Defending Pixel’s Price Point
My opinion about Google’s Pixel Chromebook’s price didn’t wasn’t exactly warmly received. Comments on social networks, Reddit, and DVWLR all effectively said the same thing: “Shut up, Google fanboy!”
Mind you, I asked for it. I said “Pixel is a fantastic bargain,” which the
mob commenters quickly explained is inaccurate. My revised opinion is that “Pixel is fairly priced.”
Here’s my calculus and, please remember, I’m saying Pixel is fairly priced for the way I use computers. I bolded that clause because DVWLR isn’t Consumer Reports; this isn’t a buyer’s guide; I’m not the Gallup of tech.
The 1TB of Google Drive Storage Costs $1,200 Alone
Upgrading Drive storage to 1TB costs $50/month. Assume you’ll keep the Pixel for 24 months and that’s $1,200. Pixel costs $1,299. You get a computer for $99. Keep it for 27 months and you profited $50!
I basically don’t use local storage:
50% of the “Apps” bucket is an unused copy of Microsoft Office, and I left those pictures on this computer by mistake.
Plus, local storage begets additional costs in external backup drives and data recovery.
High Resolution Displays Don’t Come Cheap
There’s plenty of computers with high resolution displays. A few are marginally less expensive than the Pixel, with the rest ranging from a few to many hundreds of dollars more. Very few are both high resolution and support touch.
If you want a normally sized laptop with a “better than Retina” screen, you’re paying north of $1,100.
I’m not particularly excited about the touch capability. The web laptop experience isn’t optimized for touch in the way it is on phones and tablets, so it’s a marginal benefit, at most.
Chrome OS is a Selling Point, Not a Liability
Pixel doesn’t run Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, iMovie, Quicken, or, well, anything.
Neither do I. And soon, neither will you.
Adobe is slowly moving Photoshop to a web app (though I use Pixlr.com), Microsoft put Office in the cloud (I use Google Drive), iMovie is being disrupted right and left online, Quicken acquired Mint.com, and so forth.
Web apps are accessed through internet browsers. Coincidentally, Google happens to make the world’s most popular browser.
So which applications do I use on my Macbook Pro? Chrome. And sometimes Stickies.
I prefer an operating system built around the internet than one built around floppy drives.
If you’re a power user who relies on Photoshop/Excel/Whatever, Pixel’s not for you.
Pixel Doesn’t Have USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, Lots of RAM, or a Powerful Graphics Card
USB and Thunderbolt: good riddance! Keep the price down. They’re great if you transfer lots of data to external devices (hard drives, displays). Chrome’s ports (USB 2.0 and mini) are fine for my needs, which are none.
RAM: again, I use web apps so 4 gigs is plenty. Adding additional speedy RAM would have negligible, if any, impact on my ability to stream movies, use apps in Google Drive, and write DVWLR posts.
As for graphics cards, I don’t have much to say here. If you need to render worlds in 3D in realtime, why are you critiquing this product in the first place? That’d be like an airline pilot faulting a Ferrari for not flying.
I want Lots of Cloud Storage + High Resolution + an Internet-focused Operating System. The overlap in the Venn Diagram gets pretty small, and none of them represent many savings over Pixel.
For me, the purchase decision would be between Pixel and a Retina MacBook Pro (I’m not interested in running Windows). Since I use OS X as a glorified Chrome launcher, I’d pocket the money and buy a Pixel.
Google’s Pixel Chromebook is Fantastic, and a Fantastic Bargain
Google announced the Pixel, a high-end laptop that runs Chrome OS and was designed in-house.
Let’s get this out of the way: yes, I work for Google on the Chromebook and Android businesses. Yes, this informs my opinion. This is my personal opinion, not Google’s.
I’m typing this post on a $2,800 Retina Macbook Pro. It feels like a lovely antique, like a shiny nautical instrument you’d find in a musty antique store. While beautifully designed, it hasn’t kept pace with innovations that actually matter.
Which innovations? The internet and the cloud.
Here’s the reality: I use this $2,800 MacBook Pro as a mobile internet console. Sure, it packs the processing power and memory to render 3D graphics or edit feature films, but let’s be serious: I send emails, collaborate in business productivity software, watch movies/shows/YouTube online, read the news, and do the social networking thang.
