Amazon Will Monopolize Your Holiday Shopping

I should start out by saying that I have loved Amazon for years. They have provided me with free 2-day shipping and very cheap next day shipping. I have ordered every blu-ray disc that I own from Amazon, almost all of my PS3 games, my 40” HDTV, HDMI cables, BD player, MacBook Pro and when I’m enrolled in college, I purchase all of my supplies there. I also own a Kindle, which completely changed the act of reading for me.

The reason why Amazon works is because it’s so cheap and easy. Everything is cheaper on Amazon (at least in my experience) and when you start to use it as much as I do, the $80 a year payment for Amazon Prime pretty much pays for itself. Now, all Amazon Prime users get free instant streaming of movies and TV shows. Sure, the content library isn’t as big as, let’s say, Netflix, but still, it’s much cheaper than Netflix if you consider all that Amazon Prime offers.

So enough with this praising of Amazon and let’s get to the new products.

I wasn’t a big reader until I got a Kindle. Now, I read an average of 30 minutes each night. The e-ink screen is fantastic for reading books, since it simulates actual paper and ink, and the device is perfect for holding, about the size and weight of a paper back book. Last week, Amazon announced three new Kindles at really low prices.

The Kindle $79: is lighter than the previous generation, at less than 6 ounces (30% lighter) but has the same 6 inch e-ink display. It has built in WiFi but does not have 3G at all. It has all the same features as the old Kindle except it does not have a keyboard. This, in my opinion, isn’t great since you have to use the d-pad to type which is a bit annoying and not as fast or easy as using a keyboard but if it makes the device lighter and smaller (the new Kindle is 18% smaller than the previous generation) than I’m all for it.

All the new Kindle’s start at their Special Offers price. The Special Offers version of the Kindle’s display ads when the device is turned off. There is also a little bar with ads when you are on the home screen but as soon as you start reading a book, the ads go away. Some people might be annoyed with the fact that they are served ads on their Kindle but with the price difference (the Kindle without the Special Offers is $109) and the fact that it does not distract from your reading makes it a very good option.

The new Kindle is available now for purchase.

The new Kindle Touch is also a pretty sexy device and should be a big hit this holiday season. At only $99, $139 without special offers, or the Kindle Touch 3G for $149 or $189 without special offers, it’s a really cheap gift.

The Kindle Touch has the same e-ink display as the Kindle, just with multi-touch technology. I’m not sure how “multi-touch” this is since no one has been able to get a real hands on review of this product yet but either way, it does appear to be very similar to the Barnes and Noble Nook touch. It is 8% lighter and 11% smaller than the Kindle but features the same size screen. In my opinion, the Kindle Touch is the e-ink Kindle to buy this season, with or without 3G. The Kindle Touch is released on November 21st and you can start pre-ordering now.

Now for the product that a lot of people have been waiting for: The Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire is a 7 inch, LCD color screen tablet. Think of the original iPad but just in a smaller, lighter product. The Kindle Fire does not have 3G or cameras but honestly, it’s not needed. This is the tablet for content consumption, not creation. It has a dual-core processor for fast navigation. The cool thing about the Kindle Fire is the UI. Amazon took the bare bones of Android and totally customized it to their own UI. The Kindle Fire features a shelf-like interface where you can scroll through your content, similar to Apple’s Cover Flow.

Books, magazines, movies and TV shows play on this device. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free streaming movies on this device the same way you do on Amazon.com. Don’t be worried about hard drive space. Amazon uses their WhisperSync service to back up and serve you your content via the cloud. This also allows you to start watching a movie on the Kindle Fire and then start watching the same movie directly where you left off on your computer or TV. 

The web browser on the Kindle Fire is really interesting. Amazon will predict what web page you will go to and load it in the background so when you finally do navigate to that page, it will already be ready. For example, if you go to nytimes.com, it may start pre-loading the Business section if you frequently go to that page after loading up nytimes.com. Basically, Amazon learns your browsing history and starts loading pages before you get there.

Wifi, movies, books, magazines, TV shows, free-streaming for Prime members, the Amazon App Store: The Kindle Fire is only $199 and will be released on November 15th. You can pre-order now. For that price, why bother getting any other tablet?

If you are interested in the older kindle, you can a “Kindle Keyboard” for $99 with Special Offers or $139 without. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is $139 with Special Offers and  $189 without.

If you are a reader or a person who wants a tablet, there is very little reason as to why you should not buy one or all of these products (The entire Kindle family is less than the cheapest 3G iPad).

Amazon is sure to be selling these products like hot cakes. If I didn’t already have a Kindle, I would buy one of these new models. I already pre-ordered a Kindle Fire.

