Archive for August 6, 2011

With Google, There Will Be Bad Blood


“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.”

I’m reminded of Daniel Plainview’s admission in There Will Be Blood when thinking about Google.

While the company is still largely beloved by the public, sentiment seems to have turned against them amongst their peers, and even amongst many of the startups around Silicon Valley. While these tensions have been building for months — and even years, in some cases — we’re seeing this on display more clearly than ever now thanks to the patent issue(s).

But why? Why is Google now a villain to many in the industry? I don’t believe it’s because they’re evil, I believe it simply relates to the Plainview quote. Increasingly, Google is trying to do everything. And they have the arrogance to think that they can. And it’s pissing people off.

“Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on,” Google Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, wrote this week when accusing those two companies of trying to destroy Android. And he’s right. After decade of being bitter rivals, Apple and Microsoft now seem to have aligned interests. But you don’t have to wonder what’s going on, it’s very apparent: they both hate Google.

The two recently teamed up to screw Google out of the Nortel patents, spending billions to make that happen. And before that, they attempted to do the same with the Novell patents (though the DoJ blunted some of that attack). Next up for the dynamic duo: the InterDigital patents. Apple is definitely exploring acquiring them, and don’t be surprised if Microsoft is right there to help once again, to ensure Google doesn’t get them.

All of this is even more interesting when you consider that it was once Apple and Google who were closely aligned. And it was a common vision that brought them together as well — appropriately, the end of the Microsoft-dominated computing world.

The two got so close, that Google then-CEO Eric Schmidt even joined Apple’s board of directors. And Google was instrumental in helping create some of the early applications for the iPhone (Maps, YouTube, etc). It seemed like the two would team up to take down the carriers next.

Then things got very complicated when it became clear that Android and the iPhone would soon become very direct competitors. The rest has been history.

But while Apple and Microsoft have been the two highest profile Google combatants in recent months, they’re far from the only ones.

At least just as big of a Google antagonist (and perhaps even more so) is Oracle. While the Apple and Microsoft lawsuits against Android threaten to disrupt the platform and/or make it more expensive, Oracle’s lawsuit threatens to destroy it. Oracle is suing Google over the unlicensed use of Java in Android — its core.

If one of two damning emails are allowed to be used as evidence, it sure looks like Google could be in some serious trouble. Those emails appear to extend the idea of Google’s arrogance. As Android chief Andy Rubin wrote in a 2005 email, “If Sun doesn’t want to work with us, we have two options: 1) Abandon our work and adopt MSFT CLR VM and C# language – or – 2) Do Java anyway and defend our decision, perhaps making enemies along the way.”

They obviously chose the latter. And while Sun is no more, Oracle now controls the rights to Java. A very big enemy has been made along the way.

The list continues from there.

Facebook and Google have long been at odds with one another. Now, with Google+ giving Google a significant presence in Facebook’s social game for the first time, tensions are higher than they’ve ever been. While the two sides have been fighting publicly, behind the scenes, it’s worse. This is true even though many of Facebook’s employees are former Google employees. Facebook’s alliances with Microsoft can’t help matters either.

For a long time, Yahoo was Google’s most direct rival. You might think that after Google quickly dominated them in search, there would be peace now. Nope. Yahoo also has no love for Google still to this day. When Microsoft was attempting to buy Yahoo a few years ago, Google was seen as one potential savior. And they almost were, until the DoJ began looking into a potential Yahoo/Google search partnership and Google had to back out. Instead, Yahoo was forced to tie up with Microsoft.

These days, you’ll hear Yahoos complain behind the scenes that Google often just takes ideas they implemented first but never caught on because Google is the dominant player in the space.

Amazon and Google are also increasingly at odds with one another. Amazon is about to enter the tablet space in a big way later this year — and they’ll be doing so with their own flavor of Android. They also have a competing Android app store. And while this may seem like Amazon entering Google’s space, remember that Google went after Amazon first. While Google hasn’t really be able to compete in the cloud storage and services businesses so far, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.

