This year’s Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2014, is now history, and the most memorable part is not a new TV or curved display, but the inability of Transformers director Michael Bay to ad lib when his teleprompter went kaput. He was doubtless getting big bucks from Samsung for shilling at its press event, but he gave a performance that one tech pundit called “downright cringeworthy.” Bay later offered what appeared to be his notion of an apology on his personal site: “I guess live events aren’t my thing.”
Note to Michael Bay: CES is not just another one of those “live events” that people attend and mill about politely. CES is the biggest stage in the world for consumer tech gear, business solutions, and, occasionally, those new processes and paradigms that push or pull us ever forward in both small leaps and great bounds.
CES 2014: Top 5 Takeaways
1. There is major disappointment in the wearables category due to the lack of a standout product. Many offer control via iPad rental or smartphone, but as some makers finally put some style in their offerings, others let functionality fall by the wayside.
2. The Best in Show award went, somewhat surprisingly, to last year’s winner, the Oculus Rift VR (Virtual Reality) accessory. Still a prototype, the upgraded Crystal Cove version has high resolution like our MacBook Pro rental, all-encompassing VR, and games/VR worlds in development. Now that Sony and others are announcing competing products, Oculus needs to get the Rift to market, and fast.
3. Asus and Lenovo blazed the way forward with “combi” tablets and tablet PCs, some of which run both Android and Windows 8.1. Asus began its innovation streak just before the end of 2013, with the low-cost, high-quality, Windows 8.1 Transformer Book T100. It comes with a keyboard doc that has USB 3, an SD slot for additional storage memory, and 11 hours of battery use. The Lenovo entry is an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, says Lenovo, that is “built for the boardroom,” so you can connect USB peripherals, a keyboard and mouse, and an external monitor. If you rent laptops, you will have a lot of new concepts from which to choose.
4. The ultrahigh-resolution 4K format has broken the $1,000 consumer price barrier. Vizio, the biggest selling TV brand in the U.S., announced a 4K line starting at $999.99 when it debuts this year. There are off-brand 4K TVs below the $1,000 line, but Vizio will bring a quality product that will definitely trouble both Sony and Samsung, which haven’t gotten anywhere close to hitting that price point. Interested? One of our divisions, AV Event Solutions, now rents 4K display monitors.
5. PlayStation 4 is beating Xbox One, fair and square, winning the sales race thus far with over a million more units sold. Now PlayStation Now, announced (again) by Sony at CES 2014, enables other PlayStation devices to use PS3 games—and will also work with tablets, smartphones, and TVs. Sony will debut the new service this summer, and it should be seen as a peek at one possible future of gaming.
What’s our takeaway? If you need mac rentals for post-production or computer rental for in-house training, CRE Rentals is your go-to technology rental company. With 21 locations nationwide, we can get you the IT equipment you need, where you need it. Contact us to learn more.
On Monday, June 18th, Microsoft staged a media event almost as stylish and savvy as an Apple press party, with CEO Steve Ballmer announcing “a whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.” Of course, Ballmer was speaking about his firm’s iPad competitor, the new Microsoft Surface tablet, so he meant “new to Microsoft” as opposed to “new to the world.” While the latter would have really been like an Apple announcement, Microsoft’s tablet is still a bold move for several reasons.
Microsoft Surface specs
Microsoft’s “new family” begins with two models, both under two pounds with 10.6-inch screens and similar magnesium cases (built-in stand, cameras front and back, keyboard and trackpad in the cover). Both models will run the new Windows 8 OS, with the 1.5-lb., 9mm-thick basic unit getting the “low-power” RT build with the “Metro” tile interface. The 2-lb., 13.5mm-thick Pro will compete with our iPad rental and other high-end tablets, pairing Metro with a full Windows desktop. Intel’s powerful Ivy Bridge chip lets users type on the Pro keyboard, use fingers on its touchscreen or write with a stylus.
