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We’re Geeking to San Francisco

May 29, 2009

I’ve been in San Francisco for the last week in what could perhaps be described as a geek-pilgramage.

I took in a tour of the Googleplex in Mountainview (surely geek-mecca for the 2000’s) with Josh Bailey, an expat Kiwi who’s been with Google for a few years (and plays with Tesla coils in his spare time; 50,000 volts ain’t no thang…?!). The sheer scale of the campus was a bit foreboding for me coming from lil ol’ Nuw Zuland, especially with my small business / startup background, even if the location had the least corporate feel I’ve ever seen – littered with lego and beanbags, free massage signs and ping pong tables. I did have Google described to me as “one giant group of startups” with so many individual projects all doing their own thing; this makes sense given their prodigious tech output.

I spent the last two days at the Google I/O developer conference which culminated in Google announcing Google Wave; it’s not the simplest product to describe but may well be called Email 2.0. A product designed to answer the question –

What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?

It combines all the best features of email, instant messaging, wikis, blogging, document collaboration into one uber-tool. In fact it makes email look decidedly archaic and had 4,000 of the worlds geekiest geeks ooohing and aaaahing for 90 minutes. I don’t really see how it could be backwards compatible with “Email 1.0” and I can’t imagine convincing my Grandma to upgrade but this is certainly how communication will look in the (not-too-distant?) future. 

Two moments that got rapturous applause:

1. A context sensitive spell checker that turned

Icland is an icland.

into

Iceland is an island.

2. Instant messaging with as-you-type foreign language translation.

Nerd-tastic.

Of course the niftiest geek moment of the conference for me came on day 1 when they gave away a Google Android Smartphone to every single attendee (but not Google employees!). It’s the HTC Magic; a very slick piece of hardware and a quality competitor for the iPhone (which every second person in the US seems to have). One was selling on eBay last night for over USD$600, a good markup on the $200 conference ticket! Mine will be coming back to NZ as it is completely unlocked and will work on either of our 3G networks. I can’t be carrying around a mobile that doesn’t have a Zenbu app on it so will have to look into an Android version to add to the iPhone and Windows Mobile apps soon!

Off to Yosemite Park for a few days to unplug from the matrix now, I’m all geeked out.

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