Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

Hang on to your hats boys and girls cause this one has potential. Amazon has rolled out two new services that if done right might be the new killer apps. The first, Cloud Drive is a personal cloud storage solution. It offers 5GB of free online storage and unlimited access from any computer. Additionally, songs purchased from Amazon MP3 are stored in your Cloud Drive for free. Purchase an album and get 20GB of storage free for a year. Additional storage plans are available ranging from 20GB to 100GB. You can also store more than music on your cloud drive. Amazon Cloud Player is the second service offering that hooks right in to Cloud Drive. Cloud Player comes in a browser based form and also has been ported to Android. This allows you to listen to your music from any internet connected computer or any Android device. Imagine that, your music wherever you want, whenever you want.


Apple Officially Announces iPad 2

Apple finally made all the rumor and speculation official with the announcement of the iPad 2 today. The new system will be thinner, have a faster processor, be a bit lighter, have front and rear cameras, built in gyroscope, and will be available in white. It will support both AT&T and Verizon. Apple is maintaining current pricing on the new iPads. Additional accessories were announced like a TV-Out adapter which mirrors the iPad's display at up to 1080p. As with any Apple product new cases were rolled out. Also announced was the integration of Photo Booth, iMovie, and Garage Band for iPad. So much for the iPad being only a consumption device. I'm not sure if this is a must have but it's interesting to see how Apple keeps pushing the envelope with each iteration of its devices. Will Apple be able to maintain their dominance with everyone jumping in the space with their own pads? We'll see.


Google Adds Increased Security

Google is offering its users a bit more security when it comes to accessing Google apps. What is described as a two step verification process. It works by allowing users to designate a mobile phone, land line, or mobile app which receives a unique login code. This code is then entered in along side username and password when accessing Google applications. The code can be renewed every 30 days. Supported mobile apps include Android, iPhone, and Blackberry. Google is rolling this out slowly to its user base. Go to to your Google account settings page to see if the service has been activated on your account. Granted, it's a real pain to have to enter another security item to access online services, but in these days and times, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. You can read more on activating, configuring, and utilizing the service here.


Stop Internet Tracking with DuckDuckGo

With all the internet privacy discussion it’s interesting to see someone doing online work that isn’t totally geared toward tracking information and building profiles to sell to third-parties. Gabriel Weinberg is doing just that. I came across DuckDuckGo a short while ago, and if you’re concerned about search engines harvesting and tracking your searches this could be the answer you’ve been looking for. DuckDuckGo is a search engine, but what makes it different is their policy not to track you and your searches. On their site they provide a link to an easy to follow illustration of how Google tracks your search queries and parces them out to third parties to give you those “relevant” ads. In addition, DuckDuckGo has some really cool built-in tools such as Zero-Click info which provides instant answers in a red box above its search links. They have short cut syntax options for site specific and utility queries. They boast less spam and search clutter, and of course real privacy is the main selling point calling card. I have been using DuckDuckGo exclusively for a few days and I have to say that it is a refreshing change of pace from my usual search experience. The results are relevant and the Zero-click functionality of the search engine works really well, often providing all the information I need in a red box above all the other links. No drilling down or additional clicking is required to get the information I want. The growth of Gabriel's basement project is impressive. In 2010 it saw its traffic grow 500% to 2.5 million searches a month - mostly by word of mouth.  I recommend DuckDuckGo as a viable option for searching the internet, but even if you decide not to use it, you should spend some time reading the privacy page on the site. It’s a great learning experience as to how tracking is conducted by the current search giants, third party sites, and ad companies.


There's An App for That?

App stores are popping up all over the place. It all started with Apple's iPhone app store, then Android Market Place, Chrome App Store, Zune Market Place, and now the Mac App Store. Let's not forget that also languishing in obscurity is the over-looked Blackberry App World. So what's all the fuss? Why are companies tripping over themselves to offer software in this way? Well, the answer is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Apple released the iPhone and along with it the iPhone App Store. Users flocked there and ponied up their dollars. The best part for Apple was that it splits revenue with the app developer. Apple takes thirty percent and seventy percent goes to the developer. Of course Apple has to provide the infrastructure for delivery but they are off the hook in regards to the typical responsibilities software companies have had to grabble with. They didn't need to hire developers, project managers, tech support personnel, a marketing team, or a sales force. Practically all of this falls onto the shoulders of the app developer. They do the development and maintain the software. A sweet deal for Apple. So after seeing Apple's success with this business model other companies felt compelled to offer similar services. They didn't want to miss out on this modern day gold rush. Seeing the success of this business model for mobile devices companies expanded and provided similar offerings for computer systems.  So what are all of these app stores? Traditionally a company committed resources to developing applications. After a long arduous process of writing the software code and testing it, the software was then pressed to a CD or DVD, placed in a box, shrink wrapped, and then sent off to retailers. App stores changes this in that it is individual developers who develop the application. They in turn upload their application to the appropriate app store which supports the particular device for which they have developed their application i.e. Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, Chrome OS, etc.  One upside of this process is that it has created quite a cottage industry for developers. They can spend their time developing for devices that they are comfortable with and work on software in which they are interested. They don't need large development teams. A developer with an idea can write a program in their spare time at home and have it in an app store with very few resources or hurdles.  It's a win-win for all parties to include the consumer. Never before have there been so many options for obtaining software. Apps run the gambit from silly novelty applications to full-fledged productivity solutions. Each app store has differences in how they are managed. Apple maintains tight control over the applications that it allows in its app store, whereas, the Android Market Place is an open eco-system and anyone can add their applications so long as it meets some basic guidelines established by Google. So with all of this competition we consumers can leverage all of our devices to their maximum potential by customizing them to our liking. We have access to applications for just about every need or want and for practically any device. Be it entertainment, productivity, communication, or simply for being silly... Yes, there's an app for that.

Check out the app store for your device:



Windows Phone 7

Mac OS

Google Chrome