The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in Google (8)


The State Of The Blogosphere 

Over the last year, since I started this blog, I have learned a lot about social media. One thing I learned is how content syndication helps attract more eyeballs.  I set out to understand what syndication opportunities existed for nobodies like me, and one of the channels I discovered was Technorati. When I joined the team late last year, the company was looking for original content to maintain its SEO ranking and develop a robust advertising model. The serendipity of my timing helped me get exposure for my writing, and awareness for my blog, and helped Technorati adjust to Google's changing page rank algorithm and grow it's ad revenue.  

Like a lot of things in social media, the effort hasn't yet made either of us an abundance of wealth. That said, at least from where I sit, on balance it has been a win-win, which seems like a reasonable goal for activity on the new frontier of media. 

This year, Technorati's annual State of the Blogosphere report focuses on women who blog, like me. One "important trend is the influence of women and mom bloggers on the blogosphere, mainstream media, and brands. Their impact is perhaps felt most strongly by brands, as the women and mom blogger segment is the most likely of all to blog about brands." Hear here!

"In addition to conducting our blogger survey, we interviewed 15 of the most influential women in social media and the blogosphere," Technorati reports today in its introduction to the multi-part series. 

I am honored to be a part of the 15 women who Technorati deemed worthy of interviewing for this series, which I am told will be posted on Friday. In the meantime, you can access a great video interview with Charlene Li, a woman on the forefront of social media trends, whom I met when she was an analyst at Forrester. 

Read more:


Did Google Use Apple's TV Ad Playbook?

For advertisers, the Super Bowl  is as much the “big game” as it is for sports enthusiasts. This year that was more true than ever before, because the televised broadcast brought a record 106.5 Million viewers.   In the post Internet bubble, fewer new technology companies are using the expensive, broad-reaching television broadcast to build brand awareness, opting instead to make their dollars work harder at measurable activities that convert to sales.   That leaves the door wide open for established brands like Budweiser, Coca Cola and Doritos - the ones that can afford the lofty ad rates - to use the time to create entertaining, “talked about” vignettes that enforce the meaning and positioning of their products.

Despite the Super Bowl being a mecca for established consumer brands, Sunday’s game was the first one to include an advertisement for Google’s dominant product, search. Many have commented on why the company chose now to run the ad, and whether the company’s virgin effort at broadcast advertising was meant to prove a bigger business agenda in the advertising community. For me,  the ad was most notable because of its use of the product to tell a brand story.  Among a sea of ads that used slapstick, animals, and underwear, the Google commercial seemed to take a strategy right from Apple’s advertising playbook for its initial foray into television.

Five plays I saw called:

1. Use the product to tell a story.  In the Apple spots, a friendly narrator tells the story of a customer journey, ending with the line “there’s an app for that.”   The Google ad tells the story of adventure, discovery, love and family through searches. Each step in the journey has a solution in the Google results set that advances the customer’s story.

2. The product is the hero.  People are a distraction in Apple ads, and while iPods used to feature silhouetted dancers, most Apple commercials now are about the apps. Except for the disembodied finger, for the iPhone, it’s all about the software.  Google’s spot starts with its iconic home page filling the screen, which is only replaced by its familiar results pages.  The television stands in for the PC, and the audience looks right over the shoulder of the searcher entering terms and phrases, just as I peek into the iPhone the finger points to and swipes.

3. Be gender neutral.  Although the Super Bowl tends to attract advertisers with a propensity for frat humor and belly scratching, Google, like Apple has, tried hard not to offend men or women.  The story in the ad is universal, and while it is clear a man is entering the searches, women in the audience can appreciate the romance of Paris, and the happy ending of beginning a family.

4. Lather, rinse, repeat.  The world believes all touch screens use the gestures that Apple’s iPhone does.  The constant repetition of the gestures within the commercials, played in frequent rotation during popular television programs, trained the audience even before they purchased the device.  Within the Google ad, the searcher performs the same activities several times over – enter search term, then click on results.  

5. Don’t go for the cheap joke. It was an ad about romance, and the cursor skated across - but never clicked on - the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Sure Apple has done its share of cheap jokes in the Mac versus PC story arc, but, in the categories Apple dominates, iPod & iPhone, Apple doesn’t disrespect their leadership position with skeezy parents or slapstick jokes.


