Digital Marketing Done Properly in the New Age

Sep 4, 2014



I suppose it’s coincidence that this post appears almost exactly one year after Blue Bugle went sort of inactive. Today, the blog doesn’t enjoy as many readers as it once used to. This unfortunate thing is due to my hectic schedule in my new day job as senior content writer for an organization called MSys. This job gives me more opportunities to explore the separate aspects of the digital marketing domain. In the past, all we used to do was promoting our blog posts through social media at random thereby trying to gather as many visitors as possible. You never studied the prospects, the market, or the social channels you promote your stuff to.  Most of the SEO companies out there prided themselves in creating spammy blog comments to create links to client websites. Needless to say, most of these plans never worked or had less positive impact. Now, if you follow the same spammy activities, you are sure to get a ban at best.

I had to come up with a new marketing plan for MSys that incorporated careful study of the market, ways to approach customers in a more efficient manner, ways to promote our site on search engines, and ways to promote our stuff to social media. This plan involved several steps, and it somehow taught me new ways to become effective in search engines and social media. This post is an afterthought of this marketing plan.

Let’s take a brief look at how digital marketing emerged in the last decade. This is essentially a brief history of SEO and SMO too. First of all, the basis of digital marketing is a website. Today, a company cannot survive without a website, can it? Even small-time bloggers like us have prolific websites; so, a company does indeed need a website. It has to be properly designed for clients to get an idea of what the company is into.

Website Design


In the ‘90s and the first part of the last decade, you simply cannot find really good-looking websites unless they belong to the biggies. Go to the Internet Archive (archive.org) and look at some of the websites they had back then. I wanted to see the transition, so I took a look at a really well designed modern website and went back to the beginning of the millennium to see how it used to be. Here’s it. I am sure everybody would agree Apple has a really good-looking website. Here is its site back in 2000—Feb 26 to be exact (the date is visible right above that hot news ticker).


See how awkward the website used to be back then. It’s quite apparent that the design standards have changed drastically in the last few years. Today, the most important part of web design is responsiveness. The main reason why a website has to be responsive is because it gets viewed on all kinds of devices today. One of your customers views your website on his iPhone, while another group views it on a tab twice the size, like the iPad. A website has to scale up properly to display without anomalies on all kinds of devices. It is one of the primary requirements of digital marketing today.

It’s also important that the website be rich with content, multimedia elements, and interactivity. Interactivity is one aspect that the web has quite evolved on. Technologies such as JSON, Java, and Python have been behind those buttons, text boxes, and tabs.

The point is, such unprofessional, ad-studded websites could work back then, but they no longer can. Professional websites look cleaner and simpler today, and most of the startups have such long, filling landing pages, which are such a pleasure to look at. They also load faster. So, the first thing of digital marketing: you need a website that conforms to the best professional standards today. It also has to be properly updated based on the changes in industry standards.

Social Media Presence


Before we check about the search engine optimization part, let’s check out the social media. It has recently become the most important aspect of digital marketing. Back in 2000, do you know which social networks were popular? Probably the first ever social network was Friends Reunited, which started operations in 1998 in the UK. Then in 2000, another social network started operations; you may have heard about it—Friendster. Friendster is the precursor to all these other social networks—MySpace, Orkut, and Facebook. In 2003, briefly MySpace became the most popular social network in the world, and it stayed so until Facebook surpassed all social networks by 2007.

Then the refinement of social media happened, which proved to be a very useful thing for digital marketers. For instance, instead of having three social networks—Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook—for the same thing, we have only one that caters to all needs. And Facebook is far more feature-rich than it used to be. It’s also being developed continuously. Twitter came then, and it soon became the social network for celebrities.

Then it was time for social networks for specific purposes: LinkedIn branded itself as a professional network; while you could share any stuff on LinkedIn, this branding somehow forced professionals to share professional stuff on LinkedIn. Then Google+ became the social network of choice for all sorts of businesses and online content creators. Google Authorship is something you need to read and research about. There are also specialized social networks such as GitHub for programmers and DeviantArt for artists. As a first step of popularizing yourself on social media, identify all the social networks where you can make a presence for your company, and then start working to create a stable presence.

