Modern Data Centers Turn to Flash Solutions from Fusion-io

Apple, much like Google and Amazon, delivers Web services to hundreds of millions of people, from servers based in enormous data centers. Apple’s iCloud currently serves more than 250 million people, which is beginning to require new hardware and software that are more efficient than what is available in those data centers. Apple and Facebook, among others, have turned to flash-based options from Fusion-io. Continue reading Modern Data Centers Turn to Flash Solutions from Fusion-io

Mossberg on iTunes Match: Store Your Songs without Slow Uploads

  • Walt Mossberg favorably reviews Apple’s iTunes Match service. For $25/year, you can create a music locker in the Cloud that allows you to play your music collection on up to 10 devices.
  • In contrast to similar locker services from Google and Amazon, you do not have to upload your entire collection — iTunes Match scans your iTunes library and matches it with its 20 million song library.
  • The service only works for digital music currently, and not for movies, TV shows or audiobooks.
  • Your locker can include up to 25,000 songs. It’s worth noting that, “Match is an optional addition to an existing free service called iTunes in the Cloud, which covers only songs you bought from Apple’s iTunes store.”
  • “In all, I like iTunes Match, and can recommend it to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on all their devices,” writes Mossberg. “It’s another nice feature of iCloud, priced reasonably.”

New iOS 5 Requires that Users Upgrade to iTunes 10.5

  • Apple’s much anticipated iOS 5 launches this week and will require an upgrade to iTunes 10.5 in order to download.
  • According to TechCrunch, the new version of iTunes includes integration with iTunes Match: “For $25 a year, iTunes Match will give you legal digital access to any songs you own (be it through legal means or not). Match won’t actually launch until late October, but support is built into 10.5.”
  • The updated iTunes also “patches a number of Windows-specific security issues,” offers “Wi-Fi syncing support (when paired with iOS 5)” and provides “purchase history (for books, apps, etc.) through iCloud.”
  • For those planning to install the new version, visit the iTunes download page.

Cloud Battle Begins: Should Amazon take Lessons from Apple iCloud?

  • In order for Amazon to stay competitive in the cloud computing market, its S3 (Simple Storage Service) and EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) could take some notes from Apple’s iCloud (launching October 12).
  • Seamless integration “provides iCloud with huge scale advantages over Amazon,” suggests Forbes, by wirelessly storing content from iPhones, iPads, the iPod touch, Macs or PCs and automatically pushing content to all devices.
  • “Consumer-centricity” makes cloud-computing user-friendly with targeted features like iTunes Match. “This feature prevents the need to painstakingly upload music into the cloud as iTunes Match itself creates a library matching the user’s existing playlist.”
  • And pricing. “While the iCloud provides free 5GB-worth of storage for documents, mail, and back-up for iOS 5 users, Amazon’s S3 service charges users for even the first gigabyte of storage space.”
  • The article points that little is yet known about Amazon’s other competitor, Google’s GDrive.

iTunes Match: Supports Downloading AND Streaming from the Cloud

  • Apple’s iTunes Match went live to developers for testing this week and music “streaming” from the cloud is reportedly already up and running.
  • If the hype is accurate, the TechCrunch article header from Dennis Kuba’s story submission may prove telling: “With iTunes In The Cloud, Apple Under-Promises And Over-Delivers.”
  • Apple enthusiasts are excited to see what shakes out this fall with iOS 5 and iCloud. Yesterday, TechCrunch reported: “Tonight brought perhaps the biggest surprise revelation yet: iTunes in the Cloud will support streaming as well as downloading of music.”
  • There is also speculation that this announcement may lead to a possible “cloud iPhone.” Rumors are making the rounds that Apple might unveil a low-cost iPhone 4 (with minimal on-board storage) alongside its new iPhone 5 release. If iTunes has streaming functionality, the low-cost version of the iPhone could rely on the cloud for content.
  • Be sure to check out the iTunes Match videos included in the post.
  • TechCrunch recently added an update: “There’s some debate going on right now about whether or not this is technically streaming. Even Apple is avoiding the term, as Peter Kafka points out. There are two reasons for this — reasons Google follows as well with their service.”

