Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Chrome OS: But Will it Run Photoshop?

Posted: 08 Jul 2009 04:00 AM PDT

We’ve heard the news from every source out there – Google is launching an operating system. The details are scarce, but the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive (read our own Ben Parr’s recap here). After all, Google is the new Microsoft, right? Everything they touch turns to gold (*cough* Jaiku *cough*), so a Google OS must be to Windows what silver bullets are for Robert Pattinson.

Not so fast. Someone has to play the devil’s advocate here, and since the devil has a lot going in its favor this time, I’ll gladly lay out the case.

Before we start, let’s get something out of the way: I’m a fan of both Google and Microsoft – I don’t adore everything these two companies they’ve done, but both have had many great moments. I’ve been using Windows since 1.0 (yes, you read that right), I’ve enjoyed my ride with Windows XP, but I’ve also been criticizing Vista for lack of innovation and not taking the huge upcoming netbook market into consideration.

On the other hand, I’ve expected Google to create an OS at some point and I definitely think that it’s a good idea. If it manages to be what Google promises – fast, secure, and simple – it’ll be a great addition to the somewhat stale OS market.


The bumpy road ahead


With that out of the way, let’s look at some problems Google will inevitably face. Details aside, Microsoft’s domination of the OS market is due to two reasons:

1. It’s very hard to get all the hardware makers to create drivers (or create them yourself) for your OS.
2. It’s very hard to get all the software makers to create versions of their software that’ll work on your OS.

Say what you want about Windows, but between the previous version (Windows XP) and the current version (Vista), you can get all of your hardware to run. Eight year old plotters, pro sound cards, ancient el cheapo WiFi USB adapters – there’s a way to get them all to work on Windows. Now, I can hear the angry wail of a thousand Linux users coming this way (for the record: I’m occasionally using Linux myself for specific purposes), but there’s no denying it: you can’t do that on Linux. No matter what distribution you use, in many cases you will encounter hardware problems. And often, you won’t be able to solve them. I’ve seen many of my friends switching to Linux, sticking with it for as long as a year, and then simply switching back to Windows because some piece of hardware won’t work.

When it comes to software, there’s the ancient “Photoshop argument,” which can be summed up in this way: if you’re a long time Windows user, chances are you’ve got a favorite piece of software that won’t run on Linux. It can be a game, or it can be Photoshop (and no, GIMP is not that good), it can be something else, but there will always be something missing. I can live with that. I’ve always got at least three working computers at home; I can run many different OSs if necessary; many users don’t have the time or the will to do that. They want to have one computer that runs all of their stuff, period. Yes, I know Chrome OS is all about web apps. But not all apps can be web apps just yet; between the apps already supported on Linux, and all the wonderful web apps available out there, will it be enough for the average user? We’ll have to wait and see.


Can it be done?


So where does that leave Google Chrome OS? It’s a tough spot, but it’s not hopeless. First, Google has the advantage of being, well, Google. If they set their mind to do something, if the initial betas get good reception, the hardware and the software makers will want to work with them. It takes time to port software to other OSs, and it takes time to create drivers for hardware. When it comes to old hardware, it also takes too much money for most companies to bother, and with this regard, Google will always be at a disadvantage.

But Google can afford to look forward and wait it out. They’ve got the resources and the people to do it. What they need is the support of the open source community, and they’ve already got a big problem with that: Chrome isn’t available for Linux yet. That’s right, the browser that’ll be the center of the upcoming Chrome OS, which will be based on Linux, doesn’t work on Linux right now (well, if you don’t count the early developer beta.) Google needs to do better, because no amount of money and resources can replicate what a huge international community of volunteers can do.


The Firefox lesson


If they manage to do that, it’ll be entirely possible to pull it out. Want to know how I can be so sure? Firefox. When Firefox came to be, it faced a very steep uphill battle. Internet Explorer was the browser of choice – yes, it kinda sucked, but Vista also kinda sucks, too. Still, most IE users didn’t even think about switching to a new browser; just like most Windows users don’t even consider the possibility to ever switch to another OS – for now. But Firefox developers worked diligently, adding feature after feature, and gaining enormous support from the open source community and developers, which created thousands of great add-ons. The momentum was building fast, and now, although IE still has the biggest market share, Firefox has already won.

