Tag Archive | Google

Is Apple trying to slowly kill Google? And what ad-blockers have to do with it?

Is Apple trying to slowly kill Google? Since they are fierce rival this scenario does make sense, but how would ad-blockers play a part in that strategy?

Let’s take a step back.

Google in 2014 announced total revenues of $66 billion (Investor.google.com, 2015). Can you guess what portion of the $66 billion comes from advertisement? Whatever you guessed is probably wrong, because the vast majority of Google’s revenues, $59 billion in fact, comes from advertisement. Specifically in 2014 68.3 percent of Google’s revenue came from advertising through Google sites and 21.2 percent through advertising via Google network sites.

Distribution of Google's revenues from 2001 to 2014, by source

Distribution of Google’s revenues from 2001 to 2014, by source

If we focus even further we can observe that for 2014 Google had roughly $12 billion ($11.8 billion) in mobile search revenue, almost 20 percent of its total revenues. Of that $12 billion roughly $8.8 billion was attributed to iOS devices. Taking into account that half of the search volume for Google comes from mobile devices, we can infer that in the future that percentage Google makes from mobile devices is only going to grow (Sterling, 2015).

Distribution of Google’s revenues from 2001 to 2014, by source

A permanent threat of Google’s revenue is ad-blockers. Ad blockers are separate programs or add-ons for browsers that remove or filter advertising content in a webpage, or an application. There are ad-blockers available for all operating systems (Windows, Linux, OSX), mobile platforms (Android, iOS, Windows) and browsers including Firefox, Chrome and recently Safari. The obvious benefits of using an ad-blocking tool for the user is the faster, lighter (in terms of data) and cleaner portrayal of websites and also a frustrating-free navigation experience without annoying pop-ups or videos loading without your permission. Another important benefit of using ad-blocking software is the increased privacy since ad platforms cannot track your personal data. Furthermore security issues can be a reason of using ad-blockers, since dangerous malware is sometimes hidden in advertisements (Navaraj, 2014).

Despite the obvious benefits mentioned above, ad-blockers are a threat to content providers (such as websites, publishers and video producers), which depend on advertising as their main source of income either every time ad is shown to a visitor, or every time an ad is clicked, but also to advertising providers such as Google, which depend on users viewing or clicking their ads on behalf of their advertisers.

There is a growing trend in the use of ad-blocking software. Globally the number of active users surfing the web behind an ad-blocking software in 2009 was 21 million, but has quickly grown to 121 million in 2014.

Global Ad Blocking Growth

Global Ad Blocking Growth

In 2015 the adoption rate of ad blockers globally increased by 41% in 2014 amounting to 200 million users and is expected to grow even more (Blog.pagefair.com, 2015). So in the last 6 years the users of ad-blockers has been multiplied tenfold. The amount of lost revenue due to ad-blockers is beyond imagination. It is estimated to be $41.4 billion by 2016. That has dare consequences for publishers and content providers in general as well as provider of ads, mainly Google.

You might wonder ok, what does Apple has to do with Google’s revenue model, the wide spread of ad-blockers and how does that involve Apple trying to kill Google?

Well recently Apple introduced a feature on its mobile devices which allowed the installation of ad blockers.

Can you see it now?

Apple is indirectly attacking Google’s revenue model (which is based on advertisement) by enabling iOS users to filter and block all advertisement from Google. That is a war and has huge consequences for Google and publishers that depend on revenues from ads on their websites that now can be avoided.

The question now is how Google is going to respond and how publisher are going to survive without their main source of revenue.

Athanasios Zias

Student number: 401028

References

Blog.pagefair.com, (2015). The 2015 Ad Blocking Report | Inside PageFair. [online] Available at: http://blog.pagefair.com/2015/ad-blocking-report/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2015].

Grossman, L. (2015). The Great Ad-Blocker Battle. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/4065962/our-attention-is-just-a-pawn-in-the-great-game-of-silicon-valley/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Investor.google.com, (2015). 2014 Financial Tables – Investor Relations – Google. [online] Available at: https://investor.google.com/financial/2014/tables.html [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Investor.google.com, (2015). Google Inc. Announces Second Quarter 2015 Results – Investor Relations – Google. [online] Available at: https://investor.google.com/earnings/2015/Q2_google_earnings.html [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Navaraj, M. (2014). The Wild Wild Web: YouTube ads serving malware. [online] Bromium Labs. Available at: http://labs.bromium.com/2014/02/21/the-wild-wild-web-youtube-ads-serving-malware/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Patel, N. (2015). Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web. [online] The Verge. Available at: http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/17/9338963/welcome-to-hell-apple-vs-google-vs-facebook-and-the-slow-death-of-the-web [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Sterling, G. (2015). Report: Google Had $12 Billion In Mobile Search Revenue, 75 Percent From iOS. [online] Marketing Land. Available at: http://marketingland.com/report-google-had-12-billion-in-mobile-search-revenue-75-percent-from-ios-130248 [Accessed 12 Oct. 2015].

