Posts from the ‘Google’ Category
December 27, 2011
2012 promises to be a very busy year in all things digital, but, as with any annum, there will be just a handful of big, memorable trends. Here, I’ve collected five such movements that are likely to make a big impact in our technologically-enhanced lives.
It’s now in games, location apps, business cards and coffee shops and could start showing up in cars and even eyeglasses. Augmented Reality, which puts a virtual view on top of your real world, is really just a cool way of saying, “Reality with Style.” Instead of simply viewing your apartment through your phone, you’re playing Star Wars Arcade Falcon Gunner on top of it. Instead looking up a restaurant in your neighborhood, you’re using Yelp to see its location and reviews for it and other restaurants right on top of your on-screen view of the street. 2012 will mark the beginning of exponential growth for Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR).
According to a report from Visiongain, 25% of all app downloads will feature some sort of augmented reality. Though adoption hinges on more powerful, high-speed and camera-ready mobile devices, it’s clear to me that the majority of smartphones and tablets in end-users’ hands next year will be 3G-to-4G-ready, high-def, large-screen devices with not one, but two multi-megapixel cameras. Trust me, by 2013, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at least tried augmented reality.
The Micro-Payment Economy
App manufacturers are not the only ones who can make money selling tiny wares and incremental upgrades. The barrier to entry for starting your own small business has been effectively knocked down by a variety of online merchants who are willing to hawk your wares for next to nothing. In truth, the merchandise isn’t entirely yours. In fact, these companies are often just selling your idea on top of their wares and you get a tiny slice for each sale, or for when the numbers of sales reaches a certain threshold.
Sites like RedBubble do everything for the artist; all they need to do is upload the content. RedBubble will, for example, make the T-Shirt with your art, sell it for you, manage the distribution and, of course, collect payment. The site lets you set the price above their fixed price. Yes, you could add as much as you want onto a $16 T-shit, but most smart sellers know this means they won’t sell a single garment. Instead, you add 1%-to-5% (maybe 10% if you’re feeling strong) and then promote the dickens out of your product on the site and through various social networks.
RedBubble is just one of many destinations popping up to help the aspiring entrepreneur. They join established platforms like Lulu (self-publish books), and YouTube. YouTube has been inviting videographers into the commerce tent for years, letting them add AdSense accounts to popular videos and then sitting back and watching the pennies roll in.
As the economy sputters along, look for more and more of the sites helping you sell almost anything you can imagine and making you a “fortune”–one micro payment at a time.
The Rise of the UltraBook
Tablets dominate the tech conversation, but that doesn’t mean the PC is dead. No, it’s alive and well, but in a form that will closely mimic some of the best features of tablets. I don’t have numbers yet, but I’m betting Desktop PCs were not big sellers this holiday season. Laptops may have done a little better, but who among you was willing to give junior an end-of-life netbook instead of a sexy, touch-screen tablet? (I’m imagining no one raising their hands).
A term coined by Intel, Ultrabooks describe exquisitely thin and light, yet pleasingly powerful laptops. Think MacBook Air and you get the idea. No, they don’t have touch screens or apps (though that’s changing, too) and Ultrabooks usually have just one HD camera. Still, with just a little more heft and girth than your garden-variety iPad, an Ultrabook adds a full-sized keyboard and far more powerful components. In other words, they’re perfectly designed for getting real work done, but no one will be embarrassed to carry one around. 2012 will witness an explosion of these devices as manufacturers pin on them their last best hopes for regaining consumer computing interest.
Facebook will break the 1 billion user mark in 2012, but its numbers have flattened out in the U.S. Twitter is growing; it may have as many 450 million users, but no one knows how many people are really active users. Google+ is growing steadily, but is still well behind the two most established networks and much of the public is unaware of its existence. There is the now persistent, with good reason, backlash against mobile phone usage in cars and on streets.
In general, more and more people seem to be reevaluating their social and digital existence. Even the SOPA battle is revealing some unforeseen schisms. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bad idea, not because piracy is good, but because of the plan for enforcement is wrong and dangerous. That said, no one who creates content can deny that the digital revolution hasn’t forced them to rethink how they create, sell and distribute content. There are no easy answers here and 2012 will be a year of introspection; one where we possibly rewrite the rules of content, copyrights and social interactions.
