Google Unveils The New Android Market For Smartphones; Adds Support For Movies And Books

Google recently unveiled a new version of the Android Market which allows you to purchase books as well as rent movies on the go. The new version of Android Market will be available only on the phones running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and higher. The new revamped Android Market make it easier, faster and more fun to discover great apps, movies and books. Google have also introduced new collections of great content like staff picks and Editors’ Choice apps.

Android smartphone users in the US, will be able to rent thousands of movies, right from the Android Market. The new Videos app allows you to rent movies from the Android Market starting at $1.99. The rented movie will be linked to your Google account, so that you can view it in multiple devices such as computer, phone or tablet. You can even download movies to your smartphone and watch it even if you don’t have an internet connection. This is feature is quite useful while you are travelling and don’t have an active internet connection.

new android market

In the US, you can also purchase books from the Android Market. The books will also be linked to your Google account, so that you can read it on multiple devices. The new Android Market client comes with an improved UI and it allows you to quickly download or purchase your favorite apps. The home screen showcases a new promotional page that highlights top content from the Android Market.

It also lets you to check out what other people are downloading in the Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, Top New Paid, Top New Free, and Trending lists. Google will roll out the new Android Market in the coming weeks to Android 2.2 and higher smartphones. Check out the demo video below.

Google Plus Enhancer Shows Unread Count Of Gmail And Google Reader On Google’s Menu Bar

The best thing about recent redesign of Google homepage is probably the black navigation menu bar.

Personally, I am not a big fan of the fancy black background color but considering the fact that this menu bar integrates tightly with Google Plus and other Google services, I think it’s highly useful.

When you are using other Google services like Gmail, Google Reader or Google blog search, you get real time notifications from your Google Plus account. You can read and reply to comments directly from Google’s notification bar, without having to open your Google Plus account over and over again.

This concept can be extended to Gmail and Google Reader, thanks to the Google + Enhancer Greasemonkey script

Google Plus enhancer lets you see unread email count of Gmail and unread count for Google reader items right from Google’s menu bar. Once the script is installed and you are signed in to your Google account, the script will show real time notifications of Google Reader unread items and number of unread email in Gmail, as shown below:

gmail-reader-notifications-google-bar

The script works universally, no matter which Google service you are using. In addition to showing unread email count from Gmail, the script will also shows you notifications from Google Calendar, Google Maps, iGoogle, Google News and Google Images.

Please note that the script wont work if you are using multiple or separate Google accounts for Gmail, Google Reader or Google Plus. The script can fetch notifications for the currently active session of the logged in user, so if you are using Google Apps for Gmail and a regular Gmail account with Google Reader the notifications won’t work for all services. The notifications will only be shown for that Google account which is being used last.

And since this is a Greasemonkey script and not a browser specific extension, it will work in most modern browsers e.g Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera. Also read our earlier tutorial on how to run Greasemonkey scripts in Opera, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Note: Keith has earlier developed Google Black bar hider another Greasemonkey script which completely disables the black navigation bar across all Google services. If you hate Google’s new black menu bar and have installed the Google black bar hider script, this Google Plus enhancer one won’t work at all. This is because Keith’s script will completely remove the notification bar, so the Google Plus enhancer script will never be shown in the first place.

 

All Google Profiles Will Be Public After July 31st, Private Profiles Will Be Deleted

Regardless of whether you have a Google Plus account or not, your Google profile will automatically become public after July 31st. If your Google profile is set to Private, you would have to change it’s visibility to Publicbefore July 31st. All private Google profiles will be deleted after July 31st, as reported in a help document page of Google Profiles.

Here is what the help page reads:

The purpose of Google Profiles is to enable you to manage your online identity. Today, nearly all Google Profiles are public. We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.

The argument is loud and clear.

There is No Free Lunch

If you want to have a free lunch (Google Plus and other Google services), there is no way you can go incognitoanymore. You must provide your information to the world and more importantly, to Google.

