Four cloud focused companies vying for my attention

Papa KyKy By Papa KyKy, 31st Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2i_04r3r/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Technology>Peripherals


There are currently four companies competing for my business for entertainment and productivity purposes. Out of the four, there is clearly one loser, one winner, and two fierce competitors. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Apple:

Services and Devices used (Itunes/Ipad) Apple is the one losing the most momentum for my purposes. Admittedly, I do not use a Mac, only an IPAD. Before that, it was my Ipod Touch. Apple is losing ground for my use, because it is the only one of the four that is not breaking any new ground. Or shall I say, no new ground that I am interested in. I am not a power computer user, so I may be missing out on many features that would be useful for them. My impression of OS X Yosemite is that its main feature is that it interacts better with Iphones and Ipads. While it is undoubtedly an interesting technological curiosity, I just don’t see the point of carrying on a phone conversation on a Mac from the IPhone. The Iphone itself does not provide any major advantage over Android for my purposes. Itunes was once my preferred method of organizing my music. Now it has become more difficult and annoying to use over time. Most of the features added over the years have only been aesthetic in value. I still overall prefer Apple Itunes over the horrid Windows Media Explorer, but not by much. It is bloated with unnecessary and outdated features that harken back to the day when everyone had music on their MP3 players instead of on their phones. Essentially, the main flaw of Apple is that their strength of owning the hardware and software is being reduced by the emergence of the cloud, where the hardware hardly matters anymore. Fortunately, Apple arguably has the best app store on the market in terms of software. I also enjoy their free podcasts, which the android market currently has no answer for.

Possible future use: I am still interested in future iterations of the Ipad. I also would like to get a
Mac Mini, to dip my feet in Apple’s world. However; both of these would be distant 3rd choices to
the other choices on the market for tablets and computers, simply due to price.

Microsoft:

Microsoft has taken some wrong turns over the past decade or so. After riding high on the success of Windows XP, they fumbled with Windows Vista, picked the ball up again with Windows 7, fumbled again with Windows 8, and appear to be on track to get a touchdown with Windows 10. The problem is, they may be getting a touchdown in the 4th quarter after losing by 28 points. Having said that, Microsoft’s biggest strength is that everything works on their platforms, including the other three companies that I am discussing here. Windows 7 is still more than adequate for the moderate uses that I have for computers. This is mainly because it is currently compatible with all modern browsers (although I expect this to change in a few years).
Looking forward, I am impressed with what Microsoft has done with the Surface Pro 3. And as the ad says, it is competitive in pricing with the Macbook Air. The main problem for my purposes, lies in the fact that it is infinitely more cost effective to have 2 separate devices. A tablet does not take up much space, and neither does a thin notebook. Is it really that inconvenient to have both? Like Apple, Microsoft seems to be trying to solve a problem that really doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, I applaud Microsoft for taking risks in trying something innovative. They are showing that they can be a major player in the hardware manufacturing space when they focus correctly.

Microsoft’s other success to failure (to possible success again) story lies in the Xbox brand. The Original Xbox was a moderate success, in that it outsold Nintendo’s console on their first try, but could not hope to catch up to the behemoth Sony Playstation 2. Xbox 360 stumbled at first, but came out to be a success by having a slight overall lead over the Playstation 3 (Although it is so close it is really a virtual tie, with Sony occasionally taking the lead for that generation). Xbox One was an ambitious attempt to be the center of the living room. The problem is that other devices are able to achieve much of the same thing at a much lower cost. The other problem is that the core purpose of playing games was done better and more cheaply on the Playstation. I do not currently own an Xbox One as of this writing, mostly because this generation of game consoles has not proved to be worth investing in at this time. In some ways, Microsoft is competing against itself. The Xbox 360 has great media capabilities, with more apps than most streaming boxes out there. Connecting it to Windows Media Player for Windows 7 opens up the possibilities quite a bit, but I have had mixed results in actual application. It is great that I have access to all of the pictures and Music saved under the Windows Media Player. However; the control is a bit laggy. More importantly, I can bypass the Xbox 360 completely by just hooking up my Windows Notebook directly to my TV. While using the Windows notebook directly with the TV works the best, this setup is the least convenient, and most clunky looking.. For games purposes, It appears like they have just added a few coats of paint, and a few bells and whistles, but nothing that says that it could not have been done almost as well on the Xbox 360. A prime example of this is Titanfall, which looks a lot better than I expected on Xbox 360. Xbox Music and Xbox Video are both good services that continue to improve. Although Microsoft has taken a few steps backwards over the years, they probably have the most potential to unify all of these cloud services onto a single platform. This is because Microsoft is getting away from the idea of needing to control the platform that everyone is on. They are instead making products and services themselves that work on almost anything, and having everyone come to them for top compatibility for all products.
Possible future use: I am somewhat interested in the Surface Pro 3, but the price must come down further for me to bite.

