Posts Tagged: google

Oct 11

Zigging when Apple zags

Sometimes Google seems to do some extraordinary acrobatics just to prove it isn’t Apple.

Speaking at the All Things Digital conference in Asia yesterday, Andy Rubin made it a point out their difference in philosophy.

1. He doesn’t believe in tablet-specific apps. All apps should work on a phone and scale up.

2. He doesn’t believe the phone should be an assistant. “You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone — you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone,” he said.

Statements like these diminish Google, mostly because they fly in the face of common sense. Rubin makes it sound like it’s more important to dismiss Apple’s advances than it is to move forward.

His view on tablet-specific apps appears to be a defense for the Android Marketplace having so few of them. That number has been cited as anywhere from 300 to 3,000 — whatever, it’s way less than Apple’s 140,000.

Obviously, many apps can scale perfectly well from a phone to a tablet if they’re written to do so. Just as obviously, there’s a big difference between a 4-inch screen and a 10-inch screen. Though many apps can successfully scale, common sense says that a bigger screen opens up new possibilities. Otherwise, we’d all be running phone apps on our 27-inch screens too.

To be dismissive of Siri is to appear almost Luddite-ish. Even in its beta form, Siri is shaping up to be a monster hit. Again, common sense. It’s infinitely easier to say “Set alarm for 8am” than it is to go through the normal routine. Controlling the phone’s more advanced capabilities the same way feels nothing less than miraculous. And phones are just the start.

Apple didn’t denigrate Android’s superior voice recognition capability, they pushed it to a much higher level — the ability to intelligently interpret words to initiate actions. You’re a smart guy, Andy, but to dismiss this kind of leap with comments like “you shouldn’t be communicating with the phone” is pretty embarrassing.

Common sense says one other thing, too. Not too far in the future, Android will feature a built-in intelligent assistant. It may even help you explore Android’s library of made-for-tablet apps.


Sep 11

Google’s “don’t be evil” loophole

Technology companies can be so lovable when they’re young and feisty.

They can say things like Don’t be evil and be cheered on by the masses.

It’s only when they grow up to be global powerhouses that their words get turned against them. This technique must be in Chapter 1 of the official Google Critic’s Handbook, since most anti-Google articles seem to use this ploy.

Does this mean I can rise above doing the same?

Nah. I’m only human. And I couldn’t help but notice an example of Google’s confused sense of evil on their own corporate philosophy page. The sixth of their “Ten things we know to be true” is You can make money without doing evil. Elaborating on that, they say:

We believe that advertising can be effective without being flashy. We don’t accept pop–up advertising, which interferes with your ability to see the content you’ve requested.

Maybe there’s some kind of semantic difference between “accepting” pop-up ads and sticking them in our faces. Because, as I have complained before, pop-up ads on YouTube videos are as annoying as ads get. They absolutely do interfere with your ability to see the content you’ve requested. They require you to take action to make them go away, and then they require you to restart the video if you’d like to see it as it was meant to be seen — unobstructed.

As an anti-advertising advertising man, I’ve often talked about the basic respect that ads must have for the user. Anyone with a sense of advertising morals understands the importance of not annoying or badgering those with whom you are trying to start a conversation.

Obviously, Google gets this. Enough so that they wrote it into their corporate philosophy, right under the “evil” thing.

Maybe they just see YouTube as a loophole, because it’s not a Google-branded site?

No. Not possible. That would evil.

Mar 11

Death to the YouTube pop-up ad!

Completely ignoring the complexities of life, I’ve managed to lump everyone I’ve ever met in marketing into two distinct groups.

1. Those who believe advertisers have a degree of social responsibility.
2. Those who believe it’s their holy duty to cram an ad into every available space on this planet.

For years, things have remained in relative balance simply by the force of nature. On occasion, ad agencies and clients would get too pushy — and negative reactions would make them take a step back.

However, there’s a disturbance in the force. These days, the rewards of being annoying can be so great, advertisers and their enablers are more willing to “tough out” the criticism just to keep the cash flowing. Maybe we don’t protest loudly enough, or we get tired of complaining. Whatever, we start to see excessive advertising as a necessary evil — even if it isn’t necessary at all.

