Something I overlooked in all the Google Apps / Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office comparisons, but didn’t go unnoticed by Tony Ruscoe: Microsoft Office Home & Student works on up to three computers. That means that a single copy of Office H&S, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, costs $50 a person split three ways, the same as a year of Google Apps, and so cheap that Google Docs has a hard time justifying itself.
Google is working real hard developing office applications, but no one is really going to claim that they are better than the most recent version of Microsoft Office (Tony says of Docs, “it’s basically just a glorified WYSIWYG HTML editor”). If Office is better, has local storage, works with everything, and has a really cool new user interface, isn’t it worth fifty bucks? Being honest with yourself, wouldn’t you say Office is so cheap that Google’s free apps aren’t significantly cheaper, and thus have few advantages?
Google is releasing a presentations app this summer, but Docs and Spreadsheets aren’t fully baked yet. Maybe they need to get serious about competing with Office on features and usability. Otherwise, the PR FUD that Google Docs isn’t competing with Microsoft Office will be very sadly fulfilled.
Google announced today it has partnered with the governments of California, Arizona, Utah and Virginia to help make it easier for search engines, its own and its competitors, to crawl their websites and get important public info into the major search engines.
“California state government provides tremendous resources online for the public to learn about our great state,” said California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Our partnership with Google will empower Californians to know more about our government and provide better access to services and helpful information.”
Many government websites are poorly designed, poorly indexed, or poorly formatted, making it hard for crawlers to find all the pages inside, and Google’s efforts will make that data easier to find, as well as assist governments in bringing new data that was never available on the internet onto publicly accessible websites.
This means job seekers in Utah can now search on Google for employment in the state and find job postings provided by the state’s Department of Workforce Services. In Virginia, search engine users interested in the region’s colonial history can now find a greater variety of online resources provided by the Commonwealth’s archive, the Library of Virginia.
From the AP:
By providing free consulting and some software, Google Inc. is helping state governments make reams of public records that are now unavailable or hard to find online easily accessible to Web surfers.
The Internet search company hopes to eventually persuade federal agencies to employ the same tools; an effort that excites advocates of open government but worries some consumer privacy experts.
Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of more than 65 watchdog groups that advocate greater government openness and accountability, lauded Google’s efforts. Since the Sept. 11 attack on the United States, many public agencies have tried to restrict certain data from the Internet due to concerns about national security.
Despite the obvious benefits of this Google initiative for those conducting Web searches, privacy advocates said they are worried about unintended consequences, cautioning that some records may contain personal and confidential information that should not be widely available.
Bloomberg writes that the stock market is responding favorably to the idea that General Electric should spin off it NBC unit. That’s okay, and makes sense, as companies are trying to unload low performing units to focus on higher performing ones. What’s silly is this:
This is the second time this week analysts have suggested GE take such steps. Nicholas Heymann of Prudential Equity Group Inc. in New York said a company such as Google Inc. may be interested in buying NBC Universal as part of its effort to add to its mix of media offerings including YouTube.
Really? Google? The worst thing you can do is pick up a company that has nothing to do with your core business and requires careful and close oversight in order to remain competitive. Google has no experience with content, and its forays into video are having a hard enough time already; they don’t need a big distraction like a bunch of self-owned TV networks.
Still, if Google were looking from a purely YouTube perspective, and bought NBC to bolster YouTube’s legal mainstream content, as well as planning to bolster NBC with prominent promotion on YouTube (like Fox’s success with promotion on MySpace) it could work. It’d be a crazy idea, but it could happen as part of a single-minded approach to succeeding in online video.
(via John Battelle > ThreadWatch)
The Google Store has added a 3D navigation mouse ideal for use flying around Google Earth, and moving around the interface in Google SketchUp. It looks extremely useful for working in 3D (something regular mice are not great for).
