The Grand Experiment or An Android User in an iOS World

 

I remember when I got my first camera phone. It was a flip phone. It was grey. And I put it through the wash the first week (it dried out and worked fine, aside from my voice sounding distant at times – note that was the only phone incident I had until someone ran into me so hard my phone fell down and shatter a decade later. I learned well after that first mistake.).

It didn’t seem necessary. What would a little camera do? What it could do was change my world. Growing up I had always had cameras – little AA powered or crank contraptions that took either 35mm or that really weird looking 110mm film. One of those cameras looked like a Ninja Turtle.

It introduced me to the concept of the watermark.

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(The era of printed dictionaries and the Trapper Keeper.)

A couple feature phones later and those camera phones had become indispensable. And then, after a niche group of business and government employees used phones running Windows CE and the BlackBerry OS, the iPhone made pocket computers an industry.

As a Verizon subscriber, I waited, And waited some more. Was intrigued by Android and the Nexus One (GSM only) but not really the Droid (DROID!) phones. And with the Nexus S I joined T-Mobile and the smartphone revolution. Google has been a big part of my life since finding it in what must have been 1999 (the search the convinced me was for “super mario borthers” – yes, misspelled – but Google found what I wanted anyway).

The Nexus S, Android, and Ice Cream Sandwich introduced me to smartphones. And it was great. Internet wherever I was. Apps. Short battery life. Well, nothing is perfect. And through early 2016 Android was all I ever knew for my phone experience.

I’d set up my parents with iPhones. I’d had an iPad loaded with textbooks during law school. Tip: don’t scan textbooks. I’ve had Macs. I’m not anti-Apple. But being on the bleeding edge with Android, with a  Nexus or Cyanogen rom, always felt like I was a step ahead. Mobile payments, NFC, QR codes, multi-tasking, sharing from app to app, keyboards that let you swipe type. All things that Android was the first mover for.

iOS had a major color scheme rethink and Android moved to Material Design. And the two became more similar.

And I kept swapping phones as a hobby. Nexus S to Galaxy Nexus to Moto X to Nexus 5 to OnePlus One to Nexus 6 to Nexus 6P. Honestly, huge props to Swappa for making it possible for gadget geeks to buy and sell phones easily. I’ve used eBay and met people from Craigslist and it always came with a “hold your breath” moment because someone might flake out or just get angry about a small detail. So have a plug on the house Swappa.

With every Android phone, every OS release, I felt renewed. I was wowed. I was believing that this time  things would work perfectly. The camera got better. Stutters became a thing of the past. Battery life…would have its moments. With the Galaxy Nexus there were times when navigating, while plugged into my car, that the phone would actually use more power than it was taking in.

All the while, Apple, slowly but surely added features to iOS. Multitasking, keyboards, a robust notifications system, widgets (almost). And the iPhone was treated to a large screen, although the top and bottom bezels make that phone itself larger than something like the Nexus 6P despite comparable screen sizes. Yes, they keep making the phone thinner instead of adding more battery. Yes, it defaults at 16GB of memory and Apple remains stingy with RAM too. But designing the phone top to bottom seems to give the iPhone an edge even when the hardware advantage isn’t clearly in Apple’s court.

So at the end of March I set out on an experiment: I picked up an iPhone 6S Plus and planned to use it for a month to see what it was like on the other side. I thought I’d take notes, record all the difficulties switching between OS and phone worlds. But that never happened. Essentially every app I used on Android was available for iOS except for Sleep as Android but Sleep Cycle was a fine replacement.

Getting credit cards to work in Android Pay took a loophole with my bank but Apple Wallet loaded them straight away. Not that the 6P had lots of failures with tap-to-pay, but I’ve had zero so far with the iPhone.

