There have been a lot of rumors floating around for a while now about what Apple is going to do with the data center that they built in North Carolina and now the new one they are rumored to be building in Silicon Valley. There are two cloud services I think they can develop with these new data centers.
The first possibility, is a web-based synced service for iOS devices that synchronizes and backups apps, music, pictures and all the other data on your iOS devices without having to plug it into a computer. We discussed this possibility many times on The Weekly Spin and it is something you can already do on Android and the Palm WebOS platform. This would make life so much easier, instead of having to connect your iOS device to your computer via USB you can just automatically sync with the server every time your connected to the web which will also allow you to backup more often. This would also allow people to use their iOS devices independently from their computer instead of tethering them as we are now. By doing this you could give someone who doesn’t have a computer an iOS device like an iPad and you won’t have to figure out how to do the initial setup which requires connecting to iTunes. The iPad is the perfect candidate for this because it could easily be used as basic computer for someone who just wants to surf the web, check email and other basic computer functions. Syncing to iTunes is unnecessary and could all be done through the cloud. This could easily be tied into a new version of MobileME which I think would benefit from having a freemium model, a free version to compete with Gooogle’s Mail, Calendar and contacts and then a premium version for more storage, picture sharing etc. I also think another crucial part of this service will be over-the-air updates so we can just get iOS software updates like other app updates in the App Store without having to plug the device to a computer, this is yet another feature that is already available on Android and WebOS. Maybe they could even tie it into the seemingly abandoned iWork.com service that was announced in 2009 and hasn’t really been mentioned since then.
The second possibility is that Apple will launch a music streaming service allowing users to stream their iTunes library over the internet where ever they go. This rumor has been floating around since 2009 when Apple acquired and subsequently shut down the streaming music service, Lala. Streaming music services have become very popular recently with Amazon’s Cloud Player and now Google recently announced their new music streaming service, Google Music Streaming, at Google IO. Both of these services allow you to upload your personal music collection from your computer to be streamed, while other services like Rhapsody charge a monthly subscription to stream any song you want over the web, whether you previously bought it or not. I personally think Apple is more likely to use the first model and stream the music you already bought in iTunes than have a subscription-based service, but you never do know.
I think that both of these services would be great for Apple to announce and hopefully they will announce both eventually not only because they are helpful, but because they need to have these services to stay competitive with the rest of the industry . I personally, being the cloud computing advocate, would prefer the cloud sync service because I think that would be more beneficial than the music streaming service personally because I have all my favorite songs on my iPod already, while I love not to have to plug my iPod Touch and iPad in just to back them up. I think if they unveil them this year the streaming service would be unveiled at Apple’s annual music event in September when they typically announce their new iPods. While the sync service I think would be announced either at the upcoming Worldwide developers conference or at it’s own Special Media Event.
While I was in Los Angeles for the National Broadcasting Society, I collected a lot of receipts and for a while, I had a stack of them sitting on the desk in the hotel room. Then I got a great idea. Why not use Evernote and take a picture of the receipts and have them all on my iPod touch tagged, searchable, synced and accessible anywhere! So all I did was made a new note with a snapshot, the pictures on my iPod Touch camera aren’t great but they get the information across. Then, I just gave them a title and tags, one being receipts so I could easily access all my receipts at once. You may also want to tag them with a month, tag them with the trip you got the receipt on or any other information that would make it easier to find the receipts. Then I just saved the note and threw the receipt into the recycling because now I have it on my iPod and accessible anywhere! Even if you don’t have a internet connection, you can still go through the whole process and then sync your reciepts when you get access to the internet. So now if I want to find out how much money I spent and more importantly how much I have left, it’s all in one place and easy to find.
There are of course, dedicated receipt scanner apps but instead of installing and potentially paying for another app, you can have it with the rest of your Evernote notes and accessible everywhere through the cloud! Many receipt scanning apps only save them to the iOS device and while they may be searchable, if you loose your device you lost all your receipts. The one thing those dedicated apps have that Evernote doesn’t is OCR which takes text in the image and converts it to editable, searchable text. But, since I am more likely just to look up a specific receipt and not the text on the receipt this isn’t a huge deal.
This whole process also applies to business cards, which I got a fair amount of at my conference as well! The one thing you should note is that because the cameras on mobile devices especially on the iPod Touch are not the highest quality, so what I recommend is to write the important contact information into the body of the note before throwing out the original. Once again, there are dedicated business card scanning apps but, why potentially buy another app when you can have it all easily accessible and synced with Evernote!
