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Posts Tagged ‘google’

Should I date Steve Jobs or Eric Schmidt?

Posted by andreaitis on June 9, 2010

Steve Jobs VS Eric Schmidt

Image by Dakiny via Flickr

This is what it’s come down to:

1. The open web is only as open as its benevolent dictators allow it to be.

2.  We are all Sophie and we must make a choice.

3. Poor AOL (er, I mean Aol.) can’t catch a break.  Had a wall when walls were decidedly un-cool.  Tore it down and a few years later walls are all the rage again courtesy of digital overlords  Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg.

As Michael Hirschorn confirms in his latest piece in The Atlantic, the open web is, in fact, an illusion; closed is the harsh reality.

The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995. In the U.S., there are only three major cell-phone networks, a handful of smart-phone makers, and just one Apple, a company that has spent the entire Internet era fighting the idea of open (as anyone who has tried to move legally purchased digital downloads among devices can attest). As far back as the ’80s, when Apple launched the desktop-publishing revolution, the company has always made the case that the bourgeois comforts of an artfully constructed end-to-end solution, despite its limits, were superior to the freedom and danger of the digital badlands.

via Closing the Digital Frontier – The Atlantic

Look, I don’t think the browser is going away any time soon, but someone always has the power in a relationship.  When it comes to technology, media and communication,  it’s not us.  I repeat: We are not running this show.

Which CEO got people to camp out overnight to buy a product sight unseen?  Apple CEO  Steve Jobs.

Which CEO runs a company that was “inadvertently collecting data about people’s online activities from unsecured Wi-Fi networks” over the past four (FOUR!) years?  Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

It’s all coming down to a choice between Apple and Google.  They are already far along the path to dominate our every interaction with media and information.   Sure, Mark Zuckerberg has the big murky moat around Facebook Island, but it’s contained.  We can choose to live with or without Facebook.  With Apple and Google, that choice is not as clear-cut.

Apple and Google both have mobile operating systems — Apple’s iPhone OS 4 vs Google’s Android.  They both develop, build and distribute devices for their own platforms.   They’re both in the advertising business — Apple’s iAd vs Google’s AdMob, to start.    They’re both also in the app-etizing business:

Like Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes App Store and Google’s (GOOG) own Android Market, the Chrome Web Store will showcase free and paid videogames, magazines, productivity apps and the like. As Web applications, they’ll run on most modern browsers. But if you happen to be running Chrome, you can “install” the apps directly in the browser so that they can be accessed via a sort of “super-bookmark.”

via Google’s App Store for the Web – All Things Digital

All this before we even get to TV.   If video killed the radio star, then Apple and Google are going to kill video.  Pay attention, because television as we know it is dead.  The concept of a television set is history;  it’s now just another (bigger) screen in your house.  Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt understand that one of our most important relationships is with the screen — small, medium or large, mobile or docked.  This is the relationship they want to control.  They want to be by our side every time we touch a screen:  anytime, anywhere, any way.

This is why I say it’s pretty clear Apple and Google are courting me.  Obviously they each want to build a future with me.  They’ve both managed to create an experience that strategically leaves me unfulfilled with a simple  flirtation.   Oh, I can have a casual encounter with Apple or Google products and see all the possibilities and potential but I have to actually commit to really get what I need.  They want me to commit, to share my personal information so they can lock me in, take me off the market.   It’s not even dating, really, more like a common-law marriage because once I choose between Apple and Google, that’s it.  I’m in it for the long haul.  Who wants to go through that break-up drama, trying to save and export data,  having to go back into that confusing scene to try to find a better match and then having to start all over again with the settings and preferences and the getting-to-know-you routine.

Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt are the controlling forces here, they are establishing how these relationships work and how they and their respective companies will benefit from consumer acquiescence.   Factor in their personal rivalry, and the stakes are high.  Think about how often you interact with a screen each day.  Google and Apple are truly our significant others.

