COMPLEX TECH: Give this sweet browser a test drive

If you are slightly adventurous, you moved over to Firefox as your browser.  If you are a little more daring, you moved to something even lighter, Google Chrome.  Pshaw.  If you want to browse with the newest hotness, give Google Chrome Beta a test drive.  It is stable and squeaky clean in its minimalism.  If you are running Windows 7, it is the perfect compliment to a polished operating system.

Google takes a first step at upsetting the cell phone purchase apple cart

Of interest to the gadget-loving attorneys out there, today Google announced on its blog a first step towards another attempt to change how consumers buy cell phones.  Google will offer the Nexus One "superphone" through a Google-hosted store.  The Nexus One was built by HTC and runs the Android operating system.  Google was heavily involved in the creation of the device and customized the operating system to showcase what the newest version of Android can do.  Google said that other phones on other carriers will follow.

Keep an eye on Google in this space.  As with its Google Scholar search capabilities that allow free searching for caselaw, this first step by Google into the mobile phone sales arena won't unseat the major players...yet.  In fact, the initial offering is a fairly conventional choice of a subsidized phone through T-Mobile or an unlocked Nexus One at a typical smartphone price.  The interesting part of this development is Google's ability to bring so many handset manufacturers together under the Android umbrella.  Handset makers just want to sell their hardware.  A desirable consumer experience and a solid operating system with the ability to run large numbers of third-party applications sells the hardware.  Apple proved that.  If Google gains enough traction in the cell phone space to change pricing models and, perhaps, move towards a different subsidy model, such as ad and metrics-based subsidies, could inject a new dynamic into this market.

For the mobile lawyer, this may mean a downward pressure on prices and an increase in the quality of smartphone choices as service providers compete in the one way they most easily can - offering better handsets with lower service prices.

Google gets in on the legal research game

To Westlaw and Lexis:

You have a big head start, but the world's largest search monster just left the land of nightmares and placed itself squarely in your rearview mirrors.  Google has surfaced search functionality that will return full-text opinions from state and federal courts.  Google Scholar, still in "beta," allows searches by case name, topic, or key words.  Advanced filters allow for creative search construction.  The November 17, 2009 announcement on Google's blog is here.

I did some test searches, and the results are good, but not quite as current as Westlaw or Lexis would provide.  Each case, when viewed, includes a "how cited" tab that, rather than explaining the correct citation syntax, provides a list of other cases citing to that case and an interesting list of case quotes showing how the case is cited in context.  Testing with Tobacco II, I was able to find that Cohen v. DirecTV cites Tobacco II, but Cohen isn't yet returned as a result when searching for it by name.  Either Google is waiting for finality before providing access to opinions, or its data source is slow to update.  As another plus, the cases include pagination information.

Setting all else aside, it's free and it's simple.  At this point, Westlaw and Lexis should stock up on clean underwear.