Google releases custom search engine service

Google releases custom search engine service

Google has launched a new service designed to let website publishers build their own search engines using Google’s massive index of page links.

The Google Custom Search Engine service will let anyone, from individuals to organisations, put a Google-powered search box on their sites that only searches certain sites and pages. That way, the publisher of a site about, say, hockey, could put a search box on his home page that only returns links to pages about hockey. The service will also let publishers have a search engine that taps Google’s index in full but gives preference to results from websites they have pre-selected.

With Custom Search Engine, Google joins others that provide similar services, including Yahoo and Rollyo. These custom engines are part of the social search concept, which taps users to refine the search engine experience by contributing, categorising, tagging and sharing search results. For example, site publishers using the Google service can let others contribute to their custom index.

Designed to be extremely easy and intuitive to use, the service will let site publishers build their own search engine in a matter of minutes through the use of menus and wizards, said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.

The service is hosted on Google servers, so site publishers don’t get access to search query logs, a sensitive topic for users who are concerned about the privacy of their search activities. However, the entire search experience happens in the publishers’ sites, and they can personalise the search results page so that its layout is in tune with the rest of their pages, Mayer said. Google will display contextual ads with search results, but sites run by government agencies, nonprofit organisations and universities can opt out of this.

Google stands to benefit not only from sharing ad revenue with publishers but also from propagating the availability of its search engine, analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence said. “People are doing searches on all kinds of sites, not just search engines,” he said. “Search has become the Web’s navigational paradigm.”

Meanwhile, there is considerable demand from publishers for custom search engines because they realise that providing that capability makes their websites more attractive to their visitors, Sterling said.

Google Q3 beats Wall Street forecast

Google Q3 beats Wall Street forecast

Google revenue grew 70 per cent and earnings almost doubled in its third quarter, which ended 30 September.

Google generated revenue of $2.69 billion, compared with $1.58 billion in last year’s third quarter. Subtracting the commissions it pays sites that carry its ads, Google had revenue of $1.865 billion, beating the consensus expectation of $1.815 billion from financial analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Meanwhile, net income came in at $733.4 million, or $2.36 per share, up from $381.2 million, or $1.32 per share. On a pro forma basis excluding certain items, net income was $812 million, or $2.62 per share, also beating analysts’ consensus expectation of $2.42 per share.

Google executives are very pleased with the company’s financial performance during the quarter, particularly with its international business, which generated 44 per cent of all revenue, the company said in a statement.

“We had an excellent quarter in all respects, especially internationally,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, said during a conference call.

Business was particularly strong in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Australia, India and Brazil, executives said.

Google also benefited from strong usage growth, improved search services, enhanced advertising offers, new partnerships and a “blizzard” of new products during the quarter, Schmidt said.

Areas the company wants to improve on are rationalising and integrating its ever-growing menu of services and developing new sources of revenue beyond its core of search advertising.

Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of technology, said the company is implementing initiatives to make it simpler for consumers and organisations to find and use its services.

“We’re concerned that if we continue to develop so many new individual products that are all sort of silos, you’ll have to search for our products before you can use them,” Brin said. “We’re trying to create horizontal functionality across the range of products, across media types and so forth.”

Brin cited as an example Google Apps for Your Domain, a suite that combines several products and services for use by businesses, universities, groups and other organisations.

Google is also working on providing uniform ways to perform similar tasks across its services, like the process of sharing videos, photos and documents, Brin said.

Finally, Google is also grouping search services so they are easier to locate, and also combining search results from those different services, Brin said.

Regarding diversifying the company’s revenue mix, Schmidt said Google’s revenue will continue to flow primarily from advertising, and search advertising in particular “for many, many years”. However, he acknowledged Google must develop other sources of revenue, and pointed at some nascent ones that hold much promise, like the company’s enterprise unit, which sells search appliances to organisations. He also cited the new Google Checkout online transactions service as one that has “tremendous revenue potential”.

Asked about potential copyright violation liabilities Google may inherit when it closes its acquisition of video sharing site YouTube, Schmidt said Google strictly abides by copyright laws and its approach to YouTube will be no exception. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

He also said that Google expects to sign a final contract very soon with News Corp’s MySpace for the advertising deal they announced in August. The companies have been operating so far under a “binding letter of agreement” for that deal, which calls for Google to be the exclusive provider of search functionality and search advertising to MySpace and other News Corp websites. As part of the deal, Google must make revenue-sharing payments totalling at least $900 million to News Corp between the beginning of 2007’s first quarter and the end of 2010’s second quarter.

iPhone 6 spring launch is reason for iPhone 5 production slow down, analyst

iPhone 6 spring launch is reason for iPhone 5 production slow down, analyst

There has been a lot of concern lately that iPhone 5 demand has slowed, based on rumours that suggest Apple has cut back on orders from its suppliers who make the iPhone 5. However, an ex CEO of Apple recently suggested that Apple is moving to a six month product cycle, and an Apple analyst has suggested that the reason for Apple’s slow down on iPhone 5 production is because the iPhone 6 of iPhose 5S will soon be launching.

