Yesterday, Google Sr. Veep and Chief Counsel David Drummond posted what amounts to the Silicon Valley version of a hissy fit on Google‘s official blog. His complaint? That Microsoft and Apple are teaming up to try to stifle Android by using what Drummond refers to as “bogus patents.”
The patents being referred to here are patents owned by Novell that Microsoft and Apple are jointly bidding on. If they were to be successful, it would impact Android because technology covered by those patents is being used in Google smartphones. Google, naturally, is not thrilled about this. Drummonds screed would not be so much justified, but you could at least understand it… were it not for the fact that Google indeed had an opportunity to bid on these patents. Not only did it have the opportunity to bid and not put one forth, it was invited to bid jointly with Microsoft and turned that down as well.
Twitter is something that I personally think is a complete waste of time 99% of the time. It’s the 1% in situations like this that it becomes like a train wreck… you can’t not look. Brad Smith, Drummond’s counterpart at Microsoft, tweeted this in response to Drummond:
Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.
Ouch! Now normally, in the absence of anything substantive, this would descend into the back and forth of he-said/he-said triviality, except that Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s head communications guy, tweeted this:
Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. http://t.co/PfKle9H
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
If the first tweet was the slap in the face, the email was the punch to the gut that knocked the wind out of the whole argument.
Will Android be greatly affected by this? Only if Google is stupid enough to fight this out in court, which they don’t, and only if Microsoft and Apple want long and protracted legal battles, which they don’t, so I doubt it. I foresee an out-of-court settlement… maybe an agreement where the technology in question can be licensed. Something like that. It will cost Google though. It never ceases to amaze me that when you are peeing in the tall grass with the big dogs in an industry that relies as much on idea theft as it does on innovation, the stakes are very high, and a seemingly innocuous email that simply said, in effect, “No thanks,” can cost your company billions of dollars. That’s big money even in Google
dollars. Welcome to Pirates of Silicon Valley II: Electric Googaloo
It all starts: A mystery client hires top PR firm Burson-Marsteller to execute a smear campaign against Google by claiming that Google’s Social Circle violates the privacy rights of Gmail users.
May 3, 2011: John Mercurio of Burson-Marsteller tries to convince a blogger to write an op-ed piece critical of Google which Mercurio claims he can get re-printed in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, The Huffington Post, and other “top-tier media outlets. After turning down the opportunity with a skeptical “Who’s paying for this?” The email exchange is made public on the internet.
May 6, 2011: USAToday publishes an article outting former CNBC news anchor Jim Goldman and former political columnist John Mercurio as the two Burson employees behind the campaign.
May 12, 2011: The Daily Beast uncovers and confirms that the mystery client is facebook.
One of the cool things about working in I.T. in any capacity is that whenever new technologies are created, it’s akin to a new continent just popping up out of a newly expanded, larger planet which creates a whole new frontier to explore and attempt to conquer. In the world of tablet computing, if you are not the iPad2, you dropped the ball in your quest to “get there first” and plant the proverbial flag, and you are currently in a battle for a distant 2nd place. Apple dangled the carrot of hope of at least playing catch-up in front of Motorola, Samsung, and RIM, all of whom are really just now putting out technology that Apple had ready a year ago, while waving at Microsoft, whose attempt was so lame it was like the company wasn’t even trying, off in the far distance. Then Steve Jobs stood there and ate said carrot when his company not only released the iPad2, but had Jobs himself announce it. HP, who supposedly has a tablet offering, will be in Microsoft’s position if it’s not careful. When you type in “HP” and “tablet” into Google and the homepage for your device doesn’t even list on the first two pages, you need to fire whoever is in charge of that (I had to find the link for the HP Touchpad by going through InfoWorld who had reviewed it). Research In Motion’s Playbook isn’t even released yet and their device’s website rival’s Apple’s in being accessible and visually appealing.
