Archive for the 'google' Category
This new look, which Google says is cleaner and simpler than the previews design, will likely be the first thing users notice, but the company has also added a number of new features to the app. Most of these are small, like the ability to download copies of your files to your Android device, but the new document scanning features opens up a whole new range of use cases for Drive.
The scanner tool, for example, which you can now find under the “Add New” menu, allows you to easily turn paper documents like receipts, letter and billing statements into PDFs. Thanks to Google’s advanced optical character recognition technology, you can also easily search them later on. This definitely feels a bit like Evernote and it’ll be interesting to see if Google will continue to go down this path in the future updates to the app.
Also new in this version is an updated editing experience for Google Sheets spreadsheets. Users can now adjust font types and sizes for their spreadsheets and change cell text colors and cell alignment right from the application. The app now also finally supports Google’s Cloud Print.
Google Checkout is being sunsetted as the company focuses on shaping Google Wallet into a viable PayPal rival. Google Commerce announced today that Google Checkouts will be retired on November 20.
Google suggests that merchants who do not have their own payment processing transition to Braintree, Shopify or Freshbooks, which are offering discounted rates for Google Checkout users. U.S. merchants who do have their own payment processing can apply for Google Wallet Instant Buy. Developers selling through Google properties will automatically transition to the Google Wallet Merchant Center in the next few weeks.
News of Google Checkout’s demise comes a week after several major updates to Google Wallet, all designed to attack PayPal’s dominance from different angles by leveraging several of Google’s properties.
These include storing payment credentials in Chrome to make it easier for consumers to checkout and reduce shopping cart abandonment; making Google Wallet available in the desktop version of Gmail; the Instant Buy API, which is designed to streamline transactions for merchants selling physical goods and services; and the Wallet Objects API for merchants offering loyalty programs.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Finish mobile company was working on a ground-breaking game-changing world-shaking new smartphone operating system based on Linux rising from the ashes of Intel’s Moblin and its own Maemo projects.
That lasted a few months, at least.
Nokia and Intel had decided in 2010 that they needed an answer to Apple’s iPhone juggernaut which was taking high-end smartphone sales away from Helsinki and making it completely obvious that the king of chips had no chips in the mobile processor poker game. Meego was the answer, and Meego would be the operating system that would lead the then-still-powerful Nokia back to the forefront of the mobile market, and would make Intel relevant in small, low-powered, and battery-life-efficient phone CPUs.
Unfortunately, one loser plus another loser often just equals two losers. And, unfortunately for Nokia and Intel, Google and Samsung took their lunch and ate it too, as Android began to reign uber alles. So Nokia turned to Microsoft for salvation — and a very painful process it has been — and Meego lost its way.
But not entirely.
Jolla, a new and independent smartphone vendor which almost no-one but mobile wonks has ever heard of, took the core of Meego and built Sailfish, a new mobile operating system that is built on an open-source project named Mer that is the new incarnation of Meego, and is just now teasing the coming-soon release of its very first device, the oddly-named and oddly-designed but also oddly-attractive “The Other Half.”
Surprise, surprise, Jolla is based in Helsinki, Finland, where there just happens to be a surplus of top-notch mobile talent available lately (shocking, isn’t it). And surprise, surprise, all of the top Jolla leaders are ex-Nokia employees. Almost two years ago, Jolla announced its intentions of bringing a new smartphone to market. The biggest surprise is that they seem to be succeeding.
We are Jolla. We are Unlike.
Jolla appears to be a two-part device, consisting of a 4.5″ screen and buttonless main phone handset, and various colorful plastic cases, or “other halves.”
Snap one on, and your phone OS changes.
Changes color, changes battery life, perhaps, changes content such as apps and media, and changes in other ways yet to be invented, based on the creativity of Jolla and partners.
Actual devices have yet to be released and the details are fewer than might be desired, but the key point is that the Jolla is Android app compatible. Which, frankly, is probably essential for any new smartphone platform entering the market today. The smartphone market is an ecosystem battle, not a device battle primarily, and any new entrants with any real aspirations for success have to plug into what is already available and — largely — a global standard.
Interestingly, the main Sailfish operating system screen appears to draw from Windows Phone design elements, with titles on the home screen that aggregate information that you might be interested in.
According to Engadget, the phone will have a dual-core processor (type unknown), LTE, an 8MP rear camera and a front-facing camera, and have 16GB on-board storage plus micro-SD expansion.
At the very least, it’s an interesting take on mobile that allows users to participate in some — if not all — of the benefits of the world’s leading smartphone operating system, while still having some unique and differentiating factors. Jolla says it will offer the world’s best multitasking experience, and will be so intuitive that you can operate your favorite features “without even looking at the device.”
