The Monday Rant! Is Apple now the biggest IT brand in the world?

I bet Steve Jobs had a really good weekend and woke up with a big smile on his face on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

On Friday, the 3rd of June 2011 Apple became worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined. At close of play on Friday, Apple’s market capitalisation was $317.6bn and Microsoft and Intel (or Wintel for those of us old enough to remember) combined market capitalisation was $316.8bn. Not a great deal in it I am sure you’ll agree but a significant day none the less.

So why is it significant? Well for me this shows us how times are changing and how the dominance of the desktop computer, as Apple spoke about at their last keynote event back in January is maybe coming to an end. Look at it this way, how can a company the makes iPods, iPhones and iPads (yes ok I know they still make Macs and whilst they are as sexy as the rest of the Apple hardware line-up do they really have any relevance to the way Apple are perceived to the great unwashed? No I don’t think so either) be worth more than the two companies that historically has control of over 85% of the desktop computer market?

We have month on month increases in the number of “smart phones” from the likes of Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and even RIM that are sold which not only allow us to access our private and corporate email but which are also getting to the point where we can access, through virtualisation and cloud technologies our desktop applications and data. Apple of course is also shifting truckloads of iPad 2′s now as well which make getting access to the apps that you know and love and use on a daily basis even easier. And now that Google has got its Android Honeycomb act together we are starting to see some serious competitors to the Apple iPad in the form of the Motorola Xoom, Asus TF101 Transformer, Acer A500 Iconia and the soon to be launched Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 which is even thinner than the Apple iPad 2.

Somebody is missing here though….. Microsoft. Bill and Steve must be quaking in their boots at the very thought of their long-time nemesis now being the big bully of the IT playground, a position that they themselves have held for decades right? Erm, no I very much doubt it.

Microsoft very much see their future as cloud based. Everything from email to apps will be done online through a browser. This of course is great news for Microsoft because it means that irrespective of what hardware you are using be it an Apple iPad, a Motorola Atrix, a Samsung Galaxy S II or even a Windows 7 Mobile you will be able access your email, work collaboratively on a Word or Excel document and even sync your calendar and contacts through your companies SharePoint portal. Of course Microsoft will want you really to be using all of its shiny new cloud services on a machine running their Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft have also announced that for the first time their desktop operating system is going to be able to be run on non-x86 based processors. This means that all of the handsets and tablets that we are currently buying have just become Windows 8 compatible as Bill and Steve release Windows 8 for ARM based processors – not that you’ll be able to run Windows 8 on them legitimately but it is still good to know.

So the big question has to be can Microsoft and Intel turn over this deficit and regain their position as top dog or are they really even bothered? Short term the answer has to be no. Today (06/06/2011) Steve Jobs will get up on stage to a room full of adoring fan boys and broadcast to worldwide collective of adoring fan boys about how Apple has changed the world and is going to continue changing it with the advent of iOS 5, iPhone 5, OS X 10.7 and iCloud – Apple’s stock can only increase with all of this exciting news.

As a technologist and a fan boy of technology in general, I will of course listen with interest to how Steve tells us how he is going to mould the not so distant technology future. Will this make me buy an Apple product? Probably not, I have had an iPhone and a number of iPods which have all been great tech and I have enjoyed using them but I have moved on to less constrictive products which are Android based (probably more because I like tech toys that are constantly needing to be updated with fixes and new features as I find it much more exciting to use a product like that rather than one that pretty much “just works”).

Long term it is un-clear if Microsoft can or even wants to regain the top dog position. Outwardly they will be saying “Yes, of course we do” but internally they will be happy knowing the fact that regardless of what Apple do cloud wise that they still have their “cash cows” of Word and Excel and that their cloud proposition is way ahead and very much corporate friendly compared to Apple’s music plus a bit of storage option.

2010 was the year of the iPad, 2011 will be the year of the tablet!

Apple currently dominates the tablet market, period. After the launch of the iPad in Spring 2010, Apple managed to shift around 15m units of the iPad world wide before the end of 2010 and not only leads sale with 90% of the market but is looking to increase sales massively with the launch of the thinner and faster iPad 2.

But whilst Apple currently has the tablet market pretty much to itself there are other devices launching now or in the not so distant future which have the potential to bite in to Apple’s market share along with also helping to grow the tablet market.

Samsung launched the Galaxy Tab in Q4 of 2010 and it took 17% of world wide tablet sales in that quarter which is impressive enough in its own right considering the device is really nothing more than a large screen Android mobile phone (the same could also be argued that the iPad is nothing more than an iPhone with a large screen too).