The basic model comes with 32 or 64GB of memory, the Pro with 64 or 128. Some vital specs were not discussed, including screen resolution, battery, release date or price. (Windows 8 is set to debut “later this year” so it will obviously be after that.) The original ancestor of our iMac rental was a “Bondi Blue” piece of eye candy in a putty-colored PC world, and now the Surface tablet is breaking the mold, too (albeit 15 years later). The design is “über-modern,” stressing flat, black, thin and shiny for the hardware, perhaps to balance the “Disneyland look” of Metro tiles.
Sink or swim for Microsoft?
The Surface tablet is an uncharacteristically risky move by Microsoft, driven, some say, by a “loss of faith” in its corporate partners. The Xbox game console is one of the few hardware successes from the Redmond firm, as the Zune music player was discontinued and the KIN phones for teens lasted about a month. Microsoft dominates personal computing with its software (DOS, Windows, Office), and Windows 8 is the first “MS OS” designed for everything from desktops and tablet PC rentals to mobile touchscreen devices.
MS boss Ballmer said the company “took the time to get Windows 8 and Surface right,” and went on to call the new MS tablet “a tool to surface your passions and creativity.” Whenever the Surface debuts (autumn or ?) the tech world will be watching to see if the new device sinks or swims. We’ll keep you posted!
In Part 1, we reviewed the progress of PC technology in 2011 and pointed to the probable advances of 2012 – faster graphics, better tablets but no real increase in CPU potency. Today, we will add some details to the ultrabook tale (mentioned in Part 1), and tell you how a special version of the upcoming Windows 8 will challenge the reigning tablet champ, the iPad rental.
Laptops of the future?
Apple may not have invented the “ultrabook” form factor – ultra-light, ultra-thin, ultra-capable-for-its-size and equipped with a Solid State Drive (SSD) – but its MacBook Air was the first to market. From the original Bondi Blue iMac to the upcoming iPhone 5, Apple products have always carried a price premium, as they are well designed, well made and highly coveted. Now that the Air has the latest Intel chips, plus other upgrades like the super speedy Thunderbolt that debuted in early 2011 on the MacBook Pro rental, its price is surprisingly competitive.
In 2012, we will likely see successive waves of low-priced ultrabooks from the big guns in PC manufacturing. The “sweet spot” for pricing is under $1,000, much less than current high-end “thin and light” notebooks from Sony, Acer and Dell. By the third quarter of 2012, according to more than a few pundits, you’ll have your choice of a wide range of light, high-powered, Windows-based notebooks that will run all day on a single charge while offering the computing experience of a capable PC desktop computer rental.
Windows 8 tablet strategy
According to many of the same pundits that got the ultrabook prediction right, last year was to have witnessed a “tablet transition” with Apple’s iPad pushing the tablet “paradigm” into the mainstream. They got that one wrong, but clearly Microsoft is now taking mobile platforms seriously, so this particular prediction is being recycled for 2012. The “mobile edition” of Windows 8 – for pads, phones and tablet PC rentals – will have a proper touch interface born of Windows Phone and its leading edge UI (User Interface), Metro.
The arrival of Windows 8 also raises questions about the future of the PC, which until now has been based on what’s called the “x86″ processor family. Is a PC still a PC without an x86 processor? The fact is, Microsoft will ship a version of Windows 8 with support for ARM (WOA, Windows On ARM) as well as one for x86 processors, the former for mobile devices and the latter for desktop PCs. It will be interesting to see how it all works out – and we’ll keep you posted!
CRE is ready to supply you with the finest trade show convention rentals as well as whatever post-production gear, high-end A/V equipment, monitors, touch screens, workstations and computers you need to get the job done. Call or e-mail an Account Executive – or use our Quick Rental Quote form – to get the right solution, right now!
Apple scores the most headlines, but far more people in the world use Windows PCs than Macintoshes. 2011 brought speed increases for buyers of some new PC and Mac models, but progress by Intel was nearly canceled out by the flop of AMD’s so-called “Intel-killer” chip, nicknamed Bulldozer. Still, Intel helped the iMac achieve power rankings in Mac Pro territory with the latest, third-generation “Core-i” chips.
