Category Archives: google

Quick thoughts on Salesforce and Google Cloud Platform alliance

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Yesterday Salesforce and Google announced a strategic partnership:

1. Salesforce named Google Cloud as “a preferred public cloud provider”. Salesforce says it “continues to invest in its own data centers”. However it will use public cloud infrastructure “for its core services” as well, especially in “select international markets.” Why is Google Cloud Platform (GCP) just a preferred partner and not the? Well, “AWS is a great partner”, as the release also notes.

2. New integrations will be introduced between Salesforce and G Suite (Gmail, Docs, Google Drive and Calendar for business), and there is a promotional offer of one year’s free G Suite for Salesforce customers. Note that the release also says “restrictions apply, see here”, with the see here link currently inactive.

3. Salesforce will integrate with Google Analytics.

Google has also posted about the partnership but adds little of substance to the above.

Why this alliance? On Google’s side, it is keen to build momentum for its cloud platform and to catch up a little with AWS and Microsoft Azure. Getting public support from a major cloud player like Salesforce is helpful. On the Salesforce side, it is an obvious alliance following the public love-in between Adobe and Microsoft Azure. Adobe competes with Salesforce in marketing tools, and Microsoft competes with Salesforce in CRM.

Google will also hope to win customers from Microsoft Exchange, Office and Office 365. However Salesforce knows it has to integrate nicely with Microsoft’s email and productivity tools as well as with G Suite. The analytics integration is a bigger deal here, thanks to the huge reach of Google’s cloud data and tools.

Nokia 8: a phone from the new Nokia brand that you might actually want

This morning I attended Nokia’s press breakfast here in Berlin, where the main product on show is the Nokia 8 smartphone. It is not quite a new launch – there was an event in London a couple of weeks ago – but it was my first look at HMD’s first flagship device.

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HMD Global Oy was founded in May 2016 as a new company to exploit the Nokia smartphone brand. The company is “owned by Smart Connect LP, a private equity fund managed by Jean-Francois Baril, a former Nokia executive, as well as by HMD management,” according to the press release at the time. Based in Finland, the new company acquired the right to use the Nokia trademark on smartphones as well as “design rights relating to Microsoft’s Feature Phone Business” (what feature phone business, you may ask).

HMD made the decision to market a pure Google form of Android. I find it intriguing that a Nokia-branded smartphone was once powered by Symbian, then became a Windows device, and now has Google deeply embedded. The two companies are now “joined at the hip,” according to an HMD spokesperson this morning. Though it is a rather unequal relationship, with HMD having fewer than 500 employees and relying on outsourcing for much of its business.

A UK release of the Nokia 8, together with operator deals, will be announced on September 6th, I was told. The unsubsidised price might be around £600 (or Euros, the currencies being of nearly equal value in these Brexit days).

So why might you want one? Well, it is a decent phone, based on an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, 2560 x 1440 display, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, up to 256GB MicroSD, fingerprint reader and so on.

There are a couple of special features. The most obvious is that both front and rear 13MP cameras can be used simultaneously, enabling what Nokia inevitably calls “bothies”.

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Is this a feature worth having? It is problematic, partly because taking good selfies is difficult without a selfie stick which most of the time you do not have with you, and partly because the view behind you is typically less interesting than the view you are trying to photograph.

I am not sure whether this matters though. It is a distinctive feature, and in a crowded market this is important.

I am more interested in another feature, called OZO audio. OZO is a professional cinema camera made by Nokia and the system in the phone is based on OZO surround sound algorithms. The phone has three microphones, and using OZO you can apparently capture a simulated surround effect even though the output is two-channel.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, I do believe in the possibilities of simulated surround sound; after all, we only have two ears. OZO works in conjunction with the phone’s video camera so you can capture more atmospheric audio. The demo was impressive but this is something I will need to try for myself before forming a judgement.

The other aspect of the Nokia 8 which is attractive is the company’s attitude towards Android modifications and bundled apps. Essentially, you get Android as designed by Google, plus Google apps and not much else. Operators will not be able to bundle additional apps, I was told (though I am not sure I believe it).

While I do not like the way Google constantly gathers data from users of its software, I do think that if you are going to run Android, you might was well run it as designed, rather than with additional and often substandard “enhancements”.

