A few days back Google released an Android software developer kit for wearables in a move that should lead to smartwatch and other gear. What remains to be seen is how well Android can adapt to the small screen.
In an announcement that came at the SXSW Sundar Pichai, who heads Google Chrome and Android efforts said he wants to connect to a bevy of sensors and wearables with Android. Google’s Android is already moving into automobiles. Android has proved it can move to larger screens. From the smartphone, Android has hit tablets, TVs and even PCs. However, the small screen may be trickier—assuming some of these wearables and sensor-first devices even have screens. Here’s a look at Android’s key challenges as they relate to the wearable market:
1. Wearable computing operating systems need to be silently working in the background – effortlessly and elegantly. Android’s Achilles Heel is the working in the background bit.
2. The Wearables ecosystem is a smarter one having learnt its lessons from Smartphones. Already Intel and Samsung have upped their game and presence. OEMs this time may not want to play all of it into one corner.Android means a race to the bottom for hardware makers.
3. Its hard to be one OS for all screens – the OS must have to be lightened considerably especially for wearables. Android could simply be too bulky to be useful in wearable computing.
4. Apps for the wearables will need a serious rethink – especially in the sense that these may not be visible apps or may have to pair devices in groups for serious activity
5. There’s a bit of unease about Google and data. Android in a smartwatch seems like a no brainer since the device to date is merely an extension of the smartphone. However,users may be wary of sharing vital signs with Google and may not want ads and pitches via a wearable. Google is all about the ads and wearable computing can make pitches a bit more freaky.
Sooner than later, these challenges will be overcome by Google, but I’ve been in the tech industry long enough to know that retrofits and alternates don’t always fly. Adapting Android to wearable computing is likely to be harder than it appears on the whiteboard.
At a time when Google steps out of the hardware business, Microsoft steps in. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s incoming chief executive, faces some urgent questions: Does the Nokia deal still make sense? And how does Microsoft expect to survive, let alone prosper, in a cut throat hardware market where Google is giving up?
Windows and Nokia marriage makes sense in combining hardware, software and appware – but Nadella and Microsoft are 4 years too late. In an email to Microsoft employees on February 4, his first day as chief executive, Nadella said, “Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.” It’s hard to imagine how Microsoft could be “mobile and cloud-first” without mobile. Does mobile necessarily have to be owning a mobile company?
The basic problem with Microsoft is not technology – but choice and the effects of scale. Android had an opportune entry when Smartphones were gathering momentum and Android took the game away from every one – Symbian, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft. Now with the effects of scale – Android is the best suited for low end smartphones where as others are still planning forays into $50 smartphones. The basic problem for Microsoft is that Android has won the smartphone war. Not withstanding the din of the third eco-system, Android has taken it away. Today Messrs Brin and page are not worried about Android on smartphones, that is a default arrangment – they are looking at Android in Cars, Android in Glasses, Android in the toaster, fridge – Android as the enabler to Internet of things.
That in sense and effect is the crux of Microspoft’s problem – in a post PC world, where devices are increasingly non- enterprise – they have lost their raison d’etre. Google has successfully migrated itself from Search to the OS synonymous with all things internet. Apple is very clearly the best in terms of combining hardware, OS-ware and App-ware. Come to think of it Microsoft is missing a very clear proposition like Google or Apple. It has enterprise, it has cloud, it has search, it has some gaming, it has a mobile OS, it has a hardware company, it has many things – but it doesnt have the ONE BIG THING. The one big thing from which the future roadmap follows – it is key that Mr. Nadella defines that ONE BIG THING – and creates that. So long, Microsoft continues to be a relic of the past – a jack of many spaces, and the master on none.
Here’s summing up 2013, Google style.
Yet another augmented reality video by Google Glass competitor Atheer demonstrating possibilities and promise of Augmented reality as a service.