Ironically, now that a basic PC desktop computer rental can sport a high-end CPU – and since AMD is no competition – speed gains are no longer Intel’s “goal #1.” The newest Core i7, the fastest PC processor ever, is only marginally speedier than its predecessor. Even with two of its six cores turned off, it powers some iMacs past a Mac Pro rental in speed tests. That’s why Apple is reconsidering the future of its tower models (more in an upcoming blog).
What’s coming in 2012?
The modest progress in CPU power was widely expected, but so too were advances in graphics processors – and Android tablets were going to take over the world at $99, remember? For 2012, the following developments seem likely:
• CPUs will take a back seat to GPUs (Graphics Processor Units);
• Android tablet makers will finally field a worthy competitor to the mighty iPad rental; and
• light, thin laptops from numerous makers – with SSDs (Solid State Drives) – will try to knock off the “original Ultrabook,” the MacBook Air.
The CPU/GPU scene
There won’t be a big increase in core count or clock speed in 2012, with the former number maxing out at four (“quad-core”) and the latter at 3.5GHz (3.9 with Turbo). But potent integrated graphics means speedy encoding times, and images will get to plasma display rentals or other high-end monitors with greater speed, resolution and clarity.
Summarizing PC hardware trends for 2012, we expect to see:
• the race for the fastest PC chip to slow down, as Intel’s Core i7 outperforms the competition even with two of six cores turned off;
• graphics performance to make gains in 2012, meaning Apple Cinema Display rentals will look better, react faster, reproduce color more accurately and use less electricity; and
• the new Ultrabook form factor to pack desktop power into an under-two-pound, half-inch thick form factor. (If you want to see the future now, check out the Asus Zenbook. More on Ultrabooks in Part 2.)
At CRE, we serve experts in post-production who need render farms and other high-end gear, just as we serve marketing managers who need trade show convention rentals. If you know what you need, use our Quick Rental Quote form. But if you need help to overcome today’s bottlenecks – and prepare for tomorrow’s – then one call or e-mail puts you in touch with an expert Account Executive. Just let us know how can we help!
Watch for PC Progress in 2012, Part 2 on Thursday, May 17th.
Microsoft has gradually taken the wraps off Windows 8, the most recent version of its flagship operating system (OS). Windows 8 is the first “MS OS” to be developed from the ground up for multiple devices – your laptop, that PC desktop computer rental, various tablets, big-name smart phones and who knows what else down the line (your refrigerator?). You can get a preview version of the OS online and use it until the final product is released late this year.
Microsoft “spokesfolks” describe the current pre-release version of Windows 8 as “a work in progress [that] will change before the final release,” advising those who install the trial to expect “hiccups and bugs.” Companies that distribute “beta” and “consumer preview” releases count on getting a lot of feedback – via user forums, blog posts and telemetry – for refining the final product. There is a little feedback trickling in, and it is cautiously optimistic. Let’s check it out.
Windows 8 strikes some as a “crazy quilt combo” of the iPad, classic desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Microsoft’s Metro interface. The tile layout is meant to appeal to folks that have adopted and adapted to the uncluttered interface of the latest smart phones and iPad rental. The Redmond firm clearly wants this new, growing generation of multi-device users to see Windows 8 as a common interface.
That common interface comes in three versions. The newest member of the family is Windows RT, optimized for use on a tablet or all-in-one multitouch display PC with such “touch-optimized” software as OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With a lean, clean interface and excellent battery-power management, Windows RT is what you’ll run on your new ARM-powered tablet.
Not your Daddy’s Windows OS
The standard package, Windows 8, is headed for most people’s laptops and desktops as the successor to Windows 7, with Internet Explorer 10, built-in access to the new Windows Store and all the flexibility most users need. Windows 8 Pro, for serious business users and geeks, ups the ante with virtualization, encryption, network management and domain connectivity. Finally, Windows Media Center – with expanded capabilities for controlling external devices like A/V (audio visual) equipment rentals – is a simple “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro.
This isn’t your Daddy’s (or Mommy’s) Windows OS. Windows 8 was developed to combine standard desktop components with new-fangled elements from the parallel world of pads, tablet PC rentals and phones. Tiles, finger swipes, icons and apps, the touch-driven interface – these are among the new threads that tie everything together in Windows 8. Microsoft execs have not announced a precise release date for Windows 8, but they’re smart, so expect it in the fall, right on time for holiday shopping.
