Category Archives: google

…and then everything changes

Over the last couple of months, on some of the learning technology mailing lists I belong to there has been a lot of discussion about tablets. Despite the fact that it dominates the market, considered by many to be an industry standard, popular with consumers and revolutionised the tablet market; there was a significant number of respondents on the mailing list who had decided that the iPad was not the right device for their learners and/or institution and were looking for some other tablet.

There were also others on the list who felt that the iPad was an expensive toy…

This attitude does surprise me slightly as, yes though Apple usually do charge more for their devices (and I guess this is where that attitude comes from) when it comes to the iPad they are one of the cheapest tablets on the market.

Yes, you can buy cheap Android tablets from Amazon, but in terms of comparable specifications, I have found that most Android Tablets are just as “expensive” as the iPad, if not more so… The Motorola Zoom for example was £499, though now it is only £350.

When it comes to WIndows tablets, Microsoft recently said in their Surface announcement that the price would be comparable with other Ultrabooks. Most Ultrabooks are in the £800-£1000+ price point, significantly more expensive than the iPad.

The newest iPad is £399 and you can get last year’s model for £329. Yes you will need to pay more for increased storage and more for 3G, but the same can be said for Android devices.

In terms of functionality, it is quite normal for someone to explain loudly how limited the iPad is and how much more functionality other tablet devices or Windows netbooks have.

The iPad 1 didn’t have a camera, the iPad 2’s camera is poor quality. There is no USB port on the iPad, no way to add external USB storage. The screen resolution is poor, it doesn’t play DivX natively out of the box. There is no Flash player on the iPad, nor Silverlight. The OS is locked down, you can’t install any app on the iPad, you can’t tweak the OS, it doesn’t run Office! The on screen keyboard is “unusable” and you can’t plug in a USB keyboard… etc… etc…

Then the “virtues” of other devices are added into the conversation. It has a proper keyboard, removable battery, proper USB port, good camera and it supports Flash!

The problem with these arguments is that they often fail to take into account usability and the user experience. The reason that people like the iPad is very little to do with the hardware, but how the operating system works and their own user experience. The iPad is responsive and meets users’ expectations.

A week ago my recommendation for a tablet would have to be the iPad.

A week later, well a lot can happen in a week, and it did this week. It was a week that everything changed.

What changed?

The Google Nexus 7 was announced.

Now it will be a few weeks before someone like me can get their hands on it, but this is the first Android Tablet that I think can be a real game changer when it comes to using tablets in education.

Firstly it sounds incredible value for money, just £159 for the 8GB model, £199 for 16GB.

It looks great and hopefully with Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, this will be a mature tablet operating system that just works, and works just as well as iOS does on the iPad.

If this tablet is as well tweaked as the Google Nexus One was then this is going to be one useful tablet. The initial reviews talk of fast performance, beautiful screen. The only real failing is that 8GB is way too small! So if you are going to buy one, go for the 16GB model.

I’ll be honest I have been meaning to buy an Android tablet for a while now. Most of the really cheap ones didn’t even run the tablet only version of Android, Honeycomb, but only ran 2.2, Froyo. Those that did run Honeycomb were quite expensive and in most cases more expensive than the iPad! I really quite liked the look of the Sony Android tablet devices, but the reviews were quite scathing, saying they were sluggish and not powerful enough. They soon dropped in price too, indicating poor sales.

Things have changed recently, but I really do like the idea of the Nexus 7 and like the fact it will be running Jelly Bean the latest version of Android OS. So as they say, watch this space.

Top Ten Web Tools of 2011


This is the fourth time I have posted my top ten web tools of the year. Looking back over 2008, 2009 and 2010 it’s interesting to see what new web tools I am now using, which old ones have been left on the shelf and the web tools I still use.

There are still a few services that I like or use irregularly that didn’t make the top ten. I used Foursquare for a while, I then did a podcast with David Sugden and after that I never used it again….

Facebook and Linkedin I just don’t use and so aren’t in the list, but I hear they are quite popular…

I did use Prezi this year to demonstrate it, but have not yet used it in anger so it’s not in my top ten either.

Delicious has had a few upheavals this year and drops out of my top ten, I do still use it, but it had lost some of the core functionality that made it so useful in the past.

I still like Screenr, but don’t use it as much as I think I should and I would like too. The same can be said for Audioboo. These are two tools that I really like, but don’t use much or use them effectively. I may use these better in 2012.

