Monthly Archives: April 2011

Google Apps Conforms to Flexible Pricing Structure

If you follow the technology and business news at any degree, I believe that it goes without saying that it’s a rarity (at best) to witness a “trend-setting” company like Google blatantly and openly mimic the actions of a competing company; although I’m sure there are a few iPhone users who got a chuckle at that statement.  But regardless, one cannot deny that Google’s business practices are usually seen as new and often unorthodox in a practice that often-times leaves Google one step in front of their competition.  One great service that Google has been mildly successful with is previously reviewed Google Apps, a service that allows Internet domain owners to quickly and easily set up managed and branded Google services for their organizations.  And while Google was indeed one of the first companies to bring third-party email and cloud hosting into the mainstream, the company has recently been subjected to stiff competition from a surprising source.

You see, Redmond-based Microsoft recently released a public beta of a new small-business targeted collaboration and communication system dubbed “Office 365”.  When looking at the service last week, I quickly came to the conclusion that Microsoft was definitely heading in the right direction with their new service which gives smaller businesses and organizations cost-effective access to the same services (Exchange, Sharepoint) that are typically only seen in larger businesses, leaving Google with a bit of catching up to do.

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Will Mobile Phones Replace Wallets, Key Chains, and Passwords?

When the Apple iPhone was first released in 2007, one of the greatest features it sported (it was a first generation product, mind you) was the integrated “iPod” application which allowed users to store, carry, and listen to music just like Apple’s famed iPod music player.  While I cannot find the story or video for the life of me now, I distinctively remember seeing a gentleman discuss the fact that his iPhone actually replaced his iPod, freeing up more room in his pocket.  And while this is really a corny “feature”, one cannot help but realize that the modernization of mobile phone technology – not only with the iPhone, but with other platforms as well has made our handheld device incredibly powerful and versatile.  For many, this has indeed eliminated the need to carry separate devices for different tasks.  But for those of us who live, breathe, and sleep technology the question remains; how long until mobile devices are able to replace our wallets?  How about our keys?

And really, the thought concept really isn’t all that far out.  Many people have recently been discussing the future of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and its potential to revolutionize retail payment processing.  At core, the technology is actually very simple, involving a point-of-sale machine reading a small signal omitted from a customer’s mobile phone in order to access pre-defined payment information to complete the transaction.  Sure, there’s a bit of criticism towards the idea and there aren’t all that many folks on board just yet, but the technology is already there and is even being implemented in some large chain-stores as part of a testing process.  However, with patents having surfaced earlier this year, many believe that the next generation iPhone (dubbed the iPhone 5) will be the first major consumer device to feature RFID technology.

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Evernote CEO: iOS More Profitable Than Android and Web

No matter what industry or market you’re looking at, you will always find that businesses and companies invest a great deal of capital and effort in determining the most profitable target audience(s) that they feel they will see a higher return on investment by marketing and selling the goods or services to.  Historically, this practice has been a relatively simple matter of determining the largest group of people who had a need or use for a particular product and investing on their impressions.

However, in the heart of the technological age we have seen that targeting a larger audience doesn’t necessarily guarantee a high ROI.  Rather, the specific characteristics and attributes of people within the audience groups ultimately determine how profitable a specific venture will be.  Recently we have seen a very well-documented example of this phenomenon with the “freemium” Evernote service after CEO Phil Libin discussed the company’s primary focus on iOS-based devices, which ultimately pay off better in the long-run.

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How To: Sync Your Flickr Photos to Facebook

Want an easy way to transport your photos off Flickr?  Well, one Twitter user (@Digeratii) found a simple web service which allows you to sync your Flickr photos to your Facebook account.  The service is called PhotoSync and is dead simple to setup.  Simply go to the website and give the service access to your Facebook and Flickr accounts and you’re able to sync.

You can customize the settings which allow you to control which Flickr sets you would like to sync.  So if you didn’t want all of your Flickr photos on Facebook, you can easily sync only individual sets of photos.  Additionally, you can configure Facebook privacy settings for the photos being synced.  However, by default, it will use your default privacy settings on Facebook.