From the last couple of months, Google’s behavior and action proves that they are now focusing more and more on the biggest asset The People.

google-cartoonFirst they launched their so called online reputation management tool and integrated it on Google dashboard.   The tool is powered by an existing service – Google Alerts and it offers nothing special for that matter. The interesting thing here is that to use the tool, users have to mandatorily create their Google Profile.

Bang on. Here is the hidden pitch Create your profile and get automatic alerts for free. But, please create your Google profile for God’s sake!

Next, they came up with a brand new social network Google Plus. Well this one is new and offers something interesting but if you see from the top it is also geared towards the same objective Information about people

Now they want every Google profile to be public. Where do all these equations meet?

Google wants to know more and more information about you. They already know what you search for, to whom you communicate with and which websites you keep on visiting again and again. Although Google lets user export their data out, but that’s a usability tool and does not intersect with user privacy.

Note that both Facebook and Twitter offers ways to protect their profiles from being found. But with Google, it’s just not possible anymore. Your Google profile will be forcibly made public after July 31st or deleted. Yes, there is an option to control whether your profile appears on search result pages or not but remember the fact that anyone within Google Plus can still track you down, since your Google profile is public.

The big question remains unanswered why user data is becoming so important these days? Why Google wants every Google profile to be public, forcibly? Is it because they want better Ad targeting or is it that they want to measure user interaction across all Google services? Possibly both.

Just wondering where the search giant is headed.

 

Google Street View Temporarily Discontinued In India

Just around the end of last month, Google had announced the start of it’s Street View project in India. Street Viewis one of the many projects from Google that lets you check out places around the world with the help of 360-degree street-level images from Google Maps. However, Street View has already come under the scanner of various governments across the world.

The Street View project has now fallen prey to the eyes of the Indian Government as well. When Google started this in Bangalore, India last month, we were quite skeptical about it’s operation in the country. Now it turns out that Google did not even secure the necessary clearance required for filming the streets in Bangalore.

Google has already procured a fleet of Chevrolet Captiva SUVs and tri-cycles with special rotating cameras atop in order to film and take photographs of the streets. The Bangalore police is concerned because there are many military institutions in the city and making available such data online would pose security threats to these areas.

Google has already confirmed that the “Street View” project has been suspended as they have received a letter from Bangalore’s police commissioner ask to do so. Not only India, Google has faced serious obstacles in implementing this project in other countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Brazil.

Google, FSF, SUSE and Red Hat Joins The LibreOffice Advisory Board

A couple of days ago, The Document Foundation announced the formation of the LibreOffice Advisory Board. The function of the LibreOffice Advisory Board will be to provide The Document Foundation with advice, guidance and proposals. The board will also have a say in the future developments and projects of The Document Foundation.

When Oracle gave away OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation, I wrote that it did not matter as LibreOffice is where all the action is at. Well, that view has been reaffirmed by four big names joining the LibreOffice Advisory Board Google, FSF, Red Hat and SUSE.

This is what Jeremy Allison, member of Google’s Open Source Programs Office, said about Google joining the Advisory board:

The creation of The Document Foundation’s Advisory board is a great step forward for the organization. Google is pleased to be a supporter of The Document Foundation, and to provide funding and advice to advance their work.

The backing of SUSE and Red Hat, the companies behind major Linux distributions such as SUSE, openSUSE, Red Hat and Fedora, means that LibreOffice will continue to be the favored office suite for these Linux distributions. Although, Canonical did not join the board, they too have pledged their support for LibreOffice.

The fact that LibreOffice has got the support of the Free Software Foundation is a big advantage for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. Recently the FSF has gone on record saying that users should use LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. This is what John Sullivan, Executive Director of the FSF said:

The Free Software Foundation is pleased to offer its advise to The Document Foundation. We applaud TDF’s demonstrated commitment to user freedom, and will do our best to help it achieve its free software goals going forward.

The other members of the LibreOffice Advisory Board are Freies Office Deutschland e.V. and Software in the Public Interest. Each of the members of the advisory board will have one representative and will serve for a term of one year.