Case in point: YouTube pop-up ads. Oh, how I loathe them.

Amazingly, they manage to offend on multiple levels.

Right at the moment you’ve chosen to be passive — watching a video — a pop-up ad forces you to take action. When it materializes, it’s like an annoying fly. You can try to ignore the distraction or you can take the time to swat the thing. Even if you swat, you’ve already lost a few seconds of pristine video. To see the whole video unblemished, you have to go back to the start.

If this technique is supposed to “personalize” my advertising experience with ads relevant to what I’m watching, it ain’t happening. In fact, Google Adsense pop-ups make little sense at all.

I watch Pink Floyd (still frame above) and I get an ad for the Ford Edge. I watch a video about sushi and get an ad for the Dell Inspiron. I watch Peter Gabriel and I’m invited to an Express Oil Change at Riley Car Care. No kidding. This is just advertising pollution, and someone should be very ashamed of themselves.

These ads operate on the same principle as junk mail. Show the message to a few million people, and a few may actually click. There is no respect for the customer here.

I once thought Google to be above such things. The creator of the world’s sparsest search page would seemingly have the good taste not to throw such garbage at their audience. Obviously there are minds within Google that value advertising revenue more than the user experience.

If you search around on the topic of YouTube pop-ups, you’ll find that they are hated by many. Sadly, the offended aren’t hating loudly enough. Rather than pulling back, Google is pushing forward, providing new self-service tools that make it easier to spread pop-ups far and wide.

I have a great love for advertising. My only problem is advertising that poisons the environment. Does Google have other choices? Of course they do. They could just as easily surround videos with ads that can be clicked or ignored without aggravating anyone. But they don’t.

Other sites (and some YouTube videos) simply show an ad before your video comes on. At least this makes some sense. Ignore the commercial and ultimately it will go away. The YouTube pop-up can’t be ignored. It’s like the Terminator. It will relentlessly pursue you until you kill it.

Google built a legend with its “don’t be evil” mantra. Maybe these days that’s too grand an ambition.

Personally, I’d settle for “don’t be annoying.”

Jun 10

Evil’s new career in marketing

From the I/O fest — Google tries to out-1984 Apple

Evil never had to look too hard to find work. It did just fine hanging out with dictators and oil companies.

Still, it never hurts to pick up some extra cash. So, as you probably noticed, Evil recently entered the marketing biz.

It showed up at Google’s recent I/O conference, playing the part of Apple. It was a juicy role, exposing Apple’s plot to suck the last bits of independent thought from our brains. Evil represented Apple’s tightly controlled mobile platform vs. Google’s wide-open Android platform.

But clearly Evil is not signing exclusive contracts these days. Just weeks before, it grabbed the lead role in Adobe’s new “We (heart) Apple” campaign. Adobe, like Google, has issues with Apple’s unbridled lust for power, and needed Evil to cast Apple in the proper light.

It’s ironic that Evil is working against Apple these days, considering Apple actually gave Evil its start in advertising 26 years ago. Evil proudly stood up and played the part of Big Brother, a surrogate for big bad IBM, in the famous 1984 launch commercial for Macintosh. Apple and Evil were all buddy-buddy in those days, so in a way it’s sad to see Evil turning on its old friend like this. But hey, if there’s one thing you can’t do with Evil, it’s trust.

I’m not normally big on conspiracy theories, but part of me wonders if Google has signed Evil to this deal just to protect itself. After being attacked for invading privacy with Google Buzz and being investigated for monopolistic practices in Europe, Evil was already giving Google that knowing wink. Creating a new partnership to go after Apple might just be the protection Google needs.

I can’t help feeling that Evil is secretly scratching its scaly head over this whole situation, and is probably just “doing it for the money.” After all, the fact that Apple and Android have different philosophies is what gives people true freedom of choice. Slamming Apple for not being like Android is pretty pointless.

Kudos to Evil for reinventing itself, but I’m not sure where it will go from here. There’s always Microsoft, I suppose. But they may be too like-minded for it to work…

Feb 10

Battle of the androids

Now now, Google - play nice

Back when Google launched its Nexus One phone, I thought it was odd that Google had chosen to compete with its own partners.

