Archive for Google
Android has emerged as one of the most popular operating systems in use today. That devices running Android has outsold all its competitors in 2013 is no doubt a good measure of its popularity, beating even Apple iOS in the process. The online search giant has now upped the ante claiming its mobile OS has proved to be the fastest to reach the top.
“I mean, look, in the history of operating systems, I think Android has been the quickest and most successful adoption of an operating system in the world. So you just sort of stop, take pause and say, oh my God, that’s crazy. Nobody could have ever predicted that we’re going to get an operating system adopted in an industry, which has so many different OEMs, manufacturing with their own operating systems having adopted around the world,” said Nikesh Arora, senior vice president at Google while speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
First acquired by Google in 2005, Android (the company also of the same name) has since seen several upgrades. However, as stated by Google, the OS first attained a level of maturity from the Ice Cream Sandwich version. The OS then attained newer heights with the upgrade to Jelly Bean which continues to be the most used version of Android so far. Google has since launched the Android KitKat version, the most recent so far.
However, to completely ignore Apple’s iOS when discussing the most successful of mobile OS’s will be just half the story told. Apple devices such as the iPad and the iPhone continue to be the single largest tablet and smartphone brand respectively, outselling any of its Android competitors by a healthy margin. It’s just that the iOS got swamped by an operating system that is based on a completely different business strategy. Android is doled out free enabling any manufacturers to use it as per their will. In contrast, Apple maintains a vice like grip over iOS and is the only maker of gadgets based on it. In any case, it will be interesting to see how things pan out now that Android has proven to be more popular than iOS.
Android tablets are out on top, beating Apple for the first time ever and by a comprehensive margin. Figures revealed by analysts Gartner show that Apple has had a 36 percent share of the tablet market in 2013, almost half that of the 62 percent share that Android has had for the same period. Android accounted for 121 million tablet sales in 2013, compared to 70 million iPads sold. In all, 195 million tablet devices were sold in 2013.
For Apple, the results were in spite of registering a growth over its 2012 sales where 61 million iPads were sold. That number translated to a 53 percent share of the tablet market. For the same period, Android accounted for 46 percent share of the tablet market, or 53 million tablets.
Apple can still take consolation from the fact that the iPad continues to be the single largest tablet brand, outselling others by a comfortable margin. Samsung came in second, having sold 37 million tablets to equal a 19 percent market share, a huge improvement over the 7 percent market it had in 2012. Asus made up the third slot, having sold more than 11 million tablets, which comes to 5.6 percent share. Surprisingly, Amazon, who started the affordable tablet race, managed to sell just about 9 million tablets in 2013. Its market share dropped to 4.8 percent from 6.6 percent in 2012, making it the only manufacturer among the top 5 to record negative growth rate.
As for reasons behind the rise of the Android tablet, it is the emergence of low cost entry level tablet options that appears to have done the trick. For the first time, consumers had a lot of affordable tablet devices to choose from. Fortunately for them, these tablets offered decent specs in spite of the relatively cheap price tag. In contrast, the iPad caters to the premium segment that makes it within the reach of a distinct class of consumers. However, the challenge before Android is to ensure the huge user base who has invested in an Android tablet gets to have an endearing user experience so that they remain within the Android fold.
Further, both Apple and Google will have to watch out for a resurgent Windows platform that has registered growth in 2013. Though still quite insignificant with 2.1 percent market share and 4 million tablet sales, it could make for a much better performance in 2014 on the back of rumors of a thoroughly improved Windows 9. Also, the emergence of improved low power chips have led to better acceptance of Windows tablet which is poised for a take off if Microsoft gets its act together in providing for an enhanced software experience over Windows 8.1.
Android and malware seem to like each other very much, but Google is about to spoil it. The search giant is in the process of launching an update for its Play Services that will make is difficult for mischief makers to inject malware-infected apps into the Google app store. An update to Android’s Verify Apps function will now be made to work 24/7. Verify Apps will now be scanning apps at all times behind the scenes to find out if there are any issues to be dealt with. This will no doubt be a good thing given the popularity of the Google platform and recent reports that Android has the highest susceptibility to malware attacks.
