Taking Google to the next level

Despite being a $20bn-plus company, when it launched into the channel Google appeared to be the noisy upstart, tweaking the nose of Microsoft and other long-established enterprise software players.

Three years on, with a growing list of blue-chip clients and a new, more demanding partner scheme, it must now be judged against the same metrics as the venerated vendors whose place it seeks to take.

The Google Apps channel programme is now divided into two tracks, covering SMB and Enterprise, which is defined as 250 seats and above. Each of these includes two tiers: Authorised, and the recently launched Premier level. To attain Enterprise Premier status, resellers must undertake rollouts covering at least 5,000 seats a year; have three certified deployment specialists and produce three case studies from named clients.

David McLeman, managing director of partner Ancoris, said: "The way they are building the channel programme is very disciplined. They are very demanding of us, but are very collaborative in their approach. We have had more transparency in the relationship than I have seen with any other vendor."

Like Ancoris, London reseller Cloudreach is one of the first firms to nab Enterprise Premier partner status. Technical director James Monico said the company moved 25,000 users to Google Apps in 2011, and wants to migrate "double or triple" that number this year.
"The main reason many of these deals were signed in the early days was because of low cost. More recently, it seems to be the quality of, and demand for, collaboration tools that is driving adoption," he said.

Paul Grimshaw, managing director of Google Apps partner Totally Techy, claimed that once his customers have trialled Google, they "almost always" buy. The cost of using Google compares favourably to the purchase and rollout of a new Microsoft Exchange Server, he said.

"Most of the companies we have moved across are small, say, 10 users, and they have Exchange Server which is flaking out," he added.

But Monico claimed that many Microsoft VARs might remain wary of signing with Google due to concerns over upfront licensing cash and the revenue-share model of the Apps Marketplace.

Platform for growth
Google's stated vision is of a world where businesses go "100 per cent web". Stuart Keeble, managing director of partner Appogee, claimed that, at the high-end enterprise level, cloud technology has a little catching up to do before this vision can become reality.

"You cannot go 100 per cent web until such time as there are cloud alternatives to the entire Microsoft stack, including Active Directory," he explained.

Appogee bills itself as "a systems integrator in the cloud space". He claimed that Google is mulling formalising these kinds of relationships in its channel programme, and that this is something he would like to see implemented. He added that the focus for his firm, and for Google, over the coming months should be to ramp up its engagement in the platform-as-a-service space through its Google Engine offering.

"It is at an early stage of maturity, but that is something for the next 12 to 18 months. We already have a number of customers to whom we provide this solution," said Keeble.

McLeman claimed that Google must ensure it cultivates a reputation as a serious enterprise vendor. The Ancoris boss pointed to the importance of high-profile customers including BBVA, Trinity Mirror and Hillingdon Council (see opposite).

"It can be difficult to separate that message out from the general noise about the cloud," he said.
"The biggest thing we would like to see it do is maintain the high ground in terms of real customer transitions."not had much traction with them [to date]," he added.

Google: We are still ambitious and in a hurry
Three years into its channel adventure, Google Apps' EMEA head of channel Peter Lorant has claimed the vendor would be happy with its current rate of progress if it were judged against its initial expectations.

"But the cloud market is even larger than we thought," he added. "We are very ambitious and we are in a hurry. We want our partners to move as quickly as we can, and our customers to move as quickly as we can. There is still so much more out there."

The vendor still needs to build volume of partners in the SMB arena, claimed Lorant, while the launch of the Premier certification will allow partners to clearly demonstrate their credentials as cloud experts.

"They can differentiate themselves in the market when [end users] are evaluating potential partners," said Lorant. "They also receive access to marketing funds and technical and sales training. It becomes a much tighter relationship [with Google]."

Some partners suggested to ChannelWeb that, in the past 18 months, Google has begun to behave as if the channel is its key sales engine, rather than a "nice-to-have" additional revenue generator. Lorant stressed that "Google is not a services company - partners have always been critical for the reach and scale we need".

"But what has definitely happened is partners are delivering incredible volumes. It is one thing to think about that when you are building a programme - it is another to see that in action."

Lorant revealed that, in addition to the recently launched certification for deployment professionals, a sales badge will be introduced for channel staff.

Lorant endorsed the view that moving towards a platform-as-a-service world would completely change the economics of partnering with Google for resellers.