I’m not really using any Apple apps either – aside from the Wallet and Messages. Gmail, Chrome, Inbox, Keep, Maps, Hangouts – all my favorites from Google are available. Plus the indispensable Slack and Twitter apps. It’s almost the dream that the early iPhones hinted at: Apple hardware and Google software. Heck, with the Motion Stills app Google makes the neat-but-hard-to-share Live Photos universally accessible by exporting them as GIFs. Seriously Apple? That was an easy one.

The rumors are that the next iPhone will drop the headphone jack. As a non-audiophile who only uses cheap headphones and cares about battery life and being able to charge and listen at the same time, there’s a chance the 6S is my first and last foray into the world of iPhone. Needing a separate pair for my phone and laptop would pretty much be a non-starter for me, but we’ll see what actually happens.

In the meantime, the grand experiment had an unexpected result: it sold me on the iPhone the same way Google sold me on Chrome. The browser is the primary app these days on laptops and  desktops. For phones and tablets, it’s the browser and apps. When those are cross platform, it doesn’t matter what operating system you use, everything can follow you from one to the next.

Monkey Gone to Heaven

When the rumor mill exploded last week with news that Apple may (or may not) have acquired Beats Electronics to add executive talent, a new streaming music service, and of course, headphones, to Apple’s already strong music business, a spotlight on the changing face of the music industry was lit up once more.

For a long time, artists stayed away from allowing their music to be used for advertising purposes. Commercials featuring an artist’s music were considered to be “selling out” for decades. Until somewhat recently when the trend reversed.

What started as a small sample in the 1990s turned into a boom for musicians in the post-Napster era when alternative revenue streams – outside the labels – were in demand.

Apple itself ran a series of successful ads for iPods and the iTunes music service – the ones featuring dancing silhouettes wearing the iconic white earbuds – that were received quite well. Advertising a music service and player with popular music seems like a no brainer, but it’s possible that Apple considered this ad campaign even more seriously. Steve Jobs himself is believed to have had individual control over the song selection. That’s a power both equal parts kingmaker and tastemaker.

Their latest effort uses Gigantic by the Pixies and highlights the iPhone as a tool for creativity as a musician, rocket launcher, and indoor astronomer. The Apple spot debuted on April 22, just before interest in the Pixies shot up on Google Trends.

Google Trends   Web Search interest  pixies  gigantic   Worldwide  Past 90 days

As I write this, one of the most well known commercial songs, Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”, which featured in this Volkswagen commercial plays in the background at the Starbucks. Referenced in the Time piece linked earlier, this seemed appropriate to include. I only know the song from the commercial, but as soon as I heard it, I thought back to the ad. It’s a poignant spot with four (teenagers?) kids driving through picturesque scenery to a party only to decide it’s just not their scene when the journey ends…and they set off again. I recalled the entire ad in a second.

Music is a powerful motivator and suggestion. It’s a companion at the gym, a friend on a long commute, and a background presence during many events of our lives. But wait, there’s more! All of these qualities make songs powerful components of advertising campaigns.

The Guitar Hero and RockBand franchises were built on this foundation.

If Apple buys Beats, it would be a high-profile acquisition of a brand that has recognition comparable to Apple itself. It’s not Lala, the fledgling music service, or PA Semi, the chip designer. Beats has customers, loyalty, product spotlight and recognition. It has music executives and musicians. It’s crazy, but for a company that has put so much into brand and commercials, right down to the artists it featured for iPods at the time when that was the biggest stage anyone could hope for, this might work out in ways no one can foresee yet.

ESPN and Cord-cutting or Disney’s Dark Fairy Tale

The Walt Disney Company has a complicated history with copyright. Disney has long taken inspiration for its movies from the public domain. Fairy tales, fables, Shakespeare, you name it, Disney has borrowed it. Disney has continued the age old practice of building on the work of others. There is no shame in this, it’s the natural progression of art, science, engineering, law, math, everything. That’s how society evolves.

