It may not be flying cars and unisex clothing, but Google’s plans for the future are interesting nonetheless. Emma Barnett, of The Daily Telegraph, sat down with Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of Search Products and User Experience, and reports back some of the things Google has in mind.
Mayer says that Google has three focuses for the future. The first is to better aggregate and integrate the various forms of media available on the internet: text, pictures, video, sound. Searches should be able to access and return results for all forms, so that users aren’t artificially limited to text (or even a particular langage). And the results should be real time (e.g, Google’s real-time web), so that information will be available the moment it’s created.
The second area of focus is mode of access. Integration of various media doesn’t make much sense if it can’t be searched on its own terms. Google Goggles is a new mode, allowing users of Android-based smartphones to capture an image and search for that image on the Internet--no text required. (To assuage privacy concerns, Goggles, at present, doesn’t do faces.)
The last area of focus is personalization. Google would like you to get what you want, and would like to see your efforts doing so minimized. Google’s search engines will ‘learn’ from individuals what information they want, and from where they want it (including more meaningful links with personal social networks). The end result will be a more individualized web experience. (And a diminishment of serendipity?)
Mayer acknowledges that privacy might be an issue, as personalization would require tracking user information for 180-days (unless the user opts-out). She adds that privacy concerns are a bit over-blown, as user information will be cookie-based, which only identifies a particular machine on the web, not a particular user. “We always follow a code of privacy--transparency, choice, and control,” said Mayer, “People can easily opt out.”
With over 50 new Android phones poised to hit the market next year its hard to ignore the reality that the platform is picking up not just in popularity, but in variety as well. Some argue the open approach is Androids greatest strength, while iPhone loyalists would have you believe the lack of a singular vision is its biggest weakness. Either way, Google has been able to sit back and observe the changes in the market since the G1 first launched, and the company finally has an answer for even the purist among us, meet the Nexus One. Sporting a speedy Snapdragon processor running on Android 2.1, it also features a 5.0 MP camera, and two microphones to assist in noise cancellation. The hardware itself will be manufactured by HTC, but the phone was designed, and will be sold by Google itself as an unlocked carrier independent device.
The Nexus One represents a pretty significant game changer not just for the wireless industry, but for a multi billion-dollar company that has never sold a single piece of consumer hardware in its history. With so many high profile handsets on the market already Google will need to compete not just with iPhone’s, Blackberry’s, and other Androids, but with the media perception that they are nothing more than a software company. Failure to hit a homerun on their first attempt could end up doing little more than alienating competing companies who just recently adopted Android, and now find themselves in a head to head battle with the OS maker itself.
Leaked Photos on Twitter and a January 2010 release date are pretty convincing evidence of the phones existence, but Google has yet to come out formally to confirm or deny the exact specs. I hate to drag out a tired old metaphor, but is the iPhone killer finally here?
At the start of 2009 there were rumblings that Android was failing as a platform. Phones running the Google-backed open source platform were few and far between for the first few months. Then, in recent months, the Android handsets started dropping more frequently. There are now about a dozen different Android phones floating around. But according to CCS Insight, the flood gates could open wide next year as manufacturers ship more than 50 devices.
Based on plans already announced from vendors, CCS believes that Android usage is about to ramp up quickly. “There are so many companies that have committed to delivering devices ... so to get to 50 isn't that difficult,” said Ben Wood from CCS. Sony Ericson is set to release their Xperia X10 in the first quarter, and HTC is expected to launch five phones in the first half of 2010. CCS also expects Motorola to continue on from the Droid and release about 10 new handsets in 2010.
CCS even speculated that the cost of Android phones could drop under $200 before carrier subsidy. If you thought you had a lot of smartphone choices in 2009, just wait.
Get ready Android fans. The mobile browser space is about to get a lot more interesting with the imminent release of Opera Mobile for Android. Don’t confuse this with Opera Mini, which has been available through the Android Market for some time now. Whereas Opera Mini is a java-based browser that was developed for feature phones, Opera Mobile is a full on browser that can stand its ground against the competition.
The odd part here is that it won’t be coming to the Android Market. Opera is only making the software available to OEMs for now. So the next big Android phone could ship with Opera Mobile installed; it could even replace the stock Android browser. Assuming this version of Opera is like the Windows mobile version, it runs a different rendering engine and supports server-side compression like its Mini sibling.