Deep Learning: Teaching Machines To Act Human

Deep Learning -Teaching Machines To Act Human

Recently there were increased news articles about AI: Artificial Intelligence. Some very smart people were concerned about the progress made in the field of advanced machine learning. Among them were serial Entrepreneur Elon Musk, the famous researcher Steven Hawkins and legendary philanthropist Bill Gates. All of them signed an open letter expressing their concern about the future of AI. Cause for the signage was a video showing Google owned company Boston Dynamics recording a trial run of their human robot ‘Atlas’ running through the woods among other recent advances in advanced machine learning.

What is advanced machine learning?

The field of machine learning in computer science has been there for a while. Starting during the second world war, the first attempts to teach computer to learn and being human were made. The recent movie around pioneer Alan Turing shows the origins of this scientific research field. Until today the Turing Test is still applied to evaluate if a computer is categorized as intelligent.

During the 80ies and early 90ies further attempts were made to teach computers to behave human. Early solutions weren’t practical caused by the limited processing power during that time. A lot of time passed since then.

So what exactly is machine learning? It’s basically to teach a computer to make sense of data. To teach him to recognize patterns in input values and gain insights from the process. Simple machine learning can be a regression analysis or simple classification of data depending on a single value pair into different categories. Advanced machine learning, of which deep learning is a part of, applies multiple analysis layers in analyzing big data sets. The first layer of an algorithm look only at certain parts of the data and then deliver the output value to an analysis layer further up the hierarchy conducting more abstract calculations with the input from the lower layer and itself delivering values to an even more abstract layer of algorithms. This structure allows the modeling of the human brain, imitating the network of neurons in the brain with many (trillions) of synapses.

Tapping into the huge potential

Today many layers are applied to solve difficult data analysis problems, therefore the name deep learning. With this methodology it is possible to teach a computer to analyze pictures, handwriting, speech, maps or even videos. In the future all applications that seem to be ‘magical’ will be the result of some kind of deep learning. The application are many: Categorization of images, indexation of unlabelled data, analysis of maps, using big data of many sources to refine and improve prediction models and so forth.

Facebook, Google, IBM and many start-ups today already apply deep learning technologies to gain an edge solve difficult problems. Until today there is no computer who can itself program something that can program. But that day will come, its just a matter of time.

Is it dangerous? Maybe. But it can also do much good if applied correctly.

If you’re interested in deep learning, here are some very interesting companies applying this cutting edge technology:

Have you heard about deep learning before? What do you think: Is it the future? Are you afraid of AI? I’m interested what you think so please leave a comment!


Sources

http://data-magnum.com/how-nosql-has-fundamentally-changed-machine-learning/

http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/18/deep-learning-and-the-future-of-search-engine-optimization/#.pqcv8h:Uwgw

360 Degree Movie App – Spotlight Stories from Google

I recently found a very interesting app that as I believe has not received enough attention from the public yet given its potential. This is why I decided to share it here and I hope it will bring some joy and excitement to many of the readers of this post.

Spotlight Stories from Google Play, which is available for both iOS and Android run devices, is an application that allows you to watch movies in 360 degrees format on your smartphone or tablet. Given the limitations of the human vision you are, of course, not able to see all 360 degrees at one instant of time. However, as you move your device either sideways, up or down the image changes as if you were moving your eyes into the respective direction. So far the app offers four different short animated movies ranging from a windy day in the life of a frog to a very futuristic chase with an alien.

This kind of movie experience, as you can imagine, brings with it a couple of challenges for the directors. One of them being the issue on how to make sure the spectator is always looking into the right direction to not miss any of the main action. In the four exemplary movies that were released so far this potential problem is solved with the inclusion of 360 degree accustic adaption. To put this into simpler words: As you move your device away from the view of the main action the music and conversations in the movies diminuish in volume. As your brain registers this you “automatically” adjust your view.

Although both the app and movies are still for free at the time, the notion “free for a limited time” gives us a hint that Google may be planning to sell movies through this application in the future (Perez, 2015). I therefore inivite you to try the app out as long as it still is for free and give me your opinion on it in the comments below.

Link to Spotlight Stories in the Google Play Store

Source:
Perez, 2015.‘Google Brings Its 360-Degree Movies App, Spotlight Stories, To iOS‘, http://techcrunch.com/, last visited: 06 October 2015.

The Google Logo Change

Roughly 2 weeks ago the whole world was introduced to a new logo we are going to see a lot every day. The big and famous Google changed its logo to be more universal for all its brands. This logo change comes together with the structural change Google went through, making it an entity under its new parent; Alphabet. In this post I will show Google’s intentional meaning of the style, the practical use of it and provide you with the effect on the stock prices and shareholder sentiment.

