Bradley Horowitz is now running 2/3 of the former Google+

As reported last week, Hangouts, Photos, and Google+ are going to be considered as three independent product lines at Google, according to Sundar Pichai, product czar (see Sundar Pichai on the direction — or directions — of Google+). He said in an interview with Miguel Helft,

I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications [Hangouts], photos and the Google+ stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area.

It has been confirmed that David Besbris, who has led Google+ (including Hangouts and Photos) has stepped down from that role, and that Bradley Horowitz, a VP of Product (formerly of Yahoo’s Brick yard initiative), is picking up the newly reimagined Google+. Well, sort of.

In a post that does not mention Hangouts — which presumably is now being managed as an independent line — Horowitz also avoids using the Google+ name, and instead refers to Photos and Streams:

Just wanted to confirm that the rumors are true — I’m excited to be running Google’s Photos and Streams products! It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users.

So it appears that Google+ has been cut into three parts, with Streams being the streaming part, Photos being the photos part, and Hangouts spun out on its own.

I am still hoping that Google take a version of Streams and integrate with Google Drive and Docs, where it would be more useful, rather than endlessly fighting an endless war against Facebook and Twitter.

So, the question is, when will they retire the Google+ brand? Horowitz has the product insight — I believe — to thread Streams into Google’s strong position in productivity with Docs and Drive. This would also follow the push that Microsoft has recently made with Groups in Office 365: a contextual conversation platform right where docs and created and shared.

Note that Google Glass is going through a similar retrenchment: failed product handed to a solid product person — Tony Fadell of iPod and Nest fame — who will reconfabulate the product and relaunch (see Google Glass isn’t dead, it’s going to be Nestified), but in the case of Google+, it isn’t going to be yanked, but trifurcated.


In other Google news last week, the company unveiled plans for a futuristic redesign of it’s Mountain View campus (see Google reveals plans for futuristic cityscape campus, and new robot tech to make it configurable), and announced the Android for Work initiative is now open for business (see Google announces Android for Work ready to go).

Google reveals plans for futuristic cityscape campus, and new robot tech to make it configurable

Just about a year ago, I wrote about Square’s new offices in San Francisco, which were designed to be more like a city than a traditional office (see Another take on offices: something other than open or closed). The office design was led by Square’s head of office experience, Chris Gorman, who said in an article about the office,

“We were very inspired by city design and by cities in general–by areas where people cohabitate, come together, and share things in a quick and easy manner,” Gorman says. “We wanted to bring that same sensibility to the office.” And so instead of talking about a main hallway when describing the office, Gorman explains how there’s a large “avenue” running from end to end. A coffee bar in the middle acts as a sort of “town square.” Glass paneled meeting rooms are named for San Francisco intersections, “6th and Divisidero,” “6th and Ashbury,” and so on (Square’s offices are principally on the 6th floor of its building).

The design of the office “motivates people to move around the office and interact in casual, unscheduled ways,” he explains–just like the well-planned public spaces of a great city. Early concepts for the office were motivated by old 18th-century maps of cities. “When I think about a city,” Gorman says, “I shop, I go get coffee, I go to the park, I go for walks. We wanted to create that same variety in the office.” In addition to its in-house café (and in-house debugger/barista), Square has been experimenting with pop-up stores and artisan merchants appearing within Square’s own offices.

3021752-slide-s-2-why-square-designed-its-new-offices-to-work-like-a-city

Square’s offices

This week, Google presented a plan to redevelop its Mountain View California campus, taking the ‘headquarters as a city’ model several steps — or maybe parsecs — farther.

The plan — developed by London design atelier Heatherwick Studio and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels — would add 2.5 million square feet of enclosed space on top of the existing 4 million square feet of today’s campus.

BN-HE034_google_G_20150227133932

Indoor pathway

BN-HE018_Google_G_20150227131405

Glass canopy enclosing offices

BN-HE065_google_G_20150227143128

A foyer of one of the planned structures

BN-HE037_google_G_20150227134810

Swooping canopies have high tech capability to deal with sunlight

The plans do not include housing, so it does not aspire to being a fully self-sufficient city. However, the plans include a great deal of retail space — for restaurants, health clubs, and shops — so the integration of work and play is a key element.

Much of the plot would be reconfigured to be carless, with existing parking taken out, and a large single parking area would be mostly underground. Note that even though the design leads to an additional 10,000 workers, the same amount of parking is planned.

Much of the lot is being designed as parkland, and two creeks will be restored.

