Tag Archives: Google

Tech Giants’ Core Strategies

The Verge makes an interesting point about Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda: for the most part, Microsoft doesn’t care what hardware you run their stuff on, they just want you to buy the software. So it’s less likely to be about trying to gain Xbox exclusives and more likely to be about getting more games for Game Pass.

It reminds me of a blog post I read a few years back comparing the core businesses of various major tech players:

  • Apple sells hardware, and their software and media stores are a way to give you something to do with the hardware.
  • Microsoft sells software, and the hardware is to give you something to run their software on.
  • Google sells ads on services, and their hardware, operating systems, and software (Android, Pixel, Chromebooks, Chrome, etc. ) are there to connect you to their services.
  • Amazon sells stuff, and their hardware is a way to sell you virtual (and sometimes physical) stuff.

That’s why, for instance, you can run Gmail on anything, and Microsoft Office on almost anything, but iTunes, the main Apple program that actually runs on a non-Apple system, is designed primarily to hook you up with an iPhone (previously an iPod). And it’s why you can read Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device, or a Kindle app on an Android or iOS device, and they make it really easy to buy e-books from them, but really inconvenient to import anything from another eBook store.

Facebook is similar to Google in that their core strategy is a service with ads, and their apps and (when they branch out into it with things like Portal) hardware are ways to keep you using their services. Heck, they’re even tying the Oculus headsets to Facebook accounts now.

The post predates the rise of smart speakers and doorbells…but remember how the Echo was originally mostly a way to voice-order things through Amazon? Or Amazon Key, whose primary purpose was to allow delivery services to drop off packages inside your house so you wouldn’t have to worry about porch pirates?

Plus of course everyone wants to sell you subscriptions now!

And yet…it still fits remarkably well.

Internet Explorer Goes Chromium

I never thought I’d see Microsoft throw in the towel on their browser engine. Or that, by the time it happened, I’d see that as a bad thing.

But it’s true: like Opera did a few years ago, Microsoft is dropping not only the old Internet Explorer engine, but the newer Edge engine, and will be building Edge on Chromium going forward. That means Edge, Chrome, Opera and Safari are all built on the same codebase. (Chromium split from Apple’s WebKit a while back, but they still have a lot in common.)

Monoculture is still a problem, no matter who runs it. We’re already at the point where webdevs are treating Chrome like the defacto standard, the way they did IE6 back in the day.

Firefox is going to be even more important in the future, ensuring that the web continues to be built on interoperable standards instead of one stakeholder’s goals.

Mozilla is a non-profit organization, and like many, they’re running a year-end donation drive. Now is a good time to contribute to their mission to keep the internet and the web open. (I’ve already made my annual donation to them.)

I think I may want to finally shut down or retool that old Alternative Browser Alliance site I ran during the Second Browser War. The last time I made a significant update to it, Chrome was the new upstart.

High-Rise Night: Trying out “Night Sight” on the Pixel 2 Camera

Google has a new camera mode on its Pixel phones called Night Sight, for handling low-light conditions. The short version is that instead of taking a long exposure, it takes a series of short exposures and stacks them to avoid motion blur from hand movements (plus a lot of additional processing). The long version is fascinating.

My Pixel 2 already takes better low-light photos than I would have expected, but I couldn’t wait to try out the new feature when I learned about it. When the updated Camera app finally hit the Play Store, I had to give it a try.

Two high-rise office buildings at night.

This is adjusted slightly to keep the colors from being too light. And it actually isn’t the best example, as it turns out the nighttime city scene already has enough light for the existing HDR+ mode. I’m going to have to try it on some darker scenes somewhere, but it’s still pretty cool. After the cut I’m posting a version with the phone’s regular mode, and the unaltered Night Sight photo. You can see they’re pretty close, but the Night Sight version picks up a bit more of the color, and it’s a little brighter.

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Not impressed with the Google Assistant

I’ve had the “Google Assistant” on my phone for a few weeks now. Since I don’t use the always-on voice activation, this means it’s pushing extra notifications based on what it thinks I want/can use. Fortunately it doesn’t do audio alerts, so it’s a lot less intrusive than it could be. I figured I’d give it a try and see if it turned out to be useful (or creepy).

The alerts I’ve gotten fall into the following categories:

  • Estimated commute time based on current traffic. This would be more useful if it wasn’t based on the freeway, which I never use to get to or from work because it’s such a pain. Though on a trip to San Francisco, it popped up transit delays, which would have been helpful if I’d actually been going anywhere beyond walking distance that day.
  • Weather changes. This is kind of useful, but I have a widget to show the same info.
  • Hours and offers for stores I have just left. At least three times, I’ve walked around a grocery store or Target for 30-40 minutes, consulting my shopping list on my phone all the way, and it has popped up with info when I load up the car. What’s the point of that?
  • Potentially useful information for someplace nearby, but that I’m not going to. I work near an airport, and it’s repeatedly sent me the terminal layout. (The one time I actually went to the airport, I was already on a shuttle to the remote terminal — which isn’t on that map, incidentally — before it sent me that one. Better than the return trip, though, when it sent me a map after I’d boarded the plane.) Once it tried to help me with a mall restaurant while I was at a different restaurant. Another time it sent me info about a hotel I had driven past.
  • News articles about Trump. As if they’re hard to find. No further info in the notice, just “There is a new article about President Trump.” (Or something along those lines — I don’t recall the exact phrasing.)
  • Premiere dates for two TV shows that I watch. This one impressed me, since it correctly picked out two of three returning shows that I watch, and has not tried to plug anything else. It makes me wonder what it’s mined to figure that out, but I’m impressed it caught the nuance of which two DC/CW shows I watch. (OK, Flash is easy, but it somehow figured out that I was interested in Supergirl but not Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow.)

At this point, I think the experiment has run its course. The only category that’s been consistently useful is the TV premiere schedule… and that only comes up a couple of times a year.

DST Google Photos Fail

Google Photos is overcompensating for the Daylight Saving Time switch on yesterday’s pictures. Photos taken at 6:00pm are labeled as 7:00pm. Everything from this summer/early fall (which might as well have been summer) is off, in the app anyway (the website shows the right time in PDT), which at least makes more sense than if it had only been one day. The weird thing: it’s not even showing the time in today’s timezone by mistake. It’s adjusting it the other way.

My best guess: There used to be a DST bug in Google Photos, but they adjusted for it. Now the bug’s been fixed, but the adjustment is still there.

Obligatory XKCD link: