Tag Archives: cloud

Take It to the Cloud––No, Not That Cloud, Fuji’s Cloud! Where?

Since the “cloud” has quickly become an everyday topic at our office, we have tried out a plethora of cloud-based storage services. Sometimes we even have a hard time finding which cloud we have put our files on. The more clouds we get, the more inclement our moods are. The fix-all organizational tool that the cloud purports to be has discombobulated our lives and fragmented our minds and documents. It was easy when you knew, “Damn, that file is at home on the computer.” Now, the question is, is that document on Box.net, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Evernote, iCloud, iWork––or maybe it’s on the Fuji copier? We don’t need a new cloud, we need an atmosphere to keep all of our clouds in one place. Our network administrators are turning into meteorologists, and we all know what their accuracy rates are…

Regardless, Fuji Xerox has launched a cloud-based document collaboration tool that interfaces directly with its copiers. While I think this is great selling tool, couldn’t Fuji Xerox just integrate this into one of the existing could storage solutions? The apparent answer is no, it needed its own cloud, and presumably that is what everyone else has concluded. Don’t get me wrong––I think the cloud is an amazing tool. It has made my life easier in so many ways. But it could still be simpler. The market is being diluted with too many free services that are trying to catch everything in one basket. I’d rather pay for something that handled all of my cloud-based needs.

Fuji Xerox could be onto something here. It is the first in the mainstream market to integrate cloud-based storage and collaboration with its production workflow in the copiers. The power that this will bestow onto users is great. Being able to modify documents seconds before they hit the press is a great selling point. But does this make sense in the real world? The implementation of computers, print-ready PDFs, and email has already made the standard RUSH job a nightmare to pull off. In the current workflow, the ease of submitting new files mid-production has led to jobs being “approved” 4–5 times. I can only assume that this will make that worse. However, with the correct procedures in place, there could be success with this product. We will have to wait until Fuji Xerox releases this into the US market to give it its fair trial. Sales started in Japan last Monday, so reviews of this are still very preliminary.

As Jay Alabaster in PCWorld points out, “A myriad of similar online storage services exist, and many such as Dropbox and Evernote can sync with faxes and scanners. But hardware makers are rushing to launch cloud offerings that work seamlessly with their products, as a way to lock in clients and a buffer against commoditization amid falling profit margins.” All I can say is that I couldn’t agree more! Fuji’s service will cost around $45 a month and allow 10 users access to 10 GB of shared storage. The company aims to sell 10,000 contracts for this service per year.

So what is your cloud-sharing service preference? I find myself using Dropbox the most.

Author: John Mehl

Advertisements

Don’t Cross That Data Line: How a Lack of Knowledge About Modern Business Technology Can Be a Death Sentence

From sorting spreadsheets to simple statistical analysis of a data set to basic knowledge of what occurs in the back-end functions of the average business “server,” a functional understanding of everyday technology systems is paramount in today’s world. Don’t get me wrong––expecting the average person involved in a complex business process to understand all aspects of that global process is inefficient. Regardless of where you stand regarding division of labor and the ideas of Adam Smith versus Karl Marx, specialization is part of today’s world and is, and will continue to be, a deciding factor in the expansion and penetration of mobile technology into our lives.

No, this is not a post on human resources, talent management, or anything related to job-placement skills. My goal is to pose a question to anyone who interacts with new technology, whether at home or in the workplace. My simple question: Are we ready for mobile? Mobile today means far more than “mobile” ten years ago––heck, even five years ago. Mobile today means access to documents––anywhere, anytime––access to applications that drive business processes and integration, with a wide array of devices. We have seen mobile technology expand our personal lives, but a functional understanding of what powers this technology tips businesses toward success or failure.

In any job, there is an existing process, defined as a set of procedures or steps that take something from one form to another. Each process has a set of inputs and outputs that feed into a sequential order, creating an increasingly larger system. Often, knowledge of the previous and next steps in the process is critical for someone to complete his or her given assignment efficiently.

All the business processes interact with other systems constantly. The buzzword du jour is “cloud,” which implies reliance on a robust and stable network as well as some “special sauce.” This sauce is knowledge of what powers the cloud, an understanding of what occurs behind the browser or touchscreen. Compared to the mechanical systems of the last century, where pulling a lever or turning a knob had an effect on a mechanical device, the black-box concept of digital systems today hinders a user’s ability to understand. These days, simple, practical knowledge of the back end separates the mice from the men tablets.

Why, damn it, why doesn’t it just work?

Hmm, let’s see. Storage of electronic assets is not intuitive to start. Day to day, we can let documents pile up in a drawer or inbox. If the need to retrieve a document or piece of information from a physical document arises, you use the efficient (sometimes inefficient) query  engine known as the human brain and its accompanying visual system to locate the physical document. This applies to the digital world, but the physical (eye-based) portion of the retrieval process is made far more difficult in an electronic environment given the limited viewing options. If the electronic document was poorly stored, lacking the proper references for searching, or was stored in a repository not possessing the right functions, the document is lost in the digital file cabinet. Tagged electronic resources may be common on many websites and familiar to everyday Internet users, but the implications of what that information means in the context of a larger system is often lost.

