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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Original Story:

Why trust the machines when you can trust your own eyes, your own brain, your own basic sense of survival?

This philosophical question comes to mind after reading the tragic tale of a woman, her eyes, her brain, her BlackBerry, and her Google Maps.

According to an exhaustive analysis presented by Search Engine Land, Lauren Rosenberg decided to take a walk in Park City, Utah, on January 19, 2009. A Detroit personal injury lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

I will try and ignore just how fundamentally un-American this act was in order to focus on some of the ensuing action.

Rosenberg fingered her trusted BlackBerry and asked it to tell her just how she might walk between 96 Daly Avenue and 1710 Prospector Avenue. Her BlackBerry turned to the world's great walking resource, Google Maps. Google Maps suggested that she should, as part of her journey, amble along Deer Valley Drive.

For all of you who have not had the pleasure of strolling there, might I quote papers filed by Rosenberg's lawyers with the Utah courts. These papers describe Deer Valley Drive as "a.k.a. State Route 224, a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians."

There is perhaps nothing finer than a roadway that bothers to exhibit motor vehicles. Yet this was not quite the exhibition that Rosenberg had in mind. For during her stroll along State Route 224 aka Deer Valley Drive she was allegedly struck by a car driven by Patrick Harwood. A Chicago personal injury lawyer represents clients in personal injury, accident, an negligence cases.

She's suing Harwood. And she is also suing Google.

Perhaps some of you might think of Rosenberg as just a perambulating chaser. Yet she and her lawyers reason that Google's walking directions were "careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions."

Now this is the point at which your complex minds become engaged and my rather simpler version becomes divorced. You see, if you ask Google Maps for walking directions on your laptop you get a very clear warning--yes, on one of those lovely beigey-yellow backgrounds--that reads: "Walking Direction are in Beta. Use caution--This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."

The question is, does this warning appear when you go to Google Maps on your BlackBerry? Or, even more importantly, on Rosenberg's BlackBerry? It does not appear to appear on the iPhone. Which might suggest the same situation holds with the RIM phone.

What I cannot ascertain from the court papers is why Rosenberg would want to walk this route in Utah. She is, it appears, from Los Angeles, which means that she might not have been used to walking at all.

Equally puzzling is the first part part of the court papers where it is says that Rosenberg suffered mental, physical and emotional injuries that caused her to incur medical expenses "in an amount yet to be determined." And yet when it comes to the part about suing Google, medical expenses are said to exceed $100,000. A Grand Rapids personal injury attorney is following this story closely.

Courts have not always been sympathetic to those who claim that they were merely following the orders of enlightened machines. There was the man in England who ordered his BMW down an unpaved cliffside lane , got stuck, and then claimed that his GPS made him do it. The court decided it was the driver's own brain that made him do so.

Can Rosenberg expect Utah courts to be more sympathetic? In our world of increasingly diminished responsibility, might someone actually be in a position to prove that we are all now subjects of the Googleplex? Those Googlies have filmed our streets, made records of our Wi-Fi data, followed us around the Web until they could offer us ads that are "good" for us. Shouldn't we admit whose the supreme power truly is?

Or might the judge emit a cough and declaim in the finest Latin: "Caveat walker"?


Original Story:

Google's getting ready to face Amazon and eBay, according to The Wall Street Journal, and will be adding buy buttons directly to its search results. You'll see those buttons accompanying sponsored results under a "Shop on Google" heading -- they won't be used for non-sponsored links returned by the algorithm -- when you search for products on mobile devices. Upon clicking one, a separate product page will load where you can pick sizes, colors and ultimately complete your purchase. Any product you buy will still come straight from retailers, the WSJ says, so it doesn't sound like Google's stocking up warehouses with goods like Amazon does.

However, some major retailers are apparently worried that they'll get stuck with back-end order fulfillment with no real customer interaction. Since Google wants to remain in good terms with them (they are some of its largest advertisers, after all), it will give shoppers the choice to subscribe to their marketing programs. That typically means mailing lists and the like, so the company's giving them access to customers' info, most likely names and addresses.

In addition, Google promised them that the product landing pages will be heavily branded with their names and will link to more of their products. The company also won't take a cut from their sales and will only get paid for every person that clicks their links. Mountain View will reportedly offer several payment options, "including digital payment methods from other providers," but it (thankfully) won't be giving retailers access to payment details. If you input credit card info to make a purchase, the website will save it for future transactions, but it will remain with the company.

As for why the feature will only be available on mobile, well, Google has a plethora of reasons. The biggest one is most likely the fact that more people now perform searches on their phones than on computers. Search engine optimization allows businesses to maintain premium keyword positions in organic search results, so products are easily found by consumers. According to the WSJ, you might spot a buy button or two as soon as the coming weeks. We don't have a list of official partners yet, since Google hasn't officially announced anything, but Macy's might be one of the first retailers available.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Original Story:

Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. in a deal valued at $4.4 billion that intensifies the battle for advertising on mobile devices. A San Francisco M&A lawyer is following this story closely.

Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless provider, gets two of AOL’s technologies: exclusive video and its ability to automatically send targeted ads to mobile devices. The technology brings Verizon another step closer to the summer start of its mobile streaming service, featuring live TV, original shows and pay-per-view.

As the world embraces mobile with increasing enthusiasm, the deal gives Verizon new revenue streams at a time when its main business faces increasing competition from challengers such as T-Mobile US Inc. It also directly pits the company against two leading Web ad companies, Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.

“They want to integrate advertising and content programming with their wireless network,” Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics based in Dedham, Massachusetts, said of Verizon. “It’s an ambitious plan. The mobile advertising market is dramatically dominated by Google.” An Atlanta advertising and marketing lawyer assists clients with licensing terms, intellectual property rights allocation, and distribution agreements.

The carrier is getting its hands on AOL’s ad technology just before the debut of its mobile video-streaming service, which could come as early as next month. Verizon will pay $50 a share, a 17 percent premium over AOL’s stock price on Monday, and AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong will continue to lead AOL’s operations after the deal is completed, the companies said Tuesday in a statement.

AOL’s shares jumped 19 percent to $50.52 at 4:22 p.m. in New York, slightly above Verizon’s offer price. Verizon dropped 0.4 percent to $49.62.

Different AOL

AOL today is a much different company now than it was 15 years ago, when the Internet portal famous for intoning “You’ve got mail” at log-in agreed to merge with Time Warner Inc. It was one of the world’s largest deals and became one of the largest failures. Two years later, the value of the combined company had dropped by two-thirds and the merger ended in a spinoff six years ago. The company, under Armstrong, has since bought sites like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and expanded its mobile content. A San Diego media lawyer assists clients with communications law cases involving digital communications, cellular communications, and broadcast regulations.

“The deal means we will be a division of Verizon and we will oversee AOL’s current assets plus additional assets from Verizon that are targeted at the mobile and video media space,” Armstrong said in a memo to employees. “The deal will add scale and it will add a mobile lens to everything we do inside of our content, video and ads strategy.”

Wireless Market

In a saturated U.S. wireless market, Verizon, with more than 100 million monthly wireless subscribers, is battling for customers with smaller and more nimble rivals like T-Mobile. One way to differentiate itself is its planned mobile video-streaming service, which will be one of the increasing number of packages targeting Americans who don’t want to pay for traditional pay-TV bundles. The carrier has been planning a service for as early as June, a person familiar with the talks has said.

Armstrong said the idea of some kind of combination was first broached last summer when Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam met with him at a CEO retreat.

The two executives talked about how they might be able to work together on mobile technology, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

AOL had been focusing on a technology known as programmatic advertising, an automated marketplace where ads are found and inserted in a flash. With a growing number of viewers watching videos on mobile devices, AOL had found a way to compete with Google and Facebook.

Advertising Component

Verizon had been working on a streaming-video system and had acquired video-technology companies including upLynk, EdgeCast and OnCue. It was clear, as those pieces came together, that an advertising component was missing, the person said.

McAdam assigned Marni Walden, the former chief operating officer of its wireless business, to lead the development of the mobile video service, which included getting some form of deal with AOL.

Over time, the discussions covered a variety of approaches. Different frameworks were considered, the person said. One was focused on assets, another on a joint venture and a third on acquisition, the person said.

Around January the talks centered on the idea of setting up a separate ad tech company as a joint venture. Eventually those discussions led to talk of a takeover, the person said.

New Revenue

Verizon’s push into mobile video will mark the largest attempt to tap new revenue sources beyond the calling and data services it sells to its wireless subscribers, Entner said.

“Verizon had the early lead in mobile advertising with the right vision and good assets behind it,” Entner said. “Then Google came in and bought AdMob and completely upended the market.
With this deal, Verizon is trying to turn back the clock and get control of the mobile value stream.”

Verizon said it plans to fund the deal with cash on hand and commercial paper. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, the companies said.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


Original Story:

SAN FRANCISCO — Google's influential search engine has hit a tipping point in technology's shift to smartphones. More search requests are now being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

The milestone announced at a digital advertising conference Tuesday serves as another reminder of how dramatically online behavior has changed since 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone, leading to a wave of similar devices that have made it easier for people to stay connected to the Internet wherever they go. Mobile optimization allows users to stay connected on the go.

The upheaval has rocked PC makers and other tech companies such as Microsoft with businesses tied to sales of desktop and laptop computers. Google has been able to adapt better than most companies, partly because its search engine and other services are embedded in the popular Android mobile operating system, but it hasn't been totally unscathed.

Google's average ad prices have been declining for the past three-and-half years, partly because marketers so far have been unwilling to pay as much for the commercial message displayed on the smaller screens of smartphones. The company, though, says mobile ad prices have been steadily climbing and will continue to do so as marketers recognize the value of being able to connect with prospective customers at the precise moment that they are looking for someplace to eat, or comparing products on a smartphone while standing in a store.

"The future of mobile is now," says Jerry Dischler, a Google Inc. vice president in charge of the company's "AdWords" service for creating online marketing campaigns.

