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Holiday Gadgets 2012 - Cloud Services

    by Douglas Dixon

Store, Share, and Sync in the Cloud

Holiday Gadgets 2012 - Cloud Services

Cloud Services
See also:

Cloud Services

Beyond specific devices, the bigger story in portable devices is the development of the merchandising infrastructure around these devices, with each company -- Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft -- building cloud services -- online stores and supporting services -- to help keep you tied into their platform with your ever-expanding library of device-specific content, and your growing comfort with using their services to store and share your digital life online.

  • Online store - Access purchases ...
    • Access and download purchases - Music, videos, books, apps - Auto or on demand
    • Save place - Sync current reading/play position, bookmarks, notes
  • Personal content - Sync across devices / computer, Access anywhere ...
    • Music - Sync across devices; Match/upload personal music collection to cloud; Play from web
    • Photos - Sync across devices; Share via web
    • Videos - [Too big to sync] - Upload, play, download from web
    • Documents - Sync across devices; View, edit on web
    • Contacts, Calendar, Todo, Memos, Mail ... - Sync across devices
    • Files - Store / access arbitrary files from web
    • Email - Push to all devices
    • Backup - Device content, settings
Connected Clouds

The cloud is the Internet, used both as a connection and as storage, not only to save and share all your digital stuff, but also to synchronize your content between your computers and your portable devices.

Using the cloud, you can buy music or books on your computer, and they are automatically downloaded and available when you pick up your smartphone. Then shoot some photos with your smartphone, and they are uploaded online, where you can share them with friends, and also transferred to your tablet so you can view them full-screen. Then check your email on the tablet and update your calendar, and the new event is automatically synced back through the cloud to your desktop and your other devices.

Beyond managing your personal data and content that you generate on your various devices, these cloud services are also built around mechanizing through the associated online stores, offering one-click access to mass quantities of content. Apple and Amazon have the most well-developed and well-integrated stores, with Google and Microsoft rebooting their versions.

While Apple is based on selling content for download, Amazon offers titles to buy or rent, and for streaming as well as download.

This cloud stuff pretty much works, and is a great convenience -- and a lot easier than the old days of plugging your device into a computer to manually sync at the end of each day (much less doing this for each of your growing collection of devices).

Partly Cloudy

One downside of using cloud services, of course, is issues with security and privacy. You are turning over your digital life to an online service, which may have other uses for your information, including mining it for information to sell targeted ads.

And you should consider why these companies are giving away these powerful services for free. While they will be happy to up-sell you on more online storage, the real benefit to them is using the cloud to more tightly enmesh you into their ecosystem and infrastructure. Apple does well in sales of its upscale devices, but Steve Jobs also highlighted another key business metric -- the number of credit card numbers that Apple had on file -- some 200 million crdit card accounts in early 2011. Your entertainment is only one click away, and those 99 cent songs and $1.99 apps really do add up. Apple and Google take a 30 percent cut of app sales, but that still leaves $6.5 billion that Apple has paid out to app developers as of the end of last year.

For these companies, brand loyalty can serve as a form of lock in, but is still relatively weak. After all, Apple has done a great job of turning black rounded rectangles into design objects that inspire devoted fans, but now others are making similar slabs, and even in pretty colors. There is some additional lock in from making smartphones into a platform for apps, since Apple apps don't run on Android, and vice versa. And the online stores further lock in some of the purchased media content, for example with copy protection on videos and books (but thankfully typically no longer on music). There's also further lock in from intertwining your digital life with the convenience of the platform, as all your downloads and purchases are remembered in the online store.

Then cloud services can further deepen your connection with a particular platform, as you turn over your content for backup and syncing, and rely on the convenience of having all the pieces automatically work together. The level of risk and pain to move to a different platform significantly increases, as you not only need to be able to extract and transfer your content, but also work out the right combination of tools to re-establish the smooth flow between devices.

So if you're interested in these cool new devices, you think beyond style and size and features, and also consider the online stores and cloud services. You might think a bit longer term about how your interests align with the different focus and capabilities offered by the different services.

Apple Cloud Services - iCloud


Apple has branded its online services under the iCloud name, with the focus on sharing and syncing your content among your Apple devices, and not so much for web access. Purchases propagate to all your devices, and can be augmented with your own personal media.