Content Marketing


For digital marketing, content is the most important aspect, is it not? Creating and sharing useful content may be a difficult thing for a small organization with one or two content writers. How can then such an organization excel in content marketing?

One way is analyzing the requirements. Why do you do content marketing? For most marketers, it is to generate more social followers and website traffic. Now, you simply ask the question. What sort of content is especially important to gather followers? The simple formula is analyzing your potential clients and their requirements. In case of my company, the clients are looking for a vendor in storage and cloud sectors. We simply have to identify those clients and share some content already published by them through our social channels. These activities should prompt those companies to follow us. Another aspect that will help you directly network with the decision makers of any company is sharing the content published by the decision makers through your social channels. Also, try to come up with conversations with these people—constructive criticisms may be one way to go.

By sharing others’ content, you have two major benefits: you keep your social media profiles rich with content; you gather interest from the actual content creators, prompting them to follow you. This, however, doesn’t create any traffic advantage to your own site, so it has to be done sparingly and with careful planning. In general, it goes without saying that every piece of content that you create on your website has to be properly shared on your social profiles.

When you create content, give maximum care. There is a way to come up with unique content. It’s research. Unique content is the staple food of digital marketing. Even today, article marketers are creating thin content by copying or rewriting content from other websites. This practice will only get you in the radar of the search giant. So, refrain from this. The recipe of creating unique content is research and asking the right questions. Come up with a unique topic and a unique perspective on that topic. This will give you the incentive to write well. Also important are the grammar, punctuation, and style of your writing. Present your articles with multimedia and interactive elements on a well-designed, approachable website. This is the key to successful content marketing.

Smartphone Marketing


Today, mobile marketing has to be smarter after smartphones surpassed feature phones. There is a large number of mobile marketing tools you can find. Android and iOS devices are with millions of people—millions of prospective customers. Simply speaking, mobile marketing is one of the cornerstones of success today. Identify the best tools you can use for your marketing requirements. A few of them include Swipely, MailChimp, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. You also have the capability to target your potential users through social media apps for these mobile platforms. You need a full-fledged plan to target the smartphone users better.

Search Marketing


Now, SEO is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. Every website is planned and built to make it rank high on Google. There are a number of on-page and off-page factors that you do to make a website relevant for a search query. This post doesn’t go into the details of these aspects. Only one thing is important when it comes to SEO. Look at your website and ponder whether it’s the best website for a search query that you are targeting. Every time a person searches for a particular keyword, a few websites come up on the first page of Google. Most of these pages provide maximum information and relevant content to the searcher. When this happens, the searcher is likely to stay longer on the website, check out other pages, and share the content on social media. These activities can be facilitated by improving three major aspects of your website: the loading time, the content structure, and the design.

In SEO as well as paid search marketing, you have to present a well-designed, content-rich website, because otherwise Google will never let your site rank on its search. Some people may think they can come up with a spammy website and pay Google to rank it on paid search results. It’s simply not going to happen, because for paid search also, Google has a number of content and structure guidelines which must be followed.

Conclusion


It’s easy to do digital marketing if you follow three important principles: provide value, do not spam ever, look at your work from your prospective customer’s perspective. The third rule of thumb will give you a huge number of opportunities to improve your online presence. The design aspects, social media content, descriptions, keywords, etc., can be tweaked much better in this way.

Technologies on Smartphones That You Should Look For

Sep 18, 2013

Apple has unveiled two underwhelming products with iPhone 5S and 5C. That was the major news for the last week. Although the devices completely lacked any inspiration, they have included two very important things—the touch ID sensor for security and the 64-bit architecture for better computing. Earlier we also mentioned what Apple should have done.

In Android devices, we have a huge number of innovations too that we got to see in the past few months. In this article, let me discuss a few innovations that you have to look for in your next smartphone.

