Google

The killer iOS feature Apple will never add

Over the past few months, Google has released great updates to their suite of iOS apps. For the first time, I could replace Apple’s entire application layer with the Google equivalents, and be better off.

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Google has always beaten Apple in online services, but the new apps also have a sense of quality and design that is new for Google.

The issue is that every time I download a Google app (or sometimes even update one), I have to login. When using 2 factor auth, this is a pain.

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I want to sign in to my Google account once, and have all apps on my iPhone use that auth token. This is what iOS already does for iCloud, Twitter, and Facebook. And Android already does this with Google accounts.

Even better, I’d love to sign in to multiple Google Apps accounts, and easily switch between them. I could do this within a single app, or globally for the entire phone.

But Apple doesn’t want this. They want you to use Apple Mail, Apple Maps, Safari, and other apps which, frankly, are not that great anymore.

Is this the right move for Apple? Do they need you locked in to their apps?

The better approach would be for Apple to build the best hardware, best operating system, and best application platform. Sell that, and let users choose what apps they want to use.

Today, no one will choose to use iCloud over Google apps. It’s in Apple’s court to make a better product and win us over.

Apple fucked up with iOS 6 maps. But they are NOT obsessed with Google

We all know the reason why Apple is doing these things. They’re more focused now on hurting Google than thrilling users, just like they were with Microsoft in the 90s.

It sucks. And it’s a recipe for longterm failure.

They say that those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.

The history that Apple is repeating is its own history. It’s time to get smart, bury the hatchet, make peace with Google and start putting users first again.

Disagree. Google is obsessed with Apple. They are building phones, tablets, laptops, music stores, and other products that THEY SUCK AT.

Google still makes its money on two products: search and ads. That’s it. All their other products are, frankly, underwhelming.

Yes, Apple messed up with the new maps. It’s not a typical Apple quality product. But I therefore assume it happened because they were forced to do it.

Apple probably had a five year license for Google Maps and Youtube apps. The original iphone was released in 2007. That means it was up.

Upon renewal of this agreement, Google could have demanded some insane fees. Maybe Google tried to force Apple to preinstall other Google apps. Maybe they tried to make Apple sign an exclusive on their search engine for 10 more years.

We don’t know the details. But Apple has always focused on building products that are best in class. They have never built something out of obsession, or even something for the sake of filling a feature matrix.

I think there are forces here we don’t know about, which required an early ship date for iOS 6 Maps. Too early. But I see no evidence of a Google obsession. If Apple ever builds a search engine: that’s another story.

Android steals from iOS

[Google Engineer] Morrill said. “The problem is that there is no good UI for it. One of the core Android principles is that you never need a file manager. Ever. We wanted to avoid the obnoxious ‘sneeze and a file picker appears’ syndrome of basically every other OS. Local data that apps know how to handle should just be magically available within the apps, or stored in the cloud. You shouldn’t have to go spelunking on your SD card to find data.”

Really?

You’re claiming that file managers go against a core Android principal. Yet almost every Android phone produced has one.

The iPhone hasn’t had a file manager since day one. It has never had an SD card slot even when users asked for it. They made that choice for a reason, and it led to a simpler phone.

I don’t mind if you steal ideas from other companies, but don’t pretend that was your intention all along.

Why does Android get credit for being disruptive? It’s not.

Back in January 2010, following Google’s much-hyped Nexus One unveiling, I wrote a post entitled: Apple And Google Just Tag Teamed The U.S. Carriers. In it, I argue that the biggest part of Google’s announcement wasn’t any one device, it was the new model they were putting out there. Google’s ambition to sell devices directly to consumers would build upon the consumer-friendly mobile foundation laid by Apple with the iPhone. Under the new system, consumers would go to a website and click on the phone they want, click on the carrier they want, and boom, they’re done. This was going to change everything. It was going to be beautiful.

Then something happened.

While Apple (some would say stubbornly) clung to their exclusive agreement in order to continue to bend AT&T to their will, Google backed down. When it became clear that the Nexus One was simply not selling, Google seemingly panicked and went running with open arms to the carriers.

Somehow Google’s Android inserts itself into the conversation around cell phone innovation and breaking free of carrier control. Yet I fail to see what Android has really done to help.

