John Brandon

About the Author John Brandon


What Apple’s new push into AR means for your business

I clicked on a 3D desk and placed it into my real office. The colors were not quite right, so I tried a different one. Eventually, everything looked perfect.

I was using the new IKEA Place app running on an iPhone 8 Plus. The phones use a new A11 Bionic processor that is powerful enough to handle the real-time 3D graphics overlays on top of a real-time photo, and it works remarkably well for imaging an office layout.

As is usually the case for me, I started thinking how AR on the iPhone could be used in other ways. The phone is fast and popular — it’s a massive footprint. (Apple will likely sell many millions of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phones in the next few months.) AR is catching on finally, mostly with people who want the tech to work smoothly and without any goggles, add-ons, or fuss.

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What Apple’s new push into AR means for your business

I clicked on a 3D desk and placed it into my real office. The colors were not quite right, so I tried a different one. Eventually, everything looked perfect.

I was using the new IKEA Place app running on an iPhone 8 Plus. The phones use a new A11 Bionic processor that is powerful enough to handle the real-time 3D graphics overlays on top of a real-time photo, and it works remarkably well for imaging an office layout.

As is usually the case for me, I started thinking about how augmented reality (AR) on the iPhone could be used in other ways. The phone is fast and popular — it’s a massive footprint. (Apple will likely sell many millions of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phones in the next few months.) AR is catching on finally, mostly with people who want the tech to work smoothly and without any goggles, add-ons or fuss.

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What business leaders need to know about the Apple iPhone X

It will change your life, but will it change your business? That’s a good question to ask come November when Apple releases the brand-new iPhone X, a phone that is packed with high-end features for augmented reality (AR), facial recognition to authenticate and log in to the phone, and a screen that stretches all the way to the edges.

There’s no question this is a consumer-oriented phone, one that emphasizes things such as animated emojis and watching movies on the bright and colorful OLED screen.

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What’s so special about the Microsoft Surface Studio? 3 important features to know

For a $2,999 price point, you might wonder — is the Microsoft Surface Studio desktop really worth it? I tested one recently and found myself being drawn to a few important features that made it worth the high price even compared to similar models from Dell and even Apple.

1. Incredibly high resolution

This was one of the surprises for me, because I sometimes don’t like extremely high-res displays. They might be clear, but the color quality sometimes suffers. And, in some cases, the extra resolution doesn’t really help with detail work in Photoshop and other apps because you don’t really notice the difference. The Studio uses a resolution of 4500 x 3000 pixels, and believe me, you notice. For photos, I was able to zoom in and make fine adjustments to pixels in ways I couldn’t do on any laptop or on my normal 2K resolution display. Even normal Word documents looked better on the Studio’s display without any jagged text.

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What’s so special about Microsoft Surface Studio? 3 important features to know

For a $2,999 price point, you might wonder — is the Microsoft Surface Studio desktop really worth it? I tested one recently and found myself being drawn to a few important features that made it worth the high price even compared to similar models from Dell and even Apple.

1. Microsoft Surface Studio’s incredibly high resolution

The high resolution of Microsoft Surface Studio was one of the surprises for me because I sometimes don’t like extremely high-resolution displays. They might be clear, but the color quality sometimes suffers. And in some cases, the extra resolution doesn’t really help with detail work in Photoshop and other apps because you don’t really notice the difference.

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Email to Essential smartphone users causes alarm

The term “improperly configured” is a real plague on the IT landscape.

It can refer to a firewall protecting an enterprise; it can create problems on a web server. For one newly minted smartphone company, it can also look pretty embarrassing.

Essential phone recently sent an email to customers asking for proof of identity. This request was a little odd in the first place — who does that anymore? The email basically asked customers to send a picture of a photo identification or passport by email. From a security standpoint, that’s a bit like asking people to text your credit card number to a hacker.

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One big lesson from the Essential smartphone email fiasco

The term “improperly configured” is a real plague on the IT landscape.

It can refer to a firewall protecting an enterprise; it can create problems on a web server. For one newly minted smartphone company, it can also look pretty embarrassing.

Essential phone recently sent out an email to customers asking for proof of identity. This request was a little odd in the first place–who does that anymore? The email basically asked customers to send a picture of a photo identification or passport by email. From a security standpoint, that’s a bit like asking people to text your credit card number to a hacker.

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Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa agree to talk to each other, but no one cares

Bots that talk to each other, there’s a big headline. Or is it?

For most of us, the Alexa bot became a way of life over the last year. I use the Echo speaker on my desk. I have a Dot speaker in two bedrooms of my house. I’ve used Alexa on my phone many times, and I’ve tested it on pre-production cars. It’s connected into my home security system. It can read books from Audible.com, and it tells pretty good jokes (at least, they are better than some jokes by humans).

