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Google I/O News
Saturday, 2012 July 7 - 1:49 pm
You know, I have mixed feelings about Google. On the one hand, they've proven to be an innovative company that puts out lots of great ideas and products. On the other hand, they put out Android with the grandiose notion that there should be an "open" mobile operating system (but in the end, it turns out they were really just out to make money like any other company, and the way they got there was by pulling a Microsoft and slavishly copying Apple's iPhone feature-for-feature). And then there's the fact that we, the public, are not Google's customers... we are the product, with reams of our personal data being sold off to web advertisers for the purposes of extracting money from our pockets.

With that rant aside, let's talk about some of Google's new announcements. The big blockbusters: Google Glass, and Google Now.

Google Glass

There's been a lot of hype and excitement about Google's new head-mounted display. I haven't quite bought into it yet. I like the concept because this is a real innovation, a new product category that doesn't really exist yet. But I'm skeptical about the execution. The key is in the execution, and there are a lot of questions to be answered. Will the display really be a high-resolution heads-up augmented-reality thing, or will it look like a barely-readable postage stamp hovering six inches away from your face? Will a head-mounted always-on device provide all-day battery life? How will this work for people like me who already wear glasses? And most importantly, will it make me look like a giant d-bag if I wear it?

Google is being pretty secretive about how this thing will actually work. So right now, for me this is still a bag of vaporware. It's certainly possible that Google will be able to come out with something extraordinary in a year or two. But why put out an ambitious concept video now? If you can't match the features in that video, the product seem like a disappointment. Weird.

Google Now

This was an interesting announcement, and much more concrete than the Google Glass news. Google Now is a sort of intelligent assistant; the idea is that your Android phone will provide you with information it thinks you need, without you having to press any buttons. For example, if you're getting ready to leave for work, it'll present you with traffic information on your route. If you've entered in a favorite sports team, it'll pop up with score updates. It's like push notifications, but smarter, in that the system automatically attempts to determine what will be most useful to you at any given moment, rather than you having to manually enable and sort through a pile of different notifications from different apps.

I'm wondering what sort of patents Google took out on this, because this is certainly a feature that Apple may want to match.

Google Docs Off-Line Editing

Google Docs gained a lot of usefulness with the ability to edit documents off-line. I'm always in favor of Microsoft Word competitors, but Word is so entrenched in the corporate world, it'll take a lot more than this to replace it.

Discontinued Products

On the down side, Google has recently announced that some web-based products will be dropped. There's one that affects me in particular: the discontinuation of iGoogle, the landing page/aggregator that I used as my home page. I'm sure Google has a good reason for dropping this product (namely, it doesn't make any money for them and it consumes a lot of server-side resources; also, if you use Google Chrome you can install apps that may provide similar functions), but argh. A web-based landing page was, along with Google Reader, my main way of making sure I could see the same news and information no matter where I was.

Fortunately I've found an adequate replacement: ProtoPage. In some ways it's even nicer than iGoogle, though there's some work involved to replace Google's built-in gadgets with third-party web widgets.

Google is also discontinuing Google Video, which they developed before purchasing YouTube. Don't worry, you won't miss it.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch


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