Jun 232011

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to serve subpoenas as the first step in a formal investigation designed to reveal the extent to which Google’s use of its market power in the search business constitutes anticompetitive behavior. The probe joins the European Commission’s investigation launched in November that is looking into how the search giant may have violated European competition laws. Many pundits speculate that the results of the investigation may constitute a “Microsoft moment” for the Mountain View company the same way the Department of Justice actions against Microsoft in the 90’s forced changes in the ways the company was able to leverage its competitive advantages. Unfortunately for Microsoft, “bullying competitors with monopoly power” was a far more core competency than “creating things people want to use in a free market”, so the company has been stagnating ever since.

I have to wonder how spectacularly Eric Schmidt’s political career is going to flame out once he’s deposed. Man, that’s going to be great.

Jun 212011

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that the market share bottlerocket jammed up Android’s ass would cool down once Apple made its iPhone 4 available on Verizon’s network, despite the fact that a new Android phone is released every other day. It may have taken a bit longer than I predicted, but Android’s growth has finally capped: it recorded its first market share fall-off this past quarter. The iPhone was up 12 and a half percentage points while sad sacks Nokia, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile OS’s continued to hemorrhage share.

People will no doubt be jumping on the “fluke” bandwagon, stating that iPhone 4 could never sustain this kind of growth. The fact that a year-old smartphone is handing Android its ass alone is worth a chuckle. Even if there is the customary fall-off in adopters prior to the release of the iPhone 5 does happen, Google may want to take a look at the slope of the BlackBerry downswing to get a sense of what iPhone 5 + iOS 5 + both major carriers is going to do to its share.

I’m sure it was nice while it lasted.

Jun 152011

Google tracks wireless devices using MACs, and this information is freely available on the Internet. Shocking. The best part, from cnet News:

“Google did not respond to a series of questions posed last week, including what measures it takes to filter out mobile devices and laptops from its database, what privacy policy governs this data collection, and whether law enforcement or civil litigants submitted requests for records from its database. The company also declined to specify how someone can remove their device’s MAC address from the database, and a question asking that in a support forum last September was never answered.”

If you don’t want Google – or anyone else – to know the location of where you’re doing something unsavory, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it.

May 272011

Not everyone was super-stoked about the announcement of Google Wallet, an NFC-based payment system that will (someday) replace everything currently in your wallet with your Android shartphone (kind of like how Wave replaced email). eBay immediately fired a lawsuit (pdf) at Google, former PayPal employee and current Wallet head Osama (I guess we’re over it) Bedier and former eBay-employee-turned-Google VP Stephanie Tilenius.

According to the lawsuit, Google was in the midst of making a deal with PayPal to make it a payment option for Android’s Market, with Bedier representing PayPal. During that time, Tilenius was actively recruiting Bedier to work for Google. Right before Bedier jumped ship, “Bedier transferred up-to-date versions of documents outlining PayPal’s mobile payment and point of sale strategies to his non-PayPal computer just days before leaving PayPal for Google on Jan 24, 2011.” Oh – and that Android Market/PayPal deal mysteriously dried up once Bedier flew the coop even though a term sheet had already been agreed upon.

Poaching employees is as commonplace in Silicon Valley as executive tossing at Microsoft, but you rarely have companies go after each other this openly over personnel. Then again, If you ask Oracle or MPEG-LA, Google’s not exactly ashamed of using “gray area” IP in its own offerings. Information wants to be free anyway.

May 122011

In the beginning, Google created the search, which allowed you to type into a spartan box to look for things on the internet while Google made money by selling your skewed results to the advertisers who paid to place them there. It also allowed them to track what you were looking at so that they could provide more value to advertisers.

Then came Google apps like Gmail and Google Documents, which allowed Google to stick ads in your face while you did your work while also giving them access to all of your emails, contacts and documents.

Then came Google’s Chrome browser, which allowed Google to leverage tight integration with its apps to access all of your browsing behavior.

Then there was Android, which let Google track your mobile browsing and communication behavior – as well as use your shartphone or tablet to track your location.

Then came the Chrome OS, which will allow Google access to every keystroke you make on a more-expensive-than-a-netbook laptop, whether you’re using a browser or not.

And soon we’ll have Android@Home, which will give Google access to as many of your off-keyboard habits as there will be devices to plug into their services.

Is anyone else getting creeped the fuck out?

Apr 282011

Google has come to fancy themselves as sophisticated manipulators of the media, which isn’t saying much since the collective media hivemind is about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. Witness the “user study” released by Mountain View today touting how awesome location-relevant mobile ads are. Given that this report uses data from the end of 2010, one would wonder why Google chose now – almost 5 months later – to release data about the effectiveness of mobile advertising?  The obvious motivation is the last clause of the topic paragraph:

“71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline; 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads, 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.” (emphasis mine)

Let’s connect the dots. Yesterday, Apple responded to frothing media and political questioning about a .db file that contained what (to some) looked like a chronicle of user locations. Apple debunked the “tracking” myth by explaining that the locations discovered in the file were actually the locations of all nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers “to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.” In a phone interview with Ina Fried, Steve Jobs also went on record as saying that Apple would be certainly be appearing before Congress about Apple’s practices that he would be interested to see how “lazy” the press would be in pursuing other location data collectors (i.e. Google), intimating that others might not be as “hands off” with location data.