As we reported last week, former Apple CEO John Sculley told CNBC: “I think they’re going through a very significant change now in terms of product cycles. Traditionally Apple introduces products once a year; now it’s really introducing products twice a year.”

Sculley continued: “The complexity of that from a supply chain is immense, and Apple seems to be doing it well. So, I think that people are underestimating just how well Apple is run, and just how successful the company can be when it gets to that twice-a-year product introduction cycle.”

Sculley’s theory suggests that Apple is managing production of the iPhone 5 much better than people realize, and could indicate that the company has plans afoot for a new iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 at some point in the new year and therefore doesn’t need to build as many iPhone 5 models.

Apple analyst Horace Dediu of Asymco suggests that Sculley might be on the money with his observation. He writes: “Sculley’s comments prompted me to weigh the possible evidence that this [Apple moving to a semi-annual cycle] is happening”.

Dediu notes the following indications that Apple is moving to an update cycle of more than once a year.

1) All Apple’s major products were updated this autumn. A move that Dediu describes as “unprecedented”.

2) The iPhone has already launched in “nearly the entire distribution list”. He suggests: “It indicates no channel fill will be happening past Q1”.

3) Apple’s once-yearly update cycle leads the company with “an inability to meet demand for half the year and a sales lull for the other half. Clearly this is suboptimal,” writes Dediu.

4) Dediu notes: “Production for Apple has tended to be ‘bursty’ with breakneck round-the-clock crush followed by periods of idle time and re-tooling. This is not only inefficient but it also creates strain and stress and lowers morale.”

5) He notes a recent bursts in CapEx and suggests it “may have to do with tooling-up Samsung’s replacements,” or “it may also imply a move to a more rapid product cycle.”

6) And then there are the rumours that the iPhone 5S is already in pre-production.

Dediu notes that these are all “circumstantial pieces of evidence” but he suggests that they “corroborate Sculley’s claim of a six month product cycle.”

Follow Karen Haslam on Twitter / Follow MacworldUK on Twitter


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Hotmail mobile usage surges thanks to iOS 5

Hotmail mobile usage surges thanks to iOS 5

Microsoft says mobile usage of its Hotmail webmail service has exploded in the past few weeks, and it has Apple to thank for it. More than 2 million users linked their Hotmail accounts to their iPhones or iPads since the launch of iOS 5 on Oct. 12, and Microsoft reports almost 100,000 new iOS 5 devices are being set up with Hotmail every day.

Support for Hotmail on Apple’s gadgets has been baked in iOS for around a year now, allowing users to sync their inboxes, calendars and contacts to iPhones and iPads via Exchange Active Sync. But with the introduction of iOS 5 last month, the Hotmail linking process has been drastically simplified to three steps — leading to a spike in iOS usage of Hotmail, which has some 360 million users overall.

The biggest chunk of Hotmail users on iOS 5 come from smartphones, Microsoft said — almost 80 percent in total. Forty percent of the installed base comes from an iPhone 4, 24 percent run Hotmail on an iPhone 4S, and 12 percent use it on an iPhone 3GS with iOS 5. Almost 15 percent also use Hotmail on their iPads, where the iPad 2 Wi-Fi-only model is the most popular at 6 percent.

Hotmail’s bitter rival, Gmail from Google, is also pushing for further iOS adoption, and the company has launched the first official Gmail app for iPhones (Gmail is also integrated in iOS 5 Mail, and works just fine). However, Google’s first attempt was premature, to put it mildly. Shortly after the app was released, it was pulled because of a bug. The interface of Gmail’s iPhone app did not receive much praise either; it was dubbed a mere skin to the existing mobile version of the service, with the added benefit of local push notifications.

Tweetbot arrives in Mac App Store, with higher price than its developers prefer

Tweetbot arrives in Mac App Store, with higher price than its developers prefer

Tapbots on Thursday released Tweetbot for Mac in the Mac App Store, though at a price higher than the company had initially intended to charge. The company says the app’s £13.99 fee comes due to Twitter’s increasing limitations on third-party apps.

Twitter’s new restrictions have left third-party app developers scrambling to figure out how to sustain their businesses. Among the limitations is a hard cap on how many users third-party apps can support; the base limit is 100,000 users, but that number goes higher for apps that had already exceeded 100,000 users by the time Twitter implemented the cap. Back in August, Tapbots pulled the Tweetbot beta to avoid filling up too many of its allotted tokens with free users. The company says that Tweetbot for Mac’s limit is at least double the 100,000 default cap, but hasn’t gotten more specific than that.

“We specifically picked this [$20] price point so that we could continue to support the app even if we run out of tokens,” Tapbots’s Paul Haddad told Macworld.

Haddad says that the token cap and other API restrictions didn’t discourage the company from finishing up Tweetbot for Mac. “If anything,” he said, “it pushed us to get it released even faster.” He did indicate that his company has asked Twitter to raise the token cap for Tweetbot for Mac. “The answer so far is ‘no,'” he said.

