Google Fiber Numbers Swim Into Focus

google_fiberGoogle and the analysts who watch them are starting to hang some numbers on the roll out of Google Fiber.

Right now the lucky few in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas have been reacting enthusiastically to the new service and it’s estimated that the search giant will end up spending roughly $84 million to build out the infrastructure in those areas, roughly $500 to $700 per subscriber.

Those numbers do cause analysts some concern going forward as that pegs the cost of a nationwide build out at $11 billion, they’re ignoring that Google’s subscriber numbers are likely to grow over time as more people find out about the service. The $84 million Google is spending in the Kansas City area will “pass” 149,000 homes with roughly 8 percent market penetration. What will determine the future of the service is how many of those remaining homes later opt to subscribe.

Google will want to work on pushing down the per home connection costs, which now sit at $464 for data and $794 for the broader range of services which include pay TV services. Some of those costs are recouped by the current $300 connect charge.

Based on the numbers for the first two cities, analysts are skeptical Google can make a go of it, particularly considering many areas will present regulatory challenges besides the logistics of getting fiber to potential customers.

Personally, I don’t see Google giving up that easily. For one, though $11 billion may seems like a huge amount of money to some companies, it’s good to keep in mind that Google makes $14 billion a quarter. Stretch those numbers out over five to seven years and the cost is not insurmountable. Also, Google might decide not to go after a nationwide rollout and instead might focus on high density urban areas where they can expect a higher percentage of market penetration.

I also give Google some credit for gaining economies of scale as they roll out more infrastructure and learn from past mistakes. Add the incoming recurring revenue as the subscriber base increases to gains in efficiencies and the numbers start to swing more in the big G’s favor.

Rumor has it that Austin, TX is the next city scheduled for the service offering and it will be interesting to see if the rollout costs remain the same or if Google can start finding ways to push costs lower. I consider Kansas City a low penetration market for high speed fiber and predict that Google’s Austin subscriber numbers will be off the charts.

The competition is also not sitting still and waiting for the gigabit fiber wave to crash over them. There are reports that in areas where Google Fiber is rolling out that cable companies are, at last, giving customers a better deal. While cable can’t compete with fiber in terms of raw speed, the cable connection most consumers have if fast enough for 95 percent of what they do online. Many may not feel much compulsion to switch, especially considering the $120 price tag is roughly on par with what they’re currently paying.

Even it was twice the price, I would still jettison cable the day Google Fiber was available and we get extended cable for free where we live now. That’s how much I personally hate the cable industry; one in particular and you all know who I’m talking about. As an industry, they deserve to die.

Either way, we’ll know more about the future of fiber after the numbers come in from the Austin roll out, provided they really are the next city in line. Stay tuned.

Edit:  According to Engadget AT&T just made a terse announcement that they are also bringing gigabit fiber to Austin, Texas.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Seems like cable companies aren’t the only ones interested in discouraging Google from moving ahead with their plans to build out their fiber infrastructure.  Very interesting.

Where Is The Chromebook Trend Going?

gallery-trackpadI’ve been watching the connected device trend develop for the last ten years and it’s just now starting to get interesting. What happens to the device market from here will depend a lot on the established players in the PC industry.

When I say “established players” I don’t mean Microsoft, which is meeting the Chromebook challenge the same way they met the Android challenge; by signing deals with hardware manufacturers to pay them off to avoid patent litigation. Chromebook supplier Wistron recently signed a deal to pay the Microsoft patent tax on Chromebooks and there will be others. You’re already paying the same Microsoft patent premium on Android devices.

That is an unsustainable business model for Microsoft that also seems a little pathetic. Sticking to it will ultimately leave Microsoft as relevant in the technology world as Kodak is in the world of imaging.

Connected devices like tablets and Chromebooks are at a clumsy stage in their own development. Chromebooks are not quite replacements for a full size laptop or desktop but they’re powerful enough for 90 percent of the routine tasks most people perform on their larger computers.

