Google and Android Are Fragmented

October 25, 2017

Google and Android are usually linked in arm and arm proving that the latter is the superior phone.  There might be problems, however, with Google’s newest augmented reality program ARCore.  The news comes from Venture Beat’s story, “Android’s Fragmentation Will Give Google’s ARCore Problems.”  Google released the ARCore to compete with Apple’s ARKit, but problems occur with fragmentation.

One of the reasons is that there are 24,000 smartphones that use the Android OS.  This would not be an issue, except all of these devices use one of seven different versions of the Android software.  It is difficult, nay, impossible for all of the smartphone developers to agree on a set of standards.  Apple has the benefit of being a singular company without that issue.

The ARCore will only run on high end smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Pixel, that do not have the fragmentation problem.  Google also does not have a happy developer community, because they are forced to make multiple copies of the same app for the different Android versions.

Ultimately, if you don’t have happy developers, you won’t have great content, which means you won’t have users. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows Smartphone: it failed to attract developers to build its mobile ecosystem, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer blamed for the demise of the company’s smartphone unit.

Android has fragmentation issues with the ARCore as well as a fragmented developer community.  Things could and probably will change in who dominates the phone market, but for now, Apple remains on top.

Whitney Grace, October 25, 2017

Google Sitelinks Adopts Carousel Presentation

October 9, 2017

For its mobile search, Google is shifting its Sitelinks presentation to a carousel design, we learn in Search Engine Land’s brief write-up, “Google Officially Changes Sitelinks Design to Carousel Format.” (Think of a slide-projector carousel, not the kind with wooden horses.) Writer Barry Schwartz reveals:

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they are now rolling out a new design for Sitelinks. Sitelinks are additional links within the snippets of the search results where searchers can quickly jump to important and relevant pages on that site, as opposed to the main listing in the search result snippet. Google has been testing a carousel format for these Sitelinks for over a year and today has confirmed they are now rolling out the new carousel-based design for mobile search results.

Schwartz provides a screenshot of the feature in action and notes it shifts left or right at the user’s swipe. Perhaps the revised design will encourage more people to use the under-appreciated Sitelinks feature.

Cynthia Murrell, October 9, 2017



Antitrust Legislation Insufficient for Information Marketplace

October 3, 2017

At his blog, Continuations, venture capitalist Albert Wenger calls for a new approach to regulating the information market in his piece, “Right Goals, Wrong Tools: EU Antitrust Case Against Google.” Citing this case against Google, he observes that existing antitrust legislation is not up to the task of regulating companies like Google. Instead, he insists, we need solutions that consider today’s realities. He writes:

We need alternative regulatory tools that are more in line with how computation works and why the properties of information tend to lead to concentration. We want networks and network effects to exist because of their positive externalities. Imagine as a counter factual a world of highly fragmented operating systems for smartphones – it would make it extremely difficult for app developers to write apps that work well for everyone (hard enough across iOS and Android). At the same time we want to prevent networks and network effect companies from becoming so powerful and extractive that they stifle innovation. For instance, I have written before about how the app store duopoly has prevented certain kinds of innovation. Antitrust is a sledge hammer that was invented at a time of large industrial companies that had no network effects. Using it now is a bad idea and doubly so because it goes only after Google which has by far the more open mobile operating system when compared to Apple.

Wenger suggests a solution could lie in a requirement for open standards, or in the “right to be represented by a bot.” He points to his 17 minute Ted talk, embedded in the article, for more on his public policy suggestions.

Cynthia Murrell, October 3, 2017

Mobile Search: Has the Desktop Boat Anchor Search Been Cut Loose??

August 29, 2017

We noted “57% of Search Traffic Is Now Mobile, According to Recent Study.” Who knows if the research is statistically valid, if the math is correct, or the questions ones that an academic would okay?

Nevertheless, if we assume the information is mostly on point, the good old days of big screens, mindless Web surfing just to see what’s online, and mostly uncensored information are gone.

