Tag Archives: Google

Google gets into audiobooks as rivalry with Amazon heats up
January 23, 2018 6:00 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google introduced audiobooks to its online store on Tuesday, making its smart speakers and virtual assistant more competitive with Amazon.com Inc’s Echo devices and Alexa voice assistant.

Listening to audiobooks is among the most popular nighttime uses for smart speakers, a burgeoning type of home appliance that provides audio streams of music, news and other data based on user commands to an embedded virtual assistant.

But Google’s Home speakers have lagged Amazon Echo in terms of audiobook features. Amazon-owned Audible, the top provider of audiobooks, has not been supported on Home and other speakers with Google Assistant.

Google launching an audiobooks store widens the battle, which has also seen Google’s YouTube unit stop supporting an Amazon product.

Greg Hartrell, head of product management for Google Play Books, listed subscription-less buying as the top selling point for the new audiobooks store.

“You can buy a single audiobook at an affordable price, with no commitments,” he said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Audible offers one-off purchases, but promotes a $ 14.95 monthly subscription that includes one free download and 30 percent off further purchases. Amazon and Audible did not respond to requests to comment.

Google began selling ebooks in 2010. Hartrell told Reuters in a statement that audiobooks are being added because “our users are asking for them.”

About 16 percent of U.S. adults own a smart speaker, according to an Edison Research survey conducted in late 2017. The firm in conjunction with Triton Digital also found last spring that 30 percent of frequent audiobook listeners had used a smart speaker to take in an audiobook in the previous 12 months.

Audiobook sales surged nearly 20 percent annually for three consecutive years, reaching $ 2.1 billion in 2016, according to the latest Audio Publishers Assn. data.

Thad McIlroy, an online book industry consultant, said audiobooks represent the only publishing category with “strong growth” so it makes sense for Google to challenge Amazon despite having a weak ebooks business.

Google-purchased audiobooks can be accessed through Google Play Books on the web, apps for Android and iOS devices or through Google Assistant in speakers, Android smartphones and “soon” cars with Android Auto, Hartrell wrote.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Susan Thomas

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​Google moves to Debian for in-house Linux desktop
January 19, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Video: Supercomputing has an undisputed champion — Linux

Google has officially confirmed the company is shifting its in-house Linux desktop from the Ubuntu-based Goobuntu to a new Linux distro, the DebianTesting-based gLinux.

Margarita Manterola, a Google Engineer, quietly announced Google would move from Ubuntu to Debian-testing for its desktop Linux at DebConf17 in a lightning talk. Manterola explained that Google was moving to gLinux, a rolling release based on Debian Testing.

This move isn’t as surprising as it first looks. Ubuntu is based on Debian. In addition, Google has long been a strong Debian supporter. In 2017, Debian credited Google for making [sic] “possible our annual conference, and directly supports the progress of Debian and Free Software.”

Debian Testing is the beta for the next stable version of Debian. With gLinux, that means it’s based on the Debian 10 “Buster” test operating system.

Google takes each Debian Testing package, rebuilds it, tests it, files and fixes bugs, and once those are resolved, integrates it into the gLinux release candidate. GLinux went into beta on Aug. 16, 2017.

Don’t bother looking for this new Linux distro. You won’t be able to find it. GLinux, like Goobuntu before it, is strictly for internal Google use.

Linux is not Google’s only desktop operating system. Google also uses macOS, Windows, and the Linux-based Chrome OS across its fleet of nearly a quarter-million workstations and laptops. Google isn’t using its mysterious Fuchsia operating system in production.

To manage its desktop operating systems, Google uses the Puppet DevOps tool. Specifically, Google works with the Standalone (Masterless) Puppet mode.

Google’s IT staff uses Pupper’s Standalone approach for two reasons. Standalone doesn’t require a large infrastructure of Puppet configuration servers. Instead, the desktops pull the cryptographically verified configuration files from a web host, then verifies the data locally, and applies the configurations. In addition, by not using a server-client model, this enables the company to commit to its BeyondCorp access model, which does away with using internal networks for corporate access.