I hope to do a full review and will look carefully at the audio performance then.

Dear Google, since you provide no contact options, here is my problem

For many years I have used the Adsense program provided by Google to serve ads on websites that I run. In fact I was one of the earliest users. I have not earned a huge amount but have seen a regular flow of income, more than enough to provide my hosting costs.

Today I received a disturbing email, from a “no-reply” address. It reads as follows:

Hello,

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.

Affected website: sifa********.com

Example page where violation occurred: http://sifa********.com/drafted/enderby-filipina-teen-video/

Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.

Current account status: Active

My first thought was that the email was not really from Google. However the email headers check out. And when I went to my Adsense dashboard I saw this:

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OK, I thought, maybe my site has been hacked. But the domain is not mine. Nor does the IP no resolve to one that is anything to do with me. I looked up the domain, of course it is impossible to contact the registrant:

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I traced the IP no to an ISP (UK based) and considered emailing its abuse email. However I have not visited the site and do not know if the content is legal or illegal, nor do I have any intention of visiting the site.

What about Adsense? Well, although I have this warning, the only site that shows up in my performance reports is itwriting.com. And the only domain authorized to serve ads is itwriting.com:

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What do do then? Clearly I cannot fix the issue as it is not mine to fix. Possibly the owner of the site has entered my email address or other details as their own; I cannot prevent that.

So I need to contact Google’s Adsense team. But I cannot. In fact, I cannot contact anyone at Google. There is not even an email address I can use (I suppose the abuse email might reach someone). There are telephone numbers for the London office but all the options cut you off unless you can provide an account number as an advertiser. The people who run the websites on which many of the ads appear? Google does not care.

I am therefore taking the only option available to me, which is to post this in public.

Dear Google, the website referenced in your warning is nothing to do with me. I have no control over it. I cannot therefore take any action about it; and in fact I am offended by the implicit accusation in your email and the warning in my Adsense dashboard.

I am also disappointed that you provide no means of contact beyond a useless peer-to-peer help forum that for all I know is not even monitored by Google employees (a brief glance shows no replies from them).

I suggest that you remedy this with some emergency option for longstanding business partners.

And if this is the end of our partnership, because of my inability to respond, so be it.

Update: The problem has been mysteriously marked as “Resolved”:

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Blocked from Google search: agree our terms or else go away

Late last week I encountered behaviour from Google that I had not seen before. It was related to my habit of not signing into Google automatically; I only sign in when I want to use Google+ (I know; but I have quite a few followers there and use it from time to time). Nor do I always use Google for search; I have Bing set as default, but Google is better for some kinds of searches – such as the kinds of searches admins and developers make when trying to fix a problem – so I use whichever one I think will get me the best results.

I therefore hit Google, only to find that I could not proceed. The only thing on the page was a notice stating that I could only continue using Google services if I “review key points” of Google’s Privacy Policy.

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The word “review” turns out to be misleading. The next banner you see asks you not only to review but also to click “I agree” to a range of statements including delivering “ads based on your interests”.

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If you click “Other options” you find that there are none, other than a list of minor tweaks you can make to your settings on a per-browser basis.

In my experience these do not work well anyway. I have opted out of every interest-based ad that I can, but I still see many ads that are obviously “interest based”, such as ads that mysteriously match recent searches on ecommerce sites.

Once you have reviewed these options, you have to go back and click “I agree”, or give up using Google search.

Most web sites in the EU now have at least some form of cookie consent banner, but in my experience it is rare that a site blocks you completely. Some simply state that by continuing you implicitly agree to their terms. Some let you dismiss the banner with an x, leaving ambiguity about whether or not you agree. Google has gone for the nuclear option: unless you specifically agree, no search for you. I found the same banner both on Google.co.uk and Google.com.

My immediate question was in what circumstances Google chooses to block search (and other services) until you agree its policies. I asked Google, but have yet to receive a reply; if and when I do, I will update this post.

It seems that some others also noticed this change of behaviour. Privacy advocate Aral Balkan tweeted about it.

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Google is doing the right thing here, if it is not willing to let you use search or YouTube, for example, unless you agree its policies. No doubt it is trying to stay the right side of the law, especially in the EU.