When the iPhone came out 4 years ago, the entire industry changed. Here’s what the iPhone brought us for the first time:

  • A phone you could purchase directly from Apple at full price with no contract. This model ended up failing as consumers wanted the contract subsidy on the device, but Apple was the first to try to decouple the phone from the carrier.
  • No carrier influence in the operating system. My iPhone experience is exactly what Apple wants it to be. AT&T can’t add or remove apps or even put their logo on my phone.
  • The phone gets OS upgrades automatically from Apple through iTunes. The iPhone was one of the first with upgrades that user’s actually took, and it all happens independent of AT&T, through iTunes.
  • Although you sign a 2 year agreement with AT&T when you get an iPhone, Apple has negotiated so iPhone users can get the new iPhone each year. With cell phone technology moving so quickly (and with so many fanboys like me), I really appreciate this from Apple/AT&T. Two year upgrade cycles are unreasonable.
  • (I think) the iPhone is the first phone that is 100% pixel identical on more than one carrier. We’re not talking about “almost the same.” I can choose to get an iPhone on AT&T or Verizon and the phone itself doesn’t change in hardware or software.

With Android, I struggle to see what Google has done to make the cell phone market better, or to reduce the hold carriers have on us. The few things I can come up with are:

  • They provided a good OS for free to all handset manufacturers. This is great since most handset makers had crappy software. It means phones have more functionality and more consistency than they had before.
  • Android is a great, open developer platform. It lets people build software without a gate keeper (Apple).

Other than that, it seems Android suffers from the same issues other cell phones do. The carriers control the software and experience that ultimate ends up on the device. The carrier controls upgrades for software and hardware. There is a ton of fragmentation in the space. There is confusion for users. 

I see how Google tried to change things. They tried to sell the Nexus One direct and tried to bring consistent hardware and software to multiple carriers. But none of this has played out.

At least today, I’m not sure it makes sense to talk about Google in the same breath as Apple with regards to innovation in the mobile industry. Google promises a lot (free WiFi in San Francisco?) but delivers little.

To compete with Google, Apple has to make Mobile Me free

When Google announced the first Android phone, I was not impressed. The hardware was large and clunky, the software was young and lacked polish. But Android is emerging as a real threat to Apple, because Google’s cloud services are well-executed, and free. A user can buy an Android phone, log in with their Google account, and instantly have their contacts, email, and calendar.

Apple needs to follow Google’s lead. Why do I need to USB sync my new iPhone or iPad with iTunes before I can use it? I blogged about this before. Mobile Me should be the true hub for all your data, while your laptop should be just another client device with equal rights as your iPhone or iPad. All your devices should sync with the cloud.

But for Mobile Me to be this hub, and for Apple to maintain their dominance on the mobile front against Google, they must make Mobile Me free. Until they do this, Google will have better cloud integration with their mobile devices.

  • Mobile Me is not a significant source of revenue for Apple. Most money comes from sales of Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
  • Mobile Me costs $99 per year. While that’s a fair price for 20GB of email and storage, most people won’t pay it if there are free alternatives. Even though GMail is filled with ads, people choose free. So Mobile Me will have a hard time growing and being successful on its own.
  • Mobile Me should be a loss leader designed to tie together Apple hardware, and to sell more of it. OS X development sells Macs and iPhones. Mobile Me development should be thought of the same way. By making Mobile Me free, more people will experience the Apple ecosystem, and it would make Apple hardware stickier. You won’t buy other hardware if the integration with your personal cloud isn’t there.
  • While Google’s cloud services are fine, Apple can show these can be done better. Ad free and beautifully designed. I predict people will use Apple’s version and prefer it.
  • Mobile Me can go beyond email and calendars. It can be your media repository with an online iTunes, and it can be your online document storage with iWork online.
  • One of the great benefits of Google Docs is being able to collaborate with others. This is only possible because almost everyone has a Google account, and this is because they are free. Mobile Me needs the same.
  • In many ways, Mobile Me isn’t that good! By making it free, they will gain a lot of users, and therefore gain resources from Apple to make it better. They will be able to hire smarter people who will be drawn to work on a large platform.

Rebranding .Mac to Mobile Me already shows a movement away from the Mac. This isn’t your “Mac” login, this is the login for your personal cloud.

So picture it: you buy an iPad, iPhone, or a new Macbook Pro. You turn it on and login with your Mobile Me account. You already have one since it’s free. Instantly that device has all your media and other data. There’s no more USB syncing.

And the next time you’re looking for a new phone, there’s pressure to stick with Apple products because the hardware, software, and cloud will be perfectly integrated.

Apple can continue trying to sell Mobile Me as a standalone product, but they are slowing adoption of their cloud services and hurting their overall mobile platform. Instead they should focus on selling hardware, and give away the best software and services to run on that hardware.

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Thanks to Anthony Ha for the editing help.

Browser innovation will happen. Google will drive it

I definitely ruffled some feathers with my last blog post, “The web sucks“.

The hardcore web developers are pretty upset. Those who have never developed for the iPhone, or are strong believers in standards and openness, tend to leave comments like, “you suck!” Really mature.

The more intelligent commenters seem to get my point. They do acknowledge that the web platform is innovating very slowly, and has quickly been eclipsed by native mobile apps.

