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Google Glass: The Future Some Time

January 30, 2015

A couple of years ago I wrote an unpublished report for a big time investment bank. The subject? Google Glass. The client was a rah rah believer in headgear that provided Terminator style inputs.

I worked through the Google research papers, tracked down a wizard who now works at Amazon, and summarized the supporting technologies required to do Terminator type stuff. I did not come away from the exercise in a state of high energy.

I kept my personal opinion to myself, got paid, and moved on to cyber OSINT related topics.

I just read “Google Is Resetting Its Google Glass Strategy.” I wish the company well. I personally think that this augmenting technology will be handled in the manner described in exquisite detail by novelist and rocket scientist Alastair Reynolds, not with wonky “wearables.” (No, I don’t want something on my trifocals. No, I don’t want a watch the size of two or three stacked Oreo cookies.)

Here’s the write up’s take on the future of Glass:

Google is still expected to release a second generation version of Google Glass sometime in the future, but it was unclear what that might involve. Now we know Google is going back to the drawing board to rethink the Glass programme there’s no way of predicting what will be coming next. At the very least we hope it’ll be a little bit less expensive.

What is important to me about Glass is that it shows how thin the intellectual veneer is at the Google X Labs thing. Elon Musk conceived satellites for Internet access even though that idea was moved along by Equatorial Communications 20 years ago. X Labs pushed balloons. Didn’t these fly over Paris in the 1700s?

Glass is significant because it illustrates:

  • Poor management
  • The consequences of senior management getting involved with staff
  • Marketing that permitted the phrase “glasshole” to become part of the vernacular
  • Technology that was a demo of something that ran out of battery power quickly, had a dorky user interface, and added creepiness to Google’s stockpile of creepiness.

No Glass redux for me. How about getting back to relevant search and products/services that generate revenue?

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2015

Google: Is the One Trick Pony Limping?

January 30, 2015

You should work through the Googley report about the GOOG’s financial results. I would suggest purging your mind of thoughts about Apple’s revenue and Google’s involvement with the Apple Board of Directors. I would also suggest sponging the data about Amazon’s cloud and prime gains, not to mention the world’s smartest man’s delivering a profit.

Properly prepared, now we can consider “Google Inc. Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2014 Results.” There are two attachments, which you may want to peruse as well. For me the key point in the write up was this passage:

Other Revenues – Other revenues were $1.95 billion, or 11% of total revenues, in the fourth quarter of 2014.  This represents a 19% increase over fourth quarter 2013 other revenues of $1.65 billion.

The way I interpret this sentence is that after a decade of real effort, Google has been able to generate a couple of billion dollars in revenue from non-ad, non-search, and non-network related activities. In the early days, Google earned zero money from anything. Then the company stumbled upon in a moment of inspiration the methods of GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo. After a legal flap, Google emerged with a business model; that is, pay to play for traffic and traffic.

Several thoughts:

  1. Google is a money machine. The company has to find a way to generate more of the stuff in order to maintain its reputation as Googzilla. In my view, Loon balloons and related initiatives are the supporting cast. Another Broadway hit or three are needed.
  2. The financials do not touch upon the management and interpersonal storms buffeting the company. One Google professional was the focal point of a TV news program involving yachts, alcohol, a person without a degree from Cal Tech or INSEAD, and interestingly enough a banned substance. There was the dust up about Glass, inter company extracurricular activities involving a high profile Googler, and the departure of a nano-tech whiz to Amazon’s digital jungle. Then there were management changes. So much in just 12 months.
  3. Finally, there was the company’s business decisions that roiled the Google Earth world, the procedural shifts for APIs, and rise of irrelevancy in search results. The grand and glorious visio0n of “the world’s information” dimmed as book scanning seemed to fizzle. Somewhere I have a list of orphaned services. I will start a new list for fiscal 2015-2016 and use a bigger note card.

I find Google fascinating. I began work on The Google Legacy in 2003, Google Version 2.0 in 2005 when the company was approaching its miracle year, and Google: The Digital Gutenberg in 2008. [Alas, the unstable finances of the publisher of these still useful analyses put these volumes out of print. Publishers are also fascinating, almost like Oedipus.] After these three monographs, I was able to state with some conviction that Google had to find a way to monetize mobile at the same profit level as old school desktop search or find new revenue streams. It was obvious that the Google Search Appliance was not going to be a big winner.

Google remains an important company. Many MBAs live and die by Google’s apparent dominance of all things nifty. For me these financial results suggest that Google may need an overhaul in its senior management. The vision thing is just not ringing my bells.