It’s that last 10 percent that’s going to determine whether connected devices become the standard or we all face up to buying a new generation of laptops. Right now the last mile for Chromebooks are applications like Illustrator, Photoshop and heavy video editing and rendering in applications like Premiere Pro. Chromebooks just don’t have the juice to run big apps and the native applications are still a ways off. A lot will depend on where development goes at places like Adobe, which is heavily invested in the desktop market.

Productivity applications, like Word and Excel, are starting to fall to cloud alternatives although adoption is irregular. I’m not counting productivity apps in the 10 percent of applications keeping people chained to a laptop.

Hardware manufacturers have seen the disembodied hand writing on the wall and jumped into the device market, but it’s low-end hardware. The hardware limitations almost seem designed to protect the manufacturer’s own laptop and desktop market. So far only Google has dared put more punch into Chromebook appliances but the pricetag will certainly discourage many people from even considering a high powered appliance which is a little like being able to brag about having the fastest go-kart in town.

For the moment, Google’s Pixel is the fastest go-kart in town but with its sleek aluminum construction, boot up times measured in seconds and high definition monitor it shows what Chromebooks are capable of being at a time PC and laptop manufacturers may secretly want them to go the way of netbooks. Chromebooks, and the concept behind them, are very disruptive to the big hardware and big software models that have been around for decades.

Google knows that and isn’t standing still to give anyone a chance to corral Chromebooks to serve the status quo. Development for Android and native applications for Chromium OS are flying ahead and the features of an online operating system like instant backups, cloud synchronization, automatic updates and integration of Google services are already compelling features that can only improve in the days ahead.

The real sea change will come if Adobe releases functionally competitive cloud versions of their popular image editing and video editing software. If they wait too long that runs the risk of watching their market share be eaten away by more nimble competitors.

For now most of us are still juggling a smartphone, which we use increasingly more often, a laptop or desktop, which we use less often and are loath to carry, and some assortments of tablets, netbooks or e-readers. What you’ll be carrying in two years and what operating system it will be running is still up in the air, but what is certain is you will have more functionality in fewer devices.

China Raises Red Flag Over Android Dominance

china_googleAccording to a new paper from the research division of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China is becoming wary of Android market dominance and the influence of Google. The paper suggests Chinese companies have been the victims of “commercial discrimination”.

This isn’t the first time Google and China have been at odds. Through most of 2009 Google and China were involved in an undeclared cyberwar as groups with ties to the Chinese military executed Operation Aurora and gained access to a number of core systems at several large tech companies. Google hit back by making available a totally uncensored version of its search engine and threatened to close its Chinese operations.

With 98 percent of handsets in China running some flavor of Android, the concern is not a total surprise and the paper applauds the efforts of companies inside China to develop their own fork of the Android operating system. While the source code for Android is open, the development pipeline is not, complicating the efforts to develop a Chinese version of the popular handset operating system.

It’s a certainty that the strife between Google and China is still very near the surface as the two combatants continue to warily circle one another. The paper stopped short of recommending any specific regulatory action but the proverbial skunk is definitely on the table as both sides hunker down for a protracted conflict.

Google Unveils Internet With 1 Gigabit/second Connectivity Speeds

The internet has come a long way since the super slow dial-up speeds that were standard just a few short years ago. It seems that there is constantly a different company offering newer and faster internet options. Google is the newest company to add to the list, announcing a new internet service at the end of July.

Say Hello to 1 Gigabit per Second Internet Service

This service, which debuted in Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri, is commonly known as Google Fiber. It uses fiber optics, allowing the service to provide download speeds of one gigabit per second. Yes, that is 1 Gigabit per second!

Pricing: Is it Affordable?

Google introduced the service in Kansas City, planning to begin installations in September with hopes of moving to other cities soon after. There is a $300 setup fee which Google said on Daily Mail’s website that homeowners should think of as a “home improvement cost.”

After the initial installation fee, a package including the high speed internet, more than 100 television channels, and 1 terabyte of cloud storage can find its way into your home for $120 a month.