I will bet anyone that this “Mobile Movement” Survey will be cited no less than 743 times by Google representatives during congressional testimony.

“So why is it that you need to actively track location and have that information sent back to Google on an ongoing basis? Apple doesn’t need to do this.”

“Apple and Google have very different business models. Consumers query Google using their mobile devices with an expectation of receiving location-relevant results. As we discovered in a survey we released earlier this decade year, an overwhelming percentage of people click on search results that are geographically relevant. In order to maintain these high quality results, it is necessary to track users wherever they go.”

The timing of the release of this survey was anything but arbitrary. It’s laying the groundwork for a more invasive level of user tracking and will serve as a justification for how “up in your shit” Google is when Congress calls them out.

Apr 122011

Gartner is one of the most recognizable names in IT research. TMA doesn’t concern himself with most of what they do, because all consultants are useless people you pay to tell you what time it is by having them look at your watch.  If their smartphone market predictions are any indication, you’d be better off throwing a dart at a board. Seriously: it’s like their firm is populated by Scott Moritz clones.

Anyway, Gartner’s most recent forecasts for Apple’s iOS devices are a lot like their past predictions. Let’s take a look:

Continue reading

Apr 112011

What’s a sure sign of a successful product launch? When prices are slashed 20 – 25%? Um, no. But those are the kinds of deals B&H Photo-Video and Abt.com are offering on Sony TV’s with Google.

Normally, TMA would advise people to rush to their browsers to scoop these up, but I’m sure there’s plenty of stock available.

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Apr 042011

Some of you may recall that not too long ago Google had a small problem with its Android Market: malware representing a developer’s entire portfolio was downloaded over a quarter million times before Google yanked it after an Android hobbyist website discovered it. Now step back for a moment and imagine the fireball of rage that would have broke the internet if this was a problem discovered in the Apple’s App Store. The beauty of Google’s customer base is that it’s comprised of two polar opposites that together don’t really care about Google’s hilarious non-stance on protecting consumers in their own marketplace. One the one hand, you have freetard hobbyists; on the other people who believed the pre-iPhone Verizon salesman when he said that an Android phone is every bit as good as an iPhone. The hobbyists’ “free as in freedom” mentality that allows them to tinker with their kit without harassment classifies downloading malware as a small price to pay for the ability to steal apps. The customers who were bamboozled into thinking their shartphone was “just as good” as an iPhone probably don’t know how to download an app in the first place and don’t know this issue even exists.

If I were Google, I would actually be pursuing Amazon to take on the role of exclusive curator of the Android Market. Why?

1. The pay isn’t that good. I think people overestimate the rewards and downplay the responsibilities of running an app store. In exchange for 30% or so of an app’s cost, Google has to host all the content, manage (however reactively) the presence of apps that blatantly violate copyright, are malware, promote bad things like hate speech – whatever. This kind of management saps resources that significantly cut into that 30%. And let’s not forget that in the Market, free apps outnumber paid apps by a much greater margin than the App Store, which means that 30% is drawn from a much smaller pie. Here’s a business reality that may not resonate very popularly with the freetard community: when you destroy the value that a good or service is meant to have (“meant” as defined by the market, not necessarily what the developer wants you to pay), you’ll end up with an ecosystem devoid of value for the people providing the goods or services. Google has to realize this.

1a. This isn’t how Google makes its money. The Market is one of those “nice to have” things that allow clueless salespeople to claim that Android is competitive with the iPhone. It’s not Google’s core business – not even close. On some level, Google has to realize they’re not doing this very well. Amazon, on the other hand, possesses the infrastructure – and apparently the desire – to do this at least as well as Google does now.

2. Freedom to be a hypocrite. Check out the reaction to Google circling its wagons and telling manufacturers and carriers that they can’t mess with Android too much or they’ll risk getting shoved out of the ecosystem. Even as Android apologists are arguing (poorly) that this is the right move for Google, a lot of freetards aren’t too happy about it – basically because it’s the complete opposite of what folks like Andy Rubin and Vic Gundotra have been talking up about their ecosystem. Imagine what will happen if Google starts to aggressively bounce crapware from its Marketplace? If you look at its content, you have to wonder how much longer Google can not purge it. Between the “ringtones apps” that rip off Top 20 pop singles and movie wallpaper, It’s amazing to me that Google has been allowed to operate an appstore environment that turns a blind eye to flagrant copyright and trademark violations for this long. Where is the RIAA? The MPAA? Bueller? With Amazon, Google has a chance to offload the responsibility for the mess that the Market has become. With Amazon’s credibility on the line, it’ll take at least some care in screening which apps appear on their site and give Google plausible deniability. Lord knows they hate to come off looking like hypocrites.

So as much as I’d like to see Google continue to mismanage its app store so TMA can continue to point and laugh at it, I also feel like this is pointing out the obvious. The best place for the Android Market is with Amazon.

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