Pages

Cloud Drive Comparison

 

Thumbnail image for apple_logo_150.jpgWith the news this week that Apple is entering the cloud storage arena, how does this offering stack up with what is available from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft? The short answer is it depends on what you are storing in the cloud.

(For Audrey Watters comparison specific to music services, see her article here.)

Apple's iCloud is mostly a work-in-progress. For now, the only access to it is through iTunes v10.3, which adds a series of check-boxes in the Preferences/Store menu (see screenshot below). You can store just music, ebooks and apps there for the time being, and there is no Web client to access these items, unlike the other services. But there is also no storage limit too (or at least, none that I could find mentioned). If you are using earlier versions of iTunes, you need to upgrade. It is also free.

itunes.jpg

Before iCloud, you needed to keep track of what you purchased and on which iDevice you placed things. You couldn't easily synchronize purchases made one place with another: I usually ended up trying to make all my purchases on my desktop, and then pushing them out when I attached my iPhone or iPad to the desktop. iCloud will make this process easier, and all of your prior purchase history can be synchronized and accessed by any device, provided you use iTunes 10.3 or iOS v5 when it becomes available later this year.

(See the summary table below for a more concise feature comparison.)

Amazon's cloud also is short on features: while it offers your choice of Windows, Mac or Web client to upload items to their cloud, you start off (like iCloud) with a 5 GB storage quota for free. You can up this to 20 GB if you purchase at least an album a year (and watch for specials such as the new Lady Gaga which for 99 cents will also up your quota) or pay an annual fee of $20. But it is also very simple to use: at the time you purchase any music, you choose whether to store it in the cloud or on your local PC. You can play anything in the cloud from your browser too. Prior purchases to signing up for their cloud have to be manually uploaded.

Amazon's cloud is also very expensive when you venture beyond 20 GB of storage. Fill up a terabyte and Amazon will cost $1,000/year. That is probably the most expensive terabyte you can find these days. Compare that to Google Docs, which will only cost $256/year. (Amazon does have a separate cloud-based storage service called S3 that a variety of partners will sell extremely cheap gobs of storage, including ElephantDrive.com and JungleDisk.com.)

amzon cloud drive.jpg

skyrdrive.jpgMicrosoft's Skydrive.com will give you 25 GB of storage for free. While that sounds appealing, Skydrive does have a few downsides: first, there is no way to expand it further (other than opening another Hotmail account to get another free 25 gigs) and second, the actual files that you can store on Skydrive are limited to 50 MB in size, which is rather puny - but that is how they can afford to give away so much storage. Amazon's limit is 2 GB per file, which is better than you will get from Google or Microsoft.

Finally, both Amazon and Apple don't have many features when compared to their competitors. Both Google and Microsoft have been adding all sorts of collaboration tools to make it easier to share documents among a project team in their clouds, rather than emailing them around as attachments. Google has incorporated near real-time joint authoring of its documents, so two or more people can be editing on their own computers, and both will be able to see the changes and post comments. If you have ever had to work jointly on a document, you can be a lot more effective using this feature.

google docs comments.jpg

Google Docs also has the ability to create Web-based forms, for example, and store the results in a shared spreadsheet. Google and Microsoft (through its Live Mesh service) and Apple (through iTunes) all have ways to synchronize the files that you have in the cloud with the files that you have on your desktop (or in Apple's case, on other iOS devices such as your phone or iPad). Amazon lacks this feature. Surprisingly, Live Mesh is the best of the services in that it allows you to synchronize both Mac and Windows computers and can synch all files that are stored in the cloud. If you haven't yet heard of it, it is because Microsoft's Live Cloud is not well integrated with Skydrive, and there are different bits and pieces that don't fit all together. Live Mesh can sync up files bigger than 50 MB but then you can't edit or view them in Skydrive. Google Docs only allow Windows PCs to sync with their cloud drives (and Google has a synch-add only for Office 2010 at that, called Cloud Connect).

Conclusion

None of these services is anywhere near what a cloud storage provider such as Box.net or Dropbox.com can provide in terms of features. Microsoft's Skydrive is attractive for the amount of storage you can get for free, as long as your files are small. Google continues to enhance its cloud and add features. Apple is just getting started with its cloud and still has a long way to go.

Cloud Storage Service Comparison

 

Amazon Cloud

Apple iCloud

Google Docs

Microsoft Skydrive

Free storage

5 GB

5 GB

1 GB (1)

25 GB

Max file upload size

2 GB

Unknown

1 GB (1)

50 MB

20 GB cost

$20/yr (2)

Free

$5/yr

Free

1 TB cost

$1,000/yr

Free

$256/yr

Not available

Collaboration tools

None

None

Yes

Yes (Live Mesh)

Sync to desktop

No

Yes (iTunes 10.3 only)

Yes (Windows only)

Yes (Windows and Mac)

Notes: (1) Google places storage and size limits on uploaded documents; docs created online in Google's own formats don't count in the storage quotas and can be larger than 1 GB (2) Amazon will waive this fee if you purchase an entire MP3 music CD after you create your account.

4Shared Has Free 15GB Cloud Drive

 

4shared150.pngAs many of you know, Microsoft has had a free 25 GB of cloud drive storage for some time with its Skydrive service. Now 4Shared.com is trying out to offer an alternative. You can have up to 15 GB of free storage, as long as you confirm your email account and don't upload any files larger than 2 GB each. More storage without ads and removing the file size and other limits can be had for $10 a month, less if you purchase an annual contract.

The service works similarly to Box.net, Dropbox and other cloud file storage services. The news this week is that it now comes with applications for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian devices, along with a synch service for Windows users and a separate Mac desktop app too. You can set it up to post any uploads to both your Twitter and Orkut accounts.

4Shared is also making its API available to developers and is offering up $5000 prize each month to the developer "who most creatively utilizes the 4Shared virtual drive framework in their app," according to the company. Now we here at ReadWriteWeb just give away a MacBook Air every month - there you actually get hard cash money, along with up to a million ad banner impressions promoting your app! One early winner is an app that allows one-tap backup of your iPhone contacts to the 4Shared cloud repository.

5 things to know about Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon announced Cloud Drive, an online (“cloud-based”) file storage and music streaming service for Amazon.com customers. Cloud Drive works in conjunction with the also-new Cloud Player feature, which lets you stream your personal music out of your Cloud Drive to any web browser or Android device (provided you’ve uploaded that music to your Cloud Drive or purchased in through Amazon). The music streaming feature trumps long-anticipated but not-yet-to-be-seen offerings from Apple and Google–but Cloud Drive has plenty of competition, notably from Dropbox, our favorite cloud-based file storage, syncing, and sharing utility. Below are five observations I’ve made so far about Cloud Drive, admittedly looking at it through a Dropbox-colored lens to see how the two might compare.

