Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google to launch operating system

Google is developing an operating system (OS) for personal computers, in a direct challenge to market leader Microsoft and its Windows system.

Google Chrome OS will be aimed initially at small, low-cost netbooks, but will eventually be used on PCs as well.

Google said netbooks with Chrome OS could be on sale by the middle of 2010.

“Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS,” the firm said in its official blog.

The operating system, which will run on an open source license, was a “natural extension” of its Chrome browser, the firm said.

For Microsoft the news comes just months before it launches the latest version of its operating system, called Windows 7.  “We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds,” said the blog post written by Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Google’s engineering director Linus Upson.

Both men said that “the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web” and that this OS is “our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be”.

To that end, the search giant said the new OS would go back to basics.

“We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

“It should just work,” said Google.

Google already has an operating system for mobile phones called Android which can also be used to run on netbooks. Google Chrome OS will be aimed not just at laptops but also at desktops for those who spend a lot of time on the web. 

The announcement could dramatically change the market for operating systems, especially for Microsoft, the biggest player with around 90% share.

“This announcement is huge,” said Rob Enderle, industry watcher and president of the Enderle Group.

“This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft.

“Google is coming at this fresh and, because it is based on a set of services that reside on the web, it is the first really post web operating system, designed from the ground up, and reconceived for a web world,” Mr Enderle told the BBC.

Last year Google launched the Chrome browser, which it said was designed for “people who live on the web – searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends.”

Stephen Shankland at CNET said the move had widespread implications.

“One is that it shows just how serious Google is about making the web into a foundation not just for static pages but for active applications, notably its own such as Google Docs and G-mail.

“Another: it opens new competition with Microsoft and, potentially, a new reason for anti-trust regulators to pay close attention to Google’s moves.”

Some commentators said Google’s motivation in all this was pretty clear.

“One of Google’s major goals is to take Microsoft out, to systematically destroy their hold on the market,” said Mr Enderle.

“Google wants to eliminate Microsoft and it’s a unique battle. The strategy is good. The big question is, will it work?”

At the popular blog, TechCrunch, MG Siegler said “Let’s be clear on what this really is. This is Google dropping the mother of all bombs on its rival, Microsoft.”

Microsoft releases Windows 7 later this year to replace Windows Vista and Windows XP which is eight years old.

The Redmond based company claims that 96% of netbooks run Windows to date. 

In a separate announcement Google also revealed that many of its most popular applications had finally moved out of trial, or beta, phase.

Gmail, for example, has worn the beta tag for five years.

“We realise this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of beta software as being not yet ready for prime time,” wrote Matthew Glotzbach, the director of product management in the official Google blog.

The decision to ditch the beta tag was taken because the apps had finally reached the “high bar” mark, he wrote.

More than 1.75 million companies use Google apps, according to the firm.

source: BBC


Web tool ‘as important as Google’

A web tool that “could be as important as Google”, according to some experts, has been shown off to the public.

Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram.

The free program aims to answer questions directly, rather than display web pages in response to a query like a search engine.

The “computational knowledge engine”, as the technology is known, will be available to the public from the middle of May this year.

“Our goal is to make expert knowledge accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said Dr Wolfram at the demonstration at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The tool computes many of the answers “on the fly” by grabbing raw data from public and licensed databases, along with live feeds such as share prices and weather information.

People can use the system to look up simple facts – such as the height of Mount Everest – or crunch several data sets together to produce new results, such as a country’s GDP.

Other functions solve complex mathematical equations, plot scientific figures or chart natural events.

“Like interacting with an expert, it will understand what you’re talking about, do the computation, and then present you with the results,” said Dr Wolfram.

As a result, much of the data is scientific, although there is also limited cultural information about pop stars and films.

Dr Wolfram said the “trillions of pieces of data” were chosen and managed by a team of “experts” at Wolfram Research, who also massage the information to make sure it can be read and displayed by the system.

Nova Spivak, founder of the web tool Twine, has described Alpha as having the potential to be as important to the web as Google.
Developers say Wolfram Alpha can simplify language to remove ‘linguistic fluff’

“Wolfram Alpha is like plugging into a vast electronic brain,” he wrote earlier this year. “It computes answers – it doesn’t merely look them up in a big database.”

The new tool uses a technique known as natural language processing to return answers.

This allows users to ask questions of the tool using normal, spoken language rather than specific search terms.

For example, a relatively simple search, such as “who was the president of Brazil in 1923?”, will return the answer “Artur da Silva Bernardes”.

This technique has long been the holy grail of computer scientists who aim to allow people to interact with computers in an instinctive way.

Dr Wolfram said that Alpha has solved many of the problems of interpreting people’s questions.

“We thought there would be a huge amount of ambiguity in search terms, but it turns out not to be the case,” he said.

In addition, he said, the system had got “pretty good at removing linguistic fluff”, the kinds of words that are not necessary for the system to find and compute the relevant data.

Searching for ‘Blair Bush’ could give a different result…

However, he said, most users tend to stop using structured sentences fairly quickly.

“Pretty soon they get lazy, and they say ‘I don’t need all those extra words’.”

Instead they tended to use “concepts” similar to how most people use search engines today.

But Dr Boris Katz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a natural language expert, said he was “disappointed” by Dr Wolfram’s “dismissal of English syntax as ‘fluff”’.

For example, he said, suppose someone asks ”When did Barack Obama visit Nicolas Sarkozy?”

“Here, understanding the sentence structure is important if you want to be able to distinguish cases where it was Barack Obama who visited Nicolas from cases where it was Nicolas Sarkozy who visited Barack Obama,” he said.”

“I believe he is misguided in treating language as a nuisance instead of trying to understand the way it organises concepts into structures that require understanding and harnessing.”

Dr Katz is the head of the Start project, a natural language processing tool that claims to be “the world’s first web-based question answering system”. It has been on the web since December 1993.

Like Alpha, the system searches a series of organised databases to return relevant answers to search queries. However, it only uses public databases and runs on a much smaller scale than Alpha.

Dr Katz said, it answers “millions of questions from hundreds of thousands of users from around the world” on topics as diverse as places, movies, people and dictionary definitions.

It is also able to compute answers form several sources in a similar way to Alpha.

Web companies have also harnessed natural language processing.

For example, Powerset, uses technology developed at the Palo Alto Research Center, the former research laboratories of Xerox.

The company is attempting to build a similar search engine “that reads and understands every sentence on the Web”.

In May 2008, the company released a tool that allowed people to search parts of Wikipedia. Two months later, it was acquired by Microsoft.

Dr Wolfram said he has been working on Alpha for several years. However, he imagines that it will continue to evolve.

“In a sense we are at the beginning,” he said.