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Steve Jobs Steps Down as Apple’s CEO

Steve JobsEarlier today, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs has resigned from his CEO position. Below is the letter he published to announce the news:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Of course, the tech community is shocked since Steve’s reign as CEO was by far a memorable one. Jobs basically brought Apple back to life in 1997 when he came back to the company as CEO. It is easy to say that with Jobs in power, Apple has had the most successful years in the history of the company. Now, will this change impact the future of the company? We don’t know but I think we can all expect Apple’s stock to drop tomorrow as the general public reacts to this news.

To think rationally, Apple as a company will succeed. They are a very rich company and many people are familiar with the products. For Apple to fall off its throne, they need to come out with some horrible products and make some pretty big mistakes. If you look back into the history of the company, when Steve was not in charge, things certainly went down hill but I believe everything will be fine. I guess we will all find out in the upcoming months.

King of the Mountain: Facebook or Google+?

Facebook vs Google plusOh look, Google is making another attempt at a social network. There has certainly been a lot of Buzz surrounding this new site but will we all Wave goodbye to Facebook as we all migrate over to Google +? Before we answer that, let’s see what both sites have to offer.

Interface:

The interface of both sites is the biggest difference between the two. Facebook is simple, not flashy and familiar. If you’ve been to a website in the past 2 years, you will have no problem understanding how to use Facebook. Facebook has changed the layout of both the News Feed and the profile pages quite a few times. These changes were not massive, in most cases, but still caused quite a stir with the users of the site. This might have caused Facebook to be a bit more reluctant to put a real and interesting change to their user interface.

Now Google+, on the other hand, is full of Flash (or HTML 5) animations with a very mobile app type of feel. This type of animation integration is expected from a website that was created in 2011. It still stays simple enough by looking almost exactly like Facebook on the News Feed and profile pages. To some people, Google+ is not easy to use. Lots of people have been saying that they are having issues understanding how to do the simplest things, like adding friends and posting a status update. This may be caused by the way friends are grouped on Google+, but there is more about that grouping feature later.

Features: 

This section is a bit unfair since Facebook is a mature site that has plenty of users and Google+ is still an infant, with the only people paying attention to it are the few who managed to score an invite.

I like that…or maybe I +1 it.

Facebook is integrated into plenty of other websites, which allow you to log in and use a 3rd party service with your Facebook login. You can also “like” an outside source and easily post interesting content from sites like YouTube by simply clicking one button. Google has a similar button called the “+1” button. While this button should work in the same way as the Facebook “like” button, I’m not quite sure how I am supposed to use it. I click a +1 button on Google+ and it tells the person who posted the content that I “+1”ed it but it doesn’t seem to have as big of an impact as the Facebook “like” button.

Photos, videos and games. Oh, my! 

Facebook also has plenty of popular games and applications making it very possible to go to Facebook and not interact with your friends at all. That kind of defeats the purpose of a social network but hey, the option is there. While these applications are sometimes fun, they usually spam your News Feed and clutter the content that you are interested in seeing. Sure, you can adjust the settings of the application notifications but that means taking another visit to the checkbox wonderland of the Notification Settings page, which most people find to be confusing. On Google+, there are no 3rd party applications, yet. You also cannot post directly to your friend’s profile, like you can on Facebook. There is no messaging feature besides Chat which I never used since no one appears to be online…ever. One of the “cool” Google+ features are Huddle (group messaging) and Hangout, which is a group video chat. Sadly, I have never used these features so I’m not sure if they are quite so popular. Right now, there isn’t much to do on Google+ besides post status updates and comment on other people’s statuses. Google+ does benefit from only showing you important content that your friends post instead of a hundred Farmville notifications.

Are you in my circle?

There is no easy way to group friends on Facebook. You can control who sees your content but, like most of the controls on Facebook, you have to go through a maze of settings to do this. Most people don’t know that you can select only a group of friends to see an individual status update as opposed to allowing your entire friend-list to see it. Google+ makes it really easy to group people with their “circles” feature. When you add someone to your friends-list, you assign him or her to a circle. Now, every time you post something, you have the option to post it to all of your friends, specific circles, your extended circles (your friend’s friends) or to everyone on the Internet. The circles can get confusing though if you are used to the way Facebook handles adding people to your page. When you add someone as a friend on Facebook, you appear on his or her friend-list too. On Google+, just because I added someone to a circle on my page, doesn’t mean I am added to their circle. This allows for one way friendships. Someone can see what you post, if you allow them, but you never have to see their posts.

Users:

As of July 2011, there are 750 million active Facebook users. So far, Google+ has 20 million users. Considering the fact that Google+ is still a new site that still has the velvet ropes up (Google+ is invite only), 20 million users is impressive. The bad thing is, Facebook is where all my friends are. A social network is dependent on its users. I would like to spend more time on Google+ but there just isn’t much to do. It’s clear that people want to join Google+. The only thing holding it back now is this invite system. Google has a problem keeping their products in beta for years and right now, Google+ is very much a beta product. If we learned anything from “The Social Network” movie, you have to get there first. Facebook already beat Google+ when it comes to the race to get there first but that doesn’t mean Google+ cannot beat Facebook in the rematch by learning from Facebook’s mistakes. If Facebook keeps treating their users like they are now (controlling ownership of content and confusing privacy controls) than they will start to lose as users flock to other networks.

