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January 16th, 2014

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.

Asus Transformer Book
(Credit: Asus)

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.

4K Display - Vizio P series

(Credit: Vizio)

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.

May 28th, 2013

If you don’t read the quarterly financials of the technology sector, join the club. Most people couldn’t care less. On the other hand, if you work for one of the many companies that completely missed “emerging technologies” and devotedtablets/iPads take PC market share themselves to PCs instead of smartphones and tablets, you might care when your job evaporates. And PC and tablet makers most assuredly do care about those quarterly reports, and they’re looking at the latest one from IDC (International Data Corporation, a market research, analysis, and advisory firm specializing in IT) that tallies 49.2 million tablets shipped in Q1 2013 (up 142.4% year-over-year), compared to 76.3 million PCs (down 13.9% y/y). Tablet sales are soaring, while PC sales are tanking, with the worst quarterly drop ever.

Tablets are fast approaching the point where they can do everything a typical PC can, while also being pressed into nearly continuous service as cameras, movie players, videophones, game arcades, and remote controls for household appliances. Even today’s low-end tablets can handle most jobs, even in corporate settings (where you could order a MacBook Pro rental if you want more power for a temporary project). This is the primary challenge facing PC manufacturers today: How can the desktop PC compete with lower-priced, portable devices that use less power, accomplish many common computing tasks, and also have that “hip-and-fun” factor?

Who’s who in the new crew

IDC shows Apple still leading in market share with 39.6% of tablet sales, with Samsung in (distant) second place with 17.9%. But the bigger story here is the number of leading firms that are not on the list. Think a minute: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba are all missing from the top spots, despite some of them making belated attempts at entering the fray. Dell and HP are hugely important, influential firms in the history of PCs, and a desktop computer rental is likely to be one of these premier brands. So how did they miss out on the biggest product debut since, well, the PC?

Short answer: Who knows? Perhaps some of the long-time computer makers…

  • didn’t see or understand the trend away from the desktop and toward portability,
  • came “late to the game” and can’t seem to catch up,
  • were indecisive and wouldn’t make a commitment, or
  • decided against the tablet market in favor of their “sure things.”

Interestingly, many of the same companies that missed out on tablets this time around missed out on smartphones last time around. Of course, smartphones currently outsell PCs by a huge margin, and there is a growing trend (think Galaxy Note) toward the phone/tablet combo (sorry, they’re going to be called “phablets” no matter what). Either set a trend or get on someone’s coattails, but if you miss out again—we’re talking to you, Michael Dell—your brand may be ready for retirement.

Whither the “withering Windows”?

At GigaOm.com, Kevin C. Tofel analyzed the 2012 tablet and PC sales results back in January, dubbing Microsoft’s flagship OS “withering Windows.” The point was that, despite the hundreds of millions of Windows users on Earth, a full third of all new devices sold don’t run Windows—they run Android and iOS. In the ‘90s and 2000s, if you were to rent laptops you’d find over 90% of them running Windows. The bar’s been lowered to under 70% of all devices now, and Tofel sees “no reason why the growth of non-Windows tablets will stop.” In fact, he “wouldn’t be surprised if by this time next year non-Windows tablets actually outsell Windows computers.”

In the last 30 years Microsoft’s presence in the technology sector of the economy has been dominant. It’s not merely its market share in tablets that signals a problem for the firm, it’s the burden of a legacy OS that has been pushed aside by flexible (and fun) new platforms. Combining a small form factor, touch capability, media prowess, WiFi, and long battery life, devices like iPad rentals, tablet PCs, and the latest/greatest thing, phablets, will experience strong sales as PC shipments continue tanking. You could argue that it’s all a semantic “construct,” that you can “define” things in and out of categories, compare apples and oranges, even ‘prove’ that 0=1. It’s all marketing, right?

What’s in a name?

Wrong. There really has been a irreversible change. Tablets have done so well because they are convenient and cover most of the bases for most folks. There are growing numbers of people, in fact, who are not replacing their PCs as often as they once did. They keep one around because PCs do excel at certain things—writing everything from letters to novels, editing digital audio and video, rendering graphics, and acting as both analog and digital hub for connecting and interconnecting this, that, and the proverbial other thing.

