Archive for category Google

How Google is Useful

Recently I blogged about Orientating around Android Devices.   While I did mention the use of applications and services in that post, I didn’t call out any in particular.

However, this screen shot, demonstrates one really useful service, I have become increasingly fond of and reliant upon.

That service is Google Now


As a reasonably frequent traveller the information provided is succinct, timely and ultimately useful in assisting me plan, and schedule my actions.

As it covers a number of topics, including sport, useful local information, etc, and it is available on the desktop too – it is a pervasive, multi-device digital assistance.

Certainly in terms ecosystem and service, lock-in and increasing consumer dependency, I think Google Now, leads the field.

What do you think?


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Orientating around Android devices


At the start of May I received a replacement for my broken Blackberry 9300 Curve.  I am very glad to say it wasn’t another Blackberry, instead I received a Sony Xperia M – a reasonably modern Android phone running Android 4.3.

Moving to an Android based phone, has been a boon for me as it will nicely compliment my Nexus 7 tablet.  In fact the commonality of Google and Android is the basis for an almost complete repetition and synchronicity of many of the applications and services I use.  I still use a Windows operating system on my laptop, but is not a conflicting factor, as many applications and services are also accessible via the Google Chrome browser.

While of course the Microsoft Windows desktop operating system is still very dominant in terms of usage in the laptop | desktop space and more so with Windows Surface tablets.  Having such good quality access to applications and services  on two Android form factors (phone and tablet), has made me question the necessity of remaining on Windows as the operating system of choice for the laptop device.

Already core Windows Office suite applications and services (Outlook | MS Word, Excel) etc. are already or being made more tablet or browser compatible.  Think of the Office 365 service, and the Office Web Apps functionality, so further diminishing the requirement to have an actual application installed onto a Windows operating system as a necessity.

While most enterprises can’t consider abandoning Microsoft Windows as a device platform altogether, I think the personal consumer and many SME/ SMBs could strongly consider the possibility of an entirely Android (and here I stretch the term a little to include Google Chromebooks) based device eco-system.   Google Chromebooks are now a maturing and full featured alternative to the Microsoft Windows based device. 

Of course Apple also offer a very compelling set of devices, coupled to a very well integrated operating system and application set.  So both Google and Apple offer opportunities upon which to orientate or consolidate on to bring more common device harmony into a business.  We should not discount the option to consider a more explicit Linux based desktop system, such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint etc.,  though having tried them for a while, I believe they will always remain a more niche player in the desktop | laptop space, especially with such dominant competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

This brings in a further opportunity to consider moving away from device centric applications and data,  and how the virtual desktop (VDI) and application virtualisation options also need to be considered along side the choice of device eco-system.  

Other aspects to factor into these considerations include

  • Data and content storage and delivery – will this all be cloud based – e.g. Google Docs or Microsoft O365 – or are there other factors to be considered?
  • Do certain use cases necessitate the use of a local application and data set?  (e.g. Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project)
  • Device management strategy – patching and updates – how will they be managed and delivered

Having also tried a Google Chromebook, (having used one while on a holiday break),  I can see how it could easily cater for 85% of the work and processes and I engage with as an Information | Knowledge worker.  Only that I need to work with and build fairly complex spreadsheets (using Microsoft Excel) is keeping a Windows based operating system as a necessity.  I do also wonder how well a device such as Google Chromebook caters for multimedia activities consumers need around managing and connecting with peripheral devices like cameras and editing videos etc.

More and more frequently I’ve seen the Apple Macbook Pro (or the Osx UI – via web meetings) appearing, and presume those users are benefitting from a harmonised device experience between the Apple Mac and their iphone device. 

Of course Microsoft also offer their Windows Phone based devices, which also offer a similar integrated operating system and application set.  However, the application ecosystem for Windows Phone devices, doesn’t offer the same breadth of application support and availability that Apple and Android devices users have at their disposal.  Which for me is a detractor for opting to orientate around a complete Microsoft Windows device ecosystem.  Though in terms of UI design and strategy, I think both Apple, Google and Microsoft offer are continuing to recognise the need for distinct and yet harmonious and cohesive UI across all their device form factors.

As both device manufacturers and application developers, build services that accumulate pertinent personal data sets (photos & videos, music collections & playlists, quantitative data (location & travel, health & exercise metrics)), so increasing data transfer inertia or lock-in.  I think consumers will need to seriously consider which particular eco-system and device arrangement makes sense for them, as it look likes it will turn into a long term affair, and with not insignificant hurdles to overcome to move or transfer across manufacturers.

