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TechWatch: Brewing in a lab near you

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1/ Google gets square, but not hip

Fresh out of the Google labs is Squared, their latest initiative to provide users with structured results in a way that can best be described as Wolfram-Alpha goes Bing. For example, if you were to search for “Zombie Movies”, you’d get results such as Title, description, release date, and movie ratings all neatly laid out in a spreadsheet-like structure. You can then have the option to add more columns of data categories (e.g., cast members, runtime, etc), which Squared would automatically suggest or you could manually add in.

It’s an idea that’s great on paper, but far from perfect, as reviewed by ReadWriteWeb. Not only does Squared not allow you to sort the data within columns but the data that it pulls into each column is unreliable. The description for Return of The Living Dead, for example, reads: “Contact: View contact information for The Return of The Living Dead on IMDB Pro…”

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It’s a good counter to the recent developments made by Bing and Wolfram Alpha, but Google is better off just acquiring Wolfram Alpha than developing Squared. Until it gets better, Squared wouldn’t be more than a novelty.

2/ YouTube creeps into the living room

Also making its way out of Google was the quiet rollout of YouTube XL, their latest effort to move YouTube videos from the computer monitor and onto the living hall TV. A response to Hulu’s move to encroach into the living room with its desktop client (Update: Jonathan Miller, News Corp.’s newly-installed chief digital officer, on Wednesday suggested that some of Hulu’s TV shows and movies would be put behind a paywall), YouTube XL displays a much cleaner interface, stripped of ads, suggested videos, and comments — very much like a MegaBlocks version of the regular YouTube. As to how one would control YouTube as they would a regular TV channel, TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid suggests that Gmote, a remote control app that runs on Android phones, could be used. The app, which sends signals over Wi-Fi, is limited to Android at the moment, but because it’s an open source project, it can be developed for other devices as well.

3/ Palm Pre’s buzz

Stealing whatever limelight possible before Apple’s WWDC on June 8, the Palm Pre was launched on Wednesday and Twitter was positively abuzz with Palm’s long-awaited saviour. The folks over at gadget blog Engadget is falling in line with what most reviewers are saying:

“Some of the ideas and concepts at play in webOS are truly revolutionary for the mobile space, breaking down lots of the walls that separate the experience of using a dedicated PC versus using a handheld device. One feeling that we were constantly stuck by while testing the phone was a kind of revelatory, ‘Hey, this actually feels how a computer feels.’

It was an experience not completely unlike our first encounter with the iPhone — that little light that goes on that tells you that things can really be different than how they’ve been before.

For more screenshots of the Pre, visit CNET here.

4/ Steve Jobs returns

Not satisfied with iPhone 3.0 hype alone, the Wall Street Journal today reported that Steve Jobs is “on track to return from medical leave this month”, citing such credible sources as those “familiar with Apple”. Officials within Apple have yet to confirm on this rumour,  but if Steve does return before the month’s end — and possibly, though unlikely at WWDC — it would mark a stunning comeback for the pancreatic cancer survivor who took leave in January, citing “health problems:.

Following his announcement to take leave, the price of Apple stock tanked, and speculation was rife that he would not return to play an active role within Apple. Events at the last MacWorld, in which he did not appear, seemed to  indicate that Jobs was preparing Apple for a life without him, leaving it up to the likes of senior VPs Jonathan Ive and Phil Schiller to run the show.

The US markets haven’t opened yet, but news of an upcoming iPhone, together with Jobs’s return could push the stock up above the US$146 mark (Keep abreast on the movements with StockTwits here.)

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Written by John Lim

June 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Posted in TechWatch