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Microsoft Store: Times Square NYC Review

For those who might not know, Microsoft is opening pop-up stores in some big cities to help sell the Microsoft Surface tablet. One opened up in the middle of Times Square in NYC a few months ago but since I’m a native New Yorker, I had no urge to go to Times Square (tourists, ugh) to visit a store. That being said, there was a documentary being shown that I wanted to see and it was only being shown at the AMC theater on 42nd street so I had no choice other than to go to Times Square. Passing the store, I was apprehensive in entering. It looked a bit too similar to an Apple Store and seemed to not have much merchandise on display. I also thought the shirts saying “I’m a PC” was a bit over the top and silly. As I gained up the courage to enter the store, I heard a passerby say “Is that an Apple store?”, which only made me feel worse. Upon entering, I found the store sorta empty compared to the traffic on the sidewalk outside the store. 

Like the Apple store, they have quite a few devices on display for people to use. The first Windows Phone 8 device I tried was the Nokia Lumia 920. Unlike the Apple store, but very similar to Best Buy, the phone would not turn on. I moved on to a working model and tested some things out. Being an iOS user, I was very pleased with the Windows Phone 8 home screen. The live tiles were very fun and the scrolling very smooth. I was curious what apps were available for the device which led me in an attempt to find the app store. Now I’m not sure if this was a problem with the icon for the Windows Phone store or the fact that the tile was so small on the screen but it took me awhile to find the app store. Once inside the store, I found the apps I wanted to find but was, of course, disappointed by the lack of apps that I use on my iPhone that aren’t so popular but still very useful to my daily life.

I then moved over to the Microsoft Surface tablet. My first shock was that the device was not tethered to any security cord at all. You could literally take it and move it around. While that’s good to show how easy it is to move and how you can buy more than one touch cover and swap them around quickly, but still, it’s New York…I hope they have cameras set up. My first time using the Touch Cover was surprisingly pleasant. It’s a flat slab of some soft material with touch sensitive keys in the layout of a full QWERTY keyboard. I thought the typing was rather nice, though being a keyboard guy, I probably wouldn’t like doing it for long periods of time. The Type Cover was nicer because that has real keyboard keys just like a laptop, but the trackpad was rather small for my liking. Being a guy who owned an iPad and returned it because I felt like it didn’t do enough of what I wanted to do, I thought the Surface did a lot more. Maybe it was because of the keyboard on the cover but I felt the Surface to be more of a laptop replacement than the iPad is.

Overall, the store was nice. The employees were there if you needed help but didn’t pester you. For being in the middle of Times Square, the store wasn’t very crowded but I did see a person purchasing a Surface when I was there. Most people have never used a Windows Phone before and I really think they should. It’s a nice OS and if the app situation improves, my next phone will probably be a phone running Windows Phone 8.

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Walk from New York City to the Moon in only 18 days with Google Fiber…sort of.

This week, Google announced their plans for Google Fiber, an internet and TV service to residences in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. What makes this service really special is it’s speed and pricing.

In the United States, we are used to having very, very slow data speeds. In fact, within the people I know, I have the fastest internet thanks to FiOS (15mbps up/ 5mbps down). Most people in NYC do not have anything close to that. Optimum Online and Verizon DSL offers much slower speeds. In my experience with Verizon DSL, I was getting slower speeds than AT&T’s 3G, which is usually around 1mbps up and point-something down. Google Fiber is providing 1000mbps up and down for $70 a month. You can compare that to what FiOS is charging me which is about $84 a month for much lower speeds. To compare the speed difference, Google has provided some examples. On Google Fiber’s 1000mbps, you can download an HD movie in 7 seconds, compared to a 5mbps connection which will take 21 minutes and 52 seconds to download. Which is the same as walking from Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge, which would take you 9 hours with Google Fiber (100 times faster than a normal person) and 39 days with 5mbps (normal walking speed), or from New York City to the Moon, which will only take 18 days 2 hours compared to 1809 days 12 hours, just incase you were wondering.

As far as the TV package goes, you can get the standard 1000mbps up/down internet with TV for $120/month. The channels that are listed right now are your standard HDTV channels, but some noticeable channels are missing. HBO, Time Warner and Disney channels are missing, which include ESPN. Google does make it clear, however, that these listings are only a representative lineup and the real list would be available to customers once they register for the service. In addition, they state that they are working on providing more channels in the future. Personally, I’m not too worried about this since they are brand new to this industry, look how long it took Apple to get the major content providers on board for iTunes, I think in time Google will have all the channels we need.

If you weren’t getting enough for your $120, Google provides even more. They provide a network box, a storage box (a DVR which can record 8 shows at once and holds 500 hours of HD content), a TV box which basically extends the range of your wifi signal, 1TB of free storage in Google Drive and a Nexus 7 tablet as your remote control. You get a TABLET for free as your remote control…I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

The most interesting plan is the Free Internet plan. You get 5mbps up and 1mbps down,which isn’t incredibly fast but many people in the US are currently paying for those  exact, or even slower, speeds. This free plan is promised for at least 7 years. The only thing you must pay is the $300 construction fee, which all Google Fiber customers have to pay (unless they sign up right now or sign a 2 year contract) but that works out to $25/month for a year. Even at $25 a month for 12 months, that’s a bargain compared to the other internet providers out there.

If you live in KC, you must sign up by September 9th by paying a $10 pre-register fee. If your “fiberhood”, which is an area set up by Google, reaches it’s goal, meaning that enough people pre-registered, you will receive Google Fiber. If you pre-register but enough of your neighbors did not and Google does not install Google Fiber in your neighborhood, you receive your $10 fee back.

So what’s Google’s deal? I mean, these prices are really low and clearly everyone who can get these speeds will sign up for it. Instead of just rolling it out to these cities, Google is basically turning normal humans into marketing machines. People are going door-to-door and posting flyers to beg their neighbors to pre-register to get this new service (which is something I would do as well) and it seems that everyone who can register is. This new service is clearly being beta tested by the people in KC, so Google can learn more about becoming an ISP and to see if they have what it takes. So what if Google does have what it takes? Will they become a nation wide ISP? Or are they instead trying to set an example?

Some people believe that Google is doing this to set an example to the other ISPs in the  US and to the FCC. They may be trying to catch the bluff of these other ISPs who have said that providing cap-less, faster internet in the US is impossible. Google might be using itself as an example to force other ISPs to step their game up in providing faster data speeds to the US. Slow data is Google’s biggest enemy since customers can’t use Google services (Drive, Chrome, Talk, etc) if they have a horribly slow internet connection.

Personally, I would love for Google to expand. The only way to get fast internet in NY is to get FiOS, which still isn’t available to the entire state and is quite expensive, especially when compared to Google Fiber. Verizon FiOS is currently charging $200 a month just for 100mbps internet.

Either way, everyone should have their eye on Google Fiber right now. If it works the way Google wants and Google has plans to expand, we can finally start seeing some innovation in terms of internet speeds and what we can do on the internet. 15 years ago, back when we were all using 56K dial-up internet, streaming music from a service like Spotify would have been impossible. Downloading software the way we do today would be impossible. iTunes and Netflix would not have been created if we still had internet speeds the way we did back then. In America, we desperately need a change in internet speed. 1000mbps or higher speed can create so many new, interesting and life changing aspects to our internet lives because it would allow us to do so much more with our computers, phones and tablets. No one knows what types of things are possible but are being pushed back due to our data speed limitation. All we need is for someone to come along and push innovation and I think Google, with it’s fiber service, will be able to do that.

Who knows? If internet speeds increase, maybe we’ll be able to walk to the moon in 18 days.

Steve Jobs is dead