Posts Tagged ‘Google’
Windows Mobile OS can finally be consigned to the dustbin. In Android, Google have come up with a mobile operating system that is super slick, lightning fast and paired with HTC technology represents a very real threat to both Blackberry and iPhone.
The Phone is impressively specified:
3.2 inch TFT Screen
5 megapixel Camera
420 minutes talk time and 750 hours standby (WCDMA)
Onboard 512mb ROM, 288mb RAM expandable via MicroSD Card
Bluetooth® 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate and A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
The most notable innovation is that the touch screen has been improved in both sensitivity and responsiveness and enhanced by the addition of a Blackberry like tracker ball with scroll and click functionality.
Android is the operating system built on a Linux kernel by Google with the intention of competing with Microsoft, RIM technologies (Blackberry) and Apple in the mobile market.
The immediate advantage Google have in this space is evident the minute you provide your Gmail credentials. The telephone leverages the full range of Google Apps, so if you are already using Google Calendar for example, you will find your phone calendar automatically synched with the online version.
The operating system supports VGA, 2D graphics library, 3D graphics based on OpenGL ES and as you would expect from a Linux based distribution, virtual screens. The HTC Hero provides a total of 6 full screen estates.
Android uses SQLite for data storage and for connectivity, supports GSM/EDGE, CDMA, EV-DO, UMTS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The web browser is, like Google Chrome, based on the WebKit framework and the OS has a development kit with an emulator, debugging tools, performance profiling and a plugin for the Eclipse platform.
Android, like Apple have organised a virtual mall, Android Market , where developers can sell or give away applications written for the Android platform.
First impressions are jaw droppingly good. The phone is everything its Windows based predecessor (HTC Diamond Touch) wasn’t. It is fast, flexible and intuitive, largely down to the dropping of the Windows Mobile platform. The Google tie in has ensured that Microsoft document formats are supported and there is support for multiple mail accounts and social software support in the shape of Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. HTC still persist with the USB supporting but proprietory connector for headphone and laptop connectivity. It’s a minor irritation, thankfully mitigated by the addition of a standard headphone jack on the top of the phone.
This is a serious piece of kit and fully deserving of the fistful of awards it has already picked up. Even the arch Apple apologist Steven Fry has conceded that “you have to applaud HTC, they have gone all out to rethink every detail of the user experience … It’s an impressive device, really really impressive”
So the fuss about Chrome has more or less died down – a few minor addendums, the cheeky ‘open in Chrome’ addon for Firefox being a particular favourite. But in spite of more bloggery than you can shake a stick at, the anticipated browser stand-off never really materialised and the really interesting questions around Google’s business strategy – such as ‘Why Chrome?’ have never really been examined.
Google started out in the algorithm business – search to be specific. Knocking out Alta Vista to become the search engine of choice and winning plaudits for the wonderful simplicity (usability) of their interface would represent a significant triumph for many, but since then they have pushed further into the field of web based applications and social computing.
- Google Earth – phenomenally successful application, arresting interface and hey! nothing beats examining the roof for missing tiles from the comfort of my desk!
- iGoogle – currently my home page – clean design, useful information, perfect start to the day! A portal basically.
- Google Directory – The web organised by topic into categories – search by grazing
- Google Maps – A lot of competition, multimap, AA, Satellite Navigation,
- Google Video – builds on Search, but YouTube remains the video repository of choice
- Google Groups – Usenet Archive, building on Search
- Google Desktop – Brings Search to the local computer – records and analyses search patterns
- Google Apps – Web based collaboration – GMail, Document Share, Calendar, IM
- Google Chrome – Brings browsing and browsing habits to Google – thats a lot of personal information they can leverage.
I may have missed a few, but a picture begins to emerge – expanding on Search, Google are running up against some tough competition – YouTube have mindshare in the video market, Mapping, once indispensable, has lost out to Satellite Navigation.
One theory is that Google are going after the desktop and will therefore be competing with Microsoft in the Personal Computing space. Let’s examine that theory.
Prior to the internet, the IT market could be broadly categorised in two sectors – standalone personal computing and network attached computing. Microsoft dominated the first group completely, and mounted an assault on the second as business computing moved from centralised mainframe based services to decentralised network supported PC’s. IBM, with the Lotus Collaboration suite play in the second group. Oracle too. All three of these enterprises have a licensing structure that ties the number of users or the number of processors that software is deployed on to the price that is paid for the license.
The concept of web based software or software as a service is one which will have an immense impact on the way that software is licensed – IBM have made productivity software – word processing, spreadsheet and presentation (Lotus Symphony) available free of charge. Google have made almost all of their software available free of charge. Google however, have a strong revenue stream, advertising, that does not depend directly on an install base.
