2015 has been a very big year for many things, and technology is no exception. The launches and upgrades and new apps were coming at us so fast during the last 6 months in particular that we were starting to worry we were missing something great. And then we thought that if it was tough for us to keep up when it’s in our best interest to keep tabs on this stuff, then it’s entirely possible that some cool tech news slipped right by you while you were busy with running and managing all the things that you do best that having nothing to do with technology. With that mind, we put together a recap of the notable technology advances from 2015, what they mean and how they might benefit you.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things and the growth surrounding it has continued to surge, particularly as we head into the holiday season and connected devices like fitness trackers are on many, many wish lists. In fact, there is much speculation that the whole IoT industry is about to explode. The IT Research firm Gartner estimates there will be almost 5 billion things connected to the internet in 2016, and that by 2020 that figure will grow to almost 21 billion. When it comes to the IoT, there seems to be limitless potential for growth, and that is not lost on major manufacturers, all of whom will be looking for an entry into the IoT market or to put their own spin on it. Microsoft, for example, now has a section of its website devoted to the “Internet of Your Things.” But there are also equal amounts of concern over the security of these connections and that may be a driving factor in the overall rate of adoption in both the consumer and business verticals. The good news is that manufacturers and vendors seems to be attempting to address the security concerns, though at this early stage it remains to be seen if it’s to the satisfaction of the most security-conscious among us. And while some of us will choose to embrace the IoT life faster than others, the reality is that a more connected life at work and at home is a trend that is here to stay.
A Year in Technology Review: Microsoft News
Windows 10 is the latest operating system from Microsoft, and subsequently will be the last major numbered release for a Microsoft OS. From now on, they will release new features and updates (a la Apple) on a regular basis instead of holding them back for the next big release. Windows 10 made headlines for the software giant when they offered it for free (and it’s still available at no cost until summer 2016) to eligible consumers. As a result, anyone with an authentic copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 was able to download the update for free, and still can through July. At last count, about 110 million people worldwide have upgraded to Windows 10. Windows 10 was in large part a move by Microsoft to put a somewhat disastrous Windows 8 release behind them. And so far the feedback has been largely positive about the changes reflected in this revamped OS. Here are a few of the “pros” of Windows 10:
- Easy set-up/installation process that is free to Windows 7 or 8.1 users
- Familiar user experience, particularly with the return of the Start menu
- The Start menu is customizable to a user’s preferences
- Windows Hello feature allows for fingerprint or retina scan in lieu of typing in a password
- Continuum allows a user to have the same experience across multiple devices
- Can be used via mouse, keyboard, pen or touch, so it suits all preferences
- Introduction of Cortana (rival to Siri) the new digital assistant
- Action Center for managing apps and system notifications
- Improved universal apps
- Microsoft Edge, the new web browser that is a modern answer to the issues many had with Internet Explorer
- Ability to set up and work with virtual desktops using Snap Assist
While there are Windows 10 naysayers, most see it is an OS that blends modern applications with a user experience that is familiar but also highly customizable. It’s also a move that sets Microsoft up to continue to compete in an increasingly mobile world because it has created an experience that moves seamlessly across all platforms.
Microsoft Office 2016: Built for Teamwork
It’s familiar, only better. Microsoft has a clearly defined focus on productivity and the new Microsoft Office 2016 suite of products is no exception. All of the changes and enhancements to standard office tools like Word, Excel and Outlook are geared towards streamlining the work process and making working together easier. Things like simplified sharing and the ability to review, edit and present any Office 2016 document on any device – including Windows, Apple and Android phones and tablets – showcase Microsoft’s commitment to universal apps. Here are some of the other specific enhancements that are part of the Office 2016 release:
- In Word , co-authoring is easier than ever with real-time edits and improved version control.
- In Excel , improvements include Quick Analytics which instantly converts data into a chart; a Flash Fill feature that can recognize patterns and auto-complete data for you; and a Recommended Charts feature that will recommend the most suitable chart for your data.