At the same time, I do for some reason find this disturbing. Agreements like this are one-sided; there is no use in my trying to get Google to change some clause or other because I do not agree. Further, the extent to which I have choice in the matter is limited. Perhaps I can do my job without Google search, but without *any* Google services? What if I want to report on a conference where the sessions are on YouTube? Google has not created this content, but does deliver it. Is it reasonable for me to tell people, sorry, I cannot report on that, because it is on Google and I do not agree with its privacy policy, that feeds me pestilential interest-based ads and records my data in ways I cannot control?

You have choice but not that much choice; and the same applies to Facebook, where you may information that requires log-in and cannot easily be obtained elsewhere. I am sure that to most people putting something on Facebook is exactly equivalent to putting it on the Internet, but it is private property and there is a distinction.

Google’s official Android Studio is at version 1.0

Google has released version 1.0 of Android Studio.

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This Java/Android IDE has been in preview/beta since Google IO in May. It is based on the excellent JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA.

You can get Android Studio here. It is now the official Android IDE and developers using Eclipse are encouraged to migrate – like it or not.

One of the key features is a new build system based on Gradle. Another notable features is a visual layout designer; you can toggle between visual and text modes.

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Presumably one reason for Google developing its own Android IDE is to integrate more tightly with its cloud services. There is a Google Cloud Module on offer in the IDE.

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Android development has its hassles. I seem to spend far too much time in the Android SDK Manager downloading new versions of the SDK, which is frequently updated.

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Another annoyance is that the Intel Emulator Accelerator (HAXM) is incompatible with Hyper-V, the official Windows hypervisor. You either have to uninstall Hyper-V,  or put up with a slow emulator. I would prefer it if Google/Intel/JetBrains used the standard Windows component.

Android apps on Chrome: how it works and what it may become

Google announced at its I/O conference in June 2014 that Android apps are coming to its Chrome OS. Earlier this month product managers Ken Mixter and Josh Woodward announced that the first four Android apps are available in the Chromebook app store: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words and Vine.

I delayed posting about this until I found the time to investigate a little into how it works. I fired up an Acer C720 and installed Evernote from the Chrome web store (in addition to Evernote Web which was already installed).

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When you install your first Android app, Chrome installs the App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) (ARC) automatically.

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Incidentally, I found Evernote slightly odd on Chromebook since it is runs in a window although the app is designed to run full screen, as it would on a phone or tablet. This caught me out when I went to settings, which looks like a dialog, and closed it with the x at the top right of the window. Of course that closes the app entirely. If you want to navigate the app, you have to click the back arrow at top left of the window instead.

But what is the App Runtime for Chrome? This seems to be an implementation of the Android runtime for NaCl (Native Client), which lets you run compiled C and C++ code in the browser. If you browse the parts of ARC which are open source, you can see how it implements the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for arch-nacl: a virtual processor running as a browser extension.

Not all of ARC is open source. The docs say:

Getting Started with ARC Open Source on Linux

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A small set of shared objects can be built which are part of ARC currently.

A fully running system cannot currently be built.

It is early days, with just four apps available, ARC in beta, and developers asked to contact Google if they are interested in having their Android apps run on Chrome OS. However, an independent developer has already ported ARC to desktop Chrome:

ARChon runtime lets you run unlimited number of Android APKs created with chromeos-apk on Chrome OS and across any desktop platform that supports Chrome.

The desktop version is unstable, and apps that need Google Play services run into problems. Still, think of it as a proof of concept.

In particular, note that this is Android Runtime for Chrome, not Android Runtime for Chrome OS. Google is targeting the browser, not the operating system. This means that ARC can, if Google chooses, become an Android runtime for every operating system where Chrome runs – with the exception, I imagine, of Chrome for iOS, which is really a wrapper for Apple’s web browser engine and cannot support NaCl, and Chrome for Android which does not need it.

Imagine that Google gets ARC running well on Windows and Mac. What are the implications?

The answer is that Android will become a cross-platform runtime, alongside others such as Flash (the engine in Adobe AIR) and Java. There has to be some performance penalty for apps written in Java for Android running in an Android VM in the browser; but NaCl runs native code and I would expect performance to be good enough.

