Google's New Ventures Examined

All Tech Considered regular Omar Gallaga talks about what's new with Google. He discusses the company's stand-off with China, its entry into the world of ultra-high-speed Internet and its new social networking feature, Google Buzz.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And now to the hacking standoff between Google and China. After Google threatened to pull out of China last month, the Chinese government has shown some initiative in cracking down on cybercrime. News broke early last week that Chinese authorities shut down a large-scale hacker training operation in an effort to increase cybersecurity. Well joining me with an update on the Google-China story and other Google news is Omar Gallaga. He is the technology culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. He talks with us most Mondays. Welcome back, Omar.

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Technology Culture Reporter, Austin American-Statesman): Hello, thanks for having me.

BLOCK: And tell us about the latest in this high-stakes back-and-forth between Google and China.

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, last month after these hacker attacks happened, we heard some very strong words from Google, they were threatened to pull out of the country. But on Friday, Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, spoke publicly about it at the TED conference, a big tech conference, and said that the company is actually pretty optimistic that they will continue to do business in China. Google is being very closely watched on this because if they do make any progress that they are able to break through any of the censorship constraints that have been made against them, that this would be obviously huge for businesses that want to do business in China. But Google is also calling on other companies that are being hacked to step forward and kind of stand alongside them in letting the world know, you know, what's going on with this.

BLOCK: Now, Omar, Google also made news with a high-speed internet service they're working on. It's a one gigabit per second fiberoptic network. Omar, what does one gigabit per second mean? What does that translate to?

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, it's very, very fast compared to what most people have. Most of our broadband internet tops out at around 10-12 megabits per second. This would be about 100 times faster. And the most basic DSL offerings are about one megabit per second. So, this is a thousand times faster than that. So, this is looking very far forward to Web applications that don't even exist yet. Google is looking at sort of the next generation of video and HD. And it's going to be very limited in its availability at least at first.

BLOCK: Well, who would have access to it?

Mr. GALLAGA: Google has put out a call to municipalities to kind of nominate areas that would get this. But it's looking like it's only going to be about 50,000 to maybe 500,000 people will get this service at first. We've already seen Seattle, Pittsburgh, the mayors of those cities have put in a request to kind of look into this and try to get Google's attention. Here in Austin and in Round Rock, we've got some people talking about that as well. So, places with a lot of techies are going to want to get Google's attention and see if they can be first in line for that very, very high-speed internet.

BLOCK: And last bit of Google news today, Omar, Google has been taking some heat for a new social networking feature called Google Buzz, which debuted last week. It's linked to your Gmail account. It lets you upload videos and share links and chat with your followers but there is a problem. What's the problem?

Mr. GALLAGA: The problem was that it was rolled into Google's Gmail service which is very popular. I think it's something like 176 million users. So, this just appeared in people's Gmail inboxes and automatically sort of put the word out there that hey, you know, here is my Picasa Web Albums, here is my Google Reader items that I'm sharing, here's the people that I email back and forth with - before people had a chance to go in there and sort of set those privacy controls to kind of hide that. So, over the weekend Google has made quite a few changes, they're making it more of an opt-in system now. But I think the real issue is that in people's inboxes they sort of expect some modicum of privacy and all of a sudden there's this social networking thing that just pops up and put things out there.

BLOCK: Seems odd that Google wouldn't have anticipated that.

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah, it seems to me like Google is taking a page out of Facebook's playbook where they sort of introduce something and don't really let people know about it and then all of the sudden everyone gets mad and then they kind of back away a half step and make changes to make it a little more palatable. But to me Google Buzz, as well as the Nexus One phone that they rolled out last month, these are all ways that Google is sort of getting all up in our business. They're really trying to integrate themselves more closely into our lives beyond search. I don't know if you saw their Super Bowl commercial, "Parisian Love"...

BLOCK: Oh yeah.

Mr. GALLAGA: ...where you see a person kind of fall in love and have a baby all through their Google searches. To me the fact that Google even ran a Super Bowl commercial says that they really want to get into these consumer spaces, that they really want to really integrate themselves more closely into our lives. I mean, for some people that's a little scary. For some people that's very exciting because Google certainly has the mojo to make a lot of big things happen.

BLOCK: Omar, thanks so much.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me. And we'll be talking about all these things on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga is the technology culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and for All Tech Considered. This is NPR News.

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