It’s interesting that after the Droid (the best Android phone) came the Nexus One (the best Android phone), and now, just announced at the Mobile World Congress, we have HTC’s Desire (the best Android phone). And yes, that’s the same HTC that builds Google’s Nexus One.

Of course on one level this is a silly thing to point out. After all, hundreds of PCs run Windows, and the fact is some PCs are better than others for a hundred different reasons. That’s called choice. The only difference is that Microsoft does not manufacture PCs. They don’t serve up the “best” version of the same product they’re asking their partners to make. That’s called evil.

Absolutely, competition is good. Customers benefit as the various Android-makers try to outdo each other with new reasons to buy their own devices. But for all of Google’s “partners,” there is something extremely unholy about competing with the guy who controls the OS your product depends on, and knows every new feature that’s on the drawing board.

It hurts a little to see Google move in this direction. We were all rooting for them for so long. The brainiest, coolest company out there. This is starting to feel like the end of the movie, when we find out that the least likely person in the room turns out to be the serial killer.

Jan 10

Nexus One: the world’s fastest price cut

Everything's fine ... really

Well, that didn’t take long. Just nine days after the launch of the Nexus One phone, Google and T-Mobile announced a $100 price drop. Only catch: it’s not for everyone.

Existing T-Mobile customers only. Account active for 22 months only. Individuals only. No business or family accounts. No phones numbers ending in 7 or 2. Okay, just kidding about the last one — but it doesn’t feel so out of place with the actual restrictions.

In its email to customers, Google is outright cheery: “Good news! The upgrade pricing for existing T-Mobile users with data plans has changed from $379 to $279.”

Not to throw cold water on the merriment, but “good news” like this normally happens only after bad news reaches the CEO’s desk. Like puny first-week sales of 20,000 (vs. iPhone 3GS’s first-week sales of 1.6 million). Or a customer uprising due to lack of tech support.

How different companies respond to similar circumstances is revealing. Remember when the first iPhone met with pricing resistance? Just two months after launch, Apple responded with a price cut. But theirs applied to all customers — $200 off for new purchases and $100 Apple Store coupons for those who’d already bought. Some felt that Apple actually ended up with a net positive for being forthright and fair.

Google and T-Mobile, however, have chosen to zero in on a subset of their customers: upgraders only. It’s as if someone had calculated the least possible thing they could do to help right the ship — which actually diminishes the good will generated by offering a discount in the first place.

Jan 10

Overlooking the obvious

slabInvest in Android. Check. Sign up telco partners for Android. Check. Develop our own Google-branded phone. Check. Rehearse big launch event for Nexus One. Check. Open online store. Check. Set up customer support system. Uh… whoops.

Looks like someone at Google forgot their Boy Scout motto. Thanks to a surprising lack of preparedness, Google’s support forums are now flooded with Nexus One owners searching for answers. No luck with T-Mobile either — they just send you back to Google, where the best you can do is send an email and wait up to 48 hours for a response.

Chalk this up to Google’s rookie status in the hardware biz. It took Apple many years to build a seamless, positive customer path from ads to Apple Store to packaging to post-purchase care. At this point, Google’s phone business is, to be kind, just a wee a bit looser.

No company battling for the hearts and minds of customers can rest on the the laurels of hardware or software. They have to build a rich and happy customer experience. There are many ways Google can do this — but they might start by answering their phone.

Jan 10

The futility of the other Steve

How I wish I was there

He can empty a room as quickly as he fills it. (Photo: Laura Rauch/AP)

For several months, the boys at Google have been working toward January 5th: Nexus One launch day. For several months, Apple has been working toward January 27th: tablet launch day. For several months, Microsoft has been working toward January 6th — and two days later, it’s hard to figure out why.

As near as anyone can tell, it’s because of tradition. Microsoft always gives the keynote at CES. But in this ultra-competitive world, tradition is hardly a reason for Steve Ballmer to stand up and make himself look small.

It pains me to be compassionate to this man, but I imagine it’s a near-impossible job to create front-page news from a few scraps. Microsoft has a number of things to brag about — it’s just that none of them are on the scale of Google unveiling a smartphone or Apple unveiling a tablet.