It’s unclear if Google’s proposal will be approved by the Mountain View authorities, who are concerned about the impact on city services and traffic.

I think the trend toward ‘office as city’ has found its mirror image here, with ‘city as office’. One of the more innovative aspects of the design involves the use of innovative materials and structural design, to allow the offices to be rapidly reconfigured, as the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported:

Four futuristic structures where basic building elements — floors, ceilings and walls — attach or detach from permanent steel frames, forming whole new workspaces of different sizes. With help from small cranes and robots (“crabots”), interiors will transform in hours, rather than months.

[…]

Here is how it will work, grossly simplified: Inside the glass canopies, Google imagines stationary steel support columns upon which lightweight, modular building pieces can be inserted, removed, raised or lowered at will. Think of the floors sort of like oven racks; the walls between them can be added, or not. Crabots (which Google calls “a range of small flexible and manageable cranes and robotic machines”) would lift and move these building segments around almost like furniture.

“We envision there will be some more permanent structures like stairwells and restroom cores and things like that,” said Radcliffe, who is Google’s vice president of real estate and workplace services. “Then we think there will be other components you can actually take out and put in.”

The canopies themselves would generate electricity, while movable shades embedded in a second canopy layer control glare and keep the interior cool.

This would allow for rapid reconfiguration of work and non-work spaces under the canopies. As I wrote last year, in the post about Square’s offices:

Perhaps in the future businesses will allow for the flexibility that cities afford inhabitants: so long as individuals keep within the city’s building codes people can do many different things, and the results can’t be completely unanticipated. A new store opens, another closes. In the workplace, a new project kicks off and a group of people take over one corner of a floor in the headquarters, moving walls and furnishings to house that temporary activity. And meanwhile, a dozen other project teams are doing something similar. Folks working on multiple products migrate from one area to another over the course of the day, like medieval traders or nomads.

And it looks like Google is bringing that future into the present, and inventing technologies to make it possible for others to do so, soon after.

 

Energy harvesting EnOcean Alliance joins All Seen Alliance

The All Seen Alliance has scored an interesting new member with the EnOcean Alliance, a group of 300 companies dedicated to sustainable building controls and automation using wireless energy harvesting sensors and technology. The EnOcean Alliance joined AllSeen Alliance Thursday and will demonstrate how the two organization can use their two technologies together at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona next week.

The EnOcean Alliance is a group that promotes EnOcean technology specifically. EnOcean manufactures and markets energy harvesting wireless modules that are interesting for the internet of things because they do away with the need for batteries or wiring. Instead they use solar, temperature changes, kinetic energy or other techniques to power sensors and then the transmission of state around a network. The technology is used in devices sold around the world, which means that these devices might soon get All Joyn compatibility as well.

All Joyn is the protocol that the All Seen Alliance is pushing as a standard for device-to-device communications and discovery. When I asked if EnOcean, the company, or the EnOcean Alliance would consider the All Joyn rival standard Iotivity as well, I received the following response:

While they are not involved in Iotivity just yet, the Technical Working Group of the EnOcean Alliance (the member company manufacturers who use EnOcean’s technology in their products) is considering involvement in the future.

That’s not a no, and it points to how much uncertainty there still is over all of the nascent standards out there. After all, Iotivity was just launched last month, and we still don’t actually have a certification to work from — and won’t until the middle of this year.

Another take on offices: something other than open or closed

I have read dozens of articles in recent months about office design. Some advocating the open workplace as a source of inspiration, cameraderie, and social workology. Others arguing a return to the closed offices and cubeland of the past, where focus and quiet make getting things done possible. Recent research from the London Business School suggests the average worker is interrupted every three minutes in the office, so we have reached some breaking point where more people will demand working outside the office.

Or perhaps offices could be rethought to seem more like ‘outside the office’ in the first place?

Square has recently occupied new quarters in San Francisco, and the company’s head of office experience (that’s a first), Chris Gorman, was motivated to make the office work like a city, and less like a headquarters.

David Zax, Why Square Designed Its New Offices To Work Like a City

“We were very inspired by city design and by cities in general–by areas where people cohabitate, come together, and share things in a quick and easy manner,” Gorman says. “We wanted to bring that same sensibility to the office.” And so instead of talking about a main hallway when describing the office, Gorman explains how there’s a large “avenue” running from end to end. A coffee bar in the middle acts as a sort of “town square.” Glass paneled meeting rooms are named for San Francisco intersections, “6th and Divisidero,” “6th and Ashbury,” and so on (Square’s offices are principally on the 6th floor of its building).

