Google drops a bombshell on Apple

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 23 Sep 2009

Today Google released enhancements of two of their products which seems pretty normal by the looks of it. However, these two updates were targeted primarily as a move to trounce Apple. These two applications are Picasa (a free photo managing and simple editing suite, for Windows and Mac) and Gmail Sync (Google's free email service).


First up Picasa gains "Name Tags" which automatically searches faces in your photo library, and then you can tag them. Based on these tags, Picasa will then try to look for more similiar faces and tag them as well for you. If Picasa is unsure of a face it will try to guess who it is based on previous name tags. You simply need to confirm it. (Picasa has had this functionality in its Web Albums service, but Name Tags is now built right into the application.)

Picasa also gains much better geo-tagging abilities. Previous Windows versions of Picasa had "experimental" support for Geotagging, but it was not particularly well integrated, and it worked hand in hand with Google Earth. Now however, geotagging is integrated right into the Picasa interface, with an additional frame opening showing where photos were taken. This is a big improvement, and frankly a much better.

So why is these features so important? Because Picasa offers these features absolutely free, whereas Apple's iPhoto is a paid for application. True, it is free with every Mac, but upgrades to the latest '09 costs $79.

Google Sync:

Then we get to Google's other major announcement. Today Google is enabling push services for its GMail services. This enables users to connect to Gmail and having their email "pushed" to their devices as they arrive, as opposed to having to check it at predefined intervals. Not everyone needs push email - in fact, I think you should be very dependent (read: addicted) to email to require push functionality. This service is available to iPhone, Windows Mobile and Symbian S60. Google has offerred these mobile "sync" services for contacts and calendar, but today it completes the sync package with email.
Apple has offered this push email functionality to it's MobileMe members for quite some time already, so this is nothing new. However, once again Google undercuts Apple's $99 MobileMe fee with a much lower cost: $0.

With this new Google announcement the only other reasons to go for MobileMe is the iDisk application on your iPhone and also the Find my iPhone feature, which is great. $99 great? Doubt it. The simple fact of the matter is that MobileMe should be a free service, as it would be a great value addition to the iPhone.

One cannot help but wonder if there is some major competition growing between Google and Apple. In the last few months Google's CEO was kicked off Apple's board of directors, Google Voice was rejected from the Appstore and there has been a lot of finger pointing between the two companies regarding this. Now one can be on whichever side you wish - but if Google keeps on giving away functionality for free which Apple insists on asking money for, it becomes tough to side with Apple.

Keep it up Google. (Your move, Apple...)
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.