What needs to be known?

It is important to understand the business process and the rules associated with it as well as how the data points from this process are used within the larger global scale of the organization. Ultimately our modern technology makes us curators of information, whether pertinent to our personal or professional duties. The better we are at data stewardship, the better we can support the existing processes in all aspects of our lives. Being stewards means knowing about modern networking, the basics of what powers the Internet, document management skills, and what can be done with the data that are added to any given process.

Are you ready for this change? Are your team and company on the same page when it comes to your systems and data? Tell us what you think.

Author: John Carew

Adobe News

Adobe announced yesterday that it will be restructuring in the upcoming months and shifting its focus “to better align resources around Digital Media and Digital Marketing.” The company will be laying off 750 people in North America and Europe, and will stop development of its Flash Player for mobile devices. Moving forward, the company will be shifting money toward HTML5-based products like Dreamweaver, Edge and PhoneGap—an open-source mobile development framework that was acquired by Adobe last month. Flash will continue to be developed for the PC experience, including video and gaming. Adobe will also be focusing on its Digital Publishing Suite, which allows publishers to format their content for multiple devices. Adobe is not the only one to prognosticate the death of browser-based plug-ins for rich media on mobile devices; rumors are that Silverlight, Microsoft’s Flash competitor, will be dropped in late November.

Do you think Steve Jobs was right back in April 2010, when he declared Flash an obsolete, doomed system? Is Flash dead?

Author: Susan Hallinan

How Will iCloud Affect Product Lifecycles for iOS Devices?

Last week, Apple gave the world iCloud, the eagerly anticipated online backup system for music, documents, applications, books, calendars, contacts, etc. The product is a step forward in making cloud services more mainstream and provides a competitive product in a world already populated with the likes of Amazon, Google, Dropbox, and others. Apple‘s iCloud, however, is the first push by a big hardware manufacturer to date.

In 2007, Apple introduced the first iPhone. Before then, Treos and BlackBerrys were the kings of the smartphone realm, but they were heavily limited in their functionality. The pipes that provided the data to these devices were small and slow (not to mention pricey), and the form factor of the devices was nothing to write home about. In comes Apple and the iBrick iPhone with its touch screen goodness and wholesome Apple fanboy following. The new iOS, coupled with an innovative user interface, made developers flock to the product, and now, some 4 years later, Apple reports that there are 400,000 active, downloadable apps on the App store Store, which is the largest source of apps in the world.

That is all fine and dandy, but look at the facts: The iPhone was years in the making, and some sources claim that Apple started researching touch screen technology in 2005 just for the iPhone 1. Now we know from the past four updates to the iPhone that they tend to arrive annually, like the migration of the swallow. Once a year, the hype machine rolls into full gear, and out plops an invite to an Apple event that debuts a new iSomething––usually of the phone variety––to the anxious mobs around the world who line up in the wee hours of the morning to get their hands on the new device come launch day.

The iCloud release last week signifies a new sequence of product releases and maybe a change in the roadmap for Apple products, a change that all users and marketers need to pay attention to. From iPhone 1 to iPhone 4, the new features and their slow and iterative releases were strategic. Each iPhone with new features was marketed as an upgrade from the previous device, but other manufacturers and many of the iPhone’s biggest advocates felt that the phones were incomplete without specific hardware and software functions (a better camera and multitasking and notification capabilities, for example). So if cloud storage––and the sharing of all content over multiple devices––becomes the norm, where does that leave the innovation that the world has come to expect from Apple? Two guesses: unfathomable awesomeness, to the tune of coolness the world has never seen, OR stale, service-based, nickel-and-dime monetization methods. Apple, how are you going to continue to make me buy new iPhones or new devices? OK, OK––we are still in the early stages of the current iPad and iPhone lifecycles since we are only at versions 2 and 4, respectively. We know NFC (near field communication) has to come soon to each, but technology-wise, what is going to come next that will make the masses want to buy a new device? Apple provides services that allow you to store your content in multiple places (selling the product as a service), and that may make users more likely to buy another Apple product to take advantage of this content-sharing goodness.

It has to be acknowledged that we are moving closer, step by step, to a world with one “dumb” handheld device that accesses all of our content from the cloud, over the air. The addition of the word “smart” to our mobile phones reflects only the ability of our phones to do more than call and text. First came the Internet, then faster data speeds opened the floodgates, and then came a deluge of apps all pulling, pushing, and “curating” content directly from the cloud to our devices. Smartphones, tablets, and netbooks have proven that the model works and that the public is comfortable to an extent with placing its content in the hands of a mega-company.

Mobile phones began the path to the cloud world, a bigger pipe (bandwidth) for data gave it momentum, and now widespread adoption of mobile devices–– tablets and smartphones––seems logical. But what is the next step? How will iCloud change the product landscape in the future?