Apple Market Stats

  • iTunes Store - World’s most popular online music, app, TV, movie store (9/12)
    • Music - Over 26 million songs (9/12)
    • Video - 190,000 TV episodes, 45,000 films (9/12)
    • Music $0.69, $0.99, $1.20 / track; iTunes Plus 256 kbps AAC
  • iTunes Store - Reading (10/12)
    • iBookstore - Over 1.5 M books, 400 M downloads to date (10/12)
    • Newsstand - Over 5,000 newspapers and magazines (10/12)
  • App Store - Over 5 M apps (10/12) - Launch July 2008
    • $6.5 B paid to developers (Apple 30% share)
    • iPad - Runs over 700,000 apps, 275,000+ specifically for iPad
    • 18 B apps downloaded -- more than 1 B per month (10/11)
  • Have 200M accounts with credit cards (3/11)
  • iCloud - More than 125 million users (6/12)
    • Shared Photo Stream iOS 6 - 70 M photos shared (10/12)
    • 125 M Documents in Cloud

Apple iCloud Services

  • Free cloud services - Store and sync media, apps, contacts, calendar
    • Media accessible from computers and mobile devices, Free for Macs and iOS
  • Automatically download all purchases on any device into library on your Mac or PC
  • New Download button to bring copy offline
  • Save place - Pause movie, TV show, podcast, iTunes U lesson, audiobook on one device, pick up on other device where left off
  • 5 GB free storage: Not including purchased (music, apps, books, TV), Photo Stream
    • Store - mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, other app data
  • iTunes in the Cloud - Buy on any device, appears on all devices -- access previous purchases
  • iTunes Match - $24.99 a year - Access entire collection of music
    • Scan and match to songs in iTunes Store; Upload unmatched music
    • Listen at 256 Kbps AAC - iTunes Plus quality
  • Photo Stream - Shoot on device, share photo albums across all devices
    • Stores new photos for 30 days, rolling collection last 1000 photos
  • Shared Photo Stream - Comments
  • Documents in the Cloud - Keep up to date for same app on multiple devices
    • Integrated with Apple Keynote, Pages, Numbers, third-party apps
  • Apps - App Store purchase history on all devices, auto download
  • Books - iBooks/ iBookstore purchase history on all devices
    • Download, share bookmarks, highlights, notes
  • Contacts, Calendar, Mail - Stored in iCloud, pushed/updated to all devices
    • Mail - free email account, new messages pushed to all devices
  • Backup - Back up changes on iOS device daily over Wi-Fi, Apple ID / password
    • Purchased music, apps, and books
    • Personal data: Photos and video in Camera Roll, Device settings, App data
    • Home screen and app organization, Text and MMS messages, Ringtones
  • Find My iPhone - Locate, remote lock
  • Find My Friends - See locations of people who've opted to share their location with you
    • Invite friends to share location for a limited time, parental controls


Amazon / Kindle Cloud Services

In contrast to Apple, Amazon just wants you as a regular customer for its store, and is agnostic about which device you then use to access your content. You can play music and stream movies online, on the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, on other Android and Apple iOS devices, and even on TVs and game consoles. Amazon is quite happy to have you download its Amazon Store app to click to buy on your iPhone, and its Amazon Kindle app to read your books on the iPad, or its Cloud Player app to stream your music.

Amazon is also in the cloud storage business, so you can store your documents and other files in the cloud, to sync from your desktop and access on other devices. But it's less focused, for example, on photo syncing and sharing, and not involved in contacts and calendars.

Amazon / Kindle Market Stats

  • Fire users downloaded hundreds of millions of apps and games from Amazon Appstore (8/12)
    • Average In-App purchase generates more than 2X revenue of average paid app transaction
  • Kindle Fire - #1 best-selling product across the millions of items available on Amazon (8/12)
    • Most successful product launch in the history of, over 10,000 5-star customer reviews
    • In just nine months, Kindle Fire captured 22% of tablet sales in U.S.

Amazon / Kindle Store

  • Access books, videos, apps, audiobooks, games, and music that you buy
    • on Amazon apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, game consoles, TVs, and online
  • Over 22 million movies, TV shows, apps, games, books, magazines and more availalbe on Kindle
  • Over 1.2 million popular books, plusmillions of free, public domain books
    • Over 600,000 books less than $4.99, over 1 million less than $9.99
  • Over 400 magazines in HD
  • Over 100,000 Audible audiobook titles - 50,000 in Kindle Store
  • MP3 Music Store / Cloud Player - Over 20 million songs, 1 million albums (MP3 - DRM-free)
    • Saved to Cloud Player, play on web, Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Sonos
    • Songs start at $0.99, most bestselling albums start at $7.99
    • Import music collection - scan and match - songs instantly available, upgraded to high-quality 256 Kbps
    • All Amazon purchases and first 250 imported songs free
    • Cloud Player Premium - Up to 250,000 songs $24.99 / year
  • Amazon Instant Video Store - Over 120,000 movies and TV shows - buy or rent, stream or download
    • Watch online, on the go on Kindle Fires and iPad
    • Compatible with hundreds of HDTVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, gaming consoles (PS 3, Xbox 360)
    • Growing vs. Netflix
  • Appstore for Android - Test drive, Free app of the day
Cloud Drive
  • Store your photos, documents, videos, other digital files in cloud - Secure storage
  • Access photos on Kindle Fire (new), Fire HD
  • Manage from web
  • Cloud Drive Desktop app on Windows and Mac - Drag and drop, right-click
  • 5 GB free storage (2000 photos), 20 GB $10 / year - 1000 GB $500 / year
Amazon Prime
  • Free two-day shipping
  • Kindle Owners' Lending Library - Borrow over 210,000 book titles for free, 1 book a month, no due dates
  • Prime Instant Videos - Unlimited, instant, commercial-free streaming of over 25,000 movies and TV episodes
  • $7.99 / month - $79 / year - Half off for students

