Is Google Voice Aiming To Be The Next Skype?

Google Voice has been a very loved product among the invite-only American users that it currently serves. By giving an opportunity to replace all your different call numbers with one number from Google Voice, users have finally been able to consolidate their communications at one place. Also, with features like threaded SMS, voicemail transcriptions and conference calling, the potential of this service started to show.

However, Google wants more out of this. Last month, the company acquired VoIP based startup, Gizmo5 who joined the talented workforce at Voice. So what is the company now looking at? In a recent interview with E-Week, Google Vice President of Product Management, Bradley Horowitz opined that all the features currently available are merely “scratching the surface”. Horowitz insisted that his team was working on a much improved product come 2010. Horowitz says

We want to make sure you’re communication is available to you irrespective of where you are at, what device you have in your pocket, etc.

Rumors are that Google has been working to move Voice completely into a VoIP service, effectively competing with Skype. This way, the company would be expanding outside US and could be launching a worldwide service. Also, with current capabilities with features like threaded SMSes, the service prove to be pretty effective. Also, with call forwarding features, American users who use Google Voice to consolidate their calling numbers can continue to make use of this functionality.

As always, Google has not explicitly let their intentions known. But that is a pretty likely possibility. What do you think of this move?

[via eWeek]

YouTube To Offer Interactive Gaming Videos?

In February of this year, Google had apparently filed a patent which has finally been published lately and if what we read into the patent is true, we can soon be seeing YouTube offering interactive gaming videos to its users.

If you are wondering what an interactive gaming video is, then read on. According to the patent, Google is planning on using the annotations (the tiny blocks of texts that the video uploaders use to comment on the video or direct you to another link) to create a gaming platform which can open up different locations depending on which annotation is click. Here is the patent description verbatim

A video may have associated with it one or more annotations, which modify the appearance and/or behavior of a video as it was originally submitted to an online video hosting site. Some examples of annotations are graphical text box annotations, which display text at certain locations and certain times of the video, and pause annotations, which halt playback of the video at a specified time within the video. Some annotations, e.g. a graphical annotation (such as a text box annotation) comprising a link to a particular portion of a target video, are associated with a time of the target video, which can be either the video with which the annotation is associated, or a separate video. Selecting such annotations causes playback of the target video to begin at the associated time. Such annotations can be used to construct interactive games using videos, such as a game in which clicking on different portions of a video leads to different outcomes.

This could be interesting. But the information so far looks incomplete. For an interactive gaming to happen from video based content, there needs to be a way for Youtube to open different videos from the same frame. Presently, clicking on an alternate video link from the annotations opens up a new window altogether. Instead, YouTube should let the new video link open from the same object frame opening the original video.

It is likely that Google is already working on that too. Nevertheless it is some fabulous news, and we will keep following on this one.

[via Slashdot]

Will Google Chrome OS Be The Most Hacked Software Of 2010?

McAfee’s recent report on internet security for the future claims that Google Chrome OS which is yet to be officially released could become the target of hackers in the new year.

Why? Because, McAfee says, it is the reliance of the web operating system on the HTML 5 technology that lets the software interact online with the PC on and off in the background.

Google Chrome OS is designed to let users use web applications as easily as locally installed software. In order to enable this, the OS lets these applications periodically interact online while making everything available locally to the users.

Because of this interaction that happens in the background, McAfee claims hackers may use the exploit to inject their own malware into your system. Users might be caught unawares as they might expect it to be their operating system that is interacting online.

But the issues raised by McAfee seem far fetched considering that Google’s operating system is yet to be released and we are yet to check out on the security measures that Google has taken in this regard. For the record, in a blog posting earlier this year, Google had emphasized on the security measures being taken. The company had said they were

“completely redesigning the underlying security architecture…so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware, and security updates.”

Considering this, it looks like McAfee’s report has only raised false alarms. Nevertheless, the points raised are still potential exploits which we hope Google works on before the operating system is released.

[via Business Week]

Did Google Fudge Taxes in UK?

Over the past one week, Google has been slammed by ministers in UK over fudging of their earnings in order to avoid taxes. According to their report, Google made over £1.6 billion in the past year from advertising in UK. However, the company has not paid any tax at all.

The reason, it is being said is because the company used its status as an international company to transfer holdings from one country to the other in a way to minimize taxes.

In this case, Google transferred its earnings from UK to Ireland. Tax levels for corporations in Ireland are between 10%-25% whereas in the UK, it is between 28%-30%.