Copyright, along with patent law, dates back to the founding documents of America (and the concepts predate immigration across the Atlantic) and is designed to serve as an incentive for creative works. The idea is that by issuing a limited monopoly, the state can encourage citizens to write, invent, paint, sing, and compose, recoup their investment and make some profit, and then gift their work to society. Copyright law is designed to encourage the greater good. Not be a barrier to protect the rights of artists against the public.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday published an article outlining an interview with ESPN President John Skipper discussing the cord-cutting revolution and ESPN’s reluctance to embrace internet content distribution unpaired from a cable or satellite (pay-TV) subscription.

“Though the company has internally considered a stand-alone broadband offering, “it’s not close yet.”

Mr. Skipper told the paper that a version of ESPN untethered from a cable subscription isn’t close, but in the age of Netflix, this is a surprise. Shouldn’t ESPN be close but not offering the product, perhaps, like HBO and HBO Go, trying to warm up the cable providers to the idea?

ESPN, like parent Disney, and recently, Disney property ABC, requires uses link their online or portable device with their traditional cable account. Signing in is a relatively painless process, but it means that for those who do not have some form of pay-TV, there is no online alternative.

For ESPN, a cable channel, this is unfortunate. With the success of MLB.tv, many sports fans would gladly free themselves of the channels they currently pay for and don’t watch to gain access to an online portal of ESPN content. Already, on the WatchESPN app, a greater amount of content is available – many college games for example – that don’t show up on the TV ESPN channels are available to stream over the internet either live or from an archive. Right now, ESPN wants to protect their current deals with the cable operators, not viewers, making payments.

It’s a similar strategy to that being taken by the NFL and Major League Baseball against Aereo: the threat of putting more content behind a paywall. Rather than broadcast games on free, over-the-air television, the leagues have indicated they would prefer to alienate some viewers and become cable-only rather than let the alternative antenna service provide customers with a feed of the game acquired in a, currently, legal manner.

Sure, live sports is an anchor that keeps people subscribing to cable tv. Right now, it’s compelling even if frustrating, but the same sports leagues that are retreating to cable don’t have much further to go before just selling directly to the consumer. Disney is in a unique position having so many iconic and powerful brands (Pixar, ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Star Wars, etc.) that it can leverage to move customers anywhere along the content spectrum. Netflix in 2016 will become a very nice home for many of their properties.

For the same hundred dollars a month minimum buy-in for a cable & internet package, consumers might start spending fifty dollars on internet and ten dollars per month on the three services they choose, perhaps even alternating when a new Game of Thrones (or whichever show is popular and offered in the right format) season debuts.

The cord-cutting revolution may have started before 2014, but the first big battles could well be fought this year as the hardware, software, and services are reaching past the domain of the technically inclined and arriving in living rooms in the form of a Chromecast, AppleTV, gaming console, and mobile devices. With a tap on a touchscreen, television content is at your literal fingertips, with barely a thought to the cable company.

Glass Or Transparant Aluminum?

When Google first showed off Project Glass last year the first reaction on the internet was “Geordi La Forge!” Well, maybe not the entire internet, but a good part of it. After the skydiving stunt at Google I/O, Glass might have been mistaken for the new, action-packed J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” than the eyes of the humble (or miracle working) engineer from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But social media has a way of keeping interesting conversations around:

Keep up the good work Mr. La Forge.

And when you get a chance, check out the phase inducers.

Polka Face

For the most part I don’t think Google is creepy. Sometimes I’m amazed at the conclusions the famous algorithms can draw based on my searches and inputted information, but I can usually see the relation in one or two degrees of separation. Some key word in an email that clearly points to the logic behind the ad or suggested content.

This is mind boggling though. I can think of just two obvious scenarios :

1. It’s nearby and Google Now is set to alert me of those. This happens to not be my taste. 

Or the better…

2. I listened to Weird Al’s “Polka Face” in my Google Music library. Google knows it’s a parody of Lady Gaga. 

That would be interesting.