Main navigation on the phone is buttonless, with the four main icons appearing to be Phone, Messages, Browser, and Apps. The Sailfish operating system will also support gesture control, the company said.
I’m assuming that full Google integration and access to Google services such as music would not be included, and syncing contacts and other core data would not be as simple as on a straight Android phone.
However, Jolla seems to be competing on differentiation. And while the jury will be out on how successfully they’ve achieved it until we have actual devices in our hands, at first glance, they’ve succeeded.
Image credits: Jolla
Filed under: Business, Dev, Gadgets, Mobile
Android UX and interaction design leads Helena Roeber and Rachel Garb gave a talk at Google I/O this year about the Android Design Principles (ADP) they helped create and introduced back in 2012 with the launch of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The ADP foll three simple principles, essentially “enchat, simplify and amaze,” but there’s much more to those principles that that relatively slippery and non-scientific language might lead you to believe.
In fact, Garb and Roeber have based the ADP on compelling recent research that suggests eliciting negative emotional responses have an outsized effect on user experience, and require lots more counterbalance in terms of positive experiences to achieve a net positive, or even net zero lasting impression.
The Math Of Joy
They cited a John Gottman study that found successful marriages maintain around a 5:1 ration of pleasant feelings to bad, whereas those with more like a 1:1 ration have a far greater chance of ending in divorce. Another study they cited offers insight into team productivity, which suggests that positive-to-negative interactions in a work group setting operating in at least a 3:1 ratio result in much more productive teams than those with more negative experiences. Finally, they suggested that humans need three positive experiences to compensate for every bad one.
A lot of that may sound obvious when simplified; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that designers and app builders should strive to please their audiences. But the execution of enacting that pleasure is where things get interesting, and where Roeber and Garb’s insight really shone through. It’s one thing to say “okay, we won’t anger a user here, and we’ll make them happy instead,” and quite another to actually do it.
Putting Theory Into Action
Hearing them describe it, the ADP almost came about under a sort of moral obligation. Roeber described how the teams in charge of Android UX and interaction found that tech now has “a profound impact” on all of our lives, and as such, when things go wrong, we have a tendency to blame ourselves, and that can have a subtle but ultimately strong impact on people’s wellbeing.
“All those non-ideal implementations eroded people’s confidence in their own abilities and caused frustration,” she said, describing how even small things that you might not think that much about ultimately leave you with a tick in the negative column if left unresolved. So if you can’t figure out what you’ve done wrong in setting up Gmail on your phone, for instance, that’s something you’ll carry, and something that requires that much more to negate in terms of the overall karmic balancing act.
The example offered by the presenters of how exactly this works in action in Android right now is the visual signal given for when you’ve hit the last of your home screens. Android users will know that you’re greated with a blue glow animation and a visual representation of a page turning up to suggested nothing underneath. It’s clear in what it indicates, but it’s less accusatory or finger-pointing than a text alert, Roeber explained, which can still make users feel admonished and leave them internalizing some blame.
Another example meant to explain how interface elements can not only minimize or eliminate bad feelings, but actually generate good ones was the Google Now art which occupies the search box when you call up Android’s digital personal assistant. It changes based on both location and time of day, and Roeber and Garb explained that in testing, the produced a reaction of wonder and enjoyment not just the first time it was encountered by users in testing, but every time after that as well, thanks to its dynamic nature. Experiences like this rack up positive emotions on the part of the user.
The Interface As The Ultimate Customer Service Rep
Essentially, what Roeber and Garb described in their chat is a means of combining the best possible way of tiptoeing around a potentially negative interaction with positive ones that excite and delight. It’s a simple calculus designed to result in an overwhelmingly net positive experience, the ultimate aim of which isn’t just to minimize the negative impact of the tech we now use constantly, but also to add points in the wins column that can be used to offset negative interactions that happen anywhere in our lives. The ADP isn’t conceived as a way to make using apps not suck, in other words; it’s actually designed to turn Android into a means of spreading happiness.
That’s an ambitious goal, but it’s impossible to deny that the experience of using Android on a daily basis has improved dramatically since the introduction of the ADP. And all of these improvements serve to illustrate how mobile software is perhaps at its best when it’s acting as the idealized customer service representative: friendly and informal, but not overly familiar; attentive to and anticipatory of your needs; gentle and kind when you’re barking up the wrong tree. A truly great customer service experience leaves you feeling lifted, capable, intelligent and happy. It’s more than fair to expect the same out of our device interactions.
A full 7.5 million years later, it arrives at the answer: 42.
