Today, Steve Lee of the Google X and Glass Team, announced that as of last week, all 2,000 developers who signed up for the Glass Explorer program at last year’s I/O conference have now been invited to pick up their devices from Google’s offices in Mountain View, New York City or Los Angeles.
Of course, not everyone has to actually pay the $1,500 to get them if they don’t want to, but it’s safe to say that most of these developers will be picking them up and dropping down the cash.
Lee also noted that the 8,000 #ifihadglass “winners” who still have to pay their way will start getting theirs soon. The importance of having the device in the hands of those who will be building apps, the only way that we’ll ever know what the device is capable of, was not an easy thing to do. You can’t really seed a device that sits on your face quietly, thus the need for an Explorer program that was announced last year. Lee said: “This isn’t something that we could have worked on in some secret lab; it had to be out in the real world.”
Lee also noted that Glass will receive monthly software updates with bug fixes and new features, which means that we can expect another one to come sometime in early June, similar to the one on May 8th. The experience wasn’t completely overhauled with the last update; the introduction of a “long press” for search was handy.
As we’ve walked around the I/O conference, it’s been commonplace to find someone stopping to take a picture or slide through the timeline in front of their place. There are still a lot of questions to be answered as to whether this is a device that will catch on for consumers, but watching its evolution in the earliest days is fun.
Something that’s interesting to note is that Google executives, like Larry Page and Vic Gundotra, haven’t been sporting their Glass, specifically on stage yesterday for the keynote. Some feel like this was a way to tone down the hype about the product, letting developers take over the “spokesperson” role for Glass.
Leap Motion was showing off its still unreleased gesture motion controller for computers at Google I/O 2013. The demo unit allowed you to use the controller to navigate Google Earth, and the functionality felt ready for prime time to me, as this was the first time I’d ever used the Leap Motion. The controls seemed intuitive, and within a few minutes I was flying around the globe pretty handily, though I did have some trouble finding San Francisco.
I asked about Leap Motion’s recent announcement that it would delay launch in order to further beta test Leap, and as you can see in the video the company is keen to note that the hardware is solid, but there’s a need for more testing around the consumer experience. Leap seems very confident they can deliver by their new anticipated ship date of late July, however.
The tech is impressive regardless of whether it hits a little later than anticipated, but it’ll be interesting to see if the extended beta has an effect on how it’s eventually received by consumers.
FixYa, a Q&A site where consumers can seek advice from product experts, is launching a new feature today called the FixBoard, which should make the site more useful to big consumer brands.
As the name suggests, the FixBoard is basically a dashboard of FixYa data. It shows, over time, the number of FixYa owners who reported a problem with a company product, the products that have the most reported problems, the most common problems, and how those numbers stack up against the competition.
Rather than just looking at individual questions or individual products, this dashboard provides brands with a much broader view of “what customers are saying,” said CEO Yaniv Bensadon. The data is specifically about activity on FixYa — it doesn’t tell companies about complaints on their own sites or own social media, for example. But Bensadon said FixYa itself has become a big community, with more than 30 million unique visitors per month and 9 million product questions answered total.
He added that even though FixYa has been profitable since 2009, the company is looking for ways beyond its existing ad model for brands to find (and pay for) value on the site. The FixBoard is currently free and available to everyone, but it only covers the top 1,000 brands on FixYa (out of 60,000 total). Eventually, Bensadon said he plans to release a “full-blown” version that companies will have to pay for, covering more brands and offering more detailed data.
I also asked whether any of those potential advertisers/future customers are going to be upset to see the number of customer complaints highlighted in one place and visible to the public.
“We don’t think so — in the same way that no one prevents anyone from going to Twitter and reading the tweets,” Bensadon said. “Now, after several years … brands understand the fact that some users are saying something bad about your brand. It cannot be prevented, and there are two things you can do about it as a brand. You can ignore it, or treat it as an opportunity to engage with your users.”
Today’s three-hour-long Google I/O keynote came with plenty of announcements, but the company mostly assured us that it is focused on building frameworks that can benefit developers and consumers.
We saw a more unified company that needed three hours in one session to get their message across. Breaking today’s keynote up into two days would have disrupted the momentum coming out of a company that closed the day at an all-time high on the stock market. Key areas of the business saw updates, all relaying the important foundation necessary to move Google forward over the next 10 years.
From search to maps, everything is getting a new coat of paint, a new polished experience and a focus from every team within the company. The only announcement that didn’t fit into a “category” was its new music subscription service. Some are calling it a Spotify-killer, but to us, it seemed like a necessary and inevitable announcement.
The day started out with Android, with the news that more than 48 billion apps have been installed from the Google Play store, thanks to 900 million activations of Android devices.
That’s great news for developers, showing that consumers really care. To make their apps better, Google introduced a new tool called the Android Studio, which makes developing in multiple languages and for multiple screen sizes easier than ever.
The takeaway is that Android is massive, is giving Apple a run for its money and all developers should consider building apps on its platform first, rather than second.
That little project that Google worked on, you know…the browser? It’s the No. 1 browser in the world, to the tune of 750 million active users, and Google isn’t afraid to tell you all about it. Oh, it’s also a platform upon which to build apps, so developers should be doing that too.
The takeaway is that if you’re building apps on the web, people love Chrome and Chrome offers all of the open tools you need to build gorgeous things.
