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For the last decade or so, solar energy’s future was so bright, you needed sunglasses to look directly at it. Thanks in large part to the Solar Investment Tax Credit enacted in 2006, the solar sector has seen an average annual growth of 68 percent over the last decade. In 2023, the cumulative capacity of American solar energy surpassed 40 gigawatts, which is enough energy to power 6.5 million households. Some 374,000 people held solar jobs as of 2023 and solar panel installation has been the fastest-growing occupation in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But solar providers worry their perspectives may have suddenly dimmed.

In January, President Donald Trump announced his approval of a 30 percent tariff on all imported solar modules and cells. As many predicted, the subsequent months have seen a seismic shift in the industry, with Reuters reporting in June that approximately $2.5 billion in solar installation projects have been cancelled since the tariffs were finalized. Looking at this news, you might feel (sun)burnt by the fallout over Trump’s decision—and left with quite a few questions about solar technology.

What are solar panels made of?

Solar panel technology has evolved substantially in the last few years, but the basic premise remains the same. The panels are a collection of photovoltaic cells. These crystalline silicon cells are typically formed by encasing slices of silicon in glass. When sunlight hits the cells, the electrons flee the silicon. When the electrons are trapped, they create voltage. Once they’re transported through wiring, those volts are pure energy.

Where are these panels produced?

The majority of solar installations in the United States—roughly 80 percent—use imported panels. Most come from Malaysia (36 percent) and South Korea (21 percent), with China, Thailand, and Vietnam each contributing 8 to 9 percent. The raw materials are sourced from all over the world, a reflection of the industry’s globalized supply chain.

While China supplies just a small fraction of American solar panels, it’s one of the biggest producer of photovoltaics globally—and has been subjected to solar tariffs before. China’s success in this particular manufacturing sector has a fairly long history. Back in the 1990s, Germany established a solar incentive program that caused an explosion in the nation’s demand for rooftop panels. China saw this need and ran to fill it. Soon, other European countries were instituting similar programs and finding themselves with increased demand, which China sought to fill. By getting in on production early—and doing so aggressively, with enormous semi-automated factories—China outstripped its competitors. Over the last decade, global prices for photovoltaics dropped by almost 90 percent, in part because of China’s efficient production system and market dominance.

What is the rationale for this new tariff?

For many worried about air pollution and climate change, access to inexpensive solar arrays from China was seen as an essential to the industry’s growth and with it the slow replacement of fossil fuels with green energy alternatives. “[The panel] is effectively the resource. In the oil and gas business, you go and find low cost and oil and gas,” Francis O’Sullivan, MIT Energy Institute’s director of research, told PopSci. “In the solar industry, you go and find the lowest possible panels you can.”

The Trump administration views China’s manufacturing success as a hindrance to the domestic U.S. effort to produce competitively-priced domestic solar supplies. That’s what these tariffs purport to correct. By bumping up the price of photovoltaic imports, the administration hopes American manufacturers will fill the void and begin to dominate domestic solar sales themselves.

However, the low likelihood of this has led others to wonder what the administration’s true motivations are. O’Sullivan and other experts argue that these new renewable energy roadblocks are just another way of driving consumers to fossil fuels like coal. Notably, the policy also looks “tough on China,” which is a familiar Trump talking point.

How is the new tariff likely to affect the U.S. energy market?

Strangely enough, while these tariffs are pricey enough to reduce installations, they are probably not significant enough to bolster American manufacturing. That’s because building up the infrastructure necessary to produce abundant solar panels would be time-consuming and expensive. “It takes time to build a value chain that’s that efficient,” O’Sullivan says.

Analysts predicted the most likely outcome would be a destructive chain reaction: Tariffs would cause a shortage of panels. That, in turn, would drive up prices. And those price hikes would reduce demand for solar energy. It was estimated 23,000 solar installers, who just a few days before the tariffs were announced had the fastest-growing job in the country, lose their jobs. The intervening months have seen some of these predictions borne out. According to the June report in Reuters, many executives decided their utility-scale solar projects were no longer cost-effective, leading companies to put the kibosh on new installations—and the jobs that come with them. And the fallout could continue. “I think on balance, the likely job losses that will come from a slowdown of 10 percent or more in deployment would probably significantly outweigh any gains,” O’Sullivan says.