The design of the office “motivates people to move around the office and interact in casual, unscheduled ways,” he explains–just like the well-planned public spaces of a great city. Early concepts for the office were motivated by old 18th-century maps of cities. “When I think about a city,” Gorman says, “I shop, I go get coffee, I go to the park, I go for walks. We wanted to create that same variety in the office.” In addition to its in-house café (and in-house debugger/barista), Square has been experimenting with pop-up stores and artisan merchants appearing within Square’s own offices.

3021752-slide-s-2-why-square-designed-its-new-offices-to-work-like-a-city

3021752-slide-s-7-why-square-designed-its-new-offices-to-work-like-a-city

Last year, I wrote,

The new way of work is as big a break with the industrial model as the industrial model was with the time of artisanal and agricultural work that preceded the rise of steam power and electricity. Unlike that transition, however, we will not be looking for inspiration from armies, or the slave battalions that built the pyramids. No, instead we will look to nature, or the growth of cities for inspiration.

The fast-and-loose business that is emerging as the new way of work runs more like a forest or a city than a machine. We need to learn by imitating rich ecosystems, where the appearance of chaos yields to emergent order, and reject order imposed by fiat.

Perhaps in the future businesses will allow for the flexibility that cities afford inhabitants: so long as individuals keep within the city’s building codes people can do many different things, and the results can’t be completely unanticipated. A new store opens, another closes. In the workplace, a new project kicks off and a group of people take over one corner of a floor in the headquarters, moving walls and furnishings to house that temporary activity. And meanwhile, a dozen other project teams are doing something similar. Folks working on multiple products migrate from one area to another over the course of the day, like medieval traders or nomads.

This is the start of a discussion about workplace which isn’t stuck in the open/closed dichotomy. And it’s  likely to be another area of the business where centralized planning will yield to decentralized and localized activities, and so the office of the future will not be designed top-down by office experience experts like Chris Gorman but grown, bottom-up, by the decisions of hundreds or thousands or individual workers.

 

Architecture critic: Redesign work, not just work spaces

There’s plenty wrong with the traditional office full of cubes, including terrible lighting, collaboration-killing isolation, an abundance of soul-crushing beige . But is the solution to slap some paint on the walls, cart in a couple of plants and reconfigure layouts to be more social?

Cloud Computing and the 10X Effect

As a rule of thumb, systems can grow ten times under their current architecture or paradigm, and then they must be re-architected. This 10X effect causes old technologies to become obsolete, new ones to emerge and underlies the massive shift to cloud computing.

Rumor Has It: 6-Core i9 Mac Pro Due in 2010, But It Hardly Matters

Back in October, HardMac reported that Apple (s aapl) was busy testing Intel’s (s intc) new “Gulftown” Xeon chip ahead of its inclusion in a refresh of the Mac Pro, which is slated for release early next year. The 32nm Gulftown chip is an evolution of the 45nm architecture found in the currently-shipping 2009 Mac Pro model.

Gulftown will be sold under the Core i9 brand name for consumer machines, while its server counterpart will be labeled the Xeon 5600 series. HardMac’s sources suggested Apple would have short-term exclusive use of the chip, much as it did for each of the last two “Xeon” revisions of the Mac Pro line.

Now, according to AppleInsider, Polish website PCLab last week published performance test results on Gulftown, showing that the new chips operated at nearly twice the speed of the previous generation chips during parallel tasks. In addition, they consumed only 50 percent as much power doing so. Sadly, the performance results are no longer available. PCLab explains:

We have been contacted by the reps of Intel Corporation. We agreed to remove the article. We will bring it back once Gulftown hits the stores, somewhere in 2010 🙂

Earlier this year I bought a 2009 Mac Pro. And – as sheer luck would have it – my purchase was delayed by one week… the very same week, as it happens, that Apple refreshed the Mac Pro line. I scoured the online store, meticulously comparing specs and searching the web for in-depth reviews of the new machine from the sort of geeks who spend their days doing nothing but benchmark testing. In short, I learned that while the Mac Pro prices went up, clock speeds came down – but I was reassured by those “in the know” that it didn’t matter the cores were (marginally) slower than before. I was still getting a more powerful machine than I’d ever need. I don’t mind admitting, though, for what I paid, I wanted my Mac Pro to be light years ahead of everything else, and I wanted it to stay that way for a long time! That’s not too much to ask, is it? Read More about Rumor Has It: 6-Core i9 Mac Pro Due in 2010, But It Hardly Matters