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Life in Cloud Heaven

February 2014

I'm walking across campus and remember that I scheduled tennis at a slightly different time than usual the following week. If I don't make a note to myself at that moment I'm going to forget.

I take my iPad mini out of my coat pocket, hold down the Home button, and tell it, "Schedule tennis next Wednesday at 4 pm." Siri responds, "I set up your event for Wednesday. Shall I schedule it?" I tap "Confirm," and Siri adds it to the calendar on my iPad.

How cool is this? Simply being able to speak a request like that and having it automatically added to my calendar. But even more fun is this: when I get home, I check my Calendar software on my Macintosh, and there's my tennis appointment.

This is cloud heaven.

I'm planning to go shopping on a Sunday afternoon, and as I work at my Mac earlier in the day I start making a list in my Notes app of items to buy. Then as I clean house and think of additional things I need, I grab whichever tablet is nearest and add items to the list in the Notes app on my iPads. Then, as I head out the door, I sling my iPad mini over my shoulder, knowing it has the complete list, including items that I added while sitting at my computer or that I added via my iPad Air.

This is cloud heaven.

I go out with a couple friends one pleasant day to take some photos of rural Iowa scenes, using my iPad as my camera. A couple weeks later when I have some time, I decide to look at the photos. I turn on my HDTV, and there are my photos, which were automatically available via the PhotoStream app.

This is cloud heaven.

I'm waiting in line in the campus dining hall. I take out my iPad and start browsing my email, deleting some, replying to one. Then later when I get back to my desktop computer, the emails I've deleted have also been deleted from my Mail application, and the one I sent from my iPad also appears in the Sent folder on my computer.

This is cloud heaven.

I thought about this the other day when I got an email from a reader (Hi, Jennifer) saying she was in the dark ages of technology and asking for my advice. She wanted to buy a new computer, a tablet, a smartphone, and a smart TV. It occurred to me that an important consideration for her and anyone else is selecting which cloud service to use.

It's one thing to have these gadgets, but it's another to have them all in sync. They're just so much more useful (and more fun) when they all work together.

I use Apple's iCloud. My email, contacts, calendar, reminders, and notes are always in sync across devices. In addition, any media I purchase in the iTunes Store is automatically available on all of my devices. If I buy a song or book on one of my iPads, it automatically gets pushed to my other iPad and my computer. iCloud doesn't automatically push movies, but if I purchase or rent one, it will be available for streaming or download on all my devices, including my TV. (My TV is part of my cloud experience thanks to my $99 Apple TV device.)

Other ways iCloud is useful is keeping track of what page I'm on in a book regardless of which device. And my friend Hal tells me that when he plays games, he can play it for a while on one device, such as his iPhone, and then when he switches to his iPad, it picks up where he left off.

Apple's iCloud may be the easiest and most integrated service to use. But it's not your only option.

Perhaps the next best choice for consumers is Google's cloud. If you're using an Android smartphone or tablet, this may be the way to go, since Google has built Android to seamlessly connect with its excellent suite of web-based services. It may also be a good choice if you're already using Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar.

The only hitch is if you want Microsoft Outlook to be part of your Google cloud. Configuring email should be straightforward, but to integrate the calendar and contacts you'll need to download special software to accomplish this.

Hope you too enjoy cloud heaven. As devices proliferate, the cloud is essential to making your information and media available across devices.

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© 2013 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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