Google appears to be referencing that bit of geek cult humor in a new device, the H2G2-42, that it is currently submitting to the FCC for regulatory testing. H2G2 is a Wikipedia-ish guide to “life, the universe, and everything” inspired by Adams’ books.
There’s little data available about the device, but Google does say it is a “media player,” and a “fixed base station” with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, which would make it almost certainly a replacement for Google’s failed Nexus Q. The Q was Google’s ”first social streaming media player” that met with almost universally negative reviews, underwhelmed users, and is no longer for sale.
One change that seems likely: It appears that the H2G2-42 will allow users to plug in external monitors via provided USB ports:
As The Verge notes, Google’s new streaming music app broke compatibility with the Nexus Q. The Google Play Music All Access product is impressive, enabling personalized “radio stations” and inexpensive streaming music. Google calls it “radio without rules,” and it seems reasonable that Google would want a shiny new device to go with this major new music push.
Photos are not yet available and more details will have to wait until 45 days after certification. And it’s unlikely that a music streaming device will be the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.
But meanwhile, enjoy:
Image credits: Google, FCC
Filed under: Business, Cloud, Gadgets, Media
More than 20 million students currently use Google Apps, and another 10 million are soon to join, thanks to a deal with Malaysia.
As students and schools are increasingly storing more of their data and documents in clouds of Google’s servers, Backupify recently announced that it has tripled its education user base, with more than 40,000 new education users since January of this year. Schools are using the cloud-based backup service to ensure critical data is archived and safe, even if it would be accidentally deleted or lost on Google’s servers.
Education is a notoriously slow adopter of technology, but Google Apps is growing quickly, if not virally, doubling over the last two years. And the current 20 million users include seven million inside the U.S. alone — led by Oregon that adopted Google Apps in all K-12 classrooms in 2010.
And sometimes, they’re using Backupify because they have to:
“Millions of students and educators around the world are currently using Google Apps to enhance collaborative learning,” Backupify CEO Rob May said in a statement. “The education sector is ahead of other industries in this regard, but faces unique compliance requirements for data privacy and retention that demand an effective backup strategy.”
To celebrate the recent growth of Google Apps for Education — and their own growth — Backupify put this infographic together:
Image credit: John Koetsier/Venturebeat
Filed under: Business, Cloud
The founders of Valet stayed up all night to get the new API into their app as quickly as possible. Valet launched in April in the Google Play store to help people remember where they parked. It tags your parking location with a pin and reminds you when to pay the parking meter. You can set a timer for your meter and share the location on social media. There is, of course, no guaranteeing you will avoid fines, but it does cut down on the “human error” often responsible for the tickets.
Founder Will Roman recently relocated to San Francisco from Austin, Texas, to work at another startup. After “losing” his car a few times in the unfamiliar city and getting slapped with multiple parking fines, he recruited cofounder Josh Deffibaug, and the two set out to build Valet.
The app received mention on Gizmodo and a couple of Android blogs for its “simplicity and beauty” and was attracting a good number of users through word-of-mouth. But when Roman and Deffibaugh heard the news about Google’s new location APIs, they saw an exciting opportunity.
“Everyone who drives can appreciate this,” Roman said in an interview. “Parking tickets suck, and so does forgetting where you parked on a busy day, when visiting a new city, or after a night of drinking. With integration of the new Google Play Services location API’s, all features can be automated on over 95 percent of Android devices thereby preventing you from ever loosing your vehicle or getting a parking ticket again. We’re the only parking app in the world to integrate the Google Play Services location API’s.”
The location application programming interfaces (API) are part of Google Play Services, a tool kit for Android developers. Integrating location-sensing features to your app can be challenging and Google’s fused location provider “intelligently manages the underlying location technology” to make building location-aware app easier and less energy-intensive. The technology combines GPS with on-phone sensors like the gyroscope, accelerometer, and barometer to collect your movement data and deliver a more accurate, immediate, and power-efficient application.
Using “Activity Recognition,” your phone can figure out whether you are walking, cycling, or driving which has clear applications for fitness apps. The Valet founders realized that the same technology could be used to tell when a car goes from driving to park mode, and can automatically drop a pin in your parking spot without you having to push a button.
“The new location APIs are more accurate, simpler to integrate, and back ported,” Roman said. “They solve a lot of the fragmentation issues of Android and enabled us to cater to the broadest market possible with even better reliability than previously possible.”
Competitors include iCarPark, Car Finder AR, Find My Car Smarter, Car Locator, Where Did I Park. Valet is based in San Francisco, where parking does in fact suck.