Author: John Carew

Google I/O Brings ­Market-Changing Potential

Google’s annual developer conference, dubbed “Google I/O,” was held inSan Franciscoon May 10 and 11. After two days of Google goodness, Google bestowed upon the market several potential game changers that should be on the radar of any tech-savvy person.

Android NFC, aka 0-Click

Near field communication (NFC) is coming to an Android device near you with the upcoming release of Google’s new operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, and with it will come the ability to share contacts, websites, and applications (just to start) with other Android devices without a single click. (Check out this video of the Google NFC demos from the keynote address.)

Android + Lightbulbs = Android at Home (Translation: Amazing Home Automation)

Android’s new 900 Mghz home automation capabilities will let the user open the garage door, turn on the living room light, and control electric devices remotely––all from the power of his or her Android-powered handset.

Google Music (Beta)

This cloud-based music-streaming application basically works like a cloud version of your personal music library, but the lack of record label sign-on may limit the product’s initial success.

Chrome OS Laptop + Desktop

Samsung and Acer threw their hats into the ring on day 2 of the Google I/O keynote lovefest by introducing their Chrome OS–running laptops (the Samsung model will be available June 15!) and hinting at desktop versions to come. (Check out the hands-on from Wired for more details on the hardware.) If properly adopted in the right markets, the Samsung laptop will likely be a long-term contender. Google also clearly stated that Chrome is not planned as a tablet-based OS.

Change is good, especially in technology, where the Windows and Mac OS wars are getting old. With its new perspective on user interface and device design, Google just may push the market forward. Google may not win over market share and topple the big competition, but at least it’s pushing for market innovation.

Author: John Carew

The Tablet as the Near-Future Desktop Replacement?!

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for giving the world the phrase “post-PC.” Welcome to the post-PC era, everyone.

Desktops to laptops, laptops to notebooks, notebooks to tablet PCs, tablet PCs to netbooks,  netbooks to tablets. Seems like a logical, natural progression of design and function, right? But stop for a moment and think of what led to the iPad (at least from the consumers’ perspective) . . . you guessed it: the iPhone. This powerful, industry-changing little device made consumers want a larger screen with more features. Add in the success of e-reader devices like the Kindle and, more recently, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and you can see how consumers were chomping at the bit to use a tablet.

As I write this, I am surrounded by four Kindles of various generations, six iPads, one BlackBerry, and a late-generation ThinkPad for good measure. Now that may just be a result of early morning mass transit boredom and the high disposable incomes of NYC metro area commuters, but it is an interesting sample data set regardless. The majority are tablets, with each user completing different tasks, from reading to gaming (three people were spotted playing Angry Birds) to shopping to surfing.

Can the iPad replace my netbook or desktop PC today?

Not yet! As a graphic arts professional, I need a few tools––Acrobat Professional, Adobe Creative Suite, and Quark, to name a few––to be at my fingertips as well as the power to support each tool. The tools exist on an iMac currently and do the job quite well. Sure I could use remote access technology like virtual network computing (VNC) with the Mac and work remotely, but given the unreliable cellular data service in NYC, I can’t seriously consider that option.

The other part of my job is the project management side of graphic communications. Those daily tasks use primarily the Microsoft Office suite and rely heavily on Outlook as the central tool. Applications for the iPad/iPhone such as Docs2Go, Dropbox, and Evernote can replace many of the Microsoft Office functions. Project management and Gantt chart software like MS Project have some app solutions and a few cloud-based ones as well, but for my use and requirements they just don’t hold up.

So what is stopping me from pitching the desktop and adopting the tablet?

1. Data connection and reliability.
Reliable cellular data connection is not something that exists in NYC. Some areas are better than others and some very data-light tasks are fine, but until there is fast, reliable cellular service, I am sticking with the desktop dust collector.

2. High-powered applications.
Yes, print is dying or changing or adapting (whichever flavor you prefer), and because of that, applications used for page layout and raster and vector design may never make the conversion to tablet interfaces. Why would they? There was no need to carry flint and steel once the lighter was invented. Each application’s functions will be splintered off into smaller apps, with each excelling in its user interface and usability far beyond its desktop/laptop OS cousins.

Now with all that said, my two objections to adopting a tablet as my primary computer seem inconsequential. I could use the office Wi-Fi and have access to a Creative Suite–powered iMac when necessary, but that does not take into account my desire to be completely mobile. I want every possible resource at my fingertips, and I want as few of them as possible to require constant access to the cloud. Backup and distributed access are fine, but I want a lot of those functions to occur on the hardware in my hands.

So my ideal tablet doesn’t exist yet and neither do the ideal apps for that device, but if I were a traveling sales professional, journalist, or academic, the functions and applications available on the iPad 2 and future tablets would be more than sufficient.

Will you pitch the desktop and move to a tablet?

Author: John Carew