Google’s “Me on The Web” Tracks Online Mentions Of Your Name, Just Like Google Alerts

online-identityOn the eyes of a random searcher, your online identity largely depends on which pages are returned when they search for you on major search engines.

It’s a known fact that most recruiters are most likely to perform a Google search for your name before they decide to hire you.

The question is: how do search engines decide which pages should be returned when someone is Googling for your name, email address, company site and so on. Two factors come into play here.

First, what you say about yourself. Your personal blog, Twitter profile, Google profile amongst other social sites are strong signals of your online identity. Second, what other people are saying about you, who is linking to your site’s about page, who is mentioning your name in comments, who is conversing with you on Twitter and so on.

Hence, it is really important to keep your eyes really wide open on online conversations that are related to you in some way or the other.

Google is at your rescue again, with the introduction of Me On the web- a personal reputation management tool available on your Google account dashboard.

Google’s Me On The Web

Google’s Me on the webtool lets you track online reactions which may be related to you in some way or the other. The tool is powered by Google alerts and lets you set up search alerts for your name email address, website or specific keywords which are directly associated with your brand, company, service and so on.

google-me-on-web

For me on the webto work, you must have an active Google profile. No wonder Google wants to push Google profilesto more and more people out there so that their socialsignal strength becomes more and more widespread. What I mean is that there is nothing new here, all the features are already available on Google Alerts. In fact, the overlay window itself claims that Me on the webis powered by Google alerts, so it’s clear that Google wants more and more people to create their Google profiles and use this service to track their online identity.

Some Downsides of Google’s Me On The Web

There are two downsides though.

First, there is no way to subscribe to these custom alerts using RSS. I get dozens of email every single day and I am a little skeptical on receiving stuff on my email inbox. I have some Google alerts working round the clock in Google reader, so there is no way I am going to use me on the web. Thumbs down.

Second, the results are not archived and you are shown only recent results. If someone linked to your site and it appeared as an alert four months back, you have to dig up that old email message. There is no way to find that old alert directly from your Google dashboard. It’s lost in time !

Overall, this is not really useful for power users but if you have never heard of Google alerts, you may want to try this out.

Google Improves It’s Related Search Feature, Shows Similar Items From A List

Often times, you may want to see similar items that closely match with your search criteria.

It’s unlikely that you will remember the names and details of all the items that belong to a group. Let’s quickly take an example to understand how list of searches work.

Say you are researching about American presidentsand want an easy way to find out all the individuals who were previously president of USA. You don’t know the name of any U.S president at all so how do you search anyway?

One example in this case is to head over to Wikipedia or any other website which has a list of all U.S presidents, copy the name from that website, prepare your internal list and then start your research on Google.com.

Google understands that in some situations, it makes perfect sense to show all the items that belong to a particular group. NBA players, American authors, Spielberg movies, you get the idea.

Starting today, you might see a Top Referencessection at the bottom of Google search result pages which is an improvement to how related searches are shown on Google.com. Previously, Google offered search suggestions focusing only on the long tail of search and different keyword variations.   But this feature has been extended to work with lists and items that are part of a subset of queries.

Here is how.

google-related-searches

Previously, users were only shown different keyword and phrase variations of the same search. This is an aggregate data of search queries which closely matches with the queries of other users. Google has extended this feature for specific queries with the Top Referencesfeature which now shows different items from a list.

So if you are searching for American authors, Google thinks that you want a list of American authors and then refine your search deeper. It can happen that you don’t remember the name of John Steinbeck, so Google will now show you all the items that match with your query, so you can just click on the list item and perform long tail searches on your own.

If you click one of these links, the collection of links moves to the top of the results page and results are shown depending on the links you click next.

google-related-searches1

These related searches currently appear in English only on google.com. Google says in a blog post that their search algorithms uses variety of signals to determine the most relevant and accurate items that may be present on a list. These suggestions are shown automatically when Google thinks the user is searching for a specific item that is part of a bigger group. Please note that there is no way to toggle Top Referencessuggestion on Google.com, as you can do with related searchesavailable in the left sidebar.