This would make Android an even more attractive target for developers, since apps will run on desktop computers as well as on Android itself.

Might this get to the point where developers drop dedicated Windows or Mac versions of their apps, arguing that users can just run the Android version? An ARC app will be compromised not only in performance, but also in the way it integrates with the OS, so you would not expect this to happen with major apps. However, it could happen with some apps, since it greatly simplifies development.

IFA 2014 report: Wearables, Windows 8 and Phone, Android TV, Amazon FireTV, lots of phones, Spotify Connect

I am just back from IFA 2014 in Berlin, perhaps the nearest European equivalent to CES in Las Vegas though smaller, less frenetic, and benefiting from the pleasant environment of Berlin in early autumn in place of Vegas glitz.

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On the eve of a major Apple event, IFA 2014 was a chance for the non-Apple tech world to impress. That said, neither Google nor Microsoft bothers to exhibit at IFA; they rely on partners to show off the products which use their stuff. The biggest exhibitor from what I could tell was Samsung, or possibly Sony which also had a huge presence.

Google subsidiary Nest did not have a stand either, though co-founder and VP of engineering Matt Rogers did give a keynote, in place of CEO Tony Fadell who is recovering from an accident. It was an odd keynote, with little new content other than the announcement of Nest device availability in Belgium, France, Ireland and the Netherlands (they are already in the US, Canada and the UK).

The Nest keynote was memorable though for this remark:

We know neighbours have to earn your trust. We should too. Buying a Nest device is a lot like trusting us with a set of keys.

A smart thermostat or smoke alarm is like a set of keys? Not really. I may be reading too much into this, but what if Nest were to move into home security? How about a security system that recognized you? Might Nest/Google one day literally have the power to unlock your door?

My main interests at IFA are computing, mobile and audio; but I also slipped into the Siemens-Electrogeräte press conference, showing off smart ovens and coffee machines. It was worth it to hear General Manager Roland Hagenbucher explain that “Home is where your app is”, describing new app control and monitoring for Siemens smart kitchens. The question: if we need an app to turn on the oven, what are the implications for mobile operating systems?

The answer is that if the apps you need are not available for a particular mobile device, it is a significant barrier to adoption. This is the difficulty for Windows Phone, for which Microsoft held a press event in Berlin last week, launching three new phones, the mid-range Lumia 830 and budget 730 (Dual Sim) and 735. Microsoft also presented an OS update code-named “Denim”, also known as Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. Key features include a new, faster camera app; voice activation for Cortana (just say “Hey Cortana”); and the ability to organise app tiles into folders. Oh, and not forgetting the Microsoft Screen Sharing for Lumia Phones HD-10 – the little device with the long name.

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The devices look decent and there are some good things in Windows Phone; the OS itself is smooth, the Cortana digital assistance has exceeded my expectations, the prices are reasonable, and there are thoughtful touches like the detachable NFC connection coaster on the HD-10. All it lacks is momentum, and achieving that under the shadows of Android and Apple is a huge challenge.

That said, I spoke to Dan Dery, VP and CMO at Alcatel OneTouch, who told me of the company’s plans for Windows Phone OS tablets. Which is all very well, but raises questions about the flood of new Windows 8 tablets, in sizes as small as the 7” Encore Mini from Toshiba, on show at IFA.

Intel showed off its new Pentium M CPU, based on the Broadwell architecture, optimized for low power (4.5w), small size (14nm processor) and cool (no fan). In a keynote Intel also talked up the drive for wireless computing, one facet of which is the Rezence Alliance for Wireless Power. Rezence has some powerful names on its members list, including Asus, Broadcom, Canon, Dell, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Samsung and Sony. Then again, many of those companies are also members of the rival Wireless Power Consortium which backs the Qi standard, used by Nokia/Microsoft. However, in the wireless power wars I would not bet against Intel (let’s see which way Apple jumps with the iWatch).

There were countless new Android phone launches at IFA. The challenge here is differentiation; every company says its devices are innovative, but few really are. What you get for your money is constantly improving though; I cannot remember handling any smartphones that seemed really poor, which was not the case a couple of years back.

