Microsoft’s Panos Panay unveils the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2 and accessories in New York on Monday. (Associated Press)
Microsoft’s Panos Panay unveils the Surface 2, the Surface Pro 2 and accessories in New York on Monday. (Associated Press)

iTunes Radio fails to leave Pandora behind

Now that iTunes Radio has shipped to millions of iPhone and iPad owners, does that mean you should delete Pandora? Not so fast.

Apple’s new music service, which comes with new iPhones and the free iOS 7 update, lacks some of the mojo that has helped Pandora become the leader in Internet radio. Mainly, it doesn’t have the intelligence that Pandora has gained from tens of billions of interactions with listeners who have given a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to a song.

Providing an Internet radio service – in other words, making randomized playlists based on genres, songs or artists – is more difficult than it seems. Over several days of playing with iTunes Radio, I found the app frequently misjudged my tastes, and I ran out of skips more than once. (You can skip a song only six times per station per hour, the same as Pandora.)

It could be my own fault: iTunes Radio takes a big cue from your song collection in picking what to play, and what I own is mostly a patchwork of gifts and other songs that don’t reflect my preferences. That said, I found iTunes Radio’s song selection more miss than hit.

ITunes Radio has noticeably fewer ads than Pandora, and there are no stand-alone graphical ads.

By comparison, Pandora is slathered with ads. Apple’s new music feature does a serviceable job of generating songs in a lean-back listening format. However, it is a step or two behind Pandora in fine-tuning your playlist.

Is Microsoft’s Surface a tablet or a laptop?

I’m not quite sure, but it is a lot easier to type on than an iPad.

The software company unveiled updates to its Surface tablet computers Monday at an event in New York, where I had a short amount of time to try them out.

It almost seems unfair to categorize the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 as tablets. Although they have touch-screen keyboards like regular tablets, they work best when attached to an optional cover with a keyboard on the inside.

The better one I tried was the Type Cover 2. In addition to coming in four fun colors – pink, purple, blue and black – that cover has backlighting, silent keys and a typing feel similar to that of a laptop keyboard. At $130, it is just $10 more than a Touch Cover 2, which doesn’t have movable keys like real keyboards.

The slick wireless mouse designed for the tablets is helpful, too, as is the docking station created to go with the Pro version of Surface.

The result is something that looks more like a laptop than an iPad or Android tablet. And that’s what Microsoft wants, calling its tablets the most productive on the market. The Surface 2 model even comes with a version of Microsoft Office, including the Outlook email and calendar program for the first time.

The Surface 2 starts at $449 and runs a lightweight version of Windows called RT, meaning it works only with apps designed specifically for it. The Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and runs a full version of Windows, so it works with programs designed for traditional desktops and laptops. Both come with 200 gigabytes of online storage through Microsoft’s SkyDrive for two years.

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