Where things start getting interesting in the tablet market is the launch of products such as the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 and the LG 3D G-Slate, all of which run the brand new Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. This new version of Google’s Android OS has specifically been created for tablet hardware and is a significant improvement over the more mobile phone orientated Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

We also have tablets from HP with their webOS based TouchPad (and webOS based Pre mobile phones to compliment the TouchPad) and BlackBerry with their Blackberry PlayBook tablet all set for launch between Q2 and Q3 of 2011.

The big question has to be though with all of these new tablets launching in 2011, how much effect will they have on Apple’s dominance in this particular market sector. Whilst 10% of the projected 50m tablet sales for 2011 is still an impressive number will any of these other tablets. But as technologically advanced as they are will they be in a position to eat in to Apple’s market share? Whilst not all price points have been set yet for the new tablets entering the market, tablets such as the Motorola Xoom have been set at a very similar price level to the competing Apple iPad and companies will find it difficult to out “AppleApple at same price point.

Apple is in the process of making the iPad the next stage of computing and the de-facto standard for both look and feel and how consumers want their software to look and work. But Apple has plans go further than this, not only do they want to own the market they want to define the idea of the market. We only have to look back to how their previous efforts with the iPod and the iPhone have turned out to get  some kind of idea of how this one may play.

There’s something in the Cloud | Cloud technology 2011

The “sky” isn’t the limit

We’ve predicted that cloud computing, whether used in a storage capacity or to greatly decrease carbon footprints, will experience significant growth, in both the public and private sectors over the next 12 months, specifically in the area of internet services. As a dynamic IT focused business we have developed this dedicated (Cloud) micro-site for our cusomers to benefit from this technology, we’ve put everything in one place to make it easier.

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.

Everyone is talking about “the cloud.” But how can I use it?
Business applications are moving to the cloud. It’s not just a fad???the shift from traditional software models to the Internet has steadily gained momentum over the last 10 years. Looking ahead, the next decade of cloud computing promises new ways to collaborate everywhere, through mobile devices.

Life before cloud computing
Traditional business applications have always been very complicated and expensive. The amount and variety of hardware and software required to run them are daunting. You need a whole team of experts to install, configure, test, run, secure, and update them.

When you multiply this effort across dozens or hundreds of apps, it’s easy to see why the biggest companies with the best IT departments aren’t getting the apps they need. Small and mid-sized businesses don’t stand a chance.

Cloud computing: a better way
With cloud computing, you eliminate those headaches because you’re not managing hardware and software. The shared infrastructure means it works like a utility: You only pay for what you need, upgrades are automatic, and scaling up or down is easy.

Cloud-based apps can be up and running in days or weeks, and they cost less. With a cloud app, you just open a browser, log in, customize the app, and start using it.

Businesses are running all kinds of apps in the cloud, like customer relationship management (CRM), HR, accounting, and much more. Some of the world’s largest companies moved their applications to the cloud.

As cloud computing grows in popularity, thousands of companies are simply rebranding their non-cloud products and services as “cloud computing.” Always dig deeper when evaluating cloud offerings and keep in mind that if you have to buy and manage hardware and software, what you’re looking at isn’t really cloud computing but a false cloud.

Cloud 2: Mobility and collaboration
The latest innovations in cloud computing are making our business applications even more mobile and collaborative, similar to popular consumer apps like Facebook and Twitter. As consumers, we now expect that the information we care about will be pushed to us in real time, and business applications in the cloud are heading in that direction as well. With Cloud 2, keeping up with your work is as easy as keeping up with your personal life on Facebook.

So if not the Archos 10.1 or the Toshiba Folio 100, which internet tablet do you buy?

