Google invests in AppScale Systems to drive compatibility with App Engine

At the Google Cloud Platform Live event in San Francisco on Nov. 4.
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Google today announced that it has made a direct investment in AppScale Systems, a startup with tools for running apps built with the Google App Engine platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud in companies’ on-premises data centers or other clouds.

“We are making a direct investment, in the form of contributing engineers, to drive compatibility and interoperability between AppScale and App Engine,” Miles Ward, global head of solutions for the Google Cloud Platform, wrote in a blog post today.

The PaaS market has been full of acquisition and funding activity in the past few years. App Engine was quick to become popular, but the market hasn’t been easy to build a major commercial business around.

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Google launches all-out assault on mobile advertising, cross-device conversion, and in-store ROI

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Just weeks after the much-hyped “mobilegeddon” search engine shift designed to promote mobile-friendly websites, Google launched an all-out assault on the mobile advertising ecosystem today.

The provider of the now-venerable AdWords self-serve advertising platform announced new interactive ad formats, new ad-creation tools, new cross-device conversion capabilities, and an expansion of a very ambitious and comprehensive attack on digital advertising’s last mile: in-store sales and — of course — ROI.

All of it is squarely focused on mobile performance.

“We’ve hit an inflection point,” Google’s VP Jerry Dischler, who heads up product management for search ads, told me yesterday. “There are now more Google searches on mobile than on desktop in ten countries, including the U.S. and Japan.”

“We’ve anticipated this moment, seen this trend coming for several years now, and have been investing ahead of the opportunity.”

Google may indeed have seen the opportunity and been investing ahead of the curve, but it’s also clear that the vast proliferation of hundreds of mobile ad networks, mobile ad exchanges, and ecosystem of demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms, data management platforms, and attribution companies grew mostly due to a gap in the market — a void that AdWords did not leave on the web, its home and native land.


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That’s an error of omission, perhaps. But it’s one that Google intends to rectify, and ASAP. “We’re refreshing AdWords for the mobile era,” a Google representative told me via email.

The refresh is major and comprehensive, although doubtless there is much more to come.

It starts with new ad units for mobile, where interactive advertising that is native to mobile is steadily usurping the position of once-ubiquitous text ads and banner ads. It continues with cross-device conversion tracking, in which Google uses one of its best assets — virtually unprecedented scale — to enable advertisers to track seemingly chaotic customer journeys from desktop to phone to tablet, and attribute revenue to ad spend accordingly. It includes a new dynamic search ad unit that automatically updates when you update your website. And it also features a very impressive and simple solution to in-store ROI tracking of digital advertising, which will be expanding globally from a small North American beachhead.

new Google ad units

The new ad units are rich, interactive, visual, and built specifically for certain vertical markets. There’s ads for cars: Think gallery tour of the car inside the ad. There’s a new unit for hotels: Check it, price it, book it. And there’s one for mortgages: Find rates, compare options, speak to an advisor, all from within the ad.

To help you manage your spend according to as-real-as-can-be results, Google is also unveiling AdWords attribution, a new product to tell you more about what influenced a purchase. Available immediately, you can make attribution more data-driven by applying your own data to your keywords and ads results. Later this year, a cross-device conversion engine will be added into AdWords’ automated bidding.

Most impressive of all, however, is a store visit measuring stick that is currently in limited use in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and will be rolling out globally shortly.

android_ics

Above: Google’s ownership of the largest mobile operating system and app ecosystem gives it strong leverage in mobile advertising.

This product uses a plethora of data, from Google users who share their location data, to info from the Google geo team that has mapped hundreds of millions of buildings, to a panel of a million Google users that the company can query with questions like: “Are you in Target right now?” Adding up the data — aggregated and anonymized — gives Google good directional data on store visits.

Cross-referencing that with users who saw local ads for the locations that they’re currently in helps Google measure store traffic and ad ROI. Clearly, that’s a derived and estimated number — Google says it’s a scalable approach that does not require any set-up — but Google is confident enough in the analytics to say that it is a valid measure of return on investment.

“It turns out that the offline value of their online ad spend is greater than the online value of their online ad spend,” Dischler said.

