Saturday, May 24, 2014

iCloud: What I Would Change About the Service

Apple has built several different web services such as .Mac, Mobile Me, Ping (the music themed social network), and most recently iCloud. Many technology pundits have said that while Apple builds lovely hardware they don't have the best track record with web services. Sadly, as much as I love Apple products (as I have expressed in earlier posts) I tend to agree with general field. It is not that I dislike their services as much as I find their offerings lackluster and underwhelming. iCloud offers email, calendaring, contacts, to dos, and document syncing/storage for iWork documents. The problem with iCloud is the service provides no compelling reason to switch to iCloud over Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and other combined services platforms.

If Apple were to re-tool iCloud in a few ways they could have an amazing service that provides great value to their customers:

a) Email: The iCloud email service is workable and has no ads (unlike Yahoo and Gmail) though their is not compelling reason to switch away from your current email provider (particularly if you've been using that address for many years). Apple should allows users to set-up their domain name with iCloud email service at no cost, and hassle free.  While other services are available for hosting domain specific email many solutions are unwieldy for small businesses or independent professionals.

b) Document(s): iCloud allows for document syncing/storage for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents though the marketshare for those applications is small in comparison to other document formats.  As there are several alternatives for document storage like Google Drive, Dropbox without the application limits Apple could re-tool the service as flat cloud storage and also provide greater security than other services. Apple could provide full encryption for uploaded files, and for extra-points provide options for complete privacy where even Apple can't access the file contents. (This furthers Apple's stance as a strong advocate their user's privacy.*)

*For an amazing look at the security Apple has built into their iOS products I highly recommend episodes 446-448 of Security Now on the TWIT netcast network. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Everyone in an Uproar Over Apple Buying Beats Headphones

The internet has been rocketed by the news that Apple is in the process of purchasing Beat Headphones for a  $3.2 billion dollars for the past few days with a great deal of speculation on what the deal means for both Apple and Beats.

I am not an audiophile, and have never tried Beats headphones so I can't speak to their quality or value. Though clearly the brand has a strong following and they are primarily a hardware company (though my understanding is that Monster handled the actually production in the beginning), which is something the companies have in common. Beats also has a fledgling streaming service though not as popular as Spotify or Pandora and Apple has the iTunes Radio service, which while still a minor player in the streaming market is a strong contender. 

Most the uproar across the internet seems to be over the fact that Apple is buying a well-known company with a strong brand, which is something they traditionally haven't done. Regardless on how this turns out I think this definitely shows a change in Apples acquisition strategy going forward. Apple traditionally either rolls companies into the Apple mothership (e.g. La La) or keep them completely seperate (e.g. FileMaker) so it will be interesting to see how Apple handles the acquisition.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Google+ as Digital Hub

When the head of Google+, Vic Gundotra, decided to leave Google after 8 years the speculation surrounding Google+'s future began:  Google+ is Walking Dead, Minus Its Leader, What's Left at Google+, and Google+ Isn't Dead. Its Just in a Coma and on Life Support. Google's social offering is a beautifully designed social network with strong photo,video, and chat features plus a powerful audience system built around circles allowing users to selectively share across different groups. The company has also spent much energy embedding the Google+ service into other Google products making Google+ the defacto sign-in for Google services. However, as the NY Times reported earlier this year these efforts have not necessarily built a social network to rival Facebook. Though as that article mentions Google+'s value to Google is not as a social network (at-least not really).  The services real value to the company is a data river providing important social data across their different services.

The data that Google gathers through Google+ has unmeasurable value though Google doesn't need to manage a social network to maintain access to that data. Rather than creating their own platform Google could instead manage the pipes that bring the content to other services. Google could be the digital hub where users push their content (i.e. posts, videos, chats, etc.) out to other services, and networks. This builds on Googles strengths within Google Plus: photos, hangouts, and identify while maintaining access to the the social data they value to build out their services like search. Users benefit by being able to interact on their favorite social network (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and/or service where their communities reside. Social networks shift and change as users migrate and tastes changes. Through building the digital pipes that connects different services Google can cement their access to social data and provide users with a valuable service.