Saturday, May 19, 2012

In giving the thumbs-up to Google's acquisition of Motorola, regulators in China stipulated that Google must make Android free and open for five years, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed with CNET today.
The stipulation would seem to be designed to keep Google from denying Motorola's handset competitors access to the mobile operating system, or from giving Motorola an advantage of some sort -- such as integration between its handsets and Android that's tighter than connections between rival phones and the OS.
From the beginning, Google has taken an open approach with Android, making it free and available to any hardware manufacturer -- a strategy that's helped to quickly make Android the No. 1 mobile OS globally.
"Many hardware partners have contributed to Android's success and we look forward to continuing our work with all of them on an equal basis to deliver outstanding user experiences," Google CEO Larry Page said during a conference call last August, at the time the intended acquisition was announced. "We built Android as an open-source platform and it will stay that way."

 Still, despite the offering of such olive branches, and despite Android's great success as an open OS, Motorola rivals may well have been nervous. "Any way (Google) tries to couch this, there's no doubt Motorola is the most favored player," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told CNET's Roger Cheng in August. "If I'm a third-party vendor, I have some real concerns here."
That's in part because it could have at least crossed Google's mind to integrate its software and services more tightly with the Motorola hardware, following Apple's end-to-end approach with its own hardware and services.
Apple uses the sale of its iPhones and iPads to drive sales of iTunes, the App store, iCloud, and other offerings. Google, of course, has its own services -- Google Drive, Google+, and so on -- and a Google-focused Android device could further push subscribers to them. Ultimately, it's these services that are the money-makers for Google. Fragmentation of Android is another concern, and a dominant, tightly integrated Android handset might help to address that.
What, then, would rival phone makers do? There aren't many alternatives to Android. Windows Phone might become a more attractive option, but then, Microsoft has a cozy relationship with Nokia, so it could be deja vu all over again. Here's what CNET's Maggie Reardon had to say back in August, in a discussion of the merger's possible impact on consumers:

Friday, May 18, 2012

The “socialification” of Google products continues with some very cool tweaks announced by the Gmail team. The product has improved its contact search and will now surface more information about them, such as previous email conversations as well as a photo and their Google+ profile link.
Here’s what the team had to say about it today:
When you search for an email address, the search results will now show you contact details in addition to that person’s profile photo and the emails sent from and to them. From here, you can start a chat, call their phone and more. Plus, if your contacts have a Google+ profile, this information will stay up to date automatically.
You can get to these same results in a variety of ways including the people widget, contacts and the chat list search menu.
contactdetails 520x84 Gmail now surfaces more information about contacts and circles when you search for them

By surfacing this type of information and contact choices, you can now set off any number of actions when you’re looking for the person that you’d like to have a conversation with. You can of course email them, call them, or chat over text and video.

In addition to adding contact details to search results, we’ve made some improvements to the circles integration announced in December. When you select a circle, you’ll now see profile photos of people in that circle at the top right of the page. Plus, when you click on these images you’ll be taken directly to search results with contact details.

circles 520x74 Gmail now surfaces more information about contacts and circles when you search for them
Circles are also now supported in search and filters. Find messages from a specific circle by typing circle:[circle name] in the search box. You can also find mail from any of your circled contacts by searching with has:circle. You can refine your search even further with other criteria and create filters based on circles. This means you can now view all the unread emails from your ‘Friends’ circle or automatically star every message that comes from your ‘VIP’ circle.

circlesearch Gmail now surfaces more information about contacts and circles when you search for them
This makes Circles not only a “Google+ thing”, but a product-wide tool to interact with groups of people. All of these changes make absolute sense when you think about how often you use Google’s email product. For most of us, we have Gmail up in a tab throughout the entire day, making it a perfect hub for socializing.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

It might not be a feature that everyone uses day to day, but it’s a welcome one nonetheless: Google has added a native translate feature to Gmail that will translate any emails you receive into English. It’s not a new feature, first making an appearance in the Gmail labs back in 2009, but now it’s passed rigorous testing and been unleashed so that everyone can enjoy it.

It’ll come in handy for those doing business in a foreign language, or maybe those with penpals flung across the far reaches of the globe. Google detailed the feature on its blog back in 2009, saying: “If all parties are using Gmail, you can have entire conversations in multiple languages with each participant reading the messages in whatever language is most comfortable for them.”
If you’re not super psyched about the new feature, or are a cunning linguist, that you can disable it when it starts rolling out automatically to users over the next few days. Gmail says that the translate feature however was one of the most popular in the Labs, so it makes sense that they would roll it out on a wider scale.