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Why the iPhone 8 probably won’t be worth the $999 price tag

How much are we really willing to shell out for an iPhone? That’s the loyalty test Apple is expected to deliver during the iPhone 8 product launch on Sept. 12.

With a price tag that will likely be a dollar short of $1,000, the iPhone 8 will use a screen technology called OLED — currently used by Samsung and others but a first for Apple. It will look brighter and clearer, and it may stretch almost to the edge of the enclosure.

The problem? It had better make waffles. And talk to the dead. Or offer a warm towel in the morning.

[ Also on Computerworld: What that weird bump on the iPhone 8 means for enterprise users ]

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The Essential Phone that’s not that essential

Perhaps one of the most poorly named products in recent memory, the new Essential Phone, arrives just in time to make us wonder why it even exists.

Using a “modular” design, the idea is to add pieces like a 360-degree camera or maybe some sort of connected home gadget to the smartphone, which runs a stock version of Android. It also uses a slick black enclosure, something that might make you think of a recent Blackberry model. And the screen runs all the way to the edge. Hmm.

Here’s my problem with it. While the modular design seems novel (Motorola does the same thing) and I’m impressed that any company would even try to go up against Apple and Samsung, there’s already some signs that this will be an uphill climb.

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The Essential phone that’s not that essential

Perhaps one of the most poorly named products in recent memory, the new Essential phone arrives just in time to make us wonder why it even exists.

Using a “modular” design, the idea is to add pieces like a 360-degree camera or maybe some sort of connected home gadget to the smartphone, which runs a stock version of Android. It also uses a slick black enclosure, something that might make you think of a recent Blackberry model. And, the screen runs all the way to the edge. Hmm.

Here’s my problem with it. While the modular design seems novel (Motorola does the same thing) and I’m impressed that any company would even try to go up against Apple and Samsung, there’s already some signs that this will be an uphill climb.

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The most annoying iPhone change ever (plus a simple workaround)

Slight changes in how our favorite gadgets work can be quite infuriating. It’s even more infuriating when you realize the change occurred quite a few years ago.

That’s the case with a simple feature on the iPhone. Back in the day, a call would come in, and you could simply select the “decline” option. It works that way on many Android phones. These days, on my iPhone 7 Plus, a call might come when the phone is locked, but I have to wait for it to stop ringing. I finally figured out that I can press the lock button once to turn off the ringer and vibration, but the call keeps on ringing. During that time, I can’t use the phone to text or browse the web.

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The most annoying iPhone change ever (plus an incredibly simple workaround)

Slight changes in how our favorite gadgets work can be quite infuriating. And, it’s even more infuriating when you realize the change occurred quite a few years ago.

That’s the case with a simple feature on the iPhone. Back in the day, a call would come in and you could simply select the “decline” option. It works that way on many Android phones. These days, on my iPhone 7 Plus, a call might come when the phone is locked but I have to wait for it to stop ringing. I finally figured out that I can press the lock button once to turn off the ringer and vibration, but the call keeps on ringing. During that time, I can’t use the phone to text or browse the web.

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What that weird bump on the iPhone 8 means for enterprise users

News about the iPhone 8 and it’s weird design — one that features a strange vertical protrusion for the cameras on the upper left — spilled out today. In what looks like a fairly legitimate mock-up, there are two cameras next to each other, a sure sign that there will be some augmented reality on board.

AR has a better chance than VR in making a big splash in the enterprise. For starters, who wants to place VR goggles over your head during a conference call or meeting with the marketing team? It tends to isolate you, not to mention making you look like a cyborg. And, it’s mostly a consumer endeavor.

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My ode to Microsoft Paint

We were all a little giddy at the time.

In 1985, I was in college trying to focus on my journalism classes and avoiding any responsibility for any future work endeavors.

I’d often sneak into the computer lab in the afternoon and hammer away on a clunky IBM keyboard. I wrote an entire science fiction novel at the time. I hacked into the computer lab back end, the system that locked computers after hours. In these early days of computing, it was all DOS all of the time. You had no other options.

Then, one glorious sunny day that fall, two new computers arrived that looked and acted differently from the rest. They were outliers. The screen flashed an awkward Windows logo at first, the mouse moved a pointer with instant precision, and there was an app called Microsoft Paint that seemed to live on a wholly different periphery of existence. You could paint anything. You could draw anything. It was remarkable. If the hand of God had reached down through the dust-stained windows in what was an old Catholic monastery converted into a college and revealed the infinite epoch of time immortal, it would have been a distraction (and perhaps a little weird). I was in love. MS Paint was here and nothing would ever be the same again.

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Why Microsoft is adding an AI co-processor to HoloLens 2

I strapped on a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles and looked around the room. There were three PageWide printers sitting off in the corner, so I reached out and pressed a lever to open the paper tray. A voice off in the distance, like a ghost in the fog, told me to try lifting the copier lid as well.

