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Alex Wilkinson

Alex Wilkinson just graduated from Wesleyan University and is a freelance writer and author of fiction. He loves talking about Apple products (especially the iPad!), the digital publishing industry, and long-form journalism. Go check out his homepage and his twitter

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Although iCloud is launching in just a few months, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the service. How will it improve my workflow? Will it be better than MobileMe? Does it really replace current backup and sync services?

I can definitely sympathize with these concerns. MobileMe wasn’t exactly a smashing success, particularly since it cost about $100 per year too much. I use a free Dropbox account to sync both documents and data to and from my iPad. Since Dropbox is supported by many excellent apps, it can effectively serve as a cloud-based file system for your iPad—for free.

However, it looks like Apple has tried its best to address MobileMe’s faults with iCloud. A free account comes with 5 GB (about twice as much as Dropbox starts with), and boasts complete integration with Lion and iOS 5, elegant web apps for managing emails and calendars, and painless document and data syncing.

Given these improvements, can iCloud really change the way we use our iPads? Or is it just a flashy, not as full-featured alternative to Dropbox?

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The newly refreshed Macbook Air is the best laptop Apple has ever devised for students. Even the lowest end model, with its paltry (by current standards) 2GB of RAM, would be fine for most students I know. Add the Air’s ridiculously fast SSD into the mix, and you’ve got a seriously slick machine.

But wait, what other Apple product is impossibly thin, has flash-based storage, and is super fast? The iPad, of course.

In many ways, the iPad seems unstoppable: its stable of professional, beautifully designed apps grows by the day, its iOS operating system gets more efficient and productive with every update, and its hardware is way ahead of competitors.

At half the price of the MacBook Air, the iPad suddenly seems like a more than capable option for a cash-strapped student. But could it really serve as a student’s only computer?

(more…)

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