iGoogle & the Mojave experiment

Google seems to keep coming up in this column and it’s not because I’ve received envelopes stuffed with cash, or free laptops from them.

It’s just that they’re doing some very exciting things at the moment, much as Microsoft was doing in the nineties, and I can’t help but write about them. I can remember how we all looked forward to Microsoft product releases, never knowing quite what to expect. It’s been quite a few years, however, since the company came up with something exciting that I just had to have.

It has also been copping some bad press about its Vista operating system and that has prompted it to take an almost unprecedented step. The company has been running what they call the Mojave Experiment, where they get people who don’t have a good impression of Vista initially, and then show them demonstrations of the product.

The trick is that they tell the consumers that they’re looking at a future version of Windows and the consumers generally say that they like it. Microsoft takes this as proof that Vista is OK after all, and is hoping that this attitude will percolate out into the wider world.

You can read all about the experiment and hear the comments at www.mojaveexperiment.com. There have been comments on the web that you can make anything look good in a demo, and there is a discussion of the experiment’s validity in Mike Elgan’s column, over at itmanagement.earthweb.com.

Anyhow, back to Google which introduced a new feature called iGoogle some time ago, and which I have been using at work. It is essentially a way of customising Google’s search page by adding stuff to it that is important to you.

You can add gadgets to your page which can do any number of things including providing you with a quotable quote for the day or the top stories from your favourite news provider. You can add gadgets to show you a weather forecast or make it easy to calculate exchange rates, for example.

As usual with Google goodies, you first have to have a Google account, which you may already have if you use Gmail or Google Docs but, even if you haven’t signed up, it’s free and easy. You are taken to iGoogle start page which allows you to choose some gadgets to get you going.

You can also get the decorators in and change the furniture and colour scheme to suit yourself. I’ve presently got my iGoogle page set to choose an artist-created theme at random every day and I must say that most have been fine, but some have been so bright that that they could make your headache worse.

The final step is to set Google as your browser’s start page and you’ll automatically get taken to your iGoogle page every time you fire up your browser. You can then take a few moments to scan the latest news items, weather forecast, and any reminder notes you’ve left for yourself, before tackling the tasks of the day.

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