SiliconANGLE Extracting the signal from the noise. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:15:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wearable tech gets star power and flexible batteries Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:15:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This week’s Smart Health roundup features an NBA star’s entrance in the tech industry, fresh funding for a flexible battery maker, and a shirt that tracks your vital stats.

carmelo anthony jump

NBA star enters the tech scene


Carmelo Anthony, who plays forward for the New York Knicks, launched a new firm that aims to make better wearable tech available to consumers.  In partnership with his friend Stuart Goldfarb, a former executive at NBC and Bertelsmann, they created the venture capital partnership M7 Tech Partners.

According to Goldfarb, athletes have had access to wearable technology that provides performance insight, but he and Anthony noticed that the same technology is not available for the average consumers.

“We started talking about how sensor-based devices available to consumers were really primitive,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

“Sensors were bound get much better and had the ability to disrupt the whole health care system,” he added. “But for them to work well and become adopted, they really had to become lifestyle-type products. We wanted to participate in that.”

M7 aims to not only invest in companies that deal with wearable tech but also in other digital media and consumer technology companies.  M7’s first investment is for Hullabalu which makes storytelling apps for kids.  The investment is highly influenced by the fact that Anthony has a young son.  It’s first investment may not have anything to do with wearable technology, but in a statement, Anthony made it clear that they particularly focused on “companies that are involved with wearable technology and connected devices” as they see this as “huge areas for the future.”

Imprint Energy lands $6M in funding for flexible batteries


Imprint Energy secured $6 million in a round of funding led by Phoenix Venture Partners with the participation of  Flextronics Lab IX and AME Cloud Ventures.

Imprint Energy is focusing on innovating the design and performance of batteries and has come up with  ZincPoly, a thin and flexible battery, fits perfectly in the wearable tech market and the larger Internet of Things market.  The company’s innovations in rechargeable Zinc battery chemistry allowed them to develop thin, flexible, solid-state, high energy density cells with performance and features greater than commercially available and conventional batteries at present.  ZincPoly is not only thin and flexible, but it is also more customizable, non toxic, costs less to produce since the materials needed to manufacture it are readily available, and has the potential to disrupt the battery market.

No news yet as to when devices will be equipped with ZincPoly, but Imprint Energy stated that the round of funding will be used to accelerate development and production of its flexible battery.

Ambiotex takes health monitoring to the next level


At the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco, mobile developer Match2blue debuted ambiotex, a prototype t-shirt for health and fitness monitoring.

Ambiotex, co-developed with Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), is laced with sensors and a stretchable silicon band to measure vital parameters such as pulse rate, breathing, heart-rate variability (HRV), calorie consumption and physical activity in real time.  A TechUnit magnetically attached to the ambiotex so all the vital parameters taken by shirt can then be transmitted to the ambiotex app via Bluetooth Smart so the wearer can view the data in real time.  Data gathered is analyzed by the mobile app to give you an insight on how your body is functioning, if you’re not pushing yourself to its full potential, or if you’re overly stressed and need time to relax.

The ambiotex shirt comfortably fits a person and can be worn under normal clothing or by itself, and the TechUnit can be attached and detached as needed.  The shirt is machine washable even if it’s laced with sensors so you don’t need to worry about how to keep it clean.  Ambiotex is expected to launch in the market by October 2014.

]]> 0
Big Switch extends SDN vision to the physical plane Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Big Switch NetworksFour years after setting out to change how enterprise networks are operated with an overlay solution designed to provide a centralized management  layer atop existing infrastructure, Big Switch Networks is rolling out a new platform aimed at disrupting the entire data transportation pyramid all the way down to the hardware. The change of direction introduces many more moving parts, but has the potential to pay off in the long-run as the software-defined bandwagon gains velocity.