We learned:

A webpage of a particular website most likely to show up first in search results will be different 35% of the time, BrightEdge found. ”If brands do not track and optimize for both device channels, they are likely to misunderstand the opportunities and threats affecting them.  It is recommended that marketers assess the proportion of their traffic coming from mobile and desktop and adjust their strategy accordingly.

If I understand this passage correctly, one gets to create, support, and tune two Web sites: One for the boat anchor crowd and one for the zippy mobile users. Want the full report? Click here.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2017

Google Announces a Mobile-Friendly Change in the Works

August 29, 2017

As more consumers use their Smart Phones and similar devices for everyday internet activity, Google is changing – once again – how search is done. To accommodate mobile users the tech giant just announced that it will begin transitioning to a mobile first index. What does this mean for the average website holder?

According to the guys at Business2Community, it could mean a lot of change is needed to remain competitive. They give several tidbits of advice to website owners but one of the most indicative of how our virtual world is changing is this:

…the consensus is now to have a single website that can work across all devices. Search results aside, a mobile responsive site is one of the best things you can build for your small business, as it is a more accessible and user-friendly way for your potential customers to access your business on a mobile device. With increasing numbers of searches conducted on mobile, by not having a mobile or mobile responsive site, you’re missing out on a large amount of possible conversions…

Of course, Google swears its crawlers will still recognize desktop versions of websites if no mobile is available, but we must ask ourselves, how long until that changes as well?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 29, 2017

Big Datas Big Leap

August 11, 2017

One of the biggest problems of players of Business Intelligence through Big Data is its adoption. While companies with deep pockets are still scratching their heads, the industry will take off only when small and medium sized business adopt it.

According to an article published by Stats and Bots titled Open Source Business Intelligence, the author says:

Open source BI allows businesses to install the core platform on any system in their environment for free. Hundreds of developers are continuously improving and expanding these products. You can benefit from regular updates, or even customize BI software by modifying or extending source code to meet your company’s specific needs.

Open source tools for adopting BI solutions will go a long way in establishing the industry. The biggest stumbling block in adopting these solutions is cost of implementation. Thus, BI companies now are offering their tools free of cost and as open source.

Google, in order to capture the mobile OS market, offered its flagship OS Android free of cost to OEM and third parties. This enabled the company to create an ecosystem around the OS that is worth billions of dollars now. Open Source is the way to go it seems.

Vishal Ingole, August 11, 2017

Free Content Destroying Print Media

August 8, 2017

Today’s generation has no concept of having to wait for the day’s top stories till the newspaper is delivered. If they want to know something (or even they don’t) they simply turn on their Smart phone, tablet or even watch! With news stories available 24/7 with automatic alerts, most people under thirty can’t possibly fathom paying for it.

It almost wasn’t that way. According to Poynter,

In the 1990s, a cantankerous, bottom-line-obsessed and visionary Tribune Company executive named Charles Brumback pushed something that was called The New Century News Network. The top print news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Times-Mirror would form a network in which they’d house their content online and charge for it. Members would get paid based on usage. They even started a newswire that was similar to what we know as Google News.

Unfortunately, the heads of print media couldn’t see the future and how their pockets would be deflated due to the giving away of their content to online giants such as Facebook and Yahoo and Google.

Now, these same short-sighted network bigwigs are wanting Congress to intervene on their behalf. As the article points out, “running to Congress seems belated and impotent.”

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 8, 2017

Watson Powers New Translation Earpiece, No Connection Required

August 4, 2017

A start-up out of Australia is leveraging the prowess of IBM’s Watson AI to bring us a wearable translator, dubbed the Translate One2One, that does not require connectivity to function, we learn from “Lingmo Language Translator Earpiece Powered by IBM Watson” at New Atlas. Writer Rich Haridy notes that last year, Waverly Labs found success with its Pilot earpiece. That device was impressive with its near real time translation, but it did depend on a Bluetooth connection. Haridy asserts that New Atlas’ device is the first of its connection-independent kind; he writes:

Lingmo is poised to jump to the head of the class with a system that incorporates proprietary translation algorithms and IBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding and Language Translator APIs to deal with difficult aspects of language, such as local slang and dialects, without the need for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity. …

The system currently supports eight languages: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Brazilian Portuguese, English and Spanish. The in-built microphone picks up spoken phrases, which are translated to a second language within three to five seconds. An app version for iOS is also available that includes speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities for a greater number of languages.