Before today’s tablets, devices like tablet PC rentals ran the special “pen-driven” Windows OS and offered some of the flexibility – in mobility, input, display, etc. – that we now love about tablet technology. As with any “hot new product” there are now both high- and low-end tablet makers rushing to supply this growing market.
While cheap tablets rarely lead in power or build quality, they often introduce new features that, following consumer acceptance, end up on higher-end models – all of which are chasing the Big Kahuna, Apple’s iPad. Today we will take a look at the top three Android tablets from Samsung, Asus and Sony.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Pros: Also a Honeycomb device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 combines a complete Android experience with Samsung’s nifty custom touches. It’s (most) everything you love about the Galaxy Tab 10.1, reduced about 10% in size and weight.
Cons: Some users will miss the ports, and the plastic rear cover is a little cheesy next to the world’s best industrial designs like the iMac (and everything else with an Apple logo on it).
Verdict: Samsung is one of the leading firms working against the “one-size-fits-all” trend in technology, and the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a powerful argument.
Asus Transformer Prime
Pros: The Asus Transformer Prime is the most like an iPad (a bit thinner, almost as light) but adds a microSD slot, micro-HDMI port and an 8-megapixel camera that numerous reviewers call the best of any tablet. The Prime runs the latest Android release, Ice Cream Sandwich, and docks on a special keyboard for laptop-type use.
Cons: The quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU, powerful enough for a PC desktop computer rental, is not fully utilized in some apps and games, so video can suffer. The top-heavy Prime tends to separate from the keyboard, and both screen and bezel are fingerprint magnets.
Verdict: The Asus Transformer Prime is arguably the best of the best, a svelte but full-featured Android unit with quality materials and a superior camera.
Sony Tablet S
Pros: The Sony Tablet S is not your typical tablet. It runs Honeycomb, the OS that came right before Ice Cream Sandwich, but distinguishes itself with great proprietary apps, PlayStation-certified gaming, DLNA music/video streaming and a universal remote control.
Cons: It’s a Sony. It’s not cheap (even the charger is proprietary, so replacing it will be costly) and a few reviewers have griped about insufficient screen brightness.
Verdict: Sony didn’t rush the Tablet S to market, as it did with the ill-fated Dash. It’s solid and dependable, which should appeal to plenty of non-Apple folks.
If your company needs a dozen tablets, we can explain why it makes sense to rent vs. buy any needed technology. It’s different for every business so call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive and talk about it. Know what you need? Hit our Quick Rental Quote form and you’ll be on your way in no time!
Microsoft debuted the Consumer Preview (beta) version of its Windows 8 Operating System (OS) recently, looking for the public’s input (read: free troubleshooting) for a critically important product designed to run on devices big and small. Now that laptops and tablets outsell desktops, we’re seeing the same thing from Apple – the convergence of its legacy desktop system, OS X (now at 10.7.3), with elements from the newfangled smartphone/tablet system, iOS (now at version 5).
OS…aging but not obsolete
This convergence is more of a challenge to Microsoft than to Apple. New Macintoshes like the iMac will only run the latest versions of OS X, and those will only run on post-2006, Intel-based Macs. On the other hand, both new and old PCs will run XP, Vista, Windows 7 and, soon enough, Windows 8. This is the “product line fragmentation” that Microsoft has been trying to resolve for years, despite its leading to such niche products as the special “pen-based” OS installed on our tablet PC rentals.
XP is now an 11-year-old platform. Although it still reigns as the most popular Windows OS, and is a popular choice for a PC desktop computer rental, it is gradually giving way to Windows 7. NetApplications, the research firm that tracks such things, reports that XP’s market share slipped from 47 percent in January 2012 to 45 in February. In this same period, Windows 7 added what XP lost, rising from 36 to 38 percent of all users. Vista is a distant third at roughly 8 percent.