1. NFC


NFC

Near Field Communication has always been regarded as a cutting edge technology. You can’t throw a stone now without hitting an Android device with NFC technology. It is a secure way that devices can connect by simply bringing them together. Right now, NFC has yet to find applications in the current smartphone market. The technology is not new, although it has yet to have any big applications. However, NFC has its importance. It simply has to be present in your smartphone if you are buying it for the long run.

2. Appropriately Large Screen


You don’t need an ultra-large screen such as the one with Galaxy Mega. You don’t even need a 5.5 inch screen as in Optimus G Pro. All you need is a 5 inch screen that fits well in your pocket, such as the one Galaxy S4 has. Anything between 4.5 and 5.2 inches is perfect for a smartphone. Anything above that goes into the phablet family and should be considered a different kind of device.

If you are buying a phablet, be prepared to use it with a little bit of difficulty than a regular smartphone. Due to this reason, Asus’s PadFone and FonePad are not quite there with the customers. For a perfect combination of devices, you could have a regular smartphone, 5 inches; a tablet, 8-10 inches; and optionally a small tablet, 7 inches. A phablet is neither there nor here, and it is difficult to get by.

As we talk about large screens, so should we about smaller screens. iPhone’s 4 inch screen and BlackBerry Z10’s 4.2 inch screen are not quite there in terms of user experience. I am not saying they are bad. They are not as perfect as HTC One’s or Galaxy S4’s. For such smaller screens, a smaller price is appropriate, but that is apparently not going to happen.

3. Battery That Lasts


Right now, LG G2 comes with a 3000 mAh battery that can last days even with that huge screen.

LG G2

Apple iPhone 5S’s battery is only around 1500 mAh, and it is nothing compared to those on the Android devices we have. The battery is not going to give more than a day of usage, and it is just inconvenient to have such a puny battery, even with a device as light and thin as iPhone.

Apple could make iPhone a little heavier by including a larger battery and still it would be one of the thinnest and lightest smartphones out there. They obviously chose not to do that. In your upcoming phone, look for a large battery that can give you more than enough backup.

4. Fingerprint Scanner


As Apple has pioneered this, fingerprint sensors should be available on all other devices in the very near future. That is the trend. It is one thing that anyone could admire about iPhone 5S. The fingerprint scanner allows perfect security, and it is also appropriately placed for the most ergonomic use.

5. Optical Image Stabilization


This is something great on your smartphone cameras. As of now, only a few devices come with it, including HTC One, Lumia 920. Other phones, such as the iPhone provide a technology to stabilize the images, but that is not built into the camera hardware itself, and hence it is not that perfect. If you are looking for a perfect anti-shake smartphone camera, OIS is worth waiting for.

Also, if you are not quite looking for front-facing camera quality, start looking. Here is the table containing the best front-facing camera smartphones.

front-facing cameras on smartphones

6. Large Pixel Cameras


Once we spoke about the camera technologies, where we mentioned the race for megapixel count has ended for good. Right now, Apple has also acknowledged the fact that the larger pixels, not the larger number of pixels create better images. HTC One was the first ever phone to revolutionize the large pixel size through its HTC One. One has a pixel size of nearly 2 microns each, called UltraPixels. With only 4 UltraPixels, HTC One camera gives us better images than the 8 MP cameras most other phones have.

With iPhone 5S, Apple has also gone with slightly larger pixels of 1.5 microns. That size is still not quite effective though. We want really large pixels. One of the upcoming phones that will have this is HTC One Max which will sport 5 UltraPixel camera.

Conclusion


If you are looking for amazing smartphones, there are a number of things that you need to have on them. A few technologies were discussed in our previous article here. Some of them are discussed here as well. Unless you are getting a perfect smartphone, there is no point in spending too much money.

[Image: Time]

Why Apple iPhone Business May Die Soon?

Sep 17, 2013

iPhone 5S
You may have read the previous post in which I mentioned what Apple as a company must do. They should have done a number of things with the iPhone to refresh the product line. However, they have released an iterative, slightly modified iPhone 5 with iPhone 5S.

It has virtually no improvement to speak about. You will have no idea how Apple is stealing your money with a substandard device, simply by looking at the new iPhone website or the presentation below.