One Must Win, The Other Must Die:

Google+ and Facebook have loads of overlap. These two sites cannot coexist. A normal user does not need a Facebook page and a Google+ page. As it is right now, one of these sites has to do something impressive to set themselves apart.

For Facebook to beat Google+, they need to change their UI and make it a bit more exciting. They need to simplify their privacy controls and make it easy to understand how a user can choose what content they want to share with who. Facebook also has to stop thinking that something like a poorly designed message system and Skype integration via a Java app will keep them on top.

For Google+ to win, they need to, for the love of God, get Google+ out of beta and open the floodgates. People need to join the site without needing an invite. Google+ also needs developers to create new, exclusive games and applications. They also need to copy Facebook a bit and make it easy to private message someone and to post on their profile.

Personally, I like Google+ but I will continue to use Facebook since that is where my friends are. I would love for Facebook to take a hint from Google+ and change the UI to implement some of the HTML5 animations that make Google+ fun and interesting to use. No matter who wins, Google+ is a fantastic thing to happen to Facebook users. Google+ will force Facebook to make some much needed changes. If Facebook doesn’t change: well, we now have another place to go for our social networking needs…and I’m not talking about MySpace.

Apple Releases Lion Into the Wild, updates Mac hardware

Mac OS X Lion

Today, Apple released the latest Mac operating system, Mac OS X Lion (10.7) via the Mac App Store which is the first time that Apple has released an OS which is only available on a digital download format.

Mac OS X Lion makes the Mac OS feel a bit more like iOS with the same scroll bars, multi-touch gestures, a very iPad-like way of scrolling though and opening applications and new ways of saving and restarting applications.

When I downloaded Lion at about 12:00pm eastern time, the download took about 20 minutes to complete (about 3GB total) and about 30 minutes to install. Thankfully, everything went by smoothly.

Users will find a change in the UI right away, with less glossy progress bars and a new slick log-in screen, with a new animation. There is also a new “spring” animation when launching new applications and whenever a dialogue box pops up. The “lights” on top of each window are now smaller and less shiny.

Problems: I’ve only been using Lion for a few hours and while the problems I ran into haven’t been huge, they are still worth mentioning. Finder looks quite different now and in my opinion a bit cluttered. You can now also no longer see your hard drive capacity on the bottom of the Finder window. The Finder also lost a bit of color since all the icons are now grey, similar to the latest version of iTunes. Mail looks quite a bit different but familiar if you use an iPad. This new Mail will take a bit of getting used to on the Mac. Full screen apps work perfectly, for native apps. There is a “full screen” button for Chrome which goes into full screen fine but you cannot get back to normal size until you quit Chrome. I’m assuming this will be fixed when Google updates the browser.

By default, the indicator lights under open applications on the dock are turned off and scrolling is similar to iOS where you push the content, not the scroll bars, in the direction of the scroll. I changed both of these settings back to the way they are in Snow Leopard.

Lion is a decent upgrade and for $30, it’s pretty cheap. As long as you are running Snow Leopard, you should be fine to upgrade.

Other Updates: Apple killed the white plastic MacBook. Now, the entry-level Mac is the MacBook Air at $999. Speaking of the MacBook Air, it was also updated with Sandy Bridge processors, a backlit keyboard and a Thunderbolt port. The Mac Mini also received a Thunderbolt port and Sandy Bridge processors but lost it’s optical drive. Just like the MacBook Air, the only way to get software on these machines is digital download. The Mac Mini starts at $599. The Cinema Displays got a name change to Thunderbolt Display. The 27 inch display has a 2560 x 1440 resolution, an LED backlit display and a FaceTime HD camera. These new displays will cost you $999.

Netflix price increase, separates DVD from Instant Streaming

Netflix logoThis morning, Netflix posted on their blog that they are increasing the price of their monthly services. Users now have a streaming only option for $7.99, a DVD only option starting at $7.99, and a streaming+DVD service starting at $15.98. To add Blu-Ray discs, users are still expected to pay $3 extra on top of their monthly plan.

Customer reaction to this has not been positive, with many people complaining on Twitter and in the comments on the blog post. These new prices do not go into effect for existing costumers until September but many people are canceling their account now. Personally, I switched from the unlimited streaming+ 1 DVD for $10 (which is now $16) to the new DVD only plan which is $7.99. I have no need for the streaming service since I only used it on very few occasions and the experience was definitely not worth the $5 increase. There seems to be a lot of people choosing the DVD only plan since the Netflix streaming library is very limited.

In some good news, Netflix announced a new DVD management team. With these new prices, we hope that Netflix gets some much needed overall improvements.

