Now there's no official or unofficial Google Voice dialers. Nice one, Apple.
While it's still possible that an official Google client may turn up at some point, it's not looking promising; Apple says that the reason they pulled the apps is that they 'duplicate functionality already found in iPhone,' namely 'dialing.' When Google submits their official app, it will also be 'dialing'; consistency says that'll be rejected as well.
Lucky for us, consistency is not high on Apple's list of things to worry about. You may remember from the other day when they said they rejected Google's Latitude app because they thought another app that draws maps would be 'confusing.' Yet the market is still chock full of GPS/mapping apps. Apps that, as far as I know, nobody's ever been confused about.
It's pretty clear that Apple doesn't want any more Google present on its iPhone platform than there already is. If you want some more, you're going to have to pick one of the many other platforms that doesn't reject innovative apps.
UPDATE: Sean Kovacs, author of GV Mobile, one of the "unofficial" Google Voice apps which Apple pulled from their market, is now available via Cydia if your iPhone is jailbroken. Compelling enough reason to finally jailbreak?
I've just discovered something kind of cool: if you want to place and receive free Google Voice calls via your computer, leaving your phone out of the loop altogether, it's now possible to skip the installation of Gizmo, relying instead on the functionality already present in GMail.
I was playing with the settings for Gizmo while trying to improve my method of making free, minute-less VOIP calls from my Android phone and noticed that it now has the option to forward some or all calls to your Gizmo number over to Skype or Google Talk. If you opt for Google Talk -- and if your operating system supports it1 -- you can answer/place calls just using GMail's chat system. It's as easy as when you try to find o2 Mobile Phones, there's nothing complicated about opting for Google Talk. No otherwise-unused software to install at all.
1a) Create a Gizmo account here (if you don't already have one)
1b) Configure Google Voice for use with Gizmo following these instructions (if you haven't already done so)
3) Scroll down to the 'Forwarding' section. It looks like this:
4) Select 'forward all calls' and put in your GMail username in the appropriate field and Click 'Save.'
That's all the configuration that's required.
Now when someone calls your Google Voice number, in addition to your phone ringing, your GMail (or Google Talk desktop client) will beep at you telling you a call is incoming.
If you want to place a call, you just need to use Google Voice's web interface. Click 'Call,' put in the desired number, and then select your Gizmo number as the callback number. Your GMail will then ring. When you answer it, you'll hear the number you just dialed ringing.
1: Unless you're a freak like me running some crazy non-Windows, non-Mac operating system you'll be fine. If you are a freak like me, you can either keep using Gizmo, or have Gizmo auto-forward your calls to Skype and do it that way.
For weeks now, there've been a number people on Twitter and blogs expressing disappointment with Google over leaving out iPhone when it comes to many of their key properties. One such article, by social media rockstar Wayne Sutton, does a pretty good job of summing up the feelings of many in the iPhone community, but unfortunately, manages to completely get the wrong end of the stick. He seems to be under the impression that Google just doesn't feel like putting out apps for iPhone, forgetting that it's Apple themselves who are both the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper when it comes to what iPhone users get to run on their handsets.
Meanwhile, just yesterday Google "finally got around to" -- if you listen to the chatter on the Internet, anyway -- releasing their Latitude for iPhone app -- which is actually not a native app at all, but instead a web app that runs in Safari -- along with a lengthy article on their mobile blog which makes it crystal clear that it's Apple with whom we should be disappointed, not them.
We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.
I've been saying all along that it was Apple's 3-month+ wait approval queue, and/or the nature of Maps.app as a "core" app (that can only be updated via a firmware update) that's the holdup, but it never occurred to me that Apple wouldn't want Latitude on iPhone at all, which seems plainly clear now.
The brewing speculation suggests that Apple's $99-a-year MobileMe service, which has some location aspects to it now, is going to be expanding to more directly compete with Latitude, Loopt, and other such social/location apps, and thus doesn't want the early -- not to mention free -- competition from Google. This is purely speculation, but it's based on the past times that Apple has rejected iPhone apps with features that they themselves were planning to implement, so I'm going to place my bets squarely on that being truth. We'll have to wait and see.
This rejection now makes it pretty clear that the other native Google apps that people like Wayne are eagerly awaiting are simply never going to come. Sorry, Wayne :(
The upside to all of this, though, is that, judging by the comments on Google's Latitude for iPhone announcement post, iPhone users and developers alike are starting to become more aware of how bad an idea it is to tie themselves to a platform that's actively stifling the innovations its users want. How much time and money did Google spend writing a native Latitude app for iPhone that will never see the light of day? Now imagine it was your time and money down the crapper. Fun.
If you're dying for a native Latitude app on your iPhone, you shouldn't give up completely; Apple does have a bit of a track record of caving on stupid decisions under pressure from large vocal minority groups, so it's possible that they may one day let Google put a native maps app on iPhone. It's not very probable. There is only Zuul.
