Cloud Computing in South Africa

So maybe this doesn’t concern you right now but it will. In about 12 months.

Cloud Computing is Web-based processing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices (such as smartphones) on demand over the Internet. Cloud Computing is probably one of the fastest growing development sectors in the world due to the expected demand. There are many pseudo cloud computing services already available, such as Evernote and DropBox. Both these services allow you to store data in the “cloud”.  Many pundits are betting against Cloud Computing becoming mainstream but they have it wrong. The pure convenience of being able to store your data centrally and being able to access your data from anywhere using any device is fantastic. You don’t have to use your email as your filing system, as most people that travel a lot are forced to do. You don’t have to worry about redundancy and disaster recovery. It’s all taken care of.

That’s all about data storage. What about using applications on the web and storing the data in the cloud? Google are certainly front-runners at this point with their suite of applications that include Google Docs etc. No doubt that these aren’t really “serious” applications yet. They are more for convenience and anytime, anywhere access. But boy, there are some really cool “Cloud” applications out there already! PicNik was recently acquired by Google. It’s a fully fledged photo editing application that runs from your web browser. There are literally thousands of start ups that are building Cloud Computing applications that will be launched into the market in the next few months.

So why is this important? Because the hardware companies are following suit. It’s a known fact that “hardware follows software” in much the same way as “form follows function”. In this case the guys in Cupertino (Apple) are very big influencers. The iPhone was the first, the iPad the second and now the ultra portable Macbook Air. These devices really don’t have hard drives. They are primarily for consumption, although some would argue that the Air is not. The iPad can hardly store anything more than your applications, music and photo’s. If you want to store stuff then you must get an online storage service such as DropBox. The Macbook Air is not much different. It comes with either 64GB or 128GB Flash storage. Solid state storage is in, hard-drives are out. It’s just a matter of time before computing will change forever, where you will use applications over the web and store your data in the cloud. The Netbook is another example of a “dumb terminal” that can almost only access the Internet.

The reason why this is particularly important in South Africa is because of our really poor connectivity. South Africa’s Internet connectivity must rate as one of the worst (from a performance point of view) and one of the most expensive. Our ADSL coverage is very poor, WIMAX is only provided in major metropolitan areas and 3G is prohibitively expensive, if you can get connected.  I am concerned that our connectivity to the Internet will not be able to able to keep the pace with international computing developments. If devices such as the Macbook Air become completely Internet dependent and the bandwidth requirements are extensive then we will certainly not be able to use these devices effectively. Netflix is a subscription-based movie and television show rental service that offers media to subscribers via Internet streaming and it is not available in South Africa probably due to licensing issues. Even if Netflix was available in South Africa we would not be able to use it due to the poor international bandwidth in this country. Let’s face it, our broadband sucks.

Watch how hardware developments are going to take quantum leaps in the next year and watch how we, at the southern tip of Africa, are going lag behind. Unless the South Africa government takes some serious action against the companies that continue to exploit and overcharge us for bandwidth and unless the government facilitates serious investment to get more and better bandwidth, we are in going to be in real trouble.

The future of online car buying

The Future of Interactive Mobile Computing

There is no question that the car buying process and experience will change dramatically in the next few years too. Technically, today it is possible to do the entire transaction online, but the problem lies with the user experience – the lack of “touch and feel”. The speed with which technology is developing, the availability of bandwidth, the development of practical mobility solutions and the increase in processing power will lead to technologies that we can only imagine today. One of the best examples is the iPad from Apple. It is a truly practical mobility solution that brings a full multimedia experience to the user.

Publications such as Wired Magazine and Popular Mechanics have embraced the technology to produce online reading experiences that were only seen in science fiction movies a year ago. One can read an article about a car and see interactive videos and high definition interactive 3D models of cars. Another technology that is developing at the speed of light is 3D computing. Combining the interactive, multimedia experience of the iPad with a 3D experience (a precursor to holograms) will revolutionize the way we interact with our environment. Imagine browsing a website in 3D and looking at fully interactive and 3D models of cars, being able to look inside the car and under the hood. You will even be able to virtually “kick the tires”.

The idea that consumers want to touch and feel before they buy is true only for today. As the consumer immersion experience improves they will be much more amenable to online purchasing of high ticket items such as cars. All of this is obviously much more true for new cars, especially the strong and well recognized brands. Pranav Mistry from MIT developed a technology called ‘SixthSense’ that allows the user to have a totally mobile interactive integration with the physical world. There is no doubt that the car buying experience is going to change dramatically in the next five years and the obstacles that exist today preventing consumers from buying online will all but disappear.

iPad for Business

iPad for Business


I have been searching for the ultimate mobility solution for the past 5 years with very little success. I think I have owned almost every possible piece of technology that had any promise of providing a mobility solution, from the very first Palm to the iPhone. I have owned Tablet PC’s such as the original Motion to the very latest IBM x200. Everyone of these devices has promise and then after using it for a few days I realized that they were not good enough and that they would not be able to provide me with the functionality I needed to become truly mobile.

I almost gave up… and then arrived the iPad.

Man! was I excited! Steve Jobs didn’t mention one word about the iPad being designed as a business tool, but I saw the potential. Portable, battery life, 3g, Wifi, thousand of application, unbeatable interface. This is it!!

Well I wasn’t disappointed. I realized quickly that it wasn’t perfect either. It took me a few days to find the perfect setup and that is what I would like to share with you today. How to make your iPad the perfect business tool.

3G is essential

Forget about what anyone says. Without 3G you will become terribly frustrated. You will constantly be looking for wifi hotspots and it will cost you way more money than the 3G, in the end. You can trick your iPad into thinking it has a wifi connection by using your iPhone as a wifi router. Do this if you don’t want to buy the 3G iPad.

Business Apps for the iPad

Dropbox
Dropbox is the easiest way to sync and share your files online and across computers.

FTP On The Go PRO
An FTP client for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. View and edit HTML/CSS/JS/PHP/ASP, or other files on your server with its built in editor to change your website from anywhere. View images and documents (JPG, PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, etc) too.

Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard.

PrintCentral
Print direct to most WiFi printers, or to ALL printers and ANY document type via your Mac/PC, even over 3G. View, store & print email, attachments, documents, files, photos, contacts, web pages and copied items from other Apps, on your iPad.

iMockups
Mockups provides designers and developers with the ability to quickly draft wireframes for their websites and iPhone/iPad apps. Created exclusively for the iPad, iMockups combines a beautiful interface with intuitive functionality, taking full advantage of the breakthrough touchscreen device.

The Wall Street Journal (Free)
Experience The Wall Street Journal’s award winning coverage, blending the best of print and online. Touch the stories that matter to you most, get latest news updates and market data throughout the day, and save your favorite articles and sections for later.

Pages
Pages is the most beautiful word processing app ever designed for a mobile device. It’s the application you know and love for the Mac, completely reworked from the ground up for iPad.

iThoughtsHD (Free/Paid App)
iThoughtsHD is a mind mapping tool for the iPad. Mindmapping enables you to visually organise your thoughts, ideas and information.

Keynote
Keynote is the most powerful presentation app ever designed for a mobile device. It’s the application you know and love on the Mac, but completely reworked from the ground up for iPad.