Submitted by Jason Griffey on December 21, 2009 - 10:24am
The last quarter of 2009 has seen an absolute explosion of Google features, acquisitions, and apps. Here's a summary of the developments that I think have the most significance for libraries and librarians:
Google Chrome, the browser, was seemingly just the first step in Google's hope to make your web experience as fast as possible. Then, in November ChromeOS, a linux-based lightweight operating system designed for netbooks, was released. ChromeOS is, effectively, an entire operating system based around a browser. There is no access to a file-system (so no saving files locally), and all operations of the computer are synced to the cloud. All your settings, application favorites, bookmarks--any customization--travels with you from system to system. Given its security focus and the fact that most computing these days in libraries is focused around the web, and I think that ChromeOS, when it launches in 2010, could be a solid answer to computer lab issues that many libraries face.
Updates to the Google homepage
Most Google users have probably noticed that Google updated its homepage design to a clean white sheet, where the controls only fade in after you actively mouse over the browser window. It's a lovely way to reduce visual clutter, especially since most people hit the homepage and immediately start typing a query. But did you know that they changed the behavior of the search box as well? Try typing any simple math query into the search box...700 times 42234, for example. The answer will pop up in the area that is normally for "suggested" searches. You don't even have to hit search! Another similar feature is weather results. Try typing something like "weather in YOUR CITY HERE". If it can recognize your city (that is, if your city has a unique name) it will pop the weather right into the suggestion area.
Another new "suggest" feature is that Google will insert the URL of the page you are likely looking for, if it can ID said URL. For instance, if you want to go to CNN and you are on the Google homepage, you can type cnn and it will suggest cnn.com...one keystroke and you're there. It's a little thing, but it's an interesting predictive function. Imagine if our catalogs worked like this.
On the mobile front, Google pushed updates to Android phones that made them faster, included free turn-by-turn navigation, and generally started to compete with the iPhone on the smartphone front. One of the more interesting things on Android phones that was launched was an application called Google Goggles, which gives you the ability to do a Google search on an object simply by taking a picture of it. Photograph the front of a book, a logo, or really anything, and Goggles will try to figure out what it is and produce a search result set for you. It's pretty amazing.
These new features, along with a slew of other additions like Google's "Favorite Places", where Google is providing locations with QR codes that can be scanned to produce information about the place, shows us how Google is making moves to go from strictly managing electronic information to the "real world". Of course, now that they've arrive there, the want to see how they can recognize and index that as well.
2010 looks to be a huge year as well, with rumors of a GooglePhone, ChromeOS official launch, and more. I'm excited to see what they have in store for us.