Has Google been naughty or nice in 2014?

The highs and lows of Google in 2014

Has Google been naughty or nice in 2014

It's hard to briefly summarise a year for Google, what with the tech giant having so many fingers in so many pies. It's impossible to find any pie in the world that hasn't got Eric Schmidt's fingerprints on its crust and some of his nose hairs in the filling.

In short, Google's big, busy, and involved with everything from internet balloons in Australia to driverless cars and fibre Wi-Fi in the US, meaning 12 months for Google is basically 12 months of the entire tech world.

So, we'll try to stick to the enormous headlines of actual importance rather than summarise everything it did, otherwise this list feature will resemble a telephone directory of the tech news of 2014.

18-month upgrade cycle

The first Google shock of the year came in January, when it was revealed that it had done a deal to sell Motorola to Chinese firm Lenovo for lots of ($3bn) dollars. It was quite the surprise as Google only bought Motorola in the middle of 2011 for $12bn, making it, on the surface, quite a financial disaster.

Google kept most of the tech patents in the divorce, though, which many observers think were the real - and only - reason it bought the phone maker in the first place. Google left it in good shape, mind, with the Moto G and its 2014 sequel giving Motorola its first smash mobiles in years.

Google Nexus

The company's Nexus mobile programme spawned plenty of rumours through 2014, with some expecting a complete cancellation of Google's flagship Android hardware concept.

But, in the end, it was business as usual, with the autumn release of the Nexus 6, an enormous, 6-inch phone from former hardware plaything Motorola. The Nexus 6 arrived with another 2014 milestone onboard - Android 5.0 Lollipop, debuting Google's latest and flattest mobile OS.

Naughty or Nice?

Nice: The Moto G is one of the best budget phones around and the Nexus 6 is also a fantastic contender.

Sit on my lap

In the legacy world of the laptop, it was a landmark year for Google's Chromebook hardware. The cheap laptops have been around for some time, but 2014 was the year Chromebooks became cheaper, sexier and properly useful.

Many people still think they need Windows, but there's a growing army of smug laptop users who've paid not much money at all for the Chromebooks like the Acer Chromebook 13 and think they've got the tech deal of a lifetime.

chromecast

But success in getting the Chrome name out there belonged to one device in 2014 - Chromecast. Hitting the UK in March, the super-cheap dongle brought YouTube, iPlayer and more streaming services to any TV with an HDMI socket and Wi-Fi hotspot in range. And it's controllable through a phone or tablet, so you can keep nervously checking your portable screen while watching the big presentation on the room's bigger display.

Naughty or Nice?

Nice: The Chromecast is a fantastic budget device, offering up smart TV functionality to any dumb television. It's also pretty open, unlike many of its rivals.

Rise of the G-hole

Google Glass, mocked for quite some time in the US, launched in the UK back in the summer. The enormous price tag did little to make it appealing, with the short-lived trend for having a pair of G-ray specs on your face seemingly losing traction in the US at the same time.

The current opinion of Glass held by most sane people. nice idea but one that's likely to get you beaten up on the high street, or in the pub, or in McDonald's, or even in your own kitchen by your own family for taking unflattering photos.

Google Glass

Much more promising is Android Wear, Google's shot at taking wearables into the mainstream, or at least into more places than people wearing Glass are allowed.

Wear was launched back in the early summer alongside the reveal of the Moto 360, a smartwatch that stunned the watch world by using a round face. It looked nice, much nicer than Samsung and LG's early Android watch efforts, although patchy app support and nothing with more than two days of battery life means we end 2014 with smartwatches still only around the wrists of the earliest of early adopters, despite Google going in big.

Naughty or Nice?

Naughty: Google Glass is a device that no one seems to understand and will unlikely see mass market appeal. The Moto 360 is lovely looking but it does lack in the feature and battery department.

I can't allow you to open that window, Dave

Another baffling addition to the Google product family arrived this year, when the tech giant stumped up $3.2bn to buy "smart" thermostat company Nest. The idea being it's simply not enough to turn the heating on yourself when it gets cold any more.

Nest

We're supposed to have things in our house that know if we're home or not, whether we're wearing a jumper or not, and what the weather forecast for tomorrow is. It costs hundreds for installation to have a glorified on/off switch for your boiler, or a useless novelty diversion for the too-rich as history will probably remember it.

Naughty or Nice?

Nice, if you can afford it. That is until Nest becomes sentient and takes over the world.

They all float down there, Georgie

Back in 2013 Google was said to have bought several mysterious, enormous floating barges, which, as with all good mysteries and film plots, had everyone curious as to what might be inside.

It turned out they were supposed to be massive technology showcase venues, but, as we learned in 2014, they were abandoned after US coast guard staff had them shut down over safety concerns. 2014 was the year they were scrapped.

More vapourware, at least for now, appeared in May, when Google launched another attempt at making itself synonymous with the driverless car - by flying journalists out to its HQ to potter about in one on some closed roads.

Revealing a cute little pod, tech sites were amused by the fact it had been programmed to exceed the speed limit to get itself out of danger - hinting that the first law of robot car club is to make sure it doesn't kill any people and generate negative headlines for its omnipresent maker.

Naughty or Nice?

Naughty: Vapourware and unused barges aren't exactly the future of technology. But if there's one company that can put up with a few mishaps, it's Google.

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