This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.
There’s no slowing down as we head into summer. In the last couple weeks, we made improvements to Google Sync for iOS devices, streamlined collaboration in Microsoft ® Office files, added mobile display options for Google Sites and welcomed many big organizations, including the state of Wyoming, onto Google Apps.
Search all email from iOS devices, and more Google Sync brings your email, calendar and contacts to four popular phone platforms. Last Wednesday, we improved Google Sync for iOS devices in three ways. One, you can now search all of your Gmail from your iPhone or iPad, beyond just the messages stored on your phone. Two, you can accept, decline and edit calendar events from your device, and three, you can send email from a custom email address if you use Gmail’s “Send mail as” feature. This is useful if you like to manage email in Gmail, but want emails you sent to look like they’re coming from a school or business email address.
Paste images into Gmail messages As of Monday, if you use the latest version of Chrome, you can now paste images into Gmail’s compose window right from your clipboard. If you copy an image from the web or another email, it’s a cinch to paste it directly into a message.
Improvements to Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office With Google Cloud Connect, you can collaborate with others simultaneously through Google’s cloud in Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without sending attachments back and forth. People told us they wanted a faster way to open files with Google Cloud Connect so on Tuesday we streamlined that process. Now you can open native Office files saved in Google Docs right from Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Mobile rendering for Google Sites It’s important that you can be just as productive on your phone’s small screen as on a full computer display, so yesterday we made Google Sites work even better on mobile devices. You can now configure your sites to automatically render for smaller screens on Android and iOS devices, making the content much easier to read and navigate. In addition, you can also browse and search the sites that you manage through an interface that’s also been optimized for a mobile device’s smaller screen.
Who’s gone Google?
It’s been another bumper couple weeks with tens of thousands more organizations moving to Google Apps. This week, the State of Wyoming became the first to move all state government employees to Google Apps. Matt Mead, Governor of Wyoming, was on-hand for a “cable cutting” ceremony to celebrate the 10,000 user transition to the cloud, which was managed smoothly by deployment partner Tempus Nova.
In the private sector, all 8,400 employees at The McClatchy Company are “going Google” across the business’ 30 newspapers. The company is anticipating a stack of benefits from Google Apps, including standardization on a single email solution, simpler shared calendaring, improved collaboration even when mobile, significant cost savings and a level of service that they weren’t seeing from their historical provider, not to mention great employee enthusiasm for the IT group’s decision.
In the coming months, we’re going to retire two products that didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped, but did serve as influential models: Google Health (retiring January 1, 2012; data available for download through January 1, 2013) and Google PowerMeter (retiring September 16, 2011). Both were based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home. While they didn't scale as we had hoped, we believe they did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.
We’re making this announcement well in advance to give you plenty of time to download the information you might have stored in either product or to transfer it to another service, and we’re making it easy for you to do it in a variety of formats. More on how that works below.
More broadly, we remain committed as always to helping people around the world access and use information pertinent to them. We’ll continue to pursue this goal and to encourage government and industry to do the same.
Google Health When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information. We wanted to translate our successful consumer-centered approach from other domains to healthcare and have a real impact on the day-to-day health experiences of millions of our users.
Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people. That’s why we’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue the Google Health service. We’ll continue to operate the Google Health site as usual through January 1, 2012, and we’ll provide an ongoing way for people to download their health data for an additional year beyond that, through January 1, 2013. Any data that remains in Google Health after that point will be permanently deleted.
If you’re a Google Health user, we’ve made it easy for you to retrieve your data from Google Health any time before January 1, 2013. Just go to the site to download your information in any of several formats: you can print and save it, or transfer it to other services that support industry-standard data formats. Available formats include:
Printable PDF including all the records in your Google Health profile
Comma-separated value (CSV) files that can be imported into spreadsheets and database programs for ongoing tracking and graphing
HTML and XML versions of the original “data notices” sent to your Google Health profile by linked data providers
A unified ZIP archive that includes all files you’ve uploaded to your profile, plus all of the formats above
Over the coming weeks we’ll also be adding the ability to directly transfer your health data to other services that support the Direct Project protocol, an emerging open standard for efficient health data exchange. And while we’ll discontinue the Google Health service at the beginning of 2012, we’ll keep these download options available for one more year, through the start of 2013. This approach to download and transfer capability is part of Google’s strong commitment to data liberation principles: providing free and easy ways for users to maintain control of their data and move it out of Google’s services at any time.
In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care. We continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health, and we’re always working to improve our search quality for the millions of users who come to Google every day to get answers to their health and wellness queries.