There’s two things I love about the Retina MacBook Pro:
- The high resolution screen makes consuming media a joy
- It’s thin, light, and beautifully designed
Yet, beyond the beauty, it subjects me to 1980’s and 1990’s annoyances:
- Marooning files on the local harddrive
- Corrupt files
- Byzantine OS user interface, file management, system settings, and app structure
- Expensive software
- Horrendous syncing across devies
Chrome OS solves these problems, but you can enjoy these benefits on a $300 Chromebook.
Pixel stands out for trumping the Retina MacBook Pro where it counts:
- it has a higher resolution screen than the fabled “Retina” display
- is significantly lighter than Retina Macbook Pros
- gives 1TB (whoa) of Google Drive storage so you can access all your files from anywhere
That means webpages, movies, and photos look incredible — better than on the Retina MacBook Pro. It’s powerful enough to make normal usage perfectly smooth, even if normal usage means having 40 Chrome tabs open while watching a HD movie. And if you feel like interacting with your computer as you would a mobile device, you can do that, too, because Pixel has a touchscreen.
I relied on Google’s services long before Larry Page signed my paycheck. I ditched Microsoft Office for Google Apps in 2008 and have been a Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Reader, Search… user since the beginning of e-time. These internet-based services are deeply integrated into Chrome OS in a way Mac OS X can’t touch.
$1,300 for a Google Pixel? I get a computing experience that actually uses the cloud, give up the ability to produce feature films, and keep $1,500. That works for me.
Explore the Grand Canyon Using Google Street View
File this under: Dude, That’s Awesome.
Those wizards on the Google Maps team strapped 40 pound, 15-lens 360º cameras to their backs and hiked dozens of trails in the Grand Canyon so you can do the same from the comfort of your couch.
Go take a sweat-free stroll. These images below are interactive; click the path to start hiking.
Switching from iOS to Android: Day 1 Impressions
Many thousands of people have scribed iOS vs. Android articles. Here, I’ll focus on idiosyncratic observations from 24 hours as a first time Android phone user.
Nexus 4 Packaging
Google took plenty of notes from Apple in their packaging design, most notably hoisting the product onto a stage that greets new owners. However, the presentation of the accessories within lack Apple’s finesse. And, what is that bizarre little hoop with a spiky protrusion?
That. Was. Slick. Unlike Apple, who casts you in a barren version of iOS, Google requested my Gmail credentials and auto-populated apps with content from Gmail, Calendar, Google+, Reader, Drive, and so forth. What’s more, I had previously used a Nexus 7 Tablet, and all the apps I previously downloaded were made available on my new Nexus 4, settings and all.
This. Was. A. Pain. Correction: This is a pain. I still haven’t figured out how to get all the phone numbers off my iPhone and onto my Nexus 4 (yes, I’ve read all the articles about using CardDAV and setting up sync in Apple Contacts to Gmail; no luck yet).
I don’t like buzzing or ticking when I tap my phone’s keyboard. I challenged myself to figuring it out without searching for help and did so within 4 minutes. 4 minutes? That’s kinda a long time. Android’s settings are byzantine and tucked away in odd places within the OS.
Nexus 4’s Screen Size
Where the iPhone’s screen size allowed me to reach any corner of it without changing my grip, I have to shift my hand positioning if I want my thumb to reach the top-left region of the Nexus 4. Doing so is a bit uncomfortable and interrupts my experience. However, I find reading emails and articles more pleasant on the Nexus.
Oh, and don’t believe Apple’s hype about their Retina Display. The Nexus 4’s screen is every bit as sharp, bright, and gorgeous.
Most of my favorite iOS apps are in Google’s Play Store. In fact, a few Reddit threads pointed me to Apps that take advantage of Android’s more permissive OS boundaries and offer tremendously convenient abilities (I can drag and drop files to the Nexus? Whoa.).
I found two app-based issues that I suspect will keep popping up:
Timehop, my favorite new social app, isn’t there. They’re a small startup so, with limited resources, they made the call for iOS first. I’m sure Android’s coming, but I’ll just have to wait.