Whether you think that Google+ is a Facebook competitor or not, the 41 features introduced today will get your attention. The stream itself, which now has 190 million monthly active users, is now three-columned and has interactive animations all over the place. Google says that the stream was flat, so it needed a fresh take.
If you’re into taking photos, Google has finally integrated all of Nik’s professional photo suite goodies and will now auto-enhance your shots with something they call “Awesome.”
Not a photographer, but chat with your friends a lot? GTalk, Talk, Google Chat or whatever you’ve been referring to it is gone. Hangouts is in, and it’s an app for iOS, Android and the desktop. It has video and text chats, complete with emoji and presence. We’re just glad that they didn’t call it Babel, which was the real internal name for the project.
The takeaway here is that Google knows that you want to talk to your friends and family. It thinks that if it can integrate features to facilitate your communication from anywhere — at your desk or on your phone or tablet — they have you covered.
Search is getting smarter these days. Google knows that you go to its site whenever you can’t think of something, but it wants you to be able to ask it questions naturally. You can do that on Android and iOS with Google Now, but the company announced conversational search for the desktop today. Speaking of Google Now, you can get public transit information, as well as details on your favorite TV shows, books and video games.
Knowledge Graph, which fires in little snippets of information when you perform a search, added some new languages and statistics.
The takeaway here is that Google wants even more of your searches, but would rather you sit back and relax while performing them. There’s no need to think about how to get the best search result, simply ask a question.
Getting the gist yet? Google is refreshing all the things to make them easier to use, develop for and discuss with your Mom and Dad. Speaking of Mom and Dad, they probably use Google Maps to get just about everywhere.
Mobile Maps users will get a new experience come summertime, while the desktop experience got such a complete overhaul that they’ve only made it available in preview mode as to not give anyone a heart attack. Want to see it for yourself? Check out our hands-on look.
The takeaway here is that Google Maps has been a force for almost 10 years. It was time to make the product more user friendly, helping you discover new places and not just get from point A to point B.
Google’s CEO Larry Page made a triumphant return to the I/O stage, a day after discussing his vocal issues. He even discussed a world where cool things could be built without the moonshotters being bothered.
All in all, it was a solid day for Google. There were even fighting robots. The future is bright for Google; the foundation for everything has been (re)laid out. Unification.
We’ll be here for the rest of the week, hanging out with developers and listening to some roundtable discussions. If you want to watch the full keynote, have a gander here:
Time for a back-up plan for your Twitter back-up plan. Backupify — the Cambridge, MA cloud-based backup, search and restore provider for online services — is shutting down TweetBackup, a company originally founded in Sweden that Backupify acquired in 2010 for an undisclosed amount. Tweetbackup has posted a note about the closure on its site, as well as — yes — on its Twitter account, noting that new signups are stopping as of today, and that existing users will have 30 days, until June 28, to keep logging into their accounts and back up their Twitter data elsewhere.
After 45 days, it notes, “we will begin purging the data from our Amazon servers.”
On one of the two FAQ pages that Backupify has created to answer some questions about the service, it suggests a couple of alternatives to TweetBackup’s subscribers: for business users, the company recommends Backupify’s own-branded service; for consumers, it suggests going somewhere else altogether, either Ditto from Norton Labs, owned by one of Backupify’s strategic investors, Symantec; or SocialSafe.
We are reaching out to the company to find out more, but it looks like this is part of a larger strategy at the company to reposition itself more closely on its enterprise services and away from lower cost/free consumer offerings.
In fact, this may not be too new of an idea:
“We always intended to have Tweetbackup users join Backupify’s base Twitter service,” Backupify’s Jason Ellis notes. And in July 2012, when Backupify announced the $9 million round in which Symantec invested, it noted that the free services (TweetBackup was one) were there for lead-generation for paid apps.
It is not clear how many active users TweetBackup has at the moment. In 2010, the company had a policy of requiring users of its service to follow it on Twitter — evidenced at that time because @tweetbackup was the only account Wikileaks was following at the height of its controversy with Amazon and PayPal over contributions via their payment systems. By that measure, Tweetbackup had around 57,382 users, although the same platform is likely also used as part of Backupify’s wider Personal Apps social media backup service. Last year when Backupify announced its Series C round of funding it had 170,000 users, free and paid.
Backupify offers paid standalone products to back up Google Apps and Salesforce. “Personal Apps, which include Facebook and Twitter, has a freemium model. It will backup personal apps free for a limited amount of data and then charge for more features and more storage space. (Prices for paid services range from $3/month/user for the most basic Google Apps backup through to $50/month for 10 licenses of 1GB each for Salesforce.)
Given that Twitter has now made its own archiving service more widely available, perhaps the writing was on the wall for whether Backupify would ever be able to translate Tweetbackup into a more profitable service without more investment to enhance the product. Monetizing even appeared to be one of the issues behind the company’s acquisition back in 2010:
“They’re the number-one ranking company in Google for Twitter backup,” Rob May, co-founder and CEO of Backupify, said of the company at the time of the acquisition. “I guess they had some problems monetizing their user base, and so were looking to sell.”
Meanwhile, there are other services like FrostBox and SocialSafe that back up multiple social media accounts. Both of these are now offering free, six month licenses to TweetBackup refugees.