Microsoft today announced a new version of SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service. With support for the Office Web Apps, SkyDrive hooks into the Microsoft Office ecosystem as well as the world of Windows Phone and regular Windows desktops. The new version of SkyDrive is written to take advantage of HTML5 and is, according to Microsoft, significantly faster and easier to use. Microsoft also dropped the ad banner that used to haunt the right sidebar and now uses this space to provide easier access to additional features. (more…)
OneNote is the unsung hero of Microsoft’s Office suite. The note-taking application allows Windows users (there is no Mac version yet) to quickly take notes during lectures or meetings, record audio, and compile images, videos and scanned documents into virtual binders. Starting today, OneNote is also available on the iPhone. The app marks the first time Microsoft has released a native iPhone version of one of its Office products.
For a limited time, the app will be available for free (iTunes link). It’s not clear how much Microsoft plans to charge for OneNote once at the end of the introduction period.
OneNote on the iPhone allows users to quickly take notes and create checklists – or mix the two together in one document. You can also add images, though the app does not currently support videos. All of this, of course, is also synced to Microsoft’s Office web apps and accessible through SkyDrive.
Sadly, there is no iPad version of OneNote yet, though the iPad would obviously be the perfect device for an app like this.
As a first attempt at bringing its Office products to iOS, OneNote is a valiant attempt. It’s got just enough features to make it useful, without trying to add too much functionality in the mix. Its design is open enough to make it useful for taking quick notes on the go and for accessing your lecture or meeting notes on the phone.
On the other hand, though, OneNote for iPhone is not a substitute for a fully-featured task manager like ToDo or OmniFocus.
Will More Office Apps Follow?
The question, of course, is if Microsoft plans to bring more of its Office apps to iOS. Microsoft already offers Office for the Mac (and the latest version is probably the best one so far). In his blog post today, Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft VP in charge of Office, notes that “whether it’s on a PC or Mac, a mobile phone, or online through the Office Web Apps on multiple browsers, we continue to bring Office to the devices, platforms, and operating systems our customers are using. It should be about the ideas and information, not the device, right?” To us, this sounds like we can expect some support for the rest of the Office suite on iOS in the future.
As the year draws to an end, it’s hard not to look back and think about all the cool apps that I looked at over the last 12 months. I’ll talk a bit about my favorite apps and biggest disappointments in other posts, but I also wanted to highlight some of the coolest apps and Web Services that I use all the time but that didn’t get a lot of mainstream (or even tech blog) coverage in the last year and that deserve another look.
Without further ado, here is my list for 2010:
Building good recommendation engines is tough. In the world of reading recommendations for RSS feeds, nothing currently beats My6Sense. The app – available for iPhone and Android – also works as a straightforward RSS reader, but the real power is in its reading recommendations which learn from your behavior as you use the app (did you click on the story? Did you recommend it to others? How much time did you spend reading it?). The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to start over – you can just import all your Google Reader Over on ReadWriteWeb, we rated it as one of the top 10 RSS and syndication services of 2010, but overall, My6Sense has been flying under the radar for too long. Hopefully, with the addition of Louis Gray as the VP of marketing, My6Sense will get more visibility in 2011.
Over the last year, I tested far more productivity and task management apps than I’m willing to admit, but the one that stood out for me – mostly thanks to its simplicity and ease of use – was Producteev. I currently use the service for my own task management needs, is large parts thanks to its integration with Google Apps, but also because of its full suite of other services, including its iPhone app, Gmail gadget and the ability to create tasks by simply sending an email to the right address. For the near future, Producteev also promises to release a Mac desktop app, which should make it a great choice for GTD disciples on the Mac.
“Curation” was the biggest buzzword of late 2010, yet while various Twitter-based services like Curated.by got a lot of buzz this year – and even link shortener Bit.ly now offers a curation feature – Paris-based Pearltrees remained relatively unknown. While the service now has plenty of money in the bank and has over 60,000 active users, its innovative interface and easy to use social curation features didn’t get near the buzz it deserved (though it’s worth noting that some people really don’t like the service’s interface). With even more social features and the ability to import all the links you share on Twitter, Pearltrees’ feature set made great strides this year. Hopefully, it’ll get a bit more buzz next year, as using it gets more fun the more people join in.
