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WWDC 2021: Apple’s iOS 15 FaceTime update, launch of SharePlay reflects hefty dose of Zoom envy

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Apple seems a bit miffed that Zoom is a verb, and now Apple is racing to add features to FaceTime that mimic those of Zoom. The upshot: Zoom can have the business, but Apple wants a big piece of shared consumer experiences.

Apple WWDC 2021

At the WWDC keynote, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, outlined FaceTime updates in iOS 15 that include:

  • Portrait mode.
  • Sharing FaceTime links and even (gasp!) connecting with those Android and Windows folks over the web.
  • Screen sharing.
  • Shared experiences via a feature called SharePlay where you can listen to music and watch video with others.
  • An API in SharePlay that allows other apps to be integrated with FaceTime.

Sound a bit familiar? Zoom has those same features — except, perhaps, for the entertainment app integration.

Bottom line: Apple wants FaceTime to be more in the conversation along with Zoom, and the latter has encroached on developers as well as events. You can expect a business version to be in the mix as Apple evolves FaceTime. 

Must read:

Here’s what Apple has in mind:

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Apple
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Apple
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Apple

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/wwdc-2021-apples-ios-15-facetime-update-launch-of-shareplay-reflects-hefty-dose-of-zoom-envy/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Windows 11: A glorified theme pack we can all live with

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Next week, Microsoft is set to unveil the next version of Windows . All evidence — including  leaked builds and teaser videos released by Microsoft in anticipation of the event — suggests this new version will be called Windows 11.

Now, we had initially thought that Windows 10 would be the “last” version of Windows; at least, that was what Microsoft had messaged in 2015. So, what we would be getting in the future were more incremental updates instead of the “Big Bang” releases we saw previously.

So, why are we getting a new major version of Windows now?

A history lesson about Windows upgrades

Let’s refresh our memory: Before Windows 10 came out, we had large milestone releases that introduced significant changes to the OS. They were colossal pain points for consumers and organizations upgrading. For example, in the consumer space, Windows 95/98/ME went to Windows XP, which used the NT kernel and systems architecture we are still using now, and that was a huge deal for consumers. 

Before that, while some verticals migrated to Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0, most enterprise businesses went from Windows 95/98 to Windows 2000, implementing Active Directory (and moving from LAN Manager and Novell NetWare to NT in the datacenter) and then XP, so that migration was painful and disruptive to them for many different reasons. Then we witnessed that whole imbroglio with Windows Vista, then the migration to Windows 7, and the UX disaster that was Windows 8. 

It was a very bumpy 20 years. But when Windows 10 came out in the summer of 2015, it interjected some sanity into the equation. A few years ago, Microsoft switched to a biannual cadence with incremental upgrades to roll out improvements. This became not just a rollup of bug fixes or a service pack but where actual new feature were introduced. 

Instead of waiting every five years, give or take, to introduce them, Microsoft did it twice a year. Because of this biannual update regimen, Windows 10 is a very up-to-date OS today, with lots of modern features in it already, as it is. 

So, what is Windows 11? Well, if you read Ed Bott’s latest piece, it appears to be more of a fall update for Windows 10, with a new user experience.

What’s with the 11?

Why bother with the branding? Why bump the version number? What’s wrong with calling it Windows 10 21H2 or 2111 or whatever? I mean, Mac OS X was the same top-level version for 20 years — it came out in March of 2001 and did not get the “11” moniker until 2020 when the Apple Silicon change was implemented. And this year’s version, Monterey, is MacOS 12. 

So much progress in so little time, Apple!

But this is all marketing; there have been tremendous changes in MacOS in the last 20 years regardless of the “X” branding.

And with Windows, that’s also the same: The Windows 10 of 2015 only superficially resembles the Windows 10 of 2021.

Traditionally, Microsoft has used bumping of version numbers and brand names to wash away the stain of a previous version — like Windows 7 washing away Vista or Windows 10 washing away Windows 8 — or for juicing up the PC upgrade cycle with its OEM partners.

But we don’t have any stains to wash away here. Windows 10 is an excellent OS, the hardware that PCs have today is actually quite impressive, and Windows 10 takes advantage of all of that already. 

I mean, come on, we even have a Linux subsystem in Windows now that allows you to run all sorts of cool open source applications, even graphical ones. Did we have that in 2015? No.

Sparking life into the PC upgrade cycle

I think we can make an argument for Microsoft wanting to put a spark in the PC upgrade cycle because that inertia has been slowing down for a while due to a variety of factors — but that’s a whole other article.. 

Let’s face it, the “stain” we have to wash away here has nothing to do with Windows — and everything to do with thepandemic and all the other crazy junk the world has thrown our way for the past four years.

Perhaps this is more of a celebratory moment for Microsoft to say, “Hey, it’s OK to go back in the water; here’s a new flashy-looking bathing suit to get you started. Oh, while you’re at it, shave and get a haircut. And go buy a new PC; your clunker is old.”