I no longer can do a query on Google to answer this question, “What’s next for Google?” I think I know after 15 years of watching. More ads, more thrashing, and more Loon balloons. I sort of miss getting those nifty tsotchkes at conferences. My LED illuminated Google pin has gone dim. My Google mousepad has worn out. My Google T Shirt has faded.

Mobile online access has arrived, and it is more of a threat than desktop searchers realize.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2015

Online Brand: Will Facebook or Google Become the Internet

January 26, 2015

I read a very interesting item on a UK information service. The article is “People Actually Confuse Facebook and the Internet in Some Places.” Here’s the point I highlighted with orange this fine morning:

Ex-Googler, Facebook COO and mouthpiece Sheryl Sandberg claimed this week that some users (sorry, people) actually think that Mark Zuckerberg’s free-content ad network is the Internet.

I filed an item about Eric Schmidt’s widely publicized prognostication just a day or two before. Here’s a representative article: “Eric Schmidt’s Quite Right The Internet Will Disappear; All Technologies Do As They Mature.”

Google wants the disappearing Internet to be into Google. If Facebook acts out the suggestion that Facebook becomes the Internet, Google will not be happy.

The battle, therefore, is less about disappearing technology than a return to the good old days when a telephone meant Bell. Just cross out Bell, and slot in a nifty company like Facebook or Google.

Is this disappearance or a de facto, ubiquitous monopoly?

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2015

Google X Labs Just Buys a Better Idea

January 23, 2015

Short honk: X Labs was to be part of the Google innovation push. The idea was “moon shots.” Well, Google came up with balloons, self driving cars, and a linguistic innovation, Glassholes.

Now Google and by extension gets a better idea. I read “Google Wants Life on Mars in $1bn SpaceX Investment.” Fueled by ad revenue, Google is into satellites and rocket ships.

The article said:

Google is racing to spread internet access as it looks for new ways to boost its user base and sell more digital advertising. By teaming up with SpaceX, Google would be seeking to gain an edge over rivals such as Facebook, which is working on projects to deliver Internet service to underserved regions by building drones, satellites and lasers. WorldVu Satellites, backed by Qualcomm and Virgin Group, has begun a similar effort. “Google needs to find additional sources of revenue,” said Greg Sterling, vice-president of strategy and insights for Local Search Association, whose members operate in the location-based advertising market. “If they can expand into new markets, obviously they can expand their revenue and keep investors happy.”

The issue for me is innovation. After 2006, Google began to flag in the innovation department. Amazon did the cloud thing. Facebook did the relationship thing. AirBnB and Uber did the sharing thing.

Google continued to keep its infrastructure chugging along in order to sell ads.

Don’t get me wrong. Google is a giant outfit. I find it interesting that Google X Labs came up with balloons and Elon Musk came up with a better idea. To get that innovation, Google has to write a check, not rely on its 50,000 plus really smart folks.

Interesting. Loon balloons trumped by satellites and rockets. What’s that line about soaring like an eagle?

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2015

Are You Pedantic Enough to Work for Google?

January 23, 2015

A joke quiz on Clickhole titled Are You Smart Enough to Work For Google poses a series of questions that range from the philosophical to the absurd. Google has become famous for its approach to work space, and its hiring process is certainly going to be unusual as well. The Clickhole quiz pokes fun at the search giant’s attempts to be hip and creative in all aspects of their work. For example, if you were a tiny man fighting ants in helmets, what would you do? Answers include, “Oh my God! This is so neat!” and “Ants can’t wear hats. That is an amazing questions, though.” Interestingly, a sample of questions from an actual Google Labs aptitude test, while more mathematical in nature, are similar in tone to the joke questions. For example,

“ ‘Tis known in refine company, that choosing K things out N can be done in ways as many as choosing N minus K from N: I pick K, you the remaining. Find though a cooler bijection, where you show a knack uncanny, of making your choices contain all K of mine. Oh, for pedantry: let K be no more than half N.”

We get it, Google. You are cooler than other companies. You are weirder than other companies. You are more creative than other companies.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 22, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Google Steers SEO Pros Toward User Experience

January 21, 2015

Curious to learn where Google is driving the search-engine optimization field these days? Search Engine Watch tells us, “6 Major Changes Reveal the Future of SEO.” Writer Eric Enge declares, “Google is doing a brilliant job of pushing people away from tactical SEO behavior and toward a more strategic approach.” Um, okay. As long as that means more relevant information for users.