We live in a world of multiple devices, complex and shifting contexts, and immediate intent, and Google is clearly focused on being the thread that binds those elements together in the moment of purchase and in the “micro-moments” of the customer journey. In other words, Google wants to be the glue between advertisers and consumers: on the web, in mobile, and beyond.

The company has a good shot at it.

Despite all the startups and upstarts in mobile advertising, Google is still the giant in the advertising industry generally and the mobile advertising industry specifically. Perhaps its biggest competition is that social network which is seeing 73 percent of its income come from mobile ads and is growing much faster than Google, at 42 percent in this last quarter alone.

facebook

Above: Facebook has seen tremendous mobile advertising success.

Image Credit: Lukas Gojda

Facebook plays well in our app-centric mobile world, with major apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and — of course — the Facebook app itself collecting massive audiences who give away gobs of data about themselves, reveal their social graphs, and spend huge amounts of time in-app. Despite Google’s very successful apps and incredibly successful mobile platform, its search-intensive DNA doesn’t seem as relevant in a world of apps and a world of vertical search, such as Opentable for restaurants or TripAdvisor for hotels.

The multicolored Mountain View, California company has a plan for that.

“People are saying that mobile is all about apps, but we think mobile is about the always-on consumer,” argued Dischler.

He may be right. And Google certainly has the right idea about the new customer journey, which is convoluted and complex. “The idea of purchase funnel with a very linear flow from top to bottom is a very antiquated notion,” Dischler told me. “It’s been replaced by short bursts of activity … what we call micro-moments.”

But for all that, some 80 to 90 percent of time on mobile devices is still spent in-app.

The new ad units that Google just unveiled go at least some of the distance towards ensuring that mobile publishers and developers can monetize in more compelling ways via Google’s ad offerings, and that advertisers can reach the audiences they want to communicate with compelling experiences and offers, also via Google’s offerings.

“These are new ways of interaction,” Dischler said. “When users do this, they want immediacy and relevance.”

Those are two things, of course, that Google has built its empire upon.

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Google acquires scheduling app Timeful and plans to integrate it into Google Apps

Timeful on iOS
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Google is acquiring Timeful, a startup with an app that automatically drops events into your schedule.

“You will start to see the unique features you’ve come to expect from Timeful – and much more – available in Google Apps,” Timeful said in a posting about the news on its homepage.

Google has its own blog post on the news.

The Timeful app will continue to be available, Timeful said on its homepage, but “new projects” will now be the focus of the team.

Investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Greylock Partners, Data Collective, and Khosla Ventures.

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Android apps will make more money than iOS by 2018 thanks to China

Tencent is one of the companies thriving with its own Android app market.
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The Android platform will soar past iOS in terms of revenue in a few years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for Google.

Google Play has regularly had more downloads per app than the iOS App Store for a while now, but that’s meant little since iPhone and iPad owners have spent so much more money than people with Android devices. But that’s going to change in a few years, according to a report from intelligence firm Digi-Capital. Android apps will make more total revenue than the competition by 2018 as long as you include China, where the official Google Play store has virtually no presence. That’s a lot of money for people making games for Android considering Digi-Capital is predicting people will spend $45 billion on mobile games by 2018.

But while Google will get a lot of the money that goes through its Play market, it probably won’t touch most of what happens in China. That’s because non-Google Android app stores like Baidu, Qihoo 360, Tencent, and Wandoujia dominate that market. If you add all of those up and include it alongside Google Play, the result is that Android is quickly catching up to iOS.

“So while in 2018, iOS should still have the highest mobile games revenue of any one individual app store globally,” Digi-Capital founder and managing director Tim Merel wrote in his report, “mobile games revenue from all Android app stores combined could top iOS. In other words, Android could make more money for games developers than iOS by 2018. And that’s a big deal.”

App store games revenue forecast

Despite Android’s surge, Apple’s app market will retain some advantages.

“Yet iOS remains the easier app store for monetization per download,” wrote Merel. “It takes over two downloads on Google Play and over eight downloads on Chinese Android app stores to make the same amount of money as one iOS download.”

And that doesn’t even include the cost of localizing a Western game for a Chinese audience or acquiring the expertise to navigate the labyrinthine app stores in that country.