Microsoft:We are gaining cloud partners, not losing them
Throughout the past three years Microsoft has remained stolid in its insistence that it is not losing any ground to Google.

Despite this, the vendor has, at the very least, frequently acknowledged the presence of one of its newest, but fiercest, rivals and continues to do so. At the software giant's global partner summit in July, chief operating officer Kevin Turner summarised the recent launch of the firm's Office 365 cloud suite as "nothing but a Google butt-kick".

Janet Gibbons, Microsoft UK's director of partner strategy and programmes, told ChannelWeb that the vendor has not been aware of partners defecting to Google or using it as a complementary part of their portfolio.

"In fact, Microsoft has doubled its number of partners selling online solutions year on year and is seeing increasing interest in offerings with new partners joining the cloud programmes every week," she added.
Breadth is the key word for Gibbons (pictured), who insisted that partners focusing on Microsoft, rather than Google, would benefit from the widest possible array of technology solutions and consumption models.

"We believe that we offer the widest choice of ways customers can consume IT, including on-premise, Microsoft-hosted, partner-hosted or any combination of these," she explained. "We also offer the widest portfolio of solutions from one single vendor including Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Intune and Windows Azure."

Gibbons also pointed to a recent survey of 400 VARs by research and journalism organisation the Cloud and Technology Transformation Alliance.

The report ranked Microsoft as the top vendor to partner with in the cloud space, having been cited by about 28 per cent of respondents. Google was second, with about 22 per cent.


Chinese 'hacks' Barack Obama's Google Plus account

Beijing, Feb 27: It seems that China has "hacked" the Google Plus web page of US President Barack Obama. Don't be surprised. Chinese has not hacked the entire page, but the comment box of the page.

Barack Obama's re-election campaign on Google Inc.’s social networking service received many comments of Chinese people as China removed long-standing blocks on Google.

Media reports say that most of the comments seemed purely for fun; some asked for green cards. Many were overtly political, calling for the end of Communist Party rule and the freeing of a blind legal advocate, Chen Guangcheng, held captive in his home. “Mr. President, we want American freedom,” said a posting under the name Zhang Mian.

Another comment under the name of Wenbin Shang says, "We have no chance to occupy our president Hu. He hates internet and has no account on any sns website, so we can just occupy Obama, forgive us ..."


Google says 850K Android devices activated each day

Summary : Google's Android chief drops the statistic via his Google+ page during a walk through the Mobile World Congress show.

The momentum for Android continues to build, with 850,000 devices getting activated each day. That's according to Android chief Andy Rubin, who unveiled the statistic on his Google+ page today. Like most other major wireless players, he was in attendance at Mobile World Congress, the world's largest wireless confab.

"Walking around Mobile World Congress and seeing the Android ecosystem at work is quite impressive," Rubin said.

He also dished on a few other impressive stats, including activating a total of 300 million Android phones and boasting of more than 450,000 applications on the Android market.

In December, the Rubin said that 700,000 Android phones and tablets were getting activated each day, a hop from the 550,000 users logging on to Android just a month earlier. In November, the company said 200 million Android devices had been sold. The company only counts each device once, meaning re-activations don't figure into its calculations.

The conference, which officially kicked off today, has already seen a number of impressive Android smartphones debut, including the HTC One series of smartphones, as well as LG's Optimus 4X HD.

Many of the phones feature Android's latest iteration, Ice Cream Sandwich.


Google is now a connected service to Windows Live

Ever since Wave 3, Windows Live have always had the ability to connect within various social services from across the web, most notably services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  By connecting other social services and websites to Windows Live, depending on the connection, you’ll be able to do things like viewing and posting status updates directly to/from Windows Live, integrating the contact list (which automatically de-duplicates for you), or in Facebook’s case, access Facebook Chat from Windows Live.

There are currently over 88 connected services from all across the world available on Windows Live. However, while YouTube and Blogger are available as a connected service, Google itself never made it onto the list. While you could always “import” your Google contacts into Windows Live (meaning their contact details are copied over to as a Windows Live contact instead), this is different from having it exist as a connected service (where there is a link between Windows Live and Google, and any updates to the contacts on Google will be reflected in Windows Live periodically). We’ve recently noticed that this is changing, and Google is now finally available as a connected service to Windows Live:

At the moment, you can access your Google contacts from Messenger and Hotmail, and Windows Live will  do the de-duplication for you in case you have the same contact on Messenger, Facebook or LinkedIn already:

However, the social aspects of Google+ are not available yet, so don’t expect your Google+ social feeds to start flowing into your Messenger Social or Windows Phone. This might set to change in the future, given that Microsoft is continuously expanding the connected service’s capability over time (for example, most recently with China’s micro-blogging service Sina Weibo). There was also a wild rumor that Google+ is coming to Windows Phone, although the validity of the source is questionable.