Amazon launched its FireTV video streamer in Europe; I had a brief hands-on and wrote a piece for Guardian Technology. I liked it; it is well-designed for a specific purpose, searching for and streaming a video from Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service. It does also run apps and games (there is an optional games controller) but what will sell it, for those that give it a chance, is voice search through the Bluetooth-connected remote. I veer towards sceptical when it comes to voice search, but this is a perfect use case: pick up the remote and speak into it, rather than wrestling with a living room keyboard or pecking out letters with an on-screen keyboard. With Amazon it is all about the subscription though; the aim of FireTV is to get you hooked on Prime (fast delivery as well as instant video). It is less attractive if you prefer an alternative service, though it is a good specification for the price.

Wearables were everywhere at IFA and it seemed every press conference included a watch or fitness tracker announcement (or both) – many Android, but Alcatel OneTouch made the point that its watch was lower power and faster because it does not use Android.

Acer:

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Asus:

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Alcatel OneTouch:

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Sony:

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and so on. There does seem to be a lot of “because we can” in these devices, though some use cases do make sense, such as rejecting a call by tapping your wrist, or getting notifications. Is that worth a device which needs charging once a week (my watch has a 10 year battery life)? How much do we really want to track our fitness, and what do we do when health insurance companies get hold of this data and only want to insure the best risks?

Philips showed off its Android TV:

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While bundling Android into a TV set may seem to make sense, the problem is that you will probably want to keep the TV long after the Android part has gone out of date. Another problem – well, spot the background message at the top of this screen:

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Yes, it says AntiVirus Security – FREE. Just what you always wanted in your TV.

I also took a good look/listen at the audio on display. I will post separately on Gadget Writing; but the most significant thing I spotted (ha!) is the advent of Spotify Connect (this is from Yamaha).

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The idea is that with a Spotify subscription along with Spotify Connect devices (each device must be Spotify Connect certified) you can choose what to play and where from your Spotify app, and enjoy smart features like your playlist continuing unbroken when you move from kitchen to living room to car. No chance versus Apple/Beats you might think; but look how far Spotify has come, thriving as Apple clung too long to its file download model (see here for why files are over).

Amazon Mobile SDK adds login, data sync, analytics for iOS and Android apps

Amazon Web Services has announced an updated AWS Mobile SDK, which provides libraries for mobile apps using Amazon’s cloud services as a back end. Version 2.0 of the SDK supporting iOS, and Android including Amazon Fire, is now in preview, adding several new features:

Amazon Cognito lets users log in with Amazon, Facebook or Google and then synchronize data across devices. The data is limited to a 20MB, stored as up to 20 datasets of key/value pairs. All data is stored as strings, though binary data can be encoded as a base64 string up to 1MB. The intent seems to be geared to things like configuration or game state data, rather than documents.

Amazon Mobile Analytics collects data on how users are engaging with your app. You can get data on metrics including daily and monthly active users, session count and average daily sessions per active user, revenue per active user, retention statistics, and custom events defined in your app.

Other services in the SDK, but which were already supported in version 1.7, include push messaging for Apple, Google, Fire OS and Windows devices; Amazon S3 storage (suitable for any amount of data, unlike the Cognito sync service), SimpleDB and Dynamo DB NoSQL database service, email service, and SQS (Simple Queue Service) messaging.

Windows Phone developers or those using cross-platform tools to build mobile apps cannot use Amazon’s mobile SDK, though all the services are published as a REST API so you could use it from languages other than Objective-C or Java by writing your own wrapper.

The list of supported identity providers for Cognito is short though, with notable exclusions being Microsoft accounts and Azure Active Directory. Getting round this is harder since the federated identity services are baked into the server-side API.

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Google I/O 2014: impressive momentum, no wow moments

I am not in San Francisco but attended Google I/O Extended in London yesterday, to hear the keynote and a couple of sessions from Google’s annual developer conference.

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I found the demographics different than most IT events I attend: a younger crowd, and plenty of start-ups and very small businesses, not at all enterprisey (is that a word?)

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The main announcements:

A new version of Android, known as Android L (I don’t know if this will expand eventually to Lollipop or Liquorice or some such). Big release  with over 5,000 new APIs, we were told (when does Android start being called bloated, I wonder?). Themes include a new visual style called Material Design (which extends also to the Web and to Chrome), and suitability for more device types including Android TV, Android Wear (smart watches) and Android Auto. A new hardware accelerated graphics API called Android Extension Pack which implements OpenGL ES for better game performance, with support from NVIDIA Tegra. Android graphics performance will be good enough for a considerable subset of the gaming community and we saw Unreal Engine demoed.

