IDF 2013: Intel and Google Announce New Haswell-Powered Chromebooks

Subject: Mobile | September 13, 2013 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, google, Chromebook

At IDF this week Intel and Google announced new Chromebooks running Google's cloud friendly operating system. The new machines will be built by a number of PC laptop manufacturers and will be available later this year.

Notably, the new Chromebooks will feature Intel Haswell processors, which Google claims will result in increased performance along with up to 2-times the battery life of previous generation Chromebooks. In fact, several manufacturers are rating the battery life between 8 and 9.5 hours, which would be quite the feat if the number hold up to actual usage!

New Haswell-Powered Google Chromebooks.png

Acer, HP, and Toshiba will be releasing updated Chromebooks with Haswell CPUs and new laptop designs "over the coming months" for as-yet-unannounced prices. ASUS is also joining the Chromebook fray with a mini desktop PC running Chrome OS and requiring a monitor or TV for video output. Specifically, Acer will be putting out an 11.6" laptop that is 0.75" thick and weighs 2.76 pounds. HP is offering a larger display and more battery lfie with its 14" Chromebook measuing 0.81" thick and 4.08 pounds. You trade a bit of portability, but you get a larger display, keyboard, and battery. Toshiba will be unveiling a laptop form factor Chromebook as well, but specs on that particular system have not been revealed yet. As mentioned above, pricing has not been released, but expect the systems to be under $300.

Interestingly, Google claims that six of the leading PC laptop manufacturers are now offering their own spin on Google's Chromebook. Further, the Chromebooks account for around 20-percent of the sub-$300 PC market, according to Google. It seems that Chromebooks are slowly gaining traction though it remains to be seen if they will continue to be successful as Windows and Android budget ultraportable competition heats up and consumers become wary of "the cloud" and Internet applications in light of the various leaks concerning the NSA spying programs. (As Darren Kitchen of Hak5 would say, "encrypt all the things!")

Will you be picking up a Haswell-powered Chromebook?

Source: Google

Google Quietly Dives into the Smartwatch Wars on a WIMM

Subject: Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: wimm, smartwatch, google, Android

In an effort to bolster its own trek into the much-hyped smartwatch market, Google has acquired android smartwatch developer WIMM Labs. This may be new news to you, but this stealthy acquisition occurred well over a year ago, with most of the world none the wiser—WIMM casually shuttered its operations and alluded to an “exclusive, confidential relationship”—until tech news company, GigaOM leaked the details of the merger .

Since GigaOM spoke up, there has been a deluge of activity to back their claim: Investment bank Woodside Capital Partners posted an image practically screaming that they had assisted with the merger, and a number of WIMM employees are updating their online profiles to state that they now work for Google. The purchase of WIMM labs will give Google a massive edge in the upcoming smartphone wars and here is how:

Like many manufacturers of Android hardware, WIMM has implemented a unique ecosystem exclusive to its devices, but unlike most other manufacturers, the WIMM Micro App Store features an independent third party developer program; this means that much like Google’s own Play Store—the primary Android marketplace—that anyone with a great app idea can build a Google smartwatch-ready app. This added capability doesn’t just mean a few extra apps for your smartwatch, though. It also will allow app integration, so that alarm clock set up on your Android smartphone or tablet will buzz on your watch, your calendar will literally always be on hand, and your highly important notes will always be accessible. The WIMM/Google Micro Apps will also operate with unique independence from their phone and tablet-bases cousins. A Google Smartwatch Micro App could, for instance, remotely control your smartphone, enabling you to make phone calls, play music, or power down the device.

The Micro App Store is important, but the hardware and personnel benefits that came with the WIMM acquisition should not be ignored; any patents that WIMM owned are now at Google’s disposal, and with other tech giants, such as Apple looking for a reason to sue anybody for “stealing their ideas,” and with those patent troll companies still being a drain on legitimate business ventures, the WIMM patent portfolio could go a long way in protecting Google’s interests from the legal sharks. Also, the wealth of knowledge about the Micro App Store’s inner workings will go a long way in streamlining the Play Store/Micro App Store app integration process.

wimm.jpg

Image source: GigaOM

The WIMM acquisition proves that Google is dead serious about playing its hand in the smartwatch wars; consumers should be on the lookout for a “Google Nexus Smartwatch,” and seriously consider buying into the capabilities of such a device, and owning one themselves.