TinyGrab which was in my top ten last year also had problems, so that got dropped and I went with another tool.

Posterous dropped out too, however the only reason was that I decided to host my own blog on my own server, it’s still a great service. Spaces is pretty interesting too.

Google Docs dropped out of my top ten after been in for the last three years. Looking over the documents from the last year I realised how little I was using it. It’s a great collaborative tool and that was my primary use, but for lone document working I realised looking back that I now had a different workflow, so Google Docs dropped out.

There are other web tools I do use now and again and I am sure there are some peoples’ favourites I have missed off, so let me know in the comments what web tools you are using.

10. Evernote

I really do like Evernote and I use it a lot for making notes. I really like the mobile applications on the iPad and the iPhone (and Android) and I really like how I can make audio notes and photographs of notes. I am sure it would be much higher if I used it more effectively and my plan for 2012 is to become more organised and systematic on not only how I make notes, but how I use and share notes.

9. SlideShare

Though most of my presentations (as in the slides) rarely make sense on their own, the use of SlideShare does allow me to easily show them on my blog alongside the audio recording. This is often quicker and easier than trying to match the two up myself and I can let others choose how they want to listen and view the presentation.

8. WordPress

I have been using WordPress for a fair while and though I swapped to my own host over a year ago now I still think WordPress.com is a great starting place for a blog. My own blog is self-hosted, in other words I bought a web hosting service on which I have installed the WordPress software. This has given me flexibility in how I manage the blog. Having said that I still subscribe to various WordPress.com services including VideoPress and storage. Much easier for example to have the podcast files on the WordPress.com server from a bandwidth perspective than to have them on my own server. I do like the VideoPress service, but I think other video services have now caught up, but I like the fact that I have much more control over the videos on VideoPress than say on YouTube or Vimeo.

7. Skitch

My main screengrabbing software use to be TinyGrab, it allowed me to quickly grab parts of the screen, upload them to a website and copy the URL to my clipboard, making it very easy them to paste a link to a screen grab in Twitter or Facebook. However problems with the TinyGrab software meant that I looked for an alternative. I had forgotten that I had an alternative already installed on my Mac, part of a MacHeist deal or similar called Skitch. This is a great piece of software that not only allows you to grab part of the screen, but you can also annotate it with text, arrows and other shapes. Really quick and easy to use, you can either then save the image, or upload it and share the link. I really do like it and it has made explaining stuff easier because I can do it visually.

6. Instagram

I have been using Instagram since it came out in 2010, well I started using it about a week after it was released. Over 2011 I used it a lot more and have posted nearly five hundred images to Instagram. One aspect that I do like is the social aspect. With any social app the key is the community, now that many more people I know are using Instagram, the social aspect, even though it can only be accessed from the phone is much better and more social. I do like the multi-posting ability, so usually not only will I post to Instagram, I also post a link to Twitter and upload the image to Flickr. As for the photographic effects, I know it is possible to do much better with PhotoShop and even Snapseed on the iPad is superior, however the filters on Instagram are not there to be the perfect photorgraphic filter they are there to add a little something to the photographs you take and to have a bit of fun with. To think that Instagram is a serious photographic app really does miss the point of the app; it’s fun and it’s social, enjoy it for that and not as a photographic app.

5. Flickr

I now have over 4,500 photographs on Flickr and though (in total) Flickr does not come anywhere close to the number or quantity of photographs uploaded to Facebook, I still much prefer using Flickr for uploading, but also for finding photographs for use on the blog or in presentations. It is so easy to find great photographs and so many are CC licensed making it also legal to use them too.

4. Flipboard

Flipboard has become my primary RSS reader and in many ways I also use it to browse Twitter and Facebook. The iPad app has made it so much easier to flick through and browse the news, the social news and even images. I’ve not really used the iPhone version yet, but the iPad is a key way in which I can keep up with what is going on.

3. Twitter

Twitter was my number one web tool for the last two years and this year it has dropped two places. It is still a really useful tool.

I usually access Twitter via Osfoora on the iPhone and on the iPad. On my computer I will generally use the web interface.

So what do I get from Twitter?

Well the key thing is a community of practice from which I can get curated and useful information from. I can ask them questions and offer points of discussion to see what they think. I also find it a useful source of news and links, much easier in some respects than RSS feeds, a more personalised approach.