Android L does not use Dalvik, the virtual machine that runs Java code. In its place is ART (Android Runtime). This is 64-bit, so while Java code will run fine, native code will need updating.

Google is working hard to keep Android under its control, putting more features into its Play Services, the closed part of Android available only from Google and which is updated every 6 weeks, bypassing the operator obstacle to OS updates. There is also a new reference design including both hardware and software which is designed for affordable smartphones in the developing world: third parties can take this and build a decent Android mobile which should sell for under $100 as I understood it. I imagine this is designed to ward off fractured Android efforts like Microsoft’s Nokia X, aimed at the same kind of market but without Play Services.

There are new Android smart watches on the way, and we saw the inevitable demonstration of a user using voice control to the watch for ordering taxis or pizzas, getting notifications, and sending simple messages.

Voice control demos always seem to be nervous moments for presenters – will they be understood? Unfortunately that uncertainty remains for real users too, as evidenced by Xbox One Kinect which is amazing in that it often works, but fails often enough to be irritating. Voice recognition is a hard problem, not only in respect of correctly translating the command, but also in correctly detecting what is a command (if the person standing next to me shouts “Taxi please” I do not want my watch to order one for me).

The smart watch problem also parallels the TV problem. The appeal of the watch is that it is a simple glanceable device for telling the time. The appeal of the TV is that it is a simple sit-back screen where you only have to select a channel. Putting more smarts into these devices seems to make sense, but at the same time damages that core feature, unless done with extreme care.

Android TV puts the OS into your television, though Google’s messaging here is somewhat confusing in that, on the one hand, Chromecast (also known as Googlecast) means that you can use your Google device (Android or Chromebook) as the computer and the TV as the display and audio system, while on the other hand you can use Android on the TV itself as an all-in-one.

We are inching towards unified home entertainment, but with Google, Microsoft (Xbox One), Sony (PlayStation) and Apple all jostling for position it is too early to call a winner.

Material Design – Metro for Android?

We heard a lot about Material Design, which is Google’s new design style. Google borrowed plenty of buzzwords form Microsoft’s “Metro” playbook, and I heard expressions like “fast and fluid”, clean typography, signposting, and content-first. Like Metro, it also seems to have a blocky theme (we will know when the next design wave kicks in as it will have rounded corners).

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Material Design is not just for Android. You can also implement the concept in Polymer, which is a web presentation framework built on Web Components, a standard in draft at the W3C. Support for Web Components (and therefore Polymer) is already in Chrome, advancing rapidly in Mozilla Firefox, probably coming in Apple Safari, and maybe coming in Microsoft IE. However, a JavaScript library called Polyfill means that Polymer will run to some extent in any modern browser.

Whenever IE was mentioned by a presenter at Google I/O there was an awkward/knowing laugh from the audience. Think about what that means.

One of the ideas here is that with a common design concept across Android and web, developers can make web apps (and therefore Chrome apps) look and behave more like Android apps (or vice versa). Again, there is a similar concept at Microsoft, where the WinJS library lets you implement a Metro look and feel in a web app.

Microsoft may have been ahead of Google in this, but it has done the company little good in that adoption for Metro has been weak, for well-rehearsed reasons connected with the smartphone wars, legacy Windows desktop and so on. Google has less legacy weighing it down.

How good is Material Design though? Apple’s Steve Jobs once said of a new OS X design update that it was so good you want to lick it. Metro lacks that kind of appeal, and judging from yesterday’s brief samples, so does Material Design, whatever its other merits in terms of clarity and usability. It is early days though.

Business features: Samsung Knox, Office support, unlimited storage

Google announced a couple of  features aimed at business users. One is that Samsung Knox, app sandboxing and data security for business users, has been donated to Google for integration into Android. Another is that Google Docs will get the ability to edit Microsoft Office documents in their native format, removing an annoyance for users who previously had to convert documents to and from Google’s own format when exchanging them with Microsoft Office users.

