18 December, 2007

The NYTimes on Google v. Microsoft (a brief overview)

The New York Times just sent an interesting article to my Inbox. Here's a paragraph from the article that, I believe, explains fairly well its gravamen:

The growing confrontation between Google and Microsoft promises to be an epic business battle. It is likely to shape the prosperity and progress of both companies, and also inform how consumers and corporations work, shop, communicate and go about their digital lives. Google sees all of this happening on remote servers in faraway data centers, accessible over the Web by an array of wired and wireless devices — a setup known as cloud computing. Microsoft sees a Web future as well, but one whose center of gravity remains firmly tethered to its desktop PC software. Therein lies the conflict.

There have been a number of articles online about the growing battle between Microsoft and Google--David (Google) taking on Goliath Microsoft). One of the odd things about this analogy is that Google is described as being a David when it is anything BUT. Granted, they're not the evil corporate empire that Microsoft has become, and hopefully they never will get there.

What is interesting to me is the manner in which Google is battling Microsoft. They're not exactly using what most would consider to be "white gloves" tactics; they're playing just as down and dirty as the rest of corporate America. The difference here, however, is in the goals that Google seeks to reach, and that they haven't to date gotten too "down and dirty."

Considering that Microsoft and Google both offer a number of competitive, comparative products, and that people tend to have preferences, which do you prefer, and why?

I believe my preference is fairly obvious but in case it isn't: I'm definitely a fan of Google, in large part because Google has--again, to date--used its clout and resources in order to comply with its corporate philosophy to "Don't Do Evil" and not only have they managed to not do evil, but they're aiding and abetting others in who battle evil. For instance,

The fact that Google's actions have traditional analysts, such as Scott Cleland, all up in stitches is, to me, definitely a good sign. It seems that American corporations have become all too obsessed with the almighty dollar, with turning profit, and have all but forgotten the basis (and most important part) of their business in the first place: the customer. Thankfully, that fate has not yet befallen Google, and I hope that Google's Corporate Philosophy (which is rumoured to have been incorporated into their by-laws) will enable them never to fall prey to that trap.

Google provides services that the customer wants, and for a reasonable price. In doing so, they have become one of the largest and most successful global companies in the history of business. Even though they charge pennies to the dollar that other corporations, such as Microsoft, charge their customers, Google is experiencing exponential revenue growth. And I firmly believe that it all has to do with their corporate philosophy. This is something that people want and, as more and more people around the world come to terms with technology and are better able to access it, I believe (and hope) that Google will be the winner of this battle.

For another take (or perhaps a similar one; I just spotted the article) take on this battle of the giants, take a look at this C|Net article.

[Updated 18 December 2007, 5:45am]:

I had to put this update in, I just found on the web, because this further exemplifies why Google is, by far, my company of choice for all things Web. David Berlind, Executive Editor of ZDNet, recently blogged about some of the recent changes that have occurred with Gmail, Google's (primarily) web-based email service, and when you read his blog post, you'll find out why I have "primarily" in parenthesis. Here are some excerpts from his post:


One of Google’s core philosophies is that user data should never be held hostage. We want people to be able to take their data and do whatever it is they want with it. This isn’t something that’s really standard for e-mail services. Particularly Web mail services that rely on ad revenue. There’s a risk if you let people get their mail in Outlook or some other client that they’ll stop using the Web interface and they’ll end up just reading their mail in a desktop client. We believe that if we give users the best possible product and if we create a good Web interface, and let them use their data in these clients like Outlook or like their BlackBerry, that they’ll overall have a better experience and be happier with the product. So, we’ve made a point throughout Gmail’s history to give people this freedom with their data.

. . .

Regarding the updates to the underlying Javascript engine, Coleman talks about how, as a result of those changes, not only has the Gmail team been able to add eight new features in as many weeks (colored labels [mentioned above], keyboard shortcuts, instantly opening e-mails [via prefetching], integration of AOL Instant Messaging, group chat, etc.), but about how the pace of change will be very fast which means a great many more enhancements (barring foldering capabilities, none of which Coleman would let slip in the interview) are coming Gmail’s way (some experimental, some not). However, one feature that’s here now, that Coleman did slip-in, is that the storage limit for users of Gmail currently exceeds 5 gigabytes. [emphasis supplied]

I just checked my Gmail account and, sure enough, I have nearly 6GB of storage space that's being provided for me. How neat is this?