I post lots of stuff to Twitter, yes I do feed into Twitter posts from my blog, photos from Instagram and other stuff. This is stuff I do want to share with my community and my view is that if you don’t like this then don’t follow me. However I do try and keep my posting of links to my stuff to a minimum, I try whenever possible to only post links to my blog only once to my Twitter stream. I know that this means people may miss that link, but I also know that clicking on links to blog posts I have already read are annoying. Twitter is a key tool for me with the conversations I have with my fellow learning technologists, e-learning specialists and library professionals. However one of the reasons it has dropped a couple of places is that I don’t think the conversations I am having there are as good as I am having in a different place…

2. Google+

Straight in at number two for me is Google+ and the reason is the quality of the conversation. I never really found Buzz or Wave useful, but Google+ seems to have worked well for me in 2011, much more so than Twitter. I am unsure if this will continue, a lot will depend on how the community use and continue to use Google+ as a service. I think the main reason I like it, is that it reminds me of Jaiku, which was my number one web tool back in 2008 (back then it beat Twitter). I like the fact that I can have a threaded conversation and people can easily join in. I hope it continues to work and be useful, but we will have to wait and see.

1. Dropbox

Well my number one web tool has been one that isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! I use to really love the concept of Apple’s iDisk, but it never worked for me, either it was too slow to be a useful cloud storage, or if syncing seemed to sync either really slowly or would forget to sync! What I like about Dropbox is that it is fast and reliable. So much so that if I have to move files from my laptop to my desktop on my home network, I usually use Dropbox as it “appears” to be faster than trying to move a file between shares across the network, and Dropbox moves the file via the internet… Virtually all my working files are now on Dropbox and I have it installed on my home and work machines. I use it for sharing files across my mobile devices and for sharing files with others when e-mail doesn’t cut the mustard. The main reason Dropbox is my number one web tool is that it just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.

Top Ten Technologies of 2011

This is the fourth time I have posted my top ten technologies of the year. Looking back over 2008, 2009 and 2010 it’s interesting to see what new technologies I am now using, which old ones have been left on the shelf and the technologies I still use.

What was interesting this year was how little change there was from last year, as though my personal technologies have settled down. There is no iPhone 4S for example in this year’s list. I keep thinking about upgrading my 3GS to the 4S, but keep putting it off.

There were a few technologies that nearly made it to the list. I really like my Apple TV and it’s a great tool for streaming content to my TV. However I really don’t use it as much as I thought it would. Without content providers such as BBC iPlayer or 4OD it’s not as useful as it could be. No cameras in my list this year, I do use my Canon DSLR a fair bit, though my Sony stills camera has spent very little time out and about. I still miss my Koday Zi8 which went missing in 2010, but the fact that I haven’t replaced it says a lot.

Will be interesting to see what is in my 2012 list.

10. Tricaster

The Tricaster makes a re-entry into my top ten, it was number six in 2009.

So you need to shoot video? You need to stream video? You need to record video? You need more then one camera? You want graphics, you want presentation slides, you want to screenshare? Though there are a plethora of tools out there for shooting and recording video, screen captures, presentations; most then require you to edit the footage before sharing. One of the things I wanted to do was to do all that, but do it live!

The Tricaster makes a comeback this year as it was the tool I used for ALT Live Beta, an experiment at ALT-C 2011 in which we broadcast live backstage video from the conference. It was a lot of fun and was well received by those who couldn’t attend the conference (and by a fair few delegates who were).

9. Blue Snowball Microphone

I have been recording this year again, not just e-Learning Stuff podcasts, but also symposia and other discussions. The Blue Snowball Microphone is certainly a key tool for this. I also use it at home for Skype and making recordings.

The main downside is that the size of the microphone makes it less than ideal for taking to events and carrying in a bag. However the quality of recordings means that I am more keen to use this then any other microphone.

It is lower down the list this year, in the main as I used it less. It is however still an essential tool for me.

8. Edirol R-09HR

The Edirol has appeared in my top ten for the last four years. it’s enduring quality has to be down to the fact it is that it still a brilliant job. It records fantastic audio in WAV or MP3 format to an SD card and uses AA batteries. Still a great technology and does what it says on the tin really well.

7. i7 iMac

People often ask me why I buy Macs, well the i7 iMac is a testament to why I do. I bought my i7 iMac in 2009 and was really impressed, it was my number two in my top ten in 2009 and was also in the top ten in 2010. It’s in the top ten again. Why, well for a computer that is over two years old it is still a really powerful computer that does everything I throw at it. It’s great for video editing, audio editing, video recording, encoding, all that web stuff, office tools and so much more. I use it virtually every day for a whole range of tasks. It’s one powerful machine and I don’t expect to replace it for at least a year, probably two, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I was still using it in 2015!