Ok so everybody is really excited about tablet computing at the moment, especially us here at Cleverboxes.comApple iPad

After many false starts over the years, Apple finally raised the bar with the launch of the iPad back at the start of 2010. Selling over 3m units in the first 80 days of being available, the iPad really was another massively successful launch for Apple and the iPad really defined what customers expected from a tablet computer. The iPad isn’t without its faults though, there is no Flash support for instance limiting the availability of “the entire web in your hand” with Apple citing security and battery performance issues as the main protagonists. There is no way of expanding the memory of the unit from the standard 16Gb, 32Gb or 64Gb that comes with the unit when you purchase. Also there is no video output to connect to a larger screen and no direct USB support. What the iPad does well is the user experience. Switch the unit on and everything is “Apple” slick and stylish. And as Apples advertising says, “It the computer you already know how to use!” due to the OS being pretty much the same as the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Due to the massive success of the Apple iPad of course many other companies have since jumped on the tablet bandwagon. Samsung announced in Spring 2010 that they would launch the Galaxy Tab by the end of 2010 which would be a 7″ Andorid 2.2 based device. Archos and Toshiba both announced 10.1″ Android based tablets at IFA, Germany in September 2010. HP have also recently launched their Slate 500 8.9″ product in the US and Blackberry have announced their PlayBook 7″ tablet will ship Q1 2011. Microsoft have also spoken about a tablet optimised version of their Windows 7 OS being released early 2011 so expect a glut of Windows based tablets to be announced at CES 2011.

Archos 10.1 Internet TabletAround the beginning of November both Archos and Toshiba shipped their Android based tablets. shipped the first UK units of the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet and PC World/Currys had a UK exclusive on the Toshiba Folio 100. Whilst both units sold well initially, even sold out their initial allocation of Archos 10.1″ Internet Tablets and had a healthy back order list from customers both units had serious problems which led to most of the units being returned for refunds.

The Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet suffered from not shipping with the Android 2.2 operating system even though Archos advertised the unit did ship with this version. Android 2.1 is far more limited when compared to Android 2.2 especially as there is no Flash support built in to the operating system. The shipped operating system version on the Archos 10.2 Internet Tablet wasn’t really a surprise though as it was widely reported on the forums that this was going to be the case. Another worry for Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet owners was the fact that the unit only ships with 256Mb of main system RAM and Andorid 2.2 really requires 512Mb to run smoothly. There have been also quality control issues with the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet such as screen issues, the metal arm on the back of the unit being loose and the unit saying “Archos 10.1 Internet Table” on the front of it – we hadn’t received any PR from Archos informing us of their move in to Ikea’s territory! The Toshiba Folio 100 from PC World/Currys hasn’t fared much better either. Based on similar hardware (the Toshiba Folio 100 does use a Tegra chipset and has 512Mb of RAM though which gives the unit a lot more potential to run the Android 2.2 OS much better) to the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet, this unit does ship with the Android 2.2 OS BUT doesn’t support Flash playback out of the box – this update is rumoured to be coming mid-November from Toshiba but as this article is being written it hasn’t been released. Because of the Flash issue and build quality issues (not usually associated with Toshiba products) PC World/Dixons decided to withdraw the product from sale until the issues have been sorted. To be fair to both products, the main reason for people returning the units seems to have been down to the Android 2.1 OS shipping on the Archos 10.1″ Internet Tablet instead of the expect 2.2 version and no Flash compatibility on the Toshiba Folio 100 – both issues will be fixed with software updates and respective manufacturers have promised to make the updates available as soon and as quickly as possible.Toshiba Folio 100

So if you want a tablet PC before Christmas what do you purchase? Well if you like the slick but “wall gardened” experience of the Apple iPad then you can’t go far wrong. There is literally hundreds of thousands of apps available for the unit as well as books, music, video and games – just remember there are limitations but we think these are outweighed by the overall quality of the product, the OS and the user experience.

Samsung Galaxy TabThe Samsung Galaxy Tab is also shipping now and is widely available. This great unit runs Android 2.2 and supports Flash out of the box. But with only a 7″ screen the unit feels like an oversized phone (so much so you can put your SIM card in it for 3G data and voice). It is a quality product however and isn’t limited like other Android based products by having limited accessibility to the Android App Store.

Viewsonic are shipping their 10.1″ ViewPad tablet which has both Android 1.6 and Windows 7 installed on it (the reason for this unit shipping with Android 1.6 is that the Viewsonic Viewpad uses an Intel x86 CPU and Google don’t support this CPU in versions of Android above 1.6 i.e 2.1 and 2.2 – this will however be rectified when Google ship Andorid 3.0 and above sometime in 2011). Windows 7 has support for touch screen built in but we think that it will really only come into its own as a tablet OS when they release their tablet optimised version of the OS early 2011.Viewsonic Viewpad 10 will be retailing the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Viewsonic Viewpad shortly and we hope to resume sales of the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet once the OS has been upgraded and the Flash support enabled.

Whichever way you look at tablet computing, 2011 is going to be the year of the tablet and a very exciting time for this technology and cloud computing.