Posts Tagged ‘digital hub’

The Consumer Cloud: Your Next Big Home Computing Project

November 8th, 2011 11:15 admin View Comments

Today we’re beginning a series of posts exploring the world of cloud services from a consumer’s point of view. The word “cloud” refers to an online repository for your software, applications and data. Steve Jobs called this a “digital hub” and, as he explained to his biographer Walter Issacson, “over the next few years, the hub is going to move from your computer into the cloud.” Even if you’re not an Apple user, the move to a cloud hub is coming your way no matter whose hardware you use. It’s going to be a big transition.

We have a special channel devoted to exploring the Cloud from a business point of view, called ReadWriteCloud. But over the past year it’s become increasingly apparent that cloud services will soon rule the lives of consumers too. Which cloud service, or combination of cloud services, is right for you?

If you’re wondering why you’ll need to move to a cloud service, it’s because we consumers no longer just use our PCs to store and access our content. We now use multiple devices – PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets and more. Cloud services will increasingly be used to centralize and sync your content, so that it can be accessed across those devices.

The Contenders

You’re most likely going to end up with a mix and match of cloud services. The hardware you use will be one determining factor. For example I predominantly use Apple devices, so its new iCloud is going to become a key cloud service for me (more on Apple’s increasing power in the cloud world below).

However, what applications you already use is also going to be an important part of your choice for cloud service provider. For example, I’m a heavy user of Google services. Gmail has been my primary email application for years, I use Google Docs a lot and Google Calendar is where I organize my daily agenda. So while it’s not a separately branded cloud service like iCloud, my Google Account is where I manage a lot of my key business data – and it’s all hosted in the cloud.

Those are my two main cloud service providers: Apple and Google. But depending on your hardware and software makeup, you might opt for other companies. Microsoft offers cloud services like SkyDrive and its Windows Live products (including Hotmail). Amazon is another strong contender. It has cannily invested heavily in cloud infrastructure over the past 5 years. Amazon has also been releasing various cloud services, such as the March launch of a music storage locker called Amazon Cloud Drive.

There are also a lot of specialist cloud services available. For example I use Evernote for online notes, Dropbox for files and Instapaper for cross-device news reading. Any one of these or other specialist services may yet emerge as a top dog in the consumer cloud space. My money would be on Dropbox, which has now become my central online repository of files.

Apple Could Show The Way Again, With iCloud

While it’s a relatively new product, iCloud is going to be the one to watch in this market. It’s certainly illustrative of how important the Consumer Cloud now is.

Steve Jobs positioned iCloud earlier this year as being the next big step in Apple’s evolution. Apple started out as a computer company, then it morphed into a consumer electronics company (iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.). Now Apple is offering an integrated cloud service to support all of those devices.

Steve Jobs announced iCloud at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in June this year. It became available in early October, as part of the rollout of iOS5 – the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

In the Steve Jobs biography, there were a couple of key quotes that illustrate how key iCloud is to Apple’s future. “We need to be the company that manages your relationship with the cloud,” Jobs is quoted as saying, “[that is] streams your music and videos from the cloud, stores your pictures and information, and maybe even your medical data.”

In 2010, before iCloud had been announced, Jobs told his biographer:

“We have a solution. It’s our next big insight. We are going to demote the PC and the Mac to be just a device, and we are going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”

Of course that insight wasn’t new. Others, including all of the companies listed in this article, have been busy building online digital hubs. But nobody has really nailed it yet. Including iCloud at this point.

In upcoming posts, we’ll delve into iCloud and other cloud offerings in more detail. As consumers, we just want to have our content available across all of our devices. That’s currently easier said than done.

Let us know in the comments if you have any burning questions or issues about the world of the consumer cloud; we’ll do our best to address them in future posts.

Source: The Consumer Cloud: Your Next Big Home Computing Project

Will iCloud Fly Or Die? (TCTV)

June 10th, 2011 06:52 admin View Comments

On Monday, Steve Jobs introduced iCloud to the Apple developers at WWDC, and we’ve been absorbing what it means ever since. John Biggs and I devote this entire episode of Fly or Die to iCloud, explaining what it is, why it’s important, and where it falls short. Watch the video above.

At it’s heart, iCloud demotes your computer as your digital hub and moves that hub online. This is not just for your music or photos, but potentially for all apps. And that is one of the biggest shifts for apps that run on iOS since it got started.