6. Kindle

I got my Kindle in 2010 and I was impressed with how easy it was to use, to get books and importantly read. Supported by the excellent Kindle app on the iPad, I am using Kindle much more for reading these days.

5. iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 is an amazing smartphone and was what the iPhone should have been from day one. The camera is excellent, and great for taking stills and video. The retina display still astounds me in terms of the visual quality, especially when I drop back to the 3GS (which drops out of the top ten this year). The key advantage of the iPhone for me is the sheer number of apps and the quality and quantity have changed how I use a phone. iOS 5 has improved the user experience, for example notifications (very Android like) are so much better.

I do think the iPhone 4 is one of the best phones I have ever used and I am really pleased with it. However the reason why it has dropped a few places is that it fails now and again as a phone for making phone calls. I have also had some signal issues failing to get a decent 3G signal.

4. Google Nexus One

The Google Nexus One is getting a bit long in the tooth for an Android phone these days, it’s stuck at Gingerbread, there is no Ice Cream Sandwich for the Nexus One (which is a pity). However Gingerbread means that I can use my phone as a portable wireless hotspot so the MiFi stays in the bag and I returned my 3G USB dongle over a year ago now. Another reason why the Nexus One is higher in the top ten was the integration with Google+ and I do like Google+. The main reasons that the Nexus One is higher in the top ten that the iPhone 4 is the fact that it is a better phone for making phone calls. Also I seem to get a better 3G signal on the Nexus One than I do on the iPhone, though that may be down to T-Mobile on the Nexus One over O2 on the iPhone. On quite a few occasions I have used the portable wireless hotspot on the Nexus One to provide internet connectivity to the iPhone (and that can’t be right). I will say I prefer the app experience on the iPhone, but that’s not to say the apps on the Nexus One are awful, no they are really good, but my preference is for iOS.

3. BT Infinity FTTC

My fibre connection was in my top ten last year and over the last twelve months I have been very pleased with the stability and speed of the connection. Rarely, well once or twice, I have had an issue with bandwidth (dropping to a still reasonable 7Mb/s) but generally I have had a stable 37MB/s down and 8MB/s up.

2. MacBook Air

I upgraded my 13” MacBook Pro this year to the 11” Air. Alas not the new model. However I have been very impressed with the MacBook Air. It took me a while to get use to Lion, especially the gestures and though I still prefer Snow Leopard, I am now use to Lion on the Air and it isn’t stopping me from doing stuff (which is key really). I really like the weight (or lack thereof) of the Air and despite the lack of raw power the SSD ensures that the speed of the MacBook is fast enough. It has made an impact on how much I use my iPad and if I had to choose one I think I would choose the Air, but would really miss the iPad.

1. iPad

So for the second year running, the iPad is my top ten technology for the year. Now I know I just said I would choose the Air over the iPad, the difference is that I only got the Air in July and I have been using the iPad all year, and this is a top ten for the year; so it will be interesting to see what will be number one in 2012. Also they are complementary technologies rather than competing technologies, they both have their uses, advantages and disadvantages.

I was surprised in 2010 the impact of the iPad on the way that I did stuff. It continued in 2011 to have a real impact. I use it on a daily basis for communication, collaboration, content creation and content consumption. I did managed to get an iPad 2 in the summer, but in terms of how I use the iPad it had a minimal impact, I rarely use the camera, but do like the mirroring. As a result the iPad 2 is not in my top ten, whereas the original iPad is.

Back in 2010 I said

At work I use the iPad for dealing with e-mail and my calendar and quickly checking things on the VLE. For some meetings I do need to take a laptop as some tools we use rely on Flash or Java and that is one of the main weaknesses of the iPad is that these kinds of tools can not be used on it.

I still use the iPad for e-mail and calendar, however I now use a Citrix app to access our Windows XP corporate desktop to access those Java or IE based tools that we have. Therefore the main limitation is less of a limitation for me now. The fact I can easily access these iPad unfriendly tools using the iPad still makes me smile.

