Week in review: Go go Google

The search giant is outgrowing expectations, while Apple releases its Leopard into the wild. Also: Finding some privacy on the Net.

Google is big and getting bigger.

Google's shares traded over the $700 mark this week, marking a new first for the Internet giant. Just a little more than three weeks ago, Google shares passed the $600 mark and analysts were speculating its shares could climb as high as $700 within the next year. Apparently, it's been a quick year.

The stock was up following reports that Google is in "serious discussions" with Verizon Wireless to put its mobile "GPhone" software on Verizon phones. For months, people have been speculating about the GPhone.

Most people believe that it's not a specific phone, but is more likely an operating system or software that integrates many of Google's mobile services, such as Web search, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps, onto phones made by existing handset makers. But more than simply integrating Google services onto handsets, the new Google mobile operating system is believed to be an open platform on which application developers would have free rein to develop a slew of new applications and services.

But, as CNET News.com's Marguerite Reardon points out, Google-powered phones will be useless unless the company can strike deals with mobile operators to allow them on their networks. T-Mobile USA is rumored to be the first U.S. operator that will sign on with Google.

CNET News.com readers expressed concern that Google's mobile applications would be limited to one or two handsets offered by a single carrier.

"Great! Another new phone designed to screw over American consumers by locking it down to just one cell phone provider. Is Google really that insensitive to the market and to consumers?"
-- CNET News.com reader

"Great! Another new phone designed to screw over American consumers by locking it down to just one cell phone provider," one reader wrote to the News.com TalkBack forum. "Is Google really that insensitive to the market and to consumers?"

In another move that was anticipated for weeks, Google has unveiled a set of application program interfaces (APIs) that allow third-party programmers to build widgets that take advantage of personal data and profile connections on a social-networking site. But instead of limiting the project to its own social-networking property, Orkut, Google has invited other sites along for the ride--including LinkedIn, Hi5, Plaxo, Ning, and Friendster.

Google's version of this "write once, run anywhere" concept is called OpenSocial, a set of common APIs that will enable developers to create applications for social networks, blogs, and any Web sites that accept the OpenSocial code. Currently, developers have to write new programs for each site, even if the functionality will be the same on each site.

This announcement illustrates how Google is courting developers and possibly attempting to outdo Facebook in openness. Facebook opened up its platform to developers in June and the site was immediately flooded with all sorts of useful and not-so-useful apps. Google, Yahoo, and others have been heavily espousing the beauty of open platforms and making moves to that end.

Leopard on the loose
Some 30 months after Apple released Tiger, it released the Leopard operating system into the wild--a little later than originally planned due to the company's work on iPhone. And while it wasn't exactly iPhone Day, several hundred Mac fans lined up for the launch in the pouring rain outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The line for Leopard appeared to be divided fairly evenly between rabid Apple fans and shoppers who'd figured they could stop by and pick it up quickly--and indeed, come launch time, the line moved fast as customers were ushered into a gauntlet of Apple Store employees (much like the iPhone launch in June) and directed straight to the cash registers when the doors opened at 6 p.m. (The scene was repeated in San Francisco, where hundreds of people lined up on Stockton Street to get their hands on the new OS.)

However, the installation process didn't always go as smoothly. Apple posted a support document over the weekend on its Web site addressing reports of interminable "blue screen" problems that caused some Mac users upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard no small degree of frustration.

Some attempts to upgrade to Leopard were stymied after the installation process was almost complete and users attempted to restart their machines. A long thread on Apple's discussion forums outlined the problems, in which their Macs would get hung up on the initial boot screen. That screen happens to be blue, inviting comparisons to the infamous Windows "blue screen of death" encountered when Windows crashes.

There are dozens of important new features in Leopard, perhaps most notably the Time Machine application that could make it easier for users to back up and restore their files. Backing up your files is generally a simple exercise with a external hard drive, but Time Machine is interesting because of the friendly way in which it lets you restore files, flying back in time (and space) to the last instance in which that file was saved.

 

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