Google has scheduled a press event for today, reportedly to launch a new music download service. By the time you read this, details should be available, but supposedly one hook of the new service is that if you buy a music track from Google, you can post a link to it on your Google+ account which your friends can use to sample the song once. However, the setback is that Google (again, according to rumors and reports) hasn't yet made deals with all of the major record labels, so its selection may not be ideal yet.
Speaking of Google+, Pete Cashmore has a great column ( goo.gl/6K5ev ) on the CNN Technology web site saying that, while Google+ has little chance of toppling Facebook, that may not be Google's goal for the social-networking service, and Google may be do quite well with the service even if it's a perpetual also-ran. The reason for this is that Cashmore says Google is using social networking activity from Google+ to help its search engine algorithm -- items that people tend to share through "+1" buttons or other Google+ related features will end up higher in search results. Cashmore said the question is not whether Google+ can beat Facebook but whether Google is better off with Google+ than it would be without it -- and Cashmore says the answer to that is yes.
Google+, which was originally just for individuals, has now introduced pages for businesses, brands or organizations. But they don't work very well yet.
For one thing, each page has to be tied to one person's Google account, a terrible idea for companies that want to allow a team of people to make updates to the page. It's usually a good idea to have at least two administrators of your company's social media accounts, if only so that someone else can post while the primary maintainer is on vacation.
On Monday, Amazon released its Kindle Fire tablet a day early and its Kindle Touch e-reader a week early. The company claims orders for the Kindle Fire have been so strong it is making "millions more" of the device than originally planned.
I had already written the tablet vs. e-reader story that appeared in our gift guide last week prior to Barnes & Noble's announcement of a new Nook tablet. I hastily made a few last-minute changes to the story, but may not have done it justice.
B&N still has its Nook Color, an e-reader with a color LCD screen; the Nook Tablet looks very similar to the Nook Color in size and shape, but it has more tablet-like features and is intended as a competitor to the Kindle Fire. The Nook Tablet costs $50 more than the Kindle Fire but has better specs and storage, including the option to use removable memory cards, something the Kindle Fire lacks.
Choosing between them may be a matter of budget or personal preference. Neither, of course, has the myriad of features of the iPad, which costs much more but which is much more versatile. And both are physically much smaller than the iPad -- great for in-your-pocket convenience, but not so great for certain text-intensive magazine pages or web pages.
Kobo, another e-reader, has imitated Amazon and is now offering ad-supported versions of its product at a discount. One difference: if you get an Amazon Kindle with special offers and then later decide you want to get rid of the ads, you can pay to have your device upgraded to an ad-free status. Kobo doesn't offer that option, at least not yet.
Nook, meanwhile, is avoiding the ad-supported approach, and using the lack of ads as a selling point for its products.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.