Hacker Connect January 16 in New York
An event for and by the real estate tech community

Last week, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Steve Jobs declared, "We are going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud."

With the success of the iPhone and the iPad, Apple seems poised to lead the post-PC era. However, the cloud doesn’t discriminate against which device preference you have, and Apple, Google and Microsoft approach this new technology era differently.

Here’s what you need to know:

Apple
Apple unveiled a bunch of exciting products at the WWDC, including its latest desktop operating system, Lion, which has more than 250 new features; a new mobile operating system, iOS5; and the much-discussed iCloud.

ICloud could have a significant impact on the real estate industry. The platform will improve the data flow across devices, allowing users to share documents, photos, presentations and more with unprecedented ease.

Josh Ferris wrote an in-depth article, "5 Ways iCloud Will Change How Real Estate Teams Run Their Businesses," which covers these features in detail.

ICloud will be Apple’s foundation for the coming years, and its premise is very different than Google’s approach. John Gruber, author of the Daring Fireball blog, explains: "Apple’s is about native apps you run on devices. Apple is as committed to native apps — on the desktop, tablet, and handheld — as it has ever been. Google’s frame is the browser window. Apple’s frame is the screen."

Bradley Inman, publisher and founder of Inman News and Vook, will discuss "The Post PC World" in his opening address at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from July 27-29, 2011, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square hotel.

Google
Google’s investment in cloud computing is built into in the browser. They have a plethora of cloud applications that are perfectly suited for the real estate industry, including Google Voice. I recently spoke at the Google IT Summit to discuss Google Apps and cloud computing and had the opportunity to demo Chromebooks.

Chromebooks are laptop computers that are built for the Web, and my initial impression was that they are fast — super fast! In fact, Google states that the netbooks boot in eight seconds and resume instantly.

The browser is the operating system, and the machines are equipped with Wi-Fi and 3G. Applications such as spreadsheets, documents and photos are all accessed through the browser. Chromebooks are available to consumers and organizations with different pricing models. It will be interesting to see how sales stack up against the iPad.

Microsoft
I have always been surprised by Microsoft’s lack of timing in the mobile arena, and it appears that they are trying to change strategies. At the recent D9 conference, Microsoft showcased its new operating system, "Windows 8."

The new OS, which is expected to debut next year, will utilize many features from Windows mobile, including touch interfaces. Unlike Apple, which offers iOS and Mac OS, Microsoft plans to give tablets, devices and desktops the same operating system. Having the same operating system across multiple devices in intriguing, especially if they can execute on the enterprise level. It will be interesting to see if they can streamline their products across the cloud and optimize the user experience.

The post-PC era can reshape the real estate industry. Cloud computing can alleviate IT hassles and expensive office infrastructure. Everyday products like Google Apps are replacing in-house servers, and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are cost-effective tools that allow agents to be more productive and efficient.

It remains to be seen who will lead in the post-PC era, but one thing’s for sure: These are exciting times.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.

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