Google`s Dreams

You’re reading the third and final part of “The Dilemma of Defining Google” series. Finally, the time has come to chat about Google’s anticipated long-term plans and contributions. We will finish up our search for finding those numerous ways in which they redefine the quality of our lives and make the world a better place.

In the previous two segments of this series we covered more than eight of Google’s popular online services. For those of you that haven’t followed the series from the beginning I strongly recommend taking a break right now to read the first two parts.

However, please keep in mind that I am not affiliated with Google and all of the predictions and rumors you’re going to read throughout this article aren’t guaranteed to happen. So let’s not be misunderstood; we’re foreseeing the future strictly on the publicly released information about the expected and currently under development projects. Things can change and claims about the future can go wrong.

Throughout this article we’re going to discuss the rumors about Google’s “Dream” Phone, opening up the social graphs, the future of social networks, online identities, common struggles of Web 2.0, Google’s Lunar X PRIZE, and we won’t close this series without naming a few Google online services currently under development.

That being said, let’s get started! Are you ready?

Dream GPhone and Android

I bet you’ve heard about the latest Google Phone (often called GPhone) hype, right? Contrary to popular belief and recent expectations throughout the years, this phone won’t be manufactured by just one company, but rather a collective in which there are 34 members. This consortium is the “Open Handset Alliance™.”

Their primary goal is to develop open standards for mobile phones and devices. This includes their latest project design called Android™, which is going to become the first open source complete platform akin to a free operating system. Summing these up, members of this alliance share the vision for changing the mobile experience for customers, and they are pretty damn committed.

This Android project looks very promising for numerous reasons. First, since it is based on the Linux Kernel (which is part of the Linux Operating System), it’s going to become open source and free to all mobile phone manufacturers, carriers and services. As a result, potential competitors like Palm, Symbian, Windows Mobile (derived from Windows CE) will be outperformed with ease, at least in terms of price.

An early look at the Android platform’s SDK (Software Development Kit) came in November. This was crucial because the main goal of the alliance is to hit the market with Android-based cell phones and other mobile devices starting in the second half of 2008.

All in all, the advantages of Android platform include easier commercialization because the software is free, and developers and manufacturers can optimize their applications more effectively because the API ought to be very comprehensive, web-ready, and easy for developers to use. In two words: innovation ready.

Recently, High Tech Computer (HTC) made public their intention to commercialize cell phones based on the Android platform starting in mid-2008. The reports are quite vague and they are planning to remain mysterious for obvious marketing reasons, but we could still find out some of the phone’s specifications thanks to Forbes.


“[...] It is thin, about 3 inches wide and 5 inches long, and features a touch-sensitive, rectangular screen. Unlike the iPhone, the screen is also time-sensitive: Hold down your finger longer, and the area you’re controlling expands. The bottom end of the handset, near the navigational controls, is slightly beveled so it nestles in the palm. The screen also swivels to one side, revealing a full keyboard beneath.” (Source: here.)


(HTC’s “Dream” or “Omni” prototype)


Anyway, the design of HTC’s “Dream” / “Omni” prototype certainly looks like what one would expect from the GPhone, whether or not it will actually be one.  Google might be involved in the hardware development of a phone too, but right now that really does not matter since this alliance has been working toward a common goal for three years. The bottom line is that we should patiently wait for mid-2008+ and see what happens.

Member companies of this alliance include, at the time of writing: China Mobile Communications Corp., KDDI Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc., Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Audience, Broadcom Corp., Intel Corp., Marvell Semiconductor Inc., NVIDIA Corp., Qualcomm Inc., SiRF Technology Holdings Inc., Synaptics Inc., Texas Instruments Incorporated, Ascender Corp., eBay Inc., Esmertec, Google Inc., LivingImage ltd., NMS Communications, Nuance Communications Inc., Packet Video, SkyPop, SONiVOX, HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc., Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics, Aplix Corp., Noser Engineering Inc., The Astonishing Tribe, Wind River. (Source: here). [Verizon made a splash in the news recently by joining the alliance. --Ed.]

For in-depth information and a more detailed overview regarding the Android phone and Google’s future plans in the mobile phone industry, please check out the article written by Terri Wells at this address.