The tariff could have farther reaching economic impacts, too. “When it comes to something like electricity, which is a pure commodity, it’s really important to offer the lowest cost option,” O’Sullivan says. “You can smelt metals, you can run data centers, you can do whatever you want.” If solar energy declines, costlier alternative fuel sources will have to replace it.

What will this cost?

For residential systems, like rooftop solar panels, we’re likely to see a 3 percent increase in price, according to analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate. For solar farms, which produce solar energy to feed to a utility or shared grid, the cost hike is likely on the order of 10 percent.

“At the utility scale, which is really where the bulk of installations happen, the cost of the panel is a much bigger contributor to the overall cost of the system,” O’Sullivan says. “Adding 10 percent really has a cost on competitiveness in many markets. That’s where you’re going to see projects put on hold.” (Installers seem to agree; they’ve been been hoarding equipment since last year

Why is this happening now?

This ball started rolling back in April 2023 when Suniva, a Chinese-owned, Georgia-based solar cell manufacturer, filed bankruptcy. The company attributed its decline to the low prices of foreign panels. In June, it filed a trade suit asking the U.S. government to consider placing import tariffs on foreign manufacturers to give Suniva and its ilk a leg up.

In October 2023, the International Trade Commission released the result of its analysis of tariffs on imported panels. The commission recommended tariffs as high as 35 percent. Initially, Bloomberg reported, “[t]he U.S. solar industry let out a collective sigh of relief” after these numbers were released, as many installers feared much worse. On Monday, the Trump administration announced it had settled on its own final number: a tariff of 30 percent.

Is there precedent for this kind of tariff? ?

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama created his own tariffs on solar panel imports. Those “anti-dumping tariffs” were instituted because the administration believed China was selling solar panels that had been heavily subsidized and then sold significantly below fair market value. Much to the excitement of SolarWorld Industries America, Obama’s policy placed tariffs of 31 percent and up. While American manufacturers may have been excited, the tariff failed to stimulate much domestic production of solar panels, raised prices on solar panels, and resulted in retaliation from the Chinese.

Beyond solar, plenty of presidents have tried to use tariffs to bring manufacturing back to the United States. In 2001, the steel industry employed then-President George W. Bush to impose tariffs on imported steel. Bush’s steel safeguard had the opposite of its intended effect: American manufacturers cheered, but industries that relied on that cheap imported steel lost jobs.

What role should the United States play in solar? What does it mean for the consumers?

If you’re already invested or employed in solar manufacturing, this could be good for your bottomline! If you’re in the majority of solar employees who works in installation, however, you’re probably seeing business slow, or even come to a halt. And if you’re just an average homeowner looking to switch to green energy, well, you’ll have to spend more green to get it.

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Opinion: What Apple’s Restructure Means For The Company And For Tim Cook

Apple’s restructure to accommodate the departure of Jony Ive led to some concern that Apple wasn’t giving design quite as high a profile in the past – amid claims and counter-claims about the run-up to it.

But this shouldn’t be cause for concern; quite the opposite …

Apple’s restructure already makes sense

As my colleague Bradley Chambers observed, it already makes a lot of sense to have design report to operations.

Whenever people question design and COO, I want to point them to the MacBook keyboard issues.

Because Jony Ive had such power at Apple, he was able to push through a design that was beautifully slim but which couldn’t be manufactured with the required level of reliability. Hence the report today about Apple abandoning the butterfly design. Having operations able to push back against design decisions which look good in the lab but won’t scale to mass production is an extremely important change.

As Steve Jobs himself said:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

But the restructure goes further than this

One key point that I missed in [my first take on Ive’s departure] is that having design chiefs Evans Hankey (Industrial Design) and Alan Dye (Human Interface Design) report directly to COO Jeff Williams does make sense organizationally. What I had missed is that coincident with the announcement of Ive’s departure, Apple promoted Sabih Khan to senior vice president of operations. Apple hasn’t had an SVP of operations since Jeff Williams held the title, back when Tim Cook was COO under Steve Jobs. Back then Williams ran operations while Cook ran the company and Jobs devoted his remaining time to new products.

Williams still holds the title COO, but titles don’t mean much at Apple. Rank matters, of course, and SVP is an elite level at Apple — there are only 13 executives at that level, and one of them is still Jony Ive. But the literal titles don’t necessary describe what executives do. Eddy Cue’s title — senior vice president of internet software and services — comes to mind. I don’t know where one would begin crafting a succinct title that accurately describes Cue’s domain, but that’s not it. That just doesn’t matter at Apple.

