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No, Google Shouldn’t Open Retail Stores

"Google is half-pregnant in the gadget business."

Interesting take, and I half-agree with this article.  Yes, Google is unlikely to see success without a place to showcase their products, but Google’s business model is not set up to support physical retail stores.  Maybe through an outside partner, this would work, but launching a Google store is a big step that requires a lot of resources to support.

Check out Business Insider’s article below.  What do you think of this idea?

Nexus 4

T Mobile

The new Nexus. It looks beautiful! You’ll never buy one.

Google rolled out a slate of new “Nexus” tablets and smartphones today.

At least at a glance, the gadgets look highly competitive with—if not better than—Apple’s recent slate of new gadgets. Google’s new gadgets also seem to be considerably cheaper. And have some features Apple’s don’t have.

So the launch of this new slate of Google gadgets will probably trigger an ephemeral orgasm of praise in certain corners of the tech press…

And then they’ll be completely forgotten.


Because, in the case of the tablets, no one knows where or how to try them and buy them.

And because, in the case of the phones, Google is still working with only one small carrier (T-Mobile) and otherwise hallucinating that it will be able to persuade people to pony up for an “unlocked” phone they haven’t tried and buy it without a carrier subsidy—something that only a tiny segment of the phone market would even think of doing.

For most people, trying a tablet is an important part of buying a tablet. You don’t want to drop $200-$800 on something unless you’re confident you like it. And some of the folks in the tablet business—namely Apple and Microsoft, but especially Apple—now have physical stores in which you can try and then buy their tablets. But Google doesn’t.*

Yes, Google sells its tablets through Office Depot and other quasi-irrelevant physical electronics dealers.  But so does everyone else. And the salespeople at Office Depot have a lot of tablets they can comfortably recommend before they ever get to a Google tablet.

The way most people buy phones, meanwhile, is by going to their wireless carrier’s stores (or a wireless carrier’s stores), trying a few phones, and then buying one for $199 or less with a two-year contract. The only carrier that Google is doing that with is T-Mobile. Otherwise, Google wants you to buy the phone from Google.com for ~$300 and then go get a contract with a carrier somewhere. Very, very few potential buyers will do that.

(Yes, ~$300 is a great deal for an unlocked high-end phone—much cheaper than the ~$600 unlocked iPhone. But the point is that most people would rather have a subsidized $200 phone with a contract than a ~$300 phone without a contract. These folks are going to have to pay some carrier a bill every month regardless, so what difference does it make if they’re locked in for a little while?)

In other words, right now, Google is half-pregnant in the gadget business.

Google is building great gadgets, but it has no real distribution system through which to sell them.

So a reasonable question for Google is:

"What are you really doing here?"

Is Google just fooling around?

Or is Google going to suck it up, put its carrier-disruption dreams on hold**, and pay the real price of admission to today’s smartphone and tablet manufacturing business—building out a major distribution system?

* Yes, as many of you will rightly point out, there is another gadget seller in the marketplace that doesn’t have physical stores or carrier distribution—Amazon. But Amazon has a few things that Google doesn’t have: 1) The world’s biggest online store, and 2) 100s of millions of customers who have been buying media and gadgets from Amazon for years. Those are both huge advantages. But Apple’s physical stores have become such a competitive weapon that even Amazon has got to wonder from time to time whether it should be building out some stores.

** Sometime soon, perhaps next year, someone will take the next step in the smartphone-carrier-disruption dream, which will be to buy up a huge block of wholesale data and resell it to consumers who buy unlocked smartphones, thus alleviating the need for any sort of “voice” contract. (Folks can just use Skype or Google Voice or something). Amazon is in a great position to do this, as is Google. But no one’s taken the plunge yet.

How Google Could Lose Its Grip on Mobile Search (via Mashable)

If you think Google has a commanding lead in the traditional search advertising market, you should check out how the company’s doing in mobile search.

