Another month, another set of new products and services that Google's rolling out and highlighting for customers. Even if you don't use these, always think about the implications of their release on the overall strategy at Google...
Click-to-call on Google Maps
Google Maps isn't just for searching local businesses anymore; now you can "click to call" the business listings on Google Maps directly for free, anywhere in the United States. When you search for a business within the U.S., ring it up by clicking the "call" link next to the business's phone number. You'll be asked to enter your phone number and after clicking "Connect for free," we'll call your phone and automatically connect you without sharing your phone number with the business. The numbers you call from Google Maps will be stored automatically in your phone's caller ID, so you can call them again. And, by checking the box to remember your phone number, you can make future calls from Google Maps with just two mouse clicks.
[Ed note: Now you can see how a VOIP service and ecommerce go together. Interestingly, Google got into trouble with people using this system to crank call, so they'd find, say, a cigar shop and enter someone else's number into the 'click to call' box. Google's tweaking the service as a result.]
NEW PRODUCTS & UPDATES
Happy holidays from Google Checkout
Throughout this holiday season, when you shop online through Google Checkout, you'll be able to save $10 on purchases of $30 or more (or $20 on purchases of $50 or more, depending on the merchant). And you can purchase from thousands of merchants using just one user name, password and account with Google Checkout.
Gmail on the go
We've released the mobile version of Gmail as a new downloadable application. Once installed on your mobile device, you're just a click or two away from the messages in your Gmail inbox. You'll find that Gmail for mobile devices offers all the features of Gmail you've come to expect and love: searching your inbox in seconds, reading long email threads easily in conversation view and the familiar Gmail look and feel. Other perks: You can view attachments like PDF files and pictures right on your mobile phone, and your Gmail account keeps itself in sync, which means if you send an email from your mobile device, you'll find it in the 'Sent Mail' folder on your PC.
[Ed note: I find that just going to the regular Gmail page on the browser of my Motorola RAZR works pretty darn well. It definitely detects that I'm on my mobile and strips out most of the interface to make it quite functional. I dunno if I'm going to be writing long missives with SMS, but being able to check messages on my phone is pretty cool.]
We've integrated Google Talk into orkut so that orkut users can stay in touch with their friends using Google Talk. By enabling Google Talk in your orkut account, you can check to see if your friends are online and using Google Talk. If they're available, chat with them or call, leave a voice message, and transfer files. There are also orkut-only features for Talk users: you can scrap your orkut pals, receive instant notifications when they scrap you, and jump quickly to different orkut profiles. Finally, orkut no longer requires an invite -- anyone can sign up for an account.
[Ed note: I don't know why Google just doesn't put orkut out of its misery. They're never going to compete in the social network space with this lackluster offering.]
A new cover for Google Book Search
Google Book Search is now just about 2 years old, and we're celebrating with some improvements. Now you can zoom in on text and images and find the size that's best for you; view pages without waiting for each one to reload; scroll through books quickly using the scrollbar, your mouse wheel, or by simply dragging; and find related titles or scholarly references from the "More about this book" link.
Don't forget about Google Maps
We have just added Google Maps to your search history, so if you find yourself searching often for an address, a business, or directions, now you can browse, search for, and bookmark all the searches you do on Maps from Google Personalized Search. (You can already do this with your web, images, news, Froogle and video history.)
[Ed note: there are some pretty serious privacy issues surrounding Google's personalized search if you really think about what data they're collecting and what they (and other agencies and organizations) could do with the aggregate pool of your emails, word documents, searches, map queries, etc. Expect that to gain more press in 2007 as people realize the downside of tracking.]
Get social with Google Calendar
If you're seeking more holiday festivities, or want to find local events in a new city, you can now search public events in Google Calendar. These are created by other Google Calendar users, and there are also movie listings, concerts and other fun happenings we've added with the help of partners. And if you don't find something of interest, you can list a public event of your own.
[Ed note: The more I use Google Calendar, the more I like it. I just wish there was a way to get to my calendar on my cellphone, actually! :-) ]
The new look of Google Desktop
The latest version of Google Desktop features a visual update to the Sidebar, the vertical bar on your desktop where you can conveniently organize your Google Gadgets. The Sidebar is now transparent, making a more seamless-looking desktop, and content-heavy gadgets sport new frames and icons. This new version of Google Desktop is also compatible with the latest software including Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 and Mozilla Firefox 2.0.
A buffed Google Page Creator
The latest iteration of Google Page Creator has three features to make website creation even easier. You can now edit images right from within your browser; create up to five sites with different URLs; and tell your friends to check out your site from their cell phones -- because every Google Page Creator site automatically has a mobile edition.
[Ed note: I believe that the purpose of Google Page Creator is so that Google can have "page builder" as another check-off item on their "Competes with Microsoft Office" checklist for their Web-based apps. They already have a competitor for MS Word, MS Excel and Outlook. Next up, perhaps? Powerpoint?]
The power of collaboration
It seems that every article about technology innovation these days talks about the rising power of online sharing and collaboration. Before technology entered our lives in so many ways, of course, collaborating was most often done around a table. There's certainly a big -- perhaps bigger than ever -- need for face to face gatherings, of course. But perhaps the real power of today's online collaboration comes from its global dimension. Now it's entirely possible to meet and collaborate with strangers -- across continents even -- and accomplish something. We recently participated in a project with Global SchoolNet, a 20+ year-old organization founded by teachers who want students in our connected world to gain a global perspective. Using Google Docs & Spreadsheets, 80 students from 20 countries collaborated online to craft 50 ideas we all can use to do something about global warming, no matter where we live or what our circumstances. It's a small step, but we hope that having tools that enable easy online collaboration will lead to more productive, and more fun, ways to engage our neighbors across the world.
[Ed note: what was I saying about competing with MS Office? You can see the positioning here... ]
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