Lytro Cameras: The Future of Photography


This week, I discovered a new up and coming technology company called Lytro where they are working on a light field capture camera which will change the future of photography. Everyone in the tech world seems pretty excited about this, investors have already raised 50 million dollars into the company and the product hasn’t even launched yet.

To understand why this will change photography, you first have to think about how photography is done today. When taking a picture, you have to set where you want the focus and wait for the camera to autofocus, which can take some time depending on the amount of light in the room and how far the object you are focusing on is. With this light field camera, you just take the picture and set the focus later. Light Field capture records all the light rays in the scene, from every angle, and puts it in the photo file. Compare this to normal cameras which takes all the light rays, adds it up to a single light ray which gets recorded in the file. With normal photo files, the focus is already set and you cannot change it later. With these Light Field cameras and this new “living pictures” file, waiting for the autofocus is a thing of the past. You can also take one image and create multiple images from that one picture, each with a different focus.

Today on Buzz Out Loud, the founder and CEO, Ren Ng, did a small interview and answered some questions about the camera.

We have no knowledge of how the cameras look but they are in existence, just locked away to avoid internet leaks. The cameras are of consumer form-factor, meaning they won’t be big and clunky, and they are consumer priced. When asked about specific price points, Ren Ng said they will be  “competitively priced”. These cameras will launch this year.

What’s interesting is that the light field technology can be used with any camera that has a lens, which means that video cameras and cellphone cameras could have this technology built-in.

Files: The files will be a bit larger than the normal JPEG. Ren Ng said the file size depends on the amount of compression. I’m guessing they will be more similar to TIFF file sizes rather than JPEG size. These files will be proprietary, meaning they will only work with specific software, to set the focus, of course, but they will be able to export to JPEG files where anyone will be able to view them.

Software: You will need a certain type of software, built by Lytro, to pick the focus and export to other more common file types but you will not need any type of special software to view these images. Basically saying that the photographer using this camera will need special software to import the files into their computer but they can send the pictures to grandma and she won’t need the software.

Speed: These cameras are instant on with no delay.  “You just click it” said the CEO.

Long Exposures: Don’t worry, pro photographers, all the things you can do with a traditional camera, like adjusting shutter speed, can be done with this camera.

Video: I said this before but I wanted to make sure this was clear: VIDEO IS POSSIBLE with this type of technology.

I strongly suggest you check out lytro.com to read more about this technology and the people behind this company. You can also play around with some of the “living pictures” and see the type of stuff you will be able to do with these types of cameras. You can also reserve a camera, though no one knows how long it will take to actually receive one since they have received many requests. 

WWDC 2011

WWDC

Today, Steve Jobs and co. took the stage in San Francisco at WWDC to show off some new software coming to Apple devices. Lion, the new operating system for Macs, iOS 5, the new OS for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad’s and finally Apple’s new cloud service, iCloud.

Mac OS X Lion:

Being a Mac user, my favorite Apple product will always be the Mac since, in my opinion, the Mac is and always will be miles ahead of the PC. Lion widened the gap between Mac and PC even more.

Lion doesn’t look much different than the latest Mac OS, Snow Leopard, but it does have some new features which are sure to become things that I use everyday. Lion has 250 new features but Apple only showcased 10. I’ll summarize these 9 of these features since the Mac App Store isn’t a huge deal.

New Multi-touch gestures: All new MacBook/MacBook Pros and MacBook Air’s come with a multi-touch trackpad allowing the user to do iPhone/iPad-like gestures on the trackpad to either zoom, move windows around, or to trigger Mac OS X features like Exposé. Don’t have a Mac notebook, you can get the Magic Trackpad to use this gestures on an iMac. Nothing drastically noteworthy here. It’s sure to save time but nothing to really write home about.

Full Screen Apps: I like this a lot. In Snow Leopard, there are some apps that can be viewed full screen (iPhoto and Pages, to name a few) but in Snow Leopard, all native apps will get this feature. Developers will also get the chance to add this to their own applications. Safari will definitely be something I will be using full screen all the time. It’s basically viewing apps the way they are viewed on iDevices. Nothing getting in the way between you and the content.

Mission Control: It’s Exposé on steroids. With a single gesture, you can view everything that is opened on your Mac, including full screen apps, and you get the option to group these windows neatly into it’s own little stack based on application. You can also move windows into their own space (Spaces is a Leopard feature allowing you to have multiple workspaces/desktops). It basically combines Exposé, Spaces and App Switching into one powerful, and useful feature.

Mission Control

Mission Control in Lion. Credit: Apple

Launchpad: I’m not sure if I will be using this all that much. Launchpad displays your apps in an iOS sort of way. It basically turns your Mac screen into an iPad screen and you get to view, create folders and open apps the same way you would in iOS. I understand that Lion is all about bringing features from iOS into Mac OS X but I don’t see how this could be a very useful feature, especially with Finder staying the same way that it is now.