This is why PCs—let’s call them desktop workstations, shall we?—are not going away completely. It’s a needed form factor: A top-flight HP Pavilion or Apple Mac Pro rental has the expansion slots, drive bays, flexibility, and power needed for demanding work. Creative pros, scientists, photographers, designers, writers, engineers, and others will populate the “high-end” niche, which CRE will continue to serve with everything from audio visual (AV) equipment rentals to the mass storage needed for post-production. Wherever you find your challenges—on-site, on the road, or at a convention—your solutions are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page if you know what you need. We are always ready to help you!

February 1st, 2013

CES 2014 is already scheduled, but everyone’s still talking about CES 2013. It was, like all of its predecessors, awesome—and confusing, too. There is s0 much to contend with, so much new tech flailing about, that you can’t see the forest for the plasma display rentals announcing, “No, look HERE, not THERE!” Fortunately, you can choose from hundreds of pundits and know-it-alls to explain it all to you, but as long as you’re here, take a minute and see what we’ve culled from the countless new thingamajigs to see where products are headed this coming year: 

Oculus Rift HeadsetOculus Rift – Star Trek‘s Holodeck is the unfulfilled fantasy of Information Age tech-lovers, and though we’ve dreamed for decades about it, an immersive, 3D, virtual reality environment is still a dream. The Oculus Rift Headset , however, is about as close to a Holodeck as we have. With the kind of pixel-packing that makes images on our iPad rental so lifelike, the Oculus Rift has a 7-inch iMAX-style wide-angle display and sensors that respond to head movements for an immersive experience. Don’t book passage to a parallel universe yet, as few titles are ready for the device, but future titles will include lifelike driving and flying simulations. The Oculus Rift should be reasonably priced, too, as accelerometers and hi-def screens are now commodity items used in a zillion mobile phones.

Razer Edge – Razer collected a whole year’s worth of feedback from its huge gaming community to come up the Edge, a PC tablet “made for, and by, gamers.” This totable PC gaming device has been customized to handle most PC games smoothly, as well as access online services like Steam—in fact, mix in Steam’s “Big Picture” option and a docking station and you can extend play to your TV. The Edge is also a stable, powerful tablet running Windows 8. When you see the price, remember to compare it to high-end laptops, not tablets. It is a bargain in that context, and among the best products from this year’s CES.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix – This Windows 8 laptop/tablet mashup gets it right. A top-level ultrabook sporting a Core i7 CPU and as much as 256GB of solid state storage—more powerful than some desktop computer rentals—the Helix does double duty (and does it well) as a detachable tablet. On the heels of the 2011 IdeaPad Yoga, the Helix fulfills Windows 8’s promise to make powerful tablets into full-blown computer replacements. A 1080p display 11-inches in size is “business-ready” and the Helix morphs from ultra-potent ultrabook to task-toppling tablet in seconds. Hey, Microsoft: looks like you need to keep tweaking that Surface line.

Makerbot Replicator 2X – Makerbot won the “Best Emerging Tech” award at CES 2012. Despite the dramatic growth its prestigious 3D printing technology, the company is stayinMakerbot replicatorg true to its roots as “an innovation company [whose] mission is to jumpstart the next industrial revolution,” says CEO Bre Pettis. Now all you need to be a “manufacturer” is an LCD touchscreen monitor rental, a decent computer and one of the Makerbot models. The company’s last release, the user-friendly Replicator 2, was suitable for most anyone with product design dreams, but the Replicator 2X “is for the mad scientist types out there.” The 2X starts shipping in mid-March.

The exact solution to your problem—everything from trade show convention rentals to leading-edge post-production technology—is just a call or message away, right here at CRE. Of course, if you know what you need, visit our Quick Rental Quote page and be done in a jiffy! We’re ready now if you are!