Google Shares Nexus One Design Thinking

While this video also sits in my Vodpod collection on the right side of this page, I wanted to highlight the video not for the design secrets it reveals (there really aren't any revelations in the video) but because of how it highlights the importance of an integrated hardware and software user experience. I find that positioning most interesting in light of the UI fragmentation concerns that persist around Android.


Google Voice Uses HTML 5 To Work on iPhone

First published on Technorati:

I am a Google Voice user, but I have not used it much for outbound VoIP calling. My friends often ask me why I use it since its primary benefit to many users is low-cost long distance calling. I use the system primarily to route inbound calls to different phones that have better coverage or battery Courtesy of Wired.comlife than whatever handset I am carrying. Since AT&T coverage is spotty at my home, and I don’t like to carry my phone around the house, I try to route inbound calls to my landline so I can hear the ring on all the extensions.

Google Voice also lets me send SMS messages seamlessly continuing a conversation thread between my home PC and my cell phone when I go mobile. I don’t use the service to make outbound calls mainly because I don’t have challenges with my long distance bill as most of those calls are domestic and can be done within my cell plan as free mobile-to-mobile minutes.

Occasionally, I will forget to deactivate a phone number I no longer wish to route calls to when I am on the road. Since there has been no Google Voice app available for my iPhone, I put a browser shortcut on my home screen so I could quickly access the Google Voice website and change the settings when I am away from my PC. Today when I did that, I was surprised and delighted to find that my experience had completely changed.

Google Voice is now a web app. A web app differs from a website because it creates a unique experience for every session and visitor. When I interacted with the web page, Google Voice provide my device with a newly coded page which told my phone to update the icon on the home screen shortcut from a picture of the Google Voice web page to a neat, streamlined Courtesy of wired.comGoogle Voice icon.

Google developers used HTML5 to support  outbound voice calling and avoided the Apple App Store approval process, which previously led to a rejection of the downloadable version of the application. A phone number in your Google contact list that is accessed through the new web app - or entered in the web app's dialer - will connect through the standard iPhone calling function.

The call will actually use the AT&T voice network to connect the call but route through Google Voice and appear to the person you are calling as if the call came from you Google Voice phone number, hopefully avoiding some pesky international long distance charges you might incur. Oddly, though, to do that routing through Google Voice, the phone appears to dial a number with a totally different area code than the one you are actually calling.

The biggest challenge to using Google Voice on your iPhone will be the segregation of contacts between Google Voice and the native iPhone Contacts application. If you have not synced with Google contacts before, that will take some effort, especially to move the local contacts from your device to the Google Voice service. Wired has done a nice job of explaining the various alternatives to accomplish this migration or sync. You will also need a Google Voice account on top of your AT&T voice plan to place and receive calls.

One of my favorite benefits of using Google Voice is that it lets you replace your caller ID with your Google Voice number. The Google Voice web app now lets me make an outbound call from my iPhone but display my Google Voice number if I choose in the web app’s settings. I like to use the call screening features of Google Voice, which means I also like to manage what number displays when I dial different contacts.

For professional contacts, I may choose to display my Google Voice number, making it more likely callers will return the call to that number. I can then have the Google Voice service “announce” who the inbound caller is the next time they call allowing me to screen callers coming from corporate switchboards or numbers with blocked caller IDs.

What makes all of this possible now, even though Apple previously rejected the Google Voice app as a download from the App Store? The iPhone, like the Palm Pre, Palm Pixi and Google Android devices all use a browser that shares rendering technology based on Webkit, an open source web browsing engine that is one of the first on mobile phones to support this new update to HTML. Some of these devices may require an update to the device’s firmware in order to have the full Google Voice experience.



If It's January, It Must Be CES

I'm about to embark on my sixth CES adventure. I have attended the show as an online retailer, at Apple, and then as a product development executive at T-Mobile. The show, at this point in my career, is what Comdex was during my days at Visio, back when boxed software sold primariy from the shelf of CompUSA. The adult entertainment industry, often a leader in technology adoption, runs a parallel show during CES just like they used to do during Comdex. The excess of parties, swag and traffic during the week hasn't changed, although the hotel landscape along the strip certainly has.