The old logo, introduced in 1999, was famous for its sharp turns, hard edges and slightly medieval look. The ‘little tails’ on these letters, the so called serifs, are replaced by an entire new font called ‘Product Sans’. Google profiled the style as ‘simple, uncluttered, colourful and friendly’ and stated that the logo is the start of a new future for Google (which makes sense with the earlier mentioned structural change). Twitter exploded on the first of September, the day of the change, shouting that the logo was awfully childish or that the logo was perfectly balanced with the letters flowing into each other. A big plus for me is that Google kept its logo youthful and dynamic for such a big corporation but created a playful touch with the ‘Heineken-e’.

For me all these style statements do not say very much. In my eyes you like or dislike the new style, but bear in mind that everyone’s opinion will change over time. What is undeniably true is that the new style is much more practical than the old one. This is where Google is doing business. The old logo was designed for a desktop screen in 1999. Now, the logo has to appear on different sized screens (computer or TV), smartphones, watches and so on. The logo is much more scalable and adaptable than the old one, which makes it much more efficient to change it for any type of interface. Besides the size of a screen, Google also has to work with multiple different applications and add-ons like Gmail, Google Drive, Maps and Chrome. With the new logo, all different logos have the same style (maybe you remember the blue app for Google which was completely out of style).

Stock

Sentiment

When looking at stock prices and sentiment, I cannot conclude anything shocking. What you see in stock price is that traders were holding back awaiting the release on September first. After the release, prices are increasing including today. This shows that the logo has more positive than negative influence.  The analyst sentiment is at the maximum and this has been so for the last 3 months.

All in all, I had to look at the logo a couple of times before liking it but I think it is a very clever move of Google. Since the company is digital, the physical changes of the logo in offices will not be that costly if you compare it with all the benefits.

Juliën Mets (357789jm)

Resources

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34126251

http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/goog

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/09/01/new_google_logo_reviewed_by_a_web_designer.html

http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/google-update.html

http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/GOOG/analystestimates

http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/1/9239769/new-google-logo-announced

Tech success through diversity – the beginning of a long story

Ever since Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg published, her book Lean it has always been in the spotlight that tech companies are not as inclusive and diverse when it comes to their employees or leadership body as about their customers. In the last couple of years diversity in tech has gone from “nice to have”, to “need to have”, to “desperately urgently need to have” and many companies (especially the ones in Silicone Valley) are putting huge efforts in growing their “diversity indicators”.

But how and why did diversity become so important? McKinsey’s ‘Why diversity matters’ report from January of 2015 shows that gender diverse companies perform 15% better financially, and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform the less diverse ones. Their research found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. A similar research by Gallup outlines that more gender diverse business units have 14% to 19% higher average comparable revenue than less gender diverse units. And with these figures in mind both gender and ethnical diversity turns from a nice socially responsible goal to a change needed driven by business goals. Especially for companies that depend on innovation and build products for a diverse customer base, diversity should be understood as a business priority that leads to understand the needs of existing and potential customers better and thus perform better.

For most tech companies there is a long way to go until they can put the “diverse” stamp next to their brand’s name. Even just looking at the big players we can see that tech is still white man dominated. At Google, blacks and Hispanics each accounted for just 4 percent of Google’s non-technical workforce last year. In Facebook, blacks made up 3 percent of its non-tech workforce in May, while Hispanics were at 7 percent. Despite some of their effort to promote diversity – Apple’s gender diversity has moved just 1 percent, and the number of non-white employees also only moved 1 percent compared to last year. If we talk about leadership positions the picture is even more “monochrome” so to say.

Diversity in Tech
(source: TechCrunch)

On the positive side though many companies are already taking initiatives to tackle this issue, here mentioned are some of the most common or innovative ones:
  1. Diversity Reports: although tech companies are completely data driven when it comes to their business up until super recently we didn’t even had the data about how diverse (or non-divrese) company workforces are. We all know that you will never achieve what you don’t measure so Tracy Chou, engineer at Pinterest started a movement to collect more data about diversity in a call for tech companies to be more transparent. Growing from this initiative last week Slack became the fourth unicorn publishing it’s diversity report after AirBnB, Pinterest and Dropbox. With these reports potentially published every year in the future we will be able to see how companies progress in this question.
  2. Hiring Heads of Diversity: some companies like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Square already have a responsible for diversity within the company, others like Asana, AirBnB, Autodesk and Dropbox are currently looking for one. This shows that transforming a companies workforce, mindset and attitude towards multiculturalism is not a side-job although C-level involvement is also an irreplaceably important factor in achieving success.
  3. Working with companies specialised in diversification like Paradigm or Culture Shift Lab: Pinterest recently announced it’s new initiative Inclusion Lab initiative created in cooperation with Paradigm. This start up helps innovative companies attract, select, develop and retain a more diverse workforce.
  4. Building awareness about unconscious bias in hiring and promoting women and people of colour and explore how could this be decreased
  5. Focusing on retention: “It’s not just about hiring diverse candidates; it’s about keeping them. If companies don’t foster a welcoming environment, diverse candidates will be out the door just as quickly as they walked in”. For example there should be surveys to ask employees things like how long they plan to be at the company, how they perceive diversity and inclusion in the company, and if they are aware of opportunities for advancement
  6. Support initiatives aiming at creating diverse pipeline: Often times companies complain that they would hire people from more diverse background if there would be sufficient “supply”, a solution for this problem could be supporting girls and minorities to learn to code and get more involved with technology. There are already many initiatives of this kind like Black Girls Code, Code2040, Hack the Hood or Skool and many others.
With so many opportunities out there to improve gender and ethnical diversity I hope that the “diversity gap” will become visibly smaller and smaller year by year. And on a personal finish note this hope of mine is not just because all of the potential financial benefits but because I experienced the most creativity, the best output and most success when working with people from 18 different nationalities from all colours and background and I wish everyone can have such an experience.

