Instant Winners

A funny thing happened after Google didn’t announce any of the products people were hoping for last week.   Rumors have been swirling about GoogleTV and Google Music being prepared for a fall release.   The next two versions of Android, Gingerbread and Honeycomb, are just over the horizon and expected to bring full tablet compatibility.   One week after Apple announced upgraded iPods and a new Apple TV, Google unveiled Instant Search.  And started a revolution.

The idea behind Instant Search is simple; Google couldn’t make their search engine return results much faster than it already was.  Results are displayed nearly right after you click the search button.  But Instant Search turns this on its head, displaying results as you type your query, in real time. With their algorithms Google can predict what you are typing as you go, plus the search engine uses other good ides like your location and search history to generate a set of results custom to you.

It’s a great idea, if not necessarily the most exciting of the many projects Google is working on.  A few days after Instant Search an inspired Stanford student Feross Aboukhadjeh, created YouTube instant. And from the looks of things, Google is impressed, with the CEO of YouTube extending wows and a job offer to him.  Then another developer created an instant search interface for the iTunes store. Then Instant App Store.  And Twitter instant. 

Instant has suddenly become the next big thing and why shouldn’t it? As our culture creates more data we need better ways to search through what can be overwhelming amount of information. Music, micas, books, TV shows, photos, and applications all contain metadata for refined searching.  Bringing up results as you go could be the next step in helping us makes sense of the mess all this data creates.

 

Quick Thoughts on Ping

Yesterday was a big day for Apple and iOS users.  Whenever Apple sends out invitations for a media event, people listen.  And blog.  And tweet.  While September is the traditional time for iPod announcements, Steve Jobs likes to take advantage of a spotlight and at the start of most press conferences: iOS updates, products sold, and of course, an update on the latest changes to accessories and related products. So at the iPod event we get some information on iTunes. 

The biggest new feature of iTunes 10, aside from a new icon which has done away with the CD, is Ping, Apple’s first venture into social networking.  Connecting users to various degrees through different flavors of iTunes: computer, iPod, iPad and iPhone, Ping allows users to follow their friends and favorite artists, find out what they are listening to, comment about songs, and find concert listings.  Going to a show?  Say so on iTunes and all your friends can find out.  Kind of like the Facebook Events function. 

Is this a full-fledged social network designed to draw users away from? No. Is it better for sharing music with your friends than Last.fm or Swift.fm?  I’m going to have to say no again.  One major caveat: Apple tends to roll out features slowly, sometimes over years of development.  We have no idea where Apple could take this.