If I Had Glass

Every once in a while, there’s an event so encompassing, only Storify really serves it justice in coverage. Today, that is the expansion of the Glass Explorers.

[<a href=”//storify.com/mikecarlucci/if-i-had-glass” target=”_blank”>View the story “If I Had Glass” on Storify</a>]<h1>If I Had Glass</h1><h2>Today, Google released another video of people using Glass and announced a contest: say (and show) what you would do with Glass and you might get a pair early. Following the Foundry events earlier this month the news shows Glass is getting closer to release. What are people anxious to do with Glass?</h2><p>Storified by <a href=”http://storify.com/mikecarlucci”>Mike Carlucci</a>· Wed, Feb 20 2013 15:12:57</p><div>Com</div><div>In the US & want to test Glass? RT @projectglass Seeking Explorers to help shape the future of Glass #ifihadglass http://goo.gl/zCknoLife at Google</div><div>How It Feels [through Glass]google</div><div>Google Glass UI previewed in new video http://vrge.co/YFOK81The Verge</div><div>Enjoy Google Glass, muggles. It’s probably the closest you’re going to get to magic.The Dark Lord</div><div>RT @LukefromDuke: #ifihadglass I would see more of the world and remember it more clearly. Use tech to expand yourself. @projectglass http://pic.twitter.com/DwCWv71X5IJean Bezivin</div><div>#ifihadglass I would document things around NYC. And build an app that identifies people people near me, so I know who to meet at events.Alex Barbara</div><div>#ifihadglass I would probably run into things frequently #justbeinghonestBrielle Ellsworth</div><div>#ifihadglass I would record a video and take pictures of the awesome experience of being at a Pirate game http://pic.twitter.com/9XNoU2KsORTendai Mwenda™</div><div>#ifihadglass I would definitely pretend to be Iron Man ALL THE TIMEJoy Crelin</div><div>#ifihadglass to make me better looking in everyone else’s ifihadglasses. Also a holographic Gary Busey 10 steps ahead of me at all times.Collective Exile</div><div>@projectglass #ifihadglass I would use glass as phase 1 in becoming a cyborg.Coonan O’Brien</div><div>#ifihadglass I could speak to dogproject_glass_</div><div>Probably not just yet…</div><div>#ifihadglass I’d document street art from Dogpatch to Ocean Beach, from the Silicon Valley to the Marin Headlands… http://pic.twitter.com/R9J5jxJ2EJNick Jones</div><div>#ifihadglass every mountain would be geo tagged with historical dataMEDLette</div><div>Hmm.. best augmented Astronomy reality app ever.. #ifihadglassJohn @ CraicDesign</div><div>I’d wear my Star Trek: The Next Generation outfit #ifihadglassNetSafe NZ</div><div>Geordi? Is that you?</div><div>#ifihadglass it would help me evolve my bowling skills with precision training on the lanes. Record. Search. Improve. http://pic.twitter.com/LjHur919DJBurgers by the Beach</div><div>Show retail wine prices on wine menus in restaurants. #ifihadglassJustin Thomas</div><div>Using the Wizard app no doubt. Also includes a tip calculator.</div><div>#IfiHadGlass i would rename the system "Jarvis"Terr</div><div>#ifihadglass, I would use it in my work place as a server in a restaurant and test its practicality as well as its influence.Jeff Locher</div><div>#ifihadglass I would try to find every fun house in the USA that had a hall of mirrors and moving floors. http://pic.twitter.com/imIoEqE4z6Scott Jones</div><div>Ok, that would look cool.</div><div>RT @scottux: #ifihadglass I’d finally become Geordi La Forge http://pic.twitter.com/VqjFEbOYN9Mark Sheffield</div><div>Now we’re talking. Something about the phase inducers…</div><div>#ifihadglass I would look for undiscovered areas of Pompeii http://pic.twitter.com/Qh0n9hZzddScott Jones</div><div>Or somedaybuild an overlay in Glass of shops, houses, etc. that used to exist in the city. The ruins already feel like new tenants could move in and continue living.<div><br></div><div>The possibilities are endless.</div></div>

