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Walk from New York City to the Moon in only 18 days with Google Fiber…sort of.

This week, Google announced their plans for Google Fiber, an internet and TV service to residences in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. What makes this service really special is it’s speed and pricing.

In the United States, we are used to having very, very slow data speeds. In fact, within the people I know, I have the fastest internet thanks to FiOS (15mbps up/ 5mbps down). Most people in NYC do not have anything close to that. Optimum Online and Verizon DSL offers much slower speeds. In my experience with Verizon DSL, I was getting slower speeds than AT&T’s 3G, which is usually around 1mbps up and point-something down. Google Fiber is providing 1000mbps up and down for $70 a month. You can compare that to what FiOS is charging me which is about $84 a month for much lower speeds. To compare the speed difference, Google has provided some examples. On Google Fiber’s 1000mbps, you can download an HD movie in 7 seconds, compared to a 5mbps connection which will take 21 minutes and 52 seconds to download. Which is the same as walking from Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge, which would take you 9 hours with Google Fiber (100 times faster than a normal person) and 39 days with 5mbps (normal walking speed), or from New York City to the Moon, which will only take 18 days 2 hours compared to 1809 days 12 hours, just incase you were wondering.

As far as the TV package goes, you can get the standard 1000mbps up/down internet with TV for $120/month. The channels that are listed right now are your standard HDTV channels, but some noticeable channels are missing. HBO, Time Warner and Disney channels are missing, which include ESPN. Google does make it clear, however, that these listings are only a representative lineup and the real list would be available to customers once they register for the service. In addition, they state that they are working on providing more channels in the future. Personally, I’m not too worried about this since they are brand new to this industry, look how long it took Apple to get the major content providers on board for iTunes, I think in time Google will have all the channels we need.

If you weren’t getting enough for your $120, Google provides even more. They provide a network box, a storage box (a DVR which can record 8 shows at once and holds 500 hours of HD content), a TV box which basically extends the range of your wifi signal, 1TB of free storage in Google Drive and a Nexus 7 tablet as your remote control. You get a TABLET for free as your remote control…I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

The most interesting plan is the Free Internet plan. You get 5mbps up and 1mbps down,which isn’t incredibly fast but many people in the US are currently paying for those  exact, or even slower, speeds. This free plan is promised for at least 7 years. The only thing you must pay is the $300 construction fee, which all Google Fiber customers have to pay (unless they sign up right now or sign a 2 year contract) but that works out to $25/month for a year. Even at $25 a month for 12 months, that’s a bargain compared to the other internet providers out there.

If you live in KC, you must sign up by September 9th by paying a $10 pre-register fee. If your “fiberhood”, which is an area set up by Google, reaches it’s goal, meaning that enough people pre-registered, you will receive Google Fiber. If you pre-register but enough of your neighbors did not and Google does not install Google Fiber in your neighborhood, you receive your $10 fee back.

So what’s Google’s deal? I mean, these prices are really low and clearly everyone who can get these speeds will sign up for it. Instead of just rolling it out to these cities, Google is basically turning normal humans into marketing machines. People are going door-to-door and posting flyers to beg their neighbors to pre-register to get this new service (which is something I would do as well) and it seems that everyone who can register is. This new service is clearly being beta tested by the people in KC, so Google can learn more about becoming an ISP and to see if they have what it takes. So what if Google does have what it takes? Will they become a nation wide ISP? Or are they instead trying to set an example?

Some people believe that Google is doing this to set an example to the other ISPs in the  US and to the FCC. They may be trying to catch the bluff of these other ISPs who have said that providing cap-less, faster internet in the US is impossible. Google might be using itself as an example to force other ISPs to step their game up in providing faster data speeds to the US. Slow data is Google’s biggest enemy since customers can’t use Google services (Drive, Chrome, Talk, etc) if they have a horribly slow internet connection.

Personally, I would love for Google to expand. The only way to get fast internet in NY is to get FiOS, which still isn’t available to the entire state and is quite expensive, especially when compared to Google Fiber. Verizon FiOS is currently charging $200 a month just for 100mbps internet.

Either way, everyone should have their eye on Google Fiber right now. If it works the way Google wants and Google has plans to expand, we can finally start seeing some innovation in terms of internet speeds and what we can do on the internet. 15 years ago, back when we were all using 56K dial-up internet, streaming music from a service like Spotify would have been impossible. Downloading software the way we do today would be impossible. iTunes and Netflix would not have been created if we still had internet speeds the way we did back then. In America, we desperately need a change in internet speed. 1000mbps or higher speed can create so many new, interesting and life changing aspects to our internet lives because it would allow us to do so much more with our computers, phones and tablets. No one knows what types of things are possible but are being pushed back due to our data speed limitation. All we need is for someone to come along and push innovation and I think Google, with it’s fiber service, will be able to do that.