The same thing can happen with Chrome OS. The circumstances and the timing is a bit different, though; Windows 7 will come out before Google Chrome OS will; if it performs up to users’ expectations, it’ll be harder for Google to push through. By the time Chrome OS supports enough hardware and software to be deemed really usable by a significant portion of users, Microsoft will have a lot of time to fix things. On the other hand, Microsoft changes slowly; it took them years to bring IE up to speed.

It’ll be a long, excruciating battle, but I can already tell you who’s going to win. You. Us. Whatever happens, we – the users – will have a better, faster, simpler, more web-oriented operating system. Will it have a Microsoft or a Google tag on it? Ultimately, it’s not even that important.

Reviews: Firefox, GIMP, Google, Internet Explorer, linux
Tags: Chrome OS, Google, microsoft, Windows

Fail Whale in Pop Culture

Posted: 08 Jul 2009 01:44 AM PDT

When Yiying Lu designed the Twitter Fail Whale, she probably didn’t expect it to become very popular; after all, it’s an image that appears only when something isn’t working. However, a year ago Twitter was so unstable that the fail whale image popped up to hundreds of thousands of users almost daily, and history was made.

The image was quoted, linked to, used and reused so much that it became almost iconic. To capture how this motif – a huge, sleeping animal lifted by a flock of tiny birds – has been used in pop culture in the last year, Lu created a site with all of the Fail Whale related images she could find. It’s a fascinating (and huge) collection: from tributes, to statues, to cakes, to beer labels: it’s everywhere. Check out a couple of our favorites below, and see the entire collection on Lu’s website.

Reviews: Twitter
Tags: fail whale, twitter

Google Chrome OS: Will It Kill Windows?

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 11:39 PM PDT

Google dropped a major bombshell earlier this evening: they’re launching their own operating system, known as Google Chrome OS. The new operating system will be lightweight, is based of its Chrome browser, and is clearly Google’s challenge to Microsoft’s longstanding domination of the OS market.

While we’re still trying to catch our breath over the announcement, we can’t say we’re particularly surprised – the rumors have been bubbling for a long time now and projects like Android show Google has had an interest in this arena. But the Google OS leaves a lot of questions to be answered. How will it differ from Windows? How will it work? And most of all, can Google actually do what many consider impossible: beat Microsoft on its home turf?


Google’s Strengths


This paragraph from Google’s announcement helps clarify what Google is building into this operating system:

“Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.”

Essentially, Google Chrome OS aims to solve problems associated with Windows, primarily that it’s a bloated operating system that isn’t built for a computing world based on the web. To do this, Google Chrome will run within a windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. This means that web applications will work immediately on this operating system.

Google has always been known for its minimalist interfaces, its lightweight products, its web savvy, and the sheer speed of its products. It intends to take its vast knowledge and strengths and port them over into the OS market.


Questions to Answer


The reality is this: we know almost nothing about Google Chrome OS. The announcement is hot out of the oven, which leaves us with a lot of questions. Here’s what we hope to answer in the next few days or weeks:

Is it free? – Microsoft Windows can cost hundreds of dollars for the premier versions, which brings up the cost of new PCs. Since Google OS is open-source, it’s almost certain to be free, although Google has not explicitly stated anything of the sort. Could Google charge for specific features or extensions? Nobody really knows.

Will Google OS have advertising? – If they decide to provide this OS for free, they will almost certainly monetize it with ads. With Google’s expertise in web advertising, they may be able to utilize non-intrusive advertising to create a new revenue stream. Imagine browsing your music files and having ads for John Mayer downloads on the side.

What kind of support will it offer to desktop apps? – It’s based on Google Chrome, a browser. But can it run Microsoft Word and Photoshop?

Will it be extendable by 3rd party developers? – Will there be a developer platform for Chrome OS, not unlike the ones offered for many other Google products? The fact that it’s open source makes us think this is a possibility.

How will it interact with current hardware? – Could I wipe my current computer’s hard drive and run it on Chrome OS? What kind of driver support will it have?

There are lots of other issues to address too, but clearly this is only the beginning of a long story that poses a lot of questions.


Can Google Beat Microsoft?


While there are a lot of questions we want answers to, one matters the most: Can Google OS take on Windows? Any OS that wants to manage desktop computers clearly competes with Windows. So far, nobody has been able to make major inroads (although Apple recently achieved 10 percent market share) in a space that Microsoft has dominated for years.

