iPod Touch: my “cloud terminal”®™?
Netbooks are, beyond doubt, unnecessarily powerful to be true agents of cloud computing. Hard drive XP or full Linux OS models can install a wide range of powerful applications, run them efficiently, and store the data and files generated…just like a real laptop!
The trend to larger Solid State Drives in SSD equipped netbook models only underscores what we were saying last time: most people are not using netbooks as Intel intended…as NET books…they are using them as highly mobile laptop alternatives. Throw in a tiny portable 250 or 320 Gig USB hard drive and you might never have to come home to your laptop.
Too much power. I mean, who needs Google Docs if your netbook can run ThinkFree Office (or the Microsoft original for that matter)? Picassa and Picassa Web Galleries? Why not have the full editing and cataloging power of Lightroom, and upload pictures directly to Flickr or Smugmug via a plugin? GMail? Why not run Thunderbird or, even (shudder) Outlook?
Of course, Google is banking on the portability factor. As noted in my first piece (Entering the Cloud), I use Google Docs and Evernote to make some of my work device independent…to put it somewhere I can get at it, and work with it, from any connected device. ThinkFree Office is attempting to promote a similar usage of the their on-line work space, and we keep hearing that Microsoft is investing in similar device independent, web based, solutions. The cloud.
GMail is a classic cloud application, and I am finding it increasingly useful just for that reason. It collects all my email (except my corporate account) and I can access it from any of my devices: Blackberry, netbook, laptop, and now iPod Touch.
Even folks still lugging around a full sized laptop may find their way into the cloud. There are probably even totally desk bound folk feeding docs up to Google…if for no other reason than the fact that they have access to their docs when they get home, without carrying so much as a flash drive with them.
Still, any kind of truly independent computing device is overkill as a cloud terminal.®™ The real candidates are being carried around in folks’ pockets. Smart phones, wifi equipped PDAs and even…well…even wifi web-connected iPods.
I just succumbed to a first generation iPod Touch, on deep discount. Over the past few days I have begun to realize how the cloud ground work I had begun to lay with my netbook is coming into its own in Touch land.
The iPod Touch is an amazing piece of machinery. Of course I bought it as a music player and, as such, it is, arguably, without peer. Elegant. Efficient. Clever. Great sounding. A joy to use and listen to. (Careful here or I will wax enthusiastic.)
Now Apple may have been thinking of only of wifi iTunes sales when they put wifi in the Touch, but that connectivity opens all kinds of possibilities for using the thing as the first really efficient and practical cloud terminal®™. Still imperfect, but showing the potential of what will certainly be possible in the next generation.
Lets back up here and pay homage to two iPod touch precursors that paved the way.
The Blackberry, while primarily a PDA phone (your complete mobile office), had already begun to grow a set of little applications that connect directly to the cloud. Google Mobile Apps, of course, brings the full suite…from GMail to Docs to Calendar and Reader, to Blackberry. Twitterberry is as elegant a Twitter cliant as you are likely to see on any device.
And even before Palm brought out the Theo to compete with the Blackberry, they had already introduced the LifeDrive. What an under-rated and under appreciated machine that was and is. 4 Gigs of storage (and this in the day when a Gig SD card was unheard of). Full wifi connectivity. Basic web browser, Docs to Go for working with those files from the office, a decent email client, great calendar and contacts applications, a passable music player, video, etc. etc. Even a touch screen!
Palm software, and software written for the Palm, has always come close to the elegance of Apple applications, without every quite making it. The LifeDrive was usable, useful, highly portable, and just flawed enough to end up, after maybe as much as a year of usage for some people, on the shelf instead of in the pocket.
Still, you have to ask yourself what the iPod Touch has that the LifeDrive did not already have?
Yeah, well, the short answer is Apple. The mystique. The magic touch. The uncanny sense of what will make sense to people…and more than that…what will make them grin. “The funnest iPod ever!” The elegance of form following function with flare. Vision! (Stop me or I will wax enthusiastic here.)
(Bear with me a moment while I copy write that next to last sentence.
“The elegance of form following function with flare!”©
Hay Steve, you can licence that if you want it. Have your people call my people.)
Oh, and one thing more: a touch screen and OS that you can operate with your fingers! No stylus required. Totally different experience! Tactile. Direct. Intuitive. Like finger paining your intention instead of pointing to it with a stick (and who did not love finger-painting?). Revolutionary! (There I go again with the enthusiasm. I can only ask that you have patience.)
Okay, it is more than just touch. Apple built some really amazing technology into the Touch/Phone OS. That tip it over and veiw and write horizontally thing is simply brilliant! Take the elegance of the iPhone/iPod Touch Safari browser, with its collapsing windows and two finger zoom, layer the Google Mobile Apps on top, and suddenly we are really in the cloud.
All right, so Google Docs still has no native editing client on the Touch or Phone, but any of the sideways email programs, including GMail itself in its Mobile Apps incarnation, will allow you to compose docs and send them directly to Google Docs. And, of course, you can mail them back to yourself to work on some more. And the Evernote Touch/Phone client is elegant and useful.
GMail on the Touch makes the native Mail program seem half done.
No one, of course, is going to compose a powerpoint on the iPod Touch, and they will only view one in an absolute emergency. You really need a netbook for that…and it is only really comfortable on a full sized laptop or better. But for email, twittering, a little light blog reading, maybe using GReader, the iPod Touch is all you need…is everything you need.
(WordPress even has a little app for writing and editing blogs. I just wrote this parenthesis on it.) And saved it…reloaded my editing page here on the netbook and there it is! Of course, the folks who are developing this open source WordPress app need to implement sideways typing, but it is getting there.)
TwitterFon on the iPod Touch is actually more fun to use than the official Twitter web based interface. And i Just remembered Pockettweets…a most elegant web-based Twitter client that, since it uses the Safari engine, is the only dedicated Twitter client with sideways typing. Wonderful!
My computing world seems to be shrinking. From desk top to desk top plus laptop, from desk top plus laptop to laptop plus PDA/smart phone, from laptop plus PDA/smart phone to netbook plus iPod Touch cloud terminal. I feel like Alice after the first drink me.
I am certain that as I use the iPod Touch I will discover more of its capabilities, and experience more of its limitations. It is not perfect. I already know that. More apps need to implement the sideways view and keyboard. Google needs to polish the Reader interface, and add a Docs editor in Google Mobile. The Google Mobile version of GCal is poorly implemented, but I just found a blog post that details a new service that will sync your Google Calendar and GMail contacts with your iPod Touch Calendar and Contacts. Brilliant! It works. Check out the post or go direct to Nuevasync. With this service, the native Calendar app on the iPod Touch becomes quite useful…which it was not without.
In concept, the iPod Touch is brilliant. It is, as far as I am concerned, when you add Google Mobile Apps, the first real cloud terminal®™. Right there in your pocket all time. And it plays music too. Now if they would only add a phone! (jk)
(I may have mentioned that one of my abiding sorrows is that corporate IT will not let me have an iPhone on the company system and I simply can not justify the cost of the service plans for both a Blackberry and an iPhone. You can not imagine how happy I was when my iPod 5th generation died, opening the way for the Touch. My Cloud Termainal®™)