In addition to the Adult Expo, Digital Hollywood also runs a conference concurrently with CES, which does a nice job of connecting the dots between the entertainment and consumer electronics industries.  And, for the last five shows, at least, both industries have evangelized the arrival of the connected home. From Web TV to Tivo, home electronics have yearned for several years to unite with your PC and connect to the Internet.  Television screens have been wall-sized for a couple of shows now, but each year there seem to be even more ingenious ways to enjoy multimedia through them, thanks to the tension between the entertainment and high tech industries.

Men love to trick out their cars, and CES has dedicated a section of the North Hall to all things automotive.  While mobile phones are converging with handheld GPS systems, and bypassing the after-market car installers, supersized stereo systems never fail to impress most male colleagues I have attended the show with in years past.

The show has been heavily rooted in Microsoft and its partners, with an ever increasing buzz for embedded Linux thanks to Android.  There were ultra mobile PCs, and then netbooks and now smartbooks and tablets.  Consumers apparently want something bigger than their mobile device to type and surf the web, but not as big as a laptop. The right combination of thin client apps, connectivity, touch keyboard, screen size, weight and battery life just could define a purpose-built user experience this year.

MacWorld, a trade show focused on Apple at which the company has launched many products, has historically butted up against CES, but that never stopped an amazing number of Apple partners from participating in CES, especially the iPhod accessory vendors, the ecosystem of cases, docks, chargers, and speakers manufacturers that secures consumers' commitment to their Apple purchase. With a rumored annoucnement by Apple later in January, and MacWorld 2010 pushed to February, the Google wave will really gain steam quickly in the new year, starting with their January 5th, pre-CES press conference. The November 2008 launch of the T-Mobile G1, and the release of the first version of Android to the developer community in late 2008, made the operating system the ingenue at CES 2009.

I'm excited to be covering the show this year for Technorati, and you will be able to read my posts by going to their home page each day during the show. Additional content will appear here as my devices and their portable chargers and powersticks allow. Please let me know if there are any products or technologies you'd like to hear about by adding comments to this post or messaging me @gearheadgal.

And, since Vegas is a town of gamblers, I do have one superstition I can share with you that I succumb to each year because the new year is all about optimism...each year I put $10 on the Seattle Mariners to win the World Series at the sports book of the hotel where I am staying. Go M's!

And a prosperous 2010 to you all.


Unlocked Android Phones Already Available From Google

First Published on Technorati: December 15, 2009 at 6:33 am

Reuters on Monday quoted an unnamed source that confirmed plans for Google to sell both a locked and unlocked version of the leaked Nexus One device, with the locked version sold to T-Mobile US customers. T-Mobile official sources would not confirm the plan; however, former employees at the company reminded us that today unlocked versions of the T-Mobile G1 and T-Mobile MyTouch are sold through the official Android Developer website.

The site reminds developers that end user devices available through consumer retail outlets “are not designed to allow system image updates by the user,” the site says. It goes on to say, “If you are interested in manually updating the device with custom system images, then you'll need a developer device such as the Android Dev Phone 1.” Android Dev Phone 1 is unique finish of the T-Mobile G1, while Android Dev Phone 2 a variation of the HTC Magic, also known as the T-Mobile MyTouch.
From Google's Official Android Developer Site
In addition to providing developers with phones to run custom builds of the Android software, Google must also provide reference hardware for developers in markets where T-Mobile US does not provide service. Unlocked phones would give those Google employees in countries like China or India the opportunity to build solutions concurrently with new major OS release builds.

In addition, Google has an enterprise agreement with AT&T to offer employee discount plans, like many US corporations do.  AT&T has built a strong base of customers through enterprise sales, which are often designed to enable payroll deductions for wireless service and provide group purchasing power for employees.

Google maintains the Nexus One devices were handed out to employees to encourage “dogfooding”, or internal use of the pre-release product by employees to de-bug and accelerate innovation. However, for a significant number of employees to engage in that activity, the phones needed to be unlocked so their AT&T SIM would provide them a live service experience. Unlocking the device could signal a broader need for testers against a new major OS release, or significant changes to the hardware that triggered bugs across existing applications.

