Microsoft changes the way it does business with students, Dyson heats and cleans your room, Optus keeps you connected, and a glimpse into Disneyland’s future. This is The Wrap.
May has just begun and it’s time to tune into Australia’s speediest technology news round-up. You’re listening to The Wrap.
And this week all eyes are on Microsoft with the announcement of two new products as the company tries to take on not just computing competitors like Apple, but also the education market with Google, too.
This week, Microsoft is adding a new version of Windows and a new laptop to its lineup, and they kind of feed into each other.
Let’s start with Windows, because Windows 10 S will join the regular staples of Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro, and while they all offer that combination between touch and mouse interface, Windows 10 S is a little different.
You know how you can install applications downloaded from anywhere on the web on regular Windows? Well on Windows 10 S, that goes away, as Microsoft makes its app Store — creatively called the “Store” — the only place where you can source apps.
Now the Windows app store exists on every other Windows 10 version, but the difference is nobody really uses it. We know a lot of Windows users, and we’ve only met a few people who have used it before, or use it regularly, but Windows 10 S will limit you to apps from that store, which means no Google Chrome web browser because that’s not available, there no Adobe Creative Cloud because that’s not there either, and not a single well-known 3D creating app either or even Microsoft’s own Visual Studio.
The focus for Microsoft with Windows 10 S is students with a budget OS that keeps things secure by limiting your downloads to a locked app store, but that’s going to be tough if you’re learning design, 3D, or code when Microsoft’s app store is itself a touch limiting.
And this is a strategy that feels familiar for Microsoft, which locked down apps in the past for different reasons on its Windows Phone and original Surface tablet, which have all run slightly different incarnations of Windows at the time.
The real test will be the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s other newly introduced product this week, which combines the look and feel of a clamshell laptop with that of Microsoft’s Surface Pro. This laptop can’t be detached like its Surface siblings, and Microsoft has made the keyboard covered in Alcantara, a fuzzy surface that you have to wonder if it will get stained pretty quickly.
In fact, Pickr’s European Correspondent Tristan Rayner even wrote that the specs don’t feel to match up to what students may require, because while Microsoft will be including the latest Intel processors, something its other Surface machines don’t have, it will only start at 4GB of RAM, and that’s hardly enough for a Windows 10 computer.
The real catch is that while the slightly handicapped Windows 10 S will appear on the Surface Laptop, it will actually be upgradeable to the full edition, provided you pay a little extra for the privilege.
That makes Tristan’s point even more relevant, and given the Surface Laptop will cost just under $1500 locally, could mean that the Surface Laptop will be easily beaten by competing manufacturers with better spec’d machines who have been building them for ages. Think of Lenovo, Acer, Asus, HP, and Apple. They’re all now the targets, and they may be able to beat Microsoft at this game.
Microsoft isn’t the only company with something new, as this week Dyson joins the Surface-maker with a gadget designed to keep the home warm, cold, and most importantly allergen and nasty-particle free.
The gadget is more of an update, and is an addition to Dyson’s Air Multiplier range, which most people know as the fan that has no blades.
Now they’re not technically fans, so we’ll give you the quick science lesson in case you’ve ever been curious to know how Dyson’s Air Multipliers work. The shape of a fan is obviously very creative, but they don’t need to look like one, with the air being sucked in from the bottom through a motor where it’s sped up, and then pushed back through the frame of the fan that you see.
Essentially this makes the Dyson Air Multiplier fans more like a jet, and this time, the latest jet in the range is designed to heat up the home in the winter, cool it down in the summer, and purify the air.
It’s no wonder that this is now called the Dyson Pure Hot Plus Cool Link purifier heater, with the only thing missing from that description being the definition of “Link”, which for Dyson just means you can connect an Android phone or iPhone to control everything instead of using the remote.
While it appears to do a decent job of warming up the room on a cold night, the most important aspect of the new Dyson heater is the purifier, with a 360 degree glass filter able to capture pollutants from gas, with nasty sounding chemicals like benzene, naphthalene, and formaldehyde caught instead of being re-ingested by you.
We should have our review soon enough, but for now if you’re keen to know more, head to Pickr where you can read our story, or just head in store to find it for $799 in Australia.
One review did hit Pickr this week, with Optus letting us take a look at its Home Wireless Broadband kit, a way of connecting to the web that relies on a Huawei 4G modem and unsurprisingly a 4G connection.
One of Australia’s big three 4G telcos, it’s unsurprising that you’ll be using the 4G coverage to connect to Optus to get the internet connection here, and for the most part, the system is very easy to use, with a plug and play approach getting you online quickly, with the ability to change the network ID and password if you so choose.
Where it gets a little sticky is the speed, and this is an area we struggled with.
For instance, while the included modem can technically handle up to 300 megabits per second, Optus only lets you have access to 12 megabits down and 1 megabit up, doing so with a fairly generous 200 gigabyte allowance.
We suspect Optus is able to get the monthly downloads up by capping the speed, but that speed is not far from what most ADSL2 users get in Australia as it is, making it a little disheartening, and it comes with a catch: instead of granting the access to those 12 megabits, the connection speed changes depending on your distance to the nearest tower, almost as if the connection was bound by the same range requirements of wired connections like fibre to the node and ADSL2.
That means you might get 12 megabits if you live near a tower, but if you don’t, it drops. And we know, because when we tested the service this week, we hit speeds ranging from five and seven megabits per second, which is hardly enough and makes a difference if you’re trying to watch Netflix or Apple TV and use a computer at once, a bit of a problem in a household of more than one person.
It’s also really frustrating because Optus has created what is easily one of the easiest broadband solutions, requiring little to no knowledge or understanding of setup to get right, and no phone line either so you can put it where ever you want, and yet the speed just isn’t there.
We go into greater depth in the review online, but we can’t help but wonder why when 4G speeds in Australian capital cities tend to run between 30 and 100 megabits per second on a good day as a minimum, why Optus hasn’t pushed the maximum up a little more, and why the bandwidth doesn’t feel as strong.
And that signals the end of another Wrap, if it weren’t for one thing: May 4 was yesterday in Australia and today in most other places, so May the fourth be with all the Star Wars fans and even those who aren’t, and if you’re a little curious as a Star Warsian what the future of Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, is going to look like with its upcoming Star Wars Land, take a peek over at some maps NearMap has provided offering a glimpse in all the work Disney is doing.
We’ve put them online for easy comparison — hey, it’s what we do — and it’s a cute little time waster showcasing the power of mapping and yet also celebrating a bit of what the world of Star Wars will offer when Star Wars Land opens in two years time.
The Wrap will be back before then, so tune in same next week. Have a great week, y’all.