Here I was sitting and watching the live broadcast of WWDC and I thought, “Things have really changed with these Apple events.” I don’t want to get all uber-nostalgic with fanboy grandeur or anything, but I do have a comment on certain aspects of the Apple keynote that were completely missing from Monday morning’s presentation of iOS 7. In a word, defense. In a few more words … I know that Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. I don’t expect him to be. However, when you wield a company like Apple, you don’t have to justify to your audience that you still do incredible things. We know that. The problem is, we expect that. I don’t propose we give a book by Stephen Covey to Tim Cook, I just remember that in the past an Apple keynote felt more like a cult-ish mob rally and less like a formal apology at a public trial.
Posts Tagged ‘Google’
A long time ago, I was introduced to Google. I was working on a research project and my teacher wrote the strange-looking word “google” on the whiteboard — it sounded kind of sketchy, but she told us it was a good tool for research assignments. My life has never been the same since.
Fast-forward a few years to my freshman year at BYU when my roommate introduced me to Facebook. I was reluctant to join since I already had a MySpace account, but I joined because all our new friends had an account and it was a great way to organize daily social gatherings. Needless to say, my MySpace account quickly became a redheaded step-child to me. With Facebook as my new love, my social life hasn’t been the same since.
If you can remember around about this time last year, the media people were all predicting the fall of Facebook as a result of the older generations becoming involved. They had the notion that old folks would make Facebook lame. However, we (the younger generation) adapted and learned how to censor ourselves or use the privacy controls. (Well, at least some of us.) As for the prophecies of Facebook’s decline… well, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Well, it seems Google, everyone’s favorite Internet company, is trying to take another leap forward. This time on two fronts. For one, by promising language translation software that works right from your cellphone. And secondly, with their new social networking tool, Buzz.
Let’s talk cellphone interpreter first. The basic plan is to create software that can translate on the fly, letting us break through a few language barriers as we traipse across the globe. While this would be totally awesome, even with the ambiguous time-table of “a few years” away, I have my doubts on Google being able to accomplish such a lofty goal. Even the most advanced consumer voice recognition software has trouble with basic sentences, despite them being spoken in the most robotic, monotonous voice imaginable.
I love Apple. The iPhone is a really great gadget — it’s smooth, fast and has really cool features. I’ve been on the verge of getting one several times and nearly won over by its amazingness, yet never fully committed to it. I have two reasons for this. First, because it doesn’t have a physical keyboard, and second, because I am a Google fan(atic). Last year Google entered the smartphone market, not with any hardware but with an operating system (OS) called Android.
Let me make clear what can be considered a “smartphone.” This category does more than texting and calling; they can also do e-mail, web-browsing, word processing and anything else a normal, run-of-the-mill phone does not. The way these devices are used varies immensely, and thus there are a huge number of distinctive features. Many are affiliated with physical attributes, i.e. a slider, flip, headphone jack, touch screen, keyboard, or other general aesthetics. Second, and sometimes the more important issue, what can the software do? Can it handle games, business tools, social networking functions, etc.? Whether you’re a corporate mogul, college student or teenybopper, one smartphone is going to satisfy your needs with a huge variety of apps and functionalities available.
On July 7th , at around midnight, the official Google blog announced the next phase in the company’s plan for global domination. (I’m half-joking). They announced the development of the Google Chrome Operating System, the follow-up and natural extension of the Chrome Internet browser Google released a year ago. Chrome OS will be an open-source operating system that will begin arriving on netbooks sometime in 2010.
For the uninitiated, netbooks are small, lightweight and compact laptop computers. This class of PCs generally feature smaller processors and hard drives then their bigger counterparts. However, they are ideal for travelers who mainly need Internet access and don’t want to lug around a 17-inch Dell boat anchor to do so. Hence the name: “netbooks.” Because these computers are essentially designed for Internet use, they generally run Windows XP or sometimes even Linux. During the ongoing global recession, netbook sales have skyrocketed due to their lower costs (most netbooks cost between $200-$400) and the market is currently booming (certain reports suggest a 260% growth in sales just this year).
Google’s foray into the operating system market has largely been seen as inevitable for quite some time. While Google’s # 1 priority has been and always will be its search engine, they have slowly but surely begun to creep into other areas with programs like Gmail and other Google apps. Last year Google released Chrome, a browser meant to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Chrome received mostly positive reviews and has gained a 1.8% market share of the worldwide Internet browser usage since its release in September 2008. At the same time Chrome was released, Google also debuted Android, an operating system for celular phones. Android was designed to compete with the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm and Windows mobile telephone operating systems used on smartphones.
So it didn’t seem that much of a stretch to think that Google would enter the operating system market at some point. Microsoft’s Windows OS has dominated the personal computing market for years. The only two competitors they have faced are Apple and Linux. I’m sure most people are familiar with the Mac vs. PC debate by now, thanks largely to those cheeky Apple commercials with John Hodgman and Justin Long, and I won’t go into that. For those not in the know, Linux is an open source operating system, meaning that it is free and anyone with the prerequisite know-how can take the operating system and modify it however they want. As a result, there are thousands of different versions of Linux available for free. While this is one of Linux’s greatest strengths, it is also one of its greatest weaknesses because there has never been a unified attempt to make one version that works best for everyone.
