Living in the Cloud

April 7, 2011
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I had not really planned to move to the cloud, but I find myself there.

While I am still tethered to Microsoft technology for some important Windows application development activities, mobile devices and universal user interfaces are pulling me away.

I had not really planned to move to the cloud, but I find myself there.

While I am still tethered to Microsoft technology for some important Windows application development activities, mobile devices and universal user interfaces are pulling me away.

One major step in my new life in the cloud was “exchanging” Microsoft Exchange/Outlook. Instead of having a personal notebook computer bogged down with gigs of Windows software and years of e-mail attachments, everything is now available from the cloud using Google Mail.

My Google Mail, Calendar, and Documents are available from any of my mobile devices or from any computer with a web browser.

In addition to Google Docs, I have started using a free Dropbox account, which allows me to store any type of document, access them from any desktop browser or mobile device, and share them with associates by disclosing a simple URL. While I like Google Docs, Dropbox’s easy integration with the Windows desktop gives it an advantage.

Many of my favorite software applications have moved to universal user interfaces.

Amazon was one of the first company I noticed advertising the value of this. Their commercials show people reading electronic books on any number of mobile devices: the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPad, iPhone, Android phone, etc. The announcer says that it does not matter if you change phone providers; you can still get to the books you bought on Amazon.

Another great universal application is TripIt. I can easily create travel plans just by forwarding my e-mail reservation confirmations from hotels, car rentals, and airlines to TripIt. I can then view and manage my itineraries from my mobile phone, iPad, or desktop.

Likewise, software vendor Appigo has created a great ToDo application (based on David Allen’s GTD-Get Things Done time management methodology) with a universal front-end. While I used to manually sync up my Microsoft Exchange with the iPhone and iPad ToDo packages, I now pay just $20 a year to keep my to-do lists in the cloud. From this central location, all of my access devices are automatically synced. Like TripIt and the Amazon Kindle, I can e-mail things to a personal ToDo account.

Even my music listening is moving to the web. Thanks to my oldest son who gave me a web-enabled Blu-ray device,  I am currently listening to Pandora music streamed through my television.  If I were in my den or in my car, I would be listening to Sirius/XMRadio, but more and more I rely on web providers such as AccuRadio or Pandora. Even when mowing the yard, I stream music through my iPhone (sorry, AT&T–but thanks for giving us early adopters those unlimited data plans).

(Note: I will put in a special word of thanks to Sirius/XMRadio for recently rewriting their mobile music application.)

Within the immediate family, we have Windows desktops, notebooks, and netbooks; Apple iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks; Amazon Kindle e-book readers; Nintendo DSi handhelds; Android phones; and web-enabled televisions.

Now that’s universal access to the cloud!