Posts Tagged ‘google’

Microsoft Surface and the Unified User Experience

by Jon on June 18th, 2012 - Comments (0)

Today, Microsoft fired a significant salvo in the war for a Unified User Experience, with the debut of its Surface tablet. Taking a page from the Apple playbook, Microsoft is creating both the hardware and software for the Surface, a strategy it once executed successfully, with the Xbox 360 gaming console; and twice not so successfully, with the Zune MP3 player and Kin smart phone going down in flames.

Last February, when Apple announced OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion, software industry thought leader Jean-Louis Gassée coined the phrase Grand Unified User Experience to describe what he saw in Apple’s multi-platform operating systems that crossed mobile, desktop, and tablet and shared common foundational design elements. The essential idea was that no matter what the device, the user experience would feel the same, behave the same, and draw on similar patterns. Apple’s Mountain Lion, of course, brings UX elements from iOS back to the desktop experience, completing a cycle of OS behavior.

Just as interesting is Microsoft’s push into Unified UX, with its cross-platform operating systems consisting of Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Windows 8 — the “new Windows for new devices” — will run on tablets, laptops, and high definition all-in-ones; following a similar design structure and architecture. Fluid design tiles, plenty of gestural interactions, and a host of cloud-connected apps form the core of the Windows 8 experience.

The Microsoft Surface tablet

The Microsoft Surface tablet, running Windows 8, is a significant step forward in Redmond’s Unified UX strategy.

Within this Unified UX, be it Microsoft or Apple, the user will expect their devices to synchronize, not only data, but workflow. Start a conversation on your tablet and finish it on your laptop or phone. Write a document on the laptop and edit it on the way to work on your mobile device. While some of this is certainly possible now, the new Unified UX will further integrate the separate device experiences to make them seem like they fit together naturally.

In the coming war then, for a Unified User Experience, on one side we’ll have Google with its Android / Chrome OS, on another Windows 8 / Windows Phone, and, in the strategically enviable forward position, at least for the moment, of course Apple and OS X / iOS. With its reveal of the Surface tablets, Microsoft took a significant step forward today. How soon will Apple start feeling the heat? And how soon will Google step up its game?

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Online Privacy Needs Product Design

by Jon on March 1st, 2012 - Comments (1)

In the new digital world, we are the sum of our trackable behavior. The web sites we read, the items we share, the products we buy, are all elements that contribute to our digital personas. Online marketers desperately want to collect our behavioral data so they can analyze our history, better target their offers, and maybe even predict our next moves. But the question remains, do we want them to have access? Do we trust their intentions? And, more importantly, if we don’t, can we stop them from peering over our shoulders as we navigate our digital lives?

Today is a big day, when it comes to these questions of privacy, for both marketers and consumers, because on this day, March 1, Google is consolidating the data it collects from its separate product lines — such as YouTube and Gmail — into a master database, which will presumably provide the search giant with a much clearer picture of user habits.

It’s hard to say definitively whether the outcome of this particular database consolidation will make us more or less exposed, but my feeling is that by setting this precedent, Google has struck a blow at privacy. This is the public end of our anonymity and marks the transition to a 21st century life where our personal data is wide open, whether we like it or not.

When we share a piece of our personal data with a particular company, part of the illusion of privacy is maintained by the fact that this company does not have access to all the personal data we’ve shared previously with other firms. The disturbing part of this act today by Google is the fact that they’re breaking down the silos between their far-reaching services. Granted, Google owns all of these services now, but there was a time when YouTube and Picassa and Blogger were separate companies. It’s hard to imagine that, someone signing up for any of these services, even five years ago, would have thought they would all be consolidated under one umbrella, when they first shared their personal information. Google does let users manage their profiles through its Dashboard and personal account settings, but this is far from foolproof, effectively the equivalent of letting someone into your house, and telling them not to look in certain rooms. All it takes is one mistake, and the control you thought you had over your personal data is gone. I disagree strongly with Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe, who states in his Tech Lab column today that “We are not facing a privacy apocalypse, despite changes in privacy policies, because every service offers some control for the informed user.” While the privacy apocalypse may not be here today, Google is without a doubt, one of the horsemen, and the precedent the company has set with its database consolidation is significant. Now, you may argue that this is all academic and the damage done to any one person is minimal. After all, we’re not sharing really sensitive items like medical information with Google are we? Well, at least, not anymore, as Google Health did shut down 9 months ago. Our last shreds of digital privacy are protected by the fact that information about us is being kept separately in the database silos of different corporate entities. I know that I don’t want companies putting together all the different pieces of my digital self to discover more about me.

If the hubbub about Google’s recent privacy changes makes us all that much more aware of our data life, it might be a good thing. On the internet, the product that most companies sell is, in fact, their users’ data. All the “free” stuff, from articles to videos to social networks to applications comes at a price. And, we’re just beginning to understand whether or not that price is one we want to pay. Right now there’s a tremendous opportunity for designers and engineers, as security / privacy develops into a critical axis of the user experience.

While there are some options already available for guarding your privacy, they’re not as robust or all encompassing as you’d think. Both Chrome and Firefox feature private browsing modes, but these are of limited in their helpfulness, at best. For instance, browsing in Incognito Mode in Chrome only keeps the browser from storing information about the sites you’ve visited. The Web sites themselves will still have records of your visit, and other Google services like Google Web History may also store your browsing data.

Collusion Visualization

The Collusion extension for Firefox uses a node diagram to visualize user tracking data.