Out of any of the larger entities in the space these days, is seems like Twitter and Google should have interests that align the most. Like Facebook, many of Twitter’s employees are ex-Google. And while a search deal a couple years ago seemed to pull the two close together, that deal has since expired, and there is no sign it’s going to ever be renewed.

Google has tried to buy Twitter a few times, and Twitter has backed away each time, most recently leaving billions on the table. And while both sides say fairly complimentary things about each other in public still, behind the scenes, again, it’s not good. Many Twitter employees flat out don’t trust Google. And Google+ has exacerbated that situation.

Speaking of failed Google acquisitions, after Google tried and failed to buy Yelp and Groupon, they moved forward on products that competed directly with them. In the process, Yelp has felt Google was actively screwing them in search results. Bad blood galore now.

On the smaller startup side of things, both Color and Path turned down massive acquisition offers from Google. Part of it was because the startups wanted to remain independent, but a large part was also that neither groups of employees wanted to work for Google. Naturally, Google has since been working on products that compete with both — not only Google+, but also mobile apps created through Google’s Slide division.

The list goes on and on. At this point, it would be easier to list tech companies that are completely friendly with Google — because there aren’t many. Again, most won’t speak out publicly about this — partially because Google is still one of the largest acquirers out there and not everyone is Twitter, Color, Path, Groupon, or Yelp, that will turn down hundreds of millions or billions — but if you talk to individuals that work at other companies, it becomes very clear very quickly that there is not a lot of love for Google out there anymore.

In my view, this stems from Google’s desire to do everything — which could threaten the company for other reasons. Once just a search company, they now actively compete with Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon, Color, Path — again, just to rattle off a few.

Obviously, it’s Google’s right to do what they think is best for the company. And certainly they have the money to take on all of these different projects. But the alienation of other companies — many of which were former allies — isn’t helping them. And if any of these Android lawsuits — bullshit or not — go through, or if they fail to eventually obtain the patents necessary to protect themselves, Google could find themselves in serious trouble. And if that happens, will anyone be around to lend them a hand?

At this point, I think there will be more companies waiting to kick them when they’re down.

Increasingly, this is the reality bubbling just under the surface: others in the space look at Google and see nothing worth liking. They see an enemy. As Plainview says to his own son at one point, “this makes you my… competitor.”

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of…

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Eric Schmidt’s Commerce Fantasy

A conversation with friend yesterday (in which he was trying to figure out how he would hypothetically accept payments for a pizza he delivered via mini-drone helicopter) was indicative of how dinky our current mobile payment options are; Should he attach a iPhone and Square dongle to the delivery box? Make customers sign up for Venmo? Set up a PayPal account and/or only deliver to people who have a Nexus S?

The conversation highlighted the fact that, with Google Wallet coming out this summer, mobile payments are at the precipice of massive change. It reminded me of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s vision of the future of mobile commerce, which he related to press while at Sun Valley’s Allen Co conference last month.

In Schmidt’s “Commerce Fantasy” you’re driving down the street, and somehow your phone knows you need new pants. Roll with me here … The phone somehow realizes there’s a pants store on the left and a pants store on the right and knows that through Google Offers the store on the right has the cheapest pants deal. Your GPS says,“Turn right for your pants.” When you walk in the store, its system understands it’s you and that you need new pants and so the salesperson comes out with your pants, of course. You tap your phone to pay, and boom, pants.

While the reporters at the briefing giggled at the audacity of Schmidt’s vision, the reality is that current mobile payments technology is aching to displace the archaic tyranny of credit cards and cash registers, and will, eventually, win. Come fall buying pants will never be the same.

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of…

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Nuance speech-to-text ‘Dictation’ functionality revealed in iOS 5 beta

More evidence of a speech-to-text feature that Apple is calling ‘Dictation’, at least for now, has surfaced in iOS 5 beta 5. The feature will most likely be using the technology that Apple is licensing from speech company Nuance.