I think that there is a natural desire to see some tangible changes, especially if you compare the PC platform to the Mac. Then, of course, there’s going to be the usual grousing from those that feel Microsoft isn’t innovating enough or disposing of legacy things quickly enough. 

But we shouldn’t allow that to cloud our thinking about why Microsoft does things the way it does. It’s also not fair to impose the same rules and constraints on Microsoft’s customers and developers as Apple does its own. 

Apple Silicon

The PC is not the Mac, and Microsoft’s customer base is not Apple’s

We can play the usual “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” nonsense, and it makes for fun sound bites, but this is not how the real world works.

Clearly, in the last year, we have seen Apple make significant changes to the Mac. First, it switched chip architectures, which yielded some real performance improvements in CPU and power consumption when it went to Apple Silicon, based on the Arm architecture. Second, it introduced a new x86 emulation layer, Rosetta 2. Third, it introduced Catalyst so that iPad apps can run on the Mac. Finally, it added sandboxing and containerization on Apple Silicon Macs. 

A lot of armchair observers hope Microsoft will do something like that. But in the PC’s case, it doesn’t make sense to completely clean the slate and make so many drastic changes all at once.

It’s easy for a company like Apple to toss apps that were written more than 10 years ago; it decided with Catalina, which is two versions back, that it would throw out a lot of old APIs and frameworks. So, if you didn’t upgrade apps as a developer or as an end-user, you were out of luck. 

But it doesn’t work that way in the business and enterprise world when you have vertical industry stuff and in-house apps that are 20+ years old. Apple does not have a server OS on the same basic architecture that runs stuff in the cloud or data centers as Microsoft does. Apple also doesn’t have a hyper-scale commercial cloud business that has to run that legacy code as Microsoft does — or a business application unit as with Office 365 — which all still needs to work.

While we can say that Microsoft needs to take a page from Apple, in reality, when Microsoft has to decide to introduce a new version of Windows, there are a whole different set of things it needs to be concerned about. 

Changes are coming at a reasonable pace

Microsoft could introduce a new Windows architecture based on ARM, containers, and all that stuff to make Windows behave more like Apple does with iPad and MacOS Monterey on Apple Silicon. But does it have the technical expertise and the ability to implement it? 

Yes, but it also  can’t afford to break things at the end of the day, or it will be a total disaster.

But the good news is Microsoft has been working on these things for quite some time, even though you might not have noticed them. The company has been openly discussing these sorts of changes at its BUILD conference and with partners. And the infrastructure for these changes — such as for containerized and sandboxed apps that would have been rolled into Windows 10X — are still there. 

This will all be coming to Windows 11 down the pike after the novelty of the new bathing suit and haircut wears off. This application sandboxing includes the well-documented open source MSIX package format to make sure app installers don’t overstep their bounds. 

But instead of waiting for all these things to mature and roll it out as one big change in Windows 11, Microsoft is opting for the “get customers used to a new look” approach and then incrementally introducing that stuff. Just as we have seen with Windows 10 over the last five years,  it will be business as usual.

Can you live with that? Can I live with that? Can businesses and enterprises live with that? Sure, we can.

Really, this is Windows 10.5, but for marketing purposes, Microsoft wants to call it Windows 11. And we have to assume by what appears to be a very short beta and rollout cycle that this will not be a big deal license-wise or upgrade pain point-wise; it’s going to feel like just another fall update. So, presumably, any PC hardware that is already running Windows 10 will get it, and it’s just going to work.

This time, take the upgrade and don’t freak out

It’s not the kind of change that will break apps or orphan the majority of PCs, although there is the outside possibility some older systems, such as 32-bit machines, may be left out — and, frankly, those machines are very long in the tooth. 

But, the reality is, for 90% of us, if we have a PC that is running Windows 10 today, at some point in the fall, Microsoft is going to offer us an upgrade through Windows Update, and it will be painless just like any other fall update.

And that’s just fine. I’ve had way too much excitement for the last four years. I can live with predictable, boring, and sane gradual changes in my Windows environment. That would be refreshing.

Windows 10

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-11-a-glorified-theme-pack-we-can-all-live-with/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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OnePlus to ‘further integrate’ with OPPO, but retain Oxygen OS, independence

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OnePlus will retain its Oxygen OS mobile operating system, but further integrate with OPPO, a sister brand owned by BBK Electronics.

Pete Lau, CEO of OnePlus, said on the smartphone maker’s community site that it will “further integrate” its business with OPPO, but operate independently. Responding to a question, OnePlus said Oxygen OS will remain. “OxygenOS will remain the operating system for global OnePlus devices outside of the China market,” said the company.

