Would you ever take your tablet camping? The Great Outdoors can be an awfully wet and dirty for a sensitive, several-hundred-dollar gizmo, so we say "no." But Google, being Google, wants its products to follow you to the ends of the Earth, even when you're trying to get away from it all.
That's the suggestion of the first video advertisement for the Nexus 7 tablet, which made its way to YouTube yesterday. The ad depicts a hyper-cute father-son pair bonding over both nature and Nexus, presumably the latter augmenting the experience of the former. With everything from compass to flashlight to frog species identifier, the Nexus is a sort of an ultimate Swiss army knife for many outdoor needs. (Though we'd definitely recommend bringing a real knife when camping.)
But in our experience, nature's best when the electronics are left home. After all, how are you suppose to see the stars with a glowing screen nearby? Kids today, we're told, aren't spending enough time in nature as it is. There's even media-ready term for it now: Nature-Deficit Disorder. While we admit that a 0.75 pound electronic is lighter than the sum weight of the several pieces of camping gear a tablet could replace, doing things you can do with your kids at home is not the point of camping.
Of course, we're ignoring the twist at the end of Google's ad: The father and son are just camping in their backyard. Unfortunately for Google, it undermined the point they were trying to make in the ad. The new Nexus's lack of a 3G or 4G option, as TechCrunch's Matt Burns points out, has been a weak spot for the otherwise glowingly reviewed (and already sold out) tablet. "To me and many others its only downside is lack of built-in wireless data connectivity," writes Burns.
This ad here is an argument for why the Nexus 7 is wonderful even without data, designed to emphasize the abilities of the tablet -- playing checkers, reading children's stories, watching movies -- for which no WiFi is required. But browsing Google Earth, as shown at the end of the spot? Just a reminder that you need WiFi for that.
As for the charm of the spot, that's patent Google. (Google patents everything.) The full-court press cuteness, seen in the company's ads for its search engine, is something we've come to expect. But reactions to today's spot were mixed. Gizmodo and TechCrunch called it adorable while The Atlantic Wire's Rebecca Greenfield said the cute "doesn't make us want to buy the product."
As for us, we can't help but be turned off to how hip this outdoorsman-wannabe dad is trying to be. But Google just falls in a long long line of tech companies blatantly pandering to hipsters, which includes include Microsoft, Palm, and Apple.
Parents, we know how hip it might seem to bring a tablet camping, but your kids will see right through your ploy. It's not. Let's let the wilderness be one of the few places left where we can think without a computer helping us do so.
The now-ubiquitous Gmail -- Google's email product -- was unlike any previous email service when it was introduced <a href="http://googlepress.blogspot.com/2004/04/google-gets-message-launches-gmail.html" target="_hplink">in 2004</a>. It featured way more storage space (1 GB per user), search capability within your email, and conversion view, which groups together all replies to the original message to keep the conversation in a single thread. It also included a built-in chat service. <em>CORRECTION</em>: An earlier version of this slide stated the Gmail was launched in 2007. It was actually launched in 2004.
Google Mars (2006)
Google worked with NASA researchers to create a detailed, digital map of the planet Mars. <a href="http://www.google.com/mars/" target="_hplink">Google Mars</a> works similarly to Google Earth -- except you're navigating around a far-off planet. Users can explore regions, mountains, plains, canyons, craters and other elements.
Google Sky (2007)
<a href="http://www.google.com/sky/" target="_hplink">Google Sky,</a> the outer space version of Google Earth, is a way to explore the sky from your computer or mobile device. Click the Sky button on the Google Earth toolbar and you can see constellations, the moon, the planets, and user guides giving information on each. And, of course, there's a search bar to locate whatever part of the sky you're looking for. If you're unfamiliar, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX9MeF2Au9c&feature=player_embedded#!" target="_hplink">this YouTube video</a> gives a good guide.
Google Reader (2007)
<a href="www.google.com/reader" target="_hplink">Google Reader</a> is a web-based news aggregator. It utilizes RSS feeds and included sharing capability until October, 2011, when this feature was <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/10/how-survive-switch-google-reader-google/44069/" target="_hplink">disabled and replaced</a> with a Google+ button.
Google Moderator (2008)
<a href="https://www.google.com/moderator/" target="_hplink">Google Moderator</a> ranks user-submitted questions that come in during an online discussion. It was first created to help moderate the company's tech talks, and was later used by President Barack Obama's team to sift through Americans' questions for the newly elected president. It works like this: Participants can submit questions or ideas, and other participants vote on them. This crowdsourcing technique helps identify the questions and ideas with the most support or interest from the group.
Google Body (2010)
Google Body allowed users to navigate through 3D anatomical models of the human body. Google Body ceased operation in Oct. 2011 -- when Google Labs shut down -- and will relaunch as Zygote Body. <a href="http://www.zygotebody.com/" target="_hplink">Zygote Body</a> will be a searchable, interactive 3D model of human anatomy. Check out this video for a look at the former Google Body.
Google Docs (2010)
<a href="docs.google.com" target="_hplink">Google Docs,</a> a web-based office suite that includes word documents, spreadsheets and other formats, was innovative for a few reasons. One, the documents are accessible from any computer or device. Two, they're collaborative: You can share documents with coworkers or friends and read or edit them simultaneously. The docs also automatically save as you go, protecting the work from browser crashes or other accidents. Google Docs is a combination of two previous company projects: Google Spreadsheets and a web-based processor, Writely. There have been several iterations in the past five years, with the mostly completed version announced in 2010.
Google Goggles (2011)
<a href="http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/#text" target="_hplink">Google Goggles</a> is on the cutting-edge of visual search. The product enables users to search with images instead of words -- basically you take a picture of something, and Google will recognize it and pull up search results on it. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/07/google-goggles-search-by-_n_382871.html" target="_hplink">See a demonstration here</a>.
Google X (2011)
A November <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/technology/at-google-x-a-top-secret-lab-dreaming-up-the-future.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink"> <em>New York Times</em> piece</a> gave a glimpse into Google's super-secret "Google X" lab, where the company is dreaming up innovative ideas for the future, like elevator that goes to outer space, driverless cars, and all manner of robots. In January 2012, Google announced an experimental lecture forum called "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/google-unveils-solve-for-_n_1258870.html" target="_hplink">Solve For X</a>," with an aim at solving "moonshot thinking." As Google <a href="http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/whats-your-x-amplifying-technology.html" target="_hplink">explained in a blog post</a>, the project will "take on global-scale problems, define radical solutions to those problems, and involve some form of breakthrough technology that could actually make them happen."