Mobile Chip Wars
The tech industry is gearing up for a rather intense battle—on a micro scale. With ARM-based CPUs in virtually all of today’s tablets and handsets, Intel, the dominant system CPU manufacturer, has no presence in the mobile space. It’s a situation the company promises to change in 2012 with Medfield—its rethinking of the Atom CPU (popular in netbooks). Meanwhile a consortium of Pacific Rim manufacturers have just banded together to produce new mobile CPUs for phones and tablets.
These efforts may not mean much, though, as Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Motorola, Marvell, Nvidia and others all license the ARM architecture and show (along with the hardware partners) little interest in switching to a new or once-established platform. Even Microsoft is developing Windows 8 to run on ARM-based CPUs in addition to traditional Wintel machines.
What do you think? Are these the right trends? Will there be other defining movements in 2012? Chose the biggest trend in our poll and then let’s talk about it in the comments.
October 19, 2011
Google Analytics is about to get a whole lot more visual, thanks to the launch of a new feature, Flow Visualizations.
The new feature was announced by Google SVP of ads Susan Wojcicki at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. It will launch later today for all Google Analytics users.
Flow Visualizations is a dynamic way to view and experience your Google Analytics data. It utilizes the lens of a Sankey diagram, a specific type of flow diagram. Flow Visualizations allow sites to drill into user behavior based on location, browser, user type and many other variables.
The key to Flow Visualizations, though, is its ability to analyze how visitors are using a website. These visualizations allow website administrators to figure out where people are visiting, how many people stay on their site, how many people visit a site’s shopping cart and more.
Wojcicki said the inspiration for the new product actually came from a Sankey diagram from the 19th century, describing the marching movements of Napoleon and his army over the course of time.
Check out a photo from the Web 2.o Summit below:
October 17, 2011
At a time when Google defies the global economic slowdown by posting a 26% rise in net profits for the last quarter, it may seem curious to challenge the behemoth’s future. As Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and chief executive, declared “we had a great quarter”, before going onto highlight the progress made with Google+: “People are flocking into Google+ at an incredible rate and we are just getting started.”
Amongst analysts there is palpable excitement that Google may challenge Facebook’s dominance and this is before one considers the incredible success of the Android platform and various other projects, applications and revenue lines.
But. And there is a but. What about “Search”? Larry Page once described the “perfect search engine” as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” Equally, one of Google’s core principles is, “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” That in mind, all the superlatives gushing from the world’s financial press suddenly appear misplaced.
That’s because despite being used by hundreds of millions of people every day, Google has not mastered Search. The sector as a whole remains in its infancy. Well over a decade since inception, it is clear that Google (and every other popular search engine for that matter) has not mastered even in the basics of semantic search: it remains completely unable to understand users’ queries or web pages (Google’s main information source).
If it did, it would respond with an answer to user’s questions. Instead, users are forced to spend time browsing several blue links that may or may not provide the answer to their questions. This mismatch of supply with demand presents itself clearly as the first words of every search: “About x,xxx,xxx results (0.yz seconds)”. So what?
This fundamental flaw in Google’s core business looks set to become more challenging with the exponential growth in Search via mobile handsets. Users do not want results determined by the Google parameters (relevance, freshness, comprehensive and speed). They just want answers.
Almost all mobile handset users seek local information, and a lot of it: questions around restaurants; shopping; sport; food; travel and weather dominate. Mobile information seeking is action-oriented and users want what they are looking for directly. Browsing hundreds of web pages from a mobile screen is not practicable or desirable. Information is for the here (contextual) and now (immediate). Statistics-based, index- powered search fails this mission.