Enter Google. Chrome OS will be an operating system based on Linux and made primarily for netbooks. So far HP, Acer, Adobe, Texas Instruments and others have all voiced their support for Chrome. The OS is said to boot up in seconds and be competely impervious to viruses and other security flaws present in PCs. Chrome will focus on the web. The goal is for Chrome to be extremely lightweight, essentially just a shell of an operating system that can get you online in seconds, so you can use Web-based (sometimes referred to as “cloud”) applications, including programs like Google Docs and Gmail that run completely on the Internet.
This presents a unique set of problems for Google to overcome. For example, what happens when you’re in a location without Wi-Fi, like an airplane? Without an Internet connection, your Chrome-based netbook essentially becomes a paperweight. Undoubtedly, netbook makers will try and counter this by selling cheap netbooks with 3G wireless cards built in, providing Internet wherever you can get a cell signal. Privacy issues also arise. If you are using Chrome OS, all your documents, photos, music, etc. will be stored not on your hard drive, but on Google’s servers (a.k.a. “the cloud”) where anything can happen. Google could concieveably know everything about what we do on our Chrome-based computers. Competition will also be an issue: don’t expect Microsoft to sit quiet during all this. They will undoubtedly start a smear campaign to point out all the flaws in Chrome. Furthermore, Windows 7 has purposefully been designed to be netbook friendly and will undoubtedly be a hit when it’s released this fall.
The announcement of Chrome also creates one very important question: What is Google’s ultimate goal? Do they really expect to bring down Microsoft and Apple? Realistically, that’s about as likely as me writing an entire column without mentioning the iPhone. While I’m sure Chrome will be a serious effort, many are questioning if the OS isn’t Google simply trying to make a statement. The company has said they believe Web-based applications are the future of personal computing. Is Chrome OS nothing more than an attempt to keep Microsoft on its toes and force them to compete by creating an operating system more conducive to running cloud applications? Even if Chrome ultimately fails to take off, Google will have pushed the entire industry toward Web-based apps. Perhaps their ultimate goal is to have a plethora of online applications, available via an iTunes-esque app store, that could run through the Chrome browser on Windows, Mac or Linux.
Of course, that is the ultimate cynic’s view. When it comes down to it, Google just wants to see ads. Chrome OS allows the company to collect even more data about its users and slap Google ads on everything you do. Working on a doc? See an ad. Looking at your digital photos? See an ad. Is Google really trying to change the industry for the better, or do they really just want you to know that you can bid on a cheap new iPhone 3G S at Swoopo.com?
Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus. Surprisingly, he somehow managed to complete an entire article without mentioning Twitter.
I began using Mozilla’s open source web browser Firefox in 2005 — and I haven’t looked back since.
With every new iteration of the browser, I’ve seen Mozilla upgrade the speed and compatibility of Firefox. With Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 showing significant speed upgrades, Apple’s Safari 4 boasting impressive Java benchmark results, and Google’s Chrome gaining ground, the pressure was on for the development team at Mozilla. They finally unveiled the release candidate for Firefox 3.5 this week and, after a few days of using it, I have my first impressions.
(Now, we must keep in mind that this is only a release candidate and in all likelihood there will be changes made before the final version is released.)
Firefox 3.5 adds some new features not found in previous versions. Some of the new aesthetic additions include improved private browsing (sometimes referred to as “porn mode”), which allows the user to view internet pages while the browser conveniently leaves the site out of the browsing history and doesn’t store any cookies the site would have placed on your computer. Mozilla also added a “forget this site” feature, which allows users to enter their history and remove any references to or from a particular site. There is also a “delete recent browsing history” option, which allows users to delete all information about what pages they have visited within a particular time frame (i.e. in the past hour, etc.) All these new features come in handy when your wife checks your browsing history to, uh, “see what gift you were going to get her for her birthday…” Mozilla also made improvements to the tabs on Firefox, allowing you to pull a tab off the browser and create a new browser window instantaneously. Other new features include more advanced color profiles and location based browsing.
The team has also been hard at work on the internals of the browser, features which aren’t necessarily obvious to the average user. One of the features the team seems most excited about is the way Firefox handles video in version 3.5. If a page is written in HTML 5 with a video in an open source format, the video is treated just as part of the page, not as a separate flash video. This helps push the web towards a more seamless integration of text and video.
After using the new browser for a few days, I feel there is a reason Firefox has gained such a large market share over the last few years (up to 22% by some reports). While it may still lag behind Chrome and Safari when it comes to speed, Firefox is much more compatible than Chrome and much more secure then Safari — not to mention that running Safari on Windows is a joke. Firefox is also available on Mac, Linux and Windows, unifying your browsing experience no matter what operating system you use. With all the available add-ons for Firefox, it is still the most customizable of all the browsers and allows you to add functionality for whatever you need to do. Firefox is still my browser of choice and should be yours too.
Ben Wagner is a technology contributor for Rhombus. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ben_wagner.