Source: GigaOM

Google Rolls Out JSS15Q OTA Update To Fix GPS and Multi-Touch Issues

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2013 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: tablet, ota update, nexus 7, gps, google, Android

Google’s new Nexus 7 was released in July with updated hardware and Android 4.3. One of the changes to the platform was the switch from the original Nexus 7’s Tegra 3 processor for a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC. Qualcomm also built the GPS (and GLONASS) unit. Unfortunately, some users ran into issues with the GPS and touchscreen on the updated Nexus 7 due to software bugs.

In response, Google is rolling out an Over The Air (OTA) update to all new Nexus 7 devices. Among other minor bug fixes, the JSS15Q update resolves the GPS and multi-touch issues. Previously, the GPS would randomly drop the connection and a smaller number of users reported that touching the screen would initiate screen presses at multiple (unintended) areas of the screen on a shared axis from the actual touch point.

Updated Google Nexus 7 Android Jelly Bean Tablet.jpg

AnandTech reports that the JSS15Q update, which is being slowly rolled out to all of the 2013 edition Nexus 7 devices, has resolved the GPS issue. The XDA Developers site further reports that the update addresses the mult-itouch and user data eMMC corruption bugs.

Nexus 7 users can either wait for the JSS15Q update or flash the device with an updated Google-provided  ROM.

Source: Anandtech

Google Helpouts: Online Tutoring for a Profit?

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2013 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: google, google helpouts, google hangouts

Video conferencing has been easy, and free, for quite some time now. Perhaps a little one-on-one instruction can encourage users to pay for a service? Maybe the expert will offer their advice for free? Google Helpouts, a free or premium video conferencing service, allows experts to share their knowledge and maybe charge a fee for their time.

Payments are, for both ends of the transaction, managed by Google Wallet. Appointments could be scheduled based on availability and cancellation fees can be applied to discourage no-shows. 20% of monies raised will go to Google and include credit card and Wallet fees. This leaves the instructor with a healthy 80% to claim on their income tax.

googlehelpouts.jpg

Google will assist users in setting up a merchant account for their Wallet service. Attempts to require payments outside of the Helpouts service could be considered fraud and breaching the terms of service.

In the event of terrible service, customers will be allowed to request a refund. The merchant will be able to, voluntarily, offer a refund for their services and, if the customer is still unsatisfied, Google will be able to review the session recording and determine if a refund is warranted. Customers who opt-out of having their session recorded cannot request a refund from Google. Conferences which cannot be saved, such as those in the Health and Counseling category, are automatically eligible for their "100% Money Back Guarantee".

The age requirement for creating a Google Helpout starts at 18 although customers can be as young as 13. There is currently no information on availability. Interested experts are able to sign up to request an invitation.

There is, also, no word on whether screen sharing software is, or will be, included for instructors without a convenient whiteboard. That would be cool, though.

Source: Google

Google TV versus Chromecast; is there a difference?

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | August 9, 2013 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: asus, asus cube, google, google tv, htpc

With the release of the Google Chromecast streaming USB stick it seems apropos to revisit Google's other foray into the HTPC business, Google TV.  Specifically it is the ASUS Cube up for review at Bjorn3D which will be offered as an example.  At less than 5" a side it is a tiny device with HDMI input and output, an pair of USB 2.0 connectors, an ethernet port and a connector for an IR sensor for the remote.  It does have wireless connectivity to help keep down on the clutter if you install it somewhere noticeable.  Inside you will find a 1.2 GHz Marvell Armada 1500 chip, 1GB of RAM and 2GB of user accessible storage.  There are a variety of apps to help you find streams to watch and is certainly easier to set up than a full HTPC.  At $125 is is more expensive than the Chromecast but it is also more powerful, see how in the review.

