Tag Archives: google

Google pushes ahead with Project Loon

So Google are nearly ready to bring us Project Loon. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it?

Google announced in 2013 that they had an impressive plan to surround the Earth with large balloons which would provide internet access. This was a project designed to bring high speed internet access to places with little or no infrastructure for net access. At the time it was viewed as a fanciful notion that would never get off the ground (pun intended).

Fast forward to the present day, and now they are announcing that the trials have gone well, and they expect to have a global network in place within months. This will allow them to bring on board paying customers, by which it looks like they mean multi-nationals and Government customers.

The concept behind Loon is not really new technology. The balloons themselves are very similar to those developed in the 1950’s by the US Military and NOAA for weather tracking (although I’m sure they had some other uses during the cold war) and are huge structures made from Mylar and filled with Helium. To date, the longest Google has had a balloon stay up is 187 days, but previously the military claim to have had one stay up for 744 days.

They will circle the earth at a height of approximately 20Km and rather than being stationary they will be allowed to float where the weather takes them. They will be tracked by GPS, allowing them to sync with the rest of the balloons in the network. Each balloon will carry three radios. One each for data upload and download, and a backup should one of those fail.

The benefit for places with a good infrastructure will be negligible. The types of place which should really benefit are places like Indonesia, where a chain of rugged islands has meant building the usual cable based network is extremely difficult and expensive. Google hope that Loon will be a simpler, cheaper option for Governments in areas like this to provide a network which is available to all.

Such areas have missed out on opportunities the rest of us take for granted. Most readers probably won’t remember a world pre-internet, but it wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t have Google, or Amazon or news sites to make life a little easier. Anyone who lived through that era will tell you of the amazing changes that have taken place in the past 15 years or so. The world has suddenly become a much smaller place, with business able to be conducted in real time when the parties are thousands of miles apart. Those parts of the world who haven’t had the same opportunity will explode into life when they finally get the access they need, and the tapestry of life will become just a little richer.

Google to merge Android and Chrome OS as an all in one operating system (or are they?)

So Google have finally taken the leap. They are going to merge Android and Chrome OS.

The Wall Street Journal report that Google have announced a formal move, with the Android OS expected to be tweaked and take over Chrome OS rather than the other way around. It seems the plan is to launch the new OS in early 2017, and we can no doubt expect development builds to appear before that.

Just what this will mean for current users of both systems is unclear, but Chromebooks will no longer be Chromebooks, although the OS is apparently to be opened out to hardware makers so that they can continue to utilise it. The Chromebook OS doesn’t have the same appeal as Android with a lack of apps and a user base which is hardly troubling Microsoft. Android on the other hand isn’t very useful when presented with a keyboard or mouse. The big trick Google will have to pull off is a seamless interaction between all types of devices whereby the user experience remains the same whether on a 3” smart phone screen, or on a 50” IPS display.

This should be a good move for Google. An already massive Android user base which knows what to expect will be hungry for a light replacement to Windows and it’s forced updates (see the previous article). If they can manage to come up with a system that keeps the simplistic usability of Android with the functionality of a full OS working on a desktop, then they might just start a revolution.

No doubt we’ll have more announcements soon from hardware manufacturers, and it will be interesting to see what the web community makes of it all.

Edit: 03/11/2015 – So it appears that Google are now saying Chrome will not be killed off as an OS. A post on the Chrome blog has categorically denied any intention to get rid of the system, saying it is staying and will remain supported for the foreseeable future. It seems the Wall Street Journal may have got the wrong end of the stick from a development post which discussed amending Android to work on laptop form factor. So if you own a Chromebook, then stop panicking, It isn’t going anywhere!