After over a year of being invitation-only, Google has finally opened up Voice for signups. If you haven’t heard of or used Google Voice, it’s an interesting service that has a lot potential. The general idea is: you sign up, and Google gives you a new phone number. This number then becomes a sort of relay, forwarding calls to any number of other phones simultaneously. For instance, if someone calls my Google Voice number, it rings my Work phone and my Cell phone at the same time, and I just pick up whichever is more convenient.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though…Voice also gives you a ton of control over how incoming calls are dealt with. It uses your Google Contacts as one source for logical rules, and you can set up things like “If anyone in my Friends list calls me, send that to my Cell phone and don’t go to Voicemail”. On the other hand, you can easily say something like “If anyone on my “Do Not Call” list calls, don’t ring my phone and send them to Voicemail.” Or even block them completely!
Voice also does voicemail speech-to-text transcription, will txt you when you get a voicemail, and integrates seamlessly with Android phones. It’s an incredible service…if you haven’t tried it, and you hate the phone as much as I do, Google Voice will change the way you deal with the phone.
And today, on the heels of the formal announcement of the $150 wifi Nook, and the price drop to $200 for the 3G Nook, Amazon fired a shot across the bow by dropping the price of their Kindle dramatically…all the way to $189. Just yesterday the Kindle was $269!
Both the Nook and Kindle are definitely leaders in this eInk-based eReader space, and for libraries the $150 Nook is especially promising, given that it works with the Overdrive ebook platform. But these price drops just signify what I’ve been saying for a few months now: eInk based devices like these are going to be in a race to the bottom as far as pricing goes for the foreseeable future. Expect these to continue to get cheaper…it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see another small price drop for the holiday season.
Engadget is reporting that a $150 wifi only Nook has shown up in the Barnes & Noble ordering system, again showing an amazing drop in the costs of eInk eReaders. If you’re in the market for one, you might want to sit the week out and see what Wednesday brings.
Today, Wordpress officially launched it’s 3.0 release, bringing tons of new functionality to the long-standing King of the blogging world. This release is named Thelonius (Wordpress names it’s major releases after jazz musicians), and has over a thousand bug-fixed, the long awaited merging of the Wordpress MU and Wordpress codebases, and a brand new default theme.
The most exciting part of 3.0 to me is the merging of the Multi-user codebase into Wordpress proper. This means that not only can you run an amazing blog with Wordpress, but you can, with the exact same install, run hundreds or thousands of blogs. For libraries this can be amazingly powerful for running internal blogs for staff, multiple patron blogs, or even allowing your patrons to use your system to create blogs of their own…WP just made hosting multiple blogs as easy as a few mouse clicks.
Here’s a video that outlines the various new features of the release…if you aren’t using WP for blogging, check it out. And if you are, this upgrade is a complete no-brainer.
Today's WWDC announcements were almost entirely, as expected, focused around the iPhone 4 hardware and the iOS4 software. The software had a few pieces that are interesting for libraries, the largest being that the iBook store is coming to the iPhone and iPod Touch with iOS4, and that it will be updated to handle PDF's natively in the iBook interface. But it was the hardware that was really interesting. Here's the highlights as I see them:
While the Libre isn’t the best eReader, these devices are moving more and more into the sweet spot for library use….when these are $50, will your library bother buying the “classics” for circulation, or just buy these en masse and load them up with eBooks?
Facebook is exploring entering the online Question & Answer space in the vein of an AskMetafilter, Mahalo or Answers.com with a new beta product that you can apply to join. AskMefi is a long-standing librarian online favorite…will Facebook be the next quick-reference product?
Apple has decided to allow individuals to publish their own works in the iBookstore via iTunes Connect…although it isn’t necessarily easy. You could already do this through a third party such as Lulu, and doing so might be easier, as they take care of getting your ISBN and such. But if you have a Great Work that needs to be read on the iPad, and want to…
The Barnes & Noble eReader software is now available on the iPad, making it an even better choice as an eReader. You can now access material from all of the major eBookstores except Sony on the iPad…Amazon, iBooks, and now B&N. Interestingly tantalizing…they left the “Lend Me” feature intact. If it wasn’t horribly crippled, that feature alone might be a reason to do most of your reading in the B&N universe of content.
We’ll see how the continuing Bookstore Wars plays out on the iPad…I’ll have a review of the B&N app up soon!
Not a lot of details quite yet out of Google I/O as far as this is concerned, but Google just announced a TV product (GoogleTV) that interacts with your existing TV and gives you web on tv. I’m really unsure how this is going to go over…remember, Microsoft tried for years and years to get people to browse the web on their TV and mostly failed. Apple as well, with AppleTV.
I already use a piece of software that does pretty much all of this, an open source project called Boxee that runs on just about any computer. Boxee is an offshoot of the XBMC project, which does most of this as well, and runs on a ton of different hardware. I’m not sure where the value added is for this, but knowing Google, it could be very, very interesting, especially if they start integrating it heavily with Android.