This seems to be an admission that Microsoft Office is the business standard for documents, and you can take it either way – good for Google because compatibility is better, or good for Microsoft because it cements Office as the standard. There will be ifs and buts of course.

Google is also offering unlimited online storage for business users, called Drive for Work, at $10 per user per month, upping the ante for everyone in the online storage game – Microsoft, Dropbox, Box and so on.

Google’s Cloud Platform

Google showed new features in its cloud platform, with a focus on big data analytics using an approach called Cloud Dataflow. “We don’t use MapReduce any more”, said the presenter, explaining that Cloud Dataflow enables all of us to use the same technology Google uses to analyse big data.

Greg DeMichille, a director of product management for the cloud platform, appeared on stage to show features for in-browser tracing and debugging of cloud applications. I recall DeMichille being much involved in Microsoft’s version of Java back in the days of the battle with Sun; he also had a spell at Adobe getting behind Flash and Flex for developers.

No Wow moments

The Google I/O 2014 keynote impressed in terms of numbers – Android growth continues unabated – and in terms of partners lining up behind initiatives like Android TV and Android Auto. The momentum seems unstoppable and the mass market for mobile and embedded devices is Google’s to lose.

On the other hand, I did not notice any game-changing moments such as I experienced when first seeing the Chromebook, or the Google Now personalisation service. Both of those still exist, of course, but if Android will really change our lives for the better, Google could have done a better job of conveying that message.

Google, Bing: time to junk these parasitic download sites

“Users of today’s PCs live on a precipice. One false click and the adware and malware invades,” I remarked in a recent comment on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 launch.

The remark was prompted by a recent call from a friend. His PC was playing up. He was getting all sort of security warnings and being prompted to download more and more apps supposedly to fix problems. It all started, he said, when he went to Google to install iTunes.

After the clean-up, I wondered what had happened. I went to Google and typed in iTunes.

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The top hit is Apple, which perhaps to prevent this kind of problem has actually paid for an ad on its own brand name. However my friend, understandably, went for the link that said iTunes Free Download (actually I am not sure if this was the exact link he clicked, but it was one like it).

Note how the ads are distinguished from the organic hits only by a small yellow indicator.

Microsoft’s Bing, incidentally, is even worse; I presume because Apple has not paid for an ad:

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Using a secure virtual machine, I investigated what happens if you click one of these links (I advise you NOT to try this on your normal PC). I clicked the Google one, which took me to SOFTNOW.

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I hit the big Download button.

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It is downloading a setup from drive-files-b.com which claims to be iTunes, but it is not, as we will see.

The file passes Microsoft’s security scan and runs. The setup is signed by Perion Network Ltd.

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Now here comes iTunes – or does it?

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I clicked to see the Terms of Service. These are from Perion, not Apple, and explain that I am going to get an alternative search service for my browser plus other utilities, on an opt-out basis.

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However I doubt my friend clicked to see these. Probably he hit Next.

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Apparently I have “elected to download Search Protect”. There are more terms to agree. The Skip and Skip All buttons are in grey; in fact, the Skip button looks disabled though perhaps it is not.

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Now here comes a thing called Wajam which is going to recommend stuff to me.

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And another horror called WebSteroids with more terms of use:

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I am going to get “display ads (banner ads), text ads, in-text ads, interstitial ads, pop up ads, pop under ads, or other types of ads. Users may see additional ads when using their internet browser or other software”.

Thanks.

Now “iTunes” seems to be downloading.

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Once it downloads, I get an Install Now button. Apparently all those Next buttons I clicked did not install iTunes after all.

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This last button, of course, downloads the real setup from Apple and runs it. Unfortunately it is the wrong version.

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Who is to blame for all this? Well, the warning signs may be obvious to those of us in the trade, but frankly it is not that unreasonable to go to your trusted search engine, type in iTunes, and click the download link.

The blame is with Google (and Bing) for taking money from these advertisers whose aim is to get to you download their intrusive ad-laden extras.

Apple iTunes is free software and you can get it from Apple here.

Note that Google is experimenting with removing the address bar altogether, so you can only navigate the web by searching Google (which is what people do anyway). This would make users even more dependent on the search providers to do the right thing, which as you can see from the above, is not something you can count on.