Google+ some more thoughts

23 07 2011

I just read  this ‘Why twitter is obsolete‘ and despite there being the usual mass of comment on Google+ and how it will or wont change the world, this one has a fact I hadn’t been aware of before.

“Twitter defines an “active user” as one who follows at least 30 people and has at least 10 people who follow him. A source with access to Twitter’s API who was quoted by Business Insider in April says that there were only 21 million people or accounts on Twitter that met the “active user” criteria.”

This is interesting and until I read it I had never considered the quality value of user metrics, just their quantative value. If this is true, and I have to say I suspect it might be, then Google+ can (and should) go for the jugular and change the game. In my opinion the Google+ UI and hence UX, while good, is lacking some simple but vital features. Right now the ‘stream’, the main feed of everyone you have circled in some way, is too noisy and circles currently don’t provide quite enough flexibility to tailor your default stream. But this is trivial to resolve for Google and many people have already commented on the 2 or 3 options to fix it, I’m sure Google will.

Another point raised in the previously mentioned article is that a lot of posts are nothing more than a teaser or snippet that then links to a fuller blog post. In fact Tweetdeck a very popular client for twitter and recently acquired by twitter, provides a tweet extender. But Google can beat this simply, it could allow you to post a full blog, direct into your stream. If Google allows for a simple two level posting mechanic, something like a summary, length restricted but including media and then a fuller extended post, hidden by default but with a clickable extend button on the post then it has in stream bloging taken care of.

twitters greatest asset in its early days, long before I wanted to use it, was its open and available API, this allowed them to build twitter and anyone to build add-ons and clients. But now twitter is much bigger, and not so open to others delivering the features it thinks (rightly or wrongly) it should be delivering. Once Google+ delivers its API we will see some of the current social media clients (Seesmic, Hootsuite, etc) including Google+, at this point its going to become apparent that twitter itself lacks in many areas compared to Google+ and it might just be a matter of time.

That time may also be a lot shorter than people think (myself included), this comparative graph of Google+ growth v’s twitter v’s Facebook, while not being a fair direct comparison, shows how rapidly Google+ has taken off (and its still invite based) and may give some indications to how volatile the social media user base is.





Cloud Music – a village looking for an idiot?

15 07 2011

Let me start by saying that right now my music is not in the cloud and although I’ve had a play with both Google Music and Amazons Locker I do not use them yet (as they are not officially available in this country yet) and Apple has yet to launch its iCloud service.

There have been a number of ‘cloud’ music services making news to some degree in the last few months, including; Amazon, Google and Apple. I’ve been doing a little thinking about these services and there are a few things I’m more curious about.

Let’s start with Apple and its iTunes in the Cloud (iCloud), my understanding of this is that it’s a great offering, all your iTunes tunes in the cloud to download and play anywhere, well anywhere so longs as it’s on an Apple product of course. Interesting thing number 1, your iTunes purchases don’t count against your iCloud limit, that’s a great sell, you’ve got 20gigs of iTunes music and you can have it all in your iCloud for nothing! But the thing that has raised most interest though is iTunes Match. For your annual fee you can get all your non iTunes music into the cloud, but without all that tedious faffing about uploading it, Apple will match your music against their library and give you a nice new 256bit AAC of your dodgy old mp3. My final point here is price, Apple, once king of charging its loving little fans silly money is continuing its iPad tactic (which you have to say is winning) of beating the competition (such as it is) on price. My music collection is vast, if I were to put half of it into Amazons locker it would cost me a fortune ($200), Apple seems to be saying it will cost me $25!

Now, Amazon. This is basically a locker service. I buy space for my music, upload it and can then play it anywhere. Well in theory I can. It’s much the same with Google Music, though I don’t think anyone knows pricing yet. Here is problem nunmber one, have you ever tried to upload a lot of data from a domestic broadband connection? You’re going to find out what it means to have a different upload and download speed and boy is it going to hurt when you are trying to upload that big music collection. It could take days if not weeks. In my opinion it’s not going to happen, you just won’t do it, do you know why? Because you already have the music, it’s on your PC, it’s on your phone. The Amazon and Google music products require me and you to upload our music and that’s a painfully slow process. Apple has the winning hand here and its not as though you needed to be a genious to figure it out.

I should state at this point that it could be better than it seems if these services use some form of de-duplication. But I don’t know if they do or will. In principle if they did then once I’ve uploaded ‘Linkin Parks – A Thousand Suns’ you shouldn’t have to. That’s a greatly simplified explanation but the point is we both don’t need to upload the same thing, so if all of my music was already uploaded by several other users, all I would need to do is have my music matched up and get access to the common tunes. Oh, wait a second, we have heard that before, that’s what Apple is doing, but its licensed to do it using its own music library.