Some observations:

1. The Top Referencessuggestion is shown only for very very popular queries.

2. Most of these queries are short in nature. Works best with one or two words at maximum.

3. Searching for an individual list item won’t show you the references suggestion. Instead, if you type in the name of the larger group, you are most likely to see similar items of the same list. So if you search for Mark Twain, you won’t see any references suggestion at all. Instead, you have to search for american authorsand the references suggestion should appear.

Google has been quite busy rolling up updates one after another. A few days back they introduced voice search, search with images and Instant pages. We told you that Google is working on a major design overhaul of their search result pages with the URL’s being plastered between the title and description snippet. It looks like their search team is also focusing on user interaction and discoverability of content, not just design, look or feel.

We tried this improvement with some sample queries [Indian cricketers], [nobel prize winners] and [seven wonders of the world]. Try them out and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Oracle is Playing the Android Card Again, Google is in Trouble

Oracle is notorious for its lawsuits. It might be going a step further if I call it a patent troll but Oracle is behaving like one lately. Google is clearly the underdog in the Android lawsuit, but what Oracle is doing is notorious nonetheless. Oracle has asked Google to pay up for the patent infringements. As worrying as this is, it will pin down Google’s entire Android business in two killer blows.
oracle-google-android
First, Google would have to move to a per-copy license fee. Second, the lawsuit claims for monetary compensations that far surpass Google’s profits with Android, which we know is not much. The scenario is building up from October last year and the Googlers at Mountain View are having a tough time with Oracle beating the Android drums every now and then.

The Android boom that we have seen lately owes its existence to the fact that Android is hassle free unlike most other mobile OS. Added licenses will add parameters for the buyer and for Google as well, hampering further Android sales. Oracle has earned a bad name for itself over the course of the last six months. Moreover, Oracle is not on a good start with Sun technologies as it has shut down many and has cared less about the ones that live.

Oracle has thrown out old Sun talent and some have left  voluntarily.  The big shot Gosling himself has joined Google and this earns Google some thumbs up, at least from people. However, Oracle has a strong case in court where people do not count and legal arguments do.

I will not support Oracle in this even if they are right, because of their attitude. However, Google should have taken care of things as well. A complete drilldown of the patent is available here and you can figure the proceedings of the entire case from reading it.

Google Debuts “Street View” In India; Starting From Bengaluru

“Street View” is one of the many projects from Google that lets you check out places around the world with the help of 360-degree street-level images. This feature is available inside Google Maps. Street View has already been under the scanner of various Govt. agencies in the 27 countries where the service is currently available. Google has now announced the launch of the “Street View” service in India too.

“Street View” will debut in Bengaluru and after which it will make it’s way into other major Indian cities. However, you won’t be able to see any imagery as of now as the service has just been started in India and Google will have to take pictures and compile the database first. Once the collection process is over, the entire city of Bengaluru will be available on your desktop or mobile device!

Here is an image of some vehicles from Google Street View’s fleet of vehicles which will used to scan the images of various parts of the city. In the image you can see a tricycle and two Chevrolet Captiva SUVs. Note the special camera at the top of the vehicles which will be used to capture the images.

Via Google India Blog

Google To Launch Mobile Payment System

Google is expected to launch a mobile payment system on Thursday that allows consumers to buy items and checkout with smartphones rather than traditional credit/debit cards. The system will run on the Google’s Android operating system and will be available on phones from Sprint Nextel Corp.

Google Mobile Payment

The service would allow users to pay for retail purchases by holding their smartphone up to a specialized reader at checkout counters.

Google has been working with MasterCard, the world’s second-largest credit card processing network and Citigroup Inc to develop this mobile payments system. During the trial period, the service will be available only for Citigroup credit/debit card users.

Google is planning to show off the technology and has invited reporters to attend a “partner event” on Thursday in New York.