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How tablets can save the PC

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

‑ Winston Churchill

These are tough times for the personal computer: The 30-something device that everyone used to covet is being crowded out by younger objects of our affection. Time for a makeover.

Visionaries like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs started a revolution by imagining that computers — at the time, massive, room-filling machines that basically just did arithmetic — could become indispensable tools for the masses. PCs led to a world filled with powerful electronics we could take anywhere: Desktops became laptops, phones became mobile and then smart. And now there are tablets.

PCs aren’t going to disappear, but they are no longer the most important computer we use. Many people carry three computers now: smartphone, tablet and laptop. The laptop is becoming the one we use least. Even some of our enduring PC use is reflex and habit. If we lost the use of a laptop, would life grind to a halt? Not with all these other options.

PC sales had their worst quarter ever in the first three months of this year, down almost 14 percent over the same 2012 period and the first full quarter when computers shipped with Windows 8. Analyst Bob O’Donnell from top research firm IDC connected these dots. Per Yahoo News:

Cracked Macs rankle Apple customers

Apple isn’t going out of its way to publicize the problem, but the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that cracked Macbooks are troubling users. Underscoring that, a Flickr site carries pictures of more than 200 cracked Macs, posted by the owners, along with their commentary.

Apple spokesman Bill Evans invited users with problems to bring them to Apple.

“Any user who has an issue with their Macbook should contact AppleCare for support, even if it is out of warranty,” he said of the problem, which dates back to at least 2006 and is still angering consumers.

Apple won’t say if they have upgraded the plastic that cracks, how many Macs they have fixed or if they expect more troubles as the aging plastic splinters.  Although the problem is notorious in old machines, users say it has also appeared in machines that are less than a year old. A British website, The Inquirer, reported earlier this year that Apple will repair the problem for out-of-warranty Macs at no charge.  Users like this one on the Flickr site also said the machines were repaired at no charge.

Microsoft loves it when Apple cries Uncle

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner did cartwheels of joy down the corridor — he claims — when Apple’s legal people called him a few weeks ago demanding he stop the “Laptop Hunter” ads, where penny-pinching punters opt for cheaper PC machines over more costly Macs.

“We’re going to keep running them, and running them and running them,” Turner said at a Microsoft conference on Wednesday, relishing a clear blow in the fistfight for customers.

Watch Turner’s spirited performance here — scroll the bar onto 2:57:45 for the Apple segment.

Intel vs AMD: battle spills over into battery life

(Posted by Clare Baldwin)

Advanced Microchip Devices Inc is arguing that laptop battery life should be measured the same way as cellphone battery life: in terms of idle time and talk time.

AMD first raised the issue in a blog post in March, but is again making the rounds to convey its message that current standards, which it says measure the equivalent of standby mode in a cell phone, is misleading consumers.

Why exactly is this issue so important to AMD? Because under current standards, laptops based on arch-foe Intel’s chips demonstrate significantly better battery life. Under alternative standards, their battery life is roughly equivalent to AMD’s.

Netbook grows up, learns to play games

Slowly but surely, the netbook is growing up.

At first these sub-notebook machines were seen as weaklings. Now Nvidia Corp, which makes computer graphics cards, has teamed up with Lenovo to offer its second “ion” Netbook, following an announcement last month with Acer.  Nvidia’s suggestion for computer makers is to soup up the low-powered Intel Atom chips which run netbooks by combining them with Nvidia graphics cards.

The new product, the Lenovo IdeaPad S12, is touted by the companies as having the long life of Netbooks, but the quick graphics performance of Nvidia chips. It has a 12-inch screen and a keyboard, which puts it closer in size to the average laptop than to the average netbook.  Of course, the machine is priced closer to a low-powered laptop than it is to a traditional netbook, at $499 (if netbooks, being of such recent vintage, can be characterized as traditional).

The machine is said to run video games and other applications that usually can only limp along on a normal netbook. It runs all recent versions of Windows and will show high-definition Blue-ray movies.