Last year, 91% of the global market for mobile search went to Google, according to IDC. What’s more, while search is 47% of the desktop ad market, it comprises 70% of the mobile ad market. “What’s interesting is that number has gone up, not down,” says Karsten Weide, program VP, media and entertainment for IDC. “We thought it would normalize, but that’s not what’s happened.”

While Weide expects search to approach desktop levels within a few years, for the foreseeable future, mobile advertising will primarily be about search — and search will be controlled by Google.

Why? Odds are your smartphone comes with Google as its default search engine. In the third quarter, Google’s Android and Apple‘s iOS comprised 85% of the smartphone market, according to IDC. Both use Google.

SEE ALSO: Peek Inside Google’s Vast Data Centers

True, you can swap out Google for another search engine, but Weide estimates that three-quarters of users don’t do that. Moreover, “Google is the Kleenex of search,” he says. No matter how good the competition is, consumers will continue to believe that Google is the gold standard.

But while Google has a lock on search at the moment, there are a few (unlikely) scenarios in which Google could lose its substantial lead. Such an occurrence is hardly unthinkable in tech — remember when Yahoo dominated search and Apple looked hopeless compared to Microsoft?

1. Microsoft Makes Serious Inroads

Microsoft is looking to its Windows 8 phones not only to crack the mobile market but to give its Bing search engine a greater share of mobile search, as well. In 2011, Bing‘s share was just 2% of the mobile search market, even though the company claimed 10.8% of the desktop search market in 2011, according to eMarketer.

However, Microsoft has some reason to hope. For one, its Windows 8 phones have been well-reviewed and boast differentiating features, including a customizable interface that may earn more of a market niche. Second, Weide says mobile carriers are frustrated by Apple and Google’s hold on the smartphone market and are eager to help a new entrant along as a power check.

For those reasons, Weide predicts Bing will have a bigger share of the mobile search market by next summer.

“Bigger” is a relative term, though. If Windows 8 phones break into the high single digits or even the low double digits by next summer, it will be considered a huge hit. But “we’re talking about a small market share,” says Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics. “Who cares?”

Entner says the only way that Bing could be a real counterbalance in mobile search is if Microsoft agrees to load Bing as the default search engine for iPhones, an unlikely event.

Stefan Weitz, the senior director at Bing, says it’s up to Apple and customers to decide whether Bing should be the default on the iPhone.

2. Apple Develops Its Own Search Engine

Another possibility is that Apple kicks Google off the iPhone. This is a more plausible scenario, considering the company’s recent moves. Two Google apps — YouTube and Maps — are no longer standard on the iPhone. If Apple developed its own search engine, it would instantly capture 17% of the market. (Android had 68% market share of the global market in the third quarter, according to IDC.)

Speculation about an Apple search engine rose after the company hired William Stasior, an Amazon executive, to take over Siri in October. Stasior had previously worked on Amazon’s A9 search engine.

While Apple is doubtlessly eager to boot Google off its mobile OS, though, the case against doing so can be summed up in one word: Maps. Apple suffered serious PR damage in September when it replaced Google Maps with its own, vastly inferior Maps app. One can only imagine the outcry if Apple swapped out Google for a mediocre or poor search engine. All the more reason to hold its nose and make a deal with Microsoft.

3. Android Hardware Makers Swap Out Google

Imagine if Google’s hardware partners decided to offer another search engine instead of Google. Sound unlikely? Well, it already happened. Back in September, review units of Amazon‘s new Kindle Fires sported Bing as the device’s default search engine. Though users could switch in Google (or Yahoo) if they wanted, as Weide notes, that’s fairly unlikely.

Weide says Samsung could use its considerable market heft to make a similar move. Doing so would likely strain relations with Google. Officially, Google does not bar any of its partners from using whichever search engine they like, but since it is providing the OS for free, doing so would cut off a revenue source — advertising — for the company. “That’s the whole point of Android,” Entner says.