I was at HP in Palo Alto, California, and the demo was meant to show me how their multi-function printers work. Interestingly, VR and augmented reality (AR) today do not take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) as much as you might think. I wasn’t able to ask a question and have a bot respond. The VR looked ultra-realistic, but it was all self-contained within a structured environment. The demo was more like a 3D-rendered slideshow with some interactions. But in the future, AI will play a much bigger role.

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Why Microsoft is adding an AI coprocessor to the HoloLens 2

I strapped on a pair of VR goggles and looked around the room. There were three PageWide printers sitting off in the corner, so I reached out and pressed a lever to open the paper tray. A voice off in the distance, like a ghost in the fog, told me to try lifting the copier lid as well.

I was at HP in Palo Alto, and the demo was meant to show me how their multi-function printers work. Interestingly, VR and AR today do not take advantage of AI as much as you might think. I wasn’t able to ask a question and have a bot respond. The VR looked ultra-realistic, but it was all self-contained within a structured environment. The demo was more like a 3D-rendered slideshow with some interactions, but in the future, AI will play a much bigger role.

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Google Glass is back. There’s only one problem now, but it’s not what you think

Google Glass Enterprise Edition isn’t a terrible product. That’s one surprise, given the track record of the consumer version of this head-mounted display. Another surprise is that it is not available to any business. Google has decided to partner with other companies to make the device that’s suited specifically to a vertical industry—say, medical or manufacturing. There’s no way to simply purchase the device online, even if you intend to use it for business.

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Why Elon Musk says 50% of all cars will be electric by 2027

It’s time to hit the reset button on the gas engine. As you may already know, the electric car is now much more viable than it was ten years ago — there are charging stations in every major city scattered everywhere, particularly at hotels and along major highways. One glance at just the Tesla supercharger network of 900 stations proves that point.

Yet, to reach the point where more than half of all new cars are fully electric by 2027 — as Elon Musk predicted recently — there needs to be a massive undertaking that only the enterprise can understand. It is not a consumer endeavor but one that must be backed by IT, similar to an ERP roll-out or a massive Windows deployment.

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AI and mobile apps: What really matters

The best AI stays out of the way.

You don’t notice it is even working. The car swerves slightly to avoid moving out of a lane, and you keep listening to Nirvana classics. Your email app blocks annoying messages that are not technically spam but sent by people who have no right invading your inbox. At home, your garage doors close silently at 10pm on the dime. You keep watching a baseball game and eating a burger.

Now, you can add this to the list: a mobile app is blocking offensive content.

Instagram announced today they are using AI to stop, block and remove offensive posts before you ever see them. You keep scanning through wedding photos from last weekend. It’s a technology Facebook (which owns Instagram) has started using, as well.

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Here’s what really matters when it comes to AI and mobile apps

The best AI stays out of the way.

You don’t notice it is even working. The car swerves slightly to avoid moving out of a lane and you keep listening to Nirvana classics. Your email app blocks annoying messages that are not technically spam but sent by people who have no right invading your inbox. At home, your garage doors close silently at 10PM on the dime. You keep watching a baseball game and eating a burger.

Now, you can add — a mobile app is blocking offensive content.

Instagram announced today they are using AI to stop, block, and remove offensive posts before you ever see them. You keep scanning through wedding photos from last weekend. It’s a technology Facebook (which owns Instagram) has started using as well.

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A full 10 years later, the iPhone still dominates … for now

Steve Jobs would be proud of this one.

Ten years after the iPhone debuted, on June 28 of 2007, the smartphone that started it all is still going strong. From the latest sales figures I’ve seen, the phone has sold well over 1 billion units worldwide. Statista claims there are 2.2 million apps in the app store.

My own fascination with the “Jesus phone” (as it was called) started on launch day. I was one of those people who happened to obtain one from Apple on the day of release, then wrote about it that same week. I remember what things were like back then. The Palm Pre was still around; Nokia still dominated. Most models by companies like Samsung and BlackBerry were still big and bulky, running a proprietary interface. (The T-Mobile G1 running Android didn’t come out until 2009.)

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A full 10 years later, the iPhone still dominates…for now

Steve Jobs would be proud of this one.

10 years after the iPhone debuted, on June 28 of 2007, the smartphone that started it all is still going strong. From the latest sales figures I’ve seen, the phone has sold well over 1 billion units worldwide. Statista claims there are 2.2 million apps in the app store.

My own fascination with the “Jesus phone” (as it was called) started on launch day. I was one of those people who happened to obtain one from Apple on the day of release, then wrote about it that same week. I remember what things were like back then. The Palm Pre was still around; Nokia still dominated. Most models by companies like Samsung and BlackBerry were still big and bulky, running a proprietary interface. (The T-Mobile G1 running Android didn’t come out until 2009.)

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