Yet Google has been the one company to present a serious challenge to Microsoft to-date, especially on the Web. Microsoft’s attempts to compete with Google in search have been fruitless overall. And while we don’t know how Bing will do, few people believe it will ultimately change the fact that Google is synonymous to search, just as Windows is synonymous to the OS.

We’ve said time and time again that competition is a good thing, and Microsoft hasn’t faced serious competition in the OS market in a long, long time. The question is whether or not Google Chrome OS will squash or be squashed by Windows.

Reviews: Android, Chrome, Google, Google Chrome, bing, linux
Tags: Chrome OS, Google, google chrome, google chrome os

BREAKING: Google to Launch Operating System

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 10:15 PM PDT

Google’s always been in heated competition with Microsoft. We thought that the competition was becoming hot again when the company behind the dominant Windows OS launched their new search engine Bing with much fanfare. But that may be nothing compared to the bombshell Google just dropped.

Google announced on their blog tonight that they’re releasing an operating system: Google Chrome OS. While the company already has a mobile operating system in Android, this new one will be based off of Chrome, Google’s web browser.

According to Google, the open source OS will available later next year and is primarily targeted at netbooks to start. From the Google blog:

“Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.”

It is designed to be a lightweight system, just like the Chrome browser. Unfortunately, Google didn’t divulge many other details, and it will be a while until anyone gets their hands on it. Clearly though, Google’s setting the stage for a major battle with Microsoft. Just as Microsoft is trying to break Google’s stranglehold on the search engine market, Google may be trying to do the same with the Windows-controlled market.

Reviews: Android, Chrome, Google, bing
Tags: Google, microsoft

Tweet Reel for iPhone: The TwitPic of Video?

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 06:42 PM PDT

Since the iPhone 3GS became available to people across the land, there has been no shortage of mobile video recording and sharing apps hitting the market. A week ago, Mashable’s Jennifer Van Grove highlighted three great ways to post video to Twitter from the iPhone 3GS. One interesting app that she mentioned was the Tweet Reel iPhone App.

Tweet Reel, as Jenn said, is meant to be the TwitPic of video, allowing you to record videos from the iPhone 3G S and post them to Twitter. Problem was, it wasn’t released yet. However, that all changed today, as the “TwitPic of video” launched its iPhone app [iTunes link] and website. And from what we’ve seen so far, it’s one solid application.

Built by Colin Tulloch, the same developer behind the Retweet iPhone App and ThreadedTweets, Tweet Reel lets you utilize the iPhone 3GS’s video capabilities to record, upload, and tweet out videos.

On top of the upload and tweeting capabilities, the service sports a simple but useful video interface that allows you to embed and share videos, like we’ve done below. In a lot of ways, it works like a simple version of YouTube, but YouTube doesn’t currently allow you to send custom tweets with your own commentary, while Tweet Reel lets you send whatever text you want with your video.

The applications of Tweet Reel are up to your imagination, but one that caught our eye – it was actually in action for the Michael Jackson memorial. Check out what @vanesbez recorded from inside the Staples Center via Tweet Reel:

This is why we need a TwitPic for video, and in that regard, Tweet Reel performs admirably. One other interesting note: Colin has told us that he’d love to make his service available to 3rd party services like Tweetie, Seesmic Desktop, and TweetDeck. The cost of video, though, complicates the matter, but we are really hoping to see Tweet Reel in our favorite Twitter apps soon.

Reviews: Mashable, Michael Jackson, Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck, Twitpic, Twitter, YouTube
Tags: iphone, iphone 3g s, Tweet Reel, twitter, video

How Heroes Star Greg Grunberg Dominates Social Media [Video]

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 05:50 PM PDT

Greg Grunberg is one of social media’s most active celebrities. While you’ve probably seen him on shows like Heroes, Alias, and Felicity, you may not know about his social media and entrepreneurial exploits, with projects including Band From TV and most recently Yowza, an iPhone app for coupons and in-store deals.