The Verify Apps function was first introduced with Android 4.2 version but it would only verify an app when it went live at the Google Play Store or when an update was made available. Verify Apps will also look for issues in apps that a user might have installed directly and not via the official Google Play Store. It will search for known trouble making codes and when a match is found, it will notify the user via warning messages.
According to Google, it will be relevant for almost 99 percent of devices running Android. While some developers choose to bypass the Google strategy of matching apps against known codes by launching some advanced codes, these no doubt will eventually get caught once Google becomes aware of the malicious codes. Now it comes down to how often Google updates its own database of malicious codes. In any case, this is an excellent development considering the threat level associated with Android.
If 2013 was the year of tablet devices, it’s wearable smart devices that are proving to be big in 2014. There has been a mad rush to offer smart wearables, be it smartwatches, fitness tracking bands, and smart glasses like Google Glass. Now, Digitimes reports that upstream supply chain manufacturers have increased production of components that go into the making of smart devices.
Suppliers also claim to have received requests to increase R&D in technologies pertaining to smart wearables from front line companies such as Google, LG Electronics, Samsung, and Apple. Samsung has already launched a trio of Galaxy Gear smartwatches and fitness trackers while Google has made substantial investments in the field, having acquired several companies with a presence in the smart wearable segment. LG and Apple are yet to delve into the new segment, though the Cupertino-based company is already rumored to be in an advanced stages of developing a smartwatch.
Some of the suppliers confirm their rising interests in bendable components, which no doubt indicates a wave of wearable devices coming out soon; another trend is a growing interest among manufacturers to target the fitness segment with suitable smart devices.
Close on the heels of Google having to deal with some uncomfortable tax evading accusations in Europe, the search giant is facing a somewhat similar scenario in South Africa as well. Google has drawn the ire of the local media company Naspers, which has accused the company of following unscrupulous business practices in the African nation by not only denying the country its rightful share of taxes but also making it difficult for the domestic publishing industry to remain competitive.
“Google clearly has a dominant position in the South African market and local digital publishers would benefit if the playing fields were leveled, making global companies abide by the same rules, price structures and economics faced by smaller local businesses. In the digital age, we accept that we compete with businesses from all over the world. However, it is clearly wrong that, as we invest in building a taxpaying business employing hundreds of South Africans, we are competitively disadvantaged through aggressive tax-planning strategies of global businesses,” says 24.com CEO Geoff Cohen.
Google is estimated to have caused the national exchequer a loss of R140 million per year in corporate taxes. Rough estimates put the loss to another R100 million in PAYE.
Google has denied the allegation, saying it follows South Africa’s tax laws and those of every other country where it has set up operations. The company further argued that the onus is on its advertisers to report and remit value-added tax (VAT). While current laws cannot hold Google accountable for reporting VAT, that is set to change April 1 as digital goods suppliers and services will be brought under the reach of VAT.
Google further stated it also helps the domestic publishing industry to grow by driving traffic to their sites via organic search results, as well as through Google news.
24.com, which happens to be Nasper’s online publishing arm, is not convinced and is seeking changes in the current tax system to make companies like Google accountable. “Considering the rapid growth rate of digital advertising, it remains to be seen whether, and if, South African tax legislation will be amended quickly enough to adapt to this critical issue,” said 24.com sources.
However, it will be interesting to note that this isn’t the first time that Nesper has hurled allegations against Google. The South Africa-based media company had earlier taken Google to court in Poland and Brazil on similar charges. The matter is sub-judice in Brazi, even though Google won the first round there.
Google has been up to some interesting changes in its hardware division. While its decision to sell off the Motorola smartphone segment to Lenovo tops the list, there also are a few rumors that are worth paying attention to. First is the rumor that Google is contemplating killing off the Nexus brand as a whole, to be replaced by Google Play Edition devices.
However, while that isn’t expected (if at all it happens) before 2015, there are also some who believe Google might launch an 8 inch Nexus branded tablet. That idea stems from a recent revelation by Taiwan based upstream supply chain makers who claim Google is likely to launch the 8 inch Nexus by late April. Also, as reported in Digitimes, there will be 2 million devices to start off with.
