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!

 

 

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud.
(written entirely on the chrome using googledocs)

So never did I dream that after submitting a request to google to become a beta user for their new ChromeOS Notebooks that I’d be accepted. I’m not even sure of what the reasons were that I mentioned to them ( and I do remember them asking for some) that I wrote down. Yes, I have over the years managed to amass a good deal of apps that I use from Google. But so what, I’m sure I’m not alone on the planet – others probably use more. But nonetheless, here I sit with a brand new notepad on my lap writing my 1st impressions about this machine and its OS. I have read some of the reviews on this laptop – some written using a ‘prototype’ – (http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/12/cr-48-chrome-notebook-review/) (http://searchengineland.com/first-day-review-the-google-chrome-os-cr-48-notebook-58322 – or http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/09/google-cr-48-chrome-laptop-preview/ some of the parts of these reviews I agree with, some I don’t.  Google has a place where you can apply and on the notebook itself, it has a feedback button which I will be using.

I am MAC an PC proficient, have been under and in a few Apache OS servers (and even less so for Linux servers) and I don’t sling code seriously, just dabble in html5 and now starting ruby as I understand Mac is or will be releasing a ruby for Mac platform and perhaps one day I’ll be able to write my own apps for the iPad in ruby ( but that’s far off for now).  Back to my Chome OS thoughts.

When this lap arrived in a box ( see my previous posts to see the cover) I thought someone sent us a housewarming gift. We moved our family from Los Angeles (and L.A. is  literally falling apart) to the white warm watered sandy beaches of the gulf coast near Clearwater Beach Fl. If someone from Gooooogle is reading this – A BIG ‘thank you!’ many times over.

So, the biggest changes I have noticed thus far from the traditional lap is:
1. Verizon was incredibly smart to partner and offer 3G wireless access (100mg for free a month); Verizon will be reaping the reward – no one uses 100mgs a month of data unless you are an ant.
2. Cloud computing works and will take the masses some getting used to; but its where EVERYTHING is going.
3. This laptop is on of the lightest and coolest (temperature as well as hipness factor)I have ever encountered;
4. Apple was a heavy influence and its ‘app’ store concept a key part of how this OS works;
5. Its a bit disconcerting NOT being able to view my files and docs by browsing a file structure a la windows; but I’m almost used to it.
6. Using this requires a change of habit and thinking and that will be tough for some, but its refreshing (at least for me).
7. It ‘feels’ nice – like my black rubber iPhone protective casing. Easy to grasp and hold. Plus, Google gave me ‘stickers’ !! (I feel like a kid again).
8. EVERYTHING is done using a browser and you can’t minimize it to look at a blank or customized screen ( that’s right, you ‘skin’ the browser instead of place a ‘desktop’ image on your laptop screen.
9. The instructions were written by the same guy who wrote some other Google instructions – with a sense of humor, thank f’ing god!
10. Screen, resolution and powering up once closed up- is great.

So, let look at he above points.

1- First, Verizon – who  approached who is not important – Google or vice versa. Nonetheless, Verizon will capture a lot of new revenue from new COS (ChromeOS) owners. If you can’t find a hot spot, activate this service and you’re connected. Depending on your activities, you’ll pay for your usage. Hence, a nice new rev. source for Verizon Wireless.  Unless of course Google buys all the white space spectrum and wires the major cities for free with 4G, but that’s another post for another time.

2-.Cloud computing – if you have not figured it out by now, hard drives that spin and even SSDS drives (unless they are used to start the computers OS) are ancient history. Between Microsoft’s 25 gigs of free space at Skydrive, Google Docs, Dropbox and many others, you have plenty of choices where to store your precious word, excel, power points, pictures, videos, music files, etc, etc. forever. Use LastPass as a password reminder (browser based AND works with chrome) so you don’t need to remember each of your storage lockers as you want to get in and the rest is pretty easy. Once you store it in a cloud, you can basically drop kick your laptop or desktop (going by way of the Model-T as well) and not care. Buy a new one, and install Lastpass again and access your files. Nothing lost. Ever. Microsoft and Google are NOT going anywhere. Not closing their doors in the near future or at least as long as I’ll be on the planet.

