Glympse vs. Google Latitude in location sharing battle

If you look over to the right side of my blog you’ll see a Google Latitude component.

What does that do? It shares my location with you.

Why is that cool? Because now you’ll be able to watch as I head to Adobe’s offices to meet with the Flash team there this morning. You’ll also be able to see when I leave for New York later today and, hopefully, you’ll be able to see when I arrive in New York later tonight.

So?

I’ve found this to be a useful tool for my business. People can see when I’ll arrive places. I’ve used it a lot of times to meet up with people who are near me. Often those meetings happen on the fly. I see someone’s icon near where I am and I email or Twitter or call them and see if they wanna get together for coffee. It’s amazing how often they say yes.

Imagine if you were a business and had a fleet of trucks. You could see where they were located using this technology.

One thing, though, Google Latitude is almost unusable for me. It crashes all the time on my phone. See, they made some bad assumptions up front. Here’s why: their user testing showed that people really aren’t ready to share their location in public the way I am. Privacy is a HUGE concern to them.

This feedback was so consistent that they assumed no one would ever try to share with the world, the way I do. So they designed it to be used only with very small groups of people. For instance with your close family. I hear from the team that they didn’t test it with more than 100 friends (I already have more than three times that many, which causes it to crash).

That brings me to Glympse, which is launching this morning at the Where 2.0 Conference. Glympse goes the other way to solve that privacy problem: they put a time limit on it. So, now, you can send your boss, or even the public, a glimpse into your life and let people track you.

There’s a few things that are better about that approach. First, you don’t need to have Glympse on your PC to watch me drive toward your house (to really use Google Latitude we both need Latitude running). Second, since you know the Glympse will end in, say, two hours, you don’t get paranoid about privacy issues.

I wish I could do this for the public. There are times when I don’t want to share where I am with all of you. Sorry. Glympse does that better.

On the other hand, Google Latitude lets me see where a larger group of my friends is hanging out, which leads to those impromptu coffees which are very cool.

I wish both service would meld, because I like pieces of both approaches. Anyway, last night I uploaded a video demo I did with Glympse’s CEO, Bryan Trussel. Cool demo of Glympse.

Downsides to both services? The don’t work with all phones. I can run Latitude on my Nokia phone, but not my iPhone. Glympse is same, but is coming to iPhone soon.

So far I think Glympse’s approach is going to be better for most people. What do you think?

Google Making Powerful Moves

Google has been doing a lot of stuff for us lately. Last week Google shipped “Latitude” which lets you track your friends and lets them track you (at least if you have a phone that works with the service — my Nokia N95 worked, but my iPhone is not yet supported). I used it with Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist last Thursday as I was meeting him for breakfast and he said he could see my icon moving closer to him and knew exactly when I would walk through the door for breakfast. I find that kind of technology pretty fun and useful. I know lots of other people are thinking “privacy problem” too, but Google lets you decide who gets to stalk you. In fact they designed it so that it would only work with your closest friends. I, of course, opened it up to the world, and quickly added more than 200 people. That promptly caused it to crash on starting up, which made it totally useless for me. The team wrote me and said they’ll fix that bug in next release.

Then, also last week those smart people at Google released eBooks onto iPhone. More than a million public domain books are now readable on your iPhone. That’s pretty cool, although I still can’t see reading long books on my iPhone. That’s why I ordered the Amazon Kindle 2.0. It’ll be interesting to compare the two, that’s for sure.

Yesterday Google announced that it is bringing power to the people and is making a bunch of services to track and manage electricity usage, both in your home and your business. That’s an effort that’s a little further out than the other stuff I’m talking about here, but will probably have a huge impact on our power bills as we get devices (and solar panels) that can use energy at more efficient and cost-effective times.

But the one thing that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of hype yet is already the most useful for me. Google now is syncing my calendar and my contacts onto my iPhone thanks to Google Sync. It would also work with Windows Mobile and a few other phones.

I loaded this up last night and it’s magical. No longer do I have to hook up my iPhone to sync up my calendars. I set it up, which was just a touch geeky, required going into my iPhone’s email settings and following some directions. It’s a bit scary, because they say your contacts will go away. They do, so make sure you have them backed up. But I trusted in the Google and within a few seconds I had all my contacts from Gmail and all my calendars from Google Calendar all synced up. I already had other ways of syncing up my Outlook with Gmail and Google Calendar. So, now my life is all synced up and I’m happy. You can see how it is going for other users over on friendfeed in this discussion about Google’s new sync.

Thank you Google for all the fun stuff. What are you going to release in the next week? :-)