So even as Android expands, it’s likely that game developers will continue to favor iOS because it will remain easier and less expensive to work with.

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Google+ launches Collections, a Facebook-Pinterest hybrid for sharing content

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Today Google announced the launch of Collections, a way to share videos, links, and photos on different category boards in Google Plus.

In a lot of ways, Collections looks like Pinterest. Content is displayed on cards and you can choose different boards to post that content to. Users can choose to post text, links, videos, photos, events, and polls.

Ulike Pinterest, however, Collections doesn’t have much in the way of discovery for images and other forms of content. That is, except for video content, which Google lets you pull directly from YouTube. In this way, Collections feels a little bit like Facebook — a feed for all your favorite content and links that can by viewed by your friends and followers.

Google has largely failed to get its social platform, Google+, to take off in a meaningful way. This is yet another attempt at making its platform a relevant tool for engaging socially on the web.

Via: Android Police

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Chrome passes 25% market share, IE and Firefox slip

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In April 2015, we saw the naming of Microsoft Edge, the release of Chrome 42, and the first full month of Firefox 37 availability. Now we’re learning that Google’s browser has finally passed the 25 percent market share mark.

Between March and April, here is how the browser market changed, according to the latest figures from Net Applications:

  • Internet Explorer: Down 0.71 points to 55.83 percent
  • Chrome: Up 0.69 points to 25.68 percent
  • Firefox: Down 0.19 points to 11.70 percent
  • Safari: Up 0.12 points to 5.12
  • Opera: Up 0.05 points to 0.48 percent

Breaking the IE figure down further shows good news for Microsoft’s browser: The latest version, IE11, grew 0.82 percentage points back over the 25 percent mark. IE10 and IE9 both slipped a bit (0.17 and 0.21 percentage points respectively), while IE8 fell a solid 1.26 percentage points.

ie_market_share_april_2015

In October, IE11 managed to pass IE8 to become the world’s most popular browser, and the gap continues to widen. This new trend became possible when Windows XP, whose users can’t upgrade past IE8, started to lose significant share. As a result, IE11 can grow unchallenged, until, of course, Edge arrives.

Among the really old versions, IE7 gained just 0.03 points to 0.37 percent and IE6 fell 0.06 points to 0.92 percent.

chrome_market_share_april_2015

Google’s Chrome gained 0.69 percentage points this past month, and for the first time has passed the 25 percent mark. In other words, one in four Web users now use Chrome.

Chrome 42 captured 7.69 percent, Chrome 41 slipped 1.80 percent, and Chrome 40 fell 5.56 points. Older versions will continue to plummet as the latest version takes over, as is typical with Google’s numbers.

firefox_market_share_april_2015

As we’ve noted before, Mozilla’s Firefox has been hitting new lows for months. The browser hit a new low of 11.60 percent in February, and it’s back down very close to that figure once again.

Thankfully, Firefox’s built-in upgrade system continues to work well. Firefox 37 grabbed 6.12 points to hit 6.45 percent, while Firefox 36 dropped 5.24 percentage points and Firefox 35 fell 1.21 percentage points.

Net Applications uses data captured from 160 million unique visitors each month by monitoring some 40,000 websites for its clients. This means it measures user market share.

If you prefer usage market share, you’ll want to get your data from StatCounter, which looks at 15 billion page views. The operating system figures for April are available here.

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Google doubled lobbying spending in Europe for 2014 but failed to derail antitrust case

Google Search
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Figures published this week indicate that Silicon Valley search giant Google more than doubled the amount of money it spent lobbying European Union officials during 2014 across a broad range of issues.

But for all that money and ear-bending, Google’s investment isn’t paying off. EU officials recently announced they were filing formal antitrust charges against Google, and were launching a second probe into the market power of Android.

According to Reuters, the top lobbying spenders in Europe remain Exxon Mobil, Anglo-Dutch Shell, and Microsoft. Each company reported spending $5 million to $5.6 million in 2014. Microsoft’s spending remains heavy following years of fighting its own antitrust battles in Europe.

Google is behind these companies, but closing fast. In 2014, Google reported spending between $3.4 million and $3.9 million. But while the top three companies were relatively flat in their spending, Google’s expenditures were up dramatically from the $1.4 million to $1.7 million the company spent on lobbying in Europe in 2013.

