Gmail with Material Design

I was just thinking about Material Design within Google’s own apps, and it occurred to me that at least in my case, the Gmail app would never look like the screenshots on the web.

For example, the screenshot below was taken from CNET and it surely looks nice (Material Design on right, current design on left).


However, my Gmail account on my Android phone actually looks like this (yes, I only use my Gmail account to sign up for newsletters and mailing lists. I never use it for communicating with someone I know, but you get the idea);

Screenshot 2014 07 02 20 13 05

When the current Gmail cannot find a photo, it uses the first letter of the sender’s name instead. This is totally ugly, and what’s more, completely useless.

I wonder how Material Design solves this…

Or maybe it’s a setting deep in the menus…

I think we have to keep in mind that when we communicate with close friends, we tend not to use email anymore; we use messaging services, Twitter or Facebook. For these accounts, we often have photos. Emails are for work, mailing lists, notifications, etc. We normally don’t have photos for these. At least, I don’t.

To come to a good design, designers have to understand how the product will be used, in what context and with whom. At least, I think that is how good designers are supposed to approach problems.

Statistical Validation of Disruption Theory

There has been a bit of discussion on the web about the validity of Clayton Christensen’s Disruption theory. I hope this article by Thomas Thurston will put it all to rest; “Christensen Vs. Lepore: A Matter Of Fact”.

Most people don’t know this, but it turns out Disruption Theory is the foundation of the most accurate, thoroughly vetted, quantitative prediction models of new business survival or failure in the world today.

I did my best to reduce his theory to falsifiable yes/no logic using published research. Even so, in the first round these relatively crude rules based on Disruption Theory blindly predicted if new businesses would survive or fail with 94 percent accuracy and over 99 percent statistical confidence. Holy crap.

So statistically, disruption theory is pretty good a predictions.

How often does it get it wrong?

A lot of people point to examples of when Disruption Theory, or Christensen, was wrong. It was wrong about the iPhone. Tesla. Ralph Lauren. In fact, it’s been wrong over 7,500 times by my count (remember it has a 33 percent error rate when predicting winners). Keep in mind, however, it’s 66 percent right while everything else is stuck at 25 percent. Improvement, not perfection, is the standard.

Well, it doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. Does that mean the theory isn’t valid? Not at all.

Many bloggers dismissed or attempted to modify Disruption Theory because it got Apple wrong. These people don’t understand statistics or don’t understand how to use statistics to validate or invalidate an argument. I could list them here, but I won’t.

The method used here is very standard. For example, every new drug that comes to the market is tested for effectiveness using the same statistical methods. Drugs sometimes work, but often they don’t. All they have to do is work a bit better, a bit more often. If we rejected every drug that ever failed to work for certain patients, there would be no drugs.

I especially like Thomas’ closing sentence. It’s the standard way of statistically testing which theory is correct, which Thomas uses to test Lepore’s theory against Clay’s. Anybody who doesn’t fully get it shouldn’t be talking about how theories are validated.

Lepore could be right about Disruption Theory, but the odds are literally over 500,000 times greater that, as a matter of fact, she’s just plain wrong.


Although I am appalled that a large number of people who discussed Disruption Theory on the web didn’t seem to understand the basic principles of statistical testing, I understand where they came from.

Statistics simply isn’t taught enough at schools. Statistics, in my view, is one of the most important branches of mathematics and is relevant even for people who won’t touch maths ever in their professional careers. We have to understand statistics so that we, in democratic nations, can correctly assess the accuracy of claims made by politicians, and so much more.

This is a real shame.

Google Self-Driving Cars and The Car Industry

Reuters article; “Google, Detroit diverge on road map for self-driving cars”

Not too much of a surprise for anybody who has worked in a regulated industry.

In 2012, a small team of Google Inc engineers and business staffers met with several of the world’s largest car makers, to discuss partnerships to build self-driving cars.

In one meeting, both sides were enthusiastic about the futuristic technology, yet it soon became clear that they would not be working together. The Internet search company and the automaker disagreed on almost every point, from car capabilities and time needed to get it to market to extent of collaboration.

I think that this part sums up the situation well;

“There was a certain amount of arrogance on the Google side, in the sense of ‘We know what we’re doing, you just help us,’” said a second person, representing a major car maker, who was involved in discussions with Google.

“We’d say, ‘Well you don’t really know that much. And we’re not going to put our name on a project like that because if something goes wrong, we have a lot more to lose.’”

I seriously doubt that Google has the patience and the willingness to work with others that is required to pull this off.