Who knows? If internet speeds increase, maybe we’ll be able to walk to the moon in 18 days.

King of the Mountain: Facebook or Google+?

Facebook vs Google plusOh look, Google is making another attempt at a social network. There has certainly been a lot of Buzz surrounding this new site but will we all Wave goodbye to Facebook as we all migrate over to Google +? Before we answer that, let’s see what both sites have to offer.

Interface:

The interface of both sites is the biggest difference between the two. Facebook is simple, not flashy and familiar. If you’ve been to a website in the past 2 years, you will have no problem understanding how to use Facebook. Facebook has changed the layout of both the News Feed and the profile pages quite a few times. These changes were not massive, in most cases, but still caused quite a stir with the users of the site. This might have caused Facebook to be a bit more reluctant to put a real and interesting change to their user interface.

Now Google+, on the other hand, is full of Flash (or HTML 5) animations with a very mobile app type of feel. This type of animation integration is expected from a website that was created in 2011. It still stays simple enough by looking almost exactly like Facebook on the News Feed and profile pages. To some people, Google+ is not easy to use. Lots of people have been saying that they are having issues understanding how to do the simplest things, like adding friends and posting a status update. This may be caused by the way friends are grouped on Google+, but there is more about that grouping feature later.

Features: 

This section is a bit unfair since Facebook is a mature site that has plenty of users and Google+ is still an infant, with the only people paying attention to it are the few who managed to score an invite.

I like that…or maybe I +1 it.

Facebook is integrated into plenty of other websites, which allow you to log in and use a 3rd party service with your Facebook login. You can also “like” an outside source and easily post interesting content from sites like YouTube by simply clicking one button. Google has a similar button called the “+1” button. While this button should work in the same way as the Facebook “like” button, I’m not quite sure how I am supposed to use it. I click a +1 button on Google+ and it tells the person who posted the content that I “+1”ed it but it doesn’t seem to have as big of an impact as the Facebook “like” button.

Photos, videos and games. Oh, my! 

Facebook also has plenty of popular games and applications making it very possible to go to Facebook and not interact with your friends at all. That kind of defeats the purpose of a social network but hey, the option is there. While these applications are sometimes fun, they usually spam your News Feed and clutter the content that you are interested in seeing. Sure, you can adjust the settings of the application notifications but that means taking another visit to the checkbox wonderland of the Notification Settings page, which most people find to be confusing. On Google+, there are no 3rd party applications, yet. You also cannot post directly to your friend’s profile, like you can on Facebook. There is no messaging feature besides Chat which I never used since no one appears to be online…ever. One of the “cool” Google+ features are Huddle (group messaging) and Hangout, which is a group video chat. Sadly, I have never used these features so I’m not sure if they are quite so popular. Right now, there isn’t much to do on Google+ besides post status updates and comment on other people’s statuses. Google+ does benefit from only showing you important content that your friends post instead of a hundred Farmville notifications.

Are you in my circle?

There is no easy way to group friends on Facebook. You can control who sees your content but, like most of the controls on Facebook, you have to go through a maze of settings to do this. Most people don’t know that you can select only a group of friends to see an individual status update as opposed to allowing your entire friend-list to see it. Google+ makes it really easy to group people with their “circles” feature. When you add someone to your friends-list, you assign him or her to a circle. Now, every time you post something, you have the option to post it to all of your friends, specific circles, your extended circles (your friend’s friends) or to everyone on the Internet. The circles can get confusing though if you are used to the way Facebook handles adding people to your page. When you add someone as a friend on Facebook, you appear on his or her friend-list too. On Google+, just because I added someone to a circle on my page, doesn’t mean I am added to their circle. This allows for one way friendships. Someone can see what you post, if you allow them, but you never have to see their posts.

Users:

As of July 2011, there are 750 million active Facebook users. So far, Google+ has 20 million users. Considering the fact that Google+ is still a new site that still has the velvet ropes up (Google+ is invite only), 20 million users is impressive. The bad thing is, Facebook is where all my friends are. A social network is dependent on its users. I would like to spend more time on Google+ but there just isn’t much to do. It’s clear that people want to join Google+. The only thing holding it back now is this invite system. Google has a problem keeping their products in beta for years and right now, Google+ is very much a beta product. If we learned anything from “The Social Network” movie, you have to get there first. Facebook already beat Google+ when it comes to the race to get there first but that doesn’t mean Google+ cannot beat Facebook in the rematch by learning from Facebook’s mistakes. If Facebook keeps treating their users like they are now (controlling ownership of content and confusing privacy controls) than they will start to lose as users flock to other networks.