The product

Positioned as the startup’s flagship offering, Big Cloud Fabric is a pre-baked “Core-and-Pod” architecture modeled after the massively scalable network designs employed by the world’s largest Internet companies. In contrast to the traditional three-layer model of networking popularized by Cisco, wherein servers link up to commodity access points served by more expensive routers relaying data from the high-end switches that bear the brunt of the traffic, the Big Switch approach is open through and through. It’s also much flatter, and presumably more robust as a result.

In Big Cloud Fabric, the “Core” part of the equation is made up of one or more programmable controllers used to manage the “Pod” portion, which consists of commodity rack-mount switches manufactured by hardware partners. The connective tissue linking the two is Switch Light,  a homegrown thin switching software based on Linux that abstracts away the details of the underlying hardware to simplify administration and allow for faster provisioning of network resources.

Organizations can order the platform with one of two versions of the operating system. The standard P-Clos Edition is designed to work exclusively with physical switches, which is fine for non-virtualized applications but limits the number of use cases that can be addressed with the solution. Customers that require more flexibility can instead go with the Unified P+V Clos Edition, which extends the manageability offered by Switch Light to the logical switches used by virtual machines.

Other than that, the two variations share the same feature set. Both support 10G and 40G connectivity, provide compatibility with OpenStack and enable “headless mode high availability,” which means that the network continues to operate even if all all controllers go offline since policies are programmed directly into the switches that handle requests.

The offering is made all the more compelling by the fact that it ships as an integrated whole, which saves organizations the hassle of cobbling together the individual components on their own. That lowers one of the biggest barriers to software-defined networking adoption: complexity.

The accessories

Big Cloud Fabric is joined by a new release of Big Switch’s monitoring tool that introduces deeper packet matching along with support for the  high-speed Trident II Ethernet switch from Broadcom and Dell hardware.

The two vendors are among the two dozen companies with which the startup announced new or expanded partnerships  on the occasion of the product announcement. Also on the list is hyperscale server maker Quanta, Microsoft, a number of OpenStack distributors including Red Hat and perhaps most notably, In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA.

Image via Big Switch Networks
]]> 0
Is Gliph messaging app the perfect vehicle for Bitcoin? Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:29:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> small__5914558006Near the end of 2013, Apple decided it was going to have nothing to do with Bitcoin, and immediately yanked various Bitcoin-related apps from its App Store. Because of this, many apps were stripped of their Bitcoin functionality so they could get back in Apple’s good books.

One of the affected apps was Gliph, an encrypted messaging service that then offered a way to easily send or receive Bitcoins. It removed this feature, but that functionality is making a comeback as Apple has now apparently decided to ease up on apps that deal with digital currencies.

In June, Apple released its revised App Store Review Guidelines, which previously explained why Bitcoin-related apps were not allowed. In the Subsection 11.7 under Purchasing and currencies, the revised policy now states that “Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.”

Though the provision does not name any specific virtual currency, the Cupertino giant seems to be pertaining to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are gaining wide adoption.

With this change, Gliph claims that it will be one of the easiest ways to obtain and use Bitcoin, as it integrates two of the most popular wallets: Coinbase and Blockchain.

The perfect combination


Gliph, first and foremost, is a private messaging app. If you’re paranoid that the government is reading all your emails, Facebook messages, or instant messages, Gliph may be the app that you’ve been searching for as it offers data impermanence – it stores data only for a short period of time before it gets deleted.

As for its Bitcoin functionality, Gliph CEO and co-founder Rob Banagale states that it’s great for beginners as it uses technology pulled from Coinbase or Blockchain API, making it easy to perform Bitcoin transactions.

Many people are attracted to Bitcoin because it’s easy to send and receive money, and because it offers anonymity. The combination of Bitcoin and Gliph makes it perfect for people who really don’t want anything to be traced back to them. You can even use symbols akin to hieroglyphs if they don’t want to reveal your identity. However, the new version of the app does introduce ‘profiles’, which allows users to input more identifying information such as their name, email address, phone number, bitcoin address, etc., if they really want to. The good news is you don’t have to share this information, as you can switch ‘profiles’ off with a tap of a button.