As you can see in the screenshot above, once the Dictation feature has been enabled, it will appear next to the global keyboard button, making the Spacebar slightly smaller. The microphone icon can be tapped, allowing you to speak into it. Once you’re done speaking the text appears in the field above.

The feature seems to be called ‘Dictation’ for now, according to files in iOS 5 b5, but that very well could change before the release. There is no guarantee, of course, that this feature will even make it into iOS 5, but the possibility seems strong that Apple will announce it at an event this fall where it should announce the next version of the iPhone as well.

Late last month 9to5Mac discovered references to the Nuance dictation feature in an internal settings menu, these settings seem to refer to the Dictation feature found in the iOS 5 beta and even make reference to Nuance’s name. These settings are for internal use however, so I doubt we’ll be seeing direct reference to Nuance in the final version of iOS.

Just for some background, the night before WWDC we heard from sources very close to the Nuance team involved in integration with iOS 5 and they were absolutely convinced that Apple was going to announce Nuance features built in to iOS during the keynote. That obviously did not happen. We believe that one of the demo sections showing off features of iOS was swapped in at the last minute because the Nuance integration, most likely including this ‘Dictation’ feature, was deemed not ready for public reveal, for whatever reason.

It seems like it is getting closer to a final product now though, and with any luck, we should be seeing this show up in the final release of iOS 5 in the fall, along with other possible features that use voice to help us control and interact with our iDevices.

This extension lets you crosspost between Twitter, Facebook and Google+…in any order.

Wow this it awesome Thanks TNW!

OMG/JK: An Argument Over Microsoft’s And Google’s Argument Over Patents

Screen Shot 2011-08-06 at 2.11.01 PM

This week’s episode of OMG/JK is a bit top-heavy. There simply wasn’t a ton of news this week beyond the one giant fight that broke out between Google and Microsoft over the patent issue. Channeling that spirit, Jason and I get into an argument about the argument.

Is Google right? Is Microsoft right? Do they both look like huge asses?

Then we move on to talk a bit about the new Gmail Labs functionality that adds a third viewing pane to Google’s online email service. On this we mainly agree: it needs a lot of work.

Watch the episode above and find some relevant links to what we talk about below. And yes, I have a giant beard.

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Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of…

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Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of…

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How the World Wide Web was nearly called The Information Mesh

One of the many fascinating things that came out of our piece earlier on the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web’s public release is the names that were thrown around before “World Wide Web” was settled on.

Did you know that not only was the” Information Mesh” considered but “The Mine of Information” was also in the running? Somehow I can’t quite imagine either being said nowadays but had one of them been chosen, I also imagine I’d be writing this and smiling amusingly about something being called “World Wide Web.”

According to WWW founder Tim Berners Lee, in his book Weaving the Web, the reason both were turned down was because “The Information Mine” abbreviates to TIM (Berners-Lee’s first name), and “Mine of Information” was turned down because it abbreviates to MOI which is “Me” in French. Both were presumably far too possessive. The Information Mesh was rejected because, in Tim’s own words, ” it sounded too much like “Mess.”

Berners Lee says World Wide Web was settled on because it:

“…stressed the decentralized form allowing anything to link to anything. This form is mathematically a graph, or web. It was designed to be global of course. “

Interestingly the first browser, also invented by Berners-Lee, was called the WorldWideWeb (no spaces). The first build was released on Christmas Day 1990 and it was already capable of downloading and displaying movies, sounds and any file type supported by the OS. Berners-Lee released the program to a number of people at CERN for testing.

Equally interesting, for you Linguaphile’s out there, is that even though worldwide is a valid English word, Berners-Lee insists it is spelled World Wide Web not Worldwide Web.

