Technologizer posts about Google

Two pieces by me published elsewhere:

 

Posted by Harry at 9:03 pm

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Rumor: Android’s Answer to Siri is Coming Soon

By  |  Posted at 10:22 pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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Siri, the virtual assistant built into Apple’s iPhone 4S, seemed to catch competitors off guard. But all along, Google has reportedly been working on its own voice-controlled assistant for Android phones that responds to natural language.

The project is apparently codenamed Majel, and may see an initial release by the end of this year, Android and Me reports, based on unnamed sources. The codename is a reference to the Federation Computer in Star Trek, whose full name is voiced by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

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The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal is very unhappy about the new version of Gmail:

A month into Google’s experiment with the design of Gmail, we are safely past the reactionary phase of criticism. Now, we’re on to the searing and increasing hatred phase. It feels like Steve Jobs’ evil ghost doppelganger went through the interface and made everything just a little bit harder to use. The problems with the new Gmail are not about look and feel; they strike right at the core usability of the software. This is the biggest step back for email since I signed up for Gmail in 2004.

Madrigal’s biggest beef involves what looks like ill-advised changes to the integration of chat with e-mail. I almost never use Gmail for instant messaging, which may explain why I like the very same upgrade that’s driving him bonkers.

Posted by Harry at 1:10 pm

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Verizon Wireless says it isn’t blocking Google Wallet on its version of the Galaxy Nexus. Then again, it also doesn’t seem to be permitting it…

Posted by Harry at 12:09 pm

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Verizon Galaxy Nexus Isn’t Pure Google, May Cost $300

By  |  Posted at 9:55 am on Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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The Galaxy Nexus is a pure Google phone, free of bloatware and designed to run Android exactly as Google envisions it. But on Verizon Wireless, that won’t be the case.

Although the Verizon Galaxy Nexus will run a mostly unmodified version of Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, the carrier will block Google Wallet, which lets you pay at some retailers by swiping your phone in front of a payment terminal, Computerworld reports. Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are working on their own payment system called Isis, and Google Wallet, backed by Sprint, would be a threat. Isis isn’t launching until next year, though, so Verizon Galaxy Nexus users won’t be able to use NFC payments at all.

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For my CNET blog, Challengers, I wrote about Google’s television ad for Google+, and the prospects for its social network in general: 

Google+’s best shot at success involves it becoming indistinguishable from Google. Instead of being a place, it can be the social glue that ties together Google’s search engine, Gmail, Google Apps, and scads of other services that hundreds of millions of people already use. If Google figures out how to make its whole dang world feel like a Facebook competitor, it’ll be a big deal.

Posted by Harry at 6:00 pm

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Why Knol Failed: A Dire Lack of Peter Arno

By  |  Posted at 5:47 pm on Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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Peter Arno CartoonOnce again, Google is swinging its corporate axe at secondary projects. It’s killing also-ran Facebook Connect rival Google Friend Connect. (I assume it’ll eventually introduce something similar built around Google+.) It’s doing away with Google Wave and Google News Timeline. (Wait, weren’t they dead already?)

And it’s closing Knol. Depending on how you looked at it, Knol was either a lot like Wikipedia (it was meant to be an immense user-generated repository of the world’s knowledge) or not much at all like Wikipedia (opinion was welcome, and contributors had a shot at making money from their articles). I started out skeptical about the service, then got intrigued before deciding it was off to a lousy start.

Knol didn’t get much better with time. Whenever I checked in, the items on the home page were mostly a bit odd, a bit spammy, or both. Google has an exit strategy for Knol content: It can be exported to a WordPress-based platform called Annotum. But Knol’s termination is really just a formality–it never lived up to any of the big plans Google once had for it.

Still, Knol started out promising. It certainly sounded interesting in the launch story by Wired’s Steven Levy. He wrote about the service’s inventor, Google exec/search pioneer Udi Manber, and began with an anecdote that resonated with me. Manber, Levy wrote, was moved to create Knol because he was felt that the Web was still full of “black holes”–important topics that were insufficiently documented. Such as the life and work of the wonderful New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. (Manber, it turns out, is, like me, a cartoon fan.)

Continue reading this story…



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Android Fragmentation Equals Android Insecurity

By  |  Posted at 11:09 am on Monday, November 21, 2011

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My recent TIME.com column on Android fragmentation didn’t provide an exhaustive list of reasons to be frustrated by the degree to which the Android ecosystem is dominated by old versions of the software. In fact, I didn’t mention one of the biggest ones: Old versions of Android don’t have the newest security fixes, and are therefore potentially dangerous.

Now a security company called Bit9 has released what it calls the Dirty Dozen List of insecure smartphones. They’re all Android models running old versions:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Mini
  2. HTC Desire
  3. Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
  4. Sanyo Zio
  5. HTC Wildfire
  6. Samsung Epic 4G
  7. LG Optimus S
  8. Samsung Galaxy S
  9. Motorola Droid X
  10. LG Optimus One
  11. Motorola Droid 2
  12. HTC Evo 4G

Bit9 explains its methodology–which looks pretty serious to me–in this PDF.

Whenever I gripe about Android fragmentation, I hear from people who tell me that I’m all worked up over nothing. (Typical comment: “Mr. McCracken, like so many tech journalists, you have totally missed the point here. Believe it or not, Android “fragmentation” is not the massive problem it’s made out to be.”) But I’d like to hear anyone explain to me why this isn’t anything to be concerned about.



