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Google Owns That?

Daniel J. Siegel, Esq. on 11/19/2012

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Article Image As the author of the upcoming book, Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers, I receive numerous questions about which apps lawyers should use, and how to get the most out of their smartphones and tablets. But what always surprises me is the number of people who don’t realize that the Android operating system, which powers their smartphones, their Kindle HD, and many of their tablets and other devices, was created by Google. Nor do they realize that 75 percent of all smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012 (that’s 131 million devices) used the Android operating system.

Clearly, Android is here to stay.

And so is Google.

The difference is that most people still think that Google is just a website you go to in order to search for information, and that Android is just a cute name for how their phones work. They are far more. The company is mammoth, and the its reach goes beyond its ubiquitous search engine, although you cannot ignore the fact that Google owns 23 of the top 100 websites (to be fair, many are foreign language/country-specific search engine websites). Plus, Google keeps growing, as does the number of websites and services the company offers.

While you may have heard about Google Docs, the company’s online way of creating, storing and collaborating on documents, spreadsheets and other files, you probably did not know about all of Google’s other sites and services, or the many aspects of the Android operating system. In this article, I will highlight a few you may not have heard about, but that may make your life a bit easier.

• Google Earth (http://www.google.com/earth/index.html) – Want to find a place on the globe? Want to view the earth from a satellite, or look at galaxies far away? What I find more interesting are the Showcase and Gallery sections of the website. The Showcase section lets you view from videos to images of almost everything. For example, you can look at “Historical Imagery,” which lets you go back in time without Michael J. Fox and a Delorean. You can pick a location and a date, and see what a famous city, or your old neighborhood, looked like way back when. Or, go to the Gallery and virtually export the Earth, viewing hundreds of maps, ranging from historical topographic maps to images taken from space. All on your home computer.

• Google Chrome (www.google.com/chrome) – People love it or hate it, but regardless, Google’s web browser, the software program you use to see the Internet on computers, phones and tablets, is here to stay. Plus, as of May 2012, Chrome is the most-used web browser in the world. Thus, Google has conquered the search engine world and won, and now its browser (the conduit to its search engine) has conquered Internet Explorer and Firefox, the previous market leaders. Users like its sleek design and its ability to load web pages quickly. As a result, if you haven’t yet tried Chrome, give it a shot.

• Google Finance (www.google.com/finance) – Most people do not think of Google when they think about finance websites, but that is a mistake. Google Finance is a, well-organized and easy-to-navigate website that provides a wealth of information about everything financial. Obviously, it provides real-time stock quotes and charts, financial news, currency conversions, and the ability to track your portfolio. But it also has a stock screener (right now, there’s surprisingly no mutual fund screener), and can help you make investing decisions. It’s not Morningstar, but if you don’t need as many bells and whistles, this site is the answer.

• Google Goggles (http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/) – When a former associate told me about this app, I was in disbelief, and then I tried it. I took my phone, took a picture of an obscure painting on the wall of the reception area of my office and in about ten seconds it gave me the name of the painting and the artist who painted it, as well as the location where I could find it. It was amazing. But it works, and boy does it end debates quickly? According to Google, you can “Search by taking a picture: point your mobile phone camera at a painting, a famous landmark, a barcode or QR code, a product, a storefront, or a popular image. If Goggles finds it in its database, it will provide you with useful information.” If that is not enough, “Goggles can read text in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Turkish, and translate it into other languages.” Other than that, it is pretty passé.

• Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/) – Another popular site is Google Maps, whether you access it on your computer or on your mobile device. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it has helped to make stand-alone GPS units almost obsolete. But if you really want to see how good the site is, all you have to do is recall the fiasco that Apple created when it replaced Google Maps on the iPhone 5 (Apple’s iOS 6) with its new mapping software – and the complaints and problems were so significant that, according to Forbes, they led to the departure Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software at Apple, who was once considered an heir apparent to Steve Jobs.

• Google Play (http://play.google.com) – For books, magazines, movies, TV shows, and much more for your Android device or phone, turn to Google Play. It is not just a website to get apps for your Android devices. In fact, you can store your entire music collection (or up to 20,000 songs from it), and then listen to your heart’s content anywhere you are connected to the Internet. It’s hard to believe how much material this site offers, but when realize that it had downloaded 25 billion items as of September 2012, you quickly realize just what a behemoth this site is.

• Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader) – One of the best Google websites, the Reader is the place where you can read tons of magazines, blogs, news feeds and just about everything else – for free! That’s right, no matter what the subject, there’s probably a feed here for you. The biggest problem you’ll run into, almost certainly, is that when you first start subscribing you actually think you’re going to read everything you selected. But then, when you return and find all the sports, all the news, all the politics, all the law, and all of everything else, you realize that you can’t possibly read everything, let alone most of the things you selected. So go slowly, pick one or two feeds, see what you can handle, and then jump in further.

• YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) – If you did not know, Google owns YouTube, the popular video sharing website, then guess what, it does. And YouTube’s popularity is astounding. According to the site, more than 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month, and they watch over 4 billion hours of video watched each month. Consider that 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that in 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views. That is 140 views for every person on Earth. That’s a lot of video, and Google owns it.

In conclusion, when you are surfing the web, or using your smartphone, remember that you are almost certainly being tracked by Google, using Google’s search engine, running Android and visiting websites owned by Google.

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