Already you may be seeing a lot of criticism directed at Apple for being stupid about this product. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have liked this.

We have the technical specifications of iPhone 5S here, compared to iPhone 5.

Feature iPhone 5S iPhone 5C iPhone 5
Display LED IPS capacitive touch; 4 inches LED IPS capacitive touch; 4 inches LED IPS capacitive touch; 4 inches
Resolution 640x1136 (16:9); 326 ppi 640x1136 (16:9); 326 ppi 640x1136 (16:9); 326 ppi
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass Corning Gorilla Glass Corning Gorilla Glass
Storage 16/32/64 GB 16/32 GB 16/32/64 GB
Memory TBA although expected is 1 GB 1 GB 1 GB
Card slot NO NO NO
Camera 8 MP; 1.5 µm pixel size; dual LED flash for true tone 8 MP; 1.4 µm pixel size 8 MP; 1.4 µm pixel size
Video shooting 1080p HD @ 30 fps 1080p HD @ 30 fps 1080p HD @ 30 fps
Operating System iOS 7 iOS 7 iOS 6 upgradable to iOS 7
Battery 1570 mAh Li-Po 1510 mAh Li-Po 1440 mAh Li-Po
SoC Apple A7 dual core 64 bit
Apple M7 motion co-processor
Apple A6 dual core 32 bit Apple A6 dual core 32 bit
Processing power 1.7 GHz 1.3 GHz 1.3 GHz
Dimensions Height 123.8 mm Height 124.4 mm Height 123.8 mm
Width 58.6 mm Width 59.2 mm Width 58.6 mm
Depth 7.6 mm Depth 9 mm Depth 7.6 mm
Weight 112 g Weight 132 g Weight 112 g
Other features
  • Fingerprint scanner, known as touch ID
  • Siri
  • AirDrop
  • GPRS
  • EDGE
  • LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • iCloud
  • GPS & GLONASS
  • Black/Slate, White/Silver, Gold color options

  • Siri
  • AirDrop
  • GPRS
  • EDGE
  • LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • iCloud
  • GPS & GLONASS
  • Black/Slate, White/Silver, Gold color options

  • Siri
  • AirDrop
  • GPRS
  • EDGE
  • LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • iCloud
  • GPS & GLONASS
  • Black/Slate, White/Silver, Gold color options

The prices of iPhone 5S and 5C are as follows.

5S: 16 GB version available for $199; 32 GB for $299; 64 GB for $399
5C: 16 GB for $99 and 32 GB for $199

Unlocked contract-free devices are priced thus:

5S: 16 GB at $649; 32 GB at $749; 64 GB at $849
5C: 16 GB at $549 and 32 GB at $649

I have never seen a bigger rip-off.

What’s In the iPhone?



The question that one should ask is this. Is iPhone the best smartphone out there that you can buy? The answer is No, it is not.

iPhone 5S in different colors

Apple iPhone used to be the best smartphone until iPhone 5 was released last year. After that, immediately enough, a number of Android devices and BlackBerry Z10 came up, and the most important and popular among them include Galaxy S4, HTC One, etc. These devices have great features and power and have managed easily to overshadow the iPhone. Since iPhone 4S, Apple has not done anything significant with the device, and it just is not the best device you can buy in the market today. It is still a great device if the price is appropriate. The current iPhone doesn’t have features to command a price over 400 dollars.

With contract, you can buy really great devices below 299 dollars, AT&T sells HTC One at only 199 dollars with 2 year contract. That phone can kick iPhone at the bottom any day. Also, there are a huge number of devices that you can check out in this page.

So, why is the iPhone costing as much? Simply because Apple has its ego and it cannot ever command a low price for its creations. In 2007, when Steve Jobs released the iPhone, it was the best smartphone you could buy in the world. It used to be that awesome on all subsequent versions and iterative updates, tagged ‘S’ for ‘Speed’—iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone4S, iPhone5, and now iPhone 5S. The tradition stopped at around the time when iPhone 5 was released with a small screen, processor, battery, etc., to compete with smartphones eons ahead of its time.