If you look at any given app, some push the boundaries more than others. Adding Photo Stream to iPhoto means you can snap a picture on your iPhone and it automatically appears on your MacBook without cables. That’s pretty awesome. The iTunes cloud features aren’t nearly as exciting—it’s basically just a music locker that syncs to all your devices, but there’s no streaming. You still have to download the music to each device. Compared to Google Music or Amazon Cloud, it’s a little bit better, but not amazingly superior.

The bigger point, however, is that Apple making it possible for apps to store, sync, and serve your essential data from teh cloud. And as I, Cringely puts it:

Just like they used to say at Sun Microsystems, the network is the computer. Or we could go even further and say our data is the computer.

If Apple can make iCloud fly, it could change everything.

Source: Will iCloud Fly Or Die? (TCTV)

“It Just Works.”

June 8th, 2011 06:05 admin View Comments

Amid all the big announcements at this year’s WWDC keynote, there was an undercurrent that was subtle, but important.

“It just works.” Steve Jobs kept saying this over and over again on stage. When Jobs does this, it’s never an accident. It’s a message.

And it’s a message that was underscored by another word. “Automatically.” Jobs must have said it a couple dozen times during the keynote.

So what is the message?

Though Apple stumbled out of the gate with MobileMe, and it never really took off (due to a steep $99 annual price point), Apple is now going all-in with their cloud strategy. But they’re not doing it by simply tacking on cloud storage to their existing arsenal of products. They’re attempting to redefine what the “cloud” is.

At one point during the keynote, Jobs noted that some people think of the cloud as a hard disk in the sky where you put files in and then take them out. He even took a small shot at red-hot Dropbox. But as Apple sees it, the cloud is something much more. “The truth is on the cloud,” is how Jobs put it.

John Gruber correctly called that iCloud is essentially the new iTunes. That is, it replaces the desktop computer as the digital hub with the cloud. But Apple is aiming beyond even that.

With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic.

Compare this to Google, the company perhaps most associated with the cloud. Google’s approach has been to make the cloud more accessible to existing PC users. They’re doing this by extending familiar concepts. Google Docs is Microsoft Office, but in the cloud. Your main point of interaction is a file system, but in the cloud. Gmail is Outlook, but in the cloud. Etc.

Meanwhile, another company now largely associated with the cloud, Amazon, has essentially turned it into one giant server/hard drive that anyone can use for a fee. But it takes developers to build something on top of it to give users a product to use. Some are great. But many again just extend the idea of the cloud as a remote hard drive.

While the fundamentals are the same, Apple’s approach to the concept of the cloud is the opposite of their competitors. Apple’s belief is clearly that users will not and should not care how the cloud actually works. When Jobs gave a brief glimpse of their new North Carolina datacenter that is the centerpiece of iCloud, he only noted that it was full of “stuff” — “expensive stuff,” he quipped.

The diagrams Jobs showed on stage as to how iCloud works were as simplified as possible. Had it not been announced at a developers conference, I’m not sure Apple would have even done those. Instead, the focus would have been even more on the demos. You’re working on a document in Pages on your iPad, you move over to Pages on your Mac, and there it is. It even remembers where you were last editing. You download a song to your iPhone, you pick up your iPad, there it is.

It all just works.

And that speaks to the larger game here. Apple has been going out of their way to avoid using the word “syncing” with regard to iCloud. That implies that files exist in one place and need to be moved. But again, even that’s too technical for the story Apple is weaving. With iPad/iPhone and now OS X Lion, you don’t save documents anymore. They save automatically — but an easier way to think about it is that they just exist, as is, in realtime on all your devices.

The truth is that they exist on your machine, then in the iCloud — again, the “truth” — in a cycle. But you don’t need to know any of that. They just exist. Who cares where as long as they’re right there on all your devices when you need them?

Files are something Microsoft worries about. Files in the cloud are something Google and Amazon worry about. Apple’s iCloud is about opening an application and the thing you want to access being there.

That also speaks to a key difference between Apple and their competitors. With MobileMe, Apple put a fairly heavy emphasis on the web component. They spent months working and reworking on beautiful web apps for the service. During the iCloud keynote, there was no mention of a web component. For what it’s worth, we’ve heard that the MobileMe apps on will be altered to work with iCloud apps, but that may be a ways off. And that will certainly not be the primary emphasis. The primary emphasis will on the cross-device native apps with iCloud magic.