4. Yahoo Makes a Big Comeback

The biggest longshot of all is that Yahoo somehow returns to its glory days and begins making serious inroads into mobile search. Right now, the company has about 2% of the market, but has no mobile OS of its own and hence no leverage to convince hardware makers to offer it.

Not all is lost, though. Weide believes that if Yahoo were to offer a truly superior mobile search app, consumers would seek it out. The trouble is, it doesn’t at the moment. “A lot of consumers would go the extra mile if Yahoo had a good product,” he says, “but it’s not out there.”

Whether new CEO Marissa Mayer will be able to resurrect Yahoo is, of course, a $60 million question. So far, Mayer hasn’t articulated a mobile strategy for the company. Yahoo declined to be interviewed for this article.

5. Voice-Controlled Search Reshuffles the Market

Of course, nothing remains static for long in the tech industry. While “mobile search” conjures images of consumers tapping on their smartphones, many are talking to them instead. If the technology improves, that may become the norm. At the moment, Weide believes Siri is not ready for prime time. “Right now, Siri is a gimmick because it doesn’t work that well,” he says. “Over time, it might have an impact.”

Google’s voice search is similarly klugy, though the technology keeps improving. However, there’s always the distant possibility that a new entrant will come out of nowhere and take a significant share of the market.

How does advertising fit into this picture, though? Imagine talking to your phone only to hear a 10-second ad before getting your search result. “Stay tuned for spoken commercials in search results,” Weide says. “They have to make money somehow.”

6. Mobile Search Undergoes a Radical Reinvention

Perhaps the most likely scenario in which Google loses control of mobile search? If the notion of “mobile search” is radically redefined. Microsoft’s Weitz predicts that by 2015, 40% of searches will come from within apps. Already, he says, consumers are executing searches via Open Table and Flipboard, rather than through traditional search engines.

In such a future, it will be tough for anyone — Google included — to make money. “One of the key challenges is it’s really hard to monetize,” Weitz says, referring to app-based searches.

The waters get further muddied if you view search the way Weitz does: as a chain of events rather than a “single query and get out” action. Imagine, for instance, sitting on your couch and viewing a cooking show on TV. “You could point [a device] at the TV and say ‘Bookmark that recipe,’” Weitz says. Since your phone understands what you’re looking at, it could then procure the ingredients and have them delivered to your house. “You’re going from intent to task completion,” Weitz says.

Such a vision blurs the line between advertising, retail and even mobile. After all, what’s so “mobile” about sitting on your couch? But it’s a future that no one — not even Google — has any claims on.

6 Big Myths About SEO (via INC)

In the world of online marketing, misinformation abounds—and it gets compounded exponentially by an incredibly dynamic and rapidly evolving world. Most of the things you think you know (but don’t) about search-engine optimization, or SEO, may have been true a few years ago but have changed; one of the following was always a myth.

Here are some of the myths you need to move beyond to get smarter about SEO.

Myth 1: Metatag Descriptions Help Your Rankings

Not anymore; in fact, metatags are no longer even indexed by Google and Bing. But don’t ignore them altogether: Your metatags form the text that is displayed along with your link in the search results—and a more compelling description will compel more users to click on your listing instead of on others.

Here’s example of ours; the metatag is everything below the URL.

Myth 2: The More Inbound Links, the Better

False. In all the recent updates to Google’s algorithm, the search giant has made it a core priority to have quality trump quantity. Gone are the days of having thousands of superlow-quality links driving up rankings; in fact, creating those links can look spammy and get your site penalized.

Focus on obtaining links from sites that are relevant to your products, services, or industry—and on having those links be surrounded by relevant text. A blog review about your “blue widget” that links to your site is far more valuable than a rogue link for “blue widget” stuck in the footer or sidebar of some site—even a highly ranked one.

