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Awards0GWA_banners_300x250-02Marijuana, music, a secure Internet connection and the iPad. What more could a person want?

OK, that’s a stretch, but those do represent some of the top trends in technology and our broader culture over the past year, and they’re also well-represented among the finalists for App of the Year in the GeekWire Awards: Leafly, Cloak 2, Lively, Office for iPad and Parallels Access.

This is the latest GeekWire Awards category to come up for public vote as we build up to the big GeekWire Awards show, taking place at the EMP Museum in Seattle on May 8, when we’ll reveal the winners in this and 12 other hotly contested categories.

mobileapp-trackingA big thanks to category sponsor mobileapptracking from HasOffers for making this award possible. We’d also like to welcome mobileapptracking as the new sponsor of our regular App of the Week feature on GeekWire.

These App of the Year contenders were nominated by the community and chosen by our panel of judges as the five finalists for the category. Cast your ballot below for App of the Year, continue reading for more background on each finalist, and sign up below to join us on May 8 to see who wins.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

01-ios-connectionCloak 2: Seattle-based Cloak, a startup launched by a group of former Microsoft employees, is making its mark by helping Apple users browse the web more securely on public networks. The company in March launched Cloak 2, which uses VPN technology to automatically create a secure connection for people browsing the web on Mac, in addition to iPhones and iPads running iOS 7.

The subscription-based service also syncs trusted connections over the cloud, so that a user can change the VPN settings on all of their devices by updating one device.

leaflyLeafly: This app for iPhone, Android and the web is like the Yelp and Consumer Reports for medical marijuana, giving users the ability to find strains of pot that can help with specific medical issues such as nausea, inflammation, and anxiety.

It’s the flagship app from Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, which has been tapping into the rising acceptance of marijuana use to build, yes, a budding business.

phonesLively: This app for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone gives concert-goers a way to relive the performances they see in person without having to hold up their own phones or sneak a recording device into a show. Lively captures the audio and video from a concert, direct from the sound board, and lets fans listen and watch again quickly — even as soon as the drive home. The app is free, with a charge for concert packages.

Lively is the brainchild of Dean Graziano, a startup vet who came up with the idea after attending the Deck the Hall Ball in Seattle last December, realizing that many concert-goers were feebly attempting to capture video of the performances on their phones.

officeipadOffice for iPad: At long last, Microsoft has released its flagship productivity apps for the iPad, bringing Word, Excel and PowerPoint to Apple’s tablet in a way that has left users and reviewers impressed. The apps, built from the ground up, are part of Microsoft’s broader attempt to expand its footprint beyond Windows under new CEO Satya Nadella.

As GeekWire’s Blair Hanley Frank wrote in his initial review of the apps, “they deliver on Microsoft’s promise of apps that feel like Office while at the same time feeling native to the iPad, which is no mean feat.”

screen480x480Parallels Access: Wait, why stop at Microsoft Office? Why not be able to access a bunch of Windows and Mac programs on your iPad?

That’s the idea behind the subscription-based program Parallels Access, a remote desktop app for the Apple tablet that gives PC and Mac users the ability to access up to 10 computers to use native Windows and OSX programs on the iPad.

Parallels Access includes a series of features and gestures that make Windows and Mac apps feel native to the iPad.

The app is made by Renton, Wash.-based Parallels, which is best known for its Parallels Desktop virtualization program for running Windows on the Mac.

Vote in previous categoriesStartup of the Year and CEO of the Year.

Tickets are going fast for the big Awards show, so make sure to get yours today.

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