Bj3DAsus_Cube_07.jpg

"Asus Cube is the device that features latest Google TV OS that want to be part of your living room entertainment setup. With a good design, an unique remote, and $139 price tag, can it push Google TV further where others may have failed? Let’s find out."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: Bjorn3D

Hulu and HBO Go Streaming Apps May Be Coming To Google Chromecast

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2013 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: media streaming, hulu, hbo, google, chromecast

Google released its Chromecast streaming stick last month, and the device launched with support for YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix streaming. For the remaining content sources, users need to resort to "casting" an entire Chrome web browser tab from a smartphone, tablet, or computer connected to the same network over Wi-Fi. At launch, Google stated that additional apps are coming, including Pandora (and later Vimeo). Now, stories are appearing online reporting that Hulu Plus and HBO Go support may be coming to the $35 streaming device in the near future.

Variety reports that HBO is "actively exploring" the Google Chromecast as another method for subscribers to access content. As usual, users will need to be subscribers of traditional cable or satellite services along with paying a monthly subscription to HBO itself in order to access HBO Go on the Chromecast. For now, users are able to stream to their televisions by using the tab casting feature, but an app would be ideal. The company has not announced any specific timelines for an app release, however.

Additionally, Hulu has said that it is working on adding its own streaming app to the Chromecast for Plus subscribers. Specifically, Hulu representative Meredith Kendall was quoted by Variety in stating that "We are actively working with Google to bring Hulu Plus to the platform." Hulu seems to be more certain on delivering a Chromecast app for its users, so it is likely that Hulu Plus will come out before HBO Go, though free Hulu users will have to resort to casting the entire Chrome tab.

Have you received your Google Chromecast yet? Are you excited for new apps, or is the tab casting "good enough"?

Read more about Google's Chromecast media streaming dongle at PC Perspective.

Source: Slash Gear

Google Rolls Out Updated Nexus 7 With Android 4.3 And Better Hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 26, 2013 - 03:29 AM |
Tagged: Snapdragon S4 Pro, qualcomm, nexus 7, google, asus, android 4.3

Google recently launched an updated version of its Android-powered Nexus 7 tablet. The existing Nexus 7 will be discontinued and replaced by three new Nexus 7 SKUs. The updated tablets are slightly thinner and lighter, come with improved hardware specifications, and will come with Google’s latest Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean” operating system.

The updated Nexus 7 features a 7” touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 which works out to 323 pixels per inch (PPI) and front-facing HD webcam on the front of the device. The back of the tablet hosts a 5MP camera and a smooth soft touch cover. A micro USB port is located on the bottom edge. Google has added stereo speakers located on the top and bottom of the tablet.

Updated Google Nexus 7 Android Jelly Bean Tablet.jpg

Internal specifications include a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor clocked at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of storage depending on the specific SKU. There is no SD card slot on the Nexus 7, unfortunately. Additionally, the Nexus 7 will support 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, Bluetooth 4.0, and Qi wireless charging. Google will have both Wi-Fi only and LTE models, with the latter coming with 32GB of internal storage and a 4G LTE cellular radio compatible with all the major US carriers.

The chart below compares the specifications of the original Nexus 7 to the updated Nexus 7 tablet.

  New Nexus 7 Original Nexus 7
Display 1920 x 1200 1280 x 800
Height 7.9" 7.81"
Depth/thickness 0.3" 0.41"
Weight 11.2 oz 12 oz
Processor Quad core Snapdragon S4 Pro @ 1.5GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (4+1)
RAM 2GB 1GB
Internal Storage Options 16GB or 32GB 16GB or 32GB
Wireless Radio Options Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz), BT, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi (2.4GHz), BT, and 3G/HSPA+21
OS Android 4.3 Android 4.1
Starting MSRP $229 (16GB) $249 (16GB)

Google has continued its partnership with Asus and worked with the hardware company to develop the updated Nexus 7 tablets.

The Nexus 7 will be available in the US starting on July 30. It will be rolled out to other countries over the next few weeks including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, UK, South Korea, and Spain among others.

The 16GB Wi-Fi only model has an MSRP of $229 while the 32GB Wi-Fi only model has an MSRP of $269. Finally, the Nexus 7 with 32GB of storage and 4G LTE modem will cost $349.