Tweetbot for Mac faithfully recreates the experience of Tweetbot’s hugely popular apps for iPhone and iPad. The interface duplicates much of what characterizes the app on iOS–down to the robot-inspired sound effects, tap-and-hold shortcuts, and deep integrations with numerous third-party services including Instapaper, Tweet Marker, and TwitPic.

But despite its feature-richness–and the beloved status of the iOS versions of the app–Haddad indicated that Tapbots felt forced into pricing the app higher than it wanted. “We’d obviously like to be able to sell [Tweetbot for Mac] to as many people as people want, but given the limits that Twitter is imposing on us, we picked a higher price to support continued development.”

Tapbots released Netbot for iPad and iPhone earlier this month. That app, which uses the social network, otherwise behaves nearly identically to Tweetbot. But Haddad didn’t comment on whether a Netbot app for Mac is forthcoming: “We haven’t announced anything yet and are focusing on getting Tweetbot for Mac out this week.”

Tweetbot for Mac requires Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later.

Five new Mass Effect 3 screenshots show GUNS

Five new Mass Effect 3 screenshots show GUNS

Bioware has released five new screenshots of their upcoming RPG and the third installment in Mass Effect franchise, Mass Effect 3. These new screenshots shows guns.

Mass Effect 3Mass Effect 3 has received 15 rating from BBFC, and includes a total of 82 minutes of cut-scenes. Mass Effect 3 will launch on March 9 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Check out new screenshots below.

ME3 screenshotME3 screenshot 1ME3 screenshot 2ME3 screenshot 3ME3 screenshot 4

Freeverse offers free Think software

Freeverse offers free Think software

Freeverse has announced Think, a free software application designed to help Mac users follow a focused workflow.

The application allows users to ‘illuminate’ any Mac OS X application, blocking other windows and applications in order to focus on what they are doing.

The application also lets users bring forward other applications as and when they need to access them for a project, shoving them back into the background when use of these is complete.

“Mac users have always been inclined towards being more productive,” said Freeverse developer Michael Watson. “Think lets you put all the distractions in the background and just work.”

Think is available as a free Universal Binary for Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later.

OS X G3 class-action suit settled

OS X G3 class-action suit settled

Preliminary approval has been given to a settlement that would allow G3 Power Mac owners who purchased Mac OS X before May 15 to get a refund – as long as they did not regularly use OS X on their G3, and live in California.

The class-action lawsuit claimed that Apple failed to support certain G3 models with the same OS X performance enjoyed by G4s.

A hearing will be held in the Superior Court of California on January 26, 2004 to determine whether the proposed settlement is “fair, reasonable and adequate and should receive final approval”.

Apple has posted details of the settlement on its Web site. The notice reads: “If the settlement is approved, Apple will pay to settlement class members who did not regularly use OS X on their covered products and who meet the requirements described below a refund of the actual retail price they paid for OS X up to a maximum of $129.

“To obtain a refund, settlement class members must declare under penalty of perjury as follows: “I have not regularly used OS X on my covered product. I agree not to use OS X on this computer in the future and am returning the OS X disk containing this version of OS X to the address designated in the claim Form. I agree not to reinstall the returned version of OS X on my covered product in the future.”

Apple has also agreed to pay $350,000 to the law firm who filed the lawsuit, King & Ferlauto.

Apple notebook market share to climb

Apple notebook market share to climb

Apple seems set to exceed industry growth once again next year, a new report suggests.

Fuelled by its iPod halo, Apple seems set to ship 3.27 million notebooks next year – up 42 per cent on this year’s 2.29 million, research from the Topology Research Institute declares.

Global notebook shipments next in 2006 are predicted to grow 17.8 per cent, “driven by lower pricing and the new Intel dual-core platform, which is due to be launched next month,” the report explains.

In market share terms such results would give Apple 4.7 per cent of the world’s notebook market, up from 3.9 per cent this year.

Topology analyst Simon Yang predicts Apple will introduce slimmer and lighter portable Macs with a “stylish design aimed at luring female users”, the Taipei Times reports.

Despite Apple’s predicted gains, the top five portable makers are expected to remain Dell, HP, Toshiba, Acer and Lenovo.

Crystal Dynamics Explains Why Rise of the Tomb Raider is Coming Exclusively on Xbox One

Crystal Dynamics Explains Why Rise of the Tomb Raider is Coming Exclusively on Xbox One

Just a few minutes ago at GamesCom 2014, Microsoft announced that Crystal Dynamics upcoming installment in Tomb Raider video game franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch exclusively on Xbox One.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The game will arrive in Holiday 2014. This deal seems to be a full time and not “Timed Exclusive” because Microsoft did not used the term “First On Xbox One”. We finally have received a word from Crystal Dynamics as to why Rise of Tomb Raider is coming exclusively on Xbox One.

In an open letter addressing to fans, Crystal Dynamics said:

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.


Darrell Gallagher
Crystal Dynamics Head of Studios