BeyondCorp is Google’s enterprise security model, which uses the concept of zero trust networks. It works by shifting access controls from the network perimeter to individual devices and users. This enables employees to work securely from any location without a traditional virtual private network (VPN).

For Goobuntu, and now gLinux, Google uses PXE to netboot the standard Linux desktop installer image. These new Linux images are automatically built in the form of compressed tar-format archives. These images are then placed on an HTTPS server alongside Debian pre-seed files that automate the host setup portion of the installation. This installation process is integrated with Puppet and host update infrastructure to ensure every desktop is configured as intended at install. This allows Google to reinstall gLinux from the network in about 30 minutes.

Google wouldn’t say what desktop environment gLinux will be using. It’s believed, however, that it will use GNOME, backed by the Wayland display server.

Google wouldn’t officially comment on when the changeover from Goobuntu to gLinux would be completed. Sources say it should be well under its way by this summer.

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Google, Temasek coming in as new investors in Indonesia's Go-Jek: sources
January 18, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd and Chinese online platform Meituan-Dianping are investing in a fundraising round of Indonesian ride-hailing start-up Go-Jek, sources familiar with the matter said.

Go-Jek’s existing investors such as global private equity firms KKR & Co LP (KKR.N) and Warburg Pincus LLC are also participating in the funding round of Go-Jek, which is raising about $ 1.2 billion in total, the sources said.

Google, KKR, Warburg and Temasek [TEM.UL] declined to comment. Meituan-Dianping and Go-Jek did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The people declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Julie Zhu in HONG KONG; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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These are Google Android 8.1's five best features
December 29, 2017 6:00 am|Comments (0)

I’ve been using Android 8.1 for several weeks now on my Pixel 2 smartphone, and I’m impressed.

It’s not so much that Android 8.1 is a big jump forward for most end-users. It’s not. Google’s major 2017 Android improvements came with Android 8.0. With a smartphone containing a Pixel Visual Core chip, it’s a dramatically different story.

1) Visual Core

The Visual Core is Google’s first custom-designed consumer processor. It’s a dedicated image processing chip. Today, it’s only in the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Tomorrow, it may be appearing in other smartphones.

CNET: Google Pixel 2 XL review: Promising phone with new caveats

With Android 8.1, the Visual Core chip has been activated and the results are dramatically better photos. First, it takes much faster High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. By taking a series of photographs in micro-seconds, HDR-enhanced cameras do a much better job of capturing the full range of darkest blacks and lightest whites than older digital cameras.

With Google’s HDR+, your smartphone camera takes a rapid burst of pictures. The Visual Core chip then combines them five times faster than previous generation of processors into one superior picture. You may not notice the speed, but what you will notice is how much more detail you’ll get from low-light photographs.

You used to only be able to take HDR+ photos using the Google photo app. Now, third-party camera apps, which use the Android Camera application programming interface (API), such as Instagram and Snapchat, can also take advantage of HDR+’s superior processing for better photos.

2) Neural Network API

Any device which can upgrade to Android 8.1, which for now are the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, the Pixel 1 and 1 XL, the Pixel C tablet, and the Nexus 6P and 5X, can make use of Google’s Neural Networks API (NNAPI). While as a user you won’t notice anything immediately from this improvement, Android developers will. NNAPI is designed to make it possible to run machine-learning (ML) on mobile devices. This API provides a base layer, higher-level, ML framework. This, in turn, can be used by Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

What this means for you as a user is you can expect to see some very interesting smart applications coming your way soon. For example, by this time next year, you can expect speech recognition and language translation apps, which will approach Star Trek-levels of coolness.

3) Bluetooth battery levels measurements

Do you get sick and tired of not knowing if your Bluetooth earphones or headset are about to die on you? I know I do. With Android 8.1, you’ll find a Bluetooth battery display in the Bluetooth settings. I’d still rather have it on the top status bar, but this is a lot better than fumbling with my Bluetooth gadgets.