January 22nd, 2013

Our first 2012-in-review blog was “Business Tech Hits of 2012″, and it covered advances in enterprise computing, integrated systems, and IT. This blog is the consumer tech version of that same blog, covering personal computing and electronics. As always, some will say we should have made other, different, fewer, more, and/or better selections. Be that as it may, here’s what we think you should know about:

LibreOffice Icons

Free Office Software — LibreOffice is the best free, open source office software suite. Created by some members of Apache OpenOffice’s original development team, it has outdistanced OpenOffice (more features, fewer bugs) and every other open source Microsoft Office-compatible application for producing presentations, documents, slide shows, spreadsheets, and more. It has you covered on the iMac and has Windows and Linux versions, as well.

Soundbars — The picture quality of today’s plasma display rentals and flat-panel TVs has increased dramatically, but audio quality has actually decreased because it’s difficult, and thus expensive, to build good sound into thin panels. Soundbars emerged as a one-piece, plug-and-play Soundbarsolution, but the first models were unimpressive. In 2012, however, high-quality soundbars arrived from Bowers & Wilkins, Atlantic Technology, and many others. Some are made to replace multiple surround-sound speakers, but the niche is coalescing around the single soundbar. With their own amplifiers and standard line-in jacks, you can use most any digital device from an mp3 player to a CRE MacBook Pro rental to play audio.

Streaming — Audio/video docks for smart phones and tablets are a dying breed, another technology rendered passé by wireless technology. Whether it’s Apple’s Airplay, Bluetooth, DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), or something else, wireless streaming technology solidified its grip on consumer connectivity in 2012. A docked iPad rental isn’t available to you for multitasking while the music or video plays. The only real use for the docks now is charging, so when wireless charging hits its stride, they’re complete goners.

Tablets for Kids— Of all the niches, “tablets for kids” is the one that differentiated itself enough to succeed last year. A fall article at Examiner.com found that “the market for children’s computer tablets [iTabeo Tablet for kidsn 2012] was very successful” for the LeapPad from LeapFrog Enterprises, as well as VTech’s InnoTab, Oregon Scientific’s Meep, and the Kurio Kids tablet from TechnoSource. Just as CRE’s tablet PC rentals are configured with the proper applications for professional use, the Tabeo 7-inch kids’ tablet from Toys-R-Us runs Android 4.0, has 50 preinstalled tutorials and games, and includes a reading app called iStoryBooks. Amazon is taking a different route to engage kids: Rather than make special kiddie models, the Fire HD includes a potent and eminently tweakable app, Kindle FreeTime, for parental control of games, activities, and chat rooms, of course.

single call or e-mail puts you in touch with an experienced Account Executive who will develop unique solutions for your unique challenges. As always, if you know what you need right now, you can visit the Quick Rental Quote page and take care of business right now—24/7/365!

January 8th, 2013

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is among the largest showcases of new technology every year, and this time around CES 2013 takes over Las Vegas from January 8 through 11. After Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gaCES 2013ve the company’s last-ever keynote at CES 2012, any number of industry pundits bemoaned the show’s supposed decline. So, is CES passé? A waste of time and money? A candidate for virtualization?

Still a “heady mix”

To judge from what we’re hearing, you’d have to answer a resounding “No!” to all of the above queries. CES 2013 promises a heady mix of keynote surprises, sneak peeks, and high-tech hullaballoo. Even more than usual, press leaks abound—all the better for us to bring you the latest, most useful information. Here’s some of what you can expect to see coming out of Las Vegas this week:Tablet TV

A “real” TV tablet: You can jump through a few hoops with our iPad rental and get TV shows, but RCA’s new DMT580D combines an Android tablet with an actual TV tuner for free over-the-air digital broadcasts.

A Google TV device or three: Manufacturers TCL, Asus, and Hisense are all expected to exhibit new Google TV “devices,” according to CES press statements. Google’s current partners Sony and Vizio will debut the recently upgraded TV service on “new devices,” as well. Interestingly, the term wasn’t defined so it could mean anything from set-top boxes to integrated screens.

Samsung rebranding move: It has the best-selling smart phone on Earth, but with its headline-grabbing legal woes Samsung is reportedly preparing a serious rebranding. Stephen Woo, president of Samsung’s device solutions division, will set the tone for the company’s new image in his January 9th keynote address. The company’s Full HD Super AMOLED display arrives at the show, perhaps mounted in the new, also-headline-grabbing Galaxy S4.

