A recent addition to the Technology Marketeers dictionary has been “Ecosystem”. Now the traditional definition of “Ecosystem” is something along the lines of “a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.”
Now the likes of Apple would like you to think of an Ecosystem being a set of Apple sourced hardware and services working in unison together solving all your life’s problems. So there you are with your iPhone, iPad, Mac Airbook and your iMac all in perfect harmony via iCloud.
Now obviously the cynical amongst us will recognise this for what it is and that being a blatant attempt at vendor lock in. Once they have your data, your documents, your photos, your music, your contacts (you get the drift) then moving away from any one of those devices would break your perfectly balanced “Ecosystem” world.
However I’ve been on a voyage of discovery attempting to create my own “Ecosystem” that delivers that zen of balance in my life whilst retaining a level of agnosticism from any one manufacturer.
The voyage is not complete but I am past the “bay of biscay” and into calmer waters (Holiday cruisers using Southampton will get that reference)
So what was my destination, my utopia? Well I want immediate access to my documents in the Martini fashion (Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere) , I want to be able to edit and review. I want access to my emails (Currently I monitor around 5 different addresses). I want a centrally managed set of web links. And of course I want 24×7 access to my social media of choice.
So first to my agnostic set of platforms, I am currently sporting:
- Apple iMac 27″ – Mac OS
- Google Nexus 7 Tablet – Android
- Apple iPhone 4S – iOS 7
- Lenovo Yoga 2 11 – Windows 8.1
The iMac gives me my home office desktop environment, and I also run VMWare fusion allowing me to run Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 when the need requires for any legacy Microsoft apps.
The Nexus is my home tablet for couch surfing and the usual eCommerce needs (eBay, Amazon, PayPal, Banking) and even the remote control for Tivo box!
The Lenovo is latest addition and is an 11″ laptop with touch screen and conversion to tablet mode with 360 degree hinge. I have grown more familiar with Windows 8.1 and once again recognise that whilst Microsoft are usually late to the party (just look back at the Internet boom) they do start getting it right eventually. The Lenovo provides me with my portable office environment and it is a capable entertainment device.
Finally the iPhone is my smartphone of choice (for the moment), although I have been flirting with a return to Android, but have sent back two devices recently as build issues still plaque a lot of devices in that format.
So what binds these devices into my “Ecosystem”. Well it is a mix of services that has been changing slowly over the months but currently consists of:
My primary email domain is hosted on a Smartermail host, which has served me well for many years. However whilst I still use it to process my larah.co.uk emails, I wanted access to all my stored emails in the Martini fashion. Whilst Smartermail emulated Exchange quite well, I couldn’t quote get it working across my array of devices.
That’s where the Office 365 for Home came in, more of which below, but for email it is predominately hotmail as was, then live.com for a while, and now Outlook.com. Windows 8.1 obviously has native support built in with the Mail app and if you want you can also access it via Microsoft Outlook if you want a richer user experience. (In case anyone is struggling to configure older versions of outlook to use Outlook.com addresses the server name is simply s.outlook.com and then use your full email address as username)
One of the features of Outlook.com is that you can configure it to send and receive as your own domain name, simply providing it with pop3 login details. So effectively this is my email@example.com address.
I have managed to migrate all my stored emails from my Outlook for Mac on my iMac to Outlook.com online, simply by configuring my Outlook for Mac with IMAP to Outlook.com and simply dragging and dropping all the folders onto the outlook.com inbox. Took a short while to sync, but now I have access to all my emails.
On the iphone I have configured it via the inbuilt Outlook.com mail account. On the iMac I am using Outlook for Mac. On Android you have a choice you can use Exchange settings using the s.outlook.com server I detailed or there is an Outlook.com app which works if a little “bulky” looking to use.
So now onto my documents. Until recently I was using Dropbox, which I had a plentiful 20Gb of free storage due to a phone purchase a while back. However I started using Office 365 for Home of recent, and this was providing me with my Microsoft Office apps so essential for everyday business, but the new and improved OneDrive suddenly got upgraded to 1Tb of storage, and I got 5 sets of those as I can create 5 users for Office 365 for Home.
OneDrive on the iMac as the same features as Dropbox in that it looks like standard folders to the iMac but automatically syncs the files up to the wonderful cloud.
There are OneDrive apps for Android and iOS, and while still some bugs in them to work out, integrate nicely into both environments. So I have access to my docs and I can process them on Office. On the iMac I use the Mac Office suite which comes with Office 365 for Home.
On the iPhone there is Office Mobile which is free and your Office 365 for Home account unlocks the edit capabilities.
On Android there are a number of capable Office compatible apps, or you can use the Office Mobile app again available for Android.
Finally on the Lenovo I use full Office suite with the license provided by my Office 365 for Home account.
So my “Ecosystem” is working almost flawlessly and I am productive wherever and whenever, but I am sure that my voyage will continue as and when new solutions surface.
However I am not be-owing to anyone manufacturer and I have the flexibility to switch kit as and when the desire or need arises.
As a final thought I believe as the desire for companies (and employees) to utilise BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) the need to create your own “Ecosystems” will increase.