I know I can juggle them for only so long, but I am not yet sure who will win my affections.  Apple focuses on fewer things but pays attention to every detail.  Google is more experimental but typically skips the finishing touches, the last 20% that puts some polish on rough edges.  With Apple, you’re in for elegance, style and whimsy.   With Google, you’ll have wide-ranging experiences but have to carry your own bags and at some point end up sleeping in one of those Google Street View cars.

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

And where does Mark Zuckerberg fit into all this?

Seriously, we’re just gonna be friends.

Facebook is the BFF for more than 400 million people around the world.   Zuck’s got his hooks in us and he’s got our data, but he’s platform agnostic so he can play the field with both Google and Apple.

In the end, that may make him the best catch of all.

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Posted in Business, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today's celebrity Twitter fight: Kara Swisher vs Joshua Topolsky

Posted by andreaitis on March 25, 2010

It’s not Sandra Bullock vs Jesse James or House minority leader John Boehner vs Healthcare Reform, but in tech/media circles, this is a big f’cking deal.  A Twitter rumble that roared.

In one corner: Kara Swisher, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-producer and co-host (along with Walt Mossberg) of the website and conference for D: All Things Digital.

In another corner: Joshua Topolsky, Editor-in-Chief of Engadget.com, which he leads with a self-described “firm yet awesome hand.”

It all started when Josh fired the first shot  yesterday at Walt Mossberg.  In addition to All Things D, Mossberg is the principal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal.  In 2004, a Wired magazine profile referred to him as  “The  Kingmaker,” noting that few reviewers “have held so much power to shape an industry’s successes and failures.”

Being both awesome and firm, Josh was not intimidated.   What he was, actually, was Howard Beale.

A few hours later, Kara Swisher fired back.

At issue:  Walt Mossberg’s review of the new Tivo Premiere.

I have been testing the new Premiere, and it worked as advertised, with conventional cable programming and with the available Internet sources TiVo (TIVO) supports. But, in my tests, it showed some flaws and, in my view, it doesn’t go nearly far enough in tapping the Internet.

via New TiVo Mixes TV and Internet, but Falls Short

Walt published his review yesterday.  According to Topolsky’s twitter rant, there was an embargo on this story. That means that Tivo and their public relations department told journalists they could not publish any information about the Tivo Premiere until a certain day and time.  In his twitter tirade, Topolsky makes two charges:

1. Walt Mossberg broke the Tivo embargo.

2. Walt Mossberg (and Kara Swisher) get too many exclusives, preventing Topolsky from participating on a level playing field.

Disclosure:  Walt Mossberg reviewed True/Slant when we first launched our alpha site, on April 8th of  2009 –  a T/S text review and a video review.

Fact:  From that experience I know that Mossberg typically posts his reviews on allthingsd.com on Wednesday nights around 8 pm, and then later on wsj.com.   Engadget’s review of Tivo Premiere was posted at 9:57 pm on Wednesday.

Fact:  Companies do often designate exclusives, so one source will ‘break’ the story first.  Walt Mossberg has worked as a reporter for 40 years.  Forty years!!  He gets exclusives because he’s earned them.  I don’t know that he had an exclusive with Tivo, but it would not surprise me and should not surprise you.

Fact:  Topolsky contradicts himself in the Twitter rampage, saying first:

“Work  should be judged on work, not timeliness.”

And then:

“You and Walt are used to special arrangements. That’s nice but not fair, and not how I feel like playing.”

Which leaves me thinking: If you want to be judged on the work, then any special arrangements should not matter.

The level playing field is the interwebs,  where all of the Tivo Premiere reviews are readily available.  There’s not going to be a coalition of journalists who decide to ban exclusives.  Seriously, Josh, would you turn down an exclusive?