The birth of Ultra High-Definition TV: There will be plenty of these on display. To qualify as an Ultra High-Definition (UHD) screen, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA, parent of CES) requires a minimum resolution of 3840×2160, at least 8 million pixels, and a 16×9 or better aspect ratio.

The big Kahuna of CPUs: Intel is not the only chipmaker coming to CES 2013, but is expected to “show up big” and possibly announce a new mobile processor or two, as well as some for the iMac and Mac Pro lines. The rumors that Apple may not use Intel as its CPU provider resurfaced after Apple developed the A6X for the iPad 4—a CPU that is twice as fast as those in current iPads. We’ll keep you posted on this.

Nvidia debuting the Tegra 4: Nvidia’s Tegra 3 made its way into phones from HTC, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, and Microsoft’s new Surface PC/tablet, which may be a big hit for Microsoft and future king of tablet PC rentals. It is likely that the firm will debut the Tegra 4 at CES, with initial clock speeds up to 1.8GHz and a target of 2GHz by mid-year.

CRE is your one-stop shop for convention rentals, computers, office equipment and all the top post-production gear. A call or e-mail puts you in touch with an experienced Account Executive, while the Quick Rental Quote page will get you in and out in minutes if you know what you need. Either way, we’re here to help!

December 18th, 2012

Both Apple’s third-generation iPad and the new Microsoft (MS) Surface RT are in the same price range ($500-800), weigh about 1.5 pounds and run a touch-based OS. The Surface Pro model, on sale in early 2013, will run Windows 8 desktop software on x86 processors with full-fledged laptop power at the expense of battery life—it’s more like a hybrid between a tablet and an ultrabook.

Therefore, the only fair iPad comparison is against the RT—at least until the fourth-generation iPad, already on sale in India, appears in the U.S. next year.

iPad vs. Surface RT - who will it be?

OVERVIEW

RT: The RT includes a unique version of Office, but you need a business license to use it for work—and the keyboard/cover is an extra $100. For companies now using tablet PC rentals, the RT can integrate (somewhat) with enterprise-level users on Windows 7/8, giving it a slight edge with the IT crowd.

iPad: You can use third-party Bluetooth keyboards with our iPad rental, plus Office-compatible apps and honest-to-Office web services from MS licensees like CloudOn. All that’s a chore for IT folks to “harmonize.”

APPLICATIONS

RT: This is not your office’s Office—the RT version has Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote, but no Outlook. For now you may need to rent laptops with Windows 7/8 to use some ”real PC” programs such as Outlook, as RT uses only specified Windows Store apps.

iPad: Apple’s App Store is heading toward a million apps (700,000+ as of October), while Windows apps are just getting going. For now the iPad has a huge advantage.

OPERATIONS

RT: MS’s cloud-based tool, Intune, will soon offer secure device management, while Exchange ActiveSync empowers synchronized messaging. Modern office computers, like our desktop PC computer rentals, will thereby maintain a degree of intra-office and -system interoperability with Surface devices.

iPad: Apple’s iOS supports Exchange ActiveSync, too, and third-party mobile device management platforms that even monitor corporate compliance. OS X Server on our Xserve units does all this, too, but properly licensing iPads for corporate use is complicated however you try it.

SECURITY

The RT owes its superior security to (1) a hardware-level “secure boot” that checks for tampering and (2) anti-malware that loads first. The RT’s hardware security module also does smartcard duty for authentication, and supports full disk encryption.

iPad: Although iOS provides disk encryption, as Mac OS X does for MacBook Pro rentals, the iPad’s boot routine uses read-only memory and offers no smartcard abilities.

BOTTOM LINE

Neither the iPad nor the RT are particularly strong candidates yet for an enterprise workforce. The Surface Pro may be, but depending on configuration a tricked-out Pro could top $1,350. The Apple comparison at that price is a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook.

As iPads and the Surface Pro both support virtual desktops, using PC/Mac software will sooner or later be possible. But hosted virtual desktops (HVDs) are expensive, says Gartner Research, increasing retail cost “by more than $600″ per device. We’ll keep you posted as it all shakes out.