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Why Aren’t Analysts Jumping on the Netflix Bandwagon?

Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) has become a very hot stock recently.  The stock is currently trading at $229 (which is down from a high of $254) and has seen over an 1000% return in just over nine months under Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.  In its most recent Q1 earnings report, Netflix reported it currently has 21.4 million subscribers, which is up 57%.  The company’s earnings are also up 88% in the most recent quarter.  Netflix is also planning on expanding its service to other countries, it recently launched its streaming-only service in Canada.

Netflix earns a majority of its revenue through its subscriptions which start at $8.99 per month in the U.S. and $7.99 in Canada.  The company expects to see the majority of subscribers move over to its streaming services within the next year.  The streaming services cost significantly less than its DVD delivery service.

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Amazon Web Services: A Scaling Issue?

The Internet as we know it is home to a gross amount of information and content, where everyone from individuals like you and me to businesses small and large are able to interact on a global scale in ways never before thought possible.  Perhaps more importantly, the global network has changed the way that we as modern-day individuals go about our daily lives and how we express, share, and gain knowledge from ideas.  And in order to orchestrate our Internet lives, online portals and communities serve as the hub for our linked interaction.  After all, what would the Internet be like without social networks such as Facebook and community-driven news websites like Reddit?  But while very few people would venture to challenge the importance of these incredibly revolutionary web services, the question as to how exactly these sites run rarely crosses our minds as Internet-centric users.

Simply put though, the “big” websites that have become everyday aspects of our modern Internet lives have amazingly large infrastructures to back what we as consumers see in the front-end. These ginormous infrastructures only gain in complexity and structure with the growing sizes of growing sites and applications. And while this complexity and scalability of in-house servers used to be one of the biggest things that would cause the CEO’s of large Internet-driven companies to lose sleep at night, “newer” services such as Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) system have taken the hassle out of such nightmares, making it easy for websites and cloud-based services to scale as their success rises. This is because services like EC2 allow businesses to outsource their server needs and focus their creative efforts more efficiently, all whilst operating on platforms built to be more or less bulletproof; often times at more competitive pricing to boot.

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iPhone Developers Get Their Hands on Non-Released Handsets

Irish novelist James Joyce once said that “a man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”  While you can take what you will from that statement, many perceive it as meaning that mistakes and blunders are what give us the knowledge to better pursue the future.  And while the company is highly successful one would be ignorant not to realize that Apple has made a fair amount of mistakes over the last couple of years.  Perhaps one of the largest and most widely known of these mistakes was an incident that took place about this time last year when Apple made the misjudgment of allowing a number of select employees to actively use prototype versions of the yet to be released forth-generation iPhone.  One of these employees, the now infamous Gray Powell, overlooked the then highly secretive device and ultimately ended up misplacing it in a Bay Area bar.

After making its way through the news the story was quickly forgotten by many, and based upon Apple’s tremendous sales of the device later that year we can only infer that their overall business didn’t considerably suffer from the occurrence.  But now as we edge closer to iPhone season last years events have gained a whole new level of importance, raising questions as to what Apple would do this time around.  After all, the company is in a very touch situation.  You see, Apple still needs to have their hardware tested and evaluated by developers and engineers.  But taking into consideration the near blow that the company was dealt last year, it’s probably safe to say that we all expected to see stronger restrictions imposed by Apple for this year’s iPhone prototype.

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iPhone Found to Store Location Data: Is it a Big Deal?

Yesterday technology news was filled with stories regarding the Apple iPhone and the fact that it has recently been discovered to store a history of location coordinates.  This news came after technology researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan discovered a somewhat hidden file on the device while doing research for an entirely different project.  Immediately after this news surfaced people began crying foul left and right, declaring the activity as a blatant violation of privacy.  And while I cannot argue that this action on the part of Apple is indeed a bit big brother-ish, we really have to sit down and ask ourselves if this is all that big of a deal.

First and foremost, it’s incredibly important to consider that the file is simply stored on the device and any computers that the iPhone syncs or backs up to.  The file is never – as far as we know – sent out to Apple or any of its contractors or agents, and I am confident that the researchers that discovered the file would have realized and shared if the file was indeed transmitted.  So off the bat, the privacy violation concept has been diminished because no one ever sees the data.

