Google Prepares To Take Over Your World – Tech Tuesday #29

This week’s Tech Tuesday is all about Google. Think the title is exaggerating a bit? Not so fast! We all know about Google’s mainstream applications like Gmail, Google Talk and Google Docs, and I recently wrote about the new Google Buzz, but you may not know about Google’s less advertised initiatives. Google has seeds planted in many large, well-established industries like internet service and public utilities. Are they setting themselves up to take over your world? You be the judge!

Google Voice

Currently, if someone wants to reach you, there is a slew of numbers they’d have to try: your work phone, your home phone, your cell, etc. Google Voice, formerly known as GrandCentral, simplifies things by giving you a single number you can set up to relay calls to any (or all) of the others – truely one number to rule them all. Not content to just be a simple call forwarding service, Google Voice also offers a host of other features not offered by most telcos: call screening so you can decide which calls you want to answer, voicemail transcripts sent via SMS or email, number blocking for those pesky stalkers and collection agencies, and the list goes on.

That said, Google is not a telecom company and you still need a working phone line in order to use the Google Voice service. Or do you? Google recently acquired Gizmo5 which offers calling service to traditional phone lines for very low prices as long as you have an internet connection. Additionally, Gizmo5 can tie in to Skype, the perennial favorite Voice-Over-IP communication service, offering a very nice all-around package. The only catch is that Gizmo5 is currently closed to new users, but when they re-launch they will definitely be a force to contend with (you can sign up for Gizmo5 notifications here).

Google Voice is currently in Beta testing. You can request an invite here, or leave a constructive comment below and I may send you an invite if I’m feeling generous. 🙂
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Google as your ISP

Google has a new experimental project this year to test ultra high-speed fiberoptic broadband networks of up to 1Gbps in select neighborhoods. No, that was not a typo, we’re talking 1 GIGAbit per second here folks! Finally cable companies may have some legitimate competition! You can submit a request to have your city or neighborhood be one of the test markets by applying here (through March 26).
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Google as your… electric company?!

Sound far-fetched? Consider this: Last Thursday Google received approval from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to buy and sell energy on a wholesale basis. A spokesperson for Google said this will give Google “more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations.” This approval also allows Google to approach producers of renewable energy directly. Makes sense as their data centers must be huge consumers of energy, and Google has said in the past that it is committed to being “carbon neutral.”

Now consider this: Bloom Energy is a renewable energy company headed by CEO and co-founder K.R. Sridhar. They recently appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes to unveil their product, dubbed “Bloom Energy Servers” or more affectionately “Bloom Blocks” (not to be confused with Steven Spielberg’s Wii game “Boom Blox”), which can mix oxygen with bio-fuels such as natural gas to create electricity much more efficiently than current methods. Just 2 of these Blocks, which literally fit in your hands, can (theoretically) power the average US home 24/7/365! Best of all, they are very scalable and can be stacked to power even the largest data centers. Bloom Energy has been piloting the devices for the past year, and guess who was the first company to sign up. You got it – Google! In addition, they have numerous other big-name corporations in their pilot program including eBay, FedEx, Walmart, Staples, Coca-Cola, Bank of America and Cox Communications. They also have support from politicos like the Governator and Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.). With that level of support, its obvious this is not some fly-by-night start-up; this company has some mighty big ambitions!

This is an interesting contrast to Bill Gates’ recent TED Talk on clean energy. Bill goes for the top-down approach, promoting alternative ways to produce cleaner nuclear energy; Google seems to be taking the bottom-up approach, promoting clean energy at the consumer level. I expect big changes ahead with these two powerhouses driving the green effort from both ends of the spectrum!

Now, we can already assume Google will be buying energy in bulk for their own needs, and so far they are the only company in Bloom’s pilot program with approval to re-sell energy. Is it that much of a stretch to see them turn around and re-sell this energy to consumers? If there’s any company out there with the ambition and financial ability to take on the gigantic public utilities companies, it’s definitely Google. What do you guys think?

OMG Google Really Is Everywhere!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Google let’s its employees spend 20% of their time working on personal projects, so there are certainly numerous other initiatives going on that have not gotten any publicity at all. Google, getting as big as it is, has already had its share of privacy complaints, as well as attracted the attention of antitrust investigators in the EU. This is definitely not an anti-Google article however. I am very much in favor of their policy towards using open standards and find their overall philosophy a breath of fresh air. Can they maintain their Jedi status without succumbing to the Dark Side? The skeptic in me has doubts, but the optimist in me is definitely hopeful.

