At this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled some significant changes to its iPad operating system, even christening the revamped version with a new name all its own: iPadOS. The changes bring Apple’s flagship tablet, especially the iPad Pro models, closer to the “hybrid PC” category that Microsoft has staked out with its Surface Pro line.
From a hardware standpoint, the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the addition of the Smart Folio Keyboard and an Apple Pencil, is remarkably similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6, especially when viewed from the side.
Both devices make the same promise: You can have a tablet when you want a simple surface for reading or sketching, or snap on the keyboard to get something closer to a classic clamshell PC form factor.
But as soon as you sit down and actually try to get your work done, the differences between the two devices come into much sharper focus.
Here’s the tl;dr: The iPad Pro still appeals mostly to those who are firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 is most satisfying to those who require a traditional Windows PC. And anyone who expects to cross effortlessly from either world into the other is doomed to be disappointed.
For both companies, it’s been a journey of a decade or more that led to the current combination. And the development process has been almost stereotypical of how both companies work
Microsoft’s path was convoluted and filled with false starts and mistakes. It all started in 2012, with the launch of the ARM-powered Surface RT. That ill-fated device, launched two years after the iPad, tried and failed to be an iPad clone. It failed so miserably, in fact, that Microsoft had to write off nearly a billion dollars in inventory.
The Surface Pro took a similarly halting path to its current state, stumbling from its initial “brilliant, quirky, flawed” debut more than six years ago through multiple iterations. In classic Microsoft fashion, it took three tries to get the design right, and the company has been in “don’t mess with a good thing” mode ever since.
The Surface Pro 6 is filled with tiny but meaningful improvements over its predecessors, and the company seems at last to have ironed out the reliability problems that plagued the entire line in its early years.
Meanwhile, Apple took the opposite path with iPad, grudgingly adding PC-like capabilities to the iPad hardware over time but steadfastly resisting calls to make the Mac more like an iPad and vice versa.
The first iPad Pro, unveiled in 2015, included support for the new Apple Pencil, which looked like a direct response to the Surface Pro’s signature pen. In 2018, Apple added its own keyboard covers, including the Smart Keyboard Folio, which snaps into place almost exactly like the Surface Pro’s Type Cover.
But despite those hardware improvements, the iPad software experience remained pretty consistent through the years. Until now.
Forget about Dark Mode. The really significant iPadOS changes announced at WWDC 2019 are the ones that make it more like a PC or a Mac in everyday use. There’s finally support for external pointing devices, so you aren’t forced to swipe the screen to make a selection. There’s new support for external storage devices, an expanded set of Finder-like management tools for local files, some new window-management tricks, and even support for widgets on the home screen.
You’ll also find some enterprise improvements in iPadOS, like the capability for administrators to separate business and personal data on BYOD devices and managed Apple IDs for business.
Making the iPad experience more like a laptop does not, however, turn it into a laptop replacement, at least not for business customers. It’s hard to imagine a creative professional voluntarily giving up her Mac for an iPad Pro, although there are certainly circumstances where the lighter, more portable device will come in handy. Lightroom and Photoshop on mobile devices are simply not as capable as their counterparts on the Mac.
The same is true with Microsoft Office on the iPad, which still offers only a subset of the features available on the Windows and MacOS versions. Depending on your workload, you might be able to get by with an iPad Pro for an occasional business trip, but that still makes the iPad an occasional laptop substitute, not an all-in replacement.
The Surface Pro 6, on the other hand, is a full-fledged laptop replacement, with all the pros and cons that come with being a Windows PC. In the office, you can attach a docking station and use a full-sized monitor, keyboard, and mouse; on the road, it’s remarkably lightweight. But it doesn’t offer the simplicity of the iPad, and the experience of using the Type Cover is still off-putting for many users who prefer the solid feel of a clamshell keyboard.
Ultimately, the decision about which mobile device to adopt comes down to which one runs the apps you need. The simpler your workload, the more likely that an iPad Pro will be able to substitute for a laptop when you travel. But if you need the tools that only come in a full-strength desktop app, nothing less than a real laptop will do.
Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch
Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.
The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”
In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.
The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.
So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.
At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.
Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.
Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.
Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.
Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch
What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.
In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.
Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.
During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.
Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”
Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.
“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”
Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.
At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.
From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping
What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.
Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.
Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch
Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”
The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.
“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.
The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.
The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.
Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.
In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.
Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”
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