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October 2011

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Apple's Cloud Will Cast its Shadow on Advertising

by Glen Emerson Morris
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Apple's launching of an iCloud service is giving "the cloud" concept a credibility and visibility few other company's could provide. This is somewhat unfortunate since "cloud computing" is a marketing concept, not a technical one. The term "cloud computing" is simply a new name for client/server technologies that have been around as long as the Internet. Saying "let the cloud do it for you," certainly sounds better than saying, "let client server architecture do it for you." However, if you substitute the words "someone else" for the words "the cloud," as in, "let someone else do it," you'll have a much better understanding of what's really being said. In this specific case, the phrase translates as, "let Apple do it for you," which sounds reasonable because Apple has proved it knows what its doing. Cloud computer services are only as good as the companies behind them.

Nice as Apple's official iCloud may be, Apple is working on a technology that might be called "the local cloud," and it promises to be far more useful to the advertising and marketing industries than the official iCloud ever will be. Apple's various products have been able to link wirelessly for some time now for things like media streaming through AirPlay, but it's new AirDrop architecture will eventually wirelessly link a person's iPhone, iPad and desktop/laptop Mac into a seamlessly integrated system capable of advanced communication and multimedia production. Imagine the kind of computer gadgets the advertising people have in the Star Wars/Star Trek universes and you begin to get an idea of what might be for sale at your local Apple store in a few years. Some of it's even for sale now.

In the last year a number of multimedia production applications have been released for the iPad and iPhone. What's most remarkable about some of them is the way they combine using several Apple devices at the same time, combining the best features of each device into something greater than the sum of the parts.

Applications are already on the market that allow you to use the iPad as a control surface for recording applications running on a desktop Mac. These apps are selling because they solve a basic problem anyone using a digital recording system faces, how do you control the faders, dials, switches and buttons found on the screen display. Sure, you can use the mouse and keyboard to control the app, but it's slow and clumsy that way, and not close to the gestures people are used to. The solution until now has been to a buy a digital mixer.

A digital mixer, aka digital control system, is nearly identical to a conventional mixer, with one major difference. In a conventional mixer the analog audio signal runs through the mixer's mechanical components (faders, switches, etc.). With a digital control system only the control signal runs through the mechanical components, so far cheaper components can be used. The top end 8 track digital mixers from Mackie and Avid go for around $1000, while a top quality analog mixer can go for thousands more.

The iPad takes digital mixing to the next level by using its touch screen capability to completely replace the mechanical components of both analog and digital mixers, and in a way that allows the user to use nearly the same gestures as before. The iPad simply displays an image of a mixing console and all of the controls respond to being touched as their physical counterparts would. Touch a fader, slide your finger up and down, and the volume changes accordingly.

Tascam has an iPad app for sale that closely mimics its classic four track Portastudio recorder (Bruce Springsteen used one exclusively to record the Nebraska album). It's primitive compared to GarageBand (it only records one channel at a time), but it only costs $9.99 at the Apple App Store. In a few years, as the iPad market matures and its processor becomes more powerful, we can expect a variety of professional stand-alone audio and video production applications for the iPad.

While Apple may be making components like digital mixers obsolete, it's also responsible for new categories of hardware accessories being created for its iPads and iPods. There have been custom mounts available for both iPads and iPods that turned them into stereo systems, but now mounts are available that turn them into professional media production tools.

One of the new mounts includes two stereo mikes to add high quality audio to the iPhones video recording capability. A mount for the iPad from Alesis adds stereo and midi input and output to the iPad for a street price of under $200. Also, several gadgets available now will let you plug a guitar directly into an iPad or iPhone (converting the signal from analog to digital in the process). Apps for the iPhone enable it to function as a set of guitar stomp boxes, and the output can be sent on to recording software on a Mac or iPad. (There are even apps that use the touch screen to simulate musical keyboards.)

It won't be long before it's common for broadcast commercials to be shot with iPhones, have audio tracks recorded and/or mixed on iPads, and have video mastered on Mac desktops. Commercials will be sold as well as produced on iPads and iPhones. New applications like Showpad ( promise to enable you "to create & manage your own sales and presentation iPad application in no time." Apps like this could prove to be big because the iPad is proving to be an incredibly effective sales tool.

One of the most visible cases of the iPad effectively being used as a sales tool is, not surprisingly, found in every Apple store. There's an iPad in front of every device for sale with a custom multimedia presentation for that product. One only has to visit an Apple store to see how well this approach goes over with customers. They love it. Apple loves it too, because, among other things, it gives Apple the option to instantly update all the presentations on all the iPads, in all its stores, remotely and wirelessly from company headquarters. From the viewpoint of the local staff, the task of updating product presentations on the iPads is left to the cloud.

Apple has become it's own cloud, and that's the real cloud model we need to follow.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law. He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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