Browser add ons, like Ghostery, block ad tracker scripts and foil third party cookies. Ghostery, however, can break Web site code, as certain tracking scripts are tied to functionality like commenting. The HTTPS Everywhere extension for Firefox and Chrome from the Electronic Frontier Foundation encrypts your searches and some other interactions, but is limited in the services with which it works. And Collusion, currently only available for Firefox, provides a beautiful visual reference map, showing those entities tracking our steps across virtual space as a node diagram. Overall, though, these browser add-ons are half measures. As our lives have gone digital, it has become the consumers’ responsibility to protect ourselves and escape the far reaching tentacles of our supposed benefactors. There’s a big space to be filled with the right product that enables us to keep what we choose to keep to ourselves, private.

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The Internet of Things, Seeding Boston Start Ups, and One User Experience for All

by Jon on February 22nd, 2012
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The Internet of Things Will Rise in Boston
With the advent of the mobile revolution, we’re now living connected lives, where our day-to-day activities are closely tied to the digital products and services that we carry with us everywhere […]

SOPA, Job Innovation, and Creativity in Isolation

by Jon on January 16th, 2012
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

SOPA: Anatomy of a Public Uprising
As most of us of are aware, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill in the US House of Representatives, while purported to protect content providers, in fact hides within its depths the […]

Technology, Health, and Our Memory of Art in the Internet Age

by Jon on July 27th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The Therapeutic Touch of the iPad
The iPad may be the most important new computing device since the PC, as evidenced by its beautiful interactions, rapid adoption, and stunning sales numbers. With the iPad and the proliferation of tablet […]

Lion Roars, Google Labs Shuts its Doors, and Math Gets a New UI

by Jon on July 20th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Lion Roars
Apple launched the latest version of their ground breaking OS X operating system today with a host of UI innovations culled from their iOS mobile platform. As might be expected, these innovations were met with both […]

Facebook Domination, Driving Distracted, and NASA TV

by Jon on July 13th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Facebook Closes the Door on User Data
Facebook is racing to shore up the walls of its garden, in an attempt to keep Google+ and others from leveraging its social graph and contact data.

According to ZDNet, […]

Talent Wars, Typography, and Standing Up

by Jon on June 30th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our third links round up.

The Hiring Wars
The tech talent crunch, especially in Silicon Valley, is leading to all sorts of crazy stunts on the part of employers to recruit and hire the best dev and UX people, including acquiring their companies […]

Plugging in means exposing yourself

by Dirk on September 15th, 2010
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The widely-circulated story today that Google fired an employee for reviewing the “private” files and information of users, and even harassed a user based on their “private” information might seem shocking, but it’s really only illustrating something that those of us in the industry have known for years: anything we say, type or otherwise create that goes thru a […]

A new era of IT consolidation?

by Dirk on September 13th, 2010
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I don’t use the moniker “IT” very often, typically only to talk about the internal stuff at my company that has to do with computing technology in the vaguest way. Under “IT” falls our hardware and software that runs the gamut of business technology: computers, phones, Internet connection, printers, other peripherals…everything. However, with the recent wave of unexpected and in […]

Apple’s real iPhone vulnerability

by Dirk on July 15th, 2010
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Today the Droid X was released, Android’s latest salvo in the smartphone wars.

I’m taking an interest in Android phones because, as an iPhone user, I’ve been waiting for them to put the white version of the iPhone 4 on sale. Well, they still haven’t done it. Along with the well-publicized reception issues I’ve become more and more […]

Google App Inventor: an interesting little app

by Dirk on July 13th, 2010
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Unveiled yesterday, Google App Inventor aspires to provide everyday people – extensively tested with sixth graders – to easily build their own Android apps using a relatively simple WYSIWYG editor. The interaction model appears based on LEGO toys, taking different, interchangeable pieces and snapping them together to create a complete app. The New York Times exclusively introduced the […]

Open vs. Closed: A tale of idealists vs. realists

by Dirk on May 13th, 2010
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Today Adobe launched an aggressive ad campaign skewering Apple’s “closed” philosophy. Retaliation for Apple’s muscling Adobe’s Flash technology off their mobile operating system, Adobe is choosing to take a “high ground” argument by ignoring their specific exclusion and focusing instead on the closed ecosystem Apple prefers.

Facebook’s ascension reflects general ignorance of the web today

by Dirk on March 17th, 2010
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For the week ending March 13, 2010, and for the first time in its spectacular ascendancy, Facebook became the most visited site on the Internet. Already, analysts and experts are hailing this as a momentous event, one that validates the power of social networking in the rapidly evolving universe of the World Wide Web.

The Rise of Google, Part III: A decade of leadership awaits

by Dirk on March 3rd, 2010
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At the dawn of this new decade, Google sits comfortably atop the computing industry. Dominant in search – still the killer app of the Internet, with all due respect to social networking – Google has a variety of other essential and emerging products that put them at the very pinnacle of software.

The Rise of Google, Part II: From start-up to superpower

by Dirk on February 15th, 2010
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With apologies to Apple and Microsoft, Google is the most important company in computing. Their rise over the past decade has been meteoric: from a struggling start-up operating out of a small office in downtown Palo Alto, California to today representing the present and future of computing. To call this ascension improbable is a gross understatement. After […]

The Rise of Google, Part I: A history lesson

by Dirk on January 12th, 2010
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This is part one of a three-part series that will detail Google’s rise to becoming the dominant company in the computing industry. Part one will review the history of IBM and Microsoft, Google’s predecessors in this position; part two will take a close look at the last decade in computing and particularly at Google’s; and part three will look into […]