An oral history of the many ways technology is changing the way we buy, sell, play, communicate...and live.

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Google’s vision of the future involves overlaying the real world seen through its specs with information from its search engine and other services. Facebook’s is of people totally immersing themselves in virtual worlds where they will be able do everything from taking virtual classes together to communicating with distant friends as if they were standing in the same room. The two firms may not see exactly eye-to-eye on how this will all play out, but neither can be accused of being shortsighted.

Facebook buys Oculus VR: Game of goggles | The Economist

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During the ‘apps versus HTML’ argument of a year to two ago, someone said that the issue is not what coding language you use but how you get an icon onto the user’s home screen and whether indeed they want your icon on their home screen. The conversation more or less crystallised around the position that apps are for the head of the tail and the web is for the rest. But Android Wear is not the web or an app. Neither is Google Now, and neither is the Healthbook I just described.

Now, suppose you hesitate outside a restaurant and look at your phone, and iBeacon has already activated a Yelp review card on your phone or watch, or Google Now has put a scraped review up, or Facebook tells you 10 of your friends liked it? Is that the web? Or apps? How do you do SEO for that? What’s the acquisition channel? Some of that might be HTML, but you’ll never see a URL.

It seems to me that the key question this year is that now that the platform war is over, and Apple and Google won, what happens on top of those platforms? How do Apple and Google but also a bunch of other companies drive interaction models forward? I’ve said quite often that on mobile the internet is in a pre-Pagerank phase, lacking the ‘one good’ discovery mechanism that the desktop web had, but it’s also in a pre-Netscape phase, lacking one interaction model in the way that the web dominated the desktop internet for the last 20 years. Of course that doesn’t mean there’ll be one, but right now everything is wide open.

This thought, incidentally, is one of the things that prompted this tweet.

Cards, code and wearables — Benedict Evans

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The Android device will target emerging markets and won’t promote some of the key features typically seen on Google’s Android platform, including the Google Play app store, the report said. Instead, think of this as an Android version of Nokia’s low-cost Asha brand.

Report: Nokia to Launch Android-Based Smartphone in February

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This isn’t a surprise. Mr. Page and Google are known for bold moves and crazy ideas that tend to not seem so crazy after some time. A few years ago, I thought Google’s self-driving cars were ridiculous. I now believe Google will become a big player in the auto industry, which is already trying to catch up and replicate what Google has built.

But it is worth reflecting on the type of game Mr. Page is playing. He isn’t constrained by how the company is structured or traditional cycles of product development. One of the reasons the DeepMind team was keen to sell is they were looking for a partners to fund their research until it was ready, without having to rush out a product, according to three people who know the team well. Google, which undoubtedly funds more research than many research institutions, was the perfect fit.

(Source: theinformation.com)

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But nor is it necessarily a good thing for Google be be seen as invulnerable. There might be no “Google death knell counter”. There might not be a “Google is doomed” trope. If an executive from Google quits or is fired there is no investor panic. If a product is withdrawn there is no mourning. There are no journalists pursuing Pulitzer prizes by describing some seamy underside of Google. But there are no overt displays of affection either. Google is seen, on balance, as benevolent and hopeful. The discussion on business robustness is simply missing.

I suspect the absence of scrutiny comes from Google being seen as an analogy of the Internet itself. We don’t question the survival of the Internet so we don’t question the survival of Google — its backbone, its index, and its pervasive ads which, somehow, keep the lights on. We believe Google is infrastructure. We don’t dwell on whether electric grids are vulnerable, or supplies of fuel, or the weather(!)

Too complex, too pervasive. These are systems, not things. And people are not designed to contemplate systems. We leave that to experts, or better yet, computers.

www.asymco.com

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On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Google CFO Patrick Pichette urged analysts to look at Google’s business more holistically. “Rather than to speak about mobile and only mobile, it’s really about living with the user,” said Pichette. “And once you think through living with the user, supporting our users across all their day, whether it would be on a TV, whether it would be on a mobile phone, whether it would be on the desktop, whether it would be with Google Glass wearables, that’s really the aim that we’re actually shooting for.”

Google Is Making Itself a Lot Leaner and Meaner | TIME.com

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There was a point in time where talking about share of smartphone sales was a meaningful and important metric. That time has passed. It’s rather like talking about Toyota’s share of sales of Japanese cars in the USA: it tells you something, and was very useful in the past, but not any more.