Letterpress, the only game I play, is available on Android but doesn’t work across platforms due to its dependence on Apple’s Game Center. The side effect is that I’ll now keep using my iPhone over WiFi at night to feed this addiction.
Swipey Slippery Keyboard
I’m sure this feature has a real name, but Android’s keyboard lets you swipe your fingers around like you’re finger painting and it somehow just knows what you meant to say. It’s fun but, more importantly, it’s faster and more accurate than the iPhone’s keyboard. I just wish it knew when I wanted to put spaces between words so I didn’t have to tap the spacebar.
Google Search on Android
Having a Google Search bar at the top of the home screen that smoothly takes voice input is fantastic. Search is such a core function of phone usage, it’s bizarre that Apple buries it within apps.
In 24 hours, I’ve used it once. And I loved it. I was in Palo Alto, wasn’t quite sure how to get home, so I looked at Google Now and sitting there were directions home. That is magical technology.
Android lets you take content out of apps and spill it on the home screen. I can now see my next meetings without opening the Calendar app. Seriously, what is Apple thinking by not copying this feature?
I’d always heard Android’s notifications were superior. The lore is true. They’re less intrusive, more informative, and easily dismissed.
My greatest surprise has been my general comfort with switching. Yes, there’s been a few bumps, but Jelly Bean is a sophisticated, smooth, and even attractive operating system.
It shows the real competitive threat Google poses to Apple in mobile computing. Unless Apple pulls off another leapfrog as they did with the first iPhone in 2007, the operating systems will each become A+ products so the fight will shift to who offers better services. There, Google is the clear frontrunner with Gmail, Drive, Search, Maps, and so forth.
Ironically, it appears Google might leapfrog Apple in mobile computing with projects like self-driving cars and Glass. If that happens, the justification for Apple’s market capitalization evaporates… but that’s another DVWLR post.
Facebook’s Graph Search Is Starved For Data
Facebook’s Graph Search is an exciting concept. It lets you search your friends’ brains. That’s different from Google Search, useful, and valuable.
There’s only one problem: Facebook doesn’t know enough about my friends to be useful or valuable.
Sure, if I were 15 and I still based my friends on shared taste in music, movies, and TV, Graph Search might be useful. I could find people in my high school who like Radiohead and There Will Be Blood, and then we could be BFFs.
At more than twice 15 years old, I generally don’t care about people’s taste in media. If I’m going to see a concert, I’d rather go with someone I really like than with someone who really likes the band.
Here are 15 searches I tried myself. 13 returned no results, and 2 (italicized) did return results.
- My Friends whose tax advisors saved them money
- My Friends who would enjoy reading DVWLR
- My Friends’ favorite anniversary dinner restaurants near San Francisco
Things People Own or Use
- My Friends near Mountain View who have a pickup truck
- My Friends who own an Android phone
- My Friends near San Francisco who hire a housecleaner
Employment & Real-World Connections
- Friends of My Friends who work for charities
- People at Google who know Larry Page
- Companies my friends work for
- Pictures of my friends hiking
- Pictures of my friends in suits
- Pictures of my friends at work
- My Friends near San Francisco who are free for dinner on Saturday
- My Friends who are going to Coachella in 2013
- My friends who have run a marathon
In the 13 cases where Graph Search returned “no results” or nonsense, it would offer Bing results, which were also nonsense.
In these screenshots of Graph Search, my search query is in the blue bar at top, and Facebook’s results are below.
In other cases, Facebook understood the search, but lacks the data to be correct. Apparently, chefs only like one Japanese restaurant near San Francisco.
And according to Facebook, there’s no pictures of me outdoors.
Facebook was unequivocal at launch: Graph Search is in its infancy. My test searches substantiate that claim. It’s currently as useful as me as an infant is to Goldman Sachs.
What these deficiencies also make clear is where Facebook will invest in the coming years. Among them:
- "Reading" pictures to determine their content
- Learning what people own
- Developing more accurate and nuanced signals for affinity than the clumsy “Like” button
- Knowing people’s schedules
- Understanding people’s connections beyond Facebook connections (I’m sure someone at Google knows Larry Page)
- Predicting what people want to do and are willing to do
Given time, money, and talent, Graph Search might become as good at searching your friends as Google is at searching the internet. The question is whether they can get there before Google does, or users lose interest.
