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12/13/2010
01:33 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
Slideshows

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

Google may be the company of the decade -- the previous one, if not the next one. As such, its actions are closely scrutinized, and its steps and missteps make news. What started as a search engine is now a company that's shaping our technological future, with initiatives in mobile phones, tablet and netbook computing, telephony, and TV. Unburdened by decades of legacy tech and customer expectations, it's proven more nimble at exploiting new niches than its competitors. From successful forays in




Google is the 800-pound gorilla of the tech world, or at least the biggest kid in the tech bed: when it moves, everyone else reacts. Despite that influence, Google's operating system for mobile phones got off to a slow start -- in the first year that devices were commercially available, the platform garnered less than three percent of the market. In 2010, though, all that changed. As more handsets came on the market from more carriers, and as the number of Android apps grew, adoption rates shot up. Last summer, Google was activating more than 200,000 phones a day and is now up to 300,000 a day -- in other words, iPhone levels. The OS is also being put on new tablets, which will provide some competition for the iPad. Soon we’ll see whether open really always beats closed.

SEE ALSO:

Android Sales: It's Time For Nokia To Worry

Android Users Gorge On Mobile Data

Android 2.1+ On Majority Of Android Smartphones

Android Vulnerable To Data Theft Exploit

Windows Phone Crushed By Android


The Chrome operating system (not to be confused with the Chrome browser) has a very specific target market: people who primarily use their computers to surf the Web and read email. Google happens to think that companies have a lot of such people in their employ. But it remains to be seen whether the Web and Web apps are enough for those who have grown up working with traditional computers. The OS is supposed to start up and get the user online quickly. Much of the OS's story in 2010 has been teasers, though. Google posted images and videos of theoretical Chrome implementations, but didn't actually release a piece of hardware until December, and then only as a test model to a few users.

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Slideshow: Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain

Google Chrome OS CR-48 Notebook Reviewed

Google Chrome OS Hardware Vanishes In The Cloud

Google Launches Chrome OS Preview


People voluntarily entrust Google with a lot of information -- contents of their emails, their contact names, their search habits -- but nobody wants the company to be snooping without permission. Last May, though, word got out that Google's Street View cars -- the ones driving around taking photos for that Google Maps feature -- were also collecting data from people's unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Google claims the data collection was an accident, but various members of Congress, the FCC, and state attorneys general (as well as agencies in other countries) pilloried the company for failing to know what its software was doing and for violating various privacy laws. Google has taken steps to prevent further collection of unauthorized information, and regulators appear to be mostly satisfied, for now.

SEE ALSO:

Connecticut AG Demands Google Street View Data

FTC Ends Google Street View Investigation

Google 'Mortified' Over WiFi Data Gathering

Google Signs Data Handling Agreement


Not everything Google touched this year turned to gold. At the beginning of the year, the company introduced its own Android smartphone, the Nexus One, manufactured by HTC Corporation. The device came in T-Mobile and AT&T versions as well as an unlocked one that could run on other networks. Sales were disappointing, though, maybe because the unlocked handset cost more than $500, maybe because of reports of glitches caused by Android updates, maybe because the carriers didn't push it strongly. In July, Google announced they wouldn't be making any more of the phones. Except that the company did, with the help of Samsung, and the Nexus Two is pretty sharp.

SEE ALSO:

Google Reveals Nexus One 'Super Phone'

Nexus One Vs. iPhone: Clash Of The Smartphones

HTC Droid Incredible Almost Identical To Nexus One

Google Nexus Two To Be Made By Samsung?

5 Reasons The Nexus S Isn't Revolutionary


In a true clash of the titans, Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google last August, alleging patent and copyright infringement. The database giant's statement charged that "in developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement." At issue are patents dealing with various program methods and security functions. Google, in turn, has claimed that not only did it not violate the patents but also that the patents should be ruled invalid to begin with. Google’s aggressive response to Oracle’s filing suggests we’ll see a pitched battle that will lasts years.

