Thursday, October 27, 2011

Google Voice Search Tests (Underwater & Desert)

After venturing into caves, underwater and into the middle of the desert in September, engineers from Google Australia's Chrome team have pushed Google Android's Voice Search to the limit. Noel Gordon and Alice Boxhall set themselves up on a boat off the Great Barrier Reef, and, using a transducer, ask questions to Google's Voice Search application.

Gordon described the undertaking as "a challenging experiment" on the deck of the boat, adding that it may require "a couple of goes". He wasn't wrong, either, with the Voice Search application missing the first attempt to understand Boxhall's query: "Great Barrier Reef".

On the second attempt, however, the Sony Xperia, with which the two were testing, picked up the search term and displayed the results accordingly.

Google engineers also ventured deep into the South Australian desert in order to test the Voice Search app where it had never been used before. Two engineers set up large convex satellite-style dishes 50 metres apart. Facing towards the two dishes, one Google engineer spoke the query, while the other captured it with the handset 50 metres away.

Questions included "how to treat a brown snake bite" and "where's the nearest toilet", which yielded a result of 66 kilometres to the south.

Lawther said on the blog post that the tests were conducted after it was discovered that Australia had one of the lowest take-up rates for Voice Search globally, despite the fact that we have the second-highest smartphone penetration in the world.

Lawther challenged users to search "using their broadest Aussie accent" from now on.

Apple has sought to burst Google's voice search bubble in the Australian market, after releasing the iPhone 4S with an "intelligent voice assistant" on-board, and capable of picking up the Australian accent.

The assistant, known as Siri, is able to set appointments, send texts, set reminders and search the web via Google, as well as find answers to questions via Wolfram Alpha.

Microsoft is also updating its voice push for the local market, yesterday updating its Kinect for Xbox 360 product with Australian accent support.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Google and Microsoft Yahoo Acquisition Plans

Both Google and Microsoft plan to buy Yahoo.

Both Google and Microsoft are talking with private-equity firms about possibly financing an acquisition of Yahoo — essentially standing in for the banks that typically dole out loans to pay for corporate deals. Google has contacted at least two venture capital firms to help buy Yahoo's core business. According to an expert, Google is interested in selling some advertising across Yahoo's websites.

Yahoo! had a string of bad business decisions and disputes in management and fired its CEO earlier this year. A takeover, acquisition or merger with various companies, including AOL and Microsoft is on the cards. Yahoo search is, in fact, almost completely supported by Bing, and an acquisition offer by Microsoft is seen as an attractive deal.

But aside from Microsoft, it seems another industry giant is interested in Yahoo! Google is reportedly also exploring to buy Yahoo! in an effort to bring the portal under its fold. Neither Microsoft nor Google are said to be actually interested in gaining Yahoo! for its assets. Rather, both Microsoft and Google want to keep Yahoo! from each other.

CNN Money says Yahoo is not a strategic fit for either Google or Microsoft. However, the company falling into each other’s hands will badly affect the other’s strategy.

Microsoft has currently extended the search deal with Yahoo to power searches with Bing. With this deal, Microsoft already has 30% of the U.S. search market, which is a big threat to Google. Meanwhile, Yahoo! falling into Google’s hands would be detrimental to Bing’s market share.

Neither company is reported to be considering an outright purchase, but they’re trying to finance private equity groups to increase their stake in Yahoo!

Yahoo! still gets good traffic worldwide, and the company’s R&D staff is said to be among the best, which means an acquisition will help bolster either Google’s or Microsoft’s capabilities and audience. But for now, acquiring Yahoo! is seen as a cheaper solution than losing the company to another rival.

Microsoft and Google are sitting on piles of cash, and lending it out for corporate deal making may be more lucrative than letting it sit around and collect essentially zero interest.

It will be hard to finance a Yahoo acquisition any other way. Private-equity firms are finding it tough to borrow huge sums of money they need to do multi-billion-dollar deals.

If they have a hand in the Yahoo takeover, Microsoft or Google may have a say in the future direction of Yahoo.

As of Sept. 30, Microsoft had $57.4 billion on its balance sheet, and Google was carrying $42.6 billion. Although the bulk of that money is overseas, cash in general is generating very little income in these days of historically low interest-rates, and companies have been searching for investments that will gain them some yield.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Firefox Role In Mobile Era

Mozilla Firefox is one of the world's leading desktop browsers, with almost 450 million users. But, with the increasing use of mobile devices and hand held PDAs, Firefox is in danger of losing its place in smartphones. 68% of all smartphone owners access the mobile web on a typical day.

Why should and what should Mozilla worry about? Apple has Safari running on all its iPhones and iPads. Google has Chrome to run on Android phones. Microsoft has Internet Explorer to run as default on Windows Phones. Firefox has no space to put its browser on.

Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs says "we believe fundamentally there's a place for competition."

Apple controls the user experience from the software (iOS) to the hardware it runs on (iPhone, iPad). RIM and HP followed a similar strategy with BlackBerry and WebOS, respectively. Google, with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, and Microsoft through its partnership with, or a potential acquisition of Nokia are thinking on similar lines.

Little or no choice on mobile devices means it's hard, if not impossible, to compete. Apple's Safari browser has a minuscule market share on desktop computers. But on Apple's mobile devices, where it comes as the pre-loaded default, Safari dominates the market. "Today, we couldn't put Firefox in its current form on the iPhone," Kovacs says. "We can get on Android, but it's just hard. It's hard to design it into the native levels of the OS to make it as great as we know it can be."

Kovacs envisions a world where you can easily select from a variety browsers on your smartphone, just as you can now on a Windows or Mac desktop. The same should go for all other types of applications--the more choice and competition, the more benefit for consumers.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

PayPal To Open A Pop-Up Store In New York

PayPal is going to be setting up a pop-up store in downtown Manhattan, New York to showcase some of the new tools and technologies the payments giant will debut in the next few months.

The space will be located at 174 Hudson, which is located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. Over the next 3 and a half months, PayPal will be inviting merchants to come visit the space where they will have the opportunity to get real-time demos of the technologies in realistic point of sale scenarios. The store, which will launch on November 1, will also feature a QR code for people passing by to scan and see more details on the PayPal’s new technologies.

So what new technologies will PayPal be showing off? As the company revealed in September, PayPal is investing in a comprehensive solution for in-store merchants to integrate PayPal into the checkout and mobile payments experience. Later this year, PayPal will be rolling out a one-stop shop for merchants, both online and local businesses, to manage payments from customers.

Features of this new offering will include location-based offers, making payments accessible from any device and offering more payments flexibility to customers after they’ve checked out. Users will have the ability to access real-time store inventory, receive in-store offers, and real-time location-based advertising from stores.

PayPal tells us that it will be debuting its technology that integrated with physical payments gateways in stores (the company is expected to announce a number of partnerships with major retailers soon).

PayPal is an online payments and money transfer service that allows you to send money via email, phone, text message or Skype. They offer products to both individuals and businesses alike, including online vendors, auction sites and corporate users. PayPal connects effortlessly to bank accounts and credit cards. PayPal Mobile is one of PayPal’s newest products. It allows you to send payments by text message or by using PayPal’s mobile browser.

A pop-up store and physical presence for merchants and consumers is actually a wise move for PayPal. The technology hasn’t really had a physical presence in a retail environment, and this can be a contributor towards adoption. For example, mobile payments company Square has in-store retail deals with both Apple and Best Buy. At the moment, PayPal doesn’t have a device to sell (like Square) so a pop-up store can be a centralized place for merchants to see the new technology, and for consumers for experiment with the payments platform.

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