1. You get lots of space for free

Out of the box, Amazon gives you five gigabytes of personal, cloud-based storage space for free. You can use that space to store documents, videos, photos–whatever you’d like. Of course, Amazon wants you to store your music there. If that music is in MP3 format, you can then stream it to your computer or Android device. To put a little bit of perspective on this, Amazon is giving you the same amount of storage space that the original iPod could hold back in 2001. 1,000 songs. For free.

2. You can catch a break on an additional 15 GB of storage

For the remainder of 2011, if you buy any MP3 album from Amazon, you can upgrade to the 20 GB plan for free (a $20 value). Most MP3 albums run much less than the price of a 20 GB plan, but for the frugal, Amazon is offering several $3.99 albums to help “seed” your music collection. They also provide a collection of $5 albums each month. (For what it’s worth, I just bought a three song EP for 79 cents and my Cloud Drive got the size upgrade–so look around!) Any MP3 you purchase through Amazon will automatically be added to your Cloud Drive and will notcount against your storage quota.

3. Upgrades are cheap

Want even more space? Amazon offers up to 1,000 GB (that’s roughly 1 terabyte)–by comparison, Dropbox only offers up to 100 GB at this time. Or you can stick with a 100 GB plan at about half of what Dropbox charges for that amount of space. Click the Buy additional storagebutton in the interface to learn more about storage tiers and prices.

4. But you don’t get the nice integration with your operating system

There are downsides, though–first and foremost in my mind is the limitation of using only your web browser to access files. Not that it’s really complicated, but it’s not as simple as moving files in and out of folders on your computer. This is where Dropbox really shines against Cloud Drive (and other competitors in this arena).

5. And you can’t share folders with others

Dropbox’s second major selling point over Cloud Drive is its capacity for collaboration. In Dropbox, you can share files with the world via the Public folder, or share folders with other Dropbox users for easy group work. Cloud Drive is intended more for personal use–it’s connected to your personal Amazon account.

This is not to say that Amazon will never offer these features–heck, maybe they’ll just buy Dropbox someday–but if syncing, ease-of-use and collaboration are important features for you, then Cloud Drive might not be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a lot of cloud-based storage space for free (or cheap) then Amazon’s Cloud Drive is worth a look.

Google Docs - Universal File Viewer

Designers, for both web and print media, mostly use tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for doing the creatives of a project. They'll do the prototypes in PSD format but, for approval, the designs are delivered as PDFs since their clients may not have the software (Photoshop in this case) that is required to view PSD files.

PSD file viewer
Read Photoshop (PSD), Fonts (TTF) and other files in the browser.

That said, if you have any Photoshop (PSD) files on your desktop that you want to view but without having to install Photoshop, here’s a tip for you – just go to your Google Docs account and upload the file.

Google has recently added support for new file formats in Google Docs that are commonly used to exchange design prototypes between clients and designers. That mean you can open and quickly read Photoshop and other  files in the browser itself without requiring the application.

The file formats that can be natively viewed inside Google Docs, without conversion, include Photoshop (PSD), Illustrator (AI), Fonts (TTF), AutoCAD drawings (DXF) and Office 2010 documents (like DOCX, XLSX and PPTX).

And if the file that you are trying to open is already on the web, you don’t even have to bother uploading it to your Google Docs account. Copy the  public URL of that file and pass it to Google's online viewer at docs.google.com/viewer.

View Contents of a Zip File Online with Google Docs

Consider this. Your friend sends you a 10 MB zip files as an email attachment and you are not too sure what files are inside that archive. It could be a slideshow with pictures of cute cats, that you would definitely not like to open, or maybe something more important.

Earlier you would have to download that entire 10 MB files to your computer just to see whether it is of any use but not anymore. The Google Docs viewer, the standalone app and the version that comes integrated with Gmail, can now handle both .zip and .rar formats in the browser itself.

google_docs_zip

That means you can browse the contents of an attached zip file online without having to download it. If there any Office documents or Photoshop files or even another zip file contained inside, you can view their content as well in the same Google Docs viewer window.

There’s another scenario where this feature will come handy.

Say you want to download a zip or rar file from a website but before doing so, you would like to confirm what’s inside the file. In that case, just copy the URL of the zip files and paste it into the Google Docs viewer like in this example.

Google Docs can handle ZIP and RAR formats but for extracting other archive formats like gzip or for opening password-protected ZIPs in the browser, check this tool.

How to Easily Transfer Files Across Cloud Services

Cloud storage services like Google Docs, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc. have made it easy for you keep your important files and documents online. These services are mostly free and you can have multiple accounts on them as long as you use separate email addresses.

This leads to another problem though. When you have files spread across multiple cloud services, managing them can be challenge. You may have stored one group of files on Dropbox, the other on Google Docs while some of the older files could be hosted on your old Google Docs account that you abandoned long ago.

Would it be nice if there were an easy to way to manage / search all your online files from one place without having to download them to the computer first?

move_cloud_files

Meet Otixo – an impressive web-app that lets you access files stored across different cloud service from a central location. To get started, you associate your Dropbox, Google Docs, Picasa, Amazon S3 and other online accounts with Otixo and then you can easily move or copy files between any of your accounts via simple drag-n-drop.

Otixo supports FTP so it can also be used to directly transfer files from any FTP server to Google Docs or Amazon S3 without having to write complicated scripts. You can even add multiple accounts from the same cloud service - like your old and new Google Docs accounts – and transfer file across these accounts easily.

Otixo offers unified search to help you quickly find all your files that are otherwise spread across multiple cloud services. You can delete files, create new folders, or upload files from the desktop to any of the associated cloud services. Everything just works.

Send fax from Google Docs – Google docs as Fax machine

 

fax google docs

While there are dozens of web-based services that let you send and receive faxes from the computer without requiring a fax machine, Interfax goes one step further – it turns your Google Docs into a complete fax machine.

You just have to connect your Google Docs account with Interfax and once the link is enabled, you can fax any of your existing Google Docs documents, or spreadsheets, to any fax number in the world right from the browser. You may even send the same Google Docs file to multiple fax machines in one go – remember to separate the different fax numbers / Google Contact names by commas.

The cost for sending faxes from Google Docs varies according to the destination country and the length of the document. For instance, if you are to send a fax to US, the cost would be 13¢ per page, 15¢ for UK while a single page fax to an Indian number would cost you 60¢. There’s no monthly fee for sending faxes though you’ll have to buy minimum credits for $10.

