All Clouds are Not Created Equal

After I read about another Google customer losing all of his Google data when Google decided to delete (or at least suspend) his account, I got to thinking about all of the times that Google has made a mistake and deleted user accounts or deleted email for Gmail users, I thought about how the different approaches of the key players in the emerging world require you to make some choices, some of which may be untenable. So, I thought I'd lay them out in clearer form than you will get from the hard-core technical blogs or the companies themselves. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this year (WWDC 2011), Steve Jobs and the Apple executive team introduced iOS 5 and iCloud. During his iCloud introduction, Jobs said this: "We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud." This is Apple's philosophy: the iCloud is the sync-master for  your digital life. It provides the axle to your devices that are the spokes. However (and this is a vital distinction!), your digital content lives on your devices when you are using it. The iCloud, then, is the master copy, but Apple expects you to have copies on one or more of your devices.

This is in sharp contrast to Google. In Google's world, the cloud is the only place where your data resides. You'll use your browsers (on your PC, your tablet, or your phone) to access, manipulate, create, and use your content. You may even cache some of it locally for performance reasons (for example, caching the first part of a video so you can watch it without "stutters"). However, the content is in the cloud and your devices are simply windows into it from Google's perspective.

...and then there's Microsoft. They want to get in on "this cloud thing," too, but they really aren't sure how to do it. Their business is Windows and Office, so how can they use the cloud and keep those lines humming? What they are doing now is having the cloud be a glorified backup service with some of the capabilities of their apps. The best experience, however, is to use their native apps on a PC and hook them into the cloud for backup and collaboration. This means that Microsoft Office 365 is a different perspective than iCloud (which is personal) and Google (which is all about the data being in the cloud only). It's effectively a hybrid of the two.

Regardless, you will want to make a choice based on these distinctions, because to the cloud you will go, one way or the other.

TripIt for Travel Gets Gmail

This morning, travel itinerary site TripIt launched a new integration with Gmail. Now, instead of forwarding your itinerary messages to as you have done in the past, TripIt will scan your mailbox for you and import those items into your TripIt account. To create the link, login to your TripIt account and look in the upper right corner of your landing page for the big orange button:

This is so clean that it's a reason to move your itinerary emails to Gmail just to get this capability.

Check it out!

Insights into Travel

Since I've been traveling so much for so many years, I often forget that knowledge I take for granted isn't necessarily well-known. So, at the request of a few readers of this blog, I'm going to give you insights into traveling that I have learned over the course of the million or so miles that I've flown over the past 20+ years. These days, since I live in Boulder, Colorado, I fly United almost exclusively. For the past three years, I've flown enough that I am a member of United's highest mileage-based status (Premier Executive 1K or just "1K"). Status with an airline is a useful characteristic, giving you access to the highest level of customer service that the airline offers. Depending on the airline, that may not be all that great, but it's almost always better than what those without status receive!

Airlines roll out the red carpet for elite fliers

During the next few months, most US domestic airlines are offering a "Double EQM" offer to help you get status. "EQM" is the abbreviation for "Elite Qualifying Miles" and refers to the miles that are credited to your frequent flier account. With the frequent flier programs doubling your EQM for flights for most of the rest of the year, you may find yourself at a higher status than you otherwise would have, giving you access to benefits that you might not have had before.

Visit your airline's web site to see if they are offering a double EQM program, and make sure that you register if they are.

Let me know your questions and comments about travel, and I'll add them to the items I'll address.

Blessings, ssh

PS For some great insights into travel and specific advice, check out the FlyerTalk forum.