Posts tagged google

Have you read Think Quarterly, Google’s new free magazine?


If Think Quarterly is a free, niched magazine—but it’s bankrolled by one of the largest companies on Earth—is it still considered “alternative press”?

It will be fascinating to see how this evolves. The mag is currently aimed just at Google’s partners and advertisers—but, let’s be honest, how long do we really think that’ll be the case? Here’s how managing director Matt Brittin introduced the publication: “At Google, we often think that speed is the forgotten ‘killer application’ - the ingredient that can differentiate winners from the rest. But in a world of accelerating change, we all need time to reflect. Think Quarterly is a breathing space in a busy world. It’s a place to take time out and consider what’s happening and why it matters.”

The most telling thing to me was Google’s tone toward Apple at the event. Instead of pretending to still be an Apple ally, Google today basically threw down the gantlet and admitted that it’s engaged in total war with Apple.

And unlike other Apple rivals, like Adobe, Google execs weren’t huffing and puffing and wringing their hands about Apple’s bad behavior. No, instead, Google was mocking Apple. Making fun of it. Laughing at it.

The Android OS is already outselling iPhone OS in the United States. Now it’s blowing past Apple in terms of the technology it’s delivering.

Yes, Apple still has a larger installed base. I was a little shocked recently when an Apple spokesbot responded to the news of Android’s outselling iPhone OS by reciting the old chestnut about Apple’s having more phones out there.

I was shocked because it’s a familiar line, one that I’ve heard countless times in my 20-plus years covering technology. But I’ve only ever heard it from companies that are doomed, and in total denial about it.

Google and Facebook’s entire business model is based on the notion of “monetizing” our privacy. To succeed they must slowly change the notion of privacy itself—the “social norm,” as Facebook puts it—so that what we’re giving up doesn’t seem so valuable. Then they must gain our trust. Thus each new erosion of privacy comes delivered, paradoxically, with rhetoric about how Company X really cares about privacy. I’m not sure whether Orwell would be appalled or impressed. And who knew Big Brother would be not a big government agency, but a bunch of kids in Silicon Valley?

The problem with buying things with your privacy is you really don’t know how much you’re paying. With money, five bucks is five bucks. But what is the value of your list of friends? If it’s not worth much, your membership on Facebook may be the deal of a lifetime. If it’s incredibly valuable, you’re getting massively ripped off. Only the techies know how much your info is worth, and they’re not telling. But the fact that they’d rather get your data than your dollars tells you all you need to know.

Lyons Has Seen the Google Buzz. Lyons is Not Amused.

His take:

Why, Google? Why take a perfectly wonderful email system and pollute it by adding a zillion new things to it? I’m not looking for more clutter in my life. I’m looking for less. At the launch event some Google exec claimed Buzz is a way to “find the signal in the social neworking noise,” but to me it just looks like Google is adding to the noise.

Why does Buzz even exist? Is it because Google wants to make my life better in some way? No. Buzz exists because Google feels threatened by Twitter and Facebook, and wants to kill them. Google has become what Microsoft used to be – the Borg, the company that gobbles up ideas from smaller rivals and cranks out lame imitations in an attempt to put the little guys out of business.

That is the biggest problem with Buzz — it was invented not for us, but for Google. So now, because Google feels threatened, we have yet another thing to learn, which won’t be easy because Google is basically a world where nerd engineers get turned loose in a Montessori preschool and they have no idea about user interface design and frankly, they don’t care.

Maybe Google had this planned all along. Maybe it went along with the China deal back in 2006 figuring that it would either (a) make loads of money in China, and if so, keep quiet about the censorship; or (b) fail to create a thriving business in China, but create an opportunity to generate some positive publicity by sparking a debate about the Internet and censorship. My guess: even the smarty-pants Google geniuses probably don’t think that far ahead. But anyway, the debate is one we need to have.
Lyons, on Google v. China

Google is now in the phone business. It is competing with phone makers, including all of its partners that have licensed Android for use in their own phones only to have Google leapfrog their designs with one of its own.

Google is also competing with carriers, attempting to disrupt the model in which carriers control the sale of phones and lock users into long-term contracts. That disruption may benefit consumers, but it can’t make carriers happy.

Will anyone complain? Or push back? Probably not. Even now, with its cards on the table, Google makes sure to load up its presentation with lots of rhetoric about “growing the ecosystem” and “building strategic partnerships.” They even dragged some guy from Motorola out onto the stage to pretend that he’s not furious about getting stabbed in the back by Google.