This means Sabih Kahn is running operations now. Jeff Williams’s title hasn’t changed, but he’s effectively now running product development. He’s led the Apple Watch product team from its inception; now I think he’s overseeing product for everything. Cook and Williams did run operations while holding the COO title, but what “COO” really means at Apple is “second in command”. Tim Cook didn’t move design under operations; he promoted Williams to a new position, effectively “chief product officer”, and as such it makes sense that Hankey and Dye would report to him.

Either way, Apple’s restructure means we now have someone with immense operations experience making the final call on design decisions, and that’s got to be good news when it comes to product reliability.

There’s a reason Williams keeps his COO title

As for title, there’s likely a very good reason Williams remains COO on paper, whatever his real responsibilities. That title does indeed say ‘second in command,’ but more specifically it means ‘CEO designate.’ At some point, Williams is going to replace Cook.

That raises the question of when Cook will go, and what he will do. The ‘what’ is, I think, clear. Cook said back in 2023 that he plans to give away all his wealth, and to take a thoughtful approach to the way that money is used.

He plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew […] Cook says that he has already begun donating money quietly, but that he plans to take time to develop a systematic approach to philanthropy rather than simply writing checks.

The most obvious way to do that would be by establishing a foundation, and then running it himself. To do exactly what Bill Gates did, leaving his role as Chairman of Microsoft to establish the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cook doesn’t have the same sums of money to play with, of course, but he’s still the kind of man who would want to take an extremely active role in ensuring that the money is spent in a way that achieves the biggest impact in the areas which matter most to him.

Cook also frequently speaks out on social issues, and has taken a certain amount of flack for doing so. There are those who feel that he should be focusing less on activism and more on his role at Apple, and I can see a time where he decides that the activism is more important to him. Right now, his role as Apple CEO amplifies his voice, but there will come a time when he feels his profile is high enough to maintain media interest without the job title.

When that will be is harder to predict. Cook clearly cares immensely about Apple, but that doesn’t mean he will necessarily want to continue running the company indefinitely. If he feels Williams represents a safe pair of hands – something already demonstrated by this restructure – then that makes it possible for him to hand over the reigns with a clean conscience sooner rather than later.

Apple can’t afford another major upheaval in its senior leadership anytime in the immediate future, but two years down the line? I could see that.

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Here’s What You Need To Do If You Are Seeking The Perfect Homepage

There is a reason why smart people spend so much time and money to optimize their homepage.

But as Sam Ovens explains only practice makes you self confident. Having all those benefits I mentioned above is not an easy work — it needs testing and measuring.

The framework is here though. There are some persuasion elements that have stood the test of time and make money no matter on the screen or paper (these are the same elements that old school copywriters used to produce millions of dollars). Simply use these elements on your homepage the way I explain and you’ll have your perfect homepage plus all the benefits I mentioned.

Headline’s copy

Headlines are the most important copy on a homepage. They demand a special attention because they literally make the first impression in the minds of the visitors. Believe it or not we are used to looking for the big bolded statement in the middle of the page when we enter a website.

Here’s Shopify’s headline copy:

Why use a headline, you say?

Well, headlines are not a recent creation of marketing gurus. They’ve been around for a long time — and with ample reasons. In 1983, the legendary copywriter, David Ogilvy wrote:

“on the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.

How to persuade people to buy through your headline?

There are two steps to take:

1. Study the product

In order to produce a money making headline, you need to know the features and functions of the product and its competitors in the market. Try to focus on the features that make the product unique compared to its competitors.

If your product is an email marketing tool or platform, maybe its on-site retargeting features make it unique. Or maybe it’s surprisingly cheaper than other email marketing tools.

Make a list of the features that you think make your product unique or at least make it look cool to people.

2. Position the product

Once you have a list of the cool and unique features of your product, it’s easier to position your product.

What’s positioning? Ogilvy’s definition of positioning is “what the product does, and who it is for”.

Here’s an example of how Ogilvy positions the Dove soaps:

He positions Dove as a creamy soap,

“Dove creams your skin while you bathe”, for women. As Ogilvy himself says about Dove’s positioning: “I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working 25 years later.”

And here’s a nice example of how SEMruch positions its product as an “all-in-one marketing toolkit” for “digital marketing professionals”:

The greatest feature of their product is that it contains all the tools a professional digital marketer needs in one place. And of course it’s positioned for digital marketing professionals. The message is clear and effective.