Cost and convenience, seemingly two points to Apple.

My final point is the cost of listening to the music I’ve already paid for. Let’s assume I’ve got all the music I’m interested in on the service of my choice. I now want to play it back. Play it anywhere, that’s the idea, right? How much of your 3G data plan do you think is going to be chewed up listening to a few hours of music a week? It’s not Apple or Google or Amazon who will be charging you, it’s your mobile operator. I don’t yet know how well any of these services will cache music already played, in other words, if I play an album today do I need to have it stream all over again tomorrow. Paying my mobile phone operator to stream an album once sounds painful enough, paying every time I listen to an album sounds ridiculous. Don’t forget, I already own this music. I paid for it once. Obviously this is less of an issue at when I’m hooked up to Wi-Fi somewhere, but consider how long public access Wi-Fi , a technology already creaking under the strains of today’s content to be delivered, will remain free or usable. Sit down in Starbucks, hook up to Wi-Fi, pick up your email, check in on Foursquare and stream your music to listen to and watch it all fall down as everyone else does the same thing. So in reality, what I need to be able to do is grab the music from the cloud onto my device so I can listen to it without lining my operators pockets. We will assume their network data is up to the job, but we both know thats a big issue.

So what is the alternative? Well it’s what you already have. Your device of choice has an ever increasing amount of available storage and more is available (unless its Apple) at an ever decreasing cost. My cell phone has about 100 albums on it right now, that’s a lot of music to listen to. I’m just not sure I need, or want, it in the cloud.





Google+ some thoughts

10 07 2011

I’ve been playing around with Google+ for a few days and I am impressed and disapointed in equal measure. So far Googles latest attempt at creating a social networking platform is, without doubt, their best effort yet. It includes some new features and adds some polish to some established ones.

Right now its STILL in invite only phase, it really needs to be out of this in the next few days. Already people I know using it all agree, the biggest missing feature is their friends. What use a social networkng site with no one to be social with? What else is missing? Well a lot of things but the two they need a solid answer to very quickly are Facebook and twitter.

Everyone uses Facebook, not everyone is going to be using Google+, not even if they give away £10 with every sign up. They need a mechanism to ease people over from Facebook to Google+ and the obvious way is to allow Google+ to post into Facebook. The same is true of twitter, but thats a different party.

So why is there no tickbox in Google+ to ‘Post to Facebook’? Either Google couldnt or wouldnt, I dont buy the idea that they didnt. Its an intersting issue. Facebook are unlikely to allow any kind of posting that potentially takes away their traffic or their users. This is going to set Google+ and Facebook against each other. Facebook is established, feature rich (relatively), has an open API for developers and 750 million users. Google+ has… Circles?

So thats a knockout and a win for Facebook then, not quite in my opinion. Facebook has been on the wrong end of privacy issues time and time again and its always won because there was no alternative. Google+ is shiny and new, though I have yet to figure out why this could ever translate into a meaningful selling point, we are not talking about cars!

Ok, so what about twitter. Neither Facebook nor Google+ allow direct native posting to twitter, though there are plenty of Social Media applications that get around this, though now yet for Google+ (damn, not having that API is already a problem, isnt it!). twitter is not a competitor to Facebook or to Google+ in my opinion, they are overlapping and complimnetary. twitter is more public, its the open room big conversation. Facebook is the closed party of friends and like minded individuals. What is Google+? Well it has potential to be both, I’m minded to consider that Google and twitter could really forge a strong realtionship here.

Google+ needs to create Circles, its feature to group friends, that can be your twitter friends and your Facebook friends. I think the winning play is to play every game, social media is people, not systems. When there are no options 3rd parties fill the gaps. But if Google relies on 3rd parties, when they can eventually get hold of an API, to build features needed for Google+ survival they may find them writing for the platform that suported them first.

I think this landscape feel over crowded but I think it has room for the life and soul of the party to make an appearance. Mobile is going to be the decisive factor. So thats game set and match to Google then, after all they have Android for phones and tablets (yes, the tables are a joke, but that will change) and they launched a truly killer Google+ Android app. Game over? No.

Not by a long way. Apple has got the Google+ app to approve, I’m sure it will approve it in the next few days and I’m sure it will be great. The Facebook app sucks, on all platforms. The twitter app is fine everywhere, though nothing special. But Apple has a possible game changer about to appear.

Its widely rumoured that when Apple launches the iPhone5 later this year, with the public release of iOS5, it will alos launch a new, lower price, iPhone. Imagine an iPhone that can eat into the phone market on price, who will want to buy anything else? An iPhone that is as cool as an iPhone5, can do every thing an iPhone5 can do, but is cut down in some ways. Apple may just be about to blow up the smartpjhone market again in the same way, with the same tactic, it used on the tablet market. Make an Apple product everyone will want and make it a aprice no one can compete with.

