Jan 21, 2010

Serving Better ads in Gmail?

In what looks like a move which is going to deliver more targeted ads, Google is in the process of rolling out an update to how they serve ads in Gmail which is covered in more detailed on the post Serving better ads in Gmail.

Google is not changing the placement of the the current Gmail ads shown below with the yellow squares but using other elements in deciding which is the best add to display. They are now deciding if they can't find any decent AdWords to show in the current email you are reading they can base it on previous emails you have read in a particular session.

This is likely to address that adsense banners cannot always be filled, so they need to expand the contextual information to include more advertisers.  While they advise that no human is viewing or controlling this and they don't store any email or personal data is shared with the advertisers, won't Google be capturing some of it even if unintentionally?

Jan 16, 2010

Viral rumours hamper correct Haiti support

AdAge has highlighted a number of viral campaigns that have started since the disaster struck with a number of companies such as UPS & American Airlines caught up in the storm.  Bloggers and Tweeters through chinese whispers started to create what UPS & American Airlines should be doing to assist based on their resources and ability to help.

The problem was that UPS & American Airlines ended up having to allocate resources to stop spot fires rather than focusing on what they had offered. Our best advice is to not believe what you hear companies are doing to assist, visit their websites direct to get the real story.

What is interesting is that much of the aid requested by the country has been financial with millions being collected around the world but will it take too long to be distributed to those affected?

We have started working 12for12k this year, in conjunction with our existing donations through Kiva with The Lost Agency Trust to give something back and this is the first post where we will seek to provide some more online exposure to smaller charities. 

12for12k has partnered with Hope for Haiti and you can donate through the widget shown below, and I hope my friend and all her work mates who are based there are getting the support and resources they need to do their job helping the community.

Jan 15, 2010

Google Adds Business Post to Place Page feature

Today I noticed when logging in to check on a clients Local Business Center statistics that Google had added a new feature.  This new feature allows business owners to post to short comments to your Business Places Page which we reviewed in some detail in a previous post last month.

The new post to your place page feature seems similar to the twitter style of short simple and precise messages and the fact that it expires in 30 days means its useful for monthly campaigns.  I can see this maybe included in a ranking signal used to judge the relevance of your business to be shown in the local listings, so think carefully about what you are posting and make it useful, interesting and relevant.

If you are based in a particular geographic area consider relevant posts to your location, city or industry and also remember to spell check anything you post.

These are the types of points I would avoid posting to place pages:
  • we have just closed our local office but you can call us on the 1300 number
  • we don't actually live here its just for seo purposes
  • we also think you should consider Viagra from sketchypharam.com
  • we know we said located Brisbane but its actually cairns
  • weather is great this time of the year in India
  • my boss just gambled the trust fund away
  • i can get rich selling leads from this so use the contact form
 These are the types of message that I would post to place pages:
  • we just did a new quote in new farm, brisbane using organic materials
  • our website form is broken so please use the contact number
  • we are having some issues with the phone so please email
  • we are having a 2 for 1 sale on all local products this month
  • next month we will be offering free upgrades
  • in july we are running a charity event stay tuned for more
So hopefully this gives you a little guidance as to how I would think would be a beneficial and relevant use for the new Post to Places feature.

Google Docs Cloud server not yet GDrive

Google has expanded the Apps product suite with Google Docs now a cloud server for all types of files.  Now even enterprise users can store and share files in the cloud but its still not their rumored GDrive which has been talked about for a number of years. We won't touch on the issue of security of documents hosted in the cloud but needs to be thought about as internal leaks by disgruntled staff are now easier.

Google Docs cloud server is a vast improvement to the Google Docs service as you are now able to share any file internally or externally using Google Docs, it doesn't go as far as it could. All this delay I expected the product to do so much more and would be so much easier to use.

You only get 1 Gig of cloud storage per user which is minimal compared to the 25+ Gig you get with Gmail in Google Apps Premier Edition.  If this is not enough you can buy more for just $0.25 per gig which is actually quite cheap if you have a standard account.

One of the coolest points about the new cloud storage product is the maximum file size you can upload is 250 megs.  That is around 10 times the maximum sized file you could previously have sent with Gmail. The other point is that any files included as Google Doc formats don't count against your storage limits.

We would be looking for some future improvements such as not having to use Google Docs to upload files, but having a specific app or product.  Similar to Dropbox would be suitable if they are going to expand this products market and potential and closer to Gdrive.

