Category Archives: Google

Google’s iOS app strategy

If you think that it’s in Google’s interests to create better apps on Android than iOS, two recent releases should absolve you of that notion.

First, there’s the latest release of Gmail, an app that’s so good even Android sites are wishing it was available on their platform.

Then there is YouTube, which improves so much over the previous (Apple-created) app that I wish Apple had dropped its own version sooner.

So what’s going on? Why would Android’s creator make better apps for the platform it competes with than for its own?

There’s two reasons. First, as I wrote in my most recent posting on Macgasm, the role of Android isn’t to defeat iOS, but to ensure that Apple does not dominate mobile in a way which meant it could lock Google search out. Second, there’s the issue of revenue. Although Google doesn’t break out how much it makes from ads served to iOS devices, given that iOS drives far more web traffic than Android it’s safe to assume Google serves more web ads to it. And that makes iOS a more profitable platform for Google than Android is.

Given this, why would Google want to damage a platform it makes more money per user from, in favour of a platform it makes less money per user from? Google is driven by data, and the data says that providing services to iOS users makes it money.

Bradley Horowitz smacks Facebook, makes little sense

Google+ head honcho Bradley Horowitz, on the different approach that his product has to ads compared to Facebook:

“Jamming ads and agendas into user streams is pissing off users and frustrating brands too,” he said. “That’s not the way the world works.”

Rather, in the real world, there has to be intent. When a person’s hungry, he or she goes into a restaurant. Seeing an ad for a sandwich when they’re not hungry or looking for it isn’t very effective. But being able to search for a lunch place when hungry and finding recommendations from friends is much more effective.

“It turns out these are very valuable to users to have recommendations by the people they trust,” he said. “Instead of sandwich boards… we revert back to the fundamentals of fulling the need the user has.”

Horowitz added that Google doesn’t “have to make payroll by jamming users with ads” on Google+.

Of course Google+ doesn’t have ads plastered all over it. It’s cross-subsidised by another business: search. Or rather, it feeds its data into another service (search) in order to add to the quality of that service’s ability to sell information about you to advertisers.

The fact that Google places the ads it builds on top of your social data on a different site is not some kind of intrinsic superiority. And given how much space of Google’s search results pages can now be given over to ads, and the fact the Google Products (pure search) got turned into Google Shopping (paid placement) it’s pretty clearly a case of pot calling kettle black.

In the real world, away from the corporate dick-waving, Facebook has actually done a pretty good job of avoiding falling into the trap of plastering intrusive ads everywhere. Paul Adams has stood up in front a conference full of agencies and told them that the interruptive model of advertising that they make their bread and butter from is dead.

I’m yet to hear anyone from Google do the same. Maybe Bradley Horowitz and Paul should have a chat about it some time. I’d love to listen in on that debate.

What’s interesting is that in terms of how they’re used by users, Facebook and Google+ differ. On FB, I mostly connect with real life friends and family  - a couple of hundred people. I don’t really connect with people I don’t know.

On G+, I follow and converse with a much wider range of people. In that sense, it’s more like Twitter, where you end up having conversations with people that you have little relationship with – it’s more like a public forum than private connections.

Where the two are alike is in the fact that they both leverage social connections and stated interests into a money-making opportunity. For Google, that’s all about improving the relevance of search results and advertising, both on its own properties (search) and in the wider world (AdWords on other sites).

Up to now, Facebook’s use of the social graph data it gathers has only been on its own property. That Bradley Horowitz has gone on the offensive at exactly the same point when Facebook is rolling out a contextual advertising programme to third parties is surely no coincidence.

One product or fifty?

One on One: Jim Wicks, Design Chief at Motorola Mobility – bits.blogs.nytimes.com:

If another company is only making two products and four products, and they’re putting all their resources into that, and you’re making 50, you can imagine the challenges you have. Do you feel like you have the best talent, the best testing, when you’re doing 50 products that cover smartphones, tablets and accessories, which are all in their own right highly complex products

I wonder which “other company” he could be referring to?

A Message To Eric Schmidt And Android: Put Up Proof Of Profits Or Shut Up

A Message To Eric Schmidt And Android: Put Up Proof Of Profits Or Shut Up | TechPinions:

“Please stop. There’s nothing more important to a business than profits. Stop talking about:

– market share without context. – how much profit you’re going to make in some distant, undefined future. – how much you’re making from some undisclosed and undiscoverable content, advertising, data gathering or other nebulous activity. – how your business model is different and it shouldn’t be compared to other companies. You’re wrong. Every company’s profits can and should be compared. Profits are the great equalizer.

The proof is in the profits. If you don’t the have profits, you don’t have the proof. And if you don’t have the proof, then please, just stop talking.”

I’ve often wondered how much money Google actually makes from Android. I suspect, even if you factor in mobile ad sales, it’s peanuts. 

Did Apple and Google really spend more on patents than R&D? Yes – but it’s not all it seems

There’s been a meme doing the rounds based on the New York Times’ story on “the iEconomy” which claims that in 2011, both Google and Apple spent more on patent protection than R&D. This, on the face of it, looks like a savage indictment of the whole parent system – legal nonsense taking priority over real research.