So our man Steve is left holding the script that says “Make big splash here,” when the genuine splash-makers have purposefully organized their own events to pull the rug out from under him. Surely this week Steve’s competitors are shaking their heads and wondering why this guy makes it so easy for them.

The hot rumor before Ballmer’s speech was that he would present a super-cool HP tablet in an effort to dilute Apple’s pending anouncement. He did so with only a passing mention. Maybe HP realized that this was a no-win situation for them with all the expectations for Apple’s new tablet. If they’re smart, and their tablet is that hot, they’re already putting the finishing touches on plans for their own event — sans Ballmer.

Suggestions for Steve: Be a renegade. Skip the damn show if you haven’t the weaponry. Never go anywhere simply because people expect you to. It’s just Showmanship 101.

Jan 10

Some fine print from Google

nexus_one_asteriskAndy Rubin is the founder of Android and currently VP of Engineering at Google. In the afterglow of the Nexus One unveiling, the Washington Post ran an article noting his similarities to Steve Jobs.

Unfortunately, our friend Andy is actually sounding more like Steve Ballmer.

When asked when existing Android phones will be upgraded to be on par with Nexus One, Andy explained that “older” Android handsets may not be able to support the “full experience” of the newer Android releases — just as older PCs may not be able to run the newest version of Windows.

Come again? I could have sworn that the planet’s entire supply of Android phones was less than six months old. (Turns out HTC, manufacturer of Nexus One, did start making them at the end of 2008.) Whatever, it seems incredibly early to be talking about creeping obsolescence.

Remain calm, Droid enthusiasts. Motorola says you’re definitely getting the upgrade. As for the others, Google says they’ll make the software available within days, but it’s up to each manufacturer to decide when — and if — the update gets rolled out to their devices.

So. If Google was indeed harboring dreams of becoming the Microsoft of the phone world, I’d say they’re well on their way.

This should further fuel the debate over open systems (Android) vs. closed systems (iPhone). Yes, you get a lot more choices when you shoot for ubiquity — but things can get messy quick.

A Nexus One Q&A, including Andy Rubin’s comments, can be found at Computerworld.

Jan 10

Google enters the arena


Stand back — another iPhone killer is born

Droid, Pre, Storm, Cliq — kindly step aside. The real Clash of the Titans is taking shape. In a single day, ad giant Google unveiled the Nexus One while phone giant Apple bought itself a mobile ad company. This should be fun. But first things first. A few instant reactions to Google’s new baby:

Name. Lame. You’ve got a killer brand, a high-end entry into the world’s hottest market, months of global anticipation for a “Google phone” … and you call it what? Ya know, sometimes obvious really is best. Ask iPhone. GooglePhone, Gphone, take your pick. (Oh, and if you really, really had to go this route — and you didn’t — was that “One” really necessary?) Extra points for iPhone before the rumble even starts.

Features. Overall: spotty. Some cool things (better screen than iPhone, 5-megapixel camera, voice-enabled so you can write an email simply by speaking). Some duds (no multi-touch, a microscopic 190MB allotted for downloaded apps, wimpy app store, dismal music player).

OS. Google presented Nexus One as “the best Android device.” Brazen, considering the co-CEO of Motorola was in attendance — presumably with the second-best Android device, Droid, in his pocket. Wouldn’t there be fighting in the streets if Microsoft suddenly started selling “the best Windows computer”? Google says it’s not trying to reap profits from the sales of Nexus One, just “broadening the availability of Android handsets.” Uh huh. Already, Nexus One has features that are merely “coming soon” to other Android phones.

Price. $529 unlocked, $179 with a 2-year T-Mobile “subsidized” contract. To be honest, this industry-wide subsidy thing has always sounded fishy to me. If Apple can haul in the cash selling a 16GB iPod touch for $199, how much more can it cost to add telephony to that? Conspiracy theorists, unite!

Design. Hmm, now where have I seen this look before…

I’m eager to see some real reviews now that Nexus One is among us. I think the competition between former buddies Apple and Google will be good for the industry and riveting to watch. But make no mistake: there will be blood.