While it will not be available to current Android users just yet, it’s safe to assume that it will soon be in the wild. If Opera doesn’t make it available, the dedicated Android modding community is likely to get a hold of the APK before long. Since the Android Market is really just a suggestion, apps like this can be obtained from outside sources. Between this and Mobile Firefox, it’s going to be an interesting ride. Sorry iPhone users, you’ll be sitting this one out.
Motorola's Droid smartphone has barely been out a month, and already the device has been rooted by the modding community. Welcome to the club, Droid.
"Droid does... ROOT," Cyanogen, who is probably the best known Android modder, wrote on his Twitter page. He also linked an Android message board containing the exploit
Droid already comes with Android 2.0, which boasts a bunch of fancy updates to the open-source OS that has the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) community anxiously awaiting a modded update of their own. But a rooted Droid gives the user administrative rights and all kinds of control over the smartphone. There's an overclocking widget available for rooted Android phones, fancy themees, and even multi-touch support, which is available on the lower end Droid Eris but not the higher end original in its native framework (it's up to developers to release multitouch apps).
Of course, unlocking a smartphone to install third-party firmware comes with certain risks, and in a worst case scenario, a mod gone bad could brick the device. But the risks gets lower and lower as the modding community continues to release more sophisticated firmware.
Google has been developing an interesting application using a cell phone’s pictures as a data source for content searches. The "Google Goggles" application available to Android phone owners uses user photos to generate search results about their subjects.
For instance, Goggles has been setup to recognize landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, places, wine, and logos. If you were to take a picture of your favorite book, or popular landmark, the application will automatically launch a Google search with the photo’s subject as the query.
It may seem silly in some circumstances, but there are great applications for this type of search. Imagine being able to take a picture of leaf or tree and getting more information about the plant. The same can be said of animal and food searches. Descriptive text queries will soon be a thing of the past.
We always take leaked information with a healthy grain of salt, though in this case, it's worth noting that HTC's leaked 2009 lineup turned out to largely true. It's déjà vu for HTC all over again, as the company's 2010 lineup has been leaked to the web.
There are 10 new smartphones in all, with both Windows Mobile and Android devices broken up into four categories: Design / Lifestyle, Social, Performance, and Productivity. And naturally it's the Performance category that's going to draw the attention from power users. According to the roadmap, only one smartphone will fall under this designation. The 'Bravo,' as it's being called, will support DivX playback and 720p video capture through a 5MP AF cam with flash. It will also boast a 3.7-inch AMOLED display and Qualcomm Snapdragon chip racing along at 1GHz. Look for this one to ship sometime in April.
What's interesting about the list is that HTC has seemingly positioned all of its upcoming WinMo devices under the Productivity heading, while Android roams freely about the other categories.
View detailed specs of all 10 upcoming smartphones here.
Dell wants everyone to know this whole smartphone thing isn’t a joke. After officially announcing the Dell Mini 3ix Android phone for Brazil, the computer maker is forming a dedicated mobile division under the control of Ron Garriques (formerly of Motorola). The group will focus on developing hardware and software for future Dell phones.
Dell was once the dominant PC maker in the world, but has recently faltered, falling behind both HP and Acer. By getting into the smartphone race Dell may be trying to catch up to its rivals, both of which make phones as well as PCs. There are currently no official plans to bring a Dell smartphone to the US. If the bizarrely under equipped Chinese 3i and slightly better Brazilian 3ix do well, the company may feel confident enough to enter the US market.
At long last the augmented reality browser Layer has released version 3.0 complete with some spiffy new features. One big advance is support for 3D objects. These objects can be inserted into new 3.0 layers and appear in the Layar interface. One of the 3.0 layers used at show off the new feature is “Beatles Tour”. The layer contains 42 points of interest with various 3D models as a guided tour of the music group’s old haunts.
The folks at Layar are also encouraging artists to create art exclusively for the augmented reality app. Users could wander around their neighborhood looking at virtual artwork on a huge scale. If that sort of thing isn’t for you, have no fear. The new user login and cookie support makes it easier to customize layers. A user can keep information more relevant to them. For example, the “tweeps around” layer shows nearby tweets, but Layar 3.0 would allow you to filter out people you don’t follow and send out tweets from the layer itself . Layar 3.0 is currently available in the Android Market for Android 1.5 and 1.6 devices. Testing on Android 2.0 is nearly complete, so a version for the Droid should be along any time now. The iPhone version will be in the App Store as soon as Apple gets around to approving it.