Banagale believes that the combination of Apple, Coinbase, and Blockchain makes Gliph a powerful app that will help in increasing Bitcoin transactions and adaptation.

photo credit: zcopley via photopin cc
]]> 0
The innovation process behind HP Moonshot | #HPdiscover Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:08:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Tom Bradicich HP Servers

Among the industry’s top research organizations in computer and digital technology, Hewlett-Packard (HP) provides a list of hardware, software, and services to a large variety of customers, including small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as larger companies.

One of HP’s most innovative projects over the past few years has been the Moonshot System. VP of Server Engineering in R&D at HP Dr. Tom Bradicich sat down with Dave Vellante and Jeff Frick of theCUBE at HP Discover Las Vegas 2014 to discuss the company’s work and innovation with the Moonshot project.

Innovating from within


With HP’s current policy of few acquisitions, the company has had to do much of its innovation from within, in an organic nature. When asked to explain  how HP has been able to do this, Bradicich explained that while innovating from within is a challenge, a company gains certain benefits from doing so, including access to customers who can help a company guide and hone its investments quickly. The very breadth of the technology that HP has access to is another benefit.

This was especially true of Moonshot, which was organized more like a startup company within HP’s large R&D facility. Using a term called high-velocity rigor, Moonshot moves fast when innovating while staying rigorous in the business value it brings to its customers. In addition, HP has to make technology that matters to their custom while at the same time remaining unique.

Read more after the video.

  • Approaching innovation

When further asked about HP’s approach to innovation, Bradicich explained, “The approach that we are taking… is a very managed approach to that in being very careful. It’s all about being extremely sensitive to three things that are happening: the customer, the competition, and of course the company. I call them the three Cs inside.”

Bradicich  continued, “What is happening with the customer, what is happening with the competition, what is happening inside the company dynamic? Because we are a business, we have to make sure we are sound for our stockholders, as well as for our customers. Now, balancing all those three takes a lot of skill. And the winners in the business are going to be able to do that and be able to know how to pace that which would interfere with other lines of business.”

HP’s vision for the future


When asked about any future projects related to Moonshot, Bradicich  responded, “We are seeking to aspire to be the leader in the micro server and highly scalable and even hyper scalable segment. Because we seek to be that, and because of the assets we just discussed, we feel we are the best to step up to that leadership role.”

Bradicich also explained that the industry craves leadership to drive down cost, drive up utilization and efficiency, and eventually move faster than the competition. He added that customers will see from HP continued innovation, continued enhancements in quality, continued enhancements in total cost of ownership value proposition, and some really amazing things happening.

“The reason it is so important to do that is because many customers will appreciate doing business with you not only based on the current product, but also based on the roadmap; where can I go in the future?” he said. “And we seek to make those customers feel comfortable that if they go with HP, they do have a future and will have a leadership advantage over their competition.”

]]> 0
Octoblu emerges from stealth to ‘translate’ the Internet of Things Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:15:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> OctobluWhile all the big companies seem to be going about the Internet of Things in their own way, little ol’ Octoblu is bidding to become the translator between the various protocols that connect all of those smart little ‘things’.

Octoblu emerged from the shadows yesterday, with a play that seems to be targeted at the Industrial Internet rather than consumer IoT. It’s main offering is something called Meshblu, a platform it says “can be used for the discovery, control and management of any API [application performance interface]-based software application, any hardware or appliance, or social media network.”

In layman’s speak, what that really means is Meshblu acts a kind of translator for the numerous different protocols and APIs used by Internet of Things’ things. It can also act as a data broker service, relaying information between different devices and apps.

The idea is to create a single platform that spans across the multitude of devices and apps, protocols and languages that make up the IoT. The biggest challenge it faces is getting all of these connected things to communicate without any limitations or problems.

“How do you get this … world integrated without having a whole bunch of silos?” Octoblu CEO Geir Ramleth asked eWeek. “Right now you have a lot of things happening, but it’s happening in a bunch of proprietary silos.”

