Cool Random Tech Stuff

Random ramblings of a tech enthusiast

Category Archives: Google

What a crazy week in tech!

This week has been pretty crazy in big tech news. Monday morning started off with the early announcement by Google that it was going to acquire Motorola Mobility. On Thursday afternoon HP announced it was discontinuing their WebOS hardware for the time being and getting out of the PC market.

Google to Buy Motorola Mobility

This was personally shocking to me, and probably to most as well. Google, a software company, was buying a hardware company! The motivations behind this move are not completely revealed. On the investor conference call Monday morning, Google was not shy about talking up the patent portfolio of Motorola Mobility but would not comment on their entire strategy. They said they would keep Motorola running as a separate company, even having them compete with other OEM’s in their Nexus phone program. So that would mean Google wanted the patents to protect Android, and would just get Motorola Mobility as a side business. Seems cheery and the best defensive stand for Android.

There has also been talk about Google buying Motorola and their patents to protect Android from partners suing each other. Motorola was threatening to sue other manufacturers of Android devices, such as HTC and Samsung. This would be disastrous for Android as a complete system. This would also point out problems with the open source nature of Android where the manufacturers carry more of the patent burden than Google. This is in contrast where Microsoft licenses Windows Phone 7 at a price because it has the patents to back it up. (Apple doesn’t license their software to other companies, but has plenty of their own patents).

So what now for Google and Motorola? I wouldn’t mind a sweet Google TV box with their Motorola set-top box business. Or how about more plain Android devices instead of skinned phones everywhere? (Is it that difficult to ask for a pure Google experience on Verizon?) Google could also be aggressive with the patent portfolio and begin suing the likes of Apple and Microsoft instead of maintaining a purely defensive strategy, but I don’t see that being a popular option.

The HP Bombshell

Thursday afternoon I started seeing alerts about HP spinning off its PC business. Then a little bit later it was revealed they would be discontinuing their WebOS hardware. Nothing really shocking there. The TouchPad wasn’t selling well, nor were the WebOS phones. The only shocking thing was that this came a little bit over a year after HP bought Palm for over a billion dollars in July 2010.

The real bombshell in my opinion was the fact that HP was getting out of the PC market. The number one PC manufacturer was throwing in the towel saying the tablet effect on PC sales is real. Instead, HP will be focusing on the enterprise and business side of things. This is more profitable for the company and they are trying to drive more value for the shareholders. They also announced a purchase of a British software services company to move more in to the higher profit margin services market.

Conclusion

Google buying a hardware manufacturer for patents, and maybe more. HP moves out of the consumer space and more into enterprise and software services. I don’t know many who would have guessed that for this week in August. I’m sure things will calm down a bit, at least until next month. Until then, try to digest the magnitudes of these two announcements.

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Thoughts On Openness

Recently I have read more about what open means in the technology world. In the last week, HTC has said they will no longer lock down the bootloader. This probably means nothing to a vast majority of users, but to power users and those who tweak their experience it can mean a lot.

There are theories in this world that seem to be a perfect system on paper but the real world application proves to not be perfect. Government systems such as communism and democracy can both be ideal solutions on paper but might not work in real life. The reason things like this happen is mainly because no one can think of every variance or fork in the road possible.

This applies to the tech industry and openness of products. The idea of an open product or software is that everyone can contribute and not be controlled by a closed door corporation. Also, loopholes and flaws in the code can be analyzed by anyone, which gives a power in numbers approach to fixing problems.

In reality things don’t work that perfectly. Corporations like to lock software down for many reasons: user experience, security, revenue protection, and various other reasons.

A company selling a handset typically provides a level of customer support for problems, thus locking down unauthorized changes reduces that monetary cost of support.

Carrier revenues are also protected by locking down the software. Certain features of phones are billed based on system settings that are locked down so that you are properly paying for usage. With unlocking software it may be possible to circumvent said lock downs. Also, carriers and phone manufacturers make deals to pre-load software on phones. Yes, someone is making a lot of money to have Bing as the default search engine instead of Google on an Android phone. A lot of times these software additions are locked down so you can’t uninstall them without voiding a warranty.

Finally, the thought of more security through locking down a system or having open source to fix a problem.
Open source does provide a way for the good people to fix problems, but it provides the source to the criminals too. No software is perfect, thus it is a race to see who will find the flaw first. The other school of thought is to not release source code. This does not mean a system is more secure. Microsoft Windows has a closed source approach but has security flaws, as does Apple Mac OSX.

With the argument over mobile platforms being open and closed, there is no clear answer on what is better. Engineers and business leaders make decisions on what they think is best for their purposes and so should consumers. Apple locking down the iPhone and Appstore while pushing for an open HTML5 standard, and Google claiming to be open while working with carriers to lock down the software; keep in mind that there are not black and white sides to “open.”

Any solution, tech or otherwise, is not perfect but the solution used must be a compromise for all involved. Corporations are in business to make money and consumers want some freedom in their products that they spend the money on.

Cr-48 – Chrome OS Review

From Cr-48

[Edited 2/4/2011 to add printing comments]


One of the most exciting parts of new technologies is the ability to imagine how it can be useful in the future and not just at this moment in time. That os one of the reasons why I jumped to sign up for the Cr-48 netbook from Google. I was one of the lucky few (okay, about 1 of 60,000) to receive a Chrome OS netbook in December. The following will be my review of this computer.




Summary
Great for everyday use if you don’t need local media storage; try streaming music instead of storing it locally. Not a good primary computer for power users. Printer is difficult to set up unless you have a new cloud printer; you must have another computer running with the Chrome browser on it. Boot up is super fast.

Specs
12.1 inch LCD screen
WiFi 802.11n
3G Modem (Works on Verizon network)
Webcam
QWERTY keyboard
Mouse touchpad

The specs for this Chrome OS device seem pretty standard for netbooks except for the notable small size of storage, which is inaccessible to the user. I particularly liked the chicklet keyboard style (similar to MacBook keys) used on this model. This is only a pilot program that Google has set up for Chrome OS and manufacturers will be creating their own hardware variations when and if this operating systems launches in retail.

Review
I think that the Cr-48 would be a great device for most common users. Most people today use an Internet browser for most tasks at home. This includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging as well as streaming media services such as YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu. Most of this can be accomplished with the Chrome OS netbook. 


I was not able to view Netflix videos on the Chrome OS netbook. Netflix videos stream with Silverlight and is not supported in Chrome OS. YouTube videos and Pandora had both worked seamlessly, as well as a new streaming music service I found called Grooveshark.

The biggest thing left out that I can see for a “common user” would be lack of local media storage. This device does have a wireless data connection (Verizon 3G) built in with 100 MB of data free per month for two years. However, if you are constantly traveling and you run out of the free data, there is no way to listen to your music while on the road without paying for more data. 


It is quite difficult for common users to print on this device. You must have another conventional computer on with the Chrome browser running to print from your Cr-48. This defeats the purpose of having a light laptop with fast boot times. You can print easier with new cloud-based printers, but I doubt most people have them.

Common User Recommendation
The netbook is very light, portable and boots fast. This setup is ideal for a lot of users that may not be interested in a tablet in the future. I feel that my dad who would not like a fully touchscreen device could use the Cr-48 as a primary device. It would also serve as a great portable device for a person living on connected devices.

Power User Recommendation
This device could not be a primary device for a power user. Heavy video editing? Forget it. Lots of Windows applications? Forget it. Local media storage? Nope. 

That being said, I think this could make for a great portable device. Great for traveling with a light device with full size keyboard that boots and awakes from sleep in under 10 seconds.