Resume: LOVE this feature. Once again, think of multitasking on iOS. You launch the Facebook app, go to a friends profile and then close down the application to write a text message. When you go back to the Facebook app, you are right back on your friend’s profile, exactly where you left. This is what Resume does on your Mac. When you close a program on your Mac, you will be greeted by the same windows that you left when you re-open the program. Additionally, when you have to restart your Mac, say when you have to do a Software Update, you no longer have to close down all of your applications and start on a blank desktop after the updates are installed. Everything will stay exactly as you left it.

Auto Save: We’ve all been conditioned as computer users to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! We all know what happens when you are typing up that 15 page paper for class and you either close the word processing program you are working in without saving or something happens to your computer and all your work is gone. In Lion, that won’t happen. Now, when you are working in an application, let’s say Keynote, the application will auto save during every pause and every 5 minutes while you work. Lion does not save the entire document, only the changes you created (saving disk space). You have the option to revert to last saved, incase you hate the changes you created, or lock the document if you do not want an accidental save-over. When you close a document, you will never get the window promoting you to save, Lion takes care of that for you.

Versions

Versions interface. Credit: Apple

Versions: In addition to Auto Save, you now have the option to go back and look at all the versions of the document you are working on.  You can look back on your progress and make revisions to your work. If you started off with a really good paragraph which didn’t make it to the version of the document you are working on now, you can easily go back to an older version of the document and get that paragraph back. Think of it as Time Machine (an hourly backup on Mac OS X) for your individual documents.

AirDrop: Ever wanted to send someone a file but it’s too big to be emailed and you didn’t have a USB flash drive with you? Of course you have. With AirDrop, all you need is a wireless internet connection and a Mac. Now, in the Finder, there is a window for AirDrop, once selected, it will scan the surrounding area looking for users who are also using AirDrop, once you see the person you want to send a file to, you just drag the file onto their picture and they get a notification that you want to send them a file. Once approved, the file will be downloaded to their downloads stack. No wires, no USB drives. Instant and wireless. If only I had more friends who used a Mac. Oh well.

Launch Pad

Launch Pad in Lion. Credit: Apple

Finally, Mail: Being a Mac user, I can say this: THE MAIL APP ON MAC OS X SUCKS! It’s always doing odd things, it’s a pain in the ass to control and is the one native application on the Mac that I wish would just go away or get better. Hopefully, this new version makes it somewhat useable. Mail looks a lot like the way it does on the iPad with pretty much the same controls. The newest feature is Conversations view, threaded emails, if you will. Not something I really wanted but whatever. We’ll see how it works.

Lion comes out via the Mac App Store ONLY, in July for $29. Now, here is the problem. You need a Mac running Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor (basically any Mac that is less than 5 years old) and you need Snow Leopard first. So if you are running Leopard, you will need to spend $60 to get Lion. $30 for Snow Leopard to download the $30 Lion. Stupid and a complete pain for any Leopard user but this is how Apple decided to do it.

2nd, iOS 5. Apple played catch up today with iOS 5 and sadly, there is nothing NEW to report and by new I mean new to the phone industry.

iOS 5

Credit: Apple

Notifications Center: FINALLY, Apple gets rid of those annoying, crippling, pop-up style notifications and goes with a simple notifications bar which lives at the top of the screen and houses all of your notifications. So while I’m trying to watch a video podcast, I will no longer have a huge pop-up come across my screen, pause my video and basically yell at me “YOU HAVE A TEXT MESSAGE!”, instead, a simple bar will fold out on top of the screen and go away a few seconds later. The lock screen is also changed greatly to allow you to swipe right into an application if you have a notification. So let’s say that I have a text message, it will display on the lock screen the name of the person and a small snippet of the text. I can now slide the messaging icon across the screen which will take me right into the messaging app where I can respond. Pretty cool and useful stuff.

Notifications

Notifications in iOS 5. Credit: Apple

iMessage: It’s BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) but for iDevices. I can now send a message to anyone using an iDevice, WiFi or 3G, without it being counted toward my text messages or email. I can see when it is being read or when the person is typing back to me. I can also send pictures, video, contacts and location data. If you know what BBM does, than you already know what iMessages is. It’s a nice addition and I’m sure I’ll use it and it will probably replace texting in most cases.

Newsstand: You can buy magazines in the iBookstore now but since you don’t use the iBookstore, why even go into detail about this?

Reminders: It’s a to-do list. Yeah. Can’t say much other than…it’s a to-do list. The only little nugget of coolness here is that you can get a reminder based on location. For example, I can set a reminder to say “Call mom when you get to SoHo” and once I get to SoHo, my phone will alert me to call my mom. Location based reminders, not bad.

Twitter: Twitter is integrated into iOS 5. Not sure why…it doesn’t do anything the Twitter app cannot do.