One Must Win, The Other Must Die:

Google+ and Facebook have loads of overlap. These two sites cannot coexist. A normal user does not need a Facebook page and a Google+ page. As it is right now, one of these sites has to do something impressive to set themselves apart.

For Facebook to beat Google+, they need to change their UI and make it a bit more exciting. They need to simplify their privacy controls and make it easy to understand how a user can choose what content they want to share with who. Facebook also has to stop thinking that something like a poorly designed message system and Skype integration via a Java app will keep them on top.

For Google+ to win, they need to, for the love of God, get Google+ out of beta and open the floodgates. People need to join the site without needing an invite. Google+ also needs developers to create new, exclusive games and applications. They also need to copy Facebook a bit and make it easy to private message someone and to post on their profile.

Personally, I like Google+ but I will continue to use Facebook since that is where my friends are. I would love for Facebook to take a hint from Google+ and change the UI to implement some of the HTML5 animations that make Google+ fun and interesting to use. No matter who wins, Google+ is a fantastic thing to happen to Facebook users. Google+ will force Facebook to make some much needed changes. If Facebook doesn’t change: well, we now have another place to go for our social networking needs…and I’m not talking about MySpace.

Google I/O Day Two 2011

Google I/O 2011Google’s second and last day of Google I/O was spent discussing Chrome, the browser and the operating system.

If you read my other posts, you will see that I am not an Android user and I do not agree with an open source OS for a massive mobile phone market. I do agree, however, with an open source browser.

Chrome speed

Credit: Google

First up in the presentation was Google discussing how far Chrome has come from last year. There are now 160 million active Chrome users. Chrome is also leading the way in terms of speed and HTML5. A new feature in Chrome 12 is Speech. This is pretty exciting stuff. Speech allows a user to speak their search term instead of typing it. Very similar to the Google Search mobile app which uses your voice to start a search. Google demoed the Google translator by saying “Welcome to San Francisco” and having it translate into Chinese with no typing needed. Imagine an Internet where you can say “Lady gaga Monster Ball” on a YouTube page instead of typing it into a search box. Well, depending on where you are or who you are, you might be better off typing something like that to avoid judgment.

Finishing up the Google Chrome section was a demo of the graphics and speed improvements in the latest version of the browser.

The Chrome Web Store: The Chrome Web Store is just like an app store on the smart phone you probably have right now. The only difference is the Chrome Web Store is a store for apps that run in the browser. The Chrome Web Store is now available globally. To be honest, I never visited the Chrome Web Store before today. I played “Poppit” which is a game I haven’t played in a very long time. It is interesting to have an app inside a browser but I’m not sure if I will ever decide to buy something from the Web Store. I’ll stick to the free apps like I do on my iPhone. Angry Birds fans will now be happy to know that they can play Angry Birds inside the Chrome browser for free.

Angry birds in Chrome

Credit: Google

The Chrome Web Store now allows developers to include In-App purchases (sound familiar?). Google is also taking a 5% cut in revenue for app purchases. Compare that to the 30% cut that Apple takes. Burn.

Chrome OS: Chrome OS is rather interesting. It is an operating system, just like Windows 7 or Mac OS X for example, but it is just a web browser. That’s it. No desktop, no applications, no screen savers, NOTHING but a web browser. If you cannot do it on a browser, you cannot do it on Chrome OS. Chrome OS does have a new file management software but it’s nothing like Finder on a Mac, but it’s something, I guess. My issue with Chrome OS is that is it completely dependent on an Internet connection. Some things do work offline (like Gmail and Google Calendars) but the majority of everything you will be doing on a computer running this operating system will need an Internet connection.

Google ChromebookThe biggest news was the release of information on the Chromebook, which is a laptop that runs Chrome OS. Starting on June 15th, you can get a Chromebook starting at $429 (the Samsung WiFi only model). Businesses/schools can basically rent these laptops for $28/$20 a month respectively.

For the past few hours, I have been thinking about how I would use a computer that only has a web browser. For one, I would not be able to do half of my school assignments. Even my web-based homework requires a website which does not work on Chrome. Photoshop, Illustrator, iTunes, iPhoto…forget about it.

There are some advantages to this cloud based computer OS. I can, in theory anyway, go to any computer running Chrome OS, log in with my Google information and that computer will get all of my data from the cloud and turn any computer into a clone of my personal computer that I have at home.  Once again though, I am not a huge believer in a machine that is dependent on the Internet.

Chrome OS and these new Chromebook’s are not for everyone. I am tempted to try one out but I am not purchasing a computer for $429 where I won’t be able to do 90% of my daily work. I think Google is 5 years too early with something like this. Chrome OS and Chromebook’s are a very interesting idea but it is not practical for the majority of people.