But even with all the hype surrounding the iPad2, is it really defining the direction tablet PCs are going? For the average consumer, that may very well be the case as right now, all the iPad has to do is play Angry Birds and if YouTube is any indication, amuse your pets. However, for business and industry, the answer is not so cut and dry, and for other specialized industries like education for example, it’s also up in the air. While Jobs, Apple, and the iPad team certainly have a lot to crow about for now, to extrapolate our “new frontier” analogy, the Apple ship made it to shore first, planted their flag, got an initial settlement going, and waded inland a few miles.
Let’s run with that analogy a bit further to show the kind of issues that the Apple ship will be facing in the not-too-distant future.
Instead of making the obvious (and incorrect) comparison of Jobs to Christopher Columbus, let’s instead look at him as a kind of Leif Ericson. One “ship”, namely Apple, no external funding other than Apple’s own money, and a pioneering spirit coupled with a pair of titanium balls that Jobs has had since he and Wozniak founded the company. So what does Jobs the Viking have to fear? Hot on his trail and visible far off but still on the horizon is the Nina (Samsung), the Pinta (Motorola) and the Santa Maria (you can put who you prefere here… RIM, HP, whoever)… all backed by Queen Isabella of that peculiar not-so-little nation known as Android. As empires go, Google is the new Portugal and Microsoft went from Sir Walter Raleigh (Gates) to the bumbling and insane George III that is Steve Ballmer.
OK, now that we’ve dispensed with the analogies of expedition, lets take a look at what inevitably follows once the discoveries are made, the territory is claimed, and the initial borders are established: the war of market share.
In this case, Jobs is Napoleon and the other guys are the rest of Europe. What was Napoleon’s downfall at Waterloo? Having to fight multiple armies with one, and that is the scenario that Jobs is facing now… with one interesting twist. It’s not Jobs and Apple’s iPad vs. the Xoom and the Playbook, etc., etc., etc., it’s Apple’s iOS vs. Google’s Android. If these are the armies, the soldiers that are being deployed to the battlefield are the apps.
As far as sheer numbers go, Apple may be better compared to Xerxes than Napoleon. Currently, Apple has 60,000 tablet-specific applications available through it’s App Store. Motorola by comparison has less than 50. That’s pretty striking, and the other Android tablets are not faring much better. However, this where Android hasn’t capitalized on a key advantage… yet. That advantage being that an Android application is deployable on any Android tablet, where as Apple’s will only run on the iPad. Interestingly enough, Android has capitalized on this in the smartphone arena. When the iPhone was released, Apple let you choose any provider you wanted, so long as that provider was AT&T. What Apple learned very quickly, and what makes Android a very real threat, is that consumers love choice, and conversely, despise not having it. Fortunately, the iPhone was dazzling enough initially to get enough early adopters to migrate cellular providers, but then after that, AT&T’s service issues were brought into glaring focus, and that just magnified Apple’s choice restrictions.
How can Apple cripple Android’s advantage? One way is by giving the user choice via the app that the user didn’t get with the calling plan. Apple’s API is apparently easy enough to use that apps are being cranked out at a rate that far exceeds Android’s. When the Apple app store was less than a year-old, it was adding 7,000 apps per month. The current total app count for Apple is ~ 170,000 apps, 60,000 of which are tablet-specific, while the Android count is only about 15,000 apps total. The other key issue here is quality control. Unlike the Android App Store, Apple’s App Store only accepts apps after a rigorous approval process. This contrasts the Android store which accepts anything as long as it’s written for Android.
I think Apple has been able to maintain a lead in the tablet world because if you look at Apple’s product line, simply visually, the iPad appears as kind of like an iPhone with more screen real estate. Think of it this way: manufacturers that use Android build phones that run apps. Apple builds a very powerful miniature touchpad PC that happens to have the ability to make calls. Extrapolating those apps to the iPad doesn’t seem like a big deal, and in fact the Apple App Store has some very complex apps that run on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Hardware is something that used to be uni-directional: time passed and hardware just got bigger or faster or both. That is a paradigm that Apple seems to be trying to shift.