All in all, in order to increase sales through your headlines you first need to study the product and its competitors in the market, make a list of its cool unique features, and finally position the cool or unique features as benefits for your target customers.

Here are some bonus points to consider:

You can learn alot from the way


functions. Position your product as the sum of all the benefits that will transform people from their current self to their desired self.

Don’t be afraid of texts on your homepage when it comes to positioning your product and stating its benefits and features. Although there’s much hype about people’s preference for images, videos and stuff,


found that users noticed the value proposition more quickly and spent more time on it when it had more text.

Call to actions

If you’re spending thousands of dollars on a product and a website just to prove what a genius you are, good luck!  But if you’re willing to sell more of your products and fill those bank accounts, you need to get people to do something on your website.  

Call to actions (CTA’s) are the buttons that ask for those money making actions.

Above: Crowdcast’s CTA buttons

Having seen hundreds of websites with different CTA’s, I managed to categorize CTA’s into six types:

More info type

(e.g. learn more, watch now, find out more, read more).

Sample type

(free account, free trial, try it for free, get started, demo, get a demo).

Download type

(app, get report, report, guide, get now).

Buy type

(see solutions/plans/products, compare plans).

Contact type

(including let’s reach, contact us, schedule a meeting).

To make the best of these CTA’s, have the following tips in mind:

Early immature conversions = low-quality buyers

As a rule of thumb you need to avoid too much insistence on the “Buy Type” CTA’s upfront on your homepage.

You don’t want early immature customers because they tend to leave you very soon and more often.

In one of his Whiteboard Friday videos, Rand Fishkin explains that Moz customers that convert on the first, or second, or third visit to [their] website tend to leave early and often. They tend to be not longstanding, loyal customers who have low churn rates and those kinds of things. They tend to have a very high churn and low retention.”

To avoid early immature conversions, you need to make sure you educate your visitors before they buy from you. As for Moz, people normally visit their website 8 times before they sign-up for the free trial. And Rand states clearly that for them there is a strong correlation between the time spent on the website and customer loyalty.

Have more of more info type, sample type, and join type CTA’s on your homepage rather than just the buy type ones.

Have CTA’s above the fold

A study by Nielsen Norman Group in 2010 showed that the 100 pixels just above the fold in a web page were viewed 102% more than the 100 pixels below the fold. The following aggregate heatmap from the study shows the concentration of looks in 57,453 eye-tracking fixations.

Red indicates where users looked the most; yellow where they looked less. White areas got virtually no looks. The top black stripe indicates the page fold in the study; subsequent black stripes represent each additional screen after scrolling.

If you want your CTA’s to be seen, you need to have your CTA’s above the fold as well as other places.

Have multiple CTA’s

Singularity in CTA’s has its own merits. For one thing you’re directing the attention of your visitors to do only and only one action you want them to do, eliminating the distracting factors.

But there’s one problem with CTA singularity: it resonates with only one intention.

Some other visitors might be interested in downloading a report or white paper, especially if you’re a B2B business. Be it as it may, you need to include a “download type” CTA offering a white paper, webinar, e-course, etc. to attract this kind of visitors.

And occasionally, some people who are well educated about your product might visit your website with the intention to buy straight in their first visit. You don’t want to let them down, do you?

One practical conversion-related fact about Hootsuite is that it’s main CTA is well differentiated. It’s the green “start your free 30-day trial” button sitting above the fold.

Social proof

There are only two ways people would trust you. One is seeing the results you can get them, the other is your past experience. When people visit your website, the best way to make them trust you is showcasing your past experience.

Social proof is just about that and it has such a strong influence:

Over 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase.

Nearly 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

There are basically 6 social proof types:

Case studies:

You could mention the detailed success story of your clients.


You could use recommendations from your happy customers.


You could feature real reviews of your products or services by trusted sources.

Social Media: Showing how many followers you have or showing their positive posts about you is a good way to gain new visitors’ trust.

Trust Icons:

You can showcase the logos of the companies you’ve worked with or the publications you’ve been featured on.


If you have worked with an impressive number of people or have achieved impressive results with them, you can show the data/numbers on your homepage.

The most accessible social proof types are trust icons and testimonials. It’s easy to include a handful of your best clients’ logos on your homepage plus they are visual and easier to understand. Here are Kissmetrics’s trust icons featuring such classy clients as Unbounce and SendGrid:

Testimonials are also a great way to showcase your past results. Sam Ovens’s consulting training website is an interesting case here. It features over 3000 video testimonials from people who have actually taken his courses.

