As far as technology companies go, Google is one of the cooler ones building out cyberspace and changing how we think about technology. They are creating some of the most cutting edge products on the market and many are still flying under the radar of Joe Public. If you thought Google only helped you search the web then its time to wake up. That is so ten years ago. The Mountain View geeks are eternally busy recreating the wheel. Their product pipeline has to make their investors and consumers alike giddy with anticipation. Today, I thought I’d take a moment to delve into the Google product catalog to see what might be stuffing your stockings in Christmas down the road.
Moto X from Motorola
You probably already knew Google’s Android operating system is slowly taking over the mobile phone market, leaving even Goliath Apple behind. Google bought Motorola last May with the goal of making things like charging your phone, shattering your screen and the consequences of spilling your drink on your phone all funny memories of phone’s past. Well those lofty dreams are still crust in the corners of your eye, but the Moto X seems to hold its own with the industry heavyweights — Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5. We’ll check back to see how Larry Page and company are progressing on their Motorola promises.
Google Nexus Tablets
Google has also ventured into the tablet market with muddled success courtesy of the Nexus 7 & 10. Basically, its the iPad 2 and mini at a similar price point. It boasts a razor-sharp HD screen with smooth performance on a long battery life. Truthfully, there is nothing revolutionary here. It is a worthy competitor to the iPad for those who prefer Android devices.
Google wants to bring the streaming capabilities of the Internet to your living room courtesy of Chromecast. This nifty little dongle connects up to your TV through the HDMI port (drawing power from the USB) and can seamlessly stream content from supported apps running on your phone, tablet or desktop computer. The tricky part is the supported apps. To date, you can only stream HBO, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Google Play movie & music purchases and of course the Chrome browser (courtesy of an installed extension). The browser helps you work around a lot of programs that would be considered off limits otherwise.
Google Fiber is super fun to dream about, and a reality for a lucky select few. Gigabit Internet is 100 times faster than your current broadband Internet connection (see the video below for Fiber in action). It is shot into your home for a mere $70 a month. Huge data streams like movies or massive photo albums arrive instantly, making buffering a quaint thing of the past. Google also offers Gigabit Internet with HD TV for a very reasonable $120 (when was your last cable/Internet bill less than $120?) and free Internet to everyone else (well outside of the initial installation fee). The biggest detractor from the Internet/TV plan is they don’t have several key channels like HBO and ESPN on board. Give it time.
Cable companies are in a cold sweat at the prospect of Google Fiber. Comcast was found to be heavily donating against Seattle’s mayor who was trying to bring Fiber to the rainy capital of the great Northwest.
Right now, Fiber is only available in Kansas City and Provo, Utah with Austin on deck. Signup on their website to get Fiber updates and to find out when they are set to roll into your hood.
Google Driverless Car
The self driving car is a cool concept whose time has definitely come, but this isn’t the sole domain of Google. Most car manufacturers are actively working on this technology. Here is the Mercedes S 500 hitting the Autobahn and navigating the crowded towns in Europe.
So where does Google fit into this driverless car dream? Don’t count on them buying Ford anytime soon, but the way Tesla’s stock is cratering lately that could be a real possibility. Kidding, really. As of August 2012, Google had logged 300,000 miles of accident-free autonomous driving. The thought is Google would license the technology and the data its collected to car manufacturers.
The biggest hurdle to Google’s and other manufacturers driverless car is simply the existing laws. Only Nevada, California and Florida have laws on the books permitting the use of autonomous cars. Until more legislators discover the many advantages of this technological breakthrough (increased safety, reduced traffic congestion, reduced fuel consumption — among others), shuttling around like the Jetsons may still be several years off.
We are sitting on the edge of the wearable computing revolution. Think smart watches, fitness bands and computerized glasses. While Apple and Samsung duke it out over the watch market, Google slides in to capture the glasses segment. Google Glass is an optical head-mounted display that looks to free you from your phone. It gets data by connecting up via Wi-Fi or through Bluetooth tethering on your phone (ah not so free after all).
Right now, Google has released the Explorer edition for developers and beta testers while they refine the product before its ready for consumer use which is projected for sometime in 2014.
So what does Google Glass do exactly? Imagine a smart phone, fresh out of the box before you’ve cluttered up your screen with apps. Ok now sit that phone on your face. For those who can’t remember a fresh phone, you can take a picture, record video, send a message, get directions, make phone calls, participate in Google Hangouts and of course Google the web. Developers are working on apps for Glass as we speak and at press time you can already interface with Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. You can get breaking news from the NY Times and even shop on Amazon. Here is the full list of Glass apps currently available as well as those still in production. Expect that list to get much broader once we get closer to a hard consumer release date.
For those who are wondering how you get Google Glass, currently it is open only to developers. That said, they aren’t exactly checking code samples at checkout so in theory anyone can participate in the Glass Explorer Program, but I’ll warn you that it ain’t cheap. It will set you back a cool $1500 for your trouble. The general consensus is that the consumer version will probably weigh in around $500. For those who are still interested in an advanced look, sign up to get an invitation or explore eBay. People are selling invites for around $50. Its just a link with a unique code embedded that allows you to buy Glass through Google Store. There are even people selling Glass units on eBay, but they want around $2500 to $3000.
A developer version of Glass is coming my way in the days ahead so I’ll be doing some first hand reporting on the amazing features and the potential drawbacks inherent in Google Glass. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of odd looks out in public as well. Outside the perimeter of Atlanta isn’t exactly Silicon Valley after all.
The future is blindingly bright for Google’s product pipeline. Many products are fledgling advances in need of serious tinkering while others are cutting their teeth on the edge of technology. What is next for Google only the engineers know, but info did leak out in recent weeks about a patented filed for a flying car and an electronic throat tattoo (wha?). Both go to show, there is never a dull moment at Google headquarters.
Image courtesy of Robert Scoble on Flickr