Well it looks like we recently got another update to SkyDrive{{1}}.  For me SkyDrive has been one of those services that has had limited usefulness(similar to DropBox until recently) .  I have used it for various things over the years.  But due to the difficulty in getting stuff into it,  it just wasn’t convenient.  Well, I guess that is only partially true.  When they opened up 5 gig of my Skydrive space to be used for Windows Live Mesh, I did use that space up pretty quick (because there was a convenient access method).

However with these new updates, it is starting to appeal to me once more.  They did drop the free space from 25 gig to 7 gig.  But for those of us who have been ‘loyal’ users for a long time, they have offered an amnesty program to allow us to request that we retain our free 25 gig{{2}}.  So that’s not an issue for me.  They also add some reasonable options for upgrading your space if you need (50 gig for $25/year, etc.).

With this update, also came a windows application that allows you to access/sync your SkyDrive with your computer(Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X Lion){{3}}.  This was a bit of shock since it was becoming apparent to me that Microsoft was not interested in making it easy to access and use this space.  Apparently that mind set has changed.  With this new app, the barrier to get stuff in and out of your SkyDrive has been lifted.  They also have a Windows Phone 7 app and an iOS app (now supporting iPad).  Sadly there is no Android app.

So how will SkyDrive become a more active part of my life?  Well I am not sure yet.  I am currently as huge user of Windows Live Mesh{{4}}, which is an integral part of my backup solution.  And they don’t appear to be trying to merge these systems (in fact they appear to be separating them even more as my 5 gig of used space does not show up in my used count in my 25 gig of SkyDrive space).  They have created a page entitled “SkyDrive for Mesh Users”{{5}}.  However this page seems more to me to be more of a migration guide and propaganda to get you to move off of mesh and not documentation on how to get them to work together.

There are a lot of collaboration feature built into SkyDrive.  The integrated office webapps makes in browser editing of office docs a breeze.  It is a much, much more elegant solution than Google docs when it comes to a document repository and collaboration environment.  I guess we’ll just have to see.  If its useful, I imagine I will see it starting to creep back into my life more and more as time passes.  If they would just add an Android app to their lineup, that may seal the deal for me.

Fingers crossed!


DevicesA ‘pocket sized’ computing device has been rooted in the imaginations of science fiction writers and readers for as long as I can remember.  These devices have done everything imaginable.  They have been communicators, navigators, medical diagnosticians, entertainers, locating beacons, mathematicians, knowledge repositories and I am sure there are countless other iterations that have existed over the years.  Science fiction has always been a hot bed of tech ideas.  And today’s smart phones and tablets are prime examples of ‘Life imitating art’.

However I feel that the big players may be missing the boat in some respects.  For the past few years, I have been analyzing the value of the various devices in this new fragmented world of personal computing.  As always, different users have different needs.  We are seeing many users throughout the world who feel their smart phones are sufficient.  Others have decided a tablet fits all of their needs.  But both of these users would probably find themselves, admittedly or not, squarely into the camp of ‘the consumer’ when it comes to the services available on these devices.  The content creators, while they may love their tablets and smart phones, typically still rely on a laptop or desktop computer to work on their craft (dual 24″ monitors are hard to compete with when it comes to doing actual work).

So what is it that limits these devices to being merely consumption devices?  They are those that would disagree with me who say these devices can do it all.  I have heard their arguments and examples in countless forms.  But in all honesty, their proofs come across to me as functional compromises to help justify owning the device.  In almost every instance, the larger screen, the physical keyboard and the mouse/trackball are still much more efficient for the task at hand.  Now please don’t get me wrong, I think these devices have their place and can be extremely useful and convenient for many tasks, both professional and casual.   And I have seen some creative apps that do a lot with limited controls.  However depending on what you do, these devices probably shouldn’t be a replacement for all your computing needs.

So let’s analyze what the limiting factors could be.  In all reality it doesn’t seem to be the processing power.  My current phone and tablet both have more processing power and similar storage to my desktop from eight or ten years ago.  I was pretty productive on that machine.  So when you consider the quad core devices that have come out recently or are coming out soon, the processing power is most than sufficient for a very large percent of the content creators out there.

So it’s not the power of the devices.  The logical option would be to blame it on the software, the OS and the apps.  I would say that in our current market, we would be partially correct.  But the software can easily, or quickly, be addressed—relatively speaking.  But fixing the software is definitely part of the solution (to be discussed later).

I think it’s obvious that the largest limitation is the form factor itself.  Some form factors, no matter how much we like them, just shouldn’t be used for some tasks.  You don’t use a Prius to haul a boat.  Which means the most efficient solution for now is to just buy multiple devices for each need.  But that option does not scale well for the majority of us.  Plus there are the added annoyances that arise from having to maintain multiple devices and their respective environments.

First you need to manage/install you favorite apps on all your different devices.  Remember installing Angry Birds on your new tablet only to realize you had to solve all those levels again?  Also, if you like to customize your experience, you now need to maintain that on each device.  And then there are the files.  To take advantage of all of your device’s strengths for the life-cycle of a particular file, you need to synchronize that file to all of those devices.  The cloud can help immensely here, but it still requires some level of expertise and knowledge to make it work smoothly.

So what is the solution?  Well I do see hints of many of the larger companies heading in the right direction.  But there are aspects of their published strategies that cause me some concern.  It may take them too long to get to where we need to be.  This may be an opportunity for a few of the smaller guys to make a name for themselves.

Next: Unified Personal Computing – Consumer’s Needs

Latitude AvatarDaniel Mabasa, community manager for Google Maps announced yesterday{{1}} that a new web interface for Google Latitude has been released.  Now there are really on a few people whose locations I have a desire to keep track of 24/7 (or desire to know mine).   But for my own personal information, it has been interesting to keep track of my own travels.  The new dashboard is kind of fun.  For instance, since I have started using Latitude it has logged 50,829 miles.

Some of the data is wrong, or at least how it interprets it is wrong.  For example, it has me taking off from an Airport in Prescott AZ last year and never landing.  Now in all fairness, I was in Prescott, AZ at the time.  But we drove there.  Maybe the fact that check-ins where inconsistent due to spotty coverage.  Or maybe I had my phone off (or latitude was off) a lot during that trip.

The dashboard also tries to graph your time at home, work and ‘out’.  It has never seemed all that accurate.  Although recently it seems to be getting better.  But it still thinks I spend more time ‘out’ than I do at home or work.  My wife can attest that Google is sorely mistaken in this case.

So if you are a Latitude user, check out the new improvements.  If you haven’t yet tried it, and you own a smartphone, its fun to play with but I wouldn’t rely on its accuracy just yet.