GinzaFax is another online fax service that is built around Google Docs. It is slightly more expensive to send faxes through GinzaFax – the cost 40¢ per page for US numbers and 60¢ for other countries – but here you get a $5 free credit for sending faxes the first time you sign up for an account.

Other than sending faxes, you may also use both Interfax and Ginza Fax to receive faxes from anywhere in the world directly into your Google Docs account. The incoming faxes are automatically converted to PDF format and they get saved in a separate folder thus making it easier for you to locate them later.

How to delete all your Facebook posts and comments

 

Maybe you woke up from a long night and realize you've made a horrible mistake, posting dozens of embarrassing pictures (or worse) to Facebook. Maybe you've just decided that your five years on Facebook were experimental and you'd rather move on.

Maybe you woke up from a long night and realize you've made a horrible mistake, posting dozens of embarrassing pictures (or worse) to Facebook. Maybe you've just decided that your five years on Facebook were experimental and you'd rather move on.

In either case, deleting more than a couple of posts or pictures can be a major pain. Elinor Mills recently wrote up a neat Android tool called Exfoliate that can scour your Facebook history and permanently delete some or all content. (iPhone users should see it come to the App Store soon.) Here's how to use it: 

Facebook Wall before Exfoliate.

Facebook Wall before Exfoliate.

  1. Install Exfoliate from the Android Market.
  2. Tell Exfoliate which data to delete. This is mostly straightforward, organized into time and content type. If things don't seem to work out the first time, try again with Background Override checked. If you're on a network you trust, you can uncheck Use Https Only to speed up the operation considerably. 

    Step 2: Choose data to delete.

    Step 2: Choose data to delete.

  3. Sign in to Facebook. Exfoliate doesn't retain your log-in information. 
  4. Authorize Exfoliate as a Facebook app. It needs a lot of permissions, as it has a lot of work to do. 
  5. Now is your last chance to reconsider. Start Exfoliate by tapping the big button on the bottom of the screen. 

    Step 5: Begin processing.

    Step 5: Begin processing.

  6. If you get cold feet or suddenly remember you need to save a pic or two, you may have a chance to stop some deletions. Exfoliate starts with the oldest data, so you can tap the cancel button and hope you caught it in time. If not, it's gone forever, so think carefully. 
  7. This is a slow process. If you're deleting more than a few posts, you should probably leave it running and plugged in overnight. 

    Facebook Wall after Exfoliate.

    Facebook Wall after Exfoliate.

That's it. As with any other app or service that makes irrevocable changes, you should think carefully before using it. For some users, though, Exfoliate could be a life-saver.

 

How to Check Multiple Gmail Accounts in one Log in ?

When I heard the news that Gmail was offering "Multiple Inboxes" as part of Labs, the first thing that popped into my head was "finally--now I can check multiple accounts from the same place!" Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

Instead, Google's solution is simply to place the results from various filters and search queries off to the side of your main in-box. By default it sets you up with messages you've starred, and unsent messages from your drafts folder. This is nice and all, but you can hop to those two places from links in the left-hand navigation.

What I really wanted to do was to get in-boxes from two of my other Gmail accounts into my main Gmail account, and I managed to get it to work with a little tweaking. Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Enable Multiple Inboxes in labs. It looks like this:

Step 2: Log in to the additional account you want to view from your primary Gmail account and open up the settings menu.

Step 3: Go into Forwarding and POP/IMAP and set forwarding to on, and have it send a copy to your primary Gmail address. Repeat this with any accounts you want to forward.

Step 4: Go back into the settings menu of your primary Gmail account and open the Multiple Inboxes menu. In each of the panes simply type in "to:" followed by the e-mail address of one of the forwarding accounts. So it should look like "to:YourAccount@gmail.com" minus the quotation marks of course.

Step 5: At this point your multiple in-boxes are up and running, but you're still going to get these messages in your primary in-box too. To keep this from happening we're going to create a filter. Head back to settings in your master account, then click on filters. Create a new one. In the "to" field enter the e-mail address you're forwarding from, click next, then pick the "skip the in-box" option. Repeat with any additional forwarding e-mails and be sure to run it on messages that are already in your in-box to keep things nice and clean.

This system results in a few caveats that keep it from being a true "multiple in-box" experience. For one you'll need to actively set the right "send from" e-mail address when replying to a message from one of your other in-boxes. If you haven't done so already, this needs to be set up from the accounts menu in Gmail's settings.

Also it doesn't carry over any organizational goodness back to the source account, so if for example you star a forwarded message it's not going to have a star when you view it from the original account. The same thing goes for reading messages. So if you want to avoid an avalanche of unread mail back at the source accounts, one option is to set forwarded mail to be automatically archived. However, this might wreck havoc with your e-mail enjoyment on mobile devices and back at the source accounts. I recommend not turning it on, but if you're planning to only access your Gmail from the Web, and from your primary account this won't be an issue.

I'm hoping future versions of Multiple Inboxes will make this whole process a little easier to manage and simply let you plug in additional accounts. In the meantime this is a foolproof way to keep an eye on all three in the same place short of using a third-party Web mail aggregator like Fuser or Orgoo.

Update: As a few folks have pointed out there's another way to do this that avoids relying on forwarding and is smart enough to set the correct account when replying to a message. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Add your extra Gmail accounts to the "send e-mail as" option found in the accounts section in Gmail's settings. As mentioned before you'll need to confirm each account before you can start using it.

Step 2: Pull in the extra accounts you want to keep track of by adding them in the "get mail from other accounts" option in the accounts menu. When you're plugging in your account information be sure to select the "skip inbox" option as well as setting it to automatically label each piece of incoming mail. It should look like this:

Step 3: Go into the Multiple Inboxes settings menu and plug in "label:" then whatever label you selected in step 2.

Like the first method, there are a few hang-ups with this one. For one, slurping in additional accounts takes awhile after you first set it up. More importantly, it takes space in your primary Gmail account. If you're doing this with several large and active accounts you're going to start running out of space more quickly, which for most I'm guessing won't be a problem. Nonetheless it's worth keeping in mind.

New Gmail with all new prominent features

 

Gmail has undergone a design refresh and it's available as an optional switch before it gets rolled out.

Explore Gmail’s 6 new features.

Inbox view customizations

Gmail has worked on providing a more comfortable view for the inbox. You can now adjust how dense the inbox looks in Settings >Display density. There are three options to choose from - Comfortable, Cozy and Compact to choose from.
Comfortable gives you the largest font size - great if you have a large display (20 inches or more). Cozy reduces size for medium sized devices - notebooks with 13.3 to 17-inch displays. Compact view compresses the view further and is best suited for smaller displays such as those on netbooks (12-inch or smaller).