Yesterday there was much buzz on Twitter regarding "the case of the disappearing George Orwell," in which it was discovered that Amazon had deleted users' purchased copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from their Kindles, refunding them the purchase price rather than continue to let them read it. The idea that's spread through the Internet like wildfire is that this was an action at the behest of this publisher, who decided on a whim that they didn't want to publish it through Amazon any longer, and that Amazon caved and did what they asked. (This particular bit of speculation, which was repeated by even the mighty New York Times, was sourced to 'some guy on an Amazon forum.' Now THAT's journalism.)
In any case, due in large part to the irony present in a media giant secretly deleting the works of George Orwell, this story caught the ire of many people; there's the anti-DRM crowd (in which I'm a member), the anti-Amazon crowd (in which I'm often a member), as well as the pro-Kindle crowd (in which I'm sometimes a member). Several of these crowds began blogging/twittering about it, which caused a feedback loop of other people (who aren't members in any of those groups, but who blindly retweet whatever they see) and it's now being reported pretty much every where.
The problem, though, is that most of what's being spread around the Internet on this subject is misinformation. It's the type of misinformation that, when intentionally distributed by folks like Microsoft as a scare tactic, is referred to as FUD, or 'Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.' In this particular case, the misinformation in question doesn't appear to have been designed with an intent of malice, but more by of a sense of people not really understanding what's going on.
Anyway: in a nutshell, the following is an attempt to explain what exactly it is that happened. This is not really designed to be in defense of Amazon, but more because I prefer it when the things that people believe are actually true. If they're not, I like to try to rectify it.
Firstly, very few people really have an understanding of how Amazon's Kindle Marketplace works. (Including -- until yesterday, anyway -- me.) Anyone can sell books through Amazon's Kindle Marketplace. If you're buying a book via your Kindle, there's a very real probability that Amazon has nothing to do with the book at all, other than being the means through which it is delivered to you. The people publishing Kindle books include actual publishing companies as well as individual authors, all of whom simply upload their books at which point they're for sale. There have recently been a few cases where people managed to become a Kindle seller, and then uploaded bootlegged copies of the Twilight books priced at $0.99 in hopes of getting rich quick. Obviously the douchebags in question lacked the legal authority to be selling Mrs. Meyer's masterpieces, and Amazon rightfully stepped in and shut them down. I don't think anyone had a problem with this.
Yesterday's George Orwell fiasco, on the other hand, drew the attention and outrage of the masses, and many people (myself included) quite vocally expressed their problems with it.
The thing is, though: as it turns out, the situation is EXACTLY the same as with the bootleg Twilight books.
See, in most (if not all) non-US countries, Orwell's works fall under the public domain, and the publisher in question deals almost exclusively in public domain works. They sell them in other countries, and I suspect that their selling them here just sort of slipped through the cracks. Bottom line: the publisher did not have the legal right to be selling those books in the United States, and when the publisher became aware of this, they removed them from all the different eBook distribution companies through which they publish here in the US, the most famous of which is Amazon. There was no malice, and nobody was trying to cheat anyone; it was just a mistake born from the fluctuating publishing rights in various countries. This was not a result of Amazon "caving" to pressure from a publisher.
The idea that's spread through the Internet like wildfire is that this was an action at the behest of this publisher, who decided on a whim that they didn't want to publish it through Amazon any longer, and that Amazon caved and did what they asked. That's just not what happened, and it's rather unfair to Amazon for people to continue to spread the misinformation that says it is.
Granted, caving to publisher demand is something Amazon has done in the past (see: Kindle 2's text-to-speech function that ultimately got disabled due to whining publishers), and attempting to use patents to bully their competitors out of business is one of their go-to tactics, soanother bit of douchebaggary is an easy thing to believe. Like as we see with companies like Microsoft, there have been many deservingly negative things said about them, all which contribute to making it easier to jump to these sorts of ideas.
In conclusion, regardless of how one feels about DRM or the capability for a centralized bookseller to remove files from your device, I think most of us will agree that most of what's being said on the Internet on this subject is misinformed hogwash. Maybe you can help fix that.
I pretty frequently monitor what people are saying about Android on Twitter, and something I've seen recently is people lamenting the imminent death of Android now that Google's apparently shifted their interest over to a newer, shinier platform that might directly take on the behemoths in more oft-used hardware platforms, namely 'netbooks.' I've got a few thoughts.
1) Android is not under any threat of extinction as a result of this. One of the common things people are saying is variations on the theme of "Android hasn't had a chance to become successful, and now they're replacing it." That's just silly.
Android is, by practically every metric, a rousing success for the little time that it's been on the market. Worldwide, there's like 3 different phones available running it, most available for fewer than 3 months to date. The oldest Android phone is like 6 months old. Already a variety of carriers have committed to 18 different Android devices on the market before the end of 2009.
