Category Archives: Google

Google App Inventor: Not for everyone

As someone who grew up on BASIC and actually did some serious projects back in the 80′s and 90′s using HyperCard, I’m massively in favour of simple, easy to use programming tools. So Google App Inventor instantly caught my attention.

And then I saw it.

Oh dear.

The only people who could possibly think that this was “coding for the rest of us” are people who’ve forgotten when it was like to first learn how to create programmes, and that have never seen the incredible, powerful tools that something like HyperCard had. With HyperCard, anyone could pull together something and have it working without having to write a single line of code – but if you did delve into the code, you could do amazing things in a language that was closer to English than BASIC.

App Inventor hasn’t learned the lessons of HyperCard. And that’s a shame, because simple, powerful development tools are pretty thin on the ground.

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The era of simplified computing

I’m currently trying to get some thoughts down on the contrasting approaches of Google and Apple to the future of technology. There’s a whole host of stuff buzzing around my mind: are they yet another instalment of the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus? Do they represent yet another clash between C. P. Snow’s “two cultures”? And what is it about both of them that provokes loyalty and hatred in equal measure?

While writing, though, I’ve come to see that we’re entering a new era of computing, one where the paradigms and expectations of the world of the PC won’t give us much guidance. This new era is all about simplified computing, technologies where what’s important is the ability to sit down, get something done, and put down the device. Fast, simple, and most of all requiring as little knowledge about the underlying technology.

Google’s approach to this is to “put it in the cloud”. The only thing you need to do is be able to run a web browser, and the ultimate expression of that is ChromeOS, where there is very little the hardware does except run a web browser.

Apple’s approach is to keep the physical expression of the hardware as simple as possible, to remove options, to pare back the software so that you can only do a limited number of things, all of them “Apple approved”. Of course, the “limited number of things” currently runs to around 200,000 different applications, and you can still access HTML/JavaScript-based web applications too… but you get the idea.

Despite the scare stories, this era of simplified computing doesn’t mean an end to “freedom”. You’re still going to be able to buy computers which let you hack around and do stuff, just as you might have a new car which still lets you dig around under the bonnet. But the people who value the ability to just press the button and get something done will have devices that do exactly that.

One last thought: In all of my thinking about this, I have yet to find a scenario which requires Google to lose in order for Apple to win, or vice versa. The “war” between to two of them is, to my mind, not a war at all – they compete, but both of them are leaders and both of them will end up vastly-bigger companies.

How big a problem is Android spyware?

A fifth of Android apps expose private data:

“About 20 percent of the 48,000 apps in the Android marketplace allow a third-party application access to sensitive or private information, according to a report released on Tuesday.

And some of the apps were found to have the ability to do things like make calls and send text messages without the mobile user doing anything. For instance, 5 percent of the apps can place calls to any number and 2 percent can allow an app to send unknown SMS messages to premium numbers that incur expensive charges, security firm SMobile Systems concluded in its Android market threat report.”

Painful.

Who owns the platform? Adobe? Google?

Kevin Tofel on the announcement of Android support for Flash:

The key word in Adobe’s press release today being “expected,” which appears three times. Platforms other than Android are expected to integrate and work with Flash Player. All of the latest Android handsets are expected to see Froyo, which is required for Flash Player 10.1. The production version of Flash is expected to be available as a final production release for Froyo devices. Translation: Adobe hasn’t delivered anything to most handsets today and the fate of Flash Player is increasingly out of Adobe’s hands.

Kevin is spot on in highlighting Adobe’s use of the word “expect”, but I disagree with his last sentence. The fate of Flash Player isn’t out of Adobe’s hands: in fact, the fate of a platform which relies on Flash as a development environment is out of the hands of the platform’s creator.

How does Google work out ROI on Chrome?

Google is gaining market share with Chrome. But is it actually making any money off it? That’s the question that came into mind when I read Mathew Ingram‘s story on GigaOm about Chrome’s rise in share.

In particular, I found this part interesting:

“StatCounter said that in May, usage of IE 6 fell below the 5 percent mark in the U.S. and Europe for the first time, with overall usage of Internet Explorer at around 53 percent, while Firefox remained relatively flat at about 31 percent. Chrome’s share rose to 8.6 percent from the 6 percent mark at the beginning of the year.”

This rise in share is, I suspect, at least in part down to Google’s decision to use print (yes, print) ads to increase the awareness of Chrome as an alternate to Internet Explorer. Certainly, it’s one factor which is spreading knowledge of Chrome beyond the usual geek enclaves. Continue reading

Why Google TV is doomed to fail

Michael Gartenberg is right on the money is his latest Entelligence column:

“The problem is the TV is not just another connected screen — the TV is the largest screen in the home, and its optimized for passive viewing of content as a shared experience. Research has shown time and time again that consumers dont want the whole internet on their TVs. Consumers simply dont want Gmail or Twitter or the “whole” web on the TV. Theres a fundamental difference between what Google is offering and what consumers want — and, importantly, what they’re willing pay for.”

