Archives for posts with tag: Google

It was a hell of a week in the mobile world.

Google + Motorola = ?

Google announced the purchase of Motorola Mobility for a whopping $12.5 billion and now finds themselves in the hardware business. Ironic given HP’s announcement in the same week declaring that they were getting out of hardware. Google’s story to the press is primarily about patents. They have been priming the pump four a couple weeks by making public statements to the effect that Apple is choosing to litigate, not innovate.

While valuable, you can be fairly sure that the acquisition is about more than just patents. It’s generally agreed that the Android user experience is not as good as Apple’s. Much of that has to do with the concessions Google must make to carriers and manufacturers and to the lack of control Google has in what happens to their OS once it leaves the Google firewall. My guess is that Google realizes they need to control the end-to-end user experience in order to make devices that are more competitive with Apple on the engagement front. While there are a lot of Android devices being sold, those users aren’t as active in consuming apps and data as users on iOS devices. A more seamless user experience may be the key to getting Android users more engaged. After all, Google is in this game to increase traffic to its cash cow, advertising.

RIP TouchPad, Pre and PC Says HP

Post-PC era indeed. Once again, Steve Jobs has proven prescient when it comes the direction of technology markets. Perhaps that’s because Apple pretty much controls technology markets. Just a couple months ago at WWDC 11, he was demoting the PC to just another device and once again declaring this the post-PC era (first declared in June 2010).

This week, HP helped make Jobs’ pronouncements a reality. In a somewhat shocking move, HP announced that it was getting out of the hardware business entirely and would now focus on services. A casualty of the change were the TouchPad and Pre devices built to run the recently acquired WebOS mobile operating system.  As of now there are no devices being manufactured to run WebOS, but if you hurry you might be able to get a really great deal on the devices that remain on the market.

In response to the announcement, Microsoft is trying to get WebOS developers to switch to WP7 by offering them free phones. My guess is they will just get tech savvy users looking to score a free phone.

What happens to WebOS remains to be seen. While most presumed WebOS was dead, HP says it just isn’t so. But what will they do with WebOS? Put it in printers (yawn)? Hang on to Palm for the patents? License the OS to other manufacturers like Samsung and HTC?

Skype Buys GroupMe Messaging Startup

Skype was busy this weekend. They bought GroupMe for an estimated $85 million. GroupMe is a group messaging service built on top of the Twilio platform. It allows users to quickly spin up groups by dynamically assigning them phone numbers and allowing them to communicate by SMS or the GroupMe app. That means it works even if you don’t download the app and even if your friends or co-workers don’t have a smartphone. It’s a great service for communicating with teams or groups of friends. I used it a ton at the last SXSW. It seems like a logical fit for Skype who, like everyone else in the tech industry, sees their future firmly planted in mobile devices.

PayPal Acquires Zong

PayPal has definitely been benefitting from the mobile explosion and is now planning to extend their mobile payment services to include Zong, a company I had never heard of until yesterday. Zong reduces the friction of making payments online by saving users the trouble of entering all their credit card and contact information when ordering products. Instead, Zong just sends an approval code to the user’s mobile device. Pretty clever.

I was literally in the middle of posting this video when Google made an update to Google+. Just before the update, this is what my feed looked like when someone popular like Larry Page created a post.

 

And here’s what that same post looks like now that they collapse comments.

Post from Larry Page after Google started collapsing comments.

A definite improvement!

Your next UI should be designed for touch, even if you’re not targeting smartphones or tablets. Here’s why:

  • Usability
    Good touch UI design practices are good design practices in general, so designing for touch not only creates a great experience for tablets, it creates a more aesthetically pleasing, often more useable design for traditional keyboard and mouse UIs as well.
  • Efficiency
    Tablets fall into a device class that is very similar to the desktop. You’re probably already supporting iPad’s 1024 x 768 screen dimension, or something close to it. Using responsive design you can adapt to small variations in screen dimensions as needed, delivering your product to tablets and desktops at the same time.
  • Opportunity
    The market for tablets will only get bigger and is currently experiencing exponential growth. In fact, the iPad now represents 2% of Web traffic in the U.S. (source)
  • Scalability
    The giants of the market are converging on touch UI, even for the desktop. Apple’s OS X Lion is borrowing many conventions from iOS and Windows 8 is borrowing many conventions from Windows Phone 7. It’s only a matter of time before touch UI becomes a primary way to interact with the desktop.

Magic Trackpad

Apple’s Magic Trackpad enables multi-touch gestures on the desktop.

Windows 8 offers a full touch experience on the desktop.

The touch revolution is already here

Noticed anything different about your favorite Google sites lately? Google’s been busy updating the look and feel of its major destinations like search, maps, calendar, Gmail and more. The new designs incorporate larger targets, simplified iconography and an emphasis on content over chrome (not to be confused with Chrome). The changes taking place are not only more aesthetically pleasing, they are also tablet- and touch-friendly.