Myth 3: PageRank Still Matters

Google’s infamous PageRank (named after Google co-founder and now-CEO Larry Page, mind you) is a 1-to-10 ranking of the overall authority of every website; the bigger the number, the higher the rank. In years past, this seemingly all-powerful number dominated the attention of SEO experts.

But today, Google’s algorithm has evolved well beyond any single indicator. The PageRank still exists, and if all things are equal, a higher PageRank trumps a lower one—but factors such as relevance and context matter, too.

As with inbound links: If you run a dental practice in Los Angeles, it’s better to have a link from a site that reviews doctors and dentists in L.A., even if it has a PageRank of 4, than to have a paid link with no context in a huge site with a higher PageRank of 7. 

Myth 4: Google Prefers Keyword-Rich Domains

In years past, Google seemed to put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on keywords in the domain name (what you may think of as the URL). For example, vinylhousesiding.com would almost certainly be ranked first in a search for vinyl house siding.

Not anymore, says Google. If vinylhousesiding.com is in fact the more relevant, authoritative site on the topic, it will probably still rank first—but not because of its domain name alone.

Myth 5: Websites Must Be ‘Submitted’ to Search Engines

In 2001, yes, this was the case—indeed, this was the first service that my company, Wpromote, ever provided. But in 2012? Not at all. At this point, if there is any connection from any site to yours, your site will be quickly discovered by Google.

Note that being indexed is a far cry from achieving high rankings—but that initial step of submission is no longer needed or helpful.

Myth 6: Good SEO Is Basically About Trickery

False, false, false. Although there are still some SEO experts out there who go about their business trying to “trick Google,” this is absolutely not the way to provide good, lasting SEO.

Good SEO is about creating a relevant, informative website, with unique content and great user experience, and encouraging the sharing and distribution of great content to drive organic publicity and links back to your site.

In the end, this is exactly what Google explicitly wants to reward with high rankings—so it is anything but “tricking” the search engines.

Apple’s Maps are a Disaster Waiting to Happen (via Business Insider)

When Apple introduced the iPhone 5, the feature that made people the most upset was its decision to change the phone’s cable.

That’s nothing, however, compared to what’s really going to annoy people about the iPhone 5.

In iOS 6, the newest version of the iPhone’s software, Apple is going to remove its Google-based map application in favor of Apple Maps, its own homegrown maps application based on data from two dozen other sources.

Oh, and the loss of Google Maps will affect anyone upgrading to the new software, not just iPhone 5 users.

There are plenty of signs pointing to Apple’s Maps not being as good as Google’s Maps.

Noam Bardin, the CEO of mapping startup Wazetells us, “Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player.” Apple is leaning on TomTom for its primary mapping data.

Bardin added, “What’s going to happen with the Apple maps, is that you’re literally not going to find things. When you do find them, they might be in the wrong place or position geographically. And if you do have it, the route to it may not be the optimal route.”

This isn’t just some random startup spitting out sour grapes about Apple doing maps. Waze was listed as an Apple data partner for Apple Maps, in the initial releases of iOS 6.

In addition to bad data, the back end of Apple’s maps is changing, which could cause confusion.

Yesterday, Josh Carr, who runs an Apple repair shop, said that searching in Apple Maps is much worse than searching the current version of Apple’s Google-based maps. The Google-based maps work with Google search keywords. Apple’s new maps work with Yelp keywords, which makes search worse.

For instance, if you type in “iPad repair,” you get no results at all in Apple’s maps.

Says Carr, “Maps didn’t know what to do with it because it’s not an address, business name, or Yelp category. My brain hurts just trying to grasp the stupidity.”

Apple was forced to switch to is own homegrown map application because Google wouldn’t let Apple do certain things with its maps data, according to a former Google employee we spoke with earlier this year.

Further, Apple wants to be able to create a unique iOS-only mapping application that makes people ditch Android for Apple products. It’s possible Apple pulls off this feat and makes a kick-butt mapping application.

For now, though, it looks like Apple’s first attempt at its own maps could cause major headaches for users.

