Make no mistake. Maps for iOS 6 is a great achievement for Apple. Starting from basically a blank slate and making some strategic acquisitions and partnerships (TomTom, Placebase, C3, Poly9, Waze) in map data, POI information and 3D fly-over images, Maps is amazing for what it does. On the other hand, comparing it to Google Maps, which has been around since 2004 and leverages the company’s experience and expertise in mapping, is going to leave Apple coming up short.
There are many new features getting introduced in the iOS 6 version of the Maps app, such as turn-by-turn navigation and a new “flyover” mode. But already many reviewers are missing the one thing that the new Maps doesn’t have: Google Maps data.
Instead, Apple’s mapping data is coming from vendors TomTom and Waze, with search data tied in to the Yelp location-based review service. And the new dataset may not just be lacking a little - there could be big gaps.
Which makes this a feature and data war. Who will have the best turn-by-turn navigation and the most useful innovation. And how will Apple complete their data set without using Google’s, which they have sworn to never use.
Of course, Google is firing back with their own update, on the same day Apple Maps is released. From the N.Y. Times Bits Blog:
The Google Maps for Android app (update) will make it easier to search for places on Android phones and personalize searches on maps. (It will also) sync across devices. Say you are making lunch plans and you search for a restaurant on your computer. Later, you pull out your phone to look up its location on Google Maps. If you were logged in to Google on your desktop computer earlier it will suggest the restaurant.
The battle begins with Google far ahead in terms of features and data, but Apple always has a strategy for winning and it usually involves a liberal arts twist. We can expect Google to continue its rapid improvement of Google Maps, like a car accelerating downhill. While Apple goes slowly uphill, working out the bugs in release one, then updating twice a year at their hardware and software Keynotes in September and January.
If you take that Google Plus has half the users of Facebook or 20% of their active users, and you take the current valuation of Facebook at $46 billion, does that mean Google Plus is worth $10-20 billion?
Did Google just pull $10 billion out of hat?
Certainly something to consider, especially as the site becomes more important to the company. It has been integrated across all of their products, including YouTube and Gmail, adding a layer of social to every Google site. Something that can bring about unexpected innovations, for example, users can +1 apps for Android phones. A great way to siphon off the best Android apps and something I expect Apple craves.
Facebook has finally answered the question that’s been bugging Wall Street and the rest of us, “when are you going to get mobile?”
Yesterday, the answer came as Facebook launched major upgrades to their iPhone and iPad apps. From the N.Y. Times Bits blog:
Those who have suffered from the sluggishness of the current apps can breathe a collective sigh of relief: these new versions are much faster.
The apps look nearly identical to their predecessors. The main difference is that most of their old Web-based code has been replaced with the native programming code used for iOS
Even more, Facebook has gone all Google Plus on the issue (you know Google making social everyone’s responsibility):
In recent interviews, Facebook executives said they have retooled the organization so that every product team is working on mobile, and the company holds weekly training courses on programming for Apple and Android devices.
The Verge is reporting that these updates make the apps twice as fast:
In building a native Facebook app for iOS, the company looked at improving three key places, “the app’s largest pain points” all relating to speed: launching the app, scrolling through the News Feed, and tapping photos inside the News Feed. “We’re twice as fast in all these areas,” Mick Johnson says.
I’ve been playing with the app and the claims appear to be true. This is good news for Facebook fans (and stock holders) because slow apps can be killer for growth.
**Sorry for the “native” joke, but I couldn’t resist
We are developing a nano-satellite, and mobile apps to go with it, as the focus for a global education and public outreach campaign. The satellite, called SkyCube, is a 10x10x10 cm “1U” CubeSat intended for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2013. Orbiting more than 300 miles up, on a path highly inclined to the Earth’s equator, SkyCube will pass over most of the world’s inhabited regions.
SkyCube will take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast simple messages uploaded by sponsors. After 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder. SkyCube’s balloon will make the satellite as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope or a first-magnitude star. You’ll be able to see it with your own eyes, sailing across the sky. But SkyCube’s balloon isn’t just for visibility. It will – within 3 weeks – bring SkyCube down from orbit due to atmospheric drag, ending the mission cleanly in a fiery “grand finale” that avoids any buildup of space debris.
$1 - Sponsors 10 seconds of the mission. You can broadcast one (1) 120-character message from the satellite.
$6 - Sponsors 1 minute of the mission. You can broadcast six (6) 120-character messages from space, and request one (1) image from the satellite.
$100 - Sponsors 15 minutes of the mission. An ideal family pack – we’ll send you two (2) SkyCube mission T-shirts! And you can broadcast one hundred (100) 120-character messages from the satellite, and request twenty (20) images from the satellite at any time during the mission.
$1,000 – Sponsors 2 hours of the mission – a great high school or university classroom sponsorship package. We’ll send you a radio receiver which you can use to detect transmissions from SkyCube and other satellites already in orbit! You’ll also get a flying SpaceX Falcon 9 model rocket, and twenty (20) SkyCube mission T-shirts. You can broadcast one thousand (1000) 120-character messages from space, and request up to two hundred (200) images from the satellite.