Camera: In another “FINALLY!” moment, there is now a camera icon on the lock screen allowing you to access the camera and take a picture without having to unlock the phone and launch the camera app. There is also built-in red-eye reduction and auto focus/auto exposure lock. You can also use the volume up button on the iPhone 4 as the shutter button.

And…DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. The feature every single iDevice user has been waiting for:

WIRELESS iTUNES SYNCING!

That’s right! After all these years, you no longer need to connect that damn white USB wire to your computer to sync your iTunes content. Applications and OS updates will sync wirelessly and all your iTunes content will sync wirelessly as long as your iDevice is plugged into a power source and you are in the general area of your computer.

iOS 5 is NOT compatible with the iPhone 3G or the first and 2nd generation of the iPod Touch. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch 3rd and 4th gen, iPad and iPad 2 are all fine. iOS 5 will be out in the Fall and I ASSUME it will be free. Why the Fall? That’s when the rumored iPhone 5 will come out. History shows us that Apple always releases a major update to iOS around the launch of new iPhone hardware.

Now here is the confusing part: iCloud. I consider myself a nerd and I have a very hard time understanding what iCloud is and I am not the only techie with this problem.

iCloud

Credit: Apple

iCloud is NOT a streaming service and it is not a digital locker. What it is is kinda pointless.

iCloud syncs your data across your devices. For example, I can work on a Keynote presentation on my iPad and when I get home to my Mac, the presentation will be exactly the same as on my iPad. The issue however, is you still need to buy Keynote (or any application you are working on) on all of your devices. These are not web apps. To be able to get your document, you need to have the application installed on the device you want to use. Thankfully, this service is free because who would pay for this? iCloud syncs calendars, contacts, mail, apps…all that good stuff.

It gets more confusing when you get to Photo Stream. Photo Stream allows you to take a photo on your iPhone and have it be on your Mac/PC/iPad without having to sync. This is pretty neat, however, you need to move those photos onto your computer within 30 days or those photos will get deleted off of Photo Stream and will only be on the device you took them on. God forbid if you delete the photo on the original device. This is not a cloud service. A cloud service stores your content FOREVER and allows you to access it on all your devices for the lifetime of the service. This is wireless syncing but still puts the burden on the user to make sure they sync their device to their computer before they lose their content.

One more thing: iTunes in the cloud. Well, not really.

iCloud

Credit: Apple

If you brought all of your music on iTunes, ALL OF IT, than you are fine. Apple will sync all of your purchased iTunes music to all of your devices. Wait, what? You are trying to tell me that people might have music that are ripped from CD’s, pirated or maybe even purchased from other legal online stores? Well, if you DARE leave the Apple world to get your music, prepare to pay a “HOW DARE YOU USE CD’s” tax.

For $24 a year, you can use iTunes Matching, which will scan your iTunes library and match it with songs in iTunes which will sync to your devices. $24 a year only because you did not buy every single thing in iTunes.

Steve Jobs suggests, if you don’t want to pay $24, to just sync your music via iTunes sync in iOS 5 or to just buy the songs you REALLY, REALLY want in iTunes. Pay…again, for songs you already brought, in iTunes…just so they can be wirelessly synced. No thanks.

To end this VERY long post, I was very pleased with Lion and it was nice to see iOS catch up to everyone else and give me a feature that is much needed. However, I don’t understand why anyone would use iCloud. Sure, it’s free (if you live only in iTunes) but if you don’t, are you really going to pay $24 a year just for the convenience of having your music be on all your devices without having to sync? I’d rather save my money and sync with my computer. At least I don’t need that wire anymore.

iCloud 3

Apple comparing iCloud to the other cloud services out there today. Credit: Apple

Urbanears Plattan Headphones

Urbanears PlattanSo for the past week, I have been using the Urbanears Plattan headphones in black. The headphones I have been using for the past few years have been the Apple In-Ear headphones which are $80 and I’ve had no problems with them at all but I was looking for a stylish but minimal on-ear headphones. I tried out the Solo Beats By Dre headphones and after 3 days I returned them. It is difficult to compare headphones that are $200 (Solo beats) to headphones that are $60 (Urbanears) but I will try to since these are the only on-ear headphones I have experience with.

Style: The Urbanears Plattan headphones have a very minimal design which prevents you from looking like a tool, which I cannot say for the Beats By Dre headphones. It is impossible for anyone to tell who makes the headphones you are wearing if you have the Plattan since the only branding are located on the inside above the ear cups and a little tab with the logo on the lower end of the headband. Compare that to the Beats headphones which has the logo on each ear cup and on the headband. If you want to look like a flashy douchebag, get the Beats headphones. The ear cups on the Plattan also lay flat on your ears making you look less like a robot. My main issue with the Beats headphones was that the cups bulge outwards making you look like Will.I.Am (and you never want that.

Will.I.Am wearing Beats headphones

You don't want to look that douchey, do you?