Author: Gabriella Pimpao

Resources:
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

Audience Network – A Step in Facebook’s Bid to Dethrone Google in Digital Ad Sales

The recent launch of Facebook’s Audience Network puts the firm in direct competition with a number of established cross-platform ad providers such as Google’s AdMob and Yahoo’s Flurry. Audience Network allows advertisers to buy ad space within Facebook apps using the same targeting and measurement tools available to general Facebook advertisers. The ads come in three standardized formatas: banner, interstitial and native. With Facebook’s focus on being a cross-platform platform, the Audience Network aims to deliver, “relevancy for people, yield for publishers and results for advertisers”.

Facebook Cross-Platform Platform

Facebook’s Concept of a Cross-Platform Platform

Audience Network is only one of the ventures Facebook has launched in its quest to broaden the scope of application for its trove of targeting data. Facebook’s earlier launch of Atlas, which allows for the placement of ads within third-party websites, is in direct competition with Google’s Doubleclick and represents a significant increase in the potential avenues for Facebook ads. Atlas differs from Audience Network insofar as the former does not require an existing Facebook Ad Campaign, and the latter acts only as an extension of an existing Ad Campaign.

Last week Facebook also unleashed the like button on Android and iOS developers, allowing them to customize and integrate the Facebook like button into their websites and apps. This move will only increase the amount of targeting data Facebook has at its disposal, which has become more valuable as Facebook finds more and more applications for its use.

Google has three main avenues for digital ad sales on third-party platforms, they are:

  • AdSense – A publisher network anyone can sign up to, the biggest customer is currently Adwords (Adwords campaigns can be set on ‘Display’ mode which would then be passed to Adsense) Where you make monetize your blog or website
  • Doubleclick – A Google subsidiary which functions as a platform to display advertisement on third-party sites. As such its offerings consist of DFA (Doubleclick for Advertisers) and DFP (Doubleclick for Publishers). Where the big publishers and advertisers go
  • Admob – Mobile ad network which allows app-developers to monetize and promote their apps Mobile developers can sell ad space within apps
us mobile ad revenue share by company emarketer december 2013

The Trend That Falls Short of the Mark

Facebook is creating platforms which mirror Google’s offerings to publishers and advertisers, though with more valuable data. Interestingly Facebook’s first target was not Doubleclick nor Admob, but Adsense. In 2012 there was a lot of hype around the proposed launch of FaceSense which ultimately came to nothing. As such, the latest wave of third-party ad platforms Facebook has launched represent the second attempt to compete with Google directly in this segment, albeit with a noticeable increase in resources, determination and scope.

Challenging Google in this domain will be an uphill struggle for Facebook, whose market share in the digital ad segment currently stands at 7.8% as opposed to Google’s dominant 31%. The positive trend in terms of Facebook’s market share is insufficient to carry the firm to the top. Facebook’s primary concern at the moment should be to pursue Google’s broad base of media partners and get advertisers and app-developers onto the network.

Digital Ad Revenue by Company

Ultimately Facebook and Google have taken different paths on their long-term strategy. Google has released an operating system, Android, and hopes to create a carve out a defensible position in the mobile OS segment. Facebook, on the other hand, has opted to avoid fixing itself to one operating system and plans to take the role of the cross-platform platform, providing its network on all while making bets on none. It is this key difference in future outlook that will determine which company eventually wins out.

Sources not linked in the article:

https://www.facebook.com/business/news/audience-network
http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-audience-network-available-to-all-advertisers-2014-10
http://venturebeat.com/2014/09/29/with-atlas-facebook-makes-an-attempt-to-dig-itself-out-of-no-2-ad-spot/
http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/28/facebook-atlas-relaunch/

Robocop in Dubai

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A few weeks ago there was a blog post about the Google Glass and the possibilities of this technology. Most of the post was focused on the implementation of the glass in de health sector, especially surgery. Now Dubai has found a new sector to spend money on, policemen and detectives. Now Robocop is getting real, not something you only could experience in the movie theater. Dubai’s police department plans to distribute glasses to the local law enforcers.

