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2-in-1s: notebook and tablet in a single device
A screen you can’t touch somehow seems incomplete these days. Smartphones and tablets have conditioned us to expect devices to respond to a tap or a swipe, and Microsoft is betting the future of Windows on making touch an equal partner to the more traditional mouse-and-keyboard forms of input.
And thus was born the 2-in-1 PC, which works both as a notebook computer and a tablet. Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Pro lines, with click-in keyboards that double as covers, were the first, but all the major PC OEMs have gotten into the act, experimenting with abandon in their attempts to create variations on the theme. On some, the display detaches to work as a tablet; others allow the display to bend 180 degrees to become a tablet; still others incorporate a display that flips on a hinge or within a frame.
Even after a year of breakneck experimentation, it's still too soon to tell whether this new form factor is catching on with consumers. But don't expect Microsoft and the OEMs to give up. They're too far down the 2-in-1 path to give up now. And don’t be surprised if Apple joins the party. After all, they won a patent for just such a device back in 2010.
— Larry Seltzer
Amazon’s amazing Kindle ecosystem
2013 might go down in history as the year all of the big tech companies officially gave up on the dream of interoperability and began building ecosystems where your best chance of success comes with using their devices with their software and their services.
And no one has been more determined than Amazon to build its own ecosystem, or more successful. The Kindle readers have evolved in a few short years to be world-class tablets sold at a discount to their competitors. The Kindle Fire HDX is arguably the best 7-inch device you can buy, feather light, with a gorgeous screen. Amazon remade Android in a way that fits its strengths as the world’s largest bookseller.
And the icing on the cake in 2013 was a ruling in Federal court that Amazon’s biggest, most feared rival, Apple, was guilty of violating antitrust law by colluding with publishers to fix prices. The biggest winner is the book-buying public, which will continue to see Amazon aggressively price online books, even selling them below cost to drive sales of the Kindle Fire HDX. Thus keeping it all in the family.
— Ed Bott
Virtualization as malware killer
Every IT pro knows how virtualization is increasing data center efficiency and streamlining deployment of applications and services. But on desktops, the technology is still mostly a specialized tool for software testers and developers.
That might all change soon, thanks to Bromium, a startup that specialize in what it calls “micro-virtualization technology.” The company released its first product, vSentry, this year, with the ambitious goal of automatically stopping malware and targeted attacks viruses in their tracks on any computer running Microsoft Windows.
On a PC running Bromium’s vSentry, every single process is virtualized. Every time you fire up an application—including a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome—it's isolated in its own micro-VM. When you close the application or the process, that micro-VM also dies, as does any malware that may have entered the system via that process.
No virus cleaning, no quarantining. No reboots. It vanishes in a puff of logic.
That, of course, assumes that an attacker was able to get through in the first place. Another Bromium technology, Live Attack Visualization and Analysis (LAVA), monitors every micro-VM for telltale signs of an attack, using crowd-sourced data to spot the behavioral signatures of common attacks. It can spot redirects, cross-site scripting attacks, and phishing attempts as well as rootkits and bootkits, shutting down the micro-VM before it can be compromised.
In the not so distant future, advanced virtualization technology like Bromium’s could very well make traditional Windows malware a thing of the past.
— Jason Perlow