Companies file reports about lobbying activities and spending in the EU’s Transparency Register. In its filings, Googles says its lobbying focus include innovation, jobs and growth, data protection, and intellectual property.

By contrast, Apple spent less than $1 million on lobbying in 2014, despite facing of its own issues in Europe, particularly related to taxes. Facebook, facing a broad range of data investigations, spent less than $600,000. Amazon spent under $800,000.

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Google announces Patent Purchase Promotion, an experimental marketplace for outbidding patent trolls

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Google today announced an experimental marketplace called the Patent Purchase Promotion. In essence, the company wants to beat patent trolls to the punch.

The Patent Purchase Promotion’s aim is to remove friction from the patent market by letting Google do the buying. In short, the company says: “We invite you to sell us your patents.”

Between May 8 and May 22, 2015, Google will offer a portal for patent holders to tell Google about patents they’re willing to sell at a price they set. The company will then review all the submissions, and by June 26 promises to let submitters know which patents it wants to buy.

Google will then work with patent sellers to close the transaction “in short order.” More specifically, the company is hoping to buy all the patents it is interested in “by late August.”

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Glass a failure? Luxottica and Google may turn ‘Glassholes’ into fashion plates

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 1.35.50 PM
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The eyewear giant Luxottica said this week it’s working on a new embodiment of Google’s Glass wearable computer, and the result of that development will likely redeem the technology, which has been written off as a failure by the tech media.

If you want to call Glass a failed product, fine, but it was arguably a successful beta. In fact, wearables industry source called Project Glass the world’s first and largest public beta of a tech product.

Glass was never meant to be a free-standing product, but rather one that’s built into other glass wear. Google is a company of nerds, not designers. The company obviously knew — or realized — that it needed a partner from the fashion world to make Glass appealing to people in the real world.

Glass-wearing skydivers dove out of planes to announce the new wearable at Google I/O 2012.

Above: Glass-wearing skydivers dove out of planes to announce the new wearable at Google I/O 2012.

Google’s only real sin with Glass was not being more clear about that from the get-go. Maybe the product’s father, Sergey Brin, had some fantasy that Glass’s clunky V.1 would be embraced by consumers as is.

Maybe that’s why Google sunk money into branding around Glass — far more money than was needed to simply get developers turned on to the technology. Maybe that’s the reason for the whole Glass-wearing skydivers extravaganza at Google I/O in 2012.

Whatever all that meant, Brin and Google have clearer heads now. In January Google announced that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype, and that Project Glass was ready to “graduate” from Google Labs, the experimental phase of the project.

Luxottica CEO Massimo Vian told the Wall Street Journal last week that his company’s partnership with Google is going ahead, and confirmed that Luxottica’s Glass product would be coming out soon.

“In Google, there are some second thoughts on how to interpret version 3 [of the eyewear],” Vian said during a shareholders meeting in Milan. “What you saw was version 1. We’re now working on version 2, which is in preparation.”

Analysts expect that the next version of Glass will cost less (Explorer edition was $1,500), have longer battery life, improved sound quality, and a better display. But most importantly, it will look like something people might actually want to wear.

Ex-Apple, ex-Nest, now Google's Tony Fadell.

Above: Ex-Apple, ex-Nest, now Google’s Tony Fadell.

Luxottica controls more than 80 percent of the world’s major eyewear brands, including Ray-Ban and Oakley. The conglomerate has money, reach, and apparently a keen understanding of the eyewear styles people want.

But the real sign Google has clear vision on Glass may have come last year when it acquired the home control startup Nest for $3.2 billion. The price tag seemed very high at the time, but Google got far more in the deal than just a smart thermostat.

It got Tony Fadell, the former Apple designer who is widely identified as one of the fathers of the iPod. And Google has made clear that intended for Fadell to work on other projects within Google, not just the Nest stuff. The Nest deal may have been far more of an acquihire than any of us realized at the time.

It’s very likely that Fadell is now working with the Glass team at Google, and with a group of designers at Luxottica. If that’s true, the brain power, design, and fashion stars may be aligning.

The next version of Glass may be a real eye-opener. And it might re-legitimize face wearable as one of the next frontiers of personal computing.

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