Sound: Let’s face it, this is the most important feature about headphones: how they sound? In my opinion, they sound find. You can find plenty of negative reviews of the sound quality of these headphones but I did not find these negative aspects. In terms of bass, the Beats headphones did have a lot more bass, so much in fact that I felt like my brain was being rattled loose. The Plattan has bass that does not get muddy or feel overpowered like I thought the Beats did. If you like lots of bass, then maybe these headphones aren’t for you. Don’t get me wrong, when listening to a bass heavy song on high volume, the ear cups did vibrate quite noticeably without getting muddy, so there is bass here, just not overkill.

Comfort: For on the ear headphones, I thought these did great with hours of use. Wearing them with glasses got a bit painful after about an hour but without was fine. I was wearing them in 2 hour intervals without any discomfort. They are pretty loose-fitting on your head so it doesn’t feel like it is crushing your skull, which was another problem I had with the Solo Beats headphones.

Price: For $60, you get a lot: a mic with music control and a fabric cord which tangles less than traditional headphone wire and is nice and sturdy. The headphones also fold in for easy transport. There is no carrying case or noise cancellation, though.

Complaints: I am not thrilled with the fact that there are no volume controls built into the inline mic/song control. I am also worried by the fact that the ear cups themselves are secured only by a thin piece of metal with looks like it could break or get twisted very easily.

Final: I like these headphones and I will continue to use them. I feel that they are stylish and don’t make me look like an Jersey Shore toolbag. They sound fine while keeping out a good amount of outside noise. The audio is clear even on high volumes. For $60, you cannot go wrong. Give them a shot and see what you think. They get my approval.

[vimeo 21928376]

urbanears.com   http://www.urbanears.com/press

Gallery: 

Urbanears box

Urbanears Plattan book
Urbanears Plattan inside logo

Urbanears Plattan

 

Google I/O Day Two 2011

Google I/O 2011Google’s second and last day of Google I/O was spent discussing Chrome, the browser and the operating system.

If you read my other posts, you will see that I am not an Android user and I do not agree with an open source OS for a massive mobile phone market. I do agree, however, with an open source browser.

Chrome speed

Credit: Google

First up in the presentation was Google discussing how far Chrome has come from last year. There are now 160 million active Chrome users. Chrome is also leading the way in terms of speed and HTML5. A new feature in Chrome 12 is Speech. This is pretty exciting stuff. Speech allows a user to speak their search term instead of typing it. Very similar to the Google Search mobile app which uses your voice to start a search. Google demoed the Google translator by saying “Welcome to San Francisco” and having it translate into Chinese with no typing needed. Imagine an Internet where you can say “Lady gaga Monster Ball” on a YouTube page instead of typing it into a search box. Well, depending on where you are or who you are, you might be better off typing something like that to avoid judgment.

Finishing up the Google Chrome section was a demo of the graphics and speed improvements in the latest version of the browser.

The Chrome Web Store: The Chrome Web Store is just like an app store on the smart phone you probably have right now. The only difference is the Chrome Web Store is a store for apps that run in the browser. The Chrome Web Store is now available globally. To be honest, I never visited the Chrome Web Store before today. I played “Poppit” which is a game I haven’t played in a very long time. It is interesting to have an app inside a browser but I’m not sure if I will ever decide to buy something from the Web Store. I’ll stick to the free apps like I do on my iPhone. Angry Birds fans will now be happy to know that they can play Angry Birds inside the Chrome browser for free.

Angry birds in Chrome

Credit: Google

The Chrome Web Store now allows developers to include In-App purchases (sound familiar?). Google is also taking a 5% cut in revenue for app purchases. Compare that to the 30% cut that Apple takes. Burn.

Chrome OS: Chrome OS is rather interesting. It is an operating system, just like Windows 7 or Mac OS X for example, but it is just a web browser. That’s it. No desktop, no applications, no screen savers, NOTHING but a web browser. If you cannot do it on a browser, you cannot do it on Chrome OS. Chrome OS does have a new file management software but it’s nothing like Finder on a Mac, but it’s something, I guess. My issue with Chrome OS is that is it completely dependent on an Internet connection. Some things do work offline (like Gmail and Google Calendars) but the majority of everything you will be doing on a computer running this operating system will need an Internet connection.

Google ChromebookThe biggest news was the release of information on the Chromebook, which is a laptop that runs Chrome OS. Starting on June 15th, you can get a Chromebook starting at $429 (the Samsung WiFi only model). Businesses/schools can basically rent these laptops for $28/$20 a month respectively.

For the past few hours, I have been thinking about how I would use a computer that only has a web browser. For one, I would not be able to do half of my school assignments. Even my web-based homework requires a website which does not work on Chrome. Photoshop, Illustrator, iTunes, iPhoto…forget about it.

There are some advantages to this cloud based computer OS. I can, in theory anyway, go to any computer running Chrome OS, log in with my Google information and that computer will get all of my data from the cloud and turn any computer into a clone of my personal computer that I have at home.  Once again though, I am not a huge believer in a machine that is dependent on the Internet.