While the company has not given any officially reply to the criticisms hailed at it, it will be interesting to see if the UK Government will plan any action in order to prevent a recurrence.

[via BNET]

Google Chrome OS Based NetBook Specs Out?

There seems to be a lot of speculation about the tech specifications of the to-be-launched Google Chrome based Netbook. According to a post on an UK based website, rumors are that the specs are out, and also that it is a “high performance machine” for a fraction of the price. Here is what the website claims the specs are

  • NVIDIA Tegra platform with ARM CPU
  • 10.1-inch TFT HD-ready multi-touch display
  • 64GB solid state drive
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB ports, webcam, card reader

We have no clue whether what is being claimed is true or not, but from what the website claims, Google plans to sell the device at less than $300 per unit. The site also claims that outside the US, the product shall be directly distributed by Google while inside the United States, the company shall try to set the Netbook as a viable competitor to the Nokia Booklet 3G by tying up with one or more network operators.

How much of this is true? Nobody knows yet. But it will be interesting if this actually turns out to be true.

[via IBTimes]

Feedburner Acknowledges FriendFeed Problem

A lot many bloggers might have noticed that their RSS feed count as displayed on their feedburner chicklets have been reporting a drop in the past few days. So far, it was being dismissed as yet another instance when the unreliability of Feedburner was under question.

However, it now seems to have become clear that the reason for the drop in number of subscribers is because of an issue with the Feedburner software recognizing feeds subscribed via Friendfeed. In a tweet posted a few hours back, the Feedburner team writes

“As many have noticed there appears to be a reporting issue with FriendFeed subscribers. The cause is currently under investigation.”

It is not clear what the exact issue is, or by when it shall be resolved. We will keep you posted when that happens.

Google Finalizes Deal With Danish Royal Library For Books Digitization Project

Google has recently entered into a partnership with Denmark’s Royal library to digitize nearly 1.6 million copies of books for scanning. The move comes after the decision by Royal Library to preserve their literary history through digitization could not be wholly sponsored by the Danish Government.

According to the Library Curator, Erland Kolding Nielsen, the Danish government could only offer 7 million Kroners for the project when the estimated cost of digitization was over 500 million.

Google which has already been in the process of digitization has been chosen as a viable partner who will fit the library’s needs. According to Nielsen, the move was inevitable considering the recent dominance of English in the internet age and such digitization would help preserve their culture. Nielsen says

“I believe Danish culture and Danish material on the web would disappear in the Anglo-Saxon deluge. Our language would shrink even more from sight”

[via IceNews]

Google Caffeine is LIVE?

Google Caffeine is the new rewired code of Google search engine that is supposed to be much faster and real time than the Google search that we have come to know. According to some sources, Google Caffeine is now live.

As Matt Cutts from Google earlier put it, this is not some UI change that people would readily recognize and even power users of Google would find it difficult to see the changes. But all the change has been in the internal coding system, and the only big change that you can find from the user’s side is the apparent faster delivery of results.

This is still not confirmed, but we would like to believe that this is true.

Google Wants To Integrate Maps With Real Estate Search?

Signs that recession are behind us can already been gauged by the fact that G has started eyeing companies to acquire once again. But here are sure shot signs about recession getting over – Google is apparently looking to buy the real estate search engine Trulia.

Google is said to be in talks with the Bay area based startup for a possible price of around $150 million to $200. Trulia is a VC funded startup and is currently funded for close to $33 million from Accel partners and Sequoia capital.

But the more interesting part of the news is what Google has in mind for the real estate search engine. Apparently, Google sees a good fit for a real estate search engine to be integrated with Google Maps. So, you may not only search for real estates around a particular area, but can also have a virtual look at it. Call it the next gen househunting!

We are still not sure about how close we are to a deal sealing. We will let you know as and when that happens.

For Google, It is Now Location Location Location

The past few months has shown an apparently changed stance from Google. We have seen the Big G focus rather explicitly on two things – Mobile and Location based applications.

For starters, here are a few things
Google has been working on building the next big mobile platform – Android 2.1
Google is very soon bringing its own mobile handset – the Nexus One
Google was rumored to buy Yelp, the regional hotspots review website
Google distributed close to 190,000 stickers to small businesses for users to easily get info about these businesses

These are just a few of them. But it is not too difficult to fathom why. As a matter of fact, most of Google’s biggest competitors are taking the same strategy considering that location and mobile internet are going to be really big in just a few years now.

That makes us wonder, if FourSquare is a nice fish for G to catch!