The built-in iOS Note app leaves a lot to be desired, the main issue I have is the poor syncing. Although it does have a sync function, it only lets you sync to a notes folder in you email account which doesn’t let you edit elsewhere and just provides a backup of it. This is okay but, what if you want to edit on multiple devices and keep in sync between them all.
The solution is Evernote, Evernote allows you to sync notes between your computer, your mobile device, and the web. You can also take pictures and annotate them with notes and sync them as well. The notes sync back and forth and can be edited on the desktop and mobile platform, while the can be only read online with the free account. It great for any notes or other information you want anywhere and easily searchable. You can also clip websites to remember and easily access them.
One of the best things about Evernote, is that its free, there are applications for Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Web OS, and Blackberry. There are limitations on the free account like the amount of data to be uploaded, no encryption and more. The premium account provides more upload, better support, SSL encryption, and Offline access for either $5 per month or $45 for the year.
Evernote is a fantastic way to organize information and access it anywhere, it is perfectly useable without the Premium account and is a great way to have notes wherever you go. I use it now instead of the built-in iOS notes app and has really been a great improvement. In fact, I wrote this whole article in Evernote on my iPod Touch and then copied it online from the desktop application.
Last week, Google announced their Chrome OS laptop used to test Chrome OS the CR-48. Right now, this laptop is just for testing but it will be available for consumers next year. Although I am a huge supporter of cloud computing, and Google’s cloud services, I think there are some issues with the Chrome OS. I’m not alone, the creator of Gmail (a former Google employee) said that Chrome OS will die in 1 year. I believe that this is partially because of the decline of the Netbook form factor but also because you MUST have an internet connection to use Chrome OS. I thought that this was a good idea for a “pure cloud netbook” but, then I realized that even with cellular internet (which is built into the CR-48) there are still areas where you will not have an internet connection. This would make the computer useless. This needs to be addressed because although the areas that don’t have a cellular connection are getting fewer and fewer, they still exist and leave the device incapacitated. The other issue I have with Chrome OS is that it looks like a bigger version of the Chrome web browser, and that doesn’t seem to be a good user interface for an operating system. I think that Google is too late for the netbook market and agree that Chrome OS will probably merge with Android to integrate with the mobile market which is a more logical decision.
Anymore, if I am considering getting an iOS application that will contain my data, I check to see if it synchronizes with some sort of cloud service. I recommend this not only for iOS but for all mobile platforms because it protects you from unexpected data loss as well as allows you to access and modify your data from your computer either in an application or through a web application. Protecting you data is very important, and because people are using these devices for a lot of important data and if the device break or the application crashes. Web apps and computer applications usually offer more features than it’s mobiel counterpart and lets you modify your data without using your mobile device and then sync the changes over the web.
The cloud is the future of most computing and especially mobile applications because it protects your data and then adds on top of that the ability to modify it though either the web or with a application. So next time you are looking at an application that you know will contain important information make sure it has some sort of web connection for extra convenience and protection of your data.
Rumors have emerge in the past weeks of Apple making MobileMe, their web service that provide Email, Contacts, Calendar, photo gallery and web hosting which currently costs $100 per year. The rumors say the reason is so that they can compete with Google’s free apps that have those features and many more! I think that if Apple makes some changes to MobileMe, it will be a much better service and many more people will use it.
- Price Reduction- If they don’t make it Free, then at least reduce the price to $50/year $100 is too much for the few features it offers.
- Free For iPhone Owners- Mobile Me also offers great features for the iPhone like “Find My iPhone” to find lost iPhones and “Remote Wipe” to securely delete the information on your iPhone over the internet. MobileMe should be included for free to all iPhone users so they can all take advantage of these very important features.
- More Storage- Currently MobileMe offers 20 GB of storage for Mail, Photos, calendar, and files, for a lot of people that may not be enough. Storage should be increased at the very least to 100 GB if not unlimited.
- iTunes Sync- Right now, iTunes is a major pain to setup on multiple computers or to move between computers. Why not have MobileMe sync all your iTunes content over the air and to your iPod or iPhone so you don’t need to plug your device in to sync, and content can automatically sync between computers.
