Apple. Instead, Google has decided to become a superior competitor to the likes of health wearable makers such as FitBit, Jawbone, and Misfit.

With their latest blog post today, Pebble has proven, with the backing of the health community and with a twist of words and marketing, that such a pivot from a smartwatch to a smart health wearable company is the best play for them. The latest post highlights two new watch applications for monitoring not just walking or heart rate vitals, but to monitor and ask for other health factors other comparable health trackers cannot. By asking about and monitoring your mood and energy level, Pebble's published health algorithms can make additional deductions about your health and well-being.

No longer is Pebble compared with expensive watches that can also do health stuff, instead, Pebble are compared with the reserved features of their new health tracking competitors. If Pebble can continue to push the message of health tracking and gain the public eye as the superior dedicated health tracker company, then the pivot will render far better results for them and allow them to compete at a higher level and with more support from customers, the health community, and even developers. More Pebbles on more wrists for the right reason is the goal, and with their new message, and their unique new take on run tracking with the Pebble Core, Pebble is back on track to be the successful industry standard we all want them to be.


Mac Siri Icon "Leaked"

Yesterday, Juli Clover at MacRumors reported:

"Rumors have indicated Siri integration will be one of the key features coming in OS X 10.12, and new screenshots of a Siri menu bar and Siri app icon suggest Apple is indeed working on bringing Siri to the Mac in its 2016 operating system update."

Anyone who saw Juli's article and was genuinely surprised hadn't yet read Time Magazine's report regard Google's impending introduction of their "Echo killer". A report which was confirmed by a preview of Google Home at Google I/O just a few hours after Siri for Mac was "leaked". Apple likely leaked Siri for Mac to prepare the masses for their own digital assistant and to assure them, as if to say "yes, we can do AI interaction too". Hopefully, Apple can keep up with the likes of Google and Amazon. After all,  the Beats Pill with Siri needs to be introduced eventually, right?


Wikipedia Deep Dive: Fossil's Smart Watch History

While reading up about Fossil earlier today, I found that their own smartwatch platform and their new friends at Misfit are not their first foray into the smart watch game. Meet the Fossil Wrist PDA, also known as the Abacus. Fossil Abacus Wrist PDA was released for $250 in 2003 by Fossil in partnership with Palm. A customized version of Palm OS was shipped with the device to use the smaller screen and limited inputs. Link over to Wikipedia for pictures and general history.