It’s a big hurdle to overcome, but a translator does make sense when you have so many devices already that are speaking their own proprietary languages. This is exactly why companies like Qualcomm, LG and Google’s Nest are trying to standardize protocols with the formation of groups like the Allseen Alliance.

Whether or not these efforts work remains to be seen, but even if they do, Ramleth argues that problems will remain. For example, new connected devices will still need to be able to talk to older legacy systems. “You can’t connect the old world by having a new protocol,” he says.

Here’s how Meshblu works in the real world: Imagine you’re building a smart home, and you have sensors on the windows monitoring the temperature inside and outside, with a goal of saving energy. This data won’t do much by itself, because it has to be tied to a system inside the home that regulates the temperature. The system could also benefit from being able to read weather forecasts, and other data, but it won’t be able to understand this incoming data if it speaks a different language. That’s where Meshblu can help, by translating the data and spreading it across all the different sensors and devices that make up the system.

Octoblu claims a number of beta users in the agricultural, energy, industrial control systems and manufacturing sectors, though Meshblu won’t be released commercially until later this year.

The company has posted a demonstration of its software for Google Chrome users here.

photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography via photopin cc
]]> 0
VeloCloud launches virtualized WAN-as-a-service offering Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:45:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> small__66231929Fresh off a $21 million investor funding round, networking startup VeloCloud is officially open for business, unveiling general availability of its cloud-based wide area network. The company said it’s reinventing the enterprise WAN by delivering branch infrastructure as a service, via the cloud, rather than requiring organizations to deploy traditional hardware-based appliances.

VeloCloud CEO Sanjay Uppal explained that most enterprises rely on private line WANs due to their reliability, but claims these networks are being stressed by the adoption of cloud services. As such, this – and security needs – prevents enterprises from being able to enjoy the reduced costs of consumer-grade web connections. That’s the problem that VeloCloud reckons it can fix.

To do so it’s offering a lightweight CPE that’s capable of bonding multiple Internet access links across different technologies – for example, DSL, LTE or cable – and can also support a company’s existing WAN links. All of these are presented as a single link, with VeloCLoud auto-sensing the links to the CPE and auto-configuring the service.

VeloCloud’s CPE can also ‘understand’ around 2,000 applications, and so if individual apps have particular requirements it can choose the most appropriate connection for each one. Individual links will be monitored for latency, jitter and packet loss. The CPE kit is designed in a such a way that packets can be spread across multiple links and reassembled at the destination, so packets can be automatically redirected if a link degrades for any reason, all without the users even noticing anything’s wrong.

“The VeloCloud service transcends the congestion, expense and complexity that plague WAN connections today, so that branch operations no longer struggle with a networking dilemma,” said Uppal. “Our disruptive approach takes full advantage of cloud and virtualization technologies to both simplify and fortify the WAN, turning what is”.

VeloCloud is also offering some extras on top of its base service. This includes the ability to run VM instances in VeloCloud, which allows users to run different services – like firewalls, performance monitoring, VPN and web security – on different sites. This means that a user could, for example, allow social media to run on some sites but not others, or restrict it at certain times.

VeloCloud’s service is priced monthly on a per-user, per-service basis.

photo credit: ~Aphrodite via photopin cc
]]> 0
Huboard Enterprise: Project management for Github repositories Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:03:54 +0000 Continue reading ]]> man using computer in dark room screen glow privacy securityGitHub today is the most popular online repository for projects related to the development of code and more. And if you are used to work on Github and use regular Kanban to manage your tasks and progress of development, you’ll love Huboard.

Huboard Enterprise is an open source platform developed in Ruby on Rails for adding project management features directly to your Github projects. Developer Ryan Rauh started developing Huboard almost three years ago. Like Trello, which needs no introduction, you can monitor real-time job status of your projects organized in several columns as: To do, current, complete, prod, etc.

The difference lies in the fact that the platform is directly related to your Github where you can list your Github projects, automatically synchronize your issues with numbers, manage various milestones, and assign tasks to a member of your team to easily filter out various tasks.

