Google Search versus Bing for Windows Phone 7 (review)

November 24, 2010

It wouldn’t be a mobile platform if it didn’t have a dedicated Google search app, and this week the Big G ratified Windows Phone 7’s competitive existence with a search app of its own–Google Search for Windows Phone 7. Reg Cure

Like others, Google Search uses the phone’s GPS to localize searches (on the Samsung Focus, in this case). It hands out search suggestions as you type, but only if you type slowly, we found. It also keeps track of your previous searches, a boon for anyone hoping to bypass typing and repeat a search. Results appear in a browser window, which provides access to image, local, and news results as well as the Web findings.

And that’s about it. While suggestions and history are nice additions, were hoping for more than a Web shortcut from the Sovereign of Search in its debut Windows Phone app.

On the other hand, Bing’s more polished app enables voice search and spell check in addition to search suggestions. Bing’s results look more striking as well, since they manifest in an app and not in a browser search results page–just as we expect for an integrated search incumbent. Image results and search history are missing; however, Bing’s local results for “bagel” were mapped in an image and spot on.

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Cloud-computing predictions for 2011

November 24, 2010

2011 will be the Year of the X. Next year, Technology Y will kill Technology Z. Something will “die.”

These sorts of predictions are commonplace as we approach the end of the year. They have a satisfying finality to them. They’re dramatic. They’re also, with few exceptions, rarely correct–certainly not in any literal sense. Regcure

That’s because IT rarely advances in a way that invokes mass extinctions and spontaneous generation. Rather it’s a more evolutionary process. There’s lots of change but even when rapid the new stuff often doesn’t displace the old–and overnight replacements are rare indeed. For example, proclamations about the death of Bluetooth were wildly premature even though that technology didn’t live up to early promises.

This is especially true of cloud computing, given that it refers as much to the way the industry is moving to implement IT as the technology it uses to do so. Will those changes lead to broad shifts in where and how computing is done? Certainly, that’s what makes cloud computing of so much interest after all. But we’re mostly talking about transitions rather than sharp inflection points.

Within that context though, cloud computing is a rapidly developing set of trends that’s generating lots of interest and discussion. And those discussions suggest to me some things that are going to be qualitatively different next year compared to this past one and some that will remain elusive.

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Why Facebook Will Launch Mobile Chat

November 24, 2010

What will be the next big feature that Facebook introduces in terms of mobile applications? It’s not hard to come up with an answer to that question; it’s obvious that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social networking company will launch one-to-many “chat” as part of its mobile suite. Earlier this week in an interview, Slide CEO Max Levchin pointed out what Facebook has done well is become the “address book” of the web. By doing so, it can easily become the communication center for all sorts of services. Instant messaging is only a part of that communication. Regcure

Facebook launched an “instant messaging” app for chatting on its web platform a few years ago, and it is now is one of the largest IM networks in the world. It’s still not available on many mobile handsets, even though Facebook has 200 million mobile users and has made mobile its top priority.(iPhone App currently allows you to IM your Facebook friends, one at a time.)

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Firefox 4 gets much, much faster

November 23, 2010

One of the major components essential for the future of Firefox just landed in the beta build of the browser, and it gives the open-source browser the page-rendering speed boost that it had been lacking.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Firefox 4 beta 7 introduces JagerMonkey, Mozilla’s next-generation JavaScript engine that puts the browser in the same ballpark as its high-speed competitors. The old TraceMonkey engine was slow enough to no longer be in the same league as Chrome, Opera, Safari, and the Internet Explorer 9 beta.

 

Mozilla’s internal benchmarks show significant JavaScript rendering improvements for Firefox 4 beta 7’s new JagerMonkey engine.

(Credit: Mozilla, Inc.)

 

Mozilla describes the improvements as incorporating the JagerMonkey JIT compiler into the new SpiderMonkey engine, and says that users can expect to see significantly faster start-up times, page-load speed, and JavaScript-intensive Web tasks such as running apps and playing games. The company’s internal benchmarking shows Firefox 4 is three times faster than the current Firefox 3.6.12 on both Kraken and Sunspider JavaScript benchmarks, and five times faster than Firefox 3.6.12 on the V8 benchmark. Engineer David Mandelin stated in a blog post that Firefox 4 will be “a little bit faster” by the time it’s finished.

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Reg Cure

Microsoft taking direct route on Windows Phone updates

November 23, 2010

Good news for those who were worried about getting bottlenecked roll-outs of system software updates on Windows Phone 7 devices: Microsoft, and not the carriers or the device manufacturers, will be in charge of that duty.

 

In an e-mail exchange with ZDnet, Microsoft reiterated that it will “push Windows Phone 7 software updates to end users,” while adding that “all Windows Phone 7 devices will be eligible for updates.” These are two very big things that bode well for early adopters of the handset, but also put pressure on Microsoft to keep that promise as the Windows Phone platform ages.

 

Microsoft’s position is of special interest given the current climate of smartphones system software updates, which up until a few years ago had been either few and far between or nonexistent.