Chrome OS and these new Chromebook’s are not for everyone. I am tempted to try one out but I am not purchasing a computer for $429 where I won’t be able to do 90% of my daily work. I think Google is 5 years too early with something like this. Chrome OS and Chromebook’s are a very interesting idea but it is not practical for the majority of people.

I do really like this video, though.

Google I/O Day One 2011

Google I/0 2011Let me start out by saying that I am not the biggest fan of Android. Though I prefer iOS, I am not an ignorant hater of Android since I am well aware of why a person would buy and enjoy having an Android device. I just so happen to enjoy living in a walled garden. I also enjoy knowing that every iOS device works and looks the same way. I also like the polished and sexy design of both the Apple hardware and iOS. That being said, here are my thoughts of the Google I/O day one keynote.

Android eating apple

Credit: Google

First off, thank god they packed all of these announcements and demos into a nice 54-minute presentation. This could have gone on forever but thankfully Google made this presentation bite sized. Speaking of bite sized: I love the image of the Android robot eating an Apple. Keep it classy, Google.

The first thing they showed off was widgets and I am a little embarrassed that widgets are still a big deal. The audience also seemed to like being able to stretch the Gmail widget but I didn’t find that something to hoot and holler about. Maybe it’s just a thing a guy like me doesn’t get.

Google also showed off using your Android tablet as a USB host, basically saying that you can import photos directly to it from a camera via USB. This is interesting and rather useful. Something less useful, however, was connecting a XBOX 360 controller to the tablet to play games. This is useful on a laptop but I don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to play a game with a game console controller on his or her tablet. Tablets are made to be lightweight, portable and hand-held. What douchebag is going to be sitting at Starbucks playing a game with their XBOX controller connected to their 10-inch tablet?  My main issue with Android is that they seem to have a lot of features that are included in the OS just because they can, not because anyone wants or will use those features.Ice cream sandwich

I’m sure you are aware of how Google names their OS’s: alphabetically with dessert names. This latest OS is called “Ice Cream Sandwich” which is laughable. “Ice Cream” would have been a bit better but adding the “sandwich” to it just made it childlike. Everything about Android is so fragmented, including their image. You have Motorola Droid, which “does”, which is branded as a robot that is totally bad ass but it is running an OS named after a dessert that melts in 80 degrees. Nothing says “I DO! I AM A ROBOT THAT WILL KICK YOUR ASS” like running an OS named after something found in 5 year olds lunch-boxes.

Google Music Beta

Credit: Google

The biggest announcement was Google’s Music Beta, which is a music cloud service that streams your music to the web and to your Android device. Nothing too impressive here. For a guy living in New York, I do not see the want/need for a cloud based music service, no matter if the provider is Amazon, Google or Apple. If you store your music in the cloud then you are at the mercy of your cell phone signal. I am on the subway underground for most of my commute, which is the time I listen to music. Why would someone like me store their music in the cloud and not be able to listen to music once they lose the signal? Sure, you can download songs from the cloud to be played offline but if that is the solution, why bother syncing your music to the cloud at all?

What Google and everyone is getting wrong is I don’t want to store my music in the cloud. I want it on my devices, ALL my devices without having to sync. Rumors are that Apple might be doing some sort of wireless iTunes model, which would be nice. I want my songs stored on my iPhone and my Mac, however, I want to buy a song on my iPhone and come home and have that song already on my Mac without having to connect that horrid white wire to my iPhone and waste a few minutes from my life waiting for it to sync. I hope Apple gets this right. Personally, I do not understand wanting to have music stored in the cloud unless you have a HUGE music library…and if you are outside with a strong signal ALL the time.

Android@home is something I am a bit more interested in. Using a tablet to control lights is quite futuristic. Having your lights change and interact with the game you are playing is pretty awesome. Imagine playing a game where all your lights go off when you die. Pretty cool stuff but once again, this is a lot more “we are doing this because we can, not because we should”. How many of us REALLY want our lights to be controlled by our gaming?

One thing that really impressed me was the Android@Home hub thingy that is basically a white ball which when you swipe a CD in front of it, it adds the entire CD to your music library. The only issue with that is: A CD? This would be way cooler if anyone still used CDs.

Overall, I was unimpressed with what I saw today. Last year, after seeing their keynote, I was ready to buy an Android phone (believe it or not) AND a Google TV. This year, I am very happy living in my Apple world with God Jobs looking over me.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that the Google Bakery Shoppe is more advanced than iOS. There are many things that Android phones do that I wish my phone did. However, for me to become an Android user the phones need to get sexier, the OS’s need to be less fragmented and sleeker, and Google needs to grab their Android balls and start taking control. I think we are learning that a massive open source OS is not the best thing. For example: malicious apps and carriers taking complete control over the devices. Wanna use Google search on a GOOGLE phone on Verizon? Good luck. Fragmentation