And Google is certainly not alone when it comes to incorporating touch UI conventions into their designs. Take a look at Flow, a recently launched productivity app, and you’ll see several examples of iPad conventions in their desktop web UI. Clearly mobile and touch were a source of inspiration for their product design.

We’re just getting started

Designing with touch in mind not only makes good business sense, it makes for better product design. Expect to see a lot more touch-friendly UI designs in the coming months.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

See Also

Google Launches New Mobile Finance App

The Google Mobile Blog announced what they describe as one of their most requested features: Google Finance for mobile. This version of Google Finance is compatible with iPhone and Android and features charts and graphs. Looks like some nice work.
Google Mobile Blog

Google Finance Mobile

Google Finance Mobile

Windows Phone 7 to Provide Phone-to-Console Gaming

It looks like Microsoft is definitely going to be playing up the gaming angle with Windows Phone 7 which is a smart move. At X’10 Microsoft demonstrated several features including the ability to play multi-player games across a wi-fi network with your XBOX 360. Considering the success of their gaming division, this makes a lot of sense and could be a distinct advantage for Microsoft in the mobile space.
RGB Filter (with video)

iPads “Invading” The Corporate Market?

Business Insider’s Henry Blodget suggests that Apple’s iPad is beginning to replace Microsoft-driven laptops in many corporate settings. Why are companies making the switch? iOS is now more enterprise friendly, providing encryption and the ability to remotely wipe data. iPads are also cheaper, faster, easier to carry, and more user friendly than laptops. According to Blodget, many corporations are also developing applications specifically for the iPad. Blodget does point out that laptops aren’t going away anytime fast, especially for those of us who need to create a lot of content.
Business Insider

National Geographic Talks Augmented Reality

National Geographic has a short piece on AR. They cover the usual Yelp-like examples available on your mobile phone, but also a few up-and-coming applications. For example, the Marines are experimenting with the use of AR to train mechanics. Rather than needing to turn away from their work to reference a laptop screen, the tools and instructions are projected onto the work surface. A professor at University of Washington is working on AR equipped contact lenses that can display data directly on the lens.

Over the next several years he hopes to add hundreds of LEDs to the lens, allowing it to display text and images that would appear to hover in space at a readable distance in front of the eye.

National Geographic

Location Based Services: What’s next for check-in apps?

CNN takes a looks at what’s on the market and what might be next in the world of location-based-services. One of the more interesting concepts is automatic check-ins when you arrive at certain pre-determined locations. Open source group geoloqi is working on a solution that would allow you to do things like associate a shopping list with a specific grocery store, for example.
CNN

Google, Oracle and Verizon were making big waves last week while the explosive growth of mobile marches on.


Mobile data traffic growing 10x faster than voice

Ericsson reports that mobile data traffic is growing 10x faster than voice and smartphones now represent 19 percent of all phones shipped. Mobile data traffic was nearly 225,000 terabytes per month in Q2.

Google Introduces Voice Actions to Android, competing with Apple’s Siri

Google has been bus beefing up it’s voice command functionality and appears to have better integrated, if not more robust, functionality than Apple when it comes to voice. Perhaps this will get Apple to move more quickly on Siri integration.

Oracle sues Google over Android, Google says lawsuit is “baseless”

Oracle claims that Google’s Android OS is violating patents that the company holds. At issue is the use of the Dalvik virtual machine that powers Android. Some are speculating that patent lawsuits were a big draw for Oracle in the acquisition of Sun. Google of course is claiming that the Oracle suit is “baseless”. Sometimes open is not really open.
TechCrunch

Google and Verizon threaten Net Neutrality?

In what Google says is an effort to avoid government regulation it has reached an agreement with Verizon that would allow wireless networks to selectively slow content over wireless networks. Many fear that this will create an unfair advantage for larger companies who can afford to pay for faster delivery.

Survey Says: 34 Percent Of AT&T iPhone Owners Are Waiting To Switch To Verizon

There are a lot of iPhone users and iPhone wannabe’s waiting for Apple to announce a Verizon compatible phone. As an aside, Apple could really screw AT&T if the new (rumored) CDMA phone fixes the antenna problem but the 3G phone remains unchanged. That would effectively kill the AT&T offering. Not sure why they’d do such a thing, but it is interesting to think about.

jQuery Mobile: Touch-Optimized Web Framework for Smartphones & Tablets

This should bolster the mobile web as an application development platform. jQuery says that a mobile framework is now under development and scheduled for a late 2010 release. jQuery is an incredibly popular JavaScript toolkit whose mantra is “write less, do more”. One interesting note with the announcement of jQuery mobile framework is that they seem to have decided to define styles that are very iOS-like. Hopefully these will be relatively simple to re-style.

In the world of mobile, a lot can happen in a week. To help me keep track, I am starting a new series called Mobile Monday. Each Monday, I will highlight interesting mobile news and topics that surfaced during the previous week.