In 2012 and this year, we have seen such a great development with Android that iPhone can no longer stay strong without some significant innovation. New operating systems have emerged; Windows and BlackBerry still hold a very low percentage of the smartphone market. At this point, coming up with a substandard device is going to kill Apple’s credibility.

64 Bit, A Marketing Hype?


If you ask the straightforward question, whether 64 bit computing incorporated in iPhone 5S is a marketing hype or has some level of significance, the easy answer is it is just a marketing hype. It has absolutely no significance whatsoever, in the current market, that is.

Let me clarify.

Apple iPhone 5S is the first ever smartphone to introduce 64 bit computing. What about Android? Android OS, the current Jelly Bean and upcoming Kit Kat are still in 32 bit edition. You will not be seeing an Android 64 bit any time soon. Samsung has already announced an upcoming 64 bit smartphone right after Apple iPhone 5S launch.

What is 64 bit computing? In desktop computing, we started off with 8 bit systems, and then moved on to 16 bit, and then 32 bit, and now 64 bit with almost all desktop operating systems. In 2005, Microsoft upgraded the OS to 64 bit, and Apple changed the Mac OS X to 64 bit in 2009. This is an upgrade to the basic computing architecture in which the computing power can be enhanced significantly by incorporating more resources, such as RAM.

However, the catch is the applications running on the operating system should also be capable enough to take advantage of the architecture. In the current app market, and also in the foreseeable future, there is no way you will be inundated with 64-bit apps. You are going to take advantage of and use only 32 bit apps until developers have managed to create 64-bit versions.

Apple A7

In such a world, Apple’s A7 processor is not going to bring you any computing advantage. You will of course see a speed boost in loading your 32 bit regular apps because this A7 processor is 1.7 GHz dual core as compared to 1.3 GHz A6 on iPhone 5. However, the Android competitions, HTC One with Snapdragon 600, LG G2 with Snapdragon 800, Galaxy S4 with Exynos, will continue to overwhelm you in performance. There is no way Apple iPhone 5S is going to match the performance benchmarks of those devices.

Also, Android is soon going to upgrade to 64-bit computing in the very near future. In such a time, what Phil Schiller said about the architecture is mindless marketing gimmick at best.

Other Stuff


Apple has the other stuff on the iPhone, including the iPhone’s touch ID sensor. It is a clever implementation of fingerprint security. It is one feature that is worth bragging about. It makes the device be tied to your bioinformatics, making it ultra-secure. And they have implemented it perfectly too, by putting it right behind the home button at the bottom of the phone. This is something that we will get to see on upcoming Android devices.

Camera on iPhone 5S is another thing that they bragged about in the keynote, given below.

The camera in fact is not that advanced as compared to the shooters on any other device, such as HTC One or Galaxy S4. The camera uses the larger pixel concept revolutionized by HTC One. iPhone 5S camera uses 1.5 µm pixels, while iPhone 5 has pixels as large as 1.4 microns. HTC One is still the king in pixel size with nearly 2 micron pixels.

With other major features, including Optical Image Stabilization, HTC One’s camera is far superior than iPhone 5S’s. Also, it has to be mentioned that the best camera in the market today has 41 megapixels. It belongs to Nokia 1020. Other devices, Lumia 925, 920, etc., also have better cameras than the existing iPhone 5. iPhone 5S does not improve a lot on the camera side, although Apple makes you believe it does.

One thing that I have to mention is the dual LEDs on iPhone 5S camera that help in maintaining proper lighting on poorly lit scenes. It is a perfect improvement over iPhone 5 camera. It does indeed help in making the images better when the LED flash option is turned on.

iPhone 5S camera flash

Another improvement is the new processor supplement known as motion co-processor, M7. It is also a clever way iPhone 5S can measure and adapt to motion. This co-processor is a weak supplement to the A7 chip that measures just the motion data, from such sensors as the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass. Since these sensors are controlled by M7, A7 is not engaged to rotate the display and measure the distance traveled when running. This helps you run fitness apps better on iPhone 5S.