Google shares jumped past $1000 mark, as its results convinced the markets that it had finally crossed the chasm between Desktop advertising to Mobile advertising. The rise of mobile devices had raised fundamental questions for the company: Would users conduct as many searches as on PCs? Would they click on as many ads? Would advertisers pay as much for a fingernail-sized spot on a phone as they do on a PC? The numbers Google disclosed undercut those fears. The number of “paid clicks”—the times a user clicks on an advertiser’s link during a search—surged 26%, the highest growth rate in a year.
As has been the case recently, the amount paid per click declined, this time by 8%. But the total volume of searches, driven by the rise of mobile devices, far outweighed the falling per-click rates. Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, estimates the total number of paid searches will reach nearly 125 billion in 2013, up 24% from the prior year and nearly triple the figure of five years ago. That is the rough equivalent of 36 clicks on Google ads this year from each of the world’s approximately 3.4 billion PCs, smartphones and tablets. Steadily increasing sales of mobile devices could help Google for a long time. “What all this leads up to is that investors just feel this is a longer-term story.
The spurt made Google the third most-valuable U.S. company by market capitalization, with a value of $338 billion, behind only Apple and Exxon Mobil Corp. What also interesting is that the Google results have also given a spurt to the prices of Twitter, Facebook, Pandora, Yahoo! and other online companies which are contingent on ads.
On its 15th birthday, Google unveiled the “Hummingbird” algorithm which is touted as the most radical change to the Google Search engine over the last 13 years. The last major upgrade to Google Search was the “Caffiene” and this update is likely to effect 90% of Google’s search results throwing the SEO/SEM industry topsy turvy. As users upgrade to more complex search strings, “Hummingbird” searches for a context in every search as against its 15 year old formula of matching keywords. Deep down in the core, the latest changes “hummingbird” is a subtle shift in terms of addressing the web in terms of semantics – the context.
For instance – a search query such as “Did FBI plot JFK’s death?” would throw up results based on matching the whole sentence (Priority 1), and then throw searches on “JFK” and on “FBI” – the later results only throwing results on Kennedy and FBI. The Hummingbird however understands the semantics behind the query – and is going to respond in terms of “Did FBI plot JFK’s death?” to “Other conspiracy theories around JFK’s death – to what has been FBI’s stand on JFK’s death through the years. It might throw up a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or an Edgar Hoover for instance. All a part of a semantic schema.
Or for instance “Pizza in Delhi” would throw up Pizza options but also could throw up options such as newly opened Mexican restaurant serving Burritos or likewise. An earlier execution of the same query would throw up – Pizza, Dominos, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut – all and only Pizzas. The “Hummingbird” would understand the context – a snack or a meal to mine results.
Thus, these changes could also drive up the price of Google ads tied to search requests if websites whose rankings are demoted under the new system feel they have to buy the marketing messages to attract traffic. However more importantly, this is a significant shift to a more context aware web – understanding the semantics – and a vertical integration of the search results. I call this Web 3.0 or Semantic Web. Whats your take?
An interesting infographic on Google on its 15th birthday. The $60 billion internet giant possibly will possibly end up having the same impact on history as Industrial revolution 500 years back.
Source: Statista/ Mashable
As Larry Page & Sergey Brin celebrate Google’s 15th birthday today, even they must be pinching themselves at the thought of just how far their company has come. Google permeates our everyday digital lives in a way many thought unimaginable, even when its humble web indexing algorithm became a verb used in common speech around a decade ago.
Before 10am this morning we’d checked Gmail, watched a YouTube clip, accessed a Google Drive document, checked the location of a gig venue on Google Maps, amended our Google Calendar and put some last-minute research into this very article using Google Search all on a tablet running the Google Android OS.
Make no mistake, Google as we know it today is arguably the world’s most important and influential company. How, after just 15 years, did it reach such stratospheric heights?
When Sergey met Larry It all started back in 1995 when prospective Stanford University PhD student Sergey Brin encountered computer science scholar Larry Page on a campus visit. According to Google’s own website, the pair fondly recall how they disagreed about practically everything they discussed that day.