We would also like the ability to be able to syncronise documents offline on your desktop or network.  Using Google 's current desktop application would be a smart way to link, monitor and sync all your documents.  I need the ability to tag multiple files or even upload whole folders as other competing products currently offer.  I won't switch away from solutions like DropBox just for the sake its now included in Google Apps.

The interesting point is that the Google Apps Premier and Education customers don't have a link to upgrade their storage.  Later in 2010 administrators will be the ones that have to purchase the additional storage for their accounts. 

Also the costs to upgrade the Premier and Education accounts is much more expensive with prices for 5 gig $17.50/user per year.  This compares to $1.25 for the free users, so what benefit is the Premium paid Google Apps users getting from the new cloud storage? It looks like there is a large difference in pricing model used which is a slight concern as someone who has Google Premier Apps and might want to use the cloud hosting solution.

The requirement of the administrator to have to undertake such a minor task does go against some of the recent benefits that reduced an administrators workload. In December Google Apps Premier and Education edition allowed users to create Google groups.

Google groups is Google's consumer application for creating mailing lists and discussion forums.  Users could now create groups for departments or teams without the help of the administrator.  This reduced workload now allows administrators to spend thsi time upgrading storage of user accounts.

Upgrade costs for Google Apps Premier Edition & Education Users

So while the product idea is great and compliments their current Google Docs suite, it needs to be rapidly expanded to cover all the Apps users and not just the free users. Cloud hosting is one of the most interesting products and one that consumers have been requesting for years, not clear why their has been such a slow roll out.

My Google Apps account now has access to the upload anything featured, the image shown below is the notification window. The Google Apps service is very clear if your account has been enabled.

So in a good sign for 2010, Google is now moving much quicker to get Google Apps Premier Edition users enabled to use the upload anything feature on their Apps accounts.

Jan 13, 2010

Google Webmasters get a little Visual Present

Google has rolled out a nice little user interface update to a number of accounts, where it uses the websites Favicon to identify the website.  This makes it much easier for web developers who may have hundreds of websites listed in their webmaster tools account.

So we look forward to some more visual updates to make web developers jobs easier, maybe a search as you type filter similar to Google Analytics would make things easier to find accounts.

Jan 11, 2010

Vodafone to sell Nexus One in Australia

Vodafone has confirmed that it has plans to release Nexus One in 2010 in Australia as their agreement with Google covers all geographies that Vodafone operates in.  Vodafone is likely quite exciting about the prospect of being one of the initial carriers to provide device as they have seen the benefits that brought Optus with the iPhone.
Vodafone has been announced as the first operator to be announced as bringing the new Google phone offer to the European market. They will offer the Google Nexus One under the following deal:

A subsidized Nexus One phone and a contract

Vodafone officially announced that they will be introduced soon in the UK, followed by other key markets in 2010 such as Australia. Other methods for Australian's to get their hands on the Nexus One phone involve eBay, purchasing from eBay USA US$1000 or from eBay.com.au AUD$1149.

There is obvious demand for the Nexus One from the Australian market, but carriers such as Vodafone will miss out on the revenue until Google finishes the roll-out process.

Jan 10, 2010

Google failing to support Nexus One

Google appears to have a growing public relations nightmare on its hands with poor after sales service, response times for support and even their application developers feel left out in the cold. The Google forums are filling up with common questions that would be answered by any traditional phone retailer and early indications show that the direct model is not always best. Maybe the Google Nexus One has actually failed customer service already?

HTC doesn't have the resources and does not appear to be prepared to service the volume of consumer questions focused around the OS and network features nor should it be required to do all Google's support work. T-Mobile one of the early partners to the process also does not appear to have trained its support staff in the slight technical differences between Android 2.0 and Android 2.1 which is running on the Nexus One.

Google may have to rethink its traditionally thin technical support channels if they are serious about expanding the Nexus One and make it a true competitor to the Apple iPhone.

Gmail is the same on Nexus One

You can read more about how Google has changed the mobile email market place with Gmail on Nexus One on their blog Official Gmail Blog: Gmail on Nexus One but we feel they could have done more.

So they have allowed email or Facebook messages to be sent using the quick contact badge but this is fairly similar to the iPhone's current capabilities. So not really setting the world on fire with that feature.

The voice input is kinda cool but as a traveler I would prefer text-to-voice reader for my emails. I'm still not sold on the ability of Google to correctly translate voice to text. It is a gimmick that fails to work correctly on Google Voice so why would it work on a mobile?