Conclusion


Other than a few minor improvements, Apple has done nothing with iPhone to be able to command a large price tag. In essence, it is a substandard phone by today’s standards, and it deserves no attention from the consumers. This is a faltering step by the company, and if it doesn’t remedy immediately by bringing out an innovative device sooner, Apple’s iPhone business may soon be in jeopardy.

Microsoft to Unveil Surface 2 and Pro 2: What You Need to Know?

Sep 10, 2013

Surface tablet
We did a short review on Surface RT tablets earlier in the blog. We also checked out Surface Pro, and their performance. Also, Surface RT is a tablet quite different from what you expect from a Windows tablet, and as a result they failed in the market. With these said, Microsoft has sent out invitations for an event in NYC on , where they will unveil the next generation of the tablets—Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Let’s check out what you can expect from these tablets.

Also, there is the rumored Surface Mini that may be unveiled too.

Basically, a few things that we have been able to confirm about these tablets are these: NVidia Tegra 4 processor on RT; Intel Haswell processor on Surface Pro 2; 1080p HD screen; two-step kickstand that helps maintain orientation on uneven surfaces; a battery-powered keyboard cover, known as power cover; an upgrade to RAM to about 4 GB or so; Windows RT 8.1 on Surface 2 tablet.

What’s Wrong With Surface RT?


Earlier when Surface RT was released, it had Windows RT operating system, and that was one of the prime reasons why the tablet failed. The problem with Win RT is that it is a special tablet operating system without the capability to run any of regular desktop Windows applications. Windows 8 that comes on Surface Pro is the regular Windows desktop operating system that is capable of running any Windows application that works on other versions of Windows, such as Win 7 and Vista.

Dell XPS 10 and Surface RT are two of the tablets that run Windows RT. The problem with Windows RT is that Microsoft doesn’t have enough apps to support the platform. The manufacturers like Asus are not enthusiastic about the platform and they have decided to stop creating tablets based on Windows RT.

In order to find the number of apps on Windows RT platform, you can go to the Metro Scanner. Right now, it is showing 115,863 apps. This is an improvement from about 44,000 apps in February this year. However, considering Android and iOS have nearly a million apps, this is not commendable. Also, Windows RT platform has all sorts of crappy apps there are.

Also, Microsoft is not being honest and clear about their products and operating systems. Microsoft’s website on Windows RT and Windows 8 for instance shows up all kinds of tablets. It is extremely useful if you are getting a tablet with Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, the desktop version. Some of these tablets include Acer Aspire R7, latest Asus Vivo Tab, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, HP Envy Touchsmart Sleekbook, Dell Latitude 10, and Surface Pro. However, in a Microsoft website, these tablets are shown along with Windows RT-based Surface RT and Dell XPS 10. It is a tricky way that Microsoft is trying to sell off the remaining uncalled-for Surface RT tablets.

Make absolutely sure that you buy only Windows 8 tablets, and not Windows RT tablets.

Let me say again this: Surface Pro is a good tablet to buy, in fact one of the best. Surface RT is a bad tablet to buy, in fact one of the worst. You will not find it clear by simply visiting Microsoft’s website, okay? So, beware!

Another shady approach from Microsoft at besting iPad: In this page, Microsoft is comparing iPad 4 with Windows RT tablets, including Surface RT. This is a classic example of how companies only compare the features that they have got better on their products. The comparison takes only a few aspects—display size, thinness, presence of a keyboard, battery life, cloud storage given, price, presence of Microsoft software, and weirdly enough printing.

Click to enlarge iPad comparison

In those aspects, Microsoft’s Surface RT is slightly on par with iPad, while other tablets in the range that run Windows 8 operating system are on par or better. The comparison does not mention any other aspects, such as the awesome app store of Apple where there are a million apps for iPad, the Retina Display that is much better than Surface RT’s regular display, the lightning fast Lightning connector, 3G/LTE capability, Apple’s specially made A6X CPU that adds to the performance, and the highly secure iOS 6.