 

 

 

 

Intuitive new toolbar

Gone is the plain toolbar that had simple grey buttons. It is now replaced by a new intutive toolbar that shows neat, space-saving icons. while viewing the inbox, the toolbar will only show a selection box, refresh icon and a 'more' button that offers the option to 'mark all as read'.
When you select or open a mail, the toolbar changes to show icons for archive, delete, report spam, move or assign a label. For a smoother transition from old to new styles, the placement order of the icons has not been changed.

 

 

 

Streamlined conversations

Reading mails is much easier with the new interface. Email conversations now indicate the total number of messages sent and received between the first and the last mail. Each mail in the conversation displays a profile picture of the sender - for easier identification.
Icons have replaced most of the text buttons and other than the reply/reply to all icon on the right side, all the other icons are hidden and can only be accessed via a drop-down menu.
The quick reply box at the bottom now has shortcuts to reply, reply to all or forward. 'Show quoted text' has been removed and in its place is a small icon - click it to show trimmed content.

 

Upfront inbox type

Hovering the mouse pointer over the 'inbox' label shows a drop down arrow with the option to choose an inbox 'style'. There are five inbox types including 'Classic' (the conventional Gmail), 'Important first' (all mail from contacts marked as important will show first), 'Unread first' and 'Starred first'.
The last style, 'Priority inbox', splits your mails into various heads. Unread, important and starred mails are shown with relevant headers while the rest are placed under a single header that says 'Everything else'. More options to customise inbox styles (items per page, unread mail count, visibility of unread markers) is available in account settings.

 

 

The reworked sidebar

Mail, Contacts and Tasks are now in a drop down box on top instead of as separate text links. The chat window can be resized by simply dragging the adjustment bar up/down. However, your labels remain intact and as soon as you hover the mouse pointer over them, it automatically brings up all the labels, pushing the chat window down.
To provide a more concise view, additional widgets such as calendar, 'invite a friend' and so on are no longer below the chat window. Instead there is a small button below the chat window to switch between chat and widgets - there's no need to scroll up/down to view the widgets.

 

 

Powerful search features

A single magnifying glass icon replaces both 'Search Mail' and 'Search the Web' buttons. As you type in the search box, you get the option to search mail or the web - quite like Google's instant search. The advanced search box can be accessed by clicking on the drop down arrow visible at the end of the search box.
You can now search mail with various pre-defined criteria including labels, keywords, with/without attachment and within a date range -without leaving the inbox. You can also create a filter from within the advanced search box with these criteria and apply it to all the matching email conversations in your mailbox.

Gmail gets a makeover

VBK-GOOGLE_825168f

 

Google has unveiled a new look for its free e-mail service that has more white space, less clutter, threaded conversations, new themes, and better search.

Over the next several days, users will be prompted to switch to the new Gmail design with a link in the lower-right corner of their inbox. Eventually, it’s going to become the default.

“We’re excited to finally share Gmail’s new look with you,” Google user experience designer Jason Cornwell said in a blog post. “We’ll be bringing these changes to everyone soon,” he said.

“But if you’d like to make the switch right away, we’re rolling out a ‘Switch to the new look’ link in the bottom-right of Gmail over the next few days.”

The new layout has a revamped “conversation view” to help users read through e-mail threads. It has improved tools for searching mailboxes, which typically serve as storage bins for users.

Google also began providing more insight and control regarding how ad pitches are personalised to users.

Information such as location and search history is used to decide what ads people might find more useful, according to Google.

People can use Ads Preference Manager tools to tune systems to their tastes or block messages from advertisers that are of no interest to them.

A new, streamlined conversation view that displays Google profile pictures for your contacts — making an e-mail thread look a little more like an instant messaging conversation.

Elastic density, which means that the spacing between items on the screen will automatically adjust based on the screen size and device you’re viewing it on.

Instant messages (Google calls them conversations) now come with photos and the messages have a better streamline like a real conversation.

Adding a social element, Google is adding profile pictures beside each message.

The density of the text also adjusts depending on your screen size and resolution, making it easier on the eyes.

The new design is in line with some of the changes Google just made to Google Reader in terms of spacing and overall feel.

Gmail is also prettying itself up with a host of new themes with background images from iStockPhoto.

Google offers free website for SMBs.

 

india2

Google India, in partnership with ICICI Bank and HostGator (the web hosting company), has launched a new program called India Get Online where they make it easy for you to setup a website for your business for free.

As part of the deal, you get a free .in web domain (provided it is available) and free web hosting for one year. The .in domain will registered to you while Hostgator will manage the website hosting* though you can move the site to any other web host for free.

Such free offers are always a goldmine for spammers but Google India has made it mandatory for businesses to enter their Permanent Account Number (PAN) or Tax Deduction Account Number (TAN) at the time of registration. Since these numbers are unique for every individual / business, you can’t avail it more than once.

Your website will be integrated with Google Apps so you also get access to other Google products like Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Docs and more. You also get Google Adwords coupons worth INR 2.5k for free to help you advertise your website on Google and AdSense network sites.

[*] If you have purchased a web domain already, you can also use Google App Engine to host your website online for free.

You can visit vijashiviinternational.in or khoslaprinters.in to get an idea of how sites created with the “India Get Online” look like. There’s a set of readymade web templates, pick one that matches your business profile, you can customize the text and pictures of the pages and your site is good to go.

Google hasn’t exactly specified the amount that businesses will have to pay to renew their website registration and hosting after one year except saying that it will be a “discounted fee.”

Microsoft had a offered a similar service in India called Office Live for Small Businesses but they recently discontinued it in favor of Office 365 which is less about website hosting but more about running your business in the cloud.

Nokia unveils Windows smartphone Lumia

 

 

Lumia_819305f

A screenshot of the Nokia website displaying Lumia, the firm's first Windows phone.

Nokia Corp. has unveiled its first Windows-based cell phones in a bid to recapture lost ground in the smartphone market.

CEO Stephen Elop said on Wednesday in London that the Lumia 800 and 710, based on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software, will be accompanied by four other smartphones.

Nokia, claiming 1.3 billion daily users, has been losing the smartphone race as it is squeezed in the low end by Asian manufacturers like ZTE and in the high end by the Apple Inc.’s Phone, Research in Motion’s Blackberry and Google’s Android devices.

Nokia stock was up 3 per cent at 4.95 ($6.83) in Helsinki.