“It should be spelled as three separate words, so that its acronym is three separate “W”s. There are no hyphens. Yes, I know that it has in some places been spelled with a hyphen but the official way is without. Yes, I know that “worldwide” is a word in the dictionary, but World Wide Web is three words.” he says

It’s worth noting, the WWW is just one of the many services that operate on the Internet, other services include e-mail, newsgroups and FTP. That being the case, had “Gopher“, another service working on the Internet, and an alternative to the World Wide Web, succeeded we may have been surfing the Gopher rather than the WWW.

YC-Funded Interview Street Streamlines The Search For Great Programmers


Talk to any tech company and they’ll tell you that hiring quality programmers is an incredibly difficult task — the smaller companies often have a hard time getting in front of the best candidates, and the large and ‘hot’ companies are inundated with applications, many of them sub par.

Interview Street is a new Y Combinator-funded startup that’s setting out to fix both of these problems — and to save everyone involved a whole lot of time. The service, which comes out of beta today, makes it easy for tech companies to test applicants’ skills using puzzles (and it makes it easy for potential applicants to figure out who’s hiring).

Head to the site and you’ll see that it’s broken into two sections: one for ‘Challenges’, and another for ‘Recruit’. The first is catering to engineers looking to land jobs at companies like Dropbox, Facebook, or Airbnb. Sign in and you’ll be able to take one of three coding challenges, which you’ll complete using a web-based IDE (you can copy and paste your code into the app if you’d like). The web-based code checker supports C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, Haskell, MySQL, and Bash, and generates results immediately.

Click the second tab and you’ll be in the half of the site that’s geared toward recruiters. Here, companies can create their own tests, and they can manage their dashboard of applicants.

Right now the coding puzzles on Interview Street are pretty standard, but cofounder Vivek Ravisankar says that in the future, the company wants to offer more ‘real-world’ tests — things like deploying an application to AWS, or integrating functions from Twitter’s API into an iPhone app. Ravisankar explains that the programming puzzles prospective engineers take as part of their application process often don’t apply directly to the roles they’d be filling, and Interview Street wants to change that.

At launch Interview Street is offering three puzzles to solve, and it will be adding more in the coming weeks . The site will also soon be allowing companies to upload their own puzzles (so, for example, Facebook could upload its own puzzle and test cases that all prospective applicants would have to complete).

Of course, many tech companies already offer puzzles to potential applicants. But Ravisankar says that the typical submission process for these is clunky, with applicants sending attachments that have to be manually tested by an engineer. Interview Street automates this process. So far the service is in use by major companies including Facebook and a bevy of Y Combinator alums like Dropbox, Airbnb, and

The service offers a 30 day free trial. After that plans begin at $99 a month, with pricing scaling upward depending on how many tests applicants are taking (the higher-end plans also let you take advantage of a ‘live playback’ mode, so you can see an applicant’s thought/coding process, and a white labeling feature).

Competitors to Interview Street include CodeEval (covered here) and Gild (covered here).

Interviewstreet helps you to create customized programming tests (in any language) and evaluate candidates based on their programming skills before proceeding for an interview. We have built a…

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How the office is evolving

The traditional office space is in the midst of its most dramatic shift since it was rocked by the creation of the cubicle more than 40 years ago. Driven by new communication technologies, the globalization of supply chains and an increased emphasis on real estate cost reduction, we’ve seen a massive change in the way people work. The “New Office” is an airport lounge on a tablet, a midnight video call on the kitchen counter, a shared table at the office or a collaboration pod for ad hoc meetings. These new workspaces create fresh
challenges for IT departments and technological demands from today’s workforce – from new productivity tools to broader communication and collaboration solutions.

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a significant reduction in the average office space per employee. In 1995, it was approximately 300 square feet; today it is 225 square feet or less. This workspace shrinkage is due to various work style trends, including companies leveraging hot desking, where an employee temporarily occupies a workspace outfitted to meet their needs, hotelling,reservation-based hot desking, and incentive programs for employees who work from home.