How could we not pick the mind of one of Twitter’s most popular users? That’s what we thought too, so we pulled out our webcams, our iPhones, and for about 30 minutes discussed how the Heroes star utilizes Twitter (@greggrunberg), mobile phones, and social media for himself and his projects. The video is embedded below:


The Interview


In our interview, we discussed his use of Twitter, his social media projects, and of course, we talked about Heroes. Some of the highlights:

- How he came up with Yowza and where it’s headed in the next few months
- His very “eye-popping” website (the eyes follow your mouse, it’s creepy I tell you!)
- Why he uses Twitter, but doesn’t use Facebook at all (i.e. how social media, Perez Hilton, and Twitter might have helped get another season of Heroes)
- What is going to happen to his Heroes character Matt Parkman next season (hint: Sylar)
- His family, and dealing with Epilepsy
- What he believes is in social media’s future
- His biggest piece of advice for using social media: “Open Yourself Up” and “Don’t be afraid of social media, because it works.”

This is one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Be sure to give us your thoughts in the interview in the comments!

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter
Tags: Greg Grunberg, heroes, interview, social media, twitter, video, Yowza

CNN Live Stream of Michael Jackson Memorial: 9.7 Million Views

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 03:11 PM PDT

We knew that Michael Jackson’s memorial service would be one of the biggest events in Internet history, and so far, the numbers are confirming it. We’ve learned that’s live stream of the event drew at least 9.7 million views (through 5pm ET), with a maximum of 781,000 concurrent viewers.

While that falls short of the 27 million total and 1.3 million concurrent live streams that President Obama’s inauguration saw on, it would appear that users were more engaged in the company’s Facebook Connect integration for Jackson, with upwards of 6,000 status updates being posted per minute earlier today. CNN also reports that their website has received 11.8 million unique visitors and 81 million page views so far today.

Elsewhere around the Web, Twitter is seeing massive volume of Jackson-related tweets. In addition to occupying all 10 of Twitter’s trending topics, we now know that the term “Michael Jackson” alone was generating 80,000 tweets per hour. Taking into account all of the other associated terms being used, the event likely rivals some of the most discussed events we’ve ever seen on Twitter, with the most recent example being the iranelection.

Among other services live streaming the event, UStream (who was broadcasting CBS News coverage) reported 4.6 million streams of the event, a record for the company. Rival, (broadcasting content from E!) did not have streaming numbers available, but reports 150,000 impressions of the page hosting their video feed. MSNBC’s website, which included a Twitter integration very similar to CNN/Facebook, drew 3 million streams according to the company.

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter, ustream
Tags: cnn, cnn live, michael jackson, michael jackson memorial

Internet Radio Gets a New Deal; Pandora Adjusts Accordingly

Posted: 07 Jul 2009 01:25 PM PDT

Internet radio’s future has been somewhat uncertain since 2007, when a significant hike in royalties threatened the viability of companies like Pandora and Additionally, many of these services remain either inaccessible or only available for-pay in many countries outside of the US because the cost of paying royalties simply exceeds the money that is being brought in through advertising.

Today, however, a new deal has been reached with the record labels that at least adds some clarity to the situation, albeit it may require some users to pay up for what was previously free. It calls for services like Pandora to pay either 25 percent of revenue, or a given amount per song, starting at $.08, whichever is higher. Smaller services (those with less than $1.25M in sales) will pay 12-14 percent of revenue in royalties.

While that represents a significant compromise from the $0.19 per song that rates were set to increase to next year, it will still require some changes on Pandora’s part. The company writes on their blog:

“The revised royalties are quite high – higher in fact than any other form of radio. As a consequence, we will have to make an adjustment that will affect about 10% of our users who are our heaviest listeners. Specifically, we are going to begin limiting listening to 40 hours per month on the free version of Pandora. In any given month, a listener who hits this limit can then opt for unlimited listening for the remainder of that month for just $0.99. In essence, we’re asking our heaviest users to put a dollar (well, almost a dollar) in the tip jar in any month in which they listen over 40 hours.”

This actually sounds incredibly reasonable. While Pandora founder Tim Westergren told The New York Times that “I don’t think anyone’s going to look at this and say, ‘I’m really happy, I got everything I want,’ ” the deal certainly gives Pandora and others a lot more breathing room.

And, it positions the music rights holders for the long-term. As online radio grows – which it has been, especially on mobile devices – and advertising revenue follows suit, the revenue share option could eventually catch up with the per song fees that the labels have been so insistent upon.

Reviews: Pandora
Tags: internet radio, pandora

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