You can connect Google to Windows Live now by clicking here.


Google Amalgamates Google+ and Google Voice Features

Internet supremo Google has announced that it is integrating its Voice Over Internet Protocol service Google Voice into social media facility, Google Plus.

The new function suggests that the search giant is looking to turn its immensely popular social media site into a much more universal platform. However, keeping in mind how Facebook already made VoIP and video chat available on the website a while back, it will be difficult to predict if Google's move will make any difference in reducing the massive lead Facebook currently enjoys over Google Plus.

"To help make it even easier for you to organize your contacts, today we're adding Google+ Circles to Google Voice," Google's Tom Ford wrote in a blog post, as reported by TG Daily.

Google also stated that the amalgamation will incorporate users' Google Plus friends (including Circles) and their contact info directly into their Google Voice accounts.

"Circles give you more control over how you manage your callers; for example, calls from your ‘Creepers' circle can be sent straight to Voicemail, only your ‘College Buddies' circle will hear you rap your voicemail greeting," Ford explained.

Many experts believe that the new move taken is a clear indication of how the Mountain View based search engine could be preparing to make the Google Plus design and interface a whole new standard for its future products.


How to Remove Your Google Search History Before Google’s New Privacy Policy Takes Effect

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy, which will affect data Google has collected on you prior to March 1st as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google's other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more.

If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.

Here's how you can do that:

1. Sign into your Google account.

2. Go to

3. Click "remove all Web History."

4. Click "ok."

Note that removing your Web History also pauses it. Web History will remain off until you enable it again.

[UPDATE 2/22/2012]: Note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement.

With Web History enabled, Google will keep these records indefinitely; with it disabled, they will be partially anonymized after 18 months, and certain kinds of uses, including sending you customized search results, will be prevented. If you want to do more to reduce the records Google keeps, the advice in EFF's Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy white paper remains relevant.

If you have several Google accounts, you will need to do this for each of them.


Google to Add Google+ Share Button on Search Home Page

Google always maintains a minimalist home page without any extra gizmos or buttons expect the bare essentials. However, the web search giant has decided to make an exception in this rule for Google+, its social networking website.

In the update to be launched very soon, Google has decided to add a share button towards the upper right hand corner of the search page. If clicked, this share button will open a box enabling users to add updates in their Google+ account. However, this feature does not include search results of the users in the update.

During the beginning of this month, the search giant disclosed about the "Google bar" update and this share box is a part of it. Thus, necessarily the share button is migrated from "Google Bar" to the Google homepage, reported Mashable.

Even though this is a minor update, this will be the very first time when Google's homepage will be performing some other function other than just search.

Over the past few years Google has been making a number of changes in its overall operation. However, appearance as well as basic functionality is something the Mountain View based web giant has always maintained. But, the recent developments show that the company is more than willing to experiment with other aspects as well.


Google fires back at Microsoft's privacy claim‎

Privacy advocates, lawyers and powerful rival Microsoft were piling on Google for sidestepping Web browsing software to tailor ads for people signed into its online services.

The California-based Internet giant continued to staunchly defend itself meanwhile against accusations that it had put profit ahead of privacy.

Controversy ignited last week after it was revealed that Google ad-targeting "cookies" bypassed track-blocking software on Apple's Web browser for iPhones and computers was fanned by Microsoft saying Internet Explorer was likewise duped.

By Tuesday a suit was filed in US federal court demanding Google pay unspecified damages for violating the privacy of millions of people, and potentially national anti-wiretapping law.

Some researchers, however, said lashing out at Google did little to resolve a contradiction underpinning the complex situation -- people want free online services that know them but Web surfing that remains anonymous.

Snippets of code called "cookies" from Google and three online ad specialty firms slipped past tracker-blocking safeguards on Apple's Safari browser, Stanford University graduate student Jonathan Mayer said Friday in a blog post.