The unlocked G1 devices sold through the Android Developer site did not seem to put a dent into demand for the T-Mobile product, which reached its million-unit mark in Q2 of this year. For Google to drive a substantial number of unlocked units into the market, they will need a reseller partner or retailer who can manage fulfillment, returns, insurance and warranty of the hardware, something that has taken Apple years to develop for themselves. 

Related story: "Google Phone May Be Much Ado About Nothing"



Can An Open OS Ever Really Be Mainstream?

Nexus One via TwitpicThe recent announcement that Google plans to deliver an unlocked mobile phone into the market sometime next year has been an encouraging sign for fans of the open operating system that finally wireless carriers won't be able to control what phones their service customers can use. Many feel as the Wall Street Journal technology columnist, Walt Mossberg does that carriers have been acting like "soviet ministries" as they intermediate between the consumer and the providers of the handsets they use to connect to the carrier networks.

Having launched the T-Mobile G1 as an executive with the company, I have a great affinity for the open Android platform. I appreciate that the Android marketplace enables garage developers to create magic as moonlighting inventors, and brings innovation to the masses through the power of the open programming interfaces and developer tools Google provides online.  But I also saw first hand the customers who, after downloading 10 random apps, wondered why their battery life halved or the screen seemed no longer responsive.

The open developer model has given anyone who can code access to consumers without an accompanying process to ensure they put quality product on the shelves, and as a result more developers step in and create solutions like Astro, an Android task manager to help manage processes, tasks and files that may impact your Android device's performance. Much like on my Windows PC, I find I am delighted to have such a tool and aggravated when I have to use it. It seems I rarely find myself on my iMac, iPod or iPhone worrying about multi-threaded processes or unresponsive programs. And for most consumers, that's one more thing to love about the Apple OS. Sure, it comes with the cost that I can't have apps running in the background on my iPhone, but my iPhone rarely hangs, crashes or has a radical change in the battery life with each new app I might download to it.

Ratings and reviews of apps in the open market are meant to help consumers, but I often wonder which reviewers to trust and whether one app offers the complete solution I need or a more usable interaction model for my tastes. In the case of Astro, several apps purport to do some or all of the capabilities. Some charge. I then wonder, will the quality be the same for the developer who isn't getting paid?Courtesy of Gizmodo Will they maintain the app? Will they support me if I have trouble? Will they care if the application doesn't work well with other applications I may download? And how will I know if they conflict until I download them. A reviewer of the application may not have the same things on their phone that I do, or want to use their phone as I do.

In a world where there are infinite ways to configure a phone with settings and application combos that meet any user's specific needs, the best solution a service rep can offer when a customer complains about their device's performance is to wipe it clean and start over. But facing that experience when you need to place a call and your phone is frozen is daunting. As an example, last night, my home screen theme application was corrupted and the home screen displayed a message compelling me to force it to close. After five times of doing that and not being able to break the cycle, I removed the battery and I removed the SIM. Neither action, both typically offered as the first cure by carrier care reps who don't know what apps I may have downloaded and configured, repaired the problem. The device seemed completely inaccessible and unusable. After a trip to the T-Mobile Forums and a hard reset, which removed all settings and personalizations,  I was able to make a call more than twenty minutes later. But now, which apps to re-load? How do I know what was the offending piece of code?

As geeky as I am, I still want things to just work, and I get frustrated when I use applications that allow me to do things I really shouldn't or require me to understand arcane technical jargon. And I don't have the time to fuss with bad design to engage and interact with a solution. The challenge with open is that everyone can play, but maybe for consumers that isn't always going to be a simple way to have compelling experiences.


Aol. aOL. aOl? What does it all mean?

Emphasis and intonation can change the meaning of a simple question. 'How ARE you?' may invite deeper conversation than 'how are YOU?", which may sound like a reflexive response to a greeting. In writing, bold and caps provide emphasis. Color and font evoke emotions and memories of happy times or overt authority.

There were plenty of good reasons to update the AOL look and feel, beyond the spin-off. Read more...