What’s shakin’ with your company? CRE keeps you moving forward with first-rate event production rentals and the post-production gear you need. One call or e-mail, or a short visit to our Quick Rental Quote form, gets it done—and right now’s a good time!

December 4th, 2012

With every new smartphone, tablet or multifunction-Wi-Fi-enabled personal doohickey comes at least one prediction that this latest device is really—really!—the long-awaited laptop killer. In the early 2000s, before mobile processors evolved to be as powerful as the ones found in the typical desktop computer rental, the notion of  a “desktop replacement” laptop was only a dream. But now that high-end units like our MacBook Pro rental are more potent than many desktops, the battle is on to see which phone, tablet, or geegaw will emerge as the laptop replacement. As the frontrunner in the tablet race, Apple’s mega-selling tablet is first up: So, can an iPad replace your laptop?

Can an iPad replace your PC?

Early Tablets

When the original iPad debuted in 2010, it was the “Year of the Netbooks,” those low-priced 9-to-11-inch mini-laptops that were generally far less expensive than the iPad. When CRE stocked its first iPad rental, it was something like a netbook without a keyboard—but it was also like a supersized iPod touch. Had it been built to run OS X, it may have qualified as a “little computer.” But it came with iOS, which limited your installation options, abandoned Flash, and came up far short of being a full-fledged computer OS. (The current version, iOS 6, still isn’t one.) At the same time, this brought improvements in its simple and ergonomical ease-of-use. The Windows-based tablet PCs had some of the right puzzle pieces—touch capability, handwriting recognition, convertible operation—but were, and arguably still are, works in progress. (Microsoft’s Surface Pro debuts in January 2013. Is it a laptop killer, or a new paradigm?)

Developments

Fast-forward now: The iPad 2 added cameras, the third generation debuted the Retina Display, and now the supply of iOS apps is in the zillions. Users are still quarantined behind the “walled garden” of apps, but web-based tools are proliferating – capitalizing on the user-friendly interface. There are any number of things that an iPad can do as well or better than a laptop (or desktop)—reading, managing e-mail, watching movies/TV, staying plugged in to social media, and gaming. These activities may also be work-related, though some people consider the iPad better for watching entertainment than producing it. Yet, with every new advanced app in every area of media expertise—content, production, PR, even event planning—this is changing.

For example, the newly updated iMovie and iPhoto apps are powerful enough for video and photo editing/management, capturing HD (stills, video), audio recording, and more. Media pros still use such advanced computer-based tools as our AJA IO HD, but can now integrate the iPad into their workflow, on-set and in the editing bay, for a variety of purposes.

The Conclusion?

Given its growing capabilities—running major office programs, leveraging cloud storage, doing lots of cross-platform tasks—the iPad can now probably be considered a replacement for that secondary laptop you use for traveling (or when the kids take over the PC). How long until it replaces your number one computer? Stay tuned…!

A single call or e-mail, or a simple visit to our Quick Rental Quote form, will get you exactly what you need to overcome every challenge and meet every deadline. We’re here for you, right now!

October 18th, 2012

There’s been a lot of Apple news lately, but there are also exciting things happening with the world’s leading OS, Windows. Best Buy, Tiger Direct and other major retailers are now taking pre-orders for Windows 8 PCs, with several offering free shipping and guaranteed delivery on October 26, the official Windows 8 “launch day.”

Windows 8

2013′s looking good already

It won’t be long before many of our desktop PC computer rentals are upgraded to Windows 8, too, and the models being advertised now by top makers, from Dell and Acer to Asus and HP, will show you where PC hardware is headed for 2013. You are going to see upgrades like USB 3.0 everywhere now and as much as 10GB of installed RAM, as in the new HP Envy h8 and Envy Phoenix desktops.

The “Ultrabook” is today’s state-of-the-PC-laptop category, and the Acer M5-581T is typical of the top end. Upgraded specs like its Ivy Bridge 1.7GHz Core i5 processor, 802.11n Wi-Fi and HDMI out reflect the new, consumer-friendly price/power ratio for 2013. First-rate components are making their way into competitors to our iPad rental, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, a convertible tablet/laptop that is getting good reviews.