Microsoft on Monday said that a check showed that Google was bypassing anti-tracking mechanisms built into the Redmond, Washington-based technology titan's Internet Explorer (IE) Web browsing software.

"Google is employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies," IE corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch said in a blog post.

"Given this real-world behavior, we are investigating what additional changes to make to our products," he said.

Google fired back at Microsoft, saying that the company has known for years that the IE cookie blocking technique thwarted the functionality of modern websites such as Facebook and Amazon and that bypassing it was common practice.

"Instead of fixing (a) P3P loophole in IE that Facebook and Amazon exploited ...Microsoft did nothing," privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian said in a Twitter post, referring to IE's way of having cookies identify themselves.

"Now they complain after Google uses it."

Researcher Lauren Weinstein in a post at social network Google+ referred to Microsoft's complaint as seeming "disingenuous at best, and certainly is not helping to move the ball usefully forward regarding these complex issues."

Whether calculated or innocent, Google's sidestepping of privacy features on browsers raised alarms with consumer rights groups and has already prompted a call for an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission.

Google discontinued use of the offending cookies in Safari browsers after Mayer's findings went public, and characterized the situation as an unintended side-effect of an effort to safeguard online privacy.

Google last year began using cookies in Safari browsers to let people signed into Google accounts get personalized services, such as being able to "+1" ads or other online content as likeable for friends at its online social network.

The plan was purportedly to provide users personalization requested while disclosing no information about them to Google-owned ad specialty firm DoubleClick.

Google reportedly did not realize was the presence of the cookies opened Safari browser doors to a slew of DoubleClick ad tracking cookies, which would otherwise have been rejected.

"The Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser," the California company said in a released statement.

"We didn't anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers," it continued.

Safari is the most widely used browser on mobile devices and the default browser on iPhones and Macintosh computers. The Apple browsers are pre-set to block tracking cookies.


Will the FTC Investigate Google's Safari Gaffe?

Privacy advocates and now some members of Congress say Google should answer for its practice of bypassing the default privacy settings of potentially millions of users of Apple's Safari browser.

Three members of the U.S. House of Representatives are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's Safari workaround. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is going further, asking [PDF] the FTC to find that Google violated its recent settlement with the federal agency regarding its Buzz privacy practices. Google, meanwhile, says it was merely using "known functionality" in Safari and any resulting privacy violations were just a mishap the company "didn't anticipate."

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google was bypassing the default privacy settings in Apple's Safari for both desktop and mobile devices. Google's privacy violations potentially include users of iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Mac OS X devices, as well as Safari for Windows users. Safari's defaults prohibit third parties such as advertising and web analytics firms from setting tracking cookies without user authorization. This presented a problem for Google, since the company wanted to identify when users were signed in to their Google accounts in order to deliver pernalized advertising and the ability to +1 (similar to a Facebook like) items online.

To get around this issue, Google inserted an invisible web form into its advertising if a user clicked on the company's +1 buttons embedded in Google advertising. Safari would then think the user interacted with the invisible form and allow the browser to accept further cookies.

This workaround also enabled Google to track users across the web even though their privacy settings said they didn't want to be tracked. Google responded to the accusations by saying it was only providing features that signed-in Google users had enabled using "known functionality" in Safari's web browser. But, the company said, it didn't anticipate that Safari's "known functionality" would have the side effect of allowing other tracking cookies to be set as well, such as cookies from its advertising service, DoubleClick.

So should the FTC chalk this up to a big misunderstanding and a mistake, or investigate Google's potential misbehavior? Regardless, of Google's motives, I think the FTC should investigate and here's why.

Broke the Rules
"We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled," says Rachel Whetstone, Google's senior vice president of communications and public policy in response to the Journal's report. "Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies...Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari."

Whetstone argues that Google was only enabling "known functionality" in Safari to carry out the wishes of signed-in Google users. But was this the best plan? Instead of using this workaround couldn't Google have used a browser pop-up or a web page redirect to alert users they needed to change their cookie settings to enable this kind of activity? Instead, the company chose to use an invisible method beyond the control of the user.

Thanks to the popularity of Apple's Safari browser on iOS, the result of Google's workaround is that the privacy of perhaps millions of users was violated. Apple's Safari currently accounts for 55 percent of all smartphone and tablet browsing activity worldwide, according to metrics firm Netmarketshare.