Google:

When it comes to cloud products and services, Google has made significant progress. The single biggest innovation that made me a Google fan was the ability to easily sync bookmarks on multiple devices (Android Phone and 2 Windows PC). This one innovation has made the Chrome browser the only one that I use. The browser is fast, and works great across all websites that I have used. This was not always the case, as in the early years, I had some difficulty with banking websites. This has now been cleared up since Chrome has become a major standard in web browsers.
Google music has a few advantages over Amazon Music, in that they give you a much larger number of songs that you can store on their servers for free. Amazon allows 250 songs for storage for free (plus unlimited storage of any digital songs purchased thru Amazon), and then you must pay for a subscription for $25/year for virtually unlimited storage (about 250,000 songs). While Google allows for up to 20,000 songs for free. I also like the Instant Mixes option for Google Music. This is somewhat similar to the Music Genius on Itunes, but implemented in a much better way. While both use your taste in music to recommend other songs that go together, Google Music makes the artist the focal point of grouping other artists that may appeal to you. The Itunes approach seems to be more random, and also seems to push you harder for a new purchase thru the Itunes store. Google Music has some jewels hidden in the rough. Thru some recent exploring, I discovered that I was able to download the entire albums of Katy Perry’s Prism, and Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Very Nice! It is true that Amazon and Apple also give away free music from time to time (in the case of Apple, they have a free song every Tuesday, and some exclusive deals with Starbucks). However; none of these equate to the value of getting these two entire albums for free. I am still exploring Google Music as an alternative to Amazon Music. Like Amazon, Google Music searches your computer for songs that you already have. Google seemed to have missed more songs than Amazon was able to pick up with their scan.
Google also has great software like Google Docs, which mimics Microsoft Word. For my light use, it is more than adequate. I especially like the fact that it automatically continuously saves your progress in the cloud every time that you stop typing. I do like Google + features of controlling the circles of friends that you have to share with. This for me is a big advantage over the share everything with everyone approach with Facebook. When the wireless internet is as reliable as electricity, I will be that much more comfortable with these onlines services. The benefits do outweigh any problems that may arise with the lack of an internet connection.

Possible future use: I am extremely interested in getting a Chromebook computer as a second computer at some point in the near future. I like the idea of fast startups, no virus protection software or continuous updating, slowdowns, no blue screens of death, etc. I still would want to have a Windows computer available as the primary computer, due to working with everything under the sun. However; virtually everything that I am doing, I should be able to do on a Chromebook also. I live in the cloud. I feel very comfortable there now, especially after my computer hard drive crashing last year, and spending $300 to get it fixed and restored. I could have easily purchased a Chromebook with that.

Amazon

Amazon is the only one of the four companies that sells products for all four companies. Amazon has become highly competitive in the tablet market. It has become the biggest alternative to Netflix. Although the library is not as expansive as Netflix, and they don’t have as many hit original shows, Amazon has a few advantages over Netflix. 1. HBO Library. Amazon has acquired the use of HBO’s older library of original content (everything is at least 3 years old).This was quite a coo for Amazon to receive this, as HBO has a large and high quality backlog of content. 2. You can download content to your device. If you have a Kindle Fire device (tablet or phone), you have the option to download most content on Amazon Prime directly to your Amazon Device. This is something that Netflix has openly admitted that they will not emulate. 3. Exclusive access to Nickelodeon. If you have any kids, this one will go without any further explanation as to its importance. 4. Price. Amazon Prime has a slight pricing advantage when compared to the most common $8.99 per month Netflix plan (2 HD shows at once). Amazon Prime is $99 a year, which is about $8.33 month. Considering all of the other benefits of Prime membership (Free music, Free 2 day shipping, Free book borrowing, Access to Prime Pantry online grocery service, Free unlimited photo storage, etc), Amazon Prime is a better value, even if the library is not quite as robust. Amazon knows that it never has to be better than Netflix, it just has to be good enough to be considered a viable alternative. It has succeeded in this regard.

Amazon has other great cloud services, such as the Amazon Music Player. I like the Amazon player for a number of reasons: 1. It saves my entire music library to the cloud, which frees up a lot of room on my tablet and phone. 2. The library is the same, so that I can use the same songs on an Ipad, Iphone, Android, Kindle, and computer. This is the definition of how cloud software should work, with as few restrictions of devices as possible. 3. It imports the songs from your computer’s existing library, which saves a very large amount of time trying to consolidate music from different libraries. The only catch is to have access to virtually unlimited space, you need to pay Amazon $25 a year (You get 250 songs of storage for free, and all songs bought thru Amazon are free to store). While I think that the amount is worth it, I would have preferred for Amazon to incorporate it within their Prime membership. Instead, Prime membership provides access to over one million free songs. While there are no songs that are newer than 6 months old, there are probably songs on the list that you do not have in your library that you want. Of course, the catch here is that you only have access to the free songs for as long as your Amazon Prime membership is valid.
Amazon is taking the Costco approach, and having people buy yearly memberships to receive many exclusive products and services. Amazon yearly membership of $99 is worth it if you use at least two of their many services on a regular basis.

Conclusion

In reality, all 4 companies have something very interesting to offer. I would like for one company to rule them all for simplicity purposes. But I realize that this would stifle innovation, and nothing fosters innovation more than some competition. When the wireless internet is as reliable as electricity, I will be that much more comfortable with these onlines services. The benefits do outweigh any problems that may arise with the lack of an internet connection.

Tags

Amazon Prime, Apple, Chrome Browser, Chromebook, Cloud Products, Google, Microsoft, Windows 7, Xbox

Meet the author

author avatar Papa KyKy
I enjoy talking about videogames, technology, and different ways to save money.

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author avatar tafmona
31st Dec 2014 (#)

a very nice post, thanks for sharing

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