Friday, March 31, 2006

Avatars in GoogleTalk

Philip Lessen at Google Blogoscoped points to a secret testing URL for a preview release of the latest GoogleTalk client.

As well as allowing you to select a 96x96 avatar to represent you, Google has provided a number of new options for how you wish to view your conversations.
Personally I like the look of 'SerenePicture'. Overall a good improvement I think. Keeps the simplicity of GoogleTalk but adds a bit of color.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Google-Vision: Is Google TV on its way?

I've speculated on this in the past, but a review of recent Google job openings may show a move into the interactive TV market is on the cards.

Google are advertising for an Interactive TV Product Manager in Mountain View, as well as Sofware Engineers with experience in 'emerging TV standards' and 'deploying robust, high-volume applications for consumer devices' in both the Mountain View and London offices.

The Interactive TV product manager at Google would be identifying 'projects that enable using Google's search and advertising technologies to enhance users' Television viewing experience.'.

All signs indicate that any plans are at an early stage, but it seems that Google, much like major players Apple, Sony, and Microsoft are looking to move off the computer, and into your living room.

This is potentially a very smart move by Google, as the future of TV is going to revolve more and more around finding content you want to watch, particularly as on-demand and PVR devices and services become more popular. Fewer people will be chanel surfing, and more people will want to sit down and literally search for something to watch.

Advertising too will change. With video-on-demand time-slot based demographic TV spots make less sense, and Google's contextual advertising model seems an excellent fit.

So with search and advertising as its core business, Google are in a unique position to leverage their strengths into the enormous consumer base that TV does, and will continue to offer.


In other Google job news, a browse of the Google UK jobs reveals no fewer than four engineering positions for mobile developers, including UI designers, team leaders, server, and application developers. It certainly seems that Google are putting a high priority on mobile accessability. Which is Good Thing. Personally I hope this means Google Local Mobile will be coming to the UK soon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sharing RSS Feeds with Google Reader

The Google Reader team has announced a new feature that lets you generate public RSS feeds based on your starred items, or any other label you use.

Once shared, each feed is provided with a direct link to an Atom feed, and a link that previews the link directly in Google Reader.

Here's a Google Reader preview link to my 'News To Share' label -- or if you prefer here's the direct Atom feed.

Google Reader has been steadily improving of late, and while this isn't a ground breaking addition, it is a handy service for sharing the best finds in your obsessively monitored feed collection with others, or as the Reader team suggest, an easy way to generate a feed of read or recommended items for display on your blog.

It's also good to see the Google team moving further in the direction of social networking, Google can't be far behind.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Google Finance

Google has launched a new finance portal with a difference. It get the standard financial information (trends and prices) and ties it together with news, blog posts, and Google group discussions. It's a solution that really provides a holistic view of not just what's happening to the market -- but why.

For Google, It's a neat solution that mashes their News, Groups, and BlogSearch properties together with the more traditional finance information like profiles, earnings, financials, and trends.

The Flash powered trend graphs that link share price to news headlines is really neat.

As well as an overall market summary and exchange summary, Google provides an indepth page for each stock (here's GOOG). Again the price trend graph is linked to news headlines and is quick and easy to navigate.

Each page has a mashup of official company details (facts, summary, financial reports, and management team) along with more interesting information gleaned from Google resources -- such as Blog Posts, GoogleGroup discussions, related companies and news headlines.

Of course it wouldn't be a Google service if you couldn't log in, so they've provided you with an interface to keep track of your portfolio. It's quite straight forward, letting you add your stocks and the price you paid, and then listing your current values and profits/losses.

Update: Here's the official Google Blog entry.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google Mars

Google presents the martian surface using the Google Maps interface. Pretty. Informative. I like.

The display features viewing options including elevation, infrared, and visible surface images from NASAs Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey space crafts.

From the website:
In collaboration with NASA researchers at Arizona State University, we've created some of the most detailed scientific maps of Mars ever made.
Updated: Heres a related link to the Google Blog.

The 10 Things I Wanted from Origami but Didn't Get

When Microsoft launched a viral marketing campaign for a hardware device I should have been wary. Heck, I should have turned and run the other way. Engadget didn't help, posting a bunch of Photoshoped 'possible sightings', but still -- I should have known better. I was excited, and I expected something big, something paradigm breaking. What I got instead, was something else.

Look, it's easy to criticize, and there's plenty of ammunition for that, but instead I've decided to be a little more constructive. So here's the UMPC I wish had been revealed at CeBIT 2006.

And it was,
  1. Elegant, modern, and shiny. Think Sony or Apple. Small but not too small, and it was all screen -- no real-estate wasted on navigation buttons and joy-sticks. Instead, there were buttons on the side that would trigger onscreen keyboards or softkeys.
  2. Light and durable. As light as a paperback book, and about as delicate as one. Throw it in a backpack, toss it onto a desk. No problems.
  3. Whisper quiet while generating almost no heat.
  4. So energy efficient that its charge lasted just like my phone, at least a day or two of active use, and at least a week if it waited on standby.
  5. More connected than a Washington insider. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IR, USB 2, GPS -- everything. If there was a signal to get, it got it. And when connected I could of course browse the web and do my emails. Plus of course, a built-in webcam and mike, plus SPDIF, DVI, and TV out.
  6. Able to play my videos. And my music. And my games.
  7. WinXP or Vista based, so I could run my applications, and write my own, without having to learn a new language or framework. Hell, I'd even be able to write code on it.
  8. Chock full of storage and memory. 80Gb hard drive and 1Gb of RAM came standard.
  9. Fast to load and booted quickly. Very quickly. But of course usually it just went in and out of standby mode -- in less than a second.
  10. Cheap. Coming in at just under US$500.
A device like this would mean I had real computing power with me everywhere I went, holidays, the daily commute, whatever. And not just a little web-browsing and email checking like a PDA or Blackberry -- real production level power.

The laptop gets saved for activities that need real graphics power, or a real keyboard and mouse setup. The PDA becomes is there when all I'm bringing is what fits in my pocket.

It was, in short, the perfect cross between a PDA and a notebook -- powerful and big enough to do productive work, but small and light enough to carry around with me everywhere.

But this was not to be. Instead we have three machines that won't reduce your laptop dependency one jot, and are destined to be more road-kill than iPod or PSP killer.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Today Writely, Tomorrow...?

Writely, everyone's favorite online collaborative word processor has just announced its acquisition by Google! Nice work Writely.

Now, late last year I emailed Writely to beg, plead, and otherwise demand they develop a similarly collaborative online spreadsheet. At the time they said one was in the works for release in 2006... So perhaps the Google Online Office suite is closer than we think!

In any case, it looks like Google is taking a functional approach to expansion, slowly introducing social aspects, where Yahoo! has dived in to the social scene buying popular properties like Flickr and Google seems focused on 'practical' applications that solve known problems, like a calendar, word processor, analytics tools, and a database -- where Yahoo! are going wherever the roaming hoards of teens lead them. Which approach will be more successful isn't yet clear, but the different approaches may help explain the differing public perceptions each company currently enjoys.

In the end though, it's safe to say both companies will release whichever products bring in the best advertising revenue, so the smart money still says Google will be releasing or purchasing a social bookmark application before too long.