How it works

System of tracking tasks in GitHub lacks the mechanism of prioritizing tasks. In this case, you can use labels with priority tasks, such as high, medium, low, but perhaps you prefer an ordered list of the most important tasks at the top of the list. Huboard offers you user-friendly interface in the style of Kanban (similar to Trello), which uses all the possibilities GitHub API.

The key to Huboard is the simple tagging. Simply add a number, dash, and the title of the issue for it to be listed on the Kanban board. Then apply the label(s) to the issue. Huboard has both pros and cons for an agile project team. It provides a direct interface within Github without the addition of any plugin or bridges. The company site says it is built to complement GitHub Flow, by giving you just enough to get out of your way so that you can focus on your code and not your tools.

With Huboard, you look at your problem in GitHub, but with a different interface. However, it is worth mentioning that it simply and quickly deploy the platform Heroku, and it does not require large support costs. Using Huboard, you get the opportunity to see the priority tasks for the week, so developers always see what they have to do more.

Milestones can be created, issues can be assigned to them (and to users) with drag ‘n’ drops and milestones can be prioritized by re-ordering them. The Kanban board uses the number to order the columns by the labels and the following title as the column header so as to distinguish the errors. Once developers worked on a specific issue on Kanban board, they can drag and drop work into different columns, updating the labels within GitHub. Further, the board provides basic, high-level progress on issues at the milestone level.

Better project management

Some project management system require a new login for each new instance of the software. For example, if you have two different clients that use the same project management system, it is possible that you will have to remember two different combinations of username and password and you cannot easily switch between accounts.

Huboard provides users with access to all projects and repositories, to which you have access, without having to create multiple accounts. Github system contains nothing superfluous, but you may find that it lacks the familiar and comfortable you options. However, fortunately, Huboard development team is constantly working on GitHub functionality of the system.

On negative side, the tool still lacks features like detailed metrics or reporting, combining milestones with the same name or estimation tools and mechanisms. However, the developers are working on more features including file attachments to issues, project overview, metrics, lead time, audit history, graphs, and enterprise support. To summarize, it is worth noting that Huboard is a great project management system for the tech-savvy professionals.

photo credit: powtac via photopin cc
]]> 0
Smartly hydrated gardens, a smart door lever and more Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:08:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This week’s Smart Living roundup features a connected way to water plants, a new kind of smart door lock, and rumors of a smart home solution acquisition.

boy running through sprinker backyard hydration system

Hydros smartly hydrates gardens


If you have a lawn, yard or garden, you probably have a sprinkler system that allows you to set a schedule for when to water the plants.  The problem with these automated garden systems is that rain or shine, it will water your plants, even if that means over-watering.

Startup company Simple Elements launched Hydros, a smart replacement for your irrigation controller, on Kickstarter to help maintain a healthy garden.  Hydros utilizes sensors placed on the ground as well as weather forecasts to determine the right times to water plants and grass.  It also considers the type of soil and the condition of the grass to determine how much water is needed for the plants and grass to thrive.  By factoring in various elements, it also helps households save on water consumption.

Hydros also features automated scheduling, but with its analysis of the environment and tapping into local weather data, if it’s going to rain, you don’t have to worry about cancelling the scheduled task as it automatically gets cancelled.  You can also use your smartphone to make changes when you want to, even when you’re out of town.

Genie smart lock


Most smart door locks available in the market cater to deadbolt locks, which are not present in every home.

GSL Innovations Pty Ltd has launched a new kind of smart door lock that fits the traditional 54mm door hole.  Called the Genie Smart Lock, it offers an alternative to replace existing door locks, along with keyless entry by authenticating via the user’s smartphone via WiFi or Bluetooth.  Genie also allows homeowners to give temporary keys to people they trust, monitor door activities using their phone, and even remotely lock or unlock doors.