Same old Song and Dance
Every time Google is found to be up to no good, the company uses virtually the same excuse: "Oops, sorry, that was a mistake, we didn't know we were doing that." This time around it was Whetstone saying that Google "didn't anticipate" its Safari workaround would allow it to set tracking cookies the user hadn't explicitly authorized.

When privacy concerns were raised over Google's failed social networking platform, Buzz, in February 2010, the company responded, "We quickly realized that we didn't get everything quite right. We're very sorry for the concern we've caused." Google then promised to do better.

A few months later, in May, Google was caught collecting user data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as it used its Street View cars to create a worldwide database of Wi-Fi routers to help improve the company's mobile location services. "We have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products," Google said.

More recently, in January, Google was accused of trying to weasel money out of small business owners in Kenya, Africa by falsely claiming that it was in a joint venture with Mocality, a Kenya-based crowd sourced business directory. And what was Google's response this time? "We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality," said Nelson Mattos Google's vice president for product and engineering in Europe and emerging markets. "We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved." Oops, we didn't know -- again.

Four serious gaffes and each time Google said it didn't realize what it was doing. That may in fact be true in each case, but does oversight excuse the error? How many times can Google say, "Oops, we goofed, we didn't know" before the company is held to account for its self-inflicted stupidity? Accident or not, Google should be investigated for its bad behavior and held accountable for its actions.


Google working on strong password generator for Chrome

Summary: Google tries to eliminate weak passwords.

Google is working on creating a strong password generator for the Chrome browser that will automatically generate strong passwords for users. The system is currently in the development stage, but Google has outlined the design principles over on the Chromium blog. It also gives us an insight into Google’s long-term plans.

‘Chrome’s long term solution to this problem is browser sign in plus OpenID. While implementing browser sign in is something that we can control, getting most sites on the internet to use OpenID will take a while. In the meantime it would be nice to have a way to achieve the same affect of having the browser control authentication. Currently you can mostly achieve this goal through Password Manager and Browser Sync, but users still know their passwords so they are still susceptible to phishing. By having Chrome generate passwords for users, we can remove this problem.’

The password generator will use heuristics to detect when users are on a sign-up pages and put a key icon in the password box. Clicking on this icon will generate a strong password, display it to the user, and if they accept it, add it and the username to the password manager.

I think that this is both a good idea and a bad idea. It’s a good idea because it helps users generate strong passwords, minimizing reuse and weak passwords. However, I don’t like it because it locks users into Chrome and makes it hard for them to use a different browser.

In other words, it’s a good idea, but it’s also a good way for Google to lock users into its browser.


Google Now Has Two New Unlock Patent Applications to Counter Apple's IP

The patents present four (somewhat) novel forms of unlock that range from simple to complex
The "Big Three" of the Android world -- HTC Corp. (TPE:2498), Samsung Electronics Comp.Ltd. (KS:005930), and Google Inc.'s (GOOG) nearly-acquired subsidiary-to-be Motorola Mobility -- all share a common legal adversary -- Apple, Inc. (AAPL).  Apple has asserted a slew of claims against the Android phonemakers, and they haven't been shy about firing back, sometimes quite successfully (other times not so much).

I. The Backup Plan

One of Apple's biggest successes, however, came when it scored a German injunction on Motorola's smartphones, thanks to its unlocking patents.  Apple's earliest anti-Android lawsuit against HTC also used the first of Apple's two unlocking patents, and multiple internation suits against Samsung have applied it, as well.

The German court did crucially rule that the circular unlock on the Motorola Xoom tablet was not in violation.  Unfortunately, it did not rule about the grid pattern unlock (to this author's knowledge).

To cut to the chase, it is my informed opinion that Apple's unlocking patents are likely invalid or should be narrowed, due to prior art.  But that process will take time.  And Google can't afford its partners to be temporarily removed in such a competitive market.  So that's why a new unlocking claim -- first dug up by the IP experts Patently Apple -- is so important.

Google already has filed a patent for the rights to the aforementioned grid-based unlock (U.S. Patent Application No. 20110283241 A1), but it likely will not receive this patent until 2013, at the earliest.

Assuming the worst case scenario -- that some regions choose not to invalidate or narrow Apple's broad ownership claims to an unsecured lock, Google would be in a bind.  And if, worse yet, some region decided Apple's patent so broad as to cover Google's grid unlock, it would be in really deep trouble.  In short, Google expects to win, but it has far too much to lose and needs a backup plan.  