An impressive number of testimonials in the form of videos has a strong impact.

The question is how to make social proof more authentic? Here are some ways:

Use pictures of the people who give testimonials or get featured as case studies. A s


shows that using a picture could increase people’s acceptance of a claim

Be more specific about the person giving the testimonial:

Mention the person’s name, company, role, and if possible a link to his website or twitter handle.

Feature someone your visitors know well and can relate to:

don’t just use anyone. Testimonials and case studies work better from a famous guy.

Use Videos: 

It goes without saying that


are more believable and engaging.

Avoid the general and be specific:

a good testimonial

or case study highlights a benefit, explains how the benefit solves a problem, and is specific in the achieved results.

Link to off-site reviews:

people know that you’re only featuring a handful of positive reviews on your website. If you

link to the reviews

on another website, chances are people will trust you more.

GetResponse has almost all kinds of social proof on its homepage.

One final thought 

The perfect homepage is not the one with the most expensive design, nor is it the one with lots of free stuff all over it. The elements that make your homepage perfect stand the test of time and are valuable for all aesthetic preferences.

List: Here’s All The Stuff That Xiaomi Make!

All the stuff that Xiaomi make 1. Smartphones.

Obviously, since Xiaomi is the world’s 5th largest smartphone maker, we couldn’t miss this one. The latest flagship smartphone from the company is the Xiaomi Mi5, it comes with all the top specs you expect, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, a camera with 4-axis OIS and sapphire lens.

It’s also equipped with NFC, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage in its most expensive version.

2. Tablets.

The first Xiaomi Mi Pad tablet was announced in 2014 and it was the first tablet to use the NVIDIA Tegra K1 quad-core 2.3 GHz processor. In November 2023 Xiaomi announced the successor Mi Pad 2, running Intel’s new (at the time) Z5 Z8500 Cherry Trail Atom CPU, the tablet has a full metal backing, making it thinner and lighter than the original MiPad.

3. Action Cameras.

As you can assume from the name it shoots 4k at 30fps, while at 720p it can record up to 240fps, allowing you to create sweet slow-motion videos.

Battery life is pretty amazing on this camera, with a large 1400mAh battery and an high efficiency Ambarella A9SE75S chipset on board, it can get you through 2 hours of 2k video recording.

4. Wearables.

Xiaomi couldn’t resist the urge of entering the wearable market. They began with the Mi Band, a fitness monitor & sleep tracker, with different functions like: sleep-cycle, smart alarm, smartphone unlocking capabilities and 30-days battery life.

A few months ago they launched the Mi Band 2, it has all the features of the above, but trades in battery life for an OLED display and an heart rate monitor with live tracking, lowering standby time to 20 days, which is still more than other smartwatches’ makers can say.

5. Smartphone Accessories.

Xiaomi makes a plethora of accessories, from earphones and headphones to power banks, smartphone stands, bluetooth music players and so on. It could take the whole day to mention them all.

In this segment, one of the most interesting product seem to be the Xiaomi Hybrid earphones, they have a stylish silver and black design, the body is made of CNC machined metal with rounded edges and the dual hybrid drivers produce an high quality sound while having a nice deep bass.

6. Smart Home Products.

If you already think they make too many products, wait to see these. Xiaomi has in their product line: blood pressure monitors, air purifiers, smart webcams, smart scales, water purifiers, smart rice cookers, Yeelight (photo to the left), Mi TVs, TV boxes, routers, media servers, access points and a “Smart Home Kit” to protect your property from thieves.

Between these, the Xiaomi Mi Wi-fi Nano router stands out, mainly for two reasons, it’s cheap (costs around $18) and it’s exceptionally power efficient. It can indeed run for 30 hours when powered by a 10,000 mAh power bank. It has a dual antenna design a 150 square meter radius.

7. Personal Transportation.

Xiaomi also produces different means of transportation, such as electric bikes, electric scooters and the Ninebot Mini. The latter, which is probably the most known worldwide (pictured above), is a self-balancing scooter which can work on surfaces with a gradient of up to 15-degrees.

What’s more, one single charge on the Ninebot mini will last around 22km, which sounds pretty cool for a 1,999 Yuan ($314) device.