Want to try Graph Search yourself? Scroll to the bottom of this page and opt-in.
Is The Driverless Car Google’s iPad?
"My 6-year old loves his Nexus 7. He calls it ‘his iPad.’” One of my coworkers at Google told me that. Keep it in mind for the new few minutes.
Forbes worked themselves into a froth and wrote, “Google’s driverless car is worth trillions.”
I agree the driverless car market might reach in the trillions, as people enjoy the newfound convenience and stop participating in an activity that kills roughly 250,000 people annually.
(How cool is it that this technology might eventually save around a quarter million lives per year?)
The reason Forbes overreaches is because they assume Google will capture the entire market. This is far from certain. BMW, Audi, Toyota, and various universities have all built functioning driverless cars.
What’s more, Google doesn’t builds cars. They build eyes, hands, and feet.
Now let’s return to the comparison with the iPad. While Android is quickly eroding Apple’s tablet marketshare (Apple = 54%, Android = 43%), Apple is still enjoying tremendous profits from their early lead. They were the first brand on the scene to capture the public’s attention in the new product category.
The iPad brand dominates the tablet market and Apple is the sole purveyor of iOS, which means Android’s profits are split among various companies, where Apple reaps all the spoils of iOS’s 54%.
Google’s brand dominates the “driverless car” market. Seeing the connection?
Herein lies the opportunity and challenge of Google: they must figure out how to capitalize on this position without overextending themselves. Do they really want to get into car manufacturing or insurance sales? Maybe. Do they want to partner with auto manufacturers? More likely, but they risk repeating the mistakes they made with Android (supplying the operating system, not the whole package).
The future of driverless cars is wide open. But if you’re looking for the next thing that will redefine how we live, I think they’re a pretty safe bet.
Facebook’s Graph Search: Immediate Reactions
Facebook unveiled Graph Search today, which is a search engine designed to answer questions based on social signals. Where a search for “Florists” on Google will point you to local and online florists, the same search on Facebook will tell you the florists your friends like. They make that determination through social signals that include Likes, Page Follows, and check-ins.
Some quick reactions:
Google Should Not Be Particularly Worried
Any time a tech story about Facebook includes the word “Search,” the knee-jerk response is to frame the story as a direct assault on Google. This might be an attack, but it’d be a bit like that steamroller scene in Austin Powers.
The web is filled nearly unimaginable quantities of information, some of which is people’s taste in locations, their photos, and preferences in media. Most of it is not.
Google is also making impressive strides by encouraging users to log in while using their various services. That allows them to collect behavioral and taste data, too. So while Facebook’s Graph Search will spur further competition in this area, it’s hardly a direct hit on Google’s business.
It’s also worth noting that from a revenue and return on investment perspective, social targeting still has a lot of catch-up to do with traditional search and display advertising.
Local Discovery Businesses (Yelp, Foursquare, Groupon) Are Probably More Concerned, But Don’t Believe Those Who Overstate the Threat
Any company whose business hinges on monetizing consumption recommendations is probably more directly concerned by this announcement.
However, this is not a “those companies are screwed” opinion. To the contrary, the particulars of the product experience, quality of data, and quality of recommendations are make-or-break factors. Foursquare Explore has become my default local search tool because it’s right about me more often than anyone else. That’s a very high standard.
"Answers, Not Search Results"
I’d encourage you to be savvy and not believe Facebook’s rhetoric that says Google gives links, Facebook gives answers. That’s simply inaccurate. Want proof? Go to Google and type “Woody Harrelson Movies”.
Those results are part of Google’s Knowledge Graph.
What Do My Friends Know?
Social data has undeniable utility. If I want to find people who attended NYU Stern and work at technology companies, the Social Graph promises to be a useful tool.
However, I am not bought into the idea that my friends always know best. If I want to know where to get the best bowl of ramen in New York, where most of my friends live, I’m not going to ask any of them. They don’t know about ramen. The same goes for music, florists, exercise routines, and really anything else where expertise merges with taste.
