Posts about mobile

Google’s synchronicity

On the latest This Week in Google, we talked about many of Google’s product announcements and enhancements and though none on its own was earthshattering, as we added them up, I started to see synchronicity approaching — all the moreso last night when TechCrunch reported that Google’s negotiating to buy Yelp.

I see a strategy emerging that has Google profoundly improve search by better anticipating our intent and then moving past search to build hegemony in local and mobile (which will come to mean the same thing).

Add up Google’s recent moves in local/mobile:

* Yelp would bring Google a scalable platform to get information and reviews about every local business using community. Yelp enhances Google’s place pages. Place pages enhance Google Maps. Google Maps are our pathway to local information on what we still mobile phones but will soon see as our constant connectivity devices.

* Google distributed 190,000 QR codes for local businesses to paste on their front windows. Take a picture of it and Google will give you information about the place (see: above). Businesses have another reason to advertise on and be found through Google and its business center.

* TechCrunch also speculates that we could use these QR codes to check in to Foursquare, Gowalla, et al. Local is social.

* Google Goggles goes the next step and lets you take a picture of a place — or object (or soon, person) — and use that as a search request to get local information — or leave it.

Thus Google becomes a doorway to the annotated world. Everyplace has information swirling around it; Google organizes it and motivates and enables us to create more information for it to organize (more on this idea of the annotated world in another post).

* Google’s reported phone is said to have a “weirdly large camera.” If that camera becomes a key to visual search, that makes sense, eh? That also gives us a better way to take more geo-tagged photos, which better annotates the world and gives Google more information to serve back to us.

* Google is trying to get better at recognizing speech to prepare for a voice-controlled (read: mobile) web world. That, say Chris Anderson and Tim O’Reilly, is why they give away GOOG411 for free: to learn our voices. And now note that Google is asking people to donate their voicemails to Google’s effort to improve its own transcription. Search will become visual and aural (read: mobile).

* Google Earth is coming to the cockpit of the new Audi, giving drivers rich geographic data about where they are and where they’re going.

* GoogleMaps on Android will now tell you what’s nearby.

* Let’s not forget that Google will make money on local — Eric Schmidt said on CNBC a year and a half ago that Google will eventually make more on mobile than the web (which, to me, doesn’t mean phones; it means our constantly on connection devices). This is why Google bought mobile ad leader AdMob for $750 million.

That’s mobile. Now look at some of its search enhancements to better intuit intent:

* Go to the Google home page. Start typing “Weather in Lon” and stop there. Google will not only suggest that you want weather in London, it will give you the forecast for London right there in the search box. You didn’t even finish typing in what you wanted to ask and Google gave you the answer without you even having to click and go to a site.

Google search

Google’s holy grail, they’ve long said, is to anticipate your intent. That explains, I think, some of Google’s other moves.

* Google DNS is supposed to speed up the web for you (speed is a big Google cause these days) but it also gives Google an invaluable source of data about web usage: who goes where when and before and after what sites looking for what. Now, your ISP knows that. But with DNS, Google could know that. It makes Google smarter about the web and its content as a whole, certainly, and so long as it is careful about privacy, it can enable Google to target to us better.

I see a day when search (like news) is no longer one size fits all. Search will be customized, personalized, and targeted to us and our contexts: who we are and where and when we are asking for something. This, I think, could mean the slow death of the dark art of SEO.

* How will Google get us to use its DNS? Well, I’ll bet it will be the default in computers equipped with Google Chrome OS. And I wouldn’t be surprised of the Google Chrome browser can provide some of this data to Google.

* Google launches social search. This creates more context and gives Google another clue to intent.

Now add back in all the mobile developments above. This gives Google more context to anticipate our intent.

But that’s not all. I’ve said for sometime that Google is behind in battles for the live and social web and was going to say here that it was bypassing those strategies to concentrate on mobile/local. But as I wrote the post, I saw more threads in both live and social.

* Google added Twitter to its search results. That’s pretty much a BFD. But it shows they’re trying to grapple with the live web. And that’s why there are never-ending rumors about Google buying Twitter.

* Wave is an important shift in the metaphor for content creation, making it collaborative (read: social) and live. Google added social tools to Google Docs. It make Docs a path to publishing (and being found via search) on the web. Creation itself is a social act once it enables us to connect.

* Add in the social bits above: Yelp is a community tool; QR codes and visual search will let us talk about places and things and find each other and meet; Foursquare and Gowalla make local social and Google could help them.

Last night, after the Yelp report, I tweeted this: “Yelp + GoogleMaps + StreetView + PlacePages + GOOG411 + Google Goggles + Android + AdSense = Google synchronicity”. Om Malik piped in: “@jeffjarvis I love your unrelenting belief in google. I think u need to start look at world in a non-search context.” But then I said – and others agreed: “I also think Google is starting to look at the world in a non-search context (i.e., local, live, mobile)”.

I believe that’s what we’re seeing here: the start of Google’s view of itself after search. Not that search will go away but it will become less important in the shifting mix of out rings of discovery. And if search is going to stay preeminent, it had better update itself profoundly.

: See also Gina Trapani’s excellent roundup of Google’s amazing 2009 developments.

: LATER: Kara Swisher says Google is also eying real-estate search Trulia.