Apple WWDC: New OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud

The much anticipated Apple Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off Monday of this week in San Francisco and continues through tomorrow. To gets things rolling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the opening keynote and, as expected, focused much of his presentation on the company’s initiatives regarding cloud computing and related services.

Some analysts are commenting that Jobs was not only introducing cloud initiatives during the keynote, but attempting to redefine the very notion of the technology. “It just works,” was Jobs’ repeated mantra while he appeared on stage, suggesting 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,” reports TechCrunch.

In the same article, TechCrunch suggests that Apple is viewing the cloud differently than its competitors (and presenting it in a simpler manner). Also, Apple is placing a greater emphasis on the web component with its MobileMe service and providing iCloud free with iOS 5. Whereas Google and Amazon are concerned with the ideas of servers, disks, data — Apple sees the focus differently. According to TechCrunch: “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.” (For a list of the iCloud offerings, visit the MacDailyNews report.)

iOS 5

Apple previewed iOS 5, the latest version of its mobile operating system (the company also released a beta version to iOS Developer Program members). The beta release includes over 200 new features available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch by the fall. Features include: Notification Center for managing notifications in one place without interruption; iMessage service for easily sending text messages, photos and videos between iOS devices; and Newsstand for organizing newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

iCloud and Music

The response to iTunes in the cloud seems mostly positive so far (and has been helped by Apple signing agreements with all four major music labels). Rolling Stone reports that allowing consumers to “reproduce their entire digital collections on locker-style servers accessible via 10 devices – including iPhones, iPads and computers – may not save the ravaged record industry, but it could provide a crucial new revenue stream while allowing consumers to easily consolidate their music libraries in the cloud.”

“Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Jobs said in San Francisco. “We have a great solution for this problem. We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”

“It is one way to make someone pay for music they’ve already bought. It’s pretty ingenious,” commented Syd Schwartz, a former EMI Music executive in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m sure someone in an executive office at a major label somewhere is going, ‘At least that’s one way we can monetize the stuff people stole from Napster over the years.'”

Additional Announcements

Apple’s iCloud announcement was augmented by news of several other products and services. The Nieman Journalism Lab offers an interesting perspective: “In addition to introducing the long-awaited OS X Lion and announcing noteworthy Twitter integration, Apple has also, from the looks of things, gone on a veritable app-eating binge. The company, it announced, has created: ‘Reading List,’ a read-later functionality that allows users to time-shift their consumption of content (sound familiar?); a cloud-storage service, iCloud (which looks remarkably like this one); and a new camera and image-editing feature (kind of like this one).”

From a journalism perspective, Nieman Lab adds: “The biggest news is Apple introduction of Newsstand for iOS, which looks to be essentially an iBooks for publishers’ content — a central location for users’ magazine and newspaper subscriptions. With the new feature (well, new as of this fall), readers can browse a virtual bookshelf — literally, ‘wooden’ and all — and subscribe to a periodical in one tap. New issues will be downloaded in the background, solving one of the biggest problems for magazine publishers who push out issues that are hundreds of megabytes in size.”

Mac OS X Lion

As announced by Apple prior to the WWDC, the company will be releasing its new Mac OS X Lion next month. MacDailyNews reports that Lion will include more than 250 new features, 3,000 new developer APIs and, “will be available to customers in July as a download from the Mac App Store for US$29.99. Some of the amazing features in Lion include: new Multi-Touch gestures; system-wide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, an innovative view of everything running on your Mac; the Mac App Store, the best place to find and explore great software, built right into the OS; Launchpad, a new home for all your apps; and a completely redesigned Mail app.”