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At AllBusiness.com, I blogged about the ongoing war between Office and Google Apps–as seen in recent Microsoft blog posts and this week’s Google Atmosphere conference–and why I’m not taking sides.

Posted by Harry at 1:38 am

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Over at TIME.com, I’ve written about my experience with Samsung and Google’s new Galaxy Nexus phone–and in particular its operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Overall, I’m impressed. Lots and lots of little refinements add up to the best Android handset to date. And while Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t utterly eradicate Android’s geeky, ungainly feel, it makes it far more pleasant. If you like big screens and want LTE, this is the Android phone to get.

Posted by Harry at 2:15 pm

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Google’s Gmail app, which was briefly available a couple of weeks ago before being felled by a nasty bug, is available again. Better news: Google says it’s working on a version with more features.

Posted by Harry at 12:51 pm

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Here Comes Google Music: Leaked Screens Show Android Interface

By  |  Posted at 7:03 am on Monday, November 14, 2011

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Google Music screen shot as shown on TecnoDroidVE.

Android, meet your not-so-shockingly exposed dance partner, Google Music, and Google, meet another Google Music store rumor roundup, this one bolstered by screens that may indeed depict the upcoming Google-powered online music boutique.

We’ve heard rumblings about a Google Music store all year, since before Google launched its Google Music cloud service last May. But Google Music arrived, ironically, music-free—a blank online storage locker into which Google hoped users would pour unlocked tunes ripped direct from personal media or rival services. The theoretical reason: Google hasn’t been able to shore up relations with labels, prompting it to forestall Google Music’s “store” component. Until now, the service has looked the online equivalent of a Self Storage acreage.

That may all change this week. The Wall Street Journal said as much weeks ago, citing music executives in the biz, who claimed Google would launch a music store at some point between late October and early November. What’s more, the service is said to include Google+ integration, giving it a social networking one-up. For instance, users of the service would have the option to recommend songs in their online library to Google+ contacts, giving those contacts the option to listen to the songs once for free. After that, the MP3-format songs would cost in the vicinity of 99 cents each.

Continue reading this story…



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Hey Amazon, How About a Kindle Fire Phone?

By  |  Posted at 10:00 am on Friday, November 11, 2011

11 Comments


Yesterday, after writing about Android fragmentation, I ran into a friend at a conference. He began ranting about a particular type of fragmentation: The way wireless carriers muck up Google’s operating system with junkware, promotional stuff, pointless tweaks, and general bloat that makes the operating system less usable. He got pretty worked up about it. I agreed it was a problem.

I wondered why no company has taken up the challenge of building…well, the iPhone of Android phones. Something that’s elegant, approachable, uncluttered, and respectful of the consumer’s intelligence. Any bundled services would need to be beautifully integrated rather than just shoveled onto the phone indiscriminately, as the apps on Android handsets often are.

And then it hit me: Why not Amazon?

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Android Fragmentation: Am I Imagining Things?

By  |  Posted at 9:48 am on Thursday, November 10, 2011

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My Technologizer column on TIME.com this week is about the ongoing problem of Android fragmentation–and in particular the fact that even very cool Android handsets get the newest version of the operating system only months after it’s available on other phones, or sometimes not at all.

At least I think that this is a problem. And when I write about it–which I often have–it comes from the heart. I own a Verizon Fascinate phone, and would love to use Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on it. But I’m not even sure if the Fascinate, which was released just fourteen months ago, will ever get the year-old Gingerbread update, let alone ICS.

Whenever I mention the words “Android” and “fragmentation” in the same post, however, I hear from people who think I’m…well, hallucinating. They say either that Android fragmentation isn’t a big deal, or that it’s good.

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ViewSonic Tablet Runs Windows and Android: Good Idea, Poor Execution

By  |  Posted at 9:46 am on Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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As a holdover until Microsoft ships the tablet-friendly Windows 8, I like the idea of a Windows 7 tablet that also runs Android. Sure, Windows 7 doesn’t play nicely with touch screens, but it’s a great operating system for getting work done, and when you’re finished, you can switch to Android for leisure.

That’s what ViewSonic tries to accomplish with its ViewPad 10pro tablet. The 10-inch slab runs Windows 7, and also includes an Android emulator on the desktop, letting you run proper tablet apps without restarting the machine. (A previous ViewSonic tablet, the ViewPad 10, dual-booted Windows and Android, requiring a restart to switch between them.)

It’s a neat idea in theory. But in practice, the ViewSonic 10pro only proves that some ideas are better left unrealized.



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Gmail App for iOS Launches, Breaks

By  |  Posted at 11:26 am on Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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Yesterday, Google’s official Gmail app for iOS was a rumor. Today, it’s live on the App Store. But as Sarah Perez of TechCrunch is reporting, the Internet’s gut reaction is not a happy one–especially since the app launches with a cryptic error message right now. (Maybe not 100% of the time, but I got it.)

My biggest disappointment: The app doesn’t support multiple accounts. If you have two Google accounts–one for work, one for personal use–you know that any solution that supports both of them is instantly more useful than any one that doesn’t. I’ve been using a $1.99 third-party app called G-Whizz Google Apps Browser to traverse almost instantly between both of my accounts. Looks like I’ll still need it…



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