The article lists Eng’s six observations and what each means for SEO approaches. For example, Google has stopped handing users’ keyword data to websites, requiring them to use other methods to monitor keyword performance. Then there’s the Hummingbird algorithm, which Enge says is really a major platform change. The write-up also considers the current influence of Google+ and Google’s Authorship program. Finally, Enge cites the In-Depth Article feature Google introduced last August, which points users to more comprehensive sources of information. See the article for more on each of these points. Enge concludes:

“All of these new pieces play a role in getting people to focus on their authority, semantic relevance, and the user experience. Again, this is what Google wants.

“For clarity, I’m not saying that Google designed these initiatives specifically to stop people from being tactical and make them strategic. I don’t really know that. It may simply be the case that Google operates from a frame of reference that they want to find and reward outstanding sites, pages, and authors that offer outstanding answers to user’s search queries. But the practical impact is the same.

“The focus now is on understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility, and providing a great experience for the users of your site.”

Well, this does sound like a good shift for users. Will SEO workers used to focusing on PageRank data and keywords learn to adapt?

Cynthia Murrell, January 21, 2015

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Satellites or Balloons?

January 19, 2015

I enjoy conversations about how innovative Google is. Prior to 2006, I was on the Google is the leader bandwagon. Now it may be time to shift from the GOOG to the Musk.

I read “Elon Musk touts launch of ‘SpaceX Seattle’.” Tucked in the encomium to Mr. Musk was this passage:

As guests drank beer and wine and sipped Champagne from glasses etched with the SpaceX logo, Musk outlined an audacious plan to build a constellation of some 4,000 geosynchronous satellites, a network in space that could deliver high-speed Internet access anywhere on Earth. Those satellites are to be designed by software and aerospace engineers in SpaceX’s new engineering office in Redmond.

Now satellite communications is not new. Anyone remember Equatorial Communications? History lesson aside, Google wants to deliver the Internet via balloons which rhymes with loons.

According to, the first hot air balloon was launched in 1783. Satellites came along when I was in grade school.

It seems that Google is not thinking on the Musk scale. Wasn’t X Labs supposed to do moon shots. Mr. Musk now does transportation and digital thingies.

In terms of search, I question whether Google’s innovations in search as described by “How Google Tries To Figure Out Our Hidden Needs” improves relevance or tweaks the PT Barnum formula for revenue.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2015

Captain Page Delivers the Google Translator

January 15, 2015

Well, one of the Star Trek depictions is closer to reality. Google announced a new and Microsoft maiming translate app. You can read about this Bing body blow in “Hallo, Hola, Ola to the New, More Powerful Google Translate App.” Google has more translation goodies in its bag of floppy discs. My hunch is that we will see them when Microsoft responds to this new Google service.

The app includes an image translation feature. From my point of view, this is helpful when visiting countries that do not make much effort to provide US English language signage. Imagine that! No English signs in Xi’an or Kemerovo Oblast.

The broader impact will be on the industrial strength, big buck translation systems available from the likes of BASIS Tech and SDL. These outfits will have to find a way to respond, not to the functions, but the Google price point. Ouch. Free.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2015

A Googley Tale and Maybe a Lesson?

January 13, 2015

Short honk: I don’t have a dog in this show. I did enjoy “Hi, It’s Google Corporate Development.” Google is about 15 or 16 years old. Some of the company’s original culture persists, and I find that encouraging. On the other hand, some may not. For me, the approach may suggest why search has not maintained its remarkable trajectory established between 1998 and 2002.

Stephen E. Arnold, January 13, 2015

Google and Search Share

January 8, 2015

I like this headline: “Google Loses Most US Search Share since 2009 While Yahoo Gains.” Maybe the sky is falling? Maybe Yahoo search is just so darned great?

The write up says:

Google’s slice of the U.S. search market fell to 75.2 percent in December from 79.3 percent a year ago, while Yahoo jumped to 10.4 percent from 7.4 percent, according to analytics firm StatCounter. That put Google at its smallest share of the U.S. Web search market since at least 2008, when StatCounter first started tracking the numbers, and the highest share for Yahoo since 2009.

The reason for the decline is that Firefox uses Yahoo as its default search provider. The article even references a search engine optimization expert.

Now, from my vantage point in rural Kentucky, there are several factors at play:

First, counting traffic is a slippery business. I view most counts as suspicious.

Second, search is not the go to solution for locating content that it was five years ago. Watch a teen look for information. How often does that future hope run a keyword query compared to getting links or information in other ways.

Third, Google has a problem, but it is not traffic yet. The company is vulnerable to the behavior of users. Mobile, which Google seems to dominate, is a bit of a challenge for the 40 somethings in Mountain View.

Exciting times.

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2015

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