Has there EVER been a year that 18 different handsets have been released running Blackberry, Windows Mobile, MacOSX, or ANY other 'smartphone' operating system? Even if you combine all those operating systems together?
The relative clunkiness of HTC's first Android phone (the HTC Dream, which T-Mobile sells in the US as the 'G1') hasn't stopped it from being amazingly successful, outselling any other T-Mobile device. (I know, faint praise...) The HTC Magic (or T-Mobile 'myTouch 3G') is poised to more directly compete with the likes of iPhone in form-factor, sexiness and speed, and it comes out in like a month. It's already been successful on other carriers outside the US. Also, HTC's been making waves with it's new 'Hero' device, featuring a significantly sexier new 'Sense' UI [youtube] atop Android, and Sony Ericsson just released a peek at their new 'Rachel' UI [youtube], also running atop Android. Both of these UIs are eliciting squees of praise on Twitter, many people declaring that they'll ditch their iPhone for them in a second. (Check out those linked videos, maybe you'll see why.)
The Android world is just beginning to heat up, but it's already pretty hard to say that it's not a success, and that there aren't people dying to get their hands on devices.
The preponderance of dedicated apps to read the content from popular sites like Digg, Reddit, MetaFilter, etc., in both Android and iPhone's application stores, is testament to this. It's simply faster to pull down a limited feed containing only the data and render it using a native applicaton than to try to let a web browser display the whole page. Even iPhone specific pages are often slower and more cumbersome to use than a native iPhone application dedicated to the same purpose. That's just the way things are now.
3) In even the best case scenario, adoption of ChromeOS is going to be extremely slow, at least to start. I mean, how many people do you know that have even installed Google's Chrome Browser, let alone an entire new operating system? I just don't see the average Google user -- fanboy or not -- completely switching to a OS that only runs all the web apps they're already happily using on Windows. It's just not going to happen.
4) Where ChromeOS stands to make waves, however, is preloaded on hardware. Low-cost netbooks and laptops that are already installed, already configured, without having to include the cost of a windows license, or worry about viruses or any nonsense like that will benefit greatly from having Google's name attached.
There's been much talk of netbooks pre-loaded with Android, but at the current state of things, that's just not really feasable. Most of the Android applications in existence are designed for use on small, touchscreen devices without keyboards. The web browser is a RELATIVELY capable browser for a MOBILE browser, but you're not going to want to run Google Docs in it.
My netbook currently runs Linux, I'm using Chrome right now, and I do all my work in Google web apps. It works fantastically well. Except for one little thing:
5) The Linux version of the Chrome browser is a LONG-ways from ready for general use. It's very fast, does many things very well, but can't do most of the things you'd expect from a browser. You know, like bookmarks, printing, stuff like that. Looking at the state of things now, there's simply no way they're going to parlay the Linux version of Chrome into a full fledged operating system any time soon, let alone tackling the other things people are going to want to do, be it printing, scanning, etc.
Android is a full-fledged operating system RIGHT NOW, and there will likely be 20+ devices -- not even limited to phones -- on the market by the time ChromeOS even begins to be seen by the public. So don't go abandoning your Android development any time soon; there will be plenty of need for your apps for a long while to come.
We decided this morning that the best thing we could do to celebrate the 4th of July, our country's day of independence, would be to spend it in Canada. We poured the kitties, ratties, birdies, fishies and piggy some huge-ass piles of food and water (the fishies have a whole other tank), threw some clothes in some bags and headed northward.
After driving all day and timing rush hour in Tacoma, Seattle, Everett -- really an place along I-5 that might have a rush hour -- JUUUST right to maximize the amount of time traveling 60 MPH below the speed limit, we decided to call it a day about 20 miles from Our Neighbors to the North. Tomorrow, after a continental breakfast, we'll be off to one of the other countries with the unfortunate distinction of sharing a landmass with us. I hope they won't judge us too strongly for that.
Priority #1 is not hearing any freakin' fireworks. Based on the rumored politeness levels of the average Canadian, their long wait times for medical care, and laws prohibiting anything that's loud, smelly or illuminated, that shouldn't be a problem.
Priority #2 is to acquire some Mountain Dew -- and not just because it rhymes. I may have been making up the laws in the prior priority, but one that I'm NOT MAKING UP prohibits translucent soft drinks from containing caffeine in Canada. Which means that Mountain Dew has none. Crazy.
Oh, yeah: Priority #1 was ACTUALLY to make sure we turn off roaming on our Android phones so that we don't rack up 11K of international data charges, because, even combined, we don't have enough Twitter followers to qualify for the "50K followers so the rules don't freakin' apply to you" discount that Adam Savage gets. We'd actually have to pay our bill, so we're smart enough to take action to prevent it from happening in the first place.