Japan’s Largest University Switching to Microsoft Office 365 from Google Apps (Docs)

The largest university in Japan, Nihon University will provide “Office 365 Education” for all of its 100,000 students according to the Microsoft Japan website.

I’m still in the process of researching the details, but some things that have been mentioned that I find very interesting;

  1. Nihon University had been using “Google Apps Education Edition” since April, 2007.
  2. Reason 1: Faculty staff used Google Apps but student uptake was not good. Students preferred to use their own free mail accounts.
  3. Reason 2: Unfamiliarity with Google Apps was a reason for slow uptake. By providing the software that everybody is familiar with (Office), Nihon Univ. hopes that students will also use scheduling and address book features.
  4. Reason 3: Students were pirating MS-Office install disks. Office 365 will make that a non-issue. Nihon Univ. chose the A3 plan with Office 365 ProPlus, which means that faculty and students can install Office on 5 PCs per user.
  5. Annual price per faculty is 410 JPY, per student 230 JPY. This ends up being cheaper then when they were using “Google Apps Education Edition” because even when they were using Google, they still needed to buy significant installations of MS Office.

Although we still need more examples to see whether this is a trend or not, I sense strong beginnings.

Cloud is getting cheap

The most powerful allure of Google Apps is the price. For general consumers and for education, the price is free. This was possible because Google had a robust advertising model. By injecting ads in the web user interfaces, Google could justify the cost of providing the service for free.

Historically, Google was uniquely positioned to provide an office suite for free. Other companies could not do this profitably.

However, as technology improved and the hardware required for cloud services dropped in price, it became feasible for companies without a robust advertising model to provide free or very cheap cloud services. This can be witnessed in the recent announcement at Apple’s WWDC 2014. Apple announced that they would be providing CloudKit effectively for free.

We are now at the point that we don’t even need advertising anymore. It has become feasible to provide free or very cheap cloud office suites, even without advertising. Hence anybody can do it. Google no longer has a unique advantage in providing services for free.

Google Apps never became “good enough”

With the cost advantage of Google Apps eroding, the argument for choosing either Google Apps or Office 365 now rests on the benefits that each platform provides. This is something that Google Apps was never designed for.

Since its inception, Google Apps was designed as a simplified version of MS Office that justified its existence by being much cheaper. Although it had some unique collaboration features, it never evolved to become better than MS Office. It was always obvious that if it lost its cost advantage, it would lose out against MS Office.

Looking at the reasons why Office 365 was chosen over Google Apps, it’s very apparent that Office was still an application that both faculty and students needed to use from time to time. Google Apps had never become “good enough” on its own.

Microsoft is changing

Since the costs of providing cloud services had decreased, the only roadblock for Microsoft going aggressive with Office 365 was the possibility of cannibalization. Office 365 could potentially cannibalize sales of their standalone office suite.

A few thing have happened that might have changed their minds.

  1. Adobe has been very successful with their Adobe Creative Cloud.
  2. Microsoft’s new CEO is a cloud guy.

What are the trends?

These are the trends that I think we are beginning to see.

  1. Google’s strength in advertising will no longer be sufficient to maintain an advantage (based on cost) in the cloud. Cloud costs have gone so low that advertising is no longer necessary for a free/low-cost service. Subscription services are proving to be a good business model.
  2. With the price issue becoming less of a concern, competition in the cloud will focus more on features and usability. In established markets, one feature that will continue to be extremely important is compatibility with de-facto standards (both in file-formats and user interface).
  3. As the focus shifts to features and usability, native applications will maintain their advantage against web apps.

Chinese Android Larger Than Google’s Android

Chinese Android, that is the Android that is based on Android Open-Source (AOSP) and is independent of Google’s services and restrictions, seems to be already significantly larger than Google’s Android (the one that relies on Google services, and comes with Google’s restrictions).

At least that seems to be the case if we look at app download statistics.

According to Analysys International, App downloads in China were 23.4 billion for 2014Q1 alone. In comparison, Google Play downloads were probably in the 15 billion range for 2014Q2 (Estimated from 1 & 2). That’s quite a big difference.

Revenue-wise, I don’t have any data. However, given that Google Play revenue is dependent on mature developed nations (Japan, US, South Korea), it is very possible that revenue is growing much faster in China. Furthermore, iOS App Store revenue has been pretty high in China, suggesting that the Chinese have a rather high propensity to spend money on Apps. I would not be surprised if Chinese Android app revenue is similar to or has already surpassed Google Play app revenue.

Of course this discussion hinges on the “23.4 billion for 2014Q1 alone” report being true. Hopefully, we will get verification soon.

Obviously, the implications of this are huge for the Android ecosystem.