I actually wonder whether Google ever tests this stuff with customers who aren’t white, single geek boys – because that’s the only market that wants “the web on TV”.

Google desperately looks for way to get more cash from YouTube

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

New Role – YouTube as Outlet for Live Sports – NYTimes.com:

“Until now, YouTube has concentrated mainly on amateur user-created content, professional music videos and short promotional clips from television shows. The only major international event it carried live before the I.P.L. was a U2 concert from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last year, but it did not have corporate sponsors or pay the band a fee.

Now, though, YouTube could carry concerts and games from around the globe. Google will be looking at ‘more live events and live sports,’ said Shailesh Rao, managing director of Google India, in a recent interview in his office in Gurgaon, the outsourcing boomtown south of New Delhi. Many sports leagues noticed the cricket tournament’s successful webcast, he said, and Google is having ‘new conversations with lots of folks.’”

Translation: We’ve realised that there’s no way that we’re ever going to get enough revenue from YouTube to cover the vast costs of churning out all that video, so we’re desperately experimenting with every kind of paid-for and premium content we can find.

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Some speculation on Google, and Jimmy Wales’ revisionist history

From Open vs. Closed: Jimmy Wales on Being Open:

“If you look at the emerging competition between iPhone and Android, clearly the iPhone has the early edge, and of course Apple is quite good at what they do, their extreme controlling nature allows them to do certain things quite well. But at the same time, we’re seeing the beginning of a flood of new phones coming out from all kinds of different manufacturers…because of the open nature of the Android platform, and that’s going to pose a very interesting kind of competition.

Google, in this instance, ironically, is more playing the Microsoft role here, to Apple’s Apple. One of the ways that Microsoft beat Apple way back in the day was that they were a lot more open; today, in the world I come from, the free software and open-source world, Microsoft is not generally viewed as open; they’re viewed as proprietary. But the truth is that compared to a lot of other companies, they really embraced a very open set of standards and had a very open platform, and it enabled them to gain dominance.”

The big difference between Microsoft-then and Google-now is simple: Windows was a business, with real tangible revenues. Android is not a business, it’s a big fat negative on Google’s balance sheet.

And what’s interesting is that this kind of move is something that the financial markets tend to be happy about when you’re a growth-focused company. But what happens when the company moves beyond the “growth” phase and is regarded as a “value” stock?

This isn’t a hypothetical question: some commentators are already speculating that Google is making this kind of shift. Will investors start looking at the big cost centres on Google’s balance sheet, such as Android, and start asking where the return on investment is?

Oh, and Jimmy: does the phrase “embrace and extend” mean anything to you? Look it up. Microsoft never had an open platform. It took the combined efforts of the DoJ and EU Competition Commission to open them up to the point they’re at currently.

And, you should note, since their abusive behaviour was curbed, their star has faded. There’s a lesson for Google-watchers there too.

The dirty little secret behind Google’s business model

Marco.org – The ad delusion:

“You can’t really blame them. A portion of Google’s business depends on the delusion that their “AdSense for Content” ads the ones you see on blogs, not Google’s search results are good most of the time. The rest of the internet knows that they’re usually crap, but at least Google’s employees and leaders need to believe in them.”

And that, in a nutshell, is why Google is actually a lot weaker than many people imagine. It’s business model is founded on a fantasy: That contextual, text advertising is the most effective model. Sure, it owns DoubleClick (and now AdMob) so it’s diversified into other kinds of ad – but contextual is a massive chunk of its revenue.

It’s becoming more and more of an irritation to advertisers. Virtually every company I’ve spoken to of late has spent more time rolling their eyes in frustration over keyword ads than talking of how great it’s been for their business.

Advertising is changing. Not dying – changing. And the big question is whether Google has bet correctly on which way it’s going, or not.

Why Nexus One being profitable for Google is no surprise

Leena Rao, for TechCrunch:

“Additionally, Google revealed that Nexus One, Google’s recently launched Android phone, is a profitable business for the search giant. The fact that’s its already profitable is surprising, if you take into account this report from Flurry, which reported low Nexus One sales. In fact, there’s been a lot of talk today about how the Nexus One’s initial roll-out has been a flop.”

It’s very much NOT surprising that Google is turning a profit on the Nexus One business, given that the only cost directly against Nexus One for Google is the cost of building the pages that sell it.

It didn’t design or build the hardware – HTC did it, so no cost there.

It won’t have a charge for software – it’s all standard Android, which will be accounted for elsewhere on Google’s books.

It doesn’t hold stock of the product – it’s fulfilled by HTC, through Brightpoint.

Beyond word-of-mouth and whatever T-Mobile is doing, there’s almost no marketing costs.

To be honest, with those overheads I suspect Google would have turned on a few thousand sales, let alone 135,000.