There was something, though, that didn’t quite add up for me. Call it an old journalist’s nose for something fishy, but… it just didn’t smell right.

The paragraph this claim was made in is this:

In the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions. Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings.

Aha. There’s the bit which set off my journo-sense.

As that paragraph notes, there were several unusually large patent portfolio deals in 2011. Apple, for example, contributed $2.6 billion towards the purchase of Nortel’s patent portfolio, in a consortium deal which also included Microsoft, RIM, Sony and EMC. That deal – worth a total of $4.5 billion – was a one-off. Portfolios like that rarely come on the market.

Likewise, Google spent $12.5 billion buying Motorola Mobility, a deal which Larry Page described as being about “strengthening Google’s patent portfolio” (Google actually accounted the patents as $5.5 billion of the purchase). Again, that’s a one-off: there aren’t many Motorola’s around and available for purchase. Likewise, the deal which saw Google buy over 1,000 patents from IBM.

So yes, Google and Apple did spend more on patents in 2011 than R&D. But that’s very likely to be a one-off, simply because 2011 was an unusual year which saw several highly-desirable patent portfolios come on the market. What the NYT didn’t say is that Apple also increased its R&D spending in 2011 by 33%, and that Google’s R&D spending continues to trend upwards massively, with the company spending a whopping 12% of all its revenue in R&D last year.

Read the NYT piece, and you would think that the technology market has shifted from being about research and development of new products to being about acquisition of patents. Given that this is based on a single year, when some very big patent portfolios came on the market in one-off deals that aren’t likely to be repeated in the future, that’s a long way from the truth.

Google needs some “developers, developers, developers”

Battle Of The Tablet Business Models: Windows 8 And The Microsoft Surface:

As an aside, compare Microsoft’s stewardship of Windows with how Google has treated Android. Google has created a world class operating system in Android but they have done their hardware licensees a disservice when it comes to platform. Their software updates are severely fragmented, their store is difficult to navigate and lacks content and their app store is clogged with clones, pirates and viruses. As a result, Android owners buy less content and apps and Android app developers make far, far less money than do the developers for competing platforms.

This, I think, gets to the heart of the issue with Android: Google’s failure to court developers and provide a genuinely compelling platform for them to create great software. Google has relied on “open”, because that’s a selling point to some developers – but not to the majority.

In which Andy Rubin digs a hole just a little deeper

Andy Rubin’s definition of “open”, October 2010:

the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make”

Andy Rubin replying to Alibaba’s John Spelich, September 2012:

“Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools.  And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps).  So there’s really no disputing that Aliyun is based on the Android platform and takes advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.”

From “open to everyone to use” to castigating people for “[taking] advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.”

Either it’s open, in which case everyone gets to take advantage of the work, or it isn’t, in which case Rubin needs to say it. 

If Rubin believes, as he say, that Aliyun “contains pirated Google apps”, then they should sue, rather than pressuring partners not to work with them. 

The end of Android Tablets?

The end of Android tablets: can Google match Amazon’s success before Microsoft closes the window? | The Verge:

“What the Fire has taught us before and will teach us again this week is that the biggest threat to Android tablets isn’t necessarily the iPad — it’s that the companies which make the devices aren’t totally invested in ensuring the Android platform succeeds.”

I’ve argued before that other companies in the Android eco-system aren’t Android’s best friends – this post makes that point well.

The putative 7in iPad versus the Nexus 7

I'm not one for comparing products which don't exist yet to products which are already on the market, but James Kendrick has written what I think are a good set of reasons why he'll be first in line for a 7in iPad, despite liking the Nexus 7:

Using an iPad is so much more pleasant compared to the Nexus 7 that I am confident that the rumored iPad Mini (or as I prefer to call it the iBook) will capture the small tablet market and quickly. The pricing Apple puts on the smaller tablet will certainly be a factor, but knowing the company I believe they will get it right.

James is right. I own both the N7 and the latest iPad, and while I like both a lot there's a big difference between the two in terms of experience. Even though the N7 is much smoother than previous Android devices (thanks to Jelly Bean) it's still not as responsive as the iPad.

More importantly Android's still lacking in quality applications built for tablet sized screens. There's still no killer Twitter client, although a couple come close. There's a few decent games, but not many. There's no writing app as good as Pages, or presentation app as good as Keynote. Android has occasional quality tablet apps; iOS has depth in quality.

Computer security doesn’t have to be a binary state

Robert Atkins, on John Grubermissing the point” about the EFF’s “crystal prison” argument:

It’s a pity Richard Stallman is such a boor because he’s actually right about some things: if we aren’t vigilant, the general public will have its legal right to build and run arbitrary software on hardware they own eroded to the point where it’s impossible to do so legally.

What I think both John AND the EFF are missing is that this is not a black/white, either/or argument.

Chrome OS gets this right: you can’t install any executable on the machine at all, or tinker with the operating system in any way. It is, to all intents and purposes, arguably more locked down than iOS. Thanks to the inclusion of TPM, a Chromebook simply won’t run if so much as one byte of its OS code is changed.

But flip a hardware switch on the side, hidden behind a panel, and you have full access to everything. If you want to tinker, you can. But if you want a secure, safe machine you can have that, too.