So who wants to put money on which platform is going to have the best Faecbook and twitter apps in a few months?

Interesting, isnt it?





Google android on the HTC HD2

23 08 2010

I’ve been using the excellent HTC HD2 for quite a while now and its proven
to be a first class smart phone, with one black mark against it, it runs
Windows Mobile.

winmo, as it has become known has been around for years and has been a truly
awful operating system in its exposed form, its true value has been when
used on embedded systems which have hidden it from view and review.

With the arrival of iphone, android and even when compared to nokia symbian
or even blackberry its the outright loser by a long way. So it was quite a
surprise when HTC launched the HD2 and hobbled it out of the gate.

The HD2 hardware is leading edge and the screen is still one of the largest
on any smartphone. Which makes it even more bizarre to see the disappointing
Windows boot screen when you power it on.

To be fair to HTC they did an amazing job layering a very bespoke front end
on to of the awful Windows UI, Sense was lipstick on the pig. It was very
good lipstick but it was still a pig underneath.

As HTC continued to launch new phones, mostly running android the inevitable
calls for an upgrade from winmo to android started to be heard, HTC actually
said they could do it, then cruelly didn’t!

Rumors started to spread of a band of developers working on porting android to
the HD2, XDA soon had posts with devs making progress and soon after there
were videos showing work in progress android running on HD2 hardware.

I was watching carefully, but I use my phone everyday and couldn’t afford for it to
be sacrificed to a partially working android or worse a complete bricking.

Then in the last few days it looked like they had cracked it, android was
working. I downloaded the latest version, upgraded the phones radio and
carefully followed the simple instructions.

There it was, android. I did a lot of testing then started to select the
applications I would need. Everything was working, I decided to trial it for
reliability and stability for a week.

Here we are on day three and I can’t see what could happen now to make me
want to go back to winmo.

It feels like I have a new phone, probably the phone the HD2 should have
always been.

Hats off to the devs at XDA.





JoliCloud moves into Pre-Beta

29 12 2009

Previously I wrote about Jolicloud while I was testing different Linux distributions on my EeePC netbook. I chose distributions that were, in theory, better suited to life with a netbook. After some basic trial use of Google ChromeOS, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin and Jolicloud I settled on Ubuntu and for the last month I’ve been using it quite successfully on my little EeePC 901.

The thing I liked about Jolicloud was its ‘Jolicloud application installer’ this provides a whole slew of applications ready to install and not just the off the shelf Linux stuff, this also has applications that would normally require you to compile from source or run through Wine (the pseudo windows emulation library for Linux)

Since that initial look Jolicloud, which is based in Ubuntu so shares the same solid foundation, has gone from alpha to pre-beta. Pre-beta drops the need to be invited to try Jolicloud and opens it up to the wider world, in their words, “We consider the product and its installation stable and simple enough for a broader release.”, I would agree.

Now the thing that potentially interests me again in Jolicloud is the ‘New UI’, reading the Jolicloud blog further reveals this to be a lot of theme and icon redesign with the goal of providing a more consistent feel to the, lets be honest, mixed bag of typical Linux distro’s.

The launcher has been given a HTML5 makeover and looks greatly improved, cleaner, clearer and ultimately more usable. Compare

with the current/old

It seems to me that if Jolicloud roll out the UI update and pull off a good attempt at a cohesive UI for Linux then they will have a success on their hands. Google’s play is to simplify (dumb down?) the UI to a HTML5 browser, but its tomorrow’s toy, Jolicloud looks set to offer this today.

Season the mix with 98% netbook compatibility and a Windows installer that will install Jolicloud alongside Windows on your netbook (assuming you have the disk space) and there might never be a better time to give Jolicloud a spin and see what the latest world of Linux has to offer the daily netbook user.

So I am going to be re-installing Jolicloud soon, once that new UI is available, and quite possibly moving on from Ubuntu Netbook Remix. That is as soon as I get hold of a new SD card to load it onto.

Posted via email from Steve’s Blog





Windows, linux or Google?

25 11 2009

It doesn’t take a tech genius to realise how much of a player Google’s ChromeOS could become in the netbook arena. Ignore all the talk for now, its just an open source preview and their desperation to show something is coming. It doesn’t make sense until they get closer to launch and (or) the first leaked hardware is shown.

But here is the pitch; you’re in PC World, well you’re not because you never would be, but Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are in PC World. They walk admiringly past rows of shiny Macs and start poking at the Acer’s and the Asus’, the Samsung’s and the HP’s, the netbooks.