Apple vs. the World

It’s worth noting that some see Apple’s developments as a significant move forward in challenging its competitors. Robert X. Cringely, for example, has gone as far as suggesting that iCloud’s “real” purpose is to kill Microsoft. In response to Jobs’ contention that iCloud will “demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device – just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch,” Cringely explains on his blog that “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

Intentional or not, only time will tell. Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related TechCrunch article: “It Just Works” (6/8/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “On iCloud, Baby” (5/31/11)

Related Rolling Stone article: “How Apple’s iCloud Could Help Save the Music Industry” (6/6/11)

Related Nieman Journalism Lab article: “Newsstand, Reader, iCloud: 3 takeaways for the news business from today’s Apple announcement” (6/7/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Apple introduces breakthrough iCloud; free service ‘just works’” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “New iOS 5 includes over 200 new features, including Notification Center, iMessage, Newsstand, Twitter integration” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Mac OS X Lion with 250 new features available in July via Mac App Store for $29.99” (6/6/11)

Related Patently Apple article: “Apple working on a Sophisticated Infrared System for iOS Cameras” (6/2/11)

Related Wired article (with video): “Jobs Pitches New ‘Mothership’ to Approving Cupertino City Council” (6/8/11)

Related I, Cringely post: “iCloud’s real purpose: kill Microsoft” (6/7/11)

Ultrabook, Padfone and iCloud: Impact on the PC Market?

Personal computing has seen some dramatic shifts in recent years, thanks in large part to the impact of social networking and its integration with entertainment media; the increased capability of smartphones and other portable devices; new high-speed networks and faster, smaller chips; the introduction of tablets and apps — and, of course, the success behind what many are currently labeling “The iPad Effect.”

Consumers have responded with increased demands and expectations regarding the convenience in which they are able to access their information, entertainment and various forms of electronic communication. As CE manufacturers scramble toward meeting these expectations, we are starting to see some interesting new form factors and delivery systems, as well as a potential impact on our more traditional electronic devices.

One of the ways this is playing out is in regards to the design, features, functionality (and competition) of tablets, laptops, netbooks, and PCs. And the prospect of additional changes resulting from cloud computing may accelerate the competition between devices. As we look forward, it should be worth keeping our eyes on the following trends and new products:

The Ultrabook

Intel is promoting a new category of laptops called the “Ultrabook” — a sort of hybrid laptop that incorporates the best features of tablets. The new designs (less than 0.8-inch thick) will be made possible by the latest 2nd-generation Intel Core processors. ASUS is one manufacturer behind the Ultrabook design and hopes to give Apple’s $999 MacBook Air a run for its money with the Ultrabook UX21 (featuring Intel’s i7 CPU and the new SanDisk U100 SSD). Intel predicts Ultrabooks could claim as much as 40 percent of the laptop market by 2012.

According to The Wall Street Journal: “A key goal is to deliver much thinner and lighter laptops, with mainstream price points and tablet-style features such as touchscreens and the ability to switch on quickly to let users call up websites without waiting.”

“They’ll cost under $1000, be extremely thin and portable, start up in seconds, be produced by a number of manufacturers and go on sale before Christmas,” adds Digital Trends in a similar write-up. “The emphasis on the portability and responsiveness of Ultrabooks shows that the world’s biggest chip maker is hoping to make consumers think twice about purchasing mobile devices such as the hugely popular iPad tablet.”

The Padfone

At Computex last week in Taipei, ASUS unveiled another new form factor, the “Padfone” — which Digital Trends describes as “a smartphone with a battery-equipped display dock that turns the device into a tablet.” The “pad” component does not function independently, but essentially serves as a tablet-shaped display with a dock, basically enhancing the phone’s functionality. In addition to a 10.1-inch screen to play with, the Padfone offers extended battery life, speakers, a keyboard, an I/O extender that will allow other devices to communicate with the phone, and functionality for the phone’s camera to keep working while docked. ASUS hinted at additional features that will be announced closer to the product’s planned Christmas release.

Will the Padfone, Ultrabook (or a similar new design) compete with current slate of tablets, laptops and desktop PCs? If the trends continue to push toward convenience, portability, speed, power, Web surfing and cloud services — the answer may be yes. At the very least, they may be the answer to netbooks. WSJ reports in response to the rise of thinner, more powerful devices: “The activity reflects both technology advances and growing pressure on personal-computer makers, particularly the rise of the iPad and other tablets. Goldman Sachs estimates that nearly 18 million of the touchscreen devices were sold in 2010, a figure it expects to swell to 60 million in 2011.”

iPad Tablet Competition

A number of manufacturers currently have tablet PCs on the market, but so far none of the devices (including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom or BlackBerry PlayBook) have been able to significantly compete with the growing success of the iPad, its many accessories and more than 65,000 apps. However, emerging tablets may impact the market by undercutting the price of the iPad. And with new, more powerful tablet chips from the likes of Intel, ARM and AMD, we may start to see some significant breakthroughs.

