- Microsoft unveiled the Surface Studio desktop
- Apple launched the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
- Xiaomi launched the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX concept phone
Want to know more about the big tech news of the week? We’ve got a roundup of all the stories that mattered, so you can be up to date in a glance. This week actually feels a bit like a time capsule, as its highlight was competing events from Microsoft and Apple showing off their latest PCs. The only thing that kept this from feeling like the 90s was how cool the products which were unveiled were – whether you’re talking about the Surface Studio or the MacBook Pro 2016, these gadgets look futuristic even for 2016.
In its event on Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled its newest product, the high end creators tool that comes across as a cross between a desktop PC and an artist’s tablet – called the Surface Studio. The 28-inch 4500×3000 pixel touchscreen display is attached to an armature that allows you to use it like a desktop, or lean it all the way down to work directly on the screen. There’s also a unique new hockey-puck shaped accessory called the Surface Dial, that can be placed on the screen, to bring up contextually-aware controls. An artist could use it for colour blending, while if you’re running a music app like Pandora, it could be used to adjust the volume.
Considering the price of the Surface Studio (which starts at $2,999 or approximately Rs. 2 lakh), it’s best seen as a specialised machine only a few professionals would be buying, and in that context, the puck-shaped Surface Dial starts to make sense as a took for professionals such as designers or artists.Apart from Surface Studio, Microsoft also announced an upgraded version of the Surface Book hybrid computer, and an upgrade to MS Paint, now called Paint 3D, which takes good-old Paint, and turns into a more powerful 3D creation tool, for better or for worse. Also unveiled at the event was the Windows 10 Creators Update, which brings the new Paint app, HoloLens integration, and pinning contacts to the taskbar, along with some more features such as a refreshed Action Center, and Themes for Windows 10. Microsoft also said partners such as Dell, Lenovo, and HP will release affordable VR headsets, which will use outside-in tracking to track movement in virtual environments. New Surface Keyboards, including an ergonomic model, were also launched at the event.
The very next day, Apple had its big event, where it unveiled the Macbook Pro 2016; just about every (much needed) new feature was known from leaks, but seen up close, it still ended up impressing us a lot. In many ways, the Macbook Pro 2016 is the touchscreen Mac people have been asking for and it’s a very smart implementation of an idea that others have experimented with in the past.
(Also see: The Microsoft-Apple Rivalry Is Alive and Well)
Where the Surface Studio is an implementation of contextual inputs for professionals, the MacBook Pro 2016’s Touch Bar is the same thing for everybody else – the Touch Bar sits above the keyboard where the function keys used to be, and displays buttons depending on the context of the app that you’re using.
The new laptops also include Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint authentication system in the power button adjacent to the Touch Bar, along with suitably beefed up specifications.
Aside from the new MacBook Pros, Apple also talked about Apple TV, and confirmed that a version of Minecraft is coming to the platform. There was no talk about a new MacBook Air, and considering that the new Pros are thinner than the Air, it doesn’t seem likely that the sub-brand will continue for very long, as it’s also discontinued some variants. Interestingly, Apple’s new laptops seem out of sync with its phones, requiring that you pay extra for cables and adapters. The MacBook Pro 2016 only comes with USB Type-C ports, so if you use an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, you’ll have to buy a new USB Type-C to Lightning cable, or a USB Type-C to USB adaptor. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, so you’ll need a Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor to use the headphones that came with your new phone. All-in-all, it looks like Apple expect more and more of its users to go wireless in the near future.
(Also see: MacBook Pro 2016 vs Microsoft Surface Pro vs HP Spectre 13 vs Dell XPS 13)
There was another big piece of news on Thursday: Twitter announced the end of the Vine video sharing app, even as it moves to cut 9 percent of its workforce. In a post published jointly by Twitter and Vine to the blog platform Medium, the social media services said that the Vine website would stay live even after the mobile app is discontinued, giving users the chance to download and save any videos. Twitter is also testing the removal of usernames from tweet-replies, allowing you to say more while staying within the 140-character constraint.
And on Tuesday, before Microsoft and Apple, China’s Xiaomi also had a major launch event. It launchedthe Xiaomi Mi Note 2, which has curved edges on both sides, and 6GB of RAM variants. Its price starts at CNY 2,799 (roughly Rs. 27,600) for the 4GB variant, while the Global Edition 6GB RAM/ 128GB storage model is priced at CNY 3,499 (roughly Rs. 34,500) and has support for global LTE bands (with support for up to 37 LTE bands). It also unveiled a concept phone, the Xiaomi Mi MIX, which has a near bezel-less display with curved edges on top, with the company is touting a 91.3 percent screen-to-body ratio. The company also launched a new VR headset, called the Xiaomi Mi VR which promises an ultra-low latency experience, priced at CNY 199 (roughly Rs. 2,000)
Apart from these big international events, there were plenty of launches as well. Reliance Retail’s Lyf brand launched another Reliance Jio-ready smartphone, the Lyf F1 Plus, priced at Rs. 13,099. The Zen Cinemax 2+ was also launched, and incorporates an SOS-calling feature. The budget-friendly phone is priced at Rs. 3,777. ZTE unveiled the ZTE Axon 7 Max with 3D Viewing Display, and 13-megapixel dual cameras. The 6-inch display supports 3D viewing without any special glasses (also known as auto-stereoscopic display) and is available in the Chinese market at a price of CNY 2,999 (roughly Rs. 29,600) starting November.
We also saw the launch of the LG X Power with 4G VoLTE support and a 4100mAh battery, priced at Rs. 15,990. Huawei also released a new phone, the Huawei Enjoy 6 with 13-megapixel camera and a 4100mAh battery. The phone also has 3GB RAM. We also got the InFocus Epic 1, powered by a deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 SoC, and it is priced at Rs. 12,999. There was also the launch of a new smart TV, the TCL 65-Inch P1 Smart LED TV launched at Rs. 79,990 on Amazon.
The Reliance Jio saga continues meanwhile; Airtel complained to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) about Reliance Jio’s Welcome Offer, which it was recently reported might be extended to March 2017. It says that Reliance Jio has negatively affected its mobile business. Airtel also has to respond to TRAI about interconnects with Jio; the regulator last week suggested a penalty of about Rs. 1,050 crores each on Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs. 950 crores in case of Idea Cellular.
The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) published a report stating that India will have 1 billion mobile users by 2020, of which there will be 280 million 4G connections. Phonemakers however will have to comply with a new directive from the government. It has mandated support for Indian languages in all mobile phones to be sold in the country from 1 July 2017 onwards.
All of which is very interesting, but in news you might not believe is true – self driving trucks are now a thing, and commercial deliveries without drivers a reality. Uber did its first delivery, dropping off 50,000 cans of beer.