On any day, iPad is a better product than Surface RT. However, if the competition is with Windows 8 tablets, iPad will fail bitterly. Hence, if you are trying to buy a good tablet, I would suggest you go with one that runs Windows 8. iPad could be a second choice.

Upcoming Surface


With the upcoming Surface 2 tablet, Microsoft will not be using the ‘RT’ trademark. It will be called ‘Surface 2’ only. The issue is that this will further confuse the customers. It is fortunate that other manufacturers are not supporting the Windows RT platform. While Microsoft has a way to make the desktop operating system work on tablets and a third operating system to work on mobile phones, there is absolutely no need for RT.

Windows Phone operating system already has over 170,000 apps, and they are useful on your Windows smartphone. Windows 8 has its own applications for the desktop, and they are all useful. We know it because we have been using them for nearly two decades. Windows RT neither has the apps nor the necessary support. It is hence not required in today’s market. What Microsoft should have done is not refreshing the Surface RT line at all.

Speaking from a consumer’s point of view, Windows RT is not an operating system with a bright future as Windows Phone’s. It is bound to die out. Also, creating inconspicuous campaigns to sell off remaining Surface RT tablets along with regular Windows tablets will create lack of confidence among customers with Microsoft products. This is going to be bad for everybody.

Upcoming Surface 2 is not a substantially good upgrade to existing Surface RT considering the available specs. Talking about Surface Pro, however, it is going to contain a latest Windows 8 OS, possibly with the Blue update. The Power Cover that comes as an accessory will enhance the battery life of both tablets.

Power cover on Surface

Another news given by WSJ is that Microsoft is working on a mini version of Surface, known as Surface Mini. It is expected to take on Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad Mini.

Conclusion


For the next Surface line, I strongly suggest you look for Surface Pro 2 and see if it is priced right for purchasing. If a tablet is running Windows RT, you are better off not thinking about it twice. Price is another important concern. Surface RT is good for a purchase for a price point of let’s say 299 dollars.

[Image: Neowin]

MIM & MIIM Diodes: How Do They Work?

Sep 7, 2013

What drains power in today’s electronics, what causes high temperatures and costs in today’s electronic equipment, could be behind extreme electronics of tomorrow. Our world is gearing towards a better tomorrow, where the supercomputers will be millions of times faster than today’s. Processing will be remarkably faster, and high level applications will run in nanoseconds.

What will help us achieve this for our future? The technology known as MIM diodes and its successor, MIIM diodes (Metal-Insulator-Insulator-Metal diodes). Let’s check them out in detail.

What Is MIM & MIIM?


diodesA diode is one of the most basic electronic components of any circuit. It is used to conduct electrons in one direction, like a valve. Advanced diodes are capable of modifying the current as well, such as sine wave to square wave, AC to DC, etc.

Diode is such an important component in today’s electronics that without them nothing would be possible—no cellphones, tablets, PCs, display technologies, speakers, storage systems, servers, clients, automobiles, or anything.

These electronic components—diodes, transistors, ICs, etc.—are developed with some kind of semiconductor, and the most widely used of them is Silicon. Other semiconductors are also there, such as Germanium, Gallium Arsenide, and certain organic semiconductors. However, Silicon is the one major semiconducting material we use in all kinds of electronic equipment.

Today’s technologies, however, are pushing the limits of what Silicon-based diodes and ICs can achieve in terms of speed and performance. In a world like that, a better technology that transforms electronics as we know it today is the prime solution. A research to find such a solution resulted in further developing an already existing technology, MIM diodes.

MIM stands for Metal-Insulator-Metal diodes. These are sort of like capacitors in which thin metal plates are separated by an insulator. Here’s the basic structure of a MIM diode. See how the insulator separates metal strips.

MIM diode structure

Oregon State University (OSU) has been working on MIM diodes for such a long time. In 2011, there was a paper published by researchers in this particular area.



Douglas KeszlerIn 2010, OSU finally managed to create the first ever MIM diode. Douglas Keszler, chemist and one of the leading materials science researchers from OSU, said then:
Researchers have been trying to do this for decades, until now without success. Diodes made previously with other approaches always had poor yield and performance. It’s a basic way to eliminate the current speed limitations of electrons that have to move through materials.


