Tablet computing had plenty of false starts before it became the ubiquitous device it is now. A few decades ago, cellular phones were capable of merely making calls and sending primitive text messages, while companies still had to imagine tablets. Today, smartphones and tablets have turned into sophisticated pocket computers, making the personal computer superfluous for casual consumers.
Companies like Acer, whose core products are PCs and notebooks, admittedly felt the crunch when smartphones and tablets started eating into their profits. They knew they had to regroup and adapt to the changing trends in computing; they needed to reinvent the PC and give it a different role if they were to stay relevant and necessary.
This prompted the Taiwanese company’s founder, Stan Shih, to come out of retirement to pave a new path for the PC, via the BYOC or Build Your Own Cloud architecture.
Cloud computing is another trend that’s been gaining ground among consumers everywhere. For many of us who have multiple devices, it’s simply tedious to reenter data and manually transfer files across several devices. This is where the cloud comes in. Your data is stored in the cloud, and all subscribed devices instantly have access to it. Apart from providing backup, cloud services can help with space management, especially if you’re the type who takes lots of photos with your smartphone. You can set up free cloud services like Dropbox, Box, or Google+ to automatically back up photos in the cloud so you can free up space in your phone.
However, free services have limitations (e.g. limited file sizes or number of uploads), and of course, there’s always the risk of having your data’s security compromised.
Shih’s BYOC takes a different approach to cloud computing. This “Eastern” model, as he calls it, as opposed to common cloud practices in the West, gives you the ability to turn an Acer PC into a personal data center where you can build your own cloud service that you can access anywhere, anytime. There are companion apps from Acer called “ab” apps that complement the service.
“Acer has always been prepared to take an unconventional route,” says Shih. “Our approach to cloud computing is another example of (us being) groundbreakers.”
It’s a smart move to have your files backed up in the cloud, since external hard drives have finite lives. Imagine storing five years’ worth of photos on a hard drive that suddenly fails and refuses to mount. While there are data recovery software available, none of these are 100 percent guaranteed to work. The only hiccup one will experience backing up and accessing files using the cloud is that a fast and reliable Internet is needed, something that is severely lacking in our country.
Aside from unveiling the BYOC system, Acer also showed off exciting devices at the recent Computex event in Taipei that you’d want to get your hands on.
There’s Acer’s Liquid E3 that smartphone selfie addicts will appreciate; its front-facing camera comes with a flash, so you can take well-lit selfies while out clubbing.
Meanwhile, the Liquid E7000 is an ideal phone for frequent travelers because it is a tri-SIM phone with quad-band 3G.
But our favorite among the new offerings is the Liquid Jade, a 7.8 mm thin, ultra-lightweight smartphone whose camera has an aperture of f/1.8. It is also the first smartphone partnered with the Liquid Leap, Acer’s first foray into wearable devices. The lightweight band, which comes in different colors, will track your steps, running distance, calories burned, and sleep cycles, quite ideal for running and workouts. You can also interact with your smartphone using the device.
The Liquid Jade and Liquid Leap are expected to start shipping in the third quarter of this year.
And then there’s the Mi, a low-cost, high-specs hardware running the best version of Android yet, thanks to Hugo Barra, who used to be VP and spokesperson of Google’s Android division, but is now the International VP of Xiaomi, a relatively new Chinese brand that is taking the tech world by storm.
Barra explained that Xiaomi, whose consumer devices are branded as “Mi,” is focused on creating quality software using developed hardware like smartphones, smart TV’s, and tablets.
All one needs is a few minutes with the MiUI to know that it is one of the best interpretations of the Android OS yet. Android, for all its perks and advantages, can be intimidating for first-time users, but MiUI’s sleek and easy-to-use interface takes all the best bits of Android and highlights it via high-tech smartphones and tablets.
There are built-in features to the OS that we love dearly, like the ability to record calls natively (a godsend for any reporter who’s had to conduct interviews on the phone), as well as a bill-shock saver for travelers: you can only allow selected apps to access mobile Internet, guaranteeing that Flickr won’t upload your latest travel photos in the background and leave you with a phone bill higher than what you spent on your trip.
As if that weren’t enough, MiUI is one of the first examples of a successful “live OS,” meaning that the software is constantly improved on a weekly schedule. Every Friday, Mi users can update their devices with the latest and most improved build of the MiUI, so even if they’re not holding the latest Mi device, they won’t feel shortchanged. As the MiUI is improved, it works better and faster so your phone becomes more responsive, too.
Mi launched in the Philippines last month. The first phone to launch here was the Mi3, Xiaomi’s highest-performing smartphone to date (Barra calls it their “Wow!” phone). The thin and light five-incher with a quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset boasts a high-resolution (Full HD 1080p) capacitive touchscreen, NFC, a 13MP camera, and HD video recording. It is the smartphone known to have sold out in Singapore within two minutes, and within 17 minutes in Malaysia.
It’s easy to see why: Given its amazing specs, the phone is very affordable. Here in the Philippines, it retails for P10,599. Not only that, but Mi understands the need to make a smartphone your own, so there’s also a slew of cases and skins for you to mod the Mi phones to your heart’s content.
The Mi3 is initially available only via Lazada. Visit www.lazada.com.ph to order and visit Mi Philippines on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/xiaomiphilippines) to know more about the brand.