Whenever there is change, no matter how small, people complain. Just look at how upset people are over the iPhone 5 connector.

While that issue looked like it was going to be the front-runner for what annoys people the most about the iPhone 5, we think Apple’s maps are going to quickly make people forget about the cables. It’s a much bigger part of the phone. It’s integral to how people use smartphones.

If most consumers agree that Apple screwed up its maps, they’ll howl with rage.

The Truth About ‘Social Search’ (via Ad Age)

Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at a TechCrunch conference in San Francisco and said, “Six months ago, we were in a bad place in mobile. … There is no doubt we had a bunch of missteps on this. But we’ve transitioned now and we are a mobile company.”

Like magic, Facebook’s depressed stock popped, rising 7.7% by the end of the next day of trading.

Coincidentally, I’ve been meaning to tell you that while I, too, have had a bunch of missteps, I’ve transitioned now and today I am pleased to announce that I am a mobile columnist. Not only am I fully ambulatory, but I know my way around planes, trains and automobiles — and my output can be read on iOS, Android and Windows tablets and phones.

How ya like me now?

Illustration by Kelsey Dake

Now I know what you’re thinking: I’m just shamelessly cribbing from Mark Zuckerberg’s playbook. Please! For one thing, I’ll have you know, I’m not wearing a hoodie; I’m wearing Dr. Denton pajamas. And just as crucially, I will not be issuing any bold statements about social search. That, you see, was one of the other big takeaways of Zuckerberg’s TechCrunch chat — that Facebook, which he says is already handling one billion searches a day “without really trying,” is hard at work on a big social-search project.

Go Jump Off a Cliff
That pronouncement, no doubt, also contributed to Facebook’s stock rising, because, like adding bacon or Nutella to anything, adding “social” to search is supposed to automatically make it so much more awesomer. We know this because Microsoft’s Bing says so right in the slogan it introduced earlier this year for its new social-search feature: “It’s amazing what you can do when your friends are part of your search.” And it’s been showing us what it means by that in its TV commercials, like the one where some scruffy, smiley dude named Kevin is planning a trip to Hawaii and decides to use Bing’s Facebook-connected sidebar.

In the spot, we see Kevin on the Bing home page and we watch him type “Hawaii recos anyone?” in the social sidebar. And, like magic (so much magic lately!), his Facebook chums instantly chime in with … recos. As we hear The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey" — one of those swelling, acoustic-guitar-strummy, feel-good, let’s-all-dance-naked-on-the-beach indie-rock songs that are de rigueur in tech commercials these days — we watch a text box pop up from a gal named Kim, and we see her type in real-time, "This place was great www.southridgehotel.com.” And then some dude named Neil writes, “Jump off Waimea Rock!” Isabel chimes in with, “Hidden trail. Mile 15.” And Mike writes, “Try the spicy poke!!!”

OMG OMG OMG, I love my friends! Er, I mean Kevin’s friends. Whatever, same dif. Throw out your guidebooks, un-bookmark Wikitravel, cancel your subscriptions to Condé Nast Traveler and Afar, because social search is here to save the day. People who search people are the luckiest people in the world … or something like that.

But at the same time, I have to tell you that I have some doubts about Kevin’s specific circumstances. For one thing, in the otherwise cheery montage of Kevin on vacation in Hawaii, he has a bad reaction to trying the spicy poke. And then, wait — hold on while I check something. … Hey, it turns out there’s no Southridge Hotel in Hawaii; that URL goes nowhere (what the hell, Kim?). And if you type “Waimea Rock” into Google (but curiously, not Bing), one of the top suggested searches is “Waimea Rock death” — turns out the rock has been nicknamed “Death Rock” because of treacherous currents at certain times of the year.

Even worse, I just watched the Bing spot again and it says, “Do not attempt” in small print as Kevin jumps off Waimea Rock.

Oh dear God, now I’m wondering: What awaits Kevin at Mile 15 on that hidden trail?