3.- It’s light – I have not weighed it, but its VERY light. Lighter than anything I own and I’m a nut for light and portability. No one wants to lug a big heavy PC anywhere outside the home.  And yes, it is cool temperature wise. Especially the bottom of the computer. I’m sure if you have ever taken your laptop into your bed with you, you know what I am talking about.  Typically, all laptops have a small fan that cools the processors and hard drive. Not so here.

4.- You don’t download .exe’s or programs. That’s ancient history too – Apple was the influence here. Google made an chrome ‘App’ store. They prepared popular applications without drivers so they could be chromized and made installable on the laptop. I wish they made a bluetooth app so my wireless bluetooth mouse worked, but I’m sure they are working on it. In the meantime, there must be hundreds of programs turned apps that you can grab. Just like iTunes, you download the app. Thanks Apple!

5.- Not being able to view my LOCAL files was at first a bit disturbing. But I had to remember that since I began using PC’s and Mac’s, that’s what you did. There was no ‘cloud’ computing. So, at first, you need to think a bit different and realize that ultimately this is in your best interest.

6. – Change of habit. No more ‘save as’ locally. Use Google Docs which = word, excel, PPT, etc., save them to the native Google doc acct. or save them to dropbox, etc. It all works except saving them to ‘my documents’ or your ‘c’ drive. Its different, but not that much different. Besides, the PC still does all the work saving it whether its local or remote – what do you care? Your habits and thinking just changes.

7.- the outside of this feels great. It is an easy grip and feel similar to my iPhone outer case cover. Rubber-like and not slippery. Better to me than a sleek plastic feel most laptops have.

8.- When it boots up for the first time, its a chrome browser you operate in, nothing else. When you click for a new tab, it brings up a new tab BUT that tab also brings up the chrome store. The chrome store is where you grab whatever apps you want to operate within the laps environment. So, just like the iPad, you’d grab apps of a similar nature.  Homage to Apple, doing this was easy enough and not unlike something have not done before. Nice and it was as easy to install these, if not easier as I wasn’t asked for a password or verification each time I requested an app like I am at the iTunes store. Although, to be fair, I have not bought any apps yet and this will more than likely prompt those screens.

9.- So, some of the ‘good humor’ part.

Safety Notices
(This is the usual yada yada…just more fun).

“This product contains sensitive components. Do not drop, disassemble, open, crush, bend, bake, deform, puncture, blend (guess we’ll never know if it will blend), shred, incinerate, paint, bring to the moon, or insert foreign objects into the device. Do not spill liquids, rocks of any size, or food on the device. Do not expose the device to water, moisture or rap music.

This product contains small parts, which may present a choking hazard to small children, as well as men who have not emotionally matured.  Keep the device away from small children, regardless of how much they want to bang on the keyboard.

This product does not contain any user-serviceable parts. Repairs should only be made by an authorized technician. Note that the authorized technicians do not necessarily include your neighborhood 15 year old brainiac that you call anytime you get an antivirus pop-up on your computer. Do not do anything silly with the battery. We already said not to bake the device but apparently we had to repeat ourselves.”

10. – The screen is 1280X 800 resolution with a 12.1 inch size viewable space. Better than most. Once turned on and if you close the screen and then open it, it takes about 2 seconds to come back. Far quicker than a PC or Mac. And 2 seconds is not an exaggeration. This is an Atom chip powered laptop, and its pretty quick but the chip COULD be updated to a newer version Intel chipset now being used in the 64bit laps. But I’m not complaining. I did own a 9 inch laptop which was way too small and then a 10 inch, which again was too small. The 12 inch seems perfect however, I’d bet that a new AirMac at 12+ would give this a run for its money.

Next up – switching over to using it more than full time.

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