Social Network Portability

Sit back and relax. Imagine a world with totally free online open platforms. You have one single secured online identity with completely decentralized social networks, without proprietary and competitive platforms, where your “social graphs” as a whole are fully portable, likewise your address books, IM accounts, phone numbers, and so forth.

Right now most of the online social network businesses are following a particular “lock-in” plan. There are thousands of options from of which you, as a user, are required to choose one or more. Because of this, there is  strong competition between them; as a result, there are various unique features that aren’t global and universally supported by all of them. Each of them is based and runs on a totally different platform.

Therefore, you end up with multiple accounts just for the sake of trying out new things, deciding which one is better, or because of social needs (e.g. friend Joe is a member of XYZ but Smith is happy with his ABC social network; I’m “forced” to have accounts on both XYZ and ABC if I want to keep up my friendships with both of them).

Portable Social Networks is the answer to our struggles! In layman’s terms, this is akin to getting the most out of them, benefiting from their unique features, being able to port our data throughout each network, and, all in all, creating combined value. This cannot be done with proprietary platforms – you cannot connect different dots proprietarily.

Since the above scenario represents one of the current generation’s hassles, trying to develop a solution is the way to go. A few companies tried to develop their “own” solution to fix this. Facebook and Netvibes UWA are some examples. Their services are unquestionably successful, but the worldwide “social graph” dilemma isn’t fixed at all.

As you’d expect from the search engine, Google is going about this their own way, having developed and launched OpenSocial. It is a set of common APIs for building various social applications with the freedom of interpolation through various networks. This means accessing the feeds and friends of numerous social networks (on which the support is incorporated) via the same APIs.

Want real-world examples of what OpenSocial APIs are able to do? Since its launch, a lot of websites have incorporated them into their design. Examples could be: sharing interests, hobbies, books, places, holidays, dreams, videos, images, notes, news, entertainment, but also making online transactions with friends worldwide easy.

Summing these up, with OpenSocial one can exchange profile information, social graphs (list of friends), and feed-like broadcasts (news, events, etc.) through different platforms. Once these APIs are implemented (standard HTML and JavaScript) then the code works the same everywhere for everybody, unlike Facebook, which works on the basis of a proprietary markup language, meaning that the code is unusable outside of their network.

“Think of the web as water. Proprietary platforms based on the web are ice cubes. They can, for a time, suspend themselves above the web at large. But over time, they only ever melt into the water. And maybe they make it better when they do.”

- Anil Dash

Furthermore, OpenSocial was created with a maximum flexibility approach. Hosts can set their own policies; everybody can tailor OpenSocial to their own needs. More than a few huge social networking sites have taken advantage of these APIs: Orkut, Hi5, Friendster, Oracle, Ning, LinkedIn, Salesforce and Viadeo, just to name a few.

Nevertheless, the problem of social network portability perplexity isn’t solved yet. OpenSocial is merely an aggregation solution, but it is an extremely valuable start. Social network portability also requires ID authorizations and a standard for privacy. But we are still a long way from global social network decentralization.

Decentralizing identities and reducing the number of accounts were OpenID‘s main goals. This lightweight system identity system allows users to use the same password and usernames on multiple websites without affecting security and privacy. Decentralization plays a crucial part in Web 2.0′s evolution because it empowers users by putting control (of their own identities) back into their own hands.

The bottom line is that we all need to realize that interoperability is a must on the Web platform. Over the years, there have been a few unique solutions that can be considered steps toward the ”opening of the global social network.” There are action-based feed open aggregators; and there’s OpenID but also OAuth, which is a web protocol for delegated secure API authentication. It’s all about granting limited temporary access.

Moreover, combining all of these services and creating one working solution that would interconnect the dots by creating decentralized social graphs on an open platform is a concept that originates mainly from Brad Fitzpatrick, even though umpteen different approaches are being taken because a lot of people have been working on this lately. We’ll see…

“Either social networks will keep their walls up to force individuals to choose, or they will open up in the hope that they’ll get the customer even if their competitor does, too. History suggests it’ll be the former followed by the latter. For those sick of maintaining multiple profiles, let’s hope the players work through the cycles quickly.”