All of this is part of the plan by making Dubai’s police force the smartest in world by 2018 (Reuters, 2014). The police department in Dubai wants to distribute the glasses to policeman and detectives with the Google glass customized facial recognition software running.

“The software that we developed internally enables us to connect a database of wanted people with the glass,” Dubai police’s director general, Colonel Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, told the Dubai-based news site 7DaysinDubai. “Once the glass recognizes the suspect based on a face print, it will give an alert to the officer wearing it.”

However, the rollout of the new technology appears to go slowly. Now, the four glasses headsets that are available in the Dubai police department are mostly being used to catch traffic offenders. Still, the police department in Dubai takes this technology and its ‘’smartest police force plans in 2018’’ plans seriously. Representatives from the police force plan to outline its plans at the GITEX Technology Week conference in Dubai on Oct. 12.

Last year Dubai announced it would supply its police with $400,000 Lamborghini sports cars for use at the most important tourist sites. Dubai’s police department chief said the vehicles were in keeping with the Dubai’s image. So the price of $1,500 for each new Google glass is not going to be a problem for the police department. But it’s doubtful if this Google glass implementation in the police department is pure functional, or more to improve Dubai’s image. Probably a little bit of both.

http://mashable.com/2014/10/02/google-glass-dubai-police/, 2014

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/02/us-emirates-dubai-google-police-idUSKCN0HR0W320141002?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews, 2014

 

A Google Engineer Explains Why Google+ Sucks: Platforms vs. Products

You probably remember the guest lecture on platform-mediated networks by Prof. Marshall van Alstyne, right? He also shared some slides, and this one on Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos caught my attention:

I googled this so-called “Bezos Platform Mandate” to learn more about it. I expected it to be part of an article Bezos published, or maybe a presentation he did.

As it turns out, the quote is part of an infamous rant by Google engineer Steve Yegge, that was accidentally made public. It was meant as an internal memo, highlighting some key differences between Amazon and Google. It provides an honest, uncensored and at times hilarious insight into the differences between these companies in terms of culture.

Read More…

Who is responsible for content on the Internet?

 

 Who is responsible for content on the Internet? This question has been bothering the legal sector for several years now.

One case that is often quoted in this discussion took place in 2010, when three executives of Google were sued due to privacy violations. The reason for this was that a video of youth bullying a kid with Down syndrome was posted onto Google Video.  The instant Google received complaints about the video (a few hours later), they deleted it from their website. However, the prosecutors claimed that Google should have never allowed the video on its website.  The executives faced a 6-month conviction and large fines.  In the end the executives got acquitted.

 

Last Thursday, a similar, albeit less severe, case, occurred in Estonia. A news site there frequently received offensive comments of readers on its website. An Estonian judge held the news site responsible for the content displayed and fined them.

In appeal of this case in the European Court of justice seven European judges ruled that Internet news websites are responsible for the content posted by readers in the comment section. From now on these website can be held legally responsible if offensive comments are placed on their site.

 

This development on responsibility for Internet content sounds troubling. In a world where Internet is open to contributions from everyone it seems difficult to hold someone responsible for the content. On one hand, websites should moderate the content they run on their pages, either written by themselves or by their contributors. But on the other hand, it seems almost impossible for certain large website to moderate all content posted on their pages.

 

What do you think about these two cases of responsibility for Internet content?

 

 

http://mashable.com/2010/02/24/google-italy-executives-guilty/

 

http://geetarchurchy.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/who-is-responsible-for-internet-content/

 

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/12/italy-finally-acquits-google-execs-convicted-over-user-uploaded-video/

 

http://www.nu.nl/internet/3599708/europees-hof-stelt-website-verantwoordelijk-reacties.html

 

The War on Ecosystems

Slowly but steadily they have been infiltrating all aspects of our lives, wanting to be a part of everything you do, almost like that annoying friend we all have had once. Yet I’m not talking about a friendship here, I’m aiming a little higher. Apple, Google and Microsoft high that is.

Everyone these days has a smartphone, and almost all of them are either iPhones, Android phones or Windows Phones. Laptops and computers is also a commodity we all have these days, preferably more than one. Here we meet the same competitors again; Apple, Google and Microsoft. Tablet industry; same story. And that’s not even the end of it, all of three companies are continuously expanding their reach, all for one reason: to get you into their ecosystem.

Google-vs-apple-vs-microsoft

First off, we have Apple. The company that became immensely popular overnight because of the iPhone. This popularity had an influence on all of their other products they sell as well. Macbooks, iPads, Apple TV’s, for all of them sales rose incredibly. And so, the first form of an ecosystem was born. Every device you had could be an Apple, and it wasn’t long before there were people everywhere who didn’t want to touch anything not produced by Apple. These days Apple’s reputation is starting to show some cracks and dents. Competitors have caught up and the same quality products are now available, but for a lower price than Apple products. Apple has to step up their game to stay on top.