The Early Days
In 1996 the pair began collaborating on Page’s ‘BackRub’ search engine, which by August that year had indexed 75 million URLs and eventually became too big for Stanford’s servers to handle. BackRub became Google (a play on the mathematical term Googol meaning 1 and 100 zeros), the pair garnered some investment, moved into a friend’s garage and, on September 4 1998, the company was officially incorporated in California.
The company’s name was inspired by its desire to organise the infinity of the web in a logical way and from an early stage it seemed Sergey and Larry’s secretive algorithms had a leg up on the competition. By the end of 1999 it had gained massive investment from Sequoia Capital, moved to Mountain View, got a dog and hired a chef. A year later it was pulling April fools pranks, launching in 10 new languages and becoming Yahoo’s default search provider.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the company began selling ads based around search keywords. It was the fruitfulness of this venture – where competitors floundered – that gave Google the financial clout to expand beyond search.
The hire of Eric Schmidt as chairman and then CEO of the company in 2001, allowed Page and Brin to focus their attentions on broadening the company’s product offerings. By this time, Google Search was indexing over 3 billion pages on the web and had established dominance. ‘Google it’ was slowly becoming the default term for search. So the company launched Google News, an aggregator that initially served up 4,000 news sources, and Google Labs, a place where web users could try out experimental tech developed in the company’s R&D department like voice controlled search,
keyboard shortcuts and browser toolbars.
Google’s stream of successes
In 2003, it acquired Pyra Labs, the creators of Blogger. In 2004, it launched Gmail, powered by Google Search and bought Keyhole, which would eventually become Google Earth. A year later it launched Google Maps, soon adding satellite imagery and step-by-step directions, as well as Gtalk and the now dearly departed RSS reader Google Reader. Calendar, Picasa and Documents (following the acquisition of web-based word processing firm Writely) arrived in 2006, Street View arrived to complement Google Maps in 2007 and the Chrome web browser made its debut in 2008.
A hugely significant landmark was its heavily-hyped stock market floatation in 2004, by which time the company had commandeered 85 per cent of all web searches. With its IPO Google secured a value of $27 billion, making Larry and Sergey very rich men indeed. Believe it or not, some thought the company had been overvalued based on Yahoo and Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to build rival search engines. With the cash flowing in from Wall Street in 2006, Google moved for its largest acquisition to date by snapping up the YouTube video-sharing site for $1.65 billion in stock and began selling ads on videos.
Since then, Google has continued to cherry pick companies and start-ups with fervent regularity. Over the last year it averaged one acquisition a week, with notable examples including Motorola’s mobile unit ($12.5 billion), smartwatch manufacturer WIMM and community sourced navigation application Waze for the small matter of $1.3 billion.
Android on Mobile
Getting all its ducks in a row on the web allowed Google to line-up an assault on the mobile world with the Android operating system, which has undoubtedly proved to be the company’s biggest success outside of search.
Set up in 2003 by Andy Rubin and co, Android was acquired by Google in 2005 and pitched as an open source operating system for a new breed of smartphone devices. It’d be another three years before the first devices would emerge, setting the industry on a path to the Android / iOS duopoly as Symbian, Windows Phone and BlackBerry fell by the wayside. The arrival of Android and its subsequent success through eager manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, Samsung and LG may have ruined Google’s cosy relationship with Apple – Steve Jobs threatened to go “thermonuclear” on Android and accusing Google of “wholesale ripping off” iOS – but by this point it didn’t matter.
Google had made itself indispensable to iPhone users, while regular dessert-themed software updates (you’ll see statues of each strewn across the front lawn at Mountain View) continued to push Android towards fulfilling its potential. Custom skins from its manufacturing partners also provided innovative new twists and nuances.
