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Home Sweet Google: What if the ads-everywhere model didn't suck?

Michael Simon | May 29, 2014
Imagine this episode of The Jetsons: George has to work late, so he calls Jane on his video phone to tell her he won't be home in time for dinner. She shows him a picture of new earrings she wants for her birthday, and when he hangs up, an ad for a jewelry store pops up. After Mr. Spacely lets him go, he taps a few times on his screen and hops in his flying car, where a trailer for a new movie begins to play, asking if he'd like directions to the space drive-in. Once he gets home (and stops that crazy thing), the lights are on, the temperature is just right and the Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle has already whipped up a perfect prime rib dinner.

But maybe it doesn't have to be quite as oppressive and dystopian as we fear.

Interior design

If Google has learned anything from its platform war with Apple, it's that user interfaces and experiences matter. Not only has Android matured into a sleek, viable alternative to iOS, Google has paid just as much attention to its mobile and web apps, crafting a polished, refined suite of services that are among the best in their class. As Google expands Android to the various other screens in our lives, we can expect the same sharp focus on UX, especially if it wants to compete with Apple in this space. And that includes the ads that will inevitably be part of it.

It might not subscribe to the same meticulous standards as Apple does in the advertising department, but Google has taken a relatively friendly tack with Android, stopping short of developing any overly invasive or irritating campaigns, with the most offensive requiring an extra swipe to get past a set of sponsored search results. Even in apps, where there's a far greater opportunity to barrage users with ads, Google has kept the experience as pleasant as it can be — aside from some resolution issues, its in-app banners aren't any more or less appealing than Apple's own iAds.

But these new generation of screens will require a whole new set of guidelines. Random banner ads on our wrists or thermostats is a less-than-ideal scenario, and if Android Wear is any indication, the Google-powered home will adhere to a different criteria than KitKat. Google's wearable platform is already designed to be a more elegant system that moves and adapts to each user's life, and with it will surely come a new platform for ads that eschews traditional methods and puts a unique spin on a necessary evil.

Home improvement

Assuming our refrigerators aren't watching every move we make, our direct interaction with these screens in our homes is going to be fairly limited. Nest's intelligent system has made it so we barely need to physically adjust the thermostat at all, and now that it's under Google's umbrella, it seems inevitable that the team will have a hand in whatever iteration of Android lands on this new class of appliances.

Perhaps that was the main impetus for buying Nest all along. Google hasn't shown more than a passing interest in hardware, and it seems unlikely that it's going to suddenly release a line of Android-based home products. But Nest's appeal isn't just in the slick transformation of ugly household necessities — Tony Fadell and his team has built a new kind of mobile interface, one that operates independently of our touch, relying on gestures and artificial intelligence to basically run itself.

 

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