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AT&T’s Free MicroCell Campaign Is Awesome.

It’s not often that I’ve been known to praise AT&T for anything, but this time I think they deserve some recognition.  The other day, I received an email from AT&T stating that I was eligible for a free MicroCell.  What is a MicroCell you ask?  A MicroCell is essentially mini cell phone tower for your home/business.  It promises up to 5 bars (I have consistently had 5 bars at all times) at all times and so far in my experience it has delivered just that.

It connects via your Internet connection over ethernet and is designed to support up to 4 simultaneous devices at once.  If you were to buy one, the device costs $130.  There’s no additional monthly fee, all phone calls use your existing minutes on your cell phone plan.  The AT&T MicroCell will only work with AT&T 3G phones and can be configured to support specific phones using the phone number associated with that device.

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Can Office 365 Help Microsoft’s Relevance in the Cloud?

In Apple’s 2005 era “Mac vs. PC” advertising campaign, the company worked to attribute Microsoft’s Windows operating system as dated and boring by associating it with spreadsheets, number crunching,mail-merges, and just about everything that consumer computer users deem as “boring.”  And even though Mac OS X is indeed a great operating system for business use, I cannot deny the fact that Apple had a point.  Microsoft has always been known for their flagship office suite, appropriately marketed as “Microsoft Office.”  When you combine this with enterprise-level collaboration and communications solutions such as Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft has historically had a leading edge in this field.

But even with this advantage, Microsoft has more recently found themselves against a growing roadblock that has figuratively dulled their edge on the business communications and collaborations market which they previously dominated.  With the development of cloud-based alternatives to both Exchange, Sharepoint, and even the Microsoft Office suite, new solutions have become much more attractive alternatives to Microsoft’s array of products.  Google Apps, for example, gives businesses small and large access to a full suite of cost-effective and proven information technology systems.  One of the biggest selling points for these services has been the fact that they operate entirely on third-party platforms, meaning that businesses and companies have the flexibility to run fully featured business communications systems without the cost or headache of traditional IT overhead.

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Will the BlackBerry PlayBook Struggle to Attract Developers?

It’s no secret that mobile communication devices (tablets in general) are the “in” thing in the tech industry right now.  After releasing the first generation iPad last year, Apple grandfathered an entirely revolutionary and previously unheard of market; one that many didn’t think would go far at all.  But here we are now, just a tad more than a year later, and the struggle on the part of retail stores to maintain stock on the second generation iPad speaks for itself in terms of the tablet computer’s popularity and overall success with consumers as a whole.  And with the outstanding success of the iPad product line, the last year has brought way to a number of other companies rolling out their own tablet computers in moves quite obviously devised to take a stab at Apple’s stronghold in this promising market.

One of the companies that has been working to anchor into the tablet industry has been Resources In Motion; the company that is best-known for producing and developing the BlackBerry smartphone line.  After previously discussing the PlayBook in January I more recently looked at the viability of RIM‘s tablet computer in a critical light, questioning if users would be willing to give the device a go despite the fact that it wasn’t priced any lower than the already established Apple iPad.

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Why Google’s Less Than Expected Earnings Don’t Worry Me in the Least

In terms of Internet-driven companies, Google is the living breathing definition of the success attained through hard work and innovation.  The company, originally formed as part of a side-project on the part of a few eager college students on a mission to index the Internet, has managed to become a large-scale enterprise that is just as profitable as it is influential.

For years now this influence and profit has been entirely evident in Google’s noteworthy road to success.  The company has done very well for itself by expanding beyond its original search engine foundation, and has (for the most part) done well with newer services such as Gmail and Google Apps; services that have  been a wild success amongst individuals and businesses of all sizes alike.  However, more recent news has shed a critical light on Google’s success after the company failed to meet profit expectations in their last quarterly posting.  But even though this news doesn’t seem to have set very well with some investors that have opted to side with caution after the news came out earlier this week, I honestly am not buying into the fear of Google’s failure.

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