SEE ALSO:

Google Denounces 'Baseless' Oracle Lawsuit

Microsoft Sues Motorola Over Android Phone Patents

Google Becomes Focus Of Federal Antitrust Hearing

Apple, Google, Nokia Face Mobile Ad Patent Lawsuit


Google TV, a project backed by Google, Intel, Sony, and Logitech, puts the Android operating system and Chrome browser inside a Sony TV. The idea is to put Web browsing and TV viewing in the same box. The problem for the networks is that customers could watch the Web streaming versions of shows on their TVs without being exposed to broadcast TV's traditional advertising model; they might also be able to watch pirated content in the comfort of their living rooms. Because of these concerns, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, Hulu, and Syfy have all blocked their online content from being accessed by Google TV. (Some other networks are still available.) The unknown factor is whether the arrival of Android apps that work on Google TV hardware will change the situation.

SEE ALSO:

Google TV Blocked From Network Web Content

Google TV Goes Worldwide In 2011

Google TV Web Site Premieres

Samsung Prepping Google TV Powered HDTV

Logitech Launches First Google TV Hardware

Sony Introduces Google-Powered Internet TV


First, there was Gmail, a free email service. Then there was Google Voice, a free phone calling and voice mail service. Next came Google voice chat. And as of last August, they're all combined in the new Gmail-based phone calling service. Gmail users with the voice and video plug-in can call any phone right from their browser, through the Gmail chat function. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are free for now, and calls to other countries are about the cheapest around. This surely makes for some awkward moments when Google meets with its mobile carrier partners to discuss Android, companies that can expect to see their voice revenue decline if online telephony continues to appeal to users.

SEE ALSO:

Gmail Offers Free Phone Calls

First Impressions: Making Phone Calls From Gmail

Google Testing Voice Calls From Gmail

Google Voice Problems Limited


In the old days -- before last September -- you had to wait until you typed your entire search term and hit Return before you saw any results. No longer. Now results start popping up while you're still typing, along with suggested completions for your search term. That's Google Instant. Google estimates that the change saves users two to five seconds per search, or about 3.5 billion seconds a day globally. Whether it helps or hurts advertisers isn’t entirely clear. Certainly, it changes things for advertisers with regard to the terms they need to bid on.

SEE ALSO:

Google Instant Makes Search Psychic

Google Instant Demands New Approach To Advertising

Google Debuts Instant Previews

Google Instant Goes Mobile

Google Adds Instant Search To Chrome 8


Google Wave was a product few people understood and, perhaps because of that, few people used. In practice, it was something like a rolling email conversation, IM chat, and Facebook-style news stream all mixed together. Those who could figure out what to use it for tended to like it. Unfortunately, there weren't that many of those, and an August post on the Google Blog said, "Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked." The announcement spelled the end of Wave development as a standalone product, though the company promised the technologies used would show up elsewhere. And so they are, in the open source and enterprise worlds. The Apache Foundation, for example, announced in early December that it would bring Wave into its incubator program.

SEE ALSO:

Google Wave Washed Out

Google Wave Open To All

Review: Google Wave An Experimental Ride

Top 16 Google Services

Google Plans 'Wave in a Box'

Google Pitches Wave For Health Records


Ever since Google established Google China to serve the world's most populous country, there have been strains in the relationship. The Chinese government, for one, frequently blocks its citizens' access to Google sites, including YouTube. In January of 2010, Google and other U.S. tech companies experienced a security breach that was traced to China. That led to a series of cat-and-mouse moves: Google threatened to pull out of China and redirected China-based searches to Google Hong Kong, avoiding the government censors, followed by China blocking Google searches on the mainland altogether. In 2011, Google will have to decide whether to apply for a map service permit from Chinese authorities.

SEE ALSO:

China Directed Google Attack, Leaked Cable Says

Google Cuts Ties With China Ad Agents

Google's Internet License Renewed In China

China Snubs Google Maps

Google Search Partially Blocked In China

Google China Redirection To End

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