During the early days of the Android era, Google launched its first piece of branded hardware, the Nexus One made by HTC. The buggy device proved a bit of a disaster with Google selling through its own fledgling store, rather than through networks, meaning limited customer support for buyers. Google learned a valuable lesson and devices like the Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 tablets have proved huge hits. Globally, it currently boasts around 80 per cent of the market and its increasing tablet share has allowed Google to push itself as an all-things-to-all-people entertainment content company too.
There are even dedicated games consoles like Ouya and the Nvidia Shield running Android, while smartwatches, televisions and cameras boasting Google’s software are becoming more and more prominent. Next up? Google Glass.
The foiled and the failures
However, it’s not like everything Google touches turns to gold. For every success the company has enjoyed down the years, there’s been a failure.
As much as Mountain View endeavours to make the Google+ social network the centre of its ecosystem, users just aren’t biting. Its previous social experiments, Buzz and Wave were not well received. It also bought mobile social network Dodgeball in 2005, before the founder Dennis Crowley got frustrated with Google and left to start Foursquare.
Jaiku, a microblogging platform Google purchased in 2007, went the way of the dodo, while Google Latitude, a Google Maps tool that broadcasts the users location, was met with trepidation. The iGoogle personalised homepage, which has been re-imagined on Android as Google Now, was another casualty on the web.
More recently, the cloud-based Chrome operating system, which features a suite of web apps and appears on Chromebook devices with little or no local storage,hasn’t been around quite long enough to be deemed a failure, but it can’t be deemed a success either.
Google TV, the company’s effort to bring its search expertise to the TV world,allowing live television and on-demand video platforms to be seamlessly integrated and joined by high-powered Android apps and games seemed like a good idea in principal. It somehow snatched failure from the jaws of success and now the tech world is simply waiting for Apple to jump on board.
The Ethics Debate
Google’s company motto ‘Don’t Be Evil’ is a commitment to doing right by the world with the idea that it’ll prove beneficial from a business standpoint in the long run. It’s a noble and rare ethos for a company with a market cap of around $300 billion, and although the world is probably a better place thanks to Google, the motto has left the company open to criticism when it is deemed to fall short. Rivals and competition regulators in the EU and US have accused Google of manipulating its search results to ensure its own products, such as Google Play apps, are ranked higher than more popular iPhone apps.
And Google has been in trouble in multiple countries, including the UK, for harvesting data from public Wi-Fi networks while driving around in its Street View cars. This was dismissed by Google as a simple mistake. Then there was a consolidation of 60 privacy policies from its various products (YouTube, Gmail, Chrome etc) into a single document in 2012 which didn’t give users the opportunity to opt out.
Google is also good at putting people in their place over their data. In August this year the company said its 425m Gmail users should have “no reasonable expectation” of privacy. Then in same month, the company claimed UK privacy laws have “no jurisdiction” over the company, amid allegations it by-passed do-not-track software within Apple’s Safari browser in order to provide personalised ads for users.
And then there’s the small matter of tax. The incredibly small matter of tax.
Guess the latest gate crasher on the Smartphone party? The rumours have been doing rounds for a while now – But Amazon, the king of digital distribution seems set to take on the likes of Apple, Google and Samsung on smartphones. Amazon already has a current portfolio of Kindle Fire tablets and Kindle eBooks – and is reported closing down on 2 smartphones and 1 audio streaming device.
One of the devices that Amazon is working on is a 3D screen smartphone. Details are sketchy – but this could be Amazon’s flagship device – with retina movement sensors and a 3D effect overlay.Also of interest is the rumour that Amazon could release a smartphone for its consumers free of charge without a wireless contract. That could be a very significant departure in pricing strategy in smartphones.
The smartphone game is changing. New smartphone entrants Amazon and Google are beginning to generate revenue primarily through e-commerce sales and online advertising, respectively. As such, they are more willing than their competitors to sacrifice device profit for market share and reach to build on their digital distribution networks.
Its interesting to see how the Apples, Samsungs, Microsoft-Nokia’s of the world react to Amazon’s disrupting pricing. Amazon is doing a Gillete with a easy entry price for the razors and making the consumers pay for catridges.