The Ninebot Mini also features a ‘super-strong magnesium alloy structure’ and it can do speeds of up to 16km/h.

8. Luggage & More.

Xiaomi is also in the life style accessories, they sell backpacks, business card holders, canvas pockets and, believe it or not, a Xiaomi Mi Trolley 90 Points.

Made of high-quality components and build quality, the suitcase, which was named “90 minutes”, is manufactured by a division of Bayer from Germany – Bayer Markrolon. It provides durability and presentable appearance.

9. Drones.

In May 2023, Xiaomi announced their first Mi Drone, the quadcopter comes in two versions, 1080p and 4K. Other features include GPS, GLONASS and a sight based positioning system.

In addition to that the Mi Drone offers a gimbal with the integrated camera and a 5100mAh capacity battery, allowing you to fly it for around 30 minutes.

10. Laptops

Not a coincidence we left laptops for last, they indeed are the latest addition to the astonishing enormous amount of Xiaomi products already on the market.

On July 27th they finally revealed the long-rumored Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air. This is the first fully-capable Windows machine from Xiaomi.

It comes in two versions:

The bigger one, which sports a 13.3″ screen, comes with an Intel Core i5-6200U CPU (up to 2.7GHz), an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX GPU, along with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD storage. The smaller one, on the other hand, rocks a 12.5″ screen, Intel Core M3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD and no dedicated GPU. On the line of the 12-inch MacBook 2023, but with more USB ports.

Overall it’s going to be a great laptop for everyday use, at a price anybody can afford.

11. Everything Else.

I was kidding! Here’s a list of what else Xiaomi produces: Mi Pen (picture above), selfie-sticks for their action cameras and smartphones, Mi TDS Pen (picture to the left), Mi Rabbit transparent sugar pots, portable water cups, key chains, plush dolls, Mi Key 3.5 smart quick button, USB 2.0 network adapters, USB LED lights, USB power strips. Add to these every kind of USB cable you can think of and you’ve pretty much everything.

Very soon, Xiaomi will be diving into the VR ocean as well.

Now, tell us what you think. Did you know Xiaomi had so many products on the market? Do you own any of them?

Just Don’T Buy That Smart Speaker

Just don’t buy that smart speaker

Alexa isn’t eavesdropping on your every conversation, secretly sharing them with whoever it likes, but even if it was there’s an easy way to avoid that. The latest controversy over smart speakers and the Internet of Things comes down to privacy, as is so often the way, with Amazon’s Echo accused of playing impromptu postwoman with a private chat recorded and shared.

Skepticism about the Internet of Things is, in most cases, warranted. Connected devices tend to over-promise and typically under-deliver; the smart home is obsessed with turning on your lights and reading out excerpts of Wikipedia, but often with middling consideration of data privacy and network security. All the same, I can’t help but think some of the reaction this week has tipped over into hyperbole: after all, nobody is forcing you to buy an Echo, or a Google Home, or any other smart speaker out there.

Speaking as someone with numerous smart speakers across a handful of different platforms up and running in a few different rooms, I’m very aware that Alexa, the Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana can all perk up when they weren’t explicitly summoned. It can be something on TV which is mis-heard, or a conversation we’re having that sounds a little like their trigger word or phrase. I’ve been on conference calls and suddenly had to deal with Sonos’ smart speakers resuming the last playlist, having decided I was talking to them not to the people on the phone.

Maybe I’m being naive for interpreting that as teething pains of a relatively fledgling segment, rather than something more ominous. If I really found it frustrating, I could mute each speaker’s microphone, or unplug it altogether. Indeed, if you’re that concerned about the prevalence of big companies with microphone arrays in your house, that should probably be your first response.

Sitting out this particular gadget revolution isn’t going to be particularly difficult. While all of the smart speakers have some handy talents – I’m a fan of getting instant kitchen measurement conversions, timezone calculations, and weather updates – none are exactly essential. Similarly, being able to ask for music by track or artist name is neat, but there are plenty of connected speakers out there which aren’t also listening while they play.

I’m of a mind to assign this week’s Alexa glitch to stupidity, not malice. For all she sounds like a clever lady with the wisdom of the internet at her fingertips, in reality Amazon’s AI leans more on the “artificial” and less on the “intelligence” for the most part.

Then there’s the fact that most of us already have an always-listening gadget in our pockets or on our desks next to us. Whether you’re an Android user or an iPhone user, either way you have a virtual assistant listening out for your commands. If you’re really concerned about the pinnacle of privacy, you’d be digging through the settings on that to turn off wake words too.