Search Plus Your World

It’s no secret that Google has come a long way since Larry Page and Sergey Brin built their first server in a  Lego case . The company has evolved from search and ads to email, mobile phones, and a stable of product offerings and research initiatives in its continuing mission to organize the world’s information. While software could take the company very far, hardware efforts, in addition to those solely for internal use, like servers, have recently gained more focus. The physical world is the next domain for Google to explore: Nexus phones and tablets,  Chromebooks , set-top boxes running GoogleTV (encouraged though not built by Google), Glass, fiber optic cable, and of course, self-driving cars.

It is possible to imagine a life fully contained with the Googleverse. Or at the very least, constantly connected to the Mountain View company via an array of intelligent devices. But what if Google decided to take their grand experiments one step further. What if Google built a city?

Anyone who grew up playing Sim City fondly remembers the  arcologies – stand-alone “cities within a city” – but this isn’t what I have in mind. Not a closed off Googleverse, but a town built from the ground (or fiber) up. A testbed for Google operations and a home for those who want to live on the cutting edge. My model is  Celebration, Florida , a town originally developed by Disney.

  Celebration is a planned city. Rather than growing organically as people move to an area, a planned city is designed and built and then the city exists, fully formed. While Disney did not continue to run the entire project, divesting itself of most operations after Celebration “opened” it had a hand in the design and creation which has lasted past the period of formal operating authority.

Network Effect

A Google city would start with the newest publicly available Google product:  Google Fiber . Fiber is one of Google’s most ambitious products yet, and, given the company’s history, that’s saying something. At its heart, Fiber is nothing more than Google acting as an ISP, but when an ISP can offer speeds of  700 Mbps  for just $70 dollars a month, it’s an ISP making history. The first cities to be blessed with the assault on the cable companies were Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, with neighboring cities in the area on the  shortlist  for coverage. And Eric Schmidt says there will be  more to come.

Unsurprisingly, this has made some entrepreneurs think “Why not Kansas City?” as they look for places to found and grow businesses, particularly internet startups that can take advantage of a resource not available in many other places in North America. Kansas City (either) may not be Silicon Valley, but getting in on the ground floor for Google Fiber could give the region a  boost  while we wait to see just how interested Google really is in laying cable. At the very least Google Fiber is an interesting hook: a hacker house wired up with Fiber is on  airbnb.

More than just providing internet access and television channels, Google is changing the way their customers  interact  with the living room by including a Nexus 7 as the remote control, the ability to record up to eight shows at a time, and a combined three terabytes of storage – two locally for your content, one in the cloud for Google Drive and the services (formerly Google Docs) contained in that.

And who wouldn’t want to jump ship to a Google-run  wireless carrierConsumer Reports  just ranked AT&T the worst of the big boys, but first place Verizon is not without it’s faults: blocking  Google Wallet  and pushing out software updates  slowly . Working with Dish could provide over the air access to match Google’s terrestrial infrastructure. Though a complete rollout of cellular services would likely be several years in the making, just as with the Kansas City fiber project, even a small scale cellular service would be a shot across the bow at both AT&T and Verizon.

Transportation

In a Google city, you may not need a car. At least, not as you currently do. Moving to Google, USA could mean subscribing to the Google Car service, built on Google’s  self-driving car  project. Think of this as ZipCar on steroids. As part of local taxes/fees etc. residents would pay into a car sharing service. Getting a car to drive to your location would be as simple as opening an app similar to Uber or Hailo. These vehicles might resemble pods more than sedans (think the pods on the villain’s island in The Incredibles) because the purpose would be transportation more than “driving.” Just use your trusty mobile phone or tablet to summon a pod and one will arrive to pick you up, drop you off at your destination, and pick you up later on. Maybe it could swing by the laundromat, your Amazon (or Google) locker, or a pizza place on the way and do some of your errands too.