The original iPad gave you 256 MB of memory. The new iPad2 gives you… that’s right… 256 MB of memory. Now the iPad2 does give you more processor and tighter, crisper graphics, but to at least a certain extent, coding needs to remain tight and efficient to deal with that 256 MB constraint. Having done programming myself back in the day that required memory management, it is a challenge, but the results of doing it right are worth it. What this does when you do it right is make you look innovative. The other tablets can boast their muscle car hardware specs all they want, but if you’re an Android tablet provider, and Apple delivers a more entertaining, useful, and/or visually appealing experience than Android with less memory, it just makes you look that much worse.
“Although some iPad competitors win on spec wars, none prevails where it counts: user experience and utility.”
– Galen Gruman, writer for InfoWorld
All this being said, the people that work at Google are no dummies and if anyone can knock Apple off it’s pedestal, it’s Google. The important thing to note here is that the tablet has brought it into laser-sharp clarity that the era of Microsoft is over. That company is certainly not synonymous with serious innovation, and it hasn’t had an original thought in a decade or more. Office software is really its last stronghold. The era of the tablet PC is here, and with it come a whole new list of players… some new, relatively young upstarts, the Mountain View mega-geeks who first revolutionized search engines and then thought “Why not revolutionize everything else,” and that Infinitely Loop-y company who was always innovative, but was once thought dead who has risen from the ashes by being completely unafraid to re-invent the wheel.
Jobs’ jab suggests Apple Fears Android
The Future of the Tablet
The Droid vs. the iPhone: Let’s count the apps
What’s behind Android’s race to No. 1?
Google’s Open Source Android OS will Free the Wireless Web (this is a great piece of internet history from Wired. It not only describes how Google learned about Android, it shows what a short-sighted nincompoop Steve Ballmer is.)
Windows Tablets: Be Careful What You Wish For
CEO of Path says “No” to Google’s $100 million offer.
Path is still very small, with just “hundreds of thousands” of users, said the company yesterday. It’s a private mobile network limited to just 50 friends, which makes viral spreading difficult. But we’re also hearing that 20% of active users are using it daily – a Zynga-like engagement rate that is a sign that at least some people really connect with Path.
Path’s CEO Dave Morin is either a visionary who will look at Google 5 years down the road and think $100 million is chump change, or he will be wearing the glasses and groucho nose as he tries to evade pitchfork-wielding throngs of former employees with reams of worthless stock options. Should be interesting to see which one pans out.
I work in the marketing industry, particularly in the field of analytics. To criminally oversimplify my job, I take data, load it into database, and use software to allow users to analyze that data. Let’s say a client sends out a mailing to 10,000 people in order to illicit some kind of response, either a phone call, the mailing in of a form, or a visit to a website. We take that response data and give the client actionable information on where to more effectively spend their money to more effectively target those people from whom they are more likely to get a response, which can eventually translate into revenue for our client.
Web analytics is basically applying the same principles to tracking the visitors of a website, be that website a massive e-commerce site like Amazon.com or a site like mine… a blog. Google Analytics makes getting usable information from your site incredibly easy. This article will go through the basics of how to set this up. I’ve found two ways to set this up and they both work. I’ll call the first way The Easy Way, and the second way The Really Easy Way.
The Easy Way
- Open an account with Google Analytics. If you already have a gmail account, you can use the same credentials.
- Take the HTML provided by Google, and place it in the footer of every page of your website that you want tracked, preferably just above the closing body tag.
- Sit back and watch as your statistics roll in.
If you have a site that runs on a particular piece of software, there are lovely people out there who may have written implementations of Google Analytics specifically for the software that you use. In my case, my blog is powered by WordPress. As luck would have it, Joost de Valk has written a nice implementation called Google Analytics for WordPress which leads us to our next section…
The Really Easy Way
- Download Joost’s Google Analytics for WordPress and un-zip the archive.
- Upload the folder to the wp-content/plugins directory on your web server.
- Paste your Google Analytics ID# from your Google Analytics account into a text field.
- Sit back and watch your statistics roll in.
It’s that simple. When all is said and done, you can take a look at your website’s statistics in your Google Analytics Account. Since my website is relatively young and I just implemented the code on my website today, you can see how immediately the results are registered (see screenshots below).