The future’s spelled “8″
Since its debut in October 2009, Windows 7 has gained ground every month. It has picked up XP users slowly – but Vista users quickly. It was Vista, in fact, that introduced some of the design elements of the new Windows 8 look and feel. You can still rent laptops with Vista if you need it, but Microsoft wants users to move from XP and Vista to Windows 7, in accordance with the firm’s “Map for the Future.” Microsoft does not want XP and Vista users waiting for the commercial release of Windows 8.
Microsoft is reminding everyone, especially firms with large numbers of PCs, that official support for XP ends April 6, 2014. After that, no more updates, bug fixes, security tweaks or patches. Despite the fact that it would make for a more efficient transition, the firm will not require XP or Vista users to install Windows 7 before upgrading to Windows 8. (The Windows 8 Consumer Preview download has install-in-place options for XP, Vista and 7.) They may have their druthers, but Microsoft will take Windows 8 users any way it can get ‘em.
Need a desktop computer with Windows OS? Simply call or e-mail CRE Rentals to get an experienced Account Executive to assist you, or use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. We’re always ready with the right solution at the right price – right now!
The news and debuts from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) have had some time to percolate among analysts, bloggers, businesspeople and gadget fans. We gave you some CES 2012 highlights a few weeks ago, but now we’re starting to get a feel for what’s hot, so let’s get to it!
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga – The new product category of “ultrabook” could be defined as “a PC version of the Mac Air” – the original thin, lightweight MacBook variant. Now the first ultrabook/tablet hybrid, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, is made possible by a 360-degree hinge and the forthcoming release of finger-friendly Windows 8. Use the 13-inch touchscreen as a normal laptop display while typing on the keyboard, then flip it “around and over” for tablet use. Finally, a computer that really bends over backwards for you!
Blue Spark Digital – Blue manufactures professional audio gear, so calling the Spark Digital an “accessory” for iPad rentals doesn’t quite do it justice. This first studio-grade condenser microphone has two cables, one for the iPad, the other with USB connectors for PCs and Macs. A condenser capsule enables high-fidelity recording. Along with adjustable desk stand and built-in shockmount, the Spark Digital includes a headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring.
Sony Xperia S – This smartphone with an 8MP camera, 4.3-inch HD screen and dual-core CPU provides a potent foundation. The device, which could debut as either a Sony or Ericsson product, has the latest near-field communications (NFC) technology. Tap the phone on an NFC terminal to pay, on another NFC phone to swap numbers – and stick the included SmartTags in convenient spots so you can customize various settings just by tapping them.
Fujifilm X-Pro 1 – Fujifilm delivers the first compact camera with serious swagger. It is both innovative and powerful, with an aluminum body, unique optical-plus-digital viewfinder and massive 16MP sensor. With three great lenses for this beauty, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 will get you some beautiful shots, and make you look good doing it.
Blast Chiller – LG has a line of Smart appliances, including refrigerators, and the Blast Chiller is the super cool component to add for cooling cans (of soda, right?) in five minutes flat. The LG Jet Flow system fits inside one of the fridge’s French doors, and can also bring a bottle of wine to 42 degrees in eight minutes.
For media professionals that need render farms, or companies that need to double their online sales force with a room full of iMac rentals, CRE is the place. Whether you call, e-mail or click over to our convenient, 24/7/365 Quick Rental Quote form, we’re tops in tech, so you get the right tools – and tops in service, so you get them right now.
There’s a lot of exciting news to absorb from the recent CES 2012, as it lit up Las Vegas once again with the latest and greatest consumer electronics. Here are some of the show’s hottest items.
OLED Monitors…the next generation
CRE Rentals’ selection of plasma display rentals and other monitors have kept pace through the years with evolving technologies. The next paradigm shift features OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens. LG will offer the first OLED TV – model 55EM9800, a 55-inch model – in the third quarter of 2012. OLED screens feature “absolute black,” superb viewing angles and an ultra-thin form factor. Computer monitors will come as the technology spreads (and gets less expensive).