4) Better screen management

On some smartphones, notably the Pixel 2 XL, some people were seeing screen burn-in. If you don’t recall this ugly blast from old style CRT display’s past, screen burn happens when the same screen elements — such as the navigation icons or the clock — are always on. After time, these elements are “burned” into the display so their ghostly presence remains even when they should be gone.

With Android 8.1, smartphones now vary how these are displayed. The result? The end of screen burn.

5) New look

There aren’t any major changes to the interface, but there are some useful ones. These include the Pixel Launcher. This makes it easier than ever to access Google search functions and installed apps. Android’s quick settings are transparent now so you can still see a hint of the main screen beneath it. There are also new launcher themes.

All-in-all, Android 8.1 is a good step forward. What I’m really looking forward to though is seeing more smartphone vendors bringing it to their flagship phones. Thanks to Google’s Project Treble.

TechRepublic: Android Oreo rollback protection prevents hackers from exploiting past vulnerabilities

Before Treble, which first appears in Android 8.0, when Google launched a new Android version, the chip OEMs, such as Mediatek and Qualcomm, had to add drivers so their silicon could run it. Then the device vendors added their customizations. Finally, the carriers had to bless the update. Then, and only then, could you get a new version of Android on your old phone. What a mess!

Project Treble has redesigned Android to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for manufacturers to update devices to a new version of Android. It does this by separating the device-specific, lower-level software — written mostly by the silicon manufacturers — from the Android OS Framework.

By working with the chipset OEMs, the vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS). In short, Google is cutting out some of the fat, which makes Android updates so slow.

If the phone vendors cooperate by not adding too much of their own spice to the stew, many of you may finally see Android 8 and 8.1 on your phones before I’m writing about the release of Android 9.

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Best Cyber Monday Tech Deals From Target, eBay, Newegg, and Google
November 26, 2017 12:11 pm|Comments (0)

Black Friday has passed, but Cyber Monday—the big online shopping day that falls on the first Monday after Thanksgiving—is just around the corner. That means that there are some great tech deals to be had this year on Nov. 27.

And just because the name Cyber Monday implies that people only have one day to buy something on discount, several retailers like Newegg and Target are extending Cyber Monday into a multi-day shopping fest.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best Cyber Monday tech deals.

Target

The retail giant said have everything on its website at 15% for the week, which Target is pitching as Cyber Week. Additionally, Target (tgt) will unveil special deals on several items each day throughout the week.

Some of the deals include:

  • The Sony PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset, with racing game Gran Turismo included, for $ 300, a $ 100 discount.
  • People who buy BeatsX earphones or Beats EP headphones—which cost $ 150 and $ 130 respectively—will get a free $ 20 Target GiftCard.
  • A KitchenAid 4.5-qt. Classic Plus Stand Mixer will cost $ 200 instead of $ 260.

eBay

Although technically not a retailer, eBay (ebay) is rounding up some of the best tech deals from its various sellers and making them available for the week, starting Nov. 25.

  • A Samsung 55-inch 4K television will cost $ 550 instead of $ 900.
  • An Apple (aapl) iPad Pro with 256 GB and Wi-Fi will cost $ 750, a 13% discount.
  • An unlocked Apple iPhone 8 with 64 GB will cost $ 674 instead of $ 700.
  • The iRobot Roomba 980 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi will cost $ 760, an 11% discount.

Newegg

Online tech-focused retailer Newegg will be staggering some deals throughout its Cyber Monday event lasting from Nov. 26 through Nov. 30.

Deals valid from Nov. 26 and Nov. 27.

  • A Western Digital 4 TB external hard drive will cost $ 60 instead of $ 100.
  • A Western Digital 500 GB solid state internal hard drive will cost $ 138 instead of $ 150. There’s a limit of three.

Deals valid from Nov. 26 through Nov. 30.

  • Hyperkin RetroN 1 HD Gaming Console for the NES will cost $ 15 instead of $ 30.

