LIVE From Google I/O, Day 2: Google Compute Engine Takes On Amazon Web Services

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior VP of Chrome and Apps, at Google I/O June 28

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It’s all about the Web here on Day 2 of Google’s annual I/O developer conference–Google’s Web. In contrast to yesterday’s focus on the search giant’s Android mobile operating software, today will focus on the power of the Web, in particular Google’s Chrome operating software for cloud computing.

There’s another keynote whose highlights I will liveblog below, though it’s hard to see how Google will outdo yesterday’s skydiving demo of Google Glass wearable computers. No doubt Google has reserved a surprise or two, though.

Update: The big announcement is Google Compute Engine, a rival to Amazon Web Services, which powers many websites. It’s promising it will offer 50% more compute power for the price. Also, Google Docs now will work offline when you don’t have an Internet connection, solving a big obstacle. Offline presentations and spreadsheets to follow later. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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Why Google’s New Tablet Could Be The iPad’s First Real Competition

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Google is just a couple of days away from debuting a new tablet that could finally shake up a market utterly dominated so far by Apple’s iPad.

Reports from Gizmodo and others say Google is likely to introduce the diminutive 7-inch tablet at its Google I/O developers conference (whose Wednesday keynote I will be covering live here). The kicker, according to the reports: The tablet, built by Asus, will start at $199 for an 8 GB of memory, up to $249 for a 16 GB version.

Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire already plowed this pricing ground, of course, so such a tablet wouldn’t be entirely new. But while the Fire has been reasonably successful for Amazon, it hasn’t made much of an apparent dent in the iPad because of its limitations, including a somewhat app platform controlled by Amazon itself. And the Fire doesn’t run a standard version of Android, making it tougher yet for developers to do apps for it.

Let’s not forget Microsoft’s coming Surface tablet, either. But the reported pricing on that device, introduced last week, sounds quite close to the iPad’s. So unless it’s significantly better, which seems doubtful, it seems unlikely to mount a serious challenge.

But Google’s tablet, assuming as Chairman Eric Schmidt has promised (and this is a very big assumption) that it performs well, could for the first time challenge the iPad. And it would come at a time when tablets are the focus of everyone in tech from chipmakers and hardware manufacturers to app developers to marketers and publishers hoping to capitalize on a new mobile Internet device that could give them the creative canvas to rival (or exceed) the appeal of television and magazines. Here’s why Google might have a hit this time:

* It’s cheap. Now, merely being cheap won’t guarantee people will buy it in sufficient numbers to matter. But at $199, it doesn’t have to be every bit as good as the iPad. As Clayton Christensen has noted in cases dating all the way back to the transistor radio in the 1950s, a rival can most successfully challenge an established incumbent not by matching it feature-by-feature, but by offering something good enough for most people for a lot less money.

* The rock-bottom price will attract more app developers. If it’s decent enough to sell a lot thanks to the low price, that suddenly makes Android a more attractive platform for app developers. One of several reasons the iPad is the most popular app platform is that Apple controls the operating system version so developers don’t need to rewrite an app for each device running different versions. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

LIVE Inside Google Search Event: Search by Image and Voice, and Faster Too

Google will shortly provide an “under the hood look at Google Search” for a group of reporters and bloggers in San Francisco. According to the invitation, Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who for a decade has headed the core search ranking team, and others will “share our vision and demo some of our newest technology and features.”

It’s uncertain what Google will talk about, but events like this often are a forum for introducing new features. The last time Google did a similar event, the company introduced Google Instant, which shows search results as you type–a very significant change in its iconic search engine. Given how much competition Google’s facing not only in search but from social services from Facebook to Quora, it seems likely the search giant will have some notable new features or services to talk about. I’ll be liveblogging the highlights (as will many others). You can also watch it here. And you can submit questions to insidesearch 2011@google.com.

UPDATE: Google announces three key new features:

1) Voice search on desktops and notebooks, not just mobile.

2) Search by image, not just words.

3) Instant Pages, which eliminates load times when clicking on pages in top search results.

Bottom line for us: Easier and faster search no matter where you are.

Bottom line for Google and its competitors: It has no intention of getting one-upped on mobile devices.

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Polishing Chrome at Google I/O: Angry Birds, Cheap Payments & $20 Chromebooks

After hearing yesterday how Android is becoming a leading force in mobile devices, today at Google’s annual I/O developer conference, we’re expecting to hear how Google hopes to repeat its success in a more established realm: the Web. Google hopes to turn the Web into a mainstream platform for applications, and it’s betting heavily on several technologies to lead that transformation.

Chief among them is Chrome OS, Google’s bid to one-up Microsoft’s Windows as the prime platform for writing applications. But Google has been slow to roll out everything developers need to do this, so today’s the day most people expect to hear whether Google can put some flesh on Chrome OS bones. I’ll be liveblogging the keynote, which you can also watch here. And here’s the info page on all things Chrome announced today. Again, geek alert: A bit of this is pretty arcane for us average users, but most is pretty straightforward.

Vic Gundotra, VP of engineering, comes onstage to announce more I/O schwag: a Verizon SIM card for several months of free online access on the Samsung tablet Google also gave out to the conference’s 5,000 attendees yesterday. Continue reading

Live at Google I/O: Music, Movies and More

It’s anybody’s everybody’s guess what Google’s got up its sleeve for its annual I/O developer conference that starts this morning in San Francisco–and it’s even less certain whether what it does announce will change the world or flop. Last year, it debuted Google TV, which has met with yawns from consumers, though it’s too early to write it off yet. The year before, in introduced Wave, a collaboration service that Google shut down last year.