I want to close out this week’s Tech Tuesday by sharing with you a video by Jesse Thomas called “The State of the Internet.” See you next week and don’t forget to leave me your thoughts below!

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JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

 

10 Comments

  1. Dave says:
    03-22-2010 at 4:05 pm

    Google is going to take another stab at becoming your favorite digital picture storage site.

    Does that earn me an invite? Feel free to send it to my email account included with this message.

     
  2. rey mendoza says:
    05-03-2010 at 7:52 am

    take over the world! I think they are getting there, with the approach they are using.. everything is free, who can argue? they have a business model that works. It simply works

    I just tried gizmo5 🙁 no more accounts.. I hope I can get an invite. It would be a lot cheaper to call relatives abroad

     
  3. Xx InStyle76 xX says:
    05-03-2010 at 3:40 pm

    You got it Rey, their business model is to basically be as self-sufficient as possible, and they’re off to a great start! GVoice invite en route.

     
  4. Jim Stevens says:
    05-08-2010 at 9:16 pm

    From the perspective of a retired University CIO and a former owner/manager of an independent telephone co (land line), I think that Google is in position to absolutely destroy the land line business, given their market visibility, existing data network, Grand Central, and Gizmo5.

    BTW, I need an invite for GV.

     
  5. Xx InStyle76 xX says:
    05-08-2010 at 10:46 pm

    Jim, I think you’re entirely correct! Gizmo5 is their foothold into pretty much any location that has an internet connection.

    One definite roadblock is that new signups for Gizmo5 have been closed for over 6 months now. They’ll have to do a big launch/marketing campaign when they re-launch it just so people start talking about it again, and when they do, I have a distinct feeling that Skype isn’t going to just sit idly by.

    One other obstacle is the complexity of the setup. For this to work you’d need an internet connection, Gizmo5 account, Google Voice account, plus the know-how to connect them all. It’s really not *that* hard, but I think the average user isn’t going to want to deal with it. I wonder if there will be a market for 3rd party hardware devices that simplify the process?

    GV invite en route. I just wish Gizmo5 would open signups again so we could check it out!

     
  6. Tim Morkemo says:
    05-28-2010 at 12:12 pm

    “I wonder if there will be a market for 3rd party hardware devices that simplify the process?”

    You might have missed the mark there. I believe my android based cell phone seems to meet all those requirements. All that’s actually needed is an applet to tie them all together.

    I think that when (Google) Gizmo5 is re-released, Google will already have the software available to begin to play “Taps” for the land line telephone service companies.

    And yes, I too need an invite.

     
  7. Joseph Barfield says:
    06-29-2010 at 1:51 pm

    I look forward to playing with Gizmo5 when I am eventually accepted or bestowed upon.

    I have my Current Cost meter installed and am looking forward to tying in to Google Power Meter as soon as the ethernet to RJ45 cable is delivered.

    Thanks for the article. Much appreciated.

     
  8. Xx InStyle76 xX says:
    06-29-2010 at 4:47 pm

    @Tim Actually I meant a stand-alone device that allowed you to make/receive calls over wi-fi, so no need for any wireless carrier or traditional telco at all. I do agree that once Google opens Gizmo up for business, they most likely will have an Android app to connect it with Google Voice. If not, 3rd party devs definitely will soon after launch.

    @Joseph You’re very welcome, thanks for reading! The Current Cost meter looks pretty cool! Too bad I live in an apartment complex and don’t have access to the main power meter. I’m surprised there’s not more media around these technologies!

     
  9. Tim4263 says:
    07-25-2010 at 6:28 pm

    I currently have a moto droid with sipdroid installed on it with it tied into google voice and gizmo5 and I have a 100% free wifi phone system right now. Pretty soon whole cities are gonna be one big hotspot (they almost are now) and all these wireless carriers are gonna be obsolete. By the way u can aquire a gizmo5 account from ebay for 5 buck if u missed it before google got ahold of it. Also I currently don’t have any cell service I have been using my droid thru gv/g5 and wifi hotspots and it has worked out well so far.

     
  10. Xx InStyle76 xX says:
    07-25-2010 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Tim, that sounds like an awesome combo! I am [almost] definitely going Android for my next phone (Dell Streak maybe?) and will have to check that out. Personally I’m tired of being gouged by AT&T and would love to find a way around the system. If I get it to work I’ll definitely do a write-up on it (and give you credit of course ;-).

    I agree we’ll soon see city-wide hotspots, though I expect they’re a good 2+ years away for most people. Once they are in place however, wireless carriers will definitely have to evolve or die a slow, painful death.

     

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