While that is yet to be confirmed officially, what can’t be denied is that it makes a lot of sense to have an 8 inch in your tablet portfolio. The 7 inch tablet segment has come under increased competition from the smartphone segment that has been steadily growing in size, so much that we even have a 6.4 inch device in the form of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra that offers calling capabilities; HP has 6 and 7 inch Voice Tablets that allow for voice calling, too. This has made manufacturers of 7 inch tablets to take refuge in 8 inch sized devices. This may have also led to a less than stellar run at the market for the Nexus 7 2013, so the Nexus 8 is believed to be a safe bet in such a scenario.
With consumer focus shifting towards smart wearable devices, Google that has already made a head start in this segment with the Google Glass device is now keen to build up a sizeable presence in this segment. the above assertion stems from the search giant’s recent decision to acquire Nest Labs in a deal worth $3.2 billion. Nest labs right now can boasts of just smart devices in the ir product portfolio, a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm device and a thermostat, which makes us wonder what direction Google is believed to be charting towards to fuel their ‘smart’ aspirations.
Worth mentioning here, Google had earlier acquired Deep Mind Technologies for $550 million. In contrast to Nest, Deep Mind deals with artificial intelligence and the development of general algorithm that would make it easier to imitate human intelligence and behavior. However, the generality of the company’s area of expertise again makes us wonder what smart device can be expected from Google next. It can be anything from a smartwatch which happens to be the current craze among tech companies to showcase their futuristic ambitions or even the next gen version of Google Glass. A smart health monitoring system can’t be ruled out either, another segment that is beginning to gain prominence off late as people become increasingly health conscious.
However, what seems certain is that smart device does seem to be the future with plenty more activity to be witnessed here in the coming days. Keep watching!
Lenovo hopes to enter the ultra competitive North American market by agreeing to terms with Google for Motorola. The entire deal is the largest in Lenovo’s history and will cost them $2.91 billion dollars. The deal with Google is the second one in the last few weeks, as the Chinese company bought IBM’s low-end server business for $2.3 billion.
Google originally bought Motorola in 2011 for a staggering 12.2 billion dollars. The main reason they did it was for the patents that had, which they will use to fight off companies trying to slam them with licensing fees. According to a Nomura analyst, Microsoft’s comprehensive Android licensing agreements with smartphone companies earned it nearly $2 billion this financial year.
When this deal goes through, Lenovo will the 3rd largest handset manufacturer in the US. One of the big proponents of the deal is Motorola’s existing agreements with retailers and carriers, that instantly gives the Chinese manufacturer a broad reach into mobile markets all over the globe. They will also keep the existing executive team that is based out of Chicago and has publicly acknowledged their confidence.
“The acquisition of such an iconic brand, innovative product portfolio and incredibly talented global team will immediately make Lenovo a strong global competitor in smartphones. We will immediately have the opportunity to become a strong global player in the fast-growing mobile space,” said Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo. “We are confident that we can bring together the best of both companies to deliver products customers will love and a strong, growing business. Lenovo has a proven track record of successfully embracing and strengthening great brands – as we did with IBM’s Think brand – and smoothly and efficiently integrating companies around-the-world. I am confident we will be successful with this process, and that our companies will not only maintain our current momentum in the market, but also build a strong foundation for the future.”
Samsung is prepping a Galaxy Tab version to be used almost entirely for educational purpose. The announcement was made at the FEC 2014 event and will be aimed at students in the K12 level. The launch of the tablet is in line with the Google Play for Education program that so far includes the Nexus 7, ASUS Transformer Pad, and the HP Slate 8 Pro devices. The 10.1 inch Galaxy Tab will be the newest addition to the list and will be made available in April, that is before the 2014-15 academic year commences. The Samsung tablet will also be the second choice in the 10 inch category for students to consider, the other being the Transformer Pad.
However, with the device essentially being the Galaxy Tab 3, the biggest change will be with the software which has been tweaked enough to allow for a simple setup process and device management along with ease of ‘access to curated educational content, and other features to support dynamic, digital teaching and learning’, the press release revealed. Onboard will be the latest Android 4.4 KitKat version, something that regular users of the tablet too will be all too eager to have on their devices.
However, the company is yet to reveal the price of the tablet which will be made available only to schools and in bulk.