Nokia launching Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 Windows Phone models

 

Nokia will announce the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710 during its Nokia World event in London on Wednesday,WinRumors reported on Tuesday. The Lumia 800 was originally leaked as the “SeaRay” and earlier rumorssuggested the phone will pack an 8-megapixel camera and a 3.7-inch display. The Lumia 710 first appeared as the “Sabre” and it allegedly offers a 3.5-inch display, a 1.4GHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera and 1GB of RAM. These two Windows Phone 7.5 devices could hit the market as soon as November, in-line with Nokia’s promise to launch a Windows Phone product this year. Thankfully we have less than 24 hours until Nokia CEO Stephen Elop takes the stage and clears up all of the fog.

nokialumialeak

 

nokialumia710

 

 

Nokia Lumia 710
  • Dimensions: 119 x 62.4 x 12.5mm
  • Storage: 8GB including SD slot
  • 512MB program memory
  • No SD card slot

nokialumia800

 

Nokia Lumia 800
  • Dimensions: 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1mm
  • Weight: 142g
  • 512MB program memory
  • No SD card slot

The world's largest cellphone maker Nokia unveiled its first phones using Microsoft software on Wednesday, hoping they will kick-start a rescue of its ailing smartphone business.
The Finnish group, struggling to keep up with nimbler rivals in a hotly contested industry, unveiled the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 in London and priced them at 270 and 420 euros respectively excluding taxes and subsidies.


Crucially, the lumia 800 will include the full and free navigation service users crave.
The phones will be available in European and other markets around the world by the end of this year and in the United States in early 2012 and into mainland China in the first half of 2012.

Left in the dust by Apple and Google in the booming smartphone market, Nokia decided to ditch its aging Symbian platform in favour of Microsoft's software in a risky deal in February that spooked investors.
Nokia has not rushed with the new phones. Nimbler rivals HTC, Fujitsu and Samsung Electronics have beaten it with models using the latest Windows software, Mango.

Nokia and Microsoft have said they will focus on close co-operation with operators to support the platform.
"Operators really want to have another company on the scene: they don't want Google and Apple to rule the mobile universe," said Magnus Jern, chief executive of Barcelona-based mobile app development firm Golden Gekko, speaking ahead of the launch.

LUMIA HAS DARK BACKGROUND

Nokia's market value has halved since February as investors are unsure whether it can ever regain the market share it has lost.

Its third-quarter results beat low expectations, sparking hopes that the company can survive a painful revamp, but smartphone sales still dropped 38 percent from a year ago.
With Microsoft software, Nokia hopes to gain the kind of attention Apple and Google have attracted from software developers that enrich their devices.

Research firm Strategy Analytics expects Microsoft to double its share of the Western European smartphone market during 2012 to 12.3 percent, helped by the Nokia partnership.

The 12.3 percent forecast for Microsoft's software refers to its use across several mobile phone makers and compares with the much higher market share Nokia's Symbian platform alone previously enjoyed -- it controlled 41 percent of the West European market as recently as the first half of 2010.

The annual Nokia World media and industry event in London on Wednesday includes speakers from the world's largest carriers: China Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and MTN.

Galaxy Nexus, Ice Cream Sandwich OS launched

 

avn_nexus_812611f

 

Google and Samsung today made a gaint leap into the next version of the Google experience phone - Galaxy Nexus and the OS - Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0. The launch comes within days of the launch of the iPhone 4S by Apple.

The Galaxy Nexus has a 4.65 inch display with 1260x720p resolution, one of the biggest in mobile phones and comes with LTE and HSPA plus versions.

The phone has a contoured display with buttonless design and is more sleek than the Nexus S. The bezel is just 4.2 mm, leaving a much larger area for display.

The Galaxy Nexus also features a ‘hyperskin’ battery cover that prevents slipping.

It comes with a 5 mp camera, with zero shutter lag and can record full HD video.

The Galaxy Nexus will be the first phone to have the new Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) operating system.

The main feature of the new OS is the brand new Roboto typeface.

The ICS has, apart from the apps tab, a widgets tab. Widgets and apps can be selected and pushed to the home screen with just a single press. Widgets are also resizeable.

Creating folders has also been made easier. Apps can just be dragged one over the other. They combine to create a folder. Apps can also be moved anywhere within a folder. The added functionality is that folders can also be created with contacts with speed dial functionality.

The ICS brings one feature missing from most Android phones, and especially the Nexus range of phones - screen capture. Pressing the power and the volume down buttons simultaneously creates a screenshot of the screen.

Notifications have also received a makeover. The notifications also contain contacts. Unwanted notifications can be swiped away.

The ICS also has major changes to the way the user inputs text. It has an in-line spell checker and talk to text where the user can type anything by speaking.

The new OS features a brand new security feature — face unlock. Once you ‘register’ your face, the phone will open only if it recognises your face, obviating the need for passwords or gestures.

Google has made major improvements to the browser. It supports multiple tabs, and the bookmarks can be synchronised with the Chrome browser in your desktop. The browser opens, by default, the mobile site, but if you wish to see the full desktop version of the site, a single click will bring it to you. Web pages can also be saved for offline use.

The new Gmail app has a two-line display and action buttons at the bottom, that change with what you wish to do with the emails. For example, if you are inside an e-mail, the action buttons will display reply, forward and other buttons that you would use while inside an email. In the preview screen, you can also select multiple buttons and use the action buttons, apart from other things, to delete or archive emails.

Tapping of the contact info on top of the email will show you other ways to get in touch with the contact such as phone number, Twitter or Facebook info.

The new Gmail app also has offline search functionality.

As said earlier, the camera app can take photos with zero lag. Photos taken can be shared with a single click to any network.

The ICS also has photo editing tools. Photos can be edited and effects added. The new edited photo will be saved separately and can also be shared.

The camera also comes with a easy panorama feature, and the ability to take time-lapse videos. While recording a video, the user can also take high resolution snapshots.

The contacts app has received a major overhaul. Called the ‘People’ app, tapping any contact in the list of contacts displayed in a photo grid will bring the full details of the contacts - a high resolution photo, contact details and other social media details. for example, clicking on the contact’s Twitter icon will bring his tweets.

The Beam feature allows transfer of photos, maps, contacts or even apps to another ICS phone through NFC (near field communication) technology by simply bringing both the phones together and with a single tap.

Last but not the least, the ICS allows full control of your data usage. You can narrow down your data usage to specific time-frame and see what has been draining your bandwidth. You can choose to stop the app or prevent the app from using specified actions that drain bandwidth. The app also projects the future data usage based on your present usage. You can set threshold levels for data. Once the data usage reaches the threshold level, the data usage will automatically get cut.

A new Indian OS on cloud

10TH-MICROS__803592f

A screen layout of MICROS, an operating system developed by Deepak John

 

MICROS has been designed by a second-year engineering student

A system crash one year ago forced Deepak John, a second-year engineering student, to devise a portable operating system on cloud, which can solve many problems of travelling professionals, who seek access to secure computers.

