Tag Archives: Google

In which Dan Lyons once again exposes his elite journalism skills

Dan Lyons, once again talking out of his ass:

This is a crushing blow to Microsoft, which has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and phony grassroots groups over the past several years hoping to land Google in hot water.

You would think from this that Google, meanwhile, hasn’t been spending money on lobbyists.

Oh no wait

In fact, as a cursory search on Opensecrets.org reveals, Google significantly outspent Microsoft on lobbying in 2012, as it had in 2011.

But hey – never let facts get in the way of a good story, Dan.

Update: I’d forgotten this great quote about Lyons from MG Siegler:

This is a pattern for Lyons. He wants to write something, so he does the minimal amount of work possible, then writes it. It leads to situations like this. Which leads to him apologizing for being wrong. Or just looking like an ass.

MG nailed Lyons far, far earlier than most of us.

The Republic of Samsung

Is Samsung price fixing? The Washington Post certainly thinks so:

“That sentiment has intensified in recent years, a period during which Samsung has obstructed price-fixing investigations — drawing only minor fines — and seen its chairman indicted for financial crimes, only to receive a presidential pardon ‘in the national interest,’ as a government spokesman put it.”

Maybe Google should amend “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t be evil, but don’t be too choosy about what your partners get up to”.

What, exactly, is Android?

Toward a More Informed Discussion on Android | TechPinions:

“Android is in no way shape or form the same as OS X, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone, or RIM’s Blackberry OS. When we speak of those operating systems we are speaking of a unified platform controlled by one company whose platform share represents the total addressable market, via single SDK, for developers. Should a developer want to develop for any of those platforms, all they need do is get the SDK for that single platform. Android, however, is an entirely different beast.

Android is not actually a platform, it is an enabling technology that allows companies to create platforms Because Android is open source, all the term Android refers to is the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project. Anyone can take this core code and create their own custom operating system using Android as the core. Google created and manages the AOSP but also has their own version of Android. Amazon does this and has their own version of Android. Barnes and Noble does this and has their own version of Android. I would not be shocked if new entrants as well take the Android platform and make it their own for their own needs as well.”

This is the thing that gets overlooked, all the time. Android is not a single, unified operating platform: it’s a set of semi-compatible platforms, built around the same technology.

Amazon’s version of Android is to Google’s version of Android what FreeBSD is to Ubuntu. You can probably get the same apps to run – but be prepared for some tweaking.

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.

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.

Apple’s move into maps may not be plain sailing

MG Siegler on Google’s Maps announcement and Apple’s forthcoming map tech:

I say that with the biggest caveat possible: again, no one knows much about the Apple maps product yet — it could very well suck. Mapping is not easy. And Google has been at it for years. Pulling off a product that can reliably replace Google Maps seems almost impossible — it’s that good — and maybe it will prove to be.

This is one of the things that worries me about Apple creating its own mapping technology, rather than using Google Maps. Maps are core to Google’s business, because location data is incredibly value for increasing the relevance of ads, and without ever-increasing relevance, the click-through rates on ads will go consistently down.

On the other hand, maps are not core to Apple’s business. Having a good map experience on mobile is, of course, but that’s something that doesn’t require owning the technology – it requires dealing with Google. And “dealing with Google” is the bit that Apple is obviously having problems with.

Owning technology is great for Apple if it makes the user experience better. If it doesn’t, it’s just ownership-for-ownership’s-sake, or ownership to make Apple’s bottom line better. Neither of those are bad reasons, but it’s worth bearing in mind if it proves that Apple’s maps experience gets worse, not better.

And, as MG points out, mapping is something that Google has huge experience in, and pours vast resources into. Is Apple going to be sending people up mountains with backpacks to get visual data? I doubt it.

The other thing that bothers me is that this is yet another thing to consider if you’re creating a cross-platform service, rather than a one-platform app. Suppose you have a web service which also has an iOS app, both of which incorporate mapping. Is Apple’s map service going to allow access to it from web apps, or just iOS (and presumably OS X)? It not, you now have to incorporate support for two different mapping APIs, and – more importantly – spend time and resources understanding how everything’s supposed to work.

Of course, Apple could ace it, and clearly they’ve been buying high-quality mapping talent for a very long time. We’ll see next week.

2012 could be a dangerous year for Android

Google exec hints Android 5.0 will launch in the autumn:

Speaking to Computerworld, Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for mobile at Google, suggested Android 5.0 will launch in the fall. He stated “In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still.”

Since its launch, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has got just one percent of the overall Android market. It’s currently shipping on a handful of phones, with a few tablets also announced. Few existing phones or tablets have got upgrades, beyond the “Pure Google” Nexus devices (and if you have the Nexus One, you’re out of luck).

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