The most innovative tech company? Hint: Begins with “A”

Not Apple...

I’m gobsmacked.  Over time we have seen some great innovations and just when you think we’ve exhausted all options, someone comes along and offers something fresh.

We’ve seen the iPod come about and put portable music players on the map.  Sure, Diamond had the Rio PMP300 (which the first iPod looks like a streamlined, sexier version of) and Cowon had it’s early offerings as well as Archos with their Jukebox 6000 but Apple really got the market heated up.

We’ve also seen iPhones shake things up over the years – nothing was this slick with touchscreen before.  Yes, there were other touchscreen phones, but this had an ecosystem to go with it, it had the magic that only Apple could bring.

Since then, Android took a massive jump into the scene and has taken cues from iOS and in turn iOS has taken cues from Android.  All the developments have led to larger form factors in both phones and the form of tablets.

In the meantime, Notebooks were shrinking.  Firstly into Netbooks which, for all intents and purposes, are a dying breed.  Then screen size was becoming important again, so ultrabooks made more sense.  Slim it down, keep a lot of screen real-estate.  MacBook Air again was a pioneer in this space.  There was, what many believe, no stopping the Cupertino giant.

But this is not the company I’m talking about.

There are fantastic innovations from companies like Samsung who took the first brave step into Phablet territory.  They are among the main big guys like HTC who have pressured Apple into releasing a 4″ iPhone.  Then they venture into true multitasking.  Windowed apps which allow browsing in two windows, note-taking etc.

Sure, innovations are rife from big boys like Samsung.  But their tablets are tablets, their phones are phones, and, outside of phablet category, that’s about it (even with the S-Pen making sense as it does).

Roll on Windows 8 and ideas aplenty.  Surface RT, groovy, Sony’s efforts, everyone’s efforts, great.  But, oh, look at this… It’s Asus.  Just look at the video below – 8 minutes of your time well-spent:

Yes, the Transformer was genius, the Padfone not so much, but hey, Pad Infinity came out and it rocks, Padfone 2 looks much better and now this?!

The VivoTab is a massive, albeit subtle improvement on the current hybrid form factor.  Easier to detach than the current Android tabs, slicker connection point for the dock, plus it will have MS Office.  That blows Android’s Polaris offering out of the water.

However, the true gem I find is this bit of courageous ingenuity:

Asus TAICHI

The TAICHI is an example of the creativity required to be called innovative.  Simple idea, just implemented so well, with purpose to boot.  The mirror and dual screen modes are a fantastic idea and possibilities have increased exponentially.  More importantly – CONNECT FOUR!

Connect Four! Courtesy of Wikipedia/Wikimedia user Silver Spoon

In any case, Asus were doing magical things before their Windows 8 offerings, but they’ve just trumped themselves again.  Being Asus there is every chance that the TAICHI will be a bit “meh” the first time around, but being that it’s not just another slide, swivel or dock, it’s a totally new idea they’re willing to try.  That is innovative, that takes balls and that’s what’s driving the industry.  Good work Asus.

(Engadget covers specs here for those that want to know, and they originally had a look at this back in June – the link to that is within theri article also – I’ve borrowed the image from their site, which I imagine is a press release image from Asus)

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First thoughts on Alto from AOL

Alto has accepted invites for testing and, of course, I had to sign up.  I am glad to see they didn’t go the initial route they had planned for Alto, which was a full overhaul of AOL Mail.  It’s going to be hard to do something magical in that space which will usurp Gmail from it’s throne.  They decided, wisely, to give it the function of making email accounts you already have a pain in the arse keeping tabs on just a little bit easier to sift through.  As a disclaimer, I already have Gmail set up to move Living Social and Groupon deals straight to their own labels and bypass the Inbox, but Stacks is an interesting way to give it seperation in a more visual way.  This is their system where it can keep daily deals in one place, attachments in another etc.

Oh, and they have a pretty logo:

Ooh, so pretty

So, I tried Alto out after reading about it last week and it’s pretty slick so far.  Having given only 5 minutes of my time to it, I haven’t really got to grips with the Stacks system yet, but a few things I can note I am pretty pleased about:

  • Multiple accounts in one place is the genius behind it
  • Linking to Google Drive if you have a Gmail account – makes sense because it’s such a popular and useful service!
  • Press ‘E’ to Archive.  Yes, they’ve done it there too.  Makes life easier for those who live by Gmail, and updates on your Gmail account so no stress for those who wish to archive from Alto and move swiftly on
  • My contacts are there, this is good.  It also imports folders/labels from email accounts which helps organise very well
  • They also link to Google Calendar, with a note that their own calendar system is coming.  If this integrates with my Google Calendar then that will be brilliant
  • Stacks seems to do what it says on the tin, but I have yet to explore this more

Things to note which I didn’t like or are symptomatic of it being a beta:

  • Search didn’t work (Beta issue probably)
  • Automatically opens the clean, but rather simplistic, pop up compose function. Would rather an option to choose if you want to automatically go into full compose mode every time (unless I missed this option somewhere)
  • Gmail itself may be messier, but altogether more versatile
  • Pressing ‘C’ does not compose a new message, nor does the ‘Ctrl+W’ in normal AOL mail.

Altogether Alto was an interesting look at my mail and I may use it from time to time, I can’t see it being a replacement (at least not yet) for Gmail’s regular web interface.

As I side note, I used AOL mail for the first time since the 90s with my @about.me account and it’s really changed!  A friend of mine had AOL a few years ago and it still looked like the 90s; for shame… Now it’s similar to Yahoo! Mail, but still much cleaner and nicer.  Good work AOL, but it’s still no GMail in functionality.

Back to Alto though, it’s just the beginning and whilst not revolutionary, it certainly could be useful.  I’d keep an eye on the progress of this one.  There have been other inbox aggregators, but not many have been so well thought out.  Will Stacks be the differentiator? With a little work it could be useful, but not sure how much that means at this point.

Digital Trends has a more in-depth look here: Hands on with AOL’s Alto: A webmail client that’s big on beauty, and has decent brains to boot

Let Chiggles World commence…!

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve needed a fresh outlet and a start to doing what I’ve wanted to do. Let’s crack on shall we.
Couldn’t think of a better name but this is essentially about my world. What I have seen, eaten, used and enjoyed. What has made my world a better place. Everything from the little things in life to the gadgets I use, how I make them work for me, holidays I go on, the gems I find and more.

Hope you enjoy!