  • Do you share this view?
  • Have you already made a considered choice around a particular device set or eco-system? 
  • What were the determining factors for you?   

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Visual Magic with Word Lens

Google recently acquired Quest Visual – the developers of Word Lens – the incredible language manipulating app, that translated language in real-time while using input from the mobile device’s camera.

Word Lens

The app is currently available for free via Google Play.

To see how amazing it is – have a look at the video

It is currently available for Andriod, iOS and even Google Glass

For any traveller or language enthusiast this has a must have app.

And for Google  this plays very nicely into the Language and Translation service portfolio e.g. Google Translate

  • Have you used Word Lens?
  • What other mobile language tools would you recommend?


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When Google Replies– Voice Activated Search

Google has had voice enabled search services on multiple devices (mobile, desktop, laptop, tablet) for a while (see >> “search by text, voice, image”).

However, at the recent Google I/O (2013) they announced a “conversational” search experience which has been extended to the browser and desktop experience.

This means Google search responds to an audio search request with an audible answer.

Voice search starts with a click on the microphone icon in the search bar.


giving the “Speak now” prompt


and then the “Listening…” prompt


it captures into text the voice request spoken…


The search result returned show all the usual feature giving and provides an audible voiceover of the summary text from Wikipedia (where possible).

It also often says “Here is some information about [request]”.


Often the request is not picked up or understood correctly and the following appears:


Interestingly, the voice accent and gender are different for different Google domains.

e.g. ( – female voice with an American accent, – male voice with an English accent)

At the moment I find it a little flaky and error prone but I presume it will continue to improve as more people engage verbally with Google.

Have you started making use of this service?

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Sweet Suites of Integrated Mobile Forms

I had intended to post this a long time ago, closer to this generation of devices launches, but the opportunity passed.

However, I still thinking it is fascinating to watch the portfolio of devices these internet and manufacturing giants are assembling.  Much of the commentary and opinion has been developed much further elsewhere, however, even collecting images these device suites together on the same page and admiring the aesthetics is reason enough to post.

By announcing the arrival of the Nexus 4, and Nexus 10 to complement the existing Nexus 7Google have intimated that the application and content state within a mobile user experience across a related set of devices, is as a complete and integrated experience possible to date.  Of course this is not the 1st time it is has been brought together, but Google’s  Nexus | Android is certainly aesthetically and technologically appealing.


Apple with iOS offer that experience with their iphone, ipad mini and ipad too.  All synchronising via icloud.

Apart from the mass of OEM hardware manufacturing specialists bringing products to the market place, Amazon and Microsoft are the notable service companies making a inroads into the mobile device market.

Almost standing apart Samsung has that oft commented upon position of being a hardware partner with any of these key internet giants, as well as offering a portfolio of devices of its own.   Very much making the market work for it in more than one way.


Certainly I see the consumer having benefitted from the general evolution of touch based mobile devices, initially championed and established by Apple , and brought to extensive commoditisation and choice through the market entry of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.  Of course there are other players now making moves Ubuntu and Mozilla, as well as Blackberry still trying to retain a market position and relevance. 

If nothing else this post will represent a moment in technology evolution, capturing the phase of the commoditisation and proliferation of these touch based mobile devices.

Do you have a favourite device or vendor?

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The Cloud goes to the Enterprise (role reversal)

I don’t choose to write often about “Cloud Computing”, as there’s already plenty of more knowledgeable folks writing articles, giving opinions on this maturing technology delivery models particularly (IaaS), (PaaS)  and (Saas).

If at all I would offer comment or a view point, as a consumer or end user,  mainly in the areas of personal knowledge management or collaboration software services which I have a keen interest.

But I’ve noticed a marked change in the approach key Cloud providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) are taking to help major businesses (enterprises) embrace or on-board to their cloud services.  This is the rise of the Enterprise | Premium level service support area.  OK, this may not be new, but to me this now definitely more prominent and comprehensive part of the service portfolio on offer.

Whilst the traditional stance has been to expect the customer to self-service | self-support themselves to a greater or majority case. I think this trend towards to more comprehensive Enterprise (IT) Service Management is a recognition of the need by service providers to be much more responsive, not solely rely on technological automation and scale to deliver the level of quality and relationship expected.  Instead of the customer gearing up and extending their skill and ability to be able consume “cloud services” effectively and with less risk. The service providers are now reaching out with more services to reduce this risk and skills gaps from their customers to feel more confident about consuming these services.

