Silos of Innovation

google photos highlights

I’d like to apply Google’s new photo awesomeness to my pictures but they won’t sync with Apple TV.

I’d like to purchase a digital copy of a movie on iTunes but it won’t play on my Roku.

It would be awesome to use Chrome as the default browser on iPhone, but most links open into Safari.

We live in a time of amazing technological innovations, but they are increasingly happening in silos. Companies like Google, Amazon and Apple are letting us do things with our devices, media and applications like never before, but often we are forced to choose which side we are on.

It’s the reason why I can’t easily video chat with my Dad or sisters – they all use FaceTime (not by choice) and there’s no way I’m getting them to download, sign up and stay logged into a platform-agnostic video chat app like Skype. “I don’t know how to do that,” they explain.

It’s a sentiment shared by a lot of people – non-techies, as they call themselves.

Let me share my workflow yesterday while editing some pictures. Google just announced its new algorithm of automatic photo editing it can apply to snapshots you upload to Google Photos. They can smooth out wrinkles, auto-correct colors and even pick out your best pictures based on who you’re standing with or who’s smiling. I took about 600 pictures on vacation recently and would need a second vacation just to go through them to pick out the best ones. Shifting that responsibility to Google would save me a lot of time.

Problem is, I use Apple TV to show off my best pictures, and there is no simple way to have the photos Google picks (they call them “highlights”) show up on my TV screen without a ton of work.

Here’s how I did it.

First, I grabbed the photos out of Dropbox where they auto-upload from our phones (they dump here whether taken on my cell or my wife’s). Next, I uploaded them to Google Photos (part of Google Plus) and waited for Google to work its magic. Once it picked out the best and auto-optimized everything, it took me a few minutes before I realized there is no easy way to download just the highlights album.

google photos unlisted link

So, I selected the highlights photos and created a new album with them. Then I copied and pasted an unlisted share link into an incognito window in Chrome. Then, I downloaded the album as a ZIP file, extracted it and dragged the photos into iPhoto.

Next, I selected the photos, then clicked the “share to photo stream” option in iPhoto, and shared with my special “Apple TV” photo stream. Finally, I deleted the pictures in iPhoto since I don’t use that application to manage my photos (they stay in Photo Stream since it’s in the “cloud”).

Voila – Google’s approximation of my best vacation pictures now show up on Apple TV as a screensaver.

Obviously, I don’t expect anyone else in the world to do something of this nature, but it exemplifies the new order of things.

There is so much great innovation out there but it is nearly impossible to benefit from it all.

Movies you buy from Amazon won’t play on Android tablets like the Nexus 7 or 10, but they will play on the Kindle Fire, which runs a version of Android software.

Google Music All Access works beautifully on Android phones but I’m not holding my breath for an iOS app.

Magazines you subscribe to on the iPad look great there, just don’t try to read them anywhere else.

Hulu is life-changing as long as you don’t try to access it on Google TV’s web browser.

samsung share shot

Awesome feature, if you can get others to use it.

AirPlay, iMessage, Samsung AllShare, Google Play movies – the list of innovative tech goes on and on – tech that’s only useful if you’re committed to the ecosystem.

It reminds me of the days when Microsoft came under fire for including its Internet Explorer browser on desktops. You were nudged into using it but alternatives were there and once you went through the small effort of downloading and setting a new default browser you were back in action on your own terms.

But the general public doesn’t really feel like downloading the alternative. Sometimes, its not even possible. There are some workarounds like my photo workflow, but many times consumers are either forced to choose a proprietary solution or patch together a mishmash of tech that works for them.

The format battle wages on, and until I’m able to play Amazon movies on every device, watch HBO GO on Apple TV or easily share photos among phones with WiFi, NFC or Bluetooth, like most consumers I sit and wait.

The dust hasn’t settled, standards aren’t there and it is complicating and slowing the adoption of advances in technology.