Android may be accounting for a phenomenal growth in the mobile segment though all of that is fraught with risks of being infected with malware, warns senior vice president of marketing at Apple, Phil Schiller. Quoting Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report, the Apple executive pointed out that Android alone accounted for an unprecedented 99 percent malware threat in 2013. The same for iOS is an almost insignificant less than 1 percent considering there are others like Windows and Blackberry in the scene as well.
What should be even more worrisome for Google and users of its Android platform is that its vulnerability to attacks from malware has only increased over the years, having grown from 79 percent in 2010-12 as mentioned in the Mobile Threat Report, Q4 2012 from F-Secure. In contrast, Apple can be considered to be holding steady in the face of malware attacks which is said to have compromised just 0.7 percent of iOS devices as mentioned in F-Secure’s survey for the period 2010-2012.
The latest Cisco report also mentions that Java is open to 91 percent web exploits. Further, it is Trojans that has turned out to be the primary source of worry, accounting for 64 percent of malware with adware making up a smaller 20 percent. The report also stated that it is malware Andr/Qdplugin-A that has been found to have infiltrated the most on Android device. The malware is introduced via a legal app not listed at the official Google Play Store but on other Android app stores. The report also highlights the fact that Android users would be better off to source all of their app requirements from the Google Play Store than from third-party app stores.
The above no doubt will enhance the appeal of iOS devices even more as a stable, secure and safe platform compared to Android that might be raking in the numbers right now but is more prone to online malware threats.
In what can be considered as a boon to those who rely more on cross-platform apps and services, Google has made available another of its service, Google Play Movies and TV on iOS. This will enable users of the iPad and iPhone to play back movies and TV shows that they have bought from the Google Play Store.
However, while the above development can be considered to be one in the right direction, there still are a few issues to be wary of. These include the inability to playback movies when offline or on the go. This since the new app only supports streaming over a wi-fi connection and won’t sync to allow playback in offline mode. This no doubt can dent the prospect of the Google service against Apple’s own iTunes that allows both offline playback and video streaming while on the go. In addition, there also is the restriction of in app purchase which is understandable considering this would entitle Apple to seek a share of all sales made.
All these issues notwithstanding, the app looks almost the same as their Android counterpart. Further, the movies downloaded quickly enough while the quality too is top notch. In any case, the new app that enables Google Play Movies and TV Shows to be viewed on iOS devices can still be a boon to those who have invested considerably on Google Play Movies and related media ecosystem. For movie buffs, Apple’s own iTunes still steals a march over the Google service so far as iOS devices are concerned.
A new report by app analysis firm Distimo has brought an interesting revelation, that freemium apps are far more popular than anything else. Freemium apps are those that are available free, though users are required to pay to enjoy advanced services or features. It appears that is how users tend to spend, with an overwhelming 98 percent of revenue in the Google Play Store coming from freemium apps. The same goes for Apple’s app store at an equally impressive though slightly lower 92 percent. Both figures mark a healthy improvement over the 77 and 89 percent that freemium apps once contributed to the Apple and Google app stores respectively. The research further revealed that freemium gaming apps specifically contributed more to the revenue stream for both the app stores than anything else.
The research also revealed that Asian markets have emerged as top contributors to the app store, with South Korea leading the way while the US continues to be among the most lucrative app markets for both Android and iOS platforms. The growth rate is an astounding 759 percent for South Korea, followed by China and Japan with respective growth rates of 280 and 245 percent.
As for their ability to bring in cash for their respective companies, the Apple App Store continues to be at the top while the Google Play Store has managed to narrow down the gap considerably over the year. As pointed out by the Distimo research, Apple made more than $18 million from its top 200 apps a day in November 2013, which compares favorably against $12 million that Google made from its Play Store. However, Google has made a more comprehensive improvement considering the corresponding figures a year ago were just $3.5 million compared to $15 million for Apple.
Similar research from mobile analytics firm App Annie pertaining to November 2013 has come up with interesting findings, claiming dating and cartoon creating apps to be doing quite well for Apple App Store. Dating apps Zoosk, Badoo, Grindr and AdoptAGuy are among the top ten most profitable non-gaming iOS apps, while MomentCam and Bitstrips are among the top two most downloaded iOS apps. The App Annie report also mentions Chinese firm Tiny Piece has proven to be the top publisher of kids’ gaming apps for November.