The MICROS (Mobile In-Curred Revolutionised Operating System), which has won laurels in nationwide tech fests, boots from a pen drive, to the RAM which then dynamically expands. “The size is limited to 100MB — that makes the distribution of the package easier,” says Deepak, studying in the Loyola-ICAM College of Engineering and Technology (LICET). He calls it a live OS that does not require installation but allows you to access the files stored in the system and perform various file management functions. “This is the best time to access the benefits of cloud, and also have an operating system of your own,” he says.

Multitasking is enabled by the Windows Pre-installation Environment (PE). Open Office is integrated into the system. Users can also access the web and run various Windows applications on MICROS. An application Cloud Command Control designed for MICROS accesses the cloud through a simple interface and a secure login.

As the user selects the drive to boot from the list of available storage devices, the rest is done automatically, in about 10 seconds. “MICROS helps people recover and repair, but it can also be used as a standard OS. It also maintains privacy as the OS gets deleted once switched off and the entire OS gets booted from a pen drive to a RAM hard disk,” says Deepak.

This means that once the system is shut down, the contents in the RAM get permanently deleted. “This ensures that the browsing history, cookies, and various other temporary files that contain vital information regarding your privacy details are deleted. Though the settings stored by various applications will also be erased, the virus, malware or spyware that may have infected MICROS will get deleted as well. ,” says Deepak.

Though it is just 90MB, it is stored in the fastest storage drive in the system and so is capable of running simultaneously many applications, including multimedia, and word processing.

In enhanced packages, MICROS will soon be upgraded to include motion-controlled gestures to control the cursor on screen, says Deepak.

The OS has been made into an open source software and abides by the licensing terms of Microsoft Corporation using the open source edition of Windows PE.

“It is simply a Plug and Play operating system, and combines the best of proprietary and free software, using the cloud to store data. This is what we need now, to ensure comfort of use, affordability and stability,” says the young developer.

iCloud

If you thought Apple had anything missing from its vast and stylish repertoire, it probably was a successful cloud. MobileMe, by all reviews, was not quite of the standard of the other products from the stable.

But that is remedied now, with the late Steve Jobs announcing in June this year that MobileMe was, for all practical purposes, dead, and iCloud was born. (But, if you are a current member of MobileMe, you can still access everything as usual till June 30, 2012). With Apple-iPad, iPhone, iPod touch owners upgrading to the new operating system iOS 5 this week, they were automatically subsumed in iCloud.

This service will automatically store photos, songs and other files on servers at Apple's data centres and sync them all with a customer's Apple gadgets. A photo taken with an iPhone would thus appear on a user's iPad, iPod Touch or an Apple TV.

iCloud will host a range of services for iTunes, photo stream, and documents in the cloud. Furthermore, it stores music, photos, apps, contacts, calendars, documents and more, keeping them up to date across all devices. When content changes on one device, the other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly.

“iCloud is the easiest way to manage content. One does not have to think about keeping all devices in sync as it happens automatically, and it is free,” according to Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice-president of Internet Software and Services.

For music lovers, Tunes in the cloud automatically downloads new music purchases to all devices. So much so one can buy a song on his iPad and find it waiting for him on his iPhone; iTunes in the cloud also download the user's previously purchased iTunes content, including music and television shows to his/her devices at no additional cost.

The innovative photo stream service lets the user take a photo on one device and have it automatically appear on his/her other devices. Similarly, iCloud's Documents in the cloud keeps the documents up to date across all the devices, automatically.

iCloud backs up automatically and securely stores important information daily over Wi-Fi, whenever the device is connected to a power source. The software also includes a service called iMessage that lets Apple customers send text messages to each other.

When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free cloud storage for mail, document storage and backup. Your purchased music, TV shows, apps, books and photo stream do not count against the storage limit. Using iCloud on a MAC requires a recent version of OS X Lion, and on a PC, Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) or Windows 7. Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, or an up-to-date version of your preferred browser is required for accessing your email, contacts, and calendars in iCloud.

HTC Evo 3D Review

 

HTC EVO 3D

In an increasingly competitive smartphone market, handset manufacturers have to get creative if they want their new phone launches to create a stir. The HTC EVO 3D is one of HTC's most significant launches this year – not only does it have a dual-core processor, but it's also 3D enabled. And you don't need to wear 3D glasses to see the effect either. LG's Optimus 3D is a similarly endowed phone, but there's a lot more hype surrounding the HTC EVO 3D, because it's the successor to the immensely popular HTC EVO 4G (Sprint's flagship Android phone that was launched only in the US). So will the phone live up to the expectations of HTC and Android fans alike?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I've been using the HTC EVO 3D for about two weeks now, and I'm quite impressed. This is a phone that I would be tempted to buy even without the 3D feature. The EVO 3D is a pretty cool looking handset – it's not thin like the Samsung Galaxy S2, but it does have a massive 4.3-inch screen. The usual four Android buttons are at the bottom of the bezel, and are touch sensitive and LED backlit. Connectivity options include a mini USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack, but the mini HDMI cable that was earlier seen on the EVO 4G is missing.

The most interesting feature of the phone though is the camera. Taking up about a fourth of the back panel area, the dual cameras are nestled in a shiny black strip, with a deep red trim. The back panel itself is rubberised and striped, so it provides a good grip. The camera on the EVO 3D is only a 5-megger, and if you want to take a 2D shot, only one of the cameras are utilised. 3D images can be captured only up to 2-megapixel. For a 3D shot, two images are taken simultaneously and are then layered on top of one another to create a 3D effect. The camera shutter button itself is quite clever – there's a slider on top which let's you switch between 2D and 3D modes, and the phone has a large round physical shutter button as well. There is also a front facing 1.3-meg camera for video calls.

USER INTERFACE

The EVO 3D runs on Android v2.3 Gingerbread, and is laced with HTC's latest UI, Sense 3.0. Although Gingerbread provides a great user experience on its own, Sense really adds a level of finesse to the phone and also makes it much more intuitive. The phone has 7 customisable homescreens, and HTC has a neat little selection of widgets that are quite handy to use. Most of these widgets, including Email, Messages, Weather and People have a couple of layout options to choose from, and it's great for anyone who likes a free reign on customisation.

There are also a bunch of features you can access from the lock screen. You can choose from 6 different lock screens, each of which displays a different central widget like Stocks, Clock, Friend Stream, etc. There are also four icons at the bottom, and you can select any one of these by simply ‘dragging' them into HTC's ‘lock ring'. The lock ring also lets you answer or dismiss a call, or snooze or turn off an alarm with a similar dragging movement.

