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The Protect IP Act: Google’s Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

The Protect IP Act: Google’s Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

The Protect IP Act: Google's Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

Protecting intellectual property sounds like such a noble cause that you’d have to be a anarchistic free-market extremist to be against the idea, right? Actually, we don’t think Google CEO Eric Schmidt is particularly extreme in any definable way, yet this past week he spoke with gusto, railing against the proposed Protect IP Act, which was designed to “prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property.” If passed into law, it would give the government the right to shut down any “Internet site dedicated to infringing activities” — “infringing activities” largely being of the sort that allows dude A to download copyrighted item B from dude C when it’s unclear whether dude C has legal rights to be distributing B in the first place.

So, you know, it’s targeting the Pirate Bay and its ilk, giving government officials greater power to sweep in and snag the domains of such sites. Schmidt calls this approach a set of “arbitrarily simple solutions to complex problems” that “sets a very bad precedent.” The precedent? That it’s okay for democratic governments to go and kill any site they don’t like, something Schmidt says would only encourage restrictive policies in countries like China. While we don’t think China really needs any sort of encouragement at all to keep on building up its Great Firewall, we tend to agree that this is a much more complicated problem than the Act makes it out to be. That said, one must admit that Schmidt’s opinions are necessarily somewhat swayed by the knowledge that any such law would also have a negative impact on the business of search engines in general.

But of course no such volley of words could go unanswered from the two shining knights of copyright protection, the MPAA and RIAA, which mounted up their corporate blogs, rode down from twin castles full of lawyers, and collectively told Schmidt he’s full of it. The MPAA spun Schmidt’s comments into some sort of act of civil disobedience, saying that “Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws.” Meanwhile, the RIAA called the statement “a confusing step backwards by one of the most influential internet companies.” Obviously it’s only going to get nastier from here, so buckle your seatbelts, place your bets, and hang on to your BitTorrent clients.

Switched On: Adding to Android’s army

 Adding to Android’s army

Android, as Andy Rubin (no relation) has pointed out on multiple occasions, plays a game of numbers. And at Google I/O, the company carrying on its development shared some large ones: 100 million activated devices with 400,000 being added each day. However, like in many games, different players can catch up or overtake each other at different points. Just ask Nokia and RIM. To stay on top, operating system vendors implement strategies that lock consumers in. The more money consumers sink into iPhone apps, for example, the more incentive they have to stay with that platform; the same is true for accessories that use Apple’s 30-pin dock connector that has been around since the third-generation iPod.

With Android having become the lead operating system for every smartphone company that licenses its OS with the notable exception of Nokia (which nearly did), Google showed that it’s intent not just on moving Android into other devices with sufficient computing horsepower such as tablets and, increasingly, TVs, but now has its sights set on having just about everything that can’t run Android directly feed into it. Google is taking two approaches – one for things that plug into Android devices, and one for things that don’t.

The Android Open Accessory platform seeks to match, if not trump, the wide range of accessories that have surfaced around Apple’s 30-pin connector that began as a simple way to provide charging and audio out. On one hand, unlike Apple, Google is building its accessory platform around the nearly ubiquitous USB connector. Perhaps more importantly, without any special connector to license, it is not charging companies for use of the accessory protocols. This should bode well for adding Android support to peripherals from the traditional to the emerging such as various health monitors and theexercise bike shown at Google I/O. On the other hand, the wide variation in terms of where the connector is placed may make things difficult for peripherals that depend on a device’s physical positioning such as speaker and car docks. (There have been challenges with 30-pin products too as Apple has changed the dimensions, power and authentication criteria over the years.)

Overcoming these challenges, however, is child’s play compared to Android@Home, which sets out to capture one of the most elusive quests in consumer technology – mainstream adoption of home automation.

Android@Home takes Google into territory where there has been no successful mainstream model and no trailblazing model like the iPhone to reset expectations.

Using a new low-power lighting standard developed by Google, radios can be embedded inside of light bulbsthemselves without adding significant cost, potentially circumventing the need to have electricians install them in wall switches. NXP Semiconductor has also shown off such a small radio. While this represents a milestone toward consumer adoption, cost, complexity, low awareness, and the notoriously fractured home automation standards market have long stood between cool and potentially money-saving technology and mass adoption. What’s more, while we’ve been hearing about energy utilities delivering Zigbee-based automation into homes via smart meters for years, there now seems to be more interest from other service providers, with Verizonannouncing that it would be using rival standard Z-Wave for smart energy and home automation service. Security service providers ADT and Vivint are also supporting Z-Wave.

While the Android Open Accessory platform is a natural extension, Android@Home takes Google into territory where there has been no successful mainstream model and no trailblazing model like the iPhone to reset expectations. Bringing home automation to the masses will require developing an ecosystem at least as strong as the one around Android itself.

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