Google has always be a company which is active in a hundred different industries. It has taken them a couple of years, but they have now also moved into position to offer a full Google ecosystem. Android phones, Chromebooks and tablets manufactured by Google gives customers a viable alternative to Apple. Android has even taken over Apple as market leader, although this is also because of the sheer volume of mobile phone producers using the Android OS. The approach Google has is a bit different than Apple’s. Where the Apple ecosystem is really closed, but therefore fine-tuned to provide ultimate user satisfaction, Google has a really open system with a lot of producers and different products. Google’s motive is also a bit different, because they always have their mighty search engine in mind. For this reason they want as many people possible to have access to their products so they can track their behavior online.  They are the most active with “side-projects” though. Google Glass is a completely new way of interacting with the digital world and they have also developed self-driving cars. You never know what Google comes up with next!

Then there is Microsoft. The former giant of the digital age who couldn’t keep up with the mobile market. But while many people have already written them off they are actually stepping up their game. With the introduction of the new Windows 8, the start of their own production line of Tablets (Surface) and their takeover of Nokia’s mobile department they are all set to provide users with a complete Microsoft experience. And they have the power to make a very swift comeback. What a lot of people are forgetting is that almost the complete business world is still using Windows and almost everyone uses some form of Offices. If Microsoft gives them the option to combine their long trusted Windows machine with a tablet and phone, a lot of people will be interested.

It’s very interesting to see these three companies clash with each other, recently Google has blocked Microsoft out of their services for example, but perhaps it isn’t necessary that one of them comes out of the smoke as victor? Maybe they can all exist next to each other?

Personally, my money is on Microsoft, but what do you guys think? Who has your vote as the best ecosystem around?

 

Google hijacks Microsoft’s Windows 8

Microsoft released the latest version of its operating system, Windows, a bit more than one year ago. Windows 8 as it is called was Microsoft’s attempt at penetrating the mobile market of tablets and other mobile devices with a single operating system. The interface, dubbed Metro, is clearly optimized for touch based interaction; the start menu has been replaced with big interactive ‘tiles’ that provide shortcuts to the most commonly used apps. As such, the system sort of mimics iOS’ and Android’s interface currently the two dominant operating systems on tablets and mobile phones.

Google in its constant quest for market share has found a way to exploit the interface of its rival Windows 8. Chrome is Google’s web browser and currently the most used browser on the internet with a market share of about 35-40%. One reason for Chrome’s success is the availability on the majority of operating systems on not only mobile devices, but also desktop systems. Moreover, Google has extended the Chrome product line beyond the browser into a complete operating system based on Linux called Chrome OS.

Here comes the trick: Windows 8 enables software to launch in a so called ‘Metro-style mode’. The original intended function of this feature is to give applications in Windows 8 a coherent and consistent user interface in line with the OS itself. However, the latest versions of Chrome in this metro-style mode is basically identical to Chrome OS. As such, you have the functionality and user interface of Google’s operating system within a Windows ecosystem, including an app launcher and toolbar with Google apps such as Chrome, Gmail, Google Docs, and YouTube.  This strategy, if not stopped by Microsoft, will let Google develop its own apps ecosystem even more than it has done so far on Android and the web.

It is not clear whether Microsoft will continue to allow this, but it clearly shows the intense competition of these companies. I find it a bold move by Google, but doubt that Microsoft will allow this to happen for a long period. Microsoft is already losing market share because it moved rather late into the mobile industry and most probably does not want to fight Google on more fronts than it is already doing.

What do you think? Will Microsoft allow this strategy, or perhaps even pull a Google itself? And do you consider this move by Google to ethically responsible?

 Image

References:

http://gizmodo.com/google-is-sneaking-chrome-os-into-windows-8s-metro-m-1441598557

http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/5/4806562/google-building-chrome-os-into-windows-8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers

http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-metro-interface-blues-7000013036/

https://sites.google.com/site/chromeoslinux/

BRCK & Project Loon – Two approaches to get Africa connected

loon

Recently I read an article about a crowd funded project named BRCK (pronounced as Brick) that wanted to create a solid way to provide internet to harder to reach areas such as the southern part of the African continent, where many projects have failed to provide internet due to the lack of infrastructure in many African countries. Another project that is currently trying the same is Project Loon, a very ambitious project that has been started by Google. In this blog-post I would like to introduce you to these two relatively new projects and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

BRCK – Internet in a brick

BRCK first started as an idea to connect various areas in Africa to the internet. The founders of the project, all together under the name of Ushahidi, wanted to overcome several challenges that make it harder for areas in Africa to get connected. One of the main problems is the simple lack of a stable internet source. BRCK is able to connect to a lot of different internet sources like a simple ethernet cable, WiFi or Cellular Data (like 3G or 4G). Because of the capability to switch between these sources when required, it can form a much more stable source of internet. Together with this, BRCK runs on its own battery and can currently last up to 8 hours without recharging. In an e-mail conversation with one of the project managers, they indicated that the sun might be a reliable energy source for the BRCK in the future, making it even more suitable for those areas.