There are lots of issues and questions about Apple’s future, and lots of different things going on in those charts, including a clear decline in the growth of sales. But ‘smartphone share’ is not a helpful way to think about those questions.

Smartphone market share is not a metric — Benedict Evans

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Android continues to be the most popular mobile platform, with its share of smartphone sales climbing in every major market in Q4 2013, now accounting for 69.5% of all sales across 12 key markets versus 23.7% for number-two Apple, according to figures out today from Kantar Worldpanel, a market research subsidiary of WPP. But the story is shifting when it comes to looking at what the engine is behind that growth.

Samsung, the handset maker that has led the charge for Google’s OS, is “now coming under real pressure in most regions” as it faces stronger competition from local players in markets like China. There, Xiaomi led in sales for the last 12 weeks of 2013, and other Chinese handset makers like Huawei also continued to gain ground. It’s still Android, but delivered in different, more locally focused packaging.

Kantar: Android Accounted 70% Of Smartphone Sales In Q4, But Samsung Is Now “Under Real Pressure” | TechCrunch

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(via Inside Google X’s Smart Contact Lens | Re/code)

(via Inside Google X’s Smart Contact Lens | Re/code)

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Google now has a division with a remarkable consumer hardware track record. Nest and Fadell now have the financial resources to work faster. Money doesn’t solve scaling problems, but the actual solutions to scaling problems always cost money. Google’s Nest acquisition has very little to do with selling thermostats and smoke detectors in particular. Instead, it’s about Google having the ability to do consumer hardware right, in general.

Daring Fireball: On Google’s Acquisition of Nest

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So where will this take us 5, 10, 20 years from now? Open content is inevitable. Some cultural institutions will jump aboard, and some will stay behind. For the coming generations, even more so than today, art that is not available online might just as well not exist. It is the responsibility of the art world and the tech world to make sure our cultural heritage gets onboard the “Noah’s Ark” of open content. Otherwise, we will live in a world with lots of closed, siloed creative potential — but without access to our shared, collective, creative past. And that will be a world with a less creative future.

The Getty and Google Unleash Free Art — And Your Creative Potential | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

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Dell’s Wednesday debut of a Chromebook, an inexpensive laptop that runs Google’s browser-based Chrome OS, is a sign that the platform has gone mainstream, an analyst argued today.

Another called it one more clue that long-standing technology oligarchies are crumbling. Both saw it as yet another threat, even if currently a small one, to Microsoft.

"This means that Chromebooks have gone mainstream. If Dell jumps on board, it means they think they’re losing business to rivals," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

He also cited Dell’s traditional conservative approach to product introductions as a signal of Chromebooks’ growing importance. “Dell sells only those things that people are going to buy, they’re not into taking risks,” said Moorhead.

Dell’s Chromebook is a sign of shakier times for Windows - Computerworld

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Hastings expects even bigger things from the little gizmo. He wanted to work with Google because he sees an opportunity to create a new category: a low-cost device that turns a regular TV into a smart TV coupled with “this radical, beautiful proposition that there is no remote control.”

Google Chromecast Biggest Fan Is Netflix CEO Reed Hastings | Variety

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Beyond its ongoing rivalry with Google, Microsoft’s effort may reflect pockets of popularity for Chromebooks at some schools and companies. Businesses are Microsoft’s strength and its biggest source of profits. Educational-testing company Kaplan has said it uses Chromebooks for its call centers, and healthcare chain Mollen said it put Chromebooks in more than 4,000 clinics.

The anti-Chromebook effort spotlights how Microsoft is grappling with competition in areas where for years it held a virtual monopoly.

Some corporate-technology officials and analysts say Chromebooks are catching on for some road-warrior workers, retail-sales employees and other business users that can make do with limited computing features.

“Windows PCs aren’t going anywhere,” said Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder. “But for some use cases at some companies, Chromebooks fill a legitimate niche.”

Google’s Chromebooks Winning Over Some Businesses - Digits - WSJ

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The Surface Pro 2 is getting great reviews … but there’s no one lining up to buy them. The battle is not between Microsoft and Apple. The battle is between Google and Apple and, specifically, between Android devices and iOS devices. Microsoft hopes, wishes and prays to be included in the conversation, but it’s not there. Microsoft is trying to create a market for tablet computing as opposed to tapping the market of tablet users – it may sound like a semantic argument, I assure you it is not.

A Tablet For The Holidays? Maybe - Shelly Palmer - Shelly Palmer - MediaBizBloggers - Jack Myers

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