Spoiling the paid party (again)

Paid Content reports today that The New York Times Companies’ Martin Nisenholtz is talking about charging for the paper’s mobile app.

On the face of it, this seems to make sense: People are paying for mobile content and functionality (ring tones vs. earth-shattering news, ferchrissakes!) and for mobile apps. The New York Times iPhone app is downright wonderful. It’s far better than The Times’ Kindle app (no fault of The Times; all the Kindle news sites are sucky). I’d pay for the app – once.

But would I pay for an ongoing subscription to it? Well, here’s the problem: my iPhone brings me the web and I can read The Times there without paying. Damn, that genie; doesn’t know his place (in the bottle).

Nisenholtz says, quite rightly, that one problem with the iPhone app is that there are fewer opportunities for advertising. And even so, the few ad avails I see are all filled with free house ads for The Times itself; obviously, the sales staff hasn’t taken seriously the opportunity to sell this prime audience (why is it always thus?). So The Times’ app makes bupkis. Even the house ads are irritating, so I might pay for an app without ads. But then I’d be paying for less irritation rather than for the content.

What’s the solution? I haven’t the faintest idea.

Holding a conversation with Google

I can’t wait to get the Google iPhone app that answers questions asked by voice:

Tim O’Reilly called this one a year and a half ago, I think, when he said that GOOG-411’s core purpose or fringe benefit was that Google would harvest our voice samples and out of them create the best voice recognition online. Now Google can answer any question we ask (we’ll see how well it works sometime today).

This is about mobile, of course. Eric Schmidt told Jim Cramer a few weeks ago that in the future, Google will make more from mobile than from the web because it is a better targeting opportunity and targeting — relevance — is Google’s real business. This is also about the next real operating system of the internet. Microsoft has its voice-recognition software, of course, but Word isn’t where this battle will be fought. The sidewalk is the place.

The challenge of live search

As the web turns live — with broadcasters streaming and with anyone carrying a mobile phone broadcasting — the next big challenge for search will be how we can find what’s going on while it’s going on. How can we search the live web?

I’ve written here before that witnesses sharing what they see via video from their mobile phones will change the essential architecture of news. No longer will CNN tell witnesses to send things to them that they then vet, package, and present to the world. When a Qik or Flixwagon user sees live news and broadcasts it on the web, it won’t be through CNN. CNN’s challenge will be to find it and its choice will be to link to it or embed it or not. That changes the role of a news organization in the ecology of news. It might even take them out of the flow of much of live news unless they can come up with systems to find and recommend what’s happening now.

Even when dealing with known, branded sources of live broadcast, there’s a challenge. I want to see whether anyone — TV or radio network or citizen armed with a Nokia — is going to broadcast Barack Obama’s speech about race from Philadelphia today. But I can’t find that.

Google is not prepared for the live web. Google values pages that grow links and clicks over time. It understands the permanent web. Of course, that is a protean thing, a growing brain. But it’s not live. Technorati likes to think that it gives us the live web but I’d say that instead it gives us the dynamic web, the latest static pages. It also doesn’t give us live.

How can you find and value live? Looking at links will make you too late. Traffic might tell you something — why are people swarming around this video stream? — but that, too, will be unreliable and probably too late. Brand won’t be a help because the witness will almost always see and share news before a reporter can get there.

Nobody would have had any reason to know that I was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center on 9/11 but if I’d had the phone I had now, I would have been broadcasting the news from eye-level — not from rooftops three miles away — as it happened. How could you have known that?

There will need to be a new system where, Twitterlike, he who’s broadcasting live can alert the world about what he’s sending and others — audiences or armies of interns monitoring these feeds — help the good stuff bubble up and quickly.

If this doesn’t exist, the live web’s value will be as perishable as smoke. If it does exist, we’ll probably find what’s going on — what’s news — around the present news architecture. And then we’ll have to wonder how we vet and confirm that what we see is real.

Live changes everything — again.

* * *

Seconds after posting this, I see Dave Winer — who else? — at the start of such a structure of leading us to the live web. He Twittered: “I’m making an MP3 of Obama’s speech. I’ll publish it a few minutes after the speech is over, 15 minutes from now.”

The human satellite truck

Visionary network news photographer Jim Long is gleefully putting himself out of business. Well, actually, he’s expanding his own business, for network executives should be plugging into his brain. But he’s reducing the need for that gigantic camera he lugs all over the world. While in Africa traipsing after George Bush and company, Jim turned on his mobile phone and hooked it into Qik.com and broadcast Sir Bob Geldof speaking. No big camera. No satellite uplink. No editing into packages. No b-roll. Just the news now.

But this is more than just broadcasting live from anywhere — that’s important enough. It’s also interactive: we can ask the correspondent to ask the subject questions: live lets us in on the conversation.

I’ve also been playing with Flixwagon, a Qik competitor that powered MTV’s Super Tuesday mobile coverage, and it’s dead easy: one click and you’re broadcasting. This is hugely changing.

: Also note from my friends at the Guardian that one of the paper’s still photographers won a Royal Television Society award for best international news. Repeat that: a newspaper photographer wins a TV award. TV’s not TV anymore.

(Disclosure: I write for the Guardian and consult for them and Sky.com, also an award-winner at the RTS.)