Product & Startup Builder

Why couldn't Google do it?

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a question that people often get asked these days when they go for Venture Capital (or so I hear) - "Why Couldn't Google Do it?".

When it comes to Touchstone - I guess they could. The question is - have they or are they doing it already?

With all the recent controversy over the 3rd version of the Google Desktop/Sidebar(privacy issues etc) it got me thinking - is the Google Desktop/Sidebar a Touchstone like heads-up-display?

I don't think so. Here's why.

Google Desktop (at the moment at least) is mostly like any other widget system. It is a framework to create little widgets and display them ON something. Vista uses the Vista Side Bar, Konfabulator uses something called 'the heads up display' and both of them allow you to detach the widgets/gadgets and float them on the desktop somewhere.

But the framework is just that - a framework - not a solution.

Inside that framework developers then create stuff. And most of what they create is all about pushing content to you without any intelligent decision making.

Now perhaps Google's sidebar and its widget framework are just a pretense for getting on your desktop so that they can launch into other services. And perhaps some of the bundled widgets use Google's incredible search and relevance technology to display information that is relevant to you in an intelligent way. But it still stands that most of the content being displayed on that sidebar is pushed with very little intelligence and via a single interface at any given time. Pictures come in the Pictures Widget. Stock Quotes come in the Stock Quote Widget etc.

Touchstone differs because it is a wholly different approach. Rather than giving developers the power to develop widgets, it itself is a 'widget'. Developers (those that develop Adapters anyway) only publish content into the system and Touchstone decides how to display that content (based on any number of variables) in a way that is unobtrusive to the user and sensitive to their needs.

So... To summarize.

Google Sidebar/Konfabulator/Vista Gadgets - Frameworks that empower developers to create and publish a range of widgets that have no relationship to each other. This is giving developers power on your desktop.

Touchstone - An attention management engine that processes content from multiple sources and then uses a series of 'visualizations' - all working in concert - to give the user the right type of message/alert/content while they are being productive with other things. This is giving users power to control the flow of information into their attention/consciousness.

Important pictures from your son don't just appear on the pictures widget... They slide onto the screen and fade away while pictures from your mate's holiday only appear on the ticker for browsing when you get home. Stock quotes for 'Touchstone Corporate' barley register on the ticker while Microsoft and Google stock quotes that drop by 20% follow your mouse around so that they definitely get your attention.

So to answer the original Question... Google could do it, but their Side Bar is NOT doing it - not yet anyway.

Update: Read the post about specific differences when developing a Touchstone Input Adapter