Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 Web Products of the Year Blog

As we enter December, it is time for year-end wrap-ups of all kinds. Images, songs, movies of the year provide time to reflect on what was a part of our life for the past 12 months. With ReadWriteWeb’s Top Consumer Web Products of 2011, we can see just how attached to web technology our lives have become.

The top 5 list gives us a glimpse in to what is most important for our technology. The straightforward idea of viewing the web or viewing information and the abstract idea of the cloud.

Starting with Evernote, we know that sharing and syncing data is a hot commodity, but Evernote does the work with a little twist. Instead of just simple file sharing, there are countless ways to take advantage of this program and sync information across platforms and devices:
    • Share rich-text files, images, and to-dos
    • Character recognition allowing for documenting notes, receipts, or business cards (and capturing the text
    • Web clippings and Instapaper-like service for saving articles
    • Usage through standalone apps and browser extensions.
Use it on your phone, tablet, or computer and always find a way to save and share the data for later.

This has been a big addition to our company and it can be put to use in your company, as well. Whether you are sharing a copy of the business card you just picked up at a networking lunch or sending a task list with appropriate picture to your colleague, there are times when just sending a text isn’t enough or a phone call doesn’t give the whole picture.

Next up, the Kindle. With a tad bit of leeway, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about e-readers and tablets. The iPad, Galaxy, and Xoom join the Kindle as providing mobile access to the Internet and data that used to be limited to a laptop or the newspaper. This year, the Kindle made a move to become more than just an ultra-fancy book with services for video, music, magazines, games, and the omnipresent app.

The ability to carry around an entire library can always be appealing to those bookworms among us, but improvements to services like Amazon Prime stretch the Kindle (and other tablets) beyond the Barnes and Noble in a can.

These tablets should definitely be viewed as more than just a novelty, too. Carrying a laptop to half a dozen meetings can be cumbersome. Not to mention time lost getting it out of a carrying case, starting it up, and loading a PowerPoint or Word for note taking. However, the versatile tablet provides mobile connectivity in a quick and easy to use format. It also provides an avenue for data sharing and research capabilities that can improve any meeting. Instead of telling someone about their website or document, pull it up in a easily viewable format and pass it around the conference table.

Over the past year, there have been several clients looking for a new laptop that have spent time investigating the idea of replacing that old laptop with a new tablet. It has a place in medical offices and financial offices for doctors and investment planners all the same. And, with the increased focus on mobile apps, many of the proprietary programs are beginning to be be seen with a tablet conversion. No longer are people tied to their desktop to run their company’s web app. An iPad and a bluetooth keyboard and you are running your company from the local coffee shop.

The next two products of 2011 are Dropbox and iCloud. Both of these products use the nebulous idea of the “cloud” to provide backup and cross-device syncing. That buzzword can get people in trouble if they don’t make sure they understand what is going on and, in many cases, they can miss out on impressive functionality.

Dropbox provides a computer folder that can be anywhere for nearly anyone. Share documents, pictures, presentations, and other files by simply putting them in the right folder. As an extension of the folder system on your own computer, it lends itself to being user-friendly and easily implemented. With Dropbox, multiple people can work on a file without the dreaded “what version did you update” conversation. Make sure those in your office are always using and working on the most current version. 

At the same time, the off-site cloud storage provides a straightforward and simple backup solution for the most important of documents. A dependence on computers means depending on the consistent performance of the technology for important personal and work data. There’s nothing worse than needing information and it just not being there.

In the same vein, cell phone backups have become a vital part of the working life. Cell phones have contacts, voice memos, bookmarks, apps, and they are in-use 25 hours a day. Dropping it in a water puddle or leaving it on the subway is just not a pleasant thought.

iCloud provides simple online backup for everything iPhone/iPad related. The idea of cloud backup for cell phones is being passed around the various companies and will, soon, become just as prevalent as the App store or Android marketplace. Lose your phone or destroy it beyond repair and iCloud provides a way to locate it or restore the data on a new phone. With the astronomical prices of a phone combined with the importance of the data they contain, this is a product that anybody with a smartphone cannot live without.

At the number one spot is Google Chrome.  Surprisingly, the “Internet” is not simply Internet Explorer. Web browsers are the vehicle for email, YouTube, Facebook and every other site out there. And, just like a vehicle, nobody wants to use the economy sub-compact to drive on the Internet superhighway. Knowledge about web browsers is imperative for today’s computer user. Faster and more secure browsing can be achieved simply by using a better browser and keeping it updated.

Google Chrome has made an effort to integrate many of the plugins (like adobe flash and Ad-block) to improve the web viewing experience. There are also apps and email integration that provides shortcuts to the most important things in for a user’s experience.

Internet slow, decreased computer performance, annoying redirects, and more can lead to a very short conversation with the IT tech. “Let’s clean the computer of any viruses and start using Chrome or Firefox”. It is a simple and easy transition and it can provide instant relief when viewing the Internet. In the coming year, Chrome will provide more than just simple web page viewing, too. New APIs and its very own Web store are leading to an all-in-one computer program that allows connectivity to web-based platforms and cloud services. More and more work can be done within a web browser.

Looking in to these and other recent web products can help you find a niche that needs to be filled. You never know what products will help improve your work efficiency or overall business experience.

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