Here’s the first ever MIM Diode:

first MIM diode

Now, OSU has gone further and created the next level of MIM, MIIM diodes. Here, instead of a layer of insulator, there are two.

Here’s an image. The material has four layers—ZCAN (Amorphous Zirconium), Hafnium Oxide (HfO2), Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3), and Aluminum (Al).

MIIM diode

As I mentioned earlier, the technology is not new. The MIIM diodes are a type of ‘tunnel diodes’ that were in existence since the 60’s, known for the technology behind it, ‘quantum tunneling’. It has never been researched further and developed for mass production.

SanDisk 3D LLC, a subsidiary of the flash storage memory maker, SanDisk, has a patent on MIIM diodes with a trench structure. The patent dates back to 2008, although no work has been done by the company based on the technology.

What Is Quantum Tunneling?


Quantum Tunneling is the technology behind MIM diodes. As we mentioned, the tunnel diodes are called so due to this reason.

Normally, we know an electron beam is unable to go through an insulator. However, when the insulating material is extremely thin at less than 3 nm, a special phenomenon known as quantum tunneling can happen. This phenomenon can only be explained with quantum mechanics, not classical mechanics. This is the reason why it is known as ‘quantum tunneling’. This concept has a more extensive reach than MIM diodes. For instance, the energy production in the Sun actually has a lot to do with quantum tunneling.

Imagine a ball rolling up a hill. It will not be able to cross the hill if the energy it already has is not enough. However, if you are thinking of a ball in the quantum scale (which is infinitesimal), the ball can no longer be regarded as an object, but as a wave. In such a state, it can be expected that the ball crosses to the other side of the said hill if the other side has a slope where the ball can stay without expending much energy.

The same concept applies to electrons in MIM diodes. When the electron reaches the barrier, the insulator in between the metal strips, it absorbs energy from the surroundings in order to pass through the insulator. In doing that, a part of the electron beam passes through the barrier, but another part reflects back. However, due to the energy absorption, the reflected electron beam has far more energy than it originally has.

quantum tunneling with electrons

The electron beam that traverses the barrier does not follow the normal laws of conduction as it is going through an insulator, which does not help in conducting electrons. Due to this reason, the energy the beam absorbs makes it travel at ultra-high speeds. The speed is much higher than that on a normal conductor or a semiconductor like Silicon.

Also, when we visualize electron beam as a wave, quantum tunneling can be seen in action below. Quantum tunneling happens in the form of a ripple effect you see at the barrier. Also, after that, the passing beam and the reflected beam have lower altitude (height) and higher wavelength.

Quantum tunneling visualization

This tunneling phenomenon is what causes the extreme speed on MIM and MIIM diodes.
Ironically enough, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, quantum tunneling is a major reason behind power drain and extreme temperature in current electronic systems, but that is unwanted quantum tunneling.


John Conley Jr.

Extra insulator layer helps enhance an MIM diode. Dr. John Conley, Jr.,  of OSU that was part of the research into MIIM says:

This approach enables us to enhance device operation. It ... moves us closer to the real applications that should be possible with this technology.



This extra insulator layer causes something known as ‘step tunneling’ that allows highly precise control of the asymmetric diodes.

Advantages


Quantum tunneling and MIIM diodes have only advantages.
  • They are as easy to manufacture as Silicon based electronic components.
  • They are inexpensive.
  • They can form extremely fast electronic components as compared to any available technology today—imagine terahertz of processing power in place of gigahertz we have now.
  • They will find application in all kinds of electronic technologies—smartphones, tablets, LCD displays, TVs, consumer electronics, automobiles, etc.

Conclusion


I am not an electronics expert, but when it comes to technologies that will enhance what we have today in smartphones and tablets, I do take high level of interest. We do not have infrastructure today to make MIIM diodes on large scale. However, when it happens in the near future, we will all have extremely powerful smartphones and tablets. We will have in our hands devices better than the biggest and the most massive of today’s supercomputers.

[Image source: BSN, Wikipedia]

 
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