Other Google Fiber Features

There are other perks offered by Google Fiber as well. The service offers a chance to record eight television programs at once, a huge jump from VCR recording that was the only option a few years ago. Smart phones or tablets can also be programmed and used as a remote control for the Google TV service.

While Google is still negotiating with several big name television networks, such as Disney, ESPN, and CNN, there are high hopes for this new service. Imagine a system where television channels, Netflix, YouTube, and recorded shows can all be easily flipped through – that’s what Google is trying to create with this new project.

Not interested in the television channels? Google Fiber also comes with an internet only plan which will likely be $70 per month. When many other internet plans, which are not nearly as fast, are priced just a little below that, there is potential for this service to take off rapidly as people realize the bliss of such amazingly fast internet.

If you lived in Kansas City, would you try Google Fiber?

5 Great Replacements For iGoogle

Users of iGoogle got some sad news when Google announced the application was going to be discontinued by November 2013. Before she jumped ship to take the CEO position at Yahoo!, Marrisa Mayer, then VP of Search Products at Google, described iGoogle gadgets as “unique form of advertising.”

Perhaps approaching it as a form of advertising rather than focusing on the user experience is what lead Google to eventually figure out they could get by without iGoogle.

Also, Google has been working to move app and widget customization into Chrome itself and many people find the tools available for their browser to be all the customization they really need. The extra effort to maintain iGoogle as a separate entity just wasn’t worth the expense.

For those who like the ability to create a custom landing page, there are several worthy replacements to meet your need for custom news feeds and widget love. (Click on any of the thumbnails below for a larger screenshot).

NetVibes

We previously covered NetVibes in more detail here. The interface is clean and easy to use, the function is solid and logical and it includes custom themes and color schemes.

 

 

ProtoPage

ProtoPage also offers a choice of a wide variety of site widgets, color schemes and custom themes, with the added benefit of having an interface that’s friendly to mobile devices. Another feature I really like is the tabs feature that lets you keep your bookmarks and notes on separate tabs of the same page and add your own custom tabs.

 

MyFav.es

MyFav.es is like a more customizable version of Chrome’s Most Visited feature, except it’s easier to pick which sites to put on the page and how to arrange them. The biggest advantage of MyFav.es is it looks really good on small screens. The big, blocky buttons might seem a little child-like in a browser window, but it’s awesome on a mobile device.

 

Nextaris

One stop shopping for tracking news, notes, capturing web content and sharing files. A bit of work on the front end to get everything set up and working but an interesting set of tools once you get there.

 

 

uStart

Another amazingly customizable start page that compares very favorably to NetVibes. If uStart would add some mechanisms for sharing files and content, this would be one of my favorites. Biggest mistake people make is putting .com at the end of the name. If you want the custom start page site it’s uStart.org.

Google Now Lets You Handwrite Your Search Queries

Google has just announced the release of Handwrite, a feature that allows smartphone and tablet users handwrite their search query (using their finger) instead of typing it.

Handwrite enables you to search by just writing letters with your finger most anywhere on your device’s screen – there’s no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing.

Here’s a video that shows how the feature works:

Useful, or cool-but-useless?

I did try out handwrite on my Android smart phone. It’s pretty cool (it even works with autosuggest), but I question how useful it will be. I find Google’s search by voice feature useful, especially when I need driving directions on my Android. But I’m a bit skeptical about searching via handwriting. I find that typing is faster, easier, and more precise than writing letters with my finger.

What do you think? Will you use Google’s handwrite feature?

7 Easy Google Search Tricks

Not finding what you want by just typing a keyword into Google? Try one of these search tips to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

1) Find out about a photo with reverse image search

Get an image via email or Facebook and want to know where it came from or what it is? Try Google’s Reverse Image Search – just upload an image and Google will return information and webpages about that image. Here’s how to do it:

Go to Google Image Search and click on the camera icon in the search bar:

You can then search by pasting an image URL or uploading an image, after which you’ll see results like this:

2) Filter results by date

Looking for recent, up-to-date information on a certain topic? Filter search results by date so Google only returns webpages that have been updated recently. Here’s how to do it:

After you do a Google search, click “Show search tools” in the left sidebar, then click on one of these links:

3) Find businesses near you with map search

Not only will Google maps let you find businesses in the city you’re in, you can search for businesses near the specific building or address you are at. Here’s how to do it:

Go to Google Maps and search for “keyword near location” like this:

4) Get a definition

Need a definition for a word? Instead of going to a dictionary, just type define:word into Google, like this:

5) Use Google Shopping to find products for sale at local stores

Not only can Google help you find local businesses, Google can help you find specific products (including pricing and user reviews) at local stores. Here’s how to do it:

Go to Google Shopping and do a search for the product you want. Once the results are displayed, click to enter your zip code:

Once you enter your location, you can click on any product to view nearby stores that sell it:

6) Get info from other people in real time

This isn’t even a Google search tip, but I couldn’t resist including it in this article. If you want to know what’s going on just minutes or seconds ago, use Twitter search.

Just to give an example…a couple weeks ago I couldn’t get Gmail to load, and I wanted to know whether it was a problem with my PC or ISP, or if others were experiencing the same problem. I did a quick search on Twitter and found out that a lot of other people were tweeting about Google being down.

7) Use advanced search for more options

Need more options? Try Google’s advanced search options by clicking on the gear icon in search results:

Then you’ll get an advanced search page with tons of options like this:

Google offers a ton of features and advanced options. I just included a few of the tricks that I think are the easiest, most useful ones. What are your favorite Google search tips and tricks?

Many Gmails, one window

From the Google blog:

Now, you can visit google.com/accounts and click the link next to “Multiple sign-in.” After you sign into your first account, you can sign in with up to two additional accounts from the new accounts menu in the upper right hand corner of Gmail, then easily toggle back and forth between them. You can even open multiple Gmail tabs — one for each of your accounts.

If you’re a Gmail user for both work and pleasure (as I am), this is a huge feature. So many things I use are Google products, and having everything log out when I switch Gmail accounts is a pain.

Instead of downloading a new browser just to be able to log in to both accounts at the same time, switching is now incredibly easy – just a drop-down menu to switch between accounts.

It’s not without caveats, though:

1) Not all Google services support multiple account sign-in yet. For the services that don’t support it (like Blogger and Picasa Web Albums), you’ll be defaulted to the first account you signed in with during that browser session. So if you click a link from Gmail to Blogger, for example, you’ll be logged into Blogger with the first account you signed in with, even if you clicked the link to Blogger from your second Gmail account.

2) We’re still working on making Gmail and Calendar work offline with multiple sign-in. If you rely on offline access, you probably don’t want to enable this feature quite yet.

3) Multiple account sign-in only works on desktop browsers for now, so if you use Gmail on your phone’s browser you won’t see this option yet.

Nothing too major, and I’m just happy to be able to switch back-and-forth from my Digitizd email to my personal one without logging out of anything.

Usable URLS from Google Maps

A small feature, but an awesome one from Lifehacker:

Sending someone a Google Maps URL can be a pain, because they tend to be very long. To remedy this, Google has integrated their previously mentioned goo.gl URL shortening service into Google Maps, so you can shorten links right from the map.

No more sending people directions by http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Conde+Nast+Bldg,+New+York,+New+York+10036&sll=19.311143,-59.853516&sspn=55.289736,95.185547&ie=UTF8&hq=Conde+Nast+Bldg,&hnear=New+York,+10036&z=13. And thank the Lord for that.

My, How Things Have Changed in Android Land

Came across this today in reading a great back-and-forth about Apple, Google, manliness and win between John Gruber and Joe Wilcox. That’s worth reading by itself (start here, go backwards through the links John gives), but what I really loved was his link to what the Android operating system used to look like, circa 2007 (before the iPhone, which Android devices now look suspiciously similar to, was announced):

That’s the phone (looks a lot more like a certain fruit-named phone than what it looks like now, no?), and click through for pictures of the operating system (think Windows Mobile and Blackberry had an illicit, business-friendly affair and conceived an open-source child).

See it at Engadget.