NOW READ Echo eavesdropping: How to stop it

I’m not going to call it hypocrisy, because I do believe there’s a difference. An Echo or a Google Home is designed to hear you even if you’re across the room; the average smartphone is typically intended to deal with much shorter, more personal distances. Always-on listening is much more central to the smart speaker concept than it is to a smartphone, too. Yes, I can mute an Echo’s microphone, but then I have to walk over to it every time I want to interact.

The dangers, too, are different. We’re yet to see a widespread Alexa, or Google Assistant, or Siri hack, but I don’t doubt that one day that’ll happen: after all, these are tempting targets for those of a mind to make mischief.

As always, then, there’s a hierarchy of paranoia that you’ll find yourself somewhere on. If your aversion is so strong to the possibility of a smart speaker glitch, I don’t think you’ve much to lose by opting out and watching as the category evolves. If, like me, you’re a little less concerned then maybe just limiting your Echo, Google Home, or HomePod to particular rooms will be enough to calm whatever skepticism you might have. I have a camera-enabled Echo in the kitchen, after all, but I don’t have one in my bedroom.

Windows As A Service And What It Means

After the success of offering Microsoft Office as a Service – in the form of Office 365, is it possible for Microsoft to offer its operating system, Windows as a Service? The article tries to find out answers while talking about the possible implementation models. Please note that there are already Microsoft PaaS services such as Azure, but the scope there is limited. I am talking about offering the entire OS as a service that can run in a browser and call upon other programs – local or cloud.

Windows as A Service – The SaaS Model

SaaS stands for Software as a Service. You might already have been using OneDrive Desktop that serves as an example of SaaS (Software as a Service). SaaS is clearly a software provided by some cloud service that you can use as and when required and as long as required. OneDrive desktop, for example, is a software that you download from Microsoft and use to synchronize your files on the cloud with the local storage.

But this is not about OneDrive desktop. The implementation of OneDrive desktop app is much easier compared to offering Windows as a Service. We all know Windows as an operating system. How is it possible to offer an operating system as a service? An operating system is required to fire up a computer. If the service is provided on cloud, how can one boot his or her computer to connect with the service? Will it still be called an operating system? Or will it be an extension of the operating system?

I can assume we have the basic bootable Windows copy on the computers. With that copy, the computer boots up. This basic bootable Windows copy does not have many options as it is not a full-fledged operating system but a compact, or rather, stripped-down version of the Windows operating system.

Once fired, the computer can then connect to the Internet and login into the cloud offering of Windows that has all the other programs necessary to keep a computer running properly and to help in launching other applications. These applications could be local or cloud-based such as Office 365 (Office on the Web: Office Web Applications) and Adobe Creative Cloud etc.

Benefits of Windows As Service (Software As a Service)

To keep it compact, safe and reliable, Microsoft may consider providing a basic, stripped-down version of the Windows operating system in a chip – or as we call it, firmware. If it is firmware, chances of getting any virus or worm will reduce significantly.

We may assume the firmware copy will always be safe and people need not add anti-virus to their computers as the only job of computers would be to boot and to connect to Windows. These will be Windows computers and may not run other operating systems. In turn, the hardware would be light – somewhat like the Netbooks.

The cloud copy of Windows is always updated so users get to use the latest version. As of this date, the latest is Windows 10 and everyone who is using Windows as a Service (SaaS) on Windows computers would be easily working on Windows 10 without having to buy each edition separately and just by paying a monthly fee.

Finally, there will be no piracy. An online version of Windows cannot be stolen and used on individual computers. I cannot see any way people can use it without a subscription. The subscription charges have to be low else people may move to other operating systems.

Restrictions of Windows as a SaaS

Coming back to the SaaS implementation of Windows as a Service, I find it good enough until the user is restricted towards using the Windows-based software only. That is, the default program that comes with the operating system. Of course, Microsoft can add many more programs and I am sure people will welcome that software as they are part of the entire Windows that they can use for a small fee per month. Likewise, the other programs such as Adobe Creative Suite, etc. can also be used by the same computers but they won’t be part of Windows as a Service.

This type of implementation may not provide enough facilities to run local apps such as Photoshop, Adobe Premiere and Corel Draw, etc. We know Adobe too has gone to the cloud and is available in form of SaaS: Adobe Creative Cloud, but consider a person using Corel Draw that needs to be installed on the local computer before it can be used. A typical implementation of Windows as SaaS (Software as a Service) cannot provide that. That is where we need it as a platform.

