Friday, February 27, 2009


We just heard that Google Earth has gone deeper. It now allows users to take a 3D dive into the sea where a user can view ocean topography, watch regions of the Earth change over time, and even check out the scenery on Mars. More than 500 million people have downloaded Google Earth since it was launched in 2005. While the software is available free on Google's website, researchers and organisations can purchase a more powerful version for about US$400. Google says the idea of adding oceans came three years ago when a scientist pointed out that the software lacked details of what is under the water, which covers almost three-quarters of the Earth's surface. Ad the icing on the cake, of course, is the fact that the new feature on Google Earth, will be able to raise more awareness about the environment, especially about marine conservation.

Mobile service providers may hate Google for this but the company Measurement Labs initiative is again a user's delight. Imagine being armed with tools to figure out whether internet service providers are interfering with your broadband connections by blocking or "throttling" certain applications. In a move that will undoubtedly ignite the issue of network neutrality, the company has partnered with the New America Foundation and Planet Labs to further develop Measurement Labs, an open-source platform that researchers can use to find out information about broadband connections. According to Vint Cerf, the "Father of the internet" and Google's Internet Evangelist, Google is also providing academic researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe to develop tools that will allow users to measure the speed of their connections and figure out if their ISPs are blocking certain applications.

This week, Google rolled out Latitude. Using a combination of Global Positioning System, WiFi, and cell tower location data, the service, an extension of Google Maps, Latitude can determine where you are in the world via your mobile device depending on which of those technologies the device can use. It will work on most color Blackberries, most Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, most Symbian S60 devices, and phones powered by Google's Android mobile software, such as the T-Mobile G1. No iPhone or iPod Touch yet, but Google says that's coming very soon. So if you have spent restless moments thinking where your friends or your spouse or your child is? Google may come to your rescue sooner than you thought. But will it throw up privacy issues. Google thought about it a lot. It offers a wide variety of ways to make sure you can't be tracked if you don't want to. The service is opt-in, and you can control precisely who among your friends and relatives can see your location. You can hide your location from everyone or particular people, opt to share only the city you're in generally, or just turn the service off. That does not sound too bad.

Google also recognized the vacuum where the mobile space needed a stable operating system to handle the myriad needs of the new look mobile user. So it came up with Android - a software platform and operating system for mobile devices, based on the Linux kernel. It allows developers to write managed code in the Java language, controlling the device via Google-developed Java libraries. The unveiling of the Android platform was announced with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 48 hardware, software, and telecom companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.

Recently Google launched Chrome - an open source web browser to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox. It promised to be fast and to cope with the next generation of web applications that rely on graphics and multimedia. The new browser has helped Google to take advantage of developments it is pushing online in rich web applications that are challenging traditional desktop programs. The company already had a suite of web apps, such as Documents, Picasa and Maps which offer functionality that is beginning to replace offline software. What they needed now was a browser that could also double up as a modern platform for web pages and applications.

It's is only human to err but Google, with its "Mail Goggles" has found ways to avoid embarrassment that could result from mails that are sent and later regretted. The Internet search company has introduced dozens of features, including one that, after a certain time, makes a user solve a math problem before sending an email, giving them time to rethink it. And sometimes goof intentions make good business sense too. Google makes money every time email users click on ads, it is enhancing its email service to increase advertising and take market share away from Yahoo. Last month, Google also introduced a feature to automatically download mail so users can read Gmail offline in a Web browser. That matches an existing feature in the client version of Microsoft's Outlook but when Outlook is accessed from the Internet it does not have that feature. The Google mail recently added another user-friendly way to organise users' mails. The new feature in mail allow users to archive and label emails in a single step. Google has revamped the buttons and menus along the top of the Gmail inbox.

Google recently added video capabilities where Gmail and Google App subscribers can now choose to speak with friends on a video screen and simultaneously instant message them in a Google chat box. The video screen can be popped out of the chat box and moved around a user's computer screen. Users can also change the size of the screen and expand it to full-screen size. The condition being that both the user and his contact have computers equipped with Web cameras and microphones. Businesses that have bought an enterprise version of Gmail, found within the Google Apps software package, will also receive the feature at no extra cost.

And when you are at work, to facilitate multi-tasking without changing applications and packages, Google has added support for PDF document viewing in Gmail. Users can see a View link in an email with a PDF attachment. Click View and the PDF document opens inside your browser with formatting options like those available with Google Docs. The PDF can be viewed in HTML as well as in a new viewer. The document can also be downloaded.

And finally Google Labs is the internet search company's final finger on the pulse of its users. Google labs showcases a few of the company's favorite ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time. The company seeks feedback to improve and build on the innovations showcased there. It urges users to play with the prototypes and send comments directly to the Googlers who developed them. An open world of innovation. And you can test your acumen on New! Picasa for Mac and Picasa for Linux, Google Suggest, Google Transit, GOOG-411, Google Reader, Google Notebook, Google Maps and the list goes on. The technologies showcased here are obviously in the beginning stages of development, and may disappear without warning or perform erratically. But it is a good beginning for better things to dot the technology landscape in the near future….and Google seems to have mastered this art.

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