The device is expected to be available in July and can be pre-ordered now. A single unit is $179, while a two-piece pack goes for $229. Lingmo launched its first translation device in 2013 and has been refining its tech ever since. Who will be next in the field to go connection-free?

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2017

Facebook Grapples with Moderation

August 1, 2017

Mashable’s Alex Hazlett seems quite vexed about the ways Facebook is mishandling the great responsibility that comes with its great power in, “Facebook’s Been Making It Up All Along and We’re Left Holding the Bag.” Reporting on a recent leak from the Guardian of Facebook moderator documents, Hazlett writes:

It confirmed what a lot of people had long suspected: Facebook is making it up as they go along and we’re the collateral damage. The leaked moderator documents cover how to deal with depictions of things like self-harm and animal cruelty in exceedingly detailed ways. A first read through suggests that the company attempted to create a rule for every conceivable situation, and if they missed one, well they’d write that guideline when it came up. It suggests they think that this is just a question of perfecting the rules, when they’ve been off-base from the outset.

The article notes that communities historically craft and disseminate the rules, ethics, and principles that guide their discourse; in this case, the community is the billions of Facebook users across the globe, and those crucial factors are known only to the folks in control (except what was leaked, of course.) Hazlett criticizes the company for its “generic platitudes” and lack of transparency around an issue that now helps shape the very culture of the entire world. He observes:

Sure, if Facebook had decided to take an actual stand, they’d have had detractors. But if they’d been transparent about why, their users would have gotten over it. If you have principles, and you stick to them, people will adjust. Instead, Facebook seems to change their policies based on the level of outrage that is generated. It contributes to a perception of them as craven and exploitative. This is why Facebook lurches from stupid controversy to stupid controversy, learning the hard way every. single. time.

These days, decisions by one giant social media company can affect millions of people, often in ways, those affected don’t even perceive, much less understand. A strategy of lurching from one controversy to another does seem unwise.

Cynthia Murrell, August 1, 2017

Android VPN App Security Analyzed

July 12, 2017

Here’s an important warning for users of mobile devices—beware VPN apps in the Google Play store.  Thats the upshot of a white paper from Australian research organization CSIRO, “An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of Android BPN Permission-Enabled Apps.” Researchers found, for example that 18% of VPN apps in the Google Play store do not actually encrypt anything, and 38% harbor malware of some sort.

The in-depth paper describes the investigation into four main areas of concern: third-party user tracking and permissions access; malware presence; traffic interception; and user awareness of potential risks. The researchers specify:

In this paper we provide a first comprehensive analysis of 283 Android apps that use the Android VPN permission, which we extracted from a corpus of more than 1.4 million apps on the Google Play store. We perform a number of passive and active measurements designed to investigate a wide range of security and privacy features and to study the behavior of each VPN-based app. Our analysis includes investigation of possible malware presence, third-party library embedding, and traffic manipulation, as well as gauging user perception of the security and privacy of such apps. Our experiments reveal several instances of VPN apps that expose users to serious privacy and security vulnerabilities, such as use of insecure VPN tunneling protocols, as well as IPv6 and DNS traffic leakage. We also report on a number of apps actively performing TLS interception. Of particular concern are instances of apps that inject JavaScript programs for tracking, advertising, and for redirecting e-commerce traffic to external partners.

The paper concludes by recommending Android revamp their VPN permission model. It also describes most users as “naïve” to the realities of mobile VPN security. For anyone wishing to educate themselves on the issue, this paper is a good place to turn.

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2017

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