Just a few minutes after I posted a story about Instapaper’s latest updates yesterday, I received my private beta invite for Spool, a free Instapaper-like tool for the browser, iOS and Android. While Instapaper and Read It Later mostly focus on making articles and other written content available for offline reading on mobile devices, Spool also adds audio and video to the mix. For iOS users, this also means that they can watch Flash-based videos on their devices with Spool that would otherwise be unavailable, as Spool’s backend handles the conversion automatically.
Just about a year and a half ago, most of Google’s productivity apps in the Google Docs suite received major overhauls that brought real-time collaboration and a number of other new features to Google’s online document, spreadsheet and drawing tools. One tools that was left out of that refresh at the time was Presentations, Google’s online PowerPoint rival. Today, Google is changing this by bringing real-time collaboration, animations, rich tables and about 50 more new features to Presentations.
Earlier this year, at Google I/O, Ford and Google announced a new project that would use Google’s cloud-based tools to make vehicles smarter. Later this week, at the 18th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, Ford will give its first public demonstrations of the fruits of this work. The idea behind this work is to use Google’s Prediction API to “predict driver behavior in order to optimize vehicle control systems and improve vehicle performance attributes such as fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency.”
Last night, high-profile Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly posted a long rant about working at Amazon and Google's own issues with creating platforms on Google+. Apparently, he only wanted to share it internally with everybody at Google, but mistaken shared it publicly. For the most part, Yegge's post focusses on the horrors of working at Amazon, a company that is notorious for its political infighting. The most interesting part to me, though, is Yegge's blunt assessment of what he perceives to be Google's inability to understand platforms and how this could endanger the company in the long run.
Getting driving directions is surely one of the most often used features of any online mapping service. Generally, those directions consist of step-by-step guides that are then mapped on the 2D map. Google today moved these directions into the 3rd dimension.
Google just announced that users of its new social network Google+ can now share their meticulously curated circles of users with the rest of the world. Owen Prater, a software engineer on the Google+ team made the announcement on the service earlier this afternoon and noted that Google hopes that this new feature will allow users "to share and find lots of great content in Google+, while still giving you important controls over how you read and share." Sadly, it's exactly those controls that make this feature somewhat different from Twitter's list feature - and likely not quite what Google+ users expected it to be.
Between 1947 and 1956, after a chance discovery by a Bedouin shepherd, archaeologist found hundreds of ancient texts written between the third and first century BC in caves near an old settlement not too far away from the Dead Sea. These so-called “Dead Sea Scrolls” feature, among other texts, some of the oldest surviving copies of numerous biblical texts. Written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, they are preserved in a highly secure building in Jerusalem where only a few of the scrolls are ever exhibited at the same time. Now, however, Google, in cooperation with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, is putting some of the rolls online.
As of now, Google isn't making it easy for developers to create apps that can write status updates to the service, but that didn't stop Nadan Gerdeo to build iSatus+, a little iPhone app ($0.99) that lets you post to Google+, Facebook and Twitter at the same time. I'm a big fan of simple apps that only do a few things, but do those right. iStatus+ is exactly that kind of app. You enter your account information for any of the networks you want to use - and if you are in the market for this kind of app, you'll probably put in all three anyway - and start posting. It really couldn't be any easier.
Facebook today announced a major new feature that could put renewed pressure on Google+ and Twitter to out-innovate the social networking market leader. Facebook users can now choose to allow others to asymmetrically follow them thanks to the new (and optional) “subscribe button”– just like on Twitter and Google+. This is an opt-in feature, so you may not see it on every Facebook profile. The fact that Facebook even decided to go into this direction, however, shows that it may be changing its views on how “relationships” on the service should work and that it took a closer look at the success that Twitter and Google+ are having with this model.
Social search is, without doubt, one of the hottest topics in the search engine business today. Google and Microsoft have made it the central focus of their latest search engine features and numerous small players are also trying to get a foothold in this nascent business. Among these smaller players is Wajam, a Canadian startup that lets you easily add social search results to virtually all of the search engines and shopping sites you use today, including Google, Bing, Amazon, Tripadvisor, Wikipedia, and Yelp.
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.