The Google Store is selling it for $73.70. Amazon has two editions of it, the Personal Edition and Standard Edition, one of which is cheaper, one more expensive, and Google isn’t clear which one they are selling. Here are the two at Amazon:
(via Amit Agarwal)
YouTube’s head of advertising, Suzie Rieder, announced last week at AdTech that they will be adding advertising to videos on YouTube. The ads will be of the pre-roll and post-roll variety, that is ads that play before or after a clip.
“We’re looking at executions like a very quick little intro preceding a video, then the video, then a commercial execution on the backside of the content,” Ms. Reider said.
They didn’t say if these ads would be for major companies who put content on the site, like CBS, or for user-generated content to generate some revenue. This is going to be a tricky thing for Google, which doesn’t want to unbalance the “community” building at YouTube, but needs to make some money to justify the giant purchase price.
They need to look at it this way: If I watch an hour of TV, commercials come up about six times in the hour, for three minutes at a time. Some of those commercials are really good, most of them suck, and they aren’t the same commercial, aired 36 times an hour (many video sites suffer from having one commercial airing all the time). I can go through ten minutes of content before seeing an ad. Google needs to ensure users won’t see ads on every video, just maybe once every three minutes, otherwise YouTube will have more advertising than television, and we all know that TV is bad enough.
Maybe this is the way to go:
A long television-style commercial or “pre-roll” that appears before a user can watch a selected video “doesn’t work,” but users can react favorably to an ad placed between a first and second video, said Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media Entertainment Group, the maker of Slingbox.
Seeking Alpha shows off this Compete.com chart showing how Google Checkout usage has fallen dramatically since December:
What happened after December? Well, Google stopped giving almost every Google Checkout user twenty dollars just for shopping. Like I said before, if you have to pay users to use your service, then it doesn’t deserve to succeed, and shoppers are agreeing. I don’t understand why Google Checkout needs to exist on websites like Buy.com, that have no problem processing credit card orders normally, and Google needs to find an excuse for their system. At least PayPal has a bank account.
Ask.com is planning on launching a contextual advertising program (in the AdSense mold) late next month. Initially, the service will only run on IAC-owned websites (of which there are a ton), but it will be opened to independent publishers most likely in the fall, according to Barry, who also says:
The publishers will have two unique features that are not currently available in the Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network. Publishers will be able to set “page yield thresholds” and set “relevancy thresholds.” There will be levers to allow publisher to determine if they want higher paying ads or if they want more relevant ads with these levers. In addition, the ads will be unique from that of Google and Yahoo ads. Ask told me that they will allow “very customized” interfaces for the contextual ads; such as customized backgrounds and graphics.
Expect to see it the week of May 21. As you can see from the sample ads running alongside this post, they differ from AdSense in one huge way: Rounded corners. Just kidding, but they do feature stock photos, a hybrid text/image ad, in order to draw users attention (which Google says is a bad thing). Ask says publishers will have a lot more control than they got with the competition. If anybody at Ask would be interested in beta testing it here, you just have to Ask
Randy Morin announced last week that he sold his R|Mail service to NBC. R|Mail, a two year-old service which sends RSS updates via email (and features InsideMicrosoft as its 14th most popular feed) and has over 50,000 users, obviously caught the fancy of NBC Universal, and that means another blogger is getting a great payday. Congratulations, Randy! Lets hope R|Mail’s new home respects it and puts some money into growing it.
Good work, Jason, getting what appears to be the exclusive interview revealing the sale.
Interestingly, two months ago, Randy ran an expirement aggregating all NBC RSS feeds as an OPML file, and recommending them in Rmail emails. Crazy speculation time, but maybe NBC saw some real good returns from that experiment, and saw an opportunity to gain new readers. If Rmail users are good marketing other feeds to as recommended feeds, NBC’s got a great base to promote its content, and maybe to sell ad space to others as well.
No matter what their motivations, big congrats to Randy, who definitely deserves it.
R|Mail easter egg: On R|Mail’s Join page, there’s a checkbox for “Allow spammers to email me”. Its a good joke on similar, less obviously worded checkboxes on many web forms, and don’t worry, you won’t get spammed, just berated for not being careful enough.
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