Besides in the U.S., Google's mobile search requests are outstripping requests in nine other countries. Japan is the only other country that Google is identifying.

The Mountain View, California, company isn't specifying just how many mobile search requests it is getting. Google processes more than 100 billion search requests worldwide each month, including queries on PCs.

As part of the mobile transition, Google last month overhauled its search-recommendation system to favor websites that are easier to read and load on smartphones. That change, known as "Mobilegeddon," prodded millions of websites to make changes to ensure they work well on smartphones to avoid being demoted in Google's search results. Mobile friendly websites provide added value to users.

Google also has been introducing advertising formats that tend to work better on mobile devices. For instance, rooms can now be booked within hotel ads, and car ads can now be swiped across a screen to make it easier to comparison shop.

In addition to announcing the milestone in mobile search, Google also introduced on Tuesday a service for comparing mortgage rates in the U.S. The mortgage product expands upon a similar service for auto insurance policies that Google unveiled in California in March. Google is adding three more states — Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania — to the auto insurance service.


Original Story:

Dan Fredinburg, a respected Google executive who headed privacy for Google X and led its product management team, has died in the avalanche on Mount Everest which was triggered by the huge earthquake in Nepal. The natural disaster has already killed over 2,000 people in the region and devastated infrastructure. Some 18 other climbers have been killed in what is being described as the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in the last 80 years.

By all accounts, Fredinburg was an experienced climber who had also co-founded Google Adventure, a company team that filmed Google Street View images in “extreme, exotic locations like the summit of Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.”

Fredinburg’s sister Megan confirmed his death via his Instagram account, while Google’s privacy director Lawrence posted the following earlier today: “Dan Fredinburg, a long-time member of the Privacy organization in Mountain View, was in Nepal with three other Googlers, hiking Mount Everest. He has passed away. The other three Googlers with him are safe and we are working to get them home quickly.”

He added that Google’s Crisis Response team has launched Person Finder for Nepal, and “is working to get updated satellite imagery to aid in the recovery effort. is committing $1M to the response, and we’ll have gift-matching available soon.”

Fredinburg co-founded a climate change nonprofit, Save The Ice, and a startup accelerator in San Francisco called The Laundry, aimed at taking technology to emerging markets.

Some friends of Fredinburg have put up a Crowdrise allowing others to donate to causes he supported.

You can donate to other organisations working in Nepal during the disaster including
the Red Cross and Oxfam.


Original Story:

It's unclear whether Google plans to maintain its current downtown Ann Arbor office or is charting a move.

Internet giant Google has signed a lease for new office space south of downtown Ann Arbor as the company considers the future of its presence in the city's central business district.

Google signed a deal for 30,000 square feet of the South State Commons II building northeast of the corner of South State Street and Eisenhower Parkway in the Briarwood Mall area, said Jeff Harshe of MAVDevelopment Company. A real estate lawyer has experience assisting business clients with office space leasing contracts.

"I think it's an indication of the vibrant business climate in this area," said Harshe, who declined to discuss terms of the new lease. "My experience with them is they continue to grow, and they're good corporate citizens."

But a person familiar with Google's local presence but not authorized to speak publicly said the company has not yet decided whether to stay in downtown Ann Arbor. The person said the company needed the new office as overflow space to accommodate job growth.

It's still possible Google could renew or adjust its current lease. Google officials were not available to comment.

The company currently leases about 85,000 square feet of the McKinley Towne Centre office complex at the corner of Liberty and Division in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. The office primarily handles sales for Google's AdWords search advertisements, its primary source of revenue, and had about 300 employees as of two years ago. Google AdWords marketing management can provide a solid foundation for business success.

McKinley Inc. CEO Albert Berriz said his firm plans to begin marketing Google's current space for lease starting May 1.

"We have not received confirmation from Google that they are staying or going," Berriz said in an email. "We simply can't wait any further."

The uncertainty raises the possibility that the company will move out of the city's central business district for the first time since opening the operation to much fanfare about a decade ago. There are few spots in downtown Ann Arbor for large private-sector office tenants.

Berriz said brokers will market the space for tenants who could take occupancy in summer 2016. Several prospective tenants have already expressed interest, he said, including one single user interested in leasing the entire space.

The company's new space is located on the third floor of an office that was specifically designed for employers that need high-speed Internet access. Google will share the building with Merit Network, the University of Michigan and Plante Moran.

The deal, first reported by, could leave downtown Ann Arbor's Liberty Street technology corridor without one of its anchor tenants.

When the company announced about a decade ago that it was opening an Ann Arbor office, it received a windfall of positive publicity, and economic development leaders hailed the deal as a reflection on the region's economic vitality.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration extended tax incentives to the company, which mapped out plans to add about 1,000 employees. But the company's job growth stalled amid the Great Recession.

Still, Google remains core to Ann Arbor's technology identity. Its colorful logo hangs atop the McKinley Towne Centre complex and the company remains a destination employer for University of Michigan graduates and other young professionals.

The company also maintains a separate office in Birmingham that handles automotive accounts.