The bigger question in all this is whether embargoes matter anymore.   It’s the second time this week I’ve been talking about embargoes.  A few days ago a former co-worker pinged to ask how to handle embargoes with journalists, knowing they are rarely respected these days.  It’s too easy to break an embargo, the pressure to be first too great, the ability to publish or tweet too tempting.   When the world was  on a limited publishing cycle with print, an embargo made more of a difference.  I could only get the story — tangibly get the story — from a particular source.  Now, it’s much more about the journalist, the reviewer.   The credibility and brand of the reporter is paramount, much more important than the date of publication.   Timeliness and relevance are still important, of course, but a few hours don’t make a difference in most cases.   Except for the Google juice.   And that’s, perhaps, the substance of Josh’s complaint.    Walt Mossberg is a brand unto himself.   Walt Mossberg + wsj.com?  Super-big brand.  Engadget is a brand as well, but likely wants and needs SEO traffic more than Mossberg.

Exlcusives won’t go away.   Embargoes?  Maybe, if brands stop trying to control journalists and start taking control of their own messaging and interaction with consumers  (see T/S Ad Slants).

Josh, you’re passionate about what you do.  You get extra bonus points for being Jimmy Fallon’s resident tech-expert. You’ve got cool glasses.   But you also have bitter trousers.   That’s right, bitter trousers.

Still, I agree with your point.  It’s the work that matters.  These days, I think that’s more true (true-er?) than ever.  So let it go and do the work.  Oh, and start prepping for your Webby acceptance speech.

Here’s the in-your-face exchange.  Read it and I’m sure you’ll agree we’ve all learned something from this:  Tivo’s the big winner here with more press than they anticipated, and we totally need more info about the alleged “lesbian collective.”

UPDATE!!
Last night, Josh Topolsky spoke with Walt “The Kingmaker” Mossberg and then issued this apology on twitter:

To which Kara Swisher replied:

So we wake to another day, and all is well in Twitterland.   Walt Mossberg gets exclusives, Josh Topolsky rants about them (though perhaps only in his head from now on) then comes to his senses with class and grace, and Kara Swisher proves the depths and bounds of loyalty.

More Twitter Fights:
*  Celebrity Twitter Fight!  Steve Case vs Sarah Silverman
* Clerks, Cop Out director Kevin Smith vs Southwest Airlines in ‘too fat to fly’ Twitter rant

Posted in Business, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Google Search is the new Kodak Moment

Posted by andreaitis on February 8, 2010

I just read T/S’er Kashmir Hill’s post Super Bowl upset: Google puts on the best ad.    In it she says:

Getting the millions of people watching the Superbowl to feel all warm and fuzzy toward the company “that does no evil” may have been one of most strategic plays of the evening.

She’s right on all accounts, but the words that jumped out at me  are “warm and fuzzy.”   There aren’t many products people feel warm and fuzzy about these days.   Apple causes gotta-have-it Mac attacks, and the  iPad certainly led to obsessive reporting and was cleverly and very publicly punk’d by Jason Calacanis.    But warm and fuzzy?  Not so much.  In fact, I can’t think of a product that has elicited such emotional ties since Kodak.   Take a look at this Kodak commercial from the 1960s.  If you make it to the end without sobbing you’ll hear “One little girl.  One precious childhood saved for years to come, in pictures.  You can do it too.  All it takes is a camera, Kodak film, and thoughtfulness.”     Yes, that’s right:  Thoughtfulness.

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In this commercial from 1985, you’ll hear Barbra Streisand singing ‘Memories” while the hypnotic voiceover urges “When the moment means more, trust it to Kodak video tape.”

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George Eastman was an entrepreneur by his mid-twenties, way back in 1880.  He had a simple goal for the Eastman Kodak company:  “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil.”

Eastman’s faith in the importance of advertising, both to the company and to the public, was unbounded. The very first Kodak products were advertised in leading papers and periodicals of the day — with ads written by Eastman himself.

Eastman coined the slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,” when he introduced the Kodak camera in 1888 and within a year, it became a well-known phrase.

via History of Kodak

Like Google, Kodak was used as a verb.   While Google’s verb-alization came organically, Kodak included it in the advertising headline “Kodak as you go.”   That phrase didn’t stick, but “Kodak Moment” did.   It’s a phrase still used today even though Kodak no longer plays a central role in our lives or our memories.  In fact, I suspect some people use “Kodak Moment” without really knowing where it originated.   Kodak created an emotional connection with its customers, and fed that through its advertising campaigns.   As Kodak struggles to find its place in an increasingly digital world, Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hayzlett is trying a new approach.

