7digital improves its Android app and takes on mighty iTunes

7digital is stepping up to compete with iTunes by updating its Android app to include an in-app music download store along with acting as the default Android phone music player.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been learning a lot about innovative music businesses venturing into new partnerships and trying to make the most of their APIs. It is interesting to see how 7digital is now challenging iTunes, even going a step further by having the app sync with 7digital’s digital music locker feature so that tracks previously purchased from the service can be re-downloaded to a user’s handset.

This is what I learned about the full features of the new version of 7digital’s Android application:

  1. Access to 7digital’s catalogue of 14m MP3 tracks.
  2. Optimised mobile delivery.
  3. Ability to access and sync tracks stored both locally on a user’s device and in 7digital’s cloud locker.
  4. Users can browse music by genre and new releases and search for artist, track or album names.
  5. Playlists can be created and managed within the application.
  6. 30 second previews of all tracks are available before purchase.

Main learning point: the latest version of 7digital’s Android application must be seen as a significant milestone within 7digital. It partners with a wide range of companies (think Blackberry’s PlayBook and Shazam) and this new Android all-in-one music player cum download store will in my view prove to be a further boost to their offering to both existing and future partners.

Related links for further learning:

http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/05/04/7digital-opens-its-music-download-store-to-android/

http://blogs.7digital.com/blog/2011/05/04/7digital-brings-mp3-downloads-to-android/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/03/ipod-meet-spotify-itunes-say-hello-to-your-future-rival/

The cloud saga continues: IBM tries a different approach

This ‘storing data in clouds’ thing keeps fascinating me. Maybe because the cloud seems so intangible and yet so appealing to a growing number of providers and corporate clients alike. In a recent post I looked at the flexible nature of cloud based computing, making large scale and complex IT infrastructures redundant. However, particularly large business customers still seem reluctant to adopt cloud computing, fearing a complete loss of control over their data.

In a recent move, IBM decided to start selling its cloud computing products through its “Services” division. Rather than just providing a technical solution, IBM will now be able to offer bespoke services to its clients, helping them to overcome their initial fears with respect to cloud computing. The focus of Erich Clementi, who heads up IBM’s cloud computing operation, is on different customer use cases and needs (i.e. large corporates).

Part of IBM’s new ‘cloud proposition’ is to sell individual services from its data centres that could be integrated into a company’s existing IT systems. This will leave companies in control of their IT system and their data. Microsoft has recently implemented a similar change to its cloud strategy through an upgrade of its Azure platform.

The main things I took away from IBM’s revised approach to cloud computing are:

  1. Companies will retain control over their IT – Rather than trying to encourage companies to relinquish control over their data to IBM to be stored and processed, IBM now enables companies to retain (full) control.
  2. IBM introduces ‘two-way traffic’ – IBM will now sell bespoke services from its data centres which can be integrated into companies‘ IT systems.
  3. This move by IBM is mostly strategic – the ‘teething problems’ inherent in cloud computing such as security and data portability, have not yet been resolved by the various providers and this new approach by IBM does not seem to resolve any of these issues.

Main learning point: cloud computing represents a really big and important shift in the way companies and individuals treat data storage and data management. To overcome corporate reluctance to handing over data control, providers such as IBM and Windows have started integrating their cloud services with corporate IT systems, thus creating more of a ‘two-way‘ relationship.

Related links for further learning:

Financial Times – “IBM in cloud strategy revamp”

http://www.ibm.com/ibm/cloud/

http://www.advertisertalk.com/ibm-and-european-partners-to-pioneer-new-storage-cloud-architecture-17089.zhtml

http://gigaom.com/2009/08/16/ibm-plans-cloud-service-to-take-on-microsoft-google-salesforce/

http://www.advertisertalk.com/ibm-and-european-partners-to-pioneer-new-storage-cloud-architecture-17089.zhtml

Moving to the cloud

This morning I looked for some more information on the “TMA” that French Connection is developing. I haven’t yet been able to work out what “TMA” stands for but I understand that it is a system which will enable French Connection to link and integrate between its different channels and devices. More importantly, I found out that this platform will be based in the “cloud”. This made me think about what that means: what happens in the cloud?

At the most basic level of understanding, I learned that cloud computing is Internet based. Until the introduction of cloud computing, data and applications could only be hosted on physical client-servers. Storing data in the cloud changes all that. The cloud makes things accessible through a web browser. It thus makes it easier and quicker to provide scalable data or applications. Users typically don’t have to worry about the “back end” of the cloud computing architecture, which comprises various computers, servers and data storage devices.

Particularly small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) seem to be in favour of cloud computing since it saves them the expenditure involved in the more traditional IT infrastructure setup. But also big businesses like French Connection and Universal are increasingly hosting their often complex (and data-rich) eCommerce systems in the clouds. These are systems that regular users can interact with. Well-known providers of cloud based services are Amazon, IBM and Oracle.

In short, the main things I’ve learned about cloud computing so far are:

  1. Cloud computing provides a viable alternative to large-scale and expensive IT infrastructures.
  2. It provides users with easy access to data and other virtualized resources.
  3. As a result of the flexible nature of cloud computing, data or software can be provided on demand.

Main learning point: I’ve learned about the basic workings of cloud computing. As time progresses, cloud computing will be offered in a variety of shapes and sizes. The key underlying principle is that the “cloud” makes physical client-servers redundant. The flexibility inherent in cloud computing is probably its biggest selling point. In future posts I will look into cloud-based service platforms and related security issues.

Related links for further learning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/agilization/2010/05/taking-your-first-step-onto-the-cloud.php

http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031

http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid201_gci1287881,00.html

http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.37517

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10097450

http://www.venda.com/ecommerce-ecosystem/comprehensive-ecommerce-solution/comprehensive-ecommerce-solution.html

Use Greplin to search your online life!

I often wonder whether people manage to keep track of all their online communications. Do you remember whether you received a message from a friend via Facebook or through LinkedIn? Greplin intends to solve this problem. Its proposition is fairly straightforward: find all your personal data locked away in the cloud at lightning speed.

The process is fairly straightforward. I first signed up with Greplin and then signed in with Facebook and LinkedIn to start, allowing Greplin to index both. When I then ran a search query (using the Google-like search box), Greplin presented me with real-time results as I was typing. It’s a pretty easy way of finding public and private data that you have locked away on sites like Facebook, Twitter or Evernote.

Greplin only launched in beta about 1 month ago, but these are the reasons why I think it will be a great success:

  1. The range of platforms that it can index – Greplin enables searching of a wide popular platforms varying from Facebook to people’s Gmail accounts.
  2. It’s easy to use – Typical searches are likely to be of an ‘ad-hoc’ nature and Greplin facilitates this by providing a simple search process.
  3. Real-time results – Like Google Instant, Greplin offers you with real-time results whilst you’re typing in your search query.

Main learning point: Greplin is here to stay! Only in the second month of it’s launch in beta, it has already been oversubscribed. I can see why; Greplin offers users easy access to all the public and private data that are locked away in the various online networks they are part of.

Related links for further learning:

http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/31/greplin-ycombinator-personal-search/

http://blog.greplin.com/

http://vimeo.com/user4619597