Google PowerMeter We first launched Google PowerMeter as a Google.org project to raise awareness about the importance of giving people access to data surrounding their energy usage. Studies show that having simple access to such information helps consumers reduce their energy use by up to 15%; of course, even broader access to this information could help reduce energy use worldwide.
Since our launch, there’s been more attention given to this notion of people easily accessing their energy data. The installation of smart meters and other home energy devices is picking up steam, and states like California and Texas are moving forward to finalize policies and programs in this area. Earlier this month, the White House announced a goal of giving all consumers access to their energy usage in computer-friendly formats as part of a national plan for modernizing the electricity grid.
We’re pleased that PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance of this access and created something of a model. However, our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service. PowerMeter users will have access to the tool until September 16, 2011. We have made it easy for you to download your data: simply log in to your account and go to "Account Settings” to export to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. We will be contacting users directly with more information on this process.
Momentum is building toward making energy information more readily accessible, and it’s exciting to see others drive innovation and pursue opportunities in this important new market. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with PowerMeter and look forward to what will develop next in this space.
By helping people make more informed decisions through greater access to more information, we believe Google Health and PowerMeter have been trailblazers in their respective categories. Ultimately though, we want to satisfy the most pressing needs for the greatest number of people. In the case of these two products, our inability to scale has led us to focus our priorities elsewhere.
As always, we welcome your feedback; please share your thoughts and opinions with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We won’t be able to respond to every email, but we promise we’ll listen.
Posted by Aaron Brown, Senior Product Manager, Google Health and Bill Weihl, Green Energy Czar
At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first. We aim to provide relevant answers as quickly as possible—and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. Still, we recognize that our success has led to greater scrutiny. Yesterday, we received formal notification from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it has begun a review of our business. We respect the FTC’s process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services.
It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you’re looking for—buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding—we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map.
Instant answers. New sources of knowledge. Powerful tools—all for free. In just 13 years we’ve built a model that has changed the way people find answers and helped businesses both large and small create jobs and connect with new customers.
Search helps you go anywhere and discover anything, on an open Internet. Using Google is a choice—and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information: other general-interest search engines, specialized search engines, direct navigation to websites, mobile applications, social networks, and more.
Because of the many choices available to you, we work constantly on making search better, and will continue to follow the principles that have guided us from the beginning:
Do what’s best for the user. We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.
Provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible. Today, when you type “weather in Chicago” or “how many feet in a mile” into our search box, you get the answers directly—often before you hit “enter”. And we’re always trying to figure out new ways to answer even more complicated questions just as clearly and quickly. Advertisements offer useful information, too, which is why we also work hard to ensure that our ads are relevant to you.
Label advertisements clearly. Google always distinguishes advertisements from our organic search results. As we experiment with new ad formats and new types of content, we will continue to be transparent about what is an ad and what isn’t.
Loyalty, not lock-in. We firmly believe you control your data, so we have a team of engineers whose only goal is to help you take your information with you. We want you to stay with us because we’re innovating and making our products better—not because you’re locked in.
These are the principles that guide us, and we know they’ll stand up to scrutiny. We’re committed to giving you choices, ensuring that businesses can grow and create jobs, and, ultimately, fostering an Internet that benefits us all.
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Today at M.I.T., the Knight Foundation showcased 16 projects selected as the winners of the 2011 Knight News Challenge. Now in its fifth year, this media-innovation contest included $1 million in support from Google. As you’ll see in the full list of winners, these initiatives come from organizations large and small and are reminders that entrepreneurship can be sparked anywhere. Here are just a few examples of the creative ways the journalism community around the world is merging traditional skills with an online landscape:
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, OpenBlock Rural will use its seed money to work with local governments and community newspapers across the state to collect, aggregate and publish data.
In Virginia, the Miller Center Foundation’s State Decoded will serve as a platform to display state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make government more understandable to the average citizen.
Liverpool, U.K.-based ScraperWiki will bring its experiences with public data to journalism camps in 12 U.S. states.
Chile’s El Mostrador will develop an editorial and crowdsourced database to bring greater transparency to potential conflicts of interest.
Ushahidi will build off its past crisis efforts to improve information-verification across email, Twitter, web feeds and text messages.
Other winning proposals tell rich multimedia stories, bridge the gap between traditional and citizen media and further improve the utility of data to journalists. Our sister program in partnership with the International Press Institute is also well underway. The entries in that competition are now in and the winners will be announced later this summer. We look forward to seeing the impacts these initiatives have on digital journalism and hope they encourage continued experimentation and innovation at the grassroots level.
Posted by Jim Gerber, Director, Strategic Partnerships, News