Taiwanese manufacturer Acer, for example, recently debuted its Iconia Tab A500 that runs Google’s Android OS. A $449 Wi-Fi version went on sale in April and a new model that works on AT&T’s 4G wireless network is scheduled for a summer release. “While it doesn’t beat either iPad overall, the Iconia Tab offers a decent alternative to Apple, especially for multimedia enthusiasts who want to display their content on a TV, PC or smartphone without additional gear,” reports WSJ.

If a new wave of price-conscious tablets can address the needs of consumers — particularly in regards to subscription- and cloud-based access to media content, video chats via services such as Skype or ooVoo, free and affordable new apps, and even potential glasses-free 3D displays (see the Eee Pad MeMO video demo from Engadget) — then the iPad (and other tablets) may start to feel the heat.

We may also see additional impact on the desktop PC market. It has been reported that PC manufacturers remain optimistic, viewing the recent dip in growth as a temporary bump in the road. However, in a report issued by Gartner this week, PC sales are not expected to grow as much in 2011 as earlier expected. The Gartner analysts blame the collapse of netbooks following the iPad’s release and added that, “regardless of the direct impact of the iPad and its kind, PCs no longer had the safety net they once did. They now had to compete against tablets, phones, set-top boxes and other devices as even the computers themselves were getting more specialized.”

Cloud Computing

A number of companies are gearing up for a new era of automated backup, synchronization, data storage and variety of cloud-based media services. There are those who believe this may be the final nail in the coffin for the desktop PC.

In a recent blog post commenting on Apple’s unveiling of OS X 10.7, iOS 5 and iCloud service — Robert X. Cringely addressed the possibility that Apple CEO Steve Jobs may be taking aim at killing Microsoft. Cringely writes, “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device — just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch. We’re going to move the hub of your digital life to the cloud,” explained Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week.

Cringely contends that this is the bold kind of thinking that Microsoft lacks. With Apple leading the charge, he suggests Google may soon take the same approach, “…adding automated backup, synchronization and migration to Android and Chrome.” We may see increased competition between Apple and Google if Cringely is correct in his assertion regarding the company that gets our data in the cloud, gets us as captive customers forever. “Both companies will be grabbing for data, claiming territory, and leaving Microsoft alone to defend a desktop that will soon cease to exist,” he suggests.

Time will tell what impact these changes will have on the desktop PC, but if Cringely is right, it won’t be much time… “This transition will take at most two hardware generations and we’re talking mobile generations, which means three years, total.”

What else?

Are there additional “bigger picture” themes we should be watching for in this sector? Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related Electronista article: “Apple more profitable than Microsoft as netbooks plunge 40%” (4/28/11)

Related Electronista post: “Gartner: PC growth slowing to 9.3% through iPad effect” (6/8/11)

Related Forbes article: “Microsoft Gets Reprieve As Tablets Aren’t Killing PC Sales (Yet)” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PCs See Tablets’ Silver Lining” (6/1/11)

Related Network World article: “AMD finally enters tablet market with new chip” (6/1/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “PC Makers Push Into ‘Ultrabooks'” (5/30/11)

Related Digital Trends article: “PadFone officially revealed, ASUS hints at Ice Cream Sandwich and second-gen tablets” (5/31/11)

Related Engadget post (includes videos): “ASUS announces the Padfone (update: eyes-on!)” (5/30/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Samsung Leans on Android” (5/31/11)

Related Reuters article: “Intel unveils laptops that include tablet features” (5/31/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “A New Tablet From Acer Challenges iPad on Price” (5/26/11)

Related Gizmag post: “ASUS announces glasses-free Eee Pad MeMO 3D tablet” (6/2/11)

Related O’Reilly Radar article: “The iPad’s ripple effect” (1/31/11)