Windows as a Service – The PaaS Model

PaaS or Platform as a Service sounds much better as an operating system is basically a platform where other programs and apps can run. We can use the same Windows in firmware concept or we can use any kind of operating system to get the computer to boot. Once the boot process is completed, the users can get into the Windows cloud and from there, run programs like Photoshop, Premiere, Corel Draw, etc. Though most of the companies are already going cloud to counter-piracy (that is one of the benefits too: people cannot steal a cloud-based copy of Windows), some are still providing the desktop/laptop/standalone versions.

Now suppose you booted using Linux or the stripped-down Windows version (firmware version that we talked about above). You can then connect to Windows as a Platform for a nominal fee per month, still enjoy the latest versions without having to pay extra for them, and then you can also use desktop/standalone versions of different software by invoking them via Windows as a Platform Service. That sounds good but needs to be worked upon as to how to call a program from your computer to the cloud-based platform. It is possible with some thought and proper implementation of the platform.

One option is to use the cloud versions of other software – such as Adobe Illustrator in place of Corel Draw. So far, Corel has not gone into the cloud but seeing the way Adobe and other creative suites are now part of the cloud, it may soon be a part of the cloud. If part of the cloud, it will be easier to invoke those apps. But if the app is installed on your computer, and you logged on to cloud Windows, there should be a method to be able to use the installed programs.

The basic method of working on a computer is just the interaction between objects in RAM and CPU. Your input, resident programs, etc. go into the RAM and from there, to the CPU, get processed and the results are sent back to RAM from where you can see or print the output. The objects in RAM change as and when needed, to run the installed program but for a large number of programs, the only thing to be taken care of is to carry instructions and data from RAM to CPU and back to RAM. Hence, it is not non-implementable. The Windows on cloud is resident on your RAM for processing the local apps. Possible? Yes.

When I say Windows as a Service, I am talking about the entire operating system as a service and not the likes of Windows Azure or Office 365. A look at both the formats: SaaS and PaaS, makes the latter more feasible for the SaaS part may need Microsoft to enter into an agreement with different software providers to provide their software as a service via the Windows subscription. This article can go on and on with different possibilities, but I will stop it here.

While allowing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, Microsoft has made it clear that version numbers will not matter anymore. Windows will be Windows 10 on all devices. Rather than a standalone operating system that has to be upgraded manually after every major release, Windows 10 will become Windows As A Service. Thus, it becomes like a cloud computing structure – however not the very same. We cannot yet call it Software as a Service (SaaS) literally but the functions of SaaS would be coming to the new operating system.

Windows 10 As A Service

So then, will Windows come as a subscription model? No! Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no additional charge.

Microsoft has made it clear that the future of Windows operating system is going to change the entire scenario of how computers work. Along with a range of features in Windows 10, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be same across every device: from PCs to tablets to smartphones. Plus Windows 10 will be a device lifetime service. By device lifetime service, I mean that Microsoft will continue providing updates and upgrades as long as a person is using a device running Windows 10.

Whether a user buys a device preloaded with Windows 10 or upgrades to Windows 10 from 8.1 or Windows 7, he or she will continue receiving updates as long as the device is working. Later, when the user buys or switches to another device, he or she will receive the operating system with the latest features (Read as “the latest edition of Windows 10 with latest updates and upgrades”) and will again continue to receive unlimited support on the new device.

The pricing system will sure change if Microsoft means what it said. Because there won’t be any need of purchasing new Windows releases after Windows 10, they may implement “pay as you go” method as is the case with most Software as a Service (SaaS) systems. Further, the two different marketplaces for Windows 8.1 for PC and Windows 8.1 for phones will merge to offer similar apps on all types of devices. These apps can fetch in revenue as Microsoft plans to import Android apps to the Windows marketplace.

The pricing system for Windows 10 is not clear at the moment, but merging both marketplaces and creating Windows version of Android apps is certain to bring in good revenue as the choice of apps will be wider compared to what it is currently. It will also make it easier for people to migrate from Android to Windows 10 and enjoy the new features of Windows 10, without losing out on their favorite apps.

Now read: Windows As A Service to Enterprise users.

Please share your thoughts on the implementation of Windows as a cloud-based service, rather than a local installation. Would you like that?

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