Amazon / Kindle Cloud Reading Services

  • Immersion Reading -Synchronize Kindle text with companion Audible audiobooks with real-time highlighting
    • Almost 15,000 Kindle books and companion Audible audiobooks
    Share Popular Highlights - interesting passages; Public Notes - Community
  • Whispersync for Books - Automatically sync library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, highlights across devices
  • Whispersync for Voice - Switch between listening to Audible audiobook and reading companion Kindle book at same point
  • Whispersync for Movies - Switch device, resume watching from same scene
  • Whispersync for Games - GameCircle titles store progress in the cloud
  • X-Ray for Books - Tap to find chapters and locations that mention ideas, characters, important places,
    • background info, biographies, and more from Shelfari and Wikipedia
  • X-Ray for Textbooks - Tap for related pages, access to glossary, related content on Wikipedia and YouTube
  • X-Ray for Movies - Tap to see actors, favorite characters, related movies (IMDb)
  • Kindle FreeTime - Parental limits, customize for each child

Amazon Cloud Content Services

  • Free storage for all Amazon digital content in the Amazon Cloud, re-download anytime


Google Cloud Services - Google Play, Google Drive, Google Docs

While the Amazon Kindle Fire is built on the Google Android platform, Amazon wants you using its media and app stores, and not the Google stores. For other Android devices, Google has re-branded its Google Play Store, now also offering music and videos, books and magazines.

So while Apple's focus is on devices and Amazon's is on accessing anywhere, Google's focus starts in the cloud itself. Your contacts and calendar and photos live online, where you can view -- and edit -- directly from a web browser, and then sync between different devices. Plus, the entire Google Docs suite of office applications works online, including word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, drawing, including sharing, collaborating with others, and even jointly editing documents. These then can join other files that you store in the Google Drive cloud, along with your Gmail messages and attachments.

Google Play Store

  • Browse and download music, books, magazines, movies, television programs, applications
  • Music ~ Millions of songs
    • Music Manager - import entire iTunes music library – Add up to 20,000 songs for free
  • Movies & TV ~ Thousands of movies and TV shows in full HD
    • Rent or purchase, watch on device or on web
  • Books ~ World's largest collection of eBooks, millions of free titles, samples
    • Hundreds of thousands titles, over 4 million free
  • Magazines ~ latest magazines
  • Android Apps - 450K apps, developers receive 70% [Android Market]

Google Cloud Services - Google Drive, Google Docs

  • Google Account - Free - back up to cloud, sync - Gmail, Calendar, contacts, photos

Google Drive

  • Store files safely, Access everywhere
  • Cloud data storage and sync + Google Docs collaborative editing
  • Cloud file storage - Sync to desktop and portable clients
  • Access everywhere - PC and Mac, Chrome OS, iPhone and iPad, Android
  • View - Open over 30 file types in browser; Search, Share, Revisions
Online Storage
  • Google Drive - 5 GB free for synced and uploaded files
  • Picasa - 1 GB free for photos and videos
  • Gmail - 10 GB free for messages and attachments
  • Buy additional storage - 25 GB to 16 TB, 25 GB $2.49 / month

Google Docs

  • Free, Web-based office suite and data storage service
  • Create and edit documents online
  • Collaborative editing - multiple users simultaneously
  • Google Docs word processing, Sheets spreadsheets, Slides presentation
  • Google Drawings, Google Forms survey
  • Save locally - ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Microsoft Office
  • Google Docs Android app - View, edit, create Google Docs files
  • Google App for iOS - View and edit Google Docs

Mix and Match

  • Customize for your needs
  • iCloud - for music store, photos - among devices
  • Amazon Kindle - for books - read anywhere
  • Google Docs - for work - docs, calendar

On to Handheld Devices - Media Players, E-Book Readers, Smartphones and Tablets
On to Portable Accessories - Audio, Imaging, Storage, Power, Cases, Digital Health