HTC's keyboard was a delight to use in the EVO 3D, and although it wasn't so accurate in portrait mode, the word prediction was the best I've seen on any smartphone so far, so I made very few errors.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

The EVO 3D's screen has a 540x960 resolution, and was great for any sort of media use. I watched a few episodes of ‘Community' on the phone, and video playback was crisp and smooth. I did face a little bit of stagger between frames, but that was only the first time I watched a video after loading it on the phone. Sound quality is average on speakers, but when I hooked up my earphones, I was surprised by the richness and depth which I got – better than most Mp3 players.

A more powerful processor made for a considerably faster browsing experience. You can do a couple of cool things with the browser, like when you zoom in to a web page, the screen automatically adjusts to give you the best viewing mode. This works really well. You can also tap and long press a word in the text which will bring up the ‘Quick Lookup' option, and you can even highlight an entire sentence or a phrase.

HTC has its own Email app, which I preferred to the Android Gmail that I usually use. It has a more organised layout, displays your contacts' profile pictures and like the browser, resizes the text to fit the screen. Except here you don't even have to double tap.

The 2D camera actually gave me some decent results, and there are a lot of effects to choose from like distortion, vignette, vintage, etc. You can also adjust White Balance, ISO, Exposure, contrast and saturation. Video recording is possible in HD 720p in both 2D and 3D.

3D FACTOR

So the ‘wow' factor of the phone is obviously its 3D capability. I've already mentioned how the cameras work, but what about the results? The phone comes preloaded with a bunch of 3D images and videos, and they're quite impressive. However, because you're viewing content without glasses, you have to look at the screen at a particular angle to see the effect. Moving around will cause distortion. It was fine when watching videos, because you don't really need to move the phone at all. The kickstand that the Evo 4G had is missed in the EVO 3D. More than a regular effect, the 3D files look like they're popping out at you, so there's more depth of field. I also got a bit of a headache when I viewed too much 3D, and a few others who saw the phone had the same opinion.

The 3D photos which I took were nice and sharp in good lighting, but there was quite a bit of grain when I took some low-light shots. Also, the flash tends to whitewash photos sometimes, so you don't get the best 3D effect there either.

PERFORMANCE

One of the things I liked best about the EVO 3D was how fast it was. Apps loaded lightning fast, touch response was mostly spot on and the phone didn't slow down when I had a few apps open. You can really see the dual-core 1.2 GHz processor in action when you're using the phone to its max. However, I did notice a bit of slowdown toward the end of my testing period. The otherwise fluid and responsive touchscreen came up with occasional freezes, mostly when I tried to quickly end a call. When running intensive games like Spiderman 3D, the phone also tended to heat up a bit, but only for a minute or two.

Battery life gave me a day of use – no more. The camera is a big drainer, especially in 3D mode. With a couple of hours of talktime, email and TweetDeck usage and WhatsApp messaging, my battery indicator flashed orange by the end of the day.

Call quality was average, and I felt that the speaker could have been a bit louder. Also, callers on the other end complained that my voice sounded a bit feeble.

OUR VERDICT

The HTC EVO 3D is like the Sensation with an added punch. It looks great, is fast and the 3D effect adds the ‘oomph' factor. While I would give the phone a thumbs up on its performance alone, the no-glasses 3D feature is great to flaunt and will turn a lot of heads too.

Love: 3D effect, no lags in performance

Hate: Battery life is on the lower end, pricey

Rs 35,990

Nokia bets big on NFC for its new Symbian Belle smartphones

 

Nokia-700-500x500nokia-701-11

Last week, Nokia invited us along with a select group of bloggers for an offsite event to showcase its upcoming Symbian Belle devices, which are expected to be launched in India later this week. The smartphones – 600, 700 and 701 – form a new wave of Symbian devices, all running on a 1GHz processors and a revamped UI that makes it slightly more intuitive to use with a better touch interface. Surprisingly, specs and feature updates were not the main focus of Nokia’s spokespeople at the event. Instead, most of the time was spent on NFC and how Nokia will differentiate its offerings and user experience from its competitors. Hit the break to continue reading.

With these new NFC-enabled smartphones, Nokia will drive its Just Tap marketing campaign with ‘pairing and sharing’ – how users can pair Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones or share pictures and other content between NFC-enabled phones. The company will also place app-specific NFC-enabled tags at retail stores from where consumers will be able to download apps by placing their phones on the tag. The tag contains the URL from where the app can be downloaded. These smartphones will also come pre-installed with Angry Birds Magic, a special version for these phones, where new levels are unlocked every time the phone is paired with a new NFC-enabled device. Nokia already has a couple of NFC-enabled Bluetooth headsets and will also launch a 40W speaker – Play 360 – that will also play nice with these devices.

Nokia seems to have a good story going here but its success will depend only on how it can develop the whole ecosystem. We spent a complete day with these devices and the NFC-enabled pairing and sharing feature mostly worked, these alone will not be sufficient to engage users. The world’s largest handset vendor by units needs to find ways to integrate NFC in daily user activities.

Talking about the devices, we found the three smartphones to have undergone a vast improvement. The UI is zippy, the fixed-focus cameras generated some surprisingly stunning shots and the battery lasted us an entire day of heavy usage. What Nokia still needs to work on is the apps ecosystem. For instance, Symbian would probably be the only platform that does not have an official Twitter or Facebook app. The alternative free apps are pretty basic and we had to buy a paid app in order to share our pics on Twitter.

Symbian Belle does add some bells and whistles to a burning platform and we reckon more can be done to make it Nokia’s workhorse platform for entry and mid-end smartphones.

Samsung launches first 4G smartphones in South Korea

 

TH27_SAMSUNG_792815f

PHOTO: APHIGH-SPEED: A model poses with Samsung Electronics' new smart phones during its unveiling in Seoul, South Korea on Monday.

Samsung Electronics, world's second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones, launched its first smartphones based on fourth-generation (4G) communication technology in a bid to meet growing demand for high-speed wireless services. Galaxy S2 LTE and Galaxy S2 HD LTE compatible with long-term evolution (LTE) technology were rolled out at a media event held in central Seoul on Monday.

The two new smartphones support LTE with data transmission five times faster than the existing third-generation (3G) mobile phones, featuring functions offered by Galaxy S2 smartphones, the company said.

Galaxy S2 LTE is equipped with an Android 2.3, or the latest version of the Android platform, a 4.5-inch wide Super AMOLED display and a 1.5 gigahertz dual core processor, while the Galaxy S2 HD LTE is featuring a 4.65-inch high-definition (HD) AMOLED display with 110 per cent natural colour reproduction and 180-degree viewing angle.