The nature of Google’s foray into the desktop then, could be predicated on the idea that information (about the user) will unlock greater advertising revenue, because they will be better able to target the ads. Significantly, Microsoft, by purchasing a share of Facebook have unlocked a similar revenue stream. Should we look forward to Microsoft offering free software to Facebook users?
These are interesting times – Google Chrome – just a neat browser or the latest move in a battle for the desktop?
What do you think?
To a deafening blast of bloggery, Google Chrome was finally released – the technical side has been pretty comprehensively covered by now, by more informed people than I, but what of the non-technical, why is this not just another product release?
Well Chrome is significant for maybe three reasons.
1. Its the first big power play from a credible power broker in several years
2. It’s the first credible threat to Firefox
3. It does things differently – under the covers it’s been written for speed, it has been designed as a web application platform (old fashioned browsers did not have Web2.0 in mind)
So how does that translate?
The IT landscape is dominated by a very small number of companies, this has happened in part, because Microsoft managed to acquire the desktop to the extent that it’s operating system is the default on every PC sold. They were only prevented from ‘acquiring’ the browsing experience, by legal action forbidding them to make Internet Explorer part of the operating system. Other corporate contenders have expanded by acquisition as well as by market growth, leading to a landscape not unlike the Premiership, where the ‘big four’ companies appear to be there for the long term.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but nobody forecast the extent to which Search would become the lynchpin of the internet. I have an ancient copy of ‘Wired’ magazine that features an interview with someone who used to make a handsome living by ‘finding’ things on the internet for corporate clients. How pleased were they when Alta Vista came out? Google came out of left field, revolutionised search technology and reinvented the business model, making advertising the principle source of income and by going public, gatecrashed the party at the top table in the process.
So now, Google (and quite a few others) want to carve up the desktop – the browser is the most used application by a country mile, the concept of software as a service is catching on fast and Google, in releasing a web browser are after their slice of the pie. Microsoft, presumed to be vulnerable in the wake of Bill Gates departure and the extreme negativity attracted by Vista, don’t seem to have much to say – though watch this space, it’s not on their nature to rest on their laurels. The significance of owning the browser, to Google, is that access to the users browsing habits will enable them to target advertising even more accurately than they do currently, using the data gleaned from user’s search patterns.
So the release of a new browser, re-engineered to render complex web applications is big news – success will buy Google a new market.
How does Chrome perform?
The Magic and lies:
Most striking is the uncluttered gui, it’s simply a window, the default tab, which contains your most clicked pages, arranged in a table. Like all the best GUIs, it’s simple, it works and it will be copied.
The tabs are at the top of the application – emphasising the fact that effectively each tab is a different application – so if one tab freezes the other live on – I was unable to test this, but I believe that is the general idea.
I was unable to see much difference in speed, testing on Facebook, which is the slowest application I know.
Chrome has a marvellously uncluttered interface, but consequently lacks the widgets – StumbleUpon, ScreenGrab, Delicious etc that have made Firefox such an important application. It allows ‘anonymous’ browsing – no cookies, history etc – now I can only think of one section of the market that would see this as a Firefox killer – which bring me neatly to the licensing issue.
In common with Facebook, Google have decided that they want the free and unfettered use of everything that passes through the browser. It’s well known that any media uploaded to Facebook effectively becomes the property of Facebook, now Google want a slice of the pie – so if I use Chrome to upload my photograph to Flickr, Google own the rights to reuse and distribute that photograph. If I use Chrome to upload the photograph to Facebook…hang on a minute, they can’t both own the image? Can they? Well, no, they can’t. So far as both companies are concerned, the author holds the copyright, they simply want the right to use the material without paying a royalty.
The spirit of the license, in both cases, one is asked to believe, is that the companies concerned wish to protect themselves against opportunistic legal action. Both companies use the term non-exclusive and both explicitly say that copyright and intellectual property remain with the originator. So to be clear, in uploading a photograph using Chrome, to Facebook, the user is granting both companies non-exclusive rights to do with that photograph what they wish, including sell it.
Will Chrome be successful? – It lacks the wow! factor of Google earth (or Search). It looks like an old fashioned Apple Mac application and not in a good way – visually it doesn’t blend seamlessly with the OS in the way that we are beginning to expect. It is the ‘Flock of Seagulls’ to Vista and Apple’s New Romantics, SteamPunk it ain’t. The licence gambit seems to be attracting as much criticism as Facebook’s similar play, and the anonymous browsing feature is superfluous for most people. Having said that, the code I have is beta, and it didn’t crash once today – so top marks for testing. I certainly won’t be using Chrome as part of my toolkit just yet – but I’m keeping an open mind – Firefox is becoming bloated and unreliable, throwing more processing power at it is expensive and a new browser is free….