PC gaming tablet
Razer is an ambitious hardware maker that is entering the computer market from the gaming side. Its Project Fiona gaming tablet runs Windows 8, which Microsoft is seriously promoting as a game platform, but it won’t be competing with our iPad rental, which is a full-featured, business-capable productivity tool.
Tablet time for Asus
With a potent quad-core chip and Android 4.0, the Asus Memo 370T tablet approaches the power of CRE’s tablet PC rentals. Standard configuration includes 1GB of system RAM, 16GB for storage, a high-res screen, 8-megapixel camera and HDMI output.
HP’s take on ultra books
The PC industry has a name for the MacBook Air-inspired lines of super-thin, light laptops. They’re called “ultra books,” and the HP Spectre “out-ultras” many with its all-glass lid and palm rest. Of all the new laptops at CES 2012, the Spectre is special, with premium Beats Audio, an inset analog volume control wheel and HP Wireless Audio.
Software and apps for Windows 8
BlueStacks, which is going to be pre-installed on certain Windows 8 computers, puts the entire Android marketplace at the beck and call of Microsoft’s upcoming OS. So when Windows 8 launches, some 400,000 Android apps will be available to run on your PC.
Dashboard tech for cars
QNX has developed a car “apps system” that provides instant, automatic Bluetooth pairing of the auto sound system with a smartphone. In addition to Bluetooth, the short-range radio connection built into everything from the MacBook Pro to iPods, QNX has included technology that renders phone calls in CD-quality stereo, as well as apps integration for front- and back-seat passengers.
It’s too early yet to decide what 2011 will be most remembered for, in the culture at large or its individual niches. For those of us in the technology niche – and the growing portion of the public that follows early adopters – there was plenty to like about 2011.
Apple’s iPhone 4S is still a generation or two ahead of its rivals, a growing number of which are getting quite good, like the Samsung Galaxy and Nexus. The iPhone’s dual-core chip (which also powers our iPad rental) and camera technology, front and back, are both much improved. What sets it apart, though, are two future-is-now features: (1) its revamped antenna, which has markedly improved connection rates and call quality on both AT&T and Sprint networks, and (2) Siri, a talking voice-control system that starts out good and learns to be, well, insanely great.
Netbooks arrived a few years back and seemed to define a new form factor for lightweight laptops: low-power CPUs, limited RAM, a few gigabytes of flash storage, WiFi, pygmy-sized keyboards and a low price. Manufacturers stepped up, however – Apple with the MacBook Air, Sony with its VAIO line, Samsung with Series 9 – and brought Grade A design, power and style (at higher prices, naturally). Still, as with the iconic iMac, Apple sets the standard. Bottom line for the Air: The 2011 makeover brought a big power boost, it does Windows, the 11- and 13-inch screens are gorgeous and a 15-inch version is rumored to be in the works.
iPad, tablets and apps
In 2011, the “Year of the Tablet,” the second generation Apple iPad arrived with impressive new features, including the fabulous iOS 5 software. But it’s the several hundred thousand fun, productive and/or useful apps that make it numero uno. No other pads or tablets, not even our tablet PC rentals, have the iPad’s extensive library, and if you’re a “creative” type there is really no alternative. For less demanding people, however, a growing number of new tablets – Android no-names, the very good Samsung Galaxy Tab and, in particular, Amazon’s new Kindle Fire – will gobble up all the TV episodes, movies, music, YouTube clips, e-books and other media you care to consume.
Need for speed…USB3.0 and Thunderbolt
Another set of technologies, the protocols for connecting digital devices, kept improving throughout 2011. USB 3.0 on new PCs operates at 4.8Gbps and the new Thunderbolt bus, featured on the Mac Pro and other new Apple computers, runs two 10Gbps channels simultaneously. Apple’s previous high-speed connection, FireWire 800, is less than one-tenth as fast as Thunderbolt and not bi-directional.
If you want to move in a new direction, CRE can help. Find out how new technology can help you blast through production bottlenecks, or how our event production rentals can help you make a dramatic impact at your next conference. Contact us by phone or e-mail, or use the handy Quick Rental Quote form. We’re here, ready to help!
And don’t forget to check out Thursday’s blog, Technology in 2011: The Downside.