Maybe everyone would bring their own car (or just purchase a private pod) that could be outfitted with self-drive, but there is opportunity for a unique public transit system powered by the self-driving car technology. Anyone who owns a self-driving car would have much the same experience as the transit method and those who own a “traditional” car would still be able to take advantage of the transit system.

Eye on Life

The gadget that really ties this futuristic city together may not be the cars, bandwidth, or omnipresent internet connectivity, but  Google Glass . Ideally, Glass will be drawing on the voice recognition and suggestion capabilities of Google Now, location information from Google Maps, object (and facial?) recognition to identify places and things within your field of vision, and a host of other Google services. Right now, much of what Glass will be capable of if it finds its way into the hands of consumers in the not-too-distant-future (2014? 2015?) is a mystery. If it can provide a quarter of the functionality of the  concept video , there’s no telling what kind of impact smart glasses could have on society.

City on the Edge of Forever

With a reputation for undertaking projects well outside the box, Google City may not be as improbable as it sounds, but give the Googlers a few more years and every city may end up  looking like Google City anyway. Unlike the Segway, cities may actually be redesigned: roads can be altered for self-driving cars, and billboards can be physically removed to be displayed virtually to those wearing smart glasses. 

A Piece of Glass

In the original Google Glass video the protagonist takes a picture of some wall art and shares it with his circles on Google+ with a simple voice command.

Cool, right? Too bad Google Glass isn’t available right now (Ingress players would probably be over the moon) so everyone could do that sort of thing. But wait: Google updated the Search app for Android. It’s not quite the same, but from the Google Now screen, you can just say “Post to Google+” and a voice prompt appears to take your words and send them along. If you think Google Now is looking more and more like the Glass concept without the headwear, you may not be wrong.

Thoughts from Google I/O or a Three Day Tour

Last month I set out on a trip to California to visit with family, investigate working on the Left Coast, and attend Google I/O. I/O (Input/Output) is Google’s annual developer conference and their stage to announce products, strategy, and outlook for the year to come. I/O has been home to the unveiling of several big efforts by Google over the years: Google Wave, Google Music, Google TV, and less known but nonetheless interesting developments like Android @ Home,a home automation project using Android OS and Arduino processors. 

This year was no different. From a product standpoint the Google Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and the continued evolution and integration of Google+ into their overall family of services, the conference gave developers and consumers a good look at what Google will emphasize over the next twelve months. 

Plus skydiving with Google Glass.

Aside from the whimsy and excitement, there were a lot of telling moves and advancements coming out of the conference. Android will continue to play an ever larger role in the way people interact with Google. One of the potentially most transformational announcements though, while not directly Android related, is the continuing Google+ strategy coming into focus.

Timeline

For the last year or so, Facebook’s biggest feature rollout has been the move from the traditional profile to the Timeline, both for personal and brand accounts. Like many of Facebook’s advancements, Timeline caused a panic. For some, Timeline is a whimsical look through the past, chronicling a user’s Facebook history along, what else, a time line. Facebook users and visiters to their pofile alike can scroll through a running chronology of status updates, photos, and more. But what really makes Timeline compelling, for those who don’t mind the stalker aspect, is the ability of a user to fill their in their profile for events that didn’t happen on Facebook or happened before Facebook existed. My Timeline begins in the fall of 2004, but if I chose to do so, could be expanded back to the day I was born.

On this last part, as people/investors worry about Facebook’s ability to generate profits, making the Timeline a pathway to baby books or photo albums, physical or electronic – it doesn’t matter – just in a format that can survive should Facebook shutdown or decide to end Timeline for “the next big thing.” Facebook is in the position to make a really compelling real-life version of the dream advertised in Google’s Dear Sophie video.