As we have no known hardware differentiators at this point lets skip that part and come back to it in 6 months time.

They look at the Windows netbook. Its going to be either still running XP or maybe by now its got Windows 7. Its recognisable, somewhat familiar and they don’t take too long to find the web browsers, see the Google search page and their gmail account, they can even find Flickr and this new fangled twitter thing that littlejohnny keeps raving about. Yep, Windows netbook seems to have it all and all is good with the world.

Next they see the linux based netbook. Now the eye is caught by the price tag, its cheaper than the windows netbook, possibly by some margin. Then they start to prod it and look at each other, “what is this?”, “where is the start thingy?”, the conversation doesn’t really go very much further. Its not familiar, in fact it can seem downright alien. They look lovingly back to the windows netbook and start to look for a salesman to do the deal.

Now then, this we all know. Netbooks arrived with linux, various distros, mostly horrid, all perfectly useful and workable. Then XP arrived and linux disappeared like the dinosaurs.

Enter stage left, Google.

Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny switch it on and oh, its on, that was fast!

Oh there is the Google search page and gmail, that all looks familiar. Pretty quickly they are at home with it. The price tag is good and the sales sheet talks about; no messy software updates, all safely backed up online, easy to use, all your web applications. Sold!

linux is trying to build a UI that can work and provide an experience that allows users to ‘use’ the netbook and not have to fight the OS. Moblin, Ubuntu UNR, these are valiant efforts. But they are not there yet, not for a mass market. I use UNR on my netbook every day, everything works perfectly, I love it. I use linux on one of my desktops, windows on another, windows 7 on a laptop. I am not a typical user, Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are!

Google will steal this market from linux by being linux but calling it Google. Canonical know it thats why they are working with Google.

The choice could be a Windows 7 netbook or a Google netbook, the decision will be made based on price and Google is banking on delivering a hardware device that can be cheaper than the one needed for Windows.





Google OS

23 11 2009

This week Google gave a preview of its upcoming operating system, ChromeOS. It also open sourced the project as ChromiumOS and the Chromium Browser (Google Chrome). Now then, apart from confusing the hell out of everyone with its naming (including me, so if my understanding is wrong, what did you expect?), this has been talked about as either the Microsoft Windows killer or a waste of time. Personally I think its neither.

I downloaded the source code and built it. I then installed it on my netbook. I thought I would spend a few hours playing with it but after 30 minutes there wasn’t anything left to play with. If you have been wondering why there seems to be a lack of screenshots on the interweb its because there is precious little to take a screenshot of.

Basically, Google’s OS is a completely stripped down linux variant (they are working with Canonical of Ubuntu fame), it boots very quickly (I got mine booting in something like 10 seconds) but thats because it doesn’t boot anything other than the bare minimum needed to run a very limited list of hardware and the Google browser, Chromium. Once running everything is in the ‘cloud’, its all on line, apps, data, the lot, its all on the net. No local storage.

The browser has matured into a ‘full’ front end to everything you want to do with your netbook, to be honest I don’t see anything really new here, in fact I’m not sure Google OS gives so much as it takes away, less is more, more or less.

I think the UI concept has some limitations, but these are offset by the netbook, you wont run 10 apps at the same time because your netbook doesn’t do that, its really 1 or 2 things at a time and the UI (not just Google’s but the others too) handles this quite well. In fact you could give Google an extra point here for having applets inside the bigger frame, such as Google Talk or a notepad.

Its all online, it will be interesting to see how well unreliable connections are handled, writing your presentation on your netbook on the train to work sounds great. Its something we have all done. But today when the train goes through a tunnel I don’t lose the connection to my hard drive, tomorrow with Google’s OS I would lose my connection to the cloud, without some clever caching and recovery at best I will have to wait for the connection to return, at worst, well lets see.

You can read more everywhere about it. I think its good, it shows what you can do if you focus on your purpose and nothing else. Is it going to kill Windows? No! Its not going to even raise more than a ‘oh yeah we have heard of it’ from the boys at Microsoft and why should it?

But, in a years time when they launch it with the hardware as well, remember that all they have let out in the wild is the open source project, well then I think it will be time to sit up and take notice. A proper light weight OS, no frills, on hardware built for the task. Think of the applications. Google’s web browser tablet, news reader, media player, cell phone, video phone… this is just the first showing of the first building block of Google’s OS. Only a fool would write it off based on this, lets see what Google does next.

So is Microsoft going to be looking at the next 12 months and wondering what the landscape for discrete devices might look like if Google makes its play? Yeah, I think so.

I read today that, shock and surprise, its likely that Google OS and Android (Google’s OS for cell phones and mobile devices – you can see the overlap) will converge, read here