1. The key for Amazon is to establish a user experience and interface so uniquely engaging that users would stayed hooked to it. Associate that to the Gillette shaving experience and how the user was not able to get rid of the Gillette habit and would spend more and more monies on catridges, foams and others… Yes, Amazon must do the Gillette magic.
2. It has the digital content that can upend a lot of device-only players – such as Samsung.
3. Also key to this equation is the reach and penetration of Digital content in the third world countries – it will require a lot of different other monetization models for Amazon to get threshold volumes in such markets.
In 2011, Google laid down an ambitious plan of Gigabyte Internet through fibre and has been increasing the pilot areas for this project. In 2012, they edged it to reality by laying down Google Fiber in Kansas city. Google’s intent towards higher data through puts is quite clear – Google’s business interests are directly impacted by the number of hours, terminals, locations, instances people would spend on the internet. So instead of depending on operator led networks which are still constrained at 100mbps or less, Google with its inexhaustible resources decided to go ahead and invest on data pipes to users by itself.
I tend to believe that Google is also testing the hypothesis that the more interactions that people have on the internet- the greater avenues it provides Google to monetize i.e Delta increase in terms of internet interactions would lead to multiple-delta opportunities for Google to monetize the traffic.
Corollary to this effort, is the effort to provide internet to as many users in developing states and 3rd world countries (Read Asia and Africa). Google’s business prospects are directly related to the number of Internet users. Hence taking the internet to 4.8 bn masses is an immediate opportunity and goal that Google seems to be driving forward to. Towards this, Google is executing a pilot in New Zealand called the Project Loon – also called as Google Balloon with an eye to provide affordable Internet access in remote and rural parts. The plan is to have several balloons floating around the earth at an altitude of 20 km, or twice the height at which commercial aircraft fly, and beaming connectivity to areas that are not served by traditional copper or fibre optic networks. Special equipment that can be fixed on the roofs will communicate with the balloon, acting as the link enabling the user to communicate with the balloon.
The 15-m-wide balloons are made up of super pressure polyethylene plastic and can stay in the air for 100 days. Each balloon carries a payload of electronics including a flight computer, altitude control system, communications antenna and a solar power station — turning the craft into a self-powering cell tower in the sky. The Loon balloons are strategically positioned on stratospheric winds and controlled by complex algorithms and computing power on the ground. Google believes that a ring of balloons can provide Internet access to a whole range of places that are really difficult to get to with normal technology. The company claims that connection speeds will be comparable to typical 3G access provided by cellular networks. Ground stations about 60 miles apart would bounce Internet signals up to the balloons. The signals would hop backward from one balloon to the next to keep people continuously connected. Solar panels attached to the inflatables would generate electricity to power the Internet circuit boards, radios and antennas, as well as the onboard flight-control equipment. Each balloon would provide Internet service for an area twice the size of New York City, or about 780 square miles, and because of its high altitude, rugged terrain is not a problem.
Why don’t they just use satellite technology? There just isn’t enough satellite spectrum to go around for everybody in the world to do high-speed Internet via satellite, And for high data rates, one would need large antennae on the ground. Other limitations include cost, available launch vehicles and orbital slots in an increasingly crowded low-Earth orbit.
This isn’t the first time high altitude balloons have been deployed. The EU’s CAPANINA project successfully delivered wireless broadband from the stratosphere, reports National Geographic.
Every technology has an associated cost curve and scale which are the deciding factors to the spread and penetration of the technology. Currently, such costs associated with Project Loon would be significantly high> Google needs to up the scale for such an initiative. The good thing for Google is that while the scale and complexity of the idea is mind-boggling but it seems plausible, and Google is probably the only company with the resources to pull it off. And then there are others, willing to back some of this effort – Governments for instance!
Often an unconventional thought is key to a conventional problem… it remains to be seen how Google makes this concept come to reality…