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Asus transforms the Transformers

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ASUS was under pressure to deliver at this year’s Computex expo in Taiwan, and responded by pushing the edges of transforming notebooks once again, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The Computex expo that goes down in Taipei, Taiwan, every June has yet to create the buzz of events like International CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, despite being the only one of these shows that occurs in a technology heartland.

This year was no different, but it wasn’t for want of trying. And few tried harder than the hometown team, ASUS. One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of computer motherboards, it also leads the global market in hybrid ultramobile laptops. According to Gartner, it took 41 per cent of the world market in 2014. That only amounted to 3,1-million units, but it was up 263 per cent on the previous year.

As a result, the ASUS keynote address at Computex earlier this month was expected to be an important pointer to the next phase in the transformation of the laptop. Sure enough, it unveiled the Transformer Book T100HA, which takes the 2-in-1 concept to a new level of performance – and will be one of the first laptops to ship with Windows 10 pre-installed.

T100HA.0

It is both a 10.1-inch ultra-light notebook and a 8.45mm super-thin tablet , and offers 14 hours battery life to cement its mobility credentials. ASUS promises that the transformation between laptop and tablet modes is completely seamless, and that the Windows display automatically adjusts to the appropriate mode.

The device highlights how quickly ASUS is moving to reinforce its claims to the hybrid market. Two years ago, the equivalent device lasted less than 12 hours and was anything but seamless in its transformation.

That won’t be immediately relevant in South Africa, but a wide range of transforming devices from the Taiwanese company has been available on local shelves for some time. One of the more impressive, the Transformer Flipbook TP300L, was first announced at last year’s Computex, drawing applause for its innovative design. The Flipbook’s 13.3-inch screen swivels through a full 360 degrees, turning it into a large tablet, or slate, running Windows 8.1.

2014-10-07-product-4

That’s pretty big for a tablet, and it’s pretty heavy too, weighing in at around 1.75kg. The equivalent device from ASUS’s main competitor in this category, Lenovo, is the 1.2kg Yoga Pro.

Clearly, the intention is not for it to be used in the same mobile fashion as smaller tablets, but rather as a portable device designed to be moved from desktop to desktop – and perhaps even to tray tables in an aircraft, where economy seats no longer allow easy use of foldout laptops.

The specs are decent, with Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce 820M graphics processor, 4GB RAM and Full HD 1080p display. Depending on those specs, it could cost upward of R12 000, as much as the Yoga Pro or even the Macbook Air – still the first laptop choice in ultra-mobility.

A more serious issue is the fact that the machine is not particularly fast or responsive, meaning that the serious gamer is not going to be persuaded by the graphics chip. Battery life is good for a heavyweight laptop, at four hours, but well behind its ultra-notebook siblings.

It’s not intended to compete in that category, but any suggestion of compromised performance could have a knock-on effect across the brand.

Little wonder, then, that the pressure was on ASUS at Computex. Lenovo is breathing down its neck: it is world leader in PC sales and second in hybrid

ultramobile laptops, with 1.9-million units shipped last year – not massive, but up 331 per cent on the year before.

Such competitive pressure will ensure that we will see a continued  transformation of the laptop. Judging by Computex 2015, there is little doubt that the Transformer range will continue to be at the forefront of this transformation.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Epic Games brings a Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

An example on how one can get infected by downloading the Fortnite app from Google Play.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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