I don’t know what the solution to the browser problem is. Maybe non-standardization isn’t the way to go, it’s just one option I propose.

I don’t think the web will die, but if the web platform loses any market share at all, Google stands to lose the most. That’s why I think they will lead innovation.

1. Google should drop support for IE6 across the board, most notably, in GMail. If they did this, imagine how much market share IE6 would lose, overnight! Even the slowest IT departments out there would no choice but to figure out an upgrade plan.

2. Google Chrome should release some non-standard APIs that make Google web apps really standout. You want to use GMail in all its glory? Then you have to use Chrome. Other browsers may or may not implement the APIs that Chrome creates. Developers may or may not use the Chrome only APIs to enhance their apps.

But people won’t complain about the non standard Chrome SDK because:

  1. It’s Google
  2. Google will open source it
  3. Other browsers will copy it
  4. The apps developed with it will be better than ever

And with that, a new era in browser competition and innovation will be born.

Google’s first Super Bowl ad. Awesome. Google search influences so many decisions we make in life

These days, you really can’t make an informed decision about anything without consulting Google first.

Whether you are looking for the best price on something, reading restaurant reviews, or planning a wedding, you can’t be without the internet.

Great ad. Simple, low budget, but really touching. I like it.

Will SEO experts ruin search results? Or will Google stay one step ahead and always give you the best content?

Over the weekend I tried to buy a new dishwasher. Being the fine net-friendly fellow that I am, I  began Google-ing for information. And Google-ing. and Google-ing. As I tweeted frustratedly at the tend of the failed exercise, “To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews”.

This is, of course, merely a personal example of the drive-by damage done by keyword-driven content — material created to be consumed like info-krill by Google’s algorithms. Find some popular keywords that lead to traffic and transactions, wrap some anodyne and regularly-changing content around the keywords so Google doesn’t kick you out of search results, and watch the dollars roll in as Google steers you life-support systems connected to wallets, i.e, idiot humans.

The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.

As Search Engine Optimization techniques get better and more effective, will a web search revert back to looking like it did in 1999? Remember when search results were full of spammy sites? Whereas now we find sites like Wikipedia, Yelp, and Amazon ranking highest, all sites with great content.

The whole point of Google’s search algorithm is to find and return the best content for any given set of search terms. They use a number of factors to figure out what’s “best”. For example, the more times someone links to an article, the better that article probably is.

Whenever someone asks me about SEO and how they can improve their page rank, I always say one thing: create good content. If you post good stuff, people will talk about it, discuss it, link to it, and Google will eventually see that it’s good and present it to people.

Doing anything for SEO outside of just creating good content is just trying to trick Google into thinking your content is better than it is. In fact, if Google is doing their job right, they should make adjustments to counter these SEO tactics.

I was discussing this with a friend and he brought up an interesting point: searching for “dishwashers” brings up a bunch of junk, so why doesn’t Google fix their algorithm? Because it’s those junkie websites that drive clicks that result in ads sales. Maybe they aren’t trying to optimize for the best results, but for making the most money.

If you do believe that Google is in fact optimizing for revenue (I don’t necessarily believe that), then won’t search results get worse and worse? They will. Until a new player comes along. The next Google. And consumers will switch to this new search engine if they see better results there.

And then the cycle will begin again.

I’m not an SEO expert, but seems like SEO is something spam sites do. If you are trying to create a high quality destination site, just write good content and let Google do its job.

And now the SEO experts are going to slaughter me in the comments, I can feel it.

Note: These opinions are mine alone, and not those of Posterous, Inc.

Why do people think software should be free?

When I was at Apple yesterday, I was describing Posterous and our upcoming iPhone app to many people. Everyone asked me, “How much does Posterous cost?” It’s free. I think people at Apple don’t have an expectation for free software like people on the web do. At a traditional software company, you build something, then you charge for it.

 But people have a hard time paying for software these days. Google has definitely led the way in providing great free alternatives to desktop software, that have become the de facto tools for most users. That’s great, but makes it harder for new companies to charge money. Users aren’t willing to pull out their credit cards on the web (unless it’s at Amazon.com).

 And I never hear about people purchasing traditional desktop software, other than creatives who need Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, or other professional tools. This is partially because most machines these days come with great software (iLife, iWork).

 The exception to all this is the iPhone. The distribution model is magnificent. Every iPhone owner has an iTunes account, and every iTunes account has a credit card on file. Most iPhone owners probably already had one for buying music at the iTunes music store. So now these same people have an iPhone and can buy $0.99 applications with one click. Zero friction, it just appears on your iTunes statement. Even my mom does it. (This, btw, is the same on the Apple TV and it’s brilliant)

 I wonder how many people are buying software for the first time ever, now that Apple has made it so easy.