Me

I'm a life-long technology and gadget afficiando, with penchants for business, investing, and photography. I work at Microsoft, where I am a Program Manager on SoC platforms. Everything posted here is of my own opinion, although, like everyone else, I am influenced by the people and technologies that surround me.

Welcome to randomprocess. This is my digital playground.

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(Th)Air and Back Again – A MacBook’s Tale

What 13″ laptop is 1.1″ thick and weighs 5lbs?

An Apple MacBook, from 2008.

Why is that relevant? To put the MacBook Air into context. When the MacBook Air was released in 2008, its svelte 3/4″ “thinness” and 3lbs was a revelation, showing what mobile productivity could feel like. Today, nearly every consumer 13.3″ notebook >$500 is 3/4″ thick and less than 3.5lbs, touchscreen included. Even the MacBook Pro, which is a distinctly more capable machine, than the Air, is hardly thicker at all and only 0.5lbs heavier.

Meanwhile, the new 12″ (retina) MacBook is 25% thinner and 1/5 lighter than an 11.6″ MacBook Air and provides 12.5% more screen area (not to mention a drastically increased resolution). In comparison, the new MacBook is once more a mobility revelation. Importantly, the form factor size and weight reductions did not come at the expense of solidity, much performance (within 15% of a latest generation MacBook Air) or battery life. I played around with a co-worker’s MacBook, recently, and it is mind-boggling object to behold.

And it’s because of this progress that I believe we will soon see the MacBook Air, as we know it today, go into retirement. I’m guessing two versions of an “all new” MacBook will take its place, one with the same 12″ size as the current MacBook, and another in the 13.5-14″ range and 1/3 pound heavier, to give it some distinction from its smaller counterpart. Similar to the original announcement, the release should happen in late Q1, in time to address the college graduation season and continue to be fresh, going into back-to-school.

Skylake-Y seems like a shoe-in, with its performance profile very similar to Broadwell-U, in all but the most intensive, long-running operations, where the limited thermal headroom will crimp performance. In order to hit the psychologically and advertising-important “starting at $999″, I think the smaller, 12″ version will come with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The larger ~14” version likely starts at $1299, with an upgraded processor and 256GB storage.

The odd-duck MacBook Pro with optical drive notwithstanding, Apple hasn’t long carried 3 notebook line-ups for long, so unless one believes instead the new MacBook or the MacBook Pro line will disappear, it’s only natural that the in-between MacBook Air merges into the more distinctive option, shortly. It’ll also help with the naming, back to good old Pro and non-Pro.

Byte Size

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It’s getting to the end of the year and the last couple months to make changes to impact this fiscal tax year. In particular, knowing critical tax thresholds is important to making some of those financial choices (e.g. investments to divest), so here’s a handy brief from PWC for 2014.

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The first major update to the Windows 10 Tech Preview was delivered on October 21, and with it came a fix to two-finger scrolling in Internet Explorer (and other Trident-based canvases, I believe) on my HP Spectre 13t’s touchpad. Things are still in pretty good shape on both my laptop and desktop, with the Technical Preview. No deal-breakers to daily use, thus far.

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Lisa Bettany takes a comprehensive look at the iPhone’s rear-facing camera image quality comparison across scenarios, through the years. The first iPhone was average at the time, but Apple made significant improvements through the iPhone 5. Looks like the 6 brings some additional detail and noise performance enhancements.

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Maxwell – GM204 incarnation – is darned impressive, from a power, performance, and pricing perspective, all while being stuck on 28nm process, still. Been eying one of those 34″ 21:9 displays. A GTX 970 might go nicely with that!