- Web Access/Streaming iTunes Content- In the event you don’t have your iPod or iPhone with you MobileMe should offer an option to stream song, videos and podcasts from your iTunes library on the web.
Google Voice is a service where you can get one local number and have it set to ring all your phones. This is great if you have a home, work and cell phone because you can give one number and have it ring everywhere. You can also have voicemails transcribed to text and emailed to you as well as have your text messages emailed to you. Also you can schedule it to ring certain phone numbers at certain times! This is perfect if you don’t already have a well known number because then you can give everyone you know one number and then when you recieve calls, you can pick up on whatever phone is convenient for you. You can also replace your cell phone voicemail with Google Voicemail giving you a centralized voicemail box that can be accessed over the internet. I think it will be a great way to centralize all you phones and just to get one number to ring them all. One downside though is because it is still a semi new product, it is invitation only but, if you can get an invitation, theyn give it a try to have one number to ring al your phones!
When the idea of Google Wave came out, I got excited and thought that it will be a revolutionary communication platform. Then, I began to use it and i realized it really is nothing special. I was excited when I got ther invitation but, unless I am really missing something major, I don’t see the point of using Wave.
With Google Wave you can send messages, called Waves, in real-time to friends and you can collaborate in realtime. The biggest flaw in that is that very few people currently have Google Wave so there are very few people to communicate with and even then, the feature set is scarse. I think that if the application store that is rumored to come through may save Wave, but as it stands right now it is not as revolutionary as it claimed to be. I really hope that Google works to add more features and innovate, which Google is quite good at. If they do this, then they could easily make it the revolutionary platform that it set out to be. However, as it stands right now, I prefer regular email to Wave as of right now and think Google has a long way to go to make Google Wave the next “wave” in communication.
Cloud Computing is a great way to work and collaborate wherever you are whenever you need to work. This is especially beneficial for students because students work at home, in school, at the library and at a friend’s house. Why bother carrying a thumb drive that could get lost, dropped or broken when you could just go on the cloud and be able to access your information anywhere on any computer. This applies to Secondary students and even more to college students. Cloud computing not only adds convenience for students, but also allows a group of students to collaborate from their dorm room, the library or across the world.
First and simplest Cloud service is Google Docs; it allows users to write documents, spreadsheets and presentations online and to share and collaborate with others over the internet. This makes working on a project much easier no matter if people get sick or can’t make it to class, work can be worked on across the web. Google has also developed more tools specifically for students which allows Google Docs to be used as an equation editor, has added a built-in language translator, and chemical equation balancer.
Next, Dropbox, if you don’t think that Google Docs will cut it for you, Dropbox is the next best thing. I wrote about how Dropbox is so great and combines having files local and being able to share over the cloud. You can install it on all your computers and easily share data or just use the simple web interface and have a thumb drive you can access on any computer with Internet access and can’t be lost or broken. Dropbox also allows you to share documents either publically or privately with other users.
Cloud computing seems as though it is meant specifically with studnets in mind because it lets user do what they want, when they want and it is near impossible to loose your data unless you forget your password. I have always loved cloud computing but, now using it for school work it is even better!
For those who have multiple computer and want to access files between them, usually requires the user to use either an external hard drive or thumb drive and manually move the file from one computer to another! However, that is now a thing of the past with Dropbox. With Dropbox, all you need to do is sign up for an account and install the program on all the computers you want to use, the program works on both Mac as well as Windows. With the free account you get 2 GB of storage but, if you need more you could pay for up to 5o GB of storage. With Dropbox, you have a cloud drive that you can use like a thumb drive, but once you save files to the Dropbox, they are automatically uploaded to the web and then are synced to the other computers. This makes thumb drives a thing of the past and let you just save files to Dropbox and you can access it anywhere, even online in your browser!
Personally, I use my Dropbox to sync files between my Macbook Pro which is on my desk most of the time with my netbook that I take to class so, my school work is availible and up-to-date one whatever computer I choose to use! If you think 2 GB is not enough for you, which if you are just doing documents it should, since I have all my school files on there and some other stuff and I am only use 2%! However, if you need more you can get another .25 GB for going through the Dropbox tutorials and even more if you invite your friends! Dropbox is a great solution if there a a few crucial files you want to have backed up, Dropbox is a awesome way to do it! If you want to not worry about copying files and remembering a thumb drive give Dropbox a try, you will not be disappointed!