Microsoft Office Web Apps
I admit, this is an odd choice given the size of the Microsoft Office empire, but at least in the tech blogging world, most people tend to underestimate Microsoft’s products and prefer to push Google’s offering instead. In this case, the new Microsoft Office Web apps are far ahead of Google’s offerings and offer (no surprise) better compatibility and – and this is the biggest reason for me – better document fidelity. When I export a file to Google Docs, I never quite know what will happen to it when I export it again. With the Office Web Apps, the documents – with few exceptions – remain perfectly intact as I move them in and out of the Web apps.
With all the focus on check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla this year (though this hype has died down quite a bit by now), location apps with real utility remained a bit under the radar this year. Among those location-based apps that are actually useful (beyond collecting boy scout-style badges), EchoEcho is one of my perennial favorites. Available on virtually every platform, EchoEcho allows you to quickly and privately exchange your location with a contact. It’s simple, works and oh so useful. For more background, see my ReadWriteWeb review of the EchoEcho iPhone app from early 2010.
It’s been just about a week since Google’s Cr-48 prototype ChromeOS netbook appeared on my doorstep. Since then, I’ve been putting it through its paces, including during a short trip to a press event in Detroit, and it’s turned out to be a surprisingly useful machine.
A Few Words About the Hardware
I’ve read quite a bit about people’s problems with the current hardware, especially the trackpad. I don’t know if I just got lucky, but besides the widely chronicled issues with slow video playback (which I tend to attribute to Flash more than to the hardware itself), the trackpad and everything else on the Cr-48 worked as expected. Indeed, while the 3.8 pound Atom-powered netbook is clearly no a speed demon, it’s perfectly adequate for browsing the Web and the speed feels similar to the browsing experience on the iPad.
Q: Is Living in the Cloud Really an Option Yet? A: Kinda
At the end of the day, the Cr-48 is really a radical experiment on Google’s part that tries to answer whether it’s really possible to live in the cloud without wired Internet access and native apps outside of the browser. After all, ChromeOS gives you nothing but a browser and access to WiFi and Verizon’s 3G network (with a meager 100mb of free data transfer on Verizon’s network). You don’t get any native apps and with the exception of a few early ChromeOS apps like the NYTimes app, most of the current apps don’t offer an offline mode yet. For the most part, you don’t even get access to the notebook’s local storage (a fast 16GB SSD drive).
What was interesting to me, was that the Cr-48 made me realize how much of my current computing needs can be satisfied by ChromeOS. I already read all my email through various Google and Google Apps accounts, for example, and Google Docs is perfectly adequate for taking notes during a meeting.
At the same time, though, Google Docs is still not able to handle complex documents. For those, I prefer Microsoft’s Office Web apps, but those apps are – of course – not as tightly integrated with Gmail as Google’s own productivity apps.
Thanks to Seesmic and the new online version of TweetDeck, the Cr-48 satisfies all my Twitter needs, and as a long-time MOG subscriber, all my music needs are fulfilled as well. For blog posts, I can just write in the WordPress and MovableType online editors. And for the most part, that’s all I do with my laptop today anyway, so the Cr-48 turned out to be all I needed during my last business trip earlier this week (thanks, fittingly, to Delta’s Google-sponsored free in-flight wireless, too).
But Would I Use it as My Only Laptop? Probably Not Yet
That said, though, would I use the Cr-48 and/or ChromeOS as my one and only notebook anytime soon? Probably not – while it fulfills a good chunk of my day-to-day computing needs, there are those four or five apps I need (like Skitch for screenshots and Skype for VoIP calls) that just don’t run on ChromeOS today. A full switch to Google’s new operating system really isn’t an option yet – though with time, as more ChromeOS apps become available – this could change.
For now, ChromeOS is an interesting experiment and I fully expect to continue using the Cr-48 as a secondary notebook when I head out to the local coffee shop.