Of course, there is also the business partner | service integrator middleman approach, which is very common and frequently the method used by a cloud pure play to add the “service management wrap around” for their “raw” service capability.  So the build of service management capability into the service provider is going to be an interesting playing field for incumbents and new arrivals to that market space. 

This is most noticeable cloud provider to go with Enterprise-scale service support is Amazon – Premium Support :


The fact that Architecture Support for Enterprise level is defined as:


Demonstrates the acknowledgement of the level of enterprise architecture and system integration required by Enterprise scale customers.

Of course the usage scale needs to be there:

  • Greater of $15,000

– or –

  • 10% of monthly AWS usage for the first $0-$150K
  • 7% of monthly AWS usage from $150K-$500K
  • 5% of monthly AWS usage from $500K-$1M
  • 3% of monthly AWS usage from $1M+


On 14th of June 2012 AWS announced:

We are excited to announce a number of improvements to AWS Support that we believe will deliver more value than ever to our customers. The changes include:

  • An expanded free Support tier
  • Lower prices on Premium tiers
  • Launch of the AWS Trusted Advisor Dashboard which provides customers self-service access to proactive alerts that identify opportunities to save money, improve system performance, or close security gaps
  • Launch of Chat for Business and Enterprise Customers
  • Expansion of Customer Service phone and email availability to anytime hours
  • Technical Support for Health Checks starting with Amazon EC2
  • Expansion of 3rd Party Software Support to include Support for Databases (MySQL, SQL Server), Disk Management tools (LVM, RAID), and VPN solutions (OpenVPN, RRAS) running on AWS
  • Increased Named Contacts from 3 to 5 for Business Customers

With Google, and  Microsoft these services are less obvious, but I’m sure they are there to a certain degree, perhaps not across all their cloud services.

Google encourages contact of their sales team for enterprise support:


and wish to collect some pertinent enterprise infrastructure details:


Details  on Microsoft  are harder to find, but stem from their WindowsAzure Support Page.  Also what is not surprising is the expectation for existing support contracts and agreements to play their part.


So, have you noticed this change too?  Or am I just playing catch up, on a set of services I’m not watching closely?

Do you think this is a significant shift in the market?

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Google Nexus – Delivering Beautiful Hardware and Software – Consumer beware!

Looking at the site, there no doubt Google want to | and do – deliver a “Wow!” factor around their consumer device portfolio : Nexus : – (phone|tablet|player)


This is going to go a long way to help Google establish a firmer foothold in the digital consumer market, beyond their stronghold of web services and grow the Android mobile platform into a core delivery platform | access gateway into many other Google products and services.

My impression is that this has the potential to bring them on par with the established market-share that Apple holds with it’s iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod, AppleTV) product set.


This will also be a warning shot to other digital consumer stalwarts such as Microsoft, Amazon and Sony.  Particularly as these are working to combine product with services.  There are a whole bunch of hardware and product manufacturers which will be also watching, but much of their activity is in becoming “manufacturer of choice” to these conglomerate mega-brands.

However, this is not an overnight takeover, for a start nowhere on is there any link to the Nexus mini-site.  However, it is highlighted on the Google Play mini-site:- in fact the Nexus 7 is available for pre-order now! (in the UK)


Google Play is the consumer storefront for its digital products and services (music, movies, books, magazines, apps (games)) – though not all services are globally available yet.

While Apple has iCloud , Amazon the Kindle store and Amazon Cloud Drive and Music player (again not generally available outside the US), Microsoft Xbox Live and Sony the Playstation network.



I think there will be a pang of regret and surprise (amongst these competitors : Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Sony) at how comprehensive a service | product suite that Google is establishing and how rapidly these parts have been assembled. Certainly looking at how these companies are evolving their web presences for the digital consumer, I think it is fairly clear that Google has a well thought strategy and presentation to the consumer market.   Amongst the others, it seem more “mixed message” at what it is they wish to be their primary delivery to the consumer (e.g. just products, already established services) – but not necessarily such a “front & centre” digital consumer experience.

What do you think? 

Is Google on to a winner with Google Play to become a digital consumer products and services hub?

Or do you think another provider has a better set of products and services?

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