It was never more complicated to handle different devices that we have today. Main issue we’re facing are multiple operating systems and lack of creation of proper productivity ecosystem. Some of the devices and most of the features and applications aren’t cross compatibile. Most popular systems for computers and mobile devices are:
- Windows (XP and 7)
- Mac OS X
- Linux (different distributions like Ubuntu, Mandriva, Mint)
- Android (various different versions for mobile devices)
- iOS (iPad and iPhone)
What I recommend for increased productivity is to follow the complete ecosystem in order to achieve highest productivity. Personaly I am huge fan of Google products, but I can also understand people who love only Apple products.
Most complete productivity Ecosystem is Apple. They are achieving this with having all of their devices in sync properly and user friendly. They have a closed system, where you need to pay for every single feature that you want to get. On the bright side, payment system is flawless and makes it easy to get everything you need.
Their MobileMe cloud is reliable, but expensive, compared to other similar services. For 20 Gigabytes of storage, you need to pay 100$. When we compare this to Google’s cloud, where you get 20 gigs for 5$, it’s quite obvious choice, why many people will go Google. But lets not forget that Google Storage has certain limitations, but is expanding rapidly. (For example, you will be able to store your Music and Films on http://music.google.com, as announced on I/O keynote couple of days ago). While Apple store pretty much acts as your hard drive in the cloud.
Right after Apple, comes Google. Their productivity Ecosystem is a killer and cutting edge platform, because it’s greatest strenght is developement of Chrome and it’s availability on every single computer. When it’s backed up with Android Phones and tablets, along side with upcomng netbooks, you have one blazing good ecosystem, where you can keep everything in the cloud and most of it, is free. Price for free is big and depends on the ammount of thrust that you give in Google, but when we consider that there is fresh privacy fiasco at Apple, I have bigger thrust in Google. Plus you cant avoid it’s data mining, scattered all over the web. I personally thrust them, but it’s a matter of preference.
Third competitor for Productivity system is old giant, Microsoft. It lacks tablets and it’s way late in the mobile game. Windows 7 is mean, slick player on the market, battling MAC OS, with it’s reliabilty and stability. It’s most common operating system on the planet and will remain for the time to come. But Microsoft lost the battle when it comes to smart phones and esspecially tablets. They got late with their Windows phone 7, which doesn’t give sync support for the documents and files. It’s mobile device isn’t that properly optimized to work with it’s operating system.
Google Benefits: Among all systems available on the market Google Cloud Based Services offer highest return on the investment. Most people have privacy concerns when having their data in the cloud, especially since their services comes as free, what people fail to realize is that Microsoft and Apple have lower quality score when it comes down to privacy issues. I should pull out the rating for that matter and inject it into article. Sheer numbers of Google Docs users will make this a dominant player on the market. Google Cloud for Business costs 50$ yearly per person. Biggest flaw of Google ecosystem is it’s dependence of internet. If you don’t have connection, you pretty much can’t access your data. This is true cloud. As internet becomes more and more of a common comodity this gap will be less and less noticeable. While Google doesn’t have desktop of it’s own, it does have tablet device, smart phone and netbook (launching this summer). Netbook is going to offer
Apple benefits: Apple takes your system offline, while still offering cloud based services. Their dominance comes through really reliable software. I am that favored that I am working on Apple laptop, and I am not considering switching back to Windows system, as long as Apple is this more stable, reliable and has longer battery life. Apple works, simply put. Their biggest benefit is having complete Ecosystem. You have desktop, laptop, mobile phone and tablet, merged to work flawlessly together even when offline. Going Apple will bring much needed reliability to your business, but at high price. Their cloud service called MobileMe, is working properly, but costs twice as much per person. Their 20 gigabyte online storage costs 100$, while at Google on the other hand 20 gigs, cost 5$. If you check the ammount of Google Products, you will be amazed, how many of these tools can completely substitute or even eliminate the need for offline tools.
Microsoft – Microsoft’s biggest advantage is old school system, that relies on huge user base familiar with their office suite. While they still aren’t offering any proper tablet counterpart to Google, they recently did release smart phone based on Windows Phone 7 technology. That platform is pretty young and doesn’t offer proper sync amongst devices, like Google and Apple counterparts do. Microsoft is being late in this game, but their products are working on every desktop or laptop machine out there. Being most popular operating system in the world, Windows has it’s major advntages over Apple and Google, in ease of communication with other systems that are using the same platform for collaboration. Being old school and as established allows Microsoft the luxury of being late in mobile game, esspecially since there still isn’t culture of mobile work and collaboration.
Among three corporate solutions that we have presented, there is fourth one, which really isn’t popular, but offers greater degree of privacy than all mentioned above. Going linux for your company and having your own cloud servers can solve many problems. Linux doesn’t come for free for sure, because most of the solutions you will need for your company, will have to be developed by your own or outsourced programmers. Those products that you develop might come of as resellable byproducts of your work. This is turning me on quite much, because you can have total control over your data, not to worry about changes of Terms of Service from the big three. If your data is secretive and holds competitive advantage over your competition, this is the way to go. Make your own software that fits your needs. You might not have the complete ecosystem, but you are going to be the one creating it. Most of the solutions that we are developing today, become great products later on. Depending on the size of your company, servers needed for proper operating may vary. If you are a small team, up to 20 people, one strong server machine (estimate cost 2000$) will do the job for you. If you have larger company, you might need more machines, with higher speed down link and up link.
Something that you can rely on, when it comes down to open source software is Linux and it’s various different distributions, backed up with Open Office (called Libero Office now). For Graphics editing environment there is open source Gimp.
What is the best solution for your business? Should you go Cloud All the way? What is your budget? What are your privacy concerns? All of these questions might help you find the right answers for your best virtual productivity environment.
There are a couple of examples, where I am included. While working on a small project of niche based websites, where my small team wants to create some passive income from Google traffic, we are using Google docs as our main platform, backed up with Dropbox for resource sharing, and one of my coworkers and I share ideas as they happen through Evernote. We are editing articles in Google Docs, using the WordPress platform as CMS for our websites and having a small reseller shared hosting as our online resource. All of this costs us around 6-7$ a month for operation needs. We are maanaging our finance in Google Spreadsheets and everything works smoothly. We are using gtalk as our communication platform.
For my day job, majority of communication goes through email. Million dollar company, which employes numerous people is using gmail as their main communication platform. For tutorial making, we are using Jing and ICQ as main communication platform. For important internal communication, our programmers are developing solutions that are custom based.
One of my clients, who is working in big corporate environment, is using Windows XP, pilled up with Lotus Notes and outlook as their email service provider. For me this so old school software, but I have to understand the psychology behind big corporate environments in order to explain why are they still using outdated software. And one of the main reasons is the price!
On the other hand numerous graphic designers that I know, who are working as freelancers, are using soley Apple products for their work. And some of the crowd from the NGO sector are using Linux, because it’s free.
Showcase of these examples can lead you to the conclusion that software has to satisfy certain needs, and that variety of productivity ecosystems are available to suite budget and needs are available for everyone on the market. In order to figure out what is the best for your organization, you might consider hiring productivity consultant or do the extensive research on your needs and availability of tools out there.