Here is an excerpt from a Marketplace interview on computer-focused summer camps, they’re surging in popularity:
Queena Kim: Aw…the sounds of summer. Families getting together for barbeques. The sound of BBQ sizzling. Dogs running around.
And 9-year-old Alex is plopped down on a lounge chair totally engrossed in his favorite iPad game, which prompts this from his dad:
Gary: Alex, lose the iPad!
Chances are, these words are being heard across the country. But a growing number of parents are taking the opposite tack.
Instructor: And this is the course that uses x-code so…
Welcome to ID Tech Camps. It started 13 years ago with 200 hundred campers in Silicon Valley. Today, ID Tech says it has about 23,000 campers in 25 states. One week at the camp can cost up to $1,400 — and that comes with the usual camp activities like swimming, games and nighttime pranks.
The early Digg was brilliant and honest and democratic. Each digg was a vote and each vote counted towards the ultimate objective: moving a story closer and closer to the top position on the Digg homepage.
Today, we vote on Facebook with every share and on Twitter with every tweet, and conversations take place across loads of different sites, apps, and networks. So how do we surface “what the Internet is talking about,” when the Internet is talking beyond the walls of Digg.com? We tear down the walls. When we launch v1, users will continue to be able to digg stories, but Digg scores will also take into account Facebook shares and tweets. Roll over any Digg score to see the breakdown. We’re excited to see how this new data can help us identify the best stories on the web.
Ikea prints 211 million copies of its product catalog every year. That’s more than 20 times the population of Sweden, the home of the build-it-yourself furniture empire. These are impressive numbers for a print catalog in a digital world, but Ikea is now changing with the times with a head-first dive into augmented reality.
“A lot digital stuff becomes very interesting when you mash it up with the tangible items of the real world,” said Andreas Dahlqvist, Global Deputy Chief Creative Officer of McCann, the creative agency behind the catalog.
Augmented reality features will roll out in the 2013 edition of the print catalog, which will arrive in customers’ mailboxes later this month. Amid pictures of Expedit bookshelves and Boksel tables, Ikea fans will see special printed symbols, each an invite to launch new iPhone and Android smartphone apps for an augmented reality experience.
When you wave your smartphone over pages with digital content, a variety of features appear.
Netflix continued the roll-out of its Just for Kids UI to a number of connected devices this week.
Upon launch, the app prompts viewers to either access the regular Netflix experience or Just for Kids. The kids section adds TV show characters as categories and allows children to find episodes of a show without relying on text. Check out a few snapshots of Just for Kids on the Boxee Box below.
Kids content is undeniably one of Netflix’s key strengths, and the company has been adding numerous kids TV shows from PBS, Nickelodeon and others to its catalog. In fact, Netflix has been so successful with the youngsters that some blame it for Nickelodeon’s recent double-digits ratings drop.
Did you ever dream about a future where your communications device could transcend language with ease?
Well, that day is a lot closer. Over the next few days, everyone who uses Gmail will be getting the convenience of translation added to their email. The next time you receive a message in a language other than your own, just click on ‘Translate message’ in the header at the top of the message:
and it will be instantly translated into your language:
Back when we launched automatic message translation in Gmail Labs, we were curious to see how people would use it.
We heard immediately from Google Apps for Business users that this was a killer feature for working with local teams across the world. Some people just wanted to easily read newsletters from abroad. Another person wrote in telling us how he set up his mom’s Gmail to translate everything into her native language, thus saving countless explanatory phone calls (he thanked us profusely).
Since message translation was one of the most popular labs, we decided it was time to graduate from Gmail Labs and move into the real world.
“Last Friday was my last day at the White House. As I begin my fellowship at Harvard University, I’d like to share my reflections on public service…”
So begins, Vivek’s 12-page summary of his time in the Obama administration (the full version can be found via Alex Howard’s GovFresh piece).
I’ve been a big fan of Vivek’s, since his days as the CTO of Washington, DC. When he was named the first Fed CIO, it was big news in the tech community, especially in DC.
Each and every move he made, we followed. You have to remember that during the Bush years the exciting news was that the White House press core “had a blogger” (not to mention Bush didn’t use email). Then Obama came into office full of blackberry, twitter, facebook, and web prowess.
Every geek in the nation was rooting for some gear to get into the White House. We wanted cell phones, laptops (Macbooks!), modern websites, social media, podcasts, etc.
In the midst of this Bush/Obama collision arrived Vivek, fresh off amazingly innovative programs in DC: real-time tracking of city projects, GIS for municipal services, and co-location of engineers in schools.
Then he hit the Federal bureaucracy.
On the first day “they handed me a stack of documents with $27 billion worth of technology projects…years behind schedule…millions over budget.”
“Those documents were what passed for real-time updates on the performance of IT projects. My neighbor’s ten-year-old could look up the latest stats of his favorite baseball player on his phone on the school bus, but I couldn’t get an update on how we were spending billions of taxpayer dollars while at my desk in the White House.”