That backup plan may be U.S. Patent Application 20120036556 A1, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Feb. 9, 2012.

II. Three Different Unlocking Techniques in One Patent (Plus Voice Support)

This method of unlock offers an easier, lower security novel unlock, should the user want one.  In its most simple method, the unlock involves simply scrolling through a side-scrolling list of commands, and then dragging one to an unlock "bin".

The action not only unlocks the screen in a method different from Apple, et al.'s method, but it also conveniently launches the task you want.  A downside is that it may be a bit slower to scroll and find your desired action, rather than Apple's directly unlock, followed by a full-screen delve for the desired app.  However, this could be mitigated if Google implements allows Android users to create their own list order (which would allow commonly used functions to be placed earlier.  The patent suggests such a streamlined implementation, both verbally and visually.

The second method offers slightly more security, and again a novel solution, albeit a less secured one than the grid unlock.  In the second method a series of common actions are displayed on a grid.  One action is the special user-designated "unlock" icon.  While it'd be easy to determine this by brute force (hence the security is limited), the experienced user can drag their desired action icon to the unlock icon and then back to initial location to unlock the screen in a novel way.  Doing so also launches the target app, as with the first method.

Users can either start with the unlock icon and drag it to the desired action, then back to the unlocked icons position; or start with the desired action icon and drag it to the unlock icon, then back to  desired actions original position.  Either way, the special designated unlock icon has to be part of the three-step drag sequence.

This process can also be accomplished via a redundant voice command.  This offers slightly more security, given that users could reverse engineer the unlock icon via "reverse engineering" fingerprint smudging (a similar concern has been raised about the grid unlock).

Finally the second unlocking patent offers a third unlocking mechanism -- a plain password driven method, with plain voice entry.
Google also has yet another method of unlocking -- Ice Cream Sandwich's facial recognition unlock, but the biometrics involved have shown to be weak, capable of being defeated by a picture of the phone's normal user, via methods we've covered in the past.  
The technology was already patented by Pitt Patt -- U.S. Patent 7,881,505.  Google owns this patent, now via its acquisition of the firm.  Both Google and Apple (as well as research institutions) have filed for patents on how to improve the facial recognition method, making it more robust and resistant to image spoofing. Similar patents to the two new American filings, have likely been filed overseas in various jurisdictions.:)


Google Android 5.0 coming in Q2

Even as Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system is yet to fully take off, the news of its successor is already doing rounds. According to a report in Taiwan's DigiTimes, Google is readying the launch of Android 5.0 dubbed Jelly Bean in the second quarter of this year. 

The report, quoting Taiwan-based supply chain makers, reveals that Google is reportedly asking users to adopt Android 5.0 and Windows 8 in the same tablet PC. Software giant Microsoft is scheduled to unveil a test version of its Windows 8 operating software later this month. 

While Android 4.0 brings a bunch of new features for tablets as well as smartphones, Android 5.0 is likely to be further optimized for tablet PCs. The report states that Google plans to integrate its Chrome system functions to push dual-operating system designs. 

The report further claims that Google will let vendors add Android 5.0 to a Windows 8-based tablet or notebook, giving them the option to switch between the operating systems without a reboot. 

While most of the Android phone manufacturers have updated their Ice Cream Sandwich release schedules, it is yet to see how the OS climbs in popularity in comparison to its closest rival Apple's iOS 5. 

Among other things, Android 4.0 offers a brand new font system called Roboto; lets users take screenshots without rooting the smartphone or installing any third-party apps and transcribes words instantly into text. 

The current OS also features Android Beam, based on NFC (Near Field Communication) which allows two Android smartphones to securely exchange Web pages, contacts, media or even applications.


Google caught spying on Safari users

It doesn’t look like a good 2012 for Internet users. Just a week back it was Path that was caught for ‘uploading user’ data on their servers,  quickly opened an ugly can of worms in the Internet world. Path’s revelation came as quite a shocker, followed by apps like Instagram, clarifying on how they were appropriating user data.

Now it seems that Google and other advertising companies are guilty of trespassing on the web-browsing habits of millions of people who use Apple’s popular internet browser Safari, according to a Wall Street Journal report. This latest report which comes as Google plans to make major policy changes across all of its products — a move that has left many concerned.