(Dis)advantages

BRCK has some advantages but also some disadvantages that should not be overlooked.

Because of the capability of the BRCK to adapt to different internet sources, it can make use of any available source;
Project has already reached the target on Kickstarter (See source link);

  While BRCK provides a very reliable internet connection when one or multiple sources are available, it does require at least one source to be present;
  The energy source that is currently provided only lasts for 8 hours;
  Still relying on crowd funds.

 

Project Loon – Hot Air Internet

A while back Google announced a very ambitious project named Project Loon. Both pointing to the huge scale of the project (only a lunatic would be able to come up with something like this) and to the fact that they want to use hot air balloons to spread the internet. As Google explains in their Blog post about Project Loon, before Google many others have tried to use high-altitude platforms to provide internet to areas that currently do not have access and are hard to reach. They are now using the winds in the stratosphere (±20 km height) and solar power to control their balloons at high altitudes. Challenges they had to face were for example keeping the balloons in the right path around the globe. By using the solar power they can control the balloons, allowing them to change their altitudes and bring them in a wind that will bring the balloon(s) to the desired location. They also designed very complex algorithms to keep the balloons in the area where they want them to stay near.

(Dis)advantages

Google has access to computing power, algorithms and has a good financial basis.
The balloons can cover large areas because of the height (20 km)

Is it really possible to send up enough balloons to provide solid internet? Many researches, scientists and even balloonists criticize Loon (see sources)
While Google has a very good financial basis to start the project, Google still is a commercial company, what is in it for Google?

Discussion

There are a lot of different views on this subject and even within the different projects views about how to execute the project differ. Project Loon seems to have very good intentions but I doubt whether the project will make things better for the inhabitants of the continent. I suppose they have other things to worry about than their WiFi connection. BRCK seems promising in the way it tries to combine different internet sources to establish a reliable internet source, but as displayed it has the disadvantage that it still requires some internet source, while that is exactly the problem in some areas.

Your comments/views are welcome as always!

Sources:

BRCK:
Meet BRCK: Internet for Africa (TED): http://www.ted.com/talks/juliana_rotich_meet_brck_internet_access_built_for_africa.html
BRCK Kickstarter Project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1776324009/brck-your-backup-generator-for-the-internet
BRCK Official site: http://brck.com/

Project Loon:
Official Google Africa Blog: http://google-africa.blogspot.nl/2013/06/introducing-project-loon-balloon.html
Loons Official Site: http://www.google.com/loon/how/
Criticisms on Loon: http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/famed-balloonist-per-lindstrand-pops-google-s-balloon-powered-internet-dreams-1182968

 

 

 

Google wants to extend your life

Rotterdam – Technology pioneer Google recently announced the establishment of Calico, a company that will focus on extending global life expectancy. The search giant will use its ability and experience in exploiting Big Data to discover age-related diseases and deep dive into feasible solutions.

Image

“Illness and aging affects all our families”, Google’s CEO Larry Page states. “With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.” 

According to Page, we might currently be focusing on researching the wrong things. What might sound controversial at first, Page seems to question in an interview with TIME if directing resources to curing cancer really makes sense.  “We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.” Three years is indeed negligible, since the goal is to increase the average lifespan by at least 100 years, according to a source involved in the project.

Calico will  be established as an independent unit, and will not be focused on making short-term profits. It will, however, been backed up by Google’s funding and experience in order to achieve its ambitious goal.

What was once just a search engine seems to become more and more of a global business. But isn’t entering the health care industry something far away from Google’s core competencies?

It is going to be exciting to see if Google will really be able to find the fountain of youth…

Sources:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/19/wtf-is-calico-and-why-does-google-think-its-mysterious-new-company-can-defy-aging/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+techcrunchIt+%28TechCrunch+IT%29

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/google-calico-aging-larry-page-arthur-levinson,24348.html

http://www.engadget.com/2013/09/18/calico-a-new-google-company-focused-on-extending-life/

The upcoming TV war

A lot has been written about the Apple TV, and many had expected it already. Now there are many other forms of set-up boxes that you can use to stream media onto your TV. I have build a FreeNAS server very easily from which I can stream media content across my house. You can stream it through your television, if it has that functionality (check this BIM post), through your Blu-ray/DVD player (again if…), or through set-up boxes like the Xtreamer, or from Eminent for example. Google also has launched their Google TV. (See post by jordydebruijn) Now Apple has their Apple TV already for quite some while, and they state it is more of a hobby project than serious business, but is it? Everyone who can still remember the VCR players that were a pain the bottom to set-up might know the feeling that the current solutions are just not it. Steve Jobs has said in his biography that he cracked the code, meaning he found the next best thing for television.