Deals valid on Nov. 27 only.

  • The CyberPower Intelligent LCD battery backup and power supply will cost $ 75 instead of $ 110.
  • The Corsair Carbide Mid-Tower Gaming Case will cost $ 40 instead of $ 50.
  • H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2017 will cost $ 35 instead of $ 45.
  • A MSI gaming laptop will cost $ 750 instead of $ 850.

Deals valid from Nov. 27 through Nov. 30.

  • An ABS Lite Gaming Desktop will cost $ 830 instead of $ 900.
  • A Dell OptiPlex 3050 Desktop Computer will cost $ 590 instead of $ 660

Google

Google (goog) is cutting the price of its Google Home web connected speaker to $ 80 from $ 130 starting on Thanksgiving Day and ending at 11:59 pm on Nov. 27, Cyber Monday.

Facebook

The social networking giant (fb) is slashing the price of its Oculus Rift VR headset on both its Oculus online store as well as on Amazon (amzn), Best Buy (bby), Newegg, and Microsoft’s (msft) online store. From Nov. 21 through the end of Cyber Monday, the Rift + touch controller will cost $ 350 instead of $ 400.

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Dell

Dell’s Cyber Monday event will start Nov. 25 and last until Dec. 3. Throughout the period, Dell will have a 15% site wide sale on its video game-oriented computers like the Alienware brand as well as its Inspiron models.

Additionally, the company will debut several online deals throughout the week. These include Dell products in addition to those of third-party companies.

  • A Vizio 70-inch 4K television will cost $ 1,500 instead of $ 2,000, plus a $ 200 Dell promotional card.
  • A Microsoft Xbox One S with 500 GB and the video game Battlefield 1 will cost $ 220, down from $ 370
  • Dell’s UltraSharp 24-inch monitor will cost $ 220 instead of $ 350.

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Firefox opts for Google as default search in U.S., surprising Yahoo
November 15, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google reclaimed on Tuesday its spot as the default search engine on Mozilla Corp’s Firefox Internet browser in the United States and other regions as the browser maker stunned Verizon Communication Inc’s (VZ.N) Yahoo by canceling their deal.

FILE PHOTO – The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Google confirmed the move but declined, along with Mozilla, to disclose revenue-sharing terms of the multiyear agreement. Google’s growing spending to be the primary search provider on apps and devices such as Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPhone has been a major investor concern.

Google will be Firefox’s default search provider on desktop and mobile in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Mozilla spokewoman Erica Jostedt.

Yahoo had been the default in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Firefox did not have an official partner in Canada.

Verizon said Mozilla terminating the Yahoo agreement caught it off guard.

“We are surprised that Mozilla has decided to take another path, and we are in discussions with them regarding the terms of our agreement,” said Charles Stewart, a spokesman for Verizon’s Oath unit, which oversees Yahoo.

For a decade until 2014, Google had been Firefox’s worldwide search provider. Google then remained the default in Europe while regional rivals such as Yahoo, Russia’s Yandex (YNDX.O) and China’s Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) replaced it elsewhere.

Former Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer won a five-year contract with Mozilla in 2014 when Firefox and Google’s Chrome browser were battling for users. (reut.rs/2hsYZQo)

Chrome’s U.S. market share has since doubled to about 60 percent, according to data from analytics provider StatCounter, with Mozilla, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) browsers capturing the rest.

Yahoo paid Mozilla $ 375 million in 2015 and said that it would pay at least the same amount annually through 2019, according to regulatory filings.

Denelle Dixon, Mozilla’s chief business and legal officer, said in a statement that the company had “exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search and the broader content experience for our users.”

She continued, “We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search.”

Yahoo and Google aim to recoup placement fees by selling ads alongside search results and collecting valuable user data. Google said in October that contract changes drove a 54 percent increase in such fees to $ 2.4 billion in the third quarter.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Here’s Why You Will Soon Find Fewer Free Articles On Google
October 2, 2017 10:40 am|Comments (0)

Google does a lot to infuriate traditional media companies, but one of its most controversial policies has for years been “First Click Free,” in which it demanded that publishers have to give a certain number of articles to readers for free in order for those articles to appear high up in Google’s search results.

