Apple’s Half Approach To The ‘Clouds’

This weeks Apple announcement is not quite as cloud centric as you may think. Unlike Googles approach with having a chromebook browser with Linux running underneath and no local storage, Apple is still tethered to the device we use. It’s a world of ‘apps’.

In Google’s view, you do everything using a browser with no local storage or apps. In Apple’s world, while it has taken an elegant approach to its delivery mechanism and user experience bar none, it is still largely delivering a localized environment.

In Google’s world, chromebooks and other devices like these will still need to grapple with the unreliable world of ‘wireless’ connections – or sometimes lack of them and the consumers long time habit and behavior of wanting the content close by them, local.

With Apple’s announcement, they are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the ‘post’ PC world – that is they know that by 2013 (a scant 2 plus years away).

Gartner and others predict mobile phones and THEIR screens will be the No. 1 way we access the Internet to view the web. Here are some more rather startling mobile facts:

*82 percent of consumers have used their mobile phones in a store, 55 percent in a doctor’s office or hospital, 17 percent during a movie at the theater, 14 percent while flying on a plane and 7 percent during church service. Around 17 percent of mobile users have shown a clerk in a store a picture of a product on their mobile phone, saying in effect, “I want this please,” which is a new shopping behavior that is surprisingly being driven by men. 45 percent of users check their mobile devices first thing in the morning, according to InsightExpress.

*Research has determined that mobile advertising is four-to-five times more effective than online advertising, on average…due to various factors, including lack of clutter in mobile, typically one ad per page, and the mobile pages themselves typically do not have a lot of stuff going on—they tend to be very clean. Also, the proportion of the ad on a mobile screen is greater, so it gets more share of eyeballs.

My takeaway from these numbers is that we are steadily becoming a mobile and tablet world, not a PC one.

This is a world the Apple knows better than anyone and using iCloud, it has taken a very good shot at delivering a cloud experience with what really is a local one.  Apple is extending what Apple does best, its core strengths into the cloud. And this is simply the basic integration of Apple’s hardware and software – their elegant OS.  The major difference being it does not yet rely on the browser as the central driving force in the picture (Google’s chrome) rather in Apple’s view what they are giving us an elegant CMS or content delivery system that we manage.  Google is betting on its browser, and they too know its coming to the small screen, therefore, that’s why we are seeing the Android store downloadable app strategy they are pushing out..

Apple which supports its web apps in the App store will have a rude awakening one day as eventually everyone but them will play on a browser using HTML5, but for now Apple’s user experience is by far the best.  A good example of this is when you go to read GoogleNews on your iPhone using Safari and at the bottom of the screen a small box pops up saying ‘ if you want to access Google News, click here to put this app on your device’. If you agree, a small app-like icon gets created on your iPhone using HTML5 just as if you downloaded it through iTunes.

So, Apple IS a cloud player indeed, distributing its OS X online, supporting over the air updates, allowing iTunes to be streamed to any iOS registered device. And iTunes did something that neither Google nor Amazon has done – signed deals with the major music players for their content (video/films excluded for now). This allows us to avoid the time consuming process of uploading our music collection to iCloud (I think I have about 60gigs of files). We can purchase a subscription to Music Match for $24.99 year, and MM will mirror my music collection with the iTunes store – ALL of my music, not just iTunes purchased music. These tracks can now be streamed back to me from the cloud on any MacOS registered device.

However, unlike other pure cloud players, this isn’t a web based operation for all of this. Apple still is enabling core SDK kits (software development kits) for developers to build in access and API’s (application program interfaces) that will let developers integrate their own apps within Apple’s cloud.

To perhaps make this analogy clearer of why it is not a pure based cloud play, look at iTunes. Your music library stays right where it is, with YOU – MM provides software that identifies songs and tracks you have and purchases you made at iTunes against the vast iTunes catalog of music to support MM. All of this not really ‘cloud’ based, but still local.

For us users, the benefit is an elegant, easy intuitive way to sync our content between all of our tablets and mobile devices (Macs included). And this sync does include most other services and docs Apple’s got to offer, calendars, contacts, documents, online storage and photos.  This is far different than Google that has a true cloud offering using GoogleDocs where you store the document and edit in the clouds.  With Apple, you make changes locally and then those changes are synced to the cloud.