Lau said:

Last year I took on some additional responsibilities to oversee product strategy for both OnePlus and OPPO. Since then, we have integrated a number of our teams together with OPPO to better streamline our operations and capitalize on additional shared resources. After seeing positive impact from those changes, we’ve decided to further integrate our organization with OPPO.

It’s unclear what exactly that integration will mean, but OnePlus will operate independently and likely remain a mid-tier and budget smartphone brand. These arrangements aren’t uncommon in other industries. For instance, Hyundai and Kia share components and other platforms, but have distinct designs and brands. 

OnePlus has been gaining traction among US and UK carriers, but remains a smaller player

Ultimately, OnePlus will likely be another nameplate in the BBK Electronics stable. BBK Electronics is the parent company of Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/oneplus-to-further-integrate-with-oppo-but-retain-oxygen-os-independence/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Merlin teaming up with Dynamic Aviation to bring autonomy to 55-aircraft fleet

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A Boston-based company that brings autonomy to existing fixed-wing aircraft has come out of stealth to announce a new partnership. Merlin Labs is teaming up with Dynamic Aviation, the owner of the world’s largest private King Air fleet, to bring autonomy to 55 airplanes. 

Merlin is also announcing $25 million in funding from GV (formerly Google Ventures). This places Merlin into a small but active pack of companies scrambling to bring autonomy to aviation.

“We’re proud to partner with Dynamic to begin the process of moving autonomy from the lab and to the market,” said Matthew George, Merlin co-founder and CEO. “This deal represents a major commercial milestone as well as Merlin’s commitment to supporting larger and more complex aircraft.”

Unmanned drones have now long been a part of the aerial landscape, but drones aren’t the only kind of self-driving aerial vehicle regulators have been dealing with. It may seem a foregone conclusion that self-driving cars are on the way, but we’ve heard less about autonomous aircraft, as I’ve written. That’s changing. Following recent crashes related to failures in autonomous systems onboard Boeing’s 737MAX, you might expect consumer confidence to have eroded significantly. However, a recent ANSYS study found that wasn’t the case. In fact, 70% of consumers say they are ready to fly in autonomous aircraft in their lifetime. 

Merlin’s autonomy platform is aircraft-agnostic, focuses on onboard autonomy rather than remote piloting, and is being integrated into a wide variety of public- and private-sector aircraft. 

The Dynamic Aviation partnership marks the first public implementation of Merlin’s technology. According to a statement, the performance of King Air aircraft with Merlin’s technology will support a wide range of public and private-sector missions. The first aircraft from the partnership is currently in flight trials in Mojave. 

“We are honored to partner with Merlin by leveraging this leading-edge technology in an operational platform,” said Michael Stoltzfus, Dynamic Aviation CEO. “We look forward to serving alongside Merlin to create extraordinary value for customers around the world.”

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/merlin-labs-to-bring-autonomy-to-55-aircraft-fleet/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Randall Brugeaud will finish up as DTA CEO to head up a new trade taskforce

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The Australian government has announced Randall Brugeaud will leave his current role as CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to lead a new taskforce that will investigate ways to cut red tape and simplify trade processes and systems.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said Brugeaud would lead the taskforce, commencing on July 1. 

“Mr Brugeaud is uniquely qualified to work hand in hand with businesses to design and implement a cross-border trade system that meets their needs,” he said.

Brugeaud has held the role of DTA CEO since 2018 after moving over from the Australian Bureau of Statistics where he was the deputy Australian statistician. He was the DTA’s third official CEO, taking over from Gavin Slater.

Brugeaud’s departure comes just nearly a month after the federal government handed down its 2021-22 Budget, which revealed the DTA’s budget had been reduced by around AU$90 million. It was the first Budget announced with the DTA back under the care of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

See also: There are 84 high-cost IT projects underway by the Australian government

Appearing before Senate Estimates, Brugeaud was hesitant to provide his opinion on whether the move would be beneficial.

“We weren’t by any shape or form blindsided by it, as you know the DTA was originally situated in Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. This is a return into the portfolio, which reinforces our role at the whole-of-government strategy and policy table,” he said at the time.

“We will make the most of the hand we have been dealt with PM&C.”

The new Simplified Trade System Implementation Taskforce that Brugeaud is set to lead will be tasked with reviewing international trade regulations and modernising outdate IT systems, which the federal government touted would assist more than 57,000 Australian exporters and more than 380,000 importers.

“Our government’s focus on cutting red tape will give businesses more time to focus on growing their business and employing more Australians. We announced an additional AU$37.4 million for the Simplified Trade System reform, to further strengthen Australia’s economic resilience, in the May budget,” Tehan said.

The taskforce will work with the Simplified Trade System Industry Advisory Council, the Deregulation Taskforce, other border agencies, and Australian businesses to review and improve regulations and trade systems.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/randall-brugeaud-will-finish-up-as-dta-ceo-to-head-up-a-new-trade-taskforce/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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