“The 4G LTE technology became the base for enjoying high-speed and high-resolution wireless services. The new products will meet rising demand for such services in an environment where global wireless operators are transitioning to 4G networks,” Shin Jong-kyun, President and Head of Samsung's mobile communications business, told reporters. Mr. Shin forecast sales of the new LTE smartphones would approach the ones of the existing Galaxy S series, adding that it might take time to reach the goal as the LTE networks have yet to be covered nationwide.

Global sales of the Galaxy S2 smartphones reached more than 10 million units since its debut in April, according Samsung.

The nation's top wireless carrier SK Telecom plans to offer LTE service nationwide by 2013, with the country's No. 3 mobile operator LG Uplus aiming to cover the service across the country next year.

NFC Technology: 6 Ways It Could Change Our Daily Lives

 

In the realm of new technologies, near field communication (NFC) is not a new or sexy concept, but it does have clear potential and practical uses. This is why it’s been holding the attention of a slew of big-name companies for a long time. Nokia, Sony, and Royal Philips Electronics founded the NFC Forum in 2004 in order to promote the short-range wireless connectivity technology. Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft and more than 140 other organizations all joined the party shortly after.

NFC allows a device, usually a mobile phone, to collect data from another device or NFC tag at close range. In many ways, it’s like a contactless payment card that is integrated into a phone. In other ways, it’s similar to Bluetooth, except that instead of programming two devices to work together, they can simply touch to establish a connection.

A year after Nokia released the first commercial version of an NFC-enabled phone in 2007, the NFC forum instituted an annual global competition to award the best ideas for applications of NFC, and soon after, trials of NFC products started taking place everywhere from Malaysia to Germany. More than 100 NFC pilot projects have now been undertaken all over the world, and like any technology, NFC has taken some time to gain traction, but it’s on track to go mainstream soon.

“I would say we’re in the early stages where we step from pilot roll-outs [of NFC technology]… into mass market roll-outs,” says Peter Preuss, the NFC Forum Marketing Committee Chair. “And I would say that this will happen within the next 18-24 months.”

Here are six ways that NFC could have the most impact.


1. Contactless Payment


clip_image002

Unlike many other wireless technologies, NFC has a short range of about 1.5 inches. This makes it a good choice for secure transactions, such as contactless credit card payments. MasterCard and Visa are both members of the NFC Forum, and both companies have been involved in pilot programs that use NFC-enabled phones as a flash payment option. Phones could “tap and go” using infrastructure already in place for credit card systems such as MasterCard’s PayPass program or Visa’s payWave.

Two MIT students have also come up with a way for the mobile phone to replace customer loyalty cards. Their application Eclectyk, which was submitted in the 2009 NFC Forum competition, would not only store credit card information, but also automatically select the right customer loyalty card information for your purchase.

The “digital wallet” concept could extend to coupons and other offers. The startup MoLo Rewards recently launched NFC-based coupon programs in San Diego and Toronto. Consumers can use the site to download coupons, which they exchange by having their phone swiped at the point of purchase. Since NFC-enabled phones aren’t widely available in the United States, the company has started its program by providing radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be attached to the back of the phone. The retailers benefit from being able to track who their coupons are sent to and how they are used. “Want to send a coupon to a consumer who purchased a box of cereal on the 21st of December at 11am EST?” the company asks on its website. “MoLo Rewards can provide you with the capability to do just that.”


2. Transportation


NFC works with most contactless smart cards and readers, meaning it could easily be integrated into the public transit payment systems in cities that already use a smart card swipe. In 2008, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn launched an NFC-ticketing pilot program in which 200 travelers touched their phones to an NFC tag when they boarded the train and then to another when they got off. The fare was calculated and added to their monthly bill. In January 2010, the successful program was expanded to an additional 3,000 travelers. Madrid plans to start a similar pilot program with its bus system in 2010.


3. Health Care


Not only can NFC tags provide medical professionals with information about what treatments a patient should receive, but they can also keep track of when nurses and doctors have checked in with that patient and when. Each time the tag is scanned, the information about who scanned it and when can be transferred to a database. In addition to improving treatment, NFC tags also have potential in the research realm.

A winner of last year’s NFC Forum’s 5,000 Euro prize was a program that helps track patients in low resource areas, and is currently being used in a pneumonia study of young children in Pakistan. Each child is given a bracelet with an RFID tag on it. The tag is scanned every time the child visits a participating health care organization. The clinical and laboratory data associated with that patient is collected and posted to a secure server in real-time.


4. Ease of Use


If NFC-enabled phones become prevalent, you’ll likely be able to initiate a two-player game by touching your phones together. You’ll be able to link a headset to your phone or print a photo just by touching your device to a printer. A second-place winner in the 2009 NFC Forum competition developed a touch-dial system for people who have trouble making phone calls. The user is able to tap a photo of the person he wants to call. The embedded NFC tag in the photo transmits the proper number to the phone automatically.


5. Smart Objects


clip_image003

An NFC tag often contains information like a phone number or URL. One of the largest series of experiments that uses phones to pick up information from tagged locations is SmartTouch, a project funded under the European ITEA research program between 2006 and 2008. Most of the trials took place in Oulu, Finland, where the city installed about 1,500 “infotags” — in buses, at bus stops, the theater, a restaurant, and a pub — that could be read with a mobile phone. For instance, theater patrons could not only use their mobile phones as tickets, or to order refreshments, but they could also scan tagged posters for more information about plays.

For another project, infotags were installed in schools. Students could get their individual daily schedule, announcements, and information about homework by waving their phones past the tags. A trial held in one pub allowed customers to tap cards with their NFC-enabled phones for more information about products.

NFC may have similar applications as bar codes do now. You can put one on a poster and let pedestrians scan it on their phones for more information. But being able to add more information to any object by integrating a tag has led to some interesting applications that go far beyond billboards. A company called Objecs, for instance, sells an NFC tablet for gravestones. Touching an NFC-enabled phone to the Personal Rosetta Stoneprovides additional information about the deceased.


6. Social Media


clip_image004

Before Foursquare took off, a German company called Servtag was working towards a similar concept for NFC-enabled phones called Friendticker. The company applied more than 250 NFC-tag stickers at various locations in Berlin that users would swipe their phones past in order to alert their friends that they were “checked in” at that location.

While Foursquare may have stolen the thunder for location-based networking, there are still plenty of social media applications for NFC in the works. Last year, a German university (Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen) submitted a prototype to the NFC Forum competition that integrated with Facebook. The application,NFriendConnector, allowed people who met in a physical space to exchange profile data through their phones. Their respective statuses would automatically be updated (for example, “I just met so and so”) and they could choose to include their location (“I just met so and so at this bar”). Instead of stalking a new acquaintance’s profile after a night out, this application provides an option to run a matching method based on variables the user provides (such as interest, dislikes, and hobbies) while still chatting with them in the bar