This method allows us to be far less vulnerable to the woes of the wireless world or lack of it at times. And, ultimately, it will keep us all purchasing not just apps but what Apple REALLY wants us to buy – newer iPads, newer iPhones and brand new Macs.  Apple is really in the hardware business, unlike Google that wants to drive everyone to the web on inexpensive chromebooks running Linux to see more advertising or Amazon that wants to drive purchases online. It a half hearted approach but it’s a damn elegant one and one that I am particularly enjoying because everything just works!

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The End of An Era – Music Companies, ‘cloud’ services and the ISP’s are laughing all the way to the Bank, courtesy of you and me!

Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Google’s BetaMusic, iTunes upcoming ‘cloud’ offering, current subscription based music ‘cloud’ services and music ‘lockers’ ( eMusic, Spotify, Rhapsody, Thumbplay Music, mSpot, MP3Tunes, and others) are all similar in many ways.

There are slight differences in the cost and the amount of storage for free that you get initially. After that, users will find the old fashioned way we now store and playback music might in fact have been the best and most cost efficient after all.

Today, we all have mp3’s or m4p’s (iTunes) stored somewhere on our computers or in an external hard drive or both. We have our iPod and other devices to playback these files. Load up a playlist and take them with you. Soon, the above mentioned services will offer us the ability to ship all or some of our music collection to what effectively is a hard drive outside our house or computer – essentially letting them live ‘over there’ or wherever that service lives, be it Amazon, Google or Apple. Load up a playlist and playback the music just as we do now.

A few things will change however that will drastically alter not how or what we listen to but what it will cost us to listen to what we now playback for free. And the changes are subtle but substantial. And these changes are all designed to generate money, a lot of it, for 3 separate entities; the music cloud service of your choice, the music companies and your local ISP.

What has been an essentially free activity for all of us (creating and playing back music on our device of choice locally), will now very quickly become an expensive one, remotely. The change has been slowly evolving – with the ISP’s like Comcast, Time-Warner and others that supply us leading the way. They have all decided to ‘cap’ and meter our bandwidth usage under various tiered plans. Just like we get our water and electricity usage metered, so will our ‘internet’ usage.

And that’s old news – I’m not telling you anything you have not already heard before. Soon, we will keenly be aware of how much data we will be using monthly. And now, the new music ‘cloud’ offerings will present us with tiered pricing plans to store our music monthly as well. You might have 10 gigs of music (which is NOT a heck of a lot, personally) today that you want to store on Google’s Beta Music Cloud Drive ( they are just being used as one example). For me, I’ve got a ton more than that and I add to that monthly. So initially, I’ll choose a plan for 10 gigs, but I am 100% sure over time, I will eventually double that.

In addition to those charges I want to turn on my ‘cloud’ player and listen to some tunes being played back at my home, through my PC piped into my speakers in the house. Well that used to be free when I loaded up my player locally on my PC. Now with my house being metered, here’s a rough idea of what I could be faced with.

1GB streamed per month = a little more than half an hour of music per day
3GB streamed per month = about 2 hours of music per day
5GB streamed per month = about 3.1 hours of music per day

For music aficionados, that is not a lot of time spent listening to my music. Now mind you, I don’t have to use a cloud service to listen locally – I can continue doing what I do now. But that also means I’ve got to keep a duplicate set of files. And it does not include any bandwidth for any other activities on the Internet during the month I engage in. If you have a iPhone or other device that plays back music, sure you can stream your collection from that same cloud service, but wait, there’s a data cap on your phone too. But wait, there’s more. The new Chrome notebook offers a plan too when you are NOT connected to WiFi – and it’s not cheap:

• Free 100MB per month (what you get with the first two years of ownership under the current plan): 1 hour and 45 minutes of music playback for an entire month
• $10 for an unlimited day pass: listen all day
• $20 for 1GB of data in a given month: a little over half hour of music per day
• $35 for 3GB of data in a given month: nearly two hours of music per day
• $50 for 5GB of data in a given month: a little over three hours of music per day

All of this cost and metering does not include monthly cloud ‘subscription’ costs. Put it all together and you might be looking at some heavy fees every month that you don’t currently pay storing and playing back your music collection locally or playing back on the road through your iPhone, etc.