That stack of documents became his fighting spirit. No IT professional could claim any cred if they worked off binders and printouts.
“…from a small, nondescript office in downtown Washington, we spent many long nights fueled by coffee, thinking big about how we could transform our Government through technology.”
“I was ready to embark on a technology revolution…that would crack down on wasteful spending; increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government; enable an open, transparent, and participatory democracy; advance the cybersecurity posture of the nation; and most importantly, improve delivery of citizen services.”
Yeah, he was on fire.
The first big step was to bring that same real-time tracking pioneered in DC to the Federal Government, which is a lot like going from a tricycle to a spaceship.
“The Federal Government is the largest purchaser of IT on the planet, with over $80 billion spent on over 12,000 systems every year…to shine a light on (that spending) we launched the federal IT Dashboard in June 2009.”
“The Dashboard is a website where people can monitor every IT project..as easily as they can monitor their personal investment portfolios. If a project is over budget, or behind schedule, the Dashboard tells you so – and shows a picture of the person in charge.”
You gotta love the picture of the person in charge. Imagine having your face next to a project that is $100 million over budget. In quick order they “saved $3 billion and cut the time to deliver projects in half.”
And then to show that good ideas have legs, they “open-sourced the IT Dashboard and released all of our training materials. Within hours, 38 states and multiple countries reached out to express interest in adopting it to improve transparency and accountability. It’s already been downloaded more than 2,500 times across the world.”
Within months we went from a President who doesn’t have email to open source code!
My favorite section from the piece is not the numbers and projects but the personal anecdotes that Vivek shares. It’s part of what, in my opinion, makes him such a great leader (and great person).
“I was born in New Delhi, India, and lived in Tanzania until I was eleven. I came to America in 1985…I couldn’t speak English when I first arrived. I recall my first days at school in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and seeing a couple of African American kids around my age. They reminded me of my friends in Tanzania, so I walked up to them and starting speaking in Swahili. I was promptly met by strange looks, so I started speaking even louder to make sure they understood me. I suspect they thought I was making fun of them because the next thing I knew, I was being beaten up. Not the warm welcome I was expecting.”
But back to the tech: we get to the biggest project of his tenure, cloud computing.
“With the economy facing the worst recession since the Great Depression, one program – Cash for Clunkers – provided rebates to people who traded in older cars for new, more fuel-efficient ones. But just three days after its launch, the system for processing these rebates collapsed.”
“One hot DC August night during the height of this mess, I emerged at 4 a.m. from the Department of Transportation after 14 straight hours working…to keep servers online and the site operational.
“When I was Director of Infrastructure Technology in Arlington County, I knew down to the street address where each of our data center facilities was located and what was in them. Yet when I asked how many data centers the Federal Government had, nobody could give me the answer.
“It took agencies eight months to produce an initial inventory of their data centers. All told, the number of Federal data centers has more than quadrupled since 1998, from 432 to more than 2000. Yet on average, they are only 27 percent utilized.
“That’s why the Federal Government is actively shutting down 800 data centers by 2015.”
As of now the Federal Government is moving full speed into the cloud.
Which, of course, brings up the security concerns. As more of our critical systems go online we face an increasing risk of cataclysm.
“From power plants to stock exchanges, hospitals to banks, our Nation’s critical infrastructure systems are increasingly wired and, as a result, increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks.”
Finally, the last of Vivek’s projects, transparency.
“In this approach we also need to be mindful, however, that security is used too often as an excuse to justify the Government operating in a closed, secretive, and opaque manner.
“We almost have an IT cartel that’s made up of a few companies that benefit from government spending because they understand the procurement process better than anyone else, not because they provide better technology.
His response was to re-create the Apps for Democracy program but in a bigger, more permanent way.
“…we threw open DC’s warehouse of public data so that everyone – constituents, policymakers, and businesses – could meet in a new digital public square. We started with 200 live data feeds – everything from government contracts to crime statistics to economic development. And to spur citizens to turn this data into applications that the government didn’t have the resources to create on its own, we launched the “Apps for Democracy” contest, offering prizes for the best applications based on the data we released.
“We ran Data.gov like a lean start-up. On day one, we launched with a Minimum Viable Product with only 47 datasets. Two years later, there are 389,907 datasets covering every government mission area, from health care to public safety.
“Data.gov has spawned a global movement – 21 nations, 29 states, 11 cities, and several international organizations have established open data platforms.
In many ways Vivek is not a traditional White House appointee. His projects were big but not flashy. They tackled the hardest problems big IT faces (spending, cloud, security, and openness) and did so in a lasting way. Each of these projects are now fundamental elements of the Federal Government, which is an awesome legacy.
Americans may not know his name or even understand his work, but in Vivek’s own words: “We saved billions in taxpayer dollars; we adopted game changing technologies; we strengthened the cybersecurity posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent, and participatory.”
A truly successful CIO.
Good luck to you, Vivek, in your new position:
“…my work at Harvard, focusing on how we can use information technology to solve our nation’s and the world’s most pressing problems.