… its media capability easily surpasses any other mobile devices I have used. It’s not all perfect, I would like to stream (easily) video and audio from my iMac to my iPad…

AirPlay has made a big difference for me for media streaming across my home network. I like that I can stream iTunes Rentals from my iMac to my iPad without having to go through the laborious process of transferring the movie file from the iMac to the iPad, I can just stream the DRM’d content across the wireless network.

So last year the iPad was my top technology, Apple have made things better and on the basis of how much I used it, the iPad is once again my top technology of the year.

Google Plus One

Yesterday Google released their iOS app for Google+ and now those of us with iPhones can interact with Google+ using a native app rather than the mobile web interface.

Alas the new app doesn’t work on the iPod touch or the iPad, no idea if Google have submitted an app for either device, but it does seem limiting to restrict the app just to the iPhone.

I have used the Android App and the iPhone App is very similar in appearance and in many way very similar to the mobile web way of accessing Google+.

In these screen shots you can compare the home screen across the three platforms.

The stream view is pretty similar too.

Of course the main difference between the apps and the mobile web version is that within the apps you can more easily attach photographs to a posting.

The advantage of the Android App over the iOS app is how you can configure it to automatically upload photographs, but I am suspecting that many will see that as a disadvantage. The photographs are uploaded to a private web album and you can turn it off.

At this time I have no idea how and for how long I will be using Google+. For me at this time it has advantages over Twitter in terms of conversations and also advantages over Facebook too.

Download the Google+ App.


Google Translate – iPhone App of the Week

Google Translate – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Google Translate.

Translate words and phrases between more than 50 languages using Google Translate for iOS. For most languages, you can speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations.

With Google Translate, you can:

* Translate text between 57 languages
* Translate by voice by speaking the text instead of typing it (15 languages)
* Listen to your translations spoken aloud (23 languages)
* Display translations in full-screen mode to make it easier for others to read
* Star your favourite translations for quick access, even when you’re offline
* Access your translation history, even when you’re offline
* Spell out the translation of non-Latin script languages (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, etc.) in Latin characters to read it phonetically (e.g. Pinyin, Romaji)
* View additional dictionary results for single words or short phrases

Translation between the following languages are supported:

Afrikaans, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Arabic, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish

Free

I am a regular uses of Google’s translation facilities on the web, a recent example was using it to translate this webpage that linked to one of my presentations and podcasts.

It’s never perfect, but it certainly makes it possible to get a gist of what is been written.

Google now have an iPhone App that allows the power of the translation on your phone.

You do need to have an internet connection as the way the app works is to take the text upload it to the cloud, translate it and then send the translation back to the phone. So there is no actual translation happening on the phone. The advantage of this is that the power required to do this, doesn’t need to be on the phone. A similar process is used by Dragon Dictation for their voice recognition app.

Google have another feature of the app and that is the ability to talk to the phone in one language, that gets translated and you can hear the translation. This is quite cool in that you talk to the phone and the phone talks back to you in a different language.

As with all such translation services they are not perfect, but to get the gist of what is been said, for that they work very well.

Get Google Translate in the App Store.

The Google Netbook

I have always been quite pleased with my Google Nexus One, so when I heard about the Google Netbook, the Cr-48 I was quite intrigued.

Unlike the Nexus One, the Cr-48 runs the Chrome OS and not Android. Google have been quite clear, as far as they are concerned, Android is for handheld devices and Chrome is for laptops or netbooks.

Of course the CR-48 is not a consumer device, but a test machine to demonstrate how Chrome will work. Which probably accounts for the “catchy” name.

This is not a powerful machine, it has a single USB port, video out, wifi, 3G. It has a (relatively) large 12.1” screen. It is also quite heavy!

According to WIRED:

While scrolling web pages, playing some web-based games and watching videos from YouTube and the Onion, I noticed some jerkiness and skipping. Flash Player is pre-installed (and presumably sandboxed) but watching Flash videos is a bit of a sucky experience, especially in full-screen mode.

This is certainly my experience with underpowered netbooks in the past, I have found the video experience very poor. One thing I do say about the iPad is that the video experience is very good.

WIRED do say though:

But everything at least works as advertised, and it’s still totally usable.

The key behind Chrome OS is that it is a browser based OS with all the apps you use and main storage in the cloud. Hence connectivity is a key issue. Can see this not been an issue in an institution with good wifi coverage, obviously more of an issue when using such a device outside, on a train or other area without good connectivity.

If the price is right then these devices will be something that institutions might want to consider for using with learners, possibly providing learners with their own device for use in lessons, in the library and at home.