In short: friends have taste, but I have no particular reason to believe it’s good taste.
Until my friends become experts in everything, I don’t see myself trusting them with recommendations.
Best. Bug. Ever. “He Now Praises The iPad” on Google Translate
I entered “Juston ate so many Frosted Mini Wheats, he is now filled with” into Google Translate, and then asked it to receite that odd sentence to me. This triggered an absolutely delightful bug:
Try it for yourself. Go to Google Translate, end a sentence with “[verb] with,” and press the “Listen” button.
There’s more about the bug on TechCrunch.
Googling My Inbox
I love Google’s Search Experiment that gives Google Search access to my Gmail inbox. The specific use case I dig is for upcoming flights:
It’s a nice illustration of the little conveniences that arise when companies make incremental and thoughtful changes to privacy policies. In this case, Google already “knows” when you’re flying if your inbox has flight confirmations in it. They just had to connect the dots between GMail and Search.
I work for Google, but have nothing to do with this product.
Google’s Field Trip: Curation Over Crowd
An ideological battle roars under new product announcements from Google and Apple. The latest is Google’s local discovery tool, Field Trip. It promises to put tastemakers in your pocket so whenever you’re near something that’s verified awesome, it’ll buzz ya.
Notice the key words: tastemakers, verified.
Compare that to Apple’s deep Yelp integration in iOS 6. Nobody would call the slobbering masses on Yelp “tastemakers,” yet their opinions can have huge impacts on businesses (a fact that should terrify small business owners).
This reveals a fundamental divide between the companies’ approach to travel recommendations that’s somewhat counterintuitive:
Apple, which is known for “closed” and “controlled” systems, favors crowd-sourced content.
Google, purveyor of the “open” Android, pushes curation through brands like Zagat, Frommer’s, Thrillist, Eater, and Inhabitat.
In service of accuracy, Google is also integrating social recommendations via Google+ Places. However, I’d argue that Zagat and Frommer’s indicates their longterm commitment to highlighting brand’s opinions.
So which are you: a Brandroid or a Crowdboy? vs.
It’s The Law: Cars Can Drive Themselves in California
There aren’t many viable ideas out there bigger than self-driving cars. The longterm vision of machines choreographing cars at high speeds while reducing accidents, decreasing congestion, and making police chases weird is simply phenomenal.
Unfortunately that old buzzkill, The Government, has a little issue with the prospect of computers plunging citizens over bridges. That’s why it’s a massive victory for The Golden (car congested) State to officially bless our new robotic chauffeurs.
In fact, California is the third state to allow self-driving cars, joining Nevada and Florida.
Elected officials couldn’t be more risk averse, particularly regarding public safety and technology, so this kind of validation can’t be understated.
Three cheers to the elected officials who create sensible policy about amazing new technology.
Twitter Wants You! (To be more valuable)
Twitter updated its ad targeting platform earlier this month. It’s a strong update that gives advertisers more targeting control and uses an auction model that rewards high quality ad copy.
Sound familiar? It’s so similar to Google AdWords, one has to wonder if Google would have done it any differently had they acquired Twitter.
Hunter Walk wrote a smart post about the pressures Twitter feels from its $8 valuation. This update is all about that giant number.
Google is currently valued at $240 billion. Let’s assume that’s a somewhat reasonable, non-bubbly valuation.
Google is often said to have 1 billion active users.
Twitter has around 170 million active users.
Markets think each Google user is worth $240 and each Twitter user is worth $47. In other words, Google is 5x better at monetizing users than Twitter.
Twitter’s goal is now to close that gap, which is why copying fundamental aspects of Google AdWords makes sense. It’s a system that’s proven extremely effective at turning people into mints.
It also explains why Twitter stopped feeding data to sites that piggyback on their platform. Do you think Google would be worth $240 billion if they gave Search away to other platforms?
If Twitter actually grows their revenue as quickly as projected, and they continue raking in unique visitors while increasing the value of each user, $8 billion starts to feel more than attainable. It actually sounds conservative.