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17 December, 2007

AIM and Gmail Integration

Gmail (Google's free web-based email service that offers tons of storage) has just introduced AIM integration into its chat feature. Provided that you're able to access Gmail with chat enabled (at the bottom of your Gmail screen, make sure you're using the Standard view), users can now sign into AOL Instant Messenger and chat with all of their AIM buddies right from within their Gmail window.

This is totally awesome news for me. I no longer have to launch AIM just to chat with a few people who I haven't convinced to use Gmail (stubborn, they are at that!). And this means that I'll basically havce another 75kb or so of free memory to run other applicatoins on my system.

The only hitch, and it's a very small one at that, is that you'll need to have an AIM account separately from Gmail in order to use this new feature. If you're an old AOL user or you have an AIM account, that's great; if not, just go over to AOL Instant Messenger and create one--it's totally free!

Here's a the announcement from Google's Press Release:

Announcement

December 4, 2007


Now chat with your AIM buddies inside Gmail

In February 2006, we integrated real-time chat into the GmailTM email service. Our goal was to let users switch between email and instant messaging without having to think about which they were using -- we even kept a history of chats and emails together in conversation threads so you could view and search both without worrying about whether your conversation happened as an email or a chat session.

But we know many of our users also have friends who use other chat services such as AIM.

So today we're rolling out a new feature to make it even more convenient and useful to chat from Gmail: you can now chat with all your AIM buddies right inside Gmail. Just click on the upside-down triangle next to "set status here" in your Gmail chat and select "Sign into AIM" from the drop down menu. Once you've entered your AIM log-in information, your AIM contacts will appear intermingled among your Gmail contacts, and you can select an AIM contact and chat with them directly.

This is just one of the first new features we're able to launch using Gmail's new code structure. This is rolling out in the newest English version of Gmail first and will be available in other languages soon. We're always looking for new and useful ways to help our users connect with friends, family, and coworkers, and we look forward to your feedback.

For more information or to start chatting, just log in to Gmail at www.gmail.com.

And be sure to check the Gmail Help Center for assistance with this great new feature, including instructions on logging into and out of AIM via Gmail.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this ability this morning. :)

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16 December, 2007

Pandora radio from the Music Genome Project

It is said that music truly is the universal language; perhaps there is truth to this statement because music is both mathematical (and we all know math to be a universal language) and emotional at the same time.

Case in point: I was listening a new station on Pandora.com (clicking on this link brings you to my profile page on Pandora). Pandora is the free Internet radio service where

  • you can create your own station by naming just one/song artist, and Pandora will use the Music Genome Project to discover related works that it think you might like,
  • you can vote individuals songs and artists into/out of your stations,
  • you can create an unlimited number of stations,
  • you can share your stations with your friends and the rest of the world,
  • you can see who else is listening to any particular song/artist at the moment,
  • you can get information about the currently playing song/artist/album with one simple click,
  • while Pandora goes about playing new content it thinks you might like, you can purchase the song from iTunes or Amazon.com, as it's playing, right from the Pandora interface), and
  • where you can do all of the above completely free of charge (except for purchasing the music from iTunes or Amazon)

I called my new station "The Crooners Station." As you may have guessed, I set up the station to play all of the great oldies from the greatest Crooners--both male and female--that America had to offer: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and Bette Midler.

So I was pleasantly surprised when my new station played Barbra Streisand's People. I haven't heard this song in such a long time and, as always is the case with Babs, it was sung with such flawless execution and heartfelt emotion that I'm glad I wasn't in public because I was basically falling apart at the seams, overwrought with emotion. And how great is a radio station where you tell it that you like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and Bette Midler, and it's able to determine that there's a good chance you'll like Barbra Streisand, Fred Astaire, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee?

This is one of the many songs that's able to do this to me and it got me to thinking: are there any songs out there that hold a significant emotional value for you? Over songs do you end up coming apart at the seams? Post a comment and let me know which music takes you on that emotional rollercoaster we all so desperately want to avoid 99% of the time.

And as I'm writing this, another of Babs' songs is coming on that's bringing tears to my ears (I just made that up--whaddya think, tears for your ears?): Somewhere (Live from her The Concert - Act 1 double- CD set. And what was just as moving as Babs' singing was the statement that she made reflecting her views on diversity and equality (how the world would be such a boring place if we were all the same, how we should all embrace each otehr's differences but be treated equally, etc.), before she blossomed into song.

So head on over and give Pandora a listen; if you enjoy listening to music, I'm confident that you'll find something to suit your tastes there. And while you're there, check out my profile and see the stations I've created. And let me know if you create any stations so I can check out your musical tastes, as well!

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