 

To put the current update landscape in perspective, Apple pushes out what has become an annual update directly to iPhone owners through its iTunes software, instead of through over-the-air carrier updates. Though with its latest OS update, Apple began limiting what features would be available on older models, and even cutting out the original iPhone from getting the newer software.

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Mac OS X update perks up photo performance

November 23, 2010

Apple’s release of Mac OS X 10.6.5 yesterday carried some improvements for photographers: better performance, and support for raw photo formats from a handful of newer cameras.

 

The release notes mention simply that the update “addresses performance of some image-processing operations in iPhoto and Aperture.” In my tests on a dual-core MacBook Pro, however, I found one particular bottleneck is significantly relieved: rendering the raw photos so they can be viewed at 100 percent–when one photo pixel takes up one screen pixel.

 

That’s significant, given how frequently a photographer must wait for a computer to turn the raw images from a higher-end camera into something presentable. Aperture users also should see editing and export performance improve over what already arrived in version 3.1 after the OS is updated.

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Report: Google fires engineer who leaked raise memo

November 23, 2010

If you don’t want anyone to know about something you’ve done, then you shouldn’t do it.

 

Such words, first offered by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, might just occasionally be revolving around the Google compound this morning. Word has leaked out that the engineer who leaked a memo announcing that every Google employee would get a 10 percent pay raise has been fired.

 

According to CNN Money, Google took the draconian action and announced it to its staff. Visual evidence of this announcement is, as yet, strangely lacking.

While Google has declined to comment to several news outlets about this report, it might, to some, seem like an odd thing to do. It’s hardly likely that giving more than 23,000 people a raise could be kept secret. Normally, it’s hard for one person to keep their good news quite this confidential.

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 Reg Cure

Google pulls app that revealed Android flaw

November 23, 2010

Google pulled an app from the Android marketplace that was created to illustrate a flaw in the mobile framework that allowed apps to be installed without a user’s knowledge. It then issued a fix for bug.

 

Jon Oberheide, chief technology officer of Scio Security, created a proof-of-concept app disguised as an expansion for the popular Angry Birds game. After the app was downloaded, three additional apps were installed without the user’s knowledge that had permission to perform malicious activities but were benign, he told CNET in an interview.

 

Oberheide and Zach Lanier, a senior consultant at Intrepidus Group, were scheduled to present their research on the Android vulnerability at Intel’s annual internal security conference in Hillsboro, Ore., today.

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The “Human Cloud” and the Future of Work

November 23, 2010

One thing we write about a lot at GigaOM — and particularly on our Web Worker Daily collaboration blog — is the future of work. It’s not just about the tools like Skype and Jive Software and Yammer and Rypple that try to make personal interaction easier online, although it is partly about that. It’s also about how working in new and different ways changes our lives, for better and for worse, and how the entire nature of what we call work is evolving and blurring online.

The biggest change, for both workers and companies, is a move toward what we call “the human cloud.” In the same way that high-speed Internet access disrupted the corporate IT market, creating a “cloud” of web-enabled infrastructure, the human cloud is shorthand for how the web has disrupted the way we work. Companies rely on dispersed teams to get the best talent available regardless of location (or price) and many are using crowdsourcing and other innovative means to achieve their goals.

Meanwhile, many people who work in this new cloud have lives that look nothing like they would have even10 years ago: they may have contracts with a variety of clients, outsource themselves and their skills through a third-party service like Elance or ODesk or collaborate with coworkers in opposing time zones. The companies they work for, and with, may not even know what they look like, or where they live. This is the reality of the human cloud and it is changing us (and the companies we work for) in ways we may not fully realize yet.

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Yahoo plans 10 percent layoff in product unit

November 22, 2010

Yahoo is indeed preparing to lay off employees, in a reduction in force that will be done in December.

 

But the layoffs, first reported in TechCrunch at 20 percent, will be closer to 10 percent and be almost completely centered on the product organization under Chief Product Officer Blake Irving, sources close to the situation said.

That would mean layoffs of about 650, since that part of Yahoo has about 6,500 employees.

 

Yahoo, in fact, just put out a statement saying the 20 percent figure was “inaccurate.” Said the company in a statement: “Yahoo is always evaluating expenses to align with the company’s financial goals. However, a 20 percent reduction in Yahoo’s workforce across the board is misleading and inaccurate.” Well, kind of, because it is a big layoff, nonetheless. In addition, sources said, the layoffs might result in the outsourcing of some functions at the company.

 

Even at a lower figure, the move will surely be yet another blow to morale at the much-buffeted Silicon Valley Internet giant. Just this week, for example, Google gave its employees a 10 percent pay raise and $1,000. Facebook, similarly, is showering benefits on its workers.

 

Along with a spate of executive departures, Yahoo is under scrutiny by Wall Street, as well as the subject of much takeover speculation. This has put Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz under even more pressure to show results after almost two years as top manager. Known as an executive who knows how to cut costs, she has yet to prove that she can grow the Yahoo business with new innovations.

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 Reg Cure