<IT WORLD> Google's 'big daddy' gamble
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Google's ever-expanding digital tendrils reached a little
further this week as a new notebook featuring the company's Chrome operating
system hit the shelves. The Chromebook is essentially a laptop without a hard
disk, designed to be permanently online running software and data from Google's
The advantages of such a device are longer battery life, since there are fewer
moving parts, no installed operating system to keep updated and clean of
viruses and malware, no payments to Microsoft or Apple for upgrades, and no
problem if it gets stolen since all of the data is stored online.
On the flipside, however, is the idea of giving all your personal and financial
data to a company that derives 98% of its revenue from
advertising and knowing what its customers are doing on the web. Another major
consideration is security and connectivity. Google, among other high-profile
tech companies, has already been hacked in the past year, resulting in an
embarrassing security breach of its Gmail platform.
Additionally, if for whatever reason you cannot get online, the Chromebook
becomes a shiny $500 paperweight.
Samsung is the first company to launch the Chromebook, which weighs in at 1.5
kilograms and comes with a 16 Gigabyte solid state drive, Intel dual-core Atom
processor, and 12.1 inch display. Google has boasted an 8.5 hour continuous
usage battery life. Two versions are available, a WiFi model, which will retail
at $449, and a 3G version at $499. Acer will shortly be release its own
Chrome-branded WiFi-only notebook, which will sell for $380.
Initial product testing by various tech websites and blogs indicate that the
Chromebook has a very impressive startup time and battery life, has a MacBook
feel about it, and integrates perfectly with the Google online ecosystem -
providing you are familiar with it. The major complaint, as expected, is that
it is absolutely useless without a good WiFi connection; basic tasks such as
using a calendar or listening to music will not work unless the device is
connected to the Internet.
Google and Apple, with its recent launch of iCloud, are striving to push people
into online cloud-based computing, a drive that is likely to be motivated by
the desire to win consumers from Microsoft and its traditional desktop Windows
software, which still sits on nine out of 10 of the world's personal computers.
The Chromebook may be the device of the future, but on today's planet a
permanent, high-speed, reliable, and low-cost Internet connection still isn't a
sure thing for most people.
also made some tweaks to its web search and mobile search services this week. A
speech recognition function will be available to Chrome users, enabling them to
make Google searches by talking to their computer or mobile device. More
improvements were made to mobile search, which the company claims has increased
over the weekends when traditional web search declines.
At an event called "Inside Search", the company unveiled a new set of mobile
search icons to allow users to find local establishments such as restaurants,
attractions and gas stations. These are then displayed on a map and contact
details are revealed when the user requests more information. New tweaks were
also made to the search platform for tablet devices.
A search by image feature was added to the search engine; users can drag an
image into a search box to generate a list of results based upon the photo.
Hackers and activists took to the web to target the Malaysian government this
week in protest at increasing levels of censorship within the country.
According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, at least
41 of the 51 targeted government websites were disrupted by cyber attacks on
A notorious international group calling itself Anonymous posted a warning on
YouTube stating that it would target Malaysian government websites in a similar
fashion to the cyber attacks it carried out on Turkish government sites last
Web censorship has been on the increase in Malaysia, where the government has
recently blocked access to a number of sites including WikiLeaks, ThePirateBay,
and a number of television shows and movies.
The hacktivists called it an "erosion of human rights".
Computer giant IBM marked its 100th birthday this week by launching a year-long
global initiative that will see it pledge hundreds of thousands of dollars in
grants to employees for volunteer programs.
International Business Machines, or its predecessor, the Computing Tabulating
Recording Company (CTR), was founded on June 16, 1911, by financier Charles
Ranlett Flint. In its tumultuous history, IBM has invented and/or manufactured
a vast array of products and systems, including scales, time-keeping machines,
calculators, aircraft-tracking systems, barcodes, typewriters, magnetic-stripe
cards, random access memory chips, floppy disks, programing languages, and even
a chess champion super computer dubbed Deep Blue.
The company hit the mainstream market and became a household name in 1981 when
it introduced the IBM desktop personal computer with a processor from Intel and
a disk operating system (DOS) from a small company called Microsoft.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.