- Jimmy Guterman


Google Lunar X PRIZE

The X PRIZE Foundation was founded by Dr. Peter Diamandis. It’s a nonprofit organization that offers prizes for the benefit of humanity. They design and launch amazingly large incentive prizes ($10 million) to award innovative competitions that motivate individuals, organizations, and companies to achieve breakthroughs.


 

Google is sponsoring the Lunar X PRIZE to create a global private race to the Moon. It’s been decades since we explored the surface of it, but still we got little-to-no public involvement. And since that territory is tamed, the motivation has disappeared, and who knows when any government will return there again. This private race is provocative!

This race is all about stimulating excitement for and interest in the exploration of space; it’s certainly something that would benefit human kind as a whole. We need projects that involve people all around, and the X PRIZE foundation knows that incentives are always motivating. Due to this, they couldn’t find a better main sponsor and partner than Google. Indeed!

The aforementioned robotic race has a remarkable $30 million prize purse. Now what about the objectives? Some of the mission objectives are launching and landing a robotic rover that would wander around for at least 500 meters on the surface of Moon. During this process it’d constantly transmit videos and images back to the Earth.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity. Having Google fund the purse and title the competition punctuates our desire for breakthrough approaches and global participation.

By working with the Google team, we look forward to bringing this historic private space race into every home and classroom. We hope to ignite the imagination of children around the world.”

- Dr. Peter H. Diamandis


It is funny how some call this mission Moon 2.0. The first era of lunar exploration was just a historic quest between two superpowers (the USA and the then-Soviet Union), just for "flags and footprints.” This 2.0 version, however, assumes a different quest. It’s all about reaching the Moon to actually stay there. It’s really important to send probes to explore the surface of it because it’s still a stepping stone toward our own environmental evolution.

The $30 million prize purse is split into a $20 million grand prize, $5 million for the second prize, while the remaining $5 million is for bonus prizes. The first deadline is December 31, 2012. If this isn’t met it will be extended by two years, but the grand prize gets reduced to $15 million. That means we should get things started!

The crème de la crème benefit for the public of Lunar X PRIZE is the ability to view it live (online via the X PRIZE website) and the broadcasted data that’s going to be transmitted from the winning team once some rover reaches its destination.

Notwithstanding, the future of this lunar exploration is really encouraging and it seems like we have only two choices: innovate or wait to see what happens. It can change human kind because it pushes innovation. We know about the possibility of capturing clean solar energy from the moon (but this requires tons of experiments, thus lots of funding), but it’s also akin to going beyond, exploring deep into space…


Crossing the Finish Line

Amazing! We’ve arrived at the end of this three-part “Defining Google” series. Give yourself a pat on the back for following it rigorously. I truly hope that you learned lots of new information regarding Google. I bet you also feel better knowing what happens behind the scenes, what to expect, and how to get the most out of what Google offers.

Moreover, I am confident that you have the necessary knowledge to keep up with the pace of some antagonistic nerds’ deliberate buzz sessions and ultimately impress them big time! During this series you’ve gathered a wider perspective by expanding your knowledge of one of the giant corporations of our time – Google Inc.



Anyhow, some may consider that it comes down to general education or common sense to follow the latest IT / technology trends, but the truth is that very few actually invest their time to find out what’s beyond. Thus, you have an edge compared to others!

Oh, and you know, I’d advocate checking out Google Labs every now and then. That’s where you can find more details about projects and online services that are currently under development — “a few of our favorite ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time.” Of course, you can also help the developers by leaving valuable feedback.

In my opinion the following prototypes sound really promising: Google Code Search (searching for public source code) and Google Trends (this allows us to see what the whole word is searching for). The first would certainly be useful for coders and developers while the latter means fun, but is also valuable for research and statistics.

Once again, I invite you to join us over at ”DevHardware Forums” if you want to continue this provocative discussion, because the fact is that countless books can be written and speeches can be given on Google. Likewise, should you need help or friendly consulting on search engine optimization and website marketing and promotion, then don’t forget to ask the knowledgeable community at “SEO Chat Forums.” Count on us!

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