Publishers are increasingly moving their articles behind subscription paywalls, rather than relying on digital advertising for their revenue, so this policy has become increasingly troublesome. For example, when The Wall Street Journal stopped giving free tasters of its content earlier this year, its traffic from Google users plunged by 44%. As Google has a global search engine market share of over 90%, that level of control matters for any publisher.

Something had to give, and on Monday it did. In a blog post, Google News chief Richard Gingras announced that First Click Free was being replaced by a new policy called “Flexible Sampling.” Instead of being forced to serve up three free articles per day, publishers will instead be able to set their own number of free monthly samples—Google recommends 10 a month.

“Publishers generally recognize that giving people access to some free content is the way to persuade people to buy their product,” Gingras wrote.

Google also promised to work with publishers on making it easier for people to subscribe to their articles. Judging from Monday’s announcement, it appears Google wants to ensure that its services become central to that process.

“As a first step we’re taking advantage of our existing identity and payment technologies to help people subscribe on a publication’s website with a single click, and then seamlessly access that content anywhere—whether it’s on that publisher site or mobile app, or on Google Newsstand, Google Search or Google News,” Gingras said.

The Wall Street Journal quoted News Corp CEO Robert Thomson as saying the move was “an important first step in recognizing the value of legitimate journalism.”

Google and Facebook pretty much own the digital advertising market between them and, if subscription models become the norm, they will be vying for control of that mechanism too. Like Google, Facebook is also working on support for paywalled articles within its social network.

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This week in apps: Instagram face filters, Medium audio stories, Google Assistant on iOS and more
August 7, 2017 3:35 pm|Comments (0)

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Reading all the news from Google I/O may have kept you too busy to keep up with this week’s app news. We’ve kept up for you.

Each week we round up the most important app news along with some of the coolest new and updated apps to help you stay in the loop with everything you need on your phone.Here’s what caught our eye this week. If you’re looking for more, make sure to check out last week’s roundup of top apps.

Google Assistant comes to iOS

Starting today, we’re bringing the #GoogleAssistant to iPhones. Whether at home or on the go, your Assistant is here to help#io17 pic.twitter.com/a6T20HwnU9

— Google (@Google) May 17, 2017 Read more…

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Uber vs Google: And now, the self-driving car war gets nasty
July 31, 2017 11:35 am|Comments (0)

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Even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world are at the mercy of a grade-school concept: supply and demand.

That’s how a person like Anthony Levandowski can get paid $ 120 million by Google, leave to start his own company, watch that company get acquired by Uber just months later, and then find himself barred from working on self-driving car technology by a U.S. court.

That goes to show just how important Levandowski—and other engineers like him—truly are to the arms race around self-driving cars. 

“It’s not like [you] can hire any one of the thousands or tens of thousands of people who have a particular certification,” said Nidhi Kalra, who heads the RAND Corporation’s self-driving car policy work. “They’re looking for people who are innovators in the fields of machine learning, deep learning, LIDAR design—and there aren’t a lot of those people out there.” Read more…

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How to post Google Photos’ awesome animations to Instagram
May 24, 2017 2:20 am|Comments (0)

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If you use Google Photos, you know the service is so much more than just the best way to store and back up all your photos and videos into the cloud.

Using advanced machine learning, Google Photos can intelligently identify people, places, and things — and it’s all easily searchable. One of the cooler things in Google Photos is the Assistant (not to be confused with Google’s other Assistant on Android and Google Home).

In the Google Photos app on iOS and Android, the Assistant is a card-based panel that does three things:

  1. Shows you the status of your backup.

  2. Automatically creates “movies” based on related video clips.

  3. Creates “animations” using batches of bursted photos. (You can also create your own animations by manually selecting between 2-50 photos, but the end result is the same — you still get a GIF file.) Read more…

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