According to the WSJ report, the companies (Google and other advertising firms) used a special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users, something that browser, is actually designed to block.

The code was activated when users with a Google plus profile clicked +1— the Google equivalent of an F-like — on an advertisement, thus ensuring that cookies were sent, something that Safari would have normally blocked.

The report states that
The Google code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani, who found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser.

Basically the code allowed more cookies, which are perfectly legitimate mode of getting user information, to find the user who was accessing the Web via Safari.

Google has however defended itself against the Journal report. In an official statement, the company said

“The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”

Google’s self defense doesn’t really add much to the company’s over-all image which has taken quite a beating thanks to some recent scandals. Most prominent was perhaps the incident in Kenya where Google used Kenyan business directory Mocality‘s data to increase their own clients in the region. Google later apologised for the incident.

For now it’s seem that Google’s older motto, ‘Don’t be evil’ is clearly forgotten.’ To read the complete Safari story click here.


The Future Of B2B Search: Start Preparing For Social SEO Now

Just when you thought your strategy was defined in SEO, the time has come for us to once again get ready for significant change in how we approach SEO as search marketers. With the recent announcements from Google, the future of search is indeed social in nature.

The weighting of social signals, particularly those from Google Plus sources, will be a major factor that can be used to serve more relevant information to its users.  After all, this is how Google will continue to serve its mission “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Why This Is So Important To Your B2B Search Program
The pervasive use of Social Networks and the value of the information inherent within a social network have made social ranking signals an imperative to search engines’ ranking algorithms. The search engines are always striving to provide more accurate and relevant search results.

This will be especially valuable to B2B SEO campaigns considering long sales cycles and complex buying behavior. The B2B lifecycle is comprised of multiple touch points across stakeholder groups and is seldom a linear funnel.

Because of this, it’s important that whatever the needs of the buyer, you are being found when a search is underway. Since this often means stretching your budgets down the long tail, it has often been a challenge to the oft under resourced B2B search campaign. However, with the evolution of social signals informing the SERP’s, there is an opportunity for increased efficiency in B2B search.

With the community at large acting as a form of human filter on what is most important, there is an opportunity to sculpt the relevance of your business to your potential customers. To see this in more detail, check out this post on the subject from Dan Cristo, the Director of SEO Innovation at Catalyst Online.

Increasing Your SERP Position In 60 Seconds
To demonstrate the impact and value of the social signals, I have some screen shots of how this is currently working. It’s important to keep in mind that this is meant to show you the impact of personalized search results on a SERP.

This will highlight the ways and means in which personalized results are influencing SEO. This has become a vital concept to note with Google’s recent announcements on privacy.

In this first screen, you will see how if I type the term “b2b” in an impersonalized SERP, I receive the usual retinue of potentially relevant assets to my query.

Now, if you are like me and tend to stay signed into one browser, you will see now if I type the term “b2b” the nature of some of those rankings has changed to include information that my search behavior and community has deemed relevant.

Specifically, you can see how an eMarketer study highlighting b2b search behavior (73% use search engines) suddenly showed up in my rankings. Naturally, this is a highly relevant bit of information in my realm consulting B2B marketers, and by itself is intriguing enough for its personalization.
However, if I engage with the content and share it, you can see what happens to the content in my SERP. Google has deemed this to be highly relevant to me and has used my ‘signal’ to serve me content I have chosen as highly relevant.

This presents B2B search marketers with a chance to gain first mover advantages in social SEO and inform a strategy for short and long term growth.

Every business has a community of partners, advocates and vendors, and each of these sources becomes an opportunity to influence ranking for searchers who are interested in the subject’s your business is engaged in professionally.

Not only is this a tremendous outlet for social sharing and social marketing, but when also included in a forward thinking SEO campaign can help drive traffic from personalized search.
Preparing For Social SEO

To begin preparing for Social SEO, the first step is to understand current goals and objectives of your business. Since differentiation and authority is crucial to set you apart from your competitors, a good place to begin is thinking about where you have a right to influence.

From here, you can begin to audit your assets and identify where you want to steward authority. Blending an SEO-informed social media presence with socially sharable SEO content will enable your campaign to focus on greater “discoverability” of owned content.

Some key low hanging fruit benefits might include:
Increased Referral Traffic: The likelihood of increased consumer click-throughs to branded content is increased as organic search traffic increases.

