Rumours abound that Google is working with Samsung to bring a phone that’s being touted as the “Nexus Two” to market. Even though Eric Schmidt made it pretty clear in an interview with The Telegraph that there would be no Nexus Two along the same lines as the Nexus One, it actually makes sense for Google to get behind this. At the very least, it needs a phone out there that’s running stock Android so that developers have something that isn’t encrusted with crapware and “value added” interface elements.
Inevitably, because it has the Nexus label attached, this has got commentators spinning. Kevin Tofel, at GigaOm, has written a post on “5 ways a Google Nexus Two could break carrier control“, which, I think, epitomizes the kind of froth which surrounds Google and phones.
Now I should say up front that I have massive respect for Kevin. He’s one of my favourite writers on mobile, and him and James Kendrick make the mobile section of GigaOm a go-to site for me. But I’d file this post under a “miss” for him. It’s a little like writing a post on “5 ways Apple could improve Windows” – nice speculation, but just not going to happen.
Why not? Simple: Google has precisely zero interest in “breaking carrier control”. Far from it, in fact – consider how the company “amended” its position on network neutrality in order to get into bed with Verizon. If it’s willing to drop its principles faster than a hot potato to curry favour with mobile phone carriers, why would it rock the boat?
What’s more, the vast majority of mobile phones are sold direct, though carriers. Google’s experiment with selling phones direct was a resounding failure (which is why “Nexus Two” won’t follow the same model as Nexus One). The company has managed to gain traction and support from carriers who want an alternative to Apple, which they see as a far greater threat. Why would Google undermine that? Answer: It won’t.
And boy, does Leander like it:
“Apple’s new 11-inch MacBook Air is astonishing. It’s unbelievable. It’s the most exciting consumer PC that’s come out for years. It’s a netbook, but it’s not a PoS. It’s blazing fast. It’s unbelievably light and thin. It’s beautifully made. Really beautifully made.
It has an older CPU and skimpy RAM, but it is NOT underpowered. For users like me, who aren’t editing Hollywood movies, it’s more than adequate. Heck, it’s a huge leap forward. Like Jobs said at the launch, this is the future of notebooks. Extremely thin and light, yet capable of running dozens of applications without bogging down. There are compromises, of course, but the most important things — portability, durability and functionality — are very much in place.”
I just bought one of these, and Leander’s right: it’s a really, really good machine. Subjectively, for non-computationally intensive tasks, it actually feels very fast indeed.
Ubuntu changes its desktop from GNOME to Unity – Computerworld Blogs:
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and the company behind it, Canonical, surprised the hundreds of Ubuntu programmers at the Ubuntu Developers Summit when he announced that in the next release of the popular Linux operating system, Ubuntu 11.04, Unity would become the default desktop interface.
Unity is Ubuntu’s new netbook interface. While based on GNOME, it is own take on what an interface should look and act like. Shuttleworth explained that Canonical was doing this because “users want Unity as their primary desktop.”
What’s interesting is that this parallels what Apple is attempting to do with Mac OS 10.8 (“Lion”) – move the the default desktop metaphor away from the windowed environment that we’ve had for years in favour of something else.
I’m not surprised that this is coming from Canonical, though. If any company has pushed Linux away from being something that’s only suitable to hobbyists to a genuinely user-friendly OS, it’s Shuttleworth and his team.
From Life With Google TV: My First Day Review & Impressions:
“A menu appeared asking me to enlarge a box on the screen to match my actual screen size.”
User experience FTW.
UPDATE: For a more positive view of the set-up process of the same box, see Richard Lawler’s post.
I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Quora of late, both on the working level of “getting answers to stuff” and the meta-level of understanding why it works. And I think I’ve worked out why it works so well.
One simple trick: You’re only allowed to answer a question once. This forces users away from the kind of debate mode that you get in virtually every other site of its kind.
From an excellent New York piece on Nick Denton, Gawker Media, and journalism’s future:
“At the time of his public posturing, however, Denton was conceiving a comprehensive redesign of his blog network that signalled his steady march toward mainstream respectability. Gawker recently published a series of Fall Previews of books, music, television, and movies, such as you might find in your weekend Arts & Leisure section. The redesign, he told me, would “probably be seen as the end of the blog.” It was, in a way, the inevitable result of his original insight about transparency and objectivity. The problem with publishing some stories that are two thousand times as important as others is that it no longer makes sense to display them in reverse chronological order. His sites will soon abandon the scrolling layout in favor of a more conventional front page that is dominated by images and headlines. The only difference is that his story placement will be determined by algorithm—and that his standards are defiantly low-brow.”
Reverse-chronological. River of news. Call it what you will. It’s dying.
Commenting on Andy Rubin’s comment that “the carriers have a lot of value to bring” to Android, John Gruber asks:
“What software on Android phones have the carriers added that’s any good at all?”
I can think of one example: Verizon dropping Google search for Bing. But I suspect that this wasn’t the kind of value that Rubin was looking for.
The launch of Google TV is, I think, exposing a hidden challenge for the company. It’s best express in this comment on a GigaOm story by user ‘lz430′:
“My jaw dropped when I saw the price. Indeed, it’s Google and I love Google and everything they’ve connected and done thus far. But as others have commented, $299 is way too much, especially coming from a company that offers 95% of it’s products for free!”
In the minds of lots of consumers, Google = Free. This will make it very difficult to break out into the paid-product market, because potential customers see Google services as something they shouldn’t have to pay a premium for.
You could see this in the expectations for the Nexus One, where a substantial number of people expected Google to subsidise a smartphone down to the $99 price point, despite this being essentially impossible if the company wanted to turn a profit (something I ranted about with much profanity in my guest appearance on Angry Mac Bastards).
Google has established a great brand, but it’s a brand based on its products being free. It will be interesting to see if it can ever make the transition into being a brand people pay for.