Genie differentiates on design too, as it’s a door lever with an LCD screen that displays its status and welcomes people.  In case you lost or forgot your phone, you can use a Bluetooth keyfob or log into your Genie account to unlock the door.  When all else fails, the LCD face of the smart lock opens to reveal a keyhole.

Samsung to acquire SmartThings


According to reports, Samsung is said to be acquiring SmartThings, a startup that specializes in DIY home automation solutions for about $200 million.  The acquisition is said to be Samsung’s way of competing with Google’s acquisition of Nest and Apple’s HomeKit.

Samsung already has smart home appliances available in the market such as a smart TV, refrigerator and washing machine, but SmartThings will allow the company to integrate its smart products with other connected devices such as connected lightbulbs and smart door locks, ultimately looking to build a smoother smart home experience.

SmartThings debuted a smart hub on Kickstarter in 2012 and gained traction last year when it raised $12.5 million in a Series A funding led by Greylock Partners and Highland Capital Partners.


photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc
]]> 0
Yahoo extends mobile footprint to app analytics with Flurry acquisition Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:25:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> question search analytics numbersWith smartphones and tablets now accounting for more than half of the traffic to its services and related advertising revenue up more than 100 percent from last year,  it’s only natural for Yahoo Inc. to want a bigger slice of the burgeoning mobile universe. The latest sub-segment that the struggling web giant has set its eyes is among the fastest growing of the bunch: app analytics.

Yahoo hopes to capitalize on developers’ growing appetite for user data with the acquisition of Flurry Inc., a San Francisco-based software shop that focuses on helping customers gain a better understanding of their mobile audiences. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, but TechCrunch cited an anonymous source as saying that the transaction is valued somewhere between $200 to $300 million, which would make it the company’s biggest investment since buying blogging powerhouse Tumblr for $1.1 billion last year.

If accurate, that figure also represents a hefty return for Flurry’s investors, which have collectively injected a total of more than $73 million into the company since it hit the scene in 2005. In the nine year that have passed, the humble startup has grown into a true force in the mobile development industry with over 170,000 users across 150 countries and a footprint spanning 1.4 billion devices generating some 5.5 billion sessions every day, according to internal numbers.

The Flurry appeal


Flurry divides its attention among three markets. For developers, its core audience, the firm offers a free service that provides insight into how consumers  interact with an application down to every last menu tap, level completion and ad impression. That data is processed into visualizations that present a detailed view of how users travel through the app and allow developers to compare metrics such as session length and retention with the category average.  The company claims that the tool is used to track over 540,000 apps across iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and the mobile web.

For advertisers, Flurry offers the same technology in an expanded package aimed at making it easier for brands target consumers across multiple apps as opposed to just individual titles. The product breaks down audiences by not only age and gender but also “personas” based on the individual’s areas of interest, includes a survey tool courtesy of partner Research Now and a packs a granular identification feature that allows advertisers to push out custom promotions to specific devices.  In exchange for providing that functionality, Flurry takes a 20 percent cut from any sale generated through the service.

The Publishers edition of Flurry’s offering offers the same level of visibility as the other two versions  but provides a number of value-added capabilities on top of that, notably an automated ad space acquisition  service and the ability to serve video ads and free cross-promotion among apps owned by the same account. The core features of the offering are available at no charge while advanced functions such as persona-based targeting incur a flat fee ranging between $0.1 to $2 per impression.

Blurry Flurry future


Yahoo said that Flurry will continue to operate independently with the current team and offices intact after the deal goes through, but didn’t go into detail about how it plans to bake the company’s technology into its portfolio. No matter how CEO Marissa Mayer approaches it, however, the interaction will put her firm  in a more competitive position, adding Flurry’s rivals to Yahoo’s  list of competitors.