I do really like this video, though.

Google I/O Day One 2011

Google I/0 2011Let me start out by saying that I am not the biggest fan of Android. Though I prefer iOS, I am not an ignorant hater of Android since I am well aware of why a person would buy and enjoy having an Android device. I just so happen to enjoy living in a walled garden. I also enjoy knowing that every iOS device works and looks the same way. I also like the polished and sexy design of both the Apple hardware and iOS. That being said, here are my thoughts of the Google I/O day one keynote.

Android eating apple

Credit: Google

First off, thank god they packed all of these announcements and demos into a nice 54-minute presentation. This could have gone on forever but thankfully Google made this presentation bite sized. Speaking of bite sized: I love the image of the Android robot eating an Apple. Keep it classy, Google.

The first thing they showed off was widgets and I am a little embarrassed that widgets are still a big deal. The audience also seemed to like being able to stretch the Gmail widget but I didn’t find that something to hoot and holler about. Maybe it’s just a thing a guy like me doesn’t get.

Google also showed off using your Android tablet as a USB host, basically saying that you can import photos directly to it from a camera via USB. This is interesting and rather useful. Something less useful, however, was connecting a XBOX 360 controller to the tablet to play games. This is useful on a laptop but I don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to play a game with a game console controller on his or her tablet. Tablets are made to be lightweight, portable and hand-held. What douchebag is going to be sitting at Starbucks playing a game with their XBOX controller connected to their 10-inch tablet?  My main issue with Android is that they seem to have a lot of features that are included in the OS just because they can, not because anyone wants or will use those features.Ice cream sandwich

I’m sure you are aware of how Google names their OS’s: alphabetically with dessert names. This latest OS is called “Ice Cream Sandwich” which is laughable. “Ice Cream” would have been a bit better but adding the “sandwich” to it just made it childlike. Everything about Android is so fragmented, including their image. You have Motorola Droid, which “does”, which is branded as a robot that is totally bad ass but it is running an OS named after a dessert that melts in 80 degrees. Nothing says “I DO! I AM A ROBOT THAT WILL KICK YOUR ASS” like running an OS named after something found in 5 year olds lunch-boxes.

Google Music Beta

Credit: Google

The biggest announcement was Google’s Music Beta, which is a music cloud service that streams your music to the web and to your Android device. Nothing too impressive here. For a guy living in New York, I do not see the want/need for a cloud based music service, no matter if the provider is Amazon, Google or Apple. If you store your music in the cloud then you are at the mercy of your cell phone signal. I am on the subway underground for most of my commute, which is the time I listen to music. Why would someone like me store their music in the cloud and not be able to listen to music once they lose the signal? Sure, you can download songs from the cloud to be played offline but if that is the solution, why bother syncing your music to the cloud at all?

What Google and everyone is getting wrong is I don’t want to store my music in the cloud. I want it on my devices, ALL my devices without having to sync. Rumors are that Apple might be doing some sort of wireless iTunes model, which would be nice. I want my songs stored on my iPhone and my Mac, however, I want to buy a song on my iPhone and come home and have that song already on my Mac without having to connect that horrid white wire to my iPhone and waste a few minutes from my life waiting for it to sync. I hope Apple gets this right. Personally, I do not understand wanting to have music stored in the cloud unless you have a HUGE music library…and if you are outside with a strong signal ALL the time.

Android@home is something I am a bit more interested in. Using a tablet to control lights is quite futuristic. Having your lights change and interact with the game you are playing is pretty awesome. Imagine playing a game where all your lights go off when you die. Pretty cool stuff but once again, this is a lot more “we are doing this because we can, not because we should”. How many of us REALLY want our lights to be controlled by our gaming?

One thing that really impressed me was the Android@Home hub thingy that is basically a white ball which when you swipe a CD in front of it, it adds the entire CD to your music library. The only issue with that is: A CD? This would be way cooler if anyone still used CDs.

Overall, I was unimpressed with what I saw today. Last year, after seeing their keynote, I was ready to buy an Android phone (believe it or not) AND a Google TV. This year, I am very happy living in my Apple world with God Jobs looking over me.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that the Google Bakery Shoppe is more advanced than iOS. There are many things that Android phones do that I wish my phone did. However, for me to become an Android user the phones need to get sexier, the OS’s need to be less fragmented and sleeker, and Google needs to grab their Android balls and start taking control. I think we are learning that a massive open source OS is not the best thing. For example: malicious apps and carriers taking complete control over the devices. Wanna use Google search on a GOOGLE phone on Verizon? Good luck. Fragmentation