But there is more in your home entertainment system besides your TV and Media-player. You might have an Playstation 3 or Xbox360. The latter has come up with Xbox SmartGlass, your interactive remote control: (source with video!: Gizmodo)
Another video:

Take your pc case with you!

The need for mobility was one of the basic drivers in technology the last years. One of the first product, that would allow a user to have a personal computer available at any time was laptops, available to the market from early 80s.

The next step came with the evolution of laptops to notebooks and as the technology evolved and microchips became smaller and smaller we arrived to the era where everyone is carrying a pad or a smartphones. That transition wouldn’t be that fast, if it wasn’t of the wide acceptance of Google’s OS Android.

As 2013 approaching, it is time to welcome a new category of products that are going to give another meaning to mobility and maybe  in the end succeed on changing our whole perception on what a personal computer looks like, putting us in the dilemma of what we should do with our big desktops that take so much space on our houses and offices. The product is called “Android mini PC”, and is a new category of a computers with a size slightly bigger from a normal usb-stick, as shown on the picture at the beginning of the post.

The only thing needed in order to work on this new device is a screen compatible to HDMI, a mouse and keyboard and you are ready to go. On the software side,” Android mini PC” comes with an Android version installed on it, usually the release 4.0.x the one also called “Ice Cream Sandwich” that can support the usage of a mouse.

Working with a “mini PC” you can do all the basic tasks that you would do, with a regular PC. You can write and edit docs, you can browse your files and you can even connect to the internet through a WiFi connection.

There are a number of companies that offer a different version of a mini PC with prices that even start from 40$ a piece and although all of them have an internal storage capacity by using a Solid State Drive (SSD)  some of them, offer the option to increase your storage with the usage of a micro-SD.

Even if you are not in a need for another desktop, you can use a mini PC as your home media player as it can be very easily connected to a TV that supports HDMI. Icing on the cake, some of the products can even play a video on Full-HD.

To sum up I think is a very good solution, for people that have to travel a lot and they don’t want carry a lot of stuff with them. an example could be, flying with low fare airlines, or for all of the people that have an older HDMI compatible TV and they want to give it a boost and upgrading it to a product with access to the internet and thousands of application through Google Play.

A mini demonstration follows on the next video, enjoy!

Microsoft goes hardware

Although Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, does not see Microsoft as one of the Big Five of most influential technology companies in the industry (AllThingsD), I personally see Microsoft being the underdog. Windows Phone 7 and 8 are completely different in terms of user interface. Anyone who has played witch such a phone knows it works well, intuitively and looks great. I know in our class at least one of us has one. Also the new desktop OS Windows 8 is different, and looks great. It combines tablet, phone and desktop in the experience. Microsoft also recently announced Surface, with which they combine software and hardware again, just like they did with the Xbox. The also added a keyboard into the “Smart cover” of the tablet! Microsoft is combining the strategy which brought them so far, licensing, with the tight integration of software and hardware.

As Steve Balmer wrote in the annual shareholder letter: “There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface,

David Zax, journalist for the MIT Technology Review, is pointing out that Microsoft is going Apple. We are also seeing that Google is going Apple, although still licensing other manufacturers to build the Nexus 7 tablet. Is the way Apple is doing it the right way? Does the customer benefit from a closed ecosystem? The user experience might be better, but the user is “locked-in” by the manufacturer.

What are your opinions on this move in the industry?

Android, open source and free?

Open source software

In the session of last Monday (the first workshop) there was a discussion about whether Android was free for the manufacturers of smartphones. Some were convinced Google was paid a fee for the use of Android, others seemed under the impression that Android was open source.

The interesting response of one of the BIMmers was that open source doesn’t mean it’s free. This was kind of stuck on my mind, because an open source license means the source code of software is available for use, alterations and reproduction. How can this be, when it is not free?

To start off let’s get one thing straight. The source code of Android is publicly available here and licensed under the Apache License.  To quote article 4 of this license:

“Grant of Copyright License. Subject to the terms and conditions of  this License, each Contributor hereby grants to You a perpetual,  worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable copyright license to reproduce, prepare Derivative Works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, and distribute the Work and such Derivative Works in Source or Object form.”

So, free of charge.

The interesting thing is, a few applications made by Google are not open source and have to be acquired separately by the manufacturers. Examples are Google Play and Gmail. But without these applications, you can have a fully functional smartphone. The given examples are different in kind. Google Play can be acquired by obtaining Android compatibility for your device and is free after this process (the process itself is also free). For having applications as Youtube, Gmail and Google Maps pre-installed on your device, you are in a need of a partnership with Google and will (probably) cost you some money as manufacturer.