Starting today, the mobile version of Google Maps that runs in the browser is getting virtually all of the features the desktop version currently offers. There are clickable icons for businesses and transit stations, biking directions and layers, integration with places most of the other features you’ve gotten accustomed to on the desktop.
For a while now, Google has offered consumers the ability to compare mortgage rates and other financial products. For the most part, though, these products flew under the radar, even as Google continued to add new products like CDs, checking and savings accounts and credit cards to its comparison tool. This changes today, though, as Google just rolled out its new Google Advisor tool. With Google Advisor, users can compare mortgage rates, find the best credit cards (do prefer cash back? a low APR? no annual fee?) and other bank products like CDs, checking and savings accounts. For the time being, this new tool will only be available in the U.s.
Ever since its launch in late 2009, Google's Social Search feature was only available in the United States. Over the course of the next week, however, Google will finally roll this feature out globally. Social Search shows you what your friends and contacts shared on public networks like Twitter, Google Buzz and Google Reader and displays this information on relevant search results pages. In addition to bringing Social Search to the rest of the world outside of the U.S., Google also announced that it aims to roll out its experimental +1 feature globally as soon as it can.
Chances are that if you want to rate a local business, you will first go to Yelp and similar services. Google, however, has been steadily working on adding its own ratings services to its portfolio. The oddly named Google Hotpot – which is now deeply integrated into Google Places – is Google’s most direct Yelp competitor. Starting today, Google Places users will get better access to their rating there, as well as the ability to import any GeoRSS feed from other services like Foursquare to their Hotpot/Google Places profile. In addition, users can also grab a feed of their Google Places rating and import it elsewhere.
When it comes to tablets, the iPad is still synonymous with the whole tablet category for most users. This doesn't come as a surprise, though, given that it took Google's partners quite a while to launch competitive hardware and Google's first efforts to launch a tablet version of Android were not up to par with Apple's iOS. For the most part, though, the forthcoming Android 3.1 and 4.0 releases will take care of most of these software issues, however, and with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Android tablet hardware is now also getting to the point where it's competitive with Apple's iPad line.What is missing, however, is the wide variety of apps that makes Apple's ecosystem so vibrant.
Microsoft today announced a deeper integration of Facebook's "like" data with its Bing search engine. This data now powers a number of new feature that don't just make Bing's social search competitive but actually better and more useful than Google's current efforts in the social search arena. While Google is able to pull in data from Twitter and a number of other services (including its own recently launched +1 and public Facebook fan pages), Microsoft is the only major search engine with access to Facebook's firehose. Thanks to this, Bing now shows you whenever a friend has 'liked' a page that appears on your search results page and pushes these results to the top of the page, too.
Google just launched a new feature for Google News for smartphones that can display local news happening around you based on your current location. For a while now, Google has offered local sections on its news aggregator for the desktop, but this is the first time it is adding this section to the mobile version of this product as well.
When it comes to social search and social recommendations today, there is a lot of hype around the concept, but given that a user's social graph is - almost by default - limited, there are major gaps in both accuracy and coverage when it comes to putting this concept into reality. While Google +1 and Bing's implementation of Facebook 'like' data are trying to find ways around this, Microsoft researcher Mohammad Raza argues (PDF) that we need a smarter recommendation system that is based on the idea that "your friends know you and can best predict your taste" and that social search can be greatly improved upon with the help of prediction extraction.
A third of smartphone owners would rather give up chocolate than their devices and 39% of U.S. consumers with smartphones have used their phones in the bathroom. These are some of the more interesting results of a survey that Google just released. It’s no secret that we tend to use our phones to get online (81%) while watching TV (33%), but in this survey Google was more interested in the role these devices play while were are out shopping and looking for local information.
Instant Previews made their debut on Google's search results pages since last November, but today, Google is taking this concept one step further by introducing Instant Previews for ads as well. With Instant Previews for Ads, you can now get a preview of the site that lurks behind text ads on Google Search. For advertisers, who generally pay Google per click on a text link, this should be a welcome new feature, as it will allow potential customers to see a preview of the site's landing page without having to click on an ad (and hence costing the advertiser money). Advertisers won't have to pay for clicks on the Instant Preview button.
Google just announced an update to its automcomplete feature, which speeds up the search process by showing predicted searches while you type. Until now, Google mostly based its predictions by looking at the most popular searches. The problem with this, Google points out, is that the majority of search queries have never been typed in before and hence didn’t show any predictions. Now, however, Google is expanding this feature by “improving the predictive powers of autocomplete” for these seldom used queries as well by just looking at the last part of the query.
I'm a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft's HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.