One of the announcements about the future of Google+ was, in my opinion, the foundation for Timeline done right: history. History is a private collection of “moments” which can be written to your account by third party apps through an API. Google+ users are already familiar with this feature in its initial form, Instant Upload. Instant Upload sends pictures taken on your smartphone to a private photo gallery connected to your Google+ account, automatically. 

Moments restores sharing power to the user and does away with the concept of frictionless sharing. What’s nice is that someone can use the latest social apps all the time, but only share certain pieces of information. This can be for privacy or simplicity. I am a big fan of Instant Upload because I don’t have to go through all my photos and select which ones to upload, which to keep on the phone, which to post etc. Like a Dropbox folder, my photo gallery is the same on my phone and in the cloud. I can share from either device, but I don’t need to make anything public. 

Someone could create a personal implementation of Path using the Google+ history API and an artful presentation of moments. Even if Google were to shut down Google+, the data is in your Google account, it isn’t something that will cease to exist. If Path gets acquired, the creators get bored, or whatever scenario you can imagine occurs, will user be able to export their journeys? Unlikely. at least, not in a human usable format. This isn’t a shot at Path, but the social network built around chronicling your day is a good comparison to the sort of experience that Google+ moments could allow.

Glass

Project Glass aka Google Glass, the smart headware being developed by Google made as big a non-release debut as possible during I/O. 

There were Google employees with (inactive) units on their heads and the previously mentioned skydiving stunt. 

A large section of wall, and several display counters were devoted to taking developer pre-orders (and a few basic, questions), a commitment to pay $1500 dollars at some time in 2013 for a developer version of the futuristic eyewear. While the sight of Glass upon the heads of Googlers, and the skydiving, and a few heart-tugging videos of babies smiling at their mother, rather than a camera, make Glass appear on the horizon, this is a device that can’t quite be called a product yet. It rises above the level of vaporware solely because Google has the muscle and vision to make the dream a reality.

While Googlers could reveal bits and pieces of their experience, for instance, Glass can be worn with a baseball hat, little is known about the interface, operation, hardware, software…etc. Episode 153 of TWiG (This Week in Google) boils down what Google is willing to share about Glass into an episode title “Did I Mention it Takes Pictures?” 

The technology displayed in the initial concept video is still a ways off, but this is the technology to watch over the next few years. For the curious, the song is “lover’s carvings” by Biblio. Ironically, it is not available in the Play Store. But licensing and copyright issues are a matter for another time.

Google Now is the first step in a radical shift for the search engine: giving people what they want before they know they want it based on their search and travel history, and probably lies at the core of Glass. Google Now is a Siri competitor as well as a look into the future of search, powered by intelligence and location awareness. 

Nexus 7

This is the most practical, most ambitious, and potentially most profitable consumer product Google has launched in a while (disclaimer: as a Google I/O attendee, I received a Nexus 7). 

The Nexus 7 is a seven inch tablet running the latest version of the Android OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean. It’s loaded with processing power, unlike many previous Android devices, is light in the hand, easy to read, and fully integrated into the Google Play Store. Essentially, the device is a Google-centric version of the Kindle Fire. Ideally, all the content downloaded to the Nexus 7 – apps, movies and TV, books and magazines, and music will be purchased from the Play Store, with Google getting a cut of each sale. 

Over the next year Google will try to change our perception of the company. Not just a search engine, but a smart guide. The Play Store, Google Now, and Nexus devices form a continuum of information, media, and suggested knowledge. In another year, the next Nexus device may be a Google version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy capable of directing, informing, and entertaining.

The Book that Can’t Wait or You Can’t Deal with My Infinite Nature, Can You?

There has been much discussion about the death of the printed word – books, magazines, postcards, letters – all of these are set for execution by the digital guillotine, although Mark Twain would probably say that the demise of print is greatly exaggerated. One interesting experiment has decided to have some fun with the traditional format of text.