photo credit: qthomasbower via photopin cc
]]> 0
Review: Surface Pro 2 skillfully bridges tablet-laptop gap Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:00:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> onedrive microsoft Microsoft_Surface_Pro_2The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is a tablet on steroids, the coolest, best designed laptop replacement to hit the office. Not for casual users, this machine says its owner is a step ahead. From the Windows icon on its frame that is actually an inductive button that returns you to the start page from anywhere, to the heuristic word completion utility that learns not just your favorite words and names but short phrases, to the magnetic power plug that snaps into its unique receptacle on its edge, this tablet reeks of sophisticated design. Its inductive pen is much more precise than a finger or a touch-screen stylus, which makes it a perfect editing tool. And its breakneck speed – it can perform a reboot in less than 10 seconds – and tight integration with the Microsoft OneDrive — it unlocks cloud storage using your Microsoft account password – redefine pesonal computing. It combines the best of on-device computing with the power of tightly integrated cloud computing, making it, for instance, it is the ideal front-end for Microsoft SaaS offerings such as Office 365, which use the OneDrive.

Unlike Android and Apple iOS deviceyous, which use cut-down operating systems, the Surface Pro II runs Windows 8.1, so it can handle all Windows applications plus a growing number of tablet-like apps for everything from e-magazines to TV shows to games. The bright, high-definition screen is ideal for reading, viewing graphics and photographs and watching videos, even in full daylight, where most screen displays fade to illegibility. It has a highly responsive touch screen, front and rear video cameras, a mini-SD port and something lacking on other tablets – a USB 3 port. This allows users to connect a keyboard and mouse and use the Surface as a laptop that accepts thumb drives and other laptop peripherals.

Surface Pro 2 is heavier than Android and iOS tablets, but that extra weight is mostly battery, giving its five-hour working life under loads such as watching videos, reading and writing. When not in use, it sleeps and uses practically no power.

The unit’s screen is small compared to a business laptop, being barely large enough to accommodate two windows side-by-side in landscape mode. However, there’s a “miniDisplayPort” that can be used to connect the tablet to a larger desktop display. Its onboard memory (maximum 512 GB) is a fraction of the capacity of the huge disk drives on modern laptops. However, that memory is intended for applications and data that is in use. Everything else – from personal photos to finished projects – goes to OneDrive. This also makes it easy to share files of virtually any size between the Surface and other computers and with coworkers or family and friends. The combination supports offline work when WiFi is not available while providing the advantage of unlimited storage when connected to the Cloud.

Split personality


Microsoft_Metro_InterfaceThe Surface does have a split personality between the tiled opening screen and the more familiar Windows desktop. This can be confusing at first, particularly for users who are new to Windows 8. However, the user interface becomes second nature over time, and it has advantages. For example, a user can jump between the desktop productivity environment and personal tablet applications at the tap of the Windows icon without having to minimize windows on the desktop.

All Windows 8 functions and Microsoft apps are available through both the touchscreen and keyboard/mouse interfaces. The built-in touchscreen keyboard supports Windows functions such as copy, cut & paste. However not all traditional third-party Windows applications are fully functional in tablet mode.

I decided not to purchase the optional attachable keyboard. Instead, I use a full-size wireless keyboard and mouse connected through the USB port. Away from my desk I use the touchscreen keyboard.



My Pro II has proven very dependable other than an early virus infection that forced me to contact Microsoft support. The service was highly professional. The agent proved knowledgeable and persistent, going rapidly through four different strategies of increasing complexity before finding the key to fixing the problem, which has not reoccurred. This left me with respect for the quality of Microsoft service, and that’s important in a world of increasingly complex threats.



I wish I could say this is the tablet for everyone. It is not. If you want a tablet for casual personal use, this is not for you. It is too heavy, too complicated and too expensive for uses that a $300 Android tablet can do just as well.

However, if you are looking for a productivity device that can do everything your laptop does, is highly portable and can be used easily in your lap or on an airplane, then this is a device to consider. It may quickly become your main computer because of its speed, integration with the cloud and high resolution display, and it just happens to be portable, too. This is a new style of intuitive, convenient computing. I believe that once you get one, you will never go back to a laptop. And with the Pro 3 now on the market, the Pro 2’s base price of $799 is a good buy.

Photos courtesy Microsoft Corp.
]]> 0