- Outlook has been enhanced to include Inline Replies – a feature that allows you to type directly into the reading pane for quick replies, the ability to sneak a peek at your schedule without switching from email to your calendar, and Quick Action Commands that let you flag, delete or mark messages with handy commands in the message list.
- PowerPoint has also been updated to include a Presenter View and improved design tools like Alignment Guides and Eyedropper that simplify the slide design process. You can also track comments and replies directly in a slide.
All of these familiar applications work perfectly with Windows 10, and when used with Office 365 – which will speed your path to the cloud – users have access to all of these tools and their documents anytime, anywhere and can work in or on them using any device.
Building upon the productivity focus, Microsoft also recently launched the first-ever line of devices designed specifically for Windows 10. The line includes Surface, Lumia and Band devices.
Surface Pro 4
Among the new line of devices was the Surface Pro 4, billed as the tablet that can replace your laptop. As an added bonus, it got lighter, faster and thinner. Again, this seems to speak to Microsoft’s desire to innovate while still offering products that are familiar. Users can operate the Surface Pro 4 with the keyboard, touch or pen. It can easily switch from laptop to tablet with the multi-position kickstand and keyboard, adding to its versatility and overall functionality.
Lumia 950 and 950 XL Smartphones
The new line of Windows phones of course run Windows 10 and also as expected, are touted as increasing productivity due to powerful hardware and top of the line imaging. It’s no secret that prior to this release, Windows phones didn’t even begin to compete with iPhone or Android devices. But in developing a Windows 10 based smartphone that includes Contiuum (the feature that allows it to adapt/stretch/bend to different screen sizes), they are, as quoted by one Wall Street Journal reviewer, going to “lean on what it knows best: traditional, get-work-done-computing. And it’s seriously impressive how this phone takes to monitors and keyboards. It makes the idea of our phones being our main computer seem far from crazy.” The same review goes on to say that this device is still too limited for that reality, but that there is a lot to like about it.
Similar to most fitness bands, this one helps the wearer to achieve fitness goals by tracking things like heart rate, daily exercise and calorie burn, as well as sleep quality. It also aids with productivity, putting email, text and calendar alerts right on your wrist.
A Year in Technology Review: Apple News
True to form, the fall Apple release was of the “s” variety, with the launch of the iPhone 6S. This meant that the overall look and feel of the device remained largely unchanged. Most of the enhancements were instead “under the hood”, meant to improve battery life and overall performance, as well as to distance the device from the iPhone 6 ‘Bendgate’ crisis. The features that generated the most buzz for this device were the new “Live Photos”, a new retina display intended to improve both video and photo quality, and 3D touch that offers different options based on the amount of pressure applied when touching the screen. Oh – there was also the new Rose Gold finish.
It’s a new larger iPad that is thin, light and has all-day battery life. In a surprise turn of events, Apple also introduced a stylus for the iPad called the Apple Pencil – something Steve Jobs was very strongly against…saying in a 2010 interview, “if you see a Stylus, they blew it.” It also has an accessory option of a Smart Keyboard, helping it to rival portable PC’s like the new Surface Pro 4. A recent review of the iPad Pro provides additional details on the features that rival Microsoft’s device.
OS X El Capitan
The latest release for the desktop, the operating system became available to Mac users as a free update on 9/30. The improvements include better windows management, built-in apps and Spotlight search, and overall performance updates that are intended to make everyday activities faster and more responsive.
Apple Watch OS 2
One of the newer products recently got its first major update with new cases and bands, a new Sports model and the high-end Hermes collection made with leather bands and stainless steel, in addition to the update to OS 2. The new operating system is making the apps run faster and more fluidly by running natively on Apple Watch and this second generation is offering much more in the way of customization. Though right now there is much speculation that an Apple Watch 2 is on the horizon for 2016, and that it might be better to pass on this version for now. According to the International Business Times, rumors have it that the new version is just a matter of months away and that it would be less dependent on the iPhone – perhaps the biggest single drawback of the Apple Watch now. Corsica Technologies can provide your business with an initial assessment and/or review any new technology with you to help determine if they are right for your business.