Now I am a big cloud advocate – there are some big advantages clearly in storing your collection outside of your house. The biggest single advantage I can think of is a disaster – and they DO happen. Replacing a 60gig collection is not only time consuming and expensive but just go and try to remember what was in your collection of say 40,000 songs – good luck! This alone is reason enough to consider storing your collection remotely. Other disadvantages include getting the songs up there to start and you don’t want to move the collection once you are there. Ever try moving 60gigs quickly – there is no quickly. So choose your service very carefully!

While all of these new music services sound great and offer us new and improved ways to listen to our music, I can’t help wondering if one day a few years back the ISP’s and the music industry got together in one big Hotel room and figured this out as a way to get back all of the lost revenue that the ‘Napster’, ‘Kaaza’ and ‘Limewire’ era sucked out of them. Maybe they will get the last laugh after all. Here’s a better one – how would a Netflix for example, replicate a ‘cloud’ locker storage scenario for movies I might purchase? Could it? Just think of THAT cloud storage plan!! Ouch!

HP’s feet firmly planted in the clouds. The future is here, now. The Hard Drive is a dinosaur.

The announcement this week by the CEO of HP that HP wants to provide the platform of choice for cloud services and connectivity and that they will launch a public cloud offering in the near future is significant. Cloud computing has really come of age. No one will be laughing at Google’s CR-48 notebooks and Google’s Chrome OS anymore. Its no a flash in the pan.

The CEO, Leo Apotheker says everything HP will do in the future will be delivered as a service. HP also intends to install WebOS on a variety of devices, not just smartphones like Palm did. PC’s and laptops will have WebOS pre-installed and be able to run Windows as well. HP will perform a number of strategic acquisitions of innovative software and cloud-based service providers. And there is no shortage of innovators in the space. Take a look at the OnDemand 100 list of private companies in the space put together by Morgan Stanley, KPMG, Hewlett-Packard, Blackstone Group, Bridge Bank, Fenwick & West, Silicon Valley Bank, and industry experts: http://bit.ly/h4mqfK . HP certainly will find a few jewels in this crowd and probably won’t have to spend a fortune acquiring them given the numbers of competitors.

HP plans to establish an application store for enterprise customers and consumers. The app store will not just be mobile specific, like most other current app stores like Apple App Store and Android Market, but targeted at a wider range of devices. And its will be an open marketplace. Nice.

It’s a big change for HP. They are moving away from focusing on PCs, printers and hardware in general to the cloud, connectivity, security and services. HP does not plan on competing directly with other OS’s like Windows but rather to run in parallel. WebOS might also be able to run alongside Android on smartphones for example, giving user’s the choice of switching between platforms. Clearly, consumers and businesses will be changing the way they use PC’s and computers. The days of storing your data on your hard drive locally is numbered.

Redefining Our Idea of a “Program”

Google recently added the Chrome Web Store with the release of the newest version of its Chrome browser. With this release, the Chrome Web Store is available throughout the U.S., so it is now available direction from the New Tab page.

What’s significant about this and the four videos about the Web Store embedded at the bottom of Google’s announcement? It’s an attempt of a kind we’ll likely see more and more of in the near future, as Google, Apple, and others try to redefine the idea of a “program” in peoples’ minds.

“When the Web started, Websites were simple. […] The Web, in essence, was about reading,” explains the first of four videos. “Doing was reserved for programs you installed in your computer.”

The video, which was released with the Chrome Web Store last December, goes on to explain the evolution of websites, saying that “websites offer features that are pretty much like those found in applications installed from a CD.” The next video is an introduction to the Web Store, with the subsequent two videos adding up to pretty graphics to show off what’s possible inside your browser these days.

Google doesn’t usually make much of a production of releasing new versions of Chrome. They are, after all, on version 9. It took Internet Explorer 16 years to get through 9 versions, and really, the 9th one is still in Beta. (Chrome, by comparison, has  gone through 9 versions since 2008.) So why now? Again, the Web Store is something Google will push harder and harder in an effort to redirect our definition of “program”. It’s the next big step on our way to using Chrome OS and existing entirely in the cloud.  Thx. RWW!