Filed under: Business, Entrepreneur, Mobile
That means that yes, at some point you’ll be able to run your little WordPress-powered blog on the biggest server farms on the planet. But it also means that major companies will be able to use Google’s famously reliable services to run their enterprise-scale “big data,” backend, and, yes, consumer web projects, all in the PHP language that that is increasingly penetrating corporations.
I talked to one of the three founding fathers of PHP and current Zend CEO, Andi Gutmans, about the implications for PHP.
It’s a busy time for the Gutmans, the open-source programming language, and Zend, the company Gutmans formed to offer commercial support and tools for PHP. Engine Yard just recently added PHP to their Platform-as-a-Service as well. And Zend is expanding quickly in the enterprise as it has recently released integrated development tools for cloud-enabled mobile applications.
But Gutmans, though busy, is thoroughly upbeat.
And for good reason: The biggest web company on the planet just added support for the most widely used programming language on the planet. And in that support is a massive implied compliment to PHP — the first non-Google programming language to be supported by Google App Engine — and a potentially major boost to Zend’s business.
VentureBeat: Did Google talk to you before adding PHP to Google App Engine?
Andi Gutmans: I don’t know how to answer that. I was aware that they were going to make that announcement … I’ve worked with the product manager on the project before.
VentureBeat: Google didn’t formally brief you?
Gutmans: Let’s put it this way: It’s not a surprise that a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) player that’s serious about gaining market share added PHP support. Google App Engine was almost a science project for the first few years, only supporting languages that Google used internally.
But in the past few months, there’s been a real attitude from Google that we’re going to go and compete with Amazon and with Microsoft, and we’re going to do it all fronts. They’ve become very aggressive on differentiating on performance and billing.
VentureBeat: What does this announcement say about PHP?
Gutmans: We have internal jokes about PHP’s web penetration and have used the stat that PHP runs 39 percent of the web because it was the only number we could get from Netcraft.
But I love Google’s stat, that 75 percent of the web runs PHP. No one knows the web better than Google.
If they’re trying to gain market share and gain it quickly, there’s no other language to do it with. And this is the first non-Google language they’re supporting.
VentureBeat: How’s that feel? And how are your customers reacting?
Gutmans: I’m definitely excited about it.
When any player does something like this — especially Google — it’s a huge validation. We got emails from some of our largest customers, saying this is great … it gives our enterprise customers a higher sense of confidence. And that stat that 75 percent of the web runs PHP is great for Zend – anything that is good for PHP, by proxy is good for Zend.
In addition, they said that PHP was their top-requested feature, which means the developer community was very supportive of us.
VentureBeat: Will you offer Google App Engine Support within Zend Studio, so developers can publish to Google right from within their Zend development environment?
Gutmans: We don’t know yet … it’s early and we’re exploring what kind of relationship we can have with Google.
We do support Google Compute Engine — that’s a full integration and some of the larger companies who run PHP already use it — but Google App Engine is just launched, it’s still in experimentation mode.
VentureBeat: What took Google so long to add PHP support?
Gutmans: I can’t speak for Google, but my assumption is that I felt that Google App Engine in the first few years was something they knew they wanted to do really well but … they kinda went down the simple easy route.
But we’ve seen a significant acceleration in the past 12 months. This will be a $20 billion market by 2016, and they moved from testing the waters to being very very aggressive right now.
We recently surveyed 5,000 PHP developers, asking them where in the cloud do you think you’ll deploy. Fifty-one percent said Amazon Web Services, but Google was 21 percent … and we just support Compute Engine right now.
It wasn’t even on the list last year, so that’s a big jump.
VentureBeat: What does this mean for the little guy building in PHP or hosting a WordPress blog?
Gutmans: I think it gives another option for the guys who do the small stuff, who are using shared hosting for $20/month.
What’s really great for the small developer is that it’s a nice value proposition — you can start at a lower cost. And, it’s a modern platform versus shared hosting, which is quite constrained.”
VentureBeat: So what does this mean for PHP overall?
Gutmans: The number of requests that Google got from developers was very very significant. It exemplifies what we’ve been talking about … that PHP is very broadly adopted, but also by enterprise.
And that is driven by web, mobile, and cloud, which is where PHP’s sweet spot is. We’re seeing a strong tailwind behind us.
Filed under: Business, Cloud, Dev, Enterprise
The advertising industry’s top kudos show, the Clio Awards, gave Google the advertiser of the year award for 2013 for creativity and excellence in advertising this week.
Here are some of the best examples:
Google Fiber — and toy cars:
Build with Chrome — and Lego Sydney Harbor Bridges:
100,000 stars (go forth and explore):
And, of course, no gallery of great Google ads would be complete without Dear Sophie:
Image credit: Google; Hat tip: Mashable
Filed under: Business, Media, OffBeat
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