At the moment more often than not, institutions will provide computers in suites, rooms and in the library. This requires a fair bit of infrastructure and support. By providing devices to learners, this negates the need for a large number of computer rooms (some specialist rooms will still to be needed) and also allow learners to use the device when and wherever the learner is. The institution then becomes more of a service provider, delivering an infrastucture that allows learners wireless internet access (and possibly printing). The institutional VLE, Web 2.0 services and communication tools will allow the learner to access learning when they want to, rather than when the institution says they can.

Providing devices to learners costs money, cheap netbooks have been a possibility in the past, but the linux underpowered 7” devices we have seen in the past haven’t really proved that popular with learners. As soon as you make the devices bigger and add Windows, you also add a large price tag too. Will a Chrome powered netbook be the next evolutionary stage of the netbook? Will this be a device that changes the IT culture of educational institutions? Or will it be merely something that geeks like, but no one else uses?

Unfortunately I will probably never see, let alone use the Cr-48 as the pilot programme for the US only. Ah well…

Google Books – iPad App of the Week

Google Books – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Google Books.

The Google Books app offers access to over 2 million Google eBooks on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Take your favorite books with you on the go.

Great Reading Experience

– Change font, search within book, information about book
– Night-reading mode
– Offline reading mode

Discover Millions of Titles

– Millions of books in every imaginable category, from New York Times bestsellers to favorite classics
– Over 2 million free ebooks available instantly
– Over 400,000 ebooks for purchase
– Free preview pages
– Unlimited storage of books in the digital cloud
– Worry-free archive

Syncs With Your Google Books Library

– Find books at http://books.google.com/ebooks and add them to the ‘My Google eBooks’ shelf to sync
– Access all your ebooks wirelessly from the digital cloud; no dedicated e-reading device required
– Automatic page position synching across devices — pick up reading where you left off

Free

Okay firstly an important disclaimer, this app is not currently available in the UK iTunes Store and more importantly even if you could get hold of the App from the US Store and install it on your iPad (or iPhone) you can’t buy any books for the App, though you can download free books.

Google announced Google eBooks on the 6th December.

Today is the first page in a new chapter of our mission to improve access to the cultural and educational treasures we know as books. Google eBooks will be available in the U.S. from a new Google eBookstore. You can browse and search through the largest ebooks collection in the world with more than three million titles including hundreds of thousands for sale.

Alas the eBookstore is US only, though outside the US you can download free books. In this post however I am going to focus on the app and look at the service in another blog post at a later date. A key part of the service though is how it links to your Google account.

Google have also released an App for the iPhone and the iPad. However as already stated this is not (yet) available in the UK store.

Having managed to get hold of the app, how does it compare. Like the Kindle App if you want to buy books (and could) these have to be purchased via the browser. Likewise choosing free books is also done via the browser.

The experience if very similar to the Kindle or iBooks apps and like those apps you can change text and colours to meet your needs. There is no way of highlighting text or making notes, this makes it less useful to learners who may want to do such a thing.

It does make me smile when Google extol one of the features of their service is an offline reading mode! One of the reasons I like native e-book readers (either as apps or devices) is that they work when a browser doesn’t, like when there is no connectivity. For me it’s not a feature, but an expectation.

Overall the app is what you would expect from any kind of e-book reader app, nothing outstanding and nothing special. However where Google Books falls down as an app is that in the UK you can’t buy books. So at this time, it isn’t really worth the effort or time to get the app, as you might as well use the Kindle app or Apple’s iBooks. Maybe in the future this will change, we’ll wait and see.

Google Chrome Tablet in November (perhaps?)

Download Squad are reporting that there will be a Google Chrome Tablet coming in November.

Yes, our source tells us that Google is building a Chrome OS tablet. It’s real, and it’s being built by HTC.

HTC of course made the Nexus One.

If this is real, are Google doing this for the same reasons they released the Nexus One. It has been said that Google made the Nexus One so that it would stimulate the Android phone market. Google aren’t going to make a Nexus Two as there are loads of Android phones now available out there.

So I do wonder if there is to be a Google Chrome tablet, are Google doing this for the same reasons they released the Nexus One to stimulate the market for a Chrome tablet?

With the success of Apple’s iPad most of the manufacturers who announced tablets before Apple made their iPad announcement seem to have backtracked and aren’t going to make them now.

Maybe if a Google Chrome Tablet takes off, we will see a whole load more tablets released.