Access to Activated Consumers: According to GroupM Search, 58% of consumers start their purchase journey with search. Since social media is already a vital tool for in the awareness and consideration phases, this provides companies with increased social visibility in organic search with greater opportunity to educate activated buyers about the brand and its products & services.

Enable Competitive Advantage: Companies with multiple social channels & assets, including social media channels, blogs, videos & other social content can own greater real estate of first page organic results for key brand terms. This generates increased brand recognition for the brand and decreased space for competitors to rank for branded terms.

Reputation Management: the more owned content that appears in a branded search result allows the brand to manage the type of brand-related content searchers are viewing. By optimizing social media presence to align with consumer search behaviors, brands can push negative or competitive listings down in the SERPs with additional rankings via social media.

Given the early stage of Social SEO, B2B marketers should move quickly to gain the initiative. Social SEO presents a valuable opportunity for to earn authority as a key variable in SEO rankings. With 100 Million users of Google+, it’s clear that the majority of rankings will be highly personalized within 12-18 months.

As of January, there is estimated to be 34% of referral visits from Google signed in users (Oct ‘11 – Jan ‘12). This presents a window of opportunity to develop an SEO strategy that focuses on optimizing social signals to improve organic rankings.

As traditional SEO becomes more deeply informed by social ranking factors, the value in understanding the impact to your SEO results will be paramount in determining the optimal strategy to succeed in organic search in the future. As the search engines evolve the focus of their algorithm on social signals, it will become essential for any brand looking to differentiate in the competitive landscape.


Big Brother Google is Watching

If you are a user of any Google services – including Google search engine, Google Plus, Gmail, Blogger, Chrome, Google Voice, Picasa, Google Apps, Google services on Android phones and YouTube – you may have gotten several notices.

Google is consolidating the privacy policy for all those services into one.

Effective March 1, it will combine the privacy policies of 60 services under one privacy policy.
In a blog post, Google’s director of privacy, product, and engineering Anna Whitten, said the streamlining will enable Google to provide more efficient services.

What this means is that if you conduct a search in one service and log out, Google can deliver an answer for you when you log into another.  Stated another way: if you are signed in to Google, it could combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from another service.

“In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” Whitten wrote about the changes that  are slated to go into effect “… in just over a month.”

Not all are convinced Google’s motives are as innocent as that. The new policy has ears perked. Competitors and consumer watchdogs  say the new combined policy would make it harder to “opt out” of specific information gathering tied to one particular service since there will only be one catchall opt in or opt out option.

There is a lot of personal information at stake in all this.  Among the various information pieces that Google’s policy indicates it collects:

  • Your search queries
  • Who you have called;
  • How long you were on a call;
  • Your actual location via GPS enable services; and
  • Personal and embedded information about you stored in your computer that web cookies collect and send back to Google each time you log on to one of its services, among other information. 

This data is obviously collected for advertising and other marketing purposes.  As with its previous policies, fragmented across different services, Google shared information collected with third party companies, organizations and individuals with consumer consent. But, if a user wishes to opt out of one service and not another, it appears like they no longer have that option.

Lawmakers concerned that users will actually lose flexibility, sent Google a letter asking it clarify the new policy.

Senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Ed Markey (D-Mass) wrote in a statement: “It is imperative that users will be able to decide whether they want their information shared across the spectrum of Google’s offerings.”  He joined with six other House lawmakers in a January 26 letter to Google asking it to clarify its plans and how it will use information collected to target advertising to users.

In a January 30 letter to Congress, Google wrote: “[T]he updated privacy policy reflects our efforts to create one beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google.”

The fact remains that even if users log out, they may be lulled into a false sense of security that their data is not being shared, manipulated or accessed by other sites.

The only way they can stop the data collection from being used across services is by taking an active role in limiting information made available. To protect private information users can take certain steps including:

  • Deleting their search history from their browser after each use
  • Edit information stored in your Google Account in the Google Dashboard
  • In Google’s Ads preferences manager edit or turn off ads personalization entirely
  • Go “off the record” in Gmail chat
  • Use incognito browsing in Chrome which lets you surf the web in stealth mode
  • Use session-wide SSL encryption in Gmail which helps protect your email and search results from being used by others sharing an Internet connection, like a WiFi hotspot for example 

The fact that most users do not understand and most likely will not go through all these procedures is still an issue.