One OS for lots of devices

Dell’s XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook is one of the most talked about new models. These models offer the flexibility of using them (this one and its siblings) as tablets or conventional laptops. If you rent laptops from CRE, you know that many are now using Solid State Drives (SSDs), and the XPS 12 has a 128GB one, plus a 12.5-inch touchscreen, 4GB of RAM and a Core i5 chip.

A CRE prediction: Between now and October 26, the official Windows 8 launch date, the promotional campaign will move from a focus on computers to such “devices” as their new Surface Tablets, smart phones, game consoles, and so on. Via wireless products or HDMI, many of these will be able to display Windows 8′s colorful Metro-inspired interface.

Microsoft needs a big hit

Vis-a-vis Apple, Microsoft’s fortunes, and arguably its role and relative position, have all been reversed compared to the ’80s or ’90s. Following the amazing string of “iSuccesses” from the iPod and iMac to iTunes and iPhone 5, it is now in some ways the Redmond firm that is the underdog.

We’ll keep you posted on the Windows 8 rollout. If you need a recap of this latest Microsoft saga, start with this May 1 blog and go from there. But if you need to attend, exhibit, produce, or prepare for a big event, you don’t have to go anywhere because you’re already there. Or rather, “here”!

CRE is the #1 source for the finest event production rentals and the latest, greatest post-production technology. More importantly, our expert Account Executives are always ready, willing, and able to help you take care of business. Just call or e-mail, or pay a visit to our Quick Rental Quote page today!

August 9th, 2012

NetbookNetbooks were set to take over the world just a few years ago. Optimized for social media and web surfing, these smaller, lighter offerings flooded the market, especially Europe. Now no one even uses the word, much less the (original) devices. What happened, and what can we learn from it? Let’s take a look.

What’s in a name?

With the introduction of the Asus Eee PC in 2007, the term “netbook” gained currency. Acer Aspire models were also popular, due in no small part to the ease with which one could install OS X on them (and pretend to own a MacBook). Then, after a couple of roller coaster years, netbooks started losing that “cool” factor. And when CRE stocked its first iPad rental in 2010, it signaled the end of the upward curve for netbooks. By mid-2011 the netbook craze was over.

After being trumpeted as the most significant computer innovation since the trackpad (maybe the Magic Trackpad?), the netbook was finally seen for what it was – an inexpensive mini-laptop with no optical drive. With most keyboards too small for serious work and the CPUs generally underwhelming, the traveling professionals that were field-testing them finally gave up. It made more sense to buy or rent laptops with desktop-level power, since a new generation of potent CPUs was beginning to provide it.

Cupertino category killers

A two-round volley from Apple put the final kibosh on netbooks. First, in 2010 the iPad immediately captured the entire world’s imagination (like iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 are doing now, before they’re even released). If you just needed a tool for browsing, e-mail and buying the occasional widget, you could now do so with the iPad – along with a slew of other handheld devices, smart phones and tablet PC rentals. With both Apple and Android devices now flooding the market, there is no reason to maintain an artificial product category like “netbook.”

The second move from Apple was the repositioning of the MacBook Air. Initially underpowered and under-loved, the model had been around a short time when Apple gave it that 11-inch screen. Diminutive and super light, the upgraded Air sported a full-sized keyboard while its souped-up components made it a true desktop-replacement machine.

If you don’t want to use a Mac, the “Ultrabook” form factor is the Next Big Thing in PC laptops. With proper CPUs, generous helpings of RAM, huge amounts of SSD storage and full-size keyboards, connectors, ports and plugs, Ultrabooks are real computers ready for real work. To summarize: “Netbook” is dead, “Ultrabook” is ascendant – and we’ll keep you posted on what comes next!

CRE Account Executives can recommend the appropriate PC desktop computer rental for your expanded telemarketing project, as well as processing and storage technology for post-production work. One call or e-mail, or a trip to our Quick Rental Quote page, is all it takes!

June 26th, 2012

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 Surface TabletMicrosoft’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!

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