In all, I think Google has another winner on its hands with the updated Nexus 7.
 

Source: Google

Google's Web is QUIC and SPDY

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 02:12 AM |
Tagged: google, spdy, QUIC

It missed being a recursive acronym by a single letter...

TCP is known for being the go-to protocol for stable connections over the internet. There are some things you can guarantee: you will not lose bits of data, packets will arrive in order, incorrect packets will be checked and redelivered, and both endpoints will be roughly metered to the least capacity. It is easy to develop applications around the TCP protocol, it does the hard problems for you.

Being meticulous also makes it slow, relatively speaking.

9-ethernet2.png

UDP, on the other hand, frees its packets in a fountain to hopefully land where it is intended. This protocol is fast, but a pain for applications that need some level of reliability. Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC), from Google, leverages UDP to create multiple independent, even encrypted connections. While TCP could be made faster, it is beyond the jurisdiction of web browsers; support is embedded into the operating system itself. This leaves building upon UDP, suffering with TCP, or not being compatible with about every network hardware installed just about anywhere.

This comes on the heels of SPDY, Google's other open protocol. SPDY is built around HTTP and both presume a reliable protocol underneath, where TCP is the usual candidate. A large advantage of SPDY allows assets to simultaneously stream over a single connection. TCP will, unfortunately, freeze the entire connection (and thus each stream) when a single stream drops a packet. QUIC, based upon UDP, can then be used to accelerate SPDY further by allowing truly independent multiplexing.

QUIC will be used for "a small percentage of Chrome dev and canary channel traffic to some Google server", for experimentation purposes. The code itself is licensed under BSD and, as such, could migrate to other browsers in due time.

Source: CNet

Google Glass Update Will Add Web Browser and New Voice Control Functionality

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2013 - 11:29 PM |
Tagged: web browser, hands-free, google glasses, google glass, google

Later this week, Google is updating its Glass, well, glasses to add new features. Among the new features, Google is including a full web browser and a couple of new voice controls.

The full web browser will output to the Glass display and can be accessed by hitting the appropriate button. Users will be able to access the web using the Wi-Fi chip, and it will be controlled by the touchpad and motion controls. For example, users can scroll pages by moving a single finger forward on the touchpad. Zooming is handled by using a two finger guesture on the touchpad. Finally, while zoomed in, users can move their head around to pan around the page.

The motion control bit is actually an intuitive idea, though I expect bystanders will find those browsing the web on their Glass a bit odd as they hold two fingers to their glasses and move their head about. (Hopefully people do not try browsing reddit while walking, however.)
 

The upcoming Google Glass update also adds a few more voice controls to the mix. Using voice commands beginning with "ok glass," users will be able to reply to text messages, answer calls, and send photos to other people on their contact list.

Finally, Google has lifted the contact list restriction from a list of ten friends. Users can now access their entire Gmail contact list.

I'm glad that Google is continuing to improve the Glass software. According to The Verge, this new update will be rolled out over the next few days to the Explorer Edition units currently in the hands of developers. I'm looking forward to the final consumer release.

Read more about Google Glass at PC Perspective.

Source: The Verge

Outbound Phone Call Support Coming to Hangouts (Within Gmail Interface) Soon

Subject: General Tech | May 20, 2013 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: google voice, google talk, google hangouts, google

One of the neat features of the chat application built into the Gmail web interface is the ability to receive and place phone calls to and from your Google Voice number. And unlike the Google Voice interface, calls placed using the Gmail Talk chat widget are completely free.

Unfortunately, the new Hangouts replacement (currently not mandatory) brought over from Google + does not support the calling features of Google Talk. As such, users wanting to call phones and not just video chat with other Google + users will need to stick with the old Google Talk chat or use Google Voice and pay for outbound calls.

Google Hangouts.jpg

The good news is that the phone call features will be rolled into the new Hangouts feature eventually. According to Google employee Nikhyl Singhal, “outbound/inbound calls will soon be available.” He also indicated that future versions of Hangouts will further integrate the feature set of Google Voice (which likely refers to SMS). Unless you particularly want video chatting, I would recommend sticking with Google Talk until the new version of Hangouts is more fleshed out.