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Content, strategy and creating value in a digital world

Google takes Facebook battle to mobile

Google’s newly announced challenger to Facebook, Google Buzz looks pretty similar to the blue giant of social networking.

You can see status updates, watch videos inline, get notifications in your inbox and more. So far so derivative.

But two things might just encourage people to switch:

1. It can incorporate feeds from external applications – such as Twitter, Picasa and Flickr

2. Google Buzz for mobile has some very cool location-based features – the ability to tag an update to a location, The ability for your followers to quickly see that on a map. And the ability to see other updates near you current location all look great. Check out the demo video below:

Will it encourage the a sizeable percentage of Facebook’s 400m subscribers to switch? Time will tell.

Perhaps Google Buzz needs to allow users to see their friends Facebook updates…

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Google voices its mobile intentions

Google Voice – the search behemoth’s answer to Skype, fired another shot across Skype’s bows this week with the launch of applications for Blackberry and Android.

Skype is still far and away the heavyweight in the market, with 405m registered users, while Google Voice is still only available to a select group of users in the US; but this move from Google should give Skype cause for worry.

Here’s their walkthrough:

The service offers the kind of intuitive, integrated features that you’d expect from Google: voicemail text transcripts, the ability for users to tie themselves to a single number across multiple mobile phones, seamless integration with mobile address books and the ability to use the service via a mobile network rather than relying on wifi connection.

Mobile is fast becoming the new battlefield for VoIP. Here in the UK, 3 is using it as a major driver in a new advertising campaign. While in Europe, Deutsche Telekom has threatened to block its iPhone customers from using skype’s new iPhone app – apparently due to compatabilityconcerns, but not hard to imagine an undertone of fears for revenue loss.

It’ll be some time before we get to try out Google Voice here in the UK, but I can imagine the prospect of hooking up your email, blog, photos, search and now mobile and voicemail to a single integrated service will be a juicy enough prospect for a sizeable proportion of skype users to consider the switch.

Competition is never a bad thing, I wonder how skype will fight back…

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Google’s first TV ad – what do you think?

Take a look at Google’s first ever TV ad – made by a team at Google Japan initially for Youtube, but now to be showcased on TV.

A couple of things make this very interesting:  from a strategic point of view, google is tacitly admitting defeat in the browser war by taking its message offline and onto TV.

From a planning and creative execution point of view, fun to see how they’ve positioned themselves as uncomplicated, fun and easy to use (effectively child’s play).

And in a recession, the stylistic folksy references are surely no accident either.

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The future’s here, and it recognises you

in all the excitement surrounding the launch of Google’s Chrome browser, perhaps you missed the new release of Picasa, which now includes photo recognition.

How it works is pretty simple: Once you have uploaded your photos, you can tag people in the pics, much as you can currently do on facebook.

What takes it up a level, is the fact that google has added facial recognition software into their new release of Picasa, meaning that once you have tagged the same person up in enough pictures, Google will begin to recognise their face on new pictures that you upload, and suggest them as a tag to you.

Then, taking it a step further, you can match up that name with an email address in your gmail address book.

In other words, Google can recognise who the picture is of, and they can link it to other info that google holds on that person (name, email address, and any other personal details that that person may have given to google in the course of, say, opening up a gmail account or using a Google toolbar)

Feeling nervous? I am.

The power of the internet is in the way connections can be made between pieces of information, but the development of the semantic web means that websites and applications are starting to make connections using the actual content of sites or images.

New developments like this utilise user input to assume or create links that would previously have to be explicitly created.

You could look at it as another step towards enabling artificial intelligence, since computers (with a big helping hand from human users) are being guided along the path of understanding the content of pages, rather than simply rendering noughts and ones into something that we can understand.

Make no mistake, this is very powerful, and potentially very useful development.

But do I want pictures of me to be tagged, and matched up to any other personal detail of me that are out there? And even if it’s not explicitly displayed anywhere, am I happy about a google server somewhere out there that now knows what I look like, and can connect that with all my other digital activity?

And all this can happen whether I like it or not – once someone uploads an image of me and tags it, I’m logged in the system. It’s probably happened already.

It makes you wonder whether future generations will look in disbelief at how us credulous early 21st century humans happily posted personal details and intimate secrets about ourselves and our friends and families on the internet. And once we realised what we’d done, it was already far too late…

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