These space-focused work trends create new pain points for employees, ranging from a need for tools that increase privacy (such as headsets, individual phone booths, etc.) to self-sufficiency and collaboration solutions. As a result, the IT industry is now focused on implementing radically simple and easy-to-use solutions, requiring no IT support, so employees can focus on communicating and collaborating. I was particularly intrigued by Tim Campos’ decision at Facebook to use vending machines to dispense items like keyboards, headphones and power sources to employees – part of what he calls “frictionless IT.”

Piggybacking the evolving office space is the gradual increase of space allocated to team collaboration — currently, it’s close to 30 percent of the average office space. It used to be that meetings were relegated
to a few dedicated rooms and water cooler discussions literally happened around the water cooler. Today, the physical space is adapting to the way teams work – ad hoc, on a project basis, cross-functional, with team members scattered around the world. We’re witnessing a fragmentation of collaboration spaces. Now there
are larger amounts of smaller spaces for employees – rooms that typically hold about four people – equipped with video conferencing systems that are smaller, cheaper, self-installed and easy-to-use.

Driven by the need to replace more antiquated pieces of IT equipment and the availability/growth of unified communications (UC) solutions, we’re seeing a union of computing and communication tools at the desk and in new collaboration spaces. UC simplifies how employees work together, regardless of whether or
not they’re in the office. However, questions are rising around what device will become the catch-all communication and productivity solution: the PC, a tablet dock, a UC phone or perhaps a smartphone.

This is certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to next-generation collaboration products and the evolution of the new office. Video conferencing addresses the need for structured meetings, but new tools will emerge to address the need for unstructured collaboration – from interactive connected smart boards to tablet whiteboard applications.

My guess: this is just the beginning. The personal space will continue to shrink and become increasingly mobile/virtual. We’ll likely see a day where the office becomes a series of collaboration spaces, designed to connect fragmented virtual teams. Until then, we’ll continue to witness the development of new
technologies and services designed to address the changing office. New players and industry stalwarts alike will start to develop products and solutions that make the new office a reality.

Eric Kintz is Vice President and General Manager of Logitech for Business, Logitech’s newly-created division focused on business productivity and unified communications solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @EricKintz.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Campaign Monitor

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Git.js: A Git Implementation in Pure JavaScript

Peter Biddle, Intel, explains the recent announcements around MeeGo, pointing to the new MeeGo SDK now available and the specific focus on developing for tablet PCs.

He talks about the sales opportunities for developers and refers to 15 store partnerships due to be announced soon. He references the work that has taken place that allows developers to support Air and Flash. He also explains how the AppUp store has gained developer traction and how the Intel AppUp store model is now a firmly established business model that with Intel’s wide and strong support is only going to become bigger.

Invite Your Friends To Google+ With New, Tweetable Link


Google just made it easier for you to invite friends to its new social network, Google+, by providing a short link you can post on the web or share with others over instant messaging. In order to get the link, says Google product manager Shimrit Ben-Yair, you simply click the “invite friends” button on the right-hand side of the stream – the same place invites were found before.

This news was announced yesterday by Google engineer Balaji Srinivasan, but the functionality didn’t go live until last night.

With the new feature, you have the ability to invite 150 more people to the network.

Smart thinking, Google. Use Twitter to get more sign-ups! I like it.

I remember wasting hours on Twitter last month, handing out invites by manually (and painfully!) copying and pasting email addresses sent to me through @ replies or direct messages into the Google Plus invite form. This is so much easier. I can just tweet out a link and be done with it! I think I’ll do that right now, actually. And it looks like I’m not the only one, if this Twitter search is any indication.

There is one minor problem with the link, though – you have to shorten it yourself if you post to Twitter or you’ll end up with a mess like this. Why didn’t Google provide an automatically shortened link using its own URL shortening service You know, the one it called the “stablest, most secure and fastest” URL shortener on the web? That seems like a missed opportunity indeed.

A Google project headed by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is designed to be the social extension of Google.

Its features focus on making online sharing easy for…

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