Read between the lines: Kevin’s friends hate him! They want him dead!

Whoa, tough break, bro.

Look Out Below, Google! 
So screw Kevin and his friends. I’ve got my own friends, and so do you, and everybody knows that in 2012 we all live in a social-media-powered utopia where everyone we know on Facebook is a wise, urbane über-consumer with impeccable taste, always available to instantly help us plan perfect vacations to anywhere in the world with quirky, up-to-the-minute real-time recommendations. In fact, whenever we have any sort of purchase intent — for vacation travel, luxury goods, home electronics, planes, trains or automobiles — we should turn to Facebook.

The moral of the story here — other than that Kevin is a loser and his friends are evil — is that at some point Facebook will snatch access to its 950-million-person brain trust away from Bing and hog all that social-searchy goodness for itself, and then Mark Zuckerberg will tell Larry Page and Sergey Brin to go take a flying leap off Waimea Rock.

One last note: I’m going to borrow one of the conventions of the social-sharing site Reddit, where wordy people who write long posts add a “TL; DR” — “Too Long; Didn’t Read” — summary at the end. Here goes:

TL; DR: Mobile! Social Search! Bacon! Nutella!

GOOGLE: We Have 100 Million Active Users on Google+ (via Business Insider)

Remember Google+?

Google Plus

To be honest, we had forgotten about it.

But today, Google is dropping some big numbers about users and usage.

Google+ product boss Vic Gundotra says 400 million people have “upgraded to Google+”. (We assume that means signed up? Most people using Google services are forced to sign up for Google+.)

Of that, just 100 million people are monthly active users on Google+’s site and its mobile app, says Gundotra.

For some context, Facebook says it has 900 million monthly active users, with 526 million daily users. Facebook has been around for a lot longer, though.

In the past, Google has been hammered for releasing non-specific numbers about Google+. This time, it seems like Google is giving real, fairly straight forward data.

Gundotra says, “I’m happy to report that we have just crossed 100,000,000 monthly active users on Google+ (plus.google.com and mobile app).”

Not a lot of wiggle room there. It looks like Google+ is becoming a destination.

Google+ Adds Mutual Circle Chat (via Mashable)

Take a look in the lower left-hand corner of your Google+profile and you may notice a brand new feature: Chat with those in your mutual Circles. This little addition is significant because it breaks down a key interaction barrier between you and those you’re only acquainted with via Google+’s Circles social connection metaphor.

As Google explains it in a brief support post, the new feature lets you chat with anyone in your circles, who also has you in their circles. No longer do you need their email addresses. This significantly lowers the bar for social interaction. It’s a little like Twitter’s direct message rules, which only allow successful transmission of direct messages if the sender and receiver are following each other on Twitter. It’s also a bit like Facebook Chat, which allows open discussion between mutual Facebook friends.

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Sep 8




This is What Google REALLY Meant By “Don’t Be Evil” (via Business Insider)

Google has been throwing its weight around and pissing a lot of people off.

It allegedly leaned on Motorola not to use a competing location-detecting service from Skyhook. Then it turned around and dropped $12.5 billion on Motorola to get into the phone market, competing directly against partners like Samsung and LG.

It changes its search algorithms with no warning, sending certain businesses plunging in the rankings.

It charged into Facebook’s territory a couple months ago with Google+ and is playing hardball with tactics like taking a much smaller cut of in-game sales to draw developers to its platform.

It looks a lot like Microsoft in its heyday.

Every time Google makes one of these moves, it’s easy (and fun!) to point the finger at the motto which appeared in its IPO prospectus: “Don’t be evil.”

But as computer researcher and social activist Aaron Swartz points out, Google had a very specific definition of evil.

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TIMELINE:  How Google Grew Beyond Search (via Business Insider) — Only thing missing is launch of Google+

TIMELINE:  How Google Grew Beyond Search (via Business Insider) — Only thing missing is launch of Google+