This year, the search giant will announce plans for an online music service, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s also likely to go into detail on “Ice Cream,” the next version of its Android operating system for mobile devices that’s supposed to merge the smartphone and tablet versions that exist today. Rumor has it that Google and Samsung will announce a netbook powered by Google’s Chrome OS. There also may be a bit of an update on Google TV.

Whatever Google announces, I’ll be liveblogging the morning keynote and any other significant events here, starting in about 15 minutes. You can also view the keynotes and major sessions at Google’s I/O Live site. And see whether anything to be announced here will knock Andreessen’s Revenge off the top of Techmeme. Warning: This will be on the geeky side, given the audience of software developers.

And we’re underway. Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra comes on, introduced like a rock star (which he is in this crowd). First he launches into the usual recap of accomplishments from past I/O events. “Who could forget last year?” he says, to some laughs (though he’s talking about Android, not Google TV).

Now it’s Hugo Barra, director of Android product development, talking about “Momentum, Mobile, and More.”

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What’s Coming on the Internet in 2011 (Or Not)

I know I shouldn’t do it–predictions too often are either obvious or wrong–but I can’t help it. If I have to think about what’s coming in 2011, and I do, I might as well inflict those thoughts on the rest of the world. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Anyway, here’s what I expect to see this year:

* There will be at least one monster initial public offering in tech. Take your pick (in more or less descending order of likelihood): SkypeGroupon, ZyngaDemand MediaLinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook (only if it has to). But despite many stories that will call this event a bellwether,  the IPO won’t bring back anything like the bubble days of the late 1990s (and thank goodness for that) because there are still only a few marquee names that can net multibillion-dollar valuations. UPDATE: Well, so much for that descending order. LinkedIn apparently will be the first to file–though whether it will be a “monster” IPO is another question. UPDATE 2: Well, here’s that monster IPO–since it’s hard to believe Facebook won’t go public if it has to disclose financials anyway. But it likely won’t happen until early 2012. Update 3: Now Groupon appears to be leading the IPO derby. Update 4, 1/20/11: Now it looks like Demand Media will be the first out. Again, not sure that’s the monster one, but if it’s successful, more will come.

* App fever will cool. Good apps that encapsulate a useful task or bit of entertainment–Angry Birds, AroundMe, Google Voice–will continue to do well. But those apps that do little more than apply a pretty layer atop Web content won’t get much traction–and moneymaking opportunities are uncertain in any case. The bigger issue: Once HTML5 becomes the widespread standard for creating Web services, enabling much more interactive Web services right from the browser, I wonder whether the need for separate apps will gradually fade. Continue reading

What Happened in 2010–and Didn’t

Somehow I persuaded myself a year ago to offer up predictions for what would happen in 2010–and what wouldn’t happen. Now it’s time to take my medicine and see how I fared.

What I said would happen:

* Merger mania will accelerate in technology, especially acquisitions of smaller firms. OK, so it was a bit of a gimme, but I got that right. Google alone bought more than two dozen.

* Branding will start to become more apparent in Internet advertising, with Google leading the way in display. I guess it became somewhat more prominent a push, but I’d say I was a year too early on this.

* Google’s software efforts will finally establish it as more than a search company, making it apparent what this pony’s second trick is. Android certainly established itself, the Chrome browser made significant gains, and Google Apps got some big new customers. Chrome OS was late, though delivered through an alpha laptop, and remains unproven, and so does Google TV. Overall, it’s an impressive showing, if not enough to identify software as its next trick.

* Yahoo will surprise on the upside, thanks in part to a pickup in brand spending. Wrong! Well, the latter happened, but not enough to buoy a sinking Yahoo. It laid off 4% of its staff and jettisoned once-promising operations. Well, there’s always 2011–and maybe that’s all there will be if CEO Carol Bartz can’t demonstrate that she can finally turn things around.

* Mobile applications will start to take off for the masses. Two words: Angry Birds.

* Twitter’s main business model will become more apparent, but won’t knock everyone’s socks off. That’s just about right.

* Facebook will keep growing, providing perhaps the first test of whether social media is a blockbuster business after all. No doubt about that, even if it’s not yet certain how profitable the company will be.

What I said wouldn’t happen:

* Tablets won’t be the next big thing in client computing. As popular as Apple’s iPad was, tablets didn’t take the world by storm in 2010. But I don’t doubt they’ll be much bigger in 2011.

* There won’t be as many tech IPOs as venture capitalists and startups are hoping. And no, there weren’t, even if 45 did go public, up from 16 in 2009. And none of them were the big names such as Twitter or Facebook that some had hoped for.

* Real-time won’t be a business. When’s the last time you heard that buzzword? Maybe when real-time search engine OneRiot did a layoff?

* Online advertisers won’t escape a privacy backlash. And they sure didn’t. More trouble is coming in 2011, too.

* Google won’t get hit with a major antitrust lawsuit that so many have been predicting for years. True, and it doesn’t look any more likely today.

So actually, I did pretty well, even if you could argue that some of those weren’t exactly stretches. Next up, predictions for 2011, and another opportunity to look like an idiot.

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