In their demo video, Eterna Cadencia describes books as “patient” tools which operate on the schedule of the buyer rather than that of the author. “We buy them, and then they wait for us to read them. Days, months, even years. That’s OK for books, but not for new authors. If people don’t read their first books. They’ll never make it to a second.”

There are many stories about young and inexperienced authors becoming “overnight” successes on the Kindle platform because the barriers between authors and readers are being eliminated. Discovery of ebooks and new authors is a different animal than printed works, but this project aims not to just provide discovery, but wonder. Eterna Cadencia is not trying to make our physical books ephemeral with a unique disappearing ink. Rather it wants to makes us turn our heads and think. If we do, there are some interesting scenarios. Say you are a person who tends to read a lot of books, but only once. What do you do? The library is one option, or finding a book sharing buddy, or going whole hog into Amazon Prime’s Kindle ebook lending.

But maybe there is a market for nice looking, bound volumes. A welcome addition to the library of every Gatsby: something to show off. Isn’t there a greater purpose for a book than to be mounted as a trophy? Even once its secrets have been revealed, books are a hybrid of art and utility.

Those who enjoy journaling or writing notes by hand might really pay a premium to get a book with disappearing ink. It could double as a sketchbook, or a book of personal quotations, or a real life Path. The second act of the pages adds another type of resale value to the humble purchase of a novel.

Of course, a book printed with disappearing ink may raise some copyright and ownership issues. Would each book come with a special terms of service specifying the length of time a person has to read the text? Could the books be “recharged” after resale, creating a black market for book hackers? Could the book be repurposed into another book with fresh ink lining the pages with a new story?

Maybe paper books would become like Blue Rhino propane tanks, refilled at local bookstores and swapped out. Imagine if Netflix had rewritable DVDs and just burned the movies people requested rather than having a stock of movies to stuff into red envelopes.

12South has shown that there is a market for creating book-like experiences around our electronic devices. Moleskin notebooks remain popular as well. The physical connection between users and their media is far from dying out.

The permanence and persistence of the book survives in popular culture and in our lives. Some families have bibles that pass from one generation to the next. Others have old volumes of a grandparent (or more distant relative) which are inscribed with personal or historical notations. Amanda Katz discussed these ideas e-book inheritance over at NPR a few days ago, focusing on the concept of books passing up the branches of a family tree.

It’s popular now to advertise books printed on “acid-free paper” with “archival inks” to further cement the permanence of the purchase. If, as expected, printed books never go away entirely but become more niche, like the goodies that come with special editions of video games, or vinyl records. The books that are printed could become branded as “collector’s items” designed to last long enough to accrue value or simply to appease the tastes of the readers, eager to have a bookcase full of pages they can turn by hand.

Katz shares the story of her grandfather’s copy of The War of the Worlds passing through time, and the influence that book specifically had on his career in rocketry. It’s still in print, but having the copy that inspired her grandfather is not something available at every corner shop. Not every book passed on will have the same kind of impressive history, but it can still be a connection to the past.

Who knows, as people start to really enounter the problems with terms of service, digital locks, and non-transferable property (because many e-editions of content are not sales of good but licenses) the Intellectual Property Donor Card, or something similar, will take hold.

My great-grandfather immigrated from Italy in the early part of the last century. One thing he brought with him to America was his mother’s coffee maker. It’s not a book, but the idea is the same. I have a solid piece of metal that was making coffee in the 1800s.

I own two first editions of modern books (so they are not in any way, limited editions) but each was signed when I met the authors: Bill Clinton and David Ortiz. I skipped my final day of classes in college to meet the former President with some friends. That story will survive. Ortiz had a book signing while I worked at a Barnes and Noble shortly afterward. My work badge from the event is tucked into the cover. Ortiz signed it that morning and then crushed a home run against the Yankees in the game that night. Will my descendants remember any of this, and look to the past at specific moments in my life, not recorded on Foursquare or Facebook, but inked into paper? I don’t know. But I hope so.