Bottom line: Google has become what Microsoft used to be. They’ll partner with you, and learn your business, and then they’ll start taking it away from you. They’ll be smiling the whole time, of course, and doing their “Gee whiz we’re just engineers trying to fix the world” faux naïf act. There’s not much you can do, except try to stay out of their way.

Lyons, on Nexus One

At this point I can’t figure out if Google is a) just trying to do something, anything, to deflect all the criticism it’s getting about being responsible for the death of newspapers; or b) actually playing a sadistic practical joke on newspapers, dreaming up ever more ridiculous ideas just to see if the newspaper guys will keep jumping through the hoops. After all, newspapers are desperate, right? Their business model is collapsing around them. So these days they’re pretty much willing to try anything that might someday lead to something that might somehow enable them to make money out of producing news.

How else to explain the new “Living Stories” thing that Google Labs has launched?

Lyons, on Google

Let’s say Safeway Food stores offers Kellogg’s an exclusive deal to sell Corn Flakes. The cereal will be removed from the shelves at Giant. Now in order to get them I either have to switch to the Safeway across town for my general shopping, or continue to shop at Giant but make a special trip just to buy Cornflakes.

Which of those things am I going to do?


Here’s why: When I go to the grocery store and see that the Corn Flakes are missing, I’ll be disappointed. But hey, look, that spot on the shelf where the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes used to be isn’t empty—something else has taken its place: AnotherCompany brand corn flakes. The box looks different, but they are corn flakes, and they’re less expensive. Turns out they’ve been selling them for years, but I never noticed before. What the heck, I’ll try a box. Beats making a special trip across town to Safeway.

And here’s what I’ll discover: AnotherCompany brand corn flakes are pretty much the same as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Maybe the flakes themselves are shaped a little differently, and they taste just a little different, but after a few bowls I really can’t remember what that difference is. And these new corn flakes taste great with strawberries too!

The next time I’m at Giant, I buy another box of the new cornflakes. I am happy, and go on with my life. If I’m at a hotel and they serve Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, I have a bowl. Yep, they’re good, but not good enough to rearrange my life for.

See where we’re going with this? News on the web is beyond plentiful, and most of it is similar. Make it less convenient for me to find your Web site, and I’ll switch to one of the many, many others that are just waiting for the opportunity to win my loyalty. It might not be exactly the same as yours, but after a short adjustment period I’m going to be just as happy. The sad truth is, you’re really not that special.

That would seem like a pretty basic lesson in economics that any executive—especially one as astute as Murdoch—would instinctively get. But he doesn’t. And neither do many of his cohorts.

Google Wave. Huh. What Is It Good For?

Daniel Lyons writes:

Maybe you’ve heard about Google Wave. It’s the hot new product from Google, the one that’s going to change the world and replace e-mail and transform us all into cyborgs with the power to travel into the future and save mankind. Or something.

Google Wave is now in a limited beta test, being used by 100,000 people, by invitation only. It’s apparently fantastic stuff, really super-impressive. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem—nobody can explain what Wave is or how it works. Not even the people who created Google Wave seem able to really explain why anyone needs or wants it. Sure, some have tried, like Ars Technica. Google itself has posted this 80-minute video tutorial.

But see, if you need an 80-minute video to explain your product, well, that’s a bit of a problem. Google says Wave is a tool that lets you “communicate and collaborate in real time.” But what does that mean exactly? Because at one level, the idea of something that lets you “communicate and collaborate in real time” is not such a big deal. A chalkboard lets you do that, for example. So does a telephone. Heck, a pad of paper and a box of crayons can do that.

It’s so bad that someone has created a site called Easier to Understand Than Wave, where Google Wave’s inscrutability is compared to the difficulty of understanding things like cardiothoracic surgery, Chinese telegraph code, and Sarah Palin. Anil Dash, a well-known tech blogger, calls Google Wave “a Segway for e-mail.”

I’m not yet a Google Wave beta-tester, though I hope to be soon. Despite all the complaining, from what I’ve seen, Wave seems like a really cool piece of software and a promising platform upon which other developers will end up building useful applications. As a journalist, I’m especially interested in technologies that could change the way we tell stories and distribute information to readers. I think Google Wave could become part of the way we deliver the news.

But let’s step back. The basic idea behind Google Wave is that e-mail, as it exists today, is totally lame and needs to die and be replaced by something better.