That’s the opposite of Google’s approach — at least their Chrome/Chrome OS approach. That product is only about the web. That’s where everything exists, and syncing also happens automatically thanks to that. In a weird twist, in that regard, Chrome OS is perhaps the closest thing to Apple’s iCloud vision. When you boot up a Chromebook and enter your password, everything appears. Again, like magic.

With Chrome OS, everything is always there because everything only exists in the cloud. But Google has been bending over backwards to tack on a file management system to Chrome OS. That weakens their cloud argument, in my view. But again, their aim is to ease the transition of current PC users to the cloud.

But Google’s position is especially odd because they have Android as well. Yes, cloud syncing is a big component of that OS as well, and has been for a while. But it’s the Google approach. It’s files, and uploading, and syncing. Some of it is automatic, some is not. It requires some thought. It sort of just works — as long as you know what you’re doing.

And the truth is that this is the point where we may really start to see some truly fundamental differences between Google and Apple after the past few years going head-to-head with feature matching. Apple is going after consumers who have absolutely no idea what the cloud is, and don’t care. Apple is saying they shouldn’t care. It all just works.

Google seems to be aiming more for users who understand current computing paradigms and want to transition that knowledge to the future of computing, the cloud. Power users, if you will. Many of the people reading this post are in this camp. But there are many more who are not.

Apple has rethought and rewritten their apps — including their desktop apps — from the ground up to be woven with iCloud fabric that a user won’t see. Google wants the users to be able to see that fabric if they choose to, and in many ways, encourages it as sort of a safety net in the transition to the cloud.

It is two different approaches to the same thing, the cloud. And Apple doesn’t believe that Google can match them even if they wanted to because they don’t have complete control of their ecosystem in the same way that Apple does. “They can never make this so it just works,” Jobs stated at one point.

In Apple’s core vision, there are three types of products that must seamlessly work with one another: phones, tablets, and the recently “demoted” PC. With Android, Google is currently only strong in phones. Tablets aren’t taking off for them yet. And there is no PC presence — well, beyond the web, which again runs into the Chrome OS bifurcation problem.

With that in mind, it may end up being Apple that helps transition users to the cloud, instead of Google despite their emphasis on PC norms.

“You know, if the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software in them is their soul,” Jobs said on Monday. Apple is now more clearly than ever betting that will not be web software, but native software backed invisibly by the web. Google’s position is decidedly less clear. With the existence of Chrome OS and Android, they’re currently betting on both. That dichotomy screams anything but “it just works.”

[image: flickr/sip khoon]

Source: “It Just Works.”

Apple Moves The Digital Hub From The Mac To iCloud

June 6th, 2011 06:25 admin View Comments

For the past decade, Apple has treated the PC as the central digital hub which managed and stored all of your digital music, photos, videos, and documents. But managing your own digital hub no longer makes sense. “It worked for the better part of 10 years,” says Steve Jobs, “But it has broken down in the past few years.” When iOS 5 is released this fall, it will move the digital hub online with iCloud.

Today, Steve Jobs detailed what iCloud will be, and it is much more than simply iTunes in the cloud. At launch, it will include nine with cloud components, including iTunes, Photo Stream, Storage, iBooks, Backup, App Store, and all the MobileMe apps (Contacts, Calendar, Mail). And it will be free as part of the OS, with five gigabytes of storage.

With iCloud, the PC gets demoted to just another device and everything gets stored and synced in the cloud. Add a new contact, calendar entry, document, photo, song, and it’s all available in iCloud. If you buy a new device, or switch from your Mac to an iPhone to an iPad, your most important data is all there. “Keeping those devices in sync is driving us crazy,” notes Jobs.

Apple started with its MobileMe apps, threw them way and rewrote them from the ground up. Contacts, Calendars and Mail are all synced through iCloud. Same with iTunes. If you purchase a song on your Mac, it is available for download to your iPhone or iPad without cables. It knows what songs you’ve purchased, and if you want to have all the songs you’ve ever ripped available on every device (even those you didn’t buy on iTunes), that will cost you $24.99 a year through a new service called iTunes Match.

Documents can be stored in iCloud, as well as photos. iCloud will just be built into many of Apple’s apps. If you are reading an iBook on your iPad, it will remember your page so you can pick it up on your iPhone. iPhoto will have a new Photo Stream button which automatically uploads those photos to iCloud, where they are then available to your other devices or for sharing. Apple will only store the most recent 1,000 photos, and albums will be stored for 30 days.

Source: Apple Moves The Digital Hub From The Mac To iCloud