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Apple continues to execute
Bloggers and tech reviewers become so jaded, so fast. Reviewing all those me-too devices and reading all those gobbledygook press releases wears down optimism from even the most diehard enthusiast, leaving behind an impenetrable hard shell of cynicism.
Thus the tepid reviews for Apple’s release this year of the iPad Air and Mini and the iPhone 5s and 5c. No, there were no unicorns on stage at the launch events. It wouldn’t be fair to call any of this year’s devices revolutionary. And yet every one was a solid improvement to a line of devices that were already pretty impressive and successful.
Yes, Apple’s share in the tablet and smartphone markets, expressed as a percentage, has declined. Most of the growth is in low-cost tablets and smartphones, which are ubiquitous, especially in emerging markets that are extremely price-sensitive.
Even if Apple never introduces another category-defining product, it should be able to iterate for years to come on the categories it already dominates, regardless of how much those jaded bloggers grumble.
— Ed Bott
Chromecast sneaks into the office
A $35 dongle that weighs less than an ounce, plugs into a standard HDMI port, and streams from the web or a PC? The obvious application in the living room, where sufficiently tech-centric hobbyists can use a Google Chromecast as yet another way to throw Internet videos onto a big-screen TV. But that’s just a sideshow, as far as we’re concerned. This little device has tremendous potential as a useful business tool that will really shine in corporate conference rooms.
For example, you can cast any video stream that plays in the Chrome web browser to any HDTV equipped with a Chromecast. That turns out to be a very effective way to push a web-based video-conference—Google+ Hangouts, WebEx, or GoToMeeting, for example—to that big screen at the end of the conference table. No more awkward huddling around a small PC screen. And as a bonus, you’ll use a fraction of the bandwidth that your office would use if a dozen employees are tuning in to the same conference from separate devices.
The Chromecast is also a potential game-changer for sales and marketing pros who spend their time on the road making presentations to small groups. Lugging around a projector and going through the incantations to make it work can suck the soul from even the most battle-hardened road warrior. But if you know you're going to be taking your show to a room equipped with a modern TV and WiFi, you can set up the Chromecast in a matter of minutes and deliver your web-based presentation effortlessly, putting the business back into show business.
— Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
Office 365’s epic transformation
Microsoft Office is the very definition of legacy Windows desktop software, having begun its existence as a bundle of productivity apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1990. It’s also one of Microsoft’s crown jewels, contributing more revenue than Windows to the company’s bottom line in recent years.
So the fact that the company has managed to transform its most profitable legacy software product into a successful subscription service is a very big deal. Office 365 debuted in early 2013. Less than a year later, it’s bringing in $1.5 billion a year in revenue and is continuing to grow. The Home Premium edition has 2 million paying subscribers, who each pay $99 a year for the right to install the full collection of Office programs on up to five PCs or Macs. And it’s gaining traction in the enterprise as well, with 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies having purchased Office 365 licenses in the past year. (If you’re confused by the different editions, you’re not alone: Here’s an explainer.)
Behind the scenes, Office 365 uses a technology called Click-to-Run virtualization to stream apps to a client device. Signing in with an Office 365 account eliminates the need for activation and long product keys. Subscribers can deactivate an installation anytime and install the software on a different device—a very useful feature in a multi-device world.
What appears in Office often shows up later in Windows. So how long until Microsoft debuts a Windows as a subscription product using the same model?
— Ed Bott