A test based on Google Voice which likely uses the same technology platform, transcribed a contacts name "Cyrus" as "Sarah" and the sound made when they hangup the call as "Just"... If this was an email I was sending from a soundproof room with no background noise it might have been transcribed better?

Voice to text is not suitable most of the time you are out in public using a mobile, that is why people type messages they are discrete and have to be accurate. I would be interested to see how badly Google Android Voice-to-Text fails as they are selling this product internationally and their current iPhone offerings fail with anything but the most western US accents.

Jan 9, 2010

Google Click-to-Call targets ReachLocal

The Google AdWords team sent out a email notification today to advertisers about a new feature coming soon for AdWords advertisers running campaigns on high end mobile devices such as iPhone, Nexus One and Palm OS. The new AdWords click-to-call feature seems to be closely related to existing offerings by AdMob which Google purchased recently for $750 million but seems to be a direct move on ReachLocal's offering.

The ongoing demand for click-to-call technology meant that this product has been a long time coming and will be likely welcomed with open arms by advertisers.  It may upset some phone number tracking services such as Yodel or ReachLocal who use campaign numbers to track campaign results.

While the offering is great it will be interesting how pay-per-lead services adjust their pricing model as the pay-per-phone service offered is vastly cheaper.  While it is only currently available on high end mobile devices, utilising Google Voice can enable small business to run localised campaigns without expensive Toll numbers.

The other advantage is that you do not become dependent on ongoing use of Toll numbers if you can use your existing number with Google voice.

Jan 7, 2010

CNET CES conversations powered by ECHO

A big congratulations goes out to the team at JS-KIT who have beaten many established players to be the technology CNET use Echo to power their CES conversations. 

The 2010 International CES event is the tech event of the year.  CES produced by Consumer Electronics Association the premier trade association who represent more than 2,000 corporate members.  These members are involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of various consumer electronic products.

Echo is one of the fastest growing conversation platforms that allow real-time conversation and a truly dynamic and interactive online experience for your users. To read more about the Echo Conversation platform and get in touch with the JS-Kit team check out their about echo section.

Looks like the team is doing very well and continue to strive ahead with successful partnerships and ongoing improvements to their conversation technology platform. Another great point about their platform its the data portability focus that was grown from Chris Saad's involvement in APLM.

Jan 6, 2010

Kindle starts 2010 with International Kindle DX

Amazon moves on from it's very successful Kindle Xmas with an expanded offering for its international customers.  During the lead upto Christmas many consumers considering the purchase of the international feel they have been given a limited range with the single Kindle 6 inch as the US consumers had the choice between the standard Kindle and the Kindle DX.

Forbes announced that Amazon has announced support that includes the larger Kindle DX, which offers a number of improved features over the standard international Kindle. 

Increased storage with an extra 2,000 possible books. One of the items that makes the device more like a tablet is that it is Wi-Fi enabled and offers auto-rotation of the display. The larger Kindle DX device does carry at 52% higher price for the device.

So as the battle to win over more consumers to the Kindle before Apple launches its iSlate which will seek to compete as it offers a more dynamic and full featured experience similar to the the Time Magazine, Conde Nast and even Bonnie tablet prototypes.

There are already a number of tablet style products available on the market which do not have the issues of conflict of interest and can be suitable for multiple content providers. It is likely that consumers may have to accept having multiple devices that do specific tasks for atleast the next few years as content providers and hardware manufactures fight out to win your hearts and minds.

Google Nexus blocks Australian purchases

With the roll out of the new Google Nexus android mobile phone, it is likely to shift how consumers interact with Google services such as Google Maps, Google Voice and Gmail.  The question is how is going changing its approach to forcing geospecific rules to restrict consumers in particular countries from accessing its services.  The Official Google Blog has a post on how they are trying to have a new approach to buying a mobile phone but Google falls flat.

Cnet points out that Australia has been left of the list of APAC countries who will be able to purchase the Nexus One device even as Google talks about how their new approach will benefit users everywhere... expect countries such as Australia. It is strange that with the importance that Google has on growing its Asia-Pacific audience that it would leave out countries such as Australia & New Zealand.

The current batch of countries that can order the Google Nexus One device are:
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Britain
  • United States

Engadget provided one of the earliest and most detailed review of the new Nexus One as part of CES 2010, and the initial reviews seem to indicate that the current Android OS on the Nexus One could have had more updates.  To read more about the Nexus One Review done by Engadget.