Google gets the Chrome polish out


(image courtesy of

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Yesterday saw two significant launches from Google. The ground for both had been well prepared, with pre-announcements, and slight delays probably designed to heighten anticipation.

The most significant (expected) move is Google’s unveiling of it’s own Operating System (OS) – Chrome OS. This sees ‘the big G’ take on Microsoft, Mac, and Linux in providing a software operating system that is targets both large enterprises, and individual PC users. Interestingly Google will be sticking with the successful Android platform for both mobiles and tablet devices.

The key feature of Chrome OS is that it is entirely web based. The first Chrome OS machines (from Acer and Samsung) will be cloud computing devices, with no spinning hard drive. A key advantage of this is that users will have the option to always stay connected (with 3G and wireless connectivity built in.)

As is ‘de rigeur’ these days, the OS is open source, and Google are actively encouraging hackers to adapt it as they see fit – on their own devices. Google will use what they call Google switch to test any hardware hacks, to ensure they are compatible with the parent OS, before allowing access.

In their understated way Google are hailing Chrome as the ‘first viable competitor’ to Windows and Mac, which will come as a big surprise to Linux fans.

The second launch is arguably more interesting from a communications viewpoint – the ‘Chrome Web Store’, originally announced in May of this year.

Google has already developed its own range of apps Google docs, Calendar, Groups, Voice etc.), and now they have gone open source on this too. The online service is designed to let Chrome and Chrome OS users find, install and potentially buy web applications, similar in concept to what Google has done with its Android Market and to what Apple has done with its App Store.

Within hours of the opening of the Chrome Web Store, there were hundreds of apps available to use, the vast majority created by ‘non-G’ developers. Some are merely bookmarks to existing web apps, but there are already a number that really push the boundaries of what we expect from a web app.

2 prime examples stand out on day 1.

SlideRocket lets you create robust, rich-media presentations in your web browser; and build these collaboratively with other users (if they are in your Google address book). Being web based, you can access real time feeds and integrate them into your slide deck, and you can ask questions or conduct polls within a presentation.

Vyew bills itself as “Beyond web conferencing”, and as a collaboration app it’s pretty impressive. The thing about collaboration, is that you sometimes do it remotely in real time, but more often in your own time, for other people to pick up and add-to or comment. Vyew enables you to ‘share your view in a continuous meeting room in real-time or any time’.

One can see many uses for this app, from ’collaborative war room for businesses , or an ‘always-accessible virtual classroom’ to an ’all-purpose collaborative organiser’. You can upload almost any type of file, and leave edits/comments, or video/tele-conference to discuss content.

Vyew is not new (ooh that rhymes!) but its appearance as an app will hopefully move it out of the shadows, where it has likely remained property of a well-informed few.

What is the significance of all this for communicators?

These Google initiatives are both Cloud based, and point towards a future where we will have 24/7 access to all our data, ultimately via almost any device.

This ‘always on’ phenomena is likely to have an impact on how we all live and work (blurring still further the division); but more importantly from a marketing viewpoint it will mean that consumers will increasingly be able to choose to access (or not) an infinite amount of information/entertainment from anywhere at anytime. We are only just beginning to get a glimpse of the degree of audience fragmentation this is likely to lead to. The challenges for brands to attract and maintain consumer engagement will get harder. Increasingly the ad industry is exploring the importance and power of storytelling. Even (indeed especially) in this digital age, the human need and love for stories, and the instinct to engage with and retell them, is being identified as being key to how brands express themselves.

Given the plethora of devices, platforms and sources, it is perhaps not surprising that, in what Henry Jenkins describes as our ‘Convergence Culture’, brands are beginning to recognise that the opportunity for transmedia storytelling, where

stories unfold across multiple media platforms with each new text making a unique and valuable contribution to the whole’ (Jenkins) provides a great opportunity for consumers to engage with a brand’s story and potentially help shape it, or engage with other consumers around/through it.

Transparency and freedom of information are a current hot topic with Wikileaks making headlines almost every day. This issue will again prove a challenge for communicators. We no longer trust many institutions and brands, as much as we used to, preferring the advice and recommendation of our peers, who rarely repeat our carefully crafted brand mantras. This openness will be exacerbated by our greater always-on access to information that has hitherto not been available.

Web apps, such as those mentioned above, facilitate and encourage collaboration, which until more recent times may have been confined to an organisation. Now ‘collaboration’ is becoming a clarion call for progressive marketers. Brands are called upon to work with their consumers in developing anything from product to messaging – Crowdsourcing seems widespread in marketing circles. Such collaboration is becoming easier and less costly, and this is likely to be better facilitated and quicker with ‘the cloud’, particularly through slimmed down and simple to use apps.

In summary it’s essential that developments such as those announced by Google, are not seen purely as technological developments, but ones that reflect, and to an extent, will help shape our positive human social instincts, that Mark Earls describes so well in Herd, to be connected, to be part of something that we admire.

It’s time for brands to get out their own tins of polish, and start buffing.

What do you think?

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