Google has hired Ed Chi, a world-renowned expert in social media, as a research scientist specializing in human interaction.
Up until the end of January, Chi was a principal scientist of augmented social cognition at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), an institution for commercial innovation that works closely with global enterprises, entrepreneurs, and government agencies and partners. Chi was at PARC since 1999 and his most recent work included investigations into how users relate to Wikipedia, Delicious, and Twitter. He also holds 20 patents.
Tim Hickernell, senior analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, says it is likely that Chi was hired to enhance the company’s social media strategy, but says it is hard to definitively know for sure with Google’s unpredictable track record. “When they hire scientists at that level, they basically give them the ability to conduct research on a wide range of things that they want,” he says. “It’s possible that he was hired for a very specific agenda, but knowing Google, it is also quite possible that they will set him up with what he needs and let him run free.”
After the failures of Google Wave—a Web app for collaboration and communication—and Google Buzz—its first foray into social media with a way to share content and start conversations—Hickernell says “all eyes are on them” and he believes Google should stick to its mobile applications for launching its social applications. “I predict that’s where you will see most things come with Google,” he says. “Their real opportunity going forward in the next few years is just to make everything within the mobile operating system platform socially-enabled out of the box.”
CRM Essentials owner Brent Leary agrees mobile technology is Google’s best bet for breaking into the social sphere. “If they can figure out a way to integrate a strategy into what they have done with mobile and email, they have a really good shot at least at making their social competitive,” he says. “I don’t know if it will ever be able to overtake Facebook or Twitter, but I think there is a lot of room for Google to up the ante.”
Leary believes Google should build its social strategy “on top of what they already have.” He advises the company to educate its users on how its applications make their lives easier and better, which he believes was overlooked with Google Wave and Google Buzz, both of which were discontinued last year.
News of Chi’s hire also comes as the German blog Heise Online reports that Acer will release a surf station that will run on Google Chrome OS. According to Heise Online, the Acer DX241H is a 24-inch display with integrated sound and a system on a chip ARM integrated processor. The device would be an upgrade to Acer's D241H Acer’s previous Internet surf station and its retail value would be around $400. No release date was mentioned and both Acer and Google have refused to comment about the device.