Category Archives: Web 2.0

Why Google’s cloud computing will win

The prognosticators of progress are debating whether cloud computing will win — the idea that a network of servers will eventually run all of your technology, so you just need tiny devices that plug in. Google and Oracle like this concept, while Microsoft, of course, does not. Redmond’s executives can’t make money selling Office apps to PC users if everyone just boots up inside a web browser window.

Paul Boutin in Slate argues that cloud computing will NOT take off, because our local devices are still more powerful than networks and frankly, people need horsepower. Boutin says (1) most networked apps, such as Google Docs, still suck compared to local programs, and (2) the photo- and video-heavy wizardry of today’s iPhone-type gadgets just won’t work on networks for years to come.

These are fair points, but our money is still on Google. People will adopt cloud computing for a simple reason — we value personal connections more than high fidelity. Boutin misses a trend of how people use technology today, where humans put a premium on social connections over resolution. We want YouTube, not movies; MP3s, not CDs; horrible Blogger text interfaces (ahem), not Microsoft Word. In the past 20 years we’ve taken numerous steps backward, if the gadgets or interface make social communication easier.

If technology helps us connect, then we jump in. We text via Twitter vs. send beautiful letters via U.S. Mail. Who cares if the technology is rough as long as it helps us connect.

There is one exception. If Microsoft invents a TV remote control that actually works, we don’t care how big the hard drive or software OS — sign us up today.

Hello, Mint. Good-bye, checkbook.

If you do nothing else this year, check out It’s a free web site that automatically pulls together your entire financial life — credit cards and bank accounts — sorts the data, and presents you with summaries without you having to lift a finger. The beautiful site, unlike other complex personal finance programs, does everything automatically.

The site launched in September as the brainchild of Aaron Patzer. His mission is to help the under-34 crowd, especially the college kids with ADD who have $21k in loans and $3k on credit cards by the time they graduate. Unlike Quicken, Mint doesn’t require data input. You don’t have to hold on to receipts, type in numbers, or sort your spending into categories. Instead, Mint automatically pulls information from your cards or bank using the same backbone technology as Bank of America, so your information is always secure, and sorts the data for you.

We tested Mint out after reading a glowing review in Fast Company. Setup took 3 minutes … we punched in an email, password, picked the names of our major banks and credit cards, put in their passwords … and were done. Mint sucked information from each of the accounts into a series of simple tabs. One web page showed spending categories. A second showed us how we could easily save $500 a year.

Mint has many cool features, such as the ability to send you a text message when your bank account is low. Its pie charts and graphs break your spending down into categories, so you can easily see if your gas and food costs are rising or falling each month. It also has a few bugs — the most obvious being it double-counts what you spend within a credit card account and what you spend from your bank to pay off the same credit card.

And yes, Mint exists to make money with ads or “savings recommendations” that refer you to new banks, but those are easily ignored.

But damn, it’s brilliant. In 2008, thanks to Mint we may never balance our checkbook again.

Dunkin’ Donuts and the end of Microsoft Office

We’re not big fans of gift cards, but something at Dunkin’ Donuts caught our eye this morning: A sign on the counter promoting customized coffee cards. So tonight we visited the Dunkin’ web site and found we can upload photos to create personalized gift cards.

Not only is this a cool gift idea — imagine giving your friends coffee gift cards with your smiling mug, or better yet, goofy photos of your least favorite politician — but it also points out the web is the new software center. The Dunkin’ Donuts editing site, actually run by Cardways, allows a user to upload photos, resize them, move them around, squeeze the X and Y axis, and basically do layout work that back in 1996 required QuarkXPress and TrueType fonts on a high-end Mac.

Software is becoming unbound. Soon, when we all have portable internet devices, and when the wireless pathways online get fast enough, hard drives and local apps will go away. Back in the day, Quark had 90% market share for layout tools, but it’s fading as design becomes embedded in every offline and online program. Microsoft Office, with its beloved Word and Excel, is facing the same pressure today from Google’s free online apps. Software has taken a Buddhist cycle, slowly leaving the wheel of birth, suffering, death and rebirth on our laptops until it departs hard drives altogether and awakens in the online state of Nirvana.

The irony is this: The better software gets, the less consumers are willing to pay for it. But no worries, mate: We’ll always spend too much on coffee.

Browsers get hungry, start snacking on software

The UK magazine Web Designer, a brilliant pub about web trends that perversely gives almost no content away on its web site, explains in Issue 136 how to move a web site outside a browser window — to take over the entire user’s computer screen. You’ve seen this at work at YouTube, if you hit “full screen mode” on the video.

This is much more than a design gimmick. If web sites can now go full-screen, and run programs, and store your data, then what is the point of desktop software? As this trend continues, companies that rely on PC-bound software (Microsoft) or PCs with complex innards (Dell, HP) are going to get hammered. All users will need is a screen, and everything else they want will be found online.

The impact on online advertising could be huge, since as content, utility, and storage move out of our homes or offices into the great wide web, it will become easier and cheaper for consumers to have multiple entry points into the internet. The screen in your car, the screen on your iPhone, the screen tablet in your briefcase, and the screen at the hotel lobby check in will all tie in to your online data systems. More points of entry, at a lower user cost, will create more time than ever before online. Facebook, for example, is really a new operating system that is housed online. You can run programs, communicate, store contacts, keep photos and files, all online — all you need is a screen to get in. Back in 1995, Facebook itself would have made a high-end computer.

All this, in turn, will continue the cannibalization of other media as consumers shift their routines to internet usage, vs. broadcast receptivity. To see full-screen web in action, check out papervision3d, which can turn your entire screen into a fish tank, or Sequence Post, a UK site showcasing high-end video work. More is coming.