RIM to Launch “BlackPad” Tablet in November

Bloomberg reported that RIM is planning to release a tablet device this November to compete with iPad. In typical RIM fashion, they plan to offer a slide-out keyboard (sounds awkward). They also plan to provide front- and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing in an attempt to one-up the iPad. The BlackPad will run on RIM’s latest Blackberry OS 6.0.


Verizon’s 3G customers consume more data than AT&T’s

In a study conducted by Validas, it was found that the average data consumption for non-Blackberry Verizon smartphones was 421MB per month, compared to the 338MB per month consumed by AT&T iPhone users.


SAP Employee Unveils Prototype “Augment Reality” for the Enterprise

The potential for Augmented Reality applications married to business data are large. Timo Elliott of SAP created a mockup of some potential uses for AR connected to SAP’s database. Information from SAP is overlayed on the user’s screen based on their location and where the phone’s camera is aimed.

Augment Reality prototype from SAP

Story from Read Write Web
Timo Eliott’s original post


Yankee Group Releases Stats on Smartphone Loyalty

The Yankee Group produced some interesting stats on the smartphone market:

- 77 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another Apple phone
– 23 percent of RIM owners plan to buy an Apple iPhone
– 36 percent of Google-branded Android phone owners say they plan to buy an iPhone


Google Dominates Mobile Search

According to Pingdom, Google now has 98.29% of the mobile search market, up from 95.58% one year ago.


Ballmer Admits Apple’s Winning the Tablet Game (duh)

Last week in a financial analysts meeting, Steve Ballmer admitted that Apple is selling more iPads than he would like. Ballmer says that Microsoft’s answer to the iPad is Windows 7 on a slate (Full story from the Loop). Ballmer’s assertion that the Windows OS is the answer to tablets caused some to question whether he “gets it”.

Last week Google finally released Chrome for the Mac in Beta form. I’ve now been using Chrome as my primary browser for several days and I’ve decided to write down all of the things I like about Chrome so far:

- The page loading indicator actually moves more slowly when your connection is slow. This is helpful because it lets you know the connection isn’t stalled, it’s just slow. It’s also directional, spinning one way for outgoing and the other for incoming. Clever and simple.

- The status bar floats above the page in the lower left corner, only visible when it is needed. Other browsers require you to show a status bar at all times and turning off the bar means you don’t see any status.

- The full URL is visible in the status area when you mouse over of a link. This makes clicking on links safer at times when you might be suspicious.

- Nice use of animation when closing or moving tabs. Why isn’t Apple doing this with Safari?

- Resolves bit.ly (and probably other’s) URLs instantly as if I actually entered the full URL.

- Address bar works like Quicksilver for Mac. It remembers where you visit most often, so just a couple characters brings up the site you want. Of course, Google also knows which sites are most popular in general and is able to predict where you want to go. Even better, it learns from your behavior (again, like Quicksilver). When it’s not sure where you want to go, the first auto-fill option is a Google search. Once it learns that typing ‘am’ means you want Amazon.com, that becomes the first choice, saving you one more click/keystroke.

- Bookmarks are history (pun intended). Thanks to that smart address bar, there really isn’t as much need for bookmarks. At a minimum it makes needing the bookmark toolbar pretty obsolete, hence saving you vertical space.

- Incognito mode is very obvious. You know you’re in it because the color scheme changes and a little guy who looks like a flasher appears in the upper right. Not so sure I would have chosen the flasher iconography, but it is distinct. They also have a nice description of what incognito mode is and what it won’t protect you from.

Last week Apple introduced Safari 4 Beta and brought Safari users over 150 new features. Here are a few of the features that have made me, at least temporarily, switch from Firefox:

Safari Top Sites

  1. It’s wicked fast, especially for JavaScript execution.
  2. It’s available on Windows and Mac (are you listening Google?)
  3. Top Sites one-ups Google’s Chrome in style and function:
    1. Slick 3-D display of your most visited sites (thanks Cooliris!)
    2. Pinnable and sortable top sites are like visual bookmarks.

      Though, interestingly, I’m not as enthusiastic about the addition of Coverflow for bookmarks and history. I’d rather see the Top Sites metaphor extended to include these items.
    3. Nice little indicator of when pages have been updated.
    4. It’s a keyboard shortcut away (Shift+cmd+1 on a Mac)
  4. Tabs at the top (I know, Chrome was first here) save vertical space.
  5. Integrated developer tools (think Firebug)
  6. The fact that right-click on text automatically highlights the word your cursor is over and offers Dictionary, Spotlight and search of the highlighted term.
  7. Smart zooming of page content zooms the entire page, not just the text. I assume this is the same technology thats been on the iPhone since it was introduced.
  8. The Welcome page is a nice touch and reminds me of the kind of attention to detail Apple gives to packaging it’s physical products.

Will I stick with Safari as my primary browser? Probably not. It lacks the extensibilitythat makes Firefox so compelling. But in the mean time it’s a nice source of design inspiration and it’s faster than anything else out there.

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