The challenge in Search has moved on from “indexing the world’s information” to enabling greater access to information. No longer is the consumer concerned by the availability of information but rather the fast simple retrieval of it. This trend is acknowledged by Google. When asked what the perfect search engine is, Google’s Marissa Meyer replied:
It would be a machine that could answer that question, really. It would be one that could understand speech, questions, phrases, what entities you’re talking about, concepts. It would be able to search all of the world’s information, [find] different ideas and concepts, and bring them back to you in a presentation that was really informative and coherent.
Last week also saw the technology world aflame with news of the latest iPhone arrival. Much to the dismay of many, it looks identical to the last Cupertino release. But as commentators, reviewers and the fortunate few who found themselves at the front of Apple Shops around the world discovered, the iPhone 4S includes a remarkable new software application called Siri: in Apple’s own words, “your wish, is its command.”
The user can “ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back.” What Siri does is analyze unstructured “natural language” queries and deliver results in ways that are “actionable.” This is “Search” as it should be: ask a question, receive an answer.
Q: “Is traditional web search dying?”
A: “Yes. And fast.”
October 4, 2011
After quietly testing in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain, and Portugal, Google will roll out a new algorithm globally that gives more weight to landing page quality when it comes to AdWords Quality Score. This means ads with landing pages that Google deems to be most relevant to the query will be able to rank higher for lower cost-per-click bids.
“What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction,” Jonathan Alferness, director of product management on Google’s ad quality team told me. This, says Alferness, means the user experience isn’t what it could be. Hence the change to give more weight to landing page quality. “In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.”
Landing page quality has long been a factor in Google AdWords, but more as a negative signal. If an advertiser’s landing page was particularly terrible or misleading, advertisers could have their ads rejected or their accounts suspended or revoked — depending on how bad the policy violation was. The new change will assign landing page quality a positive value, incentivizing advertisers to make sure the landing page’s keywords and content are closely aligned with the keywords for which they’re bidding. Ads with high landing page quality will get a “strong boost” upward in the auction, according to Alferness.
Alferness says Google will crawl the landing pages associated with every ad and make a determination as to its quality.
“What we always ask our advertisers to focus on is relevance — choose a landing page or site experience that is both relevant to the keywords that you’re targeting and also a good experience for end users,” said Alferness. “This is just continuing to sort of push on those best practices. I gives us the ability to really reward those advertisers that have been doing this, whose landing pages really are some of the best in our systems.”
The change will roll out in the next week or two. Advertisers may see some variations in ad position and keyword Quality Score at first, but things should settle down within a couple of weeks, according to Google.
September 30, 2011
Google has developed a paid version of its Analytics website usage monitoring service that offers better performance, more sophisticated features and broader technical support than the free product, the company said on Friday.
Analytics Premium is designed for sites with very heavy traffic that need “extra processing power” behind their analytics software so that they can collect more data, perform more complex analysis and generate more granular reports, Google said.
The paid version of Analytics will also feature advanced service offerings for things like custom implementations and around-the-clock technical support, the company said in a blog post. Google also offers service level agreements for Analytics Premium.
While developing Analytics Premium, Google worked with some of its biggest Analytics users, including Travelocity and Gucci. The service is available in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. for an undisclosed annual fee. Companies can sign up for it directly with Google or through Analytics resellers.
Google Analytics used to be a paid service back when it was called Urchin on Demand, but after Google acquired the company in 2005, it made it a free product.
Google’s decision to offer Urchin on Demand as a free product rocked the website analytics market at the time, since most vendors charged for their wares. Urchin on Demand, for example, cost US$199 per month.
Since acquiring Urchin Software, Google has continued to develop and sell an on-premise version of the software, which in its most recent version — Urchin 7 — costs $9995 in the U.S.
However, Google from the start has encouraged customers to use Analytics, whose software is hosted by Google in its data centers in a software-as-a-service cloud model.
It’s interesting to see Google come around after six years and reintroduce a paid version of the cloud-hosted product to the market for heavy-duty users who rely on Analytics to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of ad campaigns or the popularity of website content. The decision may in part reflect the increased importance websites play in businesses, and the need for companies to closely track usage to fine-tune marketing campaigns, e-commerce initiatives and content strategies.
Google said on Friday that it will continue to develop and enhance the free version of Analytics.