Mr. Hayzlett has abandoned the warm-and-fuzzy branding ads once typical of Kodak. Well-known slogans have included “You push the button — we do the rest” and “Share moments, share life.” Instead, he favors more product-specific ads. “We have to have ads that drive sales,” he says.

As part of Mr. Hayzlett’s effort to give Kodak a hipper image, the company was featured last year in the reality-TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and recently signed on for another season.

via Kodak Ads Get More Aggressive – The Wall Street Journal

The implication here is that “warm and fuzzy” cannot be hip.   Last night, Google blasted that theory to bits.  Google beautifully and simply told the story of boy meets girl, with Google Search helping them every step of the way toward happily ever after.   Google created an emotional connection that only further cements its place in our lives and now, gently,  in our hearts.   That Google commercial?  A Kodak moment, for sure.

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Posted in Business, sports, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Rupert Murdoch angry at 'content kleptomaniacs' and crazy like a fox

Posted by andreaitis on November 9, 2009

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...

Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr

Two pieces of news from the Murdoch empire:

1. New York Post circulation continues its downward death spiral.

Nearly every paper in America has lost circulation, but The Post more than most — down almost 30 percent in 2.5 years, to 508,000 in the most recent reporting period, against 544,000 for The Daily News. The slide accelerated after The Post’s price returned to 50 cents last year. And this year, The Daily News has surged far ahead in online readership.

[New York Post editor] Mr. Allan, who called it “a joyous occasion” when The Post took the lead, now takes a more subdued view of the competition, saying in an e-mail exchange that “whether we are a little in front or a little behind has no impact on our forward business plan.”

Sober Mood at New York Post as Circulation Spirals Lower – New York Times

2. Rupert Murdoch suggests he will remove News Corp. websites from Google and other search engines.  At least, that’s what the headlines are blaring.   Are they jumping the gun?  I think so.

If you listen to the first five minutes of Murdoch’s interview with Sky News political editor David Speers, you hear the following:

-  Speers delivers a classic and very public introductory suck-up,  referring to his interview subject (and big-time boss) as “the world’s most powerful media owner.”

-  Rupert Murdoch says users should not have had free content, that “we’ve been asleep.”  He sees the paywall as long overdue, but says we’ll be surprised by how minimal some of the fees will be.

-  He wants a different kind of audience – not drive-by consumers but loyal and engaged users with high-frequency habits.  Or, at least, users who will open their wallets.

“What’s the point of having someone come occasionally, who likes a headline they see in Google?… The fact is, there’s not enough advertising in the world to go around to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our website, but paying.”

- At this point, Speers raises the Google index question.  When he asks Murdoch why he hasn’t removed News Corp. sites from Google’s search index, Murdoch replies “Well, I think we will.  But that’s when we start charging…”

BUT Murdoch doesn’t stop there.  He goes on, indicating that perhaps he didn’t fully understand Speers’ question.  They clearly were not communicating on the same, uh,  Google wavelength.

“…We do it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall but it’s not right to the ceiling. You can get usually the first paragraph of any story, but then if you’re not a paying subscriber of wsj.com there’s immediately… a paragraph and a subscription form.”

Does that sound like he doesn’t want News Corp. content to appear in Google or Microsoft search results?  Nope.

Speers follows up, asking  if this is the model we should expect to see.  Murdoch’s clear as mud answer: “Maybe, maybe.” He mumbles something about the Fair Use Doctrine and taking it slowly.

So all those headlines shouting about Murdoch pulling his sites out of Google?  Not quite accurate.

When you take another  look at the comment from New York Post editor Col Allan, it all starts to make a bit of sense: “…whether we are a little in front or a little behind has no impact on our forward business plan.”

It seems Rupert Murdoch is saying size doesn’t matter.  It’s quality of audience, not quantity. The only quantity he wants is the dollars from subscribers, in both micro and macro payments.  Perhaps he’d rather build audiences that are meaningful, loyal and consistent because these are audiences that can be sold and targeted to an advertiser.

Will he pull all of his sites out of Google?  I doubt it.  When he refers to “content kleptomaniacs”  I’d venture he means not the initial link, but the pay-off link to the full story that is currently not providing a pay-out to the content creator or publisher.

Rupert Murdoch is bold and brash.  He is not stupid.   He is approaching the digital news  problem the same way he approached his move into television:   just because this is the way it’s being done doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to be done.

Remember when ABC, NBC and CBS were the only three networks?   Remember when CNN and MSNBC were the only dominant news players on cable?

I worked at Fox while Rupert Murdoch was transforming it.   I remember when he announced he was going to start a new cable news channel.  I walked through that studio as it was being built.  Murdoch is a challenger, even when the status has barely reached the quo.   I’m not counting him out just yet, and neither should you.

Watch the first five minutes of his interview with David Speers and you’ll see what I mean.

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Posted in Business, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Google's social search circle jerk

Posted by andreaitis on October 27, 2009

This March 25, 2008 file photo shows the sign ...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Everything’s coming up search (again):  context and filtering through real-time search,  Twitter search,  social  search, Friendfeed,  people-powered search, etc etc.

So when Google launched its Social Search project in G-Labs yesterday, I was pretty excited to check it out.   I was all set for the test drive:   in one tab,  I clicked over and joined the experiment;  in another tab, I opened search  jedi master Danny Sullivan’s thorough review of Social Search.

One thing I love about the new service is how it makes use of the “social circle” term rather than “social graph,” a phrase more popular in 2007 and 2008 but which doesn’t really explain much to people. Social circle makes sense — these are people you are connected with. They’re in your “circle” of friends.

So far so good. I agree about use of the phrase Social Circle.   I never really understood Social Graph, and now I no longer have to  nod along in faux deep concentration while someone blathers on about the Social Graph.   So thank you for that, Google.

But how does Google know what your social circle is, in order to produce the social search results? Three methods, the company told me, when I talked with Google about the service:

* Your Google Reader account

* Your Google Chat / Gmail Contacts

* Your Google Profile

Okay, I read this part thinking ‘check, check, and check.’   I’ve got all that.  And then I did some testing.   Lame.  Hardly any social search results.  After the first few searches, I realized my downfall:  I have all that and more.  Multiple email addresses, some from way before Gmail existed.   My Gmail account never became my primary email address, and that is my social search downfall.  According to fellow T/S’er Kashmir Hill, it may also bring me domain shame and detract from my cool-ness, but I can live with that.   What I can’t live with is this Social Search limbo.

Do I need to change my email addresses at Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and  Flickr (to start)?

What if I merge my other email addresses into Gmail, will that solve my social search situation?

What about my email domain through Google Apps?

Is this yet again Google’s way of making me bow to its omnipotence on its march to world domination?

Am I just completely socially searchingly inept?

Head over to the Google lab and try social searching here.  My self esteem and I look forward to your feedback.

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

IRS tracks tax evaders through MySpace and Facebook

Posted by andreaitis on August 31, 2009

I.R.S.

Image via Wikipedia

The taxman cometh by reading your status updates.

State revenue agents have begun nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites, from relocation announcements to professional profiles to financial boasts.

In Minnesota, authorities were able to levy back taxes on the wages of a long-sought tax evader after he announced on MySpace that he would be returning to his home town to work as a real-estate broker and gave his employer’s name. The state collected several thousand dollars, the full amount due.

Meanwhile, agents in Nebraska collected $2,000 from a deejay after he advertised on his MySpace page that he would be working at a big public party.

via Is ‘Friending’ in Your Future? Better Pay Your Taxes First – WSJ.com

The new image of a tax collector: a cross between Dog the Bounty Hunter and a computer geek.   Authorities frequently start tracking scofflaws with a Google search.  That’s all it took for one agent, who collected $30K when a tax-challenged Nebraska resident showed up in a search result along with all the info on his high-ranking marketing job.

If a Google  search is a dead end, agents then turn to social media sites like MySpace and Facebook.  There are, of course, rules and regulations by state (it is the government, after all).   Agents in Nebraska can only use online information that is available to the public; agents in Nebraska and California cannot ‘friend’ someone using false information.

What to do if you’re an active social media tax evader?  Don’t brag about your latest Home Shopping Network purchase.  Or your new Jimmy Choo shoes.  Or that ec0-adventure vacation that had you swinging from the mountaintops.  Basically, don’t be your own worst enemy.  Keep your status update ego in check.

I repeat: Keep your status update ego in check.

Unless you live in Massachusetts.  For now, they don’t have a system in place to crawl social media sites searching for tax jumper clues.

At least, that’s what it says in their status update.

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Browser War 2.0: Netscape founder Marc Andreesen and Facebook plotting to take on Google?

Posted by andreaitis on August 14, 2009

Netscape founder Marc Andreesen is back in the browser business with a new startup called Rockmelt.   Details are rockmelt 8-14-2009 12-02-03 AMscarce so far, but we know Andreesen is regrouping with some familiar faces. Rockmelt co-founders Eric Vishria and Tim Howes worked with Andreesen at  Opsware, a company he co-founded and then sold to Hewlett-Packard for about $1.6 billion.  That was just two years ago.

Last time Andreesen fought the browser wars he lost to Microsoft. This time he’ll take on  Google’s Chrome along with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but he won’t be doing it alone.  If we think of this as an episode of Survivor, Andreesen is forming his alliance with Facebook.

A privacy policy on the site, which was removed after a reporter made inquiries to Mr. Vishria, indicates the browser is intended to be coupled somehow with Facebook. Mr. Andreessen serves as a director of Facebook.

The policy says that a person could use a Facebook ID to log into RockMelt, suggesting that the browser may be tailored to display Facebook updates and other features as users browse the Web.

via Netscape Founder Backs New Browser – NYTimes.com

ReadWriteWeb got a look at a very early build, and Facebook Connect is front and center.   This is likely a step towards a pervasive Facebook experience, but we don’t know if it will be client-based, an ever-present navigation bar (expanding on Facebook’s current navbar) or something else that’s completely unexpected.

Why does the world need a Facebook browser? A cynical and sarcastic answer would be “because Facebook is the internet and the internet is Facebook.” It’s a little harder to be too cynical, though, when you look at the team of people who appear to be working on the project. These are people who have done a lot for the open web. Hopefully RockMelt will be a game changer in the same spirit…It might seem outlandish, but desktop software dedicated to serving Facebook and perhaps integration of other sites with Facebook, could go over very well with millions of people.

RockMelt: Netscape’s Andreessen Backing Stealth Facebook Browser via readwriteweb.com

After Facebook’s still-fresh purchase of Friendfeed and the introduction of a soon-to-come Facebook Lite, Mark Zuckerberg is taking no prisoners.  A Facebook-Friendfeed-Rockmelt triumverate could shake up the balance of power.   That’s clearly what they intend to do, with Google directly in their line of sight.

google bullseye logo

Don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this rumble.

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Big Brother to the rescue: Google helped Twitter fend off attacks

Posted by andreaitis on August 12, 2009

Verrrry eeenteresting.

Twitter cofounder Biz Stone will appear on the Tavis Smiley show tomorrow night. About 45 seconds into a preview clip from the interview, Biz says that during the most recent denial-of-service attacks on Twitter, the startup learned a lot about how to deal with such attacks in the future by working “with folks from Google.”

via Google Helped Twitter Deal With Attacks (GOOG)

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There’s been much speculation to date about a Google-Twitter union. That will only increase now that Facebook is aligned with Friendfeed.   Was Google simply showing  cyber-citizen goodwill by helping Twitter fight off the DoS attack, or is this a hint at what’s to come?

Either way, you might want to brush up on ‘It’s a Small World After All.’  And replace ‘Small’ with ‘Google.’

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Google's Sergey Brin remembers his teacher

Posted by andreaitis on June 6, 2009

Rajeev Motwani

Image by drona via Flickr

We know the faces of modern technology: Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

We don’t often know the faces behind them, the people who advise and guide and push.

Stanford Professor and savvy angel investor Rajeev Motwani was one of those faces. Today, the tech community is still reeling from his unexpected and untimely death.  Google founder Sergey Brin is among those trying to make sense of it.

As he wrote on his blog:

It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of my teacher and good friend Professor Rajeev Motwani. But I would rather not dwell on the sorrow of his death and instead celebrate his life.

Officially, Rajeev was not my advisor, and yet he played just as big a role in my research, education, and professional development. In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Rajeev was a very kind and amicable person and his door was always open. No matter what was going on with my life or work, I could always stop by his office for an interesting conversation and a friendly smile.

When my interest turned to data mining, Rajeev helped to coordinate a regular meeting group on the subject. Even though I was just one of hundreds of graduate students in the department, he always made the time and effort to help. Later, when Larry and I began to work together on the research that would lead to Google, Rajeev was there to support us and guide us through challenges, both technical and organizational.

via too: Remembering Rajeev

Professor Motwani founded the Mining Data at Stanford project (MIDAS), an umbrella organization exploring next-gen data management concepts. As an academic, he focused on web search,  data privacy, robotics, computational drug design and theoretical computer science.  He As a friend and advisor, he was always helpful…and always there.

Om Malik remembers:

I have known Rajeev, his wife Asha and their family for a long time. Rajeev, like me, was from New Delhi. In my professional career (and personal moments of crisis) Rajeev was only a phone call away, sharing his vast rolodex. Just like a true friend. Only a few weeks back, I had a simple Indian lunch in his house with his family. I am sure, I am not the only one who has benefited from his generosity of time and knowledge and his ability to create connections and help others.

Events like this force us to reflect, to think of and hopefully thank those who have helped us along our way.  While many never even  heard of  Professor Motwani before now, Sergey Brin reminds us:

Today, whenever you use a piece of technology, there is a good chance a little bit of Rajeev Motwani is behind it.

We wish his family comfort and strength.

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Google Wave vs Microsoft Vine: Who wins the Next Big Thing contest?

Posted by andreaitis on May 29, 2009

Google unveiled its Next Big Thing at the  I/O Developer conference this week.   Geeks everywhere are drooling all over their keyboards, waiting to get their twitchy fingers on Google Wave.  A project more than four years in the making, its primary goal is to bring all communication needs together in a single, fluid experience.

A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Google Wave

Here’s how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It’s concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use “playback” to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.

Official Google Blog: Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave

Sounds pretty cool…but, also sounded a little familiar…and then I remembered another recent announcement, microsoft-vinefrom another big gig company: Microsoft Vine, blending Twitter, Facebook and Google in its own  attempt to be the Next Big Thing.

They are not identical offerings, but they are trending in the same direction and there is some overlap.    Microsoft is taking a more traditional approach, looking at a particular type of communication between smaller groups,  and trying to make that multi-dimensional with mapping, alerts and location (see the demo here).  Google is using a much broader definition, thinking about communication tied to personal interaction, work and collaboration, in addition to streamlining tools we currently use.  If Google succeeds, email, IM, texting and twittering may merge into a single experience.

With Wave and Vine in the works and the continuing Twitter buzz, we see what our future holds.  The next phase of digital innovation will focus on  social and  real-time aspects of communication, search and mobility.   With hope, that means greater flexibility and interaction using fewer tools